Obama and His Media Acolytes

Bill Murchison

10/2/2012 10:15:00 AM - Bill Murchison
We seem to be in the midst of another one of our periodic battles over liberal bias in the media, as denoted in recent days by Paul Ryan and various other conservatives vexed with the tone of campaign coverage. "It goes without saying that there is definitely media bias," Ryan said on Fox News. "I think most people in the mainstream media are left of center and, therefore, they want a very left-of-center president versus a conservative president like Mitt Romney."

I think so myself after more than four decades of membership in that same suspect category, the gatherers and dispensers of news and commentary. The subjective question left dangling is, so what? Does it matter? Can Barack Obama's acolytes in the media tip the electoral scales for him?

Let me put it this way: They already have. And it worked.

The media's strange performance in 2008, when Obama made his debut on the national scene, fit for the most part the format of the three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, with reference to the imputed ability of an unseasoned senate freshman to run the world's only superpower.

In 2008, the media tended to take Obama at his own evaluation. His Wonderfulness might not be beyond dispute, but such a dispute wasn't worth having. He had come to fulfill the unfulfilled promise of our national founding. At a minimum, he would make most things better.

What he was, in fact, was a pig in a poke through which sack the media rarely chose to rummage. Gosh, the guy was great! What an orator! What a mesmerizer of the multitudes! They swooned. They fell over in ecstasy when the Democratic nominee for president opened his mouth.

Had the media opened its own metaphorical mouth, the choice in November 2008 might not have been necessarily different, but at least better informed. Barack Obama's life prior to the candidate's entry into the U.S. Senate, less than two years earlier, was supposedly an open book, written by him. It told of the challenging rise of a much-traveled, multi-racial attorney, the product of a nontraditional family establishment. He served as a community organizer, taught law at the University of Chicago. How much more did the American people need to judge the attributes of a man striving to be their leader? Not much, the media decided.

Save during flurries over the candidate's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and a Chicago friend, '60s extremist Bill Ayers, the skies of the Democratic campaign sparkled with sunshine. The media were notably incurious concerning the question, what had this guy -- Barack Obama -- ever done besides write an autobiographical book or two? There were no sustained inquiries into his record as a legislator, either in Illinois or in Washington, D. C.

Yes, it was noted in the New York Times that, as an Illinois senator, he had for varying reasons voted "present" nearly 130 times. What nevertheless had he done in the positive sense? What were his aims, his achievements, his philosophy? We never found out. About the once-obscure Sarah Palin we learned far more than we ever did in 2008 about the even-then-mostly obscure Barack Obama.

Did the media connive to "fix" the election? That wouldn't be my take on media methods. I think in the main, in 2008, they saw what they liked and couldn't stop whooping it up. By mid-October, the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University was reporting three of every of every five campaign stories broadcast by CBS, NBC and ABC favored Democrats. Not exactly what you call balanced coverage.

Obama might have won in 2008 irrespective of what the media said of him. That's not the point. The point that should lay on the hearts of all us media types, old and new is: did we do our duty by the public? I make bold to suggest that in 2008 -- we'll see soon enough about 2012 -- we barely scratched the surface.