Wednesday, September 01, 2004

GOP Bait 'n' Switch

We knew “The Point” was predictable, but even we’re surprised at how closely Mark Hyman has followed RNC talking points.

A few days ago, we wondered aloud how Hyman would address the disconnect between the Republican platform and the headline speakers at the convention in New York. Perhaps, we mused, Hyman would try to characterize it as somehow showing the “big tent” that is the Republican Party.

And right on cue, Hyman did just that. Kicking off
his latest editorial with the statement that by “any measure” Bush is the most conservative president in 40 years and Kerry is the most liberal Democratic nominee in recent memory (a pronouncement that seems to be trotted out every four years about whoever happens to be the Democratic nominee), Hyman went to an interview with “moderate” Governor Robert Ehrlich of Maryland, who waxed rhapsodic about the contest of ideas every four years. Queried by Hyman about the “spectrum of philosophies” on display in New York, Ehrlich said that it was good for the party and demonstrated that the GOP has (you guessed it ) “a larger tent” than the Democrats. When asked how the GOP (or, as it was continually referred to throughout Hyman’s editorial, simply “the party”) had changed in the last 20 years, Ehrlich said (with a straight face) that it had become the party of “Main Street rather than Wall Street.”

Oh, really? Well, we know that last statement runs counter to all facts available to us. As we noted last week,
a recent CBO study showed that the Bush tax policies shift the tax burden from the richest segment of society to the middle class. Add to this the loss of a million jobs, the rise in those without health insurance, the revoking of overtime pay, the diminishment of veterans’ benefits, and the sending of more than a 100,000 troops to fight and die in Iraq (almost none of whom, we’re guessing, are the sons and daughters of Wall Street execs), and you have an out and out war on Main Street America. For more on the specifics of the Bush administration’s attacks on the middle class, see this collection of articles collected by or the excellent site by California Congressman George Miller.

As Thomas Frank argues in his book,
What's the Matter with Kansas, the GOP wins votes from “Main Street” not by championing policies that help average Americans, but by claiming to represent the moral values of those who live in Anytown, U.S.A.. Focusing on issues such as gay marriage, abortion, prayer in schools, gun control, and the like, Republicans appeal to the moderate to conservative morals of many working class Americans. But despite the claims of those on both the left and the right who focus on these specific issues, the person who occupies the White House is unlikely to dramatically shift the current uneasy consensus on these issues one way or the other. The issues get people riled up, but they don’t have the impact on the daily lives of individuals that broader issues such as tax policy, health care, labor law, and education do. The misdirection allows the GOP to claim to represent Main Street while practicing economic and social policies that ensure that its storefronts are boarded up, its potholes aren’t fixed, and people wander up and down its length looking in vain for a well-paying job.

And the spectacle in New York is a case in point. Despite Hyman’s assertion that a “spectrum” of philosophies are on display at the GOP convention, a glance at the primetime list of speakers (the only ones who get seen on any TV channel beyond C-SPAN) shows how distorted a picture the country is getting: Giuliani, Schwartzenegger, McCain, Pataki . . . not a true Bush conservative in the bunch. The only member of the administration to speak (with the exception of the president and vice-president themselves) is Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, in the obligatory attempt to be ethnically diverse.

So Hyman and Ehrlich combine forces to lie both about the GOP’s devotion to Main Street America and about its “broad spectrum” of values. But we can add to this list of insults on journalistic integrity the fact that Hyman again plays it both ways. As we’ve noted several times in the past, Hyman likes to flip-flop between being a “commentator” and playing a journalist. In Boston, he was exclusively the former, offering no coverage of the proceedings of the Democratic convention and giving us instead personal attacks on Kerry and other assorted perceived enemies. In New York, Hyman not only talks about the convention itself, but uses his “commentary” slot to interview a major Republican politician, giving him free reign to spout the party line. Of course, Hyman usually does this himself, but it’s at least in the guise of editorial commentary. The latest “Point” masquerades as an interview, but in essence is a free 60-second national ad for the RNC.

Maybe “The Point” will get in trouble with the FCC for violating the equal time regulation.


On second thought, probably not.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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