In New Book, Gary Hart Whacks 'Partisan and Ideological Media' -- He Means Fox

August 16th, 2015 7:25 AM

Liberals often lament “partisan and ideological media” and what they mean if Fox News Channel and conservative talk radio. They don’t mean the partisan and ideological media that agree with them.

Liberal syndicated columnist Connie Schultz was selected by the partisan and ideological Washington Post to review former senator Gary Hart’s new book The Republic of Conscience, and that’s just how it appears in this book review. “Partisan and ideological media” are questioning the programs which make  America a “civilized society” – that is, a socialist society.

Hart is right, too, to bemoan how “partisan and ideological media” have fed a growing tendency for Americans to question whether we are a “society with social obligations.”

...Now, however, the partisan “media chatterers” chip away at these once-treasured national values. “Could we do without the social safety net,” he writes, “without Social Security and Medicare, without farm subsidies, without unemployment compensation, without school lunch programs, without housing assistance? Of course we could. But we would not be a civilized society and we would not be an American nation any of us would be proud of.”

Schultz agrees with Hart on the usual liberal arguments against the scourge of Fox News and of a campaign-finance system that apparently makes conservatives too competitive. But she knocks Hart for failing to disclose the obvious personal reason he loathes the press -- his ruined 1988 presidential campaign, when he dared the press to follow him around in his personal life, leading to a Miami Herald stakeout of his D.C. apartment that revealed an extramarital affair. This leads Schultz to disclose what she often slow to admit -- her marriage to a liberal Democrat senator.

Hart writes that, after Watergate, “journalistic rewards were offered for disclosure, by any means devised, of the private lives of presidents and political figures, with varying degrees of accuracy and verifiability. The duty of selecting leaders shifted from the people to the press. It is one thing for the people to know the emperor has no clothes. It is another for the media to peek in the windows of his private home to prove it.”

The next sentence should have read something like this: “In the interest of full disclosure, I speak from personal experience.” And following that should have been at least a mention of how media coverage of his relationship with a woman not his wife derailed his presidential bid in 1988. If you want to position yourself as a prophet to save us from ourselves, it’s important to acknowledge your own missteps on this road to wisdom.

In the interest of full disclosure, I note the following: My husband, Sherrod Brown, is a member of the U.S. Senate, which Hart disparages as devoid of serious debate and full of people who no longer read any history. I am also a journalist — that is, a member of a profession he loathes. I am also a woman, and Hart seems to think my gender has little or nothing to offer a country in dire need of big personalities. Bemoaning the “shrinking” stature of everyone from political leaders to television anchors, he writes, “Where have you gone Walter Cronkite, or Lee Iacocca, or Gary Cooper, or Walter Lippmann?” If visibility is what he’s going for here, how about CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour, or Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, or three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep, or New York Times columnists Gail Collins and Maureen Dowd? To name a few of so many.

Liberals would surely object, but I don’t mind comparing Walter Cronkite to Maureen Dowd. Cronkite is way over-mythologized as some kind of objective journalist instead of a leading member of “partisan and ideological media” at CBS.

Schultz concluded her interview by accusing Hart of completely mangling a New York Times television critique by A.O. Scott as he lamented the evaporation of adult authority figures.

But then, Hart shows his age not only by recalling Cronkite, Gary Cooper, and Walter Lippmann, but by disparaging the conservative argument with phrases like “a thousand points of light,” which George H. W. Bush used in the 1988 campaign.

“When our economy is not growing,” he writes, “those least able to look after themselves are the first thrown overboard under the banner of slogans such as ‘A thousand points of light’ or ‘We must balance our budget’ or ‘We can’t afford handouts’ or ‘We must eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse.’ Never mind that these are all rhetorical devices to facilitate an escape from harsh reality with our conscience intact.”