James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Archive for September 3rd, 2008

GOP VP nominee not Palin’ by comparison to Biden

Posted by James McPherson on September 3, 2008

From “bullshit” to bull moose: In her speech earlier tonight, Sarah Palin showed that she can not only shoot down and field dress the meat, but she can also pitch that red meat to the Republican base. She has no apparent qualms about doing what good VP candidates are supposed to do, attack the other side. Joe Biden won’t be the only VP pit bull–with or without lipstick–in this campaign.

Palin gave a good speech, with the usual convention-sized helpings of exaggeration and mischaracterization sprinkled with lie or two (she should quit repeating her false-but-appealing “bridge to nowhere” story, or that’s where it the bridge may help take her campaign). Palin did well what she had to do, though now that she’s “out there” without days to prepare for each appearance things may get tougher. On the other hand, Jay Rosen offers this somewhat depressing quote in considering the apparent McCain-Palin strategy:

Strategy: Comes from Bush, the younger. When realities uncovered are directly in conflict with prior claims, consider the option of keeping the claims and breaking with reality. Done the right way, it’s a demonstration of strength. It dismays and weakens the press. And it can be great theatre.

Rosen discusses how the GOP might reignite the culture war (it’s best strategy in the past couple of presidential elections), and elements of that war could be seen tonight. There wasn’t much on abortion–after all, Palin’s warmup act was pro-abortion, pro-gay civil unions, pro-gun control Rudy “9/11” Giuliani (I would like to see Rudy try to wrestle a rifle from Palin). But there has been plenty in recent days from the GOP (and its Fox News mouthpieces) about “elites” (a funny term for a ticket with at least 10 houses between them) and about that old Republican favorite, “the liberal media.”

It also was interesting to hear Palin and other speakers during the evening talk about the need for “change” from Washington politics. They obviously hope that a fair number of Americans will forget that it’s their president–the one McCain votes with most of the time–who has occupied the White House for the past eight years, and that their party controlled Congress for almost that entire time (while holding enough seats to sustain George W. Bush’s vetoes for the last two years, after the electorate kicked many–but not quite enough–of them out of office).

McCain himself was a Senator for all of that time, though he hasn’t showed up for the past five months. Giuliani made fun of Obama for voting “present,” but it has been quite a while since McCain could even say that much.

One media problem the McCain camp is trying to head off, fresh on the heels of the Bristol Palin pregnancy: the latest National Enquirer story about an alleged Sarah Palin affair. This is the sort of story that many of us would consider to be unlikely and irrelevant trash–but the exact thing that many conservatives recently criticized the mainstream media for not following up after the Enquirer reported similar allegations about John Edwards.

Unfortunately, as long as the major media let bloggers and tabloids dictate news selection, the GOP will have a case against the press–but it’s not a case of bias, as Republicans now pretend, as much as it is a case of laziness and sensationalism. And the Democrats can made the same case.

A even more ludicrous complaint from the McCain folks is that criticism of Palin’s obvious lack of experience is somehow sexist. That’s just stupid, especially since the GOP has been citing Obama’s lack of experience for months. Using their own reasoning, one would be forced to assume their criticisms stem from racism.

Tomorrow night is McCain’s turn. Any bets on how many times his years as a POW will come up?

Thursday elitist note: Vanity Fair estimates that Cindy McCain’s outfit from the other night cost approximately $300,000. Most of those “small town Americans” that the Republicans keep talking about that didn’t pay that much for their houses. And most of them only have one house.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The GOP Convention: Lieberman & Thompson, Noonan & Murphy

Posted by James McPherson on September 3, 2008

Joe Lieberman and Fred Thompson gave pretty much the speeches I expected last night. Thompson offered a good recitation of John McCain’s warrior history, which, despite the fact that many of us have heard it so many times we’re starting to feel as if we were tortured ourselves, appealed to the Republican base.

Thompson actually was more fired up than usual, and did a good job last part of the speech of exciting the crowd by attacking Barack Obama. Unfortunately Lieberman killed the buzz only minutes later by pointing out that Democrats can’t solve the nation’s problems, but neither can his new buddies in the GOP solve the problems–it will take a bipartison effort.

Lieberman was right about that, of course, and bipartisanship would be a good thing for John McCain to stress tomorrow night, to appeal to the moderate Hillary Clinton voters that he hopes Sarah Palin will help draw. But last night should have been about generating excitement for the party. Lieberman couldn’t even excite people on either side eight years ago as the Democratic nominee, so last night’s GOP voters were bound to be an understandably tough audience–especially those who realize that he disagrees with them on most issues not involving the protection of Israel.

Having Lieberman speak at the convention was a good idea, but he should have been scheduled before Thompson. As Karl Rove said on Fox News last night (and I hate to agree with Rove, but do in this case) , the curiousity factor of pseudo-Dem Lieberman speaking to Republicans likely have drawn a larger television audience at the beginning of the hour during which most networks covered the convention.

Following the dry old-white-guy version of “Can’t we all just get along and vote for John?” with the more heated and inspirational rhetoric of Thompson also would have ended the night’s activities on a high note, leaving the talking heads and convention goers talking about that speech, and perhaps not going so quickly onto the heavy expectations for Palin tonight.

Tonight’s speech, of course, is likely the most important of the convention for the GOP, and it would have been tough enough without GOP analysts Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy trashing their own party’s VP pick (including this Noonan comment about the election: “It’s over“). See the video below.

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »