When I wrote about the establishment media's taint-mongering last week, I never anticipated that the cable news networks would still be on this. Perhaps, I thought to myself, an Iraqi reporter might throw a pair of shoes at the president's head or maybe the American economy would continue to, you know, die. Maybe these or other news items would take over. I figured that after a full week there'd be some other ridiculously egregious media or Republican trespass I could dissect here.
No way. The cable news networks and some of the print guys are still chugging forward like obsessive little engines-that-could -- feigning outrage and flinging Blagojevich taint in the general direction of President-elect Obama while incongruously admitting that the president-elect is innocent of any and all, well, taint.
It's not necessary to spelunk too deeply into the taint sewer in order to collect some of the most ridiculous examples of the press -- the apparently "liberal" and "in the tank for Obama" press, by the way -- attempting to connect Barack Obama with the alleged Blagojevich crimes. MSNBC's Morning Joe crew, for example, might actually be guiltier of dishonestly tainting the president-elect than all of FOX News Channel combined. A feat heretofore considered impossible. Even prior to Joe Scarborough flinging taint at David Axelrod this morning, Matt Yglesias wrote of Scarborough's Morning Zoo and Taintwerks:
The people making the accusations kept acknowledging that they had no evidence. [...] Given that they knew there was no evidence of wrongdoing, they should have ceased implying that there was wrongdoing.
You'd like to think that, wouldn't you? Given the comparative abundance of evidence proving, for instance, how the present-day Bush administration authorized war crimes, it seems to me as though cable news would spend much more time reporting on an item like Vice President Cheney confessing to having greenlit torture -- an item accompanied by actual evidence of wrongdoing. But that would mean cable news was all about serious journalism, as opposed to the aforementioned sophistic taint flinging.
I'd wager that the MZ&T (Morning Zoo and Taintwerks) hasn't filled nearly as much air time discussing Vice President Cheney confessing to war crimes as they have on the president-elect's (completely nonexistent) connection to the Blagojevich scandal. In fact, it's reasonable to observe that if someone were to only watch MSNBC in the morning, they'd never know Cheney was on television this week, much less on television confessing to torture.
But it's this inconsistency that points to the reason why cable news is casuistically mongering the taint. Why, we have to ask, are they doing this?
Large swaths of the establishment press, with several well-known exceptions, of course, were caught sleep-walking through the Bush years in some kind of semi-patriotic Ambien-induced state of torpor. To wit: the vice president essentially confessed to war crimes the other day, and a guy hurled two shoes at the president's smirky dome on Sunday, thus underscoring the staggering failures of the administration's foreign policy, and yet cable news is still talking about Blagojevich's hair brush and his stupid Lycra jogging tights.
Put another way, a physical assault on President Bush failed to knock the taint meme out of the cable news roundelay of hackery.
So recognizing their own less than stellar track record, they're visibly reacting -- knee-jerking and overcompensating, really, to eight years of chronic narcolepsy by grappling onto the first non-scandal scandal of the Obama administration as if to say, See? We're not just a bunch of foppish, preening standees after all! Biggety-bam! Stand back and watch us totally nail this bastard for something he clearly didn't do.
Secondarily, but closely related, is how they're overcompensating for the perception of a pro-Obama media bias -- a bias that apparently doesn't include 24 months of cable news coverage of Rev. Wright, William Ayers, Rezko, Farrakhan, socialism, flag pins, "proud of America," Osama bin Laden mispronunciations, spreading the false Muslim rumors, bitter-gate, bowling, celebrity status, "presumptuous" and on and on -- all incontrovertible evidence of their obvious Obama love, right?
Seriously, none of that matters because TIME's very serious conventional wisdom machine Mark Halperin cherrypicked a misleading Pew poll and declared that the press coverage of the Obama campaign was "the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war."
Since then, it's been all taint all the time. Now this might sound as if I'm making a fallacious post hoc ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this") argument by blaming the cable news taint-mongering on Mark Halperin. Admittedly, I enjoy picking on Halperin and his stupid lists. But he is, after all, the guy whose gig it is to define conventional wisdom for the Washington political press corp. Therefore, it's no surprise to learn from the Politico that...
...NBC Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker said that reporters have not been aggressive enough during Obama's post-election pressers.
"Our job is to hold him to account," Whitaker said, adding that he thinks "we're going to have to get tougher."
A clear reaction -- a mission statement of sorts -- by Whitaker to his colleague's "disgusting bias" finger-wagging.
By the way, when Whitaker said "we're going to have to get tougher," he probably didn't mean "greater in-depth analysis of policy," he probably meant "more taint-mongering." Case in point: last Thursday, Mr. Whitaker said on MSNBC (paraphrasing), "Obama wants to change the tone in Washington? He couldn't even change the tone in Illinois!" In other words, it was Barack Obama's responsibility to thwart all of the political corruption in Illinois, and because he didn't, he's reeking with taint and will absolutely fail to change the tone in Washington.
This is the Washington bureau chief for the so-called "liberal" news outfit. Essentially, Whitaker is the executive who oversees the political content on NBC's air, so it's no wonder why MSNBC daytime has become The Place for Taint.
Yesterday, Newt Gingrich of all people called the phony-baloney linkage between the president-elect and Rod Blagojevich a "destructive distraction." Newt Gingrich said this. When the establishment media has plunged down to depths of intellectual dishonesty that even Newt Gingrich fears to dive, then you know the cable news crazy train has careened way, way off the rails.
Order my new book: One Nation Under Fear, with a foreword by Arianna Huffington. Also available in stores.
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