Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Carrying a Palin of Water
Sometimes you'd like to see the convention for yourself rather than the "experts" assembled by your favorite media outlet telling you what you just saw.
the highway scribe is entering his 25th season playing for the media team and he's here to tell you those network commentator jobs are the best... if you can get them.
The actual life of the "ink-stained wretch" (true even in the era of computers) is spent contacting protagonists on issues or narratives of note, and taking their accounts for the record.
Al Franken does it in his books to demonstrate how rare the practice of fact- or source-checking has become.
Sometimes, we'll call an academic, or some emeritus on the topic at hand, to lend a little perspective where narratives are dueling, since our own paragraph of "opinion" is sure to be cut by a sneering editor.
Were they to follow this this journalistically respected pattern of coverage, NBC, MSNBC, FOX, CNN and the rest would necessarily aim cameras at speakers occupying the convention dais and party delegates on the floor, and let the action flow mostly without interruption.
Late into the night, after you'd had a chance to savor the actual players' debates and opinions, somebody like a Joe Gergen - who worked in White Houses both Democratic and Republican - might be called upon to provide a little of the aforementioned "perspective."
But we suffer the inverse from those whom "New York Times," columnist Frank Rich calls the "bloviators."
These titans of verbal diarrhea make up a third force that does not mediate goings-on, rather tells us what we will see, what needs to happen, and finally, whether it happened or not.
The great thrill to this campaign season, Rich noted in his Sunday piece, is that the pundits have been getting it wrong since, oh, about January when Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill) punctured Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) "inevitable" march to the Democratic nomination for president.
To watch the Democratic convention last week was to endure the "bloviators" hour-after-hour while real speakers ranted in the background and real delegates met in conference rooms where real business was done.
None of which you saw.
You got speeches for which the table was set in terms of what the speaker "needed" to do in order to placate some journalistically divined demographic (supposedly) crucial to their party's chances in November
Immediately after the speech, you were told by people, "selected" from across the political spectrum, whether these normative, a priori benchmarks had been met or not.
Olberman: "Pat Buchannan, did Hillary do enough to unite the Democratic Party we ourselves divided in search of ratings and as a way of making sense out of something we're not actually covering?"
Buchannan: "Absolutely not Kieth. This party's never going to be united and I found a lack of sincerity in her remarks that viewers might never have picked-up on where it not for my years of expert opinionating cultivated in Georgetown restaurants."
Olberman: "Jim Carville? What's your take?"
Carville: "Oh she absolutely hit it out of the park as I knew she would. This job is so easy it's hard for me to believe they pay me to do it."
Neither can we Jim, which is somewhat the point of this post: You're not a reporter and never were.
Of course, there's a potential chicken-and-egg argument for the hatching here (sorry).
Why should the outlets strive for real news coverage if, when the few actual reporters on the convention floor are patched-in, you get the same talking points answers from the Texas guy as the gal from Maine serves up?
"Oh we're united and nothing has or ever could divide us when you consider the hell-fire and shit-rain to befall us should the other guys get in."
Now it's the Republicans' turn and they're all about a Man who puts "Country First," as if that were an extraordinary trait from a guy who wants to lead the country.
The GOPers have put up a woman for vice president and it is a real riot to hear them cry "sexism," the existence of which they normally deny, because Gov. Sarah Palin (D-Alaska) is being run through the same gauntlet anyone with the chestnuts to stand for national office is subjected to.
You know Republicans are in trouble when they start playing the victim card. That's our bit!
highwayscribery will not discuss the merits of McCain's choice of this particular governess for his running mate since, like everyone else, we know very little about her and have cringed at the way our guardians of truth in the media have handled the Obama introduction.
How can we say we truly know the candidates with all of this posturing and spinning? Even the "No Spin Zone" gives you motion sickness.
It goes on, not only during conventions, but throughout the year on political shows and news hours where, in the name of balance, we get trained spokes-dogs from both sides attacking each other without surrendering a shred of truth.
The reporter in these events serves less as a referee than a circus animal trainer cracking a whip, driving things to a frantic and fevered pitch.
Everybody is fibbing in the hopes the best fib wins when, really, the convention, or the Congress, or the hearing is usually conducted for public consumption, compliments of our Founding Fathers.
How many following events in Minnesota know about local police raids on demonstrators' lairs and the incarceration of "Democracy Now" producer Amy Goodman?
How many know who Amy Goodman is?
Rather than "tell us what it all means," our media stars might encourage us to go out and watch, listen, or learn a thing or two on our own.
Or, barring such civic involvement, they might provide a little more variety across channels instead of devoting every last man, woman, and opinionator to the same discourse (at the same damn time).
Why this imperial privilege over what's information, what's not, and how it should be cooked up for serving?
By now you may have heard the off-screen but on-mic comments of two Republican pundits bemoaning the Palin pick.
A former McCain operative, Mike Murphy, says "it's over," and he doesn't mean with a victory lap.
The other, a very tenacious and brighter-than-the-norm conservative commentator named Peggy Noonan, calls the choice "political bullshit."
Given her immortal utterances, the same qualification might be made of Noonan's column in the "Wall Street Journal" on the same day.
In that column, she declared Palin, "a clear and present danger to the American left, and to the Obama candidacy."
We're all looking for a niche in the great free marketplace of ideas and services. Some people clean toilets, others do pedicures, and Peggy Noonan, as one of the lucky ones, earns a buck making war, not love, with the "American left."
Far be it from her to deviate publicly from this particular task; even if it's what the lady truly believes, because IT'S NOT WHAT SHE'S PAID TO DO.
For those of us on the American left, Noonan's remarks are something of a revelation, because the right wing always seems so goose-steppy in its uniform discipline of message.
Turns out that Republicans talk about their party just the way we talk about "ours," such as it is.
She says, "I think they went for this, excuse me, political bullshit about narratives. Every time Republicans do that, because it's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, they blow it."
Democrats have the same kinds of conversations (although we don't say "excuse me" before swearing among intimates) when "convention organizers" turn what is a decidedly secular party into a perpetual prayer meeting.
It's not where we live, and it's not what we're good at, but Like Noonan, Democrats suck it up and assume that the bloviators are correct; that somewhere out there exists a decisive mass of voting Americans who pray before and after everything they do, even though we've never met them and find the behavior personally off-putting.
With matchmakers like these, how do we know who we're every really "marrying"?
Rush Limbaugh calls it "carrying water," and is honest about the fact he's the biggest waterboy in Republican circles.
But they exist on both sides and, thanks to Noonan, we're reminded of how refreshing a splashy spill can be.