Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ramesh Ponnuru in the WaPo: All Wrong

For some inexplicable reason, the WaPo has given Corner denizen Ramesh Ponnuru space on its website to editorialize. Here's his latest:

The prevailing media take on Senator Biden has been that he is a wise statesman with the charming if unfortunate habit of committing gaffes. I suspect that if Biden were not a liberal Democrat and had not spent decades in Washington, journalists would be considerably more negative: that they would portray him as something of a buffoon.

During the campaign, Biden's been flying under the national radar, much like Edwards in 2004, giving speeches around the country that the national press has little reason to play up.

Palin's a whole 'nother story, of course: she's the star on the GOP side, right now. If she and McCain appear together, people start leaving once she's done speaking and McCain starts.

If that's a double standard, that's just life in the fast lane. And that's where Ponnuru's going:

His latest gaffe was to say on Monday that some foreign power would "test" Obama early in his term and that people would not, at first, think that Obama had reacted well to that test. The McCain campaign pounced on it, but the press has played it down: The story rated five paragraphs on p. A4 of yesterday's Washington Post.

The wingnuts are trying to play this one up; so is Palin. As a Dem, I'm all for that; I'm still trying to figure out what's so bad about this statement.

Somehow I think it would be a bigger story if Gov. Palin had said something similar--or had said, as Biden has, that "J-O-B-S" is "a three-letter word," and that FDR went on national television after the stock-market crash.

Maybe, Ramesh, you should sum up the national coverage of Troopergate, and be glad the media have been as kind to Palin as they have. Anyway, at this point, Palin's said so many crazy things that such gaffes would be lost in the white noise.

I don't think that the double standard in the coverage is purely a function of liberal-media or inside-Washington bias. But whatever the reasons for it, the double standard exists--and the press ought to be tougher on Senator Biden.

Ramesh, if you want to argue that the press should be paying more attention to Biden, and give more ink to both the good and the bad, you might have an argument. Your real problem there, though, is that you're running against your own candidate's star quality. But Biden's been drawing little coverage, period, so why should his occasional gaffe be any different?

P.S. Biden also proposed sending $200 million, "no strings attached," to Iran after September 11. Ever hear about that? Didn't think so.

Yep, stupid idea. But at the time, Iran was helping us in the War on Terror, as has been well documented. And $200 million is chump change in international relations anyway.

This is the essence of a 'gaffe,' something that sounds bad but really isn't particularly. And it's seven years old. So why should the press be pushing this one? Ramesh, if you think it's a story, you've got the National Review at your disposal, don't you? Go for it.


MR Bill said...

The thing is, Biden's 'gaffe' about Obama being tested is pretty much a commonplace. Stuff happens in Foreign Policy (i.e. the World) that is beyond the control of the US. These events are not necessarily beyond the ken of wise folks (see Clarke, Richard) but it is not clear whether the Administration dealing with them will use that wisdom (see Bush, G.W.)
And given the general ignorance of Americans of the real work of the State Dept., of course some of what we do is unpopular. We can only seek to make sure its not harmful or wrong (see Iraq, Invasion of; Torture, use of; etc..)

low-tech cyclist said...

Exactly - that's why I can't figure out where the 'there' there is. It's not like Russia's going to nuke Los Angeles because Obama's new; the sort of thing Obama can expect is more along the lines of their Georgian incursion - and they pulled that one on Bush in his last year of office.

If they think a new President might be tested in some more spectacular way (e.g. flying planes into the World Trade Center), by those lights, their support of Bush in 2000 led to 9/11.

There's no real argument here; they're making the sorts of noises that might be excusable from some drunken ignoramus in a bar. But people like Ponnuru who are spouting these noises pretend to be the intellectual vanguard of the Right.