From time to time, there are classic smackdowns of the news media. Matt Taibbi's article in the current issue of Rolling Stone qualifies, especially since he's a card-carrying member. Taibbi, it should be pointed out to those who don't already know, wears his politics on his sleeve and in his articles. But the campaign press corps of 2008 walks into the door frame with such regularity (was yesterday's top political story really that Obama and Clinton were forced to agree to play nice? Really? On a day when the economy took such a swan dive?), that even the most conservative pundits would be hard pressed not to slap the guy on the back.
Here are two particularly interesting paragraphs in the article, Merchants of Trivia: Why do the media insist on reducing one of the most exciting presidential primary seasons in American history to a simple horse race?
This 2008 presidential race looked interesting once, a thrillingly up-for-grabs affair in which real issues and real ground-up voter anger threatened to wrest control of America's politics from the Washington Brahmins who usually puppeteer this process from afar. And while the end result in Iowa — a historic and inspirational Obama victory, coupled with a hilariously satisfying behind-the-woodshed third-place ass-whipping for status quo gorgon Hillary Clinton — was compelling, the media has done its best to turn a once-promising race into an idiotic exchange of Nerf-insults, delivered at rah-rah campaign events utterly indistinguishable from scholastic pep rallies. "If there's policy in this race," one veteran campaign reporter tells me with a sad laugh, "I haven't noticed it."
How did one of the most genuinely interesting primary contests in American history devolve into a Grade-D smack-down that even Vince McMahon would be ashamed to promote? The real story of the campaign has been its unprecedented unpredictability — and therein lies the problem. On both tickets, the abject failure of media-anointed front-runners to hold their ground was due at least in part to voters having grown weary of being told by the press who was "electable" and who wasn't. Both the Huckabee and Ron Paul candidacies represent angry grass-roots challenges to the entrenched Republican party apparatus, while the Edwards candidacy is a frank and open attack on his own party's too-cozy relationship with corporate America. These developments signaled a meaningful political phenomenon — widespread voter disgust, not only with the two ruling parties, but with a national political press that smugly enforced the party insiders' stranglehold on the process with its incessant bullying of dissident candidates.
Update 5:04 p.m. Somewhat related, but here's one of the more bizarre moments of the campaign so far. I'm not sure which is more startling: a reporter picks this particular moment to get tough on a candidate, or a press secretary alleging that calling a candidate to task (at a news conference, by the way) is being unprofessional. In other words, "just shut up and write down what we say."(5 Comments)
I'll be on Talk of the Nation from National Public Radio this afternoon around 1:40 p.m. (Central Time), for a segment they're doing looking at the political quizzes that are out there.
I believe I'm on with a columnist out of Chicago who wrote a column this week
(which, at the moment, I cannot find online) after he took several online surveys and found he came up matched to a different candidate each time.
I can't speak for the other surveys -- some of which are well done and some of which are not -- but Select A Candidate is meant to be the beginning of the online fact-gathering for people interested in candidates, not the end. You don't -- or at least you shouldn't -- log on, see which candidate you match up with, and then log off.
Neither should you assume the quiz is "wrong" if you match up with a candidate for whom you do not intend to vote. Indeed, these quizzes reinforce that we make our decisions based on many factors; issues are just one of them.
In addition, there is Bob's Theory of Political Answers at play to explain why often marginal candidates end up as most often matched (Duncan Hunter and Tommy Tancredo occupied the top position at one point or another): Candidates are more interesting and direct in their answers if they're less likely to be elected. Since the options people are given as answers are often the actual words of the candidate, people find -- shall we say -- honest and direct answers to be the most reasonable.
I'll post a link to the Talk of the Nation audio and page later on today.
Update: 2 p.m. OK, well, that was interesting. And a little bit weird since the subtext of the segment seemed to be that there's something wrong with these quizzes because they're only about issues. Given the braying -- much of it deserved -- among columnists about horse race politics and the desire to have more discussion about issues, it was a strange juxtaposition in the criticism. Nobody believes that issues alone is what should dictate the next president. But it should be a piece of the pie.
Update 5:12 p.m. - Here's the link to the interview at npr.org.(17 Comments)
There's CNBC, the Wall Street Journal, and Marketplace, but if you really want to know what's going on in the commodities markets, the best indicators are what people are rioting over and what thieves are stealing.
And today, the answer is: wheat.
In Pakistan, rioting has broken out over flour. (Don't laugh; it's happened in the U.S. before.) There's a shortage of flour in Pakistan and prices are at an all-time high. That's good for America's farmers, but bad for hungry people.
In Egypt, according to today's New York Times, people jostle in line and fights break out over subsidized bread.
Suddenly, the price of oil isn't the big issue. The price of food is.
And the thieves know it. In Kansas, police are investigating "a series of attacks in which nearly half a dozen wheat depositories have been hit by thieves." Thieves drive the big grain trucks up to the Midwest's grain elevators, fill them up, and drive off to wherever people go to fence wheat.(1 Comments)
Tim Nelson, formerly of City Hall Scoop, is -- lucky for us -- now at Minnesota Public Radio. They haven't given him his own blog yet, but he's always welcome to News Cut space. And so, the following is from Tim.
Maybe it’s not so good to be the king.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke before hundreds of school board members from across Minnesota gathered in Minneapolis this morning for their annual leadership conference. He dutifully touched on his well known policy positions: dealing with declining enrollment, Q-comp, teacher training, market-based teacher compensation.
And then came middle school.
It was an interesting aside on his own experience with his daughter Mara at an undisclosed Eagan middle school, showing that even potential veep contenders still weigh lunch room politics. (Listen - MP3):
But, as ever, they do it for keeps. (Listen - MP3)
Bob here, again.
OK, let's see if we have this straight: The governor of the state doesn't want to go talk to his daughter's teacher about the lack of homework because "nothing will change" and "they'll talk bad about me in the lunch room"?
Let's hit the Wayback Machine:
The governor's 2003 State of the State address: "School accountability begins with parents."
On CNN's Lou Dobbs tonight in 2005:
The number one determinant of how children are going to do in schools, of course, is their parents. The second most thing is the effectiveness of their teachers, and a lot of kids, unfortunately, don't have high functioning or engaged or involved parents. This is the next best thing we can do.
And, again, in his address today on the subject of his dissatisfaction that his daughter's teacher hasn't assigned a stitch of homework all year...
"... I don't think we should even raise it..."
And the governor's complaints seem to collide with his statement after it was announced his older daughter would attend private school this year, instead of a public school in Eagan.
"Governor Pawlenty believes District 196 [Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan] is a great school system and his family is very satisfied with it," (Spokesman Brian) McClung said.
Tangent time: There was a piece in the Wall St. Journal today called "What's Gotten Into Kids These Days?"
The article looks at why kids are having emotional meltdowns in pre-school, and we're not talking the typical antics of four-year-olds here, according to The Juggle blog at the Journal.
The column offers some possible explanations, such as parents and schools are pushing children to read, write and do math too soon, at the expense of social and emotional skills. Time spent in group childcare from a young age can also be stressful for children, it says.
The column advises parents to take a number of steps to avert such problems, such as not introducing academics too early, and to look for low-stress classrooms and low student-teacher ratios (each teacher should be responsible for no more than 10 three and four-year-olds.) It’s also a good idea that preschool teachers have access to mental health and behavior experts. In the column, an expert intervened to stop one preschool from girl from throwing things and picking fights.
Pawlenty is, obviously, talking about a different age group in his complaint about the lack of homework coming home, but it does raise the question of our focus on how young we're pushing academics on kids.(1 Comments)
From the "what am I missing here department" comes this late-breaking news nugget: ESPN is adding competitive video game coverage to its broadcast schedule.
Is there anything worse than sitting in a room watching someone else play a video game? Now we're supposed to watch someone somewhere else play?
Videogame bloggers seem to like the idea. Said the Sports Video Digest...
You know, its good to see ESPN showing video games some love…I mean, they show love to a lot of other fringe sports (strongest man, lumberjack events, pool competitons, etc.) so why not video games? I would be willing to bet that more people are playing X-Box 360 than participating in a hot dog eating contest anyway (although we all love Joey Chestnutt, right?)(4 Comments)