Posts from January 2004

The moment of truth in Britain

The moment of truth in Britain
: The Guardian is essentially blogging the Hutton inquiry live. Key points:

I have one, how about you?

I have one, how about you?
: The FCC is protecting us from the knowledge that men have genitals. Do we need this?

Owning a press doesn’t make you right

Owning a press doesn’t make you right
: John Podhoretz tears political reporters new bodily orifices today:

The results last night in New Hampshire represent a humiliating disaster for the mainstream media. The political reporters and editors who have been judging this race for a year have made utter fools of themselves.

Nobody foresaw John Kerry’s huge victory in Iowa…. The press failed just as miserably in New Hampshire – but this time by overestimating and overrating John Edwards….

There was no such thing as the Edwards surge. He ended up somewhere around 12 percent, a spectacularly dismal showing considering that he had scored 32 percent in Iowa only eight days before.

And speaking of spectacularly dismal showings, how about Wesley Clark?…

But there could be no more infamous an example of the political media’s gullibility than the Zeppelin candidacy of Howard Dean….

It was all basically bull. The same wide-eyed, breathless nonsense has been thrown at us for decades by wide-eyed, breathless journalists who are desperate to catch lightning in a bottle and get famous for spotting the Next Big Thing….

The press has been wrong about everything. Everything. Keep that in mind for the rest of the year. You can be sure that the political media won’t remind you of it.

Jay Rosen might say that the problem is turning the campaign into a horse race. But I say we want some level of race handicapping; we want to know who’s in front because we want to back winners and use our votes well. The problem isn’t race handicapping, it’s bad handicapping, it’s being wrong. The pollsters have been wrong, the pundits have been way wrong. But we’ve never had alternatives. And we’ll never know what impact the predictions alone have on the races (did more people vote for Edwards and Clark, in the Podhoretz formula, because they believed reports of a groundswell?).

I wonder whether the collected wisdom on blogs would do any better (it would be nice if somebody had a way to quantify the morning line on blogs). I don’t think it would. Pundits with or without press are still just pundits. It’s the voters who matter, as it should be.

So the bottom line is Podhoretz’ bottom line: Everything you read everywhere is wrong.

: Newsweek’s Howard Fineman on Today, admitting he had been ready to write Kerry’s campaign obit only recently: “The lesson to take from the last couple of weeks is don’t jump to conclusions.”

: Wonkette’s guide to press reliability.

: UPDATE: Al Giordano proposes a law of media, politics, and punditry:

Before we should take any statement or prediction or political judgment seriously on the Internet, or in any Commercial Media, or other kind of media, we must demand that the plaintiff show us that he or she has been correct in such claims before. Otherwise, it’s just a theory, without any proof that the theoretician has any idea what he or she is talking about.

Everybody’s a winner

Everybody’s a winner
: Katie Couric to Howard Dean this morning: “Let’s talk about your second-place victory in New Hampshire.”

March to the convention

March to the convention
: CNN says Dean is ahead of Kerry in delegates. Go figure.

If Edwards does what we expect in South Carolina and this thing stays wide open — if Clark and don’t forget Sharpton get some toy soldiers to play with — we could end up with a convention race. Glenn Reynolds doesn’t think so; he says it’ll be settled in a month. Probably so. Maybe this convention thinking is wishful thinking. It will be fascinating to watch a party work in smoke-filled rooms in a different era. There are no party kingmakers now, save Clinton (Gore is not even a pretender to the throne). There are also lots more rules about delegates who can’t change their votes. When I was younger, the political junkies’ dream was always the “deadlocked convention,” when the opportunistic savior (Hillary?) could swoop in and grab the nomination away. That didn’t happen back then; certainly won’t happen now. But as the numbers start to gell, we’ll hear all sorts of what-if scenarios.

If this thing does stay wide open, watch the network executives fret about what the hell they should do. In recent years, of course, the conventions had turned into nothing but advertorials for the candidates and the networks were quite right to reduce coverage to nil; let the campaigns pay for commercial time. But if this convention actually matters, then the big nets will not want to see their last frayed hold on the news franchise taken away by cable.

Interesting times.

: And here’s Safire’s convention wet dream.

: Aaron Bailey’s pipe dream.

: Kaus says winning doesn’t matter, delegates do. Heck, George Bush taught us that lesson last time around, eh?

Why does a Democratic candidate have to win a primary somewhere. sometime to be viable? With the proportional allocation of delegates, it’s possible to actually win the nomination without ever winning a primary. All you have to do is finish second in a lot of contests and accumulate delegates while the other candidates perform inconsistently. (That result wouldn’t be undemocratic–sometimes Everybody’s Second Choice is in fact the candidate who should win. Such a plodding-but-widely-acceptable candidate might also be the strongest opponent for Bush.) … Why would someone who has a perfectly legitimate shot at winning be expected to drop out? The test should be delegate count, no?