Monday, November 19, 2007

In Which I Take Out My Tin Foil Hat And Ask Some Questions That Need Asking

Oliver Willis asks, "What Gives?"
Barack Obama, within 72 hours, has taken the words of CIA agent outer Robert Novak as gospel while echoing debunked stories about the Clintons.

In order to give some perspective here, let us back up, looking to digby for both context and wisdom. Yesterday she put in perspective Bob Novak's rumor-mongering-masquerading-as-journalism. Digby did the difficult thing by reminding us of another moment in history when, during a supposedly "healthy" Democratic primary season (Muskie was the clear front-runner, polling well-ahead of then-President Richard Nixon; George McGovern was a single-issue candidate, getting out of Vietnam, and correctly perceived as a weak candidate, although that often translated in to calling him personally cowardly) Democrats used faulty media narratives to destroy the candidacy of the best possible alternative to a sitting Republican President (and, until the current reign of error, the most corrupt and criminal). She brings up David Broder's musings on his own role, in retrospect, and they are startlingly revealing of the mindset of the one called "Dean" by some, and "Wanker" by others.
So, when Muskie got angry on the steps that day, Broder and the rest of the press corps described him as having a sort of breakdown. But when Broder thought about it later in 1987, he realized he couldn't actually be sure that what he saw was crying.
And it was certainly the "crying" that did Muskie in. (Much as the press characterizing certain behaviors as "screaming" and "sighing" have done-in others.)

Broder writes, "as far as I can recall, there was no internal questioning of the accuracy of the story then, or later, at the Post. Still, it nags at me as few other stories I have written."
it would be nice to think the mainstream media have learned from the past and will ensure that things like this are adequately examined within the context of history and not just the heat of the moment. But that's clearly too much to hope for.

Robert Novak was once a real journalist but after the events of the past few years, it's safe to say that he no longer can be considered anything but a Republican operative, specifically a Rove acolyte who basically works for him. He has more than proven his loyalty. This rumor, especially coming from him, should never have seen the light of day. MSNBC is running with the story like it's 9/11. It remains to be seen if it has any legs among the rest of the mainstream press. But I think it's fair to say that they will, at the very least, "store such incidents in [their] minds and then use them to interpret major incidents when they occur."

We don't know exactly what happened here,of course, but Democratic campaigns should know better that to ever use Robert Novak to try to score points either way. His item, (just like Rove's from earlier in the week) was a twofer, virtually designed to make both candidates look bad --- and, frankly, both of their responses only reaffirmed that impression.

So, Rove quits the White House a few months back, and everyone wonders why, and what he's doing. Now, he's showing up on television pimping rumors printed by a former journalist. This former journalist has proven himself to be a good vehicle for putting out Rovian leaks in the past, so one wonders at the source of the leak. . . .

So, while some people support a "tough primary season" as an abstract good, in the real world where nefarious critters like Rove and Novak live and breathe, like fungi on the body politic, Clinton and Obama are wasting time beating each other up over . . . a rumor. Willis' title of his post, linked above, is aptly named: "Taking the Bait".

In a world where pretty much every despicable thing ever dreamed up in politics has been surpassed by the actual doings and workings of the Republican Party since 1972, one wonders why any benefit of the doubt is given to them. One also wonders why supposedly serious candidates are arguing over a rumor aired in public by a now-discredited fake journalist who has been for years a wholly-owned subsidiary of some of the most reactionary elements in the Republican Party. Finally, it is all well and good to desire a good, strong primary season - provided the primary season deals with real substantive differences between the candidates. In the past few weeks, however, the Democratic Primary has devolved in to the kinds of attacks that show those doing them to be both desperate and playing defense (for a good rundown, see TPM here, here, and here). This is, on the whole, and in the present context and atmosphere, not a good thing.

Pushing back against the front-runner is one thing. Descending in to the Novak/Rove constructed maelstrom of rumors and lies, however, does not bode well, and shows both campaigns to be less intelligent and savvy than one might have hoped.

Let's hope none of them break down and cry in public. Lord knows, David Broder won't care whether it really happened or not.

Virtual Tin Cup

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