Mark Leibovich is a former writer for the Washington Post's loathsome Style section who now writes narrative-driven political "news" for the New York Times. Today he has an annoying piece on Fred Thompson's performance in last night's GOP debate:
“All he has to do is not fall asleep,” the columnist Roger Simon wrote of Mr. Thompson in Tuesday’s edition of the Politico, a political Web site. “All he has to do is not throw up.”
And upset of upsets — Mr. Thompson did not throw up, fall asleep or, for that matter, drool (another stated benchmark).
Plus, he even knew who the leader of Canada was. “Harper,” Mr. Thompson answered confidently in response to a potential gotcha from Chris Matthews of MSNBC.
“Prime Minister Harper,” Mr. Thompson added for good measure, as if hoping for extra credit for “prime minister.”
It was a nothing exchange, except that Mr. Thompson’s campaign might never have recovered had he answered it wrong.
Does anyone really think that not knowing the prime minister of Canada would have ended Thompson's campaign? Leibovich is also ignoring the fact that any damage done to Thompson would have been the result of reporters like him turning the question into some sort of phony "moment."
On the other hand, there are good journalists at the Times. In a separate article on how the state of the economy was portrayed in the GOP debate, ace business reporter/columnist David Leonhardt delivers the accurate -- and disturbing -- bottom line with a directness you rarely see in "objective" news reporting:
It’s just as clear that Democrats think that the political game has changed. Pay for most workers has been growing only a little faster than inflation over the last five years, and except for the late 1990s hasn’t really done well since the early 1970s. Inequality has returned to the levels of the 1920s.
Contrast that with the lame "he said"/"she said" coverage the Times has given to the SCHIP debate in recent days. In my fantasy world where McClatchy takes over the NYT's Washington bureau, they should keep Leonhardt.