When John McCain and Barack Obama started running for president in 2007, they were two of the most universally liked and respected politicians in America — men who even members of the opposite party saw as decent, unifying characters — and neither of them inspired much loathing.
Well, that was then. Now, as the campaign enters its last week, partisans have deluged reporters with e-mails and vented on blogs about why the media is suppressing stories about one candidate or the other. The unwritten Obama stories supposedly concern his Americanness: They raise doubts about his birth, his citizenship and his patriotism. The un-penned anti-McCain stories go to the quality he’s made central to his career: honor. They suggest he’s used foul language to his wife and that his military record isn’t what it seems.
So why hasn’t Politico and the rest of the press reported on these stories? Well, some of them we’re working on. But in many other cases, the stories were debunked, or there simply was no evidence for the claims.
These should be distinguished from partisan reporting that partisans wish had more political bite: National Review’s attacks on the educational philosophy behind the Annenberg Challenge, for instance, or The Nation’s reporting on McCain’s ties to a Russian oligarch. The demands that the Los Angeles Times release a video that it wrote about several months ago also come in a different category, though the underlying theory — that the Times missed, or concealed, some explosive element when it broke the story of the tape — is driven by some of the same longing for political kryptonite.
And the e-mails keep coming in, under headings such as: “Please research this;” “A tip for you,” and “WHY ISN’T POLITICO COVERING THIS STORY???”
Obama is the subject of a far greater volume of these e-mails — as many as 20-to-1 concern the Democratic nominee, said Brooks Jackson, the director of the nonpartisan Annenberg Political Fact Check.