Commentary Magazine


Topic: liberal media bias

Elizabeth Warren’s Government Shutdown

The specter of a potential government shutdown is haunting Washington today. But it isn’t Ted Cruz and what the liberal mainstream media considers his gang of Tea Party obstructionists who are the principle threat to the passage of the so-called Cromnibus bill that will avert the possibility of a repeat of the 2013 standoff. Instead it is the darling of the liberal media, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking to derail the compromise forged by House Speaker John Boehner and Democrats. Warren is calling on liberals to vote against the deal because among its provisions are measures raising the limits on campaign contributions and scaling back some of the onerous regulations on banks and Wall Street firms in the Dodd-Frank bill that have caused such havoc. But don’t expect the same media that labeled Cruz an arsonist to speak ill of Warren’s efforts to thwart efforts to keep the government funded.

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The specter of a potential government shutdown is haunting Washington today. But it isn’t Ted Cruz and what the liberal mainstream media considers his gang of Tea Party obstructionists who are the principle threat to the passage of the so-called Cromnibus bill that will avert the possibility of a repeat of the 2013 standoff. Instead it is the darling of the liberal media, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking to derail the compromise forged by House Speaker John Boehner and Democrats. Warren is calling on liberals to vote against the deal because among its provisions are measures raising the limits on campaign contributions and scaling back some of the onerous regulations on banks and Wall Street firms in the Dodd-Frank bill that have caused such havoc. But don’t expect the same media that labeled Cruz an arsonist to speak ill of Warren’s efforts to thwart efforts to keep the government funded.

Cruz has been loudly and frequently criticized both by liberals and some conservatives for deciding that his efforts to thwart the implementation of ObamaCare took precedence over the need to keep the government funded. Even those who sympathized him on the substance of this issue thought he was unreasonable in his insistence that voting for a compromise-funding bill made Republicans complicit with measures they opposed. The notion that principle ought to trump political reality and the necessity to avoid a standoff that could lead to a government shutdown (for which President Obama and his supporters were just as responsible as anything Cruz and the Tea Partiers did) was viewed as a disruptive approach that interfered with the responsibility of both parties to govern rather than to merely expound their views.

But the question today is why are those who were so quick to tag Cruz as a scourge of good government for his opposition to often messy yet necessary compromises to bills that require bipartisan support not putting the same label on Warren.

The reasons for this are fairly obvious. Most of the press clearly sympathizes with Warren’s rabble rousing on behalf of ineffective campaign-finance laws as well as a regulatory regime that has caused as much trouble as the problems it was supposed to solve. Warren’s rhetoric denouncing the rich and Wall Street is catnip for a press corps that shares her political point of view. By contrast, few in the media sympathized with Cruz’s last stand against ObamaCare, something that most in the president’s press cheering section viewed as a reactionary position that deserved the opprobrium they hurled at it.

Yet Warren’s attacks on the spending bill are no less extreme than anything Cruz was saying in 2013 or even now as he has ineffectively sought to rally conservatives to oppose the Cromnibus. Her claim that the Dodd-Frank changes were slipped into the bill in the middle of the night are false since they were negotiated with Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski, who is every bit the liberal that Warren claims to be. So is the notion that they are the product of a right-wing conspiracy is flatly false since, as the Washington Post notes, Democrats like Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Rep. Nita Lowey voted for them in a stand-in alone vote last year.

But whatever one may think of these parts of the bill, the point about it is that getting something done in Washington requires both sides to hold their noses and accept that they can’t get their way on everything. The principle critique of conservative Republicans in recent years is that they are so besotted with ideology that they’ve forgotten that part of their duty as members of Congress is to ensure that the apparatus of government functions even if they are not getting their way on all issues. One can argue about whether there are times when such stands are required by the seriousness of the situation. But whether you agree with the Tea Party on ObamaCare or immigration or with Warren on Dodd-Frank, that critique applies just as easily to one as to the other.

Warren might not have the ability to rally enough liberals in the House to her side on this issue just as Cruz seems not to be able to stop Boehner’s deal. But if you think Cruz is an obstructionist, there is no distinction between him and Warren in this respect anymore. At least not unless you think it’s OK for liberals to shut down the government but not conservatives.

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The Gruber Blackout and a Partisan Media

It will be some time before we know for certain whether the fallout from Jonathan Gruber’s embarrassingly candid revelations about the deceptions at the heart of ObamaCare will have a substantive impact on its future. Given the relevance of much of what he’s said to the Supreme Court’s deliberations about a challenge to the legality of its crucial subsidies, don’t bet against what some are calling Grubergate being considered a turning point in the history of this misbegotten legislation. But no matter what happens in the Court or in Congress, the story has already provided us with a fascinating insight into another kind of pretense: the supposed objectivity of the mainstream media which has, for the most part, ignored this story.

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It will be some time before we know for certain whether the fallout from Jonathan Gruber’s embarrassingly candid revelations about the deceptions at the heart of ObamaCare will have a substantive impact on its future. Given the relevance of much of what he’s said to the Supreme Court’s deliberations about a challenge to the legality of its crucial subsidies, don’t bet against what some are calling Grubergate being considered a turning point in the history of this misbegotten legislation. But no matter what happens in the Court or in Congress, the story has already provided us with a fascinating insight into another kind of pretense: the supposed objectivity of the mainstream media which has, for the most part, ignored this story.

The virtual blackout of coverage of Gruber’s remarks in the broadcast networks and major newspapers such as the New York Times is, on its face, astonishing. That so many of these outlets that generally fall under the rubric of liberal mainstream media to have all come to the same conclusion that the Gruber story wasn’t news speaks to the way that members of this herd all tend to walk in lockstep on major political issues. But the defense of these decisions doesn’t wash.

As Howard Kurtz, former media columnist at the Washington Post and CNN said from his current perch at Fox:

On what planet is this kind of embarrassing admission not news? Maybe on that comet where the spaceship just landed.

Even Brian Stelter, his successor at CNN, conceded that the decision to ignore the story was wrong even as he, a liberal as opposed to the more centrist Kurtz, sought to rationalize the decision:

Whenever you think there is a conspiracy it is really just something much more mundane, in this case I think it is the fact that this is a video that is a year plus old, and it is something that, we’re talking about a story that has been debated and debated and debated and so covered endlessly, I think oftentimes in newsrooms, there’s a sense that well, what’s actually new here? But, that said, the quote, the word stupid, that is news. And the way it is being used by conservatives, that is news, so that is why it should be covered by the nightly newscasts and CNN.

As for the idea that there is nothing new, let’s unwrap that contention. Gruber was well known to be a major player on ObamaCare and his statements about deceiving the Congressional Budget Office and counting on the “stupidity” of the American people would, in any context, be considered newsworthy. Anything that casts further doubt on the legality of the legislation—especially since some of Gruber’s comments contradict the liberal position on the King v. Burwell lawsuit—or provide fodder for congressional opponents who will seek to chip away at the Affordable Care Act is in and of itself also newsworthy.

The only reason why editors would chose not to treat it as worthy of coverage would be their desire to help the administration end the debate about its signature legislative achievement. To those who would say that critics of the mainstream media’s blackout on Gruber are indulging in conspiracy theories, I would answer by simply asking them to imagine a similar case in which a Republican administration with popularity ratings as low as those of President Obama in which a key figure in the formation of one of that government’s policies were found to have spoken in such a manner in public on video.

It is simply impossible to imagine that the New York Times would have treated such statements as a non-story. But that’s what they did this week. Search the New York Times website and, as of Friday afternoon, there isn’t a single mention of the Gruber controversy save for one opinion article in its Upshot section in which the significance of the story is downplayed. But there is nothing in the news sections or in the print edition of any part of the paper. Even if, as Neil Irwin wrote in the Upshot, this sort of thing were business as usual in Congress and the government, the Times would not have hesitated to treat evidence of such misconduct—let alone lies told to facilitate an attempt to remake one sixth of the American economy—by conservatives as front-page news.

The broadcast networks similarly shut down the story over the course of the week with no references until the last day and then only in passing. As for the cable networks, Fox has predictably run with it but with the exception of Jake Tapper’s show, CNN also largely kept away from it for days while MSNBC granted Gruber a softball interview with its least journalistic host—Ronan Farrow—whose only intent was to dismiss the whole thing.

That conservative outlets would treat Grubergate as earthshaking and liberal ones would say there’s nothing to talk about is understandable since there are partisan implications to the story. But while Fox and MSNBC are understood to be sources whose political slant is well known and the same is true for print and online publications that make no secret of their editorial missions, newspapers like the Times and networks like ABC, NBC, and CBS still hold themselves out as representatives of objective journalism. That this is an easily exposed pretense has not been much of a secret for a long time. The networks and the Times are as ideologically biased as the Rush Limbaugh Show on radio. The only difference is that Rush and other political talkers and writers don’t pretend to be sitting on Mount Olympus impartially giving the people the news.

Even in the world of opinion writing it is necessary to acknowledge the other side’s arguments if only to disprove them. But for liberals in the mainstream media, news that works against their side is something that must be contained if not simply thrown down an Orwellian memory hole. While President Obama and the Democrats should be ashamed of their role in lying to the American people about ObamaCare, their cheerleaders in the mainstream press should be just as embarrassed. That apologies won’t be forthcoming from either tells us all we need to know about the contempt for democracy and truth that is now routine in these precincts.

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Cuomo and the Bridgegate Precedent

Today, the investigation of questionable conduct in undermining the work of a New York state ethics commission stopped being a tiff between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Times. When the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York issues a letter saying that it believes commissioners are being influenced to give false statements, Cuomo’s problem has become a matter of legal peril rather than bad public relations. But don’t expect this story to dominate the news cycle the way New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Bridgegate problems did a few months ago.

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Today, the investigation of questionable conduct in undermining the work of a New York state ethics commission stopped being a tiff between Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Times. When the office of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York issues a letter saying that it believes commissioners are being influenced to give false statements, Cuomo’s problem has become a matter of legal peril rather than bad public relations. But don’t expect this story to dominate the news cycle the way New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Bridgegate problems did a few months ago.

Ironically, the blowup in the Cuomo investigation comes just a day after Politico ran a feature asking whether Christie had recovered sufficiently from the Bridgegate mess to return to his former status as a formidable Republican presidential contender. The jury is out on that question but Cuomo’s legal problems and the relative lack of interest in the story by the cable news channels that were all-Bridgegate all-the-time at the start of 2014 raises some interesting questions about media bias.

The first point to be made about federal investigation of the way Cuomo’s office sabotaged the Moreland Commission before the governor disbanded it is that it is a lot more serious than the batty decision to create traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge last fall.

As I wrote on Monday, Cuomo empowered the commission to investigate the endemic practice of pay-to-play in state government that has made Albany an ethics cesspool for decades. But, as the New York Times reported last week, as soon as it started poking around into businesses that were linked to the governor, the word went out from the governor’s office to cease and desist. Cuomo’s appointees followed orders, though apparently some members of the commission protested since they had foolishly thought the governor was serious when he told them to ferret out corruption. Seeing that the commission was going to be a problem and not the sort of harmless stunt that would make a show of his concern for probity, he quickly disbanded it.

Not unreasonably, this has prompted the Justice Department to look into the matter. At the very least, some people on Cuomo’s staff may be in peril of obstruction of justice charges that will taint the governor’s office. But given his own reputation as a political bully with a predilection for issuing threats to political opponents and allies alike, it is not unreasonable to suspect the chief executive may also be involved in efforts to quiet witnesses or perhaps even involvement in the original effort to stop the investigation of a firm that had helped him get elected. That all has yet to be determined, but the willingness of the Times to buy into this scandal with the sort of space and prominent placement and the decision of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District—who is, by the way, a Democrat and an Obama appointee—to double down in the charges with the latest letter illustrates the seriousness of this problem.

In other words, Cuomo is in big trouble and not just media-firestorm trouble but in the kind of legal problem that ends political careers in disgrace.

But, as consumers of our 24/7 news cycle may have noticed, despite the involvement of the country’s liberal flagship newspaper, this Ethics Comissiongate (suggestions for a better scandal “gate” moniker will be welcomed) is still flying below the radar on the same stations that obsessed over Bridgegate.

To state this fact is not to assume Cuomo’s guilt or to deny the seriousness of Bridgegate. The bridge scandal was an example of what happens when small-minded officials and staffers use the great power that has been put in their hands to maliciously inconvenience ordinary citizens in order to pursue petty feuds against other political figures. Anyone involved in plotting this piece of lunacy deserves all the opprobrium that can be rained down on his or her worthless heads.

It is also true that Bridgegate resonated with the public because it illustrated another side of Christie’s well-known public behavior. His penchant for bluntly scourging his critics and punishing his foes was seen as amusing and made him a YouTube star when it was limited to foils like union officials and obnoxious liberals. But even if the genesis of the traffic jam cannot be directly linked to Christie, it is fair to note that those staffers who were involved seemed to be acting in a manner that was consistent with the governor’s instincts. That is something that is always going to be held against Christie and, as Politico noted, his ongoing arrogant behavior toward friends and foes alike merely adds fuel to the fire. This far out from the 2016 contest, it is impossible to know whether Christie still has a chance. But Bridgegate will remain a problem for him if only because it is the sort of scandal that is easily understood (everybody hates traffic jams and has cursed those who create them) and is prime fodder for TV comics.

Cuomo’s legal peril is not quite as comedic or visceral in nature. But it is far more serious. The willingness of the governor to allegedly quash a subpoena on a firm that was a campaign vendor is a classic example of corruption. The governor’s effort to spin this, perhaps aided by an effort to coach witnesses to echo his denials, is, at best, suspicious, and very likely criminal in nature. That means Cuomo can forget about running for president someday and should instead concentrate on staying out of federal prison.

But instead of panels endlessly examining the evidence and pondering the political implications, most of the media yawns. At its peak, Bridgegate got more coverage than other more serious scandals such as the IRS’s discriminatory treatment of conservative groups, government spying, Benghazi, or even wrongdoing at the VA. So it is hardly surprising that Cuomo’s woes aren’t generating the same wall-to-wall attention. Could the reason for that be that Christie was a Republican and these other scandals involve Democrats and the Obama administration? Anyone who can’t connect those dots hasn’t been paying attention to the way the media works.

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Judge the Times the Way It Judges Others

Love it or hate it, the New York Times remains one of the principal institutions of American journalism. So when its executive editor is abruptly and publicly fired with none of the usual platitudes or polite white lies about the victim deciding to explore other opportunities or spend more time with their families and with the process not dragged out to ensure a smooth and seemingly orderly transition, it is big news in the world of journalism. But the decision of Times publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. to “oust”—to use the word used by the newspaper in the headline of its own story about the firing—Jill Abramson seems more like a public hanging than a routine replacement of a top editor. Abramson is a deeply repellent figure in many ways, but her treatment is shocking not because it might be undeserved but because it is highly unusual for someone at this level to walk the plank in such a manner.

Let’s admit that most of us speculating about what caused this to happen don’t know all the details. But while there is an element to this story for other journalists that seems like a car wreck that we know we should turn away from but can’t help staring at, what we have learned about what preceded Sulzberger’s decision is highly suspicious. If, as Ken Auletta informs us in the New Yorker, Abramson made some loud complaints to her boss about not getting paid as much as her predecessor Bill Keller, then the paper has a lot of explaining to do about the decision. The implications of the public statements about Abramson by her successor Dean Baquet—in which he gave her a backhanded compliment about teaching him “the value of great ambition” and then followed it by praising another former colleague for teaching about how “great editors can be humane editors”—leads observers to the obvious conclusion that he and his audience of Times staffers thought she was a horror.

But this piling on Abramson will naturally lead others to wonder whether this new sensitivity about her obnoxiousness is an attempt to distract us from the real reason she was fired. Were this kind of thing going on anywhere else, it’s easy to imagine the New York Times editorial page speculating about whether what we are watching is just another instance of an old boys club closing ranks against a “bossy”—to use a term that some feminists are now saying is a key indicator of sexism—female who annoyed the powerful men around her. And that is the most important point to be made about this episode.

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Love it or hate it, the New York Times remains one of the principal institutions of American journalism. So when its executive editor is abruptly and publicly fired with none of the usual platitudes or polite white lies about the victim deciding to explore other opportunities or spend more time with their families and with the process not dragged out to ensure a smooth and seemingly orderly transition, it is big news in the world of journalism. But the decision of Times publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr. to “oust”—to use the word used by the newspaper in the headline of its own story about the firing—Jill Abramson seems more like a public hanging than a routine replacement of a top editor. Abramson is a deeply repellent figure in many ways, but her treatment is shocking not because it might be undeserved but because it is highly unusual for someone at this level to walk the plank in such a manner.

Let’s admit that most of us speculating about what caused this to happen don’t know all the details. But while there is an element to this story for other journalists that seems like a car wreck that we know we should turn away from but can’t help staring at, what we have learned about what preceded Sulzberger’s decision is highly suspicious. If, as Ken Auletta informs us in the New Yorker, Abramson made some loud complaints to her boss about not getting paid as much as her predecessor Bill Keller, then the paper has a lot of explaining to do about the decision. The implications of the public statements about Abramson by her successor Dean Baquet—in which he gave her a backhanded compliment about teaching him “the value of great ambition” and then followed it by praising another former colleague for teaching about how “great editors can be humane editors”—leads observers to the obvious conclusion that he and his audience of Times staffers thought she was a horror.

But this piling on Abramson will naturally lead others to wonder whether this new sensitivity about her obnoxiousness is an attempt to distract us from the real reason she was fired. Were this kind of thing going on anywhere else, it’s easy to imagine the New York Times editorial page speculating about whether what we are watching is just another instance of an old boys club closing ranks against a “bossy”—to use a term that some feminists are now saying is a key indicator of sexism—female who annoyed the powerful men around her. And that is the most important point to be made about this episode.

That may be unfair to Sulzberger, Baquet, and the rest of the Times firing squad. Moreover, I think even those who are most critical of the Times’s liberal bias and increasing propensity for slipshod journalism and dumbing down of standards should try to resist the temptation of wallowing in schaudenfraude at Abramson’s downfall. But I do think it is entirely fair for the rest of us to judge the Times’s behavior the way it judges everyone else.

There may well have been good reasons why Abramson was not paid as much as Keller that had nothing to do with sexism. Perhaps Sulzberger belatedly realized that having an editor that was not as “humane” as Baquet implied she should have been was a big mistake that needed to be rectified as soon as possible. Abramson may have been considered a great journalist by many of her liberal admirers who shared her belief that reading the Times should be considered a religious rite. But a close look at her career—which was jump-started by her participation in the lynching of Clarence Thomas with biased reporting and a subsequent book written with Jane Mayer—does not justify that conclusion.

But the same newspaper that has regularly treated far less evidence of sexism as enough to justify public crucifixions of less powerful institutions than the Times should now be put under the same scrutiny. Any other place that couldn’t tolerate a powerful and highly regarded woman because of her “brusque manner,” or who sought to influence hiring decisions that was the purview of the publisher and made untimely demands about being paid the same as the boys, would be assumed to be a bastion of chauvinism deserving of the kind of obloquy that only the Times can dish out with slanted news stories and pontificating editorials.

It is a terrible thing to see any veteran journalist get turned out on the street in this kind of manner and I don’t think anyone—except perhaps for Thomas—would be justified in exulting about has happened to Abramson. But for the Times itself, I have no compassion or sympathy. The Times deserves to be judged and condemned as the classic example of liberal hypocrisy.

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Media Bias and the Real Opportunists

Politico’s savvy and generally reliable media news columnist Dylan Byers wrote about Sharyl Attkisson’s forced departure from CBS news. In a piece published shortly after Attkisson expressed worries about her computer being tapped—at a time when we learned about government spying on Fox News’s James Rosen and several other journalists at the Associated Press—Byers broke the story about the antipathy for the investigative reporter’s work uncovering information about Obama administration scandals on the part of most of the CBS staff. It was clear, Byers wrote, that many of her colleagues thought that her fearless reporting was out of line. The majority of those working in the mainstream press think that giving Barack Obama the same aggressive scrutiny that had been directed at George W. Bush is unacceptable or even partisan. Thus, Attkisson’s departure earlier this month came as little surprise to Byers or anyone else.

But now that Attkisson is writing a book about her experiences and thinking about the next chapter in her career, Byers is taking a cynical tone about her struggles. In a piece published on Friday titled “Media career path: Cry media bias,” Byers seems to be saying that the same person he had previously praised as a “dogged reporter” who had not played political favorites with her coverage is merely doing what is necessary to get a big payoff and perhaps even land a gig at Fox News:

It’s an increasingly well-traveled path: Over the course of the past two decades, a handful of journalists have left mainstream media jobs while decrying what they saw as an inherent bias in their own industry. Among them: Bernie Goldberg, John Stossel, and Doug McKelway — all of whom found a home at Fox News, a cable news channel that markets itself on the premise that the media is unfair and unbalanced.

To those who don’t believe there is bias in the media, such criticisms can seem like a self-promotional stunt. Various national surveys show that a majority of the population doesn’t trust the media. So if you’re going to leave it, why not fashion yourself as a martyr, pick up a loyal following in the process, and prove your bona fides to Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the hope that he’ll offer you a contract?

While Byers finds sources to support and oppose this thesis, it is a preposterous argument. While it is true a few outliers have gone public with their complaints about the monolithic political culture of most mainstream broadcast and print outlets and eventually found their way to Fox, what happened to them is the exception that proves the rule. There’s a reason why people like that wind up at Fox. By breaking the code of silence about the supposed objectivity of newsrooms like the one at CBS, they have nowhere else to go.

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Politico’s savvy and generally reliable media news columnist Dylan Byers wrote about Sharyl Attkisson’s forced departure from CBS news. In a piece published shortly after Attkisson expressed worries about her computer being tapped—at a time when we learned about government spying on Fox News’s James Rosen and several other journalists at the Associated Press—Byers broke the story about the antipathy for the investigative reporter’s work uncovering information about Obama administration scandals on the part of most of the CBS staff. It was clear, Byers wrote, that many of her colleagues thought that her fearless reporting was out of line. The majority of those working in the mainstream press think that giving Barack Obama the same aggressive scrutiny that had been directed at George W. Bush is unacceptable or even partisan. Thus, Attkisson’s departure earlier this month came as little surprise to Byers or anyone else.

But now that Attkisson is writing a book about her experiences and thinking about the next chapter in her career, Byers is taking a cynical tone about her struggles. In a piece published on Friday titled “Media career path: Cry media bias,” Byers seems to be saying that the same person he had previously praised as a “dogged reporter” who had not played political favorites with her coverage is merely doing what is necessary to get a big payoff and perhaps even land a gig at Fox News:

It’s an increasingly well-traveled path: Over the course of the past two decades, a handful of journalists have left mainstream media jobs while decrying what they saw as an inherent bias in their own industry. Among them: Bernie Goldberg, John Stossel, and Doug McKelway — all of whom found a home at Fox News, a cable news channel that markets itself on the premise that the media is unfair and unbalanced.

To those who don’t believe there is bias in the media, such criticisms can seem like a self-promotional stunt. Various national surveys show that a majority of the population doesn’t trust the media. So if you’re going to leave it, why not fashion yourself as a martyr, pick up a loyal following in the process, and prove your bona fides to Fox News chief Roger Ailes in the hope that he’ll offer you a contract?

While Byers finds sources to support and oppose this thesis, it is a preposterous argument. While it is true a few outliers have gone public with their complaints about the monolithic political culture of most mainstream broadcast and print outlets and eventually found their way to Fox, what happened to them is the exception that proves the rule. There’s a reason why people like that wind up at Fox. By breaking the code of silence about the supposed objectivity of newsrooms like the one at CBS, they have nowhere else to go.

Labeling those who call out media bias as opportunists turns truth on its head. While Goldberg and Stossel (and perhaps now Attkisson) did not suffer for their candor the fact is the media practices de facto segregation when it comes to politics.

Anyone who wants to stay on the mainstream media gravy train either agrees with the industry’s liberal groupthink or keeps their mouth shut. Those few who do speak out about it are more or less ostracized and forced to seek employment elsewhere. Meanwhile the vast majority of those who continue to work at the big broadcast networks and most of the influential dailies are so biased they actually think critical reporting about a liberal president they personally support is somehow wrong and those who pursue such stories are worthy of suspicion rather than praise. The chattering classes may actually believe their pose of objectivity is based on the truth, but that is just an illustration of how distorted their viewpoint has become. It is they who are the real opportunists, not Goldberg, Stossel, or Attkisson.

Liberals—including the ones who currently work at the White House—look down their noses at Fox and dismiss the stories and the opinions it broadcasts. But it bears repeating that the reason it was created and for its astounding success is that it provided a much needed and long-delayed alternative to the stultifying and uniform liberalism broadcast elsewhere on the dial. The genius of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes was in addressing the needs of an underserved market niche composed of almost half the American public.

Sharyl Attkisson’s fate at CBS wasn’t an illustration of opportunism but rather one that showed what happens to those who dissent from the liberal party line. Let’s hope she lands on her feet. But the bias problem she leaves behind at CBS and that at other liberal mainstream papers and broadcast outlets remains a glaring indictment of the American press.

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Obama’s Latest Victim: MSNBC

As his sinking poll ratings have demonstrated, a lot of Americans are unhappy with President Obama. Weak leadership abroad, ObamaCare, and various scandals have all combined to send his popularity into a tailspin from which he is not likely to recover before the end of his term in office. But perhaps the ones who should be most angry with him are his biggest fans in the media rather than his conservative antagonists. Like the World War Two era pop classic teaches us, Obama is demonstrating that “you always hurt the ones you love.”

As Dylan Byers notes today in Politico, a new study from the Pew Research Journalism Project that incorporates Nielson ratings data shows that MSNBC is bleeding viewers and revenue at a pace that outstrips the rest of the cable news market. While Fox and CNN have both lost ground as the television market becomes more fractured by the vast number of choices available to viewers, in 2013 the left-wing network lost a staggering 24 percent of its prime-time audience and 15 percent of those who watch during the day. That is double the losses experienced by CNN and four times those of Fox. On the revenue side of things, while Fox and CNN are growing, MSNBC is losing income.

What’s the reason for this? The answer, according to Byers, is obvious. The network established itself as a liberal destination by being the place where viewers knew to go for criticism of George W. Bush and then celebrations of Barack Obama. But as Obama begins his slide into second-term irrelevance, left-wingers are no longer finding it entertaining to tune into the NBC knock-off network to watch talking heads parrot administration talking points and trash Republicans. Like fans of a sports team that is playing out the string in a season where they won’t make the playoffs, liberals are giving up and tuning out.

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As his sinking poll ratings have demonstrated, a lot of Americans are unhappy with President Obama. Weak leadership abroad, ObamaCare, and various scandals have all combined to send his popularity into a tailspin from which he is not likely to recover before the end of his term in office. But perhaps the ones who should be most angry with him are his biggest fans in the media rather than his conservative antagonists. Like the World War Two era pop classic teaches us, Obama is demonstrating that “you always hurt the ones you love.”

As Dylan Byers notes today in Politico, a new study from the Pew Research Journalism Project that incorporates Nielson ratings data shows that MSNBC is bleeding viewers and revenue at a pace that outstrips the rest of the cable news market. While Fox and CNN have both lost ground as the television market becomes more fractured by the vast number of choices available to viewers, in 2013 the left-wing network lost a staggering 24 percent of its prime-time audience and 15 percent of those who watch during the day. That is double the losses experienced by CNN and four times those of Fox. On the revenue side of things, while Fox and CNN are growing, MSNBC is losing income.

What’s the reason for this? The answer, according to Byers, is obvious. The network established itself as a liberal destination by being the place where viewers knew to go for criticism of George W. Bush and then celebrations of Barack Obama. But as Obama begins his slide into second-term irrelevance, left-wingers are no longer finding it entertaining to tune into the NBC knock-off network to watch talking heads parrot administration talking points and trash Republicans. Like fans of a sports team that is playing out the string in a season where they won’t make the playoffs, liberals are giving up and tuning out.

All cable stations are hurt by the digital revolution that has transformed television watching and diminished the clout of all stations on the dial. Cable news networks are also particularly vulnerable to the political cycle, with boom times during elections and important events and declines when nothing particularly interesting is happening. But MSNBC is in a particularly tight spot because of the nature of their political bias.

As I wrote last year when the previous Pew report on the media was published, the research breaking down the various cable news stations’ broadcasts showed that MSNBC was the most biased of all the networks. While the majority of commentary on Fox is conservative, they still run a respectable amount of straight news and generally always provide a liberal foil to their right-wing talkers even if the sole left-winger is always outnumbered. But on MSNBC, the liberal mindset is uniform with few of their shows even bothering to interview stray conservatives, let alone let alone feature them on a regular basis even as tokens. Other than Chuck Todd’s Morning Rundown which provides relatively fair coverage and as good a daily take on the political scene as is available on television, the only break on their schedule from left-wing uniformity comes from Joe Scarborough, the co-host of their morning show. But though Scarborough can go off on rants that displease MSNBC’s viewers, he spent much of 2013 reading from the liberal hymnal about gun control and denouncing the Tea Party. Meanwhile just about everyone else on that show and the rest of their network lineup is a reliable font of left-wing conventional wisdom.

MSNBC’s efforts to counteract the effect of an aging audience with younger, inexperienced, and often incompetent hosts like Ronan Farrow have been laughable failures. As Byers rightly points out, any thought about lowering the age of the average viewer is belied by the catheter ads that punctuate the shows hosted by such ingénues. Having bet their future on the concept of a network that would be more liberal than Fox was conservative, the network has a lot to lose if Democrats become apathetic in the waning days of a lame-duck Obama administration. But its corporate masters at NBC should cheer up. If conservatives do take back Congress this year and perhaps even elect a Republican in 2016, depressed liberals will need an outlet for the derangement syndrome that will be named after whomever it is the GOP nominates for the presidency in two years. If so, MSNBC will be there to give it to them.

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The Media’s Obama Protection Society

The news that CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson is leaving the network does not come as any great surprise to those who have followed her career. Last year, at a time when we learned that the Obama Justice Department was spying on Fox News’ James Rosen as well as a group of reporters at the Associated Press, Attkisson reported that her computer had been hacked. But, as Dylan Byers wrote in Politico, Attkisson had an even bigger problem: most of her colleagues at CBS didn’t like the fact that she had spent the last few years reporting aggressively about the Obama administration’s various shortcomings and scandals. Journalists at mainstream media outlets like to pretend that they play it down the middle when it comes to whoever is in power. But it was hardly a coincidence that the prevailing office culture at the network that the president trusted, in Steve Kroft’s memorable phrase, not to make him “look stupid,” would think ill of a reporter that thought it worth her time to investigate stories like Fast and Furious, Solyndra and Benghazi. If, as Byers reports today, Attkisson has come to a parting of the ways with CBS after “hard fought negotiations” that led to her departure prior to the expiration of her contract, it was due to the following factors:

Attkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting, several sources said. She increasingly felt that her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air.

At the same time, Attkisson’s reporting on the Obama administration, which some staffers characterized as agenda-driven, had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book — tentatively titled “Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington” — that addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the administration.

While Attkisson is just one reporter and CBS has long since ceased being a dominant force in the national media, this may be a crucial moment in the history of American journalism. It was assumed that any major news outlet would regard aggressive coverage of all administrations as a given. But that ceased to be the case when Barack Obama entered the White House. If Attkisson is being shown the door at CBS it is not because her work is not highly regarded but because she has violated the prime directive of liberal media insiders: thou shalt not report on Obama in the same way that you reported on George W. Bush or even Bill Clinton. The liberal bias that conservatives have long complained about is out of the closet.

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The news that CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson is leaving the network does not come as any great surprise to those who have followed her career. Last year, at a time when we learned that the Obama Justice Department was spying on Fox News’ James Rosen as well as a group of reporters at the Associated Press, Attkisson reported that her computer had been hacked. But, as Dylan Byers wrote in Politico, Attkisson had an even bigger problem: most of her colleagues at CBS didn’t like the fact that she had spent the last few years reporting aggressively about the Obama administration’s various shortcomings and scandals. Journalists at mainstream media outlets like to pretend that they play it down the middle when it comes to whoever is in power. But it was hardly a coincidence that the prevailing office culture at the network that the president trusted, in Steve Kroft’s memorable phrase, not to make him “look stupid,” would think ill of a reporter that thought it worth her time to investigate stories like Fast and Furious, Solyndra and Benghazi. If, as Byers reports today, Attkisson has come to a parting of the ways with CBS after “hard fought negotiations” that led to her departure prior to the expiration of her contract, it was due to the following factors:

Attkisson, who has been with CBS News for two decades, had grown frustrated with what she saw as the network’s liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting, several sources said. She increasingly felt that her work was no longer supported and that it was a struggle to get her reporting on air.

At the same time, Attkisson’s reporting on the Obama administration, which some staffers characterized as agenda-driven, had led network executives to doubt the impartiality of her reporting. She is currently at work on a book — tentatively titled “Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington” — that addresses the challenges of reporting critically on the administration.

While Attkisson is just one reporter and CBS has long since ceased being a dominant force in the national media, this may be a crucial moment in the history of American journalism. It was assumed that any major news outlet would regard aggressive coverage of all administrations as a given. But that ceased to be the case when Barack Obama entered the White House. If Attkisson is being shown the door at CBS it is not because her work is not highly regarded but because she has violated the prime directive of liberal media insiders: thou shalt not report on Obama in the same way that you reported on George W. Bush or even Bill Clinton. The liberal bias that conservatives have long complained about is out of the closet.

While most journalists have been reliably liberal in their politics for decades, the culture of the profession has always valued an “agin’ the government” mentality in which all politicians are viewed with cynicism. So long as even liberal journalists regard it as their duty to ferret out stories about corruption, mismanagement and failure within the government, we can feel safe that no administration, even one that is favored by the left, will escape the scrutiny necessary to provide accountability.

But there is little doubt that this has begun to change since Obama came to office. After the media hammered both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush throughout their presidencies, Obama has had it relatively easy. Part of it is due to the special hold that this historic president has over liberals. The growing bifurcation of American society in which the country has been divided between those who read the New York Times, listen to NPR and watch mainstream networks and MSNBC and those who read the Wall Street Journal, listen to talk radio and watch Fox News, has also affected journalists who should know better. The culture at CBS and like-minded outlets is to see any aggressive reporting about the president and his policies as evidence of wrong thinking rather than part of their obligation to ask uncomfortable questions and speak truth to power.

There was some hope last year that the spying on the AP and James Rosen would, especially when combined with other scandals involving the IRS and Benghazi, motivate the liberal media to start doing its job with regard to this administration. But the ouster of Attkisson combined with the relative lack of interest on the part of most of the press to follow up on those scandals while treating those involving Republicans — like Chris Christie’s Bridgegate — as the second coming of Watergate, means that partisanship has prevailed over integrity in much of the mainstream media.

One has to wonder why anyone interested in anything but White House talking points would choose to watch CBS News if a reporter like Attkisson couldn’t work there. This partly explains the decline of CBS and other liberal networks. But it also sends a clear message to the public that they can’t trust CBS and any other network where aggressive coverage of the administration is no longer welcome. This confirms what conservatives have been talking about for years but it ought to sadden anyone, no matter their politics, who understands the role of a free press in a democracy.

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Race Shouldn’t Define American Politics

The magic bullet of American politics is no secret. When in doubt or when they are backed into a corner—as they are now with ObamaCare’s disastrous rollout compounded, by the exposure of the president’s lies about Americans being able to keep their health coverage—liberals know their best strategy is to change the topic and to start discussing racism. That’s the rather flimsy conceit of an opinion piece published in today’s New York Times as a news story under the rubric of a “Political Memo.” You don’t have to read between the lines to catch on to its not terribly subtle message. All you have to do is to read the headline: “Behind the Roar of Political Debates, Whispers of Race Persist.” According to the Times the proof of this is the fact that the largely liberal-leaning and pro-Obama African-American community backs the president’s signature health-care plan while whites don’t. Were author John Harwood interested in serious analysis of opinion about the issue, he would have noted that the percentage of blacks backing the bill—59 percent—was far lower than the percentage of that community that votes for Democrats, showing just how shaky backing for ObamaCare really is. But instead it was the lead-in for a lengthy dissertation about how Republicans are injecting race and racism into American politics.

The utter absence of racial incitement in American politics has forced the left to invent new forms of alleged racism, such as voter ID laws that are even supported by the majority of African Americans. Nor is the Democrats’ firm hold on the votes of minorities such as blacks and Hispanics terribly surprising, since groups comprising of those more likely to have lower incomes or to be immigrants will always skew to the left. Hyping this split, as the Times does, as being the result of Republican racism is disingenuous. This is a classic example of liberal media bias that seeks to interpret the strong support for limited government or opposition to the president as motivated by hate. But before conservatives completely dismiss it, they need to think long and hard about how they will approach the impending debate about immigration reform.

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The magic bullet of American politics is no secret. When in doubt or when they are backed into a corner—as they are now with ObamaCare’s disastrous rollout compounded, by the exposure of the president’s lies about Americans being able to keep their health coverage—liberals know their best strategy is to change the topic and to start discussing racism. That’s the rather flimsy conceit of an opinion piece published in today’s New York Times as a news story under the rubric of a “Political Memo.” You don’t have to read between the lines to catch on to its not terribly subtle message. All you have to do is to read the headline: “Behind the Roar of Political Debates, Whispers of Race Persist.” According to the Times the proof of this is the fact that the largely liberal-leaning and pro-Obama African-American community backs the president’s signature health-care plan while whites don’t. Were author John Harwood interested in serious analysis of opinion about the issue, he would have noted that the percentage of blacks backing the bill—59 percent—was far lower than the percentage of that community that votes for Democrats, showing just how shaky backing for ObamaCare really is. But instead it was the lead-in for a lengthy dissertation about how Republicans are injecting race and racism into American politics.

The utter absence of racial incitement in American politics has forced the left to invent new forms of alleged racism, such as voter ID laws that are even supported by the majority of African Americans. Nor is the Democrats’ firm hold on the votes of minorities such as blacks and Hispanics terribly surprising, since groups comprising of those more likely to have lower incomes or to be immigrants will always skew to the left. Hyping this split, as the Times does, as being the result of Republican racism is disingenuous. This is a classic example of liberal media bias that seeks to interpret the strong support for limited government or opposition to the president as motivated by hate. But before conservatives completely dismiss it, they need to think long and hard about how they will approach the impending debate about immigration reform.

While immigration is likely to remain on the back burner with the focus on the need for a budget deal and the ObamaCare rollout, the administration as well as key business groups will be pushing hard for it in the upcoming months. Many conservatives oppose reform because they think providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is wrong or because they don’t trust the government to enforce current laws or to, as the bipartisan compromise bill passed earlier this year by the Senate promises, secure the border. But if, as some prominent voices on the right seem inclined to believe, the rationale for opposing reform is that more Hispanic immigrant voters will hurt the Republican Party, then they will have effectively validated the premise of the Times hit piece on the GOP.

Back in June, writing in agreement with something I wrote on the subject, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg stated, “Republicans cannot allow themselves to fall into the argument that they don’t want to legalize illegal immigrants solely because they’re afraid they’ll become Democrats.” But unfortunately that’s exactly what some are still doing. Over the past year, a steady undercurrent of conservative voices have been claiming that the main consequence of passing immigration reform will be to doom the GOP because it will result in the creation of more Hispanic voters. Just this week, pundit Ann Coulter said it on William Bennett’s “Morning in America” radio program without being challenged by the show’s host even though he remains one of the most honorable and sensible conservatives in the country.

Those like Goldberg who argue that Republicans shouldn’t try and justify immigration reform by saying it will lead to Hispanics voting for the GOP are right. They are not one-issue voters, and the economic status of many of them means they will remain in the pockets of big-government tax-and-spend Democrats.

But the moment conservatives start talking about a political imperative to limit the number of Hispanics becoming citizens they render themselves vulnerable to accusations of prejudice such as the ones being floated by the Times. As with the entire issue of immigration, we’ve been here before as a nation. In the late 19th century, Republicans felt that immigrants from Ireland and Italy were natural supporters of urban Democrat machines. Had they taken the long view, they would have realized that eventually the descendants of those new citizens would be just as open to the GOP message as WASPs. But instead, they did their best to alienate them; with Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine (whose anti-Catholic bigotry was the impetus for the passage of state constitutional amendments banning the funding of religious schools that today thwart school choice) denouncing the Democrats in 1884 as the party of “rum, Romanism, and rebellion.” It would be decades before his party lived that down and began making inroads with these voters.

Immigration reform must be debated on its merits. Like Senator Marco Rubio, I believe “amnesty” is what we have now with unenforceable laws, not the prospect that law-abiding people who have been here for many years and are willing to pay a penalty will be given a chance to come in out of the shadows and become citizens. Others will argue that doing so undermines the rule of law. I think that’s wrong, but it is at least an argument rooted in principle. But the moment conservatives start talking about their fear of Hispanic votes, they really are dooming the Republicans to a bleak future and undermining their standing with the rest of the country as well.

Race and ethnicity should never be allowed to define American politics. That’s true for race baiting liberals like the ones at the Times as well as those on the right who speak of a Hispanic peril. The danger to the GOP in this debate is not so much the prospect of a split between those who disagree about the issue but the possibility of many conservatives sending a message to Hispanics that they are not welcome. That is a mistake for which their party could pay dearly.

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Partisan Media is a Bipartisan Problem

I agree with liberal political strategist and talking head James Carville that listening and reading only to those who agree with you is a colossal bore. My reaction to such a prospect is the same as his. Rather than suffer such a fate, “just shoot me.” But Carville’s analysis of the polarization in the media illustrates the same fallacy that is at the heart of the trend he laments. Writing in The Hill yesterday, Carville says that what’s wrong is that:

Conservatives never seem to tire of one another. They love to reinforce their beliefs, day after day.

In other words, liberals are open to all points of view and read, listen and watch conservative outlets while it is only conservatives who insulate themselves from opposing points of view. Perhaps that is true on some other planet in the universe, but here on Earth, liberals are just as guilty of this fault as anyone on the right, as evidence by the loyalty to a wide array of liberal newspapers, radio and TV outlets while shunning conservative publications, Fox News and conservative radio talkers as if they had the plague. If anything, they are worse since they think those who tell them what they want to hear are objective while those who disagree are not. Nothing better illustrates the dialogue of the deaf on this issue than attitudes such as those illustrated by Carville.

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I agree with liberal political strategist and talking head James Carville that listening and reading only to those who agree with you is a colossal bore. My reaction to such a prospect is the same as his. Rather than suffer such a fate, “just shoot me.” But Carville’s analysis of the polarization in the media illustrates the same fallacy that is at the heart of the trend he laments. Writing in The Hill yesterday, Carville says that what’s wrong is that:

Conservatives never seem to tire of one another. They love to reinforce their beliefs, day after day.

In other words, liberals are open to all points of view and read, listen and watch conservative outlets while it is only conservatives who insulate themselves from opposing points of view. Perhaps that is true on some other planet in the universe, but here on Earth, liberals are just as guilty of this fault as anyone on the right, as evidence by the loyalty to a wide array of liberal newspapers, radio and TV outlets while shunning conservative publications, Fox News and conservative radio talkers as if they had the plague. If anything, they are worse since they think those who tell them what they want to hear are objective while those who disagree are not. Nothing better illustrates the dialogue of the deaf on this issue than attitudes such as those illustrated by Carville.

Carville’s motivation for writing was the same as that of David Carr, the New York Times media columnist whose column on the issue was discussed here on Sunday. Both were flabbergasted to learn that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia avoided liberal newspapers like the Times and the Washington Post as well as NPR Radio, choosing instead to read the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and to listen to talk radio with special mention to William Bennett’s morning show.

I wrote then that the problem with Carr’s article was that he failed to note his own newspaper’s well-known liberal bias or to acknowledge that prior to the advent of Fox News and conservative talk radio, liberals had a virtual monopoly on the mainstream media in terms of major daily newspapers and television networks.

But Carville’s failing here is even worse than Carr’s omissions. He seems to actually believe that liberals are willing to expose themselves to different viewpoints but that it is only conservatives that don’t.

Is he serious?

Does he think liberals check conservative publications like editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the Weekly Standard or even Commentary to get a different perspective from that of the Times? Or those who watch MSNBC are frequently clicking over to Fox to find out what the other side is saying? That NPR listeners tune in even once in a blue moon to Rush Limbaugh or anyone with a conservative frame of reference? Not a chance.

The liberal problem with the proliferation of media outlets that has provided both sides of the political divide with a diverse set of choices that enable them to avoid opinions that upset them is primarily based in their dismay that there is a choice nowadays other than the ones they endorse.

As Carville’s piece indicates, what liberals want is to force conservatives to listen to them. Fair enough. We sometimes learn a lot more from our opponents than our friends. I know I do. But that is not matched by a liberal commitment to listen to conservatives. Media partisanship is a problem. But, contrary to Carville’s spin, it is a bipartisan problem.

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Playing the Racism Card in the Shutdown

 The government shutdown has brought out the worst in our political class but the same is true of pundits. It’s bad enough when politicians call each other terrorists and hostage takers or, as Barbara Boxer did yesterday, to compare them to those who commit domestic abuse. We know that’s what Democrats have always thought of Republicans and it takes very little provocation to get them up on their high horses seeking to turn a political disagreement, however bitter it might be, into one in which the other side is depicted as pure scum rather than merely wrong. But the willingness of liberals to speak as if all those who disagree with Barack Obama are, almost by definition, racists, is about as low as it gets.

The attempt to paint the Tea Party as a warmed over version of the Ku Klux Klan has been a staple of liberal commentary for over three years. The fact that race has played virtually no part in the argument about the stimulus, ObamaCare and the current shutdown/debt ceiling crisis doesn’t deter the left from branding its foes as motivated by prejudice rather than just by different views about which decent people can disagree. That’s the conceit of much of Roger Simon’s column in Politico yesterday. Jonah Goldberg rightly called it “fairly trollish” and used it as an example of how formerly respected reporters turned columnists expose the liberal bias of much of the mainstream press in an excellent post on National Review’s The Corner blog. I made a similar point in a piece about a related topic on Sunday. But Simon’s piece exposes a different angle of the bias issue that I’d like to explore further.

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 The government shutdown has brought out the worst in our political class but the same is true of pundits. It’s bad enough when politicians call each other terrorists and hostage takers or, as Barbara Boxer did yesterday, to compare them to those who commit domestic abuse. We know that’s what Democrats have always thought of Republicans and it takes very little provocation to get them up on their high horses seeking to turn a political disagreement, however bitter it might be, into one in which the other side is depicted as pure scum rather than merely wrong. But the willingness of liberals to speak as if all those who disagree with Barack Obama are, almost by definition, racists, is about as low as it gets.

The attempt to paint the Tea Party as a warmed over version of the Ku Klux Klan has been a staple of liberal commentary for over three years. The fact that race has played virtually no part in the argument about the stimulus, ObamaCare and the current shutdown/debt ceiling crisis doesn’t deter the left from branding its foes as motivated by prejudice rather than just by different views about which decent people can disagree. That’s the conceit of much of Roger Simon’s column in Politico yesterday. Jonah Goldberg rightly called it “fairly trollish” and used it as an example of how formerly respected reporters turned columnists expose the liberal bias of much of the mainstream press in an excellent post on National Review’s The Corner blog. I made a similar point in a piece about a related topic on Sunday. But Simon’s piece exposes a different angle of the bias issue that I’d like to explore further.

The headline of his article was “Government shutdown unleashes racism” and it was accompanied by a photo of Tea Party demonstrator waving a Confederate flag in front of the White House at a demonstration this past weekend. But the headline promised more than Simon could deliver as the only points presented in the piece that backed up the accusation lodged in the headline was the flag and a comment made on radio by “Joe the Plumber,” the conservative pseudo celebrity of the 2008 campaign who said in his blog that America needed a “white Republican president” to replace Barack Obama. Other than these two items, Simon’s piece was just the standard denunciation of the Republican stand on the shutdown and it was that theme rather than racism riff that was its substance.

I happen to agree with Simon, and probably most other Americans, that what the plumber said is racist and has no place in our public discourse, though if liberal pundits weren’t recycling the writings of the artist otherwise known as Samuel Wurzelbacher, I’m not sure that most of us would be aware of them.

I also agree that there is something offensive about waving Confederate flags in just about any context other than a Civil War reenactment. I know that those from the Old South see it as part of their heritage but I think we should be able to evolve as a nation away from the “Gone With The Wind” view of the War Between the States. Which means that the rebel battle flag is, whether inhabitants of the old Confederacy like it or not, a symbol of racism and treason (a term I know I employ at the risk of generating a host of angry comments from those unreconstructed Confederates who think the Civil War was about state’s rights rather than slavery and who believe recycling Jefferson Davis’ views about the right of secession isn’t irrational). While the attempts of many liberals like Chris Matthews to interpret all criticism of President Obama as being motivated by racism is slanderous as well as utterly disingenuous, I will concede to Simon that anyone who waves the stars and bars in front of the Obamas’ current residence is pretty much asking to be labeled a bigot and should get no defense from any responsible conservative.

The bias in discussing this issue doesn’t stem from a desire to condemn people who do such stupid things. Rather it is in the unwillingness to place them in reasonable context.

After all, at the height of the public protests against the Iraq War, the mass demonstrations in major American cities convened by liberal groups included large numbers of people who were more or less the leftist moral equivalent of the flag waver at the White House. You didn’t have to work hard at these events to find considerable numbers of those demonstrators waving signs accusing George W. Bush and/or Dick Cheney of being Nazis. Nor was there any shortage of rhetoric from these people demanding the ouster of the government of the republic by any means necessary. Yet that didn’t stop the mainstream liberal media from depicting the demonstrations as being in no way tainted by extremists who were along for the ride or from asserting, probably rightly, that they were a reflection of a large segment of American public opinion.

Just as the vast majority of those who wanted out of Iraq were able to see the difference between Bush/Cheney and Hitler, playing the racism card against the Tea Party is intellectually lazy as well as wrong. Both the left and the right need to do a better job policing those on the margins of mainstream movements. But that is not the same thing as painting an entire ideological segment of the public as a function of the fever swamps. Call Republicans who hatched the shutdown strategy misguided or even stupid if you like, but associating all those who want to restrain government spending and taxing and to repeal Obamacare, with racism is slander, not a rational argument.

That liberal pundits can’t resist the temptation to play off this meme says more about media bias than it does about problems on the right.

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Who Created the Gerrymandered Media?

New York Times media columnist David Carr thinks its shocking that some smart people don’t want to read his paper or the Washington Post. He was amazed to learn in a New York magazine interview that Justice Antonin Scalia a man who is widely acknowledged, even in the saner precincts of the left, to be an intellectual giant, won’t read either of them and that his daily sources for news are limited to the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and conservative talk radio. Carr presents this as evidence that denizens of the right wing echo chamber are not just “a bunch of narrow-minded, politically obsessed characters who send mass e-mails from their mother’s basement.”

To understand this problem more fully, he then asks our John Podhoretz about the problem. John is introduced to the Times readership as a conservative but one that should rate some respect because he recently criticized the architects of the government shutdown tactic. John rightly dissects the shrill nature of some of the most popular cable news programs and points out that the bifurcated ideological media don’t just disagree but make anyone who disagrees with their point of view unwelcome. That helps gin up the intensity level and manufactures a level of vituperation that has caused the two sides to largely insulate themselves from opposing points of view.

Carr deserves credit for acknowledging this problem rather than merely rehearsing the usual liberal complaints about conservatives but there is something important missing from the piece. What he fails to acknowledge is that his own newspaper is as good an example of the media echo chamber as anyone on cable television or talk radio. Indeed, if we have a gerrymandered media that has helped to exacerbate political differences it is to no small extent the responsibility of institutions like the Times whose liberal bias made the creation of conservative alternatives inevitable as well as necessary.

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New York Times media columnist David Carr thinks its shocking that some smart people don’t want to read his paper or the Washington Post. He was amazed to learn in a New York magazine interview that Justice Antonin Scalia a man who is widely acknowledged, even in the saner precincts of the left, to be an intellectual giant, won’t read either of them and that his daily sources for news are limited to the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and conservative talk radio. Carr presents this as evidence that denizens of the right wing echo chamber are not just “a bunch of narrow-minded, politically obsessed characters who send mass e-mails from their mother’s basement.”

To understand this problem more fully, he then asks our John Podhoretz about the problem. John is introduced to the Times readership as a conservative but one that should rate some respect because he recently criticized the architects of the government shutdown tactic. John rightly dissects the shrill nature of some of the most popular cable news programs and points out that the bifurcated ideological media don’t just disagree but make anyone who disagrees with their point of view unwelcome. That helps gin up the intensity level and manufactures a level of vituperation that has caused the two sides to largely insulate themselves from opposing points of view.

Carr deserves credit for acknowledging this problem rather than merely rehearsing the usual liberal complaints about conservatives but there is something important missing from the piece. What he fails to acknowledge is that his own newspaper is as good an example of the media echo chamber as anyone on cable television or talk radio. Indeed, if we have a gerrymandered media that has helped to exacerbate political differences it is to no small extent the responsibility of institutions like the Times whose liberal bias made the creation of conservative alternatives inevitable as well as necessary.

Carr writes that the Wall Street Journal is, “a really good newspaper that tilts right on its editorial page and sometimes in its news coverage.” But anyone who reads the Times regularly knows that its news pages, especially its front pages are often littered with “analysis” pieces that are thinly disguised op-eds. Whatever criticisms might be made about the Journal, by comparison it is model of Olympian objectivity. The Times editorial section isn’t merely almost uniformly liberal, even its letters column rarely includes criticism of the paper’s content from a conservative point of view.

But the problem is bigger than the shortcomings of the Times. The origins of the media divide must be traced to what it was like before the rise of Fox News and talk radio. If liberals lament the current split, it’s not just because they claim to despise the nasty, partisan nature of much of the contemporary media, but because they remember how much they liked it when there was no such diversity. The “golden age” of television news was one in which the three major broadcast networks were as uniformly liberal in their presentations as the Times and the Washington Post were in theirs with no competition from cable, the Internet or a talk radio market that was largely inhibited from political commentary by the so-called “fairness doctrine.” The enormous success of Fox News and talkers like Rush Limbaugh is the product of the fact that they filled a niche that was ignored by the mainstream media prior to their development. The bad news for liberals is that it was an underserved niche whose target audience was composed of approximately half of the American people who were begging for an alternative to the left-leaning monolith that had been forced down their throats for decades.

Even worse, was the conceit of these unaccountable liberal news institutions that they were not biased. The power of media icons like Walter Cronkite (who would later admit that he had slanted the news on his broadcasts to conform with his political opinions) was based as much on their pose of objectivity as it was on their lack of competition. As unfortunate as the divide between the hysterical liberals of MSNBC and their conservative antagonists, at least more journalists today are honest about their politics. Any discussion of this topic must note that among the most irresponsible and contemptible holdouts on this point have been Carr’s colleagues at the Times.

I agree with both John and Carr that it is too bad that nowadays we are a nation largely split between those who read the Times or the Washington Post, listen to NPR and watch the broadcast networks or MSNBC and those who read the Journal, listen to Rush and watch Fox. Both sides bear some responsibility for this state of affairs but it’s obvious that Carr is primarily interested in profiling why conservatives don’t read, listen or watch liberals rather than to examine why the liberal media does its best to drive conservatives away. That stance is consistent with the position of President Obama and his cheering section on the Times editorial board which sees liberalism as reasonable and its opponents as inherently irresponsible or extreme. But if he really wants to know why the country is split, he should look in his own mirror and examine what is wrong with a mainstream media that has never been able to be honest about its liberal bias.

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Attkisson’s Problem and the Public’s

CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has a bigger problem than the possibility that someone or some government agency has been tampering with her computer. Last week the investigative journalist acknowledged publicly that her work computers had been compromised. But as Dylan Byers makes clear in his piece about Attkisson in Politico published on Friday, her bigger problem is the fact that a lot of people at CBS think there’s something wrong with a journalist who is willing to report aggressively about the Obama administration’s shortcomings and scandals. That her willingness to push hard to find out the truth about scandals such as Fast and Furious, Solyndra and now Benghazi would be excoriated by left-wing websites such as Media Matters is no surprise since such partisans regard any scrutiny of a Democratic president as unacceptable. But what is truly worrisome is that Attkisson’s work is, we are told, seen by many at CBS as evidence of a “political agenda” and therefore unacceptable.

There are conflicting rumors about whether she’s on her way out at the network, and it may be that she will stay in her mainstream perch for the foreseeable future. But what is so ominous about this article is the way her critics at CBS—none of whom will speak publicly—seem to be echoing the views of the flacks at the White House. As Attkisson said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show in 2011:

“[The White House and Justice Department] will tell you that I’m the only reporter — as they told me — that is not reasonable,” Attkisson told Ingraham. “They say The Washington Post is reasonable, the L.A. Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable, I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.”

If, as Politico seems to imply, a lot of people working at CBS agree with this point of view and see any aggressive reporting about the president and his policies as evidence of wrong thinking, it appears as if this signals a fundamental shift in the way many in the mainstream media think about their profession. This won’t be a surprise to their conservative critics, who have long thought the major networks and leading dailies are hopelessly mired in liberal groupthink. But it ought to sadden anyone, no matter what their politics might be, who understands the role of a free press in a democracy.

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CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has a bigger problem than the possibility that someone or some government agency has been tampering with her computer. Last week the investigative journalist acknowledged publicly that her work computers had been compromised. But as Dylan Byers makes clear in his piece about Attkisson in Politico published on Friday, her bigger problem is the fact that a lot of people at CBS think there’s something wrong with a journalist who is willing to report aggressively about the Obama administration’s shortcomings and scandals. That her willingness to push hard to find out the truth about scandals such as Fast and Furious, Solyndra and now Benghazi would be excoriated by left-wing websites such as Media Matters is no surprise since such partisans regard any scrutiny of a Democratic president as unacceptable. But what is truly worrisome is that Attkisson’s work is, we are told, seen by many at CBS as evidence of a “political agenda” and therefore unacceptable.

There are conflicting rumors about whether she’s on her way out at the network, and it may be that she will stay in her mainstream perch for the foreseeable future. But what is so ominous about this article is the way her critics at CBS—none of whom will speak publicly—seem to be echoing the views of the flacks at the White House. As Attkisson said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show in 2011:

“[The White House and Justice Department] will tell you that I’m the only reporter — as they told me — that is not reasonable,” Attkisson told Ingraham. “They say The Washington Post is reasonable, the L.A. Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable, I’m the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I’m unfair and biased by pursuing it.”

If, as Politico seems to imply, a lot of people working at CBS agree with this point of view and see any aggressive reporting about the president and his policies as evidence of wrong thinking, it appears as if this signals a fundamental shift in the way many in the mainstream media think about their profession. This won’t be a surprise to their conservative critics, who have long thought the major networks and leading dailies are hopelessly mired in liberal groupthink. But it ought to sadden anyone, no matter what their politics might be, who understands the role of a free press in a democracy.

While most journalists have been reliably liberal in their politics for generations, the culture of the profession has always valued an “agin’ the government” mentality in which all institutions are viewed with a fair amount of cynicism. So long as even liberal journalists regard it as their duty to ferret out stories about corruption, mismanagement and failure within the government, we can feel safe that no administration, even one that is favored by the left, will escape the scrutiny necessary to provide accountability.

But if the zeitgeist at CBS, and, no doubt, other such organizations has been altered to believe that President Obama must be treated with kid gloves, then mainstream journalism has been proven bankrupt. Coming after eight years during which these same news institutions hammered the George W. Bush administration (including hard-nosed stores by Attkisson), their cozy relationship with Obama has been highly suspicious. The fact that Obama prefers, as CBS’s Steve Croft memorably put it, to go on the network’s 60 Minutes show because he knows he won’t be made “to look stupid” fits in with the groundswell against his colleague.

That many journalists are starting to rethink their protective attitude toward Obama in the wake of this season of scandals, and in particular because of the shocking treatment of both the Associated Press and Fox News’s James Rosen, is to be commended. The administration’s unhinged war on journalists has opened some eyes to its flaws that were heretofore resolutely closed. But if a lot of people in the press think there is something partisan about giving Obama’s policies the same harsh treatment afforded to those of Bush, then they simply can’t be trusted.

Many in these same institutions decry the fact that many readers and viewers stick only to those outlets that represent their political point of view. But if Sharyl Attkisson’s reporting about Obama’s scandals is seen as out of the mainstream or excessive by her colleagues, then that is a warning to all that CBS and other mainstream institutions are not be trusted to tell the truth. Under those circumstances, why should anyone who wants something other than the latest White House talking points watch or read the mainstream media? In that case the big loser isn’t so much independent journalists like Attkisson but a public that must rely on the free press to play its vital role in ensuring that our democratic system works.

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Why Liberals Still Detest Fox News

More than 16 years after its founding and 11 years after it assumed its current perch as the most-watched cable news network, Fox News remains the favorite punching bag of the left. Liberals take it as an article of faith that Fox is not merely biased but a travesty that serious people should ignore. But the notion that there is something unholy about what is broadcast on Fox or that its mix of news and opinion is uniquely biased has never stood up to scrutiny.

That assumption was once again on display this past week in a New York Times review of a new biography of Fox founder Roger Ailes.  Veteran Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani had little patience for Zev Chafets’s new book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, because it presents Ailes in a not unsympathetic light and takes down some of the common liberal charges about Fox and its on-air personalities. According to Kakutani, Chafets should have focused on its “role in accelerating partisanship in our increasingly polarized society” and how it “frames its reports from the conservative point of view.” Implicit in these lines is the belief that there is something exceptional in a broadcast network that has a political point of view or that what Fox does is so egregious when it is compared to its competitors.

Refutation of these prejudices comes from no less an authority than an icon of establishment liberalism: the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. In its State of the News Media: An Annual Report on American Journalism, Pew details, among other interesting tidbits the percentages of news reporting and opinion on the three biggest cable news channels. According to the study, the breakdown of MSNBC shows that a whopping 85 percent of its airtime is taken up with opinion, compared to 55 percent of the time on Fox and 45 percent of CNN’s air.

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More than 16 years after its founding and 11 years after it assumed its current perch as the most-watched cable news network, Fox News remains the favorite punching bag of the left. Liberals take it as an article of faith that Fox is not merely biased but a travesty that serious people should ignore. But the notion that there is something unholy about what is broadcast on Fox or that its mix of news and opinion is uniquely biased has never stood up to scrutiny.

That assumption was once again on display this past week in a New York Times review of a new biography of Fox founder Roger Ailes.  Veteran Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani had little patience for Zev Chafets’s new book, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, because it presents Ailes in a not unsympathetic light and takes down some of the common liberal charges about Fox and its on-air personalities. According to Kakutani, Chafets should have focused on its “role in accelerating partisanship in our increasingly polarized society” and how it “frames its reports from the conservative point of view.” Implicit in these lines is the belief that there is something exceptional in a broadcast network that has a political point of view or that what Fox does is so egregious when it is compared to its competitors.

Refutation of these prejudices comes from no less an authority than an icon of establishment liberalism: the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. In its State of the News Media: An Annual Report on American Journalism, Pew details, among other interesting tidbits the percentages of news reporting and opinion on the three biggest cable news channels. According to the study, the breakdown of MSNBC shows that a whopping 85 percent of its airtime is taken up with opinion, compared to 55 percent of the time on Fox and 45 percent of CNN’s air.

These numbers tell us that while the majority of what Fox broadcasts is conservative opinion, it is a pittance when compared to the volume of uniformly liberal commentary on MSNBC. If more of CNN’s airtime is taken up with reporting than on Fox, it must be remembered that the vast majority of the opinions heard on that network is also liberal. And when that is combined with the heavy liberal tilt on the original three national networks, NBC, ABC and especially CBS (the home of the supposedly authoritative 60 Minutes which is so soft on the head of the Democratic Party that even one of its hosts admits it can be relied upon never to discomfit President Obama), it makes Fox’s conservative views one of the few places where alternatives to the left can be found.

If Kakutani and the legions of liberals who blast Fox reporters for not reporting the news from a liberal perspective think there is something wrong about that it is because they are so used to dominating the news media, both print and broadcast, that they still think Ailes has done something wrong in providing viewers with another way of looking at the world.

Of course, the real difference between Fox and its competitors is not so much its divergence from liberalism as Ailes’s honesty about the fact that his network has a different frame of reference.

For decades, mainstream news icons like Walter Cronkite maintained the pretense of objectivity while tilting his enormously influential broadcasts to the left. But while belief in his impartiality and that of almost all of his colleagues on CBS and the other big two of that time was based on myth rather than truth, it was more believable than the willingness of his successors as well as many of those seen on MSNBC and CNN—including those that report as well as those who merely opine—to continue to pretend that they aren’t ideologues.

Fox’s success is rooted in its honesty about its point of view as well as the fact that the uniform liberalism of the other networks has left the field wide open for a conservative alternative. What Ailes and his backer Rupert Murdoch did was to find an underserved niche of the news market. Only in this case that niche is made up of approximately half of the American people. No wonder liberals resent it so bitterly.

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Liberal Bias Central to Obama Media Edge

Politico writers Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen are on to something with their feature published today about President Obama’s mastery of the mainstream media. Their conclusion that the president and his staff have broken new ground in manipulating journalists and shaping favorable coverage of the administration is so obvious that it is almost inarguable. As I have argued several times over the past four years, no president since John F. Kennedy has enjoyed the sort of advantage or lack of serious scrutiny that the president has received. Vandehei and Allen are right when they point out that the calculated leaks and softball interviews combined with a command of social media and other methods that limit press access have combined to build the Obama juggernaut that won him re-election as well as give him an edge in any battle with Congress.

Yet Vandehei and Allen’s insistence that this has nothing to do with the conservative belief that “a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated” ignores some of the same facts that they amass in discussing the way the president has played the “puppet master” with the media. No matter how smart the strategies employed by the White House, the president’s ability to skate through four years without getting seriously challenged by the mainstream media would not have been possible if most of those being played were not willing accomplices. Due credit must be given to the administration’s ability to take advantage of technology as well as their brilliant if unscrupulous game playing with journalists. But without the liberal bias of most of the mainstream outlets that let the president play them like a piano, he would come across as a bully and a demagogue rather than the reasonable nice guy seen in those “60 Minutes” interviews he loves to give.

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Politico writers Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen are on to something with their feature published today about President Obama’s mastery of the mainstream media. Their conclusion that the president and his staff have broken new ground in manipulating journalists and shaping favorable coverage of the administration is so obvious that it is almost inarguable. As I have argued several times over the past four years, no president since John F. Kennedy has enjoyed the sort of advantage or lack of serious scrutiny that the president has received. Vandehei and Allen are right when they point out that the calculated leaks and softball interviews combined with a command of social media and other methods that limit press access have combined to build the Obama juggernaut that won him re-election as well as give him an edge in any battle with Congress.

Yet Vandehei and Allen’s insistence that this has nothing to do with the conservative belief that “a liberal press willingly and eagerly allows itself to get manipulated” ignores some of the same facts that they amass in discussing the way the president has played the “puppet master” with the media. No matter how smart the strategies employed by the White House, the president’s ability to skate through four years without getting seriously challenged by the mainstream media would not have been possible if most of those being played were not willing accomplices. Due credit must be given to the administration’s ability to take advantage of technology as well as their brilliant if unscrupulous game playing with journalists. But without the liberal bias of most of the mainstream outlets that let the president play them like a piano, he would come across as a bully and a demagogue rather than the reasonable nice guy seen in those “60 Minutes” interviews he loves to give.

Any analysis of the president’s media advantage must start with the understanding that his historical status as the first African-American president has given him far more leeway than any of his recent predecessors when it comes to scrutiny from the mainstream press. The broadcast networks as well as the liberal-leaning cable channels have treated Obama and his family as being above criticism. This has created a Camelot effect unseen in Washington since the days when the press was ignoring JFK’s personal immorality while turning his family into national icons.

The White House has ruthlessly exploited that willingness to portray the president in the sort of stained-glass light usually reserved for statesman of the past. But, as Politico rightly points out, they have doubled down on it by limiting access to the working press — even those from generally friendly liberal outlets — and going directly to the public via social media and White House-created content. That has been combined with cleverly staged leaks to journalists who then dutifully do the administration’s dirty work for it on a host of issues. All this allows the president to pose as the voice of reason on domestic issues and to generally avoid any pointed scrutiny on foreign affairs even when — as in the Benghazi fiasco — the duty of the press to focus on his lack of answers would seem obvious.

Politico is right that among those most frustrated by this are members of the White House press corps who may be liberals but are still eager to do their jobs. However, the only reason this has worked so well is the willingness of the editors and publishers who employ those frustrated reporters to roll over and play dead for the president. The unavoidable fact that Vandehei and Allen do their best to ignore is that the hamstringing of the working press’s ability to hold the president accountable dovetails nicely with the editorial stands of the vast majority of those outlets. That limits the time and space they are willing to give their staffers who might wish to push harder on an administration that is so careful about limiting access.

Just as important to the success of the White House’s puppetry is the eagerness of much of the liberal press to play ball with the president when given the opportunity to do so. As Steve Kroft of “60 Minutes” admitted, the reason why Obama loves to go on the CBS show is that he knows he won’t be “made to look stupid” or be subjected to the same “gotcha” kind of questions for which that television institution was so well known in the decades when it established its long since undeserved reputation as the gold standard of broadcast journalism. Though few other liberal hacks have been as honest about their bias as Kroft, the same rule applies to virtually every outlet that has been granted the same kind of access such as the recent Obama puff piece published in The New Republic.

It barely needs to be said that had the George W. Bush administration tried the same tactics as Obama has employed, it wouldn’t have worked a fraction as well. That is not just because Bush was not as comfortable in playing the role of inaccessible puppeteer as his successor. His administration, like everyone that preceded it, had its own strategies for coping with the press and did its best to outwit those tasked with holding it accountable that were not always unsuccessful. The Obama administration didn’t invent leaks even if it has perfected them into something approaching an art form.

But the difference is that the White House press corps as well as their editors and publishers were never prepared to lie down for Bush in the way they have done with Obama. The Bush team could never look for the sort of softball interviews that Obama’s staffers know to rely upon. They also knew that any tactical victories it might achieve in getting their message across would be countered and often wiped out by the liberal institutional bias of the networks and newspapers that Obama never has to worry about. No matter how much the Bush White House would have leaked to the New York Times, there is no way that would have generated the kind of fawning coverage the Grey Lady has given Obama.

That’s why the lessons of Obama’s press strategies are of only limited utility to Republicans. They can learn from the methods he uses to go directly to the public without the filter of the media. His command of social media and smart use of content created by the White House should be emulated by every politician who wants to win. But no conservative will ever be able to manipulate the media the way Obama does because of the simple fact that the liberal press will not allow it as they do with Obama. This doesn’t mean Republicans are doomed to perpetual defeat, but it does remind them that they have a steeper hill to climb than their Democratic counterparts. As much as the GOP has to get into the 21st century when it comes to technology, the liberal press will never give them the free passes it hands out to the Obama White House every day of the week.

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Murdoch, “Jewish-Owned Press” and Israel

It ended almost before it started, but the kerfuffle over Rupert Murdoch’s tweet about the way some publications cover Israel is still worth considering. The controversy was over something the media magnate posted on Twitter last night. The tweet, which has since been deleted, said the following: “Why Is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?” The response from some in the liberal media was instant and ferocious. Peter Beinart wrote this was an accusation that some Jewish publishers and journalists are nothing less than self-hating Jews because they express their Jewish identity via hostility to Israel. To him, that combined a lot of “idiocy and nastiness into 140 characters.”

Murdoch, clearly stung, deleted the tweet and then posted the following on Twitter:

Let’s specify that any references to the “Jewish owned press” in a public forum are unfortunate since that phrase smacks of anti-Semitic myths about the media being controlled by a Jewish cabal. That is true even if the person saying it is the living proof that non-Jews actually control a lot more of the media than any Jew. The generalization Murdoch used about such publications being “consistently anti-Israel” also has all the faults that are usually associated with any broad generalization in that it was imprecise. Not all Jewish-owned publications are anti-Israel, and even those that are not exactly friendly to the Jewish state cannot be said to be perfectly consistent in that stance. Even more to the point, the Jewish identity of some of Murdoch’s fellow media barons may be so tenuous that it is arguable that their biases have little to do with their ethnic and/or religious origins.

And yet it must still be said that there was enough of the truth in Murdoch’s poorly phrased tweet to make some of Israel’s Jewish media critics howl.

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It ended almost before it started, but the kerfuffle over Rupert Murdoch’s tweet about the way some publications cover Israel is still worth considering. The controversy was over something the media magnate posted on Twitter last night. The tweet, which has since been deleted, said the following: “Why Is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?” The response from some in the liberal media was instant and ferocious. Peter Beinart wrote this was an accusation that some Jewish publishers and journalists are nothing less than self-hating Jews because they express their Jewish identity via hostility to Israel. To him, that combined a lot of “idiocy and nastiness into 140 characters.”

Murdoch, clearly stung, deleted the tweet and then posted the following on Twitter:

Let’s specify that any references to the “Jewish owned press” in a public forum are unfortunate since that phrase smacks of anti-Semitic myths about the media being controlled by a Jewish cabal. That is true even if the person saying it is the living proof that non-Jews actually control a lot more of the media than any Jew. The generalization Murdoch used about such publications being “consistently anti-Israel” also has all the faults that are usually associated with any broad generalization in that it was imprecise. Not all Jewish-owned publications are anti-Israel, and even those that are not exactly friendly to the Jewish state cannot be said to be perfectly consistent in that stance. Even more to the point, the Jewish identity of some of Murdoch’s fellow media barons may be so tenuous that it is arguable that their biases have little to do with their ethnic and/or religious origins.

And yet it must still be said that there was enough of the truth in Murdoch’s poorly phrased tweet to make some of Israel’s Jewish media critics howl.

I imagine Beinart was not incorrect to assume that the primary “Jewish owned press” outlet that Murdoch was thinking of was the New York Times that yesterday led with a front-page op-ed masquerading as a news analysis that mischaracterized the reasons for Israel’s “toughness.” He might also have been thinking about the Jewish ties of the family that has long owned the Washington Post that published this front page the other day. In that context, it wasn’t unreasonable for the non-Jewish Murdoch to wonder why these papers as well as much of the liberal media are often so reflexively hostile to Israel’s cause even when it is clearly the aggrieved party, as it is this week after Hamas rocket attacks set off the current conflict.

In response, Beinart only sees a foolish observer assuming that Jewish publishers should sacrifice their journalistic integrity when covering Israel and assume the pose of Zionist cheerleaders.

But that is not what Murdoch or many other media critics are talking about. Quite the contrary; in the last 30 years we have often seen mainstream publications ditching their integrity to unfairly bash Israel.

Part of Beinart’s own pose as a Jewish critic of Israel is the claim that taking the position that the Jewish state must be saved from itself is so unpopular that it takes courage to stray from the AIPAC playbook. But anyone who has observed the way the media works knows that the opposite is true. The easiest way for any self-identified Jewish writer to get published on the op-ed page of the Times or to get prominent notice in most other mainstream publications is to attack Israel. Indeed, at times it seems the only papers that do regularly publish defenses of Israel against these unfair attacks are the ones Murdoch owns.

Let’s assume that all those who treat Israel unfairly or show bias against it are doing so with motives that are pure as the driven snow. Let us further assume, as we probably should, that all those Jews who do so are not self-hating Jews but just ignorant, blinded by ideology or just as misguided as Beinart.

But let’s not pretend that any journalist who takes such a stance, or a publisher who puts out a newspaper or magazine where Israel is harshly treated, is being brave. Far from it, running with the pack baying for Israel’s blood is the path of least resistance in mainstream media culture.

Under these circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that many Jews as well as some non-Jews like Murdoch are given to wondering aloud about why so many Jews in the business are so little moved by Israel’s predicament and so inclined to rationalize the actions of the Jewish state’s foes.

As usual, Beinart has it backwards. Far from wanting Jews in journalism to jettison their professional obligations, what media critics want is for them to return to a position of integrity and to tell the story of the Middle East conflict more accurately. If they did, media bias against Israel wouldn’t be as much of a factor as it is today.

Though Murdoch expressed this sentiment poorly, he was a lot closer to the truth of the situation than the bile that Beinart directed at him.

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GOP Should Blame the Media, Not Sandy

A week ago, as Hurricane Sandy headed up the East Coast, Mitt Romney looked to be consolidating his recent gains in the polls. A week later, with many still suffering from the impact of the storm, Romney’s momentum has ebbed and Democratic optimism is off the charts. Assuming that the Democrats are right and Romney loses, was this all the fault of the storm in which President Obama got to play commander-in-chief and take the credit for what has been depicted in the press as an effective federal response to the crisis?

The answer here is: not really. The storm didn’t hurt the president and certainly didn’t help Romney, as it took the focus off politics for a crucial few days (much as the hurricane that threatened parts of the country during the Republican National Convention at the end of August undermined the GOP’s hopes for pulling off a successful infomercial). But the reason it played so well for the president is directly related to the inherent advantages that have always made Romney’s effort an uphill climb: incumbency and a mainstream media in the tank for Obama and determined to portray him as successful even when the facts don’t justify the cheerleading. Though many conservatives have spent this year assuming the president was toast, this latest setback for Republicans is yet another reminder of how out of touch they were with political reality. The election is by no means the foregone conclusion that many liberals are claiming this morning; unless the Democrat turnout matches that of 2008, the pollsters and pundits predicting an Obama victory will look very foolish on Wednesday morning. But the impact of the hurricane on the race demonstrates that beating Obama required a little luck as well as a good candidate and a competent campaign.

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A week ago, as Hurricane Sandy headed up the East Coast, Mitt Romney looked to be consolidating his recent gains in the polls. A week later, with many still suffering from the impact of the storm, Romney’s momentum has ebbed and Democratic optimism is off the charts. Assuming that the Democrats are right and Romney loses, was this all the fault of the storm in which President Obama got to play commander-in-chief and take the credit for what has been depicted in the press as an effective federal response to the crisis?

The answer here is: not really. The storm didn’t hurt the president and certainly didn’t help Romney, as it took the focus off politics for a crucial few days (much as the hurricane that threatened parts of the country during the Republican National Convention at the end of August undermined the GOP’s hopes for pulling off a successful infomercial). But the reason it played so well for the president is directly related to the inherent advantages that have always made Romney’s effort an uphill climb: incumbency and a mainstream media in the tank for Obama and determined to portray him as successful even when the facts don’t justify the cheerleading. Though many conservatives have spent this year assuming the president was toast, this latest setback for Republicans is yet another reminder of how out of touch they were with political reality. The election is by no means the foregone conclusion that many liberals are claiming this morning; unless the Democrat turnout matches that of 2008, the pollsters and pundits predicting an Obama victory will look very foolish on Wednesday morning. But the impact of the hurricane on the race demonstrates that beating Obama required a little luck as well as a good candidate and a competent campaign.

Sandy’s impact was more than just a diversion from political business as usual. It was a chance for many in the mainstream media to trot out comparisons between the federal response to Sandy to that of the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. While there’s no question that the government was better prepared and was able to do what it could more quickly this time, the assumption that Bush deserved to be blamed for what happened in New Orleans while Obama deserves credit for the situation in New Jersey and New York is a partisan distortion. The bulk of the problems in New Orleans were the result of the abject failure of state and city first responders and officials. Yet the pictures of the devastation and the sufferers are still linked to the general perception of Bush’s incompetence. By contrast, the narrative in which Obama got to be the hero of Sandy doesn’t seem to be affected by the fact that many Americans are still without power or shelter a week after the storm.

Of course, blaming Obama for what’s happening in New Jersey and New York wouldn’t be any more fair than blaming Bush for the collapse of the levees in New Orleans or the fact that most of the police and firemen in that city fled rather than doing their duty. There are some things that really are beyond the scope of any president to control, and the weather is one of them. That’s true even for a president who promised that he could turn back the oceans, as Obama famously did when he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. But anyone who thinks the liberal media wouldn’t be blaming a GOP president for the plight of Sandy’s victims doesn’t understand much about American politics.

The point here is not just that the media gave Obama a boost last week, but to highlight the fact that throughout this campaign that is what they have done at virtually every point. Just as most of the mainstream media failed to follow up on the scandalous failure that led to the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and then turned a blind eye to the administration’s politically motivated deceptions about it, there was never much chance that they wouldn’t use Sandy to help Obama.

Beating Obama has always meant overcoming the handicap of media bias as well as the inclination of many Americans not to unseat the first African-American president. If Romney falls short tomorrow, it will not be just the fault of a hurricane, but will also be due to the lack of a level playing field for the candidates on virtually any issue.

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Skewed Presidential Polls Should Be Trashed, Not Published

With the public and the pundits hungry for more information about the election, the focus on polling seems to be greater than ever. Unfortunately for the pollsters, so has skepticism about their results. Part of that lies in the natural unwillingness of partisans to accept that their side is losing. Thus, Republicans take polls that show their side winning as truthful while scoffing at those that show Democrats ahead; Democrats play the same game. We’ve seen a lot of this during this election cycle. But as much as we should guard against the partisan knee-jerk when reacting to certain polls, that doesn’t mean that they must all be taken at face value. Case in point is the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll of the presidential race published today. It gives President Obama some much-needed good news by showing that he leads Mitt Romney 49-46 percent. That three-point margin is an improvement by one point over the last Post poll taken two weeks ago.

But the problem with the Post poll is revealed in the paper’s story about its findings:

Partisan identification fluctuates from poll to poll as basic orientations shift and with the sampling variability that accompanies each randomly selected sample of voters. In the current poll, Democrats outnumber Republicans by nine percentage points among likely voters; the previous three Post-ABC polls had three-, six- and five-percentage-point edges for Democrats. The presidential contest would now be neck and neck nationally with any of these margins.

In other words, the pollsters know this is a bad poll but went ahead and published it anyway.

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With the public and the pundits hungry for more information about the election, the focus on polling seems to be greater than ever. Unfortunately for the pollsters, so has skepticism about their results. Part of that lies in the natural unwillingness of partisans to accept that their side is losing. Thus, Republicans take polls that show their side winning as truthful while scoffing at those that show Democrats ahead; Democrats play the same game. We’ve seen a lot of this during this election cycle. But as much as we should guard against the partisan knee-jerk when reacting to certain polls, that doesn’t mean that they must all be taken at face value. Case in point is the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll of the presidential race published today. It gives President Obama some much-needed good news by showing that he leads Mitt Romney 49-46 percent. That three-point margin is an improvement by one point over the last Post poll taken two weeks ago.

But the problem with the Post poll is revealed in the paper’s story about its findings:

Partisan identification fluctuates from poll to poll as basic orientations shift and with the sampling variability that accompanies each randomly selected sample of voters. In the current poll, Democrats outnumber Republicans by nine percentage points among likely voters; the previous three Post-ABC polls had three-, six- and five-percentage-point edges for Democrats. The presidential contest would now be neck and neck nationally with any of these margins.

In other words, the pollsters know this is a bad poll but went ahead and published it anyway.

It’s true that partisan identification isn’t set in stone. But do the pollsters or the editors at the Post who were presented with this survey for publication really believe the electorate is that heavily skewed in favor of the Democrats? If that were true, that would mean America is leaning even more heavily toward President Obama’s party that it did in November 2008 when his “hope and change” fever was at its height. Getting such a result at a moment when every other poll indicates that Romney has made up the ground he lost in September to tie up the race, if not go ahead, should have alerted the pollsters that their sample was badly skewed. Adjust the figures to the level where other polls show party affiliation and the result would have been a lead for Romney, not Obama. It should have told the Post and ABC that this poll was not worth publishing.

We won’t know just how much those who vote in this election will lean toward one party or the other until after November. But the notion that an election as close as this one will produce a plus-nine result for the Democrats is ludicrous.

There will be those who will simply charge the pollsters — and their sponsors — with political bias and claim that they deliberately sought to cook the poll so as to give a win to President Obama at a time when other polls and the public’s mood has shifted against him and toward Romney. In reply, the pollsters will simply say that their sample was random and that they merely transcribed the choices of their respondents. I’ll take them at the word about that. Random is random, and perhaps that’s just the numbers they got. But not all random samples are kosher. The party identification numbers should have made it clear to them that this was a bad survey and that they needed to try again, if only as a control to see that they didn’t produce a glaringly inaccurate survey. That they didn’t do that is an indication of a lack of seriousness, if not bias. Just noting a margin of error (in this case of 3.5 percent) isn’t enough.

The skewed sample means that the Post/ABC poll is an outlier and will be dismissed as such by serious observers. But it raises serious questions about the willingness of major news organizations to publish material that they already know is tainted and almost certainly inaccurate. Stories like this make it clear why the public views journalists with such disdain.

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Dems Out Andrea Mitchell as Partisan

We’ve often noted in this space the enormous advantage President Obama derives from having the mainstream media firmly in his pocket. But it appears the geniuses running his campaign don’t understand that the best way to exploit this edge is not to make it so obvious as to remove any doubt that the press has gone in the tank. That was exactly what they did when they used a clip of NBC’s Andrea Mitchell spouting Obama talking points on the air in a new web ad.

NBC has reacted to this breach of the informal rules of engagement between liberal journos and the Obami with high dudgeon and has asked the Democrats to take the ad down. Much as they did when the president’s re-election campaign used a clip of Tom Brokaw, the network says that since they haven’t granted permission for the use of the material it ought not to be aired in the context of a partisan ad. But this complaint merely highlights the fact that people like Mitchell often carry the water for the president in segments that are labeled straight news when they are nothing more than partisan spin.

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We’ve often noted in this space the enormous advantage President Obama derives from having the mainstream media firmly in his pocket. But it appears the geniuses running his campaign don’t understand that the best way to exploit this edge is not to make it so obvious as to remove any doubt that the press has gone in the tank. That was exactly what they did when they used a clip of NBC’s Andrea Mitchell spouting Obama talking points on the air in a new web ad.

NBC has reacted to this breach of the informal rules of engagement between liberal journos and the Obami with high dudgeon and has asked the Democrats to take the ad down. Much as they did when the president’s re-election campaign used a clip of Tom Brokaw, the network says that since they haven’t granted permission for the use of the material it ought not to be aired in the context of a partisan ad. But this complaint merely highlights the fact that people like Mitchell often carry the water for the president in segments that are labeled straight news when they are nothing more than partisan spin.

Mitchell has come under increasing fire from media critics for conducting a series of hit and run attacks on Mitt Romney, exposed in a series of encounters on MSNBC with GOP surrogate John Sununu in which her partisanship is not debatable. In the clip used by the Obama campaign, Mitchell quotes a liberal group’s claim that Romney’s tax plan will cost $4.8 trillion and will therefore raise taxes on the middle class, a charge that other, more credible analysts, have debunked. This is a point on which even liberal fact checkers have concluded that the Democrats’ pants are on fire, but Mitchell loyally spouted the allegation on the air as if it were objective fact.

The scandal here is not, as NBC seems to be saying, that the Democrats are stealing their material without permission, but that the Democrats were not charged for the air time taken up by Mitchell’s flacking for Obama in the first place.

Mitchell is hardly the only partisan hack masquerading as a fair-minded journalist on one of the networks and perhaps isn’t even the worst (CNN’s Soledad O’Brien certainly gives her a run for her money in this category). But the Obama ad removes even the flimsy veil of false objectivity from her conduct.

But what is interesting is how obtuse the Obama campaign is about using Mitchell. Making her the star of an Obama ad just reinforces the point Sununu and others have made over and over again about her bias. But while the ad is paid for by the Democrats, the in-kind contributions they have been receiving from Mitchell and other liberal media spinners continues to be free of charge.

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Media Jobs Distorters Worse Than Truthers

Predictably, skeptics about the federal jobs numbers released yesterday are being labeled as “jobs truthers” in many quarters. Those alleging a flat-out conspiracy are being treated as nutcases. As Politico notes, even some Republicans are trying to throw cold water on the theories being floated that assert the unemployment rate is only declining because of an effort to cook the figures to benefit President Obama. The skeptics, like former GE CEO Jack Welch and Rep. Alan West, are taking a beating in the press. Though the dip in unemployment is both anomalous in terms of other economic numbers and quite fortuitous for Obama, no one has produced any proof of wrongdoing by the Bureau of Labor Statistics so we must take them at their word. But, as Politico wrote, “just because the numbers are honest, doesn’t mean they’re accurate.” Even worse, the blatant distortion of the numbers by a biased media is far worse than anything the so-called “truthers” might produce.

It is not just, as John Podhoretz wrote on Friday, that many in the business world are taking this blip in an otherwise dreadful economic environment as an aberration, or as John Steele Gordon pointed out (as Welch did) that the volatile household survey contradicted the payroll survey. It is also that the press spin about the numbers is very different from the way they’ve treated similar reports in the past. Even though the New York Times treated the new statistics as a triumph for President Obama, as Ed Morrissey wrote at Hotair.com, a very similar jobs report in October 2004 was represented in the New York Times as a blow to the re-election hopes of George W. Bush and a boost to John Kerry. The same was true of the coverage of PBS, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. The stark and obviously partisan reasons for this contrast means that for all of the cheering for the lower unemployment rate, there is very little reason to think the numbers foretell much good news for Americans.

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Predictably, skeptics about the federal jobs numbers released yesterday are being labeled as “jobs truthers” in many quarters. Those alleging a flat-out conspiracy are being treated as nutcases. As Politico notes, even some Republicans are trying to throw cold water on the theories being floated that assert the unemployment rate is only declining because of an effort to cook the figures to benefit President Obama. The skeptics, like former GE CEO Jack Welch and Rep. Alan West, are taking a beating in the press. Though the dip in unemployment is both anomalous in terms of other economic numbers and quite fortuitous for Obama, no one has produced any proof of wrongdoing by the Bureau of Labor Statistics so we must take them at their word. But, as Politico wrote, “just because the numbers are honest, doesn’t mean they’re accurate.” Even worse, the blatant distortion of the numbers by a biased media is far worse than anything the so-called “truthers” might produce.

It is not just, as John Podhoretz wrote on Friday, that many in the business world are taking this blip in an otherwise dreadful economic environment as an aberration, or as John Steele Gordon pointed out (as Welch did) that the volatile household survey contradicted the payroll survey. It is also that the press spin about the numbers is very different from the way they’ve treated similar reports in the past. Even though the New York Times treated the new statistics as a triumph for President Obama, as Ed Morrissey wrote at Hotair.com, a very similar jobs report in October 2004 was represented in the New York Times as a blow to the re-election hopes of George W. Bush and a boost to John Kerry. The same was true of the coverage of PBS, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. The stark and obviously partisan reasons for this contrast means that for all of the cheering for the lower unemployment rate, there is very little reason to think the numbers foretell much good news for Americans.

The anemic recovery that President Obama has presided over is particularly hard on the poor and those who have been unemployed for a long time. Most of the latter have given up searching for full-time work, thereby artificially depressing the unemployment rate to the number the president has been bragging about. Though the president deprecated Republicans for supposedly “running down the economy,” it is clear that he has failed those who look to him for hope since, as even the New York Times reported, “the portion of all black men with jobs actually fell, to 57.5 percent.” That’s something that the Democratic Party that is so intent on running a class warfare campaign should think about when they attempt to twit Romney for his policies.

That Gallup has pinpointed the supposed boost in consumer confidence to the start of the Democratic National Convention debunks any notion that it is anything other than the product of partisan hype. By contrast, the drop in the number of manufacturing jobs and temporary unemployment seems to account for why most businesses seem to have a far gloomier frame of reference about the country’s finances. The Jobs Distorters are doing far more damage than the Jobs Truthers.

Taken as a whole, the evidence is, at best, mixed with just as much reason to believe that we will be facing another recession next year as there is for hope that things will improve at the glacial rate we have seen the last three years since the so-called “Great Recession” ended in 2009. Under these circumstances, the uniform optimism coming from the press tells us more about their hopes for Obama’s re-election than the future of the economy.

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Liberal Overconfidence Helps Romney

The 2012 election is once again proving that having most of the mainstream media in your pocket is a huge advantage for a presidential candidate. President Obama’s re-election effort has been materially aided by being largely able to set the narrative of the race as the year unfolded. Mitt Romney’s gaffes were treated as game-changers, while Obama’s misstatements and scandals, like the security leaks from the White House, were often treated like footnotes rather than major stories. Media spin helped turn his convention into a hit and the Libya disaster, combined with Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe, has seemed to produce a genuine surge for the president in the last weeks. Conservatives may dispute the accuracy of polls that may be based on samples skewed to the Democrats or based on expectations of a repeat of the “hope and change” turnout figures of 2008. But after months of the race being seen as a dead heat, there’s little doubt that Obama is ahead right now. However, the glee on the left contains within it the possibility of a reversal.

The media narrative of the election having been largely decided in the last month is so strong that, as I wrote earlier this week, prominent outlets are openly expressing shock that the GOP hasn’t already conceded the election. Some are speaking as if Romney must not just win the first debate next week but mop the floor with the president if he is to have a chance in November. But the problem with this triumphalism on the left is that it can breed a fatal overconfidence. As encouraging as the president’s current poll numbers may be, his margins are still too small and there is still too much time left before Election Day for the left to assume the thing is in the bag. Even more to the point, it can breed a backlash against the media that can energize Romney’s camp and help fuel a competing comeback narrative. The president may not only have peaked too soon, but the overkill on the part of his journalistic cheerleading squad could be just the shot in the arm Romney needed.

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The 2012 election is once again proving that having most of the mainstream media in your pocket is a huge advantage for a presidential candidate. President Obama’s re-election effort has been materially aided by being largely able to set the narrative of the race as the year unfolded. Mitt Romney’s gaffes were treated as game-changers, while Obama’s misstatements and scandals, like the security leaks from the White House, were often treated like footnotes rather than major stories. Media spin helped turn his convention into a hit and the Libya disaster, combined with Romney’s “47 percent” gaffe, has seemed to produce a genuine surge for the president in the last weeks. Conservatives may dispute the accuracy of polls that may be based on samples skewed to the Democrats or based on expectations of a repeat of the “hope and change” turnout figures of 2008. But after months of the race being seen as a dead heat, there’s little doubt that Obama is ahead right now. However, the glee on the left contains within it the possibility of a reversal.

The media narrative of the election having been largely decided in the last month is so strong that, as I wrote earlier this week, prominent outlets are openly expressing shock that the GOP hasn’t already conceded the election. Some are speaking as if Romney must not just win the first debate next week but mop the floor with the president if he is to have a chance in November. But the problem with this triumphalism on the left is that it can breed a fatal overconfidence. As encouraging as the president’s current poll numbers may be, his margins are still too small and there is still too much time left before Election Day for the left to assume the thing is in the bag. Even more to the point, it can breed a backlash against the media that can energize Romney’s camp and help fuel a competing comeback narrative. The president may not only have peaked too soon, but the overkill on the part of his journalistic cheerleading squad could be just the shot in the arm Romney needed.

It should be conceded that with 40 days to go, it is a lot better to be ahead — no matter how large or small the margin — than behind. The president’s good month has encouraged Democrat donors and depressed those of the Republicans. Such a state of affairs could, if the GOP misplays its hand in the coming weeks, theoretically snowball into a repeat of the party’s 2008 debacle.

But the notion that Romney is already so far behind that he will never be able to catch up is risible. For all of his missteps, he remains within striking distance of the president. The economy is still poor and the idea that the patent collapse of his foreign policy vision as our embassies are attacked in the Middle East will help rather than hurt him among voters is highly debatable.

Moreover, Americans hate being told that an election is over when they know it is still close. That gives Romney a clear opening to spend the remaining weeks running hard against the media as well as the president. Nobody may like a heartless plutocrat — the false image that the left has foisted on Romney — but everyone likes an underdog who is being undercut by a chattering class telling voters that all has been decided even before they vote. If Romney can tap into this sentiment, dissatisfaction with the president’s performance in office can still be the decisive factor in determining the outcome.

Liberals have spent the last several weeks telling themselves that they can’t lose. But this sort of talk can breed resentment. It remains to be seen whether Romney is able to take advantage of this opening but if he does, Democrats will regret the way their media amen corner attempted to declare the game over when there was still so much time left on the clock.

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