Media Matters for America are almost without exception essential reading, to the point where I can't recall there ever having been a dud -- Fridays here at Snarl Towers would be significantly poorer without them -- but today's, called "Loose Ends" and (unusually) covering a multiplicity of media imbecilities related to the election campaign rather than just one, should be pinned up in every newsroom in the land.
I'd love to quote the whole thing, but obviously can't (and shouldn't). Here's the first segment, discussing one of the most astonishing hypocrisies of the campaign:
Finally, for the first time this year, a prominent media figure asked John McCain about his relationship with G. Gordon Liddy last night.
The lack of media attention to the Liddy-McCain relationship is one of the clearest double standards in recent political history. McCain and the news media have devoted an extraordinary amount of attention to Barack Obama's ties to Bill Ayers, yet until last night, McCain hadn't been asked a single question* about his ties to Liddy, a convicted felon who has instructed his listeners on how best to shoot law-enforcement agents. Liddy has held a fundraiser for McCain at his home and describes the Arizona senator as an "old friend"; McCain has said he is "proud" of Liddy.
Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama had said he was "proud" of an "old friend" who urged people to shoot law-enforcement agents in the head. Do you think maybe he would have been asked a question or three about it? Do you think maybe there would have been more than the occasional passing mention in the news of the relationship? Of course there would have been.
Yet McCain hasn't been questioned about Liddy. The media have largely ignored the relationship, even while working themselves into a frenzy about Obama and Ayers. McCain's relationship with Liddy is obviously newsworthy in its own right, but coupled with his attacks on Obama over Ayers, it's a textbook case of hypocrisy -- exactly the sort of thing that political reporters supposedly drool over. But not when it's John McCain. When it's John McCain, the nation's leading news organizations band together in what is, in effect, a blackout of information that could be damaging to their longtime favorite.
Until last night, when McCain was finally asked, point-blank, about his relationship to Liddy and the similarities between that relationship and the Obama-Ayers relationship he has attacked so harshly.
Who finally asked the question? The New York Times? The Washington Post? CNN's "best political team on television"?
David Letterman asked McCain about Liddy, putting the nation's journalists to shame in the process.
For years, political professionals, academics, and media watchdogs have lamented the fact that some Americans get their news from late-night comedians and other entertainment. As it turns out, that might be a good thing.
Unfortunately, after Letterman broke the media's embargo on questioning McCain's relationship with Liddy, reporters quickly pretended it never happened -- or, if they did mention it, downplayed the significance of the relationship. Time's Mark Halperin described Letterman "hound[ing]" McCain over his Ayers attacks, adding, "The late-night host doesn't let up on where the former Weather Underground leader fits into the campaign." But, inexplicably, Halperin didn't so much as mention that Letterman confronted McCain about his relationship with Liddy. Several news reports that did mention the Liddy exchange described him as a Watergate felon -- omitting Liddy's much more recent statements about shooting law enforcement personnel.
But the worst was MSNBC. This morning, the cable channel played a clip of McCain on Letterman -- but not the Liddy exchange. Then, immediately after the clip, MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall referenced the McCain attacks on Ayers. At no point did Hall mention Liddy.
* Or, if he has been asked, it hasn't been reported. Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman did ask McCain's campaign about Liddy back in the spring, but despite what reporters always claim about how open McCain is, Chapman didn't get a response.