ALAN SIMPSON ON THE "LIBERAL" MEDIA. Here at Media Log Central these days, it's all Clinton, all the time. Day and night, we slog through My Life, a project that's taking almost as long as it did for him to live it, never mind write it. Is it "eye-crossingly dull"? At times.
But I love a critique offered by former Republican senator Alan Simpson, of Wyoming, about the so-called liberal media. It appears on pages 692-693, and I quote Clinton at some length:
Simpson laughed at how willing the "elitist" press was to swallow anything negative about small, rural places like Wyoming or Arkansas and made an interesting observation: "You know, before you were elected, we Republicans believed the press was liberal. Now we have a more sophisticated view. They are liberal in a way. Most of them voted for you, but they think more like your right-wing critics do, and that's much more important." When I asked him to explain, he said, "Democrats like you ... get into government to help people. The right-wing extremists don't think government can do much to improve on human nature, but they do like power. So does the press. And since you're President, they both get power the same way, by hurting you."
Liberal in a way. That sums up what I've been saying about allegations of liberal media bias for years. There are critics who deny there is any liberal bias on the part of the media, or that if there was, it has long since burned itself out. In fact, there is a liberal bias on certain cultural issues - abortion rights, gay issues, and the social agenda in general.
But the media are moderate to conservative on economics (when was the last time you saw a positive story about organized labor anywhere except in the Nation?) and agnostic on foreign policy (if George W. Bush's Iraq misadventure had been an unqualified success, the media would be hailing him as a new Caesar).
Perhaps most important, journalists counter the accusation that they are liberal by going after liberal and/or Democratic politicians like crazed weasels. Just look at what they did to Clinton. And Al Gore.
Those distinctions are important to keep in mind as the 2004 presidential campaign moves ahead. The media should be tough on John Kerry - and Bush. But their coverage of the Gore campaign four years ago amounted to a wilding. That can't happen again.
LITTLE PEOPLE MAKES THE CONNECTION. Tune in this Thursday at 11 a.m., when I'll be a guest on The Connection, on WBUR Radio (90.9 FM), talking about Little People: Learning to See the World Through My Daughter's Eyes.