Shoot the messenger
The last two weeks have been the most exciting, most eventful and most important two weeks in presidential politics since November 2000 when Bush vs. Gore went with extra innings.
The Democrats made history by nominating Barack Obama who delivered a widely viewed acceptance speech on Thursday night, Aug. 28. About 12 hours later, John McCain upped the ante by dropping a nuclear bomb, Sarah Palin, on the Democrats. Recognizing Palin's potential to change the dynamics, the Obama campaign instinctively attacked her, upping the ante even further. But, then, Obama wisely withdrew his troops and, instead, entrusted Palin's destruction to his willing ally, the national media.
Palin's anti-corruption fearlessness and hockey-mom authenticity struck at the heart of Obama's campaign. Her surprise nomination ended Obama's post-convention afterglow, restored McCain's maverick status, laid waste to Obama's "McCain is Bush" mantra, energized the GOP base, lured away disgruntled woman, rekindled the culture wars, suckered the Democrats into an "experience" debate and, most importantly, served as exhibit A in McCain's case as a change agent: When choosing running mates McCain went outside-the-box, Obama went to Washington!
So, once again, the ante escalated as the Democrats and the media turned Sarah Palin into the campaign's decisive battleground. Over the Labor Day weekend and before the hurricane-shortened GOP convention began, the media swung into action. The initial news on Palin had been exciting and positive. Now, before voters got a clear picture, it was time to poison the well:
This undereducated, hick town former beauty queen is over her head, the media said. As a governor she lacks foreign relations experience (a question never raised of Governors Carter, Clinton and Reagan) and she lacks experience (forget that she has more than VP candidates Shriver, Agnew or Edwards).
The media ridiculed her church, her family, her hairdo, dredged up her husband's 1984 DUI, and said McCain's picking her was nothing but a cynical vote-getting ploy. (How about Mondale picking Ferraro or JFK picking LBJ?)
Next, the media questioned how a mother of five could be vice president. "When the phone rings at 3 in the morning and one of her children is sick, what choice will she make?" asked the Washington Post's Sally Quinn. (Did Quinn have the same qualms about working mom Post publisher Katharine Graham?)
Some woman journalists went even further: "Palin supporters insist that her out-of-control home life will resonate with many American families. Yes, if they're from Mars or perhaps on welfare." Get it ladies? You aren't a woman unless you belong to NARAL and listen to NPR while driving your Volvo to your personal trainer appointment.
Then, on Sept. 1, when Palin announced that Bristol, her 17-year-old unwed daughter, was pregnant the media went into a feeding frenzy. The Post printed 10 separate stories about Bristol each day for the next two days claiming that the obvious smear job "was intertwined with an important public policy debate" about teen pregnancy.
Remember, these are the same journalists who attribute every Democratic presidential defeat to the Democrats not being nasty enough.
Eyeball to eyeball with the media and the Dems over Palin, the McCain camp went "all in" willing to bet the entire election on people's willingness to believe their own eyes and ears instead of the media.
And judging by the backlash, it worked. McCain and Palin are surging in the polls, especially with woman; a majority of voters say the media is in Obama's pocket; MSNBC is shuffling its attack dogs due to low ratings; and the media is pretending that somehow it is the victim and that Palin is cheating by avoiding media interviews.
But my favorite backlash story is Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer who wrote, "Barack Obama was the editor of the Harvard Law Review, for heaven's sake. And the best McCain can do is a woman who minored in poli-sci at the University of Idaho?"
In response to Reimer's hatchet job, the Sun got 8,200 Web site comments and Reimer got 700 e-mails, mostly negative. Reimer says her readers' angry response "actually frightened me. The things that were said about me, my personal appearance and my children were beyond the bounds of decency." Well, Susan, walk in Sarah Palin's shoes for a while.
A media that betrays the public trust by becoming the communications arm of a political party is corrupt. And reporters who place president-making above their journalistic integrity are prostitutes, undeserving of public credibility.
If the messenger tampers with the message and can't be trusted, shoot the messenger.
Blair Lee is CEO of the Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in The Gazette. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.