The presidential nominating campaigns are moving prematurely to their demolition phases.
Michelle Obama yesterday "corrected" her Monday, Feb. 18, statement about lack of pride in her country and, for now, appears to have gotten past it. It was an equivocal clarification, however, and the issue no doubt will arise again in the general campaign season. Washington Post economic columnist Bob Samuelson wrote a strong piece yesterday criticizing Sen. Barack Obama for alleged surrenders to interest-group agendas – and there was truth in it. As his campaign has proceeded, Obama has indeed bought into union and other agendas to get their endorsement. Now that Obama is on the verge of nomination, further such critical pieces can be anticipated.
This morning's New York Times featured charges that Sen. John McCain, the putative Republican nominee, had accepted favors from interest groups and was not the reformist crusader he asserts that he is. The sources of the charges apparently were disaffected former McCain Senate and campaign staff members – although much of the material could have been gleaned without difficulty from thorough research of clip files.
Conversations this morning with editors at national newspapers yielded the not surprising news that further investigative reporting is taking place into McCain's Arizona and Senate careers. The New York Times, you can be sure, will pursue McCain avidly since he has charged that its stories this morning were "false."
We thus are entering a campaign phase which usually does not begin until a bit later. Media coverage during the nominating campaigns normally concentrates only on the horse race, the beauty-contest aspect of the campaigns. News channel talking heads and political reporters do not, for the most part, have the credentials to report anything beyond polling data and day-to-day campaign activity. Only later, when the nominees are apparent, do efforts begin toward real investigative reporting of their personal and professional backgrounds. Only later, too, do economic, national-security, and other policy specialists begin to do serious stories about the candidates' substantive views.
An ordinary voter might complain that this is all backward. Should not media do thorough looks at the candidates before, rather than after, voters have cast their ballots? Yes, of course they should.
Why don't they do it? The main reasons are carelessness and lassitude. Which is why mainstream media these days have favorable poll ratings competing with those of the U.S. Congress and personal-injury attorneys.
Better later than never, though. We shall see what remains to be exposed.