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New York Times Death Spiral Watch

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Can anybody think of a reason why Anne Kornblut should have a job?

Ta-Nehisi Coates (August 03, 2008) - When did being undisciplined become a good thing?: Here's a good one--Obama's campaign is too disciplined. This is the sort of story in which the reporter ends up saying more about their profession, than about the alleged subject. Anne Kornblut claims that Dems are pissed that Obama's Chicago operation is tight, leak-free, and doesn't defer to Washington. Kornblut does not offer a single quote to back up this contention--not even an anonymous one. Instead we are treated to the following:

Some Democrats on Capitol Hill have complained that he is not inclusive enough. They gripe that he is running his own campaign in some states, rather than the traditional coordinated effort; that he is not focusing on working-class white voters as he had promised at the end of the primaries; and that he has taken sides in some House primaries.

Amazing. I'd love to know what you guys think, but what I'm getting is that reporters are pissed that Obama--or his surrogates--won't write their stories for them. These guys ought to be ashamed of themsleves. I have no pity for them.

Josh Micah Marshall:

Talking Points Memo | What About the Curve?: Out of general fondness, the Washington press corps (which is not just a phrase but a definable community of people) has for almost a decade graded John McCain on a curve, especially in the last eighteen months when he's slipped perceptibly. Now, in response to the bludgeoning and campaign of falsehoods his campaign has unleashed over the last ten days, a number of his longtime admirers in the punditocracy have written articles either claiming that they'd misjudged the man or lamenting his betrayal of his better self.

So my question is, do they... keep grading McCain on the curve that has so aided him over the last year?...

McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries' names wrong, forgets things he's said only hours or days before and is frequently just confused. Any single example is inevitable for someone talking so constantly day in and day out. But the profusion of examples shows a pattern. Some of this is probably a matter of general unseriousness or lack of interest in policy areas like the economy.... But for any other politician who didn't have the benefit of years of friendship or acquaintance with many of the reporters covering him, this would be a major topic of debate in the campaign. It's whispered about among reporters. And it's evidenced in his campaign's increasing effort to keep him away from the freewheeling conversations with reporters that defined his 2000 candidacy. But it's verboten as a topic of public discussion.

The other point that again goes almost totally undiscussed is McCain's two reinventions of himself over the last decade. From a mainline conservative Republican to progressive reform candidate to Bush Republican. The reporters who have been covering him for the last decade know that there is virtually no public policy issue of note which McCain hasn't made a 180 degree change of position on in the last half dozen years. An ideological shift of that magnitude is far from unprecedented. And such turnabouts or transformations can be a product of searching insights into the changing terrain of American governance. But two such shifts in the course of a decade strongly suggest either instability or opportunism.

Neither of these points are lost on the people in the press most in a position to push key questions to the forefront of the campaign conversation. But for the moment the curve remains firmly in place -- even for those reporters now publicly washing their hands of their former affections for the man.

And again:

Talking Points Memo | The Latest Meme: Truly a Kuhnian moment. John McCain is so honorable and straight-shooting that the only explanation for his campaign's headlong dive into sleaze, xenophobia and gonzo bamboozlement is that McCain is so out of it and controlled by his advisors that he doesn't actually know what they're doing in his name.

(Just the kind of guy who should be president, right?)

That's the upshot of the brief exchange Andrea Mitchell, Roger Simon and Mike Barnicle just had on Hardball. Special thanks to TPM Reader MC for flagging it for us...