Saturday, August 2, 2008

Wall Street Journal gets the skinny on stupid

Just when it appeared the Republican attack machine in the service of Sen. John McCain can’t get any more outlandish in its ad hominem attacks on Sen. Barack Obama, the GOP’s pit bulls and their proxies in the conservative press manage to drop through the floor of low expectations.

The latest Republican journey to cloud-cuckooland has resulted in a real piece of work in The Wall Street Journal, crown-jewel mouthpiece of owner and media Goliath Rupert Murdoch, a "story" that explores a new reason why Obama is not suited for the presidency:

In a phrase, he’s too skinny.

From a Friday piece in the Journal by “reporter” Amy Chozick:

“Speaking to donors at a San Diego fund-raiser last month, Barack Obama reassured the crowd that he wouldn't give in to Republican tactics to throw his candidacy off track,” Chozick writes.

“’Listen, I'm skinny but I'm tough,’ Sen. Obama said.

“But in a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama's skinniness be a liability? Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them.”

The takeaway from this idiotic political insinuation is that Obama’s physique makes him too elitist to be president of the United States.

You can’t make this crap up. But no — actually you can. Amy Chozick did.

Not long after her outburst appeared in the Journal, the blogosphere was abuzz with a priceless update: Chozick herself had invented the story’s premise after raising the issue in a Yahoo! message board:

Is Obama too skinny to be president?
15-Jul-08 06:04 pm

Does anyone out there think Barack Obama is too thin to be president? Anyone having a hard time relating to him and his “no excess body fat”? Please let me know. Thanks!

Making this act of journalistic solicitation all the more ridiculous is that the Onion News Network, the video spinoff of the wildly successful Onion satiric newsmagazine, tackled the issue of relating candidates' weight and voter appeal as a parody six months ago.

There was, mercifully, at least a shred of real reporting in the Journal story. Chozick quotes Obama's Chicago physician David Scheiner, as saying “the senator works out regularly, jogs up to three miles a day when he can, and has ‘no excess body fat.’"

“Dr. Scheiner didn't disclose his patient's exact weight, but medical observers estimate that the 6-foot-1.5-inch-tall senator appears to weigh at least 10 pounds less than the roughly 190 pounds that the average American man of his height weighs,” Chozick wrote.

◊ ◊ ◊

But the underlying thrust of Chozick’s piece is an attempt to put distance between Obama and the American public on the weakest pretext one could imagine. Never mind the jogging regimen of President Bush. Never mind the attention Republicans religiously paid to the vigor of Ronald Reagan in his run for the presidency.

Never mind the conversion of former Arkansas Gov. and Krispy Kreme enthusiast Mike Huckabee to a low-fat diet that resulted in his celebrated loss of 110 pounds. Never mind the beneficial impact Obama’s personal example could have on the millions of Americans who are overweight or obese, facing the real dangers of diabetes and heart attacks. And never mind McCain’s apparent predilection for a training diet including Butterfinger candy bars, jelly beans, and coffee and doughnuts from Dunkin' Donuts. Obama’s unfit because … he’s too fit.

◊ ◊ ◊

As you might expect, the blogs are all over this one, with shots cheap and otherwise:

Parisienne Dreams at The Daily Kos: “So, would it be fair to say that [McCain] is too handicapped to be President since he can't lift his arms over his head?! And since he can't do that, I've been asking myself, how the hell does McCain bathe? Does Cindy wash him?? Ewwwww, gross, I just got a visual …”

Joe, posting at SadlyNo: “I actually e-mailed Amy at her WSJ address and basically told her that anyone writing an article such as “Too Fit To Be President?” and isn’t SUPREMELY embarrassed by it has something quite wrong with them. Now that I see her crackerjack reporting skills in action, I’m the one who is embarrassed. In her defense — maybe she’s 12 years old? Like, you know, she was given a prime spot in the weekend WSJ because she won a junior high school contest or something. That would certainly explain a lot.”

MarcC, writing a post at the TV blog of the Kansas City Star: “Here we have a Wall Street Journal reporter plagiarizing an Onion story, trolling for comments on the Internet, and then publishing it as a serious news story with no acknowledgment that she did either. Amazing!

All in all, It shows just how desperate the McCain crew and its journalistic enablers in fabrication really are. And despite the story’s comedic underpinnings, Chozick’s story reflects a sad comedown for the Journal, once one of the nation’s two or three preeminent news organizations, with an unassailable reputation.

It’s proof (as if any more were needed now) that The Wall Street Journal could do with a little more weight of its own. “Weight” as in heft. As in gravitas. As in seriousness about covering the issues that really matter. Think that’ll happen?

Fat chance.
Image credits: Obama: MCC Eric A. Clement, USN (public domain). Wall Street Journal page: © 2008 The Wall Street Journal. Burger plate: John Sullivan, released to public domain. Fat guy: Aspen04, released to public domain


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