The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Memo From the National Affairs Desk: ‘Committing Acts of Journalism’

Posted on | March 7, 2012 | 23 Comments

Recording a press gaggle with Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley,
Steubenville, Ohio, Tuesday, March 6, 2012 (Photo by Chris Moody)

WASHINGTON, Pennsylvania
We got to our hotel here about 1:30 a.m., after a 35-mile drive from Steubenville, Ohio, scene of last night’s victory celebration for The Next President of the United States, Rick Santorum.

My 13-year-old son Jefferson accompanied me on this trip, wearing a T-shirt — “Bloggers Save the World Tonight,” which I brought home from the CPAC Blog Bash — underneath his Alabama Crimson Tide hooded sweatshirt. On the way from Steubenville, we went through the drive-thru at a McDonald’s which for some reason was out of their regular hamburger patties, and so we ordered the Angus Mushroom & Swiss burgers with two large orders of fries and two large sweet teas.

Jefferson pronounced his Angus Mushroom & Swiss “the best burger ever.” He has a habit of speaking emphatically.

I don’t know where he got that.

He’s pretty handy as an editorial assistant, the main duties of which are to pack and unpack my laptop, set it up and log in online wherever we are. I use a separate full-size keyboard and mouse with my laptop, mainly because I can’t stand the cramped feeling of typing on the laptop keyboard, where accidentally touching the thumbpad causes the cursor to skip around in annoying ways. Also, I type so hard — having learned on a manual typewriter — that I have a tendency to wear out keyboards pretty quickly. A replacement keyboard can be had for about $10 at Wal-Mart, and so I use that, but the hassle of packing and unpacking the extra gear is a task I’m happy to foist off on my 13-year-old son, who doesn’t mind being paid in cheeseburgers.

Jefferson can also be tasked to other duties. Last night, after my interview with Santorum strategist John Brabender, I downloaded the audio and assigned Jefferson to transcribe it while I made a run for supplies. (There weren’t enough electrical outlets at the media table, so I drove to Family Dollar and spent $9 on an 8-outlet power strip, and also bought a $1 pack of gum as “bonus pay” for my editorial assistant.)

He got about 250 words of the audio transcribed while I was gone, and I finished it up. When it was time for The Next President of the United States to give his Super Tuesday victory speech, I handed Jefferson the pink camera and told him to go get video clips.

“Work your way up as far to the front as you can get,” I told him.

“Yeah, I know — be aggressive,” he answered, having been taught well in previous campaign excursions. Jefferson also knows my method for videoing speeches: Try to get brief clips, using the crowd’s applause as the starting and stopping points of each clip. Nobody’s got time to watch a whole 30-minute speech online, and what you’re trying to do is to capture a few key lines as a sample. Also, the video can be used as a sort of digital notebook. So here’s one of the clips Jefferson shot:

My apologies for anyone experiencing motion sickness. Gotta talk to the kid about holding the camera steady. Of course, I’m sometimes guilty of that myself. Chris Moody of Yahoo News got the photo at the top of the post and sent it with this Twitter note:

Here’s @rsmccain and his pink camera committing acts of journalism

The resulting video of Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley talking to a press gaggle in Steubenville:

This was just a “notebook” video, and I hadn’t really planned to upload it until I saw Moody’s Tweet. But I think it’s helpful to give readers a sense of how “acts of journalism” are committed on the campaign trail. There were more than 50 reporters at last night’s Santorum event, all of them hunting for The Big Scoop, but it’s hard to get an exclusive in the midst of a massive media scrum like that.

So everybody puts together their stories from the various bits and pieces, and you’ll see Gidley and/or Brabender quoted in several stories today, including Chris Moody’s article at Yahoo News:

“It’s time to get serious,” Santorum’s chief strategist John Brabender told reporters Tuesday night in Steubenville, Ohio. “If you’re a conservative … rally behind Rick Santorum, let’s take on Mitt Romney. Let’s make this mano to mano and see: Do we want a moderate representing us who the establishment wants or do we want an outsider conservative tea party candidate?” . . .
“There’s a lot of states that are in already where they voted for somebody like Newt Gingrich,” Brabender said. “Well those aren’t necessarily binding delegates, and they can still vote for Rick Santorum. If conservatives and tea party supporters unite behind Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney will not be the nominee.”

Judging from the rage reaction I unwittingly ignited this morning, I think Newt’s supporters will be as insulted by Brabender’s comments as Santorum’s supporters were back in January, when Newt kept suggesting that Santorum should drop out and rally behind Gingrich.

So the pointless internecine hatefest among conservatives will continue, while Romney whistles his way toward the GOP nomination with maybe 40% of the total Republican primary vote.

For this, I blame Rick Perry.

(When confronted with zany irrationality, it is important never to offer a gentle or sensible response, as that would only serve to encourage the zanies in their bizarre delusions.)

What must be avoided, when you are a lone journalist amid the scrambling campaign press mob, is the irrational idea that you are going to write The Definitive Account of the Event. If you want that kind of assignment, you should apply for a job at the New York Times, but while you’re waiting to hear back from them — don’t try calling the Human Resources Office, you’ll only irritate them — you just want to do the best you can with what you’ve got and not get too bummed out by the inevitable fact that you won’t produce The Definitive Account.

For example, until five minutes ago, I had forgotten to include anything about the delegate count from yesterday’s events:

Romney ………….. 216
Santorum …………. 89
Gingrich …………… 72
Paul …………………. 22

Or at least, that’s the count that Karl Rove gave on Fox News this morning, and who am I to dispute Karl Rove’s math? Anyway . . .

The guys who write front-page stories for the New York Times have an army of editors and assistants who can clean up their typos, check the facts, and add anything they forgot to include. Unless and until you have those resources, however, you shouldn’t sweat the load about whatever the shortcomings of your output may be.

Of course, for all we know, the New York Times published this “news analysis” exactly as Jeff Zeleny filed it:

Mitt Romney won the delegates, but not necessarily the argument.
His quest to win the Republican presidential nomination has always resembled a detailed, methodical business plan. Mr. Romney, who spent much of his life fixing troubled corporations, must now decide whether steps are necessary to repair his lethargic candidacy.
Mr. Romney had hoped that a string of Super Tuesday victories in contests from Vermont to Alaska would effectively bring the Republican race to a close.
But he found himself winning over Rick Santorum by only the slimmest of margins with almost all the votes counted in Ohio, the most coveted primary of the night, while losing other contests across the South. . . .

The Pulitzer Prize Committee must be weeping tears of joy today: “At last! We have an undisputed winner!” They probably didn’t even bother with my own subpar offering from Steubenville:

Rick Santorum kept his GOP presidential campaign alive on Super Tuesday, and as he took the stage inside a high school gymnasium here, he was smiling like a winner. He had already been declared the victor in Tennessee and Oklahoma, and would add another win in the North Dakota caucuses later in the evening. When he gave his speech shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, the latest results showed Santorum leading in the crucial battleground of Ohio.
“We’ve won races all over this country against the odds,” Santorum told his cheering supporters. “When they thought, ‘Oh, OK, he’s finally finished,’ we keep coming back.”
Indeed, after last week’s tough loss in the Michigan primary, it appeared that Santorum might be on the verge of being “finally finished,” but the former Pennsylvania senator fought back to re-establish himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.
“We need a person running against President Obama who is right on the issues and truthful with the American public,” Santorum told the crowd in Steubenville, a gritty blue-collar city across the Ohio River from West Virginia. “We need a fighter, someone who grew up in communities like this.” . . .

You can read the rest of my American Spectator column and decide for yourself how it compares to Zeleny’s Pulitzer winner.

Meanwhile, I’ll be on the road back home to Maryland, where I’ve got to return this rented Toyota today and then take a shower. Neither Jefferson nor I brought a change of clothes with us, as we hadn’t planned an overnight trip. But a generous tip-jar hitter had some points on his Marriott Rewards account and offered to put us up in a hotel here in Washington, Pa., so we slept in our clothes. I got up about 8:30 a.m. and came down to grab the complimentary breakfast, but my 13-year-old editorial assistant is a growing teenager who needs his rest, so I let him sleep until noon:

You’ll notice that Jefferson has been reading my tattered old copy of Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72. I’ve advised him to avoid a journalism career, but he’s enjoying the Gonzo account  of the 1972 campaign while planning his own bid for the White House in 2048. This is a lofty ambition, but it certainly won’t hurt his political career to be the son of the first U.S. Ambassador to Vanuatu.

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23 Responses to “Memo From the National Affairs Desk: ‘Committing Acts of Journalism’”

  1. richard mcenroe
    March 7th, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

    Och and now I’m havin’ me a braw desire to fetch a great kick to some lallan Sassenach the noo…

  2. Adjoran
    March 7th, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

    I just don’t buy the idea that Gingrich delegates will be any more faithless than any other delegates – and most of them, if not all, ARE in fact committed for the 1st ballot at least.  So the plea to them to turn traitor on their candidate smacks of desperation.

    Which is okay, because desperation is indeed in order for Santorum.  A narrow loss in Ohio is still a loss, and makes a huge difference in his chances going forward.  To deny this is to deny how big a win would have been for him.  It matters, a lot.

    He cannot beat Romney in a three-man race (the Paul delegates will be there one way or the other, but not enough to affect anything).  We see Romney already getting a majority of the delegates from yesterday – even with 40% of the vote on average.  All Santorum can do in this scenario is stretch it out; he cannot win.  If he doesn’t recognize this immediately, it’s over.  He needs a two-man race with Romney, and he needs it now.

    The ONLY chance is to force Newt out of the race by beating him in Alabama and Mississippi, leaving him no possible path to the nomination.  If that doesn’t force Newt to at least suspend his campaign, or if Santorum can’t beat him, the race is effectively over and only the exact date remains to be determined.

  3. Mike Rogers
    March 7th, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

    Let us not forget the other Jefferson (WJC), who parlayed a little over 40% into a stain on the nation’s character. For this I blame the squeaky Texan (no, not Ron Paul, the other RP).

  4. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    March 7th, 2012 @ 3:32 pm
  5. rosalie
    March 7th, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    No wonder Jefferson can’t get out of bed, you’re working him to the bone.

  6. TR
    March 7th, 2012 @ 4:16 pm

    You missed (as you sometimes do) one crucial critical piece on Santorum, “Why Rick wont Quit”

    Forget the source, this is a man in the middle of an addiction.  Power, Glory, Ego, Pride and the rectification of his loss that was beyond reason (19%) in the last race.  Will the illusion of the nomination continue to captivate him and his blind mice?

    I saw his good looking family at CPAC 2012.  The poor kids have to assume the pose and act like the the Trapp Family Singers for hundreds of political rallies.  How pathetic they are and I felt sorry for the kids having to act happy while Rick goes on and on and on.  Hey Ricky-boy leave the human props home.  You win or lose but taking the family on this magic carpet ride for months on end, is not gonna help.

    Same thing for this arm twisting of Newt by the Rickyboy club.  Its laughable.  “If only they held back their #2 man we might win.”  We could be “The Mitt Alternative”  Rick: I coudda been a contender…   What a joke!  The voters want a winner not an alternative. 

    Can you imagine any competition where the 2nd contender says to the 3rd, “Hey buddie, lay down in the 5th round so I can win, ok?”  Its like bad movie with a sad ending that Bogart was in years ago, called “The harder They Fall”.   This is the vaunted “consistent conservative” Ricky boy and his side kick Laura Ingraham (and you know Laura is for Mitt anyway but she does like meddling for fun and ratings)

    Anyone who thinks they can twist Newt hasn’t really learned anything in the last 20-25 years.   This, by itself reveals the sorry state of Rick’s campaign and his thinking.  Newt has Perry, your man Cain, the Palins and the Fred.  Ricky boy has the Other McCain.  Im sticking with the cheerful tortoise.  Suits me fine.

    I would pick Mitt over Rick anyway, at least Mitt thinks before he blithers on about throwing up after JFK’s speeches.

  7. Steve in TN
    March 7th, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

    Romney had a “narrow” victory in Ohio?  Really?  In what contest is 35-21 NOT a solid victory?  I remember my pro football team winning a Super Bowl by a similar number (37-24) and it being called a blowout.

    In any world other than the spin cycle that is the media and the right blogosphere, Romney had a crushing victory yesterday.

  8. Leslie Eastman
    March 7th, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

    I AM ANDREW BREIBART!A Hollywood writer tells of his experiences in the entertainment-socialism complex in the wake of Breitbart’s loss.

  9. Mike Rogers
    March 7th, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

    Hmmm, so let’s see here. Maybe we should translate “Mr. Romney, who spent much of his life fixing troubled corporations, must now decide whether steps are necessary to repair his lethargic candidacy.”
    “Mr. Romney, who spent much of his life fixing troubled corporations, must now decide what steps are necessary to repair Obama’s lethargic candidacy.”

  10. TR
    March 7th, 2012 @ 5:16 pm

    The closest I was to Andrew Breitbart personally, was 20 feet away at the Marriott
    bar, but I was shaken by his passing and I felt I knew him in a way
    much different than that 20 foot distance. 

    Things are changing.  I can see
    it and feel it.  That piece by Daniel Knauf was inspiring. 

    Breitbart may have been Patton for us (as Pamela Geller has alluded) but
    I think the new conservative fleet has been launched and we are in
    fact, an armada.

  11. Adjoran
    March 7th, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

     He’s telling the truth.   I know the Gingrich people have a problem with that.

  12. smitty
    March 7th, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

    Oh, you mean delegates, not votes.
    Understand, this is all about theater, mate.

  13. richard mcenroe
    March 7th, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

     That should have been in the bagpipe thread but WTH works here too…

  14. richard mcenroe
    March 7th, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

     We don’t need to twist Newt.  He’ll quit on his own in a huff soon enough.

  15. Adjoran
    March 7th, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

     No, it’s about theater when it suits Santorum’s cause for it to be about theater, and about delegates when that looks better for Santorum – at least around here. 

  16. Quartermaster
    March 7th, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

    No it’s about theater period. It makes no difference what Santorum or Mittens think. The vote totals matter when it comes to perception, and Mitten’s victory was a very thin victory.

    In November the votes are what will count.

  17. Adjoran
    March 7th, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

     Or go on a cruise.  Or get caught bending over the help again, and have to make a quick run to Tiffany’s.

  18. Adjoran
    March 7th, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

     Yes, the votes will count – BUT a “thin victory” still wins all the Electoral Votes in every state except Maine and Nebraska.

  19. SDN
    March 8th, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    Adjoran, does your selective memory include how gas prices dropped in 2008 right after President Bush announced he was removing the lease / exploration restrictions on various areas? 

    If O! were to somehow  have a brain installation tomorrow and announce that the de facto ban on Gulf drilling were permanently reversed and order his Energy Secretary to approve all outstanding lease applications in 2 weeks, the price would drop like a rock.

    Either you don’t understand history and economics, or you’re as dishonest as your candidate.

  20. ThePaganTemple
    March 8th, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    Unfortunately for Mitt, he won’t have the monetary advantage he has over Santorum and Gingrich. 

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