Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bill Kristol's supposed "scoop"

Bill Kristol reported that Colin Powell was going to endorse Obama, and everyone went bonkers. Powell, sounding rather peeved, told ABC "I do not have time to waste on Bill Kristol's musings." A representative from his office made a slightly more direct denial, saying "There's no truth to it, no substance to it... I have no idea why Bill Kristol would be making this statement. There is no imminent endorsement."

Obviously, there's still ample wiggle room for Powell to do it (the endorsement anyway, not the convention speech), but now one of two things will happen:

1) Powell does endorse Obama, just not imminently, and the leak will have spoiled the surprise; or

2) Powell doesn't endorse Obama, and the leak will make it seem like more of a rejection than it would have otherwise.

It's certainly possible that Kristol really was just passing along what he heard from a source close enough to Powell to be considered reliable. Stranger things have happened. But for Bill Kristol, getting stuff wrong isn't just an occasional occurence. It's a way of life. Indeed, Kristol qualified his claim by saying an endorsement "is not an absolutely done deal, but these people are very confident..." So by his own account, he put the story out there without anything that could be called confirmation.

I just don't believe he would do this without regard for its political impact, and I don't believe he'd do it if he thought it would help Obama, which only leaves one option: He did it because Kristol's sounding the alarm early, whether or not he's right, is good for McCain.

In a sane world, this theory wouldn't make any sense because there would be strong disincentives for reporters/pundits to make terrible predictions. But as you can see from this January 2007 selection of Kristol's greatest misses on Iraq and this December 2007 announcement by the New York Times that they were hiring him as a regular columnist, it doesn't actually work that way.

To revise and extend, I was kind of kidding about the "proof" that IF Kristol would consider politics AND not wish to push the scales towards Obama THEN he must be doing it to help McCain. Obviously there are other things to consider. Professional considerations would really demand going public even if he thought on balance even a rumor of Powell support would give Obama a bump.

I just find the idea of Kristol being the media figure most closely connected to Colin Powell's inner circle even more farfetched then the idea that he's just hyping the story because he thinks it's possible and he wants to steal its thunder.

No comments: