Saturday, March 29, 2008

[Fill in Time Period Here] is An Eternity in Politics

Nobody has a monopoly on the use of convenient wisdom -- political or biblical -- but it sure seems like everybody has forgotten a very important truism: "[fill in time period here] is an eternity in politics."

Yes, it would be nice to have a clear Democratic field, so the nominee can focus fire on John McCain who, for all of his prowess and charm, seems to be a target-indicator machine. Yes, the longer the intramural games wear on the wearier the victor will be for the nationals, and the greater chance that more weaknesses will be exposed for the competitor to exploit in big game.

But we are being treated to one of the greatest experiences of this nation's democratic process that anyone alive has ever seen. Books (good ones) will be written about campaign 2008. And we, the people, are the winners.

The system is working exactly as it was meant to: it is empowering voters in states that hold primaries and caucuses months after Iowa and New Hampshire and forcing candidates to make friends and influence people in places that have become accustomed to being afterthoughts, or worse.

Is it coincidental that voter registration and turnout is at historical highs? Or is it a matter of giving the people what they want?

It's a simple proposition. There are many, many more Democrats now. They will net plus this cycle, taking Independents and half-hearted Republicans. Don't mess with this, Democratic insiders. Stay inside. Never say anything in public that sounds like elections are great except for the pesky voting: that is what got us into this mess.

Remember that the process is more important than any of the players, and that the process is working just fine. Remember that legitimacy is enhanced by longevity.

True, the elongated nominating process has prolonged the illumination (and provoked the worst examples) of the Clintons' least attractive attributes: an overbearing sense of entitlement, an imperious self-righteousness, the all-to-easy reflex to bully and release the hounds. These faults are their fault, of course, and they may not redound to their benefit this time around.

But this is part of their nature, and I, for one, and not shocked shocked to discover it. I've long accepted to take the very good with the bad, and I have no desire to see her hounded out now for the sake of an untestable proposition that it will "help."

It isn't necessarily a bad thing to have all this attention heaped on the Democratic field -- even as McCain gaffes on Iraq, Iran and the economy -- as two attractive candidates dominate the headlines. Nobody will be talking about how long it took to get a Democratic nominee the day after there is one, just as nobody is talking about Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney. Better to have a McCain eruption closer to November, because it will get lost in the haze now -- an eternity from then.

And the worst mud slinging in the general campaign will not be inspired from a notion offered up by the loose lips of a losing Democratic nominee during this period of pre-decision. It will come from the usual place: a lie someone has already made up.

So, party on, Hillary. All that I ask of you and Barack is that when you do go, you go with some class. That, after all is said and done, is the only thing anyone will remember about this eternity.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Geraldine and Barack, By the Numbers

I wonder if Geraldine Ferraro thinks she was the most qualified Democratic vice-presidential prospect in 1984 even after, as Maureen Dowd puts it, "she helped Walter Mondale lose 49 states."

Or maybe she's right and Black is the new black. Maybe the stars have aligned so much so quickly that running for president as a Black man finally is an advantage.

But then ... here's how Ferraro doesn't hedge her bets:

She told (Dianne) Sawyer (on GMA) she was trying to say it's a good thing that Obama was where he was. Ferraro said she was saying that "the black community came out with ... pride in [Obama's] candidacy. You would think he would say 'thank you' for doing that, instead, I'm charged with being a racist."
Hmmmm ... wouldn't that be the same black community that has given every Democratic presidential candidate the same 90% backing it is giving Obama? His getting it in the primaries before the Democratic nominee gets it in the general is ... unlikely?

Sounds to me like Obama's race brings absolutely nothing to the table -- except increased turnout. That must be what Ferraro is talking about -- he's getting 90% of a greater share of black voters!

So let's see ... 13% of the US population is African-American and Democratic primary and caucus turnout is shattering records, including a 86% cycle-over-cycle increase in Iowa, black population 2.5%.

I'm no expert, but ...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Brothers & Sisters, Unite!

As a fan of Barack Obama I must say I'm not offended by Hillary Clinton's offer to share a ticket with her rival. It struck me as just plain, old good politics -- and a tactical error Obama should exploit by saying exactly the same thing.

Here's why: the backlash to Clinton has been because of previous trash talk about Obama. How can she consider a running mate who lacks even her manly bona fides -- and even worse, she says, those of evil Republican John McCain?

But, if Obama holds Clinton to her offer to consider teaming up it makes it virtually impossible for her to go negative.

The latest tortured explanation as to how Obama might after all be ready to be commander in chief on day one (as he'd need to be as VP, a heartbeat away from the presidency) came from Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson on Morning Joe: there's a lot of time between now and the nominating convention in August. Joe Scarborough later wondered out loud if that meant they'd be sending Obama to Fort Dix for a few months.

Obama's instinct to react sarcastically for the crowd's benefit was the correct one. But he also has to be just as careful as she not to offend the nearly half of Democrats who favor the other candidate.

Obama needs to to quickly pivot and get a buzz going that the Brother/Sister ticket (In that order. Just sounds better) would be unbeatable.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Washington Post Ombud Rips 'Women are Stupid' Piece

A lot of people thought the Washington Post opinion piece by Charlotte Allen – you remember, the one where she riffed on how women are weak and stupid after all -- was outrageous. Well, so does the Post ombud. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

When is a Citizen Journalist not a Citizen Journalist?

There are plenty of people who really don’t like the term “citizen journalism,” but Todd Wolfson has a pretty interesting reason of his own for his displeasure with that appellation: plenty of the people he is training to make video reports for the Internet aren’t citizens at all -- at least of the United States. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Anonymous Sources Ruling 'Draconian and Perhaps Unprecedented'

In a ruling USA Today describes as “draconian and perhaps unprecedented,” a judge has ordered one of its reporters to reveal the names of confidential sources or pay more than $45,000 out of her own pocket – without help from others, including her own newspaper – and to do so immediately, even pending appeal. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Scotsman Reporter Stands By 'Monster' Quote Decision

Gerri Peev, the Scotsman reporter who quoted Samantha Power as calling Hillary Clinton 'a monster,' said she could not 'in good conscience' have agreed to keep the remark off the record. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Newspaper Cartoonists a Dying Breed

Newspaper editorial cartoonists are a dying breed and those few who are still around are no longer expected to be in the forefront of pointed political debates and crusades (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Reporting the Truth May Cost Florida Paper $18 Million

Florida’s Pensacola News Journal is fighting an $18 million jury award won by a man who alleged that its reference to an unflattering but true incident in his past violated the legal concept of “false light.” (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bank Drops Lawsuit

The Swiss bank which obtained an injunction that 'shut down' – before the judge reversed himself for probably violating the First Amendment – has now withdrawn the case. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Memory Sticks Revolutionize Cuba

The New York Times is reporting that despite heavy-handed attempts by the Cuban government to put an air gap between the Internet and its citizens – the better to cripple the crowd – technological disruption is winning again. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Take Me Out of the Ballgame

Like a modern-day land grab, news organizations and professional sports leagues are fighting over who gets to do what online with the sights and sounds captured by reporters covering games. While this may appear to be a crass battle over money, it does affect freedom of the press in a meaningful way. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Medill Professor See Double Standard in Quotes Incident

An investigation by Medill’s provost may have cleared Dead John Lavine of a breach of ethics in the use of anonymous quotes, but not everyone thinks the matter should be closed. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Fight! Fight!

You think the press is biased? You’re right. But it isn’t for Barack Obama or John McCain. No, what the media won’t tolerate is peace and quiet. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Medill Dean Cleared of Ethics Breach

Medill Dean John Lavine has been cleared of any wrongdoing for the use of anonymous quotes in an alumni newsletter. The announcement was made in a letter to the Medill community on Friday from Provost Dean Linzer, who said in effect that he considered the matter closed. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I'm a Blogger. I'm a Journalist. Blogger. Journalist.

What’s the difference between a blogger and journalist? Ask that in the wrong company and you’re likely to get your head handed to you. Same was true years ago but now the reason is diametrically opposed: there is more than a general consensus that the distinction is somewhere between trivial and non-existent.(Committee of Concerned Journalists)

The Trouble With Harry

The professional British media organization which crafted and policed a nation-wide wide agreement not to report about Prince Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan tells the story behind the story today in the Guardian. (Committee of Concerned Journalists)