Bush: Win or Lose on News - Not Media

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There are many who still blame the media for news content critical of President Bush’s administration, claiming liberal bias. To the extent that bad news sells and good news doesn’t (so well), there is a bias against Bush’s candidacy. But the factual basis for stories prominent in the news today have little to do with media bias one way or another. Abu Ghraib torture, workers living on less, a 50% increase in deaths from terrorism since the Iraq invasion, environmental criticism, the Medicare Rx drug card revolt among seniors, and many more stories are not a result of bias. They are real events which capture public interest in news.

The President and his administration are no doubt extremely busy these days trying to contain media fires which threaten reelection in November. This week alone has seen a mind boggling number of stories that potentially could cost Bush the election. While there is good news coming out of Iraq in areas not being targeted by insurgents and terrorists in terms of schools, medical facilities, utilities, and revenues from oil production, these are stories which are not even bolstering Iraqi opinion of U.S. occupation, let alone American voters.

The GOP has not yet found a way to get the good news that makes Iraqis happy supercede the bad news coming out of Iraq which is unsettling American voters. Paul Wolfowitz testified this week that the U.S. military will be needed in Iraq for years to secure the new government. While the public in general does not follow the hearings on C-Span and therefore missed Wolfowitz’s testimony, a cognitive discomfort will be felt by them when they realize in the months after July that turning the reins of government over to the Iraqi’s, frequently touted by President Bush in his appearances on the campaign trail, will in no way reduce the amount of danger, troops, or money that the U.S. will have to spend for years to come. Wolfowitz testified this week that we are spending 4 billion dollars a month to keep our troops in Iraq. This disconnect between the hope of President Bush’s message and the reality of Wolfowitz’s testimony, is likely to prove costly to Bush on election day, especially with Independents and swing voters.

In this same week, President Bush adamantly stated he did not order anyone to apply torture to prisoners anywhere, and his aides "disavowed an internal Justice Department opinion”. Yet the media is also carrying stories which evidence the administration as part of the cause of the tortures. An AP story just this morning reveals

… a 2002 order signed by Bush says the president reserves the right to suspend the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners of war at any time.
This kind of disconnect between what the administration says, and what documents and evidence demonstrate will not be lost on Independents and swing voters who become aware of the stories before November.

An argument oft used by Bush and Patriot Act supporters is, if you have done nothing wrong, why should you fear a law aimed at the suspected guilty. This argument is now coming back on the administration as it seeks exemption, or even a compromise on exemption of U.S. troops from prosecution for war crimes. Thus the argument is begged, if the U.S. has not committed war crimes, why is the Bush administration seeking exemption from prosecution from such acts? The truth about the administration’s relationship with torture by American troops is probably most accurately reflected in a NY Times story entitled, Rules on Prisoners Seen as Sending Mixed Messages to G.I.'s. Such confusion over treatment of prisoners would likely never have occured had the administration not publicly stated that the Geneva Convention rules may not apply to our pursuit of the war on terrorists.

The administration's declarations that the economy is strong and getting stronger is causing voter headaches due to stories to the contrary. Contradictory news stories include citing the U.S. government outsourcing military equipment production to overseas workers, our federal government contracting overseas for U.S. domestic security, and a host of media stories such as those carried almost nightly by Lou Dobbs on the outsourcing of American jobs which until recently, the administration had claimed was good for the economy. Bush says we have created some 1.4 million new jobs, while Kerry campaigns on 1.2 million Americans still unemployed. Who is telling the truth? They both are. The question and debate of ultimate importance to voters is, are the jobs available to them going to be equal to the jobs they have lost in pay and benefits? Also, are my wage increases keeping pace with inflation? It is safe to say at this point that millions of voters will not vote to support the administration's implication that we are better off today than we were under Clinton's administration.

Homeland security issues are also not playing into Bush's reelection for a large number of voters. Recent stories indicate the U.S. is not prepared to defend our borders from terrorist incursions. A frightening headline was released by USA Today this last week which read Experts say 'dirty bomb' attack in U.S. likely. Also last week the news contained a story about Congress failing to pursue a measure to screen baggage on airlines for another year citing costs to airlines as being prohibitive at this time. If our President and Congress had not run up a pork filled half trillion dollar deficit, perhaps funds would have been available to assist the airlines in protecting American citizens from a dirty bomb going off in a cargo hold of an airliner making final approach to a metropolitan airport.

One simply cannot discuss homeland security intelligently without touching upon the increasingly third rail issue of illegal immigration. The Center for Immigration Studies reports

Thus, the illegal-alien population in 2003 stands at at least 8 million. Included in this estimate are approximately 78,000 illegal aliens from countries who are of special concern in the war on terror. It is important to note that the 500,000 annual increase is the net growth in the illegal-alien population (new illegal immigration minus deaths, legalizations, and out-migration).

It was learned in committee hearings last week, that there is a huge discrepancy between the administration's estimate of illegal immigration set at 1.2 million per year, and official estimates for Arizona alone set at 300,000 per month. If one does the math, illegal immigration in Arizona alone in one year exceeds the administration's estimates for the entire nation. In January of this year, President Bush proposed a non-amnesty amnesty, in which illegal aliens currently in the country could earn citizenship and the right to keep their jobs by coming forth and registering with the government. While the Wall Street sees profits in such low wage labor influx, American voters consider illegal immigration one of the most serious problems we currently face and are unsettled by Bush's proposal.

While media bias exists, printed news with a liberal tilt, radio news with a conservative tilt, the biggest obstacle President Bush faces is not the media bias, but, the evidence, data, and hard news stories produced by government agencies, investigative committees, research journalists, and even the Administration's own recorded words. The problem for the voting public is assimilating the sheer volume of disinformation, spin, and distraction coming from both the left and the right, in order to connect the dots between hard news stories that create an overall accurate picture of how well the current administration is doing. If the past is any indication, however, the voting public has an instinct about news, and whether it follows stories day to day or not, the American public, seemingly by osmosis, absorbs the truth from amidst all the spin and spun, and historically has a very good record of selecting capable political administrators. Let us hope that November 2, 2004 is no exception.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on June 23, 2004 9:56 AM.

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Kerry-Dem.Party: Undemocratic is the next entry in this blog.

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