"It's hard not to cross it. They keep moving the little sucker, don't they?" claims William Hurt in "Broadcast News" when accused by a producer of "crossing the line" during a news report. So what is that line? And does it even exist?
What truly made the story depressing for us though was the lack of shock and outrage about the story uttered in the Washington political community. There was some partisan outrage among folks we either read or talked to, with the left thinking the Times went over the line and the right fearing the story could only help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., play the victim card to get into the White House.
But when the dean of all political reporters, the Washington Post's David Broder, just matter-of-factly acknowledged the significance of the Times' story without expressing even the slightest bit of regret or remorse for the very idea of running it, that's when we knew that we were going to be very lonely in expressing our disappointment. While not trying to read Broder's mind, it's likely he sees coverage like this as inevitable and that, frankly, we would be naïve if we pretended it's not there. But is this really how we're going to elect out next president; based on how many weekends a month partners of a dual-income marriage spend together? There are a number of prospective '08 candidates who have been married more than once -- should we expect the dirty details of every divorce? Apparently so, the Times has deemed.
The "line" hasn't existed in my lifetime, it's just something selectively applied. Todd also asks whether Ryan Lizza's reporting on George Allen's high school days were appropriate. I think it's a valid question, though in that case on balance I'd say "yes" as they fit into a bigger picture, but I agree that it's debatable. I'd actually be more than happy to universally agree that what presidential candidates did before about age 26, except felony convictions, is basically irrelevant. Along those lines I never had a problem with Bush's shoddy Guard service, I had a problem with the facts that a) He (see autobiography) and his campaign continued to lie about it and b) This was the ultimate example of selective media coverage of such issues.