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Hullabaloo


Saturday, October 06, 2012

 
What Taibbi said

by David Atkins

Matt Taibbi on the first presidential debate:

Romney told a series of outright lies – the bit about the pre-existing conditions was incredible – while Barack Obama seemed unaccountably disinterested in the intellectual challenge of the exercise, repeatedly leaving the gross absurdities hurled his way by Romney unchallenged.

Romney's performance was better than Obama's, but only if you throw out criteria like "wasn't 100% full of shit from the opening bell" and "made an actual attempt to explain who he is and what his plans are." Unfortunately, that is good enough for our news media, which drools over the gamesmanship aspects of these debates, because it loves candidates who sink their teeth into the horse-race nonsense that they think validates their professional lives.
Taibbi mentions a few examples of fact-free horserace "journalism" about the debate, and mentions the Kennedy-Nixon example of television appearance outweighing substance:

Journalists who cite that Nixon-Kennedy debate always forget that the lesson of that night is that the new broadcast media technology made superficiality and nonsense more important – that thanks to the press, it was now possible to get someone elected to the most powerful office on earth because he had a superior tan. Reporters love this story because it reminds everyone that the medium they work in has the power to overcome substance and decide elections all by itself. What's amazing is that they don't have the good sense to be ashamed of this.

I read the transcript of the debate and all I got from Romney was either outright factual lies, or total rhetorical dishonesty. He even tried out a version of the for-years-debunked death panel business...
And after taking down several of Romney's various lies and evasions, finishes with this:

So the answer to the question, "What will you do to rein in the biggest budget deficit in history?" comes down to, "I'll cut PBS, which is about one millionth of the federal budget, and some other stuff."

For God's sake – "I'll take programs that could be run more efficiently at state and send them to state"? Is that a joke? That's worse than a Bill Belichick answer: "What's our plan against the Broncos? We're going to watch the film and do what's best for our football team."

Reporters should have instantly pelted Romney with bags of dogshit for insulting the American people with this ridiculous non-answer, but he was instead praised for the canny "strategy" hidden in the response. Despite the fact that Romney is running as a budget hawk and yet has refused to name any actual programs (except Obamacare and PBS) he will cut, reporters gave him credit in the debate for being willing to be the bearer of bad budgetary news, because he essentially advance-fired Jim Lehrer on TV. Many also complimented the "humor" of the line about Big Bird.
Don't blame the electorate for being bamboozled by this stuff. Just as we hire politicians to delve into public policy so we constituents can go about our lives, so too we pay media figures to tell us what is going on in the world, and to hold those who would lead us accountable.

The media has fallen down on the job in spectacular fashion.


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