NEW YORK—It’s probably a truism that every candidate, in every campaign, will eventually stretch the truth. But when a lie becomes too big, or too brazen, the news media temporarily moves beyond strict reporting and decides to call a foul. At least that’s what happened over the past week in the American presidential race, when John McCain’s claim that Barack Obama supported sex education for kindergartners pushed mainstream news organizations to proclaim flatly that McCain was in the wrong.
The media’s open rebuke of McCain’s sex-ed claim, as well as other mistruths (including Sarah Palin’s claim to have rejected federal funding for Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere”), have reignited the debate over when, whether, and how often the media should call a lie for what it is. Clark Hoyt, the New York Times‘ public editor, argues in today’s paper that election coverage shouldn’t fall into the trap of false equivalency, the he-said/she-said reporting that abdicates any burden of judgment or assessment. (more…)
This weekend, the Globe and Mail announced that it was freeing its columnists from the tyranny of the online subscriber wall. Get out of the harbour, Jeffrey Simpson; it’s time to go out where the big ships float, Margaret Wente.
By abandoning its Insider subscription program—or “retiring,” if you care to share Edward Greenspon’s euphemism—the Globe has admitted that charging for opinion on the Internet doesn’t work.
Well, hello. (more…)
It’s great that Canada’s biggest names came out to support a policy discussion at last night’s Munk Debate. And it’s great that Canada’s biggest newspaper believes a policy debate merits twenty-eight photos on its website. In a country whose annual output of serious political essays can barely fill half a shelf at Chapters, intellectuals need all the help they can get. But does anybody find it odd that when Canada’s best and brightest get together, in Canada, to fête public thinkers and talk about their ideas, both the thinkers and their topic are American? (more…)
NEW YORK—Symbolic protest being just as good as any other kind, I have refrained from blogging these past weeks not out of laziness, but as an act of quiet resistance, a one-man revolt against the shallowness and madness of the Democratic presidential primary. Maybe laziness too. But mostly protest.
How could any thinking person not be upset? In this country teeming with toil and conflict—in other words, with legitimate news—how much of the public bandwidth has been commandeered by stories on the strategies and the foibles, the back-stories and the inner circles, of two people who may be historic firsts but whose every human failing is now fully ingrained, unmajestically, in my consciousness? On any given morning, there is more drama on display at the bus stop outside my window than in the “2008 Campaign” pages of the New York Times. (more…)
This week is the 40th anniversary of the occupation of Columbia University by Students for a Democratic Society, a group that makes today’s wildest student activists look like doe-eyed puppies. Whether you think the decline of confrontational politics is a mark of a) growing civility or b) growing apathy, the occasion deserves mention, especially as another political movement sweeps American campuses. For more, I highly recommend a look at this.
After days of anticipation, Robert Mugabe seems ever closer to losing his hold on the people of Zimbabwe. This is cause for celebration: under Mugabe, a once-rich country has been racked by inflation rates of 100,000 percent. The U.S. State Department declared 2007 the worst yet for human rights in Zimbabwe, citing political abductions, killings and torture by government security forces. By any standard, Mugabe’s was a regime that had to go. (more…)
Whatever kind of president John Edwards might have made, a decider he isn’t. The Associated Press reports that Edwards made his first public speech today since dropping out of the Democratic primaries two months ago, and the most important part of the speech was what he didn’t say.
Speaking in North Carolina one week after Bill Richardson, another former candidate, announced his support for Barack Obama, Edwards took the stage as the last former candidate of consequence yet to weigh in on either side. In a deadlocked race, his imprimatur for Obama could arguably have been the blow that ended Clinton’s campaign. (It’s not clear what impact his endorsement for Clinton might have.) (more…)
NEW YORK—Astute readers of this space may have noticed a certain lull this month. In part, I’ve been distracted by other things. But more importantly, a thrilling political winter has turned into a very dull spring.
Slate judged the aptest sports metaphor for this year’s Democratic nomination to be boxing: “a 15-round heavyweight bout that ends with several knockdowns but no clear winner.” This is almost accurate; what’s missing is the fact that the fight was never meant to go past three rounds. By now, my popcorn is finished, my beer is warm, and all I really want to do is go home.
In fact, the most exciting part of the primaries has become predictions on when it all might end. On Wednesday, Philip Bredesen, governor of Tennessee and policy chairman of the Democratic Governors’ Association, urged the party to convene a superdelegate primary in June, the winner of which would effectively become the nominee.
The reception to Bredesen’s idea has been cool. That’s understandable. One of the perks of being a superdelegate in a tight race is a summer of love: endless attention from both candidates, and promises of who knows what. Why would anyone want to cut that short?
NEW YORK—Hillary Clinton’s campaign is moving in the wrong direction on every count: money, momentum, and delegates. Tonight’s debate in Austin is one of her last chances to turn it around. Will she be able to?
8:06 — The only question that matters tonight is whether Hillary Clinton decides to take her chances by going on the offensive. Nothing in her opening statement suggests she’s willing to take that chance.
8:15 — The first question, on whether the candidates would meet with Fidel Castro’s successor, plays to one of Clinton’s few remaining strengths, which is the experience thing. She nails it.
8:18 — Obama gets big applause, the first of the night, with his old line about the importance of talking to enemies as well as friends. But he seems to be fudging by talking about preconditions, and the moderator calls him on it.
8:21 — Clinton turns the topic into foreign affairs, and again sounds like the one who’s better prepared. Something in her face says she knows it’s a good start to the debate.
8:23 — On to the economy. Clinton and Obama are asked how they differ on the economy. Obama first: some bland language about ending tax cuts for companies that send jobs overseas and reversing tax cuts for the wealthy. This stuff was old in 2004.
8:27 — Clinton now. This is her chance to drive home the “ready on day one” theme. She gets big applause by talking about being a president for the middle class. Talk of a moratorium on foreclosure for 90 days is more specific than Obama, and gets her another burst of applause.
8:39 — Finally, something interesting. Clinton is asked if she would finish building the border fence. Her answer revolves around the word “review.” Will Obama point out that this is the same Clinton who tried to have it both ways on drivers licences for illegal immigrants?
8:41 — No such luck. Obama knows he’s subject to the same conflicting pressures on illegal immigration as Clinton. It’s fun to ask how either would stand up to McCain on immigration reform.
8:53 — Clinton is practically invited by the moderator to say that Obama isn’t ready for the White House. She can’t quite bring herself to do it.
8:56 — That doesn’t stop Obama from acting as though she has. He uses the opportunity to talk about why his campaign is doing so well — the desire for change and hope. For the first time in nearly an hour of debate, he looks like he’s finding his stride.
9:00 — The moderators aren’t done looking for sparks. Obama is asked about Clinton’s accusations he plagiarized lines from a speech. He’s fielded this question enough times in the past few days that he’s more than comfortable seguing into his message. Clinton’s got that terrible faux-grin plastered on her face again. She may be tempted to go harder now.
9:02 — Finally, Clinton is addressing Obama in the second person. She’s dressing him down over health care, and it seems like a good change of tone for her.
9:08 — At the second commercial break, let’s indulge in some plainly subjective half-time commentary. Clinton started the night hesitant to take a negative tone, and after an hour, she realized her reluctance wasn’t helping her, and changed tack. If she continues, she can come out of this all right. Obama is not at his best when under attack.
9:12 — Back from commercial. Clinton leaps out of her corner, ignoring the moderator’s question to go back to health care, her strong point. This is the tenacity she needs to win the night.
9:17 — Another invitation from the moderator for Clinton to call Obama too green for the job. She’s still not there, trying instead to imply her own readiness by listing some current global challenges. But she needs more than that. Obama counters by talking about Iraq, and judgment. He’s playing his hand better than she played hers.
9:25 — A question now on the wisdom of the surge in Iraq. Clinton sounds wonky for a minute, then finally spits out that she would start pulling out troops in 60 days. “It is up to the Iraqis to decide the kind of future they will have.”
9:26 — Obama’s turn on Iraq. He takes it back to the judgment issue, stressing that he’ll be better able to face McCain over Iraq that Clinton, who voted for the war. It’s not clear that he’s right — somehow, Bush beat Kerry on military credibility. But Obama wins the round on Iraq tonight.
9:30 — Third commercial break, and time for more subjective analysis. Who’s winning so far? They’re split on points, but for Obama a draw means a win. Right now, somebody offstage is telling Clinton aggressively that she needs to push Obama harder or she’s not going to walk away happy.
9:34 — A question on earmarks creates an opening for Clinton to talk about the Bush deficit and cronyism. She does a good job of knocking the Republicans, forgetting that they’re not her target tonight.
9:38 –Next up, superdelegates. Clinton brushes the question aside, which is probably all she can do. (Nobody’s suggesting Obama will take the nomination on the strength of superdelegate support.) Obama uses the opportunity to talk about respecting voters’ desire for change. Another round for Obama.
9:42 — The final question is a softie on the moment each candidate was tested the most. Obama ignores the question. Clinton, interestingly, hints at her marriage troubles, to much cheering. Then she goes back to the theme that won her New Hampshire — a personal accounting of why the race matters to her, the challenges facing the country, and how it motivates her. This would sound hollow from anyone else, but she pulls it off.
9:45 — The debate’s over. Clinton closed well, but it’s hard to tell whether it was enough. No clear mistakes by either side, but no zingers either.
CNN’s political panel is about to unleash a tidal wave of analysis, but I’d be surprised if anyone declared the night decisive.
10:00 — The pundits agree: Clinton failed to stop Obama’s momentum. Which doesn’t mean she’s finished; there’s still a week before the Texas and Ohio primaries that she needs to win to remain competitive. But it’s getting harder and harder to imagine her moment arriving.
New York–For liberals who fancy themselves critical thinkers, or are simply wary of the appearance of groupthink, Barack Obama’s long crescendo is becoming a bit of a pickle.
After New Hampshire, when Obama’s nomination looked uncertain, the fact that everyone I knew supported him seemed romantic, as if the entire population of twentysomethings in New York had formed a merry rebellion against the power of the Democratic machine.
But now, with every morning’s paper bringing news of another Obama rout, that band of rebels has begun to seem more like a mob. (more…)
New York–Let’s begin with a counterfactual. Did Super Tuesday even matter?
Sure, there were points of interest. Huckabee won handful of southern states, which moves his campaign out of the “finished” column and into “limping.” Barack Obama won his home state by more than Hillary Clinton won hers. Clinton did a little better than Obama in California, which splits its delegates anyway. But the headlines this morning could have been written before yesterday’s voting even began: McCain Moves Closer to Republican Nomination; Democrats Divided. In a season of surprises, yesterday’s primary bonanza had surprisingly few. Read the rest of this entry »
NEW YORK—David Brooks’s column in today’s New York Times is a good reminder of why he’s more than just the paper’s token conservative. Brooks argues that Edward Kennedy’s endorsement of Barack Obama underlines something that both the pre- and post-boomer generations have in common: a shared sense of service and community, values that seem to have skipped the generation in between. (Or at least, the values of a certain couple that conservatives don’t like very much.)
It’s tempting to read Brooks’s argument as yet another right-wing writer insisting that the Clintons are selfish people. But beneath that, he registers an aspirational account of the younger generation, an account notably free of qualification or skepticism. (more…)