During his introductory remarks prior to the Colorado Springs appearance of Republican ticketmates John McCain and Sarah Palin on Saturday, KHOW host Dan Caplis said thousands of flags distributed to the assembled throng had been rescued from outside Invesco Field at Mile High following Democratic standard-bearer Barack Obama's acceptance speech. Caplis suggested that they'd been callously discarded once the cameras were gone; predictably, Dems dispute this assertion.
As for David Harsanyi, the Denver Post op-ed writer who broke the story on the paper's blog, he feels both sides are making more of the incident than is strictly necessary. But he's also fascinated by how quickly the matter blew up into a national news item -- particularly given that he wasn't 100 percent certain of the tale's verity until some time after he published the original report.
According to Harsanyi, he received a tip about the flags and their DNC origins prior to the McCain-Palin address. Unfortunately, this source was secondhand -- but he knew the people involved with the appearance would be mentioning the flags' Invesco connection at the Colorado Springs get-together. So he wrote something up and posted it quickly, understanding that in today's Internet age, speed is more important than ever. That certainly proved to be the case in this instance. The Drudge Report picked up his blog, increasing the number of eyeballs gazing upon it exponentially. At this writing, his revelation sports more than 1,100 comments.
Afterward, Harsanyi says, "People wrote asking me if it was ethical to put something up, because I wasn't sure it was true. But as soon as we knew that people at the event were going to go with it, it became a news story. These campaigns claim a lot of things we report."
Nevertheless, Harsanyi didn't stop there. He continued to follow the story, eventually tracking down the person who found the flags outside Invesco -- and even though he's an opinion columnist who slants rightward, he did an admirable job of trying to put what he discovered in an objective perspective:
UPDATE I: I just spoke with the person at Invesco who found the flags and he thinks both sides are exaggerating a bit. The person claims the majority of the bags with flags in them were near the trash, on a dock, and would have been thrown away. The person thinks it was probably an "oversight" by the Democrats rather than any nefarious plot against the flag. But the person doesn’t believe anyone was coming to get them: "The flags were there for a week and a day and no one came looking for them."
One thing I know for certain: Barack Obama didn’t order anyone to throw out 12,000 American flags.
Predictably, neither Republicans nor Democrats were satisfied by such a common-sense viewpoint. The former immediately suggested that such behavior is typical of liberals, since they don't love America as much as they should, while the latter accuse their rivals of engaging in a sleazy campaign stunt. Harsanyi found himself being drawn into the middle of this verbal combat when he dared to post a comment remarking, "I’m not sure what the DNC was supposed to do with unused hand-flags, frankly" -- an observation that soon made him the target of the same sort of patriotic ire previously aimed at the Democrats.
In the end, Harsanyi believes that "both sides overreacted" to the flag flap, which seemed to him like an innocent mistake "by some shmo intern who left them there by accident." But in a political contest as close-fought and passionate as this one, what Harsanyi describes as "guerilla campaigning" is par for the course -- and in this particular battle, the Republicans came out on top.
Does this victory symbolize anything greater than it appears on the surface? Not to Harsanyi: "I don't think it says anything about either candidate," he notes. However, I'll bet there are a few hundred commenters who'd beg to differ. -- Michael Roberts
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