Working With Us | Products | Case Studies | FAQ | About Online Media

Make Them Stop. Please.

Mar
11
2004

Looking at a Wall Street Journal poll that shows President George Bush with only a narrow margin over Democratic nominee John Kerry, political insider Josh Marshall asks, rhetorically, how much more of this can we take?
He was reading my mind. And that’s a bad thing.


Because, like Marshall, I was thinking that this campaign has started way too early. And it’s gotten just a touch too nasty. We have EIGHT months until election day.
Look at what’s happened in the ten days since Kerry sealed up the nomination: George Bush took to the airways with a set of pseudo-soft ads that, in essence, reminded people of the horror of 9/11 to scare them into voting for him. Moveon.org has launched a huge anti-Bush ad campaign to counter this, spending millions in swing states. The President has called for an amendment banning gay marriage in an attempt to appeal to his most conservative supporters. Meanwhile Democrats are playing ugly on Republican nominees using the outsourcing debate as their news peg – a tactic that’s shaky at best. Yesterday, Kerry called Republicans a bunch of lying crooks. Today, he said, so sorry, he was talking about the party’s attack dogs. Salon has hired Democratic attack dog Sidney Blumenthal – Christopher Hitchens on Blumenthal rings so true, so sadly accurate it makes you cringe — to run its Washington bureau. Today he quotes former Sen. Max Cleland – a man whose record was mischaracterized by Republican opponents and subsequently lost his seat – talking about Democrats as a “band of brothers” and Republicans as a “slime machine.”
And politicians still wonder why half the voting population stays home? This is why. They’re disgusted. They think politicians and their enablers, the political press corps, are childish. And silly. And obsessed with stupid stuff about crooks and slime and TV ads and oh, the list goes on and on and none of it matters to anyone with any sense. Coverage of national politics has become a kind of trade press reporting with some of the most talented people in the business spending their time asking questions about detailed inside events, comments, disputes and tactics that aren’t politics, they’re gossip. And that’s a peer review in every sense of the phrase.
Cleland and Kerry are right about the viciousness and vapidity of the Republican attacks. Today’s example du jour: stories about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg lending her name to some NOW events are retaliation for the coverage that Justice Scalia’s hunting trips with Vice President Dick Cheney have been getting. The attempt here is pretty obvioius: equate the Lefty National Organization for Women with Scalia’s seemingly close friendship with the administration and with Cheney in particular just as the Supreme Court was hearing a case in which Cheney had a strong interest. The whole debate either reduces the Scalia/Cheney connection or it amplifies the Ginsberg/NOW connection. Either way, Republicans get what they want: Democrats backing off on Scalia.
It’s one good illustration why Democrats are right to point out how supposedly impartial journalism plays into the hands of a well-organized echo chamber of people with a trade press mentality. And I know, better than many reporters, the danger of an unanswered allegation.
The Republicans do start it. But, as your mother would remind you as you beat the crap out of your little sister for pulling your hair, it takes two. These playground brawls are overwhelming in their repetitiveness and their high-pitched emotional intensity. We have EIGHT months until we vote and at this rate Democrats are playing right into Republican’s hands.
How so? Because, as Joe Klein points out in this week’s Time, George Bush the campaigner is a very nice man. And nice guys – particularly when they can figure out a way to look like the voice of reason – don’t always finish last.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:04 AM | Permalink

<< Back to the Spotlight blog

Chris Nolan's bio
Email Chris Nolan




Get Our Weekly Email Newsletter




What We're Reading - Spot-On Books

Hot Spots - What's Hot Around the Web



Spot-on.com | Promote Your Page Too

Spot-on Main | Pinpoint Persuasion | Spotlight Blog | RSS Subscription | Spot-on Writers | Privacy Policy | Contact Us