One of these things is not like the other

GOPvsDemThis week has provided for an interesting micro-study on a key difference between our two political parties.

Harry Reid proclaimed that Mitt Romney did not pay any taxes for years. Meanwhile, Romney released a new ad asserting that Obama was gutting welfare reform. These were not tit-for-tat events. They are relatively unrelated. But the parties’ and pundits respective reactions to each are instructive.

First, a recap of the facts: Reid’s claim is a baseless accusation. The public has no knowledge of whether or not it’s actually true, and little reason to believe Reid actually knows. It’s a distasteful attempt to put a political opponent on the defensive. To make him guilty until he proves himself innocent.  Romney’s claim is different. While it is also intended to put his opponent on the defensive, it is flat-out, demonstrably, unquestionably, factually false.

How were these two events reported? The New York Times is generally considered a left-leaning news source. You might presume they’d defend Reid while hanging Romney out to dry. You’d be wrong.

Compare the opening of a story on Reid:

Senator Harry Reid’s decision this week to hurl a taunting, unsubstantiated accusation at Mitt Romney is hardly out of character for the cantankerous Democratic leader of the Senate, who revels in provocative comments and once called Mr. Romney “kind of a joke.”

To the opening of a story on Romney:

Seven years ago, Mitt Romney joined other governors to urge the federal government to grant “increased waiver authority” to states to experiment with implementation of the federal welfare-to-work program.

But as he runs for president, Mr. Romney and his Republican allies are now accusing President Obama of “gutting” the welfare program by saying it will consider waivers to states.

These are not cherry picked stories, nor is the NYT unique in this regard. The major media outlets and pundits are pulling no punches in calling Reid out on his baseless accusation.  Meanwhile, Romney’s lie is treated as a topic of reasonable debate.

My initial reaction to this was that the “mainstream media” was now so in fear of being labeled as having a liberal bias, they had become afraid to expose even outright falsehoods on the conservative side. And I do think this is at least part of it.  The right’s efforts to play up their victimization by a lefty lamestream media have assuredly had an effect on the way news gets reported.

Yet I think that’s not the whole story. I think a part of the media reaction also relates to how far the parties get from their behavioral norms. The GOP has key figures claiming Obama’s birth certificate was faked, and that there is a Muslim conspiracy brewing in the State department. In the greater scheme of outrageous claims, “Obama guts welfare reform” barely nudges the needle. On the Democratic side, unsubstantiated claims of filing perfectly legal tax returns that play the IRS for every penny are treated as scandalous.

There’s a lesson here. Both sides may “play the game”, but not to the same degree. It’s kind of like claiming the USA and Tunisia were both playing Olympic basketball the other night. While technically true, they weren’t playing in the same league.

Still, I know many of you out there are completely frustrated with the whole thing. You claim to hate what both sides do, and that’s more than fair. There are no angels in politics.Some of you are determined to check out of the political process by not voting, or you intend to make a statement by voting for a 3rd party candidate.

But the simple reality is this. Come 2013, one of these two parties will take the White House. And one of these two parties will control each of the houses of Congress. With four short months to go until the election, no other party has a remote chance in hell of altering that reality.

One of these things is not like the other. As the Templar Knight told Indiana Jones, “Choose wisely.” And as the band Rush reminds us in their song Freewill, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

May I have that aspirin between your knees?

Bayer Aspirin
Use as directed (by doddering old men)

The overreaction by the left is giving me a headache. Sure, Foster Friess made a stupid remark when he said,

“This contraception thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they’d use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

He says it was a joke, and I believe him.  Apparently I’m the only one who remembers hearing this joke some 40 years ago.  It was a play off of what was then a new form of birth control called “the pill”.  People would joke back then that the only way the pill would be 100% effective is if you held it between your knees.  And I remember hearing the aspirin variant as well.

This certainly doesn’t excuse the reality that this was not the time or the venue to make such a lighthearted remark.  So, Friess rightly gets a dope slap for that.  But MS-NBC, the Huffington Post, and other liberal leaning outlets have been beating the poor guy to death over this.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support contraceptives being included in everyone’s health coverage.  I live in one many states that already have such rules in place.  It’s sheer lunacy that we have national politicians arguing that contraceptives are harmful to women or that anyone can opt out of providing any form of health coverage as long as they site their moral conviction as the reason.

Further, Friess is the single key monetary backer of Rick Santorum’s Super-Pac, which already calls his sanity into question.  And if you watch his post-remark explanation from last night, he seems more than a little bewildered, not only about why he’s on TV, but also about the positions of the candidate he supports.  It’s not clear he’s firing on all cylinders, but he has a big-ass checkbook and a Supreme Court ruling that says he can use it—which is a whole different messed up thing.

However, at its core Friess was simply advocating for abstinence.  After all, that’s the point of the aspirin between the knees, right?.  Keep your legs closed ladies.  Because everyone (who’s never had much sex) knows that you can’t have sex if your knees are touching.

All these same reporters and pundits who are apoplectic over Friess’ remark, are the same folks who for decades have listened with a straight face as politicians and advocacy groups pushed abstinence based programs in this country.  Despite mountains of evidence that abstinence is a failed strategy, it still gets the courtesy of consideration from news media on the left and the right alike.

Why go off the rails now, and against a 72-year old man who has a cute way of saying he thinks we should be teaching abstinence instead of providing contraception?  Sure, that’s a dumb idea.  But it’s been a dumb idea for a long long time.  It’s a little late to get your shocked face out now.

The left often (and properly IMHO) chastises right-wing media for blowing small issues out of proportion.  For taking a minor incident and playing it and replaying it until it becomes a thing.  But in this case, the left is guilty of the same behavior.  Lead by example. There is a big story here on women’s health and healthcare in general.  Foster Friess is not the story.  Cut the old guy some slack.

Tea Party demands media tell the truth

Photo by Michael L. Dorn on Flickr

On Sunday, October 17th, TeaParty365 will host a rally in Manhattan focused on demanding mainstream media start reporting only accurate information.  The rally begins at the home of the NY Times at 2pm, and then will head to the Fox News Studios.

Well, I suppose in the spirit of the rally it should be more accurately reported that they will only pass by Fox on their way to their second destination, NBC’s 30-Rock, where they will protest MS-NBC.  But it’s a shame they won’t stop.

Unfortunately, the rally is only aimed at liberal media.  The rally’s mission says it will, “Send a message to these liberal media icons that you’ve had enough of their left-wing bias.”  The core premise is noble.  The news could use a lot less bias, but that should apply to both sides.  No one’s going to argue The Times and MS-NBC don’t lean left, but Fox leans just as clearly in the other direction.

Bias aside, the focus seems more on accuracy.  The rally is featuring the Media Research Center whose website prominently features a large graphic bumper sticker saying, “Demand the media tell the truth!”  However, their more benign sounding mission as “America’s Media Watchdog,” is to bring balance to the news media.  They assert that leaders of America’s conservative movement have long believed that within the national news media a strident liberal bias existed that influenced the public’s understanding of critical issues.  This contrasts nicely with Media Matters, a progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.  They should be two sides of the coin—a balanced yin and yang, and in this sense they are.  Yet looking at the respective websites yields very different experiences.

The MRC is positioning for conflict, and it wants you to join.  In addition to the demanding bumper sticker mentioned above, the site urges you to “Join the fight against liberal bias.”

The leading stories on the sight today bear the following headlines:

The headlines dealing with liberal news reports all have an air of conspiracy about them.  They position conservatives as the victims of liberal abuse.  Clicking through to the articles reveals a fuller exposition of the slights conservatives have incurred at the hands of  liberals.  Noticeably missing is any explanation of where the liberal media misrepresented the facts.  The site is demanding truth, yet offers no recent evidence of lying.  Instead, it takes umbrage at the liberal media for being mean to them.

Meanwhile on Media Matters site, the leading headlines are:

Three of the five Media Matters stories don’t really deal with correcting conservative news stories as their mission states.  Rather, they deal with the credibility of the Fox News network.   But at least two of the stories do actually make an analysis of a conservative story and point out the factual problems or the misleading reasoning.

In the end, it would seem that neither site stays pure to its core purpose, and both are highly biased to their respective viewpoints.  Liberals and conservatives both play games with the news and with news about the news.  However, MRC seems decidedly and uniquely paranoid.  Perhaps MRC  should rename their gathering Sunday to the March to Keep Fear Alive… oh wait… never mind.