The Network Definition of Nastiness

It's rather funny, all this news about this campaign having been "the nastiest ever," to quote Dan Rather. Up until about 10 days before the vote there was barely any attention whatsoever paid to the elections by the press that suddenly is alarmed by an avalanche of negativity. How negative, you ask? Well, for starters Al D'Amato called his opponent a "putzhead." Mercy! I suspect also that the famous media ad watch patrols - the closest we'll ever get to a modern-day Holy Inquisition - probably nailed some Republican calling a liberal a liberal, too. Forsooth!

But what's really amazing is all the attention that was paid to the Republicans' $10 million soccer-mom-squishy ad campaign asking voters not to "reward Clinton" by voting Democratic. Now that, that was uncalled for, and the networks (primarily) were not going to let this dreadful negativity go untouched. The moment the ads began to run, ABC's Peter Jennings warned the public to take cover from the "$10 million advertising attack." CBS and NBC were so anxious to get Clinton's response that they played it before showing any clips of the new ads. CBS actually set up its story as a vehicle for Clinton to respond - and didn't include a single soundbite from a single GOP official.

NBC prepared and released an instant poll which "suggests the abrupt change in tactics could backfire on Republicans." Add to NBC's negative take some very predictable outrage from CNBC's outrageous Geraldo Rivera ("a turn to the ugly") and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann (wondering why the Republicans were out to "coarsen" political discourse) and you have a perfect trifecta of rebukes.

But they were just warming up.

The next morning, NBC returned to promoting Clinton's response to the "Republican blitzkrieg," and ABC's Lisa McRee wondered hopefully: "Just raising the subject again: Could everybody just say 'Bleah! Sick of it!'" Over the weekend CNN followed Newt Gingrich around and bugged him about his role in this nefarious plot. Monday night ABC joined NBC in employing pollsters to help Clinton: "The latest ABC poll shows there may be a small voter backlash at Republicans because of their anti-Clinton ads."

It's all so hypocritical. If these oh-so-objective journalists find it "wrong" for the GOP to run these negative ads, and scandalous for Mr. Gingrich to participate in them - where were they three years ago when Bill Clinton was personally directing an advertising broadside far greater in size, and far nastier in tone against Bob Dole? (And for good measure, let's add: At least the Republicans raised their funds a) in the United States and b) legally.)

There was no outrage in 1995 because what Bill Clinton was saying was not outrageous in the eyes of the press. Nor, for that matter, is anything the Democrats are doing this year - at the very time the Republicans were airing their ads.

Do you want a lesson in dishonest, scandalous, obnoxious, character assassination? Try this one:

"When you don't vote, you let another church explode. When you don't vote, you allow another cross to burn. When you don't vote, you let another assault wound a brother of a sister?" The rest is a continuation of this predictably ugly, predictably personal leftist attack on the GOP by the Missouri Democratic Party.

There's nothing, nada, nyet in the GOP video archives that come close to this wretched slur. And yet not a word was mentioned on ABC. Nor on CBS. Nor on NBC. Nor on CNN. Only Fox found this ad newsworthy; and pundit Juan Williams of the Washington Post was right on the money: "When you talk about things like church burnings, when you talk about attacking, lynch mob activity, that strikes deep and I thing the fact that Democrats feel that that's what they have to do with the black community, it's a little bit insulting; it's patronizing to black people."

How is it that something as heinous as this ad is acceptable to the mainstream press? Perhaps because it's not really objectionable, in their eyes, to attach blame to Republicans for church arsons, cross burnings and the like. Just as last month, in their eyes it wasn't objectionable to attach to pro-lifers the blame for Dr. Slepian's murder in Buffalo. Just like the month before that it wasn't objectionable to attach to social conservatives the blame for the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Which is why it's predictable that those same reporters will blame conservatives for the GOP's defeat this year.