Archive for September 5th, 2008
Bill Clinton did it when it was clear Hillary is having troubles, and now the Republicans are attacking the media for its coverage of Sarah Palin, the inexperienced and I believe flawed choice for Vice President. Roger Simon, writing for Politico has an hilarious piece yesterday “Why the Media Should Apologize.” A couple snippets:
“We have asked pathetic questions like: Who is Sarah Palin? What is her record? Where does she stand on the issues? And is she is qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?
We have asked mean questions like: How well did John McCain know her before he selected her? How well did his campaign vet her? And was she his first choice?
Bad questions. Bad media. Bad.
It is not our job to ask questions. Or it shouldn’t be. To hear from the pols at the Republican National Convention this week, our job is to endorse and support the decisions of the pols.”
“Fifth, we should stop reporting on the families of the candidates. Unless the candidates want us to.
Sarah Palin wanted the media to report on her teenage son, Track, who enlisted in the Army on Sept. 11, 2007, and soon will deploy to Iraq. Sarah Palin did not want the media to report on her teenage daughter, Bristol, who is pregnant and unmarried.
Sarah Palin thinks that one is good for her campaign and one is not, and that the media should report only on what is good for her campaign. That is our job, and that is our duty. If that is not actually in the Constitution, it should be. (And someday may be.)”
The Republicans are falling over themselves to blame the media for attacking “poor” Sarah Palin, even though as an open mike on Peggy Noonan (a GOP insider) shows, within the GOP there is already a lot of unease over Palin. The fact of the matter is, when a candidate or party starts to attack the media, more often than not it’ a sign that the candidate is in trouble. John McCain cancelled a CNN interview because a CNN journalist made a McCain spokesman look foolish when he couldn’t give any evidence that Sarah Palin had any foreign policy experience. Such prickliness about the media is a sign of weakness. It’s defensiveness, just as a child caught reaching into the cookie jar might suddenly lash out angrily — they realize they’re in trouble, and they don’t like it.
Clearly Palin has the support of the GOP base — the pro-life, social conservatives who hate the “ivy league” and see any government program as “socialistic.” These folk are in a tizzy over her, and apparently (though I didn’t see it) they loved her convention speech. Obama’s supporters have, however, contributed about $10 million in one day in their response to Palin’s speech, angered by divisive and they believe dishonest attacks. That shows part of what McCain is up against, Obama has a wide range of strong supporters who respond to negative GOP campaigns by giving more and more to Obama — allowing him to fight back, with perhaps double or triple the financial resources as the McCain camp. Moreover, in the grind of the campaign these tough questions will continue to be asked, and Palin’s weaknesses will continue to harm the ticket, especially with the kind of swing voters they need to win. The hope amongst Republicans is that if they can somehow portray Palin as the victim of an unfair and perhaps sexist press, they can distract attention from Palin’s short comings and cast her as a victim. After all, that helped Hillary turn around her campaign, and playing the victim is common fare for modern American politics.
There is something hypocritical about the Republicans doing this, especially after Palin herself criticized Hillary for whining about her treatment earlier this year. Republicans talk, correctly I think, about personal responsibility and avoiding political correctness and a victim mentality. At least, they talk like that when it suits them. But here it helps them to play the victim card, and they are ready to do so, attacking the media and hoping the smokescreen stops the hard questions from continuing to be asked. In this case, however, it is so overplayed that it lends itself to the kind of staire Simon wrote, and is unlikely to thwart the media from doing its job.
As Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan said in their now infamous open mike attack on their own VP candidate, McCain went “for the narrative,” rather than for the most competent person. They knew the base would eat the story up, and hoped that the narrative of a ‘corruption fighting ordinary housewife turned governor’ would so appeal to the American people that her lack of experience would be overlooked. In fact, they may have figured that the lack of experience wouldn’t become an issue since that’s the main attack being made against Obama.
Blaming the media won’t work. It is accepted hook, line and sinker by those who already love Palin and the GOP because they want to believe the media is some liberal conspiracy against them. But in general, blaming the media is the last refuge for someone who has ran out of arguments. It’s a distraction. So what will the impact of the Palin choice be?
First, despite whispers, she won’t be dumped the way Thomas Eagleton was dumped in 1972. McCain would not be able to recover from such an admission of failure, and Obama would cruise to victory. Even if they now might think a Kay Bailey Hutchinson or someone more experienced would be a better choice, they’re stuck with what they have.
Second, they do gain something from this choice. The GOP base is motivated by it, as they see Palin as one of their own, especially those who were slow to embrace McCain. This could increase donations, increase voter turnout from the base, and add some sorely needed enthusiasm and excitement to the McCain campaign. The Democrats and Obama supporters are intensely motivated, and Obama’s ground game — the get out the vote effort and intense registration drives and community presence — could bring the Democrats a landslide in November. Even a Republican as partisan as Tom Delay warns of such an outcome. If this can counter that to some extent, and get churches and social conservative networks more involved, it can help McCain. He needs that But at what cost?
To swing voters, the Palin choice and her attacks on Obama are not as impressive. They don’t eat up red meat rhetoric, they look to see who the best candidate is. Obama has undergone over a year of intense scrutiny, and has managed to thrive. He hasn’t finished the sale, his inexperience is the trait that holds some back. But with his choice of Biden and a very successful convention, he moved in that direction. The Palin pick, in making the McCain camp also susceptible to the inexperience weakness, makes Obama’s job there easier. This is especially so, given that someone like McCain has a 1 in 3 chance of dying before the end of a theoretical second term, and even higher odds of some kind of incompacitation. This also pits Obama’s judgment in his “first Presidential decision” against McCain’s, and Obama looks good.
Ultimately, though, Vice Presidential selections are of limited importance in the election. Bentson didn’t save Dukakis, and Quayle didn’t sink Bush. The key issue will be whether or not Obama can convince the public they can trust him in the job, and driving factors will be the economy and the unpopularity of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (note how the GOP hasn’t said word one about Afghanistan, whose worsening situation was often brought up by the Democrats). Still, given McCain’s weaknesses going into this whole affair, this pick could ultimately become the point in which, in hindsight, the election became unwinnable for John McCain.