Imitations of campaign reporting: Fourteen campaign cycles ago, Jack Kennedy didn’t announce he was running for president until January 1960.
There were only ten months to go! He didn’t announce until January of the actual year!
In the 1992 election cycle, Bill Clinton didn’t announce until October 1991. Even that recently, we were able to run a White House campaign in a little bit more than a year.
Those days are long gone, of course. For the next twenty more, the American people will have to endure the mainstream press corps’ “coverage” of the 2016 campaign.
How bad is the “coverage” going to get? The people who pose as our campaign reporters just keep pouring it on. First example of two:
We wouldn’t recommend a vote for Candidate Cruz, who has now announced that he’s running. But we also wouldn’t recommend the news report about his announcement which appeared atop the front page of today’s New York Times.
The report was written by Ashley Parker. She got her start as Maureen Dowd’s “research assistant,” whatever that could mean.
Parker starts this morning’s report like a true heir to Dowd. She offers an anecdote designed to show What Ted Cruz Is Really Like.
As it turns out, Ted Cruz is a bit of an ass. Hard-copy headline included:
PARKER (3/24/15): Ted Cruz, an Ambitious Conservative With Sharp Elbows“The incident...has become lore,” we’re told at the top of the Times front page. In this way, we get to learn What Cruz Is Really Like.
Back in late 2000, Ted Cruz found himself with one of the hottest tickets in town.
As a former clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Mr. Cruz, a junior aide on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, had scored a seat inside the Supreme Court for the oral arguments in Bush v. Gore, which would decide the election.
But when his superiors asked Mr. Cruz to give up his spot to Donald Evans, a close friend of Mr. Bush’s and the campaign’s chairman, Mr. Cruz initially balked, refusing to hand over his ticket.
He backed down only after an angry phone call from a senior staff member. But the incident, which a Cruz adviser declined to discuss, has become lore.
To those who knew him as a young domestic policy adviser in Mr. Bush’s headquarters in Austin, Tex., the moment was classic Cruz—reflecting a brilliant and unusually ambitious upstart who chafed at orders from superiors and often rubbed people the wrong way but always saw himself destined for a lofty place in history.
We liberals may be inclined to like this morning's report. Parker, who rarely fails to simper, paints a thinly-sourced picture of Cruz—an anecdotal portrait which is rather unflattering.
Here’s the problem! When flyweights like Parker are given the power to define Candidate Cruz in this way, they are also given the power to define Democratic hopefuls.
Back in March 1999, they quickly defined Candidate Gore as the world’s biggest liar. They then spent the next twenty months driving their portrait home.
Given the mainstream press corps’ well-known distaste for Hillary Clinton, it’s entirely possible that some such framing will prevail with her. Unlike Cruz, Clinton has an actual chance to win the White House. Negative framing of Candidate Clinton could actually turn the campaign.
The society would be better served if pseudo-journalists like Parker were required to show a bit more restraint—if they were asked to discuss Cruz’s professional conduct, ideas and proposals rather than the “lore” concerning What He’s Really Like.
That said, journalistic flyweights have been given more and more freedom as the mainstream press corps has spiraled downward. Consider the latest weird report about the wife of (prospective) Candidate Bush.
That’s right—about Bush’s wife! About Columba again, not Jeb!
A few weeks back, the Washington Post did a full-length, front-page report about the fact that Columba Bush bought too much jewelry back in the 1990s. A rather incredible headline said this:
“Documents show the expensive tastes of Jeb Bush’s low-key wife”
We’ll have to say that struck us as weird. This Sunday, it happened again. A 3000-word front-page report carried this embarrassing, melodramatic headline:
“Columba Bush's fairy tale holds story line of trauma”
If you want to know about Columba’s father, we strongly recommend this latest puddle of poo.
Can we talk? The person in question is the father of a possible candidate’s wife. Has any major newspaper ever gone this far in presenting irrelevant, soap operatic “reporting” about a candidate’s spouse?
The Washington Post may perhaps be sliding downhill under the ownership of Jeff Bezos. This is the piddle they’re spewing this week—with twenty long months to go!