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A fair and balanced look at a fuller spectrum of news.

Sarah's cousin posted this on facebook and as my comment on it grew I decided I should add it here also, more out discussion. I'd also like to get Wendy's insider opinion on the matter. Anyway, moving along.

The problem with this study, though it is interesting that the graph is that dramatic, is that it's not comparing apples and oranges. Oberman alone is likely responsible for 80% of the skewing. This isn't studying, as far as I could tell, the programs that pretend to be "straight news."

It's also faulty logic to start with the premise that coverage has to be "equal" to be fair, which isn't the case at all. If Sarah Palin snapped and went on a 3 state killing spree last week it wouldn't be "biased" to cover that without devoting equal time to finding something "negative" about Joe Biden. Likewise, if Obama was caught on mike talking about how he can't wait for his chance to "get back at whitey" the media would be fully in their right to cover that without blowing out of proportion and giving equal time to the fact that McCain told a racist joke at a party 482 years ago.


McCain has had more gaffs and mishaps during his campaign then Obama has. That's just the way it is. They aren't that big of a deal, and I personally don't think a crazy person at your rally or a massive brain fart should be a consideration in why someone should or shouldn't vote for you. It is, however, news-worthy, in a "lighter side of the news" sort of way.

It's not the media's job to find some crazy liberal who thinks the republicans need McCain to win to keep the fact that Aliens are really controlling the country underwraps. Unless Obama hands the guy a mike on TV and makes it news himself.

Now, it's also popular to cling to the idea that "well yeah, you didn't hear about the crazy liberal because the news isn't covering it, that's the whole point." However, it's not 1975 anymore. We aren't reliant on the mainstream news to hear about everything anymore. Furthermore, half of what is "newsworthy" is an after-the-fact reaction TO something a huge amount of people already heard of, and thus made into news.
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2887.gifAlex - Who controls the past now controls the future
11/04/2008 @ 01:36:55 PM
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I'll clink the link latter, but if "we" as in the peoples of NutCanLand aren't reliant on the just the mainstream media, that's probably a fair point. I think a broader cross section of everyday America (age 10 to 100) probably is still quite reliant on the mainstream news though.
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jeremy.jpgJeremy - 8953 Posts
11/04/2008 @ 02:24:17 PM
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I'm sure you're right about the older people (though they have their views one way or the other by that age) but I'm not so sure about the under 40 crowd.

When pollster Zogby did a survey in 2007:

Where do you get most of your news and information?

Internet Sites 39.9%
Television 31.5%
Newspapers 12.2%
Radio. 12.1%
Magazines .8%
Blogs 1.5%

When asked, "Which of the following is your most trusted source for news and information," they said:

Internet sites 33.2%
Television 21.3%
Newspaper 16.0%
Radio 14.0%
Magazine 2.0%
Blogs 1.7

It's hard to find good data on this. For one, because lots of polls are online based, which despite their methodologies for compensating for that has to effect it some. Secondly, because what does "Internet Sites" mean? Am I really bypassing the mainstream media if I go to cnn.com for my news?

At any rate, in this case, I meant that in this age of viral videos a funny clip is going to make it's rounds, independent of the media. There's no "keeping a lid" on things anymore.
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jon.jpgJon - infinity + 1 posts
11/04/2008 @ 05:24:48 PM
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Such a complex issue to be summed up in a graph for sure. And probably even for an internet comment, so I'll try to be brief and limited in scope. Maybe.

So I'll give some thoughts on MSNBC, specifically in relation to Fox News.

Jeremy mentioned Oberman [sic x2, or is that maybe an amalgamation of Obama and Olbermann?]. I didn't care enough to look, but if those "commentary" shows are included in the study, that obviously is something to take into account. Though, in a rough sense, the two networks have about the same number of those shows I think, so that would somewhat balance out in the results maybe.

But regarding that aspect specifically, I'll give my opinion, not based on an objective study, but my own small viewing sampling. (I catch a couple segments per week of each, despite the fact that I disdain those shows to a large degree.)
I think on the commentary shows, Fox News actually can be regarded as more fair and balanced, at least as defined by this study maybe. And don't read this as a defense of them or an attack on MSNBC, per se. I'm just giving my opinion on what I actually think happens.

Think what you will of O'Reilly and Olbermann. I have my own opinions of each too. And again, what I'll put forth here are my anecdotal opinions. But from my viewings, I would guess an objective look at each would actually show O'Reilly as being more "fair" when you look at pos/neg/neut. stories on each candidate. O'Reilly obviously leans toward the right, that's no secret. But I've heard him criticize/oppose both Bush and McCain on their handling of issues. And also, while he's clearly not an Obama guy, he has still said positive things about him. And again, I'm not an every night viewer. But I do know O'Reilly won't align with every thing the Republicans do and automatically "hate on" the dems. You can say a lot of things about him and all the negative things he does and tactics he uses, but I honestly think an objective look at him would show that.

For Olbermann, he hasn't been prominent as long, but long enough to see how he runs his show. I get the sense he'd rather be beaten with a sock full of Sacagawea dollar coins than to say anything even quasi-positive about Bush or McCain. And good luck getting him to do even a marginally "negative" story on dems without spinning it at the end to point back to something awful a republican did. It's his right to do it. It's his show. But that's why even in partisan commentary shows Fox News can be called more balanced, at least in that sense.

Also, I haven't followed this aspect as long on Olbermann's side but if you looked at who each host has as their guests, it seems that Olbermann rarely has someone on the show to offer a clear "dissenting" opinion to his. It's more like he has like minded people on to discuss an issue from more or less the same vantage point.
O'Reilly obviously has some of these guests on too, but you can't deny the fact that he regularly has people diametrically opposed to his view on the show. He might yell over them from time to time or do something else weird, but he does have them on and he lets them state their case and often gives them the last word before they break to commercial. (Just so we're clear, I'm not nominating Bill for sainthood here, I'm just mentioning these things because I've noticed them.)


The other huge mistake that MSNBC made journalistically, is that when they had opportunities to use "real, hard news" journalists to ANCHOR things like the early debates and the conventions, they instead went with Olbermann and Chris Matthews. No doubt, they had their place in the coverage of those events, but it wasn't running the show as the anchor. Fox News didn't put O'Reilly and Hannity in the anchor chairs. I'm still perplexed that MSNBC made this decision (before they had to finally change due to how ludicrous it was and how it almost crashed and burned on air). It either shows how oblivious they were or that they were just being completely shameless.
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Jon screwed with this 3 times, last at 11/04/2008 5:40:46 pm
jeremy.jpgJeremy - 8953 Posts
11/04/2008 @ 06:11:39 PM
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Right, no one is arguing OLbermanN is balanced. In fact the point is just the opposite. As far as I know, no one claims he is trying to be.

Edit: In other words, it's a false issue, because it only becomes an issue if MSNBC as a whole, or these specific shows, claim to be totally unbiased.
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Jeremy messed with this at 11/04/2008 6:29:52 pm
scott.jpgScott - 6225 Posts
11/04/2008 @ 06:21:58 PM
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Jon Wrote - Today @ 06:24:48 PM
Think what you will of O'Reilly and Olbermann. I have my own opinions of each too. And again, what I'll put forth here are my anecdotal opinions. But from my viewings, I would guess an objective look at each would actually show O'Reilly as being more "fair" when you look at pos/neg/neut. stories on each candidate. O'Reilly obviously leans toward the right, that's no secret. But I've heard him criticize/oppose both Bush and McCain on their handling of issues. And also, while he's clearly not an Obama guy, he has still said positive things about him. And again, I'm not an every night viewer. But I do know O'Reilly won't align with every thing the Republicans do and automatically "hate on" the dems. You can say a lot of things about him and all the negative things he does and tactics he uses, but I honestly think an objective look at him would show that.


Even I can agree with this. I do not approve of O'Reilly's tactics because he comes off as someone claiming the moral high ground nearly 100% of the time, but for the most part he has been fair to both candidates.
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jon.jpgJon - Nutcan.com's kitten expert
11/04/2008 @ 06:55:10 PM
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Jeremy Wrote - Today @ 06:11:39 PM
Right, no one is arguing OLbermanN is balanced. In fact the point is just the opposite. As far as I know, no one claims he is trying to be.


Right, my comment was descriptive of the situation, not arguing for or against the study.

If I were to debate the merits and weaknesses of the study, I'd probably say that I kind of agree with the sentiment of most of your questions/criticisms about the methodology and interpretation of that specific study. Or at least on the limitations of the study.

On the other hand though, while it may include commentary with straight news shows, the study of overall tone of one channel vs. the other is still relevant in its own way. If for nothing else than it's comparing tone of one channel to another and finding a difference. (The study though actually includes all the major cable news channels and the networks.) It doesn't prove media bias as a whole or prove hard news bias between the channels, but it shows what it shows and it's not nothing. For instance, a lot of people might have their favorite channels and watch them all night and it shows the general attitude that is given from each channel. Hard news or not, the tones come through and the study shows the tones you get from each channel. Like you said though, a 50-50 split pos/neg and dem/rep isn't necessarily the "correct" point each network should be at, depending on what news happens, but the study shows the tones in comparison to one another through the same news cycles so the differences are notable in some way.

In general, people extrapolate meanings of studies way too far, and I think we're in agreement that this would be a case where it would be a mistake to do so.

Plus, reading the next pages of the study, it's not really claiming that Fox News is totally balanced and MSNBC is skewed, which the first graph might lead people to think. It looks at how they all differ on coverage of the four major people of the election and shows Fox News' distinct differences and MSNBC's and also how CNN and NBC "proper" compared to others in tone, etc.
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thumbnailCAW1I0O3.gifMatt - 3354 Posts
11/05/2008 @ 12:00:31 AM
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Jeremy's words in italics
Mine in bold


"It's also faulty logic to start with the premise that coverage has to be "equal" to be fair, which isn't the case at all."

It's true that unequal doesn't necessarily mean unfair, but I think its a decent indication that it might be.

"If Sarah Palin snapped and went on a 3 state killing spree last week it wouldn't be "biased" to cover that without devoting equal time to finding something "negative" about Joe Biden. Likewise, if Obama was caught on mike talking about how he can't wait for his chance to "get back at whitey" the media would be fully in their right to cover that without blowing out of proportion and giving equal time to the fact that McCain told a racist joke at a party 482 years ago."

Yes, but if you strongly cover the Palin thing, but downplay the Obama thing, then it is biased.

"McCain has had more gaffs and mishaps during his campaign then Obama has. That's just the way it is."

I'm wondering what your basis is for this statement. It may be true, but it also may be true that more attention was given to one sides' mistakes than the other's.

"It's not the media's job to find some crazy liberal who thinks the republicans need McCain to win to keep the fact that Aliens are really controlling the country underwraps. Unless Obama hands the guy a mike on TV and makes it news himself."

No, but it is their job to hold the candidates to the same standards and the same level of scrutiny. It may end up that this produces uneven coverage, but I don't think it's true in this case.


"Now, it's also popular to cling to the idea that "well yeah, you didn't hear about the crazy liberal because the news isn't covering it, that's the whole point." However, it's not 1975 anymore. We aren't reliant on the mainstream news to hear about everything anymore."

Yes, there are many more alternative ways to get news now, but the mainstream media is still the biggest and most influential of those options. What gets printed in the New York Times or shown by CNN can influence what local papers/newscasts cover, and what headlines show up on the front page of Yahoo!. Even what gets talked about on many blogs and other non-mainstream sites is ultimately dependent on the mainstream media for the source material.

Now, sometimes things do start on blogs or other sites and then get picked up by the mainstream media, but what stories they do decide to pick-up is still important as they still have a large audience and, in many peoples' view, are more reputable sources.

Finally, the major news organizations have the access and the resources to investigate and get stories that others can't. If they choose to spend their time looking into one candidate but not the other, then there are going to be people who are not as informed as the should/could/would like to be.
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Matt messed with this 4 times, last at 11/05/2008 12:03:21 am
jeremy.jpgJeremy - 8953 Posts
11/05/2008 @ 07:47:59 PM
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I just watched Olbermann for the first time for like 5-6 minutes. It's really quite unwatchable. Perhaps he's particularly gloaty today, but what I think is supposed to qualify as funny really just comes across as smarmy, petty, jackassery.
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question_mark.giffrozentundrafan
11/05/2008 @ 09:33:39 PM
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Have you listened to Hannity today? He comes off like a jack*** too. :)
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scott.jpgScott - No, I did not change your screen saver settings
11/06/2008 @ 07:51:29 AM
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Hannity was basically just whining all day yesterday.
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fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - 8953 Posts
11/06/2008 @ 10:38:32 AM
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Well, they're all jackasses, but when I flipped over to O'Reilly he was talking with Dennis Kusinch about how he was going to give Obama a chance. Although he didn't sound super-sincere, and immediately went into a tirade about not wanting "San Fransisco Values" in New York, it was still a small step toward civility. Olbermann was just making "jokes" about people wanting to "bang" Palin and making weird snarling noises that, I guess, were supposed to be funny. He was reporting on the fact that some people inside the McCain campaign are mad because Palin's shopping spree apparently cost way more than first reported and she was never instructed to spend anywhere close to that much in the first place. A McCain aide was quoted as saying it was "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast." I watched Olbermann for about 5-10 minutes and he repeated "Wasilla hillbillies", or referred to Palin as the "Wasilla hillbilly," roughly 9000 times.

First off I'm a firm believer that if an "enemy" gives you a complement, or takes a "shot" at themselves, that you shouldn't use it as arsenal against them. I've never been a fan of throwing the "Piranhas" comment Ozzie Guillen made about the Twins back in his face, because he was complementing us. It just seems really in poor taste.

Likewise here, the aide was was taking the shot for you, which is already more powerful than you using the words against Palin.

Olbermann then put up a quote from an Aide that said, "Governor Palin was not directing staffers to put anything on their personal credit cards, and anything that staffers put on their credit cards has been reimbursed." He scoffed at the two completely "contradictory" halves of that sentence as if there's no way they aren't mutually exclusive. Obviously they are easily rectified, she wasn't demanding anyone put anything on a card, they just did because it was most convenient, or because they wanted to, or whatever. I'm skeptical it played out that way, but it's not out of the realm of possibility either. These aren't a group of "Young Republicans" rounded up at the local Junior College who got to spend the day shopping with the potential VP. These are high ranking aides*, who likely don't give a second thought to expensing things.

Hey look, both things I've mentioned lately in one article:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/167581/page/1

*I guess the article does say that these were "low level staffers" but even still, how "low level" can you be and still be in contact with, or out shopping with, the VP candidate of the party?
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Jeremy edited this 2 times, last at 11/06/2008 1:30:48 pm
scott.jpgScott - Ma'am, can you make sure your computer is turned on?
11/06/2008 @ 02:56:13 PM
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O'Reilly seems to do things like this a lot: "I'll give him a chance." That's his attempt to say he's going to be fair, but really, if it he is truly fair, why does he need to proclaim that he is going to "give him a chance"? Is he already going into it with some sort of bias where he has to convince himself that the person in question isn't going to screw everything up? He's trying to make himself look fair, but in my opinion he looks arrogant. My questions is, why wouldn't you give him a chance? I also don't hear him say that as much about republicans as he does about Democrats. Ok, I'll give him credit for making the attempt to be fair even though he is a commentator, not a journalist/straight new guy, but still, it comes off as disingenuous.
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thumbnailCAW1I0O3.gifMatt - Nutcan.com's MBL
11/06/2008 @ 03:38:35 PM
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Indeed, now they do tell us emoticon
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Matt perfected this 2 times, last at 11/06/2008 3:41:30 pm
fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - No one's gay for Moleman
11/06/2008 @ 03:54:21 PM
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As opposed to every other candidate that the voting public is BFF's with before the election?
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matt.jpgMatt - Nutcan.com's MBL
11/06/2008 @ 04:08:13 PM
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Example?
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fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - 8953 Posts
11/06/2008 @ 04:09:25 PM
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What do you mean example?
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jeremy.jpgJeremy - As Seen On The Internet
11/06/2008 @ 04:20:12 PM
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The point is that a lot, if not most, candidates aren't known on a national level before they run for president, and many others who are on a national stage aren't exactly household names to the general public either. Now, sure, there might not be years of voting record to look at, but who says most of that is relevant. Their "no" vote might be because of some pork attached to a bill and their "yes" vote might be because it was the right vote at the time, and not because that's a solid "position" on an issue. (Not to mention they aren't going to face the same issues as president.)

If the longest presidential campaign in history wasn't enough to get to know what someone intends to do as president then I don't know what would.

Besides Obama being a "enigma" didn't stop him from being labeled "the most liberal senator" either.
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Jeremy perfected this at 11/06/2008 4:21:14 pm
wendy.gifWendy
11/06/2008 @ 04:44:38 PM
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Okay, I'll try to make this quick because I'm actually working at putting the news on the air as we speak.
As to that study, I read it when it was first released and while I didn't have time to look at the specific numbers, I thought the reaction to it was interesting. Political experts say it's the chicken vs. the egg issue: Did McCain's more negative media coverage hurt him in the polls, or was a lot of that "negative coverage" because of his drop in the polls? Also, isn't it pretty subjective to decide what's negative neutral or positive?
Then, the RNC, instead of saying "Yea, that's right, our candidate is getting the shaft" they actually said "Maybe this would be fixed if you'd stop your infighting."

On the fair & balanced issue - I tried really hard in my tiny capacity of 30 minutes to make our coverage pretty balanced. I'd give equal time to the candidates, like where they campaigned that day, what they said, etc; If something truly large were to happen, you'd clearly give more time to that, because then it's an event, more so than just campaign trail coverage. I think at least in local news, we try hard to give equal time. The national networks, have their own agendas that I can't speak to.
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matt.jpgMatt - Washington Bureau Chief
11/06/2008 @ 05:50:58 PM
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Jeremy Wrote - Today @ 04:20:12 PM
The point is that a lot, if not most, candidates aren't known on a national level before they run for president, and many others who are on a national stage aren't exactly household names to the general public either. Now, sure, there might not be years of voting record to look at, but who says most of that is relevant. Their "no" vote might be because of some pork attached to a bill and their "yes" vote might be because it was the right vote at the time, and not because that's a solid "position" on an issue. (Not to mention they aren't going to face the same issues as president.) If the longest presidential campaign in history wasn't enough to get to know what someone intends to do as president then I don't know what would. Besides Obama being a "enigma" didn't stop him from being labeled "the most liberal senator" either.


No, the point is that the AP writes, "little is understood about the 47-year-old first-term senator's approach to leadership." and "Personally, he's a bit of an enigma, too." after the election when the press had, as you say, the longest presidential election in history to maybe try and figure these things out. If the mainstream media spent half the time looking into Sen. Obama as they did looking into Gov. Palin or "Joe the Plumber", maybe we would have some answers.
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matt.jpgMatt - Ombudsman
11/06/2008 @ 05:58:54 PM
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Jeremy Wrote - Today @ 04:09:25 PM
What do you mean example?


I meant, a name of one of the other candidates that supposedly got the same pass that Obama did.
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Matt messed with this at 11/06/2008 5:59:13 pm
fry6beeu9.jpgJeremy - I believe virtually everything I read.
11/06/2008 @ 06:06:36 PM
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I was never addressing Obama getting a pass or not, so I don't know why I'd provide an example.

Edit: You could be married to someone for 50 years and still describe them as an "enigma". That doesn't imply any lack of knowledge/effort. Bush has been president for 8 years and we don't know a whole lot about him "personally."

Also, there's little to know about him professionally. What are they supposed to dig up out of no where as an example of leadership or not? He was voted captain of the basketball team in High School? When he was 18 he was a chaperon on a cub scout camp out and lost 3 kids in the forest?
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Jeremy screwed with this 2 times, last at 11/06/2008 6:21:10 pm
flower .jpgPackOne - 1528 Posts
11/06/2008 @ 06:26:52 PM
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I like it when Jeremy and Matt fight.
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matt.jpgMatt - Ombudsman
11/06/2008 @ 06:27:24 PM
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Well, since the link was basically about Obama getting a pass from the media, and you replied "As opposed to every other candidate that the voting public is BFF's with before the election?", I don't know where I could have gotten the idea that you thought the treatment was no different than others got and could maybe give an example.
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jeremy.jpgJeremy - 8953 Posts
11/06/2008 @ 06:43:33 PM
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The link called him an enigma, my point was a) I think the comment is being read into too far and b) what candidate couldn't you call an "enigma," especially in regard to their personal lives.
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