I was in a coffee shop on Capitol Hill this morning when I glanced up and saw this chyron on CNN:
One of our staffers went back and watched the segment, and I guess it was about Palin’s bus tour making stops at historical sites — not that the bus tour itself is a historic milestone of any sort. For that we can be thankful, I suppose.
But look at how the New York Times stumbles over itself trying to point out what a farce Palin’s bus tour is, without able to quite bring itself to say that:
Ms. Palin announced her bus tour with great fanfare last week and is using it on her Web site to raise money for her political action committee. Despite that, Ms. Palin is acting as though her family is just like any other taking a sight-seeing vacation to see the country.
Never mind the charter bus plastered with images of the Constitution. Or the fact that her family vacation has a name: the “One Nation Tour.” Or that she is documenting her family’s movements on a Web site that invites Americans along. Or that she might just run for president.
No. Ms. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, has made it quite clear that she just wants to be left alone. She doesn’t want to accommodate members of the news media (except, perhaps, Fox.) And she is purposely avoiding any of the overtly political things that most politicians do, like meeting with local politicians.
It is unclear whether she can keep up the pretense of a simple family vacation amid the scrutiny of someone who is thought to be considering a presidential campaign.
By the end there the paper ends up somewhat credulously reporting that Palin’s pretense that the tour is really just a family vacation is still holding up somehow. In what alternate universe? Surely the Times reporter isn’t fooled by this pretense. And if the media aren’t fooled — other than Fox perhaps — then who else is there? That’s the ostensible audience for her hijinks.
No one is fooled, really. But the conventions and protocols of “reporting” requires pretending otherwise. Contrary to a lot of our readers, I don’t think the answer is for the media to ignore Palin. Pointing out her ridiculousness doesn’t build her up and doesn’t give her oxygen without which she would disappear, to anticipate two of the most common arguments for not covering Palin. But the traditional standards of journalism don’t allow reporters to tell readers matter of factly what a charlatan and fraud Palin is. That’s considered crossing some bright line between reporting and opinionating when in fact what has been drawn is a unconscionable and indefensible line between reporting and the truth.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.