- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2009

THE KENNEDY PRESS

Press and pundits were poised and ready for the passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Preloaded obituaries, appreciations, analyses, specials, tributes and timelines flooded into the marketplace the moment the news came that the Massachusetts Democrat was gone.

“A lot of the coverage hit the typical themes you would expect: ‘lion,’ ‘Camelot,’ the tragic history of the Kennedys, his history of reaching across the aisle, some tentative mention of Chappaquiddick. But the cable coverage did seem to be colored by the stance and audience of the networks,” Time magazine media analyst James Poniewozik tells Inside the Beltway.

“The one cable network that was not wall-to-wall with Kennedy, as you usually see for a big celebrity or political death, was Fox News. You do the math. Conversely, MSNBC’s coverage seemed to be the most intimate and personal - as much like a private remembrance as a news analysis,” he says, noting that while CNN and MSNBC speculated about the impact of Mr. Kennedy’s absence on the push for health care reform, Fox did not.

Meanwhile, are journalists attuned to the highs and lows in their portrayals of Mr. Kennedy? Could be, according to a simple analysis of coverage on Wednesday, based on a Google News count:

Number of Kennedy stories that contain the word “Camelot”: about 10,600

Number of Kennedy stories that contain the word “Chappaquiddick”: about 10,400

MODUS OPERANDI

You say it because we can’t: From a source who wishes to remain anonymous for tasteful reasons:

“Prepare for the endless, repetitive loop of ‘Do it for Ted’,” he says.

There could be something to that.

“You’ve heard of ‘win one for the Gipper’? There is going to be an atmosphere of ‘win one for Teddy,’ ” Ralph G. Neas, the CEO of the National Coalition on Health Care, told ABC News.

Overheard by press watchdog Kyle Drennan of Newsbusters.org on CBS’ “Up to the Minute” a few hours after Mr. Kennedy’s death was announced: Historian Douglas Brinkley said that the lawmaker was destined to “be a martyr because of all that he’s done, and he very well might help, in death, Obama get his health care plan.”

SUICIDE IS PAINLESS

The American Legion’s rating of the so-called “death book”? Not good.

“We are certain that the Department of Veterans Affairs made this controversial publication available with the best of intentions,” says David K. Rehbein, the American Legion’s national commander.

“However, elements of the booklet ‘Your Life, Your Choices’ - in our opinion - can be easily misconstrued and appear insensitive. Somewhat like the improperly vetted Department of Homeland Security report to which we objected strongly some months ago, the release of this publication demonstrates poor planning, no matter how well-intentioned it was.”

Mr. Rehbein adds, “At best, it is an awkward attempt to help.”

140 CHARACTERS

Disclaimers and disclosures may be too unwieldy in the age of Twitter and, gee, 2010 is right around the corner. The American Association of Political Consultants, the world’s largest nonpartisan trade association for political professionals, declared Wednesday that Twitter, Facebook and other social media are now exempt from political disclosure. There’s no room, apparently.

The group thinks that “political disclosure on Twitter, Facebook, Bing and other selective new-media outlets is overly burdensome.”

“In new media where brevity is the basis of the medium’s popularity, disclosure seems unrealistic and unreasonable.”

The group notes that small stuff such as campaign buttons are already exempt.

“With respect to new media that did not exist when campaign regulations governing disclosure on electioneering materials were written, it is reasonable to apply a similar exemption to these new communications tools.”

Twitter and its ilk take us “into uncharted waters regarding political speech disclosure,” says spokeswoman Cathy Allen.

POLL DU JOUR

• 51 percent of American voters say their understanding of health care legislation is “good or excellent.”

• 46 percent say they know health care reform legislation better than Congress does.

• 30 percent say they know the legislation better than President Obama does.

• 47 percent say Mr. Obama has a good or excellent understanding of the legislation.

• 22 percent say Congress has a good or excellent understanding of the legislation.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted Aug. 23-24.

Information, asides, dramatic soliloquies to jharper@washingtontimes .com or 202/636-3085.

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