We all know that Senator Joe Lieberman, a supporter of the Iraq war, has faced a left-wing opponent in the Democratic Senate primary named Ned Lamont. But how many know that Senator Hillary Clinton, a supporter of the Iraq war, has a left-wing primary opponent as well? The lack of national media attention given to this candidate, Jonathan Tasini, confirms his suggestion that the “Big Media” are working to sabotage his campaign by ignoring him. It also demonstrates how the media are protecting Hillary Clinton as she prepares her presidential run.
Senator Clinton’s attack on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over Iraq War policy, delivered at a Senate hearing on Thursday, was orchestrated by her campaign and covered by the media in order to convince liberal Democrats that she is really one of them, despite her vote in favor of the war. “Hillary Clinton goes on the offensive” was the typical headline of the cable news commentators. Later, she called for Rumsfeld to resign. This was important for Hillary because Tasini is attacking her from the left on the Iraq War and other issues. “My position [on the war] is embraced by a majority of the Democratic primary voters, while the position of my opponent has very little support,” he points out. Tasini could be Hillary’s Ned Lamont if only the media would give him the coverage he deserves.
WNBC in New York reports that, according to the latest poll, Clinton is viewed favorably by 77 percent of those surveyed while Tasini is largely unknown, with 88 percent of the Democrats not offering an opinion. He’s unknown because the major media have decided that he does not merit the same kind of coverage accorded Ned Lamont. And why is that? The answer has to be that Lieberman’s future as a national Democratic candidate is over, since he ran as a vice-presidential nominee and went down to defeat with Al Gore, while Senator Clinton has a future as a presidential candidate and in fact is widely considered to be laying the groundwork for a run in 2008. That means that Lieberman can be savaged while Hillary has to be protected at all costs.
Clinton’s future as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 is viable only if she wins her Democratic Senate primary on September 12 and wins it by a substantial margin. Hence, Tasini is subjected to the behavior of what he calls the “Big Media Censors.” Objective media watchdogs have to admit that he has a valid point.
His specific complaint concerns New York City’s 24-hour news channel NY1 (which is owned by media giant Time Warner), which says that he cannot participate in a Town Hall debate because he has not raised or spent $500,000. The Tasini campaign has called for a simple criteria for participation-any candidate who has qualified for the ballot should be allowed into the debate. That sounds reasonable. Raising that kind of money, of course, means spending quite a bit of it on advertising on cable outlets such as NY1. Perhaps the channel has a special interest in making campaign spending a measure of whether one is a valid candidate or not.
Hillary Clinton, who showed up at the Senate hearing on Thursday to get face time on the networks by blasting Rumsfeld, not only refuses to debate Tasini, she even refuses to talk about debating him. As Helen Kennedy of the New York Daily News put it, “Clinton has ignored his attempts to get her to agree to a League of Women Voters debate Sept. 6 ahead of the Sept. 12 primary.” Such a strategy can only succeed with the acquiescence of the media.
While Tasini may not have the personal fortune at the disposal of multimillionaire Ned Lamont in Connecticut, he has the support of some of the leading lights of the anti-war left. They include Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, writer Barbara Ehrenreich, filmmaker Barbara Kopple, actress Susan Sarandon, Howard Zinn and Daniel Ellsberg.
“Vote for What You Believe In” is Tasini’s campaign slogan. One has to admire his willingness to take on Senator Clinton-and her media allies. Tasini, a former president of the National Writers Union, is realizing rather quickly that while the media clearly share his passion for liberal causes, including opposition to the war in Iraq, they believe in Hillary above everything else. While the media are prepared to write Lieberman’s political obituary, they can’t afford to let Hillary fail.