Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Random thoughts on elections & media

On yesterday's elections scattered around the country, I'm disappointed that parental notification did not pass in California, but c'mon, this is California we're talking about! And really, did Republicans really think they had a good shot at changing the parties in the Virginia and New Jersey governor's mansions? Virginia might be a disappointment, but Jersey's about as reliably liberal as California.

As John Podhoretz wrote in this morning's New York Post, the results are way too scattered and status-quo to mean anything:
Incumbent party victories in two states and one city. A Republican state [Ohio] rejected Democratic initiatives. A Democratic state [California] rejected Republican initiatives. Don't let the Democratic spin doctors fool you. Election Day 2005 has nothing to tell us about where the electorate is going in the wake of Bush's terrible year.
(I disagree with Larry Kudlow, but he thinks otherwise:
Last night’s election results were a stinging blow to the Republican party . . . This off-year election raises the question about a Democratic sweep in next year’s mid-term elections.

. . . While Democrats still have to craft a coherent message, and while their glee may yet be premature, the 2005 election message is clear: It’s time to get serious. This is a Republican problem. GOP pundits who try to downplay these election results are just plain wrong.)
Hugh Hewitt writes specifically about the failure of Gov. Schwarzenegger's ballot measures, addressing them as a letter to the governator. He has several suggestions for Arnold, including this one:
Finally, don't blow the California Supreme Court appointment or the rest of your judicial appointments. I sighed when I saw the latest round of your court picks in southern California. Look. If you are going to appoint Democrats to the bench -- even one -- don't ask me to get excited about your re-election. I know you can't do much with a legislature that makes the Swedish parliament look conservative, but you own your judicial picks. Ask around. There are great Republican lawyers who would make great Republican judges.

On the California Supreme Court vacancy, understand that this is the biggest decision you will make between now and next November. If you blow it, it will be a sure fire message to the base that the candle isn't worth the fight. If Lockyer is against a nominee, that's a great sign of that nominee's qualifications.
I find it interesting that Hugh makes a point of warning Arnold against a bad Supreme Court pick by saying "it will be a sure fire message to the base that the candle isn't worth the fight." Yet, when we were in the midst of the Harriet Miers debacle, Hugh was taking conservatives to task when we expressed our dislike of the pick and threatened to pull our support of the president and other Republicans.

On the issue of patriotism in the media, NRO's Jonah Goldberg writes about a journalism seminar featuring (among others) Mike Wallace and the late Peter Jennings:
. . . the moderator imagined a hypothetical in which [Jennings] was imbedded with enemy troops in a Vietnam-like war. He then asked whether, if given the opportunity, he’d warn American troops they were about to be ambushed or whether he’d hang back and simply “roll tape” on the slaughter.

Jennings agonized. “I think,” he said after a long pause, “that I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans.”

Mike Wallace was appalled. “I am astonished” that you would interfere, he said to Jennings. “You’re a reporter!” When asked if American reporters have a higher duty to their country or fellow Americans, Wallace replied, “No, you don’t have a higher duty. No. No. You’re a reporter.”

This browbeating was enough to get Jennings to change his mind.
My takes: 1) It's interesting that Jennings, who held dual citizenship in Canada and the U.S., was described as agonizing over the answer, while the American Wallace had no such qualms about saving American lives. 2) If reporters insist that their job precludes them from the common decency of saving lives of the soldiers who are simultaneously trying to fight a war and keep those reporters safe, I vote for the end of imbedded troops. If I can't trust you to watch my back when the bad guys are salivating at the thought of cutting off my head, I don't want you anywhere near me or the war I'm fighting. The government is not forthcoming with information? Tough patooties. Your attitude toward your country — a country that affords you such incredible freedoms in your job and your life — earns you no favors.

In a related issue, Bill Roggio was one of four bloggers who presented a different perspective on war at the U.S. Capitol this morning. In today's NRO, he writes about the purpose (highlighting mine):
We will be offering an alternative view of the war. The point is to bring the character and context of the underreported story to the forefront, to highlight the men and women in service to our nation's defense, and to broaden awareness of the larger, more vital, reality in this war: U.S. and Coalition forces are defeating the insurgency.

The non-lethal weapons of our enemy, no matter their political or religious affiliation, include our own apathy and acceptance of the media's presentation of the war. In their efforts to be objective citizens of the world, the media's oftentimes morally neutral reporting on the terrorist insurgency — in all its horror — paints an incomplete picture of what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It isn't my place to predict tipping points in the political arena or the social impact of blog going mainstream, nor would I offer advice to the mainstream media. Yet I do see in the words of the families left behind, and the soldier, sailor, airman, and Marine on distant shores that the media must be more aware of its perhaps unintended consequences in striving for ultimate objectivity. Reporting is more than stating a run of details, numbers, and facts. To convey as accurate a portrait of our efforts in Iraq as possible, the media must be willing to develop context, present the situation rather than the result of an action, and be clear that the scattered success of a car bomb or IED is far from the steady progress of coalition forces throughout Iraq, or political progress by the Iraqi people.
Until the media is willing to look beyond its nose and understand the objections of the non-MoveOn.org crowd, it will continue to bleed advertisers, subscribers and viewers in favor of new media like, well, Bill Roggio. (The other bloggers are Michael Yon, Steve Schippert and Andi Carol.)


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