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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Mystery around Palin hinders election

    The press is getting a bad name these days. What is more disturbing is that many of us don’t seem to mind.

    Sen. John McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, has not yet given a single significant statement to the press. Not a single interview. Apart from what the press has reported, and Palin’s acceptance speech, we know virtually nothing about her – nothing, certainly, next to all that we know about McCain, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Joseph Biden. As political commentator Glenn Greenwald noted, “”Palin is undoubtedly the most mysterious and unknown individual to be inserted into our national political scene in decades.”” Some reporters have rushed to fill the void, to give us a comprehensive account of what kind of mayor Palin was and what kind of governor she has been. But they are raindrops in a very large lake.

    The overwhelming message we are getting from the press’ coverage of Palin is that it doesn’t matter. There hasn’t been any outrage over the fact that the McCain campaign feels free to keep Palin safely bottled up, insulated from embarrassing inquiries.

    There has been a distinct suggestion, in fact, that anyone who wants to ask her a tough question is some kind of bully, or a contemptible gossip. “”Anti-Republican, liberal media bias,”” declared Time magazine’s Mark Halperin, made people scrutinize Palin more than they would, say, Biden.

    On Friday, a Rasmussen Reports poll found that 58 percent of Americans had a positive opinion of Palin. Since a week ago most Americans had never heard of Palin, this suggests that this opinion was based almost entirely on her vice presidential acceptance speech. The speech wasn’t bad, as speeches go, but one doesn’t generally go to a carefully planned acceptance speech for revelations about a leader’s personal or political character.

    When Time commentator Jay Carney pointed out that Palin had not yet had to answer any “”tough questions,”” McCain adviser Nicole Wallace responded, “”From who? From you? Who cares? … I mean who cares if she can talk to Time magazine? … She took the stage and she talked to the American people about things they care about.””

    Who cares indeed? Not our would-be leaders, certainly. But the rest of us ought to care greatly.

    Dictators and demagogues, not champions of democracy, attempt to sway the public opinion through no other medium than rousing speeches to cheering crowds. A leader in a democratic community has an absolute responsibility to justify his or her public actions to the people.

    And, lest we forget, the rulers of a country – even a democratic republic – are almost always eager to keep information from the people. The easiest means of doing this is to demonize the press.

    “”The overwhelming majority of the press is just against Democrats,”” Adlai Stevenson complained in 1952. “”We want to put some (reporters) on notice that we want to receive fair coverage,”” thundered the chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1992. “”I must have heard Nixon say ‘the press is the enemy’ a dozen times,”” remarked William Safire, one of the disgraced president’s speechwriters.

    How predictable all these puling self-justifications were, and how clearly at odds they were with the principles of a democratic republic. “”The people have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge – I mean of the character and conduct of their rulers,”” said John Adams.

    What kind of job does our press do in giving us that “”dreaded and envied kind of knowledge?”” Were they clamoring for words from Palin? Or were they, like Mark Halperin, meek and apologetic about their participation in the “”liberal media’s”” assault?

    When Bill Clinton exploded in fury during a number of encounters with the press after leaving office – when asked why he had failed to catch Osama bin Laden, or when queried about his wife’s presidential campaign – we saw a side of him that had been scrupulously kept from us during his presidency. All the supposed “”scandals,”” reported in such pornographic detail, had, somehow, failed to inform us of the much more important fact that the president of the United States couldn’t stand to be criticized.

    When President George W. Bush confronted GOP leaders in a private meeting in November 2005, and shouted “”Stop throwing the Constitution in my face! It’s just a goddamned piece of paper,”” as several people present at the meeting reported, not one major publication felt the need to investigate the report. Not one.

    Perhaps these details were just “”gossip,”” private matters that we had no right to pry into. Or perhaps they were things that the people had an “”indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right”” to know.

    Today, the McCain campaign finally announced that Palin will give her first interview to ABC News. Whatever she reveals in that interview, whatever is asked of her, we can be sure of one thing: the interview will be followed by politicians and pundits agreeing that the questions were tough, unfair and shamefully biased.

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