Okay, Russia is bombing Georgia, (and in so doing wounding and killing grandmotherly-looking women who should be baking lovely, fragrant breads from scratch for their grandbabies instead of lying in the rubble of their apartment buildings).
Isaac Hayes, Bernie Mack, and poet, Mahmoud Darwish have each died way too early this past weekend.
So given all that and other news, what are the best possible Must Reads from the Saturday, Sunday and Monday papers? Perhaps the intriguing Matt Bai article in the New York Times Magazine that discussed the effect of the Obama candidacy on traditional Black politics? Or the well-researched Wa Po story on the meaning of recently concluded Hamden military tribunal?
OF COURSE NOT! What you really need to read is four articles on various permutations of the John Edwards affair. (No, I’m not kidding. Look: you can’t just sit around watching Michael Phelps swim his way to gold medals all the time.)
The big four are:
1. TIM RUTTEN ON HOW THE MSM BLEW IT ON THE EDWARDS STORY
On Saturday, the LA Times’ Rutten belatedly said what we all should have said a week or two ago (I include myself among the grievously guilty)—namely that the country’s newspapers were prissily engaged in a blackout when it came to covering the growing likelihood that John Edwards had indeed had an affair with new age aphorism-spouting party girl turned “filmmaker,” Raille Hunter. The excuse was that they couldn’t even mention the story (or the Enquirer’s story about the story) until they’d conclusively substantiated that there was definitely an affair—-nevermind that the NY Times felt no such reticence back in February when it published its front page rumors and innuendos about John McCain’s maybe, possible, might-be dalliance.
Here are a few clips from Rutten’s column:
From the start, the Edwards scandal has belonged entirely to the alternative and new media. The tabloid National Enquirer has done all the significant reporting on it [NOTE: Huff Post’s Sam Stein was also in on it] — reporting that turns out to be largely correct — and bloggers and online commentators have refused to let the story sputter into oblivion.
Slate’s Mickey Kaus has been foremost among the latter, alternately analyzing and speculating on the Enquirer’s reporting and ridiculing the mainstream media for a fastidiousness that has seemed, from the start, wholly absurd.
But what’s really significant here is the cone of silence the nation’s major newspapers — including The Times — and the cable and broadcast networks dropped over this story when it first appeared in the tabloid during the presidential primary campaign. Next, the Enquirer reported that the unmarried Hunter was pregnant. Still no mainstream media interest.
Indeed, never in recent journalistic history have so many tough reporters so closely resembled sheep as those members of the campaign press corps who meekly accepted Edwards’ categorical dismissal of the Enquirer’s allegations.
Read the rest. And good for Rutten for calling it. I wish I had done the same, only much earlier.
2. WA-PO HOWARD KURTZ SAYS “WE ALL KNEW”
In this morning’s Washington Post, Howard Kurtz offers his own very thoughtful version of why his paper and others didn’t report on the growing Edwards story, and why, in his humble opinion they could have, and should have. Here are a couple of the important ‘graphs:
As the political fallout came to be openly debated in the North Carolina papers, I pursued the matter with my colleague Lois Romano and was struck by Edwards’s refusal to talk about whether he had a relationship with Rielle Hunter, his former campaign aide, or to even issue a statement. Edwards’s actions did not seem to be those of a man with nothing to hide. I came to believe that we should publish a story. But I don’t get paid to make those decisions.
Only Edwards’s belated confession Friday to ABC’s Bob Woodruff allowed news organizations to jump on what most people already knew.
The fact that big newspapers, magazines and networks have standards — that is, they refuse to print every stray rumor just because it’s “out there” — is one of their strengths. But in the latter stages of this case, it made them look clueless. Perhaps there is a middle ground where media outlets can report on a burgeoning controversy without vouching for the underlying allegations, being candid with readers and viewers about what they know and don’t know.
3. EDWARD’S AFFAIR? MY FAULT
Also in the LA Times, but Sunday, writer Sarah Miller pens a funny-ish account of her run-ins with Raille Hunter after Ms. Hunter rented the Benedict Canyon room that Miller had formerly been renting. The Op Ed is written an an amusing gossipy tone, yet it is uncomfortably relevant because the ditzy bimbette portrayed here doesn’t suggest anything very nice about the good senator’s judgment (what there was of it) in choosing a partner for his ill-considered aventure amoureuse, while his wife did or didn’t (depending upon what timeline turns out to be true) battle terminal cancer.
4. MAUREEN DOWD: KEEPING IT RIELLE
I realize this is the second week in a row that I’ve recommended that you read Maureen Dowd. (Maybe it’s the heat.) But, after watching John Edward’s Nightline performance, Dowd’s Sunday bitchiness seemed clarifying and appropriate.
I have spent significant time in the last couple of days arguing with extremely smart, soulful guys whom I adore and respect about whether or not John Edwards has behaved (and still is behaving) like an understandibly fallible man (read: the affair is no big deal)—or if he’s acted like an irresponsible, unattractively judgment-free weenie.
I was the one arguing for the weenie designation.
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