On Sunday May 3, 2009, the Los Angeles Times featured a story on the front page (above the fold) by Peter Nicholas under the headline: "Last week marked the inevitable moment when Bush truly faded into the background, observers (note the plural) say." Will most readers be able to differentiate quality journalism from stealth political propaganda? A few comments on this story may help the average voter to make that call.
After indicating that the story's contention was substantiated by "observers," (in the subhead), "presidential experts" (Ninth graph) and "political strategists" (Ninth graph), Nicholas quotes New York University Paul Light, Republican Pollster Neil Newhouse. and White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
A subhead restates this part of Paul Light's quote: "I don't think that the public will continue to believe that this was all George W. Bush's doing." The full quote contains this: "And every day that goes by it becomes more Obama's than Bush's." So what is a binary choice for Nicholas is more of a gray scale thing in the Professor's quote.
Neil Newhouse the Republican pollster said, "The perception will be that Barack Obama owns this bankruptcy." He adds "He owns this economy." An unrelenting torrent of spin would help secure the goal of getting the public to hold that perception. How many Republican polls will show that President Obama isn't doing a great job?
Ms. Psaki's quote: "There are some occasions where a movie script would not do justice to the number of major events happening at one time. This week was one of those occasions." Change "week" to "day," and that quote would be just as relevant to the Invasion of Normandy as it is to Nicholas' contention.
In the first paragraph Nicholas outlines his case by noting that in the week just past, Congress passed the White House Budget, Sen. Arlen Specter announced he was rejoining the Democratic Party and President Obama was given indications that he would have the chance to replace a Supreme Court Justice. The cumulative effect of those three items is, Nicholas asserts, is that the Republicans can now be justified in saying: "Tag, you're it!"
After making the announcement about switching his party allegiance, Senator Spector made some comments that indicated his fervor was less than total unquestioning obedience to the Democratic Party.
Wasn't the majority of the work for designing the budget which was just past, done before President Obama's inauguration? Wasn't it more like a relief pitcher coming into the game in the bottom of the eight inning with a ten run deficit? Wouldn't most baseball fans know that the pitcher who was pulled in the bottom of the eight would be charged with the loss? Why did Nicholas change that bit of common sense thinking? Could it be that he wants to set up Obama as a patsy if and when he faces the possibility that the election of Jeb Bush in 2012, is just what the country needs?
President Obama will get to name a liberal judge's replacement on the conservative dominated Supreme Court and that will prove he's at the helm from now on. Is that a bit of non sequitor argumentation?
The promise that "observers" say Bush has truly faded into the background comes down to Paul Light's quote about the transition being gradual. Is that quality journalism or political propaganda?
Any weekend, people in the USA can tune into a sports program where there is extensive scrutiny about personnel changes and what they portend for a particular team's future. If viewers can follow the extensive analysis of the sports announcers who go into minute detail about such news, why then do "political news junkies" settle for sloppy imitations of three-card Monte and/or the shell game? Perhaps secretly deep down in America's heart of darkness, everyone wants to see the Bush dynasty renewed in 2012 and a continuing unrelenting supply of items such as Nicholas' story will help them get what they want while displaying a veneer of believing that elections are decided by votes cast by a well informed electorate?
Is Jeb's Listening Tour a carefully orchestrated, well managed bit of political propaganda or is it really an example of concerned citizens helping a front-runner get a clear view of what the voters are thinking? Let's hope that well paid L. A. Times reporters get an assignment to bring the answer to their readers.
What's happening to Richard Fine, the L. A. lawyer, who, supporters contend, is being held a political prisoner? Maybe when Nicholas is hard up for a story suggestion, he'll ask Professor Light about that item?
For those regular readers who are more used to a flippant snide attitude from this columnist, we'll revert to form and will end this column, as we usually do, with a slightly relevant quote from Jeb Bush: "If more people were actively engaged in advocating their positions I think we'd have a better society" and then give the disk jockey a chance to feature a new artist who is following the Red Elvises path to success by starting on the Santa Monica mall, by playing Amy May's "Deja vu" (Speaking of deja vu, if Jeb gets elected in 2012, will the Columbia Review of Journalism web site's decks be awash with crocodile tears lamenting poor political journalism?) Now, we have to play fair and send an e-mail to Peter Nicholas and invite him to tear this column to shreds in the comments section. Have the kind of week that will make your spin spokesperson flush with pride and euphoria.