The defining issue of our time is not the Iraq war. It is not the "global war on terror." It is not our inability (or unwillingness) to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable health care. Nor is it immigration, outsourcing, or growing income inequity. It is not education, it is not global warming, and it is not Social Security.
The defining issue of our time is the media.
The dominant political force of our time is not Karl Rove or the Christian Right or Bill Clinton. It is not the ruthlessness or the tactical and strategic superiority of the Republicans, and it is not your favorite theory about what is wrong with the Democrats.
The dominant political force of our time is the media.
From media Matters' Jamie Foser: http://mediamatters.org/...
The media's enabling of the Bushies is subtle. It is easily discerned when one compares a Clinton Scandal- say Whitewater which resulted in reams of nothingness- and Abu Ghraib which should have destroyed Bush but didn't get the attention of Monica's Dress.
Reporters who offer the excuse that they and their colleagues covered Clinton "scandals" so much because sex sells, and is easily explained and understood, are cherry-picking. They are ignoring the obsessive coverage they gave to Clinton "scandals" that had nothing to do with sex, and that were not widely understood.
They are ignoring, for example, years of coverage of Whitewater, an obscure land deal in which the Clintons lost money and that was investigated by multiple independent counsels, congressional committees, federal agencies, and every news organization in the country -- none of which found any wrongdoing by the Clintons. Whitewater had nothing to do with sex, and nobody understood it -- probably because there was nothing to understand. And that's not even going into Travelgate, Filegate, Vince Foster's suicide, or the myriad other "scandals" the media covered that did not involve sex.
Eric Boehlert, author of the excellent new book Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, May 2006), has offered one example of the obsessive coverage the media gave Whitewater:
In the 24 months between Jan. 1994 and Jan. 1996, long before Monica Lewinsky entered the picture and back when Whitewater was about an alleged crooked land deal, Nightline devoted 19 programs to the then-unfolding scandal and investigation, for which no Clinton White House official was ever indicted.
And that's how it was for eight years: obsessive media coverage and hype of made-up Clinton "scandals" that never went anywhere because they never existed anywhere other than the fevered imaginations of a few far-right Clinton-haters and the credulous news media that took them seriously.
How bad did it get? As we're fond of pointing out, the Washington Post editorial board called for the appointment of an independent counsel to investigate Whitewater "even though -- and this should be stressed -- there has been no credible charge in this case that either the president or Mrs. Clinton did anything wrong." That's right: The Post called for an independent counsel to investigate "no credible charge."
Boehlert offered a comparison to the Bush era:
But during the 24 months between Sept. 2003 and Sept. 2005, Nightline set aside just three programs to the unfolding CIA leak investigation, for which Libby, an assistant to the president, was indicted. On the night of the Libby indictments, Nightline devoted just five percent of its program to that topic.
And that's pretty much how things have been for the past five years: Clear, conclusive evidence exists that Bush and his administration have committed countless transgressions far more serious than whatever it is reporters thought Bill Clinton might have done. And it has received far less coverage than Clinton's non-scandals.
To be clear, this isn't simply about the CIA leak investigation, or the Downing Street memos, or Tyler Drumheller, or any other individual matter. It's about a clear and consistent pattern of under-reporting stories that would be damaging to Bush -- a pattern that began before Bush even took office.
For example, there is the sale of Bush's Harkin stock that occured after he was informed that the company had a liquidity crisis and it was not in compliance with Federal Regulators.
Here's how they treated it:
In the months before the 2000 election, newly disclosed documents revealed that shortly before he dumped his Harken stock, George W. Bush had been told that the company faced a "liquidity crisis" and was "in a state of noncompliance" with lenders and that its plan to raise money was being abandoned. The documents revealed that the SEC -- which, at the time, was run by a close ally of Bush's father, then-President George H. W. Bush -- never bothered to interview Bush about his stock sale during its investigation of the matter.
And The New York Times completely ignored it. Completely. The Washington Post completely ignored it. USA Today completely ignored it. ABC, CBS and NBC? Ignored, ignored, ignored. CNN? CNN is an all-news channel; it has a whole day to fill with news every single day. Surely CNN managed to squeeze in a mention or two of new evidence that a major-party presidential candidate may have made a fortune in an insider-trading scheme that was covered up by cronies of his father the president? No, CNN didn't even mention it. Not a word.
And here come the excuses and the apologists and their appeals that hold no water when looked at fairly
Sure, they went overboard with Clinton, they say, but sex sells. But it wasn't just sex, and it wasn't just Clinton. Sure, they were a bit unfair to Al Gore, someone might concede, but he had it coming -- he was stiff and insincere. But it isn't just Al Gore. Sure, too many reporters may have been complicit in the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's smears of John Kerry, but he invited it by speaking openly and honestly about his service. Sure, Howard Dean's "scream" was overplayed, but he had it coming -- it was crazy! Sure, media elites fawn all over Bush, but he's just so likable! And John McCain, too. And Rudy Giuliani. They're all just so real and authentic.
Jamie Foser makes a rather long analysis of the comparison between something simple like Hillary Clinton's answer to what is on her iPod and W's answer. When Hillary answers it somehow becomes calculated focus group on what people like. When W answers it becomes just a regular guy's songlist.
Then of course, there is The New York Times. The paper of record. The protector of Judy Miller, the mentor of jayson Blair, the hider of Bushes spying secrets...the home of John Teirney
The New York Times -- the same newspaper that couldn't be bothered to report a single word about new evidence suggesting that George W. Bush possessed insider information when he dumped his Harken stock -- this week devoted 2,000 words and a portion of its front page to examining the state of the Clintons' marriage, tallying the days they spend together and rehashing long-forgotten baseless tabloid rumors of a relationship between former President Bill Clinton and Canadian politician Belinda Stronach.
Rather than ignore or denounce the Times' decision to interview 50 people for a story about the Clintons' private lives, the Washington media elite embraced it, turning the pages of the nation's most influential newspapers into glorified supermarket tabloids. And television, predictably, was worse....
.....Take John McCain, for example. He divorced his first wife (after having a series of affairs) to marry (a month after his divorce) a wealthy and politically connected heiress ... just in time to launch his political career. And what of his relationship with the second (and current) wife? Let's apply the New York Times test to them, shall we? How many days a month do they spend together? How many days are they apart -- she in Arizona and he in Washington, or traveling the country raising money? How close can they really be, given that he reportedly had no idea his wife was addicted to painkillers she was stealing from a charity she founded -- had no clue of an addiction that caused her to check herself into a drug treatment center.
Foser is absolutely right. This is why they are so afraid of us. Why they belittle us. Despite their staffs and reputations, and resources, the American news media is responsible for its own declining numbers, declining readers, and declining credibility.