Sunday, May 25, 2008

Obama - President of these "57 states"

The MSM ducked the "57" states slip Obama made during a swing through Oregon. Bloggers didn't. They were quick to jump on the goof, some noting a double standard by recalling the savaging Dan Quayle took in 1992 when he visited a New Jersey classroom and urged a boy to spell potato with an "e" on the end. As far as I can tell, however, none unearthed a more important lack of unbiased gatekeeping - the "pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the- curtain" brand of reporting practiced with Bill Clinton's gaffes (I was tempted to say boners, but that was a different story).
Shortly after Quayle was fired over the potato, Clinton, then a candidate, addressed some veterans. He noted that Lincoln and FDR were, like himself, never in the service. Not true. Lincoln served in the Black Hawk Indian War and FDR was undersecretary of the Navy in WWI. Lincoln was in the militia and FDR was not in uniform, so I guess it all depends on how you define "serve." I hit the phone and told our New York desk that he was wrong. The voice on the other end said, "that is important." To this day, I don't know if he was sincere or sarcastic. A correction about Lincoln was inserted deep down in the main story, but I don't think anything was done about FDR. The mistake wouldn't have been that important, except for the fact that so much was made over Quayle's "potatoe." What troubled me most about this episode was that Clinton's staff probably had a hand in preparing his speech, unlike Quayle's unprepared remark.
That wasn't all. Clinton would go on to allow his bombing of Iraq to be called "Operation Desert Fox." I thought for sure that late night comics would have a field day with his using the nickname of a German hero.
Clinton had a lot of trouble with German history, particularly for a Rhodes scholar. During the 1995 ceremonies in Berlin that marked the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, Clinton mentioned the contributions of pilot Gail Halverson, the famed "candy bomber" who dropped candy to children in the besieged city. Then he said that "she" was there for the festivities. Only "she" was a "he." To make things worse, his press secetary said both he and the president thought Halverson was a member of the WASPs, a group of women ferry pilots that was disbanded before the air lift. The NY Times made a brief mention of the error, calling it "a rare gaffe." Rarely reported is more like it.
Is this the result of "liberal bias?" I don't think so. At the time, I blamed lack of fairness now I think it is more a case of lack of character. Life is a gamble and the reporter should be the guy who's so honest he holds the stakes. Hopefully, the internet will get reporters and editors back to basics by holding them accountable. The old days are over.

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