The sun ain't gonna shine anymore ...


We've got a new "Think Again" column here called "Remember Iraq?"

Also, my (long) account of my trip to Israel is in The Nation this week and it's called "Israel Sixty Years On: The State of the State." And my column on Denver, et al, is also in this issue, and it's called "The Times, They Have A-Changed."

There's a lot about David Broder in that column, and I imagine it's the first time he's ever been compared to the mighty Allman Brothers Band (though not, I promise, in a good way). I'm reminded that about 20 years ago I interviewed Broder for my first book on punditry and I told him I thought it was silly to devote so much attention to the fact of whether a candidate could give a decent convention speech or not. I mean how important was that to governing effectively and or even honestly. He argued that because George H.W. Bush had focused attention on the contras, this meant he would never sell them out and this was the kind of signal you could read into such speeches. In fact, Bush sold them out rather quickly. And I happened to be in the room when some of Bill Clinton's acceptance speech was being drafted in 1992 -- something Broder's never done -- and I wanted to tell him that nobody gives a s**t about the things he and his ever so serious reporter friends think is important. These speeches are about winning elections, period. After the election, it's a brand new day all around. So if someone turns out to be able to give a speech that has been written by other people, that means they might have a decent future as an actor, nothing more, the "dean" notwithstanding.

Mixed Emotions: Last spring, I wrote a column about The New York Sun called "Potemkin Paper?" For those of you outside the New York City area (or for the many of you in it that still likely don't read the paper), it's something like what you'd expect if Marty Peretz ran a daily broadsheet. My Nation colleague Scott Sherman aptly described it as "a journalistic SWAT team against individuals and institutions seen as hostile to Israel." It's targeted the Ford Foundation, which it accused of aiding Palestinian terrorism; Columbia University, accused of creating an atmosphere unfriendly to Jews; Kofi Annan's office at the U.N., accused of rampant corruption; and Harvard University's Kennedy School, publisher of the famous Walt-Mearsheimer paper, likened to a David Duke neo-Nazi screed.

It also specializes in some rather strange editorial ideas. For instance its editorial board advocated Dick Cheney for president in 2008, and just recently predicted Democrats would dump Obama a week before the convention for Hillary. Just about the only person I could find who took any of these seriously was Rick Klein of ABC's The Note, a man with the softest of spots for crazy neocons ...

Even stranger, as I noted back in May of last year, were the Sun's business practices:

I did no sleuthing myself, but not only is this a business rampant with fraud, it's also characterized by more shady-but-legal tricks of the trade than a border-based bordello. According to William Breen, for instance, who says he worked for a New York City wholesaler (and wrote a 2004 letter to Jim Romenesko's blog, MediaNews), city news dealers paid just a penny per copy. That means it makes no economic sense to return the leftovers. The result, Breen claimed, was "their circ figures look great. Virtually every copy they print is 'sold.' "

(An additional peek into the lunacy that must take place inside that newsroom is here. That's a guidebook for how to get virtually zero productivity -- and a lot of bitter feelings -- out of your interns).

Anyway, who said the free market doesn't work? Here's today's news from the already-established (although notably unreliable) New York paper, the Post:

The sun appears to be setting on The New York Sun some 6½ years after it began.

Investors are said to have given founder and Editor Seth Lipsky until the end of the month to find new angel investors - or else the plug will be pulled.

The right leaning, pro-Israel broadsheet is believed to be losing money at the rate of $1 million a month for total losses surpassing $70 million.

The Sun was never about profits, just its SWAT tactics. And if my building was any guide, most people did not even bother to pick up their free copies from the security desk. But there is only so much love among crazy neocons when it comes to a paper that is primarily trash and it looks like the bill has finally come due. Even so, as I said, I'm a bit regretful. The paper's art section was stellar, particularly in its coverage of the local jazz and cabaret scene. Getting to read Gary Giddens and Will Friedwald, the smart book reviews of Adam Kirch and the absolutely terrific obit section was a pleasure that almost justified the fish paper they came wrapped in.

We've seen a dramatic drop in discussions about the Great Clinton Question since the Democratic convention, but there are apparently still a few droplets of blood left in that dead horse, and damned if the media aren't going to beat them out. (Last night, after Sarah Palin's speech, Wolf Blitzer asked: "Did Barack Obama make a mistake in bypassing Hillary Clinton as his running mate and going with Joe Biden?")

Here is MSNBC's David Gregory, on Race for the White House last night:

GREGORY: There are still questions about whether Senator Obama is qualified and experienced enough to be commander and chief. Those are questions within the Democratic Party. Notwithstanding the fact that Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton now vouch for him, there were still 18 million voters who had questions about that, who voted for her.

Did all of those 18 million voters all have questions about Obama's qualifications and experience? Of course not. They just preferred Hillary, for a vast array of reasons that Gregory doesn't know, including the fact that they hated the way MSNBC in particular covered the race. And a bunch them, no doubt, changed their mind over time. But because the race was so close and went on for so long, Gregory and others view it as something akin to the Civil War, with differences that will never be reconciled. Not, you know, a standard political primary. And it further allows them to use the 18 million who voted for Hillary as a palette for whatever anti-Obama feeling they care to impute, sans any evidence.

Speaking of imputing non-existent feelings on liberal voters, Ron Fournier's bureau pushed this story out on Tuesday:

Many liberals are belittling the choice [of Sarah Palin], suggesting that as a mother of five children -- including an infant with Down syndrome -- she has neither the time nor the experience to become vice president.

Atrios challenged the reporter, Tom Raum, to name one liberal who suggested any such thing. So far as I'm aware, Raum has not. But MoveOn has started another campaign based on that story as well. Have a look.

George Zornick writes: Department of Corrections: In Eric's recent Nation piece, "How to Cover the GOP," he noted that in Denver, the media were talking about Kwame Kilpatrick, the embattled mayor of Detroit, who would not be showing up to the DNC because of criminal charges. He wondered if they would talk about indicted Republicans not showing up this week -- including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is awaiting a state trial in Texas.

His error was in optimistically, and incorrectly, assuming that Tom DeLay actually wouldn't show up, let alone host a private party that drew "hundreds of delegates and Republican officials," let alone be celebrated as "the man, he's the man." But all those things happened. We regret the error, but submit that it's still a hell of story.

From FAIR:

"Maverick No Matter What"

When John McCain selected Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate, pundits and reporters saw the move as more proof of McCain's "maverick" nature--despite the fact that Palin's selection would seem in large part to be an attempt to placate the Republican Party base, further undermining his media-sustained reputation as an independent politician who breaks with his party.

The day after the announcement, a Washington Post headline (8/30/08) declared, "With Pick, McCain Reclaims His Maverick Image." The following day, a Post subhead was "Fellow Maverick Survived McCain's Thorough Vetting Process, Aides Say." On NBC's Chris Matthews Show (8/31/08), reporter Norah O'Donnell asserted, "He's trying to recapture the maverick label." Fellow panelist Howard Fineman of Newsweek weighed in: "Sure, it's risky, but he had to shake things up, and as his top advisor told me, this is a maverick picking a maverick." O'Donnell later added: "All the headlines in the papers were 'Maverick chooses maverick.' McCain couldn't be happier with the headlines the day after."

More here.

Great questions for the New York Times editorial page editor, via Poynter Online:

1. It has been reported that [Bill] Kristol was part of a McCain kitchen cabinet in 2000. Is he still? Unlike fellow Op-Ed columnist David Brooks, who has disclosed McCain's canny solicitation of advice, Kristol hasn't said yea or nay.

2. Did he get consulted on the Palin choice? When? Was he informed of the choice before or after his Aug, 25 column mentioning Palin?

3. Are there any rules about a columnist actively advising a political campaign that he is writing about? Are there any rules about disclosing such a role? Should New York Times readers know, one way or the other?

4. I doubt that a NYT columnist would be allowed to keep writing while being employed in a political campaign. But in the pundit/influence game, status (and eventual riches) often are conferred without a paycheck changing hands. Is this immaterial to his obligations to New York Times readers?

Also, I imagine some questions are being posed to the Wall Street Journal editorial page editors after this incident. Which is the real Peggy Noonan?

Speaking of Noonan's accidental live-mic admission, Dan Froomkin's piece yesterday at Watchdog Blog was quite well timed:

One of the problems with modern political journalism is that when something manifestly absurd takes place, as long as there are people willing to argue both sides, our top reporters feel obliged to treat it as deserving of serious debate.


Even though the cable networks can find matched pairs of pundits to take opposite sides on just about anything, I can't help but think that the vast majority of political journalists recognize that there is something seriously out of whack with the Palin selection.

So it's time for our elite political reporters to look into their own heads and decide: Do you value what's in there? Or are you willing to report whatever people tell you?

Indeed. Note that, caught along with Noonan were Mike Murphy and Chuck Todd.

Correspondence Corner:

George Zornick writes: Hey folks. One of the many things Eric employs me to do is screen the mail that comes into Altercation. You may have noticed that recently, the Correspondence Corner has been a little thin, and so I wanted to re-state a policy of Media Matters, which is a tax-exempt, non-profit outfit. Any statements that advocate for (or against) the election of any candidate, or support (or denounce) any piece of legislation can't be printed on this site. Media criticism is fine -- why doesn't the press ask such-and-such about Candidate X, and so on. But we've had to screen out a lot of mail that openly slammed a particular candidate, party, or legislation, and as you can see, the Correspondence Corner has suffered in volume. Please keep this in mind when you write in -- and keep the letters coming.

Name: Meremark
Hometown: Portland

When Obama met Murdoch making concessions for civility, then fees from subscription TV is hurtin' for certain.

Don't go there, Obama, leave mainstream media running its course, bogging down, and stay out of the mud.

Name: T. O'Dell
Hometown: Port Angeles, WA

Never woulda thought the guy would have anything useful to say but - Quote of the day: "There is a tendency in the media to kick ourselves, cringe and withdraw, when we are criticized"- Joe Klein.

Hey someone should write a book about this!

Name: Ben Vernia
Hometown: Arlington, VA

My wife, a former editor, spotted the real story buried a few paragraphs into this human-interest story on Gov. Palin's preparation for "her" speech tonight:

"Not anticipating that McCain would choose a woman as his running mate, the speech that was prepared in advance was 'very masculine,' according to campaign manager Rick Davis, and 'we had to start from scratch.' "

Prepared in advance without regard to who would give it? Too "masculine"?

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