The press is a wondrous thing. Or not. It seems lately to depend on whether you plan to run for office. If you do, watch out.
One of the most revelatory items of the past few weeks has been the insistent drumbeats in the cable press against a couple of public figures…who just might once have been competition for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
It didn’t come to us right away how damaging and how incredibly effective the press can be in espousing one man’s or one woman’s cause, not to mention his/her ambitions. And how sneaky. Or, if you like, how right out there.
In the “out there” category, of course, we understand that Fox News has an agenda…to get Republicans elected to every city, state, national office that exists. Their plan of action has recently included even bearding the president in what many saw as rude, impolite, and ill-informed fashion. True enough, Mr. Obama did not have to sit down with Bill O’Reilly and take it for an hour. And the president often gave as good as he got. The entire interview was icing on Fox’s cake, insofar as every evening it takes to the hunt and sends out their most popular, if most ill-informed, troops, into the governmental underbrush to scare up what they can.
Sean Hannity, he of the immaculate hair and attire, and his bevy of fantastically dumb female back-up singers, hits the airwaves five nights out of seven to scream and shout about everything they see as wrong, misguided, dangerous for the country. This ranges, of course, from the ever-present matter of Benghazi to the Affordable Health Care Act to how unfair it would be to tax the very very rich just a tiny little bit more for the sake of the rest of the country.
Fox, unlike other cable networks, is a scatter-shot operation. The more targets they have, the happier they are. That does not, alas, increase accuracy, either in “reporting” or in commentating. That a large portion of what seems to concern them most is imaginary, or if you will, untrue, never stops them. They pile on innuendo and misinformation like a snowball running downhill. And they have their own Old Man of the Mountain, Charles Krauthammer, who sits Buddha-like in his chair and pontificates, or repeats his earlier pontifications from years ago regularly. Krauthammer, who also writes for the Washington Post, is an unforgiving man, sour, without humor. That he should become Fox’s Go-To Man is not surprising. He delivers “gravitas.”
For all of Fox’s quasi-conservative baloney, for fair and balanced news we have Rachel Maddow at MSNBC working the left side of the street. Fox may think all Democrats are unworthy of public office. Ms. Maddow selects her targets with real care. O’Reilly has written, with a co-author, “Killing Jesus,” “Killing Kennedy,” and we’ll know he’s fair and balanced when he gets to “Killing Martin Luther King, Jr.” Maddow has written, on her own, a well-received and thoroughly researched volume on how our country slid into war and cannot slide out again.
But Maddow is a bulldog compared to Fox’s terriers. Fox nips and snaps at all Democrats. Maddow chews her prey thoroughly and destroys them systematically.
Fox doesn’t care who is president as long as he/she is a Republican. Maddow has thrown her entire staff into championing Hillary Clinton. She doesn’t say so, of course. What she does instead is simply bring down any challenger with facts, whistle-blown emails, and a sense of moral righteousness that is undebatable.
Single-handedly, Maddow started to work on Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell well before he was indicted for accepting gifts and money in what may turn out to be a quid pro quo of simple reasoning and simple greed. She dubbed the Governor “Governor Trans-Vaginal,” as he signed an abortion measure from his state house that obligated women wanting abortions to be examined trans-vaginally (i.e., with a physical probe) before continuing to worry about their health or the health of their children-to-be. Miss Maddow believes deeply in the conservative position of keeping the government out of one’s bedroom, not to mention out of one’s womb. When rumors of McDonnell’s ties to a lobbyist surfaced, her entire staff leapt upon the man and for weeks, months chewed him to bits. And when he was finally indicted, she had the good grace not to crow about it.
Why go after a light-weight also-ran like McDonnell who never had a chance of rising to a higher elected position? Because there was the smallest chance he might actually resurrect himself and become a candidate in 2016 who could run against Hillary.
Which idea certainly explains her months’ long tracking of Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who did stand (and may still stand) a chance of becoming the Republican standard-bearer. At the first scent of scandal, Miss Maddow leapt tall buildings in a single bound. Night after night, rather than leading her program with something of national import, international conflict, health breakthroughs or tax irregularities, Maddow lead off with a twenty minute tirade against Christie that seemed as though it would never stop. It hasn’t yet stopped.
But the attention and care she lavished on the foibles of New Jersey’s governor certainly made his case a lot harder for him to defend than it might have been otherwise. If Fox is the network of a thousand cuts, MSNBC has become the network of the broadsword.
It seems clear that any national figure who plans to run against Mrs. Clinton is likely to face the same attention, hysteria, and persistent criticism as McDonnell and Christie. We predict her next target will be Jeb Bush.
The idea of a free press is that the press discovers and reports, and we the reader or listener make up our own minds about whether or not (a) to believe what we hear/read, and (b) whether or not the information imparted is as unbiased as possible.
Since we live in an era of the Big Lie, and Big Money promoting the Big Lie, we have our work cut out for us. Each of us exposed to O’Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh and company, and those of us who watch and listen to Maddow, O’Donnell, Matthews and company – and this doesn’t begin to touch the scope of the Koch brothers’ conservative agenda and fortune – will have to do some heavy thinking between now and November 2016.