The press loses its mind

Posted: Sep 15, 2000 12:00 AM
This year, the press (with the notable exception of Fox News) seems to have taken a collective breath of helium, producing news judgment that is even more frothy and insubstantial than usual -- but still, as always, biased toward the Democrats. With both houses of Congress, the presidency and the complexion of the Supreme Court at stake in this election, the press has plenty to chew on. The next president, through appointments to the Supreme Court, will have the power to decide whether declining to hire homosexuals to look after young boys qualifies as actionable discrimination. (If a future Court so rules, will this imply that the Girl Scouts must hire heterosexual male troop leaders or face lawsuits?) The next president will also have a powerful influence upon whether racial and sexual preferences will be overturned or permitted to continue their unjust march through our institutions. He will determine whether the United States will continue to stand naked before intercontinental ballistic missile attack, or whether we will build and deploy an anti-ballistic missile defense system. He will influence whether poor children will stay trapped in failing schools or be permitted to take their tax dollars with them to schools that will truly teach. He will strongly influence whether federal programs like Social Security and Medicare become insolvent or not. And the choice the American people make will determine whether Clintonism -- routine and shameless lying and brazen corruption -- will be vindicated or disgraced by history. None of that seems to interest the national media. Instead, with only 50-odd days until the election, here are the matters to which the press has devoted its most energetic and repetitive attention:
George W. Bush's open-mike reference to a New York Times reporter. The scandal that went mostly unreported is the fact that The New York Times assigned Adam Clymer to cover the Bush campaign at all, since he is clearly highly biased against him. Not only is Clymer the author of a worshipful biography of Sen. Ted Kennedy ("not just the leading senator of his time, but one of the greats in history"), but he has a long history of anti-conservative bias. The Bush campaign's use of a so-called subliminal advertising in a television spot. First of all, everyone knows, or should, that there is really no such thing as subliminal advertising. A nation totally sold on Freudianism seems ready to believe that the subconscious mind is more powerful the conscious and can be easily manipulated by those in control of technology. This is all bunk. As Jerry Della Femina pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, even if people did register the word rats after seeing it for one-thirtieth of a second, who's to say they would associate it with Democrats? It was a Republican ad, so what would stop all those unconscious minds from making the wrong association?! Dick Cheney's stock options. Now here was a true non-story. As Lynne Cheney explained, the convoluted campaign finance and ethics laws are the culprit here -- forbidding the Cheneys from contributing any increase in value in the stock during their time in office directly to charity. It wasn't played that way. Now these matters occupied the press because Republicans on the defensive give them goose bumps. But if they insist on covering only small-time stuff, here is an alternative list that they might consider for major attention:
The Clinton Administration entertaining donors to the Hillary Clinton campaign at White House overnights. Can't teach an old dog new tricks. The Gore campaign's rude treatment of a wheelchair-bound reporter in Michigan. Only after Chad Swiatecki filed a story about being bumped from the campaign bus when Gore visited an auto factory -- and forbidden to follow in his own car -- did Gore call and apologize. Gore's fund-raising shakedown. It seems the Justice Department has evidence that in 1995 Vice President Gore made no fewer than three phone calls to a wealthy Texas trial lawyer asking for $100,000 and promising a presidential veto of tort reform. Well, Bill Clinton did tell us that he never made a policy decision based "solely" on a contribution.