(Pierre, S.D.) McCain wouldlike everyone to think his campaign imploded last summer because of his courageous support for the surge in Iraq:
I fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq, when it wasn't a popular thing to do. And when the pundits said my campaign was finished, I said I'd rather lose an election than see my country lose a war.
--McCain's acceptance speech, 9/4/08
This bit of history was repeated by the McCain campaign in at least one WaPo group interview I attended--suggesting it's an accepted talking point. It's also bogus. McCain's campaign imploded last summer because of his support for "comprehensive"immigration reform, including legalization of existing illegals (semi-amnesty). At the time, the Official MSM Story line centered on budgetary problems (still not Iraq!), but McCain himself admitted the truth to New Yorker's Ryan Lizza:
Over lunch in Arlington, McCain had given the stock explanation for what caused last summer's difficulties. "The problem, which was my problem, was that our fiscal expectations weren't met by reality," he said—in other words, he couldn't raise enough money. But the next day, as I travelled with McCain around South Carolina, he told me that his campaign's brush with death had less to do with fund-raising than with his role in championing the ambitious immigration-reform bill, supported by the White House, that died in Congress this year. "It wasn't the budgetary problems. That was an inside-the-Beltway thing," he said, referring to press coverage of his campaign's setbacks. McCain gets animated whenever he discusses the immigration issue. After a town-hall meeting in Anderson, South Carolina, he recalled how the Irish were discriminated against in America. As he quoted a placard that hangs on the wall of an aide's office ("Help Wanted—No Irish Need Apply"), he jabbed his finger in the air with such emphasis that he knocked my voice recorder to the ground and erased our conversation. "It was immigration" that hurt his campaign, he said when he continued, after a series of apologies on both sides. "I understand that. I was told by one of the pollsters, 'We see real bleeding.' " [E.A.]
McCain bucked the political/media CW on the "surge." He was right, it appears, and he should get lots of credit--though no more than President Bush, who doesn't seem to be getting any at all. But McCain's surge position wasn't what (temporarily) sank his campaign--it was how he revived his presidential campaign after it had been derailed by immigration, the issue he'd now like to hide (and an issue where he embraced the political/media CW). McCain was running in the Republican primary, remember,** which makes his behavior last summer not quite as courageous as he boasts it was. Same goes for his behavior now. ...
**--Supporting the surge was no more a huge courageous risk in a GOP primary than opposing the war was a huge courageous risk for Obama in a Dem primary. ... 12:30 P.M. link
What kind of all-night truck stop doesn't have the National Enquirer? ... (A very nice one in Mitchell, S.D., actually. Marketing suggestion for editor D. Perel:N.E. "Graphic Audio" Edition.) 12:02 P.M.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
1) McCain screwed up what was potentially the most effective part of the speech, where he blames his own party for losing the "trust of the American people." Maybe the delivery was garbled or maybe the passage wasn't written to maximize the drama of the face-to-face dressing-down. You got the feeling McCain was so mad at himself (or someone) when the anti-GOP passage fell flat that he was off rhythm until the concluding paragraphs;
2) Uninspired language: "It's time for us to show the world again how Americans lead." You betcha! "Opening new markets and preparing workers to compete in the world economy is essential to our future prosperity." Where was Mark Salter for the first 4/5 of this thing? Vetting failed VP candidates?
3) Even the Salteresque final passages were undermined by an unnecessary contradiction--in a speech about the need to replace "me first" thinking with "a cause greater than yourself", the passages were all about McCain. And his heroic selflessness. At the beginning of the speech that wouldn't have seemed so odd. At the end, shouldn't McCain have made the transition to ... a cause larger than himself?
4) Another good line spoiled by clumsy delivery:
I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me.
Helpful italics indicate where emphasis should have gone.
5) Mismatch with the facts on the ground:
We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work.
When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them. ...
Oh yeah? You and what Congress?
I'm not in the habit of breaking promises to my country and neither is Governor Palin. And when we tell you we're going to change Washington, and stop leaving our country's problems for some unluckier generation to fix, you can count on it. ...
Again and again, I've worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That's how I will govern as President
Am I crazy or are these passages a blazing arrow pointing toward ... comprehensive immigration reform, one big bipartisan "solution" that the Democratic Congress will be all too happy to work with President McCain to achieve? What else is he talking about? OK, maybe Social Security (where Congress will be far less helpful.) ... Surprisingly, immigration reform--which McCain's friend Lindsey Graham pledged he "will" take up--wasn't actually mentioned at all in the speech. I'd thought McCain would at least "flick" at it as part of his pitch to the Latino swing vote. Maybe the convention really was all about the base (which doesn't like the semi-amnesty parts of McCain's reform). They can always be betrayed later.
7) On top of this tepid refusal to offend conservatives, McCain layered a few blanded-out Classic Rock themes borrowed from liberal candidates of decades past. We've got a little ur-Shrum ("that's just what I intend to do: stand on your side and fight for your future") and some information age/"reinventing government" insights borrowed from Bill Clinton, version 1991.
All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution and the end of the Cold War. We have to catch up to history, and we have to change the way we do business in Washington.
The chant of "Re-Go, Re-go!" failed to catch on.
8) "I know some of you have been left behind in the changing economy ..." Politicians often seem to think it's more effective to embrace cliches--as if the public will understand them better because they are so familiar. This one seemed more a little condescending. Do people want to be told they've been "left behind"? Isn't it better to use "we" and "us" rather than "you"? And better to jolt the audience awake with new words rather than feed them familiar message pellets.
9) Evening almost saved by "Barracuda." Why do I suspect Gov. Palin hates that song? ... Also good to hear Robert Earl Keen's double-edged "Feeling Good Again." ...
Update--The Larger Issue: The speech reeked of extra cooks making too many unintegrated additions. What does it say about McCain's management ability if he let the process for this crucial effort get out of control? It's not like he didn't have months to prepare. Or were the months the problem? Palin's Wednesday night text, presumably written in a few days, was much better. Maybe the McCain campaign didn't have time to kill it with improvements. ... 10:48 P.M. link
Double-Edged Anecdotes: From National Review's Corner:
[W]hen Tony Rezko was indicted Obama held a press conference and answered all of eight questions before he tried to duck out. The media was so upset they lept out of their seats and demanded he return — one news report called it "mayhem." (You can watch the video here.)
NRO is arguing that McCain has been as open as Obama. But doesn't the press' frustration also offer some evidence undermining the usual conservative contention that there's a total pro-Dem MSM double standard at work? MSM reporters "demanded" answers from Obama! Who knew? ... 4:54 P.M.
Edwards cancels pre-election speeches: When did John Edwards realize that cranking up his 'I'm Not the Daddy' Solo Comeback Tour in October might not endear him to his fellow Democrats? Only in the past few days, judging from this August 30th story. ... The man is a once-in-a-generation political talent. ... [via NewsAlert] 4:23 P.M. link
Tomorrow's Marching Orders Today: If therewere some sort of tacit liberal MSM conspiracy--a hypothetical!--Plan 1 was to knock Palin off the ticket out of the box with various unvetted home state scandals. Plan 2, the plan currently in place, is to force Palin to submit to "real interviews" where she will supposedly reveal her embarrassing unpreparedness for the office.
May I suggest to my fellow conspirators that we move directly on to Plan 3: Forget Palin. Stop writing about her. If we make the election about Palin, we will lose. She'll probably win her debate and will almost certainly handle the interviews well enough (to the satisfaction of the voters, at least, if not the experts). The election's not about Palin. It's about McCain. We can beat McCain. ... 1:29 P.M. link
Bob Wright makes the case that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is a problem even if she marries the father of her child. It's bizarrely persuasive. ... 12:06 A.M.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Immigration is, as of today, the great unmentioned issue at both conventions. ... 11:44 P.M.
Palin Speech: Very effective, as expected. Big loser: Hillary. Maybe Hillary's handicaps (e.g., inability to zing opponents without seeming haughty or testy) aren't barriers facing all women after all. [Point stolen from someone in the crowd.] ... Trig is already becoming a bit of a prop, however. ... 11:39 P.M.
Model 3 is Born? Howie Kurtz notes the essential weirdness of McCain strategist Steve Schmidt's fury at the press: Normally, campaigns say they are angry at reporters who print stories without asking them for their side of the story. "A simple phone call would have told X the truth." etc. The McCain camp's complaints against Elisabeth Bumiller fall into this traditional mold.
But Schmidt is now angry because reporters are making the simple phone calls to ask about Sarah Palin before they've actually run with anything. It's the questions he doesn't like! Kurtz: "Schmidt did not contend that [his questioners] were publishing or broadcasting false information about Palin and her family."
What we're witnessing, I think, is the death of a media paradigm that we lived with comfortably for, oh, the last year or two. And John Edwards is to blame! Here's the relevant typology:
Model One: There's the press, and the public. The press only prints "facts" that are checked and verified. That's all the public ever finds out about. The press functions as "gatekeeper."
Model Two: Model One broke down with the rise of blogs, which (along with tabloids and cable) often discuss rumors that are not "verified." The public finds out about these rumors, as rumors. And it turns out that blogging obsessively about rumors is a pretty good way to smoke out the truth (see, e.g., Dan Rather).
But in Model Two, the rumors still don't get reported in the "mainstream media"--the respectable print press, the non-cable networks--until they are properly confirmed. Blogs and tabloids are a sort of intermediate nethersphere between public and the elite MSM that serves as a proving ground where the truth or falseness of the "undernews" gets hashed out. Stories that are true then graduate to the MSM.
Model Three: I thought Model Two would be a workable model for years, until either the MSM itself went totally online or until almost all voters stopped paying attention to it. I was wrong! The Edwards scandal did Model Two in. For months, the MSM failed to report the increasingly plausible rumors of John Edwards' extramarital affair even as it became the widespread topic of conversation in blogs, in the National Enquirer, and among political types. The disconnect turned out to be painfully embarrassing for the MSM, especially when the rumors were finally "verified" with Edwards' confession. A lot of what we are seeing now is the MSM not wanting to go through another Edwards experience.
Why can't the MSM bear to fulfill its Model Two role? a) No press person likes to not be the center of attention. You want to talk about what people want to talk about. That's how you make money, for one thing. And maintaining a disciplined silence on a rampant undernews rumor--even an unverified one--made too many reporters feel as if they worked for Pravda; b) Suppressing an undernews scandal about a Democrat subjected the MSM to charges of pro-liberal political bias (to which respectable organizations are particularly sensitive, because they are largely true); and c) even much of the left was disgusted by the MSM's behavior regarding the Edwards rumor.
We are now, I think, making the next logical leap, to a model in which unverified rumors about public figures are discussed and assessed not just in the blogosphere or the unrespectable tabs but in the MSM itself. I say welcome! With NYT reporters and bloggers all openly discussing unverified reports,, whatever is true will become un-unverified that muhch faster. And the public is proving, by and large, to be quite capable of distinguishing between stories that are true and rumors that are still being investigated.
We're not quite there yet--the unverified rumors that Palin had faked her pregnancy were printed in the MSM, but the McCain campaign itself gave the MSM implicit permission by saying it was releasing the news of Gov. Palin's daughters real pregnancy in order to scotch the fake pregnancy speculations of bloggers. And Schmidt's tormenters were still only checking out rumors, not printing them. But the avalanche of questions to which Schmidt is being subjected--and his discomfort--suggests that the MSM is in the process of shifting to a new role, in which it aggressively investigates and discusses rumors rather than waiting for the industrious blogosphere to force its hand.
They waited with Edwards. They don't want to go through that again. It helps, of course, that this week's rumors involve a Republican.
Once reporters start peppering campaigns with questions, after all, I suspect it will be impossible to keep a lid on whatever rumors the MSM is peppering the campaigns about. That's particularly true in a "synergistic" world where a reporter like Howard Fineman not only writes for Newsweek but also appears on cable shows that have an imperative to discuss whatever is hot now. It's particularly true in a Drudgian world where the activities of MSM reporters-what they're working on, what questions they're asking--is itself news for the Web. In that world, the line between "checking out" tips and open discussion of at least the non-actionable rumors can't really be maintained and shouldn't be, given the truth-divining virtues of widespread publicity (which functions as an APB to the citizenry to come up with evidence).
It's tempting to assume Steve Schmidt's cries are cynical, reflecting a desire to gin up a war between his candidate and the intrusive, condescending elite media--a war in which voters will side with his candidate. Why doesn't he just do his job, under Model 2, and answer the MSM's questions? But it's also likely Schmidt's anguish is at least in part authentic shock at the looming inability of even Model 2 to keep a lid on unrestrained speculation. When even MSM reporters start behaving like bloggers--when candidates' can't squelch discussion of their rumored sins, but have to wade into a non-stop public debate about them--the job of a campaign strategist will get a whole lot harder. ...
Shrum /McCain '08: Is Bob Shrum working for McCain too? I just went back and watched the video of the McCain/Palin rollout in Dayton, Ohio. I hadn't realized that McCain's introductory remarks were boilerplate Shrumian populism. McCain says he wants the government
to understand what you're going through, to stand on your side and fight for you. That's why I'm running for President, to fight for you to make government stand on your side and not in your way. [E.A.]
a) Doesn't it show how meaninglessly vague the Shrum formulation is if it can be comfortably adopted by the Republican candidate?; b) Of course, McCain doesn't blame mysterious unspecified "powerful forces" for "standing in your way," as Shrum's man Gore did in 2000. McCain names one--the government. Maybe Republicans can be more concrete, all-encompassing Shrumian populists than Democrats. They'll fight all the forces! c) Or is McCain hoping that his appropriation of cliched, contentless but historically Democratic rhetoric will lead voters to assume he's something that he's not? d) Shrumcainian populism suffers from the same defect as Shrumgorian populism, which is that most of our toughest national problems aren't caused by outside forces that can be fought and beaten but either by ourselves (e.g.,,voting ourselves too many Social Security benefits) or by ineluctable trends in demography (aging population), science (expensive new medical treatments, more jobs that require tech skills), or world history (e.g., rise of China). ... P.S.: If McCain's going to chase madly after blue-collar Midwest swing votes, does that rule out making an issue of labor's precious "card check" initiative to allow unionization without a secret ballot? ... 4:56 P.M. link
You know how sometimes you put on one of your favorites songs and you're tapping your feet and listening very closely to the singer and you suddenly realize ... he's faking it. It's the fifth take and he doesn't care anymore. Or that's what it sounds like. It could be a good song, by a good group--it happened to me recently with the Decemberists. It happens all the time. But it sort of kills the effect.
I'm sorry but that's how I feel about Fred Thompson. It's how I feel about his campaigning; it's how I feel about his movies, from the very first one I saw--Die Hard II, where he played an aircraft controller (unconvincingly). Thompson's not just a politician who's a bad actor, an actor who always seems to be reading lines. He's a politician who's a bad actor and therefore a bad politician. Last night he had a solid speech to deliver. (As blogger Stephen Green told me, it didn't just throw some red meat. It slaughtered a small cow.) But except for one line (on Iraq, ending in "and now we're winning") and a moving bio section on McCain's aircraft carrier service, Thompson seemed to be a guy reading his lines. He's no Zell Miller. And I don't think he'll have theZell-like effect the McCain people probably hoped for. ... 3:17 A.M. link
Moose and Squirrel: Eli Lake detects signs of "being spooked" in the McCain campaign. ... P.S.: Palin found time to meet privately with the leaders of AIPAC, according to Lake, who also found out what she told them. ... 12:44 A.M.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Semi- amnesty in St. Paul: I asked Sen. Graham how soon, in his first term, President McCain would declare the borders secure (which would let him to move to revive "comprehensive immigration reform"). Graham said "We'll know it when we see it," but emphasized that "comprehensive" reform was "still on the table" and seemed as much of an enthusiast as ever. "He will take that up," Graham predicted.** ... Later, in another WaPo chat, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis mentioned Hispanics as a battleground voter group, arguing that Republicans had to offer them something "other than a deportation center"--which is sort of offensive, when you think about it (as if Hispanic-American voters, who are by definition citizens, are illegals subject to deportation). ... Not just an appeal to ethnic identity politics, but a stereotyping appeal to ethnic identity politics, no? ...
In any case, I urge Graham and Davis to ensure that McCain makes these points forcefully in his acceptance address. That will make for a dramatic convention. Perhaps McCain could reprise Sen. Graham's promise to pass immigration semi-amnesty and "tell the bigots to shut up." ... Of course, I don't expect McCain to push hard on his now un-recanted pro-"comprehensive," views, even as he ostentatiously takes on his party. It's much easier to go after the evil Sen. Stevens and earmarks, which only requires offending some Congressional poohbahs, not the vast mass of Republican voters. (Remember the apparent formula is: 'McCain + grassroots vs. GOP Congress,' not 'McCain vs. grassroots + GOP Congress'--or, worse, 'McCain + GOP Congress vs. grassroots,' even though the last is more or less the real array of forces on immigration.) ...
P.S.: I think I've now cherrypicked most of the best Graham and Davis quotes, but Chris Cillizza has more from Davis, who was pretty talkative for someone who looks like he badly needs a visit to the HuffPo oasis. WaPo has also posted video of part of the Davis interview. ...
**--Quotes based on my notes. The sessions were recorded, but not by me. ...3:17 P.M. link
More of Lindsey Graham on President Palin: "She can do fine on foreign policy because of the infrastructure we have around [us]." Reassuring! ... 3:01 P.M.
I'm starting to worry that McCain's acceptance speech may actually be good. As described by buddy Sen. Lindsey Graham at an on-the-record WaPo chat, McCain will a) tell his own party to wake up, realize they've screwed up and need to regroup; b) attack the culture of Washington (meaning mainly Congress, but also the Pentagon, etc.) and c) proclaim that his term will be very different than the past 8 years. Emphasis on the focus of evil in the modern world, the "hard core appropriators" who benefit from the earmark system.** ... Hey, you can't beat up his party any more than he's beaten up his party himself! ... Plus a possible explicit comment on the unlikelihood of Joe Biden being an "agent of change."
None of this is shocking, but Gov. Palin's popularity with the base may have relieved McCain of some pressure to grit his teeth and demonstrate uncharacteristic institutional loyalty. The formula might be: McCain + grassroots vs. Congressional GOPs. ... P.S.: I'm not saying McCain will be persuasive--for one thing, he wildly overemphasizes the importance of earmarks, even as a proxy for the "culture of Washington." And of course I think his righteous appeals for immigration semi-amnesty are misguided. I'm not even saying the speech will necessarily move his poll numbers much. I'm saying the dramatic tension of McCain taking on his audience, and the possibility he'll have fun doing it, should make for a dramatic, idiosyncratic address that contrasts favorably with Obama's unimaginative, muffled, methodical normalcy. ...
**--Graham on Palin: "If you can take on Ted Stevens and that crowd you can take on the Russians." Hmmm. (There are some things the Russians won't do!) ... 1:54 P.M. link
Monday, September 1, 2008
Well, that's one way to knock down those pregnancy rumors. ... 5:30 P.M.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Note to Cass Sunsteinand internet alarmists who argue that the Web results in partisans who listen only to their own facts, reinforcing their extreme opinions, etc.: A Daily Kos blogger is refuting the Kos-fueled Palin-baby rumor with a photo found on right-wing site Free Republic, of all places. Moral: The Web encourages cocooning but (unlike other cocoon-generators like cable TV, or gerrymandered congressional districts) it's also the solvent of cocooning, as a) bloggers actually read the web sites of the other side, in order to attack them; b) bloggers defend themselves against such attacks; and c) the Web makes learning from the other side extremely easy. ... In this case, viciously partisan Kos bloggers seem to have investigated and knocked down a bit of undernews that many of them would have dearly liked to be true. What's wrong with that? As of this writing, it looks like they got to the truth pretty rapidly. ...
P.S.: If only Kos crowd had behaved like that with the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter rumor. Banned blogger Lee Stranahan is still pissed (and rightly so). But even Stranahan's case largely contradicts Sunstein, since he did dissent from the Kos consensus, did investigate the Edwards rumor on his own, didn't go away and still made himself heard (and was ultimately vindicated in a way even most Kossacks would presumably acknowledge). ...
P.P.S.--The Case for Excitability : Andrew Sullivan's role in publicizing the rumor seems legit too. The feeding frenzy of publicity is what flushes out the counter-evidence quickly (and then that evidence gets a lot of attention).
[Why didn't kf, self-appointed Guide to the Undernews, write about the rumor?--ed. It seemed more likely that an older woman would have a Down syndrome child. Nor do I see what the huge moral scandal would be if the Palin rumor were true. So I didn't get to it. I'm not Guide to the Undernews! At least not to All the Undernews. That's a full time job.** My argument is that the Web as a whole potentially functions as the Guide to All Undernews, as bloggers argue about whatever rumors interest them. ...
**--The Edwards/Hunter undernews was also different, from my perspective--I pushed it because I knew with reasonable certainty, from off-the-record sources, that it was true. But I defend obsessed bloggers who hash out undernews rumors about public figures when they don't know if they're true or not. ... 10:30 P.M. link
Cram, Sarah, Cram: The AMC enjoyably mocks McCain aide Charlie Black's latest gaffe, which has been underplayed in the overnews--even if he Black was half-joking about how Palin will "learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he'll be around at least that long." ... Black's gaffes are a peculiar perverse subclass of Kinsley gaffes, which normally occur when a politician impulsively blurts out the truth. Black's genius is to inadvertently convey the truth (that Palin doesn't know enough, that McCain's health is a worry) while attempting ingratiating, self-serving spin. ... 9:20 P.M.
Friday, August 29, 2008
They just don't get it! Out-of-step Heather Mac Donald says McCain "has just ensured that the diversity racket will be an essential component of presidential politics." In contrast, Obama "stood up to the diversity imperative in selecting Joe Biden," while his acceptance speech made "minimal allusion to his race." ... Krauthammer calls the Palin pick "near suicidal." ... David Frum: "How serious can [McCain] be if he would place such a neophyte second in line to the presidency?" ... Ponnuru: "a reckless choice." ... 12:54 P.M.
Emailer J games out Hillary's response to McCain's VP pick:
It's well understood that if Obama wins he is president for eight years, at the end of which time Hillary may be too old to run. But now if McCain wins, Palin is vice president and at least gets a very good shot at becoming the heir apparent to Republican nomination for the presidency. This would take Hillary's issue -- her firstness -- away from her, and Hillary would become a lot more like just another Democratic pol. Therefore, the most important thing for Hillary's future now is for McCain to be defeated. The notion, indulged in by Maureen Dowd, among others, that Hillary and McCain have a common interest in McCain winning and being a one-termer, ought to be gone, if it ever was realistic. [E.A.]
But if Obama wins she's still probably out for eight years, no? It might be much easier for her to beat Palin in 2012 (if Palin even survives the primary) than to challenge a sitting Democratic president, Kennedy/Carter style. ... 3:12 A.M.
Talking with an MSM reporter on the possibility of the GOPS delaying their convention. He was skeptical of the story. "Drudge hasn't picked it up." ... A decade ago, Drudge was a menace to journalism. Now he's the validator of what's actually news. ... Is that because journalism has changed or Drudge has changed? A bit of both, I suspect. ... 2:31 A.M.
Does the Department of Homeland Security have technology as sophisticated as that used at the Vanity Fair/Google party in Denver? Man, if those guys were running the border, nobody would get in. ... 2:23 A.M.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.
MLK grafs also good. But not enough like those; 4) Gave voters little sense that he understands and can master the pressures--bureaucratic imperatives, unions, civil service rules-- that have often caused previous idealistic liberal presidents to fall short while sucking up taxpayer dollars. The only sentence addressing this concern (that I heard) was;
I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.
Actually, this sentence suggests he doesn't understand the problem. "Twentieth century bureaucracy" wasn't very effective at meeting twentieth century challenges; 5) The one carefully non-controversial mention of immigration was met with ... silence; 6) In general, Obama went all euphemistic and vague when discussing controversial domestic topics. On education, for example, he wants "higher standards and more accountability." What you mean "accountability"? Nothing here with the bite of his 2004 putdown of "the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." The implied message about Obama's character is that he's a bit of a wimp, at least in public. Or at least he chose to be a bit of a wimp on an occasion when he didn't have to; 7) Why the slow, angsty movie-music at the end? I thought someone in the Politburo had died. 8) Some of the professionals' doubts about the move to an outdoor setting were validated. The confetti immediately blew to one side of the stage and got tangled in the exploding Barackopolis, where it looked like a Halloween spider's web. Symbol of overreach! 9) Didn't you want to see Obama, more than previous nominees, "validated" by being surrounded by other more familiar Dems in the traditional group greet-and-hug scene (in which they implicitly both approve him and show that he will have support)?** Instead, he asks us to buy him as the unknown loner savior, striding on and off the stage with just his family and running mate. It's a tougher sale, and an unnecessary one I think. ...
**--Of course, then Hillary and Bill might have been up there. Still, it would be in a subordinate role. ...
P.S.: I'm not saying the speech won't help him. I expect it will. I'm saying it seemed flat. ... 8/29 Update: Bounce. ...
P.P.S.: Peggy Noonan notes the lack of "humor, and wit, and even something approximating joy." ... Michael Goodwin saw a mismatch between the speech and the stage. And the speech might have seemed better if the setting hadn't raised expectations of a monumental performance. ... Jeremy Lott: "This address was not nearly as good as his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. His lines this time ran from serviceable to pretty awful." ... David Broder:
His  Boston speech -- and many others early in this campaign -- suggested that he was sincere in wanting to tamp down partisanship and would be creative enough to see the need for enlisting bright people from both parties in confronting the nation's problems.
But the Denver speech, like many others he has given recently, subordinated any talk of fundamental systemic change to a checklist of traditional Democratic programs.
More: Obama said, "[W]hat I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes." Clever. It seems like a slap at netroots incivility. But taking positions "for political purposes" is actually a fairly honorable thing to do compared to the venality and other forms of bad faith of which politicians are routinely accused on the Web. (Think Halliburton.) And it's hardly a sacrifice for Obama to forswear this tactic. On issues where McCain has flip-flopped, such as immigration, taxes and torture--Obama plans to make precisely the opposite charge anyway: that McCain's new position reflects McCain's real views. Of course, McCain probably actually took these new positions "for political purposes"--but that's the argument McCain's defenders will make. ("Oh, he had to say that to get the nomination.")
Valued reader feedback: Emailer J.G. wonders why I didn't like this passage:
We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.
I agree the graf outlines an appealing compromise-based model of how President Obama might actually operate--a model that jibes with his state house history. But it still leaves his own views annoyingly vague and mysterious. ...
Handicap: Maybe I didn't feel the full impact of the speech because I watched it from behind a glass barrier in the Invesco press box, an unfortunate situation documented in this Slate V video. My colleagues seemed to like it more than I did.
... 9:49 P.M. link
Effective day for Dems. 1) Bill Clinton outlined a simple, substantive framework for the election. As James Taranto noted, he built a stronger case for Obama than Hillary did--an inversion of how the two Clintons are said to actually feel about the nominee. ... 2) Joe Biden makes a good first impression. Not sure about the second. ... 3) It would be hard to fashion a blunter appeal to social equality ("[T]he American creed: No one is better than you. You are everyone's equal, and everyone is equal to you.") Biden's the anti-snob, cleansing the odor of bitter clinging from Democrats' campaign. He owes Mayhill Fowler a fruit basket, no? Without her HuffPo post, would he have gotten the call? ... 1:03 A.M. link
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
On the record Time coffee featuring Obama campaign manager David Plouffe: Plouffe argued for paying less attention to the ups and downs of the polls because a) Obama would beat McCain on turnout and b) swing voters would probably break one way or another after the debates. The audience consensus--which in this crowd was almost by definition CW--seemed to be that Plouffe was whistling past the graveyard, relying on turnout machination to make up for a worrisome message problem. ... P.S.: Plouffe also said the McCain campaign was "obsessed with news cycles." ... Update: See also Noonan. ... 4:11 P.M. link
You know how when you give a party, you have a great time and there's this warm glow as you think about it? And then you start remembering the guests who didn't show up, and you get a little annoyed? Hillary's speech last night was like that. Effective, but then you realize the things she didn't say: 1) Obama won fair and square; 2) "Things get a little rough in the course of a campaign, and the Republicans will no doubt try to use some words said in the heat of battle against our nominee. But I came to respect Barack Obama for his ____________ [insert sterling character trait]." 3) Specifically, he's more than ready to be commander in chief. ... 3:33 A.M.
John Edwards on Nightline on August 8: "[M]y wife has forgiven me." Are we sure this is still true? ... 3:10 A.M.
Time magazine's "hot shots" breakfast in Denver Tuesday morning showcased Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Rep. Artur Davis, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and D.A. Kamala Harris. 1) Booker and Davis are very impressive. Newsom, who seems kind of goofily egomaniacal, not so much. 2) Oprah BFF Gayle King was there, agreeing vigorously with Booker's comments; 3) Note to Pete Wehner: Joe "divided loyalties" Klein is not only still alive and employed but appears to be very much in favor at Time; 4) Davis said that although immigration wasn't a major area of dispute between McCain and Obama, it was "the most toxic issue" in the South, with "as many African Americans" as whites intensely concerned. He predicted it would be a huge issue in the 2009-2010 midterm election, at least if Obama wins. Why? Because the out of power GOP leadership will come to the strategic decision that the way to effectively discredit the Democrats is to unify in opposition to "comprehensive" reform (i.e., including semi-amnesty).
Right. That's why I'll be happy if Obama wins. Or, rather, why opponents of "comprehensive reform" should support Obama, even if on paper he's even more of a comprehensivist than McCain. Davis did not seem eager to hand unified Republicans an issue by voting on amnesty in Obama's first two years--a sentiment I suspect is widely shared among moderate Dems. ... 2:40 A.M.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Am I crazy to think this independent anti-Obama ad (on the William Ayers issue) is really, really effective--just shy of devastating--while Obama's fight-back response ad is only an 80% answer (ignoring the question of why Obama associated with the perpetrator of these "crimes"). ... That's the problem with the constant grassroots demands for aggressive Dem pushback. 1) The pushback is apt to be produced by partisans who think GOP "Swift Boat" attacks are sleazier than the voters think they are; and 2) partly as a consequence of (1), the pushback is apt to leave pregnant gaps; and 3) making a big deal of a GOP attack makes it a big deal. ... Is an 80% response under these circumstances better than no response? I'm not sure. ... But at least you'd think Obama wouldn't start the publicity-generating pushback until he'd defined himself in his big speech. Unless so many Ohioans had already seen the ads, and they were so damaging, that Obama had no choice. ... [via The Corner] 6:40 P.M. link
Most Audacious Claim of the Night:
Joe Biden, who's never forgotten where he came from ...
Wales, right? 12:51 A.M.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
T hings We Thought We'd Never See: Democrats Rally Against the Teachers' Unions! I went to the Ed Challenge for Change event mainly to schmooze. I almost didn't stay for the panels, being in no mood for what I expected would, even among these reformers, be an hour of vague EdBlob talk about "change" and "accountability" and "resources" that would tactfully ignore the elephant in the room, namely the teachers' unions. I was so wrong. One panelist--I think it was Peter Groff, president of the Colorado State Senate, got the ball rolling by complaining that when the children's agenda meets the adult agenda, the "adult agenda wins too often." Then Cory Booker of Newark attacked teachers unions specifically--and there was applause. In a room of 500 people at the Democratic convention! "The politics are so vicious," Booker complained, remembering how he'd been told his political career would be over if he kept pushing school choice, how early on he'd gotten help from Republicans rather than from Democrats. The party would "have to admit as Democrats we have been wrong on education." Loud applause! Mayor Adrian Fenty of D.C. joined in, describing the AFT's attempt to block the proposed pathbreaking D.C. teacher contract. Booker denounced "insane work rules," and Groff talked about doing the bidding of "those folks who are giving money [for campaigns], and you know who I'm talking about." Yes, they did!
As Jon Alter, moderating the next panel, noted, it was hard to imagine this event happening at the previous Democratic conventions. (If it had there would have been maybe 15 people in the room, not 500.) Alter called it a "landmark" future historians should note. Maybe he was right.
P.S.: My favorite moment didn't concern the unions. It came when NYC schools chief Joel Klein called for a single national testing standard. Groff, a crowd favorite, made the conventional local elected officials' objection that you need flexibiity, one size doesn't fit all, "what works" in County X might not work in County Y. And he was booed! Loudly. By Democratic education wonks. Wow. (The "one size" argument cropped up in the welfare reform debate too--and I assume it's just as bogus in the education debate. We're a national economy with cities that look more or less alike. What works in County X is almost certainly also going to work in County Y.)
P.P.S.: John Wilson, head of the NEA itself, was also there. Afterwards, he seemed a bit stunned. He argued pols should work with unions, in pursuit of a "shared vision," not bash them. But isn't this a power struggle where you have to bash the other side to get leverage, I asked. "Then you have losers," he answered.
P.P.P.S.: Mickey's Assignment Desk: Has someone done the trend piece on all these smart, young, powerful bald,** black state and local elected officials--e.g., Fenty, Booker, Groff, Nutter--who are taking on their unions? You'd need a name. Hair Club for Men is already taken. Domeboys? ...
**--Nutter has a bit of hair on the sides. Maybe Groff too. Close enough for a trend. 5:12 P.M. link
Here's that Biden clip, right on cue. ... Biden clearly sizes up "Frank," who asks him where he went to law school and where he ranked in his class, as a silly credentialist snob. It's hard not to feel a twinge of sympathy with the Senator there. But again, what killed Biden about this clip wasn't his anger, or even the uncomfortable "IQ" crack (followed by the trademark uncomfortable teeth-baring smile). It was that Biden's insecure academic boasts were almost all bogus.**It certainly wasn't a Kinsley Gaffe. ... [Tks to reader J.]
**--Another class action suit! ... 2:23 A.M.
Road Trip Report: 1) Things you don't want to hear from behind the counter as you buy a cup of coffee in Richfield, Utah: "You know, I think that water's cleared up enough it might be all right now." 2) Best part of trip: Spotted Wolf. 3) Worst part of trip: Worries about automated speeding-ticket cameras after horror stories from gas station night clerk; 4) What is probably a famous traffic warning (on the I-70 slope going into Denver):
TRUCKERS ARE NOT DOWN YET
It must be the hats. ...
Update: Several emailers say the sign reads "TRUCKERS YOU ARE NOT DOWN YET." Same joke! ... P.S.: None of these is the sign I remember seeing. But I was going fast. ... 1:19 A.M.
Is David Brooks trying to sabotage Barack Obama? I think so. Discussing Obama on NPR Friday:
He's gotta tie himself to a theme that runs through everything. And the theme that's authentic to him is: He is the future. He is the kind of person who emerges in a global world. And that's what I'm looking for at the convention, whether he can do that. [E.A.]
Suggested slogan: "America is Over! Deal With It." ... Brooks must know this is incredibly bad advice. Even Gore Vidal would recognize that this is incredibly bad advice. Heck, even Susan Estrich ... 12:20 A..M.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Biden: Maybe when I get to Denver I'll find someone who'll explain to me why Biden is an inspired choice. He doesn't have gravitas. He has seniority. We've been waiting for him to mature for decades. Only Chuck Hagel (his chief competitor as Sunday morning gasbag) could make him look wise. ... Virtues: He's likable. ... I'm thinking. ... 11:19 A.M. link
MoveOn, NeverMind: "MoveOn now calls their being listed [alongside AT&T and PG&E] as a sponsor 'a mistake' (they're apparently sponsoring an event at the same time), and swears they're going to get their name taken off the publicity for the event." [E.A.] ... Here's the poster with MoveOn proudly listed. ...[Tks to reader J.] ... Democratic Social Equality Watch: A bigger question is why any left-wing, or Democratic organization should sponsor an event with one "general" concert for the masses and a second, separate "invitation only" concert (with "VIP acts") for the elite. ... Subtle! ... The "general" bill looks better, though. ... 12:36 P.M.
QUICK: You know, one of the things that the nation is watching is next week, the first of the conventions kicks off, the Democratic National Convention. Originally, John Edwards was expected to be speaking at that convention, but after some revelations and a spectacular fall about--some revelations about his private life, he will no longer be speaking at the convention. Warren, you're somebody who has been supporting Barack Obama. Did you ever give money to John Edwards along the way?
BUFFETT: No, I didn't--I didn't give money to John Edwards. And, in fact, I think if I'd given money to him, I'd probably be asking for it back now. It's an interesting situation because John Edwards essentially was soliciting money from people to further his ambitions for the presidency, and, you know, people sent him 50, $100, $200, and I would say that they sent it in while they were being misled by the person who was soliciting the money from them. And, you know, I think if I were Edwards, I might give up a haircut or two and refund at least, you know, the people that gave the 50 or $100, $200 items, because they-- if they had known the facts, they wouldn't have sent him the money, and he is the guy that didn't give them the facts. I mean, he knew that, in effect, he wouldn't be elected president. I mean, the story was out there during the campaign. He denied it, but it was out there. And, in fact, I've never heard of it, but it might be kind of interesting if somebody, some contributor, would bring a class-action suit on behalf of all these people who essentially were led to send money to a man under totally false circumstances, false pretenses, and where he knew it and didn't tell them the truth.
QUICK: Hm, that'd be ironic for a trial lawyer...
QUICK: ...to have a class-action lawsuit brought against him.
BUFFETT: I've seen a lot of class-action suits with less to it than this particular case. The facts are clear. I mean, he solicited money and he wasn't telling the truth to the people he was soliciting it from.
QUICK: How--have you had any discussions? I mean, obviously, you talked to a lot of people who are high ranked in the Democratic Party. Is that something that's been thrown around out there, or did you cook this up yourself?
BUFFETT: No, I don't think--I don't think I've heard of that. The--I don't talk to a lot of class-action lawyers, but I really think--I think those people were defrauded. They sent money under--with the person who was soliciting the money from them misinforming them even when the National Enquirer came out with it during his campaign,he kept soliciting money and saying it isn't true. I would think that they--it might be a pretty good class-action suit.
QUICK: Even to this day, he says that he--they had 99 percent of it wrong, even in the most recent interview John Edwards came up with, although he admits that he did have an affair with a woman.
BUFFETT: Well, he would have a chance at a class-action suit to respond to that.
Heh! ... I would think this would be a difficult precedent to contain--can donors sue McCain because he didn't, in fact, get "the message" from the defeat of his immigration semi-amnesty bill--and he knew it? Maybe businesses have to live with this sort of uncertain class-action threat when they dissemble. Politicians will never stand for it. ... 12:32 P.M. link
Susan Estrich on why she knew early on that the candidate whose campaign she was running would lose in 1988:
Sometimes you can look at the numbers, and doom stares you in the face. ... [snip] ... By the summer of 1988, the country had turned from believing we were on the wrong track to thinking we were on the right track. They thought my candidate, Governor Dukakis, was more conservative than he actually was — that's what beating Jesse Jackson every Tuesday will do for you.
Dukakis' campaign manager may be the only person in America who thinks he lost because he was seen as "more conservative than he actually was." ... [Tks to Z] ... Update: Emailer F suggests I'm misunderstanding Estrich:
She isn't saying people ultimately voted against Dukakis because he was too conservative. She's saying that he initially was leading in the polls because people perceived him to be more conservative than he was. When his ideological underpinnings became more apparent they turned against him.
That's not my reading of her column. In the very next sentence Estrich says, "By the fall, it was clear: right or wrong, they didn't like him." Would they be "wrong" if they came to correctly perceive that he was more liberal than they previously thought? Or is Estrich saying they persisted in their misperception of him? I think the latter. But "F" could be right. ... 11:34 A.M.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Why Biden Would Be Bad: There's a bit of C-SPAN tape that should surface quickly if he's named. ... Remember, it wasn't Biden's plagiarism that knocked him out of the 1988 race. It was "'I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do''--a bizarre videotaped putdown that Biden immediately called into question with five (5) boasts about his academic record, four (4) of which turned out to be easily disproved B.S. ... [you got a better candidate?--ed Zinni! ] ... [via Brothers Judd ] 1:16 A.M.
The Cruelty of Feiler: Comedian Bernie Mac died on a Saturday a couple of weeks ago. The following Monday, someone at the regular Slate editorial meeting--maybe me-- proposed a piece on him. The immediate, unamimous response: "Too late." Brutal! Work all your life, become a beloved public figure, go into syndication, then die tragically young--and you get, what, a day? ...
Screw that. Mary Battiata, an accidental fan of the Bernie Mac Show, explains its peculiar genius on Huffington Post. ... 12:44 A.M.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
WaPo story on Fannie Mae suggests 1) Paul Krugman was still at least deceptive when he glibly asserted the giant government-chartered company had "nothing to do with the explosion of high-risk lending a few years ago" ** and 2) government regulations, which Krugman and others say prevented Fannie & Freddie Mac from taking on too much risk may also have been at least partly to blame for the risky subprime-loan-backed securities they did purchase:
Internal documents show that even late in the housing bubble, Fannie Mae was drawn to risky loans by a variety of temptations, including the desire to increase its market share and fulfill government quotas for the support of low-income borrowers. [E.A.]
**--Krugman might claim that 2006 and 2007, the years examined by WaPo, weren't "a few years ago." But most readers of his column would have missed that vague lawyerly qualifier. And Calculated Risk makes clear Fannie had quite a bit to do with fostering the subprime market before then, presumably also in pursuit of its "low-income borrower" goals. ... 3:21 A.M.
BLOCKBUSTER! Rielle Hunter Holding Angelina Jolie's Baby? New Enquirer photo of Rielle Hunter and her child: 1) Distinctive-looking little girl; 2) Love lips! 3) But not the only baby who's got 'em! 4) More than arguably similar to the blurry baby Edwards is holding in the Enquirer's earlier "spy" photo. ... 2:54 A.M.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sometimes it takes a while: Dick Morris says Obama should be "nominated by acclimation." So true. ... 7:18 P.M.
Mary Ann Akers reports that "as recently as last week" John Edwards was expressing interest in attending a Denver event.
[W]e were told by well-placed sources who asked to remain anonymous that Edwards did, indeed, express interest to One Campaign officials just last week in playing a role in Denver, where the former North Carolina senator is most certainly not welcome by party officials. (His wife, Elizabeth Edwards, is no longer scheduled to speak at the convention.)
Edwards aide Jonathan Prince now says, "Unequivocally, he is not going to Denver." ... 12:40 P.M.
Monday, August 18, 2008
On to Denver! When it comes to rounding up John Edwards news and links, I can't hope to compete with Deceiver. ... See esp. Lee Stranahan's informed speculations about future developments in the story, which now looks like it will run right into the Democratic convention. Obama's aides are probably not pleased. ... Howie Kurtz congratulates himself again: "I had a strong feeling last weekend when John Edwards finally acknowledged having an extramarital affair that we hadn't heard the end of this thing." Is Kurtz is the new Daniel Patrick Moynihan, able to react to any development by praising his own previous thoughts? (Even though Bill Wyman vainly pleaded, back before Edwards' semi-confession, "Howie Kurtz ...Only you can investigate why you haven't written this story.") ...
P.S.: Deceiver missed journalist Ann Louise Bardach's defense of her former tenant, Rielle Hunter, in the Santa Barbara Independent:
For two years, she rented digs from investigative reporter Ann Louise Bardach and her actor husband Bobby Lesser (Carpinteria residents) in Los Angeles, and they insist Hunter is not the Venus flytrap as portrayed on TV. They describe Hunter as smart, funny, and underneath that extravagantly New Age exterior, tough as nails and hard as rock.
P.P.S.: David Usborne asks: "Just days before the start of the Democratic convention in Denver, which will culminate in the crowning of Barack Obama, are we, in fact, seeing the early outlines of a first-rate political cover-up?" Only if Watergate was a first-rate burglary. ... 11:30 P.M.
Last October, John Edwards phoned his local North Carolina paper's editor, lied and played the cancer card in the attempt to prevent the paper from printing even his public denial of the Enquirer's original "affair" story. The only reason it can't be said the lie worked is that the paper had already wimped out, according to the editor, John Drescher. ... P.S.: The story of the Edwards Coverup, which has only begun to trickle out, is certainly providing a useful civic education in how powerful pols actually go about attempting to influence the MSM. It's one of those situations where unsophisticated people probably think the candidate himself calls the top editor directly to baldly influence coverage, while more sophisticated people know there are institutional procedures in place to protect against that sort of crude personal lobbying. Meanwhile, the really sophisticated people know the candidate himself calls the top editor directly to baldly influence coverage. ... P.P.S.: Whom else did Edwards--or maybe Elizabeth--call? ... [via Corner via Insta ] Update: How the competing Charlotte Observer ate Drescher's lunch while his paper (The News & Observer) was demonstrating "'the restraint that has marked The N&O 'sresponsible approach to the story.'" [via Deceiver] ... 2:35 P.M.
Once again an editor shies away from a discordant aspect of the Edwards scandal, namely the role of Elizabeth Edwards:
"Stop, stop. I don't want to go there. I do not like it, [the editor] said to a reporter's suggestion about the Elizabeth Edwards angle. "She's been hurt, she's lashed out."
Maybe the Enquirer will show up the MSM covering this angle too! Except that the editor who doesn't "want to go there" is the editor of the Enquirer. ... 1:45 A.M.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
The Unraveling--Andrew Young's Mom Isn't Buying Story #2! The mother of Andrew Young, the John Edwards aide who has claimed paternity of Rielle Hunter's daughter, makes it clear to the New York Post that she isn't buying that story.
Jacquelyn Aldridge made clear she deeply doubts her married son--Edwards campaign official Andrew Young---cheated on his beautiful wife and impregnated Edwards' paramour, Rielle Hunter, last year. ... [snip]
Asked if she believes two-time Democratic presidential contender Edwards, 55, is the real father, Aldridge declined to answer.
"I'm not supposed to talk," said the North Carolina woman.
Time to whisk her out of the country! ... Meanwhile, MSM reporters--having deemed it unnecessary to report on whether a leading, active Democratic pol, third-place presidential candidate and likely cabinet official cheated on his ill wife while making a big show of his loyalty and then lied about it to the public --have found an angle sufficiently tedious to be worth discussing with their readers: a possible campaign finance violation! Why does that prospect produce sudden investigative lust? Because government investigations of campaign finance violations can last years, involving lots of lawyers and government investigators who can then leak the fruits of their subpoena power to reporters in time to let everyone make it home for their kids' soccer game. And not even the Columbia Journalism Review will object. ... Unfortunately, as difficult as it is to not break some campaign finance law, the payments from Edwards's PAC to Rielle Hunter's film company may actually have been legal, according to the WSJ. .. 11:42 A.M.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine isn't buying Story #2. ... [Tks. to D.B.] 3:29 P.M.
Former Edwards Senate campaign manager Gary Pearce isn't buying Story #2. ... 1:09 P.M.
How big a victim is Elizabeth Edwards? A decision tree: Did John Edwards
A) finally come clean in his Friday evening Nightline interview! ... or
B) choose, when caught out in a lie, to recklessly erect a second edifice of BS regarding at least 1) whether this was his only affair; 2) when this affair started; 3) when it ended; 4) whether it was going on in mid-2007 when Rielle Hunter's child was conceived; 5) whether he thinks he might be the father; 6) whether he actually wants a paternity test; 7) why he visited Hunter at the Beverly Hilton; 8) whether he knew and/or tacitly approved of payments to Hunter and putative father Andrew Young. ...
i) the same lies he told his wife, Elizabeth--that the affair ended in 2006, etc.--so the Nightline's Story #2 was really an attempt to save his marriage now that his political career is over or
ii) lies designed more to preserve the possibility of a political comeback some time in the future by admitting only to a "short" affair, before his wife's cancer recurred, that did not involve any questionable campaign practices (such as using contributions to give your mistress a job that allows her to travel with you)?
It's not surprising that People magazine's new cover story portrays Elizabeth Edwards as the anguished victim motivated by "her determination to keep her family together." People is basicaly working from script (A), the one John Edwards undoubtedly wanted the MSM to work from when he prepared for Nightline. The Excruciating Anguish of Elizabeth (who "pushed her husband to finally come clean") would be a logical part of that PR strategy whether or not Edwards was telling the truth to Bob Woodruff.
What's surprising is that the non-MSM National Enquirer, which is decidedly not working from script (A)--it's out to puncture Edwards' Story #2-- also portrays Elizabeth as the victim. "He is still lying to America and his wife." the tab says. The Enquirer opts for B (i).
Let me raise the alternative, third possibility contained in B(ii): there is a Second Coverup and Elizabeth Edwards, rather than being its victim, is in on it up to her eyeballs! ** Why do I think this is a real possibility? First, Elizabeth was in on the first coverup, allowing her husband to go out and deny the initial Enquirer reports of his affair. (He admits to Woodruff that she knew these denials were false,) Second, she might see her legacy as bound up with her husband's--and also want her children to have a father with a political future.*** Third, Elizabeth Edwards is famously smart, and a lawyer. Does still she really think the Enquirer is just making up the part about how Edwards' affair with Hunter restarted around the time Hunter got pregnant? Does she think her husband knew nothing about the payments?
She can't possibly be as dumb as People thinks its readers are. ...
**--She could still be anguished!
***--I deny the Second Coverup would be designed to avoid having her children's father humiliated. If he'd actually came clean, in this scenario, it would more decisively kill his political career but arguably be less humiliating than being caught out in a second set of lies, which is what will probably happen now. Rather, the Second Coverup risked this extra double-humiliation for the sake of political survival (i.e., being able to later say "all I did was have a brief affair"). ... 2:39 A.M. link
Kos--- characteristically gracious! ... 12:51 A.M.
Andrew Young--paternity-claimer and ... real estate genius? [8/14 Note: See semi-major update/correction at that link] ... 12:50 A.M.
Walter Shapiro wonders how he got taken in by the Edwardses. ... 12:06 A.M.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Story #2--The Unraveling: In John Edwards' I-will-have-nothing-more-to-say statement, he declared:
With my family, I took responsibility for my actions in 2006 and today I take full responsibility publicly. But that misconduct took place for a short period in 2006. It ended then. [E.A.]
Shockingly, this statement may be roughly accurate (except maybe for the "short" part!). But it helps to place a Clintonian emphasis on the year, 2006. "It ended then." The trouble is it started up again a while later, according to the newly credible National Enquirer.
After Edwards confessed the affair to his wife, he restarted it, and was sexually involved with Rielle when she became pregnant
Oh, you mean that misconduct. ... Hey, he didn't say he took responsibility for his actions in 2007. ... 12:43 P.M.
Ruth Marcus isn't buying Story #2. ... 12:05 A.M.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Bob Franken isn't buying Story #2. ... 12:21 P.M.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Andrea Mitchell isn't buying Story #2. ... 10:19 P.M.
Was Narcissus Kurtzistic? Howie Kurtz actually ends his WaPo piece--on the embarrassing failure of his paper and others to cover the Edwards scandal until Edwards himself confessed--on a note of self-congratulation:
Early last year, I wrote a column about the behind-the-scenes video that Hunter produced for Edwards's presidential run, a self-absorbed episode in which he said he would campaign "based on who I really am, not based on some plastic Ken doll." After watching the smooth-talking candidate preen for the camera, I questioned whether he was engaged in "carefully choreographed candor." I didn't know how right I was. [E.A.]
P.S.: Doe he know how wrong he is in his mis-potted history of recent sex scandals?
I don't think the party favoritism charge holds up. Yes, the media went hard after two Republican senators, Larry Craig (who pleaded guilty in that bathroom incident) and David Vitter (who admitted calling an escort service). But they also pounced on New York's Democratic then-governor, Eliot Spitzer (whose taste in prostitutes was revealed by the New York Times), and, famously, Bill Clinton (whose Monica Lewinsky mess was disclosed by The Post and hotly pursued by Newsweek). [E.A.]
And here I'd thought Michael Isikoff's original Lewinsky story was withheld by Newsweek--making it an odd data point for someone arguing that the mainstream media "pounced" on a Democrat. ... The Lewinsky scandal took off only after Matt Drudge reported that Isikoff's story wasn't being published. ... [Thanks to emailers M.G. and G.R.] 12:45 P.M.
Would it really hurt Obama if John Edwards went to Denver? The more he publicly defends himself, the more honest and upright he makes Obama look by comparison. And the smarter he makes Democratic primary voters look. ... 1:16 A.M.
USA Today isn't buying Story #2 ... 12:40 A.M.
John Tabin makes a good point about Rielle Hunter's refusal to allow a paternity test:
[Hunter's] response -- invoking her and her daughter's privacy -- is a little odd if she expects the test to come up negative. How much of an invasion of privacy is it to prove that someone isn't your child's father -- especially when you've already made public assertions about the child's paternity on the record?
Come to think of it, the statement put out by Hunter's lawyer, for all it's talking-point thoroughness, must have accidentally left out this sentence: "A paternity test is clearly unnecessary because I already know that the father of my child is Andrew Young." ... 12:27 A.M.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Edwards declares "it's not possible that [Rielle Hunter's] child could be mine," adding that he's "happy" to take a paternity test and "truly hopeful that a test will be done." The next day Rielle Hunter's lawyer says "Rielle will not participate in DNA testing."
Are you buying this? For one thing, if Edwards is really certain he isn't the father of the kid, wouldn't he have demanded a paternity test to clear his name, not just indicated his hope for a test? ... Too late to change the tone now! ...
P.S.-Story #2 is Elizabeth's too: Note also that it's not just John Edwards denying his paternity, it's his wife Elizabeth. In her Kos post she writes:
Because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication, because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private. [E.A.]
Shouldn't she be demanding a paternity test? ... If Story #2 unravels and turns into Coverup #2, will it have been a coverup of which Elizabeth has now been an active (if not necessarily knowing) promoter? ... 2:56 A.M. link
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Story #2, Lie # 1: Sam Stein has emails sent by Rielle Hunter that already reveal one seemingly false assertion in Edwards' Modified Limited New Story--namely his claim that his "short" affair with Hunter didn't begin until after she began work as a campaign filmmaker in mid-2006:
Edwards and Hunter initially met each other sometime during the winter of 2006 (either late December 2005 or early January) in a hotel restaurant in midtown Manhattan. It would be another seven months before Edwards would first pay her for the documentary work. As Woodruff rightfully noted, the initial check cut to Hunter's film company was written on July 5, 2006, for the cost of $12,500.
What happened in between that winter meeting and the start of filming? Emails sent by Hunter suggest that her romance with Edwards was in full bloom that spring. In early April, Hunter wrote about a trip she had taken to North Carolina to see the man whom she affectionately referred to as "my love lips."
A week later she wrote another email in which she described the mental anguish of "being in love with a (still somewhat dysfunctional) married man."
Rather than Edwards having a fling with a staffer, Stein speculates, "Edwards hired her as a front to continue their relationship." ... But it's not true that Hunter had no filmmaking experience prior to being hired. She was actress, writer and producer for Billy Bob and Them! ...
P.S.: Hunter's lawyer has issued a statement saying she will not "participate in DNA testing" of her daughter. Convenient! No doubt some of Edwards' rich friends will now send her tens of thousands of dollars behind his back to try to persuade her to agree to the test and clear John's name (by validating Story #2's central claim that he is not the father). ... Wouldn't Hunter's statement seem a little more authentic if it wasn't PR'ed to an inch of its life to mesh with the Edwards anti-tab talking points? ("Rielle is a private individual. She is not running for public office.")
P.P.S.: According to WaPo,Enquirer editor David Perel explicitly says there were two meetings at the Hilton, not just one. ... More to explain! ... 6:46 P.M.
[Note:Points 1 and 2 of this item are based on a misreading, which pretty much completely vitiates them. See below. Or feel free to skip to point 3] HuffPo reporter Sam Stein, who kick-started the Rielle Hunter scandal, begins to cast a shadow on Edwards' Story #2-- last night's semi-confession in which Edwards admits only to a "short" affair back "in 2006 two years ago." 1) Stein notes that Hunter and Edwards didn't meet until the "winter of 2006." 2) Stein then says
Edwards would see Hunter for at least a year. How much of that time they were romantically engaged remains a mystery.
That at least suggests that 2007, not 2006, might be the relevant ending-year; [ Correction: By "winter of 2006" Stein means 'winter of 2005-2006,' not 'winter of 2006-2007." A year from 2005-2006 wouldn't necessarily take you into 2007. Never mind!] 3) As for the paternity of the child, claimed by loyal Edwards aide Andrew Young, Stein thinks
[A]llegations of Young's involvement seemed dubious both when they first surfaced and now.
Will there be a Story #3? Our National Edwards Nightmare may not be over. ... 1:54 A.M.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Your MSM buddy system at work: John Edwards has already broken his "will have nothing more to say" promise, calling CBS's Bob Schieffer. Schieffer admits "I've known John Edwards a long time" and starts right in building the new Edwards myth:
"He said he said he just couldn't live with the constant pounding from the tabloids. It wasn't going to stop, I was being dogged and dogged, for the sake of my family I just had to end it, for the sake of my family. ... "
Edwards also said, in Schieffer's words, that he had "no plans to go to the Democratic convention"--which somehow gets transformed, in the Politico's headline, into "Edwards to CBS: Won't appear at convention." Not the same thing. ... According to a second Politico story, "he told ABC earlier that he was leaving the option open." ...
Update: Elizabeth Edwards is already up on Kos with a diary attacking "the present voyeurism." ... HuffPo's Lee Stranahan, a former Edwards supporter, responds "Say It Ain't So, Elizabeth: You Knew But Let Him Run." Excerpt:
[I]f you're an Edwards supporter, let me put this bluntly; if you gave John and Elizabeth Edwards time, money, support, or goodwill, they played you.
They made a conscious decision to make their relationship a focus throughout the campaign. That emotional goodwill you feel for them? They not only let you feel, they took actions and made statements specifically so you would feel it.
Then when the rumors first surfaced, they made the worst decision of all; they decided to lie about it and to keep lying about it for months. They lied in a way that made the people who were telling the truth look like the real liars. They lied in a way that turned their supporters into attack dogs. They only started to tell the truth when John Edwards was caught at the Beverly Hills Hilton and even now both John and Elizabeth Edward are callin[g] the people who caught him the liars ...
5:56 P.M. link
Edwards: 'I Lied. It's Friday. Can I Go to Denver Now?' John Edwards finally confesses, sort of, on ABC News. He admits he lied repeatedly about his affair with Rielle Hunter, but denies he's the father of her child and specifically seems to be trying to deny cheating on his wife after the recurrence of her illness:
Edwards made a point of telling [Bob] Woodruff that his wife's cancer was in remission when he began the affair with Hunter.
Edwards also "admitted the National Enquirer was correct when it reported he had visited Hunter at the Beverly Hills Hilton last month." ...
1) Textbook PR timing: Friday, Olympics, a small war. Not quite a Jo Moore Day, but not bad. ...
2) Obvious question: Why visit Hunter in the early morning hours if he does "not love her" and is not her child's father? ... But I think the question is actually even more difficult to answer than that. ...Look again at the Enquirer's photo of Edwards holding a baby in front of the Hilton's telltale drapes. Edwards is wearing a sweaty blue t-shirt. But the Enquirer reported that on the night they ambushed him, he was at least initially wearing a "blue dress shirt." One possible explanation for the discrepancy: he visited her and the baby at the hotel more than once, and the photo is from an earlier visit. ... Just speculating! ... But if you read the Enquirer's accompanying text closely, they don't say the photo was taken on the same day they ambushed him, only at the same hotel. ... If this theory is right, Edwards has even more explaining to do than it initially seems. ... Update: Edwards claims to ABC that the late July meeting with Hunter at the Hilton was an attempt to "keep this mistake I had made two years previously private." ...
3) Was it smart for Edwards to potentially annoy Rielle Hunter by saying he "did not love her"? Is she going to give her side of the story now? Doesn't he want her to think favorably of him if she does? Edwards denies paying her money but "saiid it was possible some of his friends or supporters may have made payments without telling him." If so, are these helpful friends continuing their top secret payments?
4) A paternity test seems inevitable, no? [Update: Edwards has volunteered to take one. Make sure it's not Mudcat Saunders who gets the DNA from the kid.] If Edwards wanted to snake out of this scandal, the cunning way to do it was always to build up press anticipation of a paternity test and then have the test come back negative (after which the press will forget that he still cheated). He may have now lucked on to this strategy by accident. But paternity isn't the key moral question, it seems to me. It's whether Edwards treated his wife as honorably as he unsubtly boasted in the campaign (plus his subsequent coverup, and what it involved). Whether Edwards continuted the affair after the recurrence of her illness is one factor in making that judgment (and paternity would be damning evidence in that regard, given the timing). Whether he thought he was the father, and continued seeing Hunter for that reason, is more important than whether he actually turns out to be the father.
5) WIll the MSM, having given Edwards an epic, embarrassing pass, now question the line he has drawn (non-paternity, that the affair only occured during "a short period in 2006,"placing it before the recurrence of Elizabeth's cancer)?** There is now one player in this scandal with far less credibility than the National Enquirer, after all. Edwards may be overestimating the willingness of reporters to roll over for him one more time. ..
6) Edwards claims in his just-released statement that he's learned, in the context of his dismissal of the Enquirer, that "being 99% honest is no longer enough." 99% honest? Edwards' rigorous self-inventory of his narcissitic moral failings ("You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself") may be incomplete.
**--Byron York reported, pre-confession, that the commonly-held idea that MSM organizations were waiting for their own independent reporting to confirm the Enquirer was a myth--there was "not a lot of independent reporting" going on, ABC and Fox excepted:
Instead, some big-time journalists seem to believe the Enquirer has nailed the story, and they are waiting for the tabloid to release the full results of its reporting. In the meantime, they are staying away from the story because it appeared in the Enquirer. In other words, they're waiting for the Enquirer to fully report a story that they wouldn't otherwise report… because it's in the Enquirer.
The question is whether this independent reporting will now commence, or whether editors who never wanted to have to discuss the story will let Edwards' half-confession go untested. ... 1:03 P.M. link
Thursday, August 7, 2008
John Edwards' fellow Democrats see silence as a bad move
Does it matter if the NY Times, Time and NBC News don't report it if mid-level metropolitan papers and bloggers do? I'd say a fair test is whether Jay Leno's audience gets his John Edwards jokes. He told one last Tuesday. It bombed--it was clear nobody in the seats had heard about the Edwards allegations. But that could, in theory, change, even if the biggest MSM players remain protective. ...
P.S.:Gawker's Ryan Tate effectively ridicules the MSM's Denver Excuse. ... 11:32 P.M.
Barack Obama is inspiring us like a desert lover, a Washington Valentino. ..[snip] My musician friends and I are writing songs to inspire people and couples all over America are making love again and shouting "yes we can" as they climax! [E.A.]
Michael Kinsley emails about the Edwards/Hunter story:
AS for your laundry list of reasons to cover it, I think there's one more much simpler: the MSM told a story about Edwards—they told it often and loud—it was probably one of the best-known and totally accepted stories of the 2008 campaign: John loyally standing by his loyal wife as she deals with cancer. If the story isn't true, they should run a correction. My god, look at the things they run corrections over—the spelling of people's names, and so on. Yet they're leaving this huge story uncorrected, and leaving their readers misinformed. No?
5:34 P.M. link
Obama: "We don't want to return to marginal tax rates of 60 or 70 percent." Good to hear! He was getting close, by some calculations. ... 3:17 P.M.
One obvious possible solution to the Democrats' Denver Dilemma (see below):Give Elizabeth Edwards a prominent speaking role, while John is off on his hurriedly scheduled Global Poverty Tour. ... 12:31 P.M.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
If Edwards fails to clear up the story in short order, he risks party officials deciding not to have him speak or, if they do, creating a distraction from a week focused on Barack Obama accepting the nomination.
"If there is not an explanation that's satisfactory, acceptable and meets high moral standards, the answer is 'no,' he would not be a prime candidate to make a major address to the convention," said Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chair.
And the old gang is rallying around the son of a mill worker!
Friends and former staffers refuse to comment now, though they helped Edwards last fall by dismissing an October story in the Enquirer of a sexual relationship between Edwards and a campaign videographer when it initially broke.
"Sorry cannot help you on this one," wrote Jennifer Palmieri, a former top Edwards aide, in an e-mail Wednesday.
Update: In an interview with Byron York calculated to terrify Dem stage managers, Enquirer editor David Perel hints that a convention-week climax may be exactly what he is aiming for:
"Obviously, the convention has not been our driving force behind the story," Perel says. "The reporting takes however long it takes. It took seven months to go from the December story to the [Beverly Hilton] meeting… . But if it happens to be a happy coincidence — if the story just happens to be breaking around that time, in terms of maximum exposure — " Perel pauses. If the convention wasn't part of the timetable before, it is now.
How long before prominent Democrats begin telling their MSM friends that it really looks like there's something to this Edwards story? ... 8:00 P.M. link
Ann Coulter on the bizarreness of the moment:
The mainstream media's reaction to the National Enquirer's reports on John Edwards' "love child" scandal has been reminiscent of the Soviet press. Edwards' name has simply been completely whitewashed out of the news. ... I suspect that if I tried to look up coverage of the Democratic primaries in Nexis news archives, Edwards' name will have disappeared from the debates. By next week, Edwards won't have been John Kerry's running mate in 2004.
Banned-by-Kos Lee Stranahan: John Edwards needs to stop taking the fall for Andrew Young. ... 7:54 P.M.
MSM: You want photos ... Old MSM line: We demand photos! ... New MSM line: We demand high definition photos! ... 11:56 A.M.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Undernews seep: Inquirer's sister paper on Enquirer. "Are we mainstream or not? We're going to get a complex." ... 2:35 A.M.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Why write about the Edwards scandal? Here's a short clip-'n'-save response to those (including many friends) who argue the Edwards scandal shouldn't be pursued--or at least pursued too vigorously-- even if it is true:**
1. No "private citizen": Edwards was certainly a contender for VP, or a big cabinet post like Attorney General, or even the Supreme Court, before the scandal first erupted in the "undernews" in late 2007. Some reporters say he was still on Obama's VP list until quite recently. If he's now finished as far as those big jobs are concerned, it's in large part because of this scandal, which Obama might never have learned about if everyone had followed the MSM's lead. Even now, Edwards may not be out of the running for an array of lesser public posts--including cabinet-grade positions--that provide non-trivial power and a platform for future advancement. Important unions back him. Until last week, he'd been traveling the country keeping himself in the public eye in a way well-designed to let him play a big national role in either the Obama administration or the opposition to the McCain administration. It's silly to say "he's just a private citizen"--he's much less of a "private citizen" than, say, William Bennett was in 2003 when Jonathan Alter and Joshua Green torpedoed Bennett's career by revealing his gambling habits.
What makes the scandal awful and unpleasant--as opposed to the Bennett scandal, which was delicious--is that Edwards has a very ill wife. But, as Susan Estrich has noted, that's also what makes Edwards' alleged behavior awful and unpleasant--more objectionable than anything Bennett was accused of doing.
2. Hypocrisy: Ah, but Bennett was a hypocrite-- a man whose chief claim to national attention was as a sophisticated moral scold who turned out to have a major gambling jones. Edwards is a hypocrite too, in much the same way. Why, after all, was Edwards ever considered presidential material. Is he a great executive? No. A brilliant policy expert? No. An accomplished diplomat? No. He's an ex-Senator with one undistinguished term in office who rose in life on the basis of his singular ability to use tearjerking stories to move juries and win large verdicts . His presidential campaign has featured similarly moving anecdotes, such as the famous 10-year old girl "somewhere in America" who goes to bed "praying that tomorrow will not be as cold as today, because she doesn't have the coat to keep her warm."
Edwards' most effective anecdote this year, however, was probably the story of his popular wife Elizabeths' struggle against cancer. He made it the emotional center of a TV ad:
And Elizabeth and I decided in the quiet of a hospital room, after 12 hours of tests and after getting very bad news, what we were going to spend our lives doing. For all those that have no voice. We are not going to quietly go away.
During a joint 60 Minutes interview focusing on his wife's illness, Edwards explicitly linked his behavior in that struggle and his fitness for public office:
Some have suggested that you're capitalizing on this.
Here's what I would say about that.
First of all, there's not a single person in America that should vote for me because Elizabeth has cancer. Not a one. ..[snip]
But, I think every single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make. [E.A.]
3. Relevance: If a politician is a great executive, thinker or diplomat who cheats on his brave, ill wife, you figure, "OK, We're not hiring him because of his sterling private behavior." If a politician whose chief appeal is his self-advertised loyalty to his brave, ill wife cheats on his brave ill wife, what's he good for again? And if Edwards' crucial talent as a public official is his ability to move people with tearjerky anecdotes, and those anecdotes (like the tale of his spousal loyalty, or the girl with no coat, or the anecdote that reportedly made John Kerry queasy about him)--turn out to be BS or half BS, that's more than random hypocrisy, It goes to the core of what he does and what he claims to offer. (I'd also argue that an emotional, anecdote-led liberal approach to poverty inevitably tends toward the failed solution of simply sending poor people cash welfare, but that's another argument.)
4. Irresponsibility: How irresponsible was it to seek the party's nomination knowing that this scandal was lurking around, ready to explode? What if he'd won? Are we sure it wouldn't have been discovered by the McCain campaign before November? Rock stars get to behave this badly because they're only rock stars. Worst that happens is the band breaks up. What if Edwards actually got elected--and then the scandal was discovered when he was in office? Did Democrats enjoy the Lewinsky years?
5. The Coverup:If the scandal is true, it almost certainly means that during the campaign Edwards presided over an elaborate coverup involving at least a) having an aide wrongly claim paternity and b) having other aides go out and lie to reporters. It probably also included payments of money to cooperating parties and various familiar slurs on the character of the 'other woman,' Rielle Hunter. All this would obviously be germane to Edwards' fitness to hold any office, including clerk at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Even if Edwards were to forswear all future public employment, there'd be an interest in documenting and publicizing his role in the coverup for the same reason we track down bank robbers 10 years after the crime--to deter others from pulling the same stunt in the future.
The only legitimate reason not to cover this scandal, it seems to me, is simple sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards--and I've gotten enough emails from anguished and angry members of the MSM to conclude, with Estrich, that it's the prime reason for the MSM blackout. True, I also suspect that if Mrs. Edwards were a conservative Republican, or even an unbeloved Democrat, the MSM might somehow find a way to overcome this compassionate sentiment. But that doesn't make it wrong. Reporters don't have to print everything. You could conclude that the need to protect Mrs. Edwards her children is so great, the karma of Enquiring so bad, that all of the obvious, public-interesty reasons for covering the story should be thrown out the window. And if John Edwards were already so damaged that in practice he'd never get a significant public office even if he wants one, I might agree (even if that meant sacrificing the deterrent effect of full exposure).
But that's a point that clearly hasn't been reached yet, at least not while most Americans are being kept in the dark about what, exactly, has led to Edwards' mysterious disappearance from the political oddsmakers' charts. A man arrogant and ambitious enough to think he can run for president posing as a loyal husband while keeping his second family secret, even as he visits his mistress in a famous hotel that is hosting a convention of journalists, will be arrogant and ambitious enough to keep hiding under the shield of his wife's illness until he can attempt a comeback-- if given the chance.
The alternative, it seems to me, is to let affection for Mrs. Edwards suck journalists into a Print-the-Legend world where they must spend their time burnishing--or at least accepting--the story powerful people and institutions want them to tell, the story of the wonderful Edwards marriage, rather than figuring out and telling readers the truth. If I wanted to be in that business I'd be a publicist.
**--For purposes of this item, I'm assuming we're reaching the next-to-final stage of the natural progression in cases like this: 1) Too horrible and shocking; it can't possibly be true; 2) It's not true; 3) You can't prove it's true; 4) Why are you trying to prove it's true? 5) It's disgusting that you've proved it's true; 6) What's the big deal anyway? ... 10:15 P.M. link
The LAT is more like Daily Kos than it wants to admit (and vice versa): The Daily Kos has banned longtime blogger Lee Stranahan for writing calm, clear-headed posts assessing the evidence in the John Edwards scandal--posts saying things like:
Edwards needs to clear this up so we can get on with the business of forgiving him and moving on. As progressives, we need to rise above the false choice between blind judgment and blind apathy. We're the reality based community, remember?
Inflammatory! ...Now we know where Tony Pierce can always find a job. ... 1:37 P.M.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Faster Comics--Jay Leno Beats NBC News: Charlotte's WCNC airs a hostile, smart, doomy segment on the "scandal brewing." Pegged to Edwards "ducking reporters," plus the suggestive birth certificate. ... Leno, Conan jokes featured. Leno's is even funny. ... Resonant clip from campaign "webisode." ... Reporter Stuart Watson says Edwards is in danger of "disappearing from the national stage ... unless he finds a way to squelch this story fast." ... Maybe he did: It would be paranoid to notice that the segment isn't featured on the station's Web site. ... Update: Strangely, I am paranoid! Video is on main WCNC video playlist and on the "Investigators" page. ... 12:18 P.M.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
One option John Edwards must be considering. If anyone could pull it off .... 3:25 A.M.
Dissent in the MSM: Rebellious nibbling from mid-rank players who are harder to coopt than the New York and Washington elites:
"Facing Questions, Edwards Evades Reporters" ...
On Wednesday, Edwards apparently ducked out a side area used by the kitchen staff in the fourth-floor ballroom of Washington's historic Hotel Monaco. Edwards emerged from a lower-level handicap ramp near the rear of the hotel with two men. When approached by a Charlotte Observer reporter, Edwards said, "Can't do it now, I'm sorry" and quickly walked past.
Asked what he was doing at the Beverly Hilton last week, Edwards said "sorry" and got into a waiting car with the other men.
Update: The News & Observer also reports that the birth certificate for Rielle Hunter's daughter lists no father. The paper's reporters seem skeptical of Hunter's lawyer's explanation. (Birth certificate posted here.)
There are simply a lot of good questions. Edwards already squirmed out of one such query at a press conference, but his political career appears to be over unless he can talk his way out of this one.
So it's time the major media picked up the story. It's not merely the stench of liberal bias that bothers me but the unfortunate reality that we in the MSM are giving up a good story to the internet. And if we in the major media continue to cede such stories to the internet, we won't be major much longer.
So far, there has not been a denial from either Edwards or the woman, who once produced videos for the Edwards presidential campaign, about the alleged escapade in Beverly Hills.
And if it's all a simple misunderstanding, if John Edwards was dropping by a hotel suite at 2 a.m. to say hello to a former campaign worker, then maybe someone should suggest to the politician that he come out and say that. Maybe it was his $500-a-cut hairdresser, for goodness sakes! In which case, money well spent. In any case, it doesn't seem like this is the kind of story that is going to fade into the mists of time.
P.S.--Maybe it's not the coverup: Interestingly, none of these MSM stories is about the alleged "cover up." They're all about what the "cover up" would cover up. ... 2:43 A.M. link
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
They Like to Watch: Rachel Sklar's link-rich summary analysis of the howling void in most of the MSM regarding the Edwards/Hunter controversy seems about right to me: They'll report it when they "have to"--when there are no excuses left. Meanwhile, they will desperately think of reasons to not cover it.** ... P.S.: Not covering it is not the same as not knowing about it. It's a strangely passive, yet cost-effective, attitude:
[T]he Edwards story: Alive and well on the blogs, completely absent from the MSM. Is the MSM unaware of it? Hardly — everyone knows, and they're all waiting for the shoe to drop. Back in December, I asked a veteran MSM-er about the story, and was told that "we're watching it." But watching isn't the same as reporting — and back in December, John Edwards was still a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination. [E.A.]
**--with some possible exceptions! ... 6:41 P.M. link
John Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter – the mother of his "love child" – has been secretly receiving $15,000 a month as part of an elaborate cover-up orchestrated by the former presidential contender. ...
The money is being funneled to Hunter by a wealthy colleague who was closely tied to the Edwards' campaign ... [E.A.]
Not clear from the posted summary if the Enquirer got any response from the Edwards camp to this particular charge. (The printed issue is advertised as having "more details.") ... P.S.: It's hard to believe that the name of this alleged "wealthy colleague," described by "a source" as "a super-rich pal--who was closely involved with the campaign finances," will remain a secret for long. ... Here's one place to start searching. ... Or you could just call Tom Edsall. ...[Via Gawker, which takes some precisely targeted shots at the MSM--although it's silly for Gawker to say that the Enquirer's photographs "in and of themselves" would prove "precisely nothing scandalous." In context, the photos would be powerful evidence. Enquirer editor David Perel apparently doesn't want to win over the MSM by releasing them. He'd rather have the Edwards story all to himself.] ... 3:27 A.M. link
More Layoffs, Please--Part XVIII: You can read a better analysis of the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal on will.i.am's Dipdive "lifestyle engine" than in the mighty Los Angeles Times. ... Of course, you can't read any analysis of the Edwards/Rielle Hunter scandal in the mighty Los Angeles Times. But if you could, Dipdive's would probably still be better. ... P.S.: This Bloggasm interview with LAT omertapparatchikTony Pierce suggests the paper's metro reporters came up empty-handed in their vaunted investigation of the Enquirer's charges:
I asked Pierce if the metro desk had the chance to follow up on the story, and if so, would he send out another post allowing his bloggers to write about it. He said that to his knowledge the LA Times reporters hadn't found any additional information and expressed some skepticism of the National Enquirer story's authenticity.
I guess that's it, then. Nothing more to say about it, really. ... Fox? We know of no "Fox." ... P.P.S.: After all, as Pierce says,
"This isn't something you would normally see in a newspaper more than once. We already wrote the one post quoting the National Enquirer [which slipped out before Pierce's ban--kf] and I don't think you'd see more than that if there were no blogs and this was just a newspaper."
That must be why the LAT has all those blogs: So you won't find out anything more than "if there were no blogs." A clear strategic mission statement for the Web 2.0 era. They rockin'! ... 2:06 A.M.
If Mike Murphy wants to take over the McCain campaign, shouldn't he stop giving semi-critical quotes to the New York Times? ... 1:08 A.M.
Politicized hiring-- in Hollywood? Is there a Hollywood blacklist that operates against conservatives? Andrew Breitbart argues yes. As if to provide him with fresh evidence, Jeffrey Wells fantasizes about Jon Voight's career trajectory in the wake of Voight's not-nearly-cracked-enough dogmatic attack on Obama:
But you'd think an arch conservative working in an overwhelmingly liberal town would think about restraining himself for expediency's sake, if nothing else. ... [snip]
But it's only natural that industry-based Obama supporters will henceforth regard him askance. Honestly? If I were a producer and I had to make a casting decision about hiring Voight or some older actor who hadn't pissed me off with an idiotic Washington Times op-ed piece, I might very well say to myself, "Voight? Let him eat cake."
Wells later denies he's seriously urging Voight's non-hiring, but not before offering this handy and apparently familiar Hollywood rationale for doing just that:
It's been said in this town many times that the right has a debt to pay for the blacklisting of lefties in the '50s, and that in all fairness it's probably going to take a long time to make amends. The fact is that the philosophical grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today's right-wingers ruined the lives of many Hollywood screenwriters in the '50s, and so their descendants now have to suffer and make up for that. Simple. As you sew so shall you reap. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. [E.A.]
I tend to think Hollywood conservatives do face some employment barriers--but if you enter an industry that's inherently about ideas and politics can you really complain if people who disagree with you don't want to work with you? (The same might be said for the Department of Justice, but that's another item.)
P.S.: Breitbart's blacklisted father-in-law, Orson Bean, has a nuanced memory of the 50s:
Aside from the inconvenience of having a career ruined, being blacklisted in the '50s was kind of cool. You were doing 'the right thing.' Hot, left-wing girls admired you. You hadn't 'named names.' The New York Times was on your side. And you knew it would pass.
12:02 A.M. link
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
NE to MSM--No Pix Fix: Don't expect any photos of the Edwards Hilton Hunt in the next issue of the National Enquirer. Radar's Neel Shah interviews Enquirer editor David Perel, who says the Enquirer "definitely" has photos but
he won't be putting them in tabloid's next issue, or making them accessible online.
"It's a story that we're taking a long view of," Perel told Radar by phone. "We've got a big exclusive coming out this week, and we are on the trail of some stuff that's even hotter." [E.A.]
Perel told me much the same thing when I followed up--that it's "not about the photos but about the rest of the story, and the story is just going to get bigger from here."
This seems like a tragic mistake on Perel's part. Why? Rationally or irrationally**, release of the photos has become the talismanic MSM/bien pensant test for whether the Enquirer can be believed about anything. Release them now and the big dailies and networks will all jump into the Edwards investigation, sources will talk (because they're either emboldened or terrified of looking bad), the whole story will come out in short order. Wikipedia will unlock! And the nation will be able move on.
Delay releasing the pics--in hopes of pursuing a "bigger" story, whatever that is--and you give Edwards time to regroup. You give the Protect Elizabeth lobbyists time to call up their media mogul friends (including the ones who own the Enquirer). You discourage truth-telling sources from sticking their necks out while you encourage ass-covering sources to remain loyal to Team E. We could end up with seven months of seething undernews rebellion, no MSM coverage of either the Rielle scandal or whatever "hotter" story the Enquirer documents***--and, next year, H.H.S. Secretary John Edwards.
It's like the famously parodied scene in a Bond film where instead of just shooting poor Bond the villain tries to stage some more elaborate and prolonged auto da fe, with the result that Bond is able to escape.
And it's hard not to completely suppress the feeling that the Enquirer is milking the story to boost its role (and, not incidentally newsstand sales). After being scorned by the Edwards-defending MSM last fall, Perel may understandably be content with building a separate EnquirerWorld where refugees from the mainstream matrix can go to learn the truth for the next few weeks. But that assumes he can pull off his long-term story plan without some other outfit scooping him three weeks out. Why make Dr. Evil's mistake?
Anyway, weeks and weeks of uncertainty aren't in the national interest. And they aren't in my interest. (I'd like to go back to obsessing about something else.)
At least Perel has declared he has photos. But unless he releases them there will always be the suspicion that he's bluffing. After all, why did his reporters so quickly file a complaint against hotel security with the local police? One obvious possible goal was to obtain the security camera tapes. Are those tapes so important because the Enquirer actually doesn't have other photographic evidence? I don't think that's the reason, but I don't know for sure. If Perel released even a little teaser photo--and I'd settle for white knuckles gripping a bathroom door--that would help erase a lingering suspicion that the Enquirer's photogarpher was out of position, or perhaps plagued by the world's only defective camera.
How about that compromise, Mr. Perel? Tease with at least one image. Then you can milk it all you want.
And they say kausfiles isn't solution-oriented!
**--The answer is "irrationally," because a) the Enquirer has a better track record than that and b) there is substantial non-Enquirer evidence that Edwards was at the hotel-- Fox has interviewed a security guard, and Edwards pointedly hasn't denied it. But the MSM is demanding photos. And the customer is always right. ...
***--"Hotter"? I could see why the (possible) story of the (possible) coverup and any (possible) money transactions as suggested by Shah might be maybe "bigger," or "more significant." But "hotter"? One part of the potential story involves sex. The other involves checks. Which one are Enquirer readers more interested in? ... 7:02 P.M. link
Monday, July 28, 2008
Waiting for Fotot: I missed the solid item on the John Edwards "Two Families" scandal that the Charlotte Observer published last Thursday. (Typical of the MSM--even when they have good news judgment they have poor Search Engine Optimization.) Reporter Jim Morrill's interview with National Enquirer editor David Perel seems useful for frustrated undernews followers wondering what happened to the Enquirer's rumored photographs:
I asked [Enquirer editor David] Perel about photos or eyewitness accounts. He wouldn't talk about that.
"Well, stay tuned, that's all I can say," he said. "Everything's done incrementally. So I'm not going to tell you exactly what our process is. Perhaps my time frame is different than your time frame. I'm not worried about the rest of the media. I'm worried about us." [E.A.]
Is the Enquirertiming release of the photos to coincide with the arrival of its print edition on newsstands later in the week? A week is long! Is no MSM journalist able to break the story in the meantime--or are they all lazily waiting on the Enquirer? (Note to MSM reporters: Call me. I can give you some leads.)
Morrill also gets a solid quote from former Democratic National Committee chair Don Fowler, who seems not to have gotten the omerta memo: "
"If you had this rumor about Bill Clinton it probably wouldn't cause a ripple," he said. "But given John Edwards and his public relationship with his wife, something close to a model of the perfect family and their perfect relationship, it would hurt that much more."
11:32 A.M. link
BHTV 50 Seconds of Truth! The Usual Media Thing regarding the "n"-word, explained. ... 1:31 A.M.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
STEPHANOPOULOS: "Opponents of affirmative action are trying to get a referendum on the ballot here that would do away with affirmative action. Do you support that?"
MCCAIN: "Yes, I do. I do not believe in quotas. But I have not seen the details of some of the proposals. But I've always opposed quotas."
STEPHANOPOULOS: "But the one here in Arizona you support?"
McCAIN: "I support it, yes."
McCain at first tried fo fudge, then got bullied into a "yes"--the same thing that basically happened with his answer on immigration at the Reagan library debate. McCain's clumsiness may indicate that his endorsement isn't exactly bankable--his spokesman was unprepared to defend it when Obama immediately brought up McCain's characterization of an earlier anti-affirmative action measure as "divisive." ("I do not have a firm enough grasp on the historical and relevant context of McCain's remark in 1998 to give you the pushback that this question deserves," the spokesman said, in a formulation that may become the Universal Punt in the idiotic daily news-cycle war.)
Yet maybe McCain has stumbled on to a strategic masterstroke. He's behind, after all. His big issue--Iraq--has just been seemingly defused. He's no expert on the economy. He's old and his formerly winning personality is starting to grate. He could do worse than make the election a national referendum on Connerly's initiative to ban affirmative action, which tends to win by large margins whenever it is actually placed on a ballot. Does Steve Schmidt have a better idea? ...
P.S.: In a precious moment of calm, Andrew Sullivan posts a sensible analysis of how Obama might respond. [Sullivan's away. Item was written by Chris Bodenner--ed I finally know what they mean by "the exception that proves the rule."]
P.P.S.: Weekend chat shows were bloated with talk of the McCain campaign's recent general incompetence. I know that Mike Murphy's comeback bid is over, finished, he "will not be reboarding the Straight Talk Express," and "the matter is now been resolved." Politico told us! But at this rate don't you think Murphy will be running the campaign by August? ... 10:42 P.M. link