It was probably about dozen or so years ago when I first realized this. I recall an interview with a military advisor on Fox News who was describing how amazingly awesome the war in the Middle East was going.
“So, General, is this among the best military operations you have ever witnessed?” “Tell us just how well things are going on the ground?” “Does this show the strength of the Bush doctrine?”
… and so on.
The questions were shamelessly leading and unabashedly biased. This man, complete with a full complement of chest candy was no idiot, but seriously, these questions could have easily been answered by the proverbial “any idiot.”
No doubt and no surprise that these, “No seriously, how awesome are you?” kind of questions advance a specific agenda. That is, after all, the role of partisan news programs carried on both MSNBC and Fox News.
But for candidates seeking the affirmation of the public at large, it dawned on me that instead of this being electoral wind at their backs, it becomes a headwind instead.
The right’s former vox populi, Sarah Palin, is probably the most notable example.
When attempting to swim in the mainstream media she drowned in spectacular fashion. There are so many examples, but perhaps the first time we saw this with such clarity was when she badly fumbled softball questions by the Queen of Gotcha, Katie Couric. You don’t know what newspapers … or magazines … or books you read? Seriously?
The problem with both Fox News and MSNBC is that they provide an ongoing – and false – sense of security to partisans. Guests, especially those in line with the partisan philosophy of the station or host, get to swing at easy pitches and, to mix my sports metaphors, it’s like they are always on the court facing the Washington Generals.
Is that what we are now seeing from MSNBC darling, Alan Grayson?
The outspoken liberal congressman has hidden within the cozy confines of the far left media for so long it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’s not quite prepared for the bigger stage.
On Tuesday, POLITICO’s Matt Dixon whacked the bejesus out of Grayson with the no-holds-barred story “Alan Grayson hedge funds skirt ethics rule.” POLITICO specifically chose not to hedge its bets with a “Grayson may have skirted” headline and instead tried and convicted him in the same story. Ouch!
Welcome to the mainstream, Mr. G.
So how did this sitting congressman with many hours of on-air experience handle the story?
He fumbled it. Badly.
His “these are smart people” defense, coupled with the notion that he has no “fiduciary duty” to the trusts that clearly have his name on them is flat-out bizarre.
POLITICO didn’t just swing; it swung hard. Dixon and company cited several highly qualified experts in the area who called absolute B.S. on Congressman Grayson’s answers. One said Grayson’s response was “complete nonsense” and another who said it was “absolutely incorrect.” Again, ouch!
At least the good news for Grayson is he seems to be getting a little better. Last time we got a sniff of Grayson’s media savvy, he was tossing around expletives and calling a reporter a “shitting robot.”
That’s my point.
Grayson, like Palin, has suffered from being too protected in a media safe zone, and it’s hurting his ability to handle real punches. If he doesn’t want to go the way of the dodo (No, that’s not a reference to Alaska’s former commander-in-chief. OK, yes it is.) he needs to recognize that he is no longer protected by the sheltered confines of Rachel Maddow’s shadow. It won’t be easy because, let’s face it, ranting about how the GOP wants old people to die is all fun and games when your host nods in vigorous agreement.
But when the journalist on the other end of the line is looking to add a belt notch, all that face time on closed-circuit partisan media becomes a very real liability.
Peter Schorsch is a new media publisher and political consultant based in St. Petersburg, Fla. Column courtesy of Context Florida.