Monday, September 15, 2008

Sunday Talk Shows: News & A New Stroyline

The Sunday morning news shows – NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week, &c. – are not actually watched by that many people. But their power comes from two distinct sources. First, they interview people who actually make news. Second, they are watched by local news affiliates and newspaper reporters, so they shape the coverage of the news. This past weekend, they did both and in both cases it was bad news for John McCain.

The news came on ABC’s This Week when Alan Greenspan, the longtime former head of the Federal Reserve, told George Stephanopoulos that the current financial crisis was a once in a century event that was not yet done wreaking havoc on the rest of the economy. Within hours, his comments were headlining the website. Greenspan, rightly or wrongly, is considered an oracle on economic matters and his word cuts through the haze of conflicting economic prognostications: If Greenspan says the economy is in the tank, it really is in the tank.

In another interview this weekend, Greenspan said he did not support John McCain’s tax cuts, and watch for the Obama campaign to pick up on that quote. But, Greenspan’s views on prospective tax cuts, which were guarded, are a distraction for the Obama campaign right now. Obama needs to get the focus off of personalities and back on the economy. People who don’t give a whit about politics pay attention when Greenspan speaks on economic matters. Obama does not need to try and turn the remarks to partisan advantage: They will do that all on their own and have all the more power for their coming from an oracle. The news this morning that Lehman Brothers is filing for bankruptcy only confirms Greenspan’s grim diagnosis.

The storyline that began to surface on the roundtables was potentially more damaging for the McCain campaign. The pundits have begun to question McCain’s veracity. For a candidate who has put honor and integrity at the center of his biography, being tagged as a liar is a very real problem.

For a week, Democrats have been complaining about the untruths that were being used in GOP ads and in the stump speeches of both McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin. Her opposition to earmarks and the infamous Bridge to Nowhere were repeated long after they were proved to be exaggerations at best. The tipping point, however, was a McCain ad that attacked Obama for supporting age appropriate sex education for K-12. The ad claimed Obama supported comprehensive sex education for kindergarteners, when in fact, he supported teaching five-year olds how to avoid sexual predators, not "comprehensive" sex education.

The sex education charge seemed to have struck a nerve with the media but the serious questioning of McCain came from an unlikely source: the women on "The View." Barbara Walters and Co. were relentless in their questioning of the Arizona senator. Joy Behar was blunt: "Now we know that those two ads are untrue, they are lies. And yet, you at the end of it say you approve these messages. Do you really approve these?"
On ABC’s Sunday show, most of the twenty minutes of roundtable discussion focused on how McCain was forfeiting his reputation for decency and was waging the kind of campaign he once promised never to engage. The normally unflappable Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s Sunday host, questioned GOP analyst Tara Wall’s assertion that it was Obama not McCain who was imitating Bush. "Hold on. Obama is not about to keep the Bush tax cuts," Blitzer said with disgust in his voice. Even on Fox, GOP uber-strategist Karl Rove admitted that McCain’s ads were "beyond the 100 percent truth test."

McCain is not running his campaign of lies because he wants to. He is doing so because he has been convinced by his advisors that this is the only way to beat Obama and the Democrats. The advisors are right. With a sagging economy and an electorate tired of a long drawn out war in Iraq with no clear objective or exit strategy, the only way McCain can win is to demonize Obama and claim the mantle of change agent for himself. But, as it says in the good book, what doth it profit a man to gain the whole world but to lose his soul? In the event, with seven weeks to go and the media already unwilling to let him run a campaign of lies, McCain may lose both his soul and the election.
Michael Sean Winters

1 comment:

Patrick Molloy said...

No better sign of the Democrat’s current panic can be found than this post’s citing of Barbara Walters and Joy Behar with their “relentless questioning” as evidence that McCain is conducting a failing “campaign of lies.” When such "View" authorities are called to testify it’s time to say, with Cicero, “O tempora, o mores.”

For another view of the “campaign of lies” trope put forth by Democrats see Mickey Kaus’s recent observations:

One of his points deservs highlighting:

“Lecturing the public on what's 'true" and what's a "lie" (when the truth isn't 100% clear) plays into some of the worst stereotypes about liberals--that they are preachy know-it-alls hiding their political motives behind a veneer of objectivity and respectability.’