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:

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

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Neoliberal Arts

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Gangs of Karachi

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today