Man Without Qualities

Friday, September 26, 2003

Davis Descending LIV: Shoeing Arnold Schwarzenegger

Kausfiles posts this Undropped Shoe Reminder: The L.A. Times has not yet published the results of its big investigation of Arnold Schwarzenegger's personal behavior... Is the Times saving it for the last minute, the better to really damage the actor's chances (think Bush and DUI)?

No. The Times is almost certainly not saving it for the last minute. I have serious reservations about many aspects of the Los Angeles Times, but I do not see this paper as originating a smear piece which it could have run earlier but saved for the last minute - and the last minute has now run out. Such a move would be inconsistent with the ecological niche the Times is seeking to occupy and would impose substantial costs on the paper and its reporters. For example, one of the Time's best investigative reporters (a liberal Democrat with breathtakingly high journalistic standards - more than I could have imagined) lives across the street from the Man Without Qualities, and it is likely that he would simply leave the paper if it did such a thing. His ability to obtain the kind of access he needs would be savaged if the Times acquired a strong reputation as a smear-and-run shop. Indeed, his equally-impressive partner did leave a few years ago over a lesser flap. The hacks and whores would remain - but the Times is trying to present itself as something more than a collection of hacks and whores. The Times does routinely run tendentious, partisan, ill considered articles - but that's not personal smear-and-run stuff.

However, if some other person were to raise stinky issues about Mr. Schwarzenegger at the last minute, I see no reason for the Times not to cover the smear as breaking news if the support for the smear otherwise met the Times' standards (think Bush and DUI). And, even if those standards were not met, the Times would soon submit to realities and run coverage of the smear in the form of legitimate reports of the fact that other media were covering the smear, and that the smear was affecting the campaign.

All that being said, I fully expect the Democrats and Mr. Mulhulland to produce whatever real or imagined dirt they have on Mr. Schwarzenegger at the last minute - as they recently did to get Barbara Boxer re-elected to the Senate.

And I expect the Times to report on that dirt in some form.

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