In February, 2007, David Broder — the Dean of the Washington Press Corps — announced that “President Bush is poised for a political comeback” and “is demonstrating political smarts that even his critics have to acknowledge.” Today, his own paper, The Washington Post, documented how painfully wrong that was, that George Bush’s presidency is one of the greatest failures in all of American history, and he is so widely despised that he dare not show his face in public for fear of further hurting his party’s nominee:
Even for a declared optimist, Bush has appeared remarkably sanguine in this season of discontent. The economy is melting down, his own party has shunned him, and Tuesday’s election is shaping up as a searing rebuke to his eight years in office. . . .
“Everybody kind of wanted to spend the last 100-plus days doing some legacy things, and the financial crisis has thrown a wrench into that,” said one prominent Republican who regularly talks with senior White House officials.
“You have a combination of no legacy stuff, a horrible economic mess and the likelihood that Obama is going to win,” this person added. “There is a real sadness there.”
None of this would matter, of course, if not for Bush’s deep and abiding unpopularity. Bush has not commanded approval from a majority of the nation since early 2005, making him arguably the most disliked president since polling on the question began in the 1930s. A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll last week put Bush’s approval rating at 24 percent and found that McCain had made little headway in separating himself from Bush or his policies.
It’s not for lack of trying. For the first time in recent memory, a sitting president has effectively sat out the presidential race, avoiding public appearances on behalf of McCain and other Republicans and raising far less money than usual in private fundraisers. Bush voted for McCain by absentee ballot rather than voting in person in Texas, as he has for the past three elections, and officials say he plans to spend election night at the White House rather than at a rally or other campaign-related event. . . .
“This is unprecedented for a president to be this invisible during a campaign,” said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “This is what happens when you have a 25 percent approval rating.”
George Bush is the person in whom the Right placed its blind faith, the one they glorified and held up as the ultimate standard-bearer of what they believe in. And now he — and they — lay in shambles and disgrace. No matter what metric one uses, it’s difficult to overstate what a profound failure the Bush presidency is, and everyone — including Bush — knows that. The most important aspect of this Tuesday’s election is to finalize their humiliating repudiation and to bury them for what they’ve done.
Despite all of that, The Washington Post‘s Ombudsman, Deborah Howell, today wrote a column claiming that one reason that The Post and other papers are losing money is because they are “too liberal”; have had “more favorable stories about Barack Obama than John McCain,” and “conservatives are right that they often don’t see their views reflected enough in the news pages.” To mitigate newspapers’ financial problems, Howell decrees: ”the imbalance still needs to be corrected.” She adds: ”Neither the hard-core right nor left will ever be satisfied by Post coverage — and that’s as it should be.”
What if the actual facts — i.e., “reality” — are consistent with the views of “the hard-core left” and contrary to the views of the “hard-core right”? What if, as has plainly been the case, the conservatives’ views are wrong, false, inaccurate? What if the McCain campaign was failing and relying on pure falsehoods and sleazy attacks, and The Post‘s coverage simply reflected that reality? It doesn’t matter. In order to sell more newspapers, according to Howell, The Post‘s news coverage must shape itself to the Right and ensure that “their views [are] reflected enough in the news pages” (I don’t recall Howell complaining when her newspaper — according to its own media critic — systematically suppressed anti-war viewpoints in its news pages and loudly amplified pro-Bush and pro-war views).
In Howell’s view, The Post shouldn’t determine its news reporting based on what is factually true. Instead, it should shape its coverage to please this discredited, failed political movement — in order to sell more papers. That corrupt formula is, of course, what is now meant by “journalistic balance” — say what both sides believe and take no position about what is true — and it is precisely that behavior which propped up this incomparably failed and deceitful presidency for so long. The establishment media bears much of the responsibility for what has happened during the last 8 years, and amazingly enough, the lesson many of them seemed to have learned is that they didn’t go far enough (“we’re too liberal; we need to accommodate the Right more”). If there is an Obama presidency, watch for them very quickly to re-discover the long-dormant concept of “adversarial behavior.”