First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Good Reporting, Bad Reporting
What a week.
New York Governor Spitzer gets caught in a whorehouse with his pants down, and in his first press conference actually seems to think that he can pull a Barney Frank and stay in office! Doesn't he understand that he was paying for heterosexual sex, and therefore gets no free pass, even though he is a Democrat?
In California, a superior court judge bars a 17-year-old boy in foster care from taking early enlistment in the Marines because, she asserts, the recruiters are all liars and besides, she opposes the war. Fortunately the Marines are letting him enter the training program anyway -- all he loses is the $10,000 signing bonus. Boy, the judge was sure looking out for his best interests.
A judge certifies a class action suit against Microsoft and releases internal memos proving that Microsoft executives were perfectly aware that Vista was a piece of junk before they put it out -- and that they were defrauding the public by claiming it would run on machines that could not possibly handle it.
Hillary tries to get people to vote for her by hinting that if she's the nominee, she'll pick Obama as her running mate -- so she's saying, in effect, "a vote for me is a vote for both!" To which Obama responded with ridicule: If I'm not ready to be commander-in-chief, why am I such a great choice to be one heartbeat away from the presidency? And why is the candidate who is behind in delegates and the popular vote offering second place on the ticket to the guy who's out in front?
I could write a half-dozen columns -- because I haven't even mentioned the Inuits protesting that there are plenty of polar bears, as many as ever, so don't make them a protected species; the towns in Vermont that have voted to arrest Bush and Cheney if they are foolish enough to enter their jurisdiction; or the court decision in California that would essentially ban home schooling.
In fact, the column I should have written was so brilliantly done by Christopher Hitchens in an essay entitled "Iraq: Worth the Price" on 11 March that now I don't have to. I can just send you there:
Let me instead spend a bit of your time looking at something that happened on Brit Hume's Special Report last Sunday afternoon.
Hume was interviewing two Democratic Party leaders, both women, one from Michigan and one from Florida. Both were pretending to be wise and impartial, seeking only "fairness," but it was obvious that both of them were committed Hillaroids -- because they were insisting that the original results should count.
In case you haven't been following this controversy, the Democratic and Republican parties both made rules to try to stop the attempts of the various states to move their presidential primaries as early as possible, so they'll have more influence over the outcome.
The legislatures of Michigan and Florida defied the rules, and for good reason. It's absurd for the lily-white states of Iowa and New Hampshire to be the ones that get to decide which candidates are to be taken seriously. Yet Giuliani found, to his sorrow, that if you don't play in their sandbox, you're out of the game.
The rules in the Republican Party allow only half their delegates to be seated. But the Democrats, in typical Democratic Party fashion, zeroed out any state that defied the rules. No delegates at all from Florida or Michigan.
Which will look very bad, if those two key states are barred from any voice in the Democratic Convention. What a great way to alienate voters there and help Republicans to victory!
So a lot of Democrats want to have Michigan and Florida counted after all. They divide into two groups: Those who want to count the original early vote, and those who want to hold a new election/caucuses/mail-in vote now.
The trouble with counting the original vote is that it was cast back when Hillary was still seen as the "inevitable" candidate and before the whole Obamania began.
Not only that, but Barack Obama took his name off the ballot in Michigan!
The trouble with holding new elections is (a) they're hugely expensive and the states don't want to pay again, and (b) Obama would certainly win big in both states.
Even as the sole well-known candidate on the ballot, Hillary got only 55% of the vote in Michigan. Uncommitted got 40%! Think of what that means! Two-fifths of the Democratic voters took the trouble to go to the polls just to vote against her.
With Obama's name actually on the ballot, she'd be toast.
So her partisans are insisting that the original vote be counted. All the while pretending that it's about "fairness" and "not disenfranchising the voters who already cast their ballots."
Which brings us to Brit Hume's show last Sunday. Florida Congressperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz began saying how unfair it was to Florida's Democratic voters because the early primary date was enacted "by a Republican-led legislature."
Doesn't that make it sound as if those evil Republicans forced all those obedient Democrats to break their party's rules?
Well, Brit Hume -- because he's at Fox News and therefore not committed to swallowing whatever Democrats say -- interrupted her (politely) and asked who in the legislature introduced the bill to move the primary date.
Reluctantly, Wasserman Schultz (no hyphen, but she uses both last names) said that it was a Democrat.
Like all good reporters, Hume asked a follow-up: "How many Democrats in the Florida house and senate opposed the bill?"
And Wasserman Schultz actually replied: "That is not an appropriate line of questioning."
Yes, that's what she actually said! This is the phrasing you use when you're accusing someone of sexual harassment -- but politically correct women have no qualms about using it to shut down anything said by a male, if they don't want to hear it.
Brit Hume didn't push any further, though. He didn't need to. The point was already made. Even though Wasserman Schultz went on to mention the "Republican-led legislature" again in her spiel, every intelligent person listening knew that her goal was to deceive us.
That meant that it was pointless for her to say anything. We knew she was scamming us. She was done.
That's how good reporters do it.
Contrast that with the New York Times reporter who goaded McCain about a private conversation with John Kerry four years ago, when Kerry apparently offered McCain the Democratic vice-presidential nomination and McCain, like a good Republican, turned him down.
McCain refused to make any new statements about it. He knew that this wasn't news, and any story about that conversation would be designed to make Republicans doubt his credentials as a party loyalist. There was no conceivable way that the four-year-old conversation was legitimate news. It was only a ploy to "get" him, and he wasn't going to play.
But the reporter actually had two agendas, and either one would do. If she couldn't get him to say something that would put the Kerry conversation in the news, she would make him angry!
So she pushed and pushed her nonstory, demanding an answer even after he said no (unlike Hume!). And sure enough, he became irritable. Wouldn't you?
She tipped her hand by asking, "Why are you so angry?" When he asked her to repeat that question, she said, "Never mind." But we all knew exactly what was going on: A partisan reporter was trying to make news rather than report it.
She was trying to create footage of McCain being angry so she could damage him in the eyes of the voters. That's not what reporters do. That's what campaign tricksters do. That's what you would do if you were a Hillary or Obama operative under cover as a reporter.
Which is, of course, precisely what most of the reporters following Republican candidates on the campaign trail actually are.
But let's address the issue of McCain as being too angry, too volatile, too temperamental to be president.
I believed those stories about him. I was suckered in. After all, everybody who actually worked closely with him seemed to hate him. Not just dislike him, hate him. There had to be something wrong with the man!
But last week I had dinner with a close friend who spent many years in a high government office that required him to have close contact, year after year, with everybody in the Senate and many representatives as well.
Now he's retired; but he hasn't forgotten who the smart, effective people are in Congress -- nor the things he learned about their temperament.
His verdict? McCain is far from being the most volatile or angry person in the Senate. In fact, my friend thinks of McCain as a really good guy and admires him greatly, as a person and as a senator.
Well, I asked, how did all these stories get started?
Because many of the Republicans in the Senate hate him, he answered. Not because he's temperamental -- in fact, it's the guys who hate him that are the ones who hold grudges and never forgive and are filled with rage.
No, they hate McCain because he's not obedient. He doesn't toe the party line. The party decided to exploit the illegal-immigrant issue, and what does McCain do? He backs an amnesty bill! He keeps making deals with Democrats that Republicans see as treasonous -- but McCain was just trying to be an effective legislator and get compromise bills passed.
Now, my friend's opinion may not be right, but you should certainly add it to the mix of views you've heard about McCain. And in case you're wondering, my friend is not yet decided but is leaning toward Obama. He's not speaking as a die-hard Republican and he's certainly not speaking as a committed McCain supporter.
He just believes that the truth about McCain is that he's as level-headed as anybody in Congress, and that his bad rep comes from being a stubbornly independent thinker.
For a moderate like me, that's what I want my President to be -- not a partisan flunkey, but a guy who can think for himself and then stands up to pressure and intimidation to do what he thinks is right.
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