Bush/Gore Part II? The Media’s Familiar, Dangerous Bias

In today’s New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman published the column all of us in the media should have written months ago.
Source: flickr.com
Source: flickr.com

I admit it. I’m jealous. In today’s New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman published the column all of us in the media should have written months ago, Hillary Clinton Gets Gored. At the surface, the Op-Ed mainstay draws comparison between journalism’s disparate treatment of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, reminiscent of the schism between Bush and Gore in 2000. However he accuses the media of more than derelict laziness. To wit:

“Throughout the campaign most media coverage gave the impression that Mr. Bush was a bluff, straightforward guy, while portraying Al Gore — whose policy proposals added up, and whose critiques of the Bush plan were completely accurate — as slippery and dishonest. Mr. Gore’s mendacity was supposedly demonstrated by trivial anecdotes, none significant, some of them simply false…And right now I and many others have the sick, sinking feeling that it’s happening again.”

Yes. Krugman perfectly articulates the stifled rage of many politically engaged with an analogy that also underscores the raised stakes. It’s almost hard to believe that America faces a situation direr than the choice between the semi-bland but competent Gore (who must realize that running from Bill Clinton’s record was a huge error), and the leader who would take us falsely into Iraq while busting the deficit with unprecedented tax cuts.

But let’s remember that George W. Bush actually wanted comprehensive immigration reform. Donald Trump, per his speech in Phoenix last week Wednesday, believes “It’s our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish and love us.” This guy is a hair away from preaching eugenics yet somehow continues to be taken seriously as a candidate for Leader of the Free World. As Krugman observes:

“It’s hard to escape the impression that he’s being graded on a curve. If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential. If he seems to suggest that he wouldn’t round up all 11 million undocumented immigrants right away, he’s moving into the mainstream.”

How else to explain the farce of last week’s coverage of Trump’s trip to Mexico, mere hours before his Arizona hate speech? Nina Mast and Craig Harrington of Media Matters provide a great summary of the journalistic buffoonery with Media Figures Praise Optics Of Trump’s Mexico Visit, Ignoring Trump Campaign’s Bigotry Toward Mexicans. What does it say about this crowd’s suspension of disbelief that they didn’t see his inevitable reassertion of alt-right ideology coming? Yes dummies, on the very same day.

President Nieto sent out a tweet that Trump didn’t like. And the unrestrained bully can’t let those go. He’s psychologically incapable, even when the perceived adversary’s only crime is insisting his country won’t foot the bill for a wall they don’t need. There are already More Mexicans Leaving Than Coming to the U.S. The media (with notable exceptions like Krugman) lets him get away with it all in service of clicks and ratings.

Back to Hillary Clinton and the continuous electoral coverage malfeasance. Because Donald receives far more attention than he deserves every day. Paul Krugman really nails the problem with a plea to his colleagues:

“I would urge journalists to ask whether they are reporting facts or simply engaging in innuendo, and urge the public to read with a critical eye. If reports about a candidate talk about how something ‘raises questions,’ creates ‘shadows,’ or anything similar, be aware that these are all too often weasel words used to create the impression of wrongdoing out of thin air… The contrast between Mr. Trump’s policy incoherence and Mrs. Clinton’s carefulness speaks volumes today.”

At least it should. As one-time Clinton opponent Bernie Sanders said on yesterday’s edition of Meet the Press, “Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is going to become president of the United States. And there is no question to my mind that Hillary Clinton is far, far, far and away the superior candidate.”

What else is there? It’s not partisan to report facts. One of our two candidates for president is a dangerous, thin-skinned, racist crazy person. The other is not. Members of the media: do your job.

Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885, as well as Recording Secretary for the National Federation of Press Women. She is a national award-winning journalist, blogger, newsletter editor and theater critic. Becky lives in Chicago with her partner Bob and their menagerie of pets. Keep up with her at beckysarwate.com.
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