Along the Tracks

Friday, October 03, 2003

Open the spickets!

The flood of sewage we all knew Gray Davis and his supporters would release just before the election has come, right on time.

Mickey Kaus, as always, has the complete roundup on the California recall.

Since my questions seem to be popular, here are a couple for the media covering the “circus”:

1. If Gray Davis never has anything to do with these scandalous leaks, why do they all favor his prospects, and come at a late date when Davis’ opponents cannot counter them?

2. How do the media decision-makers explain their uncanny ability to “unintentionally” carry water for Gray Davis over and over and over again?

Don’t get me wrong - this is no defense of Schwarzenegger’s bad behavior and lousy choices as a bodybuilder and actor. Like Kaus points out, this is the kind of information that should come out - right away, when the issue (i.e., Arnold’s candidacy for public office) arises. Yet when information detrimental to one candidate (and therefore advantageous to another) appears suddenly at the tail end of an election, there is a journalistic responsibility to explore the sources of the information, as well as to investigate other candidates to make sure a) the same cannot be said of them (at least as bad, apparently, can be said of Davis) and b) the political implications for the other candidates are clear to the public. Then, let the people decide.

I’m not sure which is worse - the Los Angeles Times use of unnamed accusers whom it sought out (they did not, apparently, contact the Times unsolicited) or the ABC story on Schwarzenegger’s comments about Hitler, which has all the fingerprints of a Gray Davis dirty trick. Both are bad - but I feel especially bothered by ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which not only ran this story as some huge revelation (the quotes are from 1975), and not only put the quotes (out of context, to my understanding) on screen with a photo of Arnold taken while campaigning (implying he said this on the stump, not three decades ago - they didn’t even source it on-screen), but went out to get the opinion of ... Gray Davis! Talk about a lack of journalistic balance!

P.S. - Andrew Sullivan credits Kaus with predicting this last second mud-bomb over 24 hours ahead of time. Andrew’s right on Mickey’s specific prediction that the stories would emerge yesterday - great call. But in fact, Mickey and others have been predicting the last-second Davis attack for a long time - it was an easy call, looking at the governor’s political history.

It was so easy, I made the same call in my newspaper columns - before Schwarzenegger had even entered the race - and I’ve never even been to California! This isn’t meant to be bragging (although I admit it sounds like it): Political hacks are political hacks - and Davis is just being true to form.

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