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The Media Factor
Posted by: McQ on Monday, November 13, 2006

I was reading an article about the Battle of the Bulge in Military History Quarterly which started like this:

"At a presidential news conference a dozen years after the December 1944 battle of the Bulge, President Dwight D. Eisenhower confessed, "I didn't get frightened until three weeks after it had begun, when I began to read the American papers and found ... how near we were to being whipped."

The more things change the more they stay the same. And that was the good war. To deny the media, in all it's forms and through the years, hasn't significantly shaped the public's perception of reality is to be terminally naive.

But this isn't going where you probably think it is going. No, instead, it is going to swing into a look at a Howard Kurtz column which asks a very salient question after admitting to what has been obvious to most:
Now the question is whether a press corps that has been openly at odds with the president will hold the newly empowered Democrats to the same tough standards.
As those trying to buy a little time while casting about for an answer might say, "good question".

If I were to speak strictly on gut feeling, I'd say "no". While Republicans may be out of power in Congress, as Kurtz points out in his question, the media has been openly at odds with the president and he hasn't gone anywhere. Why would that relationship change now? Seems to me that piling on is in more in order, and the Dems can only help them in that endeavor.

I mean it would be nice if we could count on our self-appointed watchdogs to be equally as tough with the Democrats, but I'm not laboring under any illusion they will.

Kurtz asks a few more important questions. Speaking of expectations of Democrats:
But where will journalists set the performance bar?
My guess is very low. I don't think they expect the Dems to do much these next two years as much as they hope they'll be a thorn in George Bush's side. So in terms of Congress and the Democratic leadership, I'm guessing accomplishment isn't where they'll judge them.

So, in answer to these questions by Kurtz ...
If the Democrats don't pass much legislation, or if they craft bills that Bush vetoes, will the press blame them for gridlock? If they start rejecting one Bush nominee after another, will the press say they are obstructionist? If, after railing against Republican corruption, they pass only cosmetic ethics reform, will the press say they were all talk and no action?
... I'd say no. Again, as Kurtz mentions, the problem the media has focused on has been Bush, not so much Congress, so you can almost make book on the premise that anything which happens now will remain Bush's fault. Gridlock will be the unwillingness of Bush to compromise. Nominees will be "too extreme" and ethics reform will be wonderful, regardless of how cosmetic.

Mark my words.

However, as Kurtz notes, those in for the rudest awakening in all of this may be those least expecting it:
The biggest change may be in store for liberal commentators, radio hosts and bloggers, some of whom enjoyed a good long gloat last week. For years now, they have been on offense against the administration and the war, and taking potshots is plenty of fun, as conservative pundits learned during the height of the Clinton scandals. But now the lefties will have to spend time defending the Democratic leadership for any missteps and failures. And if Reid and Pelosi compromise with their more moderate colleagues, will hard-driving liberal bloggers turn on them?
A question for the ages? Hardly. The answer is "yes" Howard ... they'll turn on them in a NY minute. Well at least some of them will (and I'm sure you, like me, know who they are). However the majority will be put in the relatively new position of having to defend decisions made by their folks instead of the wonderfully liberating position they've enjoyed of doing nothing but criticizing.

Shoe. Other foot. We'll see how that works out.

In the meantime, let's monitor how the self-described "objective" media comports itself over the next two years and if I'm forced to change any of may off-the-cuff answers to Howard Kurt's questions.
 
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I don’t think [the media] expect[s] the Dems to do much these next two years... I’m guessing accomplishment isn’t where they’ll judge them.
I’d guess that if the economy continues to chugg along nicely, irrespective of anything the 110th Congress does, the media will start noticing, and naturally, give credit where it is not due.
 
Written By: bains
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