Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

McCain puts trash journalism in its place

Posted by sanityinjection on January 13, 2010

This is what passes for news nowadays: Someone writes a tell-all book full of juicy tidbits about some of the nation’s major political players. Reporters then spend the next week trying to goad said political players into saying more nasty things either about each other or about the book’s authors.

No one makes a better foil for this sort of trash than Sarah Palin. Everyone seems to either love to love Palin or love to hate her. Along with her own undeniable efforts to remain in the spotlight, this helps explain why she remains a major topic of conversation over a year after her failed 2008 Vice Presidential bid, and why FoxNews has just recently hired her to be a regular on-air talking head. (Personally, I am ambivalent about Palin; I find some of the attacks against her to be vile but I also don’t consider her a great spokesperson for conservative ideas.)

So it came as no surprise to anyone when Matt Lauer turned the conversation to the subject of Palin in his recent interview with Senator John McCain on the Today Show. Lauer wanted McCain to comment on allegations in the book “Game Change” that his campaign had done a lousy and hasty job of vetting Palin before she was selected to be his running mate. It should be noted that unlike some of the book’s other juicy bits, this is not a new allegation, though it may be made in more detailed fashion. McCain certainly has heard it many times before.

Lauer’s goal, of course, was to put McCain in an uncomfortable situation where he faced the following choices: slam your aides for doing a bad job, impugn your own judgment in selecting a running mate, or bad mouth someone (Palin) who worked hard on your behalf. You can almost see Lauer mentally salivating behind his mask of journalistic seriousness.

McCain, displaying the class for which he is legendary among those who have worked for him, refused to take the bait, twice stating that he would not know if the book’s allegations were correct or who the sources were that provided the information. He simply said he was proud of Palin and proud of the campaign that he ran, and sought to move on to other topics. But Lauer wouldn’t let it go. McCain got visibly irritated and suggested something more important to talk about:  “I just spent my time, Matt, over where three Americans were just killed in Afghanistan.”

Lauer wouldn’t even take that obvious hint and continued to press McCain about Palin, leaving the Senator no choice but to put Lauer firmly in his place:

“I am not going to spend time looking back at over what happened over a year ago when we’ve got two wars to fight, 10 percent unemployment in my state and things to do. I’m sorry, you’ll have to get others to comment.”

After that, even Lauer knew he’d been licked, and retreated with a weaselly attempt to sound like he was apologizing for asking the questions, without actually apologizing (which the media almost never does): ““I hope you understand my asking the questions.” Which actually means, “I have every right to ask these questions!” McCain of course took the high road and graciously treated it like the apology it wasn’t.

In fact, what McCain had skillfully done was to expose the degree to which Lauer and his ilk are out of touch with the American people, who are far more concerned with issues like health care, jobs, and Afghanistan than with endless navel-gazing over the internal functioning of the political process. Yes, we like juicy gossip, but the media likes to pretend that juicy gossip is actually serious news, and for once, they got caught in the masquerade of their own self-importance. Is it any wonder why so many of us retain our affection for the irascible Senator from Arizona? We cherish the knowledge that every now and then, like the child at the Emperor’s parade, he can be counted on to look someone right in the eye and publicly tell them the truth they would much rather not hear.

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