< Kiss Off

Transcript

Friday, September 05, 2008

BOB GARFIELD:
From WNYC in New York, this is NPR’s On the Media. I'm Bob Garfield.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
And I'm Brooke Gladstone. As the Republican National Convention rolled out its just-plain-folks themed event, emphasizing service and patriotism, in the Xcel Energy Center, protests metastasized into riots in the streets of St. Paul, capped, as the RNC drew to a close on Thursday, with teargas, percussion grenades and 400 people arrested.
[CLIP]:
[CROWD SHOUTING]
MAN:
You want me to die by firing squad, what –
[SHOUTING/EXPLOSIONS]
POLICE OFFICER:
Put your hands up –
MAN:
On the bridge!
WOMAN:
We’re trying to leave peacefully! [SHOUTING]
[END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
According to The St. Paul Pioneer Press, Monday kicked off a bad week, with nearly 300 arrested, among them an Associated Press photographer and Amy Goodman, host of the TV and radio program Democracy Now!, and her crew, all of whom clearly displayed press passes.
[CLIP]:
MAN:
- accredited journalists now!
WOMAN:
- from the convention floor!
[OVERTALK]
MAN:
You are violating my constitutional right. You are violating my constitutional –
MAN:
Turn it off now!
WOMAN:
Sir, I want to talk to you –
[SEVERAL AT ONCE]
MAN:
Arrest her –
WOMAN:
Do not arrest me!
[SEVERAL TALKING AT ONCE]
[END CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
But reporters saw themselves swept up, or even targeted, as early as Saturday, when the independent video group I-Witness was detained preemptively in the house that served as its base of operations. The group was there to document police clashes with protestors.

In 2004, at the RNC in New York, I-Witness provided crucial evidence of police misconduct and perjury that caused charges to be dropped against hundreds of protestors.

Altogether, as of this writing, a couple of dozen reporters have been arrested in St. Paul, a few from the Associated Press and some newspapers, but mainly, it seems, from small and independent media.

Tim Carr of the liberal media watchdog group Free Press wrote that, quote, “These local officials think freedom of the press extends only to their allies in the mainstream media.” True, few of the mainstream media were caught up in those events. They were fending off more metaphorical assaults inside the hall of the RNC.
BOB GARFIELD:
The American economy is in extremis, millions of Americans have no health insurance, our budget deficits have ballooned to historic heights. Osama bin Laden is still at large, and we're still at war, which is why, at its convention this week, the Republican Party joined as one to identify, belittle and confront its foe in this fall’s historic election - an opponent that has never been shot down over Vietnam, never had executive experience and never been a hockey mom. I refer, of course, to the smooth-talking, flag-pin-not-wearing, liberal, elitist - media.
MITT ROMNEY:
The Washington sun has been rising in the east. You see, Washington has been looking to the Eastern elites, to the editorial pages of The Times and The Post.
[APPLAUSE]
MIKE HUCKABEE:
The reporting of the past few days have proven tackier than a costume change at a Madonna concert.
[CHEERS]
RUDOLPH GIULIANI:
The citizens of the United States get to decide our next president, not the left-wing media, not Hollywood celebrities, not anyone else, but the people of America!
[CHEERS]
SARAH PALIN:
Here’s a little newsflash for those reporters and commentators. I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this great country.
[CHEERS]
BOB GARFIELD:
That was former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Wasilla, Alaska Mayor Sarah Palin, who 21 months ago became the governor of Alaska and even more recently John McCain’s running mate. By the way, on Thursday, McCain accepted the nomination.
[SHOUTS FROM AUDIENCE]
JOHN McCAIN:
Tonight I have a privilege given few Americans, the privilege of accepting our party’s nomination for president of the United States.
[CHEERS]
BOB GARFIELD:
But never mind that. If Barack Obama is the rock star of the Democratic Party, Sarah Palin is the superhero of the GOP, a strong but beautiful wonder woman from a strange, distant place, imbued with the power to charm a crowd with her homespun biography, thrill with tales of vanquishing special interests, knee Barack Obama in the groin and, most miraculously of all, coalesce a fractious party around a problematic nominee. Even the nattering nabobs of negativism were pundicizing positively.
MALE CORRESPONDENT:
On a scale of 1 to 10, Sarah Palin was an 11 last night. I mean, the speech was outstanding. I think it put to bed any questions about whether or not she’s ready to be the vice-president of the United States.
MALE CORRESPONDENT:
She is a terrific - she’s an excellent speaker. She’s intelligent. She’s tough. She’s arresting. She’s interested –
[CROWD HUBBUB IN BACKGROUND]
WOLF BLITZER:
She really did hit it out of the park tonight, not only here but for millions of Americans watching across the country. No doubt - Anderson Cooper, Campbell Brown - no doubt their first real impression of her had to be very, very positive.
[SHOUTS IN BACKROUND/CROWD HUBBUB]
BOB GARFIELD:
The choice of Palin also apparently defined the GOP’s convention strategy, for when she was named a week earlier, the elitists of the liberal media had the temerity to – look into her background. And, just as in 1972 and 1984, with Democratic VP picks Thomas Eagleton and Geraldine Ferraro, the press quickly uncovered potential trouble.

Within two days, reporters and bloggers discovered that as mayor of Wasilla, the special interest taker-on-er had hired a Beltway lobbying firm to help secure federal earmarks for her small town.

When she boasted of saying thanks but no thanks to the notorious pork project called the Bridge to Nowhere, they found that she’d supported the project until after it became notorious, and then accepted the 233 million dollars anyway.

Oh, there was also the firing of the public safety commissioner who'd refused to fire her sister’s ex-husband – oh, and the attempted elimination of the librarian who had refused Palin’s wish to ban certain books. This is called reporting, unless you’re on the GOP Talking Points routing list, whereupon it becomes shameless smears.

Of course, the most sensitive issue, which surfaced as an answer to spurious blog rumors, was her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy, a fact that may or not undercut the governor’s family values rhetoric, but which probably bore mentioning – or not.

Here’s McCain aide Steve Schmidt with Katie Couric of CBS, on Tuesday, brandishing a smoking gun of media ruthlessness.
[CLIP]:
STEVE SCHMIDT:
Members of his campaign went to off-the-record lunches with reporters today, and they were asked if she would do a paternity test to prove paternity for her last child. Smear after smear after smear, and it’s disgraceful and it’s wrong.
[END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD:
Hold on. As blogger Josh Marshall points out, those were questions, not stories. So what smear is he speaking of? And they were asked off the record, at least until Schmidt, on network TV, himself violated the confidence.
But the McCain campaign doesn't seem to quite understand the whole question-and-answer thing. Here’s spokesman Tucker Bounds on CNN Monday, with host Campbell Brown.
[CLIP]:
CAMPBELL BROWN:
So explain to us why you think Governor Palin is ready to be commander-in-chief.
TUCKER BOUNDS:
Governor Palin has the good fortune of being on the ticket with John McCain, who there is no question is the most experienced and shown proven judgment on the international stage. He understands foreign affairs. He has a familiarity with -
[OVERTALK]
CAMPBELL BROWN:
Well, we know that about John McCain, Tucker. I asked you about her though, because we all know the role of the VP, as John McCain has defined it, is to be able to step into the job of the presidency on day one, if something should happen to the president. So I'm asking you about her –
[OVERTALK]
TUCKER BOUNDS:
Well, certainly –
CAMPBELL BROWN:
- foreign policy experience.
TUCKER BOUNDS:
Yeah. Yeah Campbell, certainly there are a number of people that are supporting Barack Obama’s candidacy and feel like he’s experienced enough to take on the Oval Office. Our feeling is –
CAMPBELL BROWN:
But, but –
TUCKER BOUNDS:
- that Governor Palin has -
CAMPBELL BROWN:
- you’re not answering my question. Just –
TUCKER BOUNDS:
- just as much experience as Barack Obama. CAMPBELL BROWN:
Okay, but, but –
TUCKER BOUNDS:
She has just as much experience –
CAMPBELL BROWN:
- you’ve set a different standard. That was -
TUCKER BOUNDS:
- as the presidential candidate of our opponent.
CAMPBELL BROWN:
What, what I'm saying is that you’ve set a different standard by arguing how important it was with John McCain.
TUCKER BOUNDS:
Mm-hmm.

CAMPBELL BROWN:
And no one’s arguing with you that he has much more experience than Barack Obama. So I'm just trying to get someone from the campaign to explain to me what foreign policy experience she has or what qualifications she has that would allow her to be ready to be commander-in-chief if something should happen to Senator McCain.
TUCKER BOUNDS:
Well Campbell, let me be clear.
CAMPBELL BROWN:
That’s a fair question, isn't it?
TUCKER BOUNDS:
I, I don't think there should be any problem explaining her experience. She has executive state-level experience. She’s been in public office reforming Washington. She -
[END CLIP]

BOB GARFIELD:
So offended was the McCain campaign at Brown’s shameless - question-asking that it cancelled the candidate’s planned appearance later in the week on CNN, where McCain would have been subjected to more vicious attacks by noted pit bull Larry King.

Of course, Campbell Brown might be forgiven for not knowing which aspect of the vice-president’s resume was off limits. On Monday, GOP officials castigated the media for violating the Palin family’s privacy.

At the Convention Wednesday night, the campaign trotted out the entire clan, unwed hockey-mom-to-be, dazed-looking boyfriend and all, and put them literally on stage.

Running against the media is a time honored political tactic. Some pundits have speculated that the McCain camp, by playing the media card at the outset of the general election campaign, is trying to work the refs, to make the media self-conscious of how its reporting might be perceived and then to temper its effort.

In a blog posting Wednesday, Time Magazine’s Joe Klein would have none of it. Here’s NBC News’ Brian Williams quoting Klein on the air.
[CLIP]:
[SOUND OF CROWD IN BACKGROUND]
BRIAN WILLIAMS QUOTING JOE KLEIN:
“I hope my colleagues,” meaning his colleagues in the news media, “stand strong in this case. It’s important for the public to know Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is, quote, “a task from God.”

The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive but unprofessional in the extreme.”
[END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD:
You'd like to think the press will be unapologetic and uncowed, but don't be too sanguine. Less than ten minutes later on MSNBC, correspondent Savannah Guthrie, reporting from Palin’s hometown, described entering a local bar and asking questions, kind of defensively, kind of meekly, if you ask me.
[CLIP]:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE:
They were very proud of her and the strong speech she gave tonight. I asked some of the people there - now, come on, you may be mad at the media – and they are – but didn't it take you a little while to get used to her, too? And they said, yes, it is true that she took some getting used to.
[END CLIP]
BOB GARFIELD:
So, they're mad. That’s their problem, Savannah. It’s certainly not yours.
[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
MIKE HUCKABEE:
But I want to begin by doing something a little unusual. I'd like to thank the elite media for doing something that, quite frankly, I wasn't sure could be done, and that’s unifying the Republican Party and all of America –
[CROWD CHEERS]
- in support of Senator McCain -
[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE][MUSIC UP AND UNDER]