The greatest challenge facing Democrats is pack mentality in the press.
Yes, the Dems bring some of it on themselves by being weak-kneed in the face of MSM criticism and by repeating the right’s attacks. In one recent case, a CBS News reporter started her story about Gen. Casey’s planned withdrawal by saying, “It’s not a cut-and-run strategy….”
But even when polls are showing that a majority of Americans are coming around to calling for a withdrawal, the MSM genuflects at the Karl Rove altar. Even when criticizing his dishonest smash-mouth politics they can’t help calling him “brilliant.”
On the same day at least 40 Iraqis were killed by insurgent bombings, USA Today reported a strong majority of Americans (57-39) want a timetable set for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. Which, of course, means a strong majority of Americans back the Democratic timetable initiative, the same initiative that the mainstream media—across the board—last week labeled a political loser for Dems, while cheering the GOP for winning the war over the war with its ‘cut-and-run’ rhetoric. Now we find out that 57 percent of Americans want to cut-and-run.
The newest findings only add to the insult of last week’s incredibly dishonest news coverage of the Senate debate regarding Iraq, where RNC talking points were billboarded again and again. “GOP leaders took obvious pleasure in the Democrats’ disarray” on Iraq, wrote the Washington Post. CNN reported Republicans were “having a field day” watching Democrats debate resolutions to establish a withdrawal timetable, while conveniently ignoring the fact a majority of Americans supported the Democratic plan (even last week). And Newsweek obediently announced, “Democrats lost the week in the war over the war.”
Folks, we need to pause here and really examine just how derelict the MSM has become, and just how entrenched the entire corporate media enterprise is in terms of allowing the Republican party to dictate coverage on key political issues. The fact that the lapdog press allows it to happen on behalf of a historically unpopular president just boggles the mind. (And yes, the USA Today poll confirmed Bush’s much-anticipated June bounce was non-existent.)
As I noted last week, “Apparently if Karl Rove signs off on a political strategy (hit the Dems hard over Iraq), the press assumes it’s a work of genius and shows little interest in dwelling on the pertinent questions, such as isn’t there an obvious risk Republicans run in making the hugely unpopular war in Iraq, and specifically the notion that U.S. troops should pretty much stay there indefinitely, the centerpiece for their 2006 campaign?” Instead, journalists purposefully ignored clear polling data which obliterated the narrative that the Republicans had the winning had in the Iraq troop debate.
Why can MSNBC talk show host and former GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough easily analyze the American domestic politics of Iraq, but entire bureaus within the Beltway cannot, or more specifically will not? Because let’s not kid ourselves, journalists at this pay grade are not dumb. They can read the polling data just like anyone else and could instantly grasp the political barriers the Republicans were erecting by going all in with Iraq during an election year. But they chose, as a group, to focus on the perils facing Democrats instead. And that’s what makes the media’s complete failure on the issue all the more distressing; it’s being done intentionally. Journalists are afraid of the facts and the consequences of reporting them. My book is filled with the examples —entire chapters— and last week’s Iraq debate is just the latest instance. Reporters and pundits obviously chose to allow their coverage be dictated by the RNC and White House aides. There’s no other explanation.
Indeed, it seems the “Dems are feckless” is such an overwhelming bit of conventional wisdom that even when they show guts, they’re not given any credit.
And I know many think this is all carping, but when you come across examples such as this, you have to question the basic fairness of the MSM press.
In the [Time magazine] issue of December 10, 2005, Joe Klein quoted Howard Dean as follows: “The idea that we are going to win this war … is just plain wrong.” Klein added: “Dean — as always — seemed downright gleeful about the bad news. He seemed to be rooting for defeat.” Wonder what Klein dropped from the Dean quotation in favor of those three little dots? The word was “unfortunately.”
That’s simply irresponsible. I liked Klein’s recent book, but he owes us an explanation. So do a lot of other journalists.
In my media relations work, even though most of it was in the business press, I rarely let a reporter get away with what I thought was unfair reporting. I would call them, ask them how they came to the conclusion they did, and if unsatisfied, I’d tell them exactly what I thought. I tried to be outraged, but I made myself clear. And to the best of my knowledge, there were never any retaliations. In fact, it often had the effect I wanted–fairer coverage.
I’m sure the Democratic press operatives do the same. I know James Carville was famous for it during the Clinton campaigns. But then again, without a Karl Rove coordinating things for the Democrats, are there press folks constantly calling the press when the coverage is unfair? Sometimes I wonder.