It seems fitting to look back on the election from a distance and see someone besides bloggers tell the tale of how the mainstream media completely missed the boat on their Election 2012 reporting. Fortunately, Dan Froomkin has done exactly that.
Sparing no one, Froomkin interviews Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann, personas non grata on Sunday shows since they spoke of Republican lunacy aloud. They call out the ridiculous reporting that passed for election coverage by the mainstream while pretending the emperor had clothes.
But according to longtime political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, campaign coverage in 2012 was a particularly calamitous failure, almost entirely missing the single biggest story of the race: Namely, the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party, both in terms of its agenda and its relationship to the truth.
The 2012 campaign further proved their point, they both said in recent interviews. It also exposed how fabulists and liars can exploit the elite media's fear of being seen as taking sides.
"The mainstream press really has such a difficult time trying to cope with asymmetry between the two parties' agendas and connections to facts and truth," said Mann, who has spent nearly three decades as a congressional scholar at the centrist Brookings Institution.
"I saw some journalists struggling to avoid the trap of balance and I knew they were struggling with it -- and with their editors," said Mann. "But in general, I think overall it was a pretty disappointing performance."
"I can't recall a campaign where I've seen more lying going on -- and it wasn't symmetric," said Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who's been tracking Congress with Mann since 1978. Democrats were hardly innocent, he said, "but it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top."
The indictment is pretty severe:
So, Ornstein concluded: "If you looked at where the scales should have been, and where they were, they were weighted. And they weren't weighted for ideological bias. They were weighted to avoid being charged with ideological bias."
The backlash was even more swift.
"It's awkward. I can no longer be a source in a news story in the Wall Street Journal or the Times or the Post because people now think I've made the case for the Democrats and therefore I'll have to be balanced with a Republican," Mann said.
Neither Mann nor Ornstein have been guests on any of the main Sunday public affairs shows since their book came out. Nor has anyone else on those shows talked about the concerns they raised.
Why am I not surprised? They're right. Let you doubt, have a look at the dive we're all taking into Wonderland this week over Medicare eligibility. What part of winning do Democrats have so much difficulty with?
Here's a perfect example: They won't put Mann and Ornstein on these shows but in one single day they have Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich on? Because they now represent mainstream Republican thought? Not only have they missed the boat, they jumped into the harbor and are swimming away from it.
So I guess we grind on and on and on, waiting for the next act of wingnuttery for the Village to neutralize so we can live forever and ever in ignorant bliss. Or something.
Let me know when you find that liberal media bias, would you?