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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Friday, February 29, 2008
Trail of Tears

What do you call a paper that:

Smears the dead before the body is cold?

Who thinks it is okay to throw out thinly sourced pieces that besmirch the integrity of people?

Takes quotes out of context and in order to completely twist their meaning?

Would you call that paper a supermarket tabloid? Or the Arizona Republic?

Take the thinly sourced piece bit. Last Friday, the Republic in an editorial took on the NY Times-McCain story. Last week the New York Times wrote an “expose” on the interaction of presumed Republican nominee John McCain and a lobbyist representing a media company. The article insinuated both a romantic relationship and improper intervention by McCain with the FCC on the behalf of the lobbyist.

The article was not only written as the Republic admits “upon a narrow range of facts” but was based upon interactions which happened 8 years ago and relied almost exclusively on anonymous sourcing. Those interactions, as the article noted, were viewed as inappropriate by McCain staffers if only because they would fuel articles like the one published by the Times.

However to the Republic such shaky ground is okay because “if the story has merit, it will grow large. If it doesn't, it will disappear.” That’s responsible journalism? To throw out accusations of infidelity and corruption against the presumptive Republican nominee based on anonymous sources of events 8 years ago and see what sticks? This seems less like the product of the “profession of journalism” and more like gossipy teenagers.

Note at the end of the piece the Republic calls the American voter the final judge and jury of the veracity of the NY Times story. Court rooms have better standards then that.

Turn to the quotes and the smearing of the dead.

Today, Arizona editorial writer Linda Valdez writes in a “quick hit” on the op-ed page:

William F. Buckley Jr. was an intelligent and accomplished man. But I have to wonder about all the laudatory comments that credit him with providing the intellectual underpinnings of the conservative movement. This is the same movement that put George W. Bush in the White House and carried us into what John McCain says may be a 100-year war in Iraq. Buckley left his mark. But the end result of what he started is nothing to inspire pride.

I have written before on the problem of the quick hit format; the quote above is the entire piece that wrote Valdez for today’s paper. The limited space available is more of a bumper sticker to provoke and annoy than room to provide some carefully provided thoughts to the paper’s readership. However look more closely at what Ms. Valdez wrote.

Don’t like Mr. Buckley the man? Don’t like the ideas? Ms. Valdez is probably not alone. However there is something uncouth about speaking ill of the dead before the body is buried, well serial mass murderers excepted. On top of that, if Ms. Valdez took some time she would fine many laudatory comments from across the political spectrum, no doubt from people who knew Mr. Buckley and his work far better than Ms. Valdez.

Now let’s look at some of those quotes:

...John McCain says may be a 100-year war in Iraq.

The key McCain quote in this regard was:

"Maybe 100. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it's fine with me, and I hope it would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaida is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day."

As McCain himself noted, American troops have remained in Korea for more than 50 years after the armistice and more than 60 years in Germany and Japan after the end of WW II. No one has said WW II is a “60 year war” or Korea “50 years” because we still have troops in the former combat zones.

This is the same movement that put George W. Bush in the White House and carried us into what John McCain says may be a 100-year war in Iraq.

Anyone with a passing interest in Mr. Buckley’s work and his ideas would notice that he didn’t think of the Republican Party and modern American conservatism as one in the same. Pick up an issue of Buckley’s National Review or check out a few days of posting at the magazine’s blog The Corner and you will see a vigorous debate on the connection between not only the GOP and conservatives but also between the conservatives and President Bush. That latter debate has been in effect for almost 8 years and the link between conservatives and McCain is even more tenuous.

Thinly sourced attack pieces as part of voter education, smearing the dead and misrepresenting their work, and misquoting politicians in a style that would make a Democrat proud… yes the work of professional journalists as represented at the Republic.