Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Is the Press Falling into a McCain Trap?

The McCain camp surely expected some controversy with an unexpected VP pick. And I would imagine they also expected to be able to turn some of those attacks against the press and generate sympathy for their candidates. The Republicans are masters at going on the attack and then playing the victim, and this is not all that different.

Granted they probably didn't expect the ferocity of some of the accusations and allegations, and their cry of "Foul!" now is more than likely genuine. But they are also getting what they wanted: a chance to claim they are victims of a "liberal media" and a chance to blame the Obama campaign for planting many of the allegations.

Here's how I see it. Palin's personal life -- that is, her personal life that doesn't overlap with her public life (that includes her kids) -- should be off limits. Some of the questions about the paternity of Trig are downright mean, as are the accusations against her oldest son Track. That said, a candidate's children shouldn't be used for political gain, either, so when the Republican Party asks people to leave the Palin's kids alone, they can't then turn around and advertise that Trig was born even though Sarah knew he had Downs Syndrome (What, does she want a cookie for delivering her child? Most Americans would not consider an abortion in that case, and her decision does not make her special.). And enough already about Track heading to Iraq. We get it; so is Beau Biden (who simply said while introducing his father that he "would not be around" in November instead of announcing that he would be in Iraq during the election).

To a certain extent, the press is doing their job by asking the questions. As Howard Kurtz's article The War Against the Press points out, it was uncomfortable for the press to ask questions about Eliot Spitzer's solicitation of prostitutes, but in the end it turned out to be for the public good. Had the allegations been false and the press gone public (as appears to be the case with the Palin stories), it would have been a gross misuse of their power.

Two more words to the McCain camp: First, stop crying foul at simply being asked the questions. Absolutely complain when lies are printed, but if a reporter calls to verify a rumor, that's a chance to clear things up, not smear the reporter. And second, don't confuse left-wing bloggers with the Obama campaign -- or the press, for that matter. Anyone can have a blog, but that doesn't mean they speak for everyone who is a member of their party. (You guys have had Rush Limbaugh and other working this angle on the radio for years, so you can't be too surprised that the Left has their own versions now.)

And two words to the press. First, back off. Not from asking the questions, but from printing unsubstantiated allegations. It does no good to print that Sarah Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence Party if it's not true, and it takes away from the fact that she actually did speak at one of their conventions. And it's mean.

Second, by toning down the allegations, you'll actually be doing everyone a favor. The less you appear to be smearing a candidate, the less her Party can complain and get their base riled up. You're playing into the RNC's hand, and it won't be good for you in the long run, or the Democrats in the short run.

Edit (9/4): Shortly after I posted this I wanted to add more support for Gov. Palin in that not only have her children been part of the attacks, but her gender has been attacked as well. The same type of insanity that dogged Hilary Clinton reared it's head with Gov. Palin. I was especially offended at the implication that she was being a bad mother to her children by running for office. Barack Obama has two young daughters, and running for office obviously keeps him away from them more than if he had a local 9-5 job. But that doesn't make him a bad father. Just because Palin is a woman does not mean she has to accept a different professional fate. I sincerely hope this kind of nonsense is not around when my daughter is choosing her professional path in life.

2nd Edit (9/4): Well, Gov. Palin did it. She boasted about her son going to Iraq (she even pointed out his departure date is 9/11). Then she went on to mention that her nephew was also serving, and worked the crowd for cheap applause for saluting all servicemen and women. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not against service. Palin's family members, and all people serving our country, should be honored and appreciated for their service and sacrifice. But I resent them being used for political gain. Are we supposed to think she's a better candidate because her family is in the Army? That has no material effect on her ability to serve as Vice President. In fact, from the candidate who admitted she "hadn't thought much" about the war in Iraq, perhaps she should do a little homework before bragging that her son is going.

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