Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Real-world wisdom from outside the beltway


Real-world wisdom from outside the beltway.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Time Mag Slams Media For Edwards Coverage; Says Reporters Making "A Dumb Argument"

Two weeks ago, I asked a pretty simple question: What is real-life hypocrisy, and what is faux hypocrisy manufactured by the political Punditburo in lieu of actual reporting? I asked this question in the wake of right-wing Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi screaming from the ramparts about how John Edwards is supposedly a hypocrite for having an ownership stake in an investment fund that has ownership stakes in some subprime lenders. I asserted that just because a candidate wants to change the laws that govern the land (in this case, lending laws) doesn't mean they don't live in the current world as it is, and certainly doesn't mean they are a hypocrite. It doesn't mean they've made a smooth political move - but again it doesn't even come close to meaning they are a hypocrite.

Shocker, my view hasn't really broken the Washington Punditburo's fabricate-a-gotcha rituals - though finally, at least one of the big traditional media outlets has actually taken the time to report the Edwards situation accurately. None other than Time magazine sets the record straight this week about Edwards, and indirectly indicts the absurdly biased and irresponsible behavior by campaign reporters and pundits alike.

Here is the excerpt:

"Another challenge is that much of the attention he's gotten recently has been the unflattering kind, stories that question his sincerity and assail his image as a fighter for the little guy by focusing on his pricey haircuts, huge house and hedge-fund job. These viral attacks, spreading from the Drudge Report and other blogs to newspapers everywhere, make a dumb argument. They assume that someone who's wealthy can't be a sincere advocate for poor and working people. By that logic, the healthy can't speak on behalf of the sick, or whites on behalf of people of color...Here's what would truly be hypocritical: if Edwards spoke out on behalf of the disadvantaged while pushing policies that benefit the rich. This he does not do. He favors boosting the capital-gains tax rate for families earning over $250,000 and closing the loophole that allows fund managers—like those at Fortress Investment Group, where he earned almost $500,000 in 2006—to get taxed at just 15%. 'He wants to take money away from the people who paid him,' says deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince. 'That's not hypocrisy. That's sincerity.'"

That's exactly right. No one is saying Edwards' moves have been perfectly smooth, but the idea that his actions are somehow hypocritical or that they undermine his credibility on the major issues he's campaigning on (and has made his life's career about) is just ridiculous.

And let's be clear: On the flip side, we know what true hypocrisy is. To refresh your memory, here are some examples (in no particular order):

U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer (R-CO) grandstanding and telling his fellow school board commissioners to disclose their conflicts of interest, and then himself refusing to disclose his own conflicts of interest.

Mitt Romney (R) campaigning for governor aggressively billing himself as pro-choice to the point where he gets angry at his opponent for saying otherwise; And then, just a few short years later, campaigning for president declaring he's the greatest anti-choice leader in contemporary American history.

Presidential candidate Fred Thompson (R) billing himself as a down-home political outsider even though he's spent most of his adult life as a corporate lobbyist in Washington.

President George Bush portraying himself as a plain-spoken cowboy and independent entrepreneurial businessman even though he grew up an aristocrat and had his personal fortunes built by massive public subsidies secured by his father's financial and political network.

Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani (R) presenting himself as the strongest candidate in the race on homeland security issues, even though his single defining homeland security experience was negligently contributing to the health plight of New York firefighters.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D) billing herself as the candidate of "change" and the candidate who will represent the middle class, at the same time Businessweek reports that she is allowing Wall Street titans to "refine" her economic policy platform.

Now, I'm not naive. I realize it is probably more fun for reporters and pundits to fulminate about John Edwards' haircuts and to make up gotcha narratives - all while giving probably the most serious speech in the last last 30 years of presidential campaign politics just 275 words on page A15. It is more fun, and requires no actual work, reporting or thinking - you know, those old fashioned and unfortunately outdated tenets of "journalism." But at least one magazine managed to get the story right about Edwards - and about the media. It's not much - but it is a start.

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