One of the oldest canards in our national discourse is that the “mainstream” media hews to a liberal bias. Evidence that this just isn’t true has been mounting for years.
Consider the fawning treatment of the Bush administration’s build-up to the Iraq war by reporters. Or the constant right-of-center tilt of the influential Sunday morning talk shows.
The most convincing recent evidence that the media is far from infatuated with the American left can be found in the relative fates of Sarah Palin and Howard Dean.
The two politicians have, in some respects, fairly similar resumes.
Both were small-state governors (Alaska and Vermont are two of the least populated states in the US.)
Both emerged onto the national scene in dramatic fashion, with Dean making an insurgent bid for the presidency and Palin running as John McCain’s surprise veep pick.
Both were treated harshly at times by the media, with Palin’s accent and Dean’s purported howl becoming staples of the late-night comics.
What makes them interesting, though, isn’t their similarities but their differences.
After stepping out of the presidential race, Dean took leadership of the Democratic National Committee.
He is, beyond dispute, one of the key architects of the Democratic surges of 2006 and 2008.
He showed real savvy in organizing the Democratic Party’s liberal wing, but also worked to develop more moderate candidates in swing-districts.
His “fifty state” strategy laid the groundwork for victories in states once viewed as “too red” for a Democratic revival.
Palin, on the other hand, moved in the opposite direction. In the months since the 2008 campaign, she quit her job as governor of Alaska.
Her primary influence on politics has been a series of Tweets, including the infamous “death panels” salvo. The candidates she has supported for public office have generally been defeated.
It would be unfair to pile on by mentioning the awkwardness of her family’s personal life (Bristol & Levi anyone?), if not for the fact that Palin’s main focus of late has been launching a reality TV show on TLC.
Which brings me back to the “lamestream” media, as Palin describes it.
For some reason, despite her lack of a credible track record, news organizations can’t get enough of Palin. The Washington Post is running a story this morning headlined “The Power of Palin’s Touch.”
What’s interesting about the article — which describes Palin’s endorsement of a House candidate in Maryland — is that it doesn’t suggest that her backing is lifting the candidate among voters.
(A recent Pew poll found that twice as many Americans thought a Palin endorsement was a bad thing than thought it a good thing…)
Just a few months ago, Brian Murphy’s friends would roam the halls of the Maryland State House, practically begging reporters there to go outside for news conferences by the unknown Republican candidate for governor.
Last week, a parade of those scribes lined up to see him.
What changed things was a single unexpected moment: Sarah Palin’s endorsement Wednesday of the like-minded 33-year-old business investor from Montgomery County, who is making his first bid for public office against former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the GOP primary.
“What this campaign has always needed is a megaphone,” Murphy said, “and Sarah’s endorsement gave that to us.”
It’s hard to imagine a similar event — reporters developing a sudden crush on a longshot candidate — happening after a Howard Dean endorsement.
Which is odd, given that the former Vermont governor has a far more credible track record of picking and supporting winners.
So what do you think? Why is Sarah Palin given the spotlight and the “megaphone,” while Howard Dean is reduced to guest spots on MSNBC?
Your comments welcome below.