You want a quick and easy introduction to media bias? Just look at the reception given to author Ron Suskind when he appeared on NBC's "Today" show recently to promote his new book, "Confidence Men," which is critical of President Obama -- and then compare it to the reception Suskind received in 2004 when he appeared on "Today" to tout another book, "The Price of Loyalty," which was critical of President George W. Bush.
Start with the new book. The newsworthy bits in "Confidence Men" are well known: Suskind reports the Obama White House is tough on women, with former aide Anita Dunn calling it "a genuinely hostile workplace to women." Suskind also says Obama's top economic advisers had so little regard for the president that former National Economic Council chief Larry Summers said, "There's no adult in charge." And Suskind writes that on at least one occasion, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored a clear directive from the president.
A lot of that is small-scale Washington chatter. The bigger picture from the book is one of a president not up to the job during perilous economic times. And that's not an image the White House wants to encourage with the 2012 re-election effort under way. So White House officials pushed back hard -- with a big assist from "Today."
Among the less substantive criticisms of the book, White House press secretary Jay Carney has suggested that Suskind lifted a small passage from Wikipedia. So with all the other issues that might be discussed, "Today" anchor Ann Curry began the interview with this: "Did you or did you not lift that passage from Wikipedia?"
Of course not, Suskind said. (Comparing the texts, no fair-minded reader would convict him of the charge.) Suskind tried to be dismissive, saying that "after a week, that's all (the White House) came up with."
"Well, they've actually come up with more," Curry responded. "So let me get to it."
Curry noted that Dunn has denied making the "hostile workplace" comment and demanded: "Did you take liberties with that quote?" No, Suskind said, adding that he actually played the audio of Dunn's (accurately quoted) words to a Washington Post reporter.
Curry then questioned the "no adult in charge" quote.
"Did Summers believe the president was in over his head or didn't he?" Curry demanded.
That's what he said, replied Suskind, noting that many people in the Obama White House cooperated with the book.
"They say they cooperated with you because they were concerned about the direction you were taking," Curry shot back. "They wanted to make sure that you got it right."