Thursday, August 7, 2008

This Morning's Broder: Don't Ask Me Why Reporting Sucks

This morning's Broder column isn't all that bad, really, by the standard of Broder columns generally. He takes the candidates through a back-and-forth about the current tone of the campaign, and ultimately gives Obama the last word.

But the operative phrase is still "by the standard of Broder columns generally." Let's roll tape:

The first question I asked John McCain and then Barack Obama was: How do you feel about the tone and direction of the campaign so far?

"I'm very sorry about it," McCain said in a Saturday interview at his Arlington headquarters. "I think we could have avoided at least some of this if we had agreed to do the town hall meetings" together, as he had suggested, during the summer months.

Eventually - about four paragraphs from the end of the column - Broder lets Obama shoot that down:
I asked Obama if he had any regrets about turning down McCain's early June invitation to start the joint appearances back then. He said, "I think the notion that somehow as a consequence of not having joint appearances, Senator McCain felt obliged to suggest that I'd rather lose a war to win a campaign doesn't automatically follow. I think we each have control over ourselves and our campaigns, and we have to take responsibility for that."
This was obvious from the get-go: of course no town halls didn't mean McCain would have to launch bullshit attacks over Obama not visiting soldiers and the like. Broder could have used his editorial voice to shoot down such a ridiculous idea himself, if it weren't for his famed faux neutrality. If Obama hadn't done so, though, there's no reason to expect Broder would have filled the gap. Apparently using a column to speak the truth, where the truth has a partisan bias, is something Broder regards as out of bounds.

But the real travesty of this column is that Broder is asking the candidates what can be done to focus the campaign on issues. But here he is, the Dean of Washington Journalism and Punditry, the voice of one of the most respected newspapers in the nation. Might there be something he could do - like, I don't know, influence his own paper to give more coverage to what the candidates say about the issues?

It's not that the candidates aren't addressing the issues periodically - but you'd never know it from how the campaigns are portrayed in the news. Maybe Broder's paper could do something about that.

I know that sounds pretty radical, but I've gotta be me.

Even failing that, he's still got this column, which appears in the WaPo and a googolplex of other newspapers across the country twice each week. Maybe he could use some of those columns to compare what the candidates are saying about the issues. He could do that himself, even if nobody else played along.

But no: that would be too much to ask. He and his newspaper are helpless to direct the campaign back towards the issues, no matter how much they say that's what they'd like to see.

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