As a kid, I'd turn to the inside back pages of the Philadelphia Bulletin to get my fix of the funnies-- Pogo, Li'l Abner, Snoopy, Hi and Lois.
Up until recently, when it came to news, the Wall Street Journal was hard to beat. You could depend upon the NEWS section of the WSJ to be solid reporting-- excellent journalism, untainted by spin or the right wing bias... before the Murdoch acquisition, except for those inside back pages of the front section. The inside back pages of the WSJ's front section have always, in my mind, been very similar to my childhood's Philly Bulletin's inside back pages-- the funny pages. Stridently, massively biased right wing brain farts so extreme they really are the funny pages, with a few celebrity politician exceptions. It is mildly amusing to read op-eds totally sans facts or substantiation on those pages. I can't tell you how many times I've read a piece and just shaken my head, thinking, "wackoland." And it's not just me. There are plenty of other journalists who have respected the Wall Street Journal's journalistic integrity-- except for those two inside back pages.
But things have changed. Like a leaky toilet, Murdoch's find-the-lowest-level media model has expanded the Op-Ed section, on some days, to a third page-- the page before the inside back pages. Today, there's an article by Karl Rove, a stale, limp, semi-re-run, in which he appears to unveil his new, yet old strategy of attacking Obama as a flip-flopper. You know, the way the GOP went after Kerry with "First he approved, then he disapproved the $87 billion."
This time, instead of using the 2004 term "flip-flopper" he's trying out some other pejoratives-- "parsing, evasions and misdirections," in one part of the op-ed, "backpeddling," in the middel and "one who parses, evades, dissembles and condescends" at the end.
The GOP had Kerry on tape, talking about his $87 billion dollar flipflop. This time, Rove has Obama wearing or not wearing a lapel pin, mistaking Auschwitz for Buchenwald and changing his position on his pastor, Reverend Wright.
This is test drive of the 2008 GOP attack spin is taking place on a page of the Wall Street Journal that, before Murdoch, was a news page. The page does clearly spell out, at the top, that it's an opinion page. But the human mind works in a predictable way with boundaries. Do something the same for a long enough time and patterns emerge, traditions evolve and automatic responses become the norm. Break the pattern and you can take advantage of those automatic responses. In this case, moving the funny-page content to a page formerly devoted to the news just might notch up the credulity paid to what would normally be considered standard WSH editorial right wing "hokum," to borrow a word from Li'l Abner's mammy, Pansy.
Rove wraps up his trial balloon/test drive slime experiment with the wishful thinking, "the narrative is beginning to take hold."
This time, Rove's re-run, old, stale "narrative" is built on a far flimsier, weaker base. That's not surprising. The GOP's message is also stale and old and does not appear to be picking up much traction. The Op-Ed directly above Rove's, by Daniel Henninger, Deputy Editorial Page Director for the WSJ, and frequent commentator on Faux News, copies some anti-Obama rhetoric first used by the Hillary camp-- dissing Obama for his eloquence. But in the end, Henninger falls to the most tired, and increasingly ineffective weapon in the right wing arsenal-- anti-tax talk, saying,
"My friends, Sen. Obama is very eloquent, but he is also going to be very, very expensive. It may turn out that an angry, inflation-pressed America just wants to vote for an aura. Feel free, so to speak. John McCain's job will be to explain the price of voting for eloquence."
Rove is tired. The GOP is tired. The WSJ is leaking and it's a sad thing that a formerly trusted institution, which once had strong, bulwarked boundaries, has begun the much expected, post Murdoch acquisition, slippery slide. It's not surprising. Part of the deal when the sale to Murdoch was made was that key editorial staff would not be fired without the approval of a special board put together to protect the integrity of the Journal. Just recently, Murdoch's team finessed that deal by asking for a resignation. Sadly slippery. And the leaking, like a rusting, rotting, toxic drum's contents oozing into a town's formerly pure water supply grows, from a drop here or there to....a regular flow... the 2008 political season approaches full bloom.