As a conservative, I’m always hesitant to make the claim of media bias, for two reasons. First, I think the conservative claim of the mainstream media’s bias is often overwrought and self-fulfilling. Politicians and their staffs feel wronged and unfairly treated and, as a result, create an us-versus-them atmosphere that only perpetuates the irascible relationship.
And second, from a political perspective, constantly complaining about unfair treatment by the media comes off as weak. It gives the impression of a thin-skinned politician who is unable to control his or her message. Although there are some in the Republican base who get fired up by MSM bashing (see: Sarah Palin’s lamestream media references), it is ultimately an unhelpful message.
But sometimes these complaints are founded. Following last night’s State of the Union, Florida Senator Marco Rubio delivered the Republican response, which can be seen here. He gave a speech that emphasized the role of the individual in a free market system. He stated “America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every state, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.”
Whether or not you agree with that and the rest of his speech – in which he criticized President Obama’s policies as government-centric, tax and spend economics – is determined by your political philosophy. But as anyone who follows politics knows, Rubio is a gifted public speaker and yesterday was no exception. He clearly and passionately advocated a conservative vision for both the role of government and economic progress.
But evidently Chris Matthews, MSNBC political analyst and host of Hardball, was not impressed. Never too encumbered by the intellectual or rhetorical bounds of reality, Matthews criticized the speech as “tinker-toys…primitive…something you’d hear in a high-school debating team.” I’ll ignore for the moment the validity (or lack thereof) of his claim and focus rather on the egregious double standard for statements such as these from media figures like Matthews himself.
During the Republican National Committee, Matthews went on a particularly magniloquent tirade about what he saw as racist tactics, race-baiting, and flat out racism from the Republican Party. He stated that the message of the Convention was a return to slavery and a time when women didn’t have the right to vote. He argued that Republicans referring to “Chicago-style politics” was a thinly veiled racial message, since Chicago has a high African American population, and agreed with colleague Lawrence O’Donnell who claimed that a reference to President Obama’s golf game was a racially charged effort to make a subtle comparison between the President and Tiger Woods.
It was surprising, then, to hear Matthews lambaste Rubio’s speech, a prominent Hispanic Republican, in such a condescending and belittling way. Imagine for a moment what would happen if Brit Hume or Charles Krauthammer stated on Fox News that President Obama’s State of the Union was primitive. Analysts on MSNBC (Matthews chief among them) and other media outlets would have lambasted both the individual and the network for making racially tinged statements and perpetuating racial stereotypes. It’s as if these pundits are particularly vigilant in monitoring how minorities are treated or criticized unless those minorities are Republicans.
Yes, Fox News and its analysts are often critical of the President and other Democrats. But they are critical of their policies and their politics (Krauthammer criticized the President’s State of the Union Address as being “about spending your way to prosperity); they do not deride them as child-like neophytes incapable of deft politicking. That is not to say, by any means, that Fox News and its pundits are always fair in their criticism of President Obama and Democrats, but rather that this instance reflects such an ironic juxtaposition.
What Matthews’ rant revealed, in brilliant clarity, is the double standard that many on the Left have created. And this is not the only example (consider, for instance, the criticism of Mitt Romney for having money in the Cayman Islands and the silence when the same criticism is brought against Jack Lew, the nominee for Treasury Secretary).
Criticism of Democrats is base, inaccurate, or racist, while Republicans are fair game. But as he pilloried Rubio’s speech as “primitive,” I think Matthews actually affirmed himself as the antediluvian figure.