As readers of this column know, The Liberal Examiner frequently takes the broadcast media to task for their overly deferential treatment of conservative politicians and the false narratives they promote (death panels) http://www.examiner.com/x-21075-Baltimore-Liberal-Examiner~y2009m9d29-Meet-the-Press. The assumption that America's political journalist actually know something about American politics is strained by how disjointed their coverage of our politics is from what actually occurs in our politics! Regardless of the topic, or what had previously been said or done regarding that topic, every discussion of said topic adopts the conservative narrative. A glaring example of this pro-Republican framing can be found in the media’s analysis of the effectiveness of the current Congress. Republicans say that the Democratic Congress is ineffective and that it has failed to do the people’s business. Predictably, that is exactly the narrative that the broadcast media has adopted.
Enter Norm Orenstein, a print journalist, one of our nation’s leading congressional experts and (formerly) a frequent guest on cable and broadcast news programs. Mr. Orenstein has expressed a markedly different opinion about the effectiveness of the current Congress. Once a talk show fixture, Mr. Orenstein has documented the Democrats numerous and important legislative accomplishments http://www.aei.org/article/101595 and since his article was published, he has all but disappeared from the talk show circuit! So if his expertise has been eschewed by the political talk shows, who’s keeping the American people informed?
Last Sunday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on This Week with George Stephanopoulos to provide the shows viewers with his thoughts on today’s political climate. Unfortunately, the South Carolina Senator demonstrated the disrespect and unbridled contempt for the public (and the truth) that has come to define today’s GOP. Senator Graham hypocritically stated that the Democrats should refrain from using budget reconciliation (a process he voted for 4 times when Republicans controlled Congress) to pass their health care bill because budget reconciliation “was a sleazy process”! Amazingly, his pants didn’t immediately burst into flames and the shows guest host’s (Jack Trapper) head didn’t explode! Equally amazing and sadly revealing, was Mr. Trapper’s failure to inform his viewers about the Senator’s glaring inconsistency! As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was yet another important fact that Mr. Trapper assisted Senator Graham in concealing that would also have exposed the Senator’s breathtaking hypocrisy! The program’s viewers were not told that prior to 2000; budget reconciliation was unavailable for any legislation that didn’t reduce the federal deficit. In order to use reconciliation to pass President Bush’s two budget busting tax cuts, the Republicans had to fire the old Senate Parliamentarian and select a new one! Considering that no such “mid-game” rule change has been proposed by the Democrats, as the proposed health care bill actually reduces the budget deficit, it seems that would have been important information for viewers to have. Unfortunately, none of those inconvenient and narrative destroying facts were raised with Senator Graham. Do we really believe that the well paid Jack Trapper was unaware of the relevant history of the GOP’s use of the budget reconciliation process and if he was aware, why did he choose to keep his viewers in the dark regarding the lack of candor in the Senator’s statements? If he wasn’t aware, what the hell was he doing hosting an important and influential news program?
This Week with George Stephanopoulos is a main stream network news talk show, so clearly this isn’t just about Fox news and the unofficial (and illegal) “in kind” donations they make to the Republican Party. Rupert Murdoch, Rodger Ales and their acolytes at Fox aren’t journalist and they don’t pretend to be. What they actually provide for their viewers is a “Fair and Balanced” analysis of how great conservative policies and politicians are and how unfair and out of balance any analysis to the contrary is! Their brand of “right wing infotainment” isn’t designed to illuminate objective facts as much as it is intended to amplify conservative talking points! Mainstream broadcast news organizations should be offended by this affront to their profession and they should have the courage to speak out against it http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-yn/content/article/2010/03/11/AR2010031102523.html. Unfortunately, the conservative bias now present in the mainstream's coverage of American politics differs from the coverage provided by Fox news only in the degree of bias they deem acceptable.
Thus, while the non-Fox news programs refrain from inventing their own facts (terrorist fist jabs) or in actively participating in pro-Republican partisan activities (Fox sponsored Tea Parties), they frequently ignore inconvenient facts that contradict the pro-Republican slant of their news coverage. Not one American has lost his or her job or home as a result of any policy initiated by President Obama or the Democratic majorities in Congress, yet network news anchors continue to provide Republican politicians with a platform to lay the blame for these calamities at the feet of President Obama and the Democrats! It’s as if the Republicans ran the Titanic into an Ice berg and then they are enabled by their media poodles to blame the Democrats for the fact that the ship is sinking! A viewer, watching their slanted and deceptive programming, could rightly conclude that Republicans didn’t control the Presidency and both houses of Congress for 6 of the last 8 years! What could possibly explain the broadcast media’s (facts notwithstanding) pro-Republican bias http://www.examiner.com/x-21075-Baltimore-Liberal-Examiner~y2010m2d3-A-Pox-on-Both-their-Houses?
One of the problems with the major news networks enabling Republicans to just say anything without any scrutiny or accountability is that these easily disprovable statements are infused with an air of credibility and the American people are misled. The wide acceptance of false allegations and baseless assertions is what necessarily follows from this “stenography masquerading as journalism” and as a result, misguided populous groundswells like the “Birther” and “Deather” movements are born! Republican self serving lies notwithstanding, it’s because their media poodles enable and amplify their lies that people actually think that Democrats want to kill their grandmothers! Not only does this fact free, just say anything type of reporting create movements and personalities (Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh) that shine a very unflattering light on America http://www.examiner.com/x-21075-Baltimore-Liberal-Examiner~y2010m3d12-Conservatives-Embarrass-America, but it makes possible such nation/world altering debacles as the war in Iraq!