Analysis: Did Kathleen Kane Get a Pass From the Press?
Two years ago, Attorney General Kathleen Kane was considered a massive rising star.
She may end up as one of the most colossal catastrophes in Pennsylvania political history.
What happened is an excellent question, one that will hopefully be answered in her trial.
More important, though, is the question of how this happened.
How did an unknown Lackawanna prosecutor become such a political superstar, and media darling, seemingly overnight?
Well, the blame has to fall on an unfortunate bias that all of us in the press have.
It is not, as is commonly thought, an ideological bias but rather an inclination toward the sensational.
A new, young first-time candidate from somewhere other than Philly, Harrisburg or Pittsburgh, Kane was an irresistible story.
Then, she received a blessing from none other than President Bill Clinton (what Kane’s saga says about the consequences of the Clinton brand of loyalty is another subject for another time).
After beating Patrick Murphy in the Democratic Party, everything started to go her way.
Of course Kane took advantage of this, running less against her opponent (anybody even remember his name?) than against Tom Corbett and the “good old boy network in Harrisburg”.
This new dynamo was the perfect contrast to a boring, unpopular Governor who had trouble getting conservative legislation passed in a Republican legislature.
The Harrisburg jab was a genius political move that appealed to independents, reformers and women all in one swoop.
Most brilliantly of all, though, was her pledge to get to the bottom of the Sandusky scandal.
That investigation had been so horribly botched that her vague outrage challenged anger from all sides of the aisle and every section of the state.
With all that momentum Kane finished with 56% of the vote, easily outperforming President Obama and Senator Casey.
From then on her potential grew exponentially. Only occasionally did we focus on any of her actions or decisions. Instead, it was about what would come next. What would the next chapter of this thrilling story be?
Political commentary on Kathleen Kane basically turned into a Mugatu impression.
Nowhere in the press was anyone putting any pressure on Kane.
As the Remnick quote above notes, pressure is a fundamental duty of the press because it sorts out the pretenders.
Many Democrats resented the criticism Barack Obama took during the Reverend Wright controversy, but it was a challenge to prove his judgement and convince the country he wasn’t skating by on just hope.
Similarly, Republicans hated how Ronald Reagan was portrayed as a lightweight who didn’t have the chops for the Oval Office.
If we had put pressure on Kane earlier, how might things have been different?
Make no mistake, this process isn’t ever simple, clear or easy but it’s usually worth the effort.
Hopefully in the future, we’ll find the next pretender before they gain power.