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From Jay Winik, "The Day Lincoln Was Shot," in I Wish I'd Been There, Byron Hollingshead, ed:

"Throughout his wartorn years, Abraham Lincoln had been pilloried by his critics as a duffer, mocked as poor white trash, criticized for ignorance of everything but Illinois politics. And as he steered the Union around one obstacle after another, eduring generals who wouldn't fight and Northerners deeply opposed to the niggers, Lincoln was often criticized by the press (there is a cowardly imbecile at the head of the government), scorned by Washington society, branded a dictator, and even defied by his own military men. If that weren't bad enough, he had to repeatedly weather a storm of antiwar protest arrayed against him--that is, when he wasn't being accused of shredding the Constitution."

George Bush is no Abe Lincoln. He is no Harry Truman. But he is president of the United States during a time of war; it is a tough job.

Press on, Mr. President. God bless you and God bless the United States of America.
Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
What would happen if the President held a press conference (which, by the way, are becoming more and more regular), and he repeatedly spoke of working with the new Congress, agreed in principle to an increase in the minimum wage, admitted that his Iraq policy was not successful and committed to changing tactics through a calm and studied process?

Would the headlines read?

Bush Extends Hand Across the Aisle to Democrats in Congress.

Bush Admits Mistakes in Iraq, Listening to All Voices in Attempt to Craft Successful Policy.

Citing Strong Economy, President Agrees to Minimum Wage Increase and Commits to Tax Policy to Promote Continued Growth.

Or how about this one?

President Bush Stalwart on Iraq Despite Setbacks.

Well, he did give a press conference (transcript here) in which he did all of the things cited above. And here are the real headlines:

Washington Post: President Confronts Dissent on Troop Levels: Bush Indicates Military Won't Dictate Numbers; Top General to Retire.

Time Magazine: Bush and the Generals: A Growing Split?: In his press conference, the President said he would "listen" to his commanders. But they're starting to talk back on Iraq.

Columnist Margaret Carlson for Bloomberg News: US Losing Sleep Over Aimless Bush.

Actually, two national newspapers not known for objectivity when it comes to George Bush actually did very well in capturing the import of the moment:

LA Times: Bush acknowledges 'difficult year' in Iraq: President acknowledges sectarian violence but says victory is possible.

NYT: Bush Says Victory in Iraq Is Still Possible.

Note on NYT: the above headline and story have disappeared. The front page video story as of now: General [John Abizaid] Opposes Adding to Forces (which conforms better to the storyline of the day). Although a complete viewing of the Abizaid video yields the commanding general much more in agreement with the President's goals than the headline would suggest.

Category: Media and Politics
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
My favorite new show of the season is Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It is crisp, rich, clever, and smart. Aaron Sorkin is a brilliant writer and producer who always tells compelling stories and presents multi-dimensional magnetic characters.

However, Sorkin is an artist with a political edge. In the midst of his artistry is always the message. Message is okay. Art is the product of creative people communicating messages to wider audiences. But sometimes the message overpowers the art.

My beef with Sorkin in the past has been that he perverts the facts to make a better case for his political points. For example, in aid of his mission to defend Bill Clinton, he and Rob Reiner made a movie entitled The American President. Incensed that mean-spirited Republicans criticized President Clinton's sex-life as a way to attack his politics, Sorkin created a fictional Democratic president, Andrew Shepherd, a widowed dad morally upright in every way. President Shepherd falls in love with a beautiful idealistic liberal lobbyist. When they start dating, the despicable Republicans pounce on them for having sex out of wedlock and other harmless revelations from her distant past. Oooooohhhhhh! Why are Republicans so mean?

My objection then: if you are going to defend Bill Clinton, then do it honestly. Make the fictional President a philanderer. Figure out how to make the betrayed wife unsympathetic and the tryst with the intern in the Oval Office an honorable encounter.

I stayed away from the West Wing (aka the Left Wing) for similar qualms.

But Studio 60 has been surprisingly subtle in the message department thus far and pleasantly packed full of great entertainment. But then tonight happened. Sorkin created a ridiculous storyline to shame the FCC for their crackdown on profane speech. Instead of featuring a rock star who shouts the f-word on live TV or two rock stars who stage a sexual assault during the halftime show at the Super Bowl, Sorkin created an incident in which a soldier in Afghanistan under attack ejaculates the f-word on a live news broadcast. The reaction of the FCC? A heartless multi-million dollar fine and the threat of extinction.

Oooooohhhhhh! Why are Republicans so mean?
As part of the discussion following my post, "What Liberal Bias?" Gossenius and I went back and forth over my classification of Fox News.

Gossenius argued that Fox News more logically should be classified with the MSM:

"My biggest disagreement with your list is in not putting Fox News in with the mainstream media-- they are simply a different infection of the same illness for which people berate those others. If conservatives choose to critique mainstream media as biased, why not include Fox in that critique?"

Gossenius asks a fair question. Why can't conservatives admit that Fox News is merely the flip side of the MSM coin (conservative-leaning versus liberal-leaning)?

In large part, I agree with the heart of his analysis.

It is similar to the point Joab made a few days ago:

"I stopped listening to Rush long ago as he is, IMHO, a Republican partisan hack. And as for Fox News, they are no more biased to the right than CNN, MSNBC and the 3 major networks are to the left."

So, why I am so stubborn in arguing the point with Gossenius?

The Fox corporate ethos is significantly different from the MSM culture. Here are the key distinctions:

1. Fox is an upstart swimming against the "mainstream." No instructive analysis can ignore the fact that Fox came into being (and succeeded grandly) as a counter balance to the MSM. Fox filled a vacuum.

2. Fox is not under the delusion of "objectivity." The liberal MSM labors under the self-serving certainty that they are reporting the news of the day in an objective way.

An aside: it does not really matter how genuine MSM reporters may be in their faith; for what it is worth, I think they are quite sincere (albeit self-deceived).

Has anyone ever seen this exchange on C-SPAN? A caller presses an MSM reporter to reveal his political affiliation; the reporter responds that his political affiliation is irrelevant. Pressed further, the reporter tells the caller that he is registered as an independent. Later, he will point desperately to the occasional left-wing wacko who accuses the MSM of a corporate bias and tell you that he gets hit from all sides.

Even as a study in the late-1990s showed that over 90-percent of "Beltway" reporters voted for Bill Clinton in 1996, MSM reporters continued to argue that their personal politics did not impinge on their ability to report the news in a detached manner.

As I asserted in the comments section of the first post:

the storied Fox News slogan, "fair and balanced," was partly a parody of the MSM tortured self-perception.

What do I mean by that?

Most of the Fox pioneers were veteran reporters and producers from the MSM (think Britt Hume formerly of ABC News). They had toiled in the fields of their oppressors for years. When they broke free and raised their own flag, they signaled their independence and defiance with a series of slogans like "We Report, You Decide" and "Fair and Balanced."

Moreover, they knew well that the competition would see Fox as conservatives reporting the news through a lens of conservatism. But they also knew that their liberal counterparts would not see Fox as their mirror image; the established media would continue to see themselves as faithful adherents to the sacred calling of objectivity; they would see Fox News as unwashed infidels desecrating the holy temple of objective journalism.

The Fox News brain trust fully expected that their conservative cable news network would make the MSM apoplectic. Pretty funny really. I bet Roger Ailes still gets a chuckle when someone like Keith Olberman, frothing, breaks a big story uncovering Republican bias at Fox News. It is a great joke that continues to pay great dividends.

By the way, I suggest that Fox News gladly would accept a statement from the MSM that read: "we charge Fox with being just as biased as we are!"

As for Gossenius's worry that the Fox viewers are not "in on the joke," he probably does not give the Fox regulars enough credit; they are not being misled. Most of them merely wanted a network to read the news in a way that did not make them feel stupid or evil for seeing the world the way they saw it. They are grateful.

I am glad that Fox News exists as a voice to speak "truth" to the power of the MSM.

For personal disclosures in re my viewing habits:

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