October 31, 2008

The Election's Greatest Hits, Volume II

Gelf highlights the unimportant issues that received the most inordinate coverage in the presidential race.

Vincent Valk

In August, Gelf brought you some of the most overhyped non-stories of the now-nearly-over 2008 election. Considering that a week is a lifetime in politics, two and a half months must be an eternity—so we thought it was high time to give you Volume II of the stupidest election coverage.

In case you've forgotten, each entry is accompanied by an Ayers Index (AI), an updated version of the Wright Score. We arrived at it by rigorous application of the following formula: AI = Media Coverage / Actual Importance.

"Lipstick on a Pig"

Miss Piggy

Miss Piggy photo courtesy of JoelZimmer's Flickr

Start Date: September 2008
The Category: Frivolous
The Skinny: Barack Obama chooses a rather clumsy way to tell a crowd that the McCain campaign does not represent "real change," saying "you can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig." This is interpreted as a slam of the self-described pitbull in lipstick Sarah Palin.
The Ayers Index: Five. While it makes a certain degree of sense that the comment was interpreted as a jab at Palin, what does it matter? It was a poor choice of words on Obama's part, nothing more.

Obama is a Socialist

Obama the Socialist

Obama image courtesy genetew's Flickr

Start Date: October 2008
The Category: Misleading
The Skinny: In 2001, Barack Obama mentioned the term "redistributive change" in an interview with Chicago Public Radio. Though he was referring to a specific court case and not the Communist Manifesto, the McCain campaign and the Drudge Report seized upon his use of the word "redistributive" to declare Obama a socialist in a last minute "October Surprise."
The Ayers Index: Four. McCain seems intent on keeping this going, but no one's biting.

Feeling nostalgia for the election season gone by? What we need is a montage.

Joe the Plumber

Joe the Plumber

Joe the Plumber image courtesy Mike Licht's Flickr

Start Date: October 2008
The Category: Frivolous
The Skinny: In the final debate, John McCain brings up Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, AKA Joe the Plumber, to make a point about taxes. He then does so again. And again. Sure enough, Joe becomes a media sensation, who appears at McCain rallies and has his tax history scrutinized.
The Ayers Index: Eight. Surprising no one, Joe the Plumber has now endorsed John McCain. It's still unclear why anyone cares about what some random dude from Ohio has to say—but Vin the writer from Staten Island certainly doesn't.

Sarah's Spending Spree

Palin's Wardrobe

Palin photo courtesy NewsHour's Flickr

Start Date: October 2008
The Category: Frivolous
The Skinny: The RNC spends $150,000 dressing Sarah Palin in high-end designer clothes. Gucci mom, anyone?
The Ayers Index: Five. While we understand the hypocrisy inherent in draping gosh-darn Sarah Six-Pack in the best digs money could buy, we can't help but wonder if perhaps there are other, more important, issues deserving the media's attention.

The Return of Bill Ayers

Ayers Mug Shot

Start Date: September 2008
The Category: Misleading
The Skinny: Barack Obama said former Weatherman Bill Ayers is "a guy who lives in my neighborhood." Well, apparently Ayers lives in Obama's neighborhood, served with him on a charity, and held a coffee that may or may not have served as the launch for his failed 2000 congressional campaign.
The Ayers Index: Nine. While it seems clear that Obama downplayed his connection with Ayers somewhat, the two men appear to have had no more than a cordial relationship. Are we now in the business of penalizing people for the past misdeeds of co-workers? Especially when said co-worker's misdeeds occurred when you were eight, and when he was later named your city's Citizen of the Year, the whole thing seems kind of absurd.

Bristol Palin's Baby

The Palins

Start Date: September 2008
The Category: Frivolous
The Skinny: Sarah Palin's seventeen-year-old daughter is pregnant with her boyfriend's baby. Rumors swirl.
The Ayers Score: Four. This one was big news at first, but it faded pretty quickly. Boringly, we're of the belief that it's mostly the family's business.

The Bradley Effect

Tom Bradley

Bust of Tom Bradley at LAX. Courtesy Al Pavangkanan's Flickr

Start Date: November 1982
The Category: Wrong
The Skinny: In 1982, Tom Bradley, the African-American Mayor of Los Angeles, runs for Governor of California and loses despite showing modest leads in late polling. Thus the "Bradley Effect," in which white voters tell pollsters they'll vote for black candidates until the moment of reckoning on Election Day, is born. According to some pundits, this could cost Barack Obama the presidency.
The Ayers Index: Seven. Talk of the Bradley Effect has persisted, in spite of no evidence for it during the primary campaign and the 2006 midterms. Perhaps more damning to those who find the idea of a black President difficult to process, it is by no means clear that it even existed back in 1982.

Mugging for Obama

Ashley Todd width=

Start Date: October 2008
The Category: Wrong
The Skinny: A Pittsburgh McCain volunteer says she was mugged by a black man. After her assailant saw a McCain bumper sticker on her car, he carved a 'B' in her face to show his support for Barack Obama. Fox News and the Drudge Report have a field day, until it's revealed that she made the whole thing up.
The Ayers Index: Three. This one came and went in a flash, but as conservative blogger Michelle Malkin of all people, pointed out, something seemed fishy about it from the get-go. Others should have realized that, too.

"Kill him"

Kill Him

Photo courtesy ofbobster1985's Flickr

Start Date: October 2008
The Category: Misleading, frivolous
The Skinny: Some crazy right-wing nut shouts "kill him" at a Palin rally in Joe Biden's hometown.
The Ayers Index: Four. The story didn't last long, but one crazy person does not a hatemongering rally make.

Sarah Palin's Email


Start Date: September 2008
The Category: Frivolous
The Skinny: Someone associated with the group Anonymous hacks into Sarah Palin's personal Yahoo account, which is somewhat hilariously entitled gov.palin@yahoo.com.
The Ayers Index: Three. Though a hacker gaining access to the personal emails of a vice presidential candidate is a bit newsworthy, Palin was wrong to conduct government business through a Yahoo account in the first place, and nothing particularly scandalous came of the story.

Also Receiving Votes: McCain Disses Letterman, Is Bill Clinton really supporting Obama? "The fundamentals of our economy are strong," Joe Biden's gaffes, Obama and ACORN, "That One," Obama's Sex Ed for Preschoolers

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Article by Vincent Valk

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