Tuesday, January 08, 2008

News and No News

Glenn Greenwald at Salon on the "Surge" you haven't heard about, and why:

Is there any distinction between what a "reporter" does and what a "pundit" does covering this campaign? There doesn't seem to be any.

As but one example, consider this new daily tracking poll today from Rasumussen Reports. At least according to this poll, it is true that there has been one candidate who has been genuinely surging in the last week or two among Democratic voters nationally -- John Edwards:

Edwards -- who, just one week ago, was 10 points behind Obama nationally among Democrats -- is now only two points behind him. Less than a month ago, he trailed Clinton by 29 points. Now it's 13 points. He is, by far, at his high point of support nationwide.

Yet to listen to media reports, Edwards doesn't even exist. His campaign is dead. He has no chance. They hate Edwards, hate his message, and thus rendered him invisible long ago, only now to declare him dead -- after he came in second place in the first caucus of the campaign.

There are certainly horse-race counterarguments to all of this. This is only one poll. Obama is ahead in New Hampshire, where his support has increased, etc. etc.

But I'm not focusing on the accuracy of horse-race predictions here, but instead, on the fact that the traveling press corps endlessly imposes its own narrative on the election, thereby completely excluding from all coverage plainly credible candidates they dislike (such as Edwards) while breathlessly touting the prospects of the candidates of whom they are enamored. Their predictions (i.e., preferences and love affairs) so plainly drive their press coverage -- the candidates they love are lauded as likely winners while the ones they hate are ignored or depicted as collapsing -- which in turn influences the election in the direction they want, making their predictions become self-fulfilling prophecies.

It's just all a completely inappropriate role for political reporters to play, yet it composes virtually the entirety of their election coverage.
And now for a newsflash from across the pond . . .

BBC: Recession in the US 'has arrived'
Times (London): Merrill calls US recession
Daily Telegraph: US recession is already here, warns Merrill
Banking giant warns US economy in recession

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . .

New York Times: Bush Admits Economy Faces Challenges
“We cannot take growth for granted,” Mr. Bush said in a speech to a group of business leaders in which he acknowledged that “recent economic indicators have become increasingly mixed.”
On top of it all, the beloved Golden Globe Awards show has been canceled because of some scruffy, sushi-eating, latte-drinking, left-wing, pinko writers out on strike.

(In my book, anyone who can get an awards show canceled should be considered a HERO!)

But don't despair, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have returned.


jackjoe FRANK said...

Some good analysis, especially about role of pundits. But pundits should know hoe to read pools. Christ Matthews is in apoplexey about untruthful N.H. voters afraid to say they are NOT for Obama for fear of racist tag. And , of course, he should know that. He talks about the Wilder situation but can't seem to apply it. But also his and the other pundits vicious atitude to Clintons is great help to Hilary.Alice, my wife, very strong for Obama was disgusted with press' hostility to Clinton. So big story in N.H. Clinton wins; pundits lose. Have made generally same comment on Liam's blog. Jack

Jeff said...


I think the reporters have always been pundits. Fascinating, last night, that they waited as long as they possibly could before they would declare it for Hillary.

The reporter/pundits have always had a big hand in this. Nobody ever heard of the peanut farmer from Georgia before Time, Newsweek, and every other periodical in America stuck Jimmy Carter on their covers. They tried to do the same thing with Gary Hart afew years later, until Donna Rice and Monkey Business spiked their plans.

After last night, though, and even going back to the the 2004 election, somebody better start seriously looking into whether or not the pollsters have any idea of what they are doing anymore at all. Is this "science" broken? They might be fatally lagging behind something as simple as the widespread adoption of the cell phone.

As for Edwards and why his populism isn't getting any traction... "The people have spoken... Damn them!" I hope you're right, though. I hope he's not out of this race yet. Last night's results were quite deflating.

Why hasn't his populism taken hold among those who would most benefit from it? I suggest you read Joe Bageant, self-described "socialist redneck" and author of Deer Hunting With Jesus, and Tom Franks' What's Wrong With Kansas?, which both attempt to explain why working-class Red State America keeps on voting for the people who give it to them in the shorts time after time. Fact is, a lot of these people have been conditioned and taught to love and admire the people who are screwing them over. They admire corporate CEOs. They want to be like them and they watch Cramer on CNBC thinking they can make that big killing in the market someday. Main Street loves Wall Street. They buy big into "personal responsibility" and not "taking handouts", when the guys they admire so much who run the corporations do everything they can to avoid the former and to avail themselves of the latter. We get the government we deserve.

Apart from that, as Liam says, personality and our gut feelings about people do have a lot to do with where we come down. As far as the presidency goes, there is something to be said about gravitas, stature, and bearing, especially considering that politics is the art of the possible. Maybe people like what he says, but don't feel like he could successfully pull it off.

jackjoe FRANK said...

I really don't like the word "populism". It stands for the unchecked will of the majority. You know Bob Novak calls himself a "populist", meaning no check on the majority and to hell with individual rights. I believe the 'american' model is rule of the majority WITH protection of the minority and individual rights.All this Republican talk of 'judicial law making' as a curse is an important element in populism.So we need to be careful how we use the term 'populism.'
The combination of 'evangelicals',once a respected term, and the right wing Catholics is the source of our problems.I don't think "populist" fits Edwards, Obama, Clinton but it sure has a scarry history. Jack, not Frank

cowboyangel said...

Jack or Joe or Frank or Alice or whoever you are, thanks for dropping by.

cowboyangel said...


Well they waited to declare the NH race for a while, because the college towns didn't report until late, and even Clinton's people thought they would go big for Obama. But I hear you.

There's always been a blurry line between reporters and pundits, you're right. But I don't think it's right to just say, "That's the way it is." One of the great things about blogging, is that we can call the media on things like this more and more. And if the big corporate media didn't read Greenwald's article, I know a lot of other bloggers did, because I came across the link in several places. And I think the media was particularly offensive after Iowa. I mean, I like Obama enough, but Obama Hysteria reached a fast and furious peak. And the entire coverage for the Democrats was that it was Obama vs. Hillary. Given the fact that Edwards had much, much less money, I thought it was amazing that he could beat Hillary. And that should have been talked about more. They talked about this for Huckabee, but they ignored Edwards.

And it's not about Edwards, it's about the process. Hopefully, the media learned something after NH. Don't call the race too soon this year. They've done it all year with Hillary, switched quickly to Obama, and now they have egg on their face. It's going to be a long haul, I believe, in both parties.

I'm not sure polling is so broken. People, myself included, have to know better than rely so heavily on polls. I tell myself that all the time, but I am a polling junkie.

Actually, the numbers for all the candidates in both parties were pretty on target, with one enormous exception: Hillary. And I think that can be explained by the fact that Diebold machines were used for the voting and the Clintons had someone hack the system.

I'm kidding. Well, I'm kidding about them hacking hte system. the rest is true. The question is: Why were her numbers so far off? Some last-minute swing. The choking-up thing, a lot of people say. And several of the 3-day polls, if you look at them more closely, actually showed Hillary gaining significant ground the last day or so. But they were 3-day polls, so the numbers didn't reflect the last day that much.

Cell phone use is an issue, though, I agree. Although, I would argue that by excluding cell phones, which are used more by younger people, the numbers - if the were really impacted - would skew more in Hillary's favor, as many of Obama's supporters would've been ignored.

Also, NH had a huge amount of voters who didn't make up their minds until the last day or last 3 days. I think it was nearly 1/5 voters. Hard to poll that. I crunched some numbers, and McCain got 38,000 votes from people who made their minds up in the last day or last 3-days. Obama lost by 2 or 3,000, no? You tell me there was no effect there? A lot of Independents were torn between McCain and Obama. I think Barack lost some votes that way, because people thought he was far enough ahead that it didn't matter.

But again, the numbers weren't that bad - except for Hillary. So, something last minute got missed. I'm not that worried about the polling. Because I always try to take it with a grain of salt. I think this will be good, because pollsters will have to be more careful and attentive - AND reporters and pundits will have to pay more attention and remind themselves that things like this can happen.

jackjoe FRANK said...

I am John Haynes. My wife is Alice. Jack and Joe are my grandkids. Frank is an abused 23 year old who lives with us and who is becoming a catholic. I know it's confusing but we have the same e-mail address and use the same blog. We ALWAYS identify who is bloging or commenting. Thanks for your response. For the time-being I am trying not to blog on religions. I am a super radical catholic and to not want to upset Frank, outstanding football player but not into parsing the pope. John Haynes

jackjoe FRANK said...

My grandkids are Jack and Joe, so if comment is signed by Jack or John that is I.Grandkids don't blog.John or Jack. Same person.