Clearly the number one issue of this election is the War on Terror and whether, by our votes, we decide to fight it to win by electing George Bush, or to settle for a standoff by choosing John Kerry. But another, almost equally important issue is whether the American people will choose their president, or will journalism’s elites do it for us. Naively, I suppose, I continue to be amazed at the lengths to which the mainstream media have gone in the promotion the Kerry candidacy. I shouldn't be. We are witnessing a power struggle, in which the left, entrenched in old media journalism, are pitted against the right who've found their outlet in the new media of talk radio and the blogosphere.
For decades the leftward drifting mainstream press and news broadcasters have acted as a behind the scenes branch of government. By setting the public opinion agenda they have all but dictated which of our candidates are worthy of consideration. But the gradual emergence of the Republican majority is symptomatic of the decline in old media influence, brought about first by cable news, then talk radio, and more lately by the bloggers.
Historically, the power of old media has been the power to withhold information. Take the example of Walter Duranty, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times, who managed to ignore the deaths of millions of Ukrainians, who starved under a Stalin imposed Soviet famine. Because of Duranty's infatuation with communism, most Americans never knew it happened.
But the power to withhold has diminished. Deregulation of the airwaves opened up talk radio, then internet technology took off and a flood of information was released. Millions are aware of things that old media wishes they weren't. For example, in an ongoing effort to portray Iraq as a quagmire, old media reported that, Paul Bremer scurried out of Iraq without so much as a goodbye after the handover of power in June. To their misfortune and chagrin Ali at Iraq the Model described local reaction to Bremer’s nationally broadcast speech to the Iraqi people, given just before he left. Corrections were issued.
It just hasn't been working lately. There has been an onslaught of accusations and manufactured scandals. First, Joe Wilson vacationed in Niger and returned to dispute the infamous 16 word in the State of the Union. Then Paul O'Neil came out with his charge that the invasion of Iraq was planned before 9/11. Richard Clarke followed with his breathless tales of an inattentive Bush Administration, who dropped the ball on the problem of global terror. But O'Neil's evidence turned out to be about war games, and Clarke was found to have contradicted himself in one of his earlier versions of events leading up to 9/11.
Non-conforming stories won't just go away any more, so the press has taken to fabricating their own news stories in support of the liberal orthodoxy. Dan Rather is the poster boy for the old media. With the full weight of the CBS organization behind him, he resorted to forgery to promote his political agenda with the Texas Air National Guard memoes purported to show favoritism enjoyed by Lt. Bush, but the forgeries were discovered. The missing explosives from al Qaqaa turned out to have been gone before U.S. troops arrived. And so Bush remains in front in the polls as we get down to the election.
Kerry is the champion of old media. Perhaps champion is a bit strong. But for the mainstream press, John Kerry represents the ideal candidate. With no convictions beyond self promotion, Kerry is imprintable. Like a duckling that emerges from its shell and automatically follows the first thing moves through its field of vision, Kerry will automatically follow cues from the mainstream press. In their concept of a perfect world, old media will present a pet issue in proper liberal light, and Kerry will seize upon it, firm in the conviction that by following the press lead on it, Kerry will advance Kerry. In their perfect world, old media will once again set the political course, and all will be well.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, Kerry has turned out to be the most pathetic of candidates, and John Edwards his running mate is his ideal match. They offer nothing. They have no vision. Old media's empty accusations of administration corruption and incompetence appeared in their field of vision, and they've dutifully waddled along behind and made them their issues. In doing so they've succeeded in turning the spotlight onto their own dishonest campaign and the complete absence of any record of accomplishments of their own. There is no chance that these ugly ducklings will turn into swans. Kerry and Edwards would be even more pathetic as president and vice president than they've been as candidates. I urge everyone who stops by to read these pages to vote for George Bush.