I never thought I'd say this--but thank God for Barbara Walters. I have been waiting patiently for the election's narrative to shift from pigs wearing lipstick to the issues, but I never thought that the usually grating hosts of The View would help supply it. On a day when Obama launched fresh, stronger ads taking on McCain, Sarah Palin's husband was subpoenaed because of "Trooper-gate" and Palin finally admitted that she had indeed once supported the "Bridge to Nowhere"--The View made the front page of the New York Times website. Why? Because unlike so many other mainstream journalists right now, Barbara Walters actually did her job yesterday.
John McCain appeared on her show Friday morning in an obvious atempt to pander to its audience of mostly middle aged, white women. According to recent polls, the choice of Palin as a running mate has helped McCain make serious inroads with that demographic and he must have assumed an easy, softball interview on The View would only continue to improve his fortunes. Especially since the show features one of his most unambiguously eager beaver supporters, right-winger Elisabeth Hasselbeck. But instead the show's only experienced journalist, Barbara Walters, flanked by entertainers Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg took John McCain to task on a host of real issues like Palin's experience (or lack thereof), abortion and earmarks. To say that McCain was floundering would be a tremendous understatement. Take this exchange and analysis from the New York Times for instance:
Ms. Walters also noted that Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin have said that her job will be to reform Washington. But, she pointed out, Mr. McCain has been in Congress for 22 years, the Republicans have been in the White House for eight years, so who, exactly, is Ms. Palin going to reform?
"The Democrats have been in charge of both houses for the last two years," Mr. McCain replied.
Pressed, he added: "The Republicans, the Democrat party, even the independents. She'll reform all of Washington."
"By doing what she did in Alaska."
Ah, the art of the follow up question! Charlie Gibson, are you taking notes? I love how McCain thinks that by just saying they're going to reform Washington over and over again that this is somehow a sufficient explanation of his policy. Also I guess what we're supposed to glean from his defense is that Washington was just fine until two years ago, when the big bad Democrats took over and everything went straight to hell. Oh, and this is the same Democratic Congress that McCain assures us he can work with in a more effective, bipartisan way than Barack Obama. Yeah, right. But I digress...
"First of all, earmark spending, which she vetoed a half a billion dollars worth in the state of Alaska."
But she also put earmarks in, Ms. Walters noted.
"Not as governor she didn't," Mr. McCain said.
But as governor, she did. As the Anchorage Daily News among others, has reported, in Ms. Palin's first year as governor, she requested 52 earmarks valued at $256 million, and this year, her office asked the Alaska delegation in Washington to help land 31 earmarks valued at $197 million. Also, Citizens Against Government Waste ranks Alaska as having received the "most pork per capita" of all states this year.
Terrific! Yet another McCain lie has been exposed. Now what? Will the Times or some other news outlet put McCain or at least one of his surrogates on the spot about it? At one point on The View, Joy Behar emotionally and honestly told McCain to his face that his both infamous "sex ed" ad and sexism accusations were lies. McCain could only defend them by saying "Actually, they're not lies" (Yes, they are) and by suggesting Obama's ads are just as bad (No, they're not). He then went on to make an absurd defense of negative ads that he continues to keep making--that if only Obama had met him in town halls like he'd proposed, he never would have implied he was a pedophile who doesn't care about his country and only wants to elevate his celebrity status. C'mon, you've got to be kidding me!
I do believe, especially in retrospect, that Obama should have agreed to the town halls--if only because it would have forced McCain to talk about the economy before the cameras and remind everyone how awful he is at it. But McCain shouldn't be given so much leeway, he ought to be held responsible when he blatantly lies. If only Behar or Walters could have said, "No actually Obama supported children being taught about how to avoid sex offenders," kind of like our own Ari Melber effectively did on MSNBC this week.
It's not enough to just report as the AP, The New York Times and many others have done that McCain is lying about the Bridge to Nowhere, earmarks, Obama's tax plan, Obama's legislative accomplishments, sex ed programs or lipstick on a pig. Someone needs to sit McCain down and make him tell the truth. Does he not know that Sarah Palin asked for and received millions of dollars worth of earmarks? Or is he just lying? It can only be one of these two possibilities and it doesn't make you a biased, flaming liberal if you force McCain to pick one.
Whoopi Goldberg has now more thoroughly vetted Sarah Palin than McCain ever did and Barbara Walters has at least gotten the ball rolling on putting McCain on the spot--and somehow, that makes me kind of sad, since their show is not exactly a place where people go for substantive hard news. For once, the mainstream media seems to be hip to the fact that the McCain's campaign is playing them for a bunch of saps, now they just need to do something about it. The other day I saw a CNN report where they were openly saying that the McCain campaign was pushing the pig "flap" to keep voters and the media from talking about the economy--I thought, wow, I totally agree with you--so why are you letting him get away with it?