That Liberal Media

There are some must-read items on the web today — let’s start with Digby’s “Dispatches From The Fever Swamp.

The president’s approval rating is stuck at around 40% and I think it’s pretty clear that it isn’t the reporting in the mainstream media or by the “reasonable” Democrats at the New Republican that brought that about. If left up to them the Republicans would be coasting to another easy re-election.

I don’t say this because I think that liberal blogs are taking over the world and have changed the face of politics as we know it. I say it because I know that without us there would have been virtually no critical voices during the long period between 2001 and the presidential primary campaign during 2003. We were it. The media were overt, enthusiastic Bush boosters for well over two years and created an environment in which Democratic dissent (never welcome) was non-existent to the average American viewer. In fact, it took Bush’s approval rating falling to below 40% before they would admit that he was in trouble.

I believe that if it had not been for the constant underground drumbeat from the fever swamps over the past five years, when the incompetence, malfeasance and corruption finally hit critical mass last summer with the bad news from Iraq, oil prices and Katrina, Bush would not have sunk as precipitously as he did and stayed there. It literally took two catastrophes of epic proportions to break the media from its narrative of Bush’s powerful leadership. And this after two extremely close elections —- and the lack of any WMD in Iraq.

It’s a beautiful thing to see reality crystallized into a few concise sentences. Makes me want to cry. But this is why I started blogging. What was being reported as “news” on television and in newspapers was such obvious propaganda, such nonsense, I had to speak up.

Among the few negative emails I got after the recent C-SPAN gig were from gentlemen (why always men?) who patiently lectured me that news media is overwhelmingly liberal and for me to say otherwise was a self-evident lie. And I think, who am I supposed to believe — the Republican Noise Machine or my own lying eyes? And there’s no use arguing with them, you know. They’ve been told all their lives that the media is “liberal.” If you go back to the early 1950s you find Joe McCarthy saying it. Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew declared all-out war on media in the early 1970s. Rightie talk radio, Faux News, and the rest of the echo chamber pour this lie into the ears of millions of non-thinking listeners, who accept “liberal media bias” as gospel.

That excellent resource Media Matters has a new study out called “If It’s Sunday, It’s Conservative: An analysis of the Sunday talk show guests on ABC, CBS, and NBC, 1997 – 2005.” The executive summary is here; the full report in PDF format is here. And the report tells us what any viewer with a usable brain surely has noticed — the guest lists of the Sunday television political programs are lopsidedly right-wing. “Panel discussions” also tilt right. In the crucial period leading up to the Iraq invasion, congressional opponents of the Iraq invasion were largely absent from the Sunday shows.

What’s particularly galling to me are the phony liberals — people who don’t speak for us liberals and progressives at all, yet they represent us on television. For example, take Christopher Hitchens and Joe Klein. Please.

Kevin Drum discusses the Media Matters report and also links to an article by Paul Waldman in the current Washington Monthly:

This ideological imbalance isn’t only evident in the “official” sources that are interviewed: the elected officials, candidates, and administration officials who make up most of the shows’ guests. It is even clearer in the roundtable discussions with featured journalists, [where] it has been a frequent practice for a roundtable to consist of a right-wing columnist or two supposedly “balanced” by journalists from major newspapers.

….The consequence of all this is that in every year since 1997, conservative journalists have dramatically outnumbered liberal journalists, in some years by two-to-one or more. Why would the producers of the shows believe that a William Safire (56 appearances since 1997) or Bob Novak (37 appearances) is somehow “balanced” by a Gwen Ifill (27) or Dan Balz (22)? It suggests that some may have internalized the conservative critique of the media, which assumes that daily journalists are “liberal” almost by definition, and thus can provide a counterpoint to highly partisan conservative pundits.

Kevin says,

The result is that genuinely liberal pundits get almost no exposure on these shows. You get conservative guests, super-conservative guests, moderate liberals, and journalists. And though it’s not part of this study, they’re almost all men. Only 10% of the guests on Sunday talk shows are women.

Some balance.

And this is particularly strange when you consider that the right-wingers are to the right of the majority of Americans on many issues. For example, 62 percent of adults recently polled by CBS News and the New York Times said that the “federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans.” If you listen to “mainstream” political talk shows, however, you’d think the only people supporting this view are the far-left Marxist fringe.

The right-wing agenda is presented incessantly on mainstream media; genuinely progressive policy ideas are rarely presented at all. Yet the media has a “liberal” bias. Uh-huh.

While you’re at Hullabaloo reading Digby, see also this post by Tristero. Excellent. For example:

The genuine major voices opposed to war weren’t permitted anywhere near an effective microphone, but they were known. When Jessica Mathews of Carnegie Endowment – as sober an American as one could ask for and certainly known within the media – started to make a convincing case on NPR that democracy by invasion was a crazy pipe dream, even that relatively unimportant network was too big. William Kristol personally called up and horned in on her time with ludicrous assertions designed to prevent the conversation from touching upon the substantive issues at stake.

We can’t return America to the people without straightening out the problems in media, IMO. Democracy can’t work unless the people are truthfully informed. And when they aren’t seeing their real concerns being addressed by the political psychobabblers on television, most people will just tune out politics as being kind of pointless. And the Wingnuts will continue to run our beautiful country into the ground, because people don’t even know they might have had another choice.

The Democratic Party seems largely unable to pull itself together and push back. There are individual Democrats who are terrific people. But any Democrat who sticks his neck out is instantly, and visciously, smeared throughout news media, and the Dem Party won’t provide cover.

So it’s left to the Blogosphere to push back. It’s not much, but it’s all we’ve got.

Oops II

CNN is reporting that Harry Whittington, the man “peppered” by Dick Cheney in a hunting accident, suffered a “mild” heart attack. Yes, this the same guy who’s been in the hospital since Saturday even though he’s just fine. Somehow, some birdshot that had “peppered” Mr. Whittington’s face migrated to his heart.


This is starting to remind me of the “cat on the roof” joke.

Meanwhile, Dr. Atrios has learned that “Every conservative on the internet is an avid hunter and they’ve all been shot multiple times.” Suggestion: Stay out of the woods in red states.

In other news, Dr. Atrios observes the Stalinist discipline of rightie bloggers and Glenn Greenwood suggests that righties may have some double standards (Really? Wow!).

Update: See Dan Froomkin, “Loose Cannon.

Michelle’s a Twit

Proving once again that she lacks a basic appreciation of traditional American culture and values, Michelle Malkin is outraged at Dana Milbank’s gentle ribbing of the Vice President on last night’s Countdown With Keith Olbermann on MSNBC.

If you watch Countdown, you know that the program mixes humor with hard news. So it was not at all out of keeping with the show’s format for reporter Dana Milbank to appear dressed in an orange vest and hat. His current location was near the vice president’s residence, he said.

Cute, I thought.

But Michelle Malkin and others on the Right are on a rampage. Media bias! they scream. They want to know when Countdown will display a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather hunt with Dick Cheney than ride with Ted Kennedy.” Can they not tell the difference between good-natured kidding and hateful meanness? I’d hate to sit down to a family dinner with these folks.

In some ways its a sign of respect to be able to kid our leaders. It says we’re comfortable enough with them to tease them. And Americans have made fun of our leaders since the guys at Valley Forge sat around the campfire and badmouthed George Washington. Some of our most-beloved humorists — Mark Twain, Bob Hope and Will Rogers come to mind — showed how it was possible to poke fun at leaders — often in their presence — without being mean about it. Here’s an example from Will Rogers

The fire at the Treasury Department started on the roof and burned down until it got the place where the money ought to be and there it stopped. The Harding Administration had beat the fire to it. A fire in the Treasury Building is nothing to get excited about during a Republican Administration.

Damn, that’s still funny.

Malkin et al. will argue that Dana Milbank is not a humorist, but a journalist. To which I might say, since news coverage is a joke, what’s the difference? (Ba-bump BUMP) But I think it could be argued (to anyone not a twit) that Milbank’s costume showed a pro-Cheney bias. It signalled the audience that this is not a serious story. Nothing to get fired up about. Let’s have a chuckle and forget about it.

Believe me, a reporter with a real anti-Cheney bias would have taken a more sober approach to this story. In fact, I bet the White House has a crack team of joke writers on the job right now …

Updates: See “Cheney Accident Triggers Jokes on Late-Night TV“; “After Cheney’s Shooting Incident, Time to Unload“; “Groans at Home Re: (Cheney Joke Here).” See also Ezra Klein.

Update update: Boy, was I right about the White House crack team of joke writers, or what? Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press reports:

The White House has decided that the best way to deal with Vice President Dick Cheney’s shooting accident is to joke about it.

President Bush’s spokesman quipped Tuesday that the burnt orange school colors of the University of Texas championship football team that was visiting the White House shouldn’t be confused for hunter’s safety wear.

“The orange that they’re wearing is not because they’re concerned that the vice president may be there,” joked White House press secretary Scott McClellan, following the lead of late-night television comedians. “That’s why I’m wearing it.”

The president’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, took a similar jab after slapping an orange sticker on his chest from the Florida Farm Bureau that read, “No Farmers, No Food.”

“I’m a little concerned that Dick Cheney is going to walk in,” the governor cracked during an appearance in Tampa Monday.

Dick’s a Weenie

If you watched yesterday’s Scotty McClellan press briefing you saw reporters attempt, with mounting frustration, to tease a simple chronology of events out of the press secretary. Transcript at Raw Story

Q But when did the president specifically know that the vice president had shot somebody?

MR. MCCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

Q When did the president know that the vice president —

MR. MCCLELLAN: He was learning additional details into that evening, on Saturday —

Q (Off mike) — it was the vice president that pulled the trigger —

MR. MCCLELLAN: Yeah, but we didn’t know the full details. But I think he was informed because Karl —

Q (Off mike) —

MR. MCCLELLAN: — I think his deputy chief of staff had spoken with Mrs. Armstrong and provided him additional update in that evening. So there were more circumstances —

Q The deputy chief of staff —

MR. MCCLELLAN: — more circumstances known Saturday evening, so the president was getting more information about who was involved, and that was in — that was late Saturday evening.

Q Scott —

Q So he knew — so he knew Saturday evening —

Q Scott, definitively, did the president know —

MR. MCCLELLAN: Some additional information, yes, and that the vice president —

Q — (inaudible) —

MR. MCCLELLAN: — and that the vice president was involved, but didn’t know the full facts of what had occurred.

Q How is that possible?

At one point, a frustrated reporter asked, “Was the vice president immediately clear that he had accidentally shot his friend or not, or did that information become available later?” One wonders.

Today Maria Newman reports in the New York Times that President Bush did, in fact, learn that the veep had shot someone. He learned it about 8 pm Saturday, from Karl Rove.

Now, Scottie, was that so hard?

Reading on, however, we find that Karl Rove got his story not from the Secret Service or the veep’s staff, but from Katherine Armstrong, the lady on whose property The Incident took place. The veep didn’t bother to report this to the President himself, or direct anyone on his staff to make a report. Hmmm. Then we learn from Jim VandeHei and Sylvia Moreno at the Washington Post that

… the White House allowed Cheney to decide when and how to disclose details of the shooting to the local sheriff and the public the next morning.

So, who’s in charge here? And does the President serve any actual function beyond smirking?

Cheney, in fact, has yet to make a public statement about The Incident. VandeHei and Moreno continue,

Cheney, who had a private White House lunch with Bush yesterday, did not comment on the shooting. Late yesterday, he issued a statement that did not mention the shooting but acknowledged not having paid $7 for a permit that allows him to shoot upland birds; it said he is sending a check to the state. Cheney said he expects to be issued a warning by state authorities for not obtaining the permit.

Further, local law enforcement could not interview Cheney until Sunday morning, about 14 hours after the shooting.

I can think of only three possible explanations for the veep’s behavior: (1) He’s hiding something; (2) he was so emotionally unhinged by The Incident he cannot deal with it; or (3) he doesn’t give a rat’s behind about accountability to the public or the law. Any one of those possibilities disqualifies the Dick from being a heartbeat away from the presidency. And, of course, all three explanations could be true.

An editorial in today’s New York Times says Dick’s behavior is juvenile:

The vice president appears to have behaved like a teenager who thinks that if he keeps quiet about the wreck, no one will notice that the family car is missing its right door. The administration’s communications department has proved that its skills at actually communicating are so rusty it can’t get a minor police-blotter story straight. And the White House, in trying to cover up the cover-up, has once again demonstrated that it would rather look inept than open.

Also true to form, the White House is blaming the wounded Mr. Whittington for the shooting.

Time for a Bush quote!

In a compassionate society, people respect one another, respect their points of view. And they take responsibility for the decisions they make. The culture of America is changing from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you’ve got a problem, blame somebody else, to a new culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life. If you are fortunate enough to be a mom or a dad, you’re responsible for loving your child with all your heart. (Applause.) If you are concerned about the quality of the education in the community in which you live, you’re responsible for doing something about it. If you’re a CEO in corporate America, you’re responsible for telling the truth to your shareholders and your employees. (Applause.)

And in this new responsibility society, each of us is responsible for loving our neighbor just like we would like to be loved ourselves. We can see the culture of service and responsibility growing around us.

Oooo, but this responsibility thing is haaaaaard work. We don’t wanna do it ourselves. That’s what the help is for.

And if Dick’s a weenie, but the President defers to his bad judgment, doesn’t that make the President a worse weenie?