The Alito hearings may not have revealed much about the new Supreme Court Associate Justice’s constitutional views, but they did highlight the pro-Bush bias that continues to characterize most mainstream debate. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, as reliable a weather vane for conventional wisdom as can be found anywhere, continually skewed his coverage to reflect the Republican Party’s talking points, announcing, “Some Democrats are delivering an early verdict on Alito’s performance” without asking whether Republicans were doing the same. Blitzer also complained, “Are [Democrats] looking for answers, or for the Supreme Court nominee to stumble?” and inquired of Ted Kennedy whether he had already made up his mind without posing a similar question during his interview to Bill Frist, or noting the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who had already declared themselves in Alito’s favor.
Blitzer’s coverage proved to be the norm. PBS’s Gwen Ifill, giving no evidence, complained of “all of the demonization of this candidate” by liberal interest groups. MSNBC’s coverage was dominated by pro-Alito guests, including nights of prime-time programming that allowed not a single dissenter.
The punditocracy’s ignore-except-to-attack attitude toward liberals is a far greater impediment to our ability to mount an alternative to the ruinous rule of George W. Bush than the attitudes of Americans themselves, who in poll after poll disagree with the President on almost all significant issues. Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby gleefully announces that “attacking Bushonomics”–the policies of the party that controls the government and has abandoned even the pretense of fiscal responsibility–“is too easy, like shooting a lame duck.” He prefers “to focus instead on Democrats’ response.”
Liberal war opponents were clearly correct about the self-defeating stupidity of Bush’s Iraq misadventure, but pundits treat their foresight as a kind of disqualifying handicap. Mallaby’s colleague Richard Cohen lauded Joe Biden because he “voted to authorize the president to go to war but has since characterized that vote as ‘a mistake,'” which, Cohen notes, “approximately reflects my own position.” Woe unto those who were right in the first place. Among media war boosters, George Packer cannot find room in the 467 pages of his celebrated war history, The Assassins’ Gate, for the words “I was wrong.” Those who recognized the Bush Administration’s lethal combination of dishonesty, ideology and incompetence–in plain view at the time–are dismissed by Packer as possessing “second-rate minds.”
Among the most egregious offenders against journalistic standards and simple honesty for the purpose of abusing liberals is Time‘s Joe Klein, who is, amazingly, the most liberal commentator currently employed by America’s highest-circulation newsweekly. (Klein’s animus toward liberals coupled with his cavalier treatment of inconvenient facts could hardly be in greater contrast to that of Newsweek‘s high-profile liberal columnist Jonathan Alter, whose solid reporting and tempered idealism serves as a kind of remnant and reminder of the long-defunct liberal Establishment.)