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Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
As they are wont to do, the Academy eagerly embraced the opportunity to mix business with pleasure last night, voting for Al Gore one more time. Below are my thoughts on the man, his life and his prospects as a presidential candidate (which I am reprising from a post last summer).

Note on the reissue: Back in June, I had not screened
An Inconvenient Truth. I have seen it since. Back then I asked: "Is this Al Gore’s 'Churchillian' moment?" Little did I know, Al had already beaten me to that comparison within the film. One needs to be pretty fast on the draw to beat Al Gore to a favorable point in re Al Gore.

From June 7, 2006:

The Strange Career of Al Gore

John Adams purportedly told his son, JQA, that considering all the blessings and advantages that his family and Providence had bestowed upon the younger Adams, it would be his fault alone, if he did not become president of the United States. Although that statement has always struck me as incredibly harsh, perhaps it is the appropriate key in which to begin a discussion of the political life and times of Albert Gore, Jr.

The Harvard-educated, senator’s son and ambivalent Vietnam veteran sampled divinity school, law school and journalism before he won election to Congress from Tennessee’s fourth district in 1976 and then a senate seat in 1984. He ran for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 1988 and lost. He ran for vice president in 1992 and won. He ran for president in 2000 and lost (although he won the popular vote).

During the 1980s, he absorbed criticism (mostly directed at Tipper) from First Amendment advocates who charged that the Gores favored censorship of recording artists. His 1988 campaign for the Democratic nomination seemed to lack purpose and definitely wanted for charisma.

During his tenure as VP, he acquired a national persona as the wonkish, stiff and boring but loyal Clinton sidekick (although he countered that perception with a humorous, self-deprecating comedy bit). But no matter how hard he tried to blend his Southern Evangelical Populist lineage with his Washington-insider and Eastern-educated acculturation, the public never embraced him as much more than a parody of himself. Even the “liberal” media seemed reluctant to give him a fair shake (regularly laughing at him—and only occasionally with him).

In 2000, he ran for a Clinton-Gore “third term” and failed. He came close (only losing by 537 votes in Florida and one vote in the United States Supreme Court); but, nevertheless, he lost, squandering a good political hand.

Then, Gore seemed to slip off the face of the earth during the first few months of the Bush administration and, especially, after 911. He grew a beard. He grew fleshy. He seemed completely dislocated from politics and reality. Even Democrats seemed relieved that he was not president during the unexpectedly pivotal period in American history.

But, just as suddenly, Al Gore is back.

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Farmer, once more I am the cynical one, I guess. I think you are too easy on the MSM. You and I do indeed have our points of view, but we are careful not to corrupt basic facts of the matter when we write. The MSM seem under no such compunction: from the Rathergate memo to the way the recent intel report was handled. It seems to me that the MSM have particular directions they wish to see the country take, and write accordingly. I think some of them even are aware of it, but think they are writing for the "greater good" or perhaps "the bigger truth." (see Duranty at the NYT) Check out this post with links from the John Locke Foundation. I have difficulty understanding this behavior with your "Friendly v Unfriendly" paradigm. If they were interested in reporting fairly, the corrections on the Intel story would also have been front-page.

To the above, I must add a level of ignorance that seems to me culpable. For example, it is now over 5 years since 9/11. Most reporting on Islam, however, betrays a lack of serious study of the history and beliefs of that religion, especially Islam's relations with other religions and cultures over its history. At its best, this is laziness, at its worst, it is frivolity. Either term fits the definition of the classic deadly sin sloth.

I refer you to this post on Jihadwatch on the media's inability or unwillingness to ask hard questions of Muslim spokesmen. Here is a portion of the post "Falsifying history as a debating tool."

Both Hugh Fitzgerald and I have written about Islamic apologist and media darling Reza Aslan, noting some of his innumerable distortions -- for one, he calls Muhammad’s community in Medina “a communal, egalitarian society dedicated to pluralism and tolerance.” Sure it was -- with the women veiled and the three Jewish tribes ultimately exiled or massacred by the prophet of Islam. Other than that, it was very pluralistic and egalitarian.
. . .
Here is another example: in ‘Reza Aslan’s Pogrom Amnesia,’ the ever-insightful Ilana Mercer has posted a link to a post by Myles Kantor about a debate between atheist crusader Sam Harris and Aslan. In that debate, Aslan again uses whitewashed history as a debating tool:

About Reza Aslan, the darling of the media on all things Muslim, Myles Kantor observes the following:
“Last night I watched Sam Harris and Reza Aslan’s January 25 debate on religion at the Los Angeles Public Library. Toward the end, Harris noted the anti-Semitic character of the Middle East before the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Aslan responded in reference to pre-state Israel, ‘Before 1948, of course, there were tens of thousands of Jews living alongside their Arab neighbors without any problem at all.’

Without any problem at all? How about the Jerusalem pogrom in 1920 and the Jaffa pogrom in 1921? Or Arab massacres of Jews in Hebron and Safad in 1929? Or the Tiberias pogrom in 1938? (There was a reason the Sephardic Jewish sage Maimonides wrote in 1172 regarding Arabs, ‘Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they.’)

Perhaps ignorance of Islamic history is too kind an analysis. MSM reporters regularly are deferential to Islamic spokesmen. For once I would like to see the same adversarial attitude shown in White House Press Conferences applied here.
The Okie Gardener is onto something when he calls the coverage of Hillary "friendly" (see his post here). Friendly is a moderate and appropriate characterization. Democratic candidates generally get a lot of friendly coverage in the MSM.

My long held thesis:

No rational observer can deny a liberal bias in the mainstream media (MSM). On the other hand, bias should not be confused with orchestrated advocacy. CBS News and the DNC are not in cahoots. The MSM bias for liberal candidates and causes is real; it is systemic and institutional, but it is not concerted.

For example, this blog has a rightwing bias, but that does not mean we consciously lie, dissemble, or distort the facts to make our points. Moreover, we do not get talking points and/or marching orders from the RNC. We are completely independent agents attempting to come to terms with the issues of the day in an honest way, filtering the world through the lenses of our experience and individual moral compasses. The big difference between us and them is that we are generally more honest about what we are doing.

Back to understanding the Beltway media: It is important to note that political agenda is not the only factor in play within the MSM. As I have said previously: The MSM's cynicism acting in conjunction with its other biases for conflict and sensationalism are also essential in explaining its political coverage.

For example, the Clinton scandals received plenty of attention--much of it quite negative and judgmental, especially in the beginning. However, eventually, the political battle lines overwhelmed the initial shock and disgust registered by the MSM, and, in the end, the stories conformed to the standard pro-Clinton and anti-Republican template.

For more on this see these previous posts: a general overview of the landscape (here) and a defense of Fox (here).

Some more recent cases in point:

Consider the current unfriendly MSM coverage of the Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell, which has contributed to the impression that the GOP is unwilling to debate the war in Iraq. A more sophisticated, more accurate, and less unfriendly storyline would depict McConnell as, at the very least, clever, good-natured, and well within his rights. Genuinely (perhaps excessively) friendly coverage would show him as a new master of the Senate and celebrate his exceptional parliamentary stratagem (as I did here a few days ago). One wonders: if Nancy Pelosi had executed an equally brilliant maneuver on her side of Capitol Hill, how would the MSM have chosen to characterize her coup.

Consider and compare the firestorm and coverage concerning George Allen with the more recent Joe Biden imbroglio. The divergence seems disproportionate well beyond the significant differences in tone, intent, and language within the individual cases. Who can deny that the Washington Post was merciless in their desire to dislodge Allen from his Senate seat?

Consider the case of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. If Scooter Libby is not guilty as sin, the MSM has done us a great disservice.

An aside: I have no sympathy for public officials who lie to grand juries. If Libby lied, regardless of the rationales or extenuating circumstances, justice will be served with his conviction for that offense.

I try not to get all my information about anything from NPR, but it just so happens that most of the trial coverage I have heard on this case comes from Nina Totenberg. From what I have gleaned from that particular source, I am fully expecting the Libby side to either flee the country over the weekend or throw themselves on the mercy of the court when they are asked to present their case on Monday.

I wonder if there is another side of the story.

On the other hand, perhaps we worry too much about this. That is, I would wager today that more Americans are experts on the life and death of Anna Nicole Smith than the combined total number of citizens who have ever heard of Mitch McConnell, Joe Biden, or Scooter Libby.