THE FRUIT OF A CULTURE! When ABC News selected that question, they showed us the shape of their culture: // link // print // previous // next //
THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2008
THE FRUIT OF A CULTURE: Here at THE HOWLER, weve been fighting off a touch of the 24-hour labyrinthitis. Yesterday, inspired by Dowd, we managed to ignore its effects. But were a bit behind on our general musingsand well have to wait a day for a transcript of last nights debate.
As a general matter, well stand with the analysts Uncle Walter, cringing thusly about the sad session:
More on that particular question below. But let us register two impressions:
First, it was a joy to reach the debates second hour, when Obama and Clinton were finally allowed to talk about serious policy matters (however imperfect those questions sometimes were). Second, it was sad to recall how good these candidates seemed in the South Carolina and California debates, before the events of the past month brought The Cult of the Offhand Comment so deeply into this race.
Last nights debate was, in many ways, a high mass staged by priests of that cult. Why, so many offhand comments were flying around that we even revisited Hillarys cookies! But surely, the evenings most ludicrous question was the one Shapiro cited. (Sorrywe dont have a transcript.)
ABC News had traveled about, taping questions from Pennsylvanians. Which question was presented to Obama? A woman asked him to explain why he doesnt wear a lapel pin.
Should that question have been selected? You can make a case for almost anything. And its truethis matter has been bruited about; almost surely, there are other Pennsylvanians who are wondering about it. Some Pennsylvanians, including that woman, may even cast their vote on this basis. (People vote for every imaginable reason. See example below.)
But ABC News had less than two hours, and the world is full of complex issues. At some point, journalists have to set their priorities. And by the way: If ABC taped a lot of citizens, surely someone looked into the camera and asked Obama if hes a Muslimor if its true that he wont swear on a Bible. Did someone ask Clinton about all her murders? At some point, a news org has to show some judgment about which questions to pick.
In fairness, no misinformation was involved in that womans question. Obama doesnt wear a flag pin, and he once discussed his reasonsprobably unwisely. But at some point, news orgs have to judge the value of the questions which get asked.
Obama called it a manufactured question. For our money, that may not be great politics, although its certainly true (in part). But in one especially clownish recent episode, Republican congressman Jack Kingston appeared on The Abrams Report to discuss Obamas missing flag pin. Unfortunately, Kingston wasnt wearing a flag pin himself. This discussion ensued:
Kingstons closing remark was disgraceful; more below. But no, the solon didnt contradict himself with what he said about the flag pin. There actually is an argument there; you have to judge if its a good one. And yes, there are people out in the country who may even vote in this basis.
But in a different cultural era, Kingston would have been mocked to the death for showing up without a flag pin to criticize Obamas lack of a flag pinand he would have been roasted over hot coals for that last, indefensible comment. But we dont live in an era like that. We live in this political eraan era in which ABC News decided that the womans question was more important than the million global issues they failed to get to in last nights debate.
The political media are a broken institution. Hopeless, Digby wrote last night. This morning, when we went to ABC News to see if theyd posted a transcript, we found this story at the top of their page, with a photo which was simply delicious:
In the real world, some questions are more equal than others. And some questions reflect the broken-souled culture of a broken, multimillionaire press corps. A press corps which our liberal journals have accepted, without a peep of complaint, for a good many years.
Why have these journals done that?
MANY THINGS DONT HAPPEN: Did the following event really happen? Gail Collins seems to be referring to the April 14 dinner which is reported here. But as weve learned down through the years, many events described in Times op-ed columns didnt happen in the real world. Our question: Did this really occur?
Wed already seen several elements in Collins column which seemed to benefit from creative retelling. But did this incident really occur? We can find no report of Obama saying this anywhere in the Nexis archives. Darlings, it makes for splendid enjoyment! But did it really occur?
Of course, Times columnists have long enjoyed improving dull, unhelpful facts. Later, Collins offers this familiar portrait. In our view, its based on a factual howler. Try to ignore Collins tone, developed inside a palace:
This makes for familiar entertainment, with Democrats pictured as big pander bears. We dont have the transcript yetbut if memory serves, Clinton endorsed reinstatement of the assault weapon ban last night, blaming Republicans for letting it lapse. We dont recall Obama playing greyhound either. In short, Collins had some good solid fun. You and the truth can go hang.
Note: Were using Collins text from this mornings hard-copy Times. Changes have occurred on-line. The Dems are still big phonies, of coursebut the bungled facts are now AWOL.
Darlings, we hope you enjoyed the fun. They do love to hand you their novels.
SMILE-A-WHILE: People vote on every conceivable basis. This example caught our eye today. Its from David Broders column, for entertainment purposes only:
Too funny! People vote for various reasonsincluding the desire to show their respect for their (late?) fathers sanctified hatreds.