It seems like Democrats these days love few things more than accusing Senator McCain and his supporters
of being racists. Not necessarily cross-burning, hood sporting Bible belt bigots,
but rather the type of out-of-touch crackers who prefer not sharing golf
courses and neighborhoods with minorities.
So when the Wall
Street Journal printed yesterday that former Maryland Lieutenant Governor
Michael Steele – a black man – was playing Barack Obama in McCain’s preparatory
debates, lefty bloggers jumped on it like a Google-sponsored convention buffet.
Never mind that Obama planned to joust with an old white guy, or that Joe Biden
found an aesthetically comparable femme to play Sarah Palin.
Whatever fun the
left had with the news, though, mostly stopped late yesterday when the Wall
Street Journal retracted the information (note – The Phoenix ran the correction
on its Talking Politics blog). But for obvious partisan reasons neither
bloggers nor their newsroom counterparts were as eager to advertise the McCain
campaign’s denial as they were to shank him one day earlier for what many
perceived as veiled out-of-touch bigotry (and for his not choosing the always
mock-able Alan Keyes as a debate partner instead).
It’s too bad that
reporters didn’t follow the retraction, because it looks like the real scoop is
on the back end. Either the Journal made the whole thing up (Monica Langley
initially reported that “McCain will spar this week in mock debates” with
Steele, who will “use many of [Obama’s] speaking patterns, tactics and body
language”), which is doubtful, or Republicans realized that the news made them vulnerable and bailed
out with a line of nonsense.
Today’s New York Sun quoted
Steele aide Belinda Cook saying: “The Journal called last week and we told them
that was false.” In a follow-up e-mail asking which reporter called and when,
Cook wrote The Phoenix: “Call came in last week – couldn’t find source of
rumor.” The Phoenix reached out to Langley for the Journal
side of the story, but have not heard back yet (will post update as soon as
Is this a big
deal? No – not for anyone who’s accustomed to political cover-ups and bloggers’
tendency to latch on to bullshit buzz stories much faster than they are to
dismiss them. The point is: whether McCain’s operatives did or didn’t plan to
use Steele for practice, and whether they lied about it once the blogs hit the
fan, Wonkette had a headline (“Debate Prep: John McCain To Practice With One
Black Guy He Knows”) and they’re sticking to it.