In the aftermath of the Michigan primary, where two of the top three Democratic nominees weren't on the ballot, where the State Democratic Party played "chicken" with the National Democratic Party and lost, where for the first time in any primary Hillary Clinton received more votes than the other Dem candidates combined (including the "uncommitted" group), where Mitt Romney insured his run all the way to the convention with maybe as many delegates as anyone else even if he wins no more primaries, and where the Giuliani 50-state strategy featuring two states (Florida and New York) may have been doomed to failure, there's still some unfinished business left over from New Hampshire that we need to address.
And now that the racial tensions within the Democratic Party have cooled down a bit, and notice I said racial tensions within the Democratic Party -- (wait until we get to the general election -- ominous sign for Senator Obama and further confirmation of my position that while I love Barack Obama and what he represents, Hillary Clinton is the Democrats' best chance to actually win in November) -- I think we can focus on the issues I have with the media as an institution and as a collective assemblage of individuals and personalities.
After the New Hampshire primary, the media spent a great deal of time analyzing the unpredicted and surprising comeback victory of Hillary Clinton. Indeed, in retrospect, that victory will be seen as even more important than realized as the day of the primary, some pundits were confidently analyzing what the role of Jesse Jackson would be in the seemingly certain to be Obama administration.
But in the aftermath of all the second guessing, mea culpas and commentary, it was apparent to me that there were two areas where the media and its collective group of individual personalities either missed some salient points or deliberately overlooked them.
First, in the post-primary universal acknowledgment of the fact that Hillary had been "savaged" by the media and the press, no one really touched on why she was savaged, criticized and basically attacked by the media to a far greater extent than any other candidate on either side, Democrat or Republican. The fact is, there was almost an implicit "license to kill" that was issued to everyone in the media with no review, monitoring or renewal requirements. It was open-ended and unlimited in scope. And the reason this activity was allowed to go on essentially without interruption or question before the voters spoke was because there were no recriminations or penalties to be incurred by anyone who engaged in this activity, regardless of how tasteless, unfair or unsubstantiated the actual activity might be.
The media would not have dared to attack or personally go after Barack Obama in the same manner for fear that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and every black leader in America, regardless of who they were supporting, would have come down so hard on the media and individuals in the media that not only would the activity not continued, but individuals singled out in the media as being primarily responsible for engaging in the conduct would have been in jeopardy of losing their jobs.
And on the other side, the media would not have dared to attack or personally go after any of the conservative Republican candidates in the same manner for fear that Fox News and the conservative-based "right" leaning radio talk show circuit would be equally as ferocious in counterattacking the media for what they perceived as "unfair liberal bias" in the portrayals of the conservative candidates.
But with Hillary, everybody felt that they could just unleash any level of attack, venom, and criticism because no one was going to stand up for her since she was a symbol so established in controversy that it would be okay AND, attacking Hillary so viciously gave the general media a cover because they could then say "see, we're not biased in favor of liberals or the Clintons". I would suggest the media might consider a bias in favor of fairness and objectivity as a change of pace that might also be an option the general citizenry might accept as well.
But the enthusiasm and literal glee with which the media went after Hillary Clinton aroused a new policeman on the block designed to restore fairness -- the voters themselves. And the voters, the new policeman on the block, rode in on the night of the primary, handcuffed the media, read them the riot act, and then proceeded to put them on probation and an extended community service sentence. And even opponents of Hillary Clinton were thankful for this new late entry of recrimination and accountability for the unbalanced unleashed forces of anti-Hillarism that had raged unchecked throughout the land for weeks on end.
And finally, perhaps what both amused me and angered me at the same time more than anything else was the post-primary coverage of the media's anti-Hillary savaging by the media itself. Did you notice how everyone, the major pundits, anchors and commentators were rushing to the microphone to explain that part of the explanation for Hillary's surprising comeback win was "resentment over the media bashing" of her that had taken place. And I'm sitting there listening to so many of them say this, and my response was "and you were one of the worse ones responsible for it"-- are you kidding me!
The media is not a building, or a book, or a statue that one can hide behind, refer to as a separate entity, or use as a convenient scapegoat when things go wrong. The media is indeed the collective assemblage of the individuals and personalities that present the news and coverage of the issues of the day to the American people.
If just one of the anchors, pundits and commentators had also added -- "and I must take some personal responsibility for perhaps going too far in criticism of Hillary", that would have gone a long way to really convincing the voters of the sincerity of the post-analysis "mea culpa" on the part of the media, and in so doing, would have gone a long way to generating a sincere acceptance of the apology by the voters themselves, even those whose choice for president is someone else. The community service part of the sentence has already started. Let's see how they do from now on!
Carl Jeffers is a Seattle-and-Los Angeles based columnist, political analyst and lecturer. He hosts a KIRO-AM talk show program, ON FIRE with Carl Jeffers, and he is a guest host for Clear Channel Radio and Air America Radio as well. Carl Jeffers is a political commentator for the Radio One Network and the KCBI network in Dallas, TX. Jeffers is a national TV political commentator and is also an editorial contributor to The Seattle Times. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org