The Campaign Spot

Politics & Policy

Welcome to the 2016 Piranha Tank, GOP Presidential Candidates

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Welcome to the 2016 Piranha Tank, Republican Presidential Candidates

Meet the press.

Remember that Atlantic piece on ISIS that everyone raved about, and that is really changing the way people think about that Islamist terrorist group? Graeme Wood put tons of work into it. He completed lots of interviews with some particularly unsavory characters, which must have taken a lot of negotiation. Enormous amounts of research. The lengthy article walks through some complicated concepts and a lot of history and geography.

Journalism work like that is hard. It requires a really good reporter/writer/researcher/thinker, good editors, and a publication willing to be patient.

Not everybody is that good. Not every editor is that good, and not every publication can afford to be that patient.

No, the simplest and easiest news story that can create a stir, and get web traffic and attention, is the “can you believe this guy said this?” story. (Lord knows, I’ve written my share of them.)

And just about any Republican at any level, in office or out of office, is fair game for a national “Can you believe this guy said this?” story. (Dave Weigel identifies the “Republican lawmaker” story trend here, where controversial comments from little-known, usually powerless GOP state legislators become national news.)

A news piece, a column, a television segment, or a radio riff on the questions, “Does Barack Obama love his country, yes or no?” “Is Barack Obama a Christian, yes or no?” – man, that’s easy! It’s like playing lineman — you just take a side and start hitting people.

It helps to know a bit about Obama, but the question is basically a stand-in for “Do you like President Obama or not?” If you don’t like him, you find it quite plausible that he doesn’t really love the country as it is, or you find his claims of Christian faith phony and unconvincing. If you like him, then asking the question is a de facto slur.

Ask those questions, and watch the comments sections burst into flame. The phone lines at the radio stations are sure to light up. And for the mainstream media, those questions to a candidate – “Does Barack Obama love his country?” “Is he a Christian?” — are the easiest way to force a political figure – like a Republican presidential candidate — to create news.

We’re seeing furious columns about Guiliani’s comment – and Scott Walker’s refusal to disavow Giuliani – from Mike Barnicle, Charles Blow, Mika Brzezinski declaring “It’s not hard to be human,” and so on. And this is a seven-day-old story.

Republicans should be considerably concerned by this media environment; the press is desperately hungry for material to reinforce the Republicans-as-villains storyline, and will do anything they can to turn an uttered word into a seven-day story.

Now Giuliani has to clarify:

There has been no shortage of news coverage — and criticism — regarding comments I made about President Obama at a political gathering last week in New York. My blunt language suggesting that the president doesn’t love America notwithstanding, I didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart. My intended focus really was the effect his words and his actions have on the morale of the country, and how that effect may damage his performance.

Most Popular

Media

About That ‘Uncoverable’ Biden Story

Journalists claim they can’t cover the New York Post’s Hunter Biden email scoop because the underlying evidence has yet to been verified. Also, they won’t look for any verifying evidence because there isn’t enough evidence. It’s quite the conundrum. Because other than the now-corroborated emails, ... Read More
Media

About That ‘Uncoverable’ Biden Story

Journalists claim they can’t cover the New York Post’s Hunter Biden email scoop because the underlying evidence has yet to been verified. Also, they won’t look for any verifying evidence because there isn’t enough evidence. It’s quite the conundrum. Because other than the now-corroborated emails, ... Read More
Media

‘Anonymous’ Falls Flat

On the menu today: The op-ed page of the New York Times made the deliberate decision to hoodwink America about the identity of “Anonymous”; the sense of guilt that pervades legacy media -- a very apt label; and wondering whether or not we will even see long lines on Election Day with early voting being so ... Read More
Media

‘Anonymous’ Falls Flat

On the menu today: The op-ed page of the New York Times made the deliberate decision to hoodwink America about the identity of “Anonymous”; the sense of guilt that pervades legacy media -- a very apt label; and wondering whether or not we will even see long lines on Election Day with early voting being so ... Read More
White House

Hell, Yes

Editor’s Note: If you would like to read more pros and cons on voting for President Trump, further essays on the subject, each from a different perspective, can be found here, here, here, here, and here. These articles, and the one below, reflect the views of the individual authors, not of the National ... Read More
White House

Hell, Yes

Editor’s Note: If you would like to read more pros and cons on voting for President Trump, further essays on the subject, each from a different perspective, can be found here, here, here, here, and here. These articles, and the one below, reflect the views of the individual authors, not of the National ... Read More

Another Pollster Sees a Trump Win

The Trafalgar Group’s Robert Cahaly is an outlier among pollsters in that he thinks President Trump will carry Michigan, Pennsylvania, or both, and hence be reelected with roughly 280 electoral votes. (I explained his thinking here.) Last week another pollster, Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research, ... Read More

Another Pollster Sees a Trump Win

The Trafalgar Group’s Robert Cahaly is an outlier among pollsters in that he thinks President Trump will carry Michigan, Pennsylvania, or both, and hence be reelected with roughly 280 electoral votes. (I explained his thinking here.) Last week another pollster, Jim Lee of Susquehanna Polling and Research, ... Read More