Saturday, January 04, 2003

Via Digby, a rather boneheaded statement by Howie Kurtz:

With close to zero foreign policy experience, the senator faces a certain credibility threshold in an age of terrorism. But so do some of the other candidates. Why do you think Joe Lieberman recently jetted off to the Middle East?

Yes, Dubya won the White House with similar inexperience on the international front, although people figured he had Poppy and Colin and Condi to guide him. But terrorism wasn't much of an issue in '00; now it's arguably the dominant issue.
Ah, once again Howie starts dodging his media beat and starts playing the Bush spin doctor. Not only does it attack Edwards for not having the same experience that Dubya doesn't have, but in trying to weasel out of that obvious problem Howie forgets one of the fundamental talking points of the right: that a president can learn foreign policy on his feet when need be. If Bush did it, Edwards can do it: despite the party's inability to demonstrate a coherent alternative view of foreign policy, there are lots of people within the Democratic party that can serve as mandarins for Edwards until he gets up to speed. The guy's bright; it won't take long.

Of course, Howie doesn't get into that. Indeed, barely any of the article that deals with Edwards actually implies that Edwards isn't sinking like the Titanic. Every quoted source was critical of the Senator. Does anybody actually think that Howie wouldn't have added at least a few Republican mouthpieces were the situation reversed? Saletan wasn't even remotely comperable; comparing Edwards to Clinton, especially in terms of liabilities, isn't doing Edwards a huge favor.

Oh, and he (vicariously) resurrects the hoary old "liberal media" meme in response to the idea of having clearly liberal media sources. The original piece is by Dan Kennedy, of course, but he quotes it verbatim:

Sorry, but it's not going to work. Conservatives might enjoy absorbing talking points from the Republican National Committee, but that's not how it happens with liberals. As I've argued before, there are liberal media – most of the mainstream media are liberal, as conservatives have long contended – but they work differently from the conservative media. Telling liberals what to think is like herding cats.

"The cutting edge of the liberal media are the Times itself and National Public Radio, the size of whose audience rivals Limbaugh's 20 million weekly listeners. The network newscasts, which can reach a combined total of 30 million viewers a night depending on what's going on in the news, are another outpost.

"But the mainstream media, though overwhelmingly liberal on cultural issues such as gay rights and reproductive choice, are moderate to conservative on economics and trade issues. Elite liberal opinion is as contemptuous of organized labor, for instance, as elite conservative opinion is. And the Times has been virtually alone in raising serious questions about the Bush administration's aggressive policy toward Iraq.

"The difference between the large, amorphous liberal media and the relatively small but cohesive conservative media is that the latter are ideologically in tune with the Republican Party and loyal to its candidates. The liberal media aren't going to take their marching orders from the Democratic National Committee. Even if they did, their audience would tune out."
Howie's only response? "At lightning speed". Not much to say about this, really, because it's mostly just resurrecting old gambits (like the "media is socially liberal and fiscally conservative", ignoring any connection between the two; or implying that the New York Times and NPR is as liberally biased as Rush Limbaugh is conservative, which is ludicrous and contradicted by Kennedy's earlier, better, and entirely-ignored-by-Howie work on the subject).

The only relatively new ideas here are that liberals can't work together and that people wouldn't watch openly liberal media, and on that Kennedy is going an awfully long way on some very slender evidence. It's a chicken-and-egg problem... is there no coordination between liberal groups because that's intrinsic to liberalism and/or leftism, or because it simply hasn't existed up until this point and liberals as a whole haven't recognized that it's necessary? It doesn't have to be and shouldn't be "talking points", necessarily, just a common message. There's room for flexibility.

Indeed, the contradiction between the "large, amorphous liberal media" and the "relatively small but cohesive conservative media" that he uses to justify it is based on his own definition of "liberal media", when the entire point is to back away from the mainstream media and create something else. He mistakes the quasi-semi-demi-liberal media as it (supposedly) exists now with the honestly liberal media that is the entire point of this discussion. The former wouldn't coordinate, because it desires the sort of balance that simply isn't an issue in the conservative media. The latter can coordinate, because it would be advocting a position, just as the conservatives are; the idea is simply to be less tendentious and more honest about it. They aren't the same thing, and trying to rely on the New York Times and NPR to advocate liberal ideas is what got American liberalism into the fix it's in in the first place.

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