Good Government or Gotcha II

Peter Beinart’s column in The New Republic on Joe Biden’s foot-in-mouth remark last week about Barack Obama argues that “[s]tupid, insensitive remarks shouldn’t sink political candidacies unless they bespeak some larger animus.” Unlike George Allen’s macaca moment, uttered by a politician with (in Beinart’s words) “a long history of racist sympathies,” Biden’s senate career displays no racial animus. “Journalists shouldn’t be hypocrites” writes Beinart: “You can’t ask politicians to be unscripted and then decapitate them any time they misspeak.” Comments on recent posts (Say “Cheese” and You’ve Been YouTubed) have rightfully argued in favor of transparency in politics, an end served (ostensibly) by the type of unscripted give-and-take that snared Biden. There is a very thin line between informal transparency-minded journalistic discourse and maybe-he’ll-relax-and-say-something-stupid-that-will-get-ratings discourse. The unfolding 2008 presidential campaign will bring us a lotta gotcha.

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