On the Vetting (and Other Thoughts)

Vetting, media bias, and a passing swipe at the war on terror.

Weigel:

Here’s the issue: the “Obama wasn’t vetted” outrage doesn’t have any quantitative, factual proof. If you’re angry that Obama won in 2008, it sure feels like the media went too easy on him. It sure feels like the press was so interested in the story of the First Black President that it ignored stories that reflected poorly on him.

Feeling isn’t proving.

Indeed.

Really, the whole “vetting” business (which came up in a Politico piece this week) is just so silly (I can think of no better word at the moment).

I think that OTB commenter John Persona had it right in a comment thread a while back when he noted:

The whole thing is sad, of course, but particularly when you view it as a reaction to something that happened 3-4 years ago. The charge that Sarah Palin was not vetted has now registered with the emotional right, but rather than process it in any rational way, they just say “we vet you back!”

Perhaps those who are concerned with this topic could just invest in t-shirts with “We Vet you Back!” on them so that we can all be reminded of their outrage, but just leave it at that.

Interestingly, on the topic of positive/negative media coverage, John Sides went and got all social sciencey and decided to look at actual data.

He found:

In summary:

What this shows is that every point in the past 10 months, Obama has received more negative coverage than positive coverage.  The tone of Romney coverage has shifted depending on primary campaign events, but, as of the end of April, positive coverage still outweighed negative coverage.  At that point, Romney received about as much positive coverage as Obama received negative coverage.

And really, this probably should not be too much of a surprise, since Obama is the president in office and therefore  has to take responsibility for ongoing problems, of which there are many.

Speaking of which, one problem that Connor Friedersdorf thinks needs more attention:  Hey Voters: The Kill List Is What Matters

So to sum up, one candidate is portrayed, accurately, as being extremely rich, with a wife who has rich-person leisure-time pursuits; and the other candidate is portrayed, accurately, as someone whose secretive policies have wrought dead children, broken promises, violated due process rights, and possibly created more terrorists. And our political culture in the United States is so blinkered that the story about the rich candidate whose wife rides horses is regarded, by conservatives and savvy Politico journalists, as the one that is noteworthy for being negative; whereas the story about the Orwellian turn in the White House doesn’t even merit mention.

Friedersdorf concludes: “In the War on Terror, America is losing its moral perspective.”

I would quibble there:  as I am not sure that on this topic we ever had all that much in the way of moral perspective to begin with.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    This is just another example the increasing tribalization of the US.

  2. Gustopher says:

    I would love for someone to ask Romney about the Kill List, drone attacks, etc.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think I would believe him if he said that this wouldn’t continue under a Romney presidency, but that’s because he lies, lies, lies at every opportunity, except when he simply misleads.

    But, whether I believe him or not, it’s an important question that should be asked.

    Another question: is the Kill List an impeachable offense?

  3. Woody says:

    Thing is, every one of my Fox friends will tell me with complete sincerity that every outlet but Fox is completely in the bag for Obama.

    To make things even more Dada, every single one will tell me (again, with complete sincerity) that they also watch CNN “to get the liberal perspective.”

    Yeah . . . Beck worked there. Loesch works there. Erick (Son of Erick™ works there). Liberal.

    Hell, I’d love it if there was any real coverage of President Gets to Name Enemies Marked for Death. Unfortunately, Halperin and VandeHei probably couldn’t turn that into a hearty bon mot at the next Cokie party.

  4. Herb says:

    I admire Friedersdorf’s concerns about civil liberties, the drones, and all the other War on Terrror-ish activities, but I think two things should be noted:

    A) I don’t think it’s possible to criticize Obama on these matters without acknowledging that the way Bush ran the War on Terror was twice as bad for civil liberties and half as effective.

    B) The Republican alternative, whether it was McCain in 08 or Romney in 12, would be more Bush-like than Obama-like.

    That’s not to say that Obama should be free from all foreign-policy related criticisms. I just think it should be done with the awareness that, for better or worse, he’s the best we got.

    On the vetting thing, I think one of the reasons certain folks on the right think the president wasn’t vetted was because their previous ideas of “vetting” had to do with birth certificates and flag pins. If they had bothered to vet with integrity and a degree of seriousness back then, they might not feel this task has yet to be done.

  5. Phillip says:

    If they had bothered to vet with integrity

    If anyone bothered to do anything with integrity anymore I would revisit my decision to not have children. Far, far too many people willing to sell out on this overpopulated marble.

  6. TonyW says:

    I recall a pretty nasty primary back in ’08 with Mrs. Clinton

  7. Ben Wolf says:

    I would quibble there:  as I am not sure that on this topic we ever had all that much in the way of moral perspective to begin with.

    After eleven years of war this is the point I’ve arrived at too. It sucks, but there it is.

  8. Thanks for the H/T. T Shirts are a good idea.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I would quibble there: as I am not sure that on this topic we ever had all that much in the way of moral perspective to begin with.

    We lost what little moral perspective we had left on a certain September day in 2001.

  10. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Herb: A) I don’t think it’s possible to criticize Obama on these matters without acknowledging that the way Bush ran the War on Terror was twice as bad for civil liberties and half as effective.

    Under Obama, we have a “take no prisoners” rule and a “summary execution for American citizens not even indicted” policy. And that is in addition to a continuation of most of Bush’s policies.

    Oh, and we just outed a British agent inside Al Qaeda for a cheap Obama campaign stunt.

    You wanna reconsider that last statement?

  11. mattb says:

    Staying with the “Vetting” part of the discussion for a moment, this is an excellent post. I need to go through my back files and find the studies run in the wake of the 2008 race on media coverage and vetting.

    The long story short, it provided an excellent analysis of (a) how much converage there was about vetting issues (like Rev Wright), (b) how much of it was negative vs. positive, and (c) how did it compare to the amount of attention that McCain was receiving during that same period.

    Cutting to the punch line, the research work (including one study done by a conservative leaning organization) clearly showed that, for example with Rev Wright, the topic (a) got a significant amount of media attention — more media impressions than McCain was getting at the time and (b) the coverage skewed negative (some, if not the most, negative coverage Obama received).

    As with so many of these sorts of issues, when the opposition says that X wasn’t vetted, chances are that in fact the record shows that the individual was vetted and the public decided that they didn’t care. And it’s the “not caring” part that the people in question really object to, because they (on the other hand) do care and can’t imagine why people don’t feel the same way.

  12. Herb says:

    @Jenos Idanian: “

    Under Obama, we have a “take no prisoners” rule and a “summary execution for American citizens not even indicted” policy. And that is in addition to a continuation of most of Bush’s policies.

    Oh, and we just outed a British agent inside Al Qaeda for a cheap Obama campaign stunt. “

    Under Obama, there have indeed been many blunders, but none as big as the invasion of Iraq.

    And not to belabor the point, but the “American citizens” stuff is wearing thin. We’re talking about one dude, a dude who was technically a citizen, but also an ex-pat actively participating in Al Qaeda’s war against us. I’m not comfortable saying that his nominal citizenship trumps his enemy status. I think if you’re doing terrorist stuff in the United States, then you should expect an indictment. If you’re doing terrorist stuff in what you think is a friendly host country…watch for drones.