Thursday, September 02, 2010

How sleazy is Politico's Ben Smith?

Watch this:

A former aide to the McCain campaign got in touch with me this morning to cop to being the half-serious progenitor of a story which, embellished almost beyond recognition, appears in Vanity Fair's portrait today of Sarah Palin as monster.

Reports Vanity Fair:

Soon after her nomination, she brought up with McCain aides the subject of Bristol's out-of-wedlock pregnancy by Levi Johnston: "Would it be good for the campaign if they got married before the election?" she asked, and went on to wonder whether one weekend or another would be more advantageous for media coverage.

This anecdote first popped up in London's Sunday Times, a regular landing point for political anecdotes that the less credulous American press won't print without checking. From that story:

Inside John McCain's campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. "It would be fantastic," said a McCain insider. "You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week."

The fantastic quote — and perhaps the clue that this one hadn't quite risen to the levels of the principals — is the guarantee that Levi would show: "“It’s a shotgun wedding. She kills things,” the source joked.

Smith assumes that Vanity Fair's version is a mistelling -- an embellishment -- of the Times story. (Weigel makes the same bonehead mistake.) But the Vanity Fair story recounts a discussion in which Palin speaks to McCain aides, and the Times article quotes an "insider" speculating to the press, off the record. Smith offers no evidence that Vanity Fair account came from his anonymous source, or that the two articles were referring to the same event.

There's no reason both things couldn't have happened -- Sharia making her statement to McCain campaign staffers while an entirely different staffer (or the same staffer who didn't want to attribute the source of his or her idea) blabbed his or her insipid thoughts to the Times. It's not only possible, it's plausible.

I don't care whether either story is true. The significance of the matter is that it demonstrates that Smith is a Palin fluffer who's willing to make unwarranted assumptions and slime other reporters in support of a fellow right-wing Republican. As far as can be determined from Smith's article, Smith didn't contact Vanity Fair to determine its source(s); he didn't contact Palin; he didn't even confirm that his source was also the Vanity Fair source. He just assumed his ass off. Smith strapped on the half-term Gubernatorial knee-pads and phonied up a bullshit defense.

At Politicho, that's par for the course.

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