Friday, October 24, 2008

Nitpicking

I've alluded to the Chicago Tribune's "makeover," which features more graphics and color, fewer stories on the front page, section breaks that aren't tied to content (business no longer has its own section, it's kind of randomly stuck into the paper), and a new level of snark that is, apparently, supposed to attract the non-newspaper reading youth of America. Much of it is probably harmless, most of it pointless, but one does have to be concerned with the loss of the experienced reporters who were "offered" early buyout packages (under the standard business theory that experience is just a big drag, not worth paying for).

If today's interview with Sarah Palin is any indication, the Trib is in troub. Here is an opportunity for one of the country's great newspapers to spend some time with a controversial candidate, and the interview (with Jill Zuckman) reads like something out of Teen Beat. (The story is here, the interview transcript here.) Whatever you might think Zuckman and Palin would discuss, you're going to be surprised and disappointed.

I would imagine that many people will think that the Trib is taking it easy on Palin because of their editorial endorsement of Obama. Others will contend that allowing the campaign to steer the interview in return for access is pretty standard behavior. But neither of these reasons excuses a question like this:
You're giving this policy speech tomorrow, but has this journey been worth it to you when you're getting nitpicked on wardrobe and polls?
One wonders if Zuckman is asking questions out of her notebook, or off a piece of paper handed her by a Palin staffer. Let me help this experienced reporter.

The wardrobe issue is important because, in a campaign that is getting outspent, that is having trouble with finances, somehow it found $150,000 to outfit their vice presidential candidate in designer duds. This is money that was raised by supporters who felt, foolishly, that their money would be used to defeat Barack Obama. And this figure wasn't created by the evil liberal media, it came off official campaign spending statements.

As for "nitpicking" on polls, well, I guess it would be impolite to ask the candidate about the numerous polls that indicate that her presence is hurting the campaign, that her Bushian incuriousness is leading people to believe that she is not a serious candidate.

By the way, Governor Palin's answer is not exactly enlightening:

SP: "It is all worth it because we know we are on the right path here in providing Americans a choice on Nov. 4th. You can support a children that will do all that we can for children with special needs and we support policies that will create jobs and get the economy back on track. Of course it's worth it. But I'm glad you brought up the wardrobe.

"That whole thing is just, bad! Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are."

"The clothes that were loaned to us during the convention. And I don't think it was anywhere near...What did they say, Tracey? $150 grand? It wasn't anywhere near that. Those are not ours. We give those back, those go to charity or they'll be auctioned off or whatever. That's not even my property. So to be criticized for that, that is not who we are."

Q: So you're not carrying around cartons of brand new clothes that people have gone out and bought for you?

SP: No, I think some of them were in the belly of the plane. No, yeah, that's not have we live.

There's a great answer, all too typical of what the American people have come to hate about their politicians. "It's bad, because we're just not like that, and the number is wrong despite what the official disclosure statements say, and we're not keeping them anyway, and we're not using all of them, and leave me alone or I'm going to pout."

Self-serving rubbish.

Lest you think that this is just one isolated incident out of a long interview, try simply looking at Zuckman's questions. Clearly, she agreed to ask questions only about Palin's upcoming "major policy speech" that will focus on higher funding for special-needs children. And, because personal narrative inevitably trumps political ideology or consistency, Palin will, as she does in the interview, focus on her personal story of dealing with special-needs children.

Of course, this flies in the face of her running mate's vow to freeze government spending. Palin:
We have a $3 trillion federal budget and we're looking at a miniscule amount of money in the grand scheme of things here. And it is a matter of prioritizing the dollars that are already there. Not necessarily asking for more funding, but re-prioritizing dollars that are existing in federal budgets today, and then allowing some of that to trickle down to our states and allow the states to prioritize also according to the needs in our individual states and how they feel best to, to provide services to special needs children.
And more:
And government can play an appropriate role in that assistance. So that's what I want to work on, also. Especially with autism. We need to strengthen the National Institute of Health. There needs to be funding there. If reprioritizing it is the answer, we'll do that, reprioritizing funds to make sure we're researching everything about autism and trying to find out what it's cause is and what we can do to help these children and then again, its humanitarian, how we can help these families.
I'm certainly all for helping special-needs Americans (that includes adults and children), and I would love for us to find a cure for autism. But is there anything in Palin's quotes that couldn't be filled with any number of other worthy causes and used to justify government spending on anything?

This highlights the current intellectual vacuity of the Republican party. Spending on things that Palin classifies as "humanitarian" justifies the "sharing the wealth" for which Obama is being criticized. Other things, items that are not "compassionate conservatism," spending on those is radically liberal, socialist, Marxist.

I suupose I'm asking too much to believe that the new Chicago Tribune Lite would bring up issues like this, that such questions would be "nitpicking."

1 comment:

Greg said...

Dontcha just love how McCain/Palin vow to freeze spending but find new ways to spend money - like autism, Wall Street bailout, medical care, etc.? Smaller government? You betcha!

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