A Fair and Balanced Paradox
The contention is not that the media shouldn’t investigate Palin, but whether they are doing it in the manner, spirit, and level of intensity that they likewise explore Biden (and Obama).
So far that is simply not the case. And the voters know that. And it is hurting Obama’s efforts as the polls show. A weird paradox arises: the more the elite media wish to aid Obama, the more their bias and invective seem to turn off voters and help McCain—and the more they in turn redouble their anger, as if more smears and furor, not fewer, are the answer. Strange to say, they don’t seem to get it that they are, well, not liked or respected.
If one thinks I exaggerate, then cf. the latest concerning the Atlantic Monthly, a creepy story that few would believe.
No Foreign Policy Experience?
That, of course, is the charge against Palin, and it is a legitimate consideration. But as an executive of a key state, I trust her administrative skills and experience will ensure she is surrounded with policy wonks, in the way that other Governor-VP picks were in the past.
Other thoughts: I am far more worried about the top, not the bottom, of a presidential ticket. Barack Obama has no foreign policy experience whatsoever, as we have seen in his historically inaccurate and silly speech at Berlin, his flips on Jerusalem, Iran, and the surge, as well as his confusion over Georgia (go to the UN, both sides are to blame, Iraq was the Russian model, etc.) and NAFTA.
Joe Biden claims to know the world as a long-time Senate insider; but that tenure seems to have had almost no positive effects in honing his judgments—inasmuch after 9/11 he wanted to send millions to Iran as a good will gesture. He talked in 2003 in saber-rattling fashion about going to Iraq, only to abandon his war support when it was politically advantageous—but not until loudly advocating a trisection of the country into permanently warring rival fiefdoms. His candidacy thus far has been a daily gaffethon.
McCain and the Press
The liberal press, which is the mainstream press (NY Times, DC Post, NPR, PBS, ABC, NBC, CBS, Time, Newsweek, MSNBC, CNN, etc.), hates McCain.
Why? They claim he has “changed” and no longer is his old maverick self that they used to josh with and kid around with on the straight-talk express. But in truth, they only flirted with him in 2000 for two reasons: (1) he was going to lose to George Bush; (2) he wasn’t George Bush. In their eyes, he was a useful foil. Period.
And now? He (1) could well win; (2) and could well win by defeating their once-in-a-lifetime heartthrob, Barack Obama.
So suddenly he “lies”, is a “liar”, and a “disgrace”.
Issues, What Issues?
For all the talk from the Obama campaign about issues, rather than personalities, I think the McCain positions resonate more with the voters. Here’s my take on “issues”, and hope they will be soon discussed rather than McCain’s keyboard expertise, or Obama’s sex-education programs.
1. Foreign policy. Note that Obama on Iran, the surge, Georgia, Afghanistan, Israel, free trade, and drilling has moved more to McCain’s position. I can’t think of a single instance where McCain emulated Obama, whose main argument seems to be more deference to the UN, “restoration of ties with allies”, and more multilateralism.
But he doesn’t seem to score points here, at least in 2008, when our bilateral ties with the UK, Germany, France, Italy, India, China, etc. are not suffering all that much. Iraq is now on the backburner—given that far more Americans are killed each week in Detroit or Los Angeles than in Iraq.
Note that whereas a year ago Edwards and Obama were demanding apologies from Hillary for supporting the war, now Obama is vulnerable on having advocated a total withdrawal from Iraq by March 2008—de facto defeat when victory is now in the grasp of the elected Iraqi government. Things can change instantaneously, but right now foreign policy is all McCain’s.
2. Energy. McCain should drop opposition to ANWR and give credit for that change to Palin. Note again—Obama’s emphasis on wind and solar is a de facto (hard to tell given his shifts) neglect of more drilling, more refineries, clean coal, and nuclear. McCain can argue he is as strong on wind and solar as Obama is as weak on gas, oil, coal, and nuclear—and thus the only holistic candidate for doing everything we can to avoid going broke.
3. Spending. Both candidates are murky. We either have to raise taxes or cut spending or both—or insidiously see our financial position erode. Raising taxes and raising spending seem to be more the Obama approach that will either raise or keep static the current deficits. We don’t know the details of all of the McCain platform (cut or not cut more taxes?), but it seems to be at least to cut spending and hope the economy grows itself out of a deficit without raising taxes. The latter would resonate more with voters, though who knows once entitlements are capped and there are no new gifts? We await the candidate who promises that archaic notion of a balanced budget first, and worries about the rest later.
Note that drilling would add billions in federal revenues, cut trade deficits and helping to restore the dollar’s strength by curbing US demand on world supplies.
4. Illegal immigration. Both seem to talk of “comprehensive reform”, but are relatively quiet now, and hoping the sudden Bush switch to building a fence, fining more employers, and hiring more guards have cut down illegal entries, and thus will by attrition make the contentious issues (where both are at odds with the public) like amnesty, guest workers, and fines moot — once the influx tapers and the powers of integration, smaller numbers, and voluntary deportation began to come into play. Better enforcement may explain why the issue is growing dormant compared to energy and foreign policy.
5. Cultural issues. There is a sort of schizophrenia here with voters. They don’t want late-term abortions, but seem not to wish to outlaw abortion entirely. They want the death penalty, but then wish to abolish it entirely any time a state executes on even a single occasion someone of questionable guilt or mental capacity. They don’t much care what you do in your own bedroom, but don’t want gay marriage; they oppose biases, but don’t want affirmative action. They want tougher sentences and tougher judges, but no more costly prisons and politically-wired guard unions. McCain here again seems better positioned, and more likely not to have political crazies on the fringe than does Obama, whose hard-left he has courted even more than McCain has the hard right.
With Friends Like These
One thing that is losing voters for Obama and (is ignored) is the growing public anger at celebrities and media elites. McCain has no worries that a sober Clint Eastwood or respected Robert Duvall will say something stupid about Obama. But daily a Matt Damon, Pamela Anderson, Sean Penn, or Richard Dreyfuss will mouth off in a way that reveals arrogance, viciousness and stupidity, and turn the public against whatever they are for.
Ditto the media. A Limbaugh has his own show and a particular audience; a Hannity on TV is balanced by Colmes. But a Chris Matthews, Anderson Cooper, or Keith Olbermann assumes the veneer of a newsperson, and so the bias for the viewer is harder to take.
So far a George Will, David Brooks, or Charles Krauthammer has analyzed, often in tough fashion, the campaign rather than demonized Obama; a Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, or Bob Herbert are overtly partisan, and often amateurishly and embarrassingly so. And when one throws in the fringe, witless crowd like Michael Moore (nuff said), Andrew Sullivan (recently peddling rumors that Palin’s daughter delivered her Down Syndrome child), and Randi Rhodes (Palin a sexual threat to teen-aged boys), Obama, fairly or unfairly, suffers by guilt through association with the supportive unhinged as well.
Some of the McCain surge is surely due to the public’s weariness with the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, and the nut-blogs—all brought to their attention, with editorializing, by widely visited conservative outlets like Limbaugh, Hannety, Fox, Drudge, etc. So another paradox: the elite media suffers both ways. It has lost respect from the public; but its sensationalist charges don’t always result in more sales or attention, since many of the public likely learns, second-hand, of their bias and extremism through Drudge, National Review, PJ Media, Limbaugh, and the regional talk radio stations.
The Old Fish
After all the liberal lectures about bias, racism, sexism, and the other assorted –isms, we are down to one desperate last card: McCain is too old, and by extension so are most over 70, given that McCain is more active than most his age.
Thus we hear him compared to an old stinky fish. It’s not that he doesn’t know how many houses he has, but doesn’t “any more” —as if his memory is now shot. He can’t do email or the Internet (never mind the effects of five-years plus of physical torture). He is “confused” and “angry”.
This is rather strange for a reform candidate like Obama, and ultimately counterproductive as well. Consider that we were warned that anti-Obama forces would use race. None in the McCain campaign so far have. Though Obama himself surely did, via associates like Wright and Pfleger, though his own preemptive warnings about his name, religion, and race, and through his media surrogates who screeched that his failure would mean we were racists and disgraced in the eyes of the world.
But again examine: sexism? Hillary sure thought Obama played the sexist card. We see it again with Palin. How many have asked Obama whether he has tucked his two children in at night; or have gone after Joe Biden’s wife; or have ridiculed Biden’s hair (a bee-hive surely is preferable to hair plugs for most in the fashion world)?
So here we have an anomaly: the candidate that we were warned would be victimized by racial hatred has quite insidiously waged a campaign that plays on fears of women and old people. Again, voters are not stupid and that hypocrisy in part explains the current Obama slide. If one were to examine the mysterious Illinois Senate race of 2004, in which both the Democratic and Republican challengers, Blair Hull and Jack Ryan, in the respective primary and general elections fell victim to a weird concentrated rumor campaign, spurred on by anonymous sources and the Chicago newspapers, about their sealed divorce records, resulting in their withdrawals and a walk-in win for Obama, one would not be surprised that “hope and change” needs to be qualified by Chicago politics.
Casting the first stone…
I was reading this in the recent column of Bob Herbert in the New York Times:
“While watching the Sarah Palin interview with Charlie Gibson Thursday night, and the coverage of the Palin phenomenon in general, I’ve gotten the scary feeling, for the first time in my life, that dimwittedness is not just on the march in the U.S., but that it might actually prevail.”…. “John McCain, who is shameless about promoting himself as America’s ultimate patriot, put the best interests of the nation aside in making his incredibly reckless choice of a running mate. But there is a profound double standard in this country. The likes of John McCain and George W. Bush can do the craziest, most irresponsible things imaginable, and it only seems to help them politically.”
But wait! I remember this Mr. Herbert, who on television showed his own degree of erudition, intelligence, and common sense by assuring his audience that a McCain ad film clip of Obama addressing thousands before the Victory Column in Berlin was really a snippet, yes, of the Washington Monument and the Leaning Tower of Pisa! And why did Herbert confuse these easily distinguished towers? To “prove” the point that McCain was peddling phallic imagery to tie Obama with white women through supposedly taboo liaisons. And so goes the New York Times commentary on a gutsy Governor handling the slanted questioning of Charlie Gibson.
This is not the exception. It is striking how many critics of Palin, whether in politics such as Joe Biden, or in journalism such as Joe Klein, have themselves demonstrated in the past poor judgment, a lack of intellectual honesty, and have been caught in false assertions—and yet nearly weekly are offering sweeping denunciations of Palin.
I posted a longer version of this on the NRO corner:
To understand John McCain participating in a live-audience forum at Columbia University, Obama’s alma mater, and being interviewed by Time editor Richard Stengel (formerly Bill Bradley’s campaign adviser and speechwriter) and PBS correspondent Judy Woodruff (married to Al Hunt), and answering questions on how the government should expand public service agencies, imagine Barack Obama going to West Point before an audience of cadets, to be interviewed by serious-thinking Michael Gerson and a circumspect George Will, on US defense strategy and the military. Both are perfectly legitimate enterprises and have merit, but the latter would be immediately deemed by the left as disproportionate. This, and the Gibson missteps in the Palin interview, are the apparently unconscious and highbrow versions of CNN/MSNBC.
Corrections and Replies
Thanks to readers for spotting the date concerning the Carter mistake. I wrote correctly in two columns that we haven’t had a Democratic ticket without a lawyer (if one counts Al Gore who dropped out of law school) for a quarter-century, but a third time in reply to critics wrongly wrote since 1976—thus incorrectly not including the farmer Carter’s second run in 1980, the last time someone on the Democratic ticket had not been to law school.
Next time I will reply to the usual weekly critics, this time on the right, Dinesh D’Souza, and the left (?) Michael Scheuer.