By David Keene - 09/08/08 05:13 PM EDT
Many broadcast and print reporters were outraged in the wake of the Republican National Convention by allegations of over-the-top media bias directed against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) within minutes of her being named as McCain’s running mate. More than one reporter went on the air to whine about being targeted and to assure us that it is the obligation of the media to examine every allegation and rumor about someone they knew little about and therefore had not been truly “vetted.”
Certainly the governor’s record and her stand on the issues are and should be fair game, but the way the entire press corps seemed intent upon competing with the National Enquirer and other grocery-store tabloids in the search for sleazy rumors to turn into headline stories struck a lot of folks as going too far. I was personally questioned by a reporter who wanted me to comment on whether the pregnancy of the governor’s 17-year-old daughter isn’t evidence of her inability to manage both her family and her current job, echoing the New York Times reporter who asked if people really believe that a woman like Palin is up to taking on major responsibilities outside the home when she has a family to raise.
I asked the reporter who called me if he had any kids. He doesn’t, so perhaps his assumption that a parent can control every action of his or her children could be excused as simply naïve.
But aside from whether it’s proper to so insensitively drag the private life of a candidate’s daughter into the story, the fact that such questions never seem to be raised about liberal women is troubling, but I guess they are assumed to be capable of anything while conservatives like Palin should just stay home with their families.
In addition, many of the stories reported rumors and allegations made against Palin by her political enemies in Alaska without reference to the fact that there is no objective evidence to support their charges. For example, her dismissal of a city official as mayor resulted in four wrongful termination suits against her by the disgruntled former employee. Palin won all four suits, which should have been reported along with the charges but was not. One would conclude from the early stories that as mayor and governor, Sarah Palin had sold out the interests of Alaskan voters, acted irresponsibly and set new records in abusing the powers with which she had been entrusted. These charges are hard to square with the fact that on the eve of her nomination she enjoyed an approval rating in the upper 80s in Alaska.
One wonders whether the media will focus as sharp a light on allegations involving her vice presidential opponent from Delaware. Joe Biden has been around for a long time, and as a senior senator most assume that he has already been thoroughly “vetted,” but few remember that he was forced to drop out of his first presidential race when it was discovered that he plagiarized a part of his biography.
And last week, his hometown paper reported that the tragic collision that took the life of his wife and daughter shortly after his election to the Senate in 1972 was not, as he’s told audiences for years, the result of an encounter with a drunk and out-of-control driver. Tragic as it was, it turns out it was simply an accident. According to Delaware authorities, no ticket was issued and there was no evidence of any wrongdoing whatsoever. Yet Biden has spent decades maligning the driver of the truck that broadsided his wife’s car — apparently because it makes for a better story and elicits even more sympathy from audiences who hear it.
Biden’s friends have responded to these reports by suggesting that it is insensitive and unfair to dig up such information about a tragedy that took place 35 years ago, but his characterization of what happened continues to this day.
Add to this that he had to take a law school class over after being flunked for plagiarizing and later claimed to have finished near the top of his graduating class when he had, in fact, finished 76th in a class of 85. And that it was discovered that one of the more moving speeches he gave while running for the Senate was stolen virtually in its entirety from one delivered earlier by the late Bobby Kennedy. Together, these incidents comprise what might accurately be called a disturbing pattern of behavior spanning decades.
Sen. Biden’s friends in the media like to talk about how smart he is when perhaps they should be asking whether he is capable of separating fact from fiction.
Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com.