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  • Michael Scherer & Social Security, Part 3

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Following up on last week's posts about Time's Michael Scherer's Swampland post about Obama, McCain and Social Security ...

    Today, Scherer acknowledges that "McCain supported the Bush plan then, and still speaks in favor of the private account idea in the future" and concludes:

    The social security example did not belong where I put it in the post, and by placing it there I launched a confusing discussion about the issues--committing the same crime that I was chastising the candidates for committing.

    Scherer still insists the Obama's ad's assertion that Social Security privatization constitutes "risking Social Security on the stock market" is a "distortion" that "exaggerat[es] the worst-case scenario of Bush private account plan." Since Scherer acknowledges that the plan involves investing some Social Security funds in the stock market, and since (I assume) he would acknowledge that investing the stock market involves "risk," it seems misguided at best to continue to call the ad a distortion.

    Nonetheless, Scherer's post today is a welcome acknowledgment that he was wrong, and that he muddied the issue rather than illuminating it. Scherer could have ignored the matter, as many journalists do when they are wrong. Or he could have offered a terse two-sentence statement that walked back his original claim without really making clear what he got wrong in the first place. That, too, would have been all-too-typical of "corrections" to flawed news reports. Scherer didn't do that. Instead, he posted five paragraphs of explanation, including clear statements that he got it wrong and that he confused the debate rather than clarifying it.

    More journalists should take their mistakes as seriously as Scherer does in his post today.

  • Politico paints Biden as a goof

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This media narrative has already become quite tiresome: Joe Biden, while campaigning non-stop, often makes unscripted comments that journalists try desperately to whip into "gaffes" so they can write stories about how Biden is gaffe-prone. The Politico is the latest on the Biden-is-a-goof assembly line and the results are embarrassing. Not for Biden but for Politico.

    Headlined, "Blue-collar vote, one gaffe at a time," readers likely expect Politico to provide a long list of gaffe's to substantiate the article, right? Wrong. Here's Politico money graph where it pretty much details all its proof of Biden's gaffey-ness:

    Among other things, the Delaware senator has said that Hillary Rodham Clinton may have been a better vice presidential pick; accidentally referred to his partner as "Barack America"; told a wheelchair-bound man to "stand up"; and called Michelle Obama's convention speech "the most remarkable speech I have heard in my life."

    Let's take those one at a time.

    1. Biden's comment about Clinton came in response to a voter in New Hampshire who told Biden he was glad Barack Obama picked Biden over Clinton. Meaning, Biden was being a gentleman and saying something gracious about Clinton in return. The Politico left out the context.

    2. So what if he referred to Obama as "Barack America"?

    3. The wheelchair incident was indeed a gaffe and Biden quickly apologized for it.

    4. Biden said Michelle Obama's speech the most remarkable he'd ever heard because that's what he believes. Who are Politico reporters to doubt Biden's word?

    Elsewhere is the soggy story, Politico thinks it's a big deal that while campaigning in parts of Pennsylvania where there are lots of Catholic voters, Biden talks about his Irish Catholic roots.

    Note to Politico: That's called smart campaigning, not making a gaffe.

    The deep irony with the media's beloved, Biden-says-nutty-things narrative is that campaign journalists whine incessantly about how scripted candidates are and that their interaction with voters out on the trail isn't authentic. But when somebody like Biden comes along and communicates freely with voters and routinely ventures off-script, what does the press do? It mocks the candidate for not being scripted enough.

  • WaPo editors don't return calls

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    At least not the one Eric Alterman placed to the paper's deputy editor of the national section, Bill Hamilton, asking for a clarification regarding the daily's policy on passing along campaign falsehoods to readers.

    And Alterman even made sure his phone message was polite.

  • The Beltway hearts David Brooks

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Howard Kurtz publishes one of his patented media mash notes on Monday where he seemingly spins a wheel containing names of (mostly conservative) elite Beltway pundits and decides that that week they're hotter than hot and then collects quotes from that pundit's media pals who couldn't agree more. The whole ritual is rather tired and hollow and high schoolish.

    Today, for no apparent reason, it's David Brooks turn to wear the tiara.

    And FYI, despite Kurtz's best efforts to suggest Brooks is somehow respected on the Left, which makes his appeal unique, the truth is Brooks is routinely mocked by liberal for being intellectually dishonest. But none of that matters, because the Beltway crowd thinks Brooks is just swell.

  • Just curious

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    About the the just-released Ohio News Organization poll that shows McCain with a six point lead in that state. Why would a poll conducted between Sept. 12-16 not be released until Sept. 21? Did it really take the newspapers five days to crunch the numbers? And given the enormous news events that have occurred in the last five days, wouldn't the news orgs be concerned about the results being somewhat outdated?

  • The press and polls

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Over at The Brad Blog, Brad Jacobson claims the press hasn't adequately delved into the potential game-changing results from recent campaign surveys.

    "You might think it would garner at least as much attention as, say, lipstick-on-a-pig palooza," he writes. We concur.

  • Pre-debate coverage

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The NYTimes has a lengthy, detailed look at the negotiations that have gone on between the two sides in preparation for the upcoming debates.

    But we thought it was strange that not once did the Times raise questions about why the first debate is being held on a Friday night. We're guessing there is no precedent for that, since Friday night, along with Saturday, is one of the two least-watched television nights of the week. And as Daily Howler notes, in September entire sections of the country are attending high school football games on Friday night. So why hold the first presidential debate, which is arguably the most important, on a Friday night?

    For the Times, the issue is of no interest, which we think highlights the growing disconnect between the political press and the public.

    Also, David Broder pens a whole pre-debate column today. The fact that it's being held on Friday is of no interest to him.