January 12, 2005

A Stunning Admission

The RaTHergate Panel failed to go there, but Newsweek's Howard Fineman pens a column on the MSNBC website that describes MSM as a political party, the AMMP (American Mainstream Media Party), and pretty much says that the Democrats were subsumed into it.

The ideological energy of the New Deal had faded; Vietnam and various social revolutions of the '60s were tearing it apart. Into the vacuum came the AMMP, which became the new forum for choosing Democratic candidates. A "reform" movement opened up the nominating process, taking it out of the smoke-filled backrooms and onto television and into the newsrooms. The key to winning the nomination and, occasionally, the presidency, became expertise at riding the media wave. McGovern did it, Gary Hart almost did (until he fell off his surfboard); Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton rode it all the way.

Heady stuff from a serious player. I don't always agree with Howard but he brings a serious journalist's perspective to TV punditry.

Where I part on this piece is his assertion that, at the beginning, when Walter Cronkite soured on the war, and the WaPo took on President Nixon, that this movement's beginnings were benign and desirable.

The crusades of Vietnam and Watergate seemed like a good idea at the time, even a noble one, not only to the press but perhaps to a majority of Americans. The problem was that, once the AMMP declared its existence by taking sides, there was no going back. A party was born.

Fineman is burdened with zero doubt that the US's abrupt betrayal of our South Vietnamese allies was a good thing. I don't want to refight Vietnam until Senator Kerry runs for President again, but I fail to see how the public was served by a media that discarded objectivity to pursue an agenda -- just 'cause it's one Fineman likes.

It is a good column and an important admission. I think he is dead-on about both the rise and the fall of the AMMP. I quibble with his credits to the early institution.

UPDATE: Glenn thinks Howard is looking for good old days of objective media that never were.

UPDATE II: Jonathan Last wonders if the panel would not underscore the (obvious to most) fact that the documents were indeed fraudulent, what else was left out?

Leave aside the "no political bias" finding; leave aside the kid-glove treatment of Dan Rather and Andrew Heyward. This abdication of responsibility by the panel in the face of their own expert's conclusions is so startling that it legitimately calls into question--by itself--everything else in the report.

Posted by jk at January 12, 2005 12:41 PM
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