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May 10, 2010

Rasmussen: Sestak Tops Specter, 47-42

We will probably not get the thrill of retiring this nasty (perennially voted among the Senate's meanest) bastard ourselves; the Democrats will beat us to the punch.

One partisan, media-bashing point: The media will take the ouster of Bob Bennet as an indictment of conservatives. We're too ideological and/or partisan, they'll claim. (See the predictable Kathleen Parker, for example.) This take-down of one of the "good guys" (that is, someone willing to bend the Democrats way) proves that, as if it needed further proving.

First of all, one of the media's go-to Neutral Story Lines is that incumbents have too much of advantage in elections and there's not enough turn-over and fresh blood (read: drama which makes the news more fun to write) each election. Mickey Kaus often notes the media likes Neutral Story Lines, as they're easy to write, but are supposedly nonpartisan, as they usually criticize some procedural defect in both parties.

What makes the "Neutral Story Line" not neutral at all is that the media seems most interested, each cycle, in the "Neutral Story Li9ne" that hurts the Republicans more. For instance, the amount of money flowing into elections became a more and more intense problem as more and more money flowed to Republicans, putting Democrats at a disadvantage. The supposedly Neutral Story Line doesn't really seem all that Neutral when you consider that there's-too-much-money-in-politics reached its crisis stage during Bush's 2004 election, when he spent more money than anyone in history, but suddenly wasn't a problem at all when Obama topped him in 2008. This despite the fact that Bush actually had a higher percentage of small-money donors than Obama (as a percentage of total money donated), and Obama had a bigger percentage of high-dollar donors.

The media loves these story lines, because facially they appear neutral -- "money in politics is a danger" has no on-its-face, explicit partisan import -- but the timing of when to deploy a particular story line is highly partisan, and always made with the Democratic Party's best interests in mind.

Thus, when Bush refused the campaign spending limits, and spent only private money, it was nearly a constitutional crisis; when Obama did the same, it was a triumph of people-powered politics.

Are conspiracy theories bad? Well, right now, when the Republican base is vulnerable to buying into conspiracy theories about Obama's birthplace or sabotaged deep-drilling oil rigs, conspiracy theories are bad, and examples of the Paranoid Style of American Politics.

On the other hand, when former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright confessed to Mort Kondracke she feared Bush had actually captured bin Ladin and was secretly holding him only to publicize his capture on the eve of the 2004 elections, a party's trafficking in conspiracy theories wasn't even worth noting.

Certainly such conspiracy theories weren't worth noting when Bush and Cheney (and their deadly cabal) were accused of sabotaging a plane in order to murder a sitting and popular liberal US Senator.

Now, of course, in the case of Bob Bennet, the media is instructing us that we on the right are too partisan and too ideological and too inflexible and so on and so on -- the "neutral story line" they're pushing; a call for moderation is neutral, by its own terms -- and ignoring the other possible neutral story line -- that it's wonderful that an incumbent got beat, which proves that our politics can change when an electorate gets involved.

But consider the case of Sestack and Specter: The media will once again have its choice of two "neutral story lines" when that primary is resolved. It's heads the Democrats win, tails the Republicans lose, as far as the media is concerned.

If Sestack wins, the media will in fact push the "neutral story line" they could have pushed, but chose not to, in Bennet's case: That we're retiring an old warhorse in favor of a fresh face and that proves that our system works.

On the other hand, if Specter wins, they'll push the "neutral story line" that the Democrats, unlike Republicans, are welcoming of moderates. (And Specter, a moderate Republican turncoat now voting as a somewhat-less-moderate Democrat, is still pretty moderate.) So that story line does have something to it.

But we'll have no stories about "overly-partisan and inflexibly ideological Democrats driving out a true moderate and fence-crosser" if Specter should lose -- trust that. Instead we'll have the other supposedly-neutral story line, the one that once again just happens to wind up praising Democrats.

And this is how media bias works 75% of the time. Most of the time, the media is selecting between several possible "rules," many of which are arguably correct, but which are contradicted by nearly opposite rules, which are also arguably correct. The media never decides which rule is correct in the most cases; instead, they choose whichever "rule" benefits the Democrats this cycle.

Are we too interested in personal scandals which don't really have much to do with a party's governing philosophy? The answer is "No" if you mean Mark Foley or Mark Sanford; the answer is "Yes" if you mean Eric Massa or John Edwards.

Is it out of line for a former vice president to toughly criticize a new president of a different party? Well, if you're Al Gore criticizing Bush, you're just being patriotic and expressing the frustrations of millions of Americans. If you're Dick Cheney criticizing Obama, you're deliberately weakening a new president and endangering national security.

Is it patriotic, or treasonous, for a high-level national security staffer to leak to the press? Well, if you're exposing Bush's SWIFT snooping, you're a patriot, keeping a vigilant eye on the shadowy, murky world of espionage. If you're embarrassing Obama by noting that he has no Iran plan at all, you're a dirty leaking traitor giving away critical state secrets for a cheap partisan advantage.

And dissent? Is it the highest form of patriotism or the lowest form of partisanship? I think you know the answer there, and the answer is, of course, It depends on who's dissenting.

In each of these situations, a halfway decent case can be made either way -- often, both of these "rules" is kinda-sorta true and kinda-sorta false.

The way the media shapes opinion is by stating, categorically, without caveat, that one rule is true in all cases when it benefits Democrats, and then, the following election cycle (or even the following month) that its opposite rule is categorically, and without caveat, true, in all cases, when it hurts the Republicans.

Neutral story lines are only really neutral when the criteria for choosing them is neutral. When partisan and ideological considerations drive the choice of which conflicting "neutral" story line to push, it's just a partisan press covering its tracks with the thinnest pretense of objectivity. As usual.


Thanks to James.


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posted by Ace at 04:12 PM

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