The news media insist that what conservatives don't like about their reporting is the unpleasant truths they uncover. If that's true, how do they explain their fixation on the reporting of unpleasantries that have yet to occur?
Monday morning, Oct. 24, began with great conjuring of clouds and thunderclaps about all the bad news about to land on President Bush. The gloom over the breakfast table was impenetrable, perhaps because the soothsayers all had partisan backgrounds. NBC brought on Tim Russert, former Democratic aide (Mario Cuomo and Daniel Patrick Moynihan). ABC invited George Stephanopoulos, former Democratic aide (the Clintons). CBS offered Amy Walter, former Democratic aide (campaign manager for Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky in 1994 -- the year she was defeated).
The talking points for the week were set. In the near future, there is going to be a body count of 2,000 Americans dead in Iraq, indictments in the probe of White House officials leaking to the press about Valerie Plame, and a collapse of the Harriet Miers nomination to the Supreme Court. In the recent past, Tom DeLay was indicted, and we had the miserable federal response to Katrina. And did we mention that Tom DeLay was indicted?
To get a feeling for the tone of the dirge, here's Amy Walter on CBS, foretelling the Plamegate indictments: "This could not come at a worse time for the president. Here is a president who is struggling at his lowest approval ratings of his presidency, that he is working so hard to get some traction back after a pretty disastrous September between Katrina, Harriet Miers, the economy, continuing frustration about Iraq, a very pessimistic public. He needs something to be able to get himself out of these political doldrums. This certainly is not going to help."
One of the comical things about this kind of reporting is how it most definitely affects those low approval ratings subsequently reported. And if these reports that were so harmful were overhyped, or just plain inaccurate -- oh, well.
Time and again, the news media have done this. They wildly exaggerated the deaths and damage of Hurricane Katrina. They hammered on depressing gas price hikes after Katrina, but then suffered a sudden bout of amnesia when they improved.
The Miers nomination presents another issue. At this moment, you can't really blame the news media too much; it is conservative discontent that has driven the story. Still, conservatives are always a bit amazed at the spotlight they suddenly receive -- only receive -- when they actually disagree on principle with the White House.