Washington Babylon — August 22, 2008, 9:32 am

Penetrating Campaign Insights from the Washington Post and CNN

“Market share dictates the witless coverage, which is largely for the media’s own amusement,” Chris Lehmann said in an interview posted here yesterday. “You see that all the time on the Sunday political chat shows, which are always about the polls and who is performing better in strategic terms.”

Chris also said of media coverage, “It never seems to matter that John McCain is the wealthier candidate and represents economic interests that are in many ways aristocratic; it’s always Barack Obama who is the ‘elitist.’”

So it was amusing to pick up today’s Washington Post and read this:

Sen. John McCain’s inability to recall the number of homes he owns during an interview yesterday jeopardized his campaign’s carefully constructed strategy to frame Democratic rival Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist and inspired a round of attacks that once again ratcheted up the negative tone of the race for the White House.

So even though McCain’s wealth is hardly a secret, it took a verbal gaffe by the candidate, and information about his real estate holdings provided by the Obama campaign, for the media to figure out that McCain is rich. Meanwhile, the Post story doesn’t focus on the actual facts and issues involved, but on the strategic maneuvering and accompanying political blather:

For a Democratic candidate suffering from a barrage of attacks on his ‘celebrity,’ McCain’s inability to recall the scope of his family holdings was a timely break.

The now-defunct Progressive Media USA, a liberal activist group, had done polling on the potential line of attack and concluded that it alone would have little impact against McCain, whose ‘brand’ as a maverick Republican has proved difficult to crack.

Even if the slip doesn’t resonate broadly with the electorate, it could have meaning for the one group Obama has had the most difficulty with: working-class white voters, said Democratic strategist Tom Matzzie.

The ferocity of the McCain campaign’s response to Obama made it clear how seriously it viewed the potential for damage from the Arizonan’s remarks.

It’s just this sort of penetrating analysis that encourages me to not read the Post (other than the sports pages, movie listings, and comics) between now and the election.

By the way, speaking of inane campaign coverage, I was channel-surfing Wednesday night and — for reasons that I myself don’t fully understand — stopped and watched
CNN’s Strategy Session for a few minutes. The guests included Joe Klein of Time and CNN “political contributors” Alex Castellanos (the hack Republican) and Hilary Rosen (the hack Democrat).

The few moments I watched were centered on the mind-numbing topic of VP speculation (make sure to read Chris’s remarks on that topic in yesterday’s interview). My favorite part was Castellanos’s remarks, who said that McCain was looking for a running mate he got along with — “My guess is that the old fighter pilot wants someone he could be in the cockpit with for four years, that he likes and trusts.” That’s a pretty good guess!

Castellanos also said that the old fighter pilot would be looking for someone “who’ll keep the country safe.” Hmmm. I’m going to need to think about that, being a maverick and all, McCain might go for a nominee who’ll make the country unsafe.

But Castellanos had more insights, adding, “There is one big issue that dominates Republicans now and unites everybody, and it is keeping the country safe. When somebody is trying to break into your house and kill you, you’re going to worry about other issues later. You’re going to worry about keeping the country safe first.”

I know that every time someone’s trying to kill me, keeping the country safe is always the first thing on my mind.

Strategy Session was back last night with another riveting episode: “Obama V.P. Watch Continues.”

Share
Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

Commentary November 17, 2015, 6:41 pm

Shaky Foundations

The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends.

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2016

Psychedelic Trap

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Hamilton Cult

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Held Back

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Division Street

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Innocents

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quiet Car

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Hamilton Cult·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The past is complicated, and explaining it is not just a trick, but a gamble."
Illustration by Jimmy Turrell
Article
Division Street·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Perfectly sane people lose access to housing every day, though the resultant ordeal may undermine some of that sanity, as it might yours and mine."
Photograph © Robert Gumpert
Article
Held Back·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"'We don’t know where the money went!' a woman cried out. 'They looted it! They stole our money!'"
Artwork by Mischelle Moy
Article
The Quiet Car·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.

Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.

Photograph by Joshua Lutz
Article
Innocents·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion."
Photograph © Nadia Shira Cohen

Amount of laundry an average American family of four washes in a year (in tons):

1

A study of female Finnish twins found that relative preference for masculine faces is largely heritable.

It was reported that visits from Buddhist priests could be purchased through Amazon in Japan, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra began streaming performances through virtual-reality headsets.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today