It's not surprising that the biggest names in network news don't spend too much time on the nuts-and-bolts selection of national party chairmen. Usually, new party leaders are well respected by their field workers in the states but barely register on the interest meter. On that rare occasion when an ideological firebrand is elected -- say, Lee Atwater in 1989 -- they pounced on the "controversial" (Willie Horton-exploiting) choice. So where are they now as the Democrats are set to name wild-eyed ultraliberal Howard Dean as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee?
Consider this: If, on the cusp of the first President Bush losing the 1992 election, the Republican National Committee had united around the idea of having his conservative base-rousing primary challenger Pat Buchanan be the next party chairman, how would the media cover the story? You can bet the farm they'd have shouted from the rooftops that the GOP had a death wish, that the lemmings were pouring over the cliff, that the Republican parties were forsaking every American voter in the middle for the foam-flecked extremists.
In fact, that is how they covered his presidential bid. Liberal reporters boiled over with nasty, personal invective against Buchanan in 1992 -- fringy, racist, anti-Semitic, authoritarian, Nazi, punitive and puritanical, "right up there with David Duke on the hate chart." With that bile-spewing reception, Republicans were happy to let Pat return to the studios of CNN and elect Haley Barbour to run the party.
Dean was the Democrats' peasants-with-pitchforks equivalent of Buchanan in 2004, rallying the staunchest left-wingers across the country against the staid Washington party elite. On social issues, he is the mirror image of Buchanan, fiercely favoring abortion and the gay agenda. Buchanan opposed the first war in Iraq, until the troops went in; Dean drew his backers by loudly opposing war on Iraq first, last, and always. On fiscal issues, Buchanan railed against a broken no-new-taxes pledge, while Dean railed for more government control of health care and earned a "D" from the Cato Institute in 2002, which noted: "After 12 years of Dean's so-called 'fiscal conservatism,' Vermont remains one of the highest taxing-and-spending states."
When the campaign ended in a loss in 1992, the media quickly blamed Buchanan and the religious right for their supposedly hate-filled Houston convention that soured moderates on the GOP. Twelve years later, these scribes were nowhere to be found pointing fingers at Howard Dean and the NARALs and gay lobbies for souring suburbanites on the Democrats with their zealous excesses.
One man was portrayed as the hater on the fringes. The other was regularly dressed up in a ludicrous costume of moderation. Oftentimes, it was the same reporter making those calls. For example, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter was the first to demonize Buchanan, and also the first to declare that with Dean, "the old labels are increasingly useless."
As bizarre as it might seem, liberal media bias is proving to be a boon for the GOP. In their complete Bush-era meltdown, the liberal media elite is applying absolutely no brakes to the Dean "revolution" taking over the DNC. They are moving further and further to the left, and the media are offering nothing but happy talk. The cliff is in sight, and the Pied Pipering press is set to lead the party over the edge.
Even now, as the Democrats prepare to crown Dean their leader, NPR reporter Mara Liasson persisted in the myth-making, claiming that, while Dean is "identified" with the anti-war left, "his record on issues other than foreign policy is not left of center. He is actually a staunch centrist, pragmatic, reform Democrat who is pro-gun rights, comes from a rural state, and he's a deficit hawk."
Liasson apparently forgot how Gov. Dean signed a bill in 2000 installing "civil unions" for gay men and lesbians. (Was that "centrist and pragmatic"?) And failed to remember how Dean drew raves at a NARAL dinner in 2003 for insisting that partial-birth abortion was "an issue about nothing. It's an issue about [pro-life] extremism." He proposed repealing the Bush tax cuts to fund more socialized-medicine schemes like Hillary Clinton's. And it won't help him with military families that he said about Saddam Hussein, on the April day Baghdad was liberated, "I suppose that's a good thing."
It may be a political first that the Democrats are nominating a well-known national figure with high polling negatives to lead their partisan parade. The latest CNN poll showed Dean held a 31 percent favorable view among Americans in both parties, but 38 percent held an unfavorable view. Does that sound like a good starting place for the DNC's grip on the political pulse? It's at moments like these where you can see the point where so-called "mainstream" media cluelessness might backfire and ultimately cement an era of Republican domination.