“The Golden Rule of Balance” at the New York Times (and elsewhere)

Yes, yes, yes, it’s really bad that Richard Blumenthal has lied about his military service during the war in Vietnam–and so it’s certainly a good thing that the New York Times has made a giant stink about it! After all, as the Times has pointed out, the story is important, since Blumenthal, a Democrat, is running for governor of Connecticut.

Funny, then, that this same New York Times did not report the more important story–and one that was, in fact, more scandalous–of George W. Bush’s lies about his military service during the war in Vietnam, when he was running for the presidency of the United States.

Of course, that story was ignored not only by the Times but by the mainstream media across the board (except for Dan Rather–who lost his job because he wouldn’t let it go, and CBS was happy to be rid of him, as his persistence was a threat to Sumner Redstone’s business plans). But it’s the Times that’s lately making such a big deal about Richard Blumenthal’s canards, and acting holier-than-thou about it, as Eric Boehlert argues cogently below.

But the Times is only following what we might call the Golden Rule of Balance, which is this:

“What Democrats do wrong is scandalous (even if they really did no wrong). But when Republicans do wrong, it’s simply no big deal (even if it’s worse–far worse–than anything the errant Democrats have done.”

Thus Bill Clinton caught hell from the media, and nearly got impeached, because of an affair, while Bush-and-Cheney got a pass for stealing their election(s), lying us into war, managing a global torture program right inside the White House, and much, much more. (My book, Cruel and Unusual, is a detailed comparative analysis of how the media treated Clinton and then Bush–with a whole section on the coverage of their respective dealings with the draft.)

And thus John Edwards caught hell from the media for having an affair (although that Democrat was not a candidate for any office when his scandal broke), while Sarah Palin too had an affair, which broke while that Republican was running for vice president (and on a “family values” platform), and yet the press clammed up about it (even though the same newspaper broke both stories). (Meanwhile, Palin’s more momentous sins–her End-Times theology, her radical anti-environmentalism, her ultra-right secessionism–got no mention, either.)

And thus ACORN got pilloried for “voter fraud,” although that outfit had not actually committed any–while the Republicans who stole elections outright, through voter caging, electronic fraud, intimidation tactics and disinformation drives (among many other measures), did not have their wrongdoing probed, or, for the most part, even mentioned by the media.

So Blumenthal’s excoriation by the Times–which somehow couldn’t bring itself to do the same for Bush’s comparable dishonesty–is nothing new (yet no less dangerous for that).


FLASHBACK: When the NY Times ignored gaping holes in candidate Bush’s war record
by Eric Boehlert

One of the striking talking points that came out of The New York Times in the wake of its controversial article last week about whether Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal had, over the years, exaggerated his military service during the Vietnam War era, was the insistence from the Times that the story was a deeply important one and one that needed to be covered. The Times, faced with stiff criticism for its handling of the Blumenthal story, seemed to suggest it had a moral obligation, not to mention a newsroom duty, to look closely at the military service rhetoric from a New England politician running in a statewide election.

Read more.

One thought on ““The Golden Rule of Balance” at the New York Times (and elsewhere)”

  1. Mark, just one small correction: The story was not ignored “by the mainstream media across the board (except for Dan Rather[…]” In fact, The Boston Globe beat Rather to the story and corroborated his conclusions with evidence independent of the (not-forged) memos. This, to me, was the most infuriating aspect of the Rather “controversy,” that accusations of forgery became punchbowl-turd poisoning a verified and incredibly important story.


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