I just posted this over at TPM Cafe in reaction to a Reed Hundt suggestion that Dems not take a stand on Iraq out of fear of being Swift-Boated. I'd love to hear other proposals for how Dean and Reid can start to control the Democratic Brand on the MSM.
The Washington Democratic Establishment, and, Reed, you definitely qualify for that, have got to understand that the boys and girls at CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, the Post, etc. are not your friends or allies. They are going to 'Swift-Boat' the Democrats no matter what they say.
The original Swift-Boat victim was attacked because he had the temerity to VOLUNTEER FOR THE VIETNAM WAR, GET SHOT AT, and PERFORM DUTIES THAT RESULTED IN SEVERAL MEDALS. And this attack from the Swift-Boat guys was enabled by the media because the news isn't news anymore, IT IS ENTERTAINMENT. They will put ANYTHING, even the most repugnant lie, on the air as long as it draws ratings.
For you to advocate that Democrats not take a stand because of what Chris Matthews will say, is simply beyond belief. Do you understand what you proposing? You are advocating that the elected representatives of over half the country (and the Democratic Senators represent more of the population than the Republican Senators) not speak their mind because Imus or Russell will enable character assassination. Nevermind the fact that Imus and Russell have already enabled this to happen.
But I'd rather light a candle than curse the darkness. How about we get a plan in place for how the Democrats can manage the MSM. Let's force the talking heads to know that if they allow lies, or if they allow people like Sheehan to be smeared, then their reputations will pay the price.
My modest proposal is that the Dems dramatically narrow the number of people who can appear on television. Let's get a team of people, maybe three or four per network, whose job is to be the go-to-person for ALL network shows. They would simply appear on all the shows, night after night, segment after segment and tell the Democratic side of things.
In addition to the on-air talent, let's pair these people with researchers whose job it is to look up facts and figures in advance of every appearance. Not only will our guys be prepared, but when someone goes on the air and tells a complete lie, the researcher would be there to point out the lie and arm our spokesperson with the exact quote or figure that proves the lie. (There are tons of recent grads from college who were on the debate team who would KILL for a job like this. The coach at Northwestern is my best friend. I bet he knows 40 blindingly smart people who would do it for damn near free.)
Aside from maintaining message control and enabling us to respond rapidly to events, there are two other benefits to embedding Democratic spokespeople at the MSM shows.
- If we have people who are regulars (nearly every day) on the same shows, we will have people who can watch the distortions that happen everyday. It is one thing for Blitzer to allow a distortion to happen to a random Democrat. But let's see him try it when he knows that in 20 minutes he has the face the same person again.
- The right response when a Repug lies on camera isn't for our spokespeople to charge them with lying. We know they are lying, they know they are lying, and the person across the desk knows they are lying. (I still can't believe that quote from Matthews when he allowed that what people say on camera is different than what they say off camera, e.g., they are lying to his audience and he lets it happen.) The right response to a lie is for our spokespeople to turn sweetly to Russert or King or Zahn and ask them why they are allowing their guests to lie to their audience. After all, it should be the job of the MSM to tell their audience the truth, and if they value the entertainment value of a lie over the truth, then everyone should know that.
Of course, in addition to the professional spokespeople (whom will become celebrities/future candidates for office), we should allow politicians on the air as well. But even here we should arm Boxer, Biden, etc. with the same researchers so they go on the air armed to the teeth and ready to do battle.
Maybe this isn't the right approach. But having a plan in place to put your message out there, and defend your honor and integrity, is a helluva lot better than refusing to take a stand out of fear.