The “Liberal Media” Not Liberal Enough?

At Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald highlights a very interesting excerpt from Scott McClellan new book:

“If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. . . . In this case, the “liberal media” didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

I don’t think this has anything to do with a liberal bias and I don’t really care to rehash whether or not the media sources in this country are too liberal or conservative. This isn’t about a liberal/conservative distinction as much as it’s a distinction between courageous and cowardly journalism. By and large, the mainstream journalists covering the White House have not showed a willingness to unite and challenge the propaganda of this administration. Instead, they’ve backed down in order to preserve their access in order to better their individual careers. What we need is a united press corps that can put aside their individual interests.

This is also an issue of what we as a country expect from our leaders. Simply put, our journalists covering the White House have very little access to those who are shaping policy. George Bush has held the fewest unscripted press conferences than any other president in recent memory and somehow that’s not a big deal to the American people. We simply don’t expect that he be put to the test, that his policies be challenged by either journalists or his political opposition.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time traveling in the UK. Oddly enough, one of my favorite things I like about being there is to watch the epic debates in the House of Commons. Considering how little we expect of our President in the way of defending his policies, the contrast with how the UK challenges their Prime Minister is staggering. Imagine Bush having to go before the our elected leaders in Congress and have to debate his policies without a script or a prompter. He would simply be shredded. That would simply be expecting too much of our President. Imagine Bush having to contend with the opposition that British Prime Minister’s deal with on a regular basis. Imagine him doing this:

Maybe if we actually required this kind of debate between those leading our country, the standard of what is required to be a leader would be raised. So maybe the journalists are giving our leaders a pass, but so is our entire political system. Transparency is not protected and that gives way to bad policies and dishonest propaganda.

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8 thoughts on “The “Liberal Media” Not Liberal Enough?

  1. agreed.

    i would say the overall theme of the bush administration has been a lack of leadership.

    that house of commons video is intense. i want a prime minister.

  2. i don’t really know if the fact that the white house press corps don’t have a collective backbone is an issue that is relavent to the bush administration. it seems that the white house press corps was lobbing softballs long before w. came along.

    however, i do think that problem has been pushed to the forefront much more so thanks to the way the bush administration handles them.

  3. sean, i understand the point you make here. it’s true that it’s been this way for previous administrations. it’s just unfortunate that the Bush/Rove team took advantage of this weakness to such a degree that it’s difficult to compare to previous administrations. The disasters that have resulted from their misguided policies, foreign and domestic, have been unmatched.

  4. Obviously our politics is still full of lies and such, but I believe it is in part the level of debate we have that leads to such moderate mainstream politics in the UK. If you come along and make outrageous statements (e.g. Cheney’s double standards on gay marriage) you will be torn to shreds.

    And as you pointed out it leads to more adept public speakers (or rather debaters) in general. Brown will not win an election because he doesn’t have what Blair does. Blair was/is a phenomenal politician.

  5. Well Blair was not a messiah I think he had a certain humanity that W. does not. This enabled him to better deal with the public. No political system is infallible believe me I have lived under democracy and communism in China, there are some obvious and less than obvious similarities. The best thing we can do is to use our right to voice our opinions through voting, it’s the only responsible way we can make a change.

  6. thanks for the comments everyone. emmy, while voting is certainly a very crucial avenue for us to enact change, the most profound changes have been spurred by actions outside the voter’s booth. Movements led or triggered by leaders such as Martin Luther King, Ghandi, William Wilberforce, Nelson Mandela come to mind. Before we can come to a point where we can vote for change, the need for that change needs to be illuminated by those willing to risk it all. so to say that voting is the only responsible way we can make change doesn’t quite work for me. voting allows for a change to be made permanent, which is a great thing, but without those crying out for that change, that vote wouldn’t exist.

  7. I apologize it did sound like I was saying that voting is the only solution. I did not mean that voting was the only means to right the injustices of this administration I only meant to express that to fail to vote would be a great error. Thank you for pointing out my lack of clarity.

  8. I stumbled onto a UK debate like this once recently on CSPAN….

    Let me just say that I have NEVER stopped on CSPAN while channel surfing before. But this time, I was immediately drawn to the intensity of the debate, and I was just sucked right into it.

    I never knew that’s how they did things across the pond… but MAN, do we need something like that here in the US government.

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