The Press Should Be A Watchdog, Not Spinmeisters

The press isn’t just fickle; it can undermine the political process.

The Founding Fathers envisioned the press as a watchdog, safeguarding the public from governmental abuses — and by extension in today’s lobby-controlled Congress, corporate tyranny.

When it becomes an attack dog, shilling for one candidate or subverting realities in favor of election drama, it fails to protect the public or fulfill its charge.

Democrat, Republican or Independent — whatever your political stripe, truth should matter. But as Bill Maher just mused on his HBO show: “Truth is dead — and the Internet killed it.”

He’s right. The Internet can link users to any position, however inaccurate, hateful or outrageous. Angry bloggers, groups with seemingly patriotic names and nefarious agendas, populate cyberspace. Thankfully, so do legit news organizations — and fact-checking is a big deal.

Do we really need political pundits telling us what to think 24/7? (Meantime, other serious news gets short shrift.)



Correcting misconceptions, acting as a watchdog over candidates or policies is essential. Promoting personal biases and wishes, not so much. They need to distinguish themselves by accurate commentaries and solid reporting.

Which was MIA after the Iowa vote.

For example, would the headline “Sanders Squeaks By Clinton for Victory” have run if Bernie won? Doubtful. But it’s the talking point on Clinton. Granted, Sanders has great enthusiasm and support for ideas that energize voters, especially millennials, but fair’s fair.

Whatever her baggage — and I can’t imagine any politician without it — Clinton has substantial support in key voting blocs. A balanced approach should acknowledge strengths and weaknesses of both Democrats.

(As for electability – this is a country that elected wrestler Jesse Ventura and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger governors. Which cast member in “Bedtime for Bonzo” would have touted Ronald Reagan as presidential timber?)

Similarly, after months of media hype about Donald Trump, ignoring other campaigns in the process, the press has turned on the Trumpeter.  

Sure, he talks up his chances like a deranged barker boss, but polls are tricky. (Even the Des Moines Register, considered the gold standard of Iowa polls, was partially wrong.) His No. 2 showing upended the pundits and claims of “running the table.” They hate being wrong almost as much as he does.

Plus, drawing generalities about Iowa isn't helpful; it’s a caucus state. It’s unlike any other. Let’s see what happens in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada before we talk firewalls.

And then there is Marco Rubio. Mr. Third Place was the buzz on networks Monday and Tuesday nights. A GOP candidate who doesn’t finish first in Iowa has “won” by coming in third. That’s called spin. His showing was nearly a coronation — and I’m talking MSNBC.  

Now being billed as the new establishment guy, freshman Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is a Tea Party creation, which is rabidly anti-establishment. Remember when President Obama’s freshman status was a defining issue in 2008? Did the press suddenly switch gears on the value of experience and a legislative record?

As for the actual winner in Iowa, Ted Cruz’s campaign told voters that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race, a dirty trick worthy of Richard Nixon. Cruz apologized to Carson, but the damage was done. Given his evangelical support, what would Jesus say?

More to the point, why didn’t the press say more? Not by aping Trump, but by noting the hypocrisy of pitching sacred affirmations but acting profane.

It’s a long slog to November. Who can predict what revelations, scandals and upsets will occur. Thomas Jefferson wrote that a well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy.

Let’s give them one.


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