Two members of the mainstream media firmament are publicly conceding what conservatives internalized years ago: Most of their colleagues support Barack Obama and are adjusting their campaign coverage accordingly. Here is Time editor and MSNBC contributor Mark Halperin explaining why the media continues to fixate on Mitt Romney's tax returns:
"The media is very susceptible to doing what the Obama campaign wants."
The Obama campaign is blanketing the airwaves with ads about Romney's tax documents as if it's the top issue of the decade, and the media -- coincidentally -- "likes this story." ABC News' Jake Tapper was even more explicit about the media's overall approach on the Laura Ingraham Show yesterday:
In an interview with Laura Ingraham, White House reporter Jake Tapper said that the media is failing the country. "A lot of people are hurting out there. Unemployment is 8.3 percent. That doesn’t even take into account the underemployed,” he said, arguing that too much time has been spent not talking about the economy. Tapper also criticized the media for not giving enough attention to the war in Afghanistan. "We are spending a lot of time in the last few weeks, those of us in the political world, political journalists and also politicians, talking about things other than the economy," said Tapper. "[A] lot of people are hurting out there. I’d like to see more action taken and more emphasis given to this issue. I have said before… [that I] thought the media helped tip the scales. I didn’t think the coverage in 2008 was especially fair to either Hilary Clinton or John McCain," Tapper said. On the 2008 coverage, he noted, "Sometimes I saw with story selection, magazine covers, photos picked, [the] campaign narrative, that it wasn’t always the fairest coverage."
The US economy is a basket case, reeling from widespread human suffering. Unemployment is very high. Real unemployment is even higher. Millions have simply dropped out of the labor force. Poverty has skyrocketed, as has food stamp usage. Median household incomes are down. Millions have lost their homes to foreclosure. Our annual federal deficits have surpassed $1 trillion for four years running, and the gross national debt has eclipsed 100 percent of GDP. Our entitlement programs are drowning, with tens of trillions in unfunded promises gathering overhead. The incumbent president has no solutions. He proposes tax increases on a small sliver of Americans (with no explanation for how this will grow the economy or create jobs) and hypes a second stimulus program. Other than that, he has no discernable positive agenda, and demonstrably has no meaningful plan to deal with our dangerous systemic debt and unsustainable obligations. His campaign is running a scorched-earth and overwhelmingly dishonest race against his Republican opponent, the aim of which is misdirection.
What has dominated news coverage this week? An indefensible comment from a one Republican candidate for office in Missouri. Todd Akin deserves his own fate, but Democrats are trying to "nationalize" his appalling comment, stretching like mad to tie the Romney ticket into the mess -- even though Romney explicitly repudiated Akin and called for him to exit the race. The media is helping in this effort. I watched CNN for several hours yesterday. As expected, they devoted a lot of coverage to the Akin firestorm. Fair enough. But they also aired multiple segments on how the controversy could hurt Romney with women voters (the only interview subject in one such piece was Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt). Piers Morgan based his entire primetime program around this theme. When they had time, CNN also squeezed in reports about the GOP platform committee's work (focusing exclusively on abortion and gay rights, natch), and profiled Mitt Romney's Mormonism. On it went all day, hour after hour. It wasn't the least bit subtle. These observations is purely anecdotal, I realize -- and CNN has done some good work this cycle -- but they goe to Tapper's point about story selection and narratives. The Vice President made a flagrantly incendiary remark on race last week, but it only received a fraction of the coverage of Akingate. Joe Biden is on the ticket, but the commentariat is pontificaing on whether Akin's words provide any special insight into Paul Ryan's worldview. When President Obama finally took questions from bona fide reporters this week, he delivered a string of shamelessly misleading answers to their questions. No matter. No one seemed to notice or care too much because the preferred narrative surrounded the story that drew Obama out from calculated hiding in the first place: Akin's dreadful remark. I take that back. Someone noticed. Over to you, Jake Tapper:
CBS News’ Nancy Cordes said that “your campaign has suggested repeatedly without proof that Mr. Romney might be hiding something in his tax returns, they have suggested that Mr. Romney might be a felon for the way that he handed over power of Bain Capital, and your campaign and the White House have declined to condemn an ad by one of your top supporters that links Mr. Romney to a woman’s death from cancer.” “I’m not sure all those characterizations that you laid out there were accurate,” the president said. “For example, nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon.” But what Cordes said was that the Obama campaign “suggested that Mr. Romney might be a felon,” and she had it exactly right...
...it’s not just the pro-Obama super-PAC, Priorities USA Action (run by two former Obama White House officials), that has cited Missouri steelworker Joe Soptic’s story – it’s also the Obama campaign. On its website right now is a slideshow about the closure of GST Steel in which Soptic is quoted saying “I worked hard all my life and played by the rules, and they allowed this to happen.” Soptic is described as an “employee for 28 years, whose wife died of lung cancer after he lost his GST health plan.” Moreover, the Obama campaign held a conference call in May during which Soptic told his story. If the president doesn’t “think that Governor Romney is somehow responsible for the death of the woman that was portrayed in that ad,” his campaign sure seems to be suggesting otherwise. In short, the president’s responses were at best less than candid and at worse downright misleading.
In 2008, the media declared virtually every inconvenient-to-Obama issue or flap to be a "distraction" from the "real issues." To be sure, the nation was embroiled in economic turmoil at the time, and critical policy decisions needed to be made. We now face an election of at least equal importance, and the same press is satisfied to obsess over tax returns and problematic statements from down-ticket Republicans. This will go on for the next three months. Count on it. The question is whether Americans will manage to focus on anemic growth projections, unacceptable jobs reports and spiraling debt, rather than the petty and frivolous dog and pony show Obama and his media handlers are putting on.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography