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October 21, 2008

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Is there a double standard?

Cindy McCain - It's OK to do a big investigation and major news story, even though her past drug usage is old news and she's not a candidate

Douglas Ginsburg - immediately withdrawn as conservative Supreme Court nominee when his past drug usage cane to light.

George W. Bush - accused over and over of past drug usage, even though massive amounts of investigation produced no evidence that he had ever used drugs.

On the other hand, no newspaper has investigated or reported in any depth on Obama's admitted past drug usage, because it would be allegedly racist to do so.

Two observations:
1. If we prohibit the investigation of Obama's possible flaws, we risk finding ourselves governed by a President with unexpected weaknesses.

2. Maybe holding African Americans to lower standards is racism.

Sorry the above comment was meant to respond to Brendan's prior post.

Brendan,
Chill. Now. What is irresponsible is speculation purporting to be knowledge. Speculation that admits its status as such is perfectly fine. Your wild and incessant pontificating about this issue is misplaced. It would be one thing if you were like, "You know, this particular speculation seems dubious for reasons A, B, and C." Or maybe you might say, "Note, Blogger So-and-So is really just speculating here; it could be wrong." But no, you're all, "OMG!!!! This blogger made an informed guess about how a politician is thinking or about his personality, based on his behavior! Unacceptable!!!!!" Look dude, the reason guesses and interpretations as to a politician's attitudes shouldn't be categorically excluded from political discussion is that judging behavior patterns alone does not provide enough information to allow voters to decide how a politician will handle novel policy and leadership dilemmas whose contours do not closely track previous choices. So voters INEVITABLY judge a candidate's attitudes, character, personality, temperament, and whatnot. Better that speculations in these regards be voiced OPENLY so that they can be evaluated than that they be excluded, in which case poorly reasoned speculation will not get subject to adequate scrutiny and voting decisions will suffer as a result. So be more circumspect in your criticisms on this matter, pleeeeeease.

I agree with ten above. Josh is commenting on how McCain's behavior appeared to him. That seems legitimate. It is an acceptably couched observation.

I do agree, however, that there is a thin wall between that comment and saying "McCain was lying and he knew it." Moreover, lots of readers will read Josh as if that is what he was saying.

Keep harping on this issue. It is an important one.

I think its important to point out when people make projections. The projections can become the issue.

Look at all the talk about "liberal media bias". Isn't that very subjective? People don't evidence it in any systematic way. Making the point (and repeating it) becomes the point.

Subjective assessment won't go away (and may even have some basis in fact). The degree that they have any basis in fact needs to be discussed.

It is pointless to make a subjective assertions and then to debate it in subjective terms. It becomes a back and forth of accusations or charges (all based on subjective assessments, but not in terms that actually relate to the real world).

A more important issue here is what McCain actually said, not "how he felt when he said it."

Even discussing "why he said it" or "does he believe what he said" moves off issue.

If he doesn't provide evidence to support his statements then that's the issue. If he is inconsistent in what he says then that may be an issue.

Journalists should focus on those matters.

If someone wants to discuss his demeanor or how he reacts under pressure or how well he can address a question (looking at the facts, not judging his intent) that's fine too. They just need to keep within those bounds.

If it becomes overly dependent on a subjective component then we should not give it out attention. If others do then we should note that their assessments are just individual opinion and not very consequential.

Journalist should be able to report when others are doing this as well. That in itself is newsworthy.

Howard Craft, to see a lot of fairly objective evidence of media bias, go to
http://engram-backtalk.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-not-news-its-prosecution-vs-defense.html
Read the whole post. There are several more-or-less objective indications of media bias shown:

-- Polls show that by nearly 8 to 1, people believe that members of the media want Barack Obama to win.

-- The Project for Excellence in Journalism's report illustrates how the media echo chamber can send things spiraling out of control for a candidate. It's likely to give ammunition to people who say the press has been biased against McCain, but the organization said its findings on this were inconclusive.

-- "That's why I periodically point out that EVERY SHRED of evidence points in the same direction. Although no one piece of evidence, considered on its own, conclusively establishes the media bias, all of the evidence put together establishes the existence of that bias beyond a shadow of a doubt."

-- Polls show that a pluralty think news coverage is too liberal.

-- More reporters admit to being liberal than conservative (by a ratio of almost 5 to 1).

-- Democrats received around 10 times the donations from journalists as Republicans.

-- A UCLA study showed that all but 2 major news organizations cite liberal think tanks more than conservative ones. Surprisingly the most liberal by this measure was the Wall St. Journal. The WSJ news pages are just as liberal as their opinon pages are conservative.

-- A Harvard study showed that the positive to negative coverage ratio from the media is Obama 47%/16% McCain 12/48.

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