Thanksgiving is only a few days away, so it's probably a really good time to debate whether or not political reporters should continue covering Alvin Greene, the very weird man who managed to win the Democratic primary race for the South Carolina Senate race. Greene subsequently lost that race, because a) he was the Democratic nominee in South Carolina in 2010 and b) in repeated media appearances, he failed to make even a lick of sense. Also compounding Greene's problems were a spotty military record that suggested he lacked a certain degree of competence and legal troubles stemming from that time he allegedly showed a pornographic image to a University of South Carolina co-ed, earning Greene felony obscenity charges.
Since his predictable defeat in the South Carolina Senate race, Greene has told reporters that he has presidential ambitions that are even less credible than his senatorial ones. And so now, we have a debate, on Twitter, between Slate's Dave Weigel -- who believes that Greene is a "troubled guy" who the media should just leave alone, and Politico's Jake Sherman who says "we should cover candidates for federal office thoroughly and fairly."
For Sherman's benefit, here's the fair and thorough way to cover Alvin Greene, going forward: "Alvin Greene is not a credible candidate for President, or any other public office." Politico can have that sentence, for free, and it will forever prove to be sufficient for all manner of Alvin Greene coverage.
Let's be brutally honest, for a minute! Why is it that Alvin Greene got covered so much during this election cycle? ANSWER: He was a deeply weird person who was easy to cover because reporters could reliably count on him doing something utterly strange. His lack of credibility -- all of which was based on the fact that he is a "troubled" man -- was the main draw.
As a result, Greene's quixotic hopes were pretty objectively over-covered, even by us, and I personally think that any after-action criticism on this regard is entirely fair. Nevertheless, there was a perfectly legitimate time to devote coverage to Alvin Greene. That time began back when everyone was wondering, "Wait, who is this guy who won the Democratic primary in South Carolina?" and it ended when Greene posted his election night results. And let's face it: the 364,598 votes he won were more than many others got, and he ended up outperforming all of the polling that was done in the state.
That said, quick! Name the person who ran against Jim DeMint in 2004, as the Democratic nominee for the South Carolina Senate seat? I'll give you a moment to look it up.
Inez Tenenbaum was her name, and the best way to describe the difference between Alvin Greene and her is to simply point out that Tenenbaum has a fairly long and substantive career in the politics. She had a career in law and was twice elected to be South Carolina's State Superintendent of Education. She was on the shortlist to serve as President Barack Obama's Secretary of Education, and currently serves as the head of the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
If you're having trouble recalling all of the intense coverage of Tenenbaum's candidacy back in 2004, it's not just a trick of memory. There wasn't intense coverage of her candidacy! There's no video floating around of her failing to respond to basic questions about politics. If you remember her being on television at all, it was probably from a "20/20" segment she participated in with John Stossel back in 2006 -- and their exchange was serious and substantive.
In 2004, the Washington Post mentioned Tenenbaum in 19 stories, the New York Times did the same 12 times, and the Associated Press did so on 43 occasions. Those same numbers for Greene in 2010 are 24, 19, and 68, respectively.
The big takeaway here should be that the media gave less coverage to a much more serious and credible Senate nominee than they did to a guy who they all thought was a joke. The appeal of Alvin Greene is exactly the same as the appeal of the first few episodes of "American Idol", where people with no talent make geniune fools of themselves on teevee, because they haven't a friend in the world that's willing to save them from ridicule. That's something that deserves some consideration.
(By the way, all of this michegas between Weigel and Sherman began when the Daily Beast's Ben Crair white-whined about how Twitter hadn't yet succeeded in "bringing down the newspapers." This is a) something that no one on Twitter ever promised to do and b) really, the very least of newspapers' worries, but as a story topic it's actually only slightly more interesting than "Alvin Greene: presidential hopeful.")