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The press and its endless quest for "authentic" candidates who somehow always turn out to be Republican

WaPo's very well-paid Chris Cillizza has a post up in "The Fix" that perfectly encapsulates the high-school level vapidity and screaming self-contradiction of our famously free press's quest for the "authentic" Presidential candidate.

On the one hand, Richardson seems authentic:

We've said and written before that while no one in the presidential race can rival Gov. Bill Richardson's (N.M.) resume we remain skeptical about his chances of winning the nomination for a simple reason: his unpredictability. That trait makes covering Richardson a delight -- he is always ready with a witty one-liner and regularly treats reporters as though he's known them for decades. [Much good may that do him.]

OK, check. Richardson's not scripted. But on the other hand:

But, his tendency to veer off message is less appealing when it comes to the highly scrutinized atmosphere of a presidential campaign. Richardson is, frankly, too real.

So, we want Goldilocks reality now? Not too unreal, not too real, but, really, just right?

What do the press want? How on earth can they be satisfied? Wait... I know! What the press wants is scripted authenticity. Right? It reminds me of the old song by the Rutle's Neil Innes:

The champagne was Canadian
The hostess sang a song
I contemplated suicide
Then you came along!

You're so spontaneous
You hit the spot
Nothing but everything
Is all you've got
You're so spontaneous
You top the bill
Your elegant savoir-fair
Gives me a thrill!

You're so spontaneous
Please don't ever change
You're so "if I ruled the world"
And "home on the range"

You're so spontaneous
In each and every way
So spontaneous
What more can I say?

Well, nothing. (And it looks like Fred Thompson will be the "home on the range"/"I ruled the world" guy. My money's on him, not Rudy, from now on.)

So, scripted authenticity. The press is demanding that candidates be or at least seem:

1. Authentic, and

2. Always on message

Yet those are completely contradictory demands, unless you're an actor (Reagan; Thompson) or a sociopath (Bush) or a pathological liar (name them).

Yet how useful contradictory demands can be! As both Mrs. Premise and Mrs. Conclusion know, when you reason from logically incompatible propositions, you can reach any conclusion you desire! (Orwell called Doublethink.) As Krugman writes:

Talk of authenticity, it seems, lets commentators and journalists put down politicians they don't like or praise politicians they like, with no relationship to what the politicians actually say or do.

Yet, oddly, or not, when the press goes into Doublethink mode, it's only Democrats who fare badly. Again, Gene Lyons:

Even so, it’s not necessary to be a prophet to know how Beltway pundits will handle the so-called character issue. The Republican nominee will be a virile, decisive straight-shooter who’s 100 percent “authentic” and “comfortable in his own skin.” The Democrat will be an indecisive phony, uncertain of his / her identity, but willing to strike any pose or pander to any constituency in a self-serving bid for power. That was the basic script for the media’s astonishing “War on Gore” in 2000, the campaign of falsehood and vilification that helped elevate George W. Bush, an ex-preppie cheerleader and bicycling enthusiast dressed up in rugged “Texas Rancher” costumes, to the presidency over then-Vice President Al Gore.

And they're doing it again, what with WaPo's book review section trashing Gore for not having footnotes in his #1 best seller, The Assault on Reason, when in fact it had endnotes. I know, because I read it.

I guess if Gore had footnotes, he'd have been authentic, but because he had endnotes, he was off message. Jeebus.

Please, can't we disintermediate these guys like, now?

NOTE Jeebus, WaPo's footnotes gaffe is the very first sentence of the lead:

You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason."

I'd call that getting out the hatchet with unseemly haste, wouldn't you? WaPo did print a teeny,undated correction:

Andrew Ferguson's June 10 Outlook article, "What Al Wishes Abe Said," said that former vice president Al Gore's book "The Assault on Reason" does not contain footnotes. The book contains 20 pages of endnotes.

I'd say that makes it worse. The guy can't even flip to the end of the book to see that the notes are there? Or check the table of contents, which nobody, including the reviewer, seems to have done:

Notes 277
Index 297

Who'd WaPo pick to do the review, anyhow?

Andrew Ferguson is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard....

Oh. Sheesh, looks like a job for the Post ombudsman, if they didn't have that hack Lil Debbie not doing that job.

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Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Power is its own qualification, in their case and in the case of presidential aspirants. Washington pundits are powerful, therefore qualified. They keep power by exercising it artificially, and since all the Washington pundit's world's a stage, of course they demand appropriate entertainment.

dr sardonicus's picture
Submitted by dr sardonicus on

Talk of authenticity, it seems, lets commentators and journalists put down politicians they don’t like or praise politicians they like, with no relationship to what the politicians actually say or do.

Indeed, there may be no better example than the press itself. Supporting the Republican agenda while allowing themselves to be portrayed as liberal toadies - how more authentic can you get?

...for the rest of us

Hey! Loved your song and love your point of view on Richardson! He is my governor and a gerat one at that, whom I support for President. Please take the time to read this extended comment, focused on Richardson's foreign policy genius, which is urgently needed to repair 6 years of damage from a Halliburton-driven corporate kleptocracy:


I am very glad that more and more people seem to recognize the importance of Richardson's breakthrough regarding the Bush Adminstration’s abjectly failed Iraq policy. These failures have impacted almost every phase of American foreign policy, which has based more on military power than traditional diplomacy for the past six years. Richardson’s effectiveness is even clearer
now, with Lieberman threatening to use nuclear weapons on Iran. I find this posturing and blustering to be totally absurd and even dangerous; because of my extensive studies of the horrendous effects of nuclear weapons on the
health of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, called “hibakusha” in Japanese.

I strongly agree with Richardson’s overall focus on diplomacy, and putting economic sanctions on Iran. I agree especially his innovative idea put forth during the New Hampshire debates. There has been a general silence among nations vis-à-vis China’s ghastly atrocities in the human rights realm, and not just about China and Darfur, but especially toward Tibetans. China has constructed in Tibet dozens of prisons which, for Tibetans, are exactly like Auschwitz and Dachau.

I posited the same idea in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, in correspondence to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and to many heads-of-state, that the moral
indignation of the nations in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 could be harnessed into at least the threat of a boycott. To be effective, this could be perhaps worded more diplomatically. By the way, during the debate, both Senator Edwards and Senator Biden clearly agreed with this point by Richardson!

Make no mistake: this is probably the last chance in human history to do anything constructive about Tibet, to prevent henceforth the genocidal
treatment of Tibetans remaining in Tibet, which has since 1959 seen 1.2 million Tibetans killed. This totals, roughly 20% of the entire population of Tibet. American political powers could decline to put to use what little remains of our powers of moral suasion in the world at large, and we could to once again docilely capitulate to dim-witted politicians who say that the Olympics are only about sport, and not about politics, and such claptrap as “a boycott would unfairly punish the athletes.” Then we would be no better than the many nations who were oblivious to the growing obviousness of the genocide of Jews in Europe before and during World War II.

Actually, the USA was for many years totally oblivious in this regard, whether you blame Roosevelt or anti-Semitics in the State Department, all of which is thoroughly documented in Arthur Morse’s book, While Six Million Died. In that light, we think Richardson is on the right track! The case is even stronger, when you consider the dead pets and the poisoned cold
medicines and toothpaste from China. Those considerations are just not “about politics”: that was life and death for many, including at least 100 dead, mostly children, in Panama!

News: In what may be its most audacious Olympic act yet, China’s Ministry of Public Security has issued an incredible directive that lists 43 categories of “unwanteds” who are to be investigated and barred from the 2008 Beijing
Olympics. Pariah groups include: - eerily vague “key individuals in ideological fields” - “overseas hostile forces” -“counterrevolutionary” figures - the Dalai Lama and all affiliates - members of “religious entities not sanctioned by the state” (e.g., Roman Catholics) - “individuals who instigate discontentment toward the Chinese Communist Party through the Internet,” - and even certain types of “disabled” persons. Members of the Falun Gong would be barred, as would be “family members of deceased persons” killed in “riots” — a euphemism for events such as the Tiananmen Massacre — and Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province, which the regime brands
“national separatists.” Only at the very bottom of the directive does it identify “violent terrorists” and members of “illegal organizations” as targets for investigation and possible barring.

Stephen Fox,
505 983-2002

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

Good post, but there are those of us who remember what the capitulation of Gore felt like in 2000. He sold us all out.
There is nothing he can do now that will make up for that.