Matt Taibbi mostly talks about the media conspiracy against Sarah Palin, but I want to focus on another part of his post:
1) The political media has always taken it upon itself to make decisions about who is and who is not qualified to be taken seriously as candidates for higher office. Without even talking about whether they do this more or less to Republicans or Democrats, I can testify that I witnessed this phenomenon over and over again in the primary battles within the Democratic Party. It has always been true that the press corps has drawn upon internalized professional biases, high-school-style groupthink and the urging of insider wonks to separate candidates into “serious” and “unserious” groups before the shots even start to be fired.
2) When that does happen, when the press corps decides to abandon all restraint and go for the head shot, it usually tells us a lot more about the reporters’ bosses and what they’re thinking than it does about the reporters themselves. Your average political reporter is a spineless dweeb who went to all the best schools and made it to that privileged seat inside the campaign-trail ropeline by being keenly sensitive to the editorial wishes of his social and professional superiors.
The tone for all this behavior is always set somewhere way up the corporate totem pole, and it always reflects some dreary combination of simple business considerations (i.e. what’s the best story and sells the most ads) and internalized political calculus (i.e. who is a “legitimate” candidate and who is an “insurgent” or a “second-tier” hopeful). It’s not that the reporters are making this judgment themselves, it’s that they have to listen to what the apparatus Up There is saying all day long — not just their bosses but the think-tank talking heads they interview for comments, the party insiders who buy them beers at night, the pollsters and so on.
And when all these people start getting in their ears about this or that guy doesn’t have “winnability,” or doesn’t have enough money to run, or has negatives that are insurmountable, all that thinking inevitably bleeds into the coverage. It’s not that the reporters are “biased.” They just don’t have the stones, for the most part, to ignore all the verbal and non-verbal cues they get from authority figures about who is “legitimate” and who isn’t.
That said, even back at the very beginning of the campaign, before the signal came down that it was okay to start giving Obama big sloppy blowjobs on the air, when reporters were all slamming the one-term Illinois Senator for being a “lightweight” prone to “rookie mistakes” (those among us whose version of recent history imagines Obama being handed the 2008 election by the campaign press seem always to forget that part, but go back and look — the “Hillary is the presumptive frontrunner” period lasted a solid nine or ten months), Obama’s press handlers observed the prime directive. They did not interfere with the reporters’ civilization. There was a “let the chips fall where they may” attitude that helped out a lot when the Beltway consensus finally shifted and the money started pouring in behind the candidate; there was no bad blood to overcome when the press had to change its mind again and embrace an “Obama is now the presumptive frontrunner/We are now at war with Oceania” posture.
Matt is being a little disingenuous. He writes for Rolling Stone magazine, and they were treating Obama like a top-tier candidate way back in February 2007, when he barely had two years in the US Senate. But Matt’s post still begs the question – who sent the signal telling reporters to treat Obama as a contender?
In a sane and rational world Obama would never have been considered a viable candidate. He was certainly a rising star and a possible Vice-Presidential candidate, but considering his lack of experience and accomplishment, he should never have been taken seriously as the Presidential nominee. The media made him a contender – so who decided that the media should do so?
Matt also ignores the fact that Obama raised $99 million in 2007 – more than all the other Democratic candidates except Hillary raised combined. He raised that in approximately equal amounts in each quarter throughout the year, even though he was running a distant third behind Hillary and Edwards until late in the year. Where did that money come from?
(Hint: It wasn’t from college kids sending in their lunch money.)
Matt Taibbi obviously knows more than he is telling. The secrets he’s keeping would reveal how the leaders of the Democratic party and the media conspired to ignore the voters and make Obama the nominee.
The same people who selected Obama are trying to destroy Sarah Palin. Who are they, and why are they doing these things?
Whose democracy is it anyway?
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