And yet, a week after the mainstream press finally relented on its censorship of the story in order to report Jordan's resignation, Frank Rich was complaining that the “ ‘Jeff Gannon’ story was getting less attention than another media frenzy—that set off by the veteran news executive Eason Jordan.”58 Here's the rundown at that point:
NUMBER OF ARTICLES IN THE NEW YORK TIMES ON JEFF GANNON, GAY: 4
NUMBER OF ARTICLES IN THE TIMES ON EASON JORDAN ACCUSING THE NUMBER OF WORDS ON JEFF GANNON IN THE TIMES: 5,097
NUMBER OF WORDS ON EASON JORDAN IN THE TIMES: 2,785
NUMBER OF WORDS ON EASON JORDAN IN THE TIMES NOT ATTACKING BLOGGERS FOR MAKING AN ISSUE OF IT: 938
NUMBER OF TV NEWS PROGRAMS DISCUSSING JEFF GANNON: 45
NUMBER OF TV NEWS PROGRAMS DISCUSSING EASON JORDAN, EXCLUDING FOX NEWS: 33
As a group, the figures above suggest a “Jeff-Gannon-to-Eason-Jordan-stories” ratio of about 2 to 1. I don't know where Rich falls on the “real newsman” scale, but it seems to me that even an average newsman ought to be able to count.
ANOTHER STORY THE MEDIA HAD KEPT OUT OF THE MEDIA, according to Times columnist Paul Krugman, was the Bush U.S. attorneys scandal. After the 2006 midterm elections, Krugman exulted that the new Democratic Congress could finally shed some light on Bush's firings of U.S. attorneys, which he called a “suppressed Bush-era scandal—a huge abuse of power that somehow never became front-page news.”59
Krugman's complaint that the media had been burying the story was, as usual, completely deranged. By that point, the Times alone had made the U.S. attorneys “scandal” the subject of eleven major news stories, including two front-page articles, for a total of more than 9,000 words. The Times had also published six overwrought editorials, three op-ed pieces, and one indignant letter to the editor on the subject. The topic was featured in seven news summaries. The only way the U.S. attorneys story could have gotten more press is if one of the U.S. attorneys had been caught on the greens of the Augusta National Golf Club.
The wall-to-wall coverage was especially impressive since it had never before been a scandal for a president to fire his own political appointees, such as U.S. attorneys.60 U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president. The president may fire them for no reason or any reason at all, including but not limited to: not implementing the president's policy about criminal prosecutions or being in the way of a patronage appointment. Why wasn't a fuss made when Bush fired Donald Rumsfeld? U.S. attorneys are political appointees, just as much as the secretary of defense is. Bush should have said, “We did it, it was political, and there's nothing you can do about it.” Instead, the administration stupidly apologized for firing its own employees, thereby embroiling itself in the most ridiculous nonscandal scandal in human history. We had gone from “Watergate” to “Troopergate” to “Gategate.”
If Bush's firing of U.S. attorneys he had appointed himself was a scandal, then what was President Clinton's unprecedented firing of virtually all U.S. attorneys appointed by his predecessor? This wholesale dismissal in March 1993 was a complete break with tradition. Historically, incoming presidents would gradually replace U.S attorneys from the opposing party as the president found replacements and the prosecutors wrapped up major cases and resigned. A total switchover to the president's appointees would generally take a few years. The Clinton administration requested that all U.S. attorneys submit their resignations by the end of the week.
Clinton's audacious move was particularly troubling because one of the U.S. attorneys targeted for dismissal was Jay Stephens, who was in the middle of a massive investigation of criminal wrongdoing in the House Post Office that was pointing to a key Clinton ally in Congress, House Ways and Means chairman Dan Rostenkowski. The prosecutor had already won several guilty pleas and was within thirty days of making a decision on whether to indict the powerful Democrat, when the Clinton administration peremptorily asked for Stephens's resignation.61
In that case, the Times lightly rapped Attorney General Janet Reno's knuckles, saying that firing all U.S attorneys was “an odd first step in the wrong direction,” while quickly admitting, “Nobody questions her right to dismiss every Bush Administration holdover.”62
For liberals to complain about Bush replacing his own U.S. attorneys after excusing Clinton's firing of all U.S. attorneys, not to mention his purge of the White House travel office employees—who were career civil servants, not political appointees—would be like ignoring Gennifer Flowers's audiotape-backed claims of an affair with Clinton, while running an innuendo-laced front-page article on John McCain's friendship with a female lobbyist. Oh wait … bad example. Okay, then, it would be like the breezing over of how John Kerry came into his money via a recent marriage to an heiress five years his senior, while fixating on McCain's marriage to a hot young heiress thirty-eight years earlier with whom he had four children. Oh wait … another bad example. How about: It would be like the Times defending the “Sensation” exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, with “art” defacing the Virgin Mary with close-up photos of women's vaginas, while criticizing John McCain's insensitivity to Catholics for receiving an endorsement from the Reverend John Hagee, a minister who had tough words for Catholicism. No, still another bad example.
Indeed, Times editorialists complained that the media had not bashed Hagee enough, with Frank Rich grousing that videos of Hagee's sermons “have never had the same circulation on television as [the Reverend Jeremiah] Wright's.” When the media are complaining about their own massively left-wing coverage being biased in favor of conservatives, we have gone through the looking glass into the nuthouse.
But through eight years of the Bush presidency, liberals wailed that a docile media was ignoring administration scandals. That's if you don't include the entire liberal establishment relentlessly attacking Bush from the moment he took the oath of office. Consider the arsenic hoax.
In his first months in office, Bush was bedeviled by hundreds of regulations the Clinton administration had issued in its final days. The most famous of the Clinton last-minute rule changes was the new rule lowering the amount of arsenic permissible in drinking water. During eight years of Clinton's presidency, his administration considered 50 parts per billion of arsenic in drinking water an acceptable standard— the standard since 1942. But just days before Clinton left office, the Environmental Protection Agency suddenly issued a new rule that would lower the standard to 10 parts per billion over a five-year period, knowing that it would be madness for the Bush administration to implement the rule.
In order to comply with the new rule, small towns in western states, where arsenic naturally occurs, would be forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to buy new water plants. The liberal Brookings Institution and the conservative American Enterprise Institute produced a joint study showing that rather than saving lives, the new standard would actually cost about ten lives annually.63 Money spent on new water-treatment plants is money that is not being spent on ambulances, cancer research, and healthy food. So obviously this rule was a joke, the equivalent of Clinton staffers removing all the Ws from White House typewriters before leaving. To paraphrase Will Rogers, every time the Clinton administration made a joke, it was a law, and every time they made a law, it was a joke.
But the facts were irrelevant when the word “arsenic” allowed liberals to scream that Bush was poisoning us. In a typical doomsday editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle intoned, “Arsenic and Water Don't Mix.”64 Other apocalyptic editorials were titled “A Powerful Poison” (News and Observer [Raleigh, NC]), “Serve Up a Tasty Glass of Arsenic (Detroit Free Press), and “Arsenic, Ozone and Lead Are Poison, Not Politics” (South Bend Tribune [Indiana]).65 Letters to the editor reached a fever pitch. Noe Coopersmith wrote a letter to the editor of the Chronicle saying that Bush “seems determined to poison us all with arsenic in our water.”66 James F. Gerrits wrote to the Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan), “The new administration in Washington seems to be bent upon poisoni
These letters were impressively panic-stricken. But excited liberals firing off letters to newspapers could not hold a candle to the professional hysterics at the New York Times. (There must be something in the water over there.) The Times ran three separate editorials and more than a dozen op-ed columns attacking Bush for not immediately adopting the new arsenic standard that was so urgent, it had not been implemented throughout eight years of the Clinton administration. America's most easily fooled journalist, Bob Herbert, raged that “Mr. Bush is presiding over a right-wing juggernaut that has … withdrawn new regulations requiring a substantial reduction in the permissible levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen, in drinking water.”69 Paul Krug-man wrote, “And about those who thought Mr. Bush meant something kinder and gentler by ‘compassionate conservatism,’ all I can say is, let them eat cake. And drink arsenic.”70 Guest columnists Paul Begala and James Carville wrote a column saying Bush's “environmental agenda would put more arsenic in the water and more pollutants in the air.” I guess that depends on what your definition of the word “more” is. In Carville and Begala's sentence, it meant “the same as it was for the past six decades, including during the Clinton administration.”
But the winner of the prestigious Lombardi Award for Best Beating of a Dead Horse was Maureen Dowd, something of a nag herself, with a grand total of seven op-eds denouncing the Bush administration's decision to delay implementation of a new arsenic rule dumped on them by the departing Clinton administration. These columns are believed to contain considerably more than 10 parts per billion of pure b.s., also a known carcinogen. Sample: “As W. and Uncle Dick went about strip-mining the nation, allowing arsenic in the water and turning Alaska into a gas station …”71 (We started drilling for oil in Alaska under Carter, incidentally.)
By August of Bush's first year in office, the Democratic National Committee was running an ad with Senate minority leader Tom Daschle saying, “Under FDR, all we had to fear was fear itself. Now we have to fear arsenic in our drinking water.” The late Washington Post columnist Michael Kelly ruefully remarked, “The charges are manifestly false and they stick anyway.”72
In the end, the Bush administration adopted the rule, requiring vast amounts of money that could no longer be spent on other things, like heart disease research, lifesaving vaccines, or … I don't know … how about shoring up some levees in Louisiana? A stupid regulation was adopted because of a prank pulled by the Clinton administration and then elevated to an emergency lifesaving measure by a ferociously anti-Bush press. Bush didn't even get credit for finally adopting the idiotic rule hysterically demanded by liberals. The article reporting Bush had adopted the new arsenic rule ran on page A18 of the Times.73
Clinton himself had frozen all midnight regulations promulgated by the first Bush administration. Guess how that was portrayed by the media. If you guessed “heroic,” you would be correct. When Clinton did the exact same thing as W., he was depicted as a brave young president protecting the country from Republican dirty tricks. An article in the Wisconsin State Journal explained, “President Clinton ordered his Office of Management and Budget to freeze all last-minute rulings by Bush to make sure Bush wasn't hurting the country through a lot of last-minute favors.”74 An Associated Press article began, “The Clinton administration is putting the brakes on scores of regulations pushed in the waning days of President Bush's term, including an alternative-fuels proposal backed by a big Republican contributor and ethanol maker…. ‘There were some that were pretty questionable,’ White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said Sunday.”75 How prescient of Clinton to be opposing alternative fuels as far back as 1992!
It was entirely up to the media which new rules would become permanent and which would be scuttled.
Having dealt with last-minute rule-making himself, George W. Bush directed his agencies to refrain from proposing any new rules after June 1 of his last year in office, to avoid creating similar headaches for his successor.76 Again, liberals smelled the whiff of fascism. The New York Times ran a front-page article quoting “legal specialists” who denounced Bush for his ban on eleventh-hour rules, saying “the policy would ensure that rules the administration wanted to be part of Mr. Bush's legacy would be less subject to being overturned by his successor.”77 First of all: Huh? Second of all: So by not sneaking through eleventh-hour rule changes, the Bush administration was nefariously denying its successor administration the opportunity to revoke those rules?
The Times even got an environmentalist, John D. Walke, to attack Bush for trying to “shut down regulation for the remainder of the Bush administration.” It is unlikely that Walke would have liked any new rules being issued by the Bush administration, anyway. Not six months earlier, Walke had called the EPA's new rule on coal-fired emission plants “the Bush administration's parting gift to the utility industry.”78 You can't win with these liberals.
If Bush wanted to have fun, just before leaving office he would have signed executive orders reinstating the “wall” between the FBI and the CIA, banning waterboarding, ending terrorist surveillance, prohibiting extraordinary rendition, and shutting down Guantánamo. After he defied all predictions by keeping America terrorist-free for eight years, let's see Obama do it without having to explain to the New York Times why he's “tearing up the Constitution.”
TO PROVE THAT THEIR OWN MASSIVELY LEFT-WING MEDIA BIAS is actually right-wing media bias, the media cite phony polls showing how overwhelming popular liberal ideas are with the public. It is not insignificant how the media report polls, because liberals consider polls—opinion surveys of the uninformed—more accurate than actual elections.
The biggest story of the 2004 election was the fraudulent Edison/ Mitofsky Research exit poll on election day. Early exit polls showed John Kerry the clear winner by mind-boggling margins. The Mitofsky poll had overstated Democratic percentages by about 6 to 8 percent since the 1992 election,79 but in 2004, the pro-Democratic tilt was absurd. For example, the exit polls had Bush tied with Kerry in Mississippi. Yes, Mississippi, the state where 9 out of 10 white men voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984. The 2004 exit poll results were so implausible that renowned political analyst Michael Barone initially speculated that the sites of exit polling had been leaked to the Democrats, enabling them to flood those precincts with Democratic voters eager to answer the pollsters’ questions.
These stunningly inaccurate exit polls began to be released around noon on election day and convinced news anchors, talking heads, and even the campaigns that Kerry would win walking away. Recall that when Jimmy Carter conceded the election to Reagan in 1980 before the polls had closed on the West Coast, Carter was blamed for costing a slew of down-ticket Democrats their elections. In 2004, the entire punditocracy had essentially conceded the election to Kerry. Only at 9 P.M., when the real results began to come in, did the election flip to Bush. It was the first Kerry flip-flop that actually served the national interest.
Had the wildly inaccurate 2004 exit polls turned the election, this would have been the most spectacular October Surprise in history— better than a simple, little “October Surprise,” this was an “Election Day surprise.” How many voters were discouraged by the leaked exit polls showing Kerry to be the clear winner? In the end, Bush won, so Republicans walked away from this jaw-dropping near-theft of an election without complaint.
After the election, the designer of the exit poll, Warren Mitofsky, frantically examined the results to try to figure out what had gone so horribly wrong. What Mitofsky found was that “the biggest discrepancies between actual precinct votes and the exit pollsters’ results occurred in precincts where the exit poll personnel were female graduate students.”80 Barone suggested that Republicans might have been less likely than Democrats to answer the pollsters’ questions, “especially when the interviewer is a young woman whose appearance
But ludicrous exit polls showing Kerry winning Florida by 110 percent were soon being cited by liberals as proof that Bush stole the election. Contributing to the conspiracy theories was the fact that Mitofsky's exit polls in other countries have always been accurate. But as Mitofsky told Barone, in other countries, such as Mexico and Russia, everyone answers the exit polls. It may even be mandatory in Russia. In the United States, he said, about half of those leaving polling places refused to participate in exit polls.
Those facts, adduced by the exit poll author himself, didn't slow liberals down. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote a major piece for the pretentious and stupid Rolling Stone magazine, titled “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?” (I responded in a spellbinding article titled “No.”) As his smoking gun, Kennedy noted that “the first indication that something was gravely amiss on November 2nd, 2004, was the inexplicable discrepancies between exit polls and actual vote counts.”82 But the discrepancies weren't “inexplicable”—they were unexplained, soon to be explained by Warren Mitofsky. Kennedy somberly noted that “the exit poll created for the 2004 election was designed to be the most reliable voter survey in history.” And the Titanic was “designed” to be unsinkable.
University of Pennsylvania professor Steven Freeman also relied on the exit polls for his book, rhetorically titled Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? (Look for my follow-up book, tentatively entitled No.) Freeman argued that exit polls “should be like measuring precipitation after rain has already fallen.”83 Except, according to the man who designed and oversaw the exit poll, 50 percent of the raindrops refused to participate. As Charles Murray says, it's not an accident that for the last two decades the only really useful public policy ideas that have had an effect on public debate have come from think tanks and not American universities.84