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we have many new guests on Kos. The election season is beginning to crank up. For all the new hands working the various campaigns let us remind you of the problem with the NYT. Be careful in your gleeful smackdowns for they shall reverberate and smack ye down also.

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The Gospel according to Somersby of the Daily Howler:

TURNING US RUBES AGAINST EDWARDS: Does mainstream press coverage change peoples’ votes? On Friday, the New York Times offered a slippery, front-page report suggesting (for the three millionth time) that there has to be something wrong with a rich man (John Edwards) who would campaign against poverty.

This story is designed to make progressives squabble. It does not originate from any source in the Democratic party.  It's what the NYT does to us. They've done it for years...

Matt Yglesias offered a post about the piece, and a reader named Jennifer offered three comments, saying how angry she was about Edwards’ misconduct. Here are her first two posts:

JENNIFER, FIRST COMMENT: The misuse of a supposedly charitable foundation is a terrible thing, and the misuse of a charity by a presidential candidate means I can no longer support the candidate.
Here is a person who supposedly cares for others, showing no care at all other than to be president. This is a problem that cannot be "addressed." The possibility of John Edwards being president or vice president has sadly ended.

JENNIFER, SECOND COMMENT: How can misuse of funds raised for an anti-poverty foundation ever be addressed by a candidate who is forever telling us of concern for poverty? I was heartsick at this story, but am simply mad now.

That is the damage done. Maybe she's sincere. That is a shame because the NYT just drove a wedge between an engaged person and a great candidate.

Of course, some readers can see right through these posts; they know that "Jennifer" is really the Clinton campaign, engaging in typical mobster behavior. (More on that impulse below.) For ourselves, we’ll take Jennifer’s posts at face value. Many people might have had this reaction to the slippery news report which appeared on the Times’ front page. Why "slippery?" Two subsequent posters replied to Jennifer, and each made valuable points. First, this comment by jpe:
COMMENTER JPE: Please, do tell how funds were misused. I'm dying to know. Please take into consideration that, contra the Times article, the purpose of the charity wasn't to fight poverty, but to come up with solutions to America's problems here and abroad. That's straight off their federal filing.

I'm sure you'll have a well-thought out answer that doesn't rely solely on the Times piece.

Of course we know it wont help...

In fact, jpe himself had erred by describing the Edwards org as a "charity." Commenter BruceMcF explained:
COMMENTER BRUCEMCF: Either the reporter is confused, or is trying to confuse you, Jennifer. The story does not focus on the charity CPO Foundation, which raised the money to run College for Everyone in a county in North Carolina, and to bring college student volunteers for spring break working in New Orleans.

It focuses on the Center for Progress and Opportunity itself, and contributions to the CPO were not tax exempt because it was not a charity. The CPO is a "social welfare" organization, which is free to engage in lobbying and public education, but can only promote a political candidate to its members. Many organizations are set up like that—AARP is an example...

This is an attack that can be leveled at any candidate with a worthy charity associated with them. Any one of our own could be smeared this way.

The article stressed the tax-exempt status of a not-for-profit corporation—if it had stressed [the fact that] contributions were taxable, that would make it clearer that it was not talking about the charity.
We agree; the article played it fast and slick with the notion that the CPO was a "charity." Reporter Leslie Wayne did mention, in passing, that contributions to the CPO were not tax-exempt. But this basic point was glossed in every other part of the report. And oh yes: We weren’t told that Edwards has done nothing wrong until the next-to-last paragraph! By that time, many readers—many readers like Jennifer—may have stopped reading, filled with disgust.

And that is the problem. If the NYT is allowed to keep this up the Party loses. Because they will systematically take out every candidate we have put up.

As BruceMcF says, it’s possible that the Times reporter was simply confused or sloppy. Over the years, though, we have become less charitable ourselves when it comes to matters like this; we have come to see that this kind of "confusion" is part of the slick and slippery culture at our biggest newspapers. People like Wayne tend to play fast and slick with our most important political figures. Well-intentioned people like Jennifer come along and get taken—get played for rubes.

DONT BE RUBES! The media is always spinning a story. They don't stop. The Edwards coverage fits right into the narrative that brough Gore down. it will be repeated for Hilary and Obama.

We’ll take a guess: In those comments by Jennifer, you see a decent, well-intentioned person being turned away from a major candidate because of a slippery piece of "reporting." But then, this "confused" treatment of Big Dem hopefuls started with Jeff Gerth’s front-page reporting about Whitewater, way back in 1992. It has been going on for the past fifteen years—and yes, it has transformed our politics. In 1999, we learned on the front page of the Times that Al Gore’s brilliant Earth in the Balance was "filled with loony asides...that may help explain his curious affinity with his feminist consultant, Naomi Wolf." But who knows? Maybe Michiko Kakutani was just "confused" when she wrote that, too.

We mut remain clear headed about all these issues because we face institutions that are designed to confuse and conceal.

Meanwhile, it’s sad to see how many commenters, here and elsewhere, immediately said that some Dem campaign must have slipped this story to Wayne. Alas! The Times has been trashing Big Dems for the past fifteen years—and we libs still can’t make out the pattern! What will it takes before we rubes start to see the real shape of our lives?

I dunno Somerby. I'm plum out of ideas.

Originally posted to Salo on Mon Jun 25, 2007 at 03:34 PM PDT.

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