Even the Smart Media Is Dumb

Talk of the Nation decided to have a novelty episode yesterday— for about 40 minutes, “we focus not on not on rhetoric, nor on personalities, or on campaign tactics, but on where Senators Clinton and Obama agree and disagree on the issues.”

They spoke for about 3 or 4 minutes, then took calls from listeners.

The first caller asked how the candidates are working to fix Social Security so that it still exists in 20 years. National Journal‘s Kirk Victor responded that both candidates have”ducked the issue”; “neither of them have bitten the bullet” by talking about raising taxes or the retirement age. He didn’t mention the argument that this makes no sense, or, until Conan later read an email sent in to correct him, that Obama has proposed raising the payroll tax. This issue has provoked heated debate between the campaigns. And the domestic policy reporter expert guy has absolutely no idea about it. All he was able to do was misrepresent the facts, and fail to learn anything about the candidates’ views.

Julie Rovner, NPR’s health reporter, was pretty knowledgeable.

Michael Hirsch of Newsweek explained that Clinton was a “flip-flopper” on Iraq in order to appeal to “the Democrat base.” (I support Sen. Obama in large measure because he was right about Iraq, but in fairness to Sen. Clinton, lots of people have changed their minds since 2006, when Clinton uttered the quote that Hirsch seized on here). Hirsch later noted that “any Democrat worth his salt” has to try to appease the “anti-globalization” movement that arose in the late 1990s on trade issues. No mention of any substance of Sen. Obama’s criticism of NAFTA, no mention of how controversial NAFTA was at the time— nope, it’s all a pure sop to anti-globalization sentiment from that irrational, hateful “Democrat base.” (I am inclined to favor NAFTA, but it’s not like everyone who disagrees is completely insane).

Victor repeatedly plead ignorance, attributing it to the fact that the issues hadn’t come up in the debates. “There might have been something on their websites, but I don’t know, other than that there’s no difference,” he explained once.

They are simply incapable of discussing policy— you know, that stuff that government does that affects people’s lives. It’s just not on their radar. I wish that this were an unrepresentative panel, but of course, it wasn’t.

Oh, and the following story on Talk of the Nation was about media coverage of Britney Spears.

UPDATE:  NPR is, of course, still smarter than CNN.   Glenn Greenwald points out that “a smirking [CNN teleprompter reader John] King actually appears to delight in joyfully admitting how confusing and disorienting he finds the subject matter on which he’s inviting Admiral McConnell to opine freely.”  King started off the interview with DNI Mike McConnell by saying that because he’s “spent most of his time, in the past several months, out covering a presidential campaign, this is highly detailed stuff that’s pretty hard to follow.”

Of course!  There’s no need to know anything about anything in order to cover the presidential race!  Just talk about body language and who’s playing the race card, you’ll fit right in.


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