Thursday, June 30, 2005

Your Liberal Media


Why Rove felt compelled to launch this particular McCarthyite missive now is not ultimately knowable. Perhaps he is growing desperate, as the President's popularity ratings spiral south, and Americans--by a 49 to 44 percent margin--tell pollsters that George W. Bush, not Saddam Hussein, holds the greatest responsibility for the horrific war in Iraq. But Rove is no dummy. He knows he can say just about anything about anyone and conservative pundits will bark "Amen." His vicious denigration of the patriotism of so many New Yorkers (and American soldiers, I might add, many of whom are liberals) was not so different from the false and malicious charges leveled not merely by Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh but also by allegedly responsible commentators, including Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Peter Beinart. (It was Beinart, you will recall, who, in his famous "A Fighting Faith" article, introduced the redbaiter's well-worn tactic against of seeking to blame the organization for petitions it did not write and websites it did not control. He also sought to draw an equation between the questioning of the Administration's military strategy and the support of the communist side during the cold war.)

Rove's defenders, including White House press secretary Scott McClellan and New York Governor George Pataki, changed the subject to Durbin rather than offer even meek criticism of the second most powerful man in America (after Dick Cheney). But remember: Durbin paid tribute to America's ideals. Rove not only lied about liberals, he mocked the very concepts of "moderation," "restraint" and "understanding" as un-American. Durbin criticized no one but the torturers; Rove slandered more than 20 percent of Americans who proudly identify themselves as liberals.

And where were the mainstream media in all this? With just a few honorable exceptions they were passing along without prejudice Rove's slander and lies and the deliberate distortions of Durbin's words. Typically, Washington Post media cop Howard Kurtz adopted the White House spin with a report titled "Down­playing Durbin, Jumping on Rove." The smart guys at The Note explained that Democrats were asking for this kind of thing with their general wimpiness. Apparently, it's not a reporter's bus­iness to decide what's true anymore, just who sounds more macho.

There's a lesson for liberals in all this: American politics has become a game with no rules and no referee. Play by the old rules--fairness, honesty, good faith--and face political extinction.