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Harris & VandeHei, Listen to Your Mothers


The Politico reporters say their mothers think the media is soft on Obama. They agree that McCain is getting worse press than Obama, but argue that ideological bias has almost “nil” to do with it. This viewpoint leads them to make peculiar distinctions:

[Obama] has benefited from the idea that negative attacks that in a normal campaign would be commonplace in this year would carry an out-of-bounds racial subtext. That’s why Obama’s long association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was basically a nonissue in the general election.

Journalists’ hair-trigger racial sensitivity may have been misplaced, but it was not driven by an ideological tilt.

Harris and VandeHei should consider the possibility that journalists’ “sensitivity,” which is liberalism’s sensitivity, is not “driven by an ideological tilt” so much as it is an ideological tilt.

I don’t believe that if McCain loses, the ideological bias of the press will be a primary cause. In general, I think that its bias tends to manifest more in coverage of issues than in coverage of candidates at election time.
But these manifestations of bias are not perfectly separable, of course. Journalists tend to think that Obama’s health-care plan is sensible and moderate, for example, and their preference, along with their ignorance, has kept them from making anything of Obama’s relentless campaign of misrepresentation on both his own plan and McCain’s. Quite a few stories that would undercut the narrative of Obama’s idealism, moderation, and high-mindedness have been ignored or downplayed, from the tactics that led to his Illinois political victories to his support for taxpayer funding of abortion. The press’s fact-checkers have portrayed the McCain campaign as more dishonest than the Obama campaign (just as they portrayed Bush as more dishonest than Kerry in 2004), which is not a conclusion that I think an ideologically and politically neutral review would sustain, and this portrayal has contributed to an impression of McCain as nastily negative.
 Biden’s the-world-will-test-Obama remarks should have been front-page news, and weren’t generally treated as such.

Maybe the reporters’ mothers should write a rebuttal?


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