consortiumnews.com

Protecting Bush-Cheney Redux

By Robert Parry
March 7, 2004

The New York Times and other major media outlets are at it again: parroting Bush-Cheney campaign themes against a Democrat while turning a blind eye to equal or worse offenses by Republicans. This new case of protecting Bush-Cheney is built around the theme that Sen. John Kerry is a flip-flopper, while ignoring examples of George W. Bush’s own flip-flops.

The media’s eagerness to adopt this “conventional wisdom” on Kerry follows the pattern of Campaign 2000 when the Times joined the media pack in portraying Al Gore as a liar while buying into the image that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were straight-shooters, despite an abundance of evidence that they weren’t. Even four years later – after the deceptions about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and disclosures about the abuse of scientific research to make it fit Bush’s agenda – the national news media clings to this precious notion that Bush is no liar.

Now, the pattern repeats itself. On March 6, in a lengthy front-page Times article entitled “Kerry’s Shifts: Nuanced Ideas Or Flip-Flops,” reporter David M. Halbfinger dissects Kerry’s statements on issues such as gay marriage and “defines” Kerry just the way the Republican National Committee drew it up: a waffler who takes both sides of issues. No where in the piece is there any reference to Bush’s history of flip-flopping on issues of grave consequence to the world, such as his promises to curb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; his pledges to maintain a balanced federal budget and keep his hands off the Social Security trust fund; and his assurances that he would run a “humble” foreign policy that wouldn’t stretch U.S. forces with “nation-building” tasks.

No Context

Bush’s inconsistencies are ignored even in a context, such as Bush’s direct personal attacks on Kerry’s credibility, when Bush’s own record and hypocrisy would seem especially relevant.

As in Campaign 2000, the Times and other publications seem determined to apply double standards that effectively give Bush and Cheney a walk. The logic behind this pattern is that it buys journalists protection from right-wing press attack groups, which have long proven that they can damage or destroy the careers of journalists who get tagged with the “liberal” label.

It is far safer and more lucrative for journalists to protect their right flanks by putting on blinders on their right side, so they don’t see certain facts that might require courage to report. That way, they can tout their tough anti-Democratic writing as proof they’re “not liberal,” knowing there is no serious threat to their careers from the left.

The careers of virtually all the journalists who made a mockery of Campaign 2000 continue to thrive, while there are many examples of journalists whose reporting angered the conservatives – the likes of former San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb – who paid a steep price. [For details, see Robert Parry's Lost History.]

Next Chapter

And, as surely as night follows day, the next page in the “Kerry-as-flip-flopper” script will be that Kerry “failed” to prevent the Bush-Cheney team from defining him as a flip-flopper. That will give the talking-head pundits another opportunity to reprise Kerry’s alleged offenses while leaving out Bush’s and, of course, never mentioning the news media’s role in creating this unbalanced impression. Soon, it will seem like bias for anyone even to suggest that Bush’s flip-flops, too.

So, as aspiring star reporters head off into another career-making presidential campaign, it is worth reflecting on three previous stories published by Consortiumnews.com: One is “Protecting Bush-Cheney,” an account of the double standards in Campaign 2000; the second is this year’s "Kerry & the 'Special Interest' Hit Piece," an account of the Washington Post’s deceptive reporting on “special interest” donations; and the third is “Bush’s Great Debate – With Himself,” which details some of the momentous flip-flips of Bush’s first term.

You’re unlikely to see these realities acknowledged in the mainstream media, which seems eager to protect Bush-Cheney once again.

Robert Parry is a former Associated Press and Newsweek reporter who in the 1980s broke many of the stories that are now known as the Iran-Contra Affair. He is author of the book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & Project Truth.

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