In response to BarbinMD's article on the front page calling for CBS News to release the rest of the footage from Katie Couric's trainwreck interview with Sarah Palin, I humbly disagree. Join me below the fold for a few reasons why CBS not using the footage is better for Barack Obama than having that footage released to the public at large.
Ever seen a really good horror movie? I'm not talking about the torture-porn horror movies released these days, but actual psychological horror films. A good example in terms of just a scene would be in Halloween when Dr. Loomis and the sheriff discover a wild dog that's been mauled. Rather than show the grotesque nature of it, the audience is given creative license to conjure up the most disgusting and disturbing of images. But let's pull back to examine Halloween as a whole, because it is by most standards one of the most successful psychological thrillers ever made. As the movie continues, we see Michael Meyer do something that makes us - the audience - frightened to an extent that few think possible: he waits. Rather than strike at his victim, we see him watch. We would see him bob in and out of the bakground, peering through windows and then vanishing into the stillness of the night, all the while hoping that the other shoe would drop rather than keep us in a state of heightened suspense and fear. Then when that most dreadful of times finally comes, we as the audience can breath a sigh of relief because at the least the fear and tension relax momentarily.
That's what this is for CBS News: a suspense builder. Right now, with what we know about Sarah Palin, everyone's losing their minds. Most people are scared of her and scared of who she is. If the narrative is, "we did the best we could to make her look good" and she's this awful, then there's a great feeling of "my god, how horrible was the rest of the interview?" And everyone starts imagining that mauled dog. Then, as she continues to be a presence on the campaign she becomes the interloper who just seems to linger in the background, scaring the living daylights out of everyone simply because of her presence. By not releasing this footage, we allow the American people to first conjure up the worst, most damning answers to the most pressing questions not asked by Couric and then let it fester.
The debate will be that sigh of relief, because she might do marginally decent. But then it's back to everyone fearing for their lives that McCain might croak and this intellectual and political featherweight will be Commander in Chief. And so everyone continues to fear for what might happen and that gets them so worried that there's no way they're gonna cast a vote for McCain-Palin. To release the footage would be like John Carpenter placing all of the death scenes in Halloween back-to-back: it would destroy the narrative by removing the tension and fear.
To move away from the horror movie analogy, were CBS News to release the footage, to quote CJ Cregg, "it'd be the punch Ali never gave Foreman when he was going down". By not releasing the rest of the footage, CBS not only makes the narrative about "this was her at her best" but they also lend themselves a certain graciousness by saying, "we tried to make her look good and we're not trying to do a hatchet job here". Releasing the footage would give ammo the McCain campaign that CBS News is schilling for Obama and that because of that the entire interview is bogus. It would give the McCain campaign a way to defuse a lot of the negative press and let the McCain campaign regain the spotlight in a way that could bring this thing back into play.
For those reasons, don't push the CBS News story. By not pushing it and letting this spin itself, we help Obama more than trying to add more insult to the injury. We'd be the thugs, not the concerned citizens.
There are those who're saying that CBS is neither Mohammed Ali nor are they John Carpenter and therefore ought to air the footage. Granted, yes, Katie Couric could not go one on one with George Foreman for the heavyweight title nor could she write a psychological thriller that will scare people for decades. That having been said, the issue at hand is that this footage's existence hasn't entered into the mainstream consciousness yet. Like it or not, CBS News releasing this footage could damage Barack Obama by moving the debate away from the economy and everything that he's winning on and move it back to the outrage that John McCain loves to use, except this time he's got a good way to attack the media and have it be legitimate.
If CBS takes the bait, they revive the narrative of the MSM picking on Sarah Palin and garner support going into the last month of the campaign. That's bad for Obama. Anything right now that's not about the economy and our future is not a debate in which the Obama campaign needs to participate. If the focus of the last month is Sarah Palin and how much the media sucks, then we stand a much bigger chance of losing than if we stay on message. Our message is working. John McCain is down in the polls. Why move the debate off of that? It seems to me that it'd be more beneficial to not take a swing at this one and instead let the story spin itself.
As for those who say that CBS' job is to report the news, I agree. But that's not what I'm arguing. What I'm saying is that in terms of the political side, we end up looking worse off. There's a political side to this footage and the fact of the matter is that we lose ground if it's released. Why throw them a life raft on which to push away the issues? There is truth that this might not be that big of an issue, but why even give them the opening to get back into this thing?