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Media Notes

Two incidents highlight the mainstream media's defects and biases.

11:00 PM, Feb 2, 2005 • By HUGH HEWITT
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BECAUSE I HAD TO FILE this column before President Bush gave his State of the Union address, I can only hope he called Democrats on their indifference to the medium- and long-term threats to Social Security. The decision by Democrats and their friends in media and blogosphere to downplay the obvious problems with the program is the fiscal equivalent of having a healthcare policy that is indifferent to teenage smoking because the consequences of such a habit are far down the road. The harsh truth is that Democrats prefer to fix the Social Security shortfall with tax hikes--which they cannot obtain from this Congress or president, so kicking the can down the road is their preference. Pretending that there is no problem buys time for the left to try and gain the congressional seats they need to hike payroll taxes.

Calling Joe Camel: There's work for you with the left.

Even though attention will turn today to the president's speech to the exclusion of almost everything else, let me underline two recent media events which deserve more scrutiny than they have thus far received.

The first is the genuinely scandalous assertion by CNN's Eason Jordan, made at the World Economic Forum, that the United States military has targeted and killed a dozen journalists. The account of Jordan's remarks -including his backpedaling and the crowd's reactions--is available at ForumBlog. Thus far no major media outlet has demanded an accounting of Jordan, but the idea that a major figure from American media traffics in such outlandish and outrageous slanders on the American military deserves attention and criticism, not indifference. It is no wonder that anti-American propaganda gains traction in the world when American news executives set fantasies such as this one in motion. If Jordan had no grounds for peddling this grassy-knoll garbage, he should be fired. If he did have even the flimsiest of grounds, he ought to share his evidence and let the public decide whether his judgment is as flawed as it was when he covered for Saddam all those years.

THE SECOND SUBJECT for mulling is John Kerry's extraordinary interview with Tim Russert last Sunday. There's a lot to absorb here, including Kerry's assertion that he did indeed run guns and CIA men into Cambodia on secret missions--and to aid the Khmer Rouge no less!

What is really remarkable is not Kerry's whoppers--he couldn't have meant the Khmer Rouge, right?--or his almost certain not-to-be-fulfilled pledge to sign the form 180. It is the set of questions Tim Russert posed.

Russert is generally regarded as the toughest interview in television, and he did bleed Kerry a bit during the campaign; afterwards Kerry never again came close to Russert's set before November 2.

But if the questions posed by Russert on January 30, 2005--on Kerry's fantasy life in Cambodia, on the sequestered records, etc.--were legitimate and useful inquiries after the votes have been cast, why then did no one pose them to candidate Kerry when they might have made a difference in the election? The blogosphere and the center-right media were full of such demands from August 1 forward, but not a single reporter from mainstream media bothered to pose even one of the Russert questions prior to the vote.

Why was that?

If the country's most respected television journalist asks a series of questions after the election that no one asked during the contest, doesn't that tell us all we need to know about the mainstream media's coverage of Kerry? Doesn't that conclusively answer the question of whether the debate moderators really came to the stage prepared to ask the questions that mattered most?

But we knew that, didn't we? Tim Russert just provided the proof.

The pathetic effort to avoid posing tough questions to Kerry (and by contrast the Mapes-like fanaticism against Bush) highlights the almost lunatic imbalance of ideologies within mainstream media. Tim Russert may have taken aim at Kerry's Walter Mittyisms, but he hit his journalistic colleagues instead.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That is Changing Your World. His daily blog can be found at HughHewitt.com.