Dan Froomkin explains:How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign
|Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, photo by Kevin Featherly|
Post-mortems of contemporary election coverage typically include regrets about horserace journalism, he-said-she-said stenography, and the lack of enlightening stories about the issues.So why does the media do this? The editors are terrified of being labeled as biased. Of course as a result their reporting becomes biased when they ignore the outright lies and detachment from reality of the Republicans.
But according to longtime political observersThomas 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.
Mann and Ornstein are two longtime centrist Washington fixtures who earlier this year dramatically rejected the strictures of false equivalency that bind so much of the capital's media elite and publicly concluded that GOP leaders have become "ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."
"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."Democracy is in trouble when the press is unable to do it's job of informing the electorate. The broken media is a greater threat to this country than al-Qaeda.
Lies from Republicans generally and standardbearer Mitt Romney in particular weren't limited to the occasional TV ads, either; the party's most central campaign principles -- that federal spending doesn't create jobs, that reducing taxes on the rich could create jobs and lower the deficit -- willfully disregarded the truth.
"It's the great unreported big story of American politics," Ornstein said.