The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Be Ye Not Dismayed

Posted on | September 9, 2012 | 29 Comments

Smitty jumped on Dave Weigel for his “trolling” article, and I’ll let that stand, except to add that Weigel seems to be advocating that mainstream journalism adopt an even more stringently pro-Democrat “message discipline” — as if, for example, having Soledad O’Brein literally reading liberal blogs on the air at CNN is insufficient proof of their abject partisanship.

Really, Dave? I mean, is it the professional duty of journalists to ensure the re-election of Barack Obama? As part of that duty are they obligated not to allow themselves to be distracted by those “trolling” conservatives who aren’t in sync with that mission? Are you saying that the re-election of Obama is — as a neutral objective fact — such a good and necessary thing that journalists and broadcasters can in good conscience ignore any contradictory evidence?

Speaking of contradictory evidence, the economy sucks: After the anemic jobs report Friday, the dollar slumped, gold rose to $1,740 an ounce and Brent crude went to $114 a barrel.

C’mon, Dave: You worked for Reason magazine, so surely in your libertarian heart you understand economics enough to know that we’re seeing further proof of the failure of Keynesianism — as if further proof was needed. Whatever your cultural or policy differences with the GOP, you can’t believe that, in terms of pure fiscal/economic policy, a second Obama term would produce anything other than a further descent into the helpless slough of ’70s-style stagflation.

It’s still the economy, stupid, and it’s not the Republicans who are “trolling” with distractions to avoid that subject. Hell, for an entire week leading up to the GOP convention, the Democrats and their media pals were trying to persuade the nation that Republicans were preparing to nominate Todd Akin for president. And then the convention coverage was a weeklong blizzard of “fact-checking,” much of it of highly dubious neutrality.


Good Lord, Dave, after that elaborate pompom-and-cartwheels partisan cheerleading routine by the MSM, you expect to convince us that a one-day flap over the Democrat platform is proof that the media are too easily distracted by GOP-friendly memes?

Anyway, this is only relevant insofar as it pertains to a discussion about media bias that Ali Akbar and I were having on our drive back from the convention in Charlotte. Except for one day at home last Monday, Ali and I have spent two weeks in Convention Hell together, a sort of Oscar-and-Felix pairing — “The Odd Couple Do Politics,” with me playing the slobby sportswriter and Ali as the fastidious photographer. Our perspectives are different: Ali’s background is as a partisan operative who was actually on staff at the 2008 GOP convention, while I come from a background where, as Mencken said, “The only way a reporter should look at a politician is down.”

Despite my political enthusiasms (an ex-Democrat, as I briefly explained four years ago), I view journalism from the inside out in a way that Ali does not. And so at one point as we were driving somewhere near Danville, I emphasized that criticisms of liberal media bias should be aimed at the bias, and not at the media, per se.

This was the point of an argument I had with Melissa Clouthier a couple of years ago: Conservatives do not help themselves by fomenting a generalized hostility toward journalism as a profession, and must realize that many of the worst offenders in terms of liberal bias are not actually professional journalists:

In case you didn’t realize it, the only claim [Chris] Matthews has to being a journalist is that he is a partisan Democrat. Matthews never worked a day as a reporter, never covered a city council meeting or a homecoming parade. After evading the Vietnam-era military draft by enrolling in the Peace Corps, Matthews moved to Washington and worked on the staff of various congressional Democrats before unsuccessfully running for Congress as a Democrat, later joining the White House staff as a speechwriter for Democrat Jimmy Carter, then spending the Reagan years as a top aide to Democrat House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Somehow, this ultra-political background as a partisan operative qualified Matthews for the job of Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Chronicle. Such is the biography of the man who has been employed for the past 15 years as a “journalist” by NBC, hosting his own show on the network’s little-watched MSNBC cable franchise while appearing regularly on the broadcast network during coverage of major political events.

For his ludicrous imitation of a newsman — Ted Baxter had more credibility — Matthews is reportedly paid a salary of $5 million. It is a disservice to hard-working journalists who toil for comparative peanuts to scapegoat them for the sins of overpaid TV political hacks like Matthews or George Stephanopoulos.

Much of the bias in coverage we have seen in the current election cycle is a transparent attempt at bandwagon psychology, with major news organizations generally exaggerating the likelihood of Obama’s re-election, so as to persuade the low-information “swing” voter who tends to vote for the candidate he perceives as the likely winner. Beyond its effect on swing voters, this kind of coverage has the effect of encouraging Democrats and demoralizing Republicans, which probably explains Stanley Kurtz’s gloomy assessment:

To the extent that Republicans dismiss this convention as either a failure or relatively meaningless, however, I think we’re fooling ourselves.
This election could go either way. If Obama squeaks by, he will have done so with the help of a Democratic party that has taken a large, open, and disturbingly leftist turn. I think we’re missing the significance of that. It is completely accurate to say that the Democrats are pushing a bogus reformulation of the American way of life — slapping a bunch of flags on their Julia ad and turning classic conceptions of civic and religious community into covers for a cradle-to-grave welfare state. Unfortunately, this way of thinking is becoming the new normal in this country, and Obama and his convention have only helped to cement the change.
Conservatives can puncture these arguments all we like, but we can’t cut through the media filter.

I disagree. I do not believe that lies can so easily triumph over truth, no matter how willing the major media are to repeat the lies. At some basic level, amid all the controversy and spin, the truth is self-evident — even to those idiotic swing voters and, yes, even to liberal journalists themselves. It is not due to any sudden eruption of right-wing sentiment in the press corps that Obama’s Thursday night speech was almost universally panned by the media. If Obama’s lost Michael Tomasky . . .

Professional journalists, whatever their political biases, have a career interest in locating and reporting the truth. Their credibility is at stake, and there is a competitive advantage to being right. Despite their partisan sympathy for Obama, when he gave a lousy convention speech, reporters and TV talking heads were smart enough to realize they couldn’t portray this flop as a triumph.

The economy sucks — this is a neutral objective fact, and Obama’s attempt to explain this fact takes three forms:

  1. It would have been worse if not for his policies;
  2. It’s getting better; and
  3. Blame Bush!

Will voters accept these excuses? Given what Rush Limbaugh calls the “uncanny” resemblance between Obama’s speech and Jimmy Carter’s 1980 convention speech, I’m skeptical of any assertion that Obama’s excuse-making will easily carry the day, no matter what obstacles to truth the “media filter” creates. The latest polls showing a significant convention “bump” for Obama — both Gallup and Ipsos/Reuters now showing Obama ahead by 4 points — are certainly discouraging, but not entirely unexpected.

Look at the Real Clear Politics national poll summary and you see that between Aug. 16 and Sept. 3, a series of eight polls showed the race in a range between Obama +2 and Romney +1 — an 18-day neck-and-neck horserace — and now, in the immediate aftermath of the Democrat convention, Obama appears to be opening a lead.

Is this a temporary phenomenon, or a decisive break in the trend of a virtual tie? Probably the former, but only time will tell.

Polls are not the only metric of campaign success and, with 65 days remaining until Election Day, the Romney campaign has advantages that have not yet been fully exploited. When the Romney campaign announced it raised $100 million in August, the response from the Obama campaign was . . . crickets chirping.

Whatever amount Team O raised in August, past evidence suggests that they’re deep into a negative “burn rate,” spending money faster than they can raise it, creating the possibility that Romney might blow them out of the water with a massive ad blitz in the final weeks of the campaign. Democrats are seriously worried about that possibility.

The other thing I keep thinking about is the debates. The three debates in October will be the big chance for Romney to leap over the “media filter” and defeat Obama mano-a-mano, and I think those Republicans like Stanley Kurtz who are currently discouraged may be underestimating Romney’s chances of a decisive victory there.

Having been at the January GOP debate in Jacksonville, Florida, where Romney demolished Newt Gingrich — cleverly drawing Newt into a forensic ambush — I don’t doubt Mitt’s potential to score a debate knockout. If Romney brings his A-game and Obama doesn’t, the campaign might break sharply toward a GOP landslide.

In our brief interview Wednesday, Joe Trippi discounted the likelihood of the debates having a major impact on the race:

RSM: My thought is, it’s going to be about the debates. Do you feel that way?
TRIPPI: I don’t think so. I mean, if somebody makes a mistake in the debates, that’s gonna be pretty costly, but I think a lot of the — once you get into this kind of a polarized campaign, what tends to happen is that each side’s folks watch and cheer their guy on. There aren’t a whole lot of undecideds out there left to move in a debate, and so I a contrarian. I don’t really think the debates are going to matter unless somebody gaffes.

Well, OK, then: Republicans should pray for an Obama gaffe, and trust in the Almighty to deliver the “pretty costly” mistake that will take Joe Trippi by complete surprise. In the meantime, at least one Republican seems utterly undaunted — a guy named Mitt Romney, who just released this podcast message:

This week, Democrats met in Charlotte to re-nominate Barack Obama for President. They tried to recapture the spirit of 2008, when then-candidate Obama stood in front of Greek columns and made a lot of promises about how he’d make life better for Americans.
He was elected, but things did not get better. Under President Obama, we’ve endured the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.
This week, after another Democrat convention filled with nice words and a lot of promises, Friday’s jobs report once again brought this administration back down to earth. The unemployment rate has now been above 8 percent for 43 straight months.
Nearly 47 million Americans are on food stamps – an all-time record high, and 15 million more Americans than when President Obama took office.
Nearly 60 percent of the jobs that have been created after the recession was officially over are low-wage jobs, and they pay less than $14 an hour.
And our national debt recently reached a staggering $16 trillion, an increase of almost $6 trillion under President Obama.
Americans are hurting, they’re paying a heavy toll for these years of drift and disappointment, trying hard to hang on for a brighter day. But when we looked to Charlotte this week for signs of hope from the party in power, what did we see?
We saw a party completely out of ideas. We didn’t hear one new idea for throwing a lifeline to the struggling middle class. Instead, we heard a stubborn defense of policies that haven’t worked.
We saw a president who once promised to unite us, double-down on the politics of fear and division. Four years ago, he said, “If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.” That was Candidate Obama describing the strategy that is now at the heart of President Obama’s campaign.
A couple days ago, the President was asked to grade his economic performance.
Words like “disappointing” and “dismal” come to mind. But instead, he chose “incomplete” – because that’s the best he can do as he asks the American people for a second term.
President Obama is hoping you’ll let him advance with an “incomplete.” But on November 6th, Americans should hold him accountable. I’m asking you to vote for the ticket that’s offering real solutions for the middle class, with a plan to create 12 million jobs over the next four years.
A weak economy and unprecedented debt may be the best President Obama can do – but it is not the best America can do. I commit to you that I will be the president this moment demands. Join our cause, and help us deliver a better future for all Americans this November.

Facts matter, and the fact of Obama’s failure is a truth too large to be easily concealed by any “media filter.”





29 Responses to “Be Ye Not Dismayed”

  1. JeffS
    September 9th, 2012 @ 1:51 am

    Well written, Stacy, and serious food for thought.

    But focusing on the bias within the media, instead of the media, is difficult when said media is helping lefties put their boots on our throats.

    I can appreciate that you don’t want your profession demoted, and fix the problem by getting unbiased journalists. That’s the best solution.

    But with the media infiltrated by political activists perfectly willing to turn what was once a cornerstone of American freedom into another banana republic style propaganda mill, that’s not a readily available solution. The Fourth Estate is teetering along financially as it is, and is bleeding credibility like a stuck pig; it may well be that it has to crash in order to be rebuilt.

  2. Rose
    September 9th, 2012 @ 2:13 am

    Great post. Good points. Interesting. I hope you are right, and that they do come around.

  3. Proof
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:11 am

    “Ted Baxter had more credibility” And better hair!

  4. Adjoran
    September 9th, 2012 @ 4:50 am

    While many of the offenders are like Matthews and Stephanoupolous and came directly from activist ranks, most are in fact “professional journalists” insofar as the term exists today. They came from a different place than you did. They didn’t earn their bones on garden clubs, county council meetings, police blotters, or high school football games. They came from “schools of journalism,” fully prepared by most Marxist English professors who weren’t qualified to teach Shakespeare or criticism or the American novel.

    They aren’t out there to “report the news.” They aren’t Joe Friday with “Just the facts, ma’am.” They want to “make a difference” and if outright fabrication is the way to do that, they will do it without batting an eyelash.

  5. Chap
    September 9th, 2012 @ 6:03 am

    I must admit I’m not swayed by your defense of journalism, because most of the journalists I’ve met aren’t ink stained wretches who came in from the county board meeting beat. They come from journalism schools, where they’re trained in a forcefully political environment, much in the same way guys like Bill Ayers reshaped the education curriculum and culture. The journalism environment thus starts off strongly partisan, and those who aren’t have to hide it.

    Even accounting for more traditional blue collar journos, the JournoList types gravitate to this kind of beat and drown out everyone else. I sympathize and concur with your defense of journalism, but I ain’t buying the argument that just because the 90% make the rest of them look bad, I should cut journalism some slack.

    Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

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  7. Wombat_socho
    September 9th, 2012 @ 8:07 am

    This. It might be easier to respect actual reporters in the media biz if they hadn’t let those partisan sphincters like Chris Matthews into their business. I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite novels where the good guys are defending a house and things get a bit out of hand:
    Trooper #1: “Watch where you’re shooting!”
    Trooper #2: “Watch who you’re letting in the damn door, then!”

  8. MM
    September 9th, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    You’re getting good at this writing thing. Heh, heh.

  9. herddog505
    September 9th, 2012 @ 9:37 am

    The troubles with journalism:

    1. There exists a myth that journalism in America was, once upon a time, a pure and noble calling, a pillar of freedom, the mighty, unrewarded task of men and women who labored heroically with ink-stained fingers to bring The Facts to the American people. Bunk: journalism in America is and has always been the result of people shoving their biases, prejudices, and agendas under a snappy copperplate headline and assuring John Q. Public that they are honest because they are Journalists.* People trusted journalists in the past (Cronkite leaps to mind) because they were TOLD that they could and because nobody told them that they couldn’t. Thanks mostly to blogs, people are discovering that many (perhaps even most) journalists are nothing more than a pack of wanna-be Goebbels, peddling distortions, spin, half-truths and even outright lies for base and selfish reasons;

    2. People perceive that journalism isn’t some esoteric craft that requires years of study and apprenticeship to master, but rather something that anybody who can string more than three words together can do;

    3. The line between the journalist and the commentator is EXTREMELY blurry and made even moreso by partisan accusations over such people as Matthews, O’Reilly and Hannity: “See how biased [insert network here] is! They have [insert commentator’s name here] on at 8:00, spouting (left / right)-wing talking points!”

    I realize that many journalists work hard: they have bizarre hours and a wreck of a personal life because a Big Story may require them to drop everything and hit the road or, at least, spend hours in front of a computer keeping up with “latest developments” or otherwise doing research. The good ones have to have excellent memories and deep knowledge of their “beat”, whether that’s the city council or the Pentagon.
    However, they are offset by the obvious hacks, the partisans who package talking points or personal opinion as news, as well as the plain ol’ lazy b*stards whose efforts at “getting the story” are limited to glancing at Wiki or talking to their (one) source at the local bar.


    (*) Hollywood has done much to create and perpetuate this myth: the heroic, fearless reporter who risks everything to get the Big Story – which often involves uncovering a crime or else proving the innocence of a falsely accused person – is the stuff of many a movie or TV program.

  10. McGehee
    September 9th, 2012 @ 9:52 am

    Journalism by its nature attracts people who can’t be satisfied with merely reporting events; even calling it journalism betrays this attraction, because what is a journal but a diary with testosterone?

    And what is a diary but a personal reflection — nay, spin — on the events of the day?

    Calling it journalism aggrandizes the journalizer at the expense of what actually happened. That’s why I wince every time you, Stacy, dignify that word by using it in any but an ironic manner.

  11. JeffS
    September 9th, 2012 @ 10:03 am

    “Once a king, always a king, but once a knight is enough.”

  12. Walla Walla Tea Party Patriots
    September 9th, 2012 @ 10:05 am
  13. Kenneth Hall
    September 9th, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

    The question is: Does Mr. Weigel actually have a “libertarian” heart, or merely a libertine one?

    Big difference.

  14. hartwilliams
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

    Ah, Bobby, I’m not sure which I like you better as: dismissive, delusional or dyspeptic. Since you make up your own facts, which you then reference, there is no point in refutation. After all, you’d just make up that I don’t actually exist. Solipsism may be comforting, but Reality has a way of biting y’all in the ass. Happy sitting.

  15. Bob Belvedere
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

    Well put.

  16. Bob Belvedere
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    Well said.

  17. Bob Belvedere
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    This, indeed.

  18. Bob Belvedere
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:47 pm


    This is why I call Stacy a ‘reporter’ and people like Matt Taibbi ‘journalists’.

    A reporter is the proverbial ‘ink-stained wretch’; the journalist is school in a university [ie: un-Reality].

  19. Bob Belvedere
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:51 pm

    Hollywood has only done this since the 1970’s. Before they were seen as second-class, at best.

    Jack Webb tried to change this perception with his wonderful movie -30-. Curiously though, he didn’t try to make reporters seem like crusading knights of Truth, but ‘Just the facts, M’am’ types.

  20. Bob Belvedere
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

    Exactly – Stacy is a REPORTER.

  21. Bob Belvedere
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:53 pm

    Takes a lot of hard work to be a fool, eh, Clyde?

  22. Bob Belvedere
    September 9th, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

    I take Stacy’s word for it that Mr. Weigel is of a Libertarian bent [the capital ‘L’, in my rendering = the ideological version].

    When you are an Ideologue, it’s much easier for you to adopt the viewpoints of other Ideologues than with non-Ideologues, such as most conservatives and libertarians are.

  23. JeffS
    September 9th, 2012 @ 4:54 pm

    And since you fail to demonstrate how Stacy “made up” facts, I can only note that I smells me some P – R – O – J – E – C – T – I – O – N emanating from your general direction.

  24. JeffS
    September 9th, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

    No, the initial question should be, “Does Mr. Weigel have a heart in the first place?”

  25. Wombat_socho
    September 9th, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

    He did write for Reason at one point, and I think they do check for LP party cards when you fill out the I-9 form. 😉

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  27. james
    September 11th, 2012 @ 12:51 am

    I think it’d be better if they all just abandoned any idea of objectivity. Just say “we’re the liberal station” or “we’re the conservative station”. We already unofficially know which ones are which anyway but just drop the pretension about it.

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