THE FAKING OF THE PRESIDENT: Above-the-fold front-page report!

MONDAY, JUNE 4, 2012

Part 1—How does Mitt Romney eat chicken: We Americans like to say that we care about our White House campaigns.

We like to say we care about who wins these elections. On the other hand, there’s the puzzling way we allow these campaigns to be covered.

Consider the latest front-page “report” in the New York Times. The piece was written by Mark Leibovich. It appeared above the fold in yesterday’s paper.

Yesterday was a Sunday. As such, the following headline graced the front page of the Sunday edition of our most smartest newspaper:
Candidates Have College, Spicy Chicken and ‘Star Trek’ in Common
In this front-page Sunday piece, Leibovich offered more of the pseudo-reporting which virtually defines the campaign work of our most famous “newspaper.”

In late November, the New York Times offered a full-length, front-page report about Candidate Romney’s hair. Last week, it offered a 2300-word front-page report about Ann Romney’s love of dressage.

But how strange! Even as it presents these puddles of piddle, the New York Times still hasn’t explained what Romney did to those steel workers in Kansas City—the workers who lost large parts of their pensions as Romney extracted large profits and fees from their “looted” company.

The Times still hasn’t reported on that matter. (Dearest darlings, it just isn't done!) But yesterday, the Times chopped trees to gift the public with these essential insights:
LEIBOVICH (6/3/12): Points of unity: Mitt Romney and President Obama both like process-driven decisions, iPads, ABC’s “Modern Family” and chicken.

Grilled chicken, not fried, in keeping with the shared body-mindedness of the combatants (Mr. Obama does treadmill and hoops, Mr. Romney elliptical and bike). Spicy, too, as Mr. Romney (who often peels the skin off) has demonstrated with his endorsement of the jalapeño chicken sandwich at Carl’s Jr. and Mr. Obama has praised the grilled chicken tacos made by the White House chef.

While a few shared tastes do not erase the general distaste of this campaign, the candidates do have a surprising amount in common. Granted, little of it concerns how to fix the economy, shrink the deficit or deal with Russia.
In this morning’s New York Times, Paul Krugman notes how bad the reporting has been concerning “how to fix the economy.” (We're using the Leibovich formulation.) And sure enough! Yesterday, Krugman’s newspaper explored the way the candidates like their chicken.

Romney often peels the skin. Obama likes chicken tacos.

This type of “reporting” has characterized our White House campaigns for at least the past four cycles. In this case, the front-page “reporting” was vacuous, empty, inane—somewhere beyond moronic. But in other cases, we get handed types of “reporting” which may seem to carry agendas.

That front-page report on Ann Romney’s dressage might have been one example. Then too, consider this latest discussion of Mitt Romney’s religion.

The piece appeared on the front page of yesterday’s Washington Post Outlook section. Was an agenda lurking within? In the piece, Jason Horowitz—fresh off his Romney bullying story—decided to muck around in the tenets of Mormonism.

Horowitz seemed to do what our “journalists” often do; he seemed to look for excuses to raise the kinds of topics he pretty much couldn’t raise on his own. Meanwhile, was Horowitz looking for ways to introduce a new theme—the notion that the Romney campaign may be a bit anti-Semitic?

Was Horowitz trying to float this new theme? We don’t know, but to its vast credit, the New York Times runs an op-ed today which actually names a major “journalist” who has “resorted to caricature, stereotyping and hyperbole in [his] anti-Mormon attacks.”

(The name it names is Lawrence O’Donnell. This being the Times, Maureen Dowd’s name is spared.)

Do we Americans actually care about who wins our White House elections? If so, we’re very careless about the way we let these campaigns get covered. Silly piffle fills the air; sometimes, it seems to carry agendas.

Meanwhile, the most serious topics get handled quite badly, as Krugman notes several times today. Other topics don’t get reported at all, as with Romney’s conduct at Bain.

That is the work of the “mainstream press.” Then too, we have the reactions of the alleged liberal world.

Last week, two writers at Politico offered a critique of some recent campaign “reporting.” Their piece was a bit underfed—but for our money, it was far brighter than the reaction to it all through the liberal world.

We didn’t have a “liberal world” when this type of pseudo-reporting seized control during Campaign 2000. As you may recall, we liberals were asleep in the woods at that point in time.

The snoring was loud as the mainstream press worked to send Candidate Bush to the White House. Our leaders said nothing about what occurred (and quite a few of our leaders took part in the war). The rank and file said less.

Three cycles later, we liberals have our own corporate TV channel. We have our own liberal web sites, with quite a few fiery leaders.

But alas, we liberals! Reacting to that Politico piece, our biggest names defended the Times report on dressage—while failing to note the Times’ refusal to cover Romney’s conduct at Bain. In several instances, we offered reactions to the piece which made no sense at all.

For us, that Politico piece—and the liberal reaction—raised a few basic questions. How is the present campaign being covered by the alleged mainstream press? What kinds of values and skills does our new liberal world bring to this latest clown show?

The clowns keep tumbling from the Volkswagen. They’ll discuss Ann Romney’s love of dressage, but not Mitt Romney’s conduct at Bain. And as Krugman notes, they have little to say about Candidate Romney’s amazingly bad ideas.

This clowning is in at least its fourth cycle. On the professional level, is the “liberal world” bright enough—and honest enough—to speak up, complain, take notice?

Tomorrow: What Politico said


  1. Thank you, Bob, for pointing out the shameful WaPo article by Jason Horowitz. I found that article appalling for the same reasons you did. Horowitz pretended to analyze anti-Mormon bigotry, but he actually used that format to promote anti-Mormon bigotry.

  2. Anyone got a link to this Politico article Bob mentions?

    Their front page only goes back a couple of days, and there's little indication how one might search and find something with such a vague description as "two writers at Politico offered a critique of some recent campaign 'reporting.'"

  3. According to the NYT article, Romney and Obama also have in common that Romney had a father and Obama, basically, did not.

  4. Articles like this piece of Times fluff drive me crazy. You forgot to mention, Bob, the better part of a week that the Washington Post devoted to Obama's former girlfriends and Anne Romney's $1,000 T-shirt. I'm waiting for the Daily Beast's "style writer" Robin Givhan (formerly of the WaPo) for her patented "What the Candidates Wear" series, in which she discusses such earth shattering topics as what Obama's penchant for blue ties over red means.

    Oh, wait. She's already been at it. Sample from August 2011: "Daily Beast style writer Robin Givhan notices a new trend on the campaign trail: casual clothes. Givhan writes that both GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann have a tendency to dress down." Fascinating!

  5. Still having PTSD flashes about photo Gore and eating pizza with a knife and fork, ah Bob?

  6. Should have read "the photo OF Gore..". Sorry