The Edwards affair news drop, on the same Friday night as the Olympic opening ceremonies, seemed designed to prevent mass collateral damage, if not to Edwards, than to the greater Democratic Party. Thus we had the usual suspects coming out, as Lanny Davis did on Fox News, and lecturing the media on the 'fact' that although this is disappointing, it's still a private affair concerning a no-longer public figure.
In other words, it's none of our business. In addition to the official pushback in the media, Internet trolls have popped up all over the blogosphere, mimicking the same points in the comment section of articles and opinion pieces critical of L'Affaire Edwards. It's enough to suggest to some people that perhaps it's time to move on. And it conveniently draws the focus away from the most troubling aspect of this situation - the media, and how they dealt with this story from the very beginning.
It's clear, as Byron York of National Review predicted would happen, that media outlets are all coming forward and insisting that they were paying attention to this story, but that their stories weren't quite ready for publication yet.
The Los Angeles Times led with this meme in their paper on the 'morning after', 8/9/08: Mainstream media finally pounce on Edwards' affair. However, that particular article conveniently omits the embarrassing fact that it was the L.A. Times itself that ordered its bloggers, in a written memo in June, to self-censor and not mention the developing story with John Edwards -- as respected legal scholar Jonathan Turley, and journalists like Mickey Kaus, tried to point out to the rest of the nation at the time. And so it was with the rest of the mainstream media, as they either officially or unofficially declared this story "salacious gossip, therefore not worthy of us".
But as more and more about this story is revealed, it's truly astounding how much evidence apparently was within fairly easy reach of the media, starting last year (see Huffington Post: The Anatomy of the Edwards Affair). Certainly much more evidence than warranted the publication in February of an article alleging past (not current) mischief between John McCain and a female lobbyist, which the New York Times saw fit to place on their front page. After all, it seems as if getting to the bottom of at least part of this story was remarkably easy. All ABC News had to do was sit down with Edwards and ask him about it.
But the Democrats and the media seem to have agreed upon a common response when questions are asked about how and why no one came out with the story earlier, and why it now be promptly dropped. "It's a private matter, involving a person who is no longer either an elected official or a candidate." Therefore, it's none of our business.
But it is, in fact, all of our business - and not because of the affair angle. The best explanation so far of why this is the case has been offered by Taegan Goddard of Political Insider at CQPolitics.com: Why the Edwards Affair is Our Business. As Goddard is not known in political circles as a conservative activist, it seems that it would be smart for people across the political spectrum to pay close attention to what he says:
However, news of the affair is still very much a public matter -- and not just because Edwards was under consideration to be Sen. Barack Obama's running mate or possibly a future member of his cabinet. The issue most troubling is the timing of the affair and the intense efforts made to cover it up.
Edwards said the affair took place just as he began his presidential bid in late 2006 and he told his wife and family shortly thereafter. Nonetheless, he lied repeatedly to keep news of the affair private. Since Edwards wasn't lying to keep the news from his wife, his sole purpose in lying was to maintain his political viability.
More importantly, the mainstream media was complicit in attempting to maintain Edwards' political viability, by intentionally ignoring it for as long as they could. If it were up to the mainstream media, we never would have learned of facts surrounding this story. Think about that for a moment and ponder what the situation would be today had the primaries gone a bit differently, and either Edwards was the presumptive nominee or he had enough delegates to play power broker at the Democratic convention. Would Edwards have seen fit to fess up in public about the affair? Would the media still be ignoring the situation, claiming that it's just a load of National Enquirer garbage?
That the media engages in activities, or the suppression of certain facts, that promote and protect major Democrats is nothing new. But we're now in the middle of a Presidential campaign where such behavior by the media will determine, more so than ever before, who we elect as our next President. The media, by attempting to suppress L'Affaire Edwards, sought to affect us all by controlling the narrative that influences the way we vote.
Now consider the following report by Mike Allen, contained in the 8/10/08 edition of Playbook at Politico.com. It's about items that are contained in an upcoming article in The Atlantic magazine on the disintegration of Hillary Clinton's primary campaign:
--A Mark Penn memo on Obama highlighted what Penn called "a strong weakness for him - his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and values."
Funny, we haven't heard that particular line of criticism about Obama from the national media. But then again, all we know about Obama is what the media sees "fit to print".
This fall, we are presented with one candidate, John McCain, whose life has been wide open to America for several decades. We know nearly everything about him, good and bad. His opponent is Barack Obama, a man unknown in national circles until 2004, and a man who, after spending a grand total of 143 days in the U.S. Senate, decided he was ready to be President. Obama's positions on major issues change fortnightly. He is a media creation.
And a remarkably thin-skinned media creation, at that. When there are problems with Obama's media crafted image, such as troubling public revelations about Reverend Wright, the candidate first gets upset and attacks those who notice, then proceeds to refute what appear to be incontrovertible but uncomfortable facts. When provided proof of whatever he claims is not true (or misunderstood), he distances himself from his original position, and is promptly forgiven and comforted by the media. In Barack Obama's case, this has happened not just with people and relationships, but political positions as well.
Let's look at one recent example of the media attempting to define Obama in a way that protects him from legitimate criticism. In their June 21st 2008 edition, Newsweek ran a cover story about Obama and his faith, Finding His Faith, complete with a cover photo of Obama in prayerful repose with the caption "What He Believes" over his left shoulder.
The article spends much time describing Obama's transition to Christianity, but little time describing the church that he found Christ in and the brand of Christianity taught there. This is rather important, because we can deduce that Obama embraced that particular ideology, as he claims he remained an active weekly member there, becoming close personal friends with the pastor, for 20 years.
The closest that the article comes to acknowledging that there could be something more to this story is by admitting that the Trinity United Church of Christ is "controversial", and that something called "black liberation theology" influenced Obama's beliefs. But that's it - no further explanation is given.
In fact, black liberation theology, a creation of the 60s that's a marriage between the Liberation Theology and Black Power movements, is the foundation of the brand of religion taught at TUCC. If Obama worshiped there for 20 years, as he's said, I assume he shares in those beliefs.
Obama has used his religion more so than any Presidential candidate has before him, primarily as a way to reach out to other voters of faith. But a Republican would not have been allowed to do so without undergoing intense scrutiny in the media of his or her religion, as Mitt Romney endured this past winter. If voters had questions about Mormonism, they'd have even more questions about the tenets of black liberation theology, Obama's religion. That is, if the public ever found out about it.
Instead, we have a Newsweek cover article published five weeks before the Democratic convention, designed to be the final say in the public domain on Barack Obama and his beliefs. It's a "cover" story, in more ways than one. More importantly, it's another example of the media controlling the public narrative about a candidate it favors by intentionally hiding, or refusing to investigate, troublesome issues.
And so we are presented with the real lesson of L'Affaire Edwards. It's not the affair, it's how the media dealt with it - and why. If the media scrupulously avoided piercing the lies of John Edwards because they wanted to protect his political viability, then what are they doing with issues surrounding the candidate that they truly favor this election cycle - Barack Obama?
It's a legitimate question that should be repeatedly posed to the drive-by media. For a good part of the media, John Edwards was their "One" until last spring with the advent of Barack Obama. Why should we believe the media now when they claim that Obama is the latest "One"?