Accuracy in Media

As critical elections approach in November, liberals in the media who are determined to make President Bush and the Republicans pay are trying a new approach. They are accusing Bush of merely pretending to be a moderate. According to this latest theory, Bush is masking the truth that he is a hard-line Republican extremist. It’s too bad the media don’t have any evidence for this charge.

A prime example of this approach was a Tim Russert interview with Katie Couric on the Today Show. On the subject of Gen. Michael Hayden’s confirmation hearings to become director of the CIA, Katie asked Tim if the White House had deliberately released the story carried by the New York Times claiming that Vice President Cheney had pushed Hayden, then head of the National Security Agency (NSA), to be even more aggressive in expanding the reach of the NSA terrorist-surveillance program. Hayden is said to have resisted. The question from Couric was whether or not making him seem more independent from the Bush Administration would improve his chances of getting confirmed.

Taking the bait, Russert said, “It will. It’s the reason the New York Times story was put out there. It’s quite striking. We’ve heard in the last few days how General Hayden is independent of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, [and] had taken on Vice President Cheney. This is a presidential appointee that can be confirmed by a Republican controlled congress and they’re trying to help them by separating them from people who currently hold office. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s fascinating to watch unfold.”

But is this really anything new? Every White House typically tries to demonstrate that the people it appoints to positions that require confirmation are beholden to the American people, not to the man who appointed him. That is particularly true when someone is being appointed to a position in which independence is expected, such as Attorney General or Supreme Court Justice. 

But when it comes to Bush, such an appointment is supposed to be a carefully-crafted move, designed to help Bush by making one of his appointments seem anti-Bush. This convoluted theory demonstrates an anti-Bush media bias that just won’t quit. 

After his primetime immigration speech, Russert said, “He used the phrase ‘rational middle ground,'” carefully emphasizing those words. “It’s been a long time since I’ve heard this President on a domestic issue talk about a rational middle ground,” added Russert. “Normally it’s, ‘I’m a Republican President, we control the House and Senate. We can do this with our Party or a handful of Democrats.'”

That is supposed to be what Bush normally says about legislation or appointments? Please, Mr. Russert, give us an example of Bush saying that or something like it.

The fact is that Bush HAS occupied the middle ground on this issue, angering his conservative base in the process.

Time magazine’s Matt Cooper took a similar position, suggesting that President Bush was returning to being a moderate, as he was back in 2000 and 2001. Also seizing on the “rational middle ground” comment, as if it’s a position he rarely embraces, Cooper said Bush “tried to cast himself as a reasonable centrist.”

But the facts suggest that, on many domestic issues, Bush has been moderate to liberal. From immigration, to education, to the Medicare drug benefit, to government spending, Bush has chosen a path that did not please his conservative base.

The media effort to cast Bush as an extremist who only poses as a moderate ignores the record he has established over the course of almost 6 years in office.




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