bureaucracybusters

THE MEDIA: WIMPS ON THE LEFT, BULLIES ON THE RIGHT: PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on February 18, 2013 at 12:25 am

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

–John 8:32

The 2012 Presidential and Congressional races produced virtually round-the-clock press coverage.  Millions of words–in both print and electronic media–described countless angles of those campaigns.

And yet the mainstream media bungled the most important story of the election season.

That’s the verdict of political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, who have been tracking Congress since 1978.

Click here: Dan Froomkin: How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign

A noted congressional scholar, Mann writes and speaks widely on American politics and policymaking.  His areas of specialty include campaigns, elections, campaign finance reform and the effectiveness of Congress.

His most recent book, co-authored with Norman Ornstein, is It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.

Ornstein is a longtime observer of Congress and politics. He writes a weekly column for Roll Call called “Congress Inside Out” and is an election eve analyst for CBS News.

According to Mann and Ornstein: GOP leaders have become “ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

“I can’t recall a campaign where I’ve seen more lying going on,” said Ornstein.  While Democrats didn’t always adhere to the truth, “it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top.”

Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney blatantly lied his way throughout the campaign.  Among his more noteworthy falsehoods:

  • Romney claimed that his tax plan wouldn’t reduce tax rates for the wealthy. Not only would it have done so, but that’s why so many billionaires were supporting him.
  • Romney initially opposed President Barack Obama’s bailout of General Motors. But when that resurrected the American auto industry, Romney claimed that he had always been for the bailout.
  • Near the end of the campaign, Romney said that Jeep was shipping jobs to China. The truth was that it was not–-and Jeep gave widespread publicity to that lie.
  • Romney repeatedly accused President Obama of “waving the white flag of surrender.”  In fact, Obama–not George W. Bush–was the President who got Osama bin Laden–and who has taken out far more Al Qaeda leaders through drone attacks.

Summing up Romney’s attitude toward the truth: ”We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” said Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster.

Related image

Mitt Romney

But the Republican party offered its own share of blatant lies as well, such as:

  • Federal spending doesn’t create jobs.
  • Obama has burdened business with an unprecedented level of new regulation. (Actually, Bush issued more final rules in his first three years than Obama did over the same length of time.)
  • Democrats deliberately seek to make people dependent on government benefits as a means of winning votes.
  • Reducing taxes on the rich could create jobs and lower the deficit.
  • Any new program or regulation amounts to a “government takeover” of some aspect of the economy. Examples: The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and the Consumer Financial Protection Board.

For voters to hold political figures accountable, said Ornstein, they must know the truth about those figures.

“If the story that you’re telling repeatedly is that they’re all to blame–they’re all equally to blame–then you’re really doing a disservice  to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do.”

By accusing both parties of waging “politics as usual” and thus creating “gridlock,” the media avoids the charge of taking partisan sides.

Their editors and producers were “concerned about their professional standing and vulnerability to charges of partisan bias,” Mann said.

For Mann, the revelatory moment came with what he called “the debt-ceiling hostage-taking.” The Republicans would “do or say anything” to hurt Obama, even if it harmed the country and betrayed core Republican values.

But this is not the first or only time the Right has lied and smeared its way into power.

David Halberstam, the late Pulitzer-Prize-winning winning New York Times reporter, has chronicled past Republican lies and smears–and the refusal of the mainstream media to address and refute them.

In his 1973 bestseller, The Best and the Brightest, Halberstam described the step-by-step decision-making process that led to the catastrophic Vietnam war.

A major reason why Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon felt obligated to send thousands of U.S. servicemen to Vietnam lay in their fear of right-wing blackmail.

Foremost among those blackmailers was Wisconsin U.S. Senator “Tail Gunner” Joseph R. McCarthy.  On February 9, 1950, he flew into Wheeling, West Virginia, to begin his career as of slander and fear-mongering.

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 [persons] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist party, and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping policy in the State Department,” charged McCarthy.

And, then as now, a compliant media–routinely accused by its right-wing critics of being “pro-liberal”–allowed those lies and slanders to go uncorrected.

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