Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Of Time and the P-word

Journalistic ethics — already under fire in this already overheated presidential campaign year — took another hit yesterday. The controversies arising from statements in previous months made by figures at MSNBC — "Hardball" host Chris Matthews and, most recently, David Shuster (for his “pimped-out” comment about Chelsea Clinton working on behalf of her mother’s campaign) were bad enough.

Now Time magazine has stepped into the bad-taste derby. Mark Halperin, the mag’s senior political analyst and editor at large, was interviewed on Barbara Walters’ show on Sirius Radio. Speculating on whether former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards would endorse Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton for president, Halperin had the following on-air exchange with the show’s co-host, Bill Geddie:

HALPERIN: If he picks Obama, the message is: Clinton doesn't represent change. If he picks Clinton, the message is, Obama is not ready.

GEDDIE: Haven't we heard all along that he doesn't like her, haven't we heard this?

HALPERIN: Yes, that's right. And I can tell you, he's really skeptical of her ability to be the kind of president he wants. But, he kinda thinks Obama is … he thinks Obama is kind of a pussy. He has real questions about Obama's toughness, his readiness for the office.

Halperin apologized fast, not waiting for blowback from anybody; you can find his 37-word mea culpa on Halperin’s page on the Time Web site, assuming it hasn’t been taken down in the meantime.

It’s just what the press, already under fire, doesn’t need. There’ve been no comments (yet anyway) from Halperin’s handlers at Time, or from Edwards or Clinton, or from Obama.

But we’ve got to think the person who couldn’t care less about such a comment is Obama himself. With a streak of eight wins in eight primaries and caucuses — and a Grammy award for the spoken-word version of his book “The Audacity of Hope” under his belt — he’s got nothing to prove to anyone.

As for Edwards, whether he used the P-word himself or gave Halperin the context for saying the same thing … well, he can’t escape the fact that he’s watching this contest from the sidelines — going down short of the finish line for the second time in four years.

Hey John! What’s new, pussycat?
Image credit: Fir0002, reproduced under GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2. Meow.

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