Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fox News-"Fair and Balanced and Slightly Biased"

Sometime last year, I unearthed something truly astounding. Media Mogul, Rupert Murdoch had supported Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election.

This couldn't be right! After all, Mr. Murdoch owned Fox News! How could the owner of the "fair and balanced" counterweight to the biased liberal media have supported Barack Obama? Perhaps the information was faulty.

After some weeks I gradually confirmed what had become shockingly apparent. Like many if not most billionaires, Murdock had hedged his bet. True, he had supported Obama's campaign. He had likewise contributed the minimum to John McCain's effort. This is the established norm.

So many of us tend to forget that Fox News, like CNN, and the rest are still business'. Their objective is to make money. Sure, it gives us a warm feeling when we hear Bill O'Reilly tell us he is "looking out for you." We gravitate to his reference of "the folks." But, where does Mr. O'Reilly truly stand? What about Sean Hannity? Where do Ann Colter and Dick Morris and Karl Rove stand?

If there was ever a primary that forced "conservatives" to expand on their principles, it's this years Republican experiment. Those considered safely in the fold are now being questioned as to "what kind of a conservative" they are. As Kentucky Senator, Rand Paul explained, there are two: "Constitutionalists and Neo-Cons."

So, "who" is "what" in the Republican field.

In his recent book, "The Tea Party Goes to Washington," Paul described "Neo-Conservatives" as having a "preference for a big Washington, D.C. based government, facilitating conservative principles." His definition of a "Constitutional Conservative" was "to interpret the constitution in the most "strict constructionist" manner, relying on the 10th amendment for guidance."

It's quite a difference!

Yet, when given this litmus test, it's easy to see "who is what." All of the aforementioned names are "Neo-Cons." And it's not surprising! With the exception of Rove, where in America are they from?

From the outset, these "conservatives" have been quick to acknowledge Mitt Romney in the most favorable manner. He was always "the front runner," the "the establishment candidate,"the "choice of Independents," the "most electable" and soforth! To me, this wasn't "fair and balanced." A better word was "propaganda."

Had Romney been scrutinized, really scrutinized, the first factor that would have come out was "his lackluster stint" as Governor of Massachusetts. He was "mediocre at best." As Newt Gingrich correctly reminded, his brief four-year hitch in politics was not due to his enamorment with the private sector! What he did have was a lot of money. Money helps if you're planning to run a campaign! Two unsuccessful Senate runs later he was running for President. But why was he so attractive to these Eastern Neo-Cons?

As Ann Colter put it, "He's safe. Nobody is afraid of Mitt Romney." In short, if you like things the way they are, why change?

When the Republican primary started, there seemed to be two options: Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. (Mike Huckabee was rumored to be planning another run. But the former Arkansas Governor opted out; at the 11th hour.) Newt Gingrich was never taken seriously by the Establishment. Herman Cain was marketing a book. Jon Huntsman was positioning himself for a possible 2016 run. Michelle Bachmann was seen as a "rabble rouser," but not seriously viable. Rick Santorum had the legacy of an 18-point loss in his exit from the Pennsylvania Senate. Ron Paul was Ron Paul; the guy who always ran for President.

Congressman Paul can be classified as a "constitutionalist." Did that translate to "Libertarian." A lot of conservatives thought that it did. The remaining members of the field, all Neo-Cons(although many Republicans consider both Huntsman and Romney R.I.N.O.s)saw it that way. While Ron Paul had actually been a registered Libertarian, he was accepted as a "Libertarian leaning" Republican. Nobody thought his campaign would make a difference anyway!

Then two things happened that changed the dynamics of the race: Tim Pawlenty exited and Rick Perry entered the race.

Initially, everyone acknowleged that Perry was a viable candidate. He had experience, money and a solid record of job creation. He appeared to be both a strong social conservative and a budget hawk. His humble beginnings as the son of tenant farmers brought the promise of a "plain folks appeal." His service in the Air Force flying F-130s completed the package. Coming from a state that held 38 electoral college votes, he was taken seriously. Those who knew him confirmed that like Paul, he was a constitutionalist.

But what did that translate to? He certainly wasn't Ron Paul! In fact, he had been a Democrat up until 1989. He even served as Al Gore's Texas Campaign Chairmen in the 1988 Democrat primary. This may have been a red flag to Eastern Establishment Neo-Cons. There were immediately claims that Perry might not be as conservative as advertised! His vague reference to "succession" did not escape media attention.

When a Southerner references the "10th amendment and states rights," the ghosts of George Wallace and Lester Maddox strangely appear! When a Southerner mentions "succession" all kinds of hideous suppositions materialize.

While a Bill O'Reilly might deny such a connection, all too many Easterners continue to be transfixed by these anachronisms. His talk of "making Washington inconsequentual" in the lives of America hinted of a major dismantlement of the D.C. based bureacracy! He described the states as "individual labs" designed to compete for the betterment of the country. Glenn Beck accused Perry(and Texas) of "job poaching."

Then the debates began.

Perry has never been a strong debator. In the first debate he was questioned on the most controversial of topics: Social Security. Describing it as a "Ponzi scheme" in his book, Perry held his ground. It seemed that he initially drew respect from many conservatives as having the courage to discuss it. Not surprisingly, Mitt Romney took the safe road; that he believed in the program and didn't believe that it was a "Ponzi scheme." Fox News and friends reminded the world that Karl Rove had called the issue, "toxic."

Backed into a corner, Perry defended his assertion. He made it clear that attention was needed, that he wasn't going to discontinue it for people "my age or a few years younger;" not to mention "those currently receiving it," and that no matter what "Karl" said about it being a "toxic issue," America needed to have "an adult discussion" about Social Security.

Did that mean returning the program to the state level? Perry's book talked around the possibility. The Governor responded in saying that "state employees" have always had a state based retirement. This was actually what was said in the book. He was specifically talking about the Teacher Retirement system. Again, this isn't any revelation. However, the media was strangely ineffective in explaining how this is the norm as opposed to the exception.

Then came the next debate and Michelle Bachman's challenge on the HPV Vaccine. As with most of Congresswoman Bachmann's allegations, there was a mild case of "coloring." Perry admitted that the vaccine was a mistake. It might also be mentioned that it never was implemented. What was important was Merck, a Perry campaign donor would have had the contract. The media pounced on Bachmann's information sources. But they never questioned the pertinence or relevance of the subject.

Texas's near unanimous legislative support for waiver of out-of-state tuition for children of illegal aliens may have caused Perry to be blindsided. Bachmann, Romney and Rick Santorum took issue, seizing the high road of right and wrong. Perry timidly reminded them all that it was a states rights issue. He failed to convince the audience that "he and the Texas legislature" and not "he alone" were simply trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Illegal immigration is a hot topic with Republican conservatives and the response hurt Perry. Part of it was his clumsy attempt to explain "why" the question existed in the first place. It also didn't help when a tone deaf Fox News, who hosted the Tea Party sponsored debate, didn't remind their viewers that "this action could actually help Perry in the general election, while hurting Romney,Santorum and Bachmann."

Then came the "gaffes." The mispronunciation of names, the incorrect number of justices and last but not least, the names of federal departments on the "ax" list! In the end, it was concluded that Perry had become "irrelevant." Neo-Con, Bill Krystal announced him "dead." The blogs even questioned his intelligence!

Did Fox News or any of the media outlets ever once say, "perhaps we're majoring on the minor?" After all, didn't President Obama refer to the "57 states of America?" Did we forget about Joe Biden's reference to President Franklin D. Roosevelt "addressing the nation on national TV in 1932?"
What happened to fair and balanced?

Romney's record of losing Senate elections amidst a mediocre one-term stint as Governor was never positioned as a negative. The fact that Perry ran the world's 13th largest economy had to be highlight by Simon Conway, an Eaglish immigrant who now serves as a talk radio host in Des Moines. Moreover, Perry's Texas created as many jobs as the other "49 states combined" was mentioned in passing but never emphasized. And there was more!

Unlike the remaining Republican field, Rick Perry has demonstrated an ability to attract Hispanic voters. In the Texas 2010 Governatorial election, he received 40% of Latino votes. This is a significant. Pollsters are quick to point out that the GOP must capture a minimum of 30% of the Hispanic vote to have a chance in 2012.

White, Black and Hispanic students in Texas's allegedly "inferior" public schools outperformed their ethnic-group peers in high-tax, union-run Wisconsin in 17 out of 18 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) measures. They likewise bested the results of most of the so-called progressive states. Imagine that!

Texas Environmental Record is not merely adequate. It is one of the best in the land. In fact, under Perry's watch the state has enjoyed a 27% reduction in ozone levels and a 53% reduction in mononitrogen oxides. That's incredible. Truly remarkable! And where was Fox News to let the rest of the country in on Texas's environmental report card?

There are two explanations. One is money, the other ideology. From an ideological standpoint, Perry's Texas is proof that low taxes, low regulation and competition for existing companies work. Much to the chagrin of critics, the educational achievement of Texas public schools is better than average. The environmental record is noteworthy. Job creation is second to none!

Mitt Romney reminded Perry that Texas' success was partly "due to a Republican controlled legislature in a right to work state." That admission suggests that unions hamper competitiveness. It evokes fear that a Perry presidency would accelerate company relocations to the Southern states. Perry's energy proposals would further encourage population shifts to the south and west. This is obviously not "safe" if you like things as they are.

Money in media is made from viewership. The worse the state of things are in the country, the more people tune in. A Mitt Romney nominee would make for a competitive race. It would likely go to the wire and end with Obama's relection. There would be a lot of discussion as to what went wrong for the Republicans and the country would settle into another four years of our existing nightmare. And Fox News would be right there with us, fair and balanced, looking out for the folks!

Are Republicans this naive? The Wall Streeters are not. They are already hedging their bets, Rupert Murdock style. They win either way. Romney? He can retire in grand fashion, saying that he made a run for it. But what about the rest of us? Are we basing our decision solely on "which candidate has proven" to be the most effective leader?

I didn't say "which candidate was "safe" or had the best plan. Or, had the greatest vision. Or, who articulated his message the best." The question is "which candidate has the track record that best suggests that he can run this country most effectively?"

The answer should be more than obvious.

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