Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 20, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

ACCOUNTABILITY....Liz Cox Barrett at the Columbia Journalism Review:

The Associated Press's Ron Fournier drops this little truism into the midst of his "analysis" piece today:

"A political attack doesn't need to be right to work..."

No, but one thing a political attack does need to work — whether it's right or wrong — is for reporters to give it a thorough airing, to ensure that it gets proper traction with voters. Which is what Fournier does with today's piece, headlined: "Analysis: Is Edwards Real or a Phony?"

Well, is he? Huh? Is he? Can you guess?

UPDATE: Brendan Nyhan is even more appalled than Barrett: "Can we expect an equivalent approach to covering the GOP candidates? ('Giuliani: Sane or Crazy?')"

Kevin Drum 1:03 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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Comments

I'm going to side with "Edwards does have a tangible existence in this universe." I think if you waved a hand where he was standing, his molecules would exert force on your hand.

Posted by: Martin on September 20, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

I dig this snarky streak you've been on, Drummy.

Posted by: shortstop on September 20, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

"Analysis: Is Ron Fournier Real or a Phony?" and why should you care?

Posted by: Nemo on September 20, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Bush-o-nomicists were warned back in 2002 not to pursue this course.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/09/19/bcnsaudi119.xml

Now, they seem to be in a pattern resembling what aviators call: PIO or Pilot-induced oscillation. When a plane is buffetted off course by a gust or air pocket, or some other factor, then the pilot tries to correct, but panics, and steers too far in the opposite direction, and has to correct back the other way, and when he realizes he's lost control (as the FED did last month) they overcorrect back in the same direction as the original disturbance - pretty soon, you're in a tailspin.

You can't borrow your way to prosperity. The only people who prosper from that policy are bankers.

Actually, I believe Bush's dad called it "Voodoo Economics", back in 1979, when the bankers were paying-off Reagan, and as soon as Reagan picked him for VP, and put him on the team, he shut up, of course, because as we all know, Bushes are Men Of Principle.

Anyway, neocons, congratulations. Say goodbye to 50 years of economic dominance and American Prosperity. Say goodbye to a strong dollar. Say goodbye to everything The Greatest Generation accomplished. It's what you've been working for, isn't it? I hope your Halliburton executives enjoy the weather and the private schools in Dubai.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on September 20, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Good thing you saw through them, Kevin. Otherwise people would report on the story, and it might have real legs!

Posted by: Shelby on September 20, 2007 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Just what is it that they've been teaching in the journalism schools these days?

Posted by: tomeck on September 20, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Jon Stewart showed how, while discussing Clinton's health care proposal, that CNN had the tag "Why is she even trying again?"

Jeepers.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on September 20, 2007 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

As I posted the other day, John Edwards, probably the most capable and progressive of the Democratic candidates, is going to be shot down because Ann Coulter called him the "Breck Girl" and made fun of his haircuts and the mainstream media repeated it endlessly.

Yet, George W. Bush, a cocaine-addicted, alcoholic deserter with multiple arrests on his record, and who has failed at everything he has ever done in his life, got a free pass from the media in both 2000 and 2004. Go figure.

Such is the state of American politics in the 21st Century. Pathetic.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on September 20, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I hear he says he invented the internet!

Posted by: anonymous on September 20, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Yet, the dems can't seem to beat W, can they?

Posted by: nikkolai on September 20, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/dear_john_edwards.php

"...None of Edwards’s missteps, which are inevitable in campaigns that marry political pageantry and media scrutiny, seems so far to have warranted the vitriol he’s received. If the fling with Edwards is over, we in the media need to make it clear—not implicitly, but explicitly—why we’re calling for the breakup. And if there’s no real evidence of Edwards’s presidential unfitness, then we need to stop suggesting it. Otherwise, the whole “it’s not you, it’s me” line might have some truth to it: the problem isn’t Edwards. It’s us."

-----

For some reason all of this reminds me of what a philosophy prof told me once: "Don't waste time reading books *about* Locke and Marx, READ Locke and Marx."

If you focus on what the candidates are actually SAYING-you get a much clearer picture and Edwards thus far seems to have the most unambiguous policy positions. I like that.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 20, 2007 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Analysis: Is the AP Just as Sleazy as the Washinton Times?

Analysis: Is Ron Fournier Just as Phony as President W. Bush?

Posted by: Brojo on September 20, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Edwards is the candidate Republicans and their allies who own the mainstream media fear most. They can't deal with him straight up, so the send hacks like Ron Fournier out to marginalize him.

This isn't new. Politics is always like that. What is new is that we the people are talking back in forums like this.

Posted by: corpus juris on September 20, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

"...None of Edwards’s missteps, which are inevitable in campaigns that marry political pageantry and media scrutiny, seems so far to have warranted the vitriol he’s received"

On the tombstone of the Republic will be the epitaph "Killed By A Story Arc".

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 20, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Is Edwards real or a phony? As usualy, the Truth is probably somewhere in between.

Posted by: Cokie Roberts on September 20, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK
For some reason all of this reminds me of what a philosophy prof told me once: "Don't waste time reading books *about* Locke and Marx, READ Locke and Marx."

Better still, join the proletariat.

Posted by: McGuffy on September 20, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Is who what? Can I guess what? HUH?

Posted by: bob in fl on September 20, 2007 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Don't liberal columnists ever criticize Republicans, perhaps sometimes using a little exaggeration to make a point?

Posted by: Luther on September 20, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Join the proletariat? Bush's policies have already put us there.

Which is why, when Edwards wants to discuss income inequality and poverty, the press wants to call him a phoney or at least spend all their time calling attention to his hair. Because the press is owned by the billionaires who need Bush's tax cuts, and they intend to keep their money.

Posted by: Diana on September 20, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Edwards' appeal to the electorate to better distribute our economy's wealth through changes in the political economy scares the holy crap out of the ownership class. That may be the best reason to support Edwards.

Posted by: Brojo on September 20, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

"Anyway, neocons, congratulations. Say goodbye to 50 years of economic dominance and American Prosperity. Say goodbye to a strong dollar." (O_B_F - upthread).

I'm a really inept investor, so I typically don't. But I suddenly became aware of an investment I made 17 months ago that has earned me 19.66% return in actual cash value without any effort or risk on my part.

What is this lovely instrument? Well, it's a small stack of Euros I brought back from France in April, 2006 and forgot about. While sitting in my desk drawer, their value has increased from the $1.17 each I paid for them to $1.40 each this morning.

Of course, I'll have to unload them quickly, as the Fed is setting an inflation course that will quickly erode the real value of that increase.

Posted by: wileycat on September 20, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

yep, hence my contempt for the American voter and almost all MSM journalists. If individual people did not buy into this crap then corporate media powerhouses and political campaigns would/could not run with it.

Posted by: don'tknow on September 20, 2007 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

I thought someone calling himself Orwell might know the difference between 'their' and 'they're.' And MoveOn has really been handled with kid gloves by the media, hasn't it? The future is a marginal illiterate with foolish ideas posting something you're forced to read, forever.

Posted by: Jim 7 on September 20, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

My upfront experience with Edwards was him down in central California trying to do an obvious Bobby Kennedy act among the farm workers. He even did the hair blowig in the wind thing, just like the dead Kennedy.

If the guy really wanted to get elected he should drive a car off the dock and check in to a hotel for the night.

He is a phony.

Posted by: Matt on September 20, 2007 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I see Kevin's treatment of Edwards as pretty much the same as the media's. Little of substance, it's all about whether Edwards is "real."

Thanks a lot.

Posted by: JJF on September 20, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

If the guy really wanted to get elected he should drive a car off the dock and check in to a hotel for the night.

Wrong Kennedy. Typical.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 20, 2007 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

"He even did the hair blowig in the wind thing, just like the dead Kennedy."

So let's see, Edwards' fatal flaw was that the wind tousled his hair?

You're right, you know -- what could do more lasting damage to the Republic than a President with insufficient mousse?

Posted by: frankly0 on September 20, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Don't liberal columnists ever criticize Republicans, perhaps sometimes using a little exaggeration to make a point?

No, they don't, because GOPers hit back, and they hit back hard (cf, the firing of Dan Rather).

Posted by: Disputo on September 20, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but am I the only progressive in America who doesn't get the great social and moral lesson of the Jena 6?

In the end, don't you have six guys who beat unconscious another guy and, apparently, continued to stomp on him. Why should this inspire me to rush to their defense?

Posted by: frankly0 on September 20, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

This isn't new. Politics is always like that. What is new is that we the people are talking back in forums like this.

Posted by: corpus juris

I agree that politics will always be like that. And it certainly shows some progress that "we the people are talking back in forums like this." But there is something really basic missing on our side.

When a comment like the "Breck Girl" smear is first made, it has to be countered immediately, directly, personally, and viciously by the victim AND his/her colleagues. And then every time some clown like Tweety repeats it, the victim AND his/her colleagues have to call into the show immediately and challenge him personally, "Why are you repeating this slur, a-hole." (Let them -- no indeed make them! -- bleep out the a-hole part.)

It's not enough to confront this crap in writing long after the fact on blogs, begging for the MSM to be fair and objective. Each of these piss ants in the MSM has to be forced to be fair and objective through a personal, Guiliani- or McCain-type confrontation. And when one dem is smeared unfairly, all dems must counter attack immediately and in kind.

Now, I can already hear the objections. "Oh, if we have to stoop to their level to win, I don't even want to win." Give me a break, political hardball is a necessity, and too many dems are afraid to play it.

There is always going to be some skank -- male or female -- who is going to pull a stunt like this. We have to find a way to make them pay in front of THEIR audience. And don't tell me that the American people would turn against us if we did. Had John Edwards called Tweety on his show, and told him he was a coward for repeating that slur on the air, viewers would hold Edwards in much higher regard.

When attacks on character -- sincerity, courage, masculinity (or femininity), truthfulness, etc. --occur, they must be countered with immediate and extreme counterattacks in kind. Because dems are loathe to make such attacks to begin with, we are very bad at countering them when they occur. That has to change or a lot of highly talented folks like John Edwards will be ruined by smear and inuendo while he and his colleagues once again take the "high road."

There is a time and place for taking the high road. It's not when a personal smear occurs in a presidential campaign.


Posted by: Econobuzz on September 20, 2007 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

There is a more relevant question - whether Edwards is a threat or a menace.

Posted by: Al on September 20, 2007 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

An even more relevant question: Whether Al is an idiot or an asshole.

Posted by: DJ on September 20, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

The power structure deems Edwards too dangerous compared to the "safe" Obama and Clinton. Which is why I like him all the move.

Posted by: Vincent on September 20, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Yet, the dems can't seem to beat W, can they?

Well, at least in the Supreme Court they can't.

Posted by: tomeck on September 20, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Make that "all the more." Must've been thinking of the MoveOn.org ad. Oopsie.

Posted by: Vincent on September 20, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

The MSM can take itself to the back of the barn and euthanize itself with a shotgun.

Posted by: astrid on September 20, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

It depends on what the slur is. Most of the time, humor works better than anger in public -- and stilettos are better than broadswords in private.

I woulda suggested that the Edwards campaign develop a reputation for prompt, funny, pointed responses to crap like this. Buy a crate of Breck shampoo for the campaign plane, give the contents of each bottle to homeless shelters, then hand out their policy backgrounders IN the bottles.

In the immortal words of Casey Stengel: "Isn't there ANYBODY here who can play this game?"

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 20, 2007 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

It depends on what the slur is. Most of the time, humor works better than anger in public -- and stilettos are better than broadswords in private.

Posted by: theAmerican

Once a character smear is repeated by the MSM, humor NEVER works. In fact, it usually serves to continue and widen the smear.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 20, 2007 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Cox underlines why the traditional media is facing a crisis of confidence with its readership. An information source that lies to you through omission and distortion is good for what exactly?

Nothing. Entertainment really, in which case it is disposable and perfectly substitutable with other forms of entertainment. For hard news I will go elsewhere to more trustworthy intermediaries.

Posted by: Northern Observer on September 20, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but am I the only progressive in America who doesn't get the great social and moral lesson of the Jena 6?

Why am I not surprised to hear this from a guy with an admitted irrational hatred of Obama?

Posted by: Disputo on September 20, 2007 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

"humor NEVER works. In fact, it usually serves to continue and widen the smear."

Nonsense. I can think of lots of examples where it did work -- including where it should NOT have, like Bush mocking the search for WMDs. Look at Nancy Reagan bringing down the house singing "Second-hand Rose", or Reagan himself crushing Mondale with "I will not let my opponent's youth and inexperience become an issue in this campaign".

What examples are there of actually funny rebuttals that failed?

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 20, 2007 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

The examples you cite are not character smears.

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 20, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

You're going to rebutt smears that Gore is a liar, Kerry is a coward, Edwards is a hypocrite with humor?

Good luck!

Posted by: Econobuzz on September 20, 2007 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

Try to find examples involving other Dems. If there is one thing that is perfectly clear, it's that the Repubs do not get held to the same scrutiny by this media crowd.

Posted by: royalblue_tom on September 20, 2007 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Why does AARP hate America? From Russell Mokhiber at Counterpunch today:

On Thursday night, AARP will host a debate in Iowa on the issue of health care.

Republicans and Democrats running for President will attend.

Of all of the Democrats and Republicans in the race, guess who is the only one who would put the Novelli's buddies in the health insurance industry out of business?

Guess who is the only candidate among the Democrats and Republicans who would create a Canadian-style single payer, everybody in, nobody out, no deductibles, no co-pays, no in-network, no out-of-network, streamlined system that would save billions of dollars in administrative costs, deliver a higher quality health care system, and cover everyone?

Yes.

And guess who was not invited to confront Novelli's corporate brotherhood of profit and death?

You guessed it.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

Posted by: Brojo on September 20, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

Golly, you guys are as clueless as you are humorless.

I gave a f'r instance of a better response to the Breck Girl smack on Edwards. There's a technique to it that evidently escaped you: that Edwards would be calling attention to his own "Breck Girl" image, is newsworthy. In fact, it'd be hard to ignore. And that he would be doing it with substantive proposals, his detailed policy backgrounders IN the shampoo bottles, would underscore that he isn't just a head of hair.

And most of all, it would show he can take a punch: that he's NOT thin-skinned. The nimble speed of a response, the ability to make fun of yourSELF even as you hit back: this is how it works, folks.

Here's another f'r instance: when JFK nominated his brother Bobby to be Attorney General, there was much whispered criticism because, after all, RFK had literally no actual experience as a lawyer. Besides, he was waaaay too close to the President. So RFK got on the phones and told a long list of Senators that he'd take it VERY personally if they voted against his nomination, if they even voiced the accurate critique.

Then JFK was asked about his brother's qualifications at a press conference: "I see no harm in giving Bobby a little legal experience before sending him out to practice law."

Nothing else to be said after that, but to confirm the guy: and that's what happened.

Believe it or not, the best way to succeed is not to copy failures.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 20, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

All this time, I thought Brojo was an insufferable asshole with an affected writing style. With this latest post, though, the whole brilliant joke is clearly reveled. He's a parody! Not only all the Ralph Nader stuff, and the militant socialist jibber-jabber! But now DENNIS KUCINICH!! Fucking brilliant. A perfect satire of a semi-intellectual liberal jack hole. Christ! Why can't we get this kind of smart satire on T.V.?

Posted by: Pat on September 20, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo,

You always seem to manage to be a distorting, ugly little creep.

I'm sorry if I don't find the case of six guys ganging up on another guy and beating him unconscious to be a particularly sympathetic one. Sure, it's not right to try them as adults, and attempted murder is too extreme a charge. But acting as if it's important that the entire nation should rally to their defense is just way too much to expect, given how violent, vicious, and cowardly their act was.

And what I find particularly absurd is the idea that the incident of some months earlier in which nooses were put on a tree somehow excuses the viciousness of this supposed retaliation. Whatever kind of crime a noose in a tree might be, it is not per se a violent crime.

Of course, I expect that none of this means anything to you, given how mindlessly you follow the ideological lines here.

Posted by: frankly0 on September 20, 2007 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

He's both real and phony in the "Boy am I good looking" way.

Anybody who cares that much about how their hair looks, especially heterosexual men, are phony to some extent. The HAIR is phony. That little bump-up beside the part is so phony it hurts to look at it.

Let your hair down, John, and become totally real, please?

The southern accent probably isn't phony, but boy is it irritating, and I really don't want to vote again for someone who can't speak good-old midwestern American, like every TV anchorperson, even the Canadian ones.

Posted by: Cal Gal on September 20, 2007 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

frankyl0,
I agree it is not a terribly sympathetic cause though I read there is perhaps more to the story. Apparently, black students sat underneath a tree that was a traditional gathering place of white students -to the point that a black student asked an asst principal "permission" to sit under the tree. Principal said sit wherever you like. Next day, three nooses hanging from the tree. Principal pushed for expulsion of three white students but was nixed by superintendent and others (in-school suspension only).

Then, at a party a group of white students attacked a black student (one of the eventual Jena 6) with beer bottles. I don't know the extent of the attack nor injuries but one white student charged with misdemeanor. Next, white kid taunts the attacked black kid at school and this white kid is assaulted by the Jena 6. As I say, I don't know all the details but from what I read there does appear to be some imbalance in the punishments meted out - though maybe commensurate with the severity of the "attacks" - don't know.

Clearly, this town has had some serious racial tension for awhile. I'm sure this protest won't help matters.

My source was a story in today's Dallas Morning News though I'm not sure the exact article is available online.

Posted by: ckelly on September 20, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Found it.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/092007dnmetjenasetup.3645e08.html

Posted by: ckelly on September 20, 2007 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Let your hair down, John, and become totally real, please?
Posted by: Cal Gal on September 20, 2007 at 5:49 PM
----

I think it would be interesting to see him in a flat-top. Now THAT would be using humor to benefit his situation (I agree with the concept Americanist).

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on September 20, 2007 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Is Fournier a phony corporate hack attempting to smear a candidate or a real writer looking for facts?

Most would say corporate hack.

Posted by: Chrissy on September 20, 2007 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

I woulda suggested that the Edwards campaign develop a reputation for prompt, funny, pointed responses to crap like this

Doesn't matter. The AP's drone will say you're 'weak' if you don't respond, 'unhinged' if you respond with anger, and 'not serious' if you respond with humor. And if you use a mixture of resposes, you're 'indecisive' and your campaign is 'in in crisis'.

They've already decided to beat Edwards up. Edwards is being asked to choose whether he'd prefer to be beaten with the 9-iron, the Louisville Slugger, or the Stilson wrench.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on September 20, 2007 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- Davis, you're full of shit.

Posted by: theAmericanist on September 20, 2007 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK

"I hope your Halliburton executives enjoy the weather and the private schools in Dubai.
Posted by: osama_been_forgotten"

You're point will be well made when we start hearing "Nuke Dubai" in the chants of protesters around the world.

Posted by: slanted tom on September 21, 2007 at 5:49 AM | PERMALINK

Somehow this reminds me of a Time cover from the spring of 1992. I will never forget it. The cover featured candidate Bill Clinton's face in negative and the headline was "Why Voters Don't Trust Clinton." It really was the most shockingly overt hit job on a candidate that I've ever seen in the mainstream media. (The Gore takedowns were much more subtle.) Needless to say, Time never ran a similar cover featuring George HW Bush.

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