12sep08 Media and US elections analysis

 

By Daniel Politi (Slate Magazine)

 

 

The LAT, NYT, and WP all front Sarah Palin’s first extensive interview with a hard-news outlet since becoming John McCain’s running mate. The WP, however, doesn’t actually lead its story with the interview but rather mentions that Palin appeared to link Sept. 11 to the war in Iraq. While talking to a group of soldiers that included her son, she said they would “defend the innocent from the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans.” It certainly sounds like she was making an oft-repeated claim from before the war that linked Saddam Hussein with the Sept. 11 attacks. But the truth is that everyone agrees al-Qaida militants have taken root in Iraq since the invasion. Regardless, the NYT talks to the campaign and says aides emphasized she doesn’t think Saddam Hussein was behind Sept. 11.

As for the interview itself, the NYT says that “perhaps the most confident answer” Palin supplied in “a sometimes tense and generally probing interview” was her assurance that she felt ready to be president. For the most part, Palin successfully uttered talking points from the campaign in a calm manner that mostly didn’t veer far from message. The most uncomfortable moment for Palin must have been when Charles Gibson asked her about the Bush doctrine and she didn’t seem to know that he was referring to the view that the United States can engage in a pre-emptive war. She also switched her position on global warming a bit to put it more in line with McCain’s and said that she was “thankful that, under Reagan, we won the Cold War.” In foreign policy, she very much sounded like McCain and said that if Georgia joins NATO, the United States might have to fight Russia if Moscow decides to invade again. To its credit, the LAT not only goes through Palin’s misstatements but also says that Gibson quoted some of her words “out of context” and also “mischaracterized her” view at one point.

The NYT‘s Alessandra Stanley writes that Gibson “had the skeptical, annoyed tone of a university president who agrees to interview the daughter of a trustee but doesn’t believe she merits admission.”

The NYT fronts a look at how Barack Obama will begin to attack McCain more forcefully today with new ads and a general “new tone.” Democrats have been criticizing Obama’s campaign for failing to hit back hard enough at Republican attacks that have been coming quickly since the convention. As much as the Obama campaign insists it is not worried and this is just a phase, many are ready to push the panic button because the Democratic nominee is allowing McCain and Palin to control the message of the campaign and forcing him to respond to accusations rather than push his own ideas.

In the Post‘s op-ed page, E.J. Dionne Jr. writes that the campaign is now “a blur of flying pieces of junk, lipstick and gutter-style attacks.” McCain’s lies about Obama and Palin’s distortions on her own record “suggest an unedifying scuffle over a city council seat.” Dionne blames the media for frequently failing to call a lie a lie, and McCain for “running a disgraceful, dishonorable campaign.” But he also blames Obama because he isn’t doing a good job reminding Americans this is an important election that can’t come down to trivial issues. Obama desperately needs to take control of his campaign and remind voters what he stands for, because most voters simply don’t know. “McCain has shown he wants the presidency so badly that he’s willing to say anything, true or false, to win power,” writes Dionne. “Obama can win by fighting for what he believes.”

Palin’s popularity is helping not just Republicans, as her personal style has also “sparked a buying frenzy,” notes the WSJ. Hairstylists and wig sellers say more people are asking to look like Palin, and if she wears a distinctive piece of clothing, chances are that sales will increase. The shoes she wears have been selling quickly, and her eyeglasses are on back order. Most of the companies are happy for the attention, even if Palin wasn’t exactly the demographic they had in mind for their product. “The age bracket we target is a little younger,” one executive says of the shoes Palin wore when McCain introduced her as his running mate. “It’s a very edgy, very hip, very street brand.”

 

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