Jewish World Review Jan. 3, 2002/ 29 Teves, 5763

Wesley Pruden

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We're fairer to some than to others | Now we're in for it. The Democrats have finally discovered who runs America, and it's apparently us.

The New York Times, taking a well-deserved break from its campaign to reform golf, reports that the Democrats are trying to organize left-wing competition for the famous vast right-wing media conspiracy.

The Times reported on New Year's Day that influential Democrats, "worried that their party has been outgunned in the political propaganda wars by conservative radio and television personalities, are scouring the nation for a liberal answer to Rush Limbaugh and the many others on the deep bench of Republican friends."

The Democrats are particularly frightened that their friends at CNN, MSNBC and the other networks are being outgunned by Fox News Channel, which calls itself "fair and balanced." Indeed, the new Nielsen ratings show that Fox News is hot, hot and the others are not, not. "Fair and balanced" is what frightens the Dems. They're addicted to media that's fairer to some than to others. More Phil Donahue, anyone?

The Dems are particularly steamed at the likes of Bill O'Reilly, the entertaining spinner of various political riffs, and Sean Hannity, the conservative half of the Hannity & Colmes. Alan Colmes is the liberal counterpoint to Mr. Hannity, and he's at the mercy of his material.

Why can't Fox be more like PBS, the network that counts on taxpayers to top up its begging bowl? Since the Democrats want someone more like the Rev. Billy Don Moyers, maybe they should audition the Rev. himself. Here's Billy Don's thoughtful riff on George W.: "Bush's 'mandate' includes using the taxing power to transfer wealth from working people to the rich. It includes giving corporations a free hand to eviscerate the environment and control the regulatory agencies meant to hold them accountable. And it includes secrecy on a scale you cannot imagine. Above all, it means judges with a political agenda appointed for life. If you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White House, you will swoon over what's coming. And if you like G-d in government, get ready for the Rapture. These folks don't even mind you referring to the GOP as the party of G-d. Why else would the new House Majority Leader say that the Almighty is using him to promote 'a Biblical worldview' in American politics? So it is a heady time in Washington - a heady time for piety, profits and military power, all joined at the hip by ideology and money."

Spicy stuff. What more could Democratic worthies ask for? Al Gore couldn't have said it better himself, although as a Baptist Sunday-school boy Al wouldn't have mocked Christian faith and belief.

But the Democrats, according to the New York Times, want more than a mere voice on educational TV. "If you start with the premise that [our] message was right, which we do," one official of the party says, "then the problem was that it wasn't getting out to the people." It's the massage, Stupid, not the message.

The Democrats imagine, in this telling of it, that "a disciplined message of the week gets repeated attention from Web sites like the Drudge Report, Mr. Limbaugh's radio show, Fox News' prime-time talk shows and the editorial pages of The Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal."

This is similar - "a disciplined message" - to Al Gore's lament that the media is in thrall to The Washington Times, to Hillary Clinton's famous indictment of the vast right-wing media conspiracy, and to her husband's complaint to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that everybody picks on him because "they've got The Washington Times and we don't."

Well, Mr. Clinton was wrong about that, but it is true that a lot of newspapers are dull and this one isn't. The television networks, which get most of their news and tips on what makes the news news from newspapers, are naturally dull, too.

The Democratic dilemma is that "progressives" - that's the code word for "liberals" - are the source of the trouble. Says Tom Athens, a former Democratic congressional staffer who is trying to put together a semi-vast left-wing media conspiracy to counter the vast right-wing media conspiracy: "Progressives have this problem. They sound too erudite, it's like eggheads talking at you."

Harry Thomason, the Hollywood producer and Clinton apologist who pines for a G. Gordon Liddy of the left, agrees: "Most liberal talk shows are so, you know, milquetoast, who would want to listen to them? Conservatives are all fire and brimstone."

John Podesta, who was Bill Clinton's chief of staff, thinks it's a matter of beef, not belief. "Across the board," he says, "we have to muscle up." He thinks another think tank, where the elites could meet to be erudite with each other, might do it.

Or maybe not. Harry S. Truman, who unlike modern Democrats disdained milquetoast, plain or buttered, was often accused of raining fire and brimstone on the objects of his wrath, righteous or otherwise. "I don't give anybody hell," he retorted. "I tell the truth, and they think it's hell."

Just so. The very model for the demons and devils of left-wing nightmares.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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