I can’t believe I’m saying this: But I agree with Karl Rove. He was a little too defensive at times, according to this “Washington Sketch” by Dana Milbank, but for the most part, Rove is right on.
“I’m not sure I’ve talked about the liberal media,” Rove said when a student inquired — a decision he said he made “consciously.” The press is generally liberal, he argued, but “I think it’s less liberal than it is oppositional.”
The argument — similar to the one that former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer made in his recent book — is nuanced, nonpartisan and, to the ears of many journalists, right on target. “Reporters now see their role less as discovering facts and fair-mindedly reporting the truth and more as being put on the earth to afflict the comfortable, to be a constant thorn of those in power, whether they are Republican or Democrat,” Rove said.
His indictment of the media — delivered as part of Washington College’s Harwood Lecture Series, named for the late Washington Post editor and writer Richard Harwood — had four parts: that there’s been an explosion in the number of media outlets; that these outlets have an insatiable demand for content; that these changes create enormous competitive pressure; and that journalists have increasingly adopted an antagonistic attitude toward public officials. Beyond that, Rove argued that the press pays too much attention to polls and “horse-race” politics, and covers governing as if it were a campaign.
“If more people in government knew about the press and more people in the press knew about governing, the world would be a better place to live,” Rove said. “Journalists would perform their craft better if they were more understanding of the realities and complexities of running for and serving in public life.”
Offering his critique as a friend of the “indispensable” free press, he argued: “The work journalists do at this time is paradoxically more important than ever, so the need to get it right far more often than they get it wrong is absolutely critical to the function of a free society.”