The Washington Post puts the large, emerging 9-12 protest rally at the top of the front page today, but insist on playing up the fringe elements, "right-wing nutballs" and "freaks" – something liberal journalists very rarely did when covering anti-war, anti-Bush events. They often fail to place those protesters on the left.
But reporters Dan Eggen and Perry Bacon Jr identified ideology immediately. "With tens of thousands of conservative protesters expected in Washington on Saturday" are the first words. The story carries five conservative labels from the reporters. The fourth paragraph quotes "Republican" adviser Mark McKinnon – but fails to remind the reader that McKinnon resigned from the McCain campaign last year because he liked Obama too much to make advertisements against him:
But top Republican strategists and many party observers also worry about the impact that the most extreme protesters might have on the party's image, including those who carry swastika signs or obsess over the veracity of Obama's Hawaiian birth.
Mark McKinnon, a former adviser to Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and other Republicans, said there is an "opportunity for Republicans" to tap into legitimate fears about an overreaching federal government. But he said that "right-wing nutballs are aligning themselves with these movements" and are dominating media coverage.
"It's bad for Republicans because in the absence of any real leadership, the freaks fill the void and define the party," McKinnon said.
The Eggen-Bacon story returns to fringe-scolding in paragraph 12:
The appearances underscore the increasing efforts by conservative Republicans to embrace the anti-Obama protests, even as others remain uncomfortable with the more extreme elements that frequent such gatherings. Some protesters this year have loudly disrupted community meetings, brought guns to Obama events and likened the president to Adolf Hitler.
One blogger who writes regularly for Freedomworks, Ross Kaminsky of Boulder, Colo., compared Obama's Tuesday address to U.S. schoolchildren to the tactics of Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot and other murderous dictators. "Totalitarians of all stripes put great emphasis on brainwashing the young, and Obama is no exception," he wrote on the group's Web site under the name "rossputin."
Would anyone like to suggest that a Washington Post story on a radical-left protest would quote from an Internet article calling Bush a dictator or a terrorist -- as if they would considering doing one? It's not like it would have been hard to locate.
While the Post headline was "GOP Sees Protest as an Opportunity," they underlined the potential for nasty rifts and splits and drew up poll numbers to argue against any GOP boost:
"It's hard to tell if this will help the Republican Party win," said Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who said he expects a primary challenge from a "tea party" activist. "What it's done is energize people. The question is what will happen with the energized people: Are we going to maintain an effective two-party system or are some of them going to split off?"
According to an August Washington Post-ABC News poll, 18 percent of respondents said they were "angry" about health-care reform efforts. But of that group, only 35 percent had a great deal or good amount of confidence in Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions for the country's future; only four in 10 said they considered themselves strong Republicans.