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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Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Gustov’

Johnny comes lately to change: Let the campaign begin

Posted by James McPherson on September 4, 2008

A week ago I wrote that the Democrats had achieved most of what they hoped for at their convention. After listening to John McCain tonight, I think the Republicans did the same. I now think the GOP might get more of a bounce than I previously predicted, though I disagree with the commentators who tonight predicted that he would at least briefly pull ahead in the race.

As for the McCain’s speech, I thought it was exciting for the last three minutes, and OK but fairly dull before that (though maybe I’m the only one tired of hearing the POW story and yearning for specifics). I wasn’t as impressed with the speech as some of the talking heads, though perhaps that’s a reflection of my own bias (and my conservative buddy Mike is the speech professor). Topping Sarah Palin’s speech of last night would have been tough for McCain. Not surprisingly Fox News commentators seemed to like his speech the best, though PBS folks (except for liiberal Mark Shields) also lauded it.

Some of the most honest parts of the speech came when McCain criticized the current administration (though never by name), following the “change” message of the entire convention. The Republicans ended up benefitting from Hurricane Gustav, which kept President Bush–the implied target of many of the negative comments–off of the convention floor.

McCain failed to say how he will do things differently than the current president or his fellow Republican congressmen, who waged power for six years and then still had enough power to keep Democrats from enacting any meaningful legislation for the past two years. He drew some of his best response with promises to reform education–but conservatives before Bush thought education should be left to the states.

Liberals generally think the feds should be involved in things as important as education, but not in the way that McCain and Bush think they should be involved. Most Americans will agree with McCain that Washington and America need change, but he is literally a “johnny-come-lately” to the idea. He’ll need some real ideas to back up the talk.

The next two months should be interesting. I’ve written repeatedly that not much that happened before now would matter much to voters. But now they’ve started paying attention, and each speech and perceived gaffe will matter more–especially what I call the “blogcessive compulsive” times. McCain appropriately said little or nothing about Republican hot buttons such as abortion and gay marriage in his speech, but he will have to address them in the weeks to come.

Now that people are tuned in, it would be nice if the mainstream news media would focus on the issues Americans will face and how each candidate might realistically affect those issues. Don’t hold your breath.

Saturday update: Al-jazeera summarizes what’s ahead in the election.

Posted in Education, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Obama convention bump, and the McCain bump in the road

Posted by James McPherson on September 2, 2008

If the polls are to be believed (and as I’ve written before, at this point they shouldn’t be taken too seriously), Barack Obama apparently got a perhaps-significant bump out of the Democratic National Convention. The lastest Gallup national tracking poll has him getting 50 percent of registered voters, up from 41 percent early in the convention (right in line with the 8-12 percent increase I predicted).

Of course other polls have Obama moving up much less, if at all, illustrating that negligible value of these things at this point. But the media and bloggers on both sides keep using them to support faulty arguments.

For the record, I expect the GOP to get a much smaller boost from its convention, partly because it was shaping up to be less interesting to begin with (no stadium, older candidate, less conflict), partly because of Hurricane Gustav and the many political and personal questions surrounding Sarah Palin and her place on John McCain’s ticket.

McCain’s convention probably won’t copy the John Kerry trick of four years ago of actually bringing his party farther down, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see things stay where they are, and I’d be surprised at a jump of more than two or three points.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Sarah Palin draw a bigger audience Wednesday than John McCain does Thursday if their speeches are on consecutive nights. The Republicans may want to stay with their hurricane-induced proposal of having both speak on the same night, the last night of the convention. After all the Dems won’t be able to counter the next day with something as dramatic as what the Republicans did last Friday.

On the other hand, though I don’t expect it, the GOP may do something equally dramatic on bad-news Friday.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

God’s will and praying for rain

Posted by James McPherson on August 31, 2008

A brief but disturbing post: Do you suppose that Stuart Shepard believes that God intends to punish those affected by Hurricane Gustav, including the more than 75 people killed so far? That Pat Robertson-style idea seems to be Shepard’s message with the latter part of his recent edition of “Stoplight.”

Incidentally, I agree with the GOP decision to scale back its convention because of the hurricane, and with Barack Obama’s call for his supporters to volunteer help the victims. Oh, and Stuart, in answer to your question: Yes, what you were proposing would be wrong. And unlike a few wackier liberals, as I wrote a couple of days ago, I had hoped the GOP convention would be able to proceed without problems so the Republicans could get their message out. I’m convinced that message, if heard clearly, will be what keeps most American voters from casting ballots for John McCain.

Below are Shepard’s video (since pulled from the Focus on the Family Web site) and a CNN video that provides a bit more info about it.

Posted in Politics, Religion, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »