March 15, 2008
Is anyone else getting just a little bit sick of the corporate news media’s relentless guilt by association smears on Senator Barack Obama? After months of pummeling him with charges that did not stick, his critics have evidently decided one way to cut him down to size is to continually link him with other people he knows who have screwed up in some way.
It’s the cheapest trick in the book.
I don’t know about you. But I know I am not terribly interested in what someone who knows Obama has said or done unless Obama himself is involved in some direct way.
An off-the-record comment made by an unpaid foreign policy adviser?
A former contributor who may be a real estate hustler?
Controversial passages from sermons made by his local charismatic minister?
If there was a real story in any of these items it would have been to surface the comments that were made or actions taken, determine if Obama agreed or participated, and if he didn’t to then file the story in the “no-story” circular file. That is what a responsible journalist would do. Instead, we get a barrage of “when did he stop beating his wife?” stories that continue to run long after the relevant exonerating information is known. These repetitive stories accomplish nothing, other than tarring Obama in the most unfair fashion, by associating him with comments or actions for which he bears absolutely no direct personal responsibility.
To be fair, Senator Clinton should also not be held responsible for stupid comments made by her supporters, such as the recent dust-up over comments made by former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. In some cases, stories like these are just byproducts of the old journalistic “gotcha” formula. In other cases they are pretty obvious plants, part of an attempt to kill with a thousand cuts. But either way, editors would be wise to think about whether they’re really worth the ink. Some better ideas for stories: asking the candidates about say, a foreign policy, or an economic policy, maybe?
Over the last few days, Obama has been typically patient in answering questions about these associations. But at some point in time I hope he, or someone, stands up and points out, with the appropriate traces of indignity, just how ugly and un-American guilt by association really is. Journalists who participate in it are reckless and irresponsible. Asserting guilt by association is just plain sleazy.