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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An evenhanded look at reporting on this Presidential campaign.

Stuart Taylor of the National Journal is one of the great straight-shooters in the world of political and legal commentary. He's fairly liberal but never lets political precommitments short-circuit the truth. He scores a direct hit here: Campaign Lies, Media Double Standards.

Some who have been admirers of John McCain think that the war hero has debased himself by using gross distortions to trash Barack Obama and his record. Others see the media fury over McCain's campaign ads as more evidence of a double standard driven by liberal bias at most major news organizations.

Both are right. Although each candidate is responsible for many distortions -- hardly a novelty -- McCain has lately been leading the race to the bottom. (Since the print version of this column went to press, Obama may have pulled even with McCain in the race to the bottom, or even ahead of him, by launching a scurrilously dishonest new Spanish-language TV ad. It misleadingly portrays McCain "and his Republican friends" as anti-immigrant bigots who say "lies just to get our vote." It also associates McCain with deceptively out-of-context quotes by Rush Limbaugh -- no friend of McCain's -- about "stupid and unskilled Mexicans." Jake Tapper of ABC News provides details.)

At the same time, many in the media have been one-sided, sometimes adding to Obama's distortions rather than acting as impartial reporters of fact and referees of the mud fights.

We still have many great journalists, but I no longer trust the major newspapers or television networks to provide consistently accurate and fair reporting and analysis of all the charges and countercharges. This in an era when the noise produced by highly partisan TV hosts and blogs creates a crying need for at least one newspaper that we can count on to play it straight.

Read the whole thing.

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