Monday, May 12, 2008

TV Experts?

An article in the New York Times today, talks about the blurring line between political operatives and TV pundits. It centers on Karl Rove and his new role as an analyst for Fox News. While Democrats will certainly be reticent to accept advice like Obama spending less time on the campaign trail and more in the Senate, the larger question is whether the media in general has allowed partisan interests to move into the ostensibly "objective" world of journalism.

The larger question for this campaign, now that it appears that it is Obama v. McCain, is whether the media will provide equal scrutiny to both candidates or again offer a Republican an easier ride as they clearly did for Bush in both 2000 and 2004. While I don't want to waste time here arguing about the liberal bias of media (see Alterman, Chomsky, FAIR and Pew for evidence of this myth), it appears clear that the media generally likes McCain and that this has allowed him to skate by a number of near pratfalls to date. Going forward, will the media look into the fact that he appears to have broken his own campaign finance reform bill, has a untoward and maybe illegal relationship with an organization he started that appears to work as a non-profit surrogate for his campaigns, might have had an affair with a lobbyist associated with that organization, appears to have a hard time discerning between Shites and Sunnis, admits having limited foreign policy and economic knowledge and appears to have turned his back on his "renegade" past in securing the nomination and his base.

The biggest issue that concerns me is whether the media recognizes that at present McCain appears to be positioning himself as the "Bush Redux" candidate. After eight years of falling standards of living for the average American, shrinking of the Welfare State, regulation and environmental and consumer protection, a failed war in Iraq and the general decline of the U.S. in world opinion and power, one wonders if Americans really want four more years. Do we really want to make tax cuts permanent that will cut $2 trillion out of the federal budget while giving most of the benefits to the wealthiest Americans? Do we really want to stay in Iraq for 100 years? Does his bellicose tone toward Iran really help? Do we really want a president who would rather help investment bankers than Americans losing their homes?

My fear is that the media will follow the patterns of 2000 and 2004 and be much harder on the Democratic candidate than the Republican (see Pew and FAIR for statistical evidence of this). I fear that the fact that they like McCain and are unsure about Obama will color their coverage. I fear that racism and elitism may actually work to undermine Obama's candidacy with whatever absurd attacks the Right decides to employ. Most of all, I fear that the media will make this election into a circus and horse race, forgetting very substantive issues that separate these two candidates: corporate power, economics, the war in Iraq, the future of the supreme court, etc. The blogosphere will certainly push the media, as will organizations like Media Matters and Move On, but the ultimate question is whether the major and cable channels will uphold their position as the fourth estate of government, or again fall prey to ratings wars and infotainment.

It should be exciting to watch; which is one of the major problems!