Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Where’s the press?

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James Fallows has a very good post:

Twice in the last six months we’ve had the spectacle of a candidate clinging to a provably false personal narrative. Each tale was meant to show something admirable and significant about the candidate’s character. But in each case the press had the goods to show that the tale was too tall to be believed.

One, of course, was Hillary Clinton’s “hail of bullets” account of her arrival at the airport in Bosnia.

The other is Sarah Palin’s “thanks but no thanks” claim to have opposed funding for the “bridge to nowhere.”

In Senator Clinton’s case, the more often she repeated the story, the more relentlessly the press said the story was not true. All parts of the press did this: right, left, middle. They didn’t say that there was a “controversy” about her story. They said it was false. And eventually she bowed to the inevitable and stopped telling the story any more.

In Governor Palin’s case, the more often she has repeated the story, the more abashed the press has seemed about pointing out its falsity. The accurate version would be more like: “I said ‘Yes, please!’ until the Congress said ‘Sorry, no.'” As best I can tell (from my distance in China), the right-wing press has played no part in this truth-squadding. The mainstream press has seemed to treat it as a “controversy” rather than a falsehood. And there is no evidence of Palin hesitating to use the story again and again.

There can’t be any difference in gender or race bias in treatment of these two cases: they both both involve successful, married white female politicians. There is no essential difference in the falseness of their claims, though there was a greater comic potential in the film footage of Sen. Clinton’s “harrowing” arrival. The major remaining difference is that one case involves a Democrat (though the more conservative of the primary-campaign finalists) and one a Republican.

So here are the controlled-experiment questions:

1) At any point will the right-wing press join the effort to hold Palin accountable for her false claim, as all of the press held Clinton responsible?

2)  If Palin keeps making the claim, will press critics redouble their debunking, as they did with Clinton, or taper off for fear of seeming biased or boring?

3) At any point will Palin herself — or, far more significant, McCain — acknowledge that there are such things as fact and fantasy, and stop making a demonstrably false claim?

I pose it as a set of questions rather than an assumed conclusion. For now.

And ThinkProgress notes:

Today at a rally with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in Virginia, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) once again repeated the lie that she opposed the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska:

I championed earmark reform also to help Congress stop wasting money on those things that do not serve the public interest. I told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks for that Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska.” If we wanted that bridge, we’d build it ourselves.

Watch it.

ThinkProgress has been keeping track of how many times the McCain campaign is repeating this lie. Palin’s comments today bring the number to 27 lies. [Well, really, the same lie told 27 different times. – LG]

And Steven Benen has a post that clearly shows the press failing:

Following up on an earlier item, the Washington Post had a piece today on campaign mendacity. The Post’s Jonathan Weisman noted that the Republican ticket has been “more aggressive in recent days in repeating what their opponents say are outright lies.” That’s an unnecessarily polite way of saying McCain and Palin have been repeating bogus claims, even after they’ve been exposed as bogus claims.

But Weisman, like most reporters at major outlets, has to strive for “balance.”

A number of fabrications about Palin’s policies and personal life, for instance, have circulated on the Internet since she joined the Republican ticket. […]

A slew of distortions that have spread through e-mail and on the Internet has also put Palin on the receiving end of some of that truth-stretching — so much so that the campaign dispatched a group of supporters yesterday to act as a “truth-squadding team.” The unfounded charges include that Palin cut special-needs funding in Alaska and that she was a member of the Alaska Independence Party.

So, reading Weisman’s piece, we learn that the McCain campaign, including both members of the ticket, have publicly repeated demonstrably false claims about earmarks, taxes, and foreign policy. Reading the same piece, we learn that the McCain campaign has been subjected to a few falsehoods that have “circulated on the Internet.”

Isn’t there a qualitative distinction to be made here? It seems like there’s a false equivalency between the Republican Party ticket lying on a daily basis, and a few emails that aren’t connected to the Democratic Party at all.

There was also this odd paragraph in Weisman’s article:

A McCain quote Obama has often used — that the economy is fundamentally sound — is months old. Since he said that, McCain has said almost daily that the economy is struggling. As for exaggerations, Obama said yesterday that he had supported a measure in the Illinois Senate to double the number of charter schools in Chicago. In fact, he was one of 14 state senators co-sponsoring a non-controversial measure that passed unanimously.

First, the McCain quote isn’t “months old”; McCain told Laura Ingraham, “I still believe the fundamentals of our economy are strong” three weeks ago today. So why is it, exactly, that Weisman believes it’s unfair for the Obama campaign to mention it?

Second, if Obama co-sponsored an Illinois measure on expanding charter schools in Chicago, and then tells voters that he supported a measure to expand charter schools in Chicago, why is it an “exaggeration”?

Written by Leisureguy

10 September 2008 at 11:57 am

Posted in GOP, Media

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