A campaign sign for Republican candidate for US Senate Ted Cruz is reflected in the sunglasses of a campaign intern. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
During the election season, Barack Obama frequently gave voice to his hope that once the Republicans found themselves trounced in two consecutive presidential elections, their “fever” might just break. So instead of toadying to the crazies in the base of their party (the ones who are always threatening to run primary opponents against any party member who admits that the world is round or whatever), Republicans would finally come around and admit that the job of a legislator is to accept reality for what it is and begin from there. Had this happened, it would have lifted a terrific burden from the mainstream media, since today, the remaining conventions of objective journalism—together with the social pressure on the people who practice it—demand that “both sides” be blamed for the breakdown in our political process, regardless of the degree of Republican recalcitrance on display. As a result, the MSM’s members are all but required to purposely mislead the Americans who rely upon them for truthful reporting.
Alas, the GOP fever continues unbroken. With the possible exception of immigration reform, the Republican Party’s ideological center continues its warp-speed journey into the farthest reaches of the universe, untethered to such earthly concerns as evidence or even common sense. And so the MSM’s predicament persists, and naturally substance suffers.
Take, for instance, the coverage of Texas’ newest celebrity senator, Ted Cruz. The New York Times’s Jonathan Weisman devoted a front-page story to the degree to which Cruz has offended his colleagues on both sides of the aisle with his unwillingness to wait his turn to be heard, as well as for some of the shocking things he has said. Even though Weisman devotes his analysis to a comparison of Cruz to Senator Joseph McCarthy, his story does not delve sufficiently deeply into the content of Cruz’s comments to demonstrate just how divorced from reality they are. Indeed, the story even takes a “he said/he said” attitude to Cruz’s nutty notion that Chuck Hagel had been paid by North Korea to undermine US defense capabilities (or as the Times puts it, “might have received compensation from foreign enemies”). The focus of the piece is thus exactly where Cruz and his fellow Republicans want it: on his unwillingness to play by the traditional rules of Senate seniority, rather than the foolish and poisonous nature of his evidence-free allegations.
The front page of the Times has always been the gold standard for “fair” and “balanced”—in the old-fashioned sense of both terms—and its denizens pride themselves on an old-fogey focus on substance. Alas, this is hardly the case in the rest of the journalistic universe, where “success” is measured in Twitter followers and Facebook “likes.” This world is ruled by substance-averse, trend-setting outfits like Politico and BuzzFeed.
In fact, the day before Weisman’s Cruz profile appeared, Politico ran a similar story. Written by Manu Raju, the piece described Cruz as a “no-nonsense freshman” who “has quickly become a lightning rod—on issues ranging from guns to Chuck Hagel’s nomination for defense secretary.” For Politico, the only area of interest was Cruz’s “no-compromise, firebrand style,” as demonstrated by his “sharp questioning of Hagel,” even though it may “turn off voters eager to see the two parties start making deals.” The upside, however, is that he’s already being “talked up in conservative circles as a possible 2016 presidential candidate.” And that’s it: Cruz’s McCarthyite lies constitute merely “sharp questioning” and lead to whispers of a Michele Bachmann/Herman Cain–style candidacy—yet another likely foray into mass hysteria that Politico will undoubtedly cover like a NASCAR race.