Friday, April 18, 2008


A couple of days ago we saw that when Sean Hannity suggested a line of attack against Barack Obama, George Stephanopoulos literally took dictation ("Well, I'm taking notes right now").

So the lesson to be learned from this is that Democrats should also try to drive press coverage, right?

Ah, but that's where the problem lies. The press, desperate not to be called liberal, eagerly overcorrects by absorbing and retransmitting GOP spin, particularly in election years -- but when Democrats try to dish the dirt, the press suddenly rediscovers skepticism.

See, for instance, this New York Observer review of two books that try to knock off John McCain's halo:

...neither [Cliff Schecter's The Real McCain] nor the eerily similar Free Ride [by David Brock and Paul Waldman] will convert someone who believes in Mr. McCain. These are tools for the already converted.

Mr. Schecter's book ...[is] full of passion and unconcealed bias....

Messrs. Brock and Waldman are essentially debunking a caricature. It's not a terrible story, but neither is it a revelation. Making caricatures of politicians is how journalists, and readers, organize loyalties.... Caricatures, unfair or otherwise, are the result of accumulated profiles written on deadline; they’re an inevitable by-product of a career in politics....

The argument comes up a little thin, then. The profusion of anecdotes about the "real" McCain give the impression of a vendetta, as though the authors harbor the bitter suspicion that Mr. McCain is
getting away with something. Like Cliff Schecter, David Brock and Paul Waldman are unreliable narrators....

Sean Hannity, by contrast, is just a humble truth-teller, Diogenes with a blow dryer.

But you would think attention must be paid to these books -- after all, the Observer review reminds us that

Shortly after it was published last month, it became clear that Free Ride would literally be the blueprint for the assault on Mr. McCain. On April 10, Ben Smith reported in Politico that David Brock is leading a group of wealthy Democrats in a $40 million media campaign against the Republican nominee.

So why isn't it being quoted and paraphrased throughout the media? Wasn't that Stephanopoulos's defense of all the gotcha questions aimed at Obama in Wednesday's debate -- "If you look at the fall campaign, there are some clear signals from Senator Obama's opponents that all of these issues are going to be put together in a general argument"? Well, the Democratic "general argument" is in these books. So it's time to start taking notes -- right, George?

On Sunday when Stephanopoulos interviews McCain, we'll find out whether he applies the same standard. If so, here's a handy list of questions, courtesy of Cliff Schecter. My guess is that #2 and #10 will actually be asked, in a mild form -- but none of the others.

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