October 31, 2004
The Coming Apart of An Ordered World: Bloggers Notebook, Election Eve
"About the performance of journalists in 2004 it will be asked, post-election: How good a job did the press do? But Big Journalism was in a different situation in politics and the world during this campaign. The post-mortems should be about that. Also: will the press even have this job in 08?"
The election of 2004 will always stand out for me for the reasons people say it’s extra important. The campaign of 2004 will always stand out because I blogged it. That changed politics for me. I used to consume with a certain intensity the campaign narrative produced by others. Now I help make it— in the sense that PressThink is a little part of the big, roaring national dialogue about who would make a better choice for president, and why.
By doing this weblog, I crossed over to the participants’ side in campaigning for president, and journalizing about it. I’m one of millions who felt something similar happen in ‘04. They crossed over to participant status. Of course, this is always going on in politics— people getting involved, people dropping out. The question is whether, during the long Campaign of 2004, there were new kinds of participants in presidential politics, new entry points for their talents. And whether politics is vulnerable to their ideas.
The Note made the point Friday: compared to that force known as the voters, the press is a pop gun. “You’re just along for the ride, boys and girls,” said the tip sheet written by Mark Halperin and his elves at ABC News. The boys and girls are also called the Gang of 500— the reporters, editors, producers and pundits who have given us what they alone could have given us in political coverage this year.
And I wasn’t surprised at this from The Note on Friday morning: “number of must reads in Friday’s papers: sadly/happily, none.” No one in the Gang could think of anything vital to say. I think this is basically good. The closer we get to the voters taking over, the less meaning there is in any campaign news. We understand about as much as we’re going to understand of these two candidates, of “the race.” I can barely absorb the results of another poll. The numbers bounce off me. I believe none of them.
All year long, I have waited for one honest and detailed article from the press about the percentage of people who hang up the phone when a pollster calls. Zogby, Sir: how many? Gallup, what’s your number? New York Times/CBS poll: please disclose. (Do you know? E-mail me.) I’ve heard it’s the nightmare number in the industry. Joe Klein of Time and CNN hints around about it. I just want to know what the number is—a percentage—for the big polling operations.
Added to those who can’t be found because cell phones are all they use (which has been reported in the press) the hang-up number could really mean something. Correction: could have meant something. Too late now. The time for that journalism to be done is over. (Well, there’s this.) And it is very fortunate for CBS that Bill Keller of the New York Times decided that the missing explosives story couldn’t wait until Sunday’s Sixty Minutes. By Sunday night the voters have begun their roar. Unless you have emergency information, your pop gun should stay holstered.
And I have barely the will to point out that in Saturday’s paper, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times said, “At this point in a campaign, command of the political agenda is critical,” and in the same article said that at this point in the campaign, “the contest is less about swaying undecided voters than about getting supporters to the polls,” two statements that appear to mean opposite things.
I figured out what bothered me about Nagourney’s reporting this year. Some who admire the New York Times pay attention to the titles given to people there; and to us it means something, as surely the editors meant something, when Najourney is designated the lead correspondent in election coverage at the Times. Like.. this is your best guy! Your star player. Many others play crucial roles, it’s team coverage and all that, but still: in the world of correspondents, shouldn’t the “lead” ones be leaders?
It seems to me impossible for Nagourney to have set any kind of standard of excellence this year because the reporting he was assigned to do was horse race journalism— most of the time. He wrote the insider baseball news. The big poll-driven, consultant-quoting “analysis” pieces from inside the campaigns. What a waste.
Richard Berke, the Washington editor in charge, used that approach in 2000, when he was the lead correspondent. He then passed along the insider’s beat to Nagourney, who seems like a fine journalist and a good guy. But the beat is brain dead. Why give it to your top gun? Berke’s decision is one of the reasons the Washington Post moved far ahead of its rival in political coverage this year.
Then there are the calls I have been getting from journalists—including the editor of a sizable newspaper in a swing state—who want to talk about the war against journalists they feel is being conducted by the Bush side. I have been writing about it here and there. Last week I was quoted thusly in Jim Rutenberg’s account in the New York Times:
“The traditional players, including the press, have lost some of the control or exclusive control they used to have,” said Jay Rosen, chairman of the journalism department at New York University, who keeps his own Web log, or blog.
But, he added, “I think there’s a campaign under way to totally politicize journalism and totally politicize press criticism.”
“It’s really an attack not just on the liberal media or press bias, it’s an attack on professionalism itself, on the idea that there could be disinterested reporters,” he said.
I did say that. And I believe every word. Though nothing has occupied me more than figuring out this campaign to de-certify and discredit the press, I have not succeeded yet. I don’t fully understand it— yet. Voices from the other side of the political divide are eager to help me: “Journalists have discredited themselves,” they’ll say, “by being so biased.” It’s payback time. We don’t have to take it anymore. We can route around them. And I understand all that.
But every journalist who has called me has said the same thing: “this is something else.” They describe a step-up in attacks. They speak of a deluge of complaints that appear organized, not in a clumsy, but in a strategic way. They talk of hatred spewing at them and their staffs for being biased against Bush, for allegedly hating the President. They speak of callers who won’t relent, or allow you to speak a word. They scream about your blatant pro-Kerry tilt and then hang up without waiting for any answer.
My callers want me to know about this. Maybe they want me to keep writing about it. I’m not sure. But that sentence they spoke in common, “this is something else…” had emotion in it. A good novelist could describe fully what it was. There was a measure of fear. Some pain. Some awe, too.
Seeking for explanations, one could say these calls from alarmed journalists were just describing the standard details of dirty politics—a known instrument—now pointed at the press, which is treated like any other opponent. And I think that is part of the story. But there is more.
Only one piece of campaign journalism stood wholly apart from all others for me, as the author of PressThink and an interpreter of politics. It’s Without a Doubt by Ron Suskind in the Oct. 17 New York Times, my choice for the high point in political journalism this year. I contributed my bit to the narrative line he develops: “Bush’s intolerance of doubters.” It was this post, (April 25) attempting to explain what’s different about the Bush White House’s approach to the press.
There is still a reporters gallery, and it is still speaking the language of a Fourth Estate. But perhaps its weakness is in speaking a language Americans recognize as theirs. Bush is challenging the press: you don’t speak to the nation, or for it, or with it.
He cannot sustain this challenge all the time—thus, the April 13 press conference, thus the embeds—but it is a serious argument. Intellectually, it’s almost a de-certification move against the press corps. There’s a constituency for this, and it picks up on long-term trends that have weakened the national press, including a disconnect between Big Journalism and many Americans, and the rise of alternative media systems.
My choice for “press piece” of the year is Michelle Cottle’s analysis in the Nov. 8th issue of The New Republic, one of the few works by a journalist that offers any fresh insight into the bias wars. (The link is subscribers only.) Cottle takes a psychological approach, showing how the relationship between Democrats and the press differs from the relationship Republicans have established. The connection with the Democrats is essentially neurotic; with the Republicans things are cooler and more rational:
Democrats say (with some exasperation) that their party still accepts the idea of the media as an unofficial Fourth Estate of government, shaping debate and serving as watchdog for the public interest. As campaign consultant Kenneth Baer put it, “Democrats buy into this high and mighty role that the press has of itself.” Because of this, say Dems, their team is too “susceptible to guilt” over denying access.
By contrast, the Bush administration does not regard the media as having a special role but rather as just “one of several constituencies to deal with,” says former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. “It doesn’t set them apart as more important.” This more dispassionate view gives Team Bush greater freedom to play hardball, refusing access and info that it feels aren’t in its best interest to provide
She includes a couple of interesting quotes from Democratic operative and former Gore aide Carter Eskew. “In a way, that’s healthier,” says Eskew about the Republican attitude. “If you know what the boundaries are, you can have a professional relationship and just say, ‘Let’s not pretend to be friends.’” And: “When Democrats don’t do well, I think the media’s contempt factor really goes up,” says Eskew. “They think, ‘God, your campaign is so lame. How could you be losing to this guy?’”
This is what the Right wing does not get: the contempt factor for Democrats among political journalists, which involves the need to separate from those you feel closest to. Neuroses, a hidden factor in the bias wars, is not so hidden after Cottle’s outstanding piece.
About the performance of journalists in 2004 it will be asked, post-election: How good a job did the press do? But Big Journalism was in a different situation in politics and the world during this campaign. The post-mortems should be about that. Also: will the press even have this job in 08?
About the situation the journalism profession finds itself in, I still feel there is too much to say— too many changes and disruptions. We understand very little of it. Much more will be mapped out after the election drama is over, and there’s a chance to step back. Maybe now, in the final days of our ignorance about who the next President will be, there are a few things that will never be clearer.
- The declining cost for like minded people to find each other, get together, and independently act was a major factor in this campaign.
- All around the scene in politics, in media, and in matters of interpretation, we find fallen barriers to entry.
- Gatekeepers who can keep information out of circulation no longer exist, but the attitudes of those who once swung the gates— they still exist.
- Thus, Doug McGill, former NYT reporter is on to something big: “we are at sea because our Grand Old Professional Code is falling to pieces.”
- In Big Journalism the story line that held throughout the entire campaign was the coming apart of an ordered world. That is what happened to political journalists in what they call “this cycle.”
Go ahead, add to my list. I invite you. (I dare you.) What, to you, are the clearest lessons for the press in political year 2004? What’s murky beyond measure? Tell us now, before we know too much.
After Matter: Notes, reactions and links…
If the source had gone on the record, this would be PressThink’s passage of the year in political journalism. Ron Suskind (New York Times Magazine Oct. 17, 2004):
…then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
See Jeff Shalet on the Suskind article and the “magical realism” of George W. Bush.
Jeff Jarvis takes to task Todd Purdum of the New York Times for his “incredibly condescending, insulting, snotty analysis of the dirty, rancorous campaign we’ve had: He says that all the vile bile must be OK because voter registration is high.”
In short: Mud amuses the masses. Well, Mr. High-fallutin’ Journalist, could it be instead that voter registration is high because citizens actually care about what is happening in our country and there are crucial issues to care about — even if big media concentrated instead on the mud? Apparently not.
Do not miss Doug McGill’s groundbreaking essay at PressThink: The Fading Mystique of an Objective Press. It’s about the coming apart of an ordered world.
The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Hitt: (Oct. 28, 2004)
Republicans, who have long argued that they are treated unfairly by the mainstream media, are airing complaints — and using them to galvanize their base — as Election Day draws near….
Among other things, such attacks are intended to energize the conservative activists who form the base of the Republican Party, and whose efforts on Nov. 2 are pivotal to Mr. Bush’s chances at winning re-election.
“Taking on the liberal media … is a huge motivator,” says Republican Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign.
Broadcasting and Cable—a trade magazine—produces a rare hard-hitting editorial: News in the Spin Cycle.
Posted by Jay Rosen at October 31, 2004 1:22 AM
Relatively new visitor to your blog, Mr. Rosen. But my hat's off to you....I keep coming back.
I don't mean to be unkind or brutal to our political press, but I think that fundamental lesson for the political press in America, on both sides and also in the middle, is simply that YOU FAILED.
The press has failed us in this election, pure and simple. Honestly, for me, one of the main reasons why Jon Stewart is perhaps the most reliable political commentator in 2004 is that he went on "Crossfire" and he said so, flat-out, in no uncertain terms. Not as an arrogant pundit, but as a frankly rather humble and cowed citizen. He said, with all humility (I think), "Please stop. Please give us more substance. We need your help."
This failure, I think, is largely about objectivity, which has been a topic writ large in your recent posts and recent comments. There are deep nuances to the failure of this journalistic standard, undoubtedly, but I think the main thing that the news-reading public perceives is that even when viewed objectively, some statements made by candidates or public officials are untrue. Objectively. The facts, the public record, contradict what we hear every day from the folks who may run our country for the next four years. And our objective press won't go that far, won't objectively call foul when it's been committed. Such calls may have partisan consequences--liars generally look bad when they've been called out on it--but that doesn't mean that one can't objectively call a public official out on their untruths or misstatements.
Cases in point:
1) Dick Cheney saying in the debate with Edwards that he'd never gone so far as to imply that Saddam Hussein was complicit in the planes flying into the Trade Center in 2001. He's on the public record, implying (or flat-out saying) exactly that. Objective fact is that he said it. The political press doesn't call him on it when he issues a patently false denial.
2) The ongoing Bush administration song-and-dance about Al QaQaa and the missing explosives. They haven't addressed that at all, even after American news embed videos show the barrels of explosives and our own soldiers snipping the IAEA seals. Which makes it pretty close to an objective fact that that stuff was there when our troops first arrived. But the political press doesn't call the administration on its obfuscations of videotaped evidence.
3) The fact that neither candidate's numbers add up, given the spending plans they are proposing for the next four years. It's widely accepted by partisan and nonpartisan economists that both Kerry's and Bush's claims that they can cut the defecit in half are so much manure. But the political press doesn't ask either one any substantive hard questions about this.
I could go on and on, but I won't. And I will state at this point, in case it wasn't already evident, that I am myself rather partisan--I'll be voting for Kerry--but while my examples above may be overloaded on questions for the Bush administration, the same goes for the Democratic challenger. It's the "He-said-she-said" paradigm, and it's essential that the issue be addressed for candidates from both sides of the aisle. Other countries manage to produce principled and balanced journalism....why can't we in America go beyond the basic reporting of what people in public life say? If you don't go beyond that, it performs no useful function anymore for the general populace--the papers are only printing snippets of what any of us could find in full online.
As I say, I lean to the left, and nevertheless, I've maintained a subscription to a British conservative publication, "The Economist" for the last four years. Partly because I get news from them that one never even hears about here, but mainly because I respect their treatment of issues, even when I disagree with them (as, often, I do). They have praised Bush and Blair incessantly for their decision to invade Iraq, but they have also been duly critical of the conduct of the war itself. They endorsed Bush in 2000, but have consistently lambasted him for his protectionist stances on farming and steel (free trade is one of that publication's hot buttons). One reads their articles, and one can't discern between a "news" article and an "op-ed" piece, not because they're rabid about anything, but because they're frank about their assumptions and thorough in their reporting.
None of these exemplary qualities seem to exist in the American media, especially the political press, in 2004. It's not objectivity to fail to call bullsh*t when you see it....it's cowardice. To come full circle, that's why Jon Stewart is held in such high regard--because he actually skewers the people who deserve skewering, not on a partisan basis but simply on the basis of what they say on the public record and what they do. It's all out there, and all of us who pay any attention see it everyday, and Mr. Stewart has a plethora of easy targets. In fact, he's shooting fish in a barrel, and nobody outside of the "Fake news" is bothering to do that business.
Objectivity. It keeps coming up in the conversation as a problem, not an ideal.
Imagine that reporters and the press could actually truly be objective. Would we be having this conversation now? Would the press and MSM be the subject of all this agita and angst and criticism? Maybe not. But the press cannot be objective in a true sense. It never has been and it never will be. So why is this such a problem now, when it wasn’t in the past?
I think that for a long time, when the press and the MSM were the only people with access to power and the resources to put out news and shape the narrative, they told people they were objective and people believed them. Actually, people had no real opportunity to question this stated objectivity, at least not in any way that would allow for a broad conversation. The press controlled the means to disseminate the information, to frame the questions and offer the answers. It controlled what was considered objective truth because the press said it was objective truth. People individually might question, but there was no way for groups of people to share skepticisms about the objectivity of the press and the news and information it put forth as objective truth.
But the internet, in particular, has stripped some of the power to put forth information to many people from the press and MSM and given it to individuals. As Jay says, “All around the scene in politics, in media, and in matters of interpretation, we find fallen barriers to entry.” Now if the press were truly objective and offering real objective truth, then people would be getting together over special interests, or over policies to change the way things are. But instead, people are getting together to point out the lack of objective truth in the press, and they’re quite right in their observations. Moreover, I think many people feel duped—they believed it when the press said it was objective, and now they find out the press was no such thing.
The press, meanwhile, suddenly finds that the basis for its power to shape the narrative and affect the present and future is under attack. And instead of trying to understand the attack and adapt, it is digging in. That’s a bad idea.
I also think this has a lot of do with the idea of professionalism in journalism. In the case of most professions, the professionals share a technical knowledge that is gained from specialized education in the techniques and skills of the field. It is a knowledge that cannot simply be picked up on the street, but requires concentrated, careful study and practice. Professions often have shared protocols and practices that are learned and refined, and can be observed by those outside the profession and that reinforce the specialized knowledge and work of the profession. Think medicine, law, police work, orchestral music, for example.
I don’t see this kind of professionalism in journalism. And I think that’s also part of why the press is under fire. That’s enough for now.
About the performance of journalists in 2004 it will be asked, post-election: How good a job did the press do? But Big Journalism was in a different situation in politics and the world during this campaign.
As I've come to understand the external pressures the press has come under there are two areas, perhaps inter-related, I am trying to understand:
1. Where is the press going? Is the future path a reasonable and perhaps "good" evolution of the role that distributors of information play in society? Comments have spoken of Gutenberg and/or Luther moment. Is the press facing a reformation? Or, is the press as BIG MEDIA ailing, dying, becoming extinct in the face of competitive forces from new technologies and a political environment? How different is this turmoil from the 1920s, 40s, 60s?
One of the most basic questions about themselves that the press seems reluctant to answer, fatally I think, is whether they are professionals practicing a scientific endeavor that can be held to measurable standards and liability -- OR -- they are craftsmen and artists creating with reckless abandon something that is part history, part movie script, part prophecy, and none of that, but constitutionally protected in any form.
For me, I would either like the press to either sh*t or get off the pot on the professional/scientist perception of themselves.
2. How did the press get to this point? Was this a mystical fall from grace? Did modernity (or postmodernity) pass by an institution whose structural bias could adapt and keep up? Is the press the victim of its own ignorance, undermined in a "war" it didn't know how to fight, or realize it should be defending against? Did the press undermine its own credibility by becoming a commodity instead of a service? Commodities are especially vulnerable to market forces, fashion fads and packaging for quick digestion and disposability.
On of the smartest paragraphs (and there are others) in Jeff Sharlet's Our Magical President is:
Suskind and other Bush detractors (and make no mistake, Suskind’s story is a hit piece -- a smart, informative hit piece, but a hit piece all the same) document Bush’s tautological thinking, but they fall short of taking it seriously. That’s a point Mark McKinnon, one of Bush’s media advisors, tries to hammer home in brutal fashion when he tells Suskind, “ ‘When you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it’s good for us. Because you know what [Bush supporters] don’t like? They don’t like you!’”
But what Jeff misses, like so many journalists with an amnesiac narrative window, is it's not just Bush. This isn't a phenomenon born mature in a couple of years. It has a lineage, a genre. It traces its roots back thru the Clinton administration and his critics. It has its own mythology
among the press tribe from decades past. It was not fathered by Agnew, although some find comfort in the consensus of like-minded peers by saying so.
The press seems to have an identity crisis. They want to find a way back to Walter Cronkite and Howard Cosell, but fear those days are long gone. Swept away like Ozzie and Harriet by newsmakers and readers unwilling to share a fantasy of an esteemed press corps.
That's the reality testing that our society is facing, again. There is the reality we want, the reality we work for, the reality we face and the reality we ignore. Within each of these realities are perils, pitfalls, progress and protagonists. And across all these realities is the power of an individual and force of a consensus.
In other words, little has changed since Lippman and Dewey.
I was not aware that people on the right are raising hell with letters and calls. As a righty who is in touch with many, I don't know of any campaign per se.
However, I can explain the phenomenon from the standpoint of a conservative. It comes back to bias, of course, as annoying as that narrative is.
The basic problem is that we see press bias on almost a daily basis. Some of it is extreme (New York Times, Rathergate) but all of it is disturbing. We see it in many areas, not just political candidates: gun rights, abortion, etc. Sometimes the bias is combined with invincible ignorance (the so-called assault weapons debate, where numerous media outfits portray these weapons as fully automatic).
Your basic conservative feels angry about the perceived unfairness, and powerless about being able to change it. We believe that press bias is worth a lot of points in the popular vote - especially this year where the Democratic candidate is so undistinguished, so far left (most liberal in the senate), and so flawed (the Swift Boat people were NOT lying, but the press chose a bizarre way to evaluate their claims, and the press never came close to investigating Kerry while going silly over Bush's National Guard record). If John Kerry gets elected, it will be press bias and nothing else that puts him over the top.
We look at that, the attempted October surprises, and lots of other examples I won't bore you with, and conclude that the press is a negative force in our society, because it strongly sides with our political or ideological opponents.
When you add to that the fact that conservatives have felt this way for a long time (which is one reason many listen to conservative talk radio), it can get pretty emotional.
Yes, we would like to fix the problem. If that involved destroying existing news media outlets, we wouldn't shed a tear. But what we want is the mythical "objective journalism" and we'd like the current journalists to at least try for it. We are not afraid to compete on an even playing field, but right now we feel handicapped seriously by bias.
Personally, if I could push a button and make the New York Times turn into a cookbook publisher instead of newspapers, I would. CBS - ditto.
What I think sets apart your writing on journalism is your willingness to accept that the right has a grievance AND that perhaps 80% of the attacks on the press ALSO fit into a long line of clear Republican political strategy for specific and obvious political objectives THAT WORKS (it sucessfully intimidates).
You recognize that the press is kidding itself with a surreal fantasy concerning what and how they go about their business AND their paranoia is justified because there is a clearly organized campaign to bring down the old model of the fourth estate as legitimately being able to oppose the Republican party (which likes to imagine it is identical with patriotism per se) regarding anything.
It is writing like yours that is willing to broach the complexity without reducing it to the gameplan of one side or the other that is new to this this election cycle.
I'm in general agreement with the spirit of Dano's comments above, but I'd like to say I noticed an encouraging trend (albeit, too little too late) where at least one of the networks (maybe NBC?) was starting to imitate Jon Stewart's approach of running the older contradictory quotes right up against the new lies of the day after presidential debate number three.
Bush had denied he ever said he wasn't concerned with Osama bin Laden and then they played the money quote where he flatly said it. I saw similar stuff with Kerry and even the Cheney quote Dano refers to. THESE are the facts that non MSM employees and Daily Show fans are sick of not seeing on the news.
My question is why don't bald-faced lies get this treatment everyday of the year? Why do we have to wait for a presidential debate a couple of weeks before an election for the press to bother itself over whether our presidential candidates are flatly contradicting themselves and lying to us with a straight face? Is 363 days of lies and two days of busting liars more fair and balanced? Better for advertising? An effect of the view from nowhere? What is it?
I know the Repubs on the site have a similar complaint, but I am quite confident that nine times out of ten using money quotes to test Kerry's words against Bush/Cheney smokescreens would favor Kerry. B/C04 stays up all night just making stuff up. How else can we explain Kerry's surge after the first debate? It's because the Bush/Cheney campaign had portrayed Kerry as such a Martian that mere human features had to improve his ratings.
Simple reality checks like juxtaposing relevant video when politicians or businessmen talk out their ass EVERYDAY would hugely improve the public discourse of this country and surely at least slow down our slide into relativist authoritarianism. Maybe that's why they call Jon Stewart's show the Daily Show. They do it every day. We don't have to wait for holidays to see the relevant stuff from the archives.
The Jeff Jarvis piece you link to is so symptomatic. It has precisely the same infantile playground punk quality we've come to know and love in Bill O'Reilly. Did these guys grow up together, or is it just that they were abused by their fathers in a similar way? Do their followers share a similar history of family abuse? What explains their having ratings and viewers?
Your point about press contempt for Democratic candidates is spot on. There is no other explanation for the psychotic and childish lies the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal consitently printed about Gore. 90% manufactured by the press corps itself. How could he?
The other new angle on the campaign was Media Matters and Air America where Democrats decided they were going to stand up to the bully. I think it has gone a long way to showing up what blowhard authoritarians are running the FOX/Sinclair media axis. Why has it taken this long to develop a database of the systematic American Enterprise Institute disinformation the Limbaugh/O'Really/Hannity types programmatically spew. Air America's relation to the Progressive Research Institute and Media Matters fairly mirrors AEI's role with Limbaugh/FOX/Ailes, etc. The sooner that symmetry sinks in the clearer the air will be.
The other thing this cycle shows us is that not even the defection of thinking Republican opinion leaders from the Bush distortion of true conservatism (like Kristol in the Weekly Standard or George Will or Robert Novak) can put a dent in the infallibility the faithful attribute to our misguided smirker in chief. That is scary and new. That says we've gone past politics to something quasi-religious. That's where the "reality-based" vs. "faith-based" angle comes in. The faith-based charge is most relevant to the administration's insistence on fighting based on what we knew was manufactured intelligence at the time. It was faith in what their disinformers were doing, not faith in an alternative reality. The "faith-based" issue applies to those who give credence to the disinformation, their followers, not our leaders. And of course, those who want to make our founding fathers out to be 20th C. fundamentalists. "Deism, thy name is secular humanism (Satan)!"
We need a religiously informed press that can appreciate that not all Christians are authoritarian fundamentalists, who don't buy the whole fundamentalist strategy as the point of departure for coverage of religious issues. The Republican/Catholic hatchet jobs on Kerry in oblivious disregard of the other party's divergence from church dogma were pretty well covered by Atrios. Would that he weren't such a lonely voice in the media wilderness. Journalism on religious topics has a LONG LONG way to go.
Keep up the good work!
Jay, this is such a great conversation. Thank you. I spent 15 years as a journalist, before leaving to get a doctorate in educational research and public policy (and I'm still working on it). So this is discussion is near and dear.
But I don't think that the crisis in the press is about the election. The campaign coverage is just a catalyst that shed light on the press crisis. It started even before the campaign, withe NY Times/Jayson Blair situation, for example.
I think I know when the press took a wrong turn. It was in the late 1990s. I was the editor of a small magazine, and I was shipped off to various seminars to try to understand how to put the publication on the web. The highly-paid consultants, editors who had "embraced" the web and took our money to tell us about it, enthused about how online publishing would create tons of new jobs for editors. The editors were critical to online journalism because "all those web users will need people to sort out the information and tell them what's important."
That was the press party line at the time--that the internet would be another medium under the control of MSM, and that using their special filter of objective truth, editors and journalists would sort out the news and facts for the rest of us, and tell us what we needed to know.
What's funny is that the internet turned out to be anything but a place where news, facts, and opinions are controlled by the MSM. Instead, it's the new town square, with plenty of soapboxes and pamphleteering. Perhaps a more perfect medium for democracy and the marketplace of ideas (although I am skeptical about who is in the marketplace--I suspect there are a fewer waitresses and auto workers on these blogs than lawyers, academics, and management).
The closeness of the presidential race, the vastly differing world views of the candidates--these would have been around anyway. What's different is that lots and lots of people refused to swallow the MSM narrative, and instead jumped into the internet with their own voices. If it wasn't the presidential race, it would have been something else.
The journalists--especially the editors, I suspect--are startled that regular people (voters, citizens) have jumped into the world of information gathering and dissemination with vigor. It will be interesting to see what happens in the year after the election.
Jay wrote: By since it is axiomatic on the Right that the liberal press "helps" Democrats, the point has to be denied. It contradicts the Right's religion. And it is denied. All the time.
Jay, you could not be more wrong or blinded by your own bias on this point. The axiom is that the liberal press is naturally dismissive if not antagonistic toward the Right. The right absolutely recognizes the neurosis of the press toward the Left as one might notice the reactions of the other side's bleachers when their team fumbles the ball. It is not ignored, or overlooked, or denied - it is fabled. Like the fabled neurosis of the Left toward the military ("Those are our jets now!") the Democrat-voting liberal majority of the press must deal with the reality that "Those are our politicians!" when covering Democrats. Whether they're cheering their team on or calling for the head of a player or coach, doesn't change the accuracy of the axiom.
But let's not obsess over the Right's war on liberal media and Agnew's role in it.
One of the easter eggs of PressThink are updates to the After... section. From B&C's News in the Spin Cycle (very cool of you): "None of the journalists actually in the room found anything unusual to report about the speech. But none of the journalists outside the room could ignore the sound bite as it echoed through endless news cycles, growing like a tall tale with each telling."
Dean made the unforgivable mistake of speaking to Section 1, forgetting he co-occupied Section 2 and TV gladly made him pay - egged on by Dean's opponents (Right and Left).
The Convention in Section View
Level One, at the bottom, is the convention floor, assigned to the delegates, who are seated by states. (It crawls with journalists too, and those who have passes.)
Level Two is the podium, set on an enormous and expensive stage, and... directly across the way, on the arena's opposte side, the big bank of television cameras, clustered for the head-on shot, and centered at mid-court.
But that only addresses the geography of the playing field in spatial dimensions.
Jay wrote: Because it is time that our journalists learned how to tell proper time, and bring the priorities of their business into better alignment with common sense, civic experience, and an enlarged historical sense.
To which I enthusiastically agreed. The press is discrediting itself.
Are the other "estates" in our democracy pointing it out? Are they trying to drive up the press' negatives? You bet. Does it come from Labor Unions and Corporate Headquarters? Environmental and Energy lobbyists? Politicians on the Left, Right and ignored fringe? You bet. Blogs and letters to the editor? Them too.
The poor dear little darlings....
I'm sorry, Tim, but it is an article of faith on the Right that Democrats get a break from the press because the press is populated by liberals.
No, I think it is an article of faith on the Right that the policies and ideas of Democrats get a break from the press because the press is populated by liberals -- BUT -- the press can be put on the defensive and kept aware of their neurosis so that the press is not helpful to Democrats (paralysis), or even unhelpful (dukkha). Working the refs or working the fans is a PSYOP: Identifying your target's proclivities and then manipulating their decisions/actions because they have such proclivities.
Gore and Dean were belittled as caricatures. The press loves caricatures, but is it more effective via mass media against the Left or Right? Is it funny but harmless one way, and introspective and insinuating another?
Both sides do this, but they do it in different ways because the media leans (per issue). This isn't much different than the methods used in the 60s against the still conservative press from the 50s.
For example, I may be skeptical of calls for greater voice in the liberal leaning press by a liberal leaning press critic because it may be a less-than-subtle call for open liberal/progressive propaganda.
I have avoided the PIPA survey debate earlier, but this may be useful:
WMD: In 1997, UNSCOM recovered more than a dozen 155 mm artillery rounds Muthanna State Establishment containing approximately 49 litres of mustard gas agent that was still of high quality — 97 per cent purity (UNMOVIC pdf, para. 119, p. 30, here) and at Ukhaydir Ammunition Storage Depot (CIA report here).
Many politicians and experts that were advocating continued sanctions and continued inspections said Saddam was hiding WMD and maintaining some scale of programs based on this find.
Many others said that it was not a smoking gun, but meant that Iraq was not fully cooperating.
Still others complained that sanctions should be lifted and inspections transitioned to monitoring regardless of finding some left over Mustard-filled shells.
We bombed Iraq in 1998: Desert Fox.
In January 2003, Blix said:
Resolution 687 (1991), like the subsequent resolutions I shall refer to, required cooperation by Iraq but such was often withheld or given grudgingly. Unlike South Africa, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons and welcomed inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance -- not even today -- of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.
February 27, 2003, just weeks before the war started, when Blix was asked whether there was any evidence that Iraq wanted to disarm, he said, "I do not think I can say there is evidence of a fundamental decision, but there is some evidence of some increased activity."
In 2004, ISG found recovered 53 CW munitions, including a sulfer-mustard artillery shell, 10 trace mustard shells and a couple of sarin munitions. (Vol. 3, Annex F)
Did Iraq have WMD? OK, yes and no. Yes, but I wouldn't have gone to war over what we've found.
The PIPA survey is informative, albeit flawed. Could I conduct a similar survey asking if Iraq and Osama bin Laden had connections to Sudan's aspirin factory, if Iraq had connections with terrorist groups, if Iraqi intelligence and government officials met with Osama bin Laden and AQ members, if Osama bin Laden was at Tora Bora when we attacked with our Afghan allies in December 2001?
Sure I could.
Uriel Wittenberg: You're evading the point, which was the PIPA survey's purported unfairness.
What you wrote, that I was responding to: Here is the heart of the disease: even after a discussion directly addresses an issue, people on both sides walk away with their original prejudices intact and unchanged. Everyone's "reality" remains safe.
Have I threatened your "reality" with my response?
Here is the complete quote from Duelfer's Key Findings:
Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability—which was essentially destroyed in 1991—after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized, but probably with a different mix of capabilities to that which previously existed. Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability—in an incremental fashion, irrespective of international pressure and the resulting economic risks—but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities.
The relevant key finding pertaining to Appendix F in the report:
While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter, a policy ISG attributes to Baghdad’s desire to see sanctions lifted, or rendered ineffectual, or its fear of force against it should WMD be discovered.
- The scale of the Iraqi conventional munitions stockpile, among other factors, precluded an examination of the entire stockpile; however, ISG inspected sites judged most likely associated with possible storage or deployment of chemical weapons.
Does finding "a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions" contradict PIPA's statement that "reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the heads of the Iraq survey group David Kay and Charles Duelfer (chosen by the president), conclud[e] before the war Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction nor even a significant program for developing them." Why use the qualifier significant
program but not any qualifier (such as essentially
) for weapons?
Here is where Bush supporters will engage in a debate. Is weaponized mustard and sarin considered WMD? For the purposes of Iraq's disarmament, yes they were. Were these recently discovered chemical munitions part of an active WMD stockpile? No. Should these munitions been destroyed in the 12 years since the first Gulf War? Yes. Is there a debate about what does/should constitute WMD? Yes.
You ask me a series of such questions about relevance. Relevant to what? Relevant to justifying the decision to go to war on March 19, 2003? Or relevant to the PIPA survey?
The PIPA survey is flawed because it does not say, "before the war, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability had been essentially destroyed ...".
Does it matter? Yes. Bush supporters' reality includes those munitions and the IIS labs and Kerry supporters' reality discounts them. In the PIPA survey, it becomes an all or nothing proposition. That way, we can ridicule each other for living in either the black or white reality.
That's the flaw in the survey.
Your response to me also indicates "the heart of the disease" by taking "the liberty of trying to read [my] mind, since [you] feel [I] haven't been forthcoming".
Would you like me to read your mind and tell you what you were actually saying to me?
Does finding "a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions" contradict PIPA's statement that "reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and the heads of the Iraq survey group David Kay and Charles Duelfer (chosen by the president), conclud[e] before the war Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction nor even a significant program for developing them."
But you don't answer.
My answer: No, there's really no contradiction I can see.
You ask also: "Why use the qualifier significant program but not any qualifier (such as essentially or stockpile or capability) for weapons?"
I really don't know what you mean.
>Is weaponized mustard and sarin considered WMD? For the purposes of Iraq's disarmament, yes they were.
You're not being clear. Are you disputing Duelfer's key finding that Iraq's WMD capability was "essentially destroyed in 1991"?
>Is there a debate about what does/should constitute WMD? Yes.
You're saying that Duelfer's definition of WMD is somewhat arbitrary? And that he's using a definition that is politically damaging to Bush?
>You ask me a series of such questions about relevance. Relevant to what?
I said at the outset of that specific comment: "You're evading the point, which was the PIPA survey's purported unfairness."
>The PIPA survey is flawed because it does not say, "before the war, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability had been essentially destroyed ...".
PIPA in fact says that "before the war Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction nor even a significant program for developing them."
Your point here, I'm guessing, is that Iraq had no WMD capability -- but that it retained some amounts of actual WMD?
I'm sorry, I'm lost here.
>Bush supporters' reality includes those munitions and the IIS labs and Kerry supporters' reality discounts them.
Well, sorry, but people can't have a reasonable discussion if they all have their own definitions for terms like WMD. Again -- are you actually disputing Duelfer's definition of the term? If so you should say so straightforwardly.
----sbw: I'll respond later, no time just now, my apologies .......
You ask: ... But you don't answer.
That's correct, I did not. I think you can have one of two discussions:
1. Was the PIPA survey flawed by asking an ambiguous question which would be interpreted differently by Bush supporters and Kerry supporters, or was the question unambiguous?
2. Are you personally in the Bush or Kerry reality and can you defend your perception of reality?
You can try to combine the two in a single discussion, which is what you seem to be doing, but that may not lead to a resolution of either.
My answer: No, there's really no contradiction I can see.
You make a distinction then between the chemical weapons that have been found and what constitutes WMD that shares a reality with many Kerry supporters.
Well, sorry, but people can't have a reasonable discussion if they all have their own definitions for terms like WMD. Again -- are you actually disputing Duelfer's definition of the term? If so you should say so straightforwardly.
From the glossary of Duelfer's report:
Weapons of Mass Destruction. Weapons that are capable of a high order of destruction and/or being used in such a manner as to kill large numbers of people. Can be nuclear, chemical, biological, or radiological weapons but excludes the means of transporting or propelling the weapons where such means are a separable and divisible part of the weapon. Chemical Weapons and Biological Weapons need to be of a certain size to count as WMD — single chemical or biological artillery rounds would not be considered to be WMD, due to the limited damage they could produce.
Do I disagree with this definition? No. Am I aware of other definitions? Yes, I am. Is there a set, magical number of weaponized mustard artillery shells, or sarin rockets, or combination of the two which crosses the threshold into WMD? No, there is not.
However, I can quote two relevant portions of Duelfer's Senate testimony (Video, Unofficial Transcript): (all emphasis mine)
...Your point here, I'm guessing, is that Iraq had no WMD
Sen. Pryor: And the second question is, it’s just as I understand your testimony again, to be clear, that you did not find evidence of chemical or biological weapons at the dawn of Operation Iraqi Freedom?
Mr. Duelfer: We did not find stocks of either chemical or biological weapons.
Sen. Pryor: And I’d like to follow up on Senator Lindsey Graham’s question a few moments ago as well.
And that is, he mentioned the WMD unaccounted for.
And you may not be able to say how much is unaccounted for in this arena.
I’d like, at some point, to get an answer to that.
If you can say it here I’d like to hear it, but if not, I’ll be glad to get it later.
But, in your opinion, what happened to that WMD that’s unaccounted for?
What’s your view of that?
Mr. Duelfer: The unaccounted weapons, I mean, really derives from the weapons which Iraq declared it had but was not able to verify the disposition thereof.
For example, there was 550 155 mm artillery shells with mustard agent.
They were not able to account for those to the U.N.
What happened to them?
We may never really know.
But as we find these residual chemical rounds — and we found a mere, I think, about 53 in the past several months — some of these unaccounted for weapons may just turn up that way.
They are not a significant threat.
capability -- but that it retained some amounts of actual WMD?
My point is that the PIPA survey did not distinguish between the chemical weapons that have been found and what constitutes a WMD capability, leaving it up to the interpretation of the respondents.
Bush supporters would likely interpret the chemical weapons as WMD and Kerry supporters would not. In order to interpret their responses in the context of "reality", the survey should have defined what constituted WMD, using Duefler's defintion or their own.
A few points: journalists should be capable of more objectivity than we have seen. Nobody is going to be perfect, and depending on the specific subject, objectivity may be relativee.
The apparent symmetry of complaints from the right and the complaints from the left is not a good measure. It doesn't mean that the journalists are off the mark one way or the other.
One way of looking at objectivity is to compare the level of scrutiny on a subject of one side vs the other.
An example is the difference in reporting the military careers of Bush and Kerry. Bush was presumed guilty of something - cowardice, AWOL, etc. The press jumped on everything to make various claims, without even understanding the subject.
On the other hand, we have Kerry. Kerry was assailed by 60 eyewitnesses to his actions in Vietnam. The press worked hard to find ways to discredit each charge, and appears to be convinced that it had. The press also failed to force Kerry to release the records which could resolve the controversy (and hence missed the high probability that Kerry received a less than honorable discharge - NY Sun today).
In other words, their actions towards Bush were clearly aimed at finding "gotchas" while the action towards Kerry were aimed at absolving him of all charges, with clearly no interest at all in finding gotchas.
THAT is an example of blatant press bias. The treatment of the Swifties was also dishonest, and the methods of determining the truth were inappropriate.
I don't want to argue the Swifties case here, and suspect Jay would be pretty annoyed by it. The issue is how the two candidates were investigated (or not) by the MSM.
Show us all the records
You are guilty if you cannot produce paperwork to the contrary
No articles on the nature of Bush's service and the dangers of flying the F102.
Incorrect assertions that Bush got in due to political influence (there was influence, but it wasn't necessary for pilot trainee slots).
Denigrate and hide the stories about the first Swifty press conference, which was historic in that all of Kerry's chain of command - every one of his commanders and their bosses - said he was unfit for command.
Ignore 100 documents that Kerry refuses to release. Don't demand the release.
Give the benefit of the doubt on all charges to Kerry
Pretend that the people on Kerry's boat had the best knowledge of his actions, while they were protected from interview by their handlers. Ignore (and smear) the one who spent the most time on Kerry's boat, because he is with the anti-Kerry Swifties.
Take Navy paperwork over the testimony of eyewitnesses, even when the paperwork was written by or derived from works written by Kerry, and the only paperwork made available had been vetted by Kerry's campaign, which held back about 100 pages.
Report the Kerry capaign smears against the Swifties as if they were verified truth.
Fail to ask Kerry to explain a gap in his service record from 1970-1972.
As a result, one can read in the MSM a refutation of every charge. Those refutations, in most cases, simply are incorrect.
The key is to look at the differences in approach, not to argue conclusions. If a blatant bias pattern isn't obvious here even to lefties, I would be shocked. I think journalists can do better than this, but they wanted Kerry to appear perfect and Bush to appear with mud all over him.
I chose this issue because I know the most about it, and know some of the people involved, but there are many, many moore over the last 40 years.
In other words, some bias is blatant. And if it is blatant, it should preventable by an editor or reporters keeping an eye on things. But this year's MSM has made it completely obvious that it's primary purpose is to elect anybody but Bush.
One way of looking at media bias is as an arrogant exercise of power. I think that this has been the case this year - especially at the New York Times and CBS. When someone choses to use his position in the MSM to affect an election, by skewing the reporting, that is bad for Democracy. And that is what is visible. Attempted October surprises. Rathergate (the SOB got caught this time), suppressing of Kerry critics. There are people in the Fourth Estate who are abusing their power. They are playing the game of Kingmaker, which is not in the spirit of America.
Conservatives see this. We want to destroy the kingmakers - to remove their power which they should not have.
You're arguing that PIPA was wrong to say Iraq had no WMD in 2003.
But you don't want to contradict Duelfer, whose official report says the WMD "was essentially destroyed in 1991" (and not restored anytime afterwards).
Yours is an awkward mission indeed.
I already quoted the Duelfer line above. But you don't like it. "Essentially destroyed" is so blunt. So you seek out other Duelfer quotes -- the report's formal definition of WMD, Duelfer's congressional testimony -- which might present better opportunities to sow confusion and evade the truth.
You charge me with "mak[ing] a distinction then between the chemical weapons that have been found and what constitutes WMD."
Yes we do. Me and Duelfer.
You note that our perspective "shares a reality with many Kerry supporters."
Well, perhaps, perhaps. Actually, I feel I share a reality (though I usually say simply, share reality, since I don't really think there are that many to choose from) with just about everybody.
>Is there a set, magical number of weaponized mustard artillery shells, or sarin rockets, or combination of the two which crosses the threshold into WMD? No, there is not.
Ingenious defense. The cop can't say exactly how fast I was going. So he can't say I was speeding.
You quote the congressional testimony, but the only clue you offer as to your point is through highlighting. What's the point? That some CW was found? We already knew that.
Your point can be made in one sentence. I'll be blunt, because nonsense like yours badly needs to be clearly exposed. The reason for your longwinded, fuzzy, confusing circumlocutions is that your straightforward point is embarrassing -- that point being that even the small amounts of weapons that were found could arguably be called "WMD."
That's your entire point, isn't it?
Is there any support at all for your position? Did any newspaper call it WMD?
Jay: Just to clarify, you do disagree with the claim: it's an article of faith on the Right that Democrats get a break from the press because the press is populated by liberals. You say it's not so, and this is not an article of faith on the Right, correct? Or do I have it wrong?
Would it help if we ask Zell Miller? Can we distinguish between ideology and political party? Can we distinguish between the press treatment toward political party candidates and policy?
Does this from ABC's The Note bear repeating?
Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.
They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are "conservative positions."
They include a belief that government is a mechanism to solve the nation's problems; that more taxes on corporations and the wealthy are good ways to cut the deficit and raise money for social spending and don't have a negative affect on economic growth; and that emotional examples of suffering (provided by unions or consumer groups) are good ways to illustrate economic statistic stories.
More systematically, the press believes that fluid narratives in coverage are better than static storylines; that new things are more interesting than old things; that close races are preferable to loose ones; and that incumbents are destined for dethroning, somehow.
The press, by and large, does not accept President Bush's justifications for the Iraq war -- in any of its WMD, imminent threat, or evil-doer formulations. It does not understand how educated, sensible people could possibly be wary of multilateral institutions or friendly, sophisticated European allies.
It does not accept the proposition that the Bush tax cuts helped the economy by stimulating summer spending.
It remains fixated on the unemployment rate.
It believes President Bush is "walking a fine line" with regards to the gay marriage issue, choosing between "tolerance" and his "right-wing base."
It still has a hard time understanding how, despite the drumbeat of conservative grass-top complaints about overspending and deficits, President Bush's base remains extremely and loyally devoted to him -- and it looks for every opportunity to find cracks in that base.
Of course, the swirling Joe Wilson and National Guard stories play right to the press's scandal bias -- not to mention the bias towards process stories (grand juries produce ENDLESS process!).
The worldview of the dominant media can be seen in every frame of video and every print word choice that is currently being produced about the presidential race.
That means the President's communications advisers have a choice:
Try to change the storyline and the press' attitude, or try to win this election without changing them.
So we ask again: What's it going to be, Ken, Karen, Mary, Terry, Nicole, and Dan?
Yes, familiar with it. It does exist. I am also familiar with Pat Buchanan, John Sununu, Tony Blankley, Frank Luntz, Mary Matalin, William Safire, John McLaughlin and others-- all of who have crossed over and became "press" or had their own shows.
Then you also know that your example is disingenuous, and a pretty good example of the way pressthink elides the subject of its biases. You know that Buchanan, Sununu, Safire, et al do not anchor hard news programs, they do not determine the contents of page one of any newspaper, they are pundits or in some cases mere entertainment figures. I am familiar with the argument you are trying to make: broaden the definition of "press" or "journalist" until it includes anyone who has ever uttered an opinion in print or on camera, then point to all the conservative voices, then pretend they don't have liberal counterparts. Yes, that Safire, he practically lords over the NYTimes like a demigod. Amazingly, just by turning in opinion columns, he undoes the efforts of the news reporters.
That is your answer to the revolving door? It's a pretty weak defense.
The breezy, why-of-course, no-reasonable-person-could-deny tone in which you assert that this revolving door works uniquely for one side is, in my view, completely unwarranted but typical of the derangement in the bias discourse.
Apparently my arguments weren't deranged enough, as you felt the need to trick them out with your caricature. I never said uniquely, but might I note that your discovery of that claim is typical of the derangement in the pressthink discourse. What I have said is that despite the occasional (and largely petty) sniping the press sometimes directs at its Party candidates, the net effect favors liberal ideology.
Same with the claims about presidents and jobs. All presidents, left and right, Donkey and Elephant inclined, claim to have created jobs. When the figures go up they take credit for it, when the figures go down their opponents take advantage of it. The notion that this claim resides exclusively with Kerry, Democrats and their press friends does not square with any political reality I am aware of.
It's a notion that you have created and chosen to tilt at because it's apparently more fun than addressing anything I've written. I noted that the press assumption of government as the answer is the philisophical twin of the Democratic Party. Notwithstanding the bluster of politicians seeking re-election, do you honestly believe that this assumption has no bearing on the press' treatment of conservative and libertarian critiques of policy? Must you deal only in caricature and simple-minded retorts?
Tell Republican candidates to stop taking credit for job gains if you want politics to reflect the truer principle that economies--not presidents--create jobs. If the notion is absurd then it should be no problem for honest candidates to dispense with it. Then Democrats really will be the only ones peddling that snake oil.
Would that Republican candidates treated my word as divine. As it happens, you appear to be conflating the press view with the Democratic Party stance, which I think makes my point. You see, Jay, I wasn't criticizing Democrats, I was criticizing the press and its assumptions, which are narrow and shallow and slanted. At least one of us remembers the purpose of this site and its difference from hopeless, Crossfire-style ranting about red team and blue team.
And what makes you think I don't criticize Republicans for the same thing? Is there some perverse equal time rule that each poster must adhere to on your comments board? You are lapsing into a peculiar brand of pressthink.
But don't worry, this kind of argument won't exist in five years, or ten years. Biases are ultimately self-defeating. You can win in the short run but in the long run the effect is much like that of inbreeding. I'm quite sanguine about the effect the press has had on this election. I think its worst tendencies have been largely nullified. But it is still a bit much to see the accusation of a bias blithely waved away as so much "deranged" Right wing ranting.
"Sectarian bitching?" That happens, sure. Were you to examine candidate Gore's press treatment, however, you would not be able to file it away under such a trivializing label.
Oh, please do tell me what I should file it away under. I guess I gave the wrong answer, professor.