Slate press critic Jack Shafer has an incredibly stupid column up right now, comparing the personal problems of Idaho senator Larry Craig with the personal problems of former North Carolina senator John Edwards, wondering why Craig's arrest for solicitation in a restroom at the Minneapolis airport became a huge story, while Edwards' story has not.
And what is Edwards' story? The National Enquirer has accused him of fathering a child out of wedlock. Edwards has denied the story in very strong language: "The story is false. It's completely untrue, ridiculous." But for some reason, Shafer thinks the media ought to be reporting on rumors spread by The National Enquirer, even after the subject of those rumors has said they're not true.
He's got to be kidding, isn't he? Larry Craig got arrested. There may be some dispute about what happened in that bathroom, but the man got hauled off by the cops, which is a matter of public record. Something happened in that restroom, something untoward enough to get the recognition of the police. With Edwards, we don't know if anything happened; he says nothing did.
Does Shafer really want the press to jump on unsubstantiated, formally denied rumors and report them as if they were news? Of course he doesn't. The Globe recently ran a series of articles on George W. Bush: Bush has started drinking again, Laura has moved out of the White House and into a hotel, Bush has been keeping time with Condi Rice. (I never bought a copy of that august newspaper, nor did I ever even open one, but they helpfully put this important news on the front page, where I could read it in the check-out line.) (I do think it's interesting that The National Enquirer sees its audience as trashy Republicans, while The Globe sees its audience as trashy Democrats.) Does Shafer think the New York Times should have been investigating reports of Bush's drinking, like he thinks they should delve into a story about Edwards hiding out in the bathroom at a Beverly Hills hotel?
Or has he just gotten a lot dumber lately?