Media Licking Chops on Abramoff Story: "Huge, Very Large, Historic, Potentially Delicious"

January 3rd, 2006 12:40 PM

Today's chat on with Post media writer/CNN host Howard Kurtz began with a burst of hyperbole:

New York, N.Y.: Howard, In the early going, can you predict how big a story Jack Abramoff's guilty plea will be in the coming weeks and months?

Howard Kurtz: Big. Huge. Very large. A story of historic proportions. It may take awhile, but when information starts to dribble out, as it inevitably will, about what Abramoff is telling prosecutors about his dealings with some members of Congress and their aides, we will have an important and potentially delicious case study of corrupt Washington lobbying.

While the Kurtz chat then turned to the new Post ombudsman and the problem of long reporter sentences, the previous hour's Post chat with political reporter Peter Baker was much more Abramoff-obsessed. Baker was also wowed, responding to the first questioner: "Wow is right. This is a certifiable big deal. The Abramoff case has its tentacles in a lot of places, and there are no doubt some very nervous people today on Capitol Hill. While I haven't been the reporter on this, it seems to me that Tom DeLay, Bob Ney and a handful of other congressmen already know that they're under the microscope. Obviously we don't know the scope of what Abramoff could tell authorities, but they must think it's something worthwhile to cut a deal with someone at the heart of so many allegations."

Then notice how very nicely the Abramoff story seems to fit with the Democrats' plans for the fall elections:

Tallahassee, Fla.: What sort of implications do you think Jack Abramoff's plea deal will have on the 2006 mid term elections? Who is likely to be caught in the cross hairs?

Peter Baker: It's too early to say if it will have electoral implications. Obviously if he turns over information to prosecutors that leads to actions against members of Congress, that could have some impact. Right now Democrats are sharpening the knives to try to make 2006 about what they will call a corrupt Republican majority, much like the Republicans did to them in 1994. But it depends how deep this goes and whether the public is paying attention and genuinely outraged, or simply decides they politicians of all stripes.

The obvious media-bias point here, friends, is that the news media were not doing cartwheels about "historic" scandals in 1994. If Gingrich and the GOP made political inroads by playing up ethics problems, they didn't have much help from the liberal media elite.