The Manic-Depressive MSM

The New York Daily News, October 19th, 2008:

“Daily News endorses Obama for President: He has the promise to renew America at home and abroad.”

Gifted in oratory and gracefully bearing the mantle of history, Obama stood as the repudiation of the record of George W. Bush. No one capitalized on the blunders of the last eight years more skillfully than he did, while aligning a liberal Democratic agenda with the country’s decided shift away from the status quo.

Obama has been called audacious, and he certainly is. But his confidence is supported by both a high intelligence and a clear-eyed pragmatism, qualities that enabled him to best more established competitors – now to stand within reach of breaking America’s ultimate racial barrier.

A brilliant mind combined with practicality would well serve any President, and the reserves shown by Obama suggest he would bring nimbleness and judgment to the Oval Office. So does his crucial vow to reach across the aisle for solutions frozen in partisan gridlock.

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Joshua Greenman of the The New York Daily News, on Friday: “Republicans wrote the political dictionary: It’s proof Democrats don’t control the media”:

I don’t begrudge conservatives this success. It speaks to message discipline and to feeding tasty food to a hungry audience. An audience that is right of center, which left-wingers far too often fail to acknowledge.

But on top of all this real-world evidence of right-wing media primacy is even more compelling evidence that there’s no such thing as a Dominant Liberal Media Elite: You can’t control the conversation if you don’t control the language.

The New York Times doesn’t decide what words we use, nor does CNN or NPR. Our political vocabulary comes from the mouths of crafty conservatives, and that’s the ultimate proof that they steer the conversation.

Obamacare. Pity the poor congressional and White House staffers who spent hours coming up with the bromidic name “Affordable Care Act” only to see the 2,300 page bill (which Republicans complained Obama played far too passive a role in shaping) get labeled, for all eternity, “Obamacare.” This of course, is an update of the equally elegant Hillarycare. It’s interesting to note that both were used, from the get go, as slurs, unlike, say, “Reaganomics.” (Compare this to, say, “No Child Left Behind,” which has never for a second been called Bushducation – though that would have been pretty catchy.)

Using the supposedly massive megaphone of the Liberal Media, Democrats, who were sensitive – hypersensitive, in my mind – to the Obamacare implication, tried to replace it with a blander formulation emphasizing insurance regulation.

Resistance was futile; Obamacare is punchy. It’s descriptive. It works.

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As Mark Finkelstein of Newsbusters wrote last week in response to Time’s new cover awkwardly imagining Presidents Obama and Reagan as side-by-side buddies, “What a difference a shellacking makes.” That’s a topic we’ll explore right after the page jump.

At the start of last year, in the wake of Scott Brown’s surprising victory in Massachusetts, I wrote:

[Howard] Fineman, and the rest of the newly hyperpartisan and opinion-dominated Newsweek (not to mention the advisors that President Obama keeps even closer at hand) are just bitter that the right has any megaphone at all.

And if their recent victories continue, someone on the far left is bound to dredge up Al Gore’s loony Frankfurt School-style “conservative media bias” trope from 2002.

In the fall of 2008 and early 2009, the left dared to dream big. Back then, we saw the Daily News’ hagiographic endorsement of Obama (their publisher and erstwhile Obama speechwriter has since seen the light). This was quickly followed by Rahm Emanuel’s ham-handed “Never let a serious crisis go to waste” quote. In early January of 2009, even before Obama took office, John Judis of the New Republic wrote, “A decade ago, I might have been embarrassed to admit that I was raised on Marx and Marxism, but I am convinced that the left is coming back.” James Carville promised their reign would last for 40 years. And Newsweek had us believe that resistance really was futile, to coin a phrase.

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Two years later, and all is lost.

The Daily News (hot on the heels of fellow crosstown rivals Paul Krugman and Frank Rich) is dusting off Al Gore’s nearly decade-old conservative media bias mantra, and the New Republic is picturing the new GOP Congress as the Return of the Son of the Monster that Devoured DC.

Forget the sclerotic old paranoid style of Richard Hofstadter from nearly 50 years ago — judging by the past two years, it’s long been superseded amongst his fellow leftists by the manic-depressive style of punditry.

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