In Case You Missed This

By Dick Morris

Theodore White wrote The Making of the President: 1960, a book which fascinated all political junkees as it recounted the ways and methods of the Kennedy triumph.  He followed that volume with successor books each four years.  The premise of each book was that by following what was happening in the two campaigns, he could fully cover all that was taking place in the election.  Newsweek Magazine seeks to perpetuate his methodology in its quadrennial summaries of the election campaigns published shortly after election day.

But such summaries miss the essential point: The reality of modern campaigns cannot be covered by discussing what the candidates, managers, and staff are doing.  It can only be fully understood by covering what the media is doing during the campaigns.  That is why Bernie Goldberg’s book A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media, despite its long title, is so important to read.  It is not a supply side treatment of the campaign – focusing on what the candidates were putting out to the public.  Rather, it is a demand side treatment, covering what the public was absorbing through the media.

In 2004, the media did a bad job of covering the campaign impartially.  But by 2008, it had abandoned that goal.  By 2008, we had become a British system with some media dedicated to the Republicans and others to the Democrats.  Each newspaper and television station and radio program had a partisan affiliation.  There were no longer any neutrals.  MSNBC courted the liberal vote as surely as Fox News did the conservatives.  Media that pretended to play it down the middle were shown up for what they were: closet fans of one side or the other  (usually of the left) who disguise themselves as impartial.

What Goldberg does, which needed doing, is not to focus on the message sent by each campaign but on that which was received by the voters via the prism of the media.  More and more we are going to have to get used to this filtration and, like Russians during the cold war, we will have to get used to reading between the lines of Pravda to get the truth.  (Oddly, “Pravda” means truth in Russian.  Credits to George Orwell).

In all things, consumers want what they want.  People don’t read Sports Illustrated hoping for the occasional coverage of golf or tennis or hockey.  The read magazines devoted to each particular sport to get exactly what the want.  So it is in politics.  We have become segmented by our inputs, each of us seeking out elaboration and ratification of what we already think.

It is to the commercial disadvantage of the “mainstream” media that they compete for half the vote.  It is the fiscal edge of FoxNews and talk radio that they share the other half.

Bernie Goldberg puts to rest any notion that there is anything impartial that is sent out over the air.  In doing so, he disabuses us of the idea that there is a Santa Claus or a tooth fairy or an Easter bunny.  He ends our innocence.  Better sooner than later.

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  • William

    The dirty little secret is WHY we couldn’t win the war in Viet Nam.
    The U. S. could easily have invaded Hanoi and defeated the North Vietnamese. But the result would have been a replay of Korea. The Chinese would not have stood for it. There would have been years of even bloodier conflict.
    Douglas MacArthur advised his countrymen never to become involved in a war on the Asian mainland if they were unwilling to use nuclear weapons.

  • Alan

    I did miss that. I read your new book yesterday, and I found informative and good read. I disagree with you on one point, however. I don’t think politicians give a crap about average citizens. They might pretend to care about us for a certain six week period leading up to a certain Tuesday in November, but that’s where it ends. Statesmen are a different story, but we don’t have many of those around these days.

  • Alan Nichols

    Mr. Goldberg,

    I read on July 26 at American Thinker that you praised Walter Cronkite for keeping his liberal views out of his reporting when I understand he falsely called the Tet Offensive a victory for The Viet Cong. I just listened to a speech he gave at the World Federalist Association calling for global government in which the nations of the world will have to give up some of their sovereignty. Don’t you think that if our Founding Fathers heard his views, they would be appalled? How can you condemn the liberal media, as you do very well, and not mention Cronkite’s treasonous views that undermine the United States? RSVP.

    • Bernie

      First off, there’s a world of difference between what Cronite said ON the air and what he said AFTER he left CBS News. You conflate the two. I don’t care how left-wing he was in his private life. What he says on the air is what I care about. Let’s say he got Tet wrong. Do you really want to build a case that he’s “treasonous” because of that one thing? Cronkite visited Vietnam, came back and told his audience that he did not believe the war could be won on the battlefield, that negotiations were the only way out. You can make a case he should not have given his analysis, that a newsman should just stick to the facts. Personally, I think one analysis every 40 years or so is acceptable. And I also think he was right. Fifty-eight thousand Americans came back from that disastrous war in body bags. Wasn’t that enough? Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara came to realize we couldn’t win that war; Lyndon Johnson didn’t want to be the first American to lose a war. And for that, all those men died. You come off either as hopelessly ideological or just plain foolish when you use the word “treasonous.” Cronkite got it right. Again, you can make a case that he shouldn’t have strayed into the field of opinion. Fair enough. But let’s not use one example to demean a career.

      • Scott Rainey

        Sorry Bernie, I gotta side with Alan Nichols here. Your point that one personal slip in a 40 year career is acceptable, is reasonable. It’s just that this one is quite a doozy. Aid and comfort to the enemy type stuff. The public was in favor of the indochinese police action till Walter flipped.

  • Dave S. from Levittown, Pa.

    Bernie G. nails it to the max. He has revealed the ultimate truth about mainstream media, and how they selectively choose which stories to publish, while ignoring the stories that don’t fit their agenda.
    As someone who worked at two mid-sized suburban newspapers, I can attest to the fact that liberal ‘page lay-out editors’ will select stories off the wire that adhere to THEIR beliefs. It is guilt by omission, not necessarily guilt of co-mission.

    • Bernie

      If you don’t believe me, believe Dave. We both have worked on the inside. We’re just telling you what we saw and what we know. Thanks Dave for the comment.

  • Mary

    I agree with Dick. Bernie, I have been passing your books on to people I know. I encourage everyone to read your books. What you’re doing is great and so needed in this country. Thank you for always being honest.

    • Bernie

      Thanks, Mary. I appreciate the vote of confidence.

  • Leland

    I second the recommendation.