Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Katie writes a hit piece

I’m short on time, so I’m going to cut back on what could be a point by point refutation of many of the assertions published in today’s New York Times in a story by Kate Zernike about the relationship between John Kerry and John Edwards during the 2004 campaign—let me just say that the article is rife with unnamed sources, ignores the role of Bob Shrum in counseling Kerry not to disavow his vote to authorize the Iraqi incursion, and is filled with reductive statements that clearly represent opinion rather than a logical conclusion based on the evidence laid out in prior paragraphs.

In place of that tome, I’d like to make a couple of quick observations:

Almost every single line in Zernike’s story relates to 2004. It is highly critical of Edwards vis-à-vis his time on the campaign trail with John Kerry, but the article barely begins to explain what the three-and-a-half-year-old anecdotes have to do with today, here, now, in 2007. There are maybe three or four paragraphs, and one of them is mostly a quote that, if anything, reveals how little any of this story’s preoccupations matter today:

“There’s no question John Edwards is different now than he was in 2004,” said Peter Scher, whom Mr. Kerry recruited to run Mr. Edwards’s vice-presidential campaign. “There’s a great deal more confidence in his own instincts and his own judgment. You see much less reliance on consultants and pollsters and media advisers, and more of a willingness to say what he believes and let the chips fall where they may.”

Write this story for the Week in Review section in December of 2004, fine—interesting even—but what makes this even remotely worthy of front page coverage now? I can’t answer that question—if Kate could, she should have put it in print (though probably on the opinion pages).

However, even more importantly, as little as there is in this piece to tie it to the current campaign, what there is dwarfs the amount of reporting Zernike does on today’s issues. There is zero—not one line is devoted to what the 2008 election is, you know, about. Not a word about Edwards’s positions or proposals, not a word about his stump speech, not a word about his campaign today. There is nothing describing what Edwards proposes to do about healthcare, about poverty, about domestic security, about ending torture and rendition, about restoring the Constitution, about fixing the VA—nothing! Even when it comes to Iraq, the only discussion is about whether Kerry or Edwards renounced their 2002 votes first; Zernike has seemingly no interest in informing her readers about where Edwards stands today, or what he says he will do in 2009.

In fact, it appears that Kate Zernike and her Times editors have no interest in informing us readers about Edwards at all. I know I live in Clinton country here in New York, so maybe I shouldn’t expect better from the New York Times, but the Times is called “the paper of record,” and for the record, the only stories I’ve seen about Edwards this month have been about his campaign (how it’s in trouble), his fundraising (how it’s in trouble), and now, about how troubled his relationship was with Sen. Kerry back in 2004.

Isn’t it about time the Times got with the times? Isn’t about time they used today’s front page to inform us readers about today’s concerns? Isn’t it about time we got some campaign coverage that didn’t reduce everything to a cat fight, a horse race, a game show, a beauty pageant, or a coronation?

Maybe Zernike sees issues as nothing more than political footballs, and perhaps she is betting on Clinton to win this one by a couple of touchdowns, so the other campaigns are just the halftime show. But because the Times still claims to be a newspaper, isn’t it about time they really covered this year’s Edwards campaign, instead of just covering the spread?

(cross-posted on guy2k, The Seminal, and Daily Kos)

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