Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 13, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

THE INVISIBLE FIRST LADY....Bloggers have a tendency to rake the press over the coals for writing anything less than detailed 5,000 word investigations of each candidate's policy positions on after-school daycare and marine hatchery protection. But life isn't like that: the vast majority of people are bored by this stuff and want to know what the candidates are like on a personal basis, who their supporters are, whether they're moving up or down in the polls, and so forth. Sure, that means we get occasional stories about Wesley Clark's argyle sweaters, but so what?

(Quick, name the main policy differences between the top five Dem candidates. You have one minute. Hmmm, you can't do it....?)

In this vein, Tacitus' Macallan, hardly a Howard Dean supporter, suggests that today's New York Times story about him was a hit piece. "Frankly, I thought their treatment was a little creepy. One could report the same facts without the wink and the nod."

So I clicked the link and read it, and it turns out to be a story about the fact that Dean's wife is virtually invisible: she doesn't campaign with him, she gives almost no interviews, and apparently she's flatly uninterested in politics. Is that out of bounds?

I don't see how. You can quibble over the exact quotes the reporter used here and there, but basically, as First Lady expert Myra Gutin said, "The whole thing has just struck me as a little odd." And it is. Maybe it shouldn't be in some alternate universe utopia, but in this one it is. And it's something people are interested in hearing about.

This kind of reporting isn't a reflection on the press, it's a reflection on human nature: after all, People magazine outsells The New Republic about 50 to 1. Way more people vote for presidents based on personal qualities than on substantive policy positions, and I don't see any reason why even the New York Times shouldn't acknowledge that. It's all part of the package.

Kevin Drum 9:59 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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