News to the Media

Froomkin, in discussing how Keith Olbermann is alone among network newscasters in “channeling” and “amplifying” public sentiments about Bush, which have been “clearly reflected in opinion polls dating back well over a year,” says: “The traditional media has been slow to come to grips with the American public's distrust and dislike of President Bush.”

Gee, ya think?

And unlike many issues which would be damaging to Bush if given them the full-throated attention they deserve, the public’s aversion to Bush is not just ignored by the media, but instead actively countered, with delusional references to how he’s well-liked and highly regarded, utter shock when someone expresses disapproval of Bush personally, and a reliance on the idea that liberals who object to any of his policies simply have an irrational hatred of him.

It’s the latter charge that drives me straight up one wall and down another—that we are driven by blind hatred, spawned of sour grapes and sore losing, to condemn anything and everything that Bush does, incapable of seeing that he’s a good man with good intentions and solid policies. Never does the media seem willing to contemplate that we are motivated by genuine discontent (and, increasingly, unadulterated fury) at the abject failure that Bush’s presidency has been since day one. To repeat myself, our hatred was never blind.

“You’re goddamned right if you think I found George Bush an insignificant slip of a man who was unprepared for and undeserving of the presidency, whose history as a drunken dullard, constructed aw-shucks shtick, and careful positioning as the ordained man who would marry religious extremists with neocon corporatists made me want to puke from the moment I laid eyes upon his sneering visage. You’re categorically correct if you think that his leadership shames me, that every heh heh which has emanated from his condescending mouth has made my skin crawl, that I am utterly unable to find the merest shadow of anything to like about him, that I fervently long for the day he takes his leave from governance and retreats to Crawford for good, where I won’t give the tiniest, microscopic shit about him whether he is lost in a tragic brush-clearing accident and his body devoured by wild dogs before the search party arrives, or whether he lives out the remainder of his useless life in good health and happiness—either way, I don’t care, as long as I never have to think about him for the rest of my days. You’re right as rain if you think I hated him from the get-go, but maybe it’s time to consider that my hatred left my eyes wide open, and it was his most ardent supporters who were blind. Blindly allegiant. Blind defenders. Deliberately, selectively blind.”

I include among those charged with willful blindness the media, because, for a long time now, it hasn’t been just liberals who distrust and dislike Bush. It’s also the moderates who view the increasingly radical conservative movement with which Bush has so firmly allied himself as both dangerous for America and aesthetically incongruent with their resolute moderation. It’s the center-right voters who trusted him on defense, but can no longer ignore the obvious conclusion that Bush is manifestly unprepared to have both a strong and smart foreign policy. It’s the traditional Republicans whose libertarian streaks are deeply offended by intrusions into family decisions like the Schiavo debacle and attempts to limit personal freedoms like the marriage amendment, and whose belief in small government has been roundly betrayed by Bush the Big Spender. It’s the conservative evangelicals who are worried that the narrowing separation of church and state is corrupting both, and who want someone to address the global climate crisis. It’s anyone who could watch Bush play the guitar while NOLA drowned and wonder what the hell he was thinking.

These aren’t people for whom the media has had much affection or given much interest, because they don’t conform to the convenient though erroneous storyline that Bush is a likeable guy whose only real enemies are unhinged liberals who wouldn’t like him no matter what. That moderates, center-right security voters, traditional Republicans, and critical conservative evangelicals are giving Bush a giant, collective thumbs-down hasn’t made the media sit up and take notice of them, but deliberately ignore them. They are willfully blind to whatever they don’t want to see—including the polling that shows Bush with such dismal approval rating, that, by the media rationale, the country must be comprised mostly of mindless, illogically Bush-hating liberals.

Why the media is so intent on pushing a “likeable Bush” storyline is another post altogether, but this much is known: They are pushing it, and doing so in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Bush is not liked, and there are a myriad of reasons that he isn’t, both political and personal. The question the media should have been asking for at least a year, and probably longer, is not why there people who don’t like Bush, but why there are still people who do.

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