I have posted before about the left-wing blogosphere’s obsession with mocking Trig Palin and attacking Sarah Palin for bringing Trig on stage during the campaign.
Now, in the latest revelations from the Journolist archives, The Daily Caller reprints Journolist emails regarding Trig. And obsessed with Trig they were, filling 15 screens in The Daily Caller post.
BUT, the emails were not what I expected. None of the Trig bashing that was prevalent in the blogosphere and even the mainstream media. Little talk of abortion, again, unlike the public attacks on Sarah.
While it was clear that just days after her nomination Sarah Palin was widely hated by those on the Journolist, at least those who wrote emails had not yet exhibited full blown Palin Derangement Syndrome.
Rather, the focus was on whether to jump on the bandwagon promoted by Andrew Sullivan and many others that Trig was Sarah’s grandchild not child, and that Bristol Palin was the real mother. As documented here before, this was a very widespread point of attack immediately after Sarah was nominated, and by no means limited to Andrew Sullivan.
Some of the comments, to be fair, were benign and even protective. For example, Mark Kleiman of the Reality Based Community [sic] was all in favor of attacking Sarah on numerous points, but warned others “But leave the kid alone.” Ezra Klein, founder of the Journolist, wrote: “By all accounts she’s a wonderful mother, and devoted to her fifth son [sic]. Leave this be.”
A common point throughout the e-mails was that it was better to leave the issue of parentage alone because it could backfire politically.
Katha Pollit of The Nation cautioned:
If this baby story is true, palin will come out looking like a hero — she stepped in when her teen freaked out, threatened suicide, whatever. She went to extraordinary lengths, like a mother should do, to protect her daughter and solve the problem! No abortion necessary! Another pro-life fable for our times.
Katha’s point is that while some might find it reprehensible to raise a grandchild as your own, many if not most American’s don’t share that view. If the point of investigating this is to discredit Palin and show her up as an unfit mother and therefore unfit VP, the story may backfire. She comes out looking like a heroine not a villain.
The other theme was that it might be a set-up.
In the post-Rathergate era, journalists should be on their guard for Republican dirty tricks.
If this story gains traction, regardless of its truth or falsity, the Republicans will take steps to neutralize the meme.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the McCain campaign were to leak doctored evidence for the sole purpose of discrediting it and destroying the journalist who published it. That’s probably what the Killian memos were.
We should also be on guard for “evidence” falling into the lap of an unknown and easily discredited figure. That’s probably what Rove did to neutralize the allegations of cocaine use by George W. Bush, lo these many years ago.
If apparently well-substantiated allegations emerge, we should be alert for the story behind the story, so to speak.
Mark Kleiman reiterated this fear of a set up:
Politically, this smells like a red herring and a trap, and I think that the revelation that someone was sniffing around about it would outrage large numbers of voters. Palin’s public life presents a target-rich environment for
So this story desperately needs a good leaving-alone.
Adam Serwer of The American Prospect also smelled a set-up:
I gotta say, if this is much ado about nothing, the McCain campaign may be very happy to air these rumors in public. It gives them their first big opportunity to say that she’s being attacked unfairly, and because Democrats are sexist.
Remember how Eagleton went down: a reporter got a tip from someone who actually turned out (believe it or not, Nixon had nothing to do with it) to be a McGovern supporter worried he’d drag down the ticket. The reporter went to the hospital where Eagleton had allegedly been treated and said he was there to discuss Eagleton’s treatment, and an indiscreet hospital employee said something like s/he thought someone would find out about Eagleton’s mental problems (check this out; I’mworking from memory).
It’s not like an enterprising reporter couldn’t try the same thing today.
Of all the banter, perhaps the most important big picture item is that the discussion frequently centered on whether the story was worth running. This is the type of coordination and groupthink which has generated the criticism of the Journolist.
I dont think anyone from this list is running with it, but as I see it, the task is to set the frame that the Palin pick showed bad judgment on McCain’s part. That way when/if it does pop, it gets into that meme without people having to express outrage.
If you really want to know what they were afraid of, Kathleen Geier of Talking Points Meme summed it up:
I am really hoping Palin will self-immolate and bring down the ticket with her.
Because if she proves to be a popular choice who doesn’t screw up too badly, she
could be really, really dangerous in the years to come.
The emerging picture of the Journolist is that it served as a place where like-minded people who had great influence on how the media portrayed events were able to coordinate their story lines for the benefit of the Obama campaign.
We saw the media bias on the surface; the Journolistas helped frame that bias below the surface.
Update: Moe Lane points out that many of the e-mails centered on trying to analyze photos of Sarah Palin for signs of pregnancy, and bizarre speculation as to Sarah’s possible motives to lie.
Andrew Sullivan takes pleasure in the fact that the Journlistas engaged in the same speculation he did, even though they criticized him for it publicly:
Well, we now know, that, for some at least, I wasn’t crazy. I was just not disciplined enough to curtail what this blog airs in order to conform with what many Journo-listers believed were the interests of the Obama campaign. Any delusions that Journo-List was not, in part, a collusory venture to shape the media narrative in ways to benefit Obama, above and beyond ferreting out the truth about any and all candidates, must now be abandoned. Ezra Klein has already been caught in a bald-faced lie about his discretion in picking members; and the notion that this was simply a water-cooler collection of journalistic thoughts is also belied by the emails now published by the Daily Caller.