Monday, October 06, 2008

False equivalencies hurt Obama more than they hurt McCain

Hi! Our hostess, The Nut, has graciously invited me to be her co-blogger. I used to write Shades Of Grey, but I suppose that I've been out of this "blogging" thing for long enough that I should probably write a decent post to properly introduce myself. Unfortunately, I'm not really feeling the self-love at the moment. So instead, you get my name -- I'm Charlie! -- and them I'm going to jump straight to a couple of articles from the Associated Press.

Here's the first one:

"Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country," Palin told a group of donors in Englewood, Colo. A deliberate attempt to smear Obama, McCain's ticket-mate echoed the line at three separate events Saturday.
Obama isn't above attacking McCain's character with loaded words, releasing an ad on Sunday that calls the Arizona Republican "erratic" — a hard-to miss suggestion that McCain's age, 72, might be an issue.

Really? Was it really so hard to miss? Because I've got to admit that I did, in fact, miss it. Let's see if I've got this straight. On the one hand we have Palin, who spent the day literally saying that Obama is palling around with terrorists. There is no subtlety in her statements; there is nothing left unspoken. On the other hand, we have Obama's assertion that McCain's behavior has been erratic. According to the AP, use of the word "erratic" is a hard to miss reference to McCain's age.

One of these things is not like the other.

What we have here is a clear example of the media attempting to prove its lack of bias by pressing its thumbs against the Cosmic Scales of Balance. Through equating Obama's use of the word "erratic" to Palin's "palling around with terrorists" comment, they imply that both campaigns are equally at fault. The quest for artificial parity thusly satisfied, the AP's neutrality is assured.

But isn't "erratic" a fair description of the McCain campaign's recent activity? Three weeks can seem like an eternity in the fast moving pace of daily media news cycles, so I've taken the liberty of putting together a time line of McCain's behavior over the past month. This first part is from Steve Benen:
When the crisis on Wall Street began, and the markets began tanking nine days ago, the very first message from John McCain was, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong." That didn't work, and McCain dropped the line.

His second message was that he wanted to see a commission investigate how and why the crisis happened. That made McCain appear confused, so he dropped that line, too.

His third message was in opposition to the AIG bailout. That didn't last, and McCain took the opposite position 24 hours later.

His fourth message was to fire Christopher Cox from the Securities and Exchange Commission. That turned out to be ridiculous, and McCain dropped the line, too.

His fifth message was to blame lobbyists, influence peddlers, and the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That became problematic given the lobbyists and former Fannie/Freddie officials on McCain's payroll.

McCain has simply gone from one ridiculous notion to another, flailing around, looking desperately for something coherent to say. Now McCain has come up with yet another stunt: suspend the campaign, delay the debate, and head back to his day job for the first time since April.

Steve's post was written on September 24th. A lot has happened since then. To Steve's list, I'd add the following (also rounded up primarily from Steve's blog):

  • After suspending his campaign, McCain cancelled his appearance on David Letterman, citing his need to fly immediately to Washington to assist with the rescue process. But instead of flying out, he gave an interview with Katie Couric.

  • Although it was vitally important to suspend his campaign to work on the bailout, McCain admitted that he still had not read the three-page Paulson proposal three days after it had been released.

  • As reports surfaced that an agreement was near on the bailout bill, McCain finally arrived in Washington, only to have the negotiations fall apart.

  • With no bill having been signed, McCain then backed down on his promise not to leave Washington until a bailout was complete and decided to attend the debate after all.

  • Though no bailout bill had yet been signed, McCain chose this point to unsuspend his campaign. In an apparent reversal of his previous declaration of urgency, a senior adviser reported that McCain could work on the bailout bill just as effectively from his campaign office. McCain literally phoned it in.

  • But despite McCain's efforts, the bailout bill failed to pass the house. By this time, however, McCain had decided that the economy didn't warrant a re-suspension of his campaign.

Can somebody please explain to me how this doesn't qualify as erratic behavior? And can someone please explain to the Associated Press that none of this erratic behavior has anything to do with McCain's age? I know that these "both sides are equally bad" kind of false equivalencies are nothing new; they have been a staple of mainstream reporting for quite some time. But this trend toward a false balance is going to disproportionately hurt Obama as the McCain campaign makes good on its promise to use the last four weeks to drag the campaign further into the mud. And true to form (Bush v. Gore anybody?), the GOP is going to throw everything it can at Obama, including the kitchen sink:

WASHINGTON – The Republican National Committee plans to file a fund raising complaint against Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign Monday, alleging it has accepted donations that exceed federal limits as well as illegal contributions from foreigners.

RNC officials acknowledged Sunday that they do not have a list of foreign donors to Obama's campaign. Instead, the complaint is based largely on media reports, including one from the conservative Web site Newsmax.

The complaint asks the Federal Elections Commission to audit Obama's campaign fund, RNC chief counsel Sean Cairncross said in a conference call with reporters.

Strap in, kids. We've still got a month to go, and it promises to be a wild ride.