Thursday, July 22, 2010

When McCain picked Palin, liberal journalists coordinated the best line of attack

With the liberal mainstream media, it's always about the storyline. Always. Whatever fits gets printed, whatever doesn't gets ignored. But it's interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the storyline sometimes gets formulated...
In the hours after Sen. John McCain announced his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate in the last presidential race, members of an online forum called Journolist struggled to make sense of the pick. Many of them were liberal reporters, and in some cases their comments reflected a journalist’s instinct to figure out the meaning of a story.

But in many other exchanges, the Journolisters clearly had another, more partisan goal in mind: to formulate the most effective talking points in order to defeat Palin and McCain and help elect Barack Obama president. The tone was more campaign headquarters than newsroom.

...

Chris Hayes of the Nation wrote in with words of encouragement, and to ask for more talking points. “Keep the ideas coming! Have to go on TV to talk about this in a few min and need all the help I can get,” Hayes wrote.

Suzanne Nossel, chief of operations for Human Rights Watch, added a novel take: “I think it is and can be spun as a profoundly sexist pick. Women should feel umbrage at the idea that their votes can be attracted just by putting a woman, any woman, on the ticket no matter her qualifications or views.”

Mother Jones’s Stein loved the idea. “That’s excellent! If enough people – people on this list? – write that the pick is sexist, you’ll have the networks debating it for days. And that negates the SINGLE thing Palin brings to the ticket,” he wrote.

Another writer from Mother Jones, Nick Baumann, had this idea: “Say it with me: ‘Classic GOP Tokenism’.”

...

[Avi] Zenilman of Politico, a purportedly nonpartisan journalist, weighed in with tactical advice: “The experience attack is a stupid one. It’s absolutely the wrong tack — the tack that McCain took when he was losing, and that Hillary and Biden took all primaries.”

Joe Klein of Time stopped by with an update on the latest from his magazine: “We’re reporting that she actually supported the bridge to nowhere. First flub?”

Klein, who displayed an independent streak in other circumstances (“anybody who knows me knows I do my own thinking,” he said in a Wednesday interview), seemed to exude more partisanship that day than usual.

As the morning wore on into the afternoon, some on Journolist came to believe the Palin pick had been shrewd. Palin was coming off as appealing and a maverick, they worried.

“Okay, let’s get deadly serious, folks. Grating voice or not, ‘inexperienced’ or not, Sarah Palin’s just been introduced to the country as a brave, above-party, oil-company-bashing, pork-hating maverick ‘outsider’,” Kilgore said, “What we can do is to expose her ideology.”

Ryan Avent, then blogging for the Economist and now an editor there, agreed that criticizing Palin’s experience might not work. “I really don’t think the experience argument needs to be made by the Dems. It’s completely obvious to any reasonable person. Instead, hammer away at the fact that she has terrible positions on things like choice, and on the fact that she has no ideas on the issues important to people,” he wrote.

Some of these people are acknowledged partisans. Joe Klein's an opinion writer, and certainly, people reading Mother Jones or The Nation knows they're going to get leftist positions. But surely there's a presumption that they're getting those people's own independent analysis, rather than regurgitated groupthink.

None of this is, of course, surprising in the least. It is amusing to actually see it get printed, though...

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