A Tale of Two Vettings

In response to Stanley Kurtz’s detailed story on Barack Obama’s role in working with unrepentant terrorist and left-wing radical Bill Ayers to arrange the financing for a project that “poured more than $100 million into the hands of community organizers and radical education activists” under Ayers’ dubious theory of treating left-wing political activism as “education” (a story I discussed at length here), Marc Aimbinder wants more details:

What “radical” ideas did Obama and Bill Ayres come up with to foist on the Chicago school system?What specific projects — “radical” projects — did Obama work on with Ayres? Is there evidence that they collaborated and schemed to … do anything “radical” together? Ever?

These are fair enough factual questions, although I think in this case Kurtz has already laid out a powerful case as it is that (1) Ayers is not a person who should be trusted to design this sort of project, (2) Ayers’ theoretical approach to education pretty much guaranteed that he’d be pusing left-wing politics, and (3) the people who got the money were left-wing groups whose agendas most Americans would find to be outside the political mainstream.

But the mindset in Aimbinder asking them is deeply revealing of the contrast between how the media has approached the vetting of Sen. Obama and the vetting of Gov. Palin.Now, as reporters and commentators go, Aimbinder is one of the more fair-minded ones, but he’s basically saying out loud here what the media has long been saying with its silence on many of the key aspects of Obama’s background. The subtext of his questions is that the burden is on Kurtz and Kurtz alone, as a conservative journalist/pundit, to come up with the answers to these questions before the Ayers story merits anybody’s attention.

Because Aimbinder’s a reporter. If he wants answers, he can go get them himself.

As I noted earlier today and as readers of the conservative blogosphere know well, Kurtz has been rowing upstream for months now against a concerted effort by the Chicago machine to stonewall discovery of Obama’s and Ayers’ roles in the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Reporters like Aimbinder and mainstream media outlets could have launched their own investigations; they could have put a daily drumbeat of pressure on Obama and his allies to release the records so we could have more answers to those questions. They didn’t; instead, they sit back and wait for conservatives to deliver them a fully developed story in all imaginable detail, and shoot the messenger when the stonewall leaves gaps in the story.

Contrast this to the approach taken repeatedly to stories about Palin, as I showed in the case of her views on evolution, sex education, and book banning, or as Jim Geraghty now details here and here regarding payment for rape kits – the media is all too happy to repeat the top-line, 30-second-viral-ad charge against Palin, and then move on before there is time for the facts to come out. A vast number of these have been debunked (another prominent example was the false claim that she’d belonged to the Alaska Independence Party), yet they keep on coming too fast for the media to be bothered sifting the truth out; as long as somebody’s willing to say it, it gets dumped into the national bloodstream. The level of detail and rigor required before stories about Obama can get printed or investigated gets stood on its head – report after report goes straight to the most damaging possible conclusion, and leaves it to the conservative media to get the facts relevant to stories the mainstream media’s already reported. Charles Martin explains where the lefty blogs then pick this up. (H/T). The media only seems to take this approach to stories about Obama when it comes to flatly declaring McCain ads about him untrue without bothering to review the facts.

With Obama, the media bemoans the wickedness of spreading false stories about him. With Palin, the media has as often as not been the source.

And what do we get instead on Obama from leading organs like the New York Times? Yuval Levin has a hilarious post listing some of the Times articles the Obama/Times people point to as examples of the hard-hitting reportage the NYT has done on Obama:

-In Law School, Obama Found Political Voice [New York Times, 1/28/07]-Charisma and a Search for Self In Obama’s Hawaii Childhood [New York Times, 3/17/07]-After 2000 Loss, Obama Built Donor Network From Roots Up [New York Times, 4/3/07]-In Illinois, Obama Proved Pragmatic and Shrewd. [New York Times, 7/30/07]-Loyal Network Backs Obama After His Help. [New York Times, 10/1/07]-Obama Looks to Lessons From Chicago in His National Education Plan [New York Times, 9/10/08]

Will the mainstream media report stories that are bad news for Sen. Obama? Of course they will, but they won’t do the legwork unless compelled to do so by someone handing over a finished story on a silver platter. Just imagine how different the coverage of Gov. Palin would be if the same approach was taken to her.

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