Sunday, February 24, 2008

Note to the Media: It's the Republicans, Not "Washington", that Screwed Up America

In his book, The Big Con, Jonathon Chait talks about how the media tries to put a bi-partisan spin on its criticism of politicians, even when the problem that is being discussed is really being caused by just one political party. He points out that this form of journalism favors Republicans because it gives the impression that both parties are equally to blame for the partisan bitterness in Washington. He points out that studies show that the Republican Party has moved much further to the right over the last three decades than the Democratic Party has moved to the left, yet the media often gives the impression that the Democratic Party is as liberal as the Republican Party is conservative.

An example of this tendency is seen in this Febraury 24, 2008 column on crime by David Broder of the Washington Post. He points out that Americans are far more worried about crime than international terrorism, yet most political candidates aren't talking about crime. He then goes on to make the following observation about Federal funding of anti-crime programs:

...The bad news comes from Washington. For exactly a century, since Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation creating what is now the FBI, the federal government has recognized its stake in fighting crime. In the 1990s, with the controversial passage of the Omnibus Crime Act, it pumped billions into hiring, equipping and training police; building prisons; and stiffening sentences. Between 1994, the year that law passed, and 2001, violent crime declined 26 percent and the murder rate fell 34 percent.

But in this decade, Washington has gone into reverse. The report notes that "the Bush administration has cut the major Department of Justice programs by 56 percent from fiscal 2001 to the present." One result is an actual decline in the number of local law enforcement personnel.

Let's see, which political party was in control of the presidency in the late 1990s? That would have been the Democratic Party. Which political party controlled all three branches of government from 1/20/2001 to 1/1/2007? That would be the Republican Party. Yet, while Broder is willing to put responsibility on the Bush Admnistration, he doesn't point out the obvious, which is that the Republican Party, not "Washington", is to blame for the cutbacks in Federal funding for Justice Department programs.

Part of this is the result of the fact that American reporters pride themselves on being "objective". This means that they will strive to be "even-handed" in their reporting even when the facts don't really back up such an approach. Another problem, though, is that too many of them refuse to admit how much the Republicans want to cut back the power of the Federal Government.

Bill Clinton suppsedly told his staff after the Republicans took over Congress in the 1994 mid-term elections that every American election is a debate over the role of government. The Republicans in Washington have one vision of the proper role of government, Democrats have another. Reporters need to acknowledge such differences so that Americans can decide what political party they want controlling government.

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