Howard Kurtz writes today that, in advance of this week's vice-presidential debate, "some journalists say privately they are censoring their comments about Palin to avoid looking like they're piling on" the beleaguered McCain soul/running-mate, whose interviews last week with Katie Couric more-or-less oscillated between "crash" and "burn." But what gives with the journalistic self-censorship? Kurtz is probably referencing the conversation from this past week's Reliable Sources, in which ABC News' Jake Tapper suggested that the press is having a hard time cutting through the signal-to-noise ratio of the blogosphere:
KURTZ: Well, is this all just media whining, or does she have some responsibility? It's not that we want to talk to her because we want to hang out with her. We want to ask questions that presumably the public want to ask of her.
TAPPER: Jessica was talking about the two lines of attack that you're getting from Republican partisans and Democratic partisans -- the press has been too mean to her, the press is not being tough enough on her. It's possible that those are both correct.
But the difference is the press defined largely, as the McCain camp did early on, which is liberal blogs, tabloid media, "US" magazine. They were mean to her. They were inappropriate to her. But that's not to say that the mainstream media was.
But I think that the McCain campaign has successfully taken all of the inappropriateness of that initial coverage of Palin and turned it around so that the media is now boxed in and can't really push back to say, well, I don't understand what she's saying here, or I don't understand, is this person actually prepared for this job?
Frankly, I don't know what the point of having a press is if they cannot cut through the fog of conversation to offer a sincere assessment of Sarah Palin's acumen. As Kurtz notes, it's not a problem that conservative columnists have been having of late: "...pundits on the right are jumping ship. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough says Palin 'just seems out of her league.' National Review Editor Rich Lowry called her performance 'dreadful.' Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher described the interview as a 'train wreck.' Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker urged Palin to quit the race, saying: 'If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself.'" That said, we are talking about the same media that went hog-wild in dissecting the phrase, "lipstick on a pig." That was a pile-on of undampened enthusiasm.
Actually, the larger bombshell about "censorship" comes earlier, and off-handedly, in Kurtz's column, where he notes that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has apparently been "barred...from [McCain's] plane" by the campaign.