News Media’s Tragic Flaw
As the current tempest cools down over Joe Biden’s “back in chains” poetics on Tuesday night and Romney’s subsequent artificial indignation, reporters are getting in their last kicks in the shin by wringing their hands over what they perceive as the ugly turn in the campaign.
Let’s dispose of Biden’s remark. On the highest moral plain, the BBC’s North America editor, Mark Mardell, gives us a succinct and insightful interpretation: “Sometimes it seems as if a curious moral equivalence has been established – merely mentioning the past treatment of African-Americans is just as bad as racism itself.” Here’s a link to this complete column“On Biden’s ‘Wall Street chains’ remark.”
It’s odd, indeed, considering the far right — which Romney has struggled to impress throughout the campaign — has been slandering Obama fiercely ever since the 2008 campaign (questioning his citizenship, his religion without offering any evidence whatsoever). They even have a national news network, Fox, devoted to this slander. And in his response, Romney himself shouted angrily that Obama should go back to where he came from. (Of course, he said, Chicago, but, really, do I have to start winking?)
But although I said that this strenuous grunting by the reporters will evaporate by the end of the weekend, there is an important point. These reporters who are gasping at the horror of it all are overlooking that it is their responsibility to elucidate the issues and not get stuck in the stuff of reality shows.
The line in Times’s story that really got to me was in the voice of the reporter, Michael Barbaro. He quotes unnamed Romney aides saying that the Republican candidate was “animated by personal frustration with the recent tone of the race.” Here’s the whole story
Oh, I’m sure some unnamed person more or less made that claim, but what of it? Does Barbaro believe it? Is he able to read Romney’s mind? Does he believe that this whole incident wasn’t scripted?
Actually, he’s missing a big, big story if he actually knows that a presidential candidate, who’s spent the last 10 years immersed in big time politics, is so shocked at the tone of presidential campaign that he suddenly was struck indignant.
Romney could easily convince me by starting to talk in detail. Let’s start with the recent topic of Medicare. He just chose a running mate who says he will replace Medicare with $2,500 vouchers. So, Romney, I’d like to hear where in the country I can buy health insurance for $2,500 a year — and I’m not talking about health insurance that’s subsidized by employers. I know of no such plan. I have found plans that cost $2,500 a month — not a year.
The standard Romney answer would be something vague about the benefits of privatization, but the United States has already tested this for about five years in the plans known as Medicare Advantage. They cost the government about 14 percent more than regular Medicare. What happened the efficiency of business?
Such a question is worth 100 exchanges of innuendo between Joe Biden and Mitt Romney.
The New York Times isn’t alone in bowing and scraping here. I was struck by a Washington Post headline, “Why Mitt Romney isn’t releasing his tax returns, part 563.”
This article is a bit of a spoiler for an NBC interview with Ann Romney, who again refuses to release any more tax returns than the 2010 and 2011.
It’s not a bad story, but one I read only because I thought the Post had found an important item in the intricacies of the tax code that only very rich people know about and that may relate to Romney.
Naw, No such luck. The Post sighs in a piece that reads like a staff memo, Romney should just give in and release the information to prevent the 564th asking of the question.
And it winds up with a quote from a Republican media consultant who once worked for Romney, Alex Castellanos: “I’d advise Mitt to release 10 years of tax returns when Obama releases 10 years of birth certificates.”
So here we are: Forget about taxes. There’s the important birther question. Romney’s in the clear, since he didn’t ask, but the question is asked, and it’s asked on the front page of Washington Post.