HB V

is older than it's ever been and now it's even older

1/28/2004

Lying already



I know I promised not to be so damned political upon re-starting HB, but I have to break that promise. I’m sorry. As a peace offering to the Kristas of this world, here’s an amusing special interest football story about the only good thing to emerge from the XFL – He Hate Me (whose real name is Rod Smart, by the way. He Hate Me is what he wrote on his jersey, where names typically go. Jeff points me to this article which mentions other great back-of-the-jersey nickname stories). Smart/Me now plays for the Carolina Panthers, who are the upstart NFC qualifiers for this year’s Super Bowl, and the team that my mother will be rooting for. I, on the other hand, will be newly arrived in New York City, representing the University of Minnesota’s National Moot Court team in the National Finals, on Super Bowl Sunday. I’ll try to blog from the Big Apple to update my breathless public about my progress.

But now, some politics. I support Howard Dean. He’s a smart guy with good policies and proven foreign policy judgment – he didn’t fall for the obvious lies and politically convenient support of an illegal war authorized under knowingly false pretenses. But his campaign may be dead as of today. It’s very frustrating to me, because his downfall was engineered primarily because of negative press coverage and coordinated attack by Democratic and Republican party insiders and not because the public decided on their own that John Kerry has better ideas (consider that last claim, by the way. Have you heard anyone claim that John Kerry has good policy initiatives? Have you heard of any of his proposals?) No, the whisper campaign has always been that Dean is “unelectable” because of his anger and his liberalism, and the press picked that up and ran with it on the scantiest of evidence. And of course, the famous scream.

How did the media pull it off? Consider, if you will, this handy guide to media election coverage. A sampling of the terms and tactics they use:

The Gaffe: when a candidate on the campaign trail takes a pounding in the press for something that just isn't said to the press on the campaign trail.
The Expectations Game: when a candidate "wins" by losing but doing better than the press expected, or "loses" by winning but doing worse.
The Horse Race: when the press centers its coverage around shifts in who's ahead, based on poll results the press says are bound to shift.
The Ad Watch: when the press converts political advertisements—and the strategy behind them—into political news, and then analyzes that news to advertise its own savviness.
Inside Baseball: when the press tells the story of politics by going to insiders, the "players" who know the game because they play the game and get paid to know it.
Electability News: when the press shifts from reporting on a candidate's bid for election in the here and now, to the chances of the bid succeeding later on.
Spin Alley: when, after a debate, the press shows up in the spin room to be spun by stand-ins and spokespeople who are gathered there to spin the press.

Each of these were used, at various times, to make Dean look ridiculous in the press. And, yes, again, the scream. It’s tough to say how much the media seized on this to try to put the nail in his coffin. But I’m hardly the first to notice how the media hates him, even among the press insiders. Other evidence, if you don’t believe my premise of media hostility: (1) the Diane Sawyer interview, where she asked 96 questions, and only six were about policy initiatives and observers agree that she was profoundly negative in her slant. (2) the famous Tim Russert interview, in which Tim grilled Dean for (among other things) not being able to recall the number of US troops on active duty (Dean said between 1 and 2 million; the real number is 1.4 million) Dean’s supposed gaffes made huge news, a sample of which shows how bad the coverage and meta-coverage quickly became (emphasis mine, to point out the decidedly normative word choice of the ‘impartial’ news media):

The negative commentary practically exploded after the former Vermont governor repeatedly stumbled during a Tim Russert grilling nine days ago on "Meet the Press." It was, thundered New York Daily News columnist Zev Chafets, "perhaps the worst performance by a presidential candidate in the history of television." A Washington Post editorial called his answers "waffling and evasive." The Dallas Morning News reported that "many top Democrats" are worried a Dean nomination would produce an electoral wipeout of George McGovern and Walter Mondale dimensions.

(3) this Salon.com feature (yeah, it’s premium; watch the little ad, it’s worth it) documented a week before Iowa the concerted press attack on Dean. So when Dean didn’t hit the expected vote totals in the Iowa caucuses, the media was able to whale on that, play up the scream, and primary voters, who famously vote for momentum, were snookered. So we’re left with Kerry as a front runner, and if what his spokespeople say about Dean and his foreign policy ideas is typical, it looks like we will have a typical choice of a spineless poll watching Democrat versus a lying, evil Republican again:
“Howard Dean wouldn't know good judgment on foreign policy if he fell over it. Remember, this is the same man who has said that the nation was not safer with the capture of Saddam Hussein, said we shouldn't take sides in the Middle East, and that Osama bin Laden should get a jury trial.”
(In other words, Kerry thinks that the capture of Saddam Hussein did something positive for our security in Iraq? He thinks that our policy is better served by being pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian in the Middle East instead of being an honest broker for peace? He thinks that bin Laden should just get summarily executed? These are the words of a demagogue trying to get elected, not a person interested in good policy.)
I guess my end response is to note that while I hate Bush more than anyone, I can hardly get excited about a race where it is apparent that the electorate is being manipulated by the media and party insiders. I wish I had more faith that democracy always yields the correct result, but experience shows otherwise.

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