E.J. Dionne's latest column makes the interesting claim that conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are "winning" national political debates because the right-leaning media regularly reports conservative criticism of Obama, while failing to give equal airtime to left critiques of the president. Dionne argues that this unbalanced news coverage legitimizes rightwing portrayals of Obama as a leftist, socialist, Maoist, Lenninist, Marxist, terrorist, . . . .[Dionne did not really say all of this, but it sounds familiar for some reason].
I describe Dionne's column as ironic because until recently, Dionne himself was an unwavering fan of President Obama. For over a year, Dionne, along with liberal columnists such as Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and Eugene Robinson could not find any fault in Obama from a liberal perspective. Meanwhile they heaved loads of critical commentary towards Hillary Clinton and, naturally, John McCain. Now, Dionne criticizes the media for making the same mistake that he and other columnists made in their past coverage of Obama.
I have always doubted and challenged the notion that the news media is liberal. Instead, I believe it is centrist and opportunistic. When Bush was popular, the media bashed Gore and, later, Kerry. When Clinton was popular, the media raked Bush, Sr., Gingrich, Dole, Limbaugh, and the "vast rightwing conspiracy" over the coals. When Reagan was popular, it knocked Carter and Dukakis. While Obama rode (and continues to ride) a wave of popularity, it trashed Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Sarah Palin.
The media follows Nielsen ratings and money -- not ideology. Because unquestioned adoration of Obama has fallen in popularity, the media wants to stir up attention by citing to and covering conservative critiques of the president. It's all about the dollar, Dionne.