The press corps won’t tell you the truth: We’ve shared this iron law for years:
The press corps never tells you the truth about the work of the press corps!
Yesterday, in the Outlook section, the Washington Post published a brilliant example of this Hard Pundit Law. In Outlook’s featured front-page piece, Marc Fisher pretended to explain where our campaign controversies come from.
The following passage is jammed with misinformation. Fisher suggested that “the voters” produce our campaign controversies. He then gave two crazy examples:
FISHER (7/22/12): These are not random campaign controversies. Almost without exception, squabbles over a candidate's resistance to release personal documents reflect some essential doubt that voters have about the politician. The clamor for George W. Bush's draft records grew out of questions about whether he was a lazy son of a privileged politician or had the smarts and drive to serve in high office. The long search for documents detailing the Clintons' real estate doings in Arkansas was part of an effort by voters to figure out whether Bill Clinton's bad-boy behavior was limited to his personal urges or had leached into his political dealings.Good God! The press corps never tells you the truth about its own conduct. But that passage is especially rich.
Please! Was “the long search for documents detailing the Clintons' real estate doings” really “part of an effort by voters?” As Gene Lyons and Joe Conason documented in two separate books, that decade-long pseudo-search was an effort by the RNC—an effort which was uncritically adopted by the mainstream press.
By the Washington Post! For years!
Please! That “long search” wasn’t "an effort by voters!" But please remember our iron law: The press corps never tells you the truth about its own conduct and culture.
Second example: Did “the clamor for George W. Bush's draft records” “reflect some essential doubt that voters had” about him? Maybe! Almost inevitably, any such effort will “reflect” some concern on the part of some voters.
But many voters had doubts about Bush’s draft records during Campaign 2000—and there was no clamor about those records during that fateful campaign. In fact, the press corps worked extremely hard to avoid this rather obvious topic, even after obvious problems surfaced in a major Boston Globe news report. (Links below.)
CBS did pursue the topic in 2004—and they managed to bungle it badly. But did this mainly reflect some new concern on the part of the voters? Crackers, please! Even Fisher can’t think that!
Remember what we’ve always told you: The press corps will always attribute its own bungled conduct to somebody else. Sometimes they’ll blame “the late-night comedians.” Sometimes they’ll blame the political parties.
In this case, Fisher says “the voters” are the prime movers of our campaign controversies. How dumb is that claim?
This was the recent example he was trying to explain:
FISHER: For many months, President Obama resisted releasing his birth certificate to prove that he was born in this country. When he finally did so last year, many Americans who had been skeptical of the president's origins had their doubts allayed…Of course, many voters do retain an essential doubt about Obama’s American-ness. But in this case, it’s clear who the prime mover was—the prime mover was Sununu, along with others in Romney’s campaign.
But doubts about Obama's "American-ness" persist. Just this past week, former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, speaking on behalf of Romney on a campaign conference call, said, "I wish this president would learn how to be an American." Sununu later apologized, but his comment was hardly a slip of the tongue: The same day, on Fox News, he said that Obama "has no idea how the American system functions, and we shouldn't be surprised about that because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia."
These are not random campaign controversies. Almost without exception, squabbles over a candidate's resistance to release personal documents reflect some essential doubt that voters have about the politician...
Sununu was trying to keep doubt alive—and it’s clear that Fisher knows this. But so what! In the very next paragraph, Fisher seems to attribute such controversies to “the voters.” In the case of the controversies involved Bush and Clinton, this lets him wipe away the role that was played by the press.
Can we talk? All during the Clinton years, the press corps took a dive for RNC cant concerning those “real estate doings” (and three hundred other topics). In Campaign 2000, the press corps took a dive about Bush’s draft records—even as it pushed two years’ worth of RNC nonsense concerning Candidate Gore.
Fisher doesn’t want to say such things—and so he drags in a helpmate. It was the voters who created these controversies, he says.
It’s an iron law: The press never tells you the truth about the work of the press corps! Fisher’s passage about Clinton and Bush is a rich example of this unyielding fact.
The fight to avoid those draft records: During Campaign 2000, the press corps worked quite hard to avoid the topic of Bush’s draft records. That explains why CBS was still trying to examine the topic in 2004, during Bush’s re-election campaign. Along with everyone else, CBS had ignored this topic during Campaign 2000.
Bush got vetted about the draft records during his re-election campaign! (And even that effort was bungled!) For a four-part report from 2003, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/8/03, with links to prior reports.