Lacking ‘a Society of Grown-Ups’

Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi‘s look back (11/13/08) at his experience covering the ’08 presidential campaign features this response to Hillary Clinton adviser Mark Penn calling her “a workhorse”: “‘Are you implying,’ snaps one reporter, ‘that Barack Obama is not a workhorse?'”

This is what qualifies as a tough question on the campaign trail. The press performance in this election year would ultimately prove to be the worst of all time by miles and miles. Example: After thousands of reporters sat around for months on end listening first to Hillary’s and then John McCain’s people blather on about Obama’s connection to former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, it would take David Letterman–David Letterman!–to challenge either candidate on the matter. “Are they driving cross-country?” Letterman asked, after finally having gotten McCain to squirm about his own relationship with equivalent extremist G. Gordon Liddy.

Taibbi thinks that, “in a society of grown-ups, Brian Williams and Katie Couric and Wolf Blitzer would have done that from the start.” Unfortunately, he tells us, “they didn’t–they treated the mudslinging like it wasn’t vile horseshit to be laughed at, but something real to be discussed with furrowed brows, debated. So it persisted.”

See item No. “11. Obama’s Dubious ‘Associates'” in the FAIR magazine article Extra!: “Top Troubling Tropes of Campaign ’08: The Media-Created Narratives that Derail Election Coverage” (11-12/08) by Peter Hart