Margaret Sullivan: The media is being far too kind to Republicans

Margaret Sullivan: The media is being far too kind to Republicans

Yesterday, NBC’s Chuck Todd declared there was no such thing as liberal media bias. He told the Verge that bias was just a lie made up by conservatives which had been told so often that even some Democrats had started to believe it.

Today, as if on cue, the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan writes that it’s time for the media to stop being so kind to Republicans. The focus of her piece is the 1/6 Commission.

The Democratic leadership has been trying to assemble a bipartisan panel that would study that mob attack on our democracy and make sure it is never repeated. Republican leaders, meanwhile, have been trying to undermine the investigation, cynically requesting that two congressmen who backed efforts to invalidate the election be allowed to join the commission, then boycotting it entirely. And the media has played straight into Republicans’ hands, seemingly incapable of framing this as anything but base political drama.

“‘What You’re Doing Is Unprecedented’: McCarthy-Pelosi Feud Boils Over,” read a CNN headline this week. “After a whiplash week of power plays . . . tensions are at an all-time high.”

Is it really a “feud” when Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy performatively blames Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for refusing to seat Republicans Jim Jordan and Jim Banks — two sycophantic allies of Trump, who called the Jan. 6 mob to gather?

One writer at Politico called Pelosi’s decision a “gift to McCarthy.” And its Playbook tut-tutted the decision as handing Republicans “a legitimate grievance,” thus dooming the holy notion of bipartisanship.

“Both parties have attacked the other as insincere and uninterested in conducting a fair-minded examination,” a Washington Post news story observed. (“Can it really be lost on the Post that the Republican party has acted in bad faith at every turn to undermine every attempt to investigate the events of Jan. 6?” a reader complained to me.)

The problem, as Sullivan sees it, is that reporters are reporting on the clashing politics of this effort. Sullivan wishes they would stop doing that and instead declare the GOP an existential threat to the Republic. In her telling, such a move, from reporting to outright denunciation of one party, would place the media above politics. Stripped of it’s outrage, her argument boils down to this: Republicans are bad faith partisans and Democrats are just trying to save the country.

Last week Salon published a very similar argument by Amanda Marcotte:

Democrats tried to create a bipartisan committee through official congressional legislation, but Republicans stopped them. Democrats then went at it by themselves, creating a select committee with the House leadership powers, yet still decided to invite Republicans onto the commission as an act of good faith. All Republicans needed to do was act like adults who believe fascist coups are bad business, instead of a bunch of clowns whose only goal is to disrupt the proceedings. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, however, could not pass this basic “adults or clowns?” test. He picked clowns, including Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who has a pair of the biggest shoes and some of the thickest greasepaint in the highly competitive field of authoritarian buffoons of the GOP.

It’s all very simple when you abandon even the pretense of impartiality. But there was another piece published by Salon yesterday in which the author really said the quiet part out loud. It was titled, “Democrats have a massive opportunity with Capitol riot committee: Shove it down the GOP’s throat.

This committee is about as nonpartisan as Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi committee…McCarthy and the Benghazi committee accomplished every one of the Republicans’ goals. They dragged out the process right through the entire 2016 presidential election cycle, through the primaries, through both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, right through the November election itself. They held hearings. They leaked. They exaggerated. They lied. They put Hillary Clinton at the witness table for eight hours on Oct. 22, 2015, almost exactly a week after the first Democratic primary debate in Nevada, and three weeks before the second and much more important debate in Iowa. They did everything they possibly could to drag her through the political mud…

If Democrats don’t do the same thing with their Jan. 6 select committee, they will be missing the chance to tar and feather not only Donald Trump but the entire Republican Party…

Trump is going to stay out there on the rally circuit spreading his lies, but Democrats will have the select committee to counter them. If Pelosi wants to schedule a hearing for the day after every one of Trump’s rallies, she can. If she wants to call witnesses to rebut specific lies he blathers, she can. Best of all, there are enough hours of videos from the assault on the Capitol that the select committee will be able to play a couple hours of video every time they hold a hearing and hardly make a dent in the supply.

The author of this piece is just as much a partisan as Amanda Marcotte and Margaret Sullivan. The difference is that he’s not pretending this is all about principle. He’s at least willing to admit there’s a big political upside for Democrats to this effort, one he wants to see them exploit for all it’s worth. Democrats have long mocked the Benghazi investigation as a partisan witch hunt and this author is basically saying the 1/6 Commission could be Benghazi for Democrats. Points for honesty.

But Margaret Sullivan doesn’t want to admit that’s what’s happening. So long as media progressives focus on “democracy” rather than “Democrats” they can pretend this is about higher principles rather than partisanship. But it’s not a coincidence that partisans are calling for the media to get more partisan just as Democrats are getting very nervous about Justice Breyer, the 2022 elections, the delta variant, etc. For people on the left, now would be a great time for the media to abandon all pretense and embrace partisan activism. Rather, I should say, to embrace it more.

Does media bias exist? Yes and we’re seeing left-wing partisans working the refs right now not to preserve democracy but to help Democrats retain power next year by any means necessary.

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