Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, June 15, 2008


So some news on the John McCain front, if you haven't heard it. It seems McCain was feeling the heat for having a fundraiser at the home of a wealthy Texas oilman who had once made a tasteless joke about rape. So he canceled the fundraiser. "Good for him," you say, except that he went on to say that he would not be returning the gentleman's money. Also, later on, he decided the fundraiser was not going to be canceled, just postponed. No surprises there.

But I bring this up to highlight the press treatment of McCain. This joke by oilman Clayton Williams was made in 1990; quite some time ago. Every news story I've seen about this has reprinted the joke in full. You might be thinking that this makes sense; we'd want to know what the joke was to get the full story.

Well, let me relate this story to you. John McCain made the following joke in 1998:

Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
Because Janet Reno is her father.
This is a pretty nasty joke, possibly career-ending for some. But as Salon detailed, there was practically a media blackout on printing the joke. Why the double standard? It is not worse (in my opinion) that this oilman's joke. Why shield John McCain by not printing it? And why not bring it up now, with this oilman making a similarly crude joke?

The press is in the pocket of John McCain, and it's sickening. It's going to be a long election. Strap in.


Raised By Republicans said...

I wouldn't say that the press is "in the pocket" of McCain in the sense that they are in cahoots with him or something. But I would say that, as a group, our news media folks are not very smart, poorly educated and do their jobs very very badly. All this means most of them (especially the TV media) are intellectually incapable of actually investigating anything. All they do is repeat conventional wisdom. McCain is fortunate that the conventional wisdom version of his story is "War Hero Mavrick With Unimpeachable Integrity."

The problem for us is that aside from the war hero part, that image of McCain is almost totaly fantasy. But it won't get reported because the media won't deviate from the script without a huge shock to the system.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"The press is in the pocket of John McCain, and it's sickening."

Maybe they are just getting tired of being in Obama's pocket all the time?

Raised By Republicans said...

Actually, even with Obama all they do is parrot the convetnional line.

So for Obama that means, he's the ultra charismatic rock star candidate. But they also frequently parrot the demonstrably false allogation that he has not provided as much detail on his policy positions as have his rivals. This is a line that is encouraged by Clinton(s) (until recently) and McCain despite the fact that any cursory comparison of the policy pages of the candidates' respective websites will show remarkable similarities in the level of detail provided.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The media (if we can use a collective noun) has lots of stories like the Chelsea Clinton joke. They are available on tap. The election is months away - do not expect them to use all their juice up now. Someone is waiting to spring that story when there's some hook.

As for who is in whose pocket, we should remember that the press wants, above all, an exciting horse race. They will naturally "favor" the underdog every time. By that, I mean, they know that you sell more papers by taking pot shots at the leader than kicking a man while he's down. Obama was beloved until he started winning, then Clinton got all the kudos. Obama is up in the polls - do not expect the media to start slamming McCain until he gets a bump in the polls.

While the media love "Macaca" stories, they don't go in for deeper analysis. So nobody will say on the mainstream press what I've said here before, that McCain is emotionally and intellectually trapped in a North Vietnamese jail cell.

Raised By Republicans said...

I think LTG is right about the close horse race motive.

Dr. Strangelove said...

The media were certainly pulling for the Democratic nomination contest to go as long as it could. Instead of lavishing praise on the underdog however (the notion they gave Hillary "kudos" is a bit rich) the media instead chose to try to tarnish Obama's image--to tear him down by hyping all those so-called "scandals" about bitterness, pastors, etc.

I think most of it is not even a longing for the horse race, however, but a simple selection bias problem. As we all know, if nine medical studies find Drug X has no side-effects but one study shows otherwise, guess which one gets the press? Likewise, if nine polls show Obama has a strong national lead but one poll suggests the opposite, guess what the news leads off with that night? Instead of reporting the polling data fairly, they give us some colorful talking head who asks pretentiously, "Could McCain win in a landslide?"

We have a news cycle that is driven by novelty and spectacle, which gives a heavy bias toward anything that breaks the current pattern. That's why places like RCP are so important: they present the data with appropriate weighting. The poll numbers have barely budged in the past few weeks, but of course that's not national news. That's just the way it is.

History Buff said...

I was listening to Diane Rehm yesterday and she took umbrage at someone who referred to the media as a monolith that never reports anything. I think really we need to refer to the television media. They are by far the worst offenders.

Raised By Republicans said...

I suppose. Unfortunately, I can't comment on quality radio because my regional NPR broadcaster was flooded out and I'm currently suffering from NPR withdrawl.

History Buff said...

you can still listen to it on the internet if you have the internet right now. Maybe that got washed out too??

USWest said...

Don't worry RBR. All NPR is doing is reporting on the floods and Tiger Woods! :-)

Since I don't watch TV news, I don't get all the pettiness. This is the beauty of not having cable. I visited my family this weekend and got so sick watching CNN and Lou Dobbs that I had to retreat into my room with the Economist. But I shouldn't have. This is what the average American is watching.

What they were reporting on was the firing of the head of Obama's VP vetting team and they were going after a second member of his team. But they also reported on McCain's links to lobbyists.

What I hate is when they are so thirsty for something to report that they resort to exaggeration. Last week, NPR used a clip of Obama getting a little irritated at the press. All he said was, "common guys, I've answered like 8 questions on this already." as he was walking away. And NPR made it sound like he had lost total control and questioned if he had the steel necessary to deal with a tough campaign. I was really disappointed in NPR. That is the kind of thing that really pisses me off.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I don't want to start a "thing" here, but I'm not at all happy to hear Hillary-as-victim sprouting again. Any other candidate who lost a dozen primaries in a row and became (by end Feb) essentially mathematically eliminated would have faced a drumbeat to leave the race. In years to come, Clinton supporters will realize what a ride she got out of the press, quite unlike the one-scream-and-it's-over for Dean.

USwest said...

One of the reasons the Chelsea joke may not have gotten air or print is to protect Chelsea. The media at the time went after the Clinton's big time. But they knew the redline was the daughter and they didn't cross that very often. That is a joke, that if repeated often as political hay, may have hurt the child more than McCain.

I will point out that the Bush twins haven't gottn a lot of air either other than their occasional drinking bindge.

First children are often off limits, as it should be, even if that means killing an off-color joke by another politician.

Dr. Strangelove said...

If you don't want to start a thing LTG, don't start one.

Look, Hillary did not get "kudos" from the media (as you claimed), but Hillary not victimized by the media either. Her press coverage was rarely favorable but neither was it dismissive. The relationship between Hillary and the media was more complicated than that.

As you note, Hillary as a candidate continued to receive respect from the media well after the February primaries: The drumbeat for Hillary to quit did not become dominant until mid-May. But as several of us have also noted, Hillary as a person was the butt of a lot of nasty, sexist media punditry that should anger us all.