Portraying Bush Accurately

Paul Krugman’s latest Op-Ed explains in clear, succinct terms what is going on with the media coverage of President Bush and his administration.

There are typical reasons for the media being easy on Bush, including many that I have elaborated on before and that have been written about in a lot of books that the public never hears about dealing with corporate ownership of media, the introspective nature of the press, etc. There are also, of course, those stemming from Sept. 11:

The truth is that the character flaws that currently have even conservative pundits fuming have been visible all along. Mr. Bush’s problems with the truth have long been apparent to anyone willing to check his budget arithmetic. His inability to admit mistakes has also been obvious for a long time. I first wrote about Mr. Bush’s “infallibility complex” more than two years ago, and I wasn’t being original.

So why did the press credit Mr. Bush with virtues that reporters knew he didn’t possess? One answer is misplaced patriotism. After 9/11 much of the press seemed to reach a collective decision that it was necessary, in the interests of national unity, to suppress criticism of the commander in chief.

Another answer is the atmosphere of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt put forth by the White House, vitriolic conservative pundits, and well-meaning Americans, who attacked “negative” or critical coverage. Journalists who reported the “wrong” story would quickly see their sources dry up, their access revoked, and their sponsorship pulled.

Another factor that Krugman does not consider but that media critics are well aware of is the institutional nature of reporting — generally reporters don’t look report controversy unless it is put forth by public figures. If the scared and confused Democrats had put out some serious criticism, the press would have picked it up. But without “important” actors putting out opposition, the press will not do it either.

Krugman seems to think that that is all about to change, and I say it’s about time. After this Iraq mess, everyone, including the Times, is looking back at the last couple years and wondering where iit all went wrong, and how they can rebuild their shattered reputations. That introspective nature of the press is working for good, for once.

2 replies on “Portraying Bush Accurately”

  1. Another answer is the atmosphere of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt put forth by the White House, vitriolic conservative pundits, and well-meaning Americans
    What?! FUD is used by people other than Microsoft/SCO?!

    But more seriously, who’s going to come out with “the real scoop”? I highly doubt that a traditional media organization will publish/broadcast/etc a story bashing the president due to the aforementioned factors. Maybe this is where blogs (and other less traditional sources of information) can begin to shine.

  2. What do you mean by “the real scoop”? If you mean about the current excitement, traditional media is indeed re-examining the problems with the Iraq war, unfortunatley they waited to do it until Congress critters started to, which would imply that they haven’t learned much. If you plan to rely on blogs to break important stories about things like Iraq, you have another thing coming at this point…plenty of well-known and influential bloggers talked about the perils of the potential war and raised doubts about the reasons behind it and the WMDs that were probably not there, as did many in the alternative press, but their calls went unheeded.

    Now we have entered the blame zone, and instead of making real progress we are going to be throwing around “outrage” and other silliness. Congress is upset that they were mislead? Oh come on, what did they think Bush was getting them into? It’s not like this guy out of the blue suddenly changed his tactics.

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