As the networks try to ignore the good news coming out of Iraq, conservatives may soon believe it's time to revisit the Left's swaggering notion that they alone were living in Reality and the stay-the-course Iraq-liberation movement was living in Fantasyland. So now with all the bias by omission, which side is in danger of looking like it's sticking its fingers in its ears and singing "la la la"? (Frank Rich, to name just one Reality Riverdancer, is still too busy applying Nazi metaphors to the Bush team to notice any good news.)
On the Swampland blog, Time correspondent Jay Carney responds to the Michael Crowley New Republic piece by noting that while Hillary's people use to admire the Bush team's manhandling of the press, they are now wise enough to avoid "losing touch with reality" by emulating them too closely.
The last point about emulating Bush's press relations is worth further analysis. It is certainly true that Clinton Administration veterans used to intersperse their criticisms of the Bush White House with grudging, and sometimes glowing, admiration for the way it brow-beat the press into submission. At least that was what you would hear during Bush's first term. (Along the lines of, "If we ever get back in, we're going to do that!") What you've heard since from Clinton vets and other Democratic operatives is that the open contempt for the press exhibited by the Bush operation eventually backfired, not just as a matter of public relations but, far more gravely, as a function of governance. The assumption that journalists were the enemy and that everything they wrote was biased and wrong -- about Iraq, for example -- only added to the insulation of the White House from reality as the President's public support began to plummet. And that insulation from reality is at least partly to blame for some of Bush's worst mistakes -- including his response to Katrina and his insistence, for several years, that the U.S. was "making progress" in Iraq, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
I suspect that sorry history is not lost on the Clinton team -- which is made up of veterans of both New York politics and an eight-year administration. There is a difference between aggressively trying to manage the media during a campaign on what are largely political process stories and having so much disdain for reporting itself that you discount it and lose touch with reality.
Our first question for Jay: when the press corps staring at you on the podium writes that you're out of touch with reality -- with its attendant implication of psychosis -- is it wrong to assume they're biased and hostile? If you treated them like your best friends, wouldn't that show insulation from reality?