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07/25/2008

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Let's just take everything you say about Republicans and conservatives as true, beyond questioning. Solid gold.

I don't want anyone to be vindictive, Tom. I just want a large metropolitan newspaper, one of the few remaining, to acknowledge that John Edwards not only fucked around on his poor cancerous wife, but that he didn't use a condom, the saviour of the sexual world. Really, I just want to hear why it's OK for John Edwards to not wear a rubber, while poorly trained educators (and I use the word loosely) inform my grandchildren about the efficacy of said rubbers during their state-mandated sex-ed classes. I want to hear why John Edwards cock doesn't deserve to be blocked, so to speak. We all know the answer is this: 10 years ago, not one iota of this would have hit the news, and insiders would have giggled over their champagne about it. Kinda like you're doing now.

That's just one point. I can find a few more if I look harder, but why bother? The guy's clearly a scumbag (slang for rubber/condom/prophylactic.) It'll be covered up, so much as possible, by news outlets that my sainted mama could read.

By the way, that's your lesson you're so sure is not there, should you decide to teach it. Everybody knows you wear a rubber during sex if it's not your (ahem) lifelong partner. Unless you're John Edwards, and then, you only wish you did. They might not match your philosophy, but there are indeed lessons to be learned here.

John Edwards affair which resulted in a love child certainly should be talked about by the mainstream media. He has been caught with his pants down. The man has always been untrustworthy, and now the world knows it even though the mainstream press hopes the story goes away. Thanks for helping to spread the word Tom!

If a man who was a prominent candidate with a legitimate chance to be president used his cancerous wife as a campaign prop this campaign season, while cheating on said cancerous wife at the same time, isn't newsworthy, I don't know what is.

Edwards as safe-sex object lesson is pretty thin. And Scott, you'll have to excuse me but I think I detect a certain "fuck you" quality in your grumbling about metropolitan newspapers, grumbling that argues against your claim of a lack of vindictiveness.

And Lee, if Edwards were still a candidate for President, I'd agree with you 100%. He's not, and the specter of a media camp-out on the front lawn of the house where his wife is sick strikes you as a reasonable price to pay to accomplish, technically, absolutely nothing (he's not ever going to be President, his actions had no policy impact) then I might go back to my original assertion that what the angry right is after is some kind of vindication.

Well, your detector is broken, sir. But it is indeed, thin, as thin as one of those condoms. Why it's as thin as you using the vindictive right and Sean Hannity as an indirect way to excuse the Real Journalists for their failings, while you don't talk about John Edwards' baby mama.

Really, explain how they can all cover that barely-there McCain-lobbyist issue/affair as deeply as they did, yet ignore this, which has been going on, let's see, 9 mos + some time before and after the birth, let's say 3 months, so for one year, during which he was indeed a major candidate for the presidency and wherein today he is considered a VP candidate.

I used the metropolitan newspaper example, as they are still, to some degree, a record. It could be any major news operation, take your pick.

Do you have any doubt in your mind that they wouldn't be camped out on Newt Gingrich's third wife's lawn if this had been Gingrich rather than Edwards? Do you seriously and honestly believe that? Do you think that's a specter worthy of consideration? How about if it was Romney? Specter, or necessity?

I guess I just don't understand the necessity for your apologia and on behalf of the guild for failing to do their job, and half-baked excuses why they shouldn't now do it. It's as if you have a stake in it.

I think two things: First, I don't agree that documenting the sex lives of people is the media's job. And, second, your example of newt Gingrich is particularly ill chosen, since Gingrich carried on a number of affairs while holding public office and none was covered, though most were generally known in gossip-intensive media circles. Vanity Fair wrote about a few in a long profile of Gingrich when he was Speaker, and I am unaware of a single major metropolitan daily picking the story up. Had Gingrich taken an active role in ridiculing President Clinton's infidelity, I'm sure they would have. But because he kept relatively discreet about Clinton, Newt's affairs were left unpublished.

Scott brought up a point that I posted about yesterday. If the media doesn't want to cover his affairs, fine, but apply the same standard to all.

Let's take the LA Times for an example, since that's what I posted about.

This week they ordered their bloggers not to cover the Edwards ordeal. But just a few months ago they were all over John McCain and his alleged relationship with a female lobbyist, with even less evidence than in the Edwards case.

But as you are so fond of pointing out to us, I'm sure this can all be explained away by the strong Republican bias in the media.

John McCain was, at the time, a leading candidate for the Republican nomination, which makes him more newsworthy than Edwards, who isn't running for anything and likely never will again. McCain was also spending a lot of time bragging about his independence from lobbyists. The story about McCain specifically did not say he had an affair, though it was implied. It said he had a relationship with a female lobbyist that was so close his staff sought to break it up.

Scott and Frank both refer to the extensive media coverage of allegations of McCain infidelity, but my recollection of the story is exactly the opposite of that. I believe it flared up quickly and then died amidst much outrage. The New York Times led off with a story it had been vetting for months. The Washington Post followed up with a similar story, and then it was gone. The vast majority of the coverage was about the controversy, not the allegations of infidelity. To my knowledge, there were no follow-ups by other media dealing directly with the infidelity itself, and most media seemed embarrassed by the whole thing.

This happened in the middle of a Presidential primary campaign that McCain won. Rightly or wrongly, pretty much everything goes when reporting on Presidential candidates on the grounds that "character" is a key issue.

Edwards is, however, a candidate for nothing. Therefore his personal failings aren't relevant, and major media don't want to wallow in the kind of things they have to wallow in to report on his sex life. BEt your bottom dollar that if he were, for example, nominated for the Vice Presidency, this story would be on Page ! of every newspaper in the country, as well as Topic A on every cable news talk show.

This isn't even difficult. It's a 5-point essay question in any journalism school in the country. "A supermarket tabloid with a history of sensationalism runs a story alleging that a former Presidential candidate no longer in politics has had an extramarital affair resulting in the birth of a child. How do you cover that?"

The answer is: You don't. You pass every time.

You want to be angry and vindictive, that's fine. But don't blame the press for not sharing your bitterness. When it's relevant about Democrats, it gets reported. I remember no hesitation to cover in obsessive detail every allegation about President Clinton, true or untrue. (60 Minutes did a segment on unfounded allegations that Clinton hid under a blanket in the back seat of a car to sneak out of the White House for trysts.) When it's irrelevant about Republicans -- see the Gingrich example, above -- it doesn't get reported.

Here's a prediction: This is a big story next week. The story won't be infidelity; the story will be the controversy. Which was exactly the story that got covered about McCain.

There's almost nothing to add that more able commenters than I haven't already said. Tom, it seems, will not be shaken from his fervent belief of "right-wing" media bias, and will put whatever spin is necessary on the actual liberal bias to protect that belief from reality.

Rather than focusing on the liberal sin of hypocrisy, let's just keep to the facts: Edwards, former Democratic nominee for the vice presidency and former Democratic candidate for president, was found to have impregnated a woman other than his cancer-stricken wife during his candidacy. Said woman gave birth either during or shortly after his candidacy.

Perhaps I'm afflicted with a terrible bout of morality, or maybe I'm just a Puritanical prude, but I simply don't understand how that isn't newsworthy. Then again, I believe that the POTUS is an important symbol, and his actions have far-reaching effects on our society, so therefore any man who aspires to that office should be a role-model. Somehow, I don't believe that adultery is an admirable trait.

Then again, Tom often tells us that somehow, despite 2000 years of teaching to the contrary, the sin of homosexuality is now to be celebrated by Christians and Christianity. Perhaps adultery is the next sin to be so elevated.

But definitely not hypocrisy. No, that'll land you in hell--which liberals don't believe in, of course.

It is a tawdry affair, both on Edwards part and in the Enquirer's ambush tactics.

Bonfire of the Vanities, Part II?

So I can understand respectable (and I do not mean that ironically) media being careful in how they handle a story that involved reporters running down hallways at 2am after a hotel room booty call, and sourcing that probably involved the transfer of large amounts of monetary funds.

That said, it is newsworthy, as Edwards is the third place delegate getter in this year's Dem primary, and as such would probably be expected to hold prominent position at this year's national convention, if not being at least a second tier VP candidate.

But the question is can the respectable (now I am being ironic) media cover such a story, that in my personal opinion at least, has some legitimacy in a respectful manner without it turning into a Chandra Levy sort of circus. One where other people's misfortunes turn into a melodramatic ratings bonanza?

I had an insight: it boils down to character. Republicans still care about it; Democrats learned to ignore it when Clinton got caught with his pants down--literally.

And hypocrisy, of course. Let's not forget that by cheating on his wife--but never making public statements about morality--John Edwards is not committing this liberal sin.

The question is not Edwards' behavior. You seem to believe that I don't think it's fodder for mainstream media because I think it's OK -- in the words of the entirely reasonable Squidley, "not...this liberal sin." That's flat wrong. I don't believe his behavior is OK. Assuming the Enquirer's account is true, I think Edwards' behavior is reprehensible, a disqualifying factor for ever holding public office in the future. (And here's the thing: with or without media coverage, he's never going to hold public office again anyway. He's done. He was done before this, and now that this is out there the minute he steps back on the stage all hell is going to break loose -- and it should.)

News value is not determined by level of sinfulness, and the question here is news value. Catching a public figure in embarrassing circumstances is big news for a publication like the Enquirer, no question. They love to report on people's private lives. They'll sneak into actresses' back yards to document their cellulite, for heaven's sake. The tabloid definition of news value is anything the public is interested in and will pay to read about.

Mainstream media, rightly or wrongly, have a different definition of news value. Part of that is that they're more respectful of people's private lives, no matter how tawdry they might be, so long as they don't impact the public realm. I think that's good, because as we all know, we're all sinners. And if sin disqualifies everyone from public office,then we'll have no one holding public office. Or, more likely, our politics will become entirely about whose sin is more egregious.

The right may want that. The tabloid vision of Rupert Murdoch and the Enquirer may be exactly the way you'd like the media to work. I disagree. I think reporters have better things to do with their time than stake-out hotel lobbies. And, frankly, I think people have better things to be concerned with than the sex lives of has-been politicians.

Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and a few of the commentors here want to see details, not because it serves any public purpose but because they're a mob drooling schadenfreude. They're powered by anger and bitterness and and that's fine; that's why the Enquirer exists.

But consider that the consequences of your glee and resentment is a reset of media standards. You're arguing that the way to improve the media is to reset their standards to match the Enquirer's. That's not the answer even a little bit.

Well, the Times of London has decided to dis-embargo it.

I'm still blinking at the general idea you hold that John Edwards was never going to hold public office again. Do you know something the rest of us don't? Because John Edwards was going to get a cabinet-level job in BHO's administration. That has been conventional wisdom since he, ahem, pulled out of the race. That, to me, makes the story pretty relevant. Maybe I'm just pig-ignorant and the wink-winks in the back room were going to let Johnny get his last moment in the sun on the convention stage.

If that's so, how did the respectable journalists know in advance that BHO was going to get the nomination, and therefore there was no reason to wallow around in soon-to-be-private-citizen Edwards' extracurricular activities? Again, you act like this happened last week. Yet, it's been going on for a minimum of a year+, and quite clearly, it was fairly well-known amongst the guild, who have faithfully embargoed it during his presidential campaign.

Like it or not, there are some unanswered questions about the responsible journalists you esteem so highly. Or well, not really. We all know, or suspect we know, what the answers are. And those suspected answers are a major part of the reasons that newspapers are firing people faster than SUV factories.

As far as vindictiveness and resentment goes, well, I haven't posted a word about it, besides here. If I did, it would be about our Professional Media and their many layers of editorial fact-smothering, wait, fact-checking. Not a guy who couldn't keep his willie in his pants - that's a story that's as old as dirt. But I won't even bother with that old-as-2001 post, since, well, we all freaking know. Tony Pierce did my job for me when he told the LAT bloggers NOT to post about it.

PS You're dead wrong about the McCain coverage. Look at your own words -- it started with the NYT. Vetted for months. How can this story not have been vetted for months? The woman was preggers - queens and cows, 9 months. Reckon they're still vetting it? Lots of chin-tugging around the mahogany conference table about vetting it some more? Please -- they're grateful, deliriously happy even, that it was the NatEnq that did their dirty, dirty work. Now it can be swept under the rug of sleazy tabloids and angry vindictive Righties (much like you're doing here), and everybody will forget that they vetted it for pretty much a year. Fine. I'll continue not to buy their paper or any paper and they can continue to fire j-schoolers who will continue to vet major news about actively-campaigning presidential candidates right into File 13. There's the 5-point essay question you might want to be asking. But we've been down this road before, and I think I know where you're going, so let's just ignore it and pretend that nothing, nothing like the interent tubes, has changed in Journalism or Media since Newt's many bedroom conquests back in the day.

Tom,
You occasionally cover the exploits of B and even C level "celebrities." If, a week ago, John Edwards had made a pronouncement on McCain, Obama or foreign oil, it would have been news and covered widely. I have lived (sometimes very uncomfortably) with the Aspen Times' maxim "if you don't want it published, don't let it happen." I think John Edwards has put himself in the public eye enough that he haws to live with it, too. The fact that the Enquirer sucks doesn't make this less of a news story. I have no idea who the mayor of Atlanta is but if he was in the same position as Edwards the story would be national front page news if it checked out. I'd like to give the Edwards and especially his wife a break but by current standards this is fair game.

Even Wally disagrees with Tom?! Tom, perhaps it's time to re-examine your premises and analysis on this one.

For the record, I don't believe that mainstream news coverage should descend to that of the tabloids, but I'm sticking to my guns on this particular item. Edwards is a national figure, and a serious character flaw like this is fair game. It lets us know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he is unsuited for any public office, because he can't be counted on to keep his word.

To make it even clearer: a man who can't honor his wedding vows is untrustworthy, period.

Let's see if I've got this right:

1. A story falsely implying that a generally obscure federal judge had porn on his personal computer, you find blogworthy.

2. A true story that a recent presidential candidate, former VP selection, widely mentioned as a possible Attorney General pick and assured (until last week) of a prime time convention speech, is caught fleeing from a late night assignation with the woman rumored to have born his bastard child, while his wife is at home dying of cancer, you don't.

3. The fact that the first involves a conservative Republican appointee and the latter a liberal Democrat isn't relevant.

Just admit it -- flinging feces at one's political foes is great fun. Watching one's political allies take a cow-pie in the face, not so much. Blather about how my guy's poop shower is justified while your guy's isn't is hypocricy, which you claim to oppose.

From now on my comments will only read, "Yeah, what Conrad said." Because he always sums up exactly what I'm thinking, but more succinctly and with a better vocabulary.

Yes, Conrad has the gift of conciseness--all the more surprising, considering his profession.

Though if I may be so bold as to offer an amendment to Conrad's otherwise outstanding post: both incidents were, by Tom's standards, blogworthy; they just weren't (in his opinion) equally newsworthy.

Squidley, above: "Edwards is a national figure, and a serious character flaw like this is fair game. It lets us know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he is unsuited for any public office, because he can't be counted on to keep his word.

To make it even clearer: a man who can't honor his wedding vows is untrustworthy, period."

By common standards, that statement would appear to disqualify presidents Kennedy, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton.

It would also appear to disqualify candidate John McCain:

"In 2000, for example, James Dobson issued a personal press release specifically to "clarify his lack of support for Senator McCain." "The Senator is being touted by the media as a man of principle, yet he was involved with other women while married to his first wife," Dobson said. He also cautioned that McCain's character was "reminiscent" of Bill Clinton's--possibly the ultimate insult in conservative circles."

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2006/0607.benen.html

On the other hand, Jimmy Carter and Calvin Coolidge would be just fine.

Kennedy: yes.
Reagan: no. Jane Wyman divorced him, not the other way around; there was no adultery involved.
Bush I: huh?
Clinton: of course.
McCain: yes.

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