Dec
12
2011

Washington Post: Campaign Journalism or Campaign Advertising?

The Washington Post launched a series of Republican presidential candidate profiles on Sunday (12/11/11). First up was Mitt Romney, and right away you sense there's something a little off here. Here's the headline and subhead: The Problem Solver Mitt Romney doesn't want to talk about feeling voters' pain. He just wants to get to work relieving it. Reporter Ann Gerhart's piece begins: The mind of Mitt Romney is a supremely rational place. The article is full of quotes from Romney supporters, alongside nods of approval from the reporter: He is a man with a prodigious intellect who has been married […]

Dec
07
2011

Republicans and the Hezbollah-in-Mexico Menace

Political campaign watchers seem to agree that the election will be about the economy, and that Republicans probably won't have much to say about Obama's foreign policy (partly because it doesn't much differ from what a Republican president might be doing). The New York Times' Richard Oppel has a piece today headlined, "Republican Candidates Aim at Obama Foreign Policy." So what exactly is the Republican case against Obama's foreign policy? That it's too soft on the Hezbollah menace on our southern border. Seriously. Oppel writes: A small but revealing episode unfolded in the closing minutes of the last Republican presidential […]

Nov
18
2011

Media Get 'Lazy' Factchecking Rick Perry's Ad Claim

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's new TV commercial is based on a lie. Will reporters say so? The ad starts with a Barack Obama quote: "We've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades." To which Perry responds: "Can you believe that? That's what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy? That's pathetic. It's time to clean house in Washington." Now, it would be rather unusual for a president to say that. Obama didn't. The quote comes from an event where Obama spoke about efforts to woo corporations to do more […]

Nov
10
2011

Maybe Not Misunderestimated After All

Just because he wears cowboy boots and drops his G's doesn't mean he's a dummy. Perry may be a small-town boy who went to an ag school (Texas A&M University), but he's an extremely cagey and strategic politician who has been among the state's most successful governors at getting what he wants. Put another way: Even if he's not book smart by University of Chicago standards, he's plenty street smart – and street smart is still smart. The better lens through which to regard Perry is inside vs. outside, establishment vs. anti-establishment, elitist vs. jus' folks. Don't make the mistake […]

Oct
26
2011

A Tax Plan Favoring the Wealthy? That Would Never Fly

When he's not sharing his thoughts about Barack Obama's birth certificate, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is apparently unveiling a tax plan. It's a flat tax, with a few other details explained by the Washington Post (10/26/11): Perry also would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent; eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains; make deep, unspecified cuts in federal spending; and establish individual retirement accounts outside the Social Security system. The article, by Karen Tumulty, gets approving quotes from a Republican adviser and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. But it also says this, in the reporter's […]

Sep
26
2011

GOP Reality TV Show Needs New Contestant

ABC This Week (9/25/11): CHRISTINE AMANPOUR: And coming up, Rick Perry on the ropes. PERRY: Yep, there may be slicker candidates and there may be smoother debaters, but I know what I believe in, and I'm going to stand on that belief every day. I will guide this country with a deep, deep rudder. AMANPOUR: Can the new frontrunner come back from a shaky debate performance? Or is Chris Christie waiting in the wings to steal his thunder? New York Times (9/26/11): After Perry's Debate Showing, Eyes Turn Toward Christie Washington Post (9/26/11): Texas Gov. Rick Perry's recent stumbles–his rambling […]

Sep
20
2011

Rick Perry, Job-Creating Rodeo Cowboy!

The front page of USA Today (9/19/11) tells us that Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is taking "the heat," but not to worry–he says he can handle it. That's especially true with reporters like Susan Page on his side: He's not worried, he said, because only one issue really matters to Americans in this election. It's the one he plans to ride first against his Republican rivals and then against President Obama. Jobs. "I'll be asked about a hundred different issues a thousand different ways," he said in the interview Friday, one of only a few he has done since […]

Sep
19
2011

Rick Perry, Social Security Straight Shooter?

A Washington Post story onSunday (9/18/11)argues that many recipients of Social Security aren't really paying attention to what the GOP presidential front-runners are saying about Social Security. The real story, then, is what kind of narrative the candidates are trying to establish. As reporter Amy Gardner puts it: In many ways, it doesn't matter to the candidates whether people are attuned to what they are actually saying about Social Security. For them, the issue is instead serving as a proxy for the narrative each is trying to establish about himself. For Perry, standing by his brash statements on Social Security–he […]

Sep
16
2011

Is the Election Over Yet?

From Time magazine's Rick Perry cover story (9/26/11): When you look at Perry, it's easy to picture him in an old Western. His late arrival in the primary field in August certainly felt like that moment when the big stranger steps through the swinging saloon doors and all heads pivot and the plinky-plunk piano dies away. Wait– there's more! Moreover, Perry doesn't mind kicking over idols in the high church of conventional wisdom, a favorite Tea Party pastime. He's the one who calls Social Security a "monstrous lie," throwing in "Ponzi scheme" for good measure. Social Security is called the […]

Sep
09
2011

What Do You Call a Guy Like Rick Perry?

Frontrunner-of-the-moment Rick Perry is getting a lot of press for his performance at the recent Republican debate–especially because he's standing by his belief that Social Security is a "monstrous lie" and a Ponzi scheme, and that climate change is an untested theory advanced by corrupt, discredited scientists. You can call such ideas a lot of things. "False" or "untrue," for example, would work. But a lot of reporters characterized Perry's performance in positive terms. In today's New York Times (9/9/11), Michael Shear writes that Perry made clear in his first national appearance that he would campaign as an unabashed Southern […]

Aug
26
2011

Ron Paul Top Tier Shakeup!

There is little reason to care about what the polls say right now about who's leading in the Republican presidential nomination. But the media obviously think otherwise, hence this headline in the Washington Post yesterday (8/25/11): Romney Loses GOP Front-Runner Status The "news" is that Rick Perry is leading in a new Gallup Poll. But read a little further: The survey showed Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) at 13 percent and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) slipping to 10 percent. No other candidate registered in the double digits. So this means Paul's in the "top tier" now, right? This is a good […]

Aug
19
2011

Rick Perry's Jobs 'Swagger'

On NBC Nightly News (8/16/11): ANDREA MITCHELL: Perry's Texas swagger is his calling card, bred of a hardscrabble boyhood on the family farm and Aggie roots at Texas A&M. Perry's chief claim to challenging President Obama is the Texas jobs record. Perry says his state produced 40 percent of all the jobs created across America in the last two years, with an unemployment rate at 8.2 percent, well below the national average, partly because of the oil and gas boom, partly because of growing trade with Mexico and federal defense spending in Texas. Since Perry's campaign is based almost entirely […]

Aug
15
2011

Weeding the Field: Press Declares "Top Tier" GOP Candidates

As we've said plenty of times before, one of the main jobs of campaign journalists is winnowing the field of candidates– which must come as a relief to voters who don't want to have more of a say in the process. Before the results of the Iowa straw poll rolled in this weekend, there were pieces about whether anyone should pay attention to the event in the first place. Most reporters are willing to admit that paying so much attention to an elaborate popularity contest where the candidates pay voters to participate is a little odd. The lesson for readers […]