James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal noticed that President Obama seemed to dismiss the media's Tuscon blame-mongering by inserting the phrase "It did not" outside his prepared text to say hot rhetoric wasn't the cause of violence. He dared to observe Wednesday that, in general, liberal politicians have behaved far more decently than liberal journalists in the aftermath of Saturday's horrific shooting. On Thursday, Taranto offered space to a reader, Don Rubottom, to offer his insights as to why:
As a staunch Republican, and then a state senator in Oklahoma, I was present when Bill Clinton participated in the citywide memorial service at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds. His gifts were then on display, and that is the reason for his political gains from that tragedy. Despite accompanying vitriolic noise about talk radio, etc., Clinton showed his amazing gift for connecting with human hearts. He was everyone's president that day, notwithstanding Dick Morris' calculations back at his indecent hotel room.
As you acknowledged today, all successful politicians have at least a capacity to imitate civility and compassion in a way that makes voters willing to believe them to be human. (Hence the practicing fire breathers calling for an end to fire breathing. Hypocrisy is a nod of vice to virtue.) You call it a sense of decency. I consider it a connection to reality.
Our journalist friends, on the other hand--including some on both sides of the political divide--do not require such capacities. They don't need people to vote for them or identify with them, only to notice them. The more hostility they incite, the higher their ratings. They are rarely made accountable to good taste or any standard of decency. (Did Dan Rather err? Not in his eyes!)
This is quite entertaining in many instances. In recent years, though, journalists have pretended that they are participants in the political contest, rather than mere critics or cheerleaders. They fail to acknowledge that they are not bound by any rules and are not subject to any tally of points scored.
A politician is the "man in the arena," in Teddy Roosevelt's phrase. Each one puts his name on ballots and suffers real consequences for his bad taste, lack of empathy, or any mistaken sense of public approval. Journalists pretend to compete with the politician, but they aren't in the same game. They get to grade themselves, and they get to declare victory every time they knock over a straw man. Those characteristics can give them a sense of invincibility.
As long as their social crowd approves of their attacks or prescriptions, the truth, legitimacy, effectiveness and civic utility of their work remains irrelevant. To me, few approximate anything close to a "first draft of history." They are more like bantam roosters or chihuahuas.
Taranto concluded: "In the case of the New York Times editorial page, they are rabid yet toothless chihuahuas. They lack both the integrity to renounce their scurrilous slanders and the courage to attempt a defense."