A Tale of Two Withdrawals: Respecting Edwards, But Giuliani "Living an Illusion"

The presidential field has winnowed down further, with Democrat John Edwards and Republican Rudy Giuliani announcing their withdrawal from the presidential race on the same day. It's an ideal time to note the stark contrast in the Times' coverage of two candidates, one aleft-wing Democrat, the other amoderate Republican. While Edwards was serenaded out the door, Giuliani's departure was mocked,with the former mayor accused of "living an illusion."


While few were surprised by Giuliani's announcement (and subsequent endorsement of fellow moderate John McCain( after his distant third-place finish in Florida, Edwards' decision must have shocked at least one person - Times reporter Julie Bosman, who must be feeling snake-bit after her Tuesday story portraying Edwards as the Energizer Bunny, motoring on and becoming a possible kingmaker at the Democratic convention.


"After finishing third in three of the four primary contests so far - except in Iowa, where he beat Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York for second place by less than one percentage point - Mr. Edwards has shown no sign of quitting, and his advisers have insisted that he still hopes to capture the nomination."


Bosman and coauthor Jeff Zeleny posted a story to the Times website Thursday morning on Edwards' withdrawal announcement, a piece highly respectfulof the failed Edwards campaign, in a tone tinged with regret, and suggesting Edwards (who also lost as John Kerry's running mate in 2004) was a trailblazer on health care. And they still constantly referred to him as a "populist," not a liberal.


"John Edwards, the progressive Democratic candidate who made a populist, anti-poverty message the centerpiece of his campaign, has decided to drop out of the presidential primary race, and is to give a speech this afternoon at the same place where he began his campaign - in New Orleans."


...


"Mr. Edwards had campaigned heavily in Iowa for months and months, fine-tuning a populist message and issuing many proposals, including one on health care, long before his rivals issued theirs. In the caucuses, he finished second, but just about a percentage point ahead of Mrs. Clinton."


The Times spun his last-place showings:


"Indeed, Mr. Edwards was poised to collect enough delegates in early nominating contests to potentially influence the outcome at the Democratic nominating convention in August, if neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Obama won enough delegates to clinch the nomination."


Couldn't the same be said about Giuliani? Apparently not. By contrast with Edwards, the Times had nothing good to say about the former New York City mayor.


Wednesday's lead "news analysis," "Dizzying Fall For Ex-Mayor," by the tag team of Michael Powell and Michael Cooper. showed no similar respect for Giuliani:


"Perhaps he was living an illusion all along.


"Rudolph W. Giuliani's campaign for the Republican nomination for president took impressive wing last year, as the former mayor wove the pain experienced by his city on Sept. 11, 2001, and his leadership that followed into national celebrity. Like a best-selling author, he basked in praise for his narrative and issued ominous and often-repeated warnings about the terrorist strike next time."


....


"As Mr. Giuliani ponders his political mortality, many advisers and political observers point to the hubris and strategic miscalculations that plagued his campaign. He allowed a tight coterie of New York aides, none with national political experience, to run much of his campaign."


The tone throughout was unnecessarily antagonistic.


"Perhaps a simpler dynamic was at work: The more that Republican voters saw of him, the less they wanted to vote for him.


"Mr. Giuliani was a temple-throbbing Italian-American New Yorker who ruled a cacophonous city seen as the very definition of liberalism. He was somewhat liberal on social issues - notably immigration and abortion - where Republican candidates are invariably conservative. And he possessed a complicated family life: he has been thrice-married and has two adult children who rarely speak to him. At the beginning of his campaign last spring, he sat for a celebrity photo shoot smooching with his third wife, who snuggled in his lap."


....


"Mr. Giuliani often played to large crowds in New Hampshire and through the Deep South; everyone seemed to love his tough talk on terrorism. When Mr. McCain's campaign nearly flat-lined last summer, as he ran low on money, Mr. Giuliani seemed poised to take advantage."


The Times was almost uniformly hostile to Giuliani during the campaign. A Times Watch count shows that of the 34 stories devoted mostly to Giuliani that have run in the Times since November 26, negative stories outnumbered positive ones by 28-3 (the other three were classed as neutral). Included in that total were eight front-page stories, all negative, with headlines like "Citing Statistics, Giuliani Misses Time and Again" and "As Extramarital Affair Began, Giuliani Billed Travel and Security Costs to City," a story the Times clarified to Giuliani's advantage three weeks later with a follow-up - buried deep inside the paper. The icing on the cake may have been the Times' recent endorsement of John McCain in the Republican primary, which the paper used to attack Giuliani (who they had strongly endorsed for re-election as NYC mayor back in 2001- scroll down to the third headline) as "a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power" as mayor.


Edwards had a good run, in the Times at least. Since Times Watch began counting in late November, there were 24 print stories on Edwards (not including Wednesday's morning's online story on his withdrawal), including 8 relatively brief items in the Times regular political section, "The Caucus." Of those, 14 were positive portrayals of Edwards, while only five were labeled negative (another five were graded neutral).