Mud v. substance

Mud v. substance

: It’s so nice to hear one’s own stands echoed in Big Media. First Safire (below), now Adam Clymer (an ex-neighbor) on today’s Times op-ed argues that mud-slinging is distracting from the real work of the campaign and those covering it. The upcoming debate, he says, is not only a test for the candidates but also for journalists:

Phony documents and dishonest advertising have captured more attention than the facts of the candidates’ competing claims about health care, or whether either has a plan – a plausible plan – for Iraq….

The test for journalists is whether they can appreciate the importance of the event and help voters make sense of what is said, checking the accuracy of claims about the past and the present and the plausibility of what is claimed for the future. It won’t do to say, “We covered that in August.”

So if Mr. Kerry says he will solve the situation in Iraq by getting other countries to send more troops, the press needs to examine whether this could happen if he should win. And if Mr. Bush says he is going to solve the health insurance crisis with more community health care centers and fewer lawsuits, then journalists have to help voters determine whether Mr. Bush is offering cures or Band-aids.

Exactly. That is the job of the press. And, let’s add, an army of fact-checking bloggers can help.