Friday, February 22, 2008

Blaming the Media

A classic demonstration of the rights and responsibilities of the media is now before us. Let me set the stage. A popular presidential candidate whose major character attribute or flaw, depending upon whose viewpoint one wishes to take, is a quasi-renegade in-your-face style of politics is reputed by two confidential sources to have conducted a worrisome relationship with a woman who is not his wife eight years ago while campaigning in a different election cycle. The woman is young, attractive and a lobbyist for a rich guy who has incidentally generously backed the candidate. The candidate writes a letter for his financial backer to the FCC urging action which causes the FCC chairman to respond in a manner that suggests the candidate has pushed the envelope with regard to the appropriateness of his action. The two confidential sources are worried about the nature of the relationship because the candidate's strong suit, then and now, is his character and integrity.

Is this a newsworthy story? I guess it depends on whose ox is being gored and who is doing the goring. The right, now that they seem to have accepted the inevitability of a less than perfect conservative candidate, are screaming bloody murder about the New York Times for printing such rubbish. The oddest laments are that it is old news and that the Times, bringing it up now, is hell-bent on character assassination. I followed the presidential campaigns carefully in 2000 and I honestly don't remember any of this stuff. Considering the way the president who would be king vilified McCain for allegedly raising an illegitimate black daughter in the south Carolina primary, I doubt that he would have been any less charitable about bringing this information to the attention of his holier-than-thou political base. As such I don't consider it old news. To accept the old news argument, one would likewise have to reject everything and anything that the Clintons did in the White House in the 90s. With respect to the character assassination contention, let me ask the following question; when is it ever a good time to bring up a subject that allows the public to assess the character and integrity, or lack of same, is a presidential candidate? If the Times was truly bent on hurting McCain's presidential aspirations, it would have waited until the eve of the presidential elections and sprung this information on McCain giving him little or no time to respond.

Finally, the question must be asked, "why blame the media?" The nature of the published information is stuff that could only have come from a core of insiders of McMcain. Is a newspaper reporter, obliged to uphold the request of one who desires to impart information in a confidential manner, to be faulted for reporting on information obtained from two separate sources (the usual standard before a story is published? This is the stuff of the first amendment. I find it really strange that those who adamantly defend the constitutional rights of some whacko to walk into a gun store and purchase a semi-automatic weapon are so adamantly opposed to the transparency of political shenanigans that can only be exposed by a vigorous and free media. That a story may be wrong from time to time is the price we have to pay for living in a free society. It is hardly on the same level as that whacko who then murders thirty plus college students.

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