The Corner

Amazing

Warrantless searches, Katrina fingerpointing, $7.8 trillion budget, Abramoff spin: these were the stories buffetting the White House last week. This week, it’s Dick Cheney’s hunting accident. Regardless of the merits of any of these issues and the criticisms they raise, one would think the Democrats would understand that it will be difficult to return to many of these themes once we finally “get to the bottom” of the Cheney story (quotation marks are necessary because I think we hit bottom awhile ago but the media has brought out their earth-boring equipment and will keep digging for a while). After a few days, the press will take a “been there done that” attitude to the wiretap story and, barring some new revelation, will not want to bother re-educating the public about it. This is not a partisan point, but mere media analysis. Does no one remember how effectively the Clinton’s used the refrain “that’s old news” to beat down stories? That worked, because even whispering something is old news in the current media culture is enough to get reporters to “move on.” Indeed, that’s pretty much where MoveOn.org got its name — from the widespread liberal effort to move on from a story liberals didn’t want to talk about anymore. Cindy Sheehan’s rage at the elements was well placed during hurricanes Rita and Katrina because she understood that once the media starts ignoring you, it’s unlikely to come back again, never mind pick up where it left off.

I agree with the editors that Cheney should come clean and all that in an interview, indeed I wrote it first here in the Corner. But I still think there’s room for a lot of political upside for Cheney, so long as the usual pattern of media over-reaction and Democratic over-reach plays itself out. And so far, that’s certainly the way to bet.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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