Daily Archives: October 22, 2008

The Fairness Doctrine, resurrected from the Pit

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) has finally made public intentions toward a plan whose existence many Democrats have been trying to deny for years: bringing back that speech-suppressing abomination, the Fairness Doctrine. (Links here and here, and with audio here and here).

More on the Doctrine’s history, why it’s a dangerous assault on the Constitution, and why Democrats like Bingaman love it so much and want it back so badly, below the break.

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Could the polls be wrong? It’s happened, but…

A bunch of people, both live and over email, have asked me why I don’t blog more on poll results, especially given that I worked in the business for a number of years.

Admittedly, I’m blogging a lot less on poll-related topics than I did, say, a month or more ago, which is a bit counterintuitive in light of the avalanche of poll results that comes in the last couple of months before an approaching presidential Election Day.  Since mid-September, pollblogging on WitSnapper has been especially rare, and even then I’ve typically done so only to comment on the misuse or shoddy execution of polls.

There’s a pretty simple reason: taken as a whole, the polls for this race have been entirely unreliable, and my estimation is that it’s because of pollster panic.

In addition, if McCain were to overtake Obama in the last couple of weeks in defiance of the polls, it wouldn’t be the first (or even second) time in modern election history.

Details and further links below the break.

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Sarah Palin plays a forbidden game…in public!

Well, this is new. Sarah Palin has asked the unthinkable question directly to a journalist: “Can you imagine if I woulda said such a thing?” CNN’s Drew Griffin has been asked on the air to play “Media Party Switch.”

Gov. Palin brought to the cable news networks (outside of Fox News) something that we in the blogosphere do on a regular basis.  She examined Joe Biden’s recent statement warning that an international crisis would test Barack Obama’s mettle as president before his first six months in the White House are up, and wondered aloud what might have happened if instead she had been the one to say something so bizarre (and manifestly unhelpful to the top of her ticket).

During this entire presidential campaign — and frankly, this pattern is not at all limited to presidential elections — bloggers like me have indulged in a time-honored thought experiment. I’ll call it “Media Party Switch.” Put briefly, it considers any given gaffe, smear, flub, reckless accusation, or other similarly outrageous or boneheaded statement by a Democrat that has gone unnoticed or unreported by the journalistic community, and poses the rhetorical question of what would have happened if the same type of statement had been made by a Republican under the same circumstances.

Readers of WitSnapper have seen me dabble in “Media Party Switch” here from time to time. It’s become a pseudo-regular feature of the Biden Gaffe Watch, in which I wonder more than once when the sum total of instances of Biden’s frothing mouth galloping away from him (also lovingly recapped here by Miz Michelle) might equal, for example, former Vice President Dan Quayle’s infamous misspelling of “potato.”  However, as widespread a practice as this thought experiment is among bloggers, it rarely, if ever, makes it to network or cable news, given how embarrassing such a look in the mirror could be (after all, it’s not the blogosphere that puts the “Media” in “Media Party Switch”).

In Griffin’s CNN interview with Gov. Palin, Griffin doesn’t go so far as to break the omerta among his colleagues and producers by openly musing what the media reaction might have been if Palin had said something like what Biden did. However, he must be given credit (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that he might have been able to see this coming) for opening the door by asking the more general question of whether Palin thinks Joe Biden has been “given a pass” by the media.  Palin strides right through that door, answering that he’d have to ask his own colleagues and bosses as to why Biden’s been given a pass, but she does wonder aloud (video here):

Can you imagine if I would’ve said such a thing?  No, I think we would be hounded and held accountable: “What in the world did you mean by that, VP/presidential candidate?  Why would you say that, ‘Mark my words, this nation will undergo an international crisis if you elect Barack Obama?'” If I would have said something like that you guys would clobber me!

Again, to his credit, Griffin doesn’t waste airtime trying to argue the point:

You’re right! [Both laugh.] You’re right.

Excellent.  Good to hear it.  In that spirit, I look forward to seeing Griffin call Sen. Biden on this statement, or whatever other bizarre statement he’ll inevitably let loose by the time CNN gets him to sit down with them, or for that matter any of the embarrassing wealth of past statements on which the senator has been “given a pass.”  How’s your game of “Media Party Switch,” Senator?

What is CNN’s problem?

All of a sudden, CNN appears to be taking some pretty underhanded steps to make things difficult for John McCain and Sarah Palin.  I say “underhanded” because my capacity for benefit of the doubt, at long last, has been depleted; neither of these screw-ups would ever have befallen a competent reporter or editor.

First, they reported Monday on their “Political Ticker” blog, wrongly, that the McCain campaign was ceding Colorado to Obama, prioritizing scenarios for winning without it.  Not only is this vigorously denied by the campaign, but this report came on the same day that Sarah Palin was drawing record audiences in Grand Junction, with four appearances across the state by Todd Palin scheduled for Tuesday.  How, when the McCain campaign looks to be concentrating especially hard on Colorado, does CNN possibly divine that they are giving it up for lost?

Now, CNN’s Drew Griffin has “dowdified” a passage from a column in National Review by Byron York to make it sound as if York thinks Sarah Palin is the dimmest of dim bulbs, when actually York is commenting on how the media are making every effort to make her look that way.  Here is York’s original passage (note especially the opening clause):

Watching press coverage of the Republican candidate for vice president, it’s sometimes hard to decide whether Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward, or — or, well, all of the above. Palin, the governor of Alaska, has faced more criticism than any vice-presidential candidate since 1988, when Democrats and the press tore into Dan Quayle. In fact, Palin may have it even worse than Quayle, since she’s taking flak not only from Democrats and the press but from some conservative opinion leaders as well….

Yes, there are legitimate concerns about Palin’s lack of experience. Who wouldn’t, at the very least, wish that she had more time in the governor’s office on her résumé? But a look at Palin’s 20 months in power, along with interviews with people who worked with her, shows her to be a serious executive, a governor who picked important things to do and got them done — and who didn’t just stumble into an 80 percent job-approval rating.

And here’s a transcript of Griffin’s question in an interview with Gov. Palin (video clip here):

The press has been pretty hard on you, the Democrats have been pretty hard on you, but also some conservatives have been pretty hard on you as well. The National Review had a story saying that, you know, I can’t tell if Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt or all of the above.

Note the conspicuous absence of the previously emphasized opening clause.  York himself takes considerable exception to the distortion of his article in NRO’s The Corner.  National Review had no story saying any such thing; the story said such a conclusion might be drawn from the tenor and content of Palin’s media coverage.  (Kind of ironic that Griffin should make himself an example of just such coverage with this tailored misquote.)

Too bad…with Griffin’s recent more-in-depth-than-usual coverage of Barack Obama’s connections to ACORN and Bill Ayers, I’d begun to consider reassessing my estimation of CNN’s “in the tank for Obama” status.  Griffin, in his infinite consideration, has done his part to spare me a minor cris de coeur.

UPDATE: Griffin has apologized, pseudo-kinda-sorta. He was kind enough to stress that “Sarah Palin was delightful,” and also pointed out that the offending quote aired only once (they were notified of the misquote by National Review, after which the quote was cut from the interview). His explanation:

“I wanted to keep the interview moving, so I got to the heart of the question and really the heart of York’s article, and the National Review‘s article, which is that you are a successful Governor, and why aren’t you getting that message out, which she answered…In no way did I intend to misquote the National Review.

OK. Saying you were rushed is a pretty weak excuse, and an apology would have been fitting (it was done out of his own carelessness, after all), but I give him credit for taking airtime out to explain. I still have trouble seeing how such a mistake can be made accidentally, but since he’s gone on the record admitting, at the very least, a “misquote,” then as far as I’m concerned, the matter’s closed. Too bad Kyra Phillips blew the whole thing when she ended off the segment with the following facetious yet self-pitying twaddle:

We should graduate not only with a diploma but a big target on our forehead, because no matter what we say during a political season, and you’re rushed and it’s tight time, there’s always going to be people out there that are going to criticize it. You did a great job Drew, appreciate it.

Excuse me? “No matter what we say??” What is Phillips trying to say, that an accurate quote would have generated the same backlash? Sorry, Kyra, but you’re not the victim here. Your testiness is undeserved and unprofessional, and however one might describe Griffin’s handling of that part of the interview, it was definitely not a “great job.”

Theft for food? Sounds like a U.N. program.

A pizzeria in Michigan is offering free pizza for McCain-Palin lawn signs, leading to a rash of thefts from front lawns by kids jonesing for a slice. (Link to video via Miz Michelle.)

The owner of Salvatore’s Pizzeria, a button-wearing Obama voluptuary who says “health care is killing us,” is slamming John McCain for pulling advertising and rally assets out of Michigan.  In that spirit, she’s cooked up a promo stunt in which people can bring in their McCain-Palin lawn signs to exchange for free pizza, since obviously they won’t need the signs now that McCain has “given up on” them.

Of course, the inevitable has followed close on.  Lawn signs are disappearing fast from lawns whose owners, wonder of wonders, would rather keep them there than trade them for greasy pizza from some self-important, spiteful shrew with a political axe to grind.  At least one teenager has been caught in the act of making off with the things, and he has cited the free-pizza promo to police as his motive.  Meanwhile, the folks at Salvatore’s says they’ve been collecting as many as 30 signs a day since McCain pulled advertising from Michigan (about two weeks ago), which amounts to hundreds of freebies in the last couple of weeks.  (Hell, if she thinks health care is killing her, I imagine she’ll love seeing what this promo is doing for her business costs.)

Does the owner of Salvatore’s really think she bears no responsibility for the string of thefts?  Did she honestly believe that it wouldn’t be an inevitable side-effect of the promo?  More interestingly, how many people does she think she’s fooling with her contention that she bears no blame, given that she certainly never explicitly instructed anyone to steal signs?

Transparency: Sure beats McCain-Feingold!

The McCain-Feingold “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act” is one of the things for which I will never forgive John McCain.  Nor, for that matter, will I forgive President Bush for signing it into law, as anyone will know who watched/heard me growling obscenities at the TV while the President commented, during the freakin’ signing ceremony, on how he was pretty sure it was unconstitutional, but was going to sign it anyway because he was sure the Supreme Court would get his back (anyone remember how that turned out?).

I believed then, and still believe now, that total transparency would be far more effective in weeding out corrupt influences arising from questionable campaign contributions, combined with far more effective screening techniques for weeding out fake IDs used for multiple submissions and other contribution fraud.

Which brings me to my point.  I saw something from Captain Ed today, the looks of which I liked a whole lot.  The RNC is planning to use the filthy lucre in Barack Obama’s campaign vault as a hit point in an ad campaign calling on him to be far more transparent about his own campaign donors.

Obama first distinguished himself as a target of suspicion on this front when he went back on his word to subject himself to public campaign financing, allowing him to collect unlimited amounts of money and at the same time be really cagey about where the money was coming from.  Last month alone, the Obama campaign raised a stench-ridden $150 million.

The RNC has responded by launching a new website allowing access to a database containing the first names, last names, and amount donated of all people donating $200 or less since John McCain officially became the Republican nominee (i.e. since the convention, after which his campaign switched to public money and the RNC began running issue ads to supplement his campaign effort).  They are calling upon Obama to do the same with his donors up to $200.

Thing is, Obama is balking.  The law does not require that he do so, of course, but given his pledge to be a different kind of politician, on top of the brazen breach of his public-financing promise, people are going to wonder what he’s hiding.

For their part, journalists are having trouble thinking of a good reason why Obama would be reluctant to release the names and donation amounts of his donors.  It’s not enough information on them for other Democrats to use the database for their own fundraising purposes (which would rob Obama of a terrific power-brokering tool).  Might it be that the database might include too many donors named “Doodad Pro” or “Jgtj Jfggjjfggj”…?

Captain Ed sums up their quandary:

There really is no good reason not to reveal their donors.  If the RNC can do it with a website in the middle of a presidential campaign, then the Obama campaign certainly can as well.  Do they want to admit to a certain amount of incompetence at basic data management that will undermine their tech-savvy patina, especially after shooting themselves in the foot for making fun of John McCain’s inability to use e-mail?  I think not.

Hey, when all anti-First Amendment regulation regimes fail, transparency moves in to pick up the slack.  At least it might turn lack of transparency in fundraising, at long last, into a campaign liability, which is as it should be.