Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Case for Clobbering Candidates

Talk about “media bias” has a pornographic appeal for politicians and bloggers. Revealing MSM hypocrisy is as irresistible as finding Sen. Vitter on the D.C. Madam’s phone records.

Today’s “dirty little secret”: “America's political reporters don't like John Edwards, and have tried to destroy him,” according to Jamison Foser of Media Matters, quoting a piece from Atlantic Online by Marc Ambinder, one of the founders of ABC's The Note and a contributing editor to the National Journal's Hotline newsletter.

(Attribution nosebleed is a side effect of polemical reporting--anyone who agrees or quarrels with this post will be quoting me quoting Foser quoting Ambinder and will then be quoted until it all sounds like “A Partridge in a Pear Tree.”)

The main evidence for Edwards-bashing is the harping on his $400 haircut and working for a hedge fund while warring on poverty in his campaign, an assertion that leads to comparisons by another blogger to “the media's War Against Gore” that “gave us President Bush. It is why we are in Iraq today.”

Time out: Jokes about John Edwards’ haircut are unlikely to lead to another catastrophic war, but if the children will leave the room, we can talk graphically about “media bias.”

That journalists are human is not news and that they may, consciously or not, let their feelings color their reporting is indisputable. But from a lifetime of working, teaching and writing about that enterprise, another perspective:

It may very well be that reporters don’t like John Edwards. They may be put off by his over-acted sincerity, as I am (follow the links to my confession). But there is nothing new in letting that kind of reaction seep into their stories. In fact--and down comes the last veil in this stripping--that may have value for the public the media serves.

In the McCarthy era, we learned objectivity is not enough. If reporters who covered the Senator had done more probing about his methods and motives, it wouldn’t have taken Edward R. Murrow’s “biased” documentary to bring him down.

That kind of drama is rare--only Woodward and Bernstein’s Nixon takedown is comparable. But in subtler ways, the process goes on all the time.

Mitt Romney’s father comes to mind. In 1968, George Romney was the front runner for the Republican nomination. Reporters covering his campaign with a straight face were frustrated by not being able to communicate that the amiable car salesman-Governor was, to put it kindly, a lightweight. When he gaffed about being “brainwashed” in Vietnam, it unleashed headlines and commentary that ended his campaign.

His son and heir is following in that tradition. After his repeated fudging of issues, his defecating dog story and his pathetic swipe at Obama over sex education, yesterday this Governor Romney is pictured smiling over a sign reading “No to Obama, Osama and Chelsea’s Moma.”

Are the media trying to tell us something? I hope so. A little more “bias” in showing Bush the boob in 2000 might have spared the country a lot of grief.

If this sounds arrogant, sorry. Journalists spend their lives trying to be fair and honest--they don’t start out looking for money and power. If they sometimes slip and slide along the way, cut them some slack.

It’s easy (and attention-getting) to carp from the grandstands while they try to do their work of letting us know what the politicians and power brokers are really doing.

John Edwards and Mitt Romney are grown men who made a lot of money and now want the most powerful job in the world. All this attention goes with the process of trying to get it.

1 comment:

okcconserv said...

Should we cut a journalist some slack if they slip along the way? Should we cut the policeman some slack if they should slip along the way? Maybe judges too? teachers? Maybe Abu Ghraib guards should be cut some slack. While we're at it why not cut the 911 terrorists some slack... So we should cut some slack for one of the most powerful group of people from letting their real feelings into their journalism... I'm sure you wouldn't feel that way if 95% of journalists were devout Christians and then allowed their commitment to Jesus' teachings slip into their reporting in broadcasting and print...