On John Kerry and botched jokes

The media brouhaha over John Kerry's botched joke shows everything that is wrong with contemporary political reporting.  There is simply no way in the world that John Kerry would be dumb enough to go out and public and make a joke that basically has the punchline, “the troops are stupid.”  Just no way.  If you really believe that, you are completely out of touch with reality (or your last name is Hannity or Limbaugh).  As the AP reported, Kerry provided the text for his speech which clearly showed that Bush, not our soldiers, was clearly the intended butt of the joke.  Yet, our so-called liberal media carries on breathlessly about this non-issue.  Its especially bad on the 24 hour news networks which are always desperately trying to fill their gaping “news hole” and focus on anything the least bit scandalous or salacious to up the ratings. The print media has been a lot more responsible.  I'd say that my paper, The Raleigh News & Observer got it about right– placing the story inside the A section and clearly explaining the actual intent of Kerry's joke. 

When a major politician makes a verbal gaffe, sure it may be worth a few minutes of news, but to waste the public's time on what is clearly a mis-statement that bears no reality to Kerry's actual beliefs or intent is just stupid and outrageous.  Good Morning America's breathless coverage this morning featured the subtitle, “Did Kerry ruin the election for the Democrats?”  Give me a break!  And then they brought McCain on live to demand an apology.

And shame, shame, shame on John McCain for demagoging this issue all over the place when he clearly knows better.  To see a politician I once respected continue to sink lower and lower in his quest to win over the Republican party for the 2008 nomination is truly dispiriting.  

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Facile false equivalency bias

The accusations of liberal bias against the mainstream media have one clear effect– reporters bend over backwards to demonstrate how balanced they are and really not guilty of any liberal bias.  This is most prominent in what I have chosen to alliteratively refer to as a facile false equivalency bias.  Basically, any time one party is accused of wrong-doing, it is necessary to point out the similar wrong-doing of the other party, even if it is not really in the same league.  This has become quite common in recent coverage of the slew of extraordinarily tasteless and personal negative ads the Republicans have released this year. Sure, the Democrats make negative ads, too, but they are simply not in the same league as the Harold Ford Playboy party ads, etc.  A bit overly-strident perhaps, but The Left Coaster does a nice job here of cataloging the media’s ridiculous attempts to say “Democrats are bad, too” with every story on Republican malfeasance.  Here’s the kernel from Kevin Drum’s recent post on the topic:

The story acknowledges that “the nastiest rhetoric right now is coming from the political right,” and Jake Tapper and Greg McCown document this with several examples. Then they end with this: Democrats aren’t necessarily running clean campaigns, though. As the races tighten in the next couple of weeks, the left will likely unleash its garbage as well.Needless to say, they present exactly zero evidence for this.

I’m not breaking any new ground here when I say that this is, as
usual, inexplicable. Sure, neither party is simon pure, but Tapper and
McCown know perfectly well that the nauseating and polarized nature of
modern American politics is almost entirely a Republican invention.
From Lee Atwater to Rush Limbaugh to Newt Gingrich to Ken Starr to Tom
DeLay to the Rove/Bush/Cheney machine, the Republican Party has
pioneered a
scorched-earth approach to politics that Democrats have never come close to matching.  [emphasis mine]  Their destruction of congressional traditions in the service of power has gone immensely farther than anything Democrats did when they were in power. Their deliberate and single-minded fealty to K Street lobbyists makes Democrats look like pikers.

Tapper and McCown know this. But they still insist on acting as if somehow both parties are equally responsible for this state of affairs.

I suspect if George Bush killed somebody, we’d see stories saying, “of course, Democrats have seen their share of presidential murderers as well.”

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