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 ‘presidential politics’

Straight Talk Express derailed, falls off “bridge” to become mired in mud

Posted by James McPherson on September 13, 2008

It’s an old story, of course: Politicians lie. But usually in presidential campaigns the candidates let their surrogates take on the most egregious fabrications, staying somewhat above the fray themselves. John McCain and Sarah Palin seem to be the exception, cheerily tramping through the mud on their way to a lead in national polls.

The lies range from tales of the infamous “bridge to nowhere” (see video below) to taxes to health care to immigration (bilingual lying!) to sexism to Alaskan oil production to pig lipstick to kindergarten sex education to Cindy McCain’s drug theft problems to even the findings of  FactCheck.org. In the words of the Associated Press’ Charles Babington, “The “Straight Talk Express” has detoured into doublespeak.”

Considering how much admiration I once had for McCain, I am troubled that he has become not just a typical campaigner but even worse than most. The campaign he has chosen to run is costing him other one-time fans, as well, while supporting the latest Obama camp claim that McCain “would rather lose his integrity than lose an election.”

The lying has become so bad that even the women of “The View,” a morning show watched mostly by stay-at-home wives, feel compelled to question McCain about it. His response: Lying, of course. Unfortunately Barbara Walters, long one of the most overrated journalists in America, helped McCain out by following up his lie with a trivial lipstick diversion rather than confronting him with the truth.

I don’t think McCain and Palin can lie their way to the White House. But a part of me fears that too many voters don’t care about the lying even if they recognize it. If those voters happen to help McCain win, they deserve what they get–four more years of Bush Administration nonsensical tough talk and bumbling policy. Unfortunately all of us may get an even more conservative and out-of-touch Supreme Court that will last for a generation.

Same-day update: Apparently the McCain/Palin camp also misrepresented her “world travels,” falsely claiming she has visited Iraq. And in a lengthy story about Palin today, the New York Times reports: “Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records. ” She appears, as one of my colleagues noted recently, “Dick Cheney in a dress.”

Next day update: To John McCain–When you’re on the same side as Karl Rove and even he calls you a liar, maybe it’s time to dial it back.

Palin’s bridge to falsehood:

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Video, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

GOP view of Palin: pit bull or pretty little lady?

Posted by James McPherson on September 10, 2008

Barack Obama did the right thing today in pointing out the ludicrousness of the McCain campaign’s latest charges of sexisim. Of course that didn’t stop John McCain’s smear merchants from immediately launching another negative ad–complete with badly out-of-context quotes from Obama and CBS anchor Katie Couric (funny how conservatives like the “liberal media” when the message is correct, or can be twisted to appear so). The ad can be seen below. (Note: CBS insisted that the ad be removed from YouTube the same day; see below for details.)

The charges, as I noted yesterday, are shameful and disgusting. Interestingly, they’re also more insulting to Palin than Obama’s comments were, demonstrating the problem conservatives often have in dealing with women. They can’t even decide if their own vice presidential candidate is a “pit bull” ready for prime-time politics, or a “pretty little lady” beauty queen who needs to be protected as if she were some Victorian-era teen-age wife.

The subtleties of most real women, who fall between the conservative archtypes wrapped in leather and lace, escape these hapless campaigners–somethng even PUMAs are bound to realize. Between that GOP cluelessness and the fact that people will eventually remember that John McCain heads the ticket, I suspect the positive post-convention GOP numbers will soon start to decrease.

Those numbers continue to mislead, anyway. National polls may show a slight edge for McCain, but every electoral map I’ve seen–whether produced by Democrats, Republicans or neutral parties–still shows Obama with the advantage. Unless some unforeseen dramatic event occurs–and especially if the McCain campaign continues to rely on negativity, and if even conservatives can’t figure out what kind of woman Palin is–I have no problem sticking with my pre-convention prediction that Obama will win handily in November.

Same day update: That didn’t take long. CBS insisted that the ad be taken off YouTube because it is misleading. The ad still can be seen at the McCain Web site, where they aren’t such sticklers for details such as truth and fact. McCain has apparently found that he loves to wallow in the muck, just like a certain farm animal.

Same day update #2: Some conservative writers agree that the GOP “lipstick” attacks are stupid. See pieces by Kathryn Lynn Lopez and Roger Kimball.

Posted in Journalism, Media literacy, Politics, Video, Women, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »