Look, I am past exhausted talking about liberal media bias. It’s real, we all know it, and people who deny it aren’t even fooling themselves. But some things just have to be pointed out. This morning I watched the first 15 minutes of the Today Show. I don’t particularly love or even like the program, but I find it useful to see what the producers think is the big news of the day. And sometimes Chuck Todd is on, and I like him. If I sound defensive about watching the show it’s only because I am.
Anyway, the first ten minutes was about Gabby Giffords’ return to the House yesterday. I’m not sure it merited the full ten minutes or trumped the hard news that later followed, but it’s a great story and everyone is rooting for the lady, so I’m fine with it.
But think about this for a second. The Giffords shooting sent the media elite in this country into a bout of St. Vitus’s dance that would have warranted an army of exorcists in previous ages. Sarah Palin’s Facebook map was an evil totem that forced some guy to go on a shooting spree. The New York Times, the Washington Post, all three broadcast networks — particularly NBC whose senior foreign-affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, devotes, by my rough reckoning, ten times as much air time to whining about Sarah Palin as she does about anything having to do with foreign affairs — flooded the zone with “Have you no shame” finger wagging. A memo went forth demanding that everyone at MSNBC get their dresses over their heads about the evil “tone” from the right. Media Matters went into overdrive working the interns 24/7 to “prove” that Republicans deliberately foment violence with their evil targets on their evil congressional maps.
Everyone “knew” the shooter was a tea partier. Except he wasn’t. He wasn’t even a conservative. He was a sick, demented, nutball. And it still didn’t matter! More bleating and caterwauling about the “tone” followed. More chin stroking and tut-tutting from Meet the Press roundtables and “very special segments” on the Today Show. More pizzas were ordered for the Media Matters galley slaves.
Finally, president Obama, our national-healer, gives a speech. It was a good speech. Indeed it was one of the first speeches in a long while that got anything like bipartisan support. Civility. New tone. No more martial metaphors. These were the takeaways.
So flashforward to this week. Tom Friedman — who knows a bit about Hezbollah — calls the tea partiers the “Hezbollah faction” of the GOP bent on taking the country on a “suicide mission.” All over the place, conservative Republicans are “hostage takers” and “terrorists,” “terrorists” and “traitors.” They want to “end life as we know it on this planet,” says Nancy Pelosi. They are betraying the Founders, too. Chris Matthews all but signs up for the “Make an Ass of Yourself” contest at the State Fair. Joe Nocera writes today that “the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests.” Lord knows what Krugman and Olbermann have said.
Then last night, on the very day Gabby Giffords heroically returns to cast her first vote since that tragic attack seven months ago, the vice president of the United States calls the Republican party a bunch of terrorists.
No one cares. I hate the “if this were Bush” game so we’re in luck. Instead imagine if this was Dick Cheney calling the Progressive Caucus (or whatever they’re called) a “bunch of terrorists” on the day Giffords returned to the Congress. Would the mainstream media notice or care? Would Meet the Press debate whether this raises “troubling questions” about the White House’s sensitivity? Would Andrea Mitchell find some way to blame Sarah Palin for Dick Cheney’s viciousness? Would Keith Olbermann explode like a mouse subjected to the Ramone’s music in Rock and Roll High School? Something inside me hidden away shouts, “Hell yes they would!”
The Today Show even had Debbie Wasserman Schultz on this morning for five minutes talking about Giffords. No one thought to ask her what she thought of Biden’s comments? It’s not like she’s the Democratic party’s national spokesperson or anything. Oh, wait. She is!
Instead, after the full ten minutes on Giffords, we get an update about the debt-limit situation (which is supposedly an Armageddon-level issue) and Kelly O’Donnell basically carries water for Biden on the issue by completely muddying whether he said anything of the sort at all. (His office says, no, no the vice president didn’t call them terrorists, he just politely agreed with all the Democratic congressmen in the room that they “acted like terrorists.” Ah, this is a distinction a team of a million Jesuits working around the clock would have a hard time slicing.)
And yet you know the next time there’s the slightest, remotely exploitable tragedy or hint of violence, the same reporters, editors, producers, and politicians are going to insist that blood was spilled because of the right wing’s rhetoric.
Well, go to Hell. All of you.