…And still, too many journalists, pundits, progressive activists and Democratic leaders chalked this up to John Kerry’s failings as a candidate, or his consultants failings. They blamed the victim (again): Kerry talked too much about his military service, they said: he was asking to be smeared by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. He spoke with too many qualifiers (remember: when Dean was blunt, he was derided as angry and crazy). He flip-flopped too much (Bush’s own flips and flops escaped similar scrutiny).
Those who would apologize for the media’s treatment of Clinton, Gore, Dean, and Kerry — or who somehow fail to recognize it even now — chalk it up to Clinton’s supposed slickness, or Gore’s trouble with the truth, or Dean’s craziness, or Kerry’s liberalism, and on and on and on — somehow failing to recognize that they’re excusing flawed media storylines about these candidates by citing those same flawed storylines. Hopefully hoping for the day when a progressive leader would emerge without these weaknesses.
Enter Democratic Rep. Jack Murtha. Murtha is, by general consensus, a conservative Democrat. A U.S. Marine and a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Ranking member of the Defense Appropriations committee. The kind of politician the media tends to refer to as a "pro-military Democrat" (buying into the ridiculous and offensive right-wing smear that most Democrats are anti-military). A serious, plain-spoken man with an impeccable record of serving his country and a "leading Democratic hawk."
Surely, if Clinton, Gore, Dean, and Kerry faced such abusive media coverage because of there own faults, here was a Democrat who didn’t share those flaws.
Of course, Murtha has been the target of relentless attacks anyway. Bill O’Reilly calls him a coward. (Yes, that Bill O’Reilly.) James Taranto calls him "pro-surrender." The Washington Post dutifully gives prominent coverage to thinly sourced smears of Murtha’s military record (sound familiar?) Chris Matthews lies about Murtha’s proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq as soon as possible. And Fox News gives John O’Neill, who spearheaded the Swifties’ smears of John Kerry, airtime to do the same to Murtha.
Who else? How about Hillary Clinton? Media heavyweights like David Broder and Chris Matthews and Patrick Healy have stopped even pretending that they don’t hold her to a different standard than the one to which they hold Republican candidates….
Oh yeah, liberal media bias…my ass.
Read the whole thing, and tell me you don’t sense a bias in terms of coverage. But it sure as hell isn’t a liberal one. (And someone tell BobbyG to take his blood pressure meds before clicking on the link.) The pieces of this media puzzle fit together in a not-too-attractive pattern. The question is whether we can re-work the pattern into something that is more balanced. And that’s an awfully big question…
For more on the smear tactics of the GOP Wurlitzer, read Jane’s series on how it was done to Jack Murtha — Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. It’s a real-time look at how the smear was rolled out against Rep. Murtha at the time that he made his first statements regarding his doubts about the President’s Iraq policies — to say it is an eye-opener is an enormous understatement. And the fact that this one smear follows the same pattern that Foser outlines in his article for various Democratic candidates and speakers is…erm…quite illuminating.