If anyone is still being sold the civics-book baloney that our national press corps is just the referee of our democracy, the disinterested moderator of our national debate, the media's performance in this election year has just blown that concept to smithereens in their collective and transparent desire to deny George W. Bush another four years.
To the uncommitted voter, let us state directly: The media are partisan players. They see their role as journalists as not to inform, but to persuade. They aim to make society better and believe the great society is a society drained of its poisonous vestiges of conservatism. They aim to elect liberal Democrats to office, pretending all the while that these liberals are really moderates, and even -- don't laugh -- fierce warriors for our national defense.
The media do not believe in an "axis of evil" in the world, or a "war on terror." This, they deeply believe, is right-wing fear-mongering. In the 1990s, they did not crusade against the evils of al-Qaeda, but did crusade against our real mortal enemies: Microsoft, the tobacco companies, gun manufacturers, talk-radio hosts, the House impeachment managers and independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
No ethical guideline or professional code has seemed to restrain the press this year. Dan Rather so hated Bush that he would try to impress voters with ersatz Texas Air National Guard documents his own experts told him were probably fabricated. Why would he believe he could get away with it? Because he's Dan Rather, and with the mystique of the "objective" press, enough would accept his "objective" attempt to take Bush down.
The national media aim to set the agenda, and set it in a way that perpetually puts right-leaning, wrong-thinking Republicans at a disadvantage. Just look at the network story counts.
This year, ABC, CBS and NBC have combined for more than 75 stories on George W. Bush's National Guard Service, with virtually nothing to say about Kerry's scandalous anti-war behavior. They've done more than 50 stories on "skyrocketing" or "record high" gasoline prices, rarely admitting prices are lower today than they were under St. Jimmy Carter. They've aired hundreds on prison abuse at Abu Ghraib, while the mass graves of Saddam are a yawner.