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“Don’t Blame Liberal Media For Giuliani Gaffe”: The Go-To Explanation Among Conservatives For Almost Everything That Happens

We’ve had a terrific demonstration over the last week or so of why the belief in liberal media bias is so strong.

It isn’t because of actual liberal media bias. Academic research finds plenty of ways the press gets things wrong, but an ideological slant isn’t one of them.

Most bias has to do with the industry’s norms (stories involving the president get more play than articles about governors, and so on). In some cases, the self-interest of the media plays a role, whether it’s promoting freedom of the press, for example, or building up anyone who might take on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination as a way to build interest in that snooze fest.

What sustains the belief in liberal bias? It’s the go-to explanation among conservatives for almost everything that happens, and has been for at least four decades. Repeat something long enough, without strong opposition, and people will accept it.

So the reaction to the Rudy Giuliani story, in which the former New York mayor claimed Barack Obama didn’t “love” America, invoked howls of media bias from conservatives. Some said it wasn’t a story at all — Giuliani hasn’t been in office for years, so who cares what he says? Isn’t there real news out there? Others were upset that Republican candidates were pressed to agree or disagree with Giuliani — look, the liberal media is trying to make conservative politicians look stupid!

But we had an almost perfect parallel in the coverage of Howard Dean’s complaint that Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin shouldn’t be president because he didn’t graduate from college.

Giuliani left office in 2001, ran for president in 2008, has since been out of active politics but shows up on TV all the time. Dean left office a year after Giuliani did, ran for president in 2004, was Democratic National Committee chairman through 2008, has since been out of active politics but shows up on TV all the time.

Republicans were forced to take a stand on whether Obama loves America; Democrats were pressed to say if they thought a college dropout was unqualified to be president.

The Giuliani story was bigger only because attacking the president is a bigger deal than attacking one of many Republican presidential candidates, and New York (where much of the national media is based) trumps Vermont.

Both accusations were pretty much denounced by everyone; both sparked predictable partisan bashing and a few interesting reflections.

But liberals didn’t go crying about conservative media bias in the Dean-Walker case because they don’t see every news story as an example of prejudice against them. Conservatives do.

For example, they screamed that the media ignored the scandal ending the career of Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon, but as Philip Bump explained, this too was caused by ordinary press norms, not ideological bias. Kitzhaber’s scandals were undercovered (at least in the national media) compared with those of Republican Chris Christie because Christie is running for president and he’s a governor in the New York area. Think about it. The press hardly ignored scandals costing Democratic Governors Rod Blagojevich or Eliot Spitzer their jobs. It’s just that Democrats never interpreted those firestorms as examples of Republican media bias.

There’s nothing wrong with pointing out when news coverage is wrong or wrong-headed. But ideology isn’t at the root of those mistakes and biases.

 

By: Jonathan Bernstein, Columnist for Bloomberg View; The National Memo, February 25, 2015

February 28, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Media, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If Only They Knew”: Mitt Romney Buffeted By The Winds Of Extremism

Turns out the Romney camp isn’t all that different from other Republicans.

For a long time now, Mitt Romney and the people who work for him have seemed like the reasonable people in the Republican party. That isn’t to say that Romney’s policies or rhetoric were particularly reasonable, but we all accepted that when he started breathing fire, it was an act. Buffeted by the winds of extremism, he made a bargain with his party’s base: I’ll pretend to be as crazy as you, and you’ll learn to live with me as your nominee.

But now, Barack Obama has finally opened the can of whoop-ass on Romney that many of us had long been expecting, and as McKay Coppins reports, both Romney himself and his people don’t like it one bit. Their reaction indicates that maybe they were never that different from the Republican base after all.

“[Romney] has said Obama’s a nice fellow, he’s just in over his head,” the adviser said. “But I think the governor himself believes this latest round of attacks that have impugned his integrity and accused him of being a felon go so far beyond that pale that he’s really disappointed. He believes it’s time to vet the president. He really hasn’t been vetted; McCain didn’t do it.”

Indeed, facing what the candidate and his aides believe to be a series of surprisingly ruthless, unfounded, and unfair attacks from the Obama campaign on Romney’s finances and business record, the Republican’s campaign is now prepared to go eye for an eye in an intense, no-holds-barred act of political reprisal, said two Romney advisers who spoke on condition of anonymity. In the next chapter of Boston’s pushback — which began last week when they began labeling Obama a “liar” — very little will be off-limits, from the president’s youthful drug habit, to his ties to disgraced Chicago politicians.

“I mean, this is a guy who admitted to cocaine use, had a sweetheart deal with his house in Chicago, and was associated and worked with Rod Blagojevich to get Valerie Jarrett appointed to the Senate,” the adviser said. “The bottom line is there’ll be counterattacks.”

It might be just this one particular aide’s formulation, but the use of the word “vet” is the tell. One of the consuming fantasies on the right is that we never learned very much about Barack Obama, and if only the American people knew about Reverend Wright, or about Obama’s youthful drug use, or about his relationship with Bill Ayers, then they would as one recoil in horror and boot him from office. This is all summed up in the oft-repeated assertion, “He was never vetted.” The fact that all these things were, in fact, reported on extensively doesn’t penetrate with the people who believe this, because if the public actually knew then Obama could never have been elected in the first place, so that must mean they just don’t know. Could the voters have heard all this stuff and decided to elect Obama anyway? Impossible.

I’m quite surprised to hear this stuff coming from the Romney camp, since they were supposed to be the cold-eyed pragmatists of the GOP. But they seem to have no idea how to actually defeat an incumbent president. If they want to run the rest of their campaign on the fact that Obama knew Rod Blagojevich and did coke when he was a teenager, I’m sure the Obama campaign would reply, be our guest.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 18, 2012

July 19, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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