Tuesday, July 22, 2008

57 States

This happened a few weeks ago, when Dick Cheney said the Chinese were drilling for oil a few dozen miles off the U.S. coast and then backtracked and said he had been misinformed about that.

The newspaper where I work ran a story about that. Of course, Cheney looked foolish; he should have known better.

The next day, I was on the wire desk and a call came in from a surly reader. He demanded that we also print, and play prominently, a story about Obama having made some reference to "57 states" in the U.S.

I told him, no, we weren't going to do that. For one, Obama's gaffe had happened a couple of weeks ago and wasn't news. I might also have added that a verbal flub by a candidate was one thing, and a key misconception by a high-ranking administration member was another.

The caller hung up utterly disgusted with me and confirmed in his notion that his media was biased. Well, he had a point, but it wasn't the one he was making. It was closer to the one this site made about the same time.

After the conversation ended, some of the other editors, including the editorial writer, came over and asked me what it was about (the tone of the exchange obviously had been hostile). I explained what the man had said. And I discovered that not one of the other journalists I worked with had heard anything about the "57 states" gaffe.

Now, this is a crew that can go on for hours and hours reciting Bush II garbles, from his candidacy as well as his presidency. They still can do Bush I mockery like 1990 was just yesterday. They even have on the tip of their tongues slips and boners from the Reagan administration. Any mention of "ketchup" sure to be followed by, "and that's a vegetable, you know. Reagan said so."

They were so surprised by Obama having said something even Dan Quayle didn't manage that they had to look it up online before they believed it. It has never been mentioned in the office again.