Glenn Greenwald has a must-read piece this week exploring how the concept of "balance" corrupts any sense of honest media analysis. Case in point: The Washington Post's Dan Balz trying to equate Barack Obama's attacks ("erratic","uncertain","lurching") to John McCain's attacks ("he's an untrustworthy, un-American terrorist sympathizer").
Balz’s article is about the increasing use of “character attacks” in the presidential race, and rather than state the truth — that the McCain/Palin ticket is now relying almost exclusively on some of the ugliest and most outright dangerous character smears seen in a modern presidential election — Balz instead pretends that this is a phenomenon of which both sides are guilty in equal measure.
This clip from the Chris Matthews Show is yet another fascinating example. Tweety, Howard Fineman, Gloria Borger, David Ignatius, and Cynthia Tucker simply can't bring themselves to state the obvious.
In a rational world, a legitimate attack on your opponent's unsteady and erratic leadership during times of crisis is light years away from the vicious, dangerous types of character assaults we're hearing from the McCain camp. I mean think about it: They're not even trying to sell policy anymore. Instead, they're linking the terms "Barack Hussein Obama" and "terrorist" to the point where John McCain is forced to remind his traveling lynch mob that Obama is not, in fact, a "scary Arab." And when he does, he gets viciously booed.
WARREN: The first question, who are the three wisest people that you know that you would rely on heavily in an administration?
MCCAIN: I think John Lewis. John Lewis was at the Edmund Pettis Bridge, had his skull fractured, continued to serve, continues to have the most optimistic outlook about America. He can teach us all a lot about the meaning of courage and commitment to causes greater than our self- interest.
It's become pretty damn clear that McCain isn't remotely interested in "courage" and "causes greater than his self-interest." If he were, he would be talking about the economy and 401k's, not William Ayers and domestic terrorists, whipping his crazed supporters into a blind fury in the process. The potential consequences of his rhetoric are downright scary; he truly is "playing with fire". And it's the height of irresponsibility for smart people whose job it is to decode the subtext to stay silent and pretend it's "balanced" to treat them equally.
Don't get me wrong: Is Barack Obama partly referring to McCain's age in his stump speeches? Sure. But when your opponent is all over the map on the most crucial issue of the campaign -- "the fundamentals are strong" to "OMG! this is the biggest crisis ever" in 3.2 seconds -- it would be political malpractice not to contrast that unsteady temperament with your own cool, calm, and collected demeanor. But we're talking apples and bowling balls here.
Glenn has a good follow-up piece worth reading.