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Ornstein and Mann: Biggest Media Failure of 2012 Campaign Was Downplaying GOP Lies | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Ornstein and Mann: Biggest Media Failure of 2012 Campaign Was Downplaying GOP Lies

That the Repulican Party, particularly in the race for the White House, reached new depths in the recent history of campaign lies is nothing new—you might say it’s gospel—for many of us. I wrote about that numerous times this year in my nearly-daily campaign coverage here, and it’s highlighted in my new e-book about the Obama-Romney race, aptly titled Tricks, Lies, and Videotape.

Yet, the extent of the GOP lies was rarely probed by the mainstream media, despite their extensive fact-checking this year. Too often even the more stringest reporters and pundits resorted to “they all do it” or “here’s one error from one side and here’s one from the other.” Of course “they all do it,” but few journalists were willing to judge who was worse, much worse. In fact, they usually were afraid to even use the word “lie.”

Well, Dan Froomkin, the veteran DC and campaign watcher for The Washington Post and Nieman, then Huff Post (where he is now exiting), has interviewed the nicely balanced pair of Norman Ornstein, from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and Thomas Mann, of centrist/liberal Brookings, about their views of the campaign. Of course, the pair had drawn attention earlier this year with their book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, in which they concluded that the GOP had been captured by the far right and really gone off the rails. Ornstein joning in this assessment guaranteed attention.

Now they agree that the media blew the real story of the campaign, which was not Nate Silver’s accurate poll analysis but one of the key reasons the GOP could not believe the polls: They were caught up in such a web of deceit they couldn’t ID reality if they hit it head on.

There are too many good quotes from the pair in the Froomkin interview to publish here so just go and read the whole thing. But I like these, from Ornstein: “I can’t recall a campaign where I’ve seen more lying going on—and it wasn’t symmetric…. it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top….

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“It’s the great unreported big story of American politics. If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they’ve got to know what’s going on. And if the story that you’re telling repeatedly is that they’re all to blame—they’re all equally to blame—then you’re really doing a disservice to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do….

“If you looked at where the scales should have been, and where they were, they were weighted. And they weren’t weighted for ideological bias. They were weighted to avoid being charged with ideological bias.”

Greg Mitchell has written more than a dozen books, including four on influential US campaigns. His new ebook on the 2012 race is Tricks, Lies, and Videotape.

In the latest issue of The Nation L.R. Runner writes that the Democrats also have their own problems to worry about.

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