I still cringe when I remember how the media laughed at Al Gore's "internet" statement. No -- he was not trying to stake a claim as inventor of the internet. Instead, he was referring to his role in the effort to make the internet available to the public (it had been exclusively a Department of Defense medium at the time). And how can any loyal Democrat forget the theatrical farce of "Whitewater" that plagued the Clinton administration until mud finally stuck, by way of Monica-gate. And Carter was blamed for the recession during his presidency, when really the enormous oil price shocks of the late 70s were largely to blame. Having witnessed Democrats unfairly treated in the media and elsewhere, I appreciate fairness as a general principle, which is why I am moved to write this entry.
While everyone was getting ready to watch the debate last night, the Washington Post posted this zinger on its webpage: Palin Picks Ferraro As Favorite "Vice President." What a headline! I did not hesistate to click the link, because this statement would certainly have been Palin's most damning comment to date. It could have even ended her vice presidential candidacy -- if the rest of the media picked it up and caused a feeding frenzy. So why hasn't such a storm occurred? Because there is a major wrinkle in the story: It is absolutely and unequivocally false and misleading.
I will start with the blog entry. Here's how the Washington Post 's blog, The Trail, summarized the interview:
When asked to name a favorite vice president, Sarah Palin initially cited failed Democratic vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.
"That's an easy one for me because she's -- she's the one who first shattered part of that glass ceiling anyway in American politics," the Alaska governor said of the first woman to sit on a major party vice presidential ticket. "So it would be she as a candidate."
The blog text (along with the dramatic title) leaves only one impression: that Palin mistakenly believes Ferraro actually served as Vice President. The tape of the interveiw, however, tells a completely different story:
Couric: What previous Vice President impresses you the most and why?
Palin: Oh my goodness. It would have to be...ah....just a candidate. And that would have been Geraldine Ferraro, of course. That's an easy one for me. She is the one who first shattered part of that glass ceiling...in American politics. So, it would be she as a candidate.
Palin ultimately picks George Bush, Sr. as her favorite Vice President, as the blog entry reports. But the blog omits the passage where Palin says "It would have to be ah...just a candidate." This, however, is crucial language, because without out it, Palin seemingly lacks knowledge of her own place in American history -- that she (not Ferraro) would be the first woman Vice President if McCain wins.
My guess is that Palin was simply stalling while she thought about how to answer the "feel good" question (favorite Vice President -- what does that tell us about a candidate?). It is also worth mentioning that during her first speech after she became McCain's running mate, Palin mentioned the historic candidacy of Geraldine Ferraro. In the Couric interview, she merely reiterates this statement. Palin is simply playing gender politics -- not botching history.
The Washington Post is a venerable institution, and I read it daily. I even stream its RSS feeds on this blog in recognition of the important role it plays in reporting political and policy news. So how could such an honored institution make such a horrible error twice (once in the title and again in the blog essay)? Is it harmless error? Do blogs get less editorial attention? Is there really a biased elite media? What do you think?