Liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Friday denounced the "centrist cop-out" of balance. Krugman specifically singled out the Associated Press for not exclusively blaming the ongoing debt ceiling impasse on the Republican Party.
Complaining about too much fairness, the author derided his journalistic colleagues, "But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse."
In fact, as a July 26 Media Research Center report found, journalists have not made an effort to be "centrist." The MRC found that 66 percent of network stories mainly blamed the Republicans for the debt ceiling impasse. Only 20 percent found the Democrats at fault.
Krugman began by flatly denouncing the House GOP for having "taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation."
In fact, Krugman even blamed his journalists and their "cult of balance" for bringing America to the "edge of disaster":
The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. As you may know, President Obama initially tried to strike a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans over taxes and spending. To do so, he not only chose not to make an issue of G.O.P. extortion, he offered extraordinary concessions on Democratic priorities: an increase in the age of Medicare eligibility, sharp spending cuts and only small revenue increases. As The Times’s Nate Silver pointed out, Mr. Obama effectively staked out a position that was not only far to the right of the average voter’s preferences, it was if anything a bit to the right of the average Republican voter’s preferences.
But Republicans rejected the deal. So what was the headline on an Associated Press analysis of that breakdown in negotiations? “Obama, Republicans Trapped by Inflexible Rhetoric.” A Democratic president who bends over backward to accommodate the other side — or, if you prefer, who leans so far to the right that he’s in danger of falling over — is treated as being just the same as his utterly intransigent opponents. Balance!
For more, see a previous NewsBusters post.