Two conflicting themes now emerging on the right to explain last night’s debate performance by Romney. It was 1) a clear draw and therefore a winner for the challenger, 2) Obama got the upper hand because of liberal bias in general and the moderator specifically. What might surprise my colleagues on the other side of the keyboard, I actually agree some anti Romney bias has emerged over the last few months in the mainstream political reporting community.
Cries of bias are certainly nothing new to the right (And it’s not their purview alone). What’s different in this political era is the magnitude of the tug-of-war between reality and spin or fantasy. Jaded, cynical political reporters including a few who lean to the right, are both human and well-informed. Blatant lies and misinformation might work on large swaths of the laypublic, but reporters on the beat know the subtle ins and outs. Those reporters have been treated to an unusual spectacle, even given their privileged ringside seats: a guy running for President contradicting himself 180 degrees on virtually every issue he claims to care about over the last few years, completely documented and often witnessed in person by a given reporter and/or their professional colleagues, and then reporting on that guy as he plows ahead with lie after lie without any shame or apparent concern of being caught flat-footed on any of it. What do you think their natural reaction is to that?
What would your reaction be, even if you liked the candidate or the party? If you’re leaning Obama, imagine if he went on stage and regularly claimed to thunderous partisan applause he had “all but balanced the budget” and there were six independent studies showing unemployment at 5 %, and he never said he was pro-choice or voted pro choice or leaned pro women’s rights, and on and on about every issue under the sun? I bet at some point, unless you were in WH employ or had a career or money riding on this, it would be hard for you justify and defend that person with enthusiasm. Amirite?
There will always be the wingnut echo chamber on Fox and elsewhere. But on the whole, even jaded, cynical, at times slightly sympathetic reporters have limits, and Romney has blown past many of them in rare and spectacular form. And reading from the record when that record is in active dispute in a heated debate is only bias when the factual record does not read in the favor of one’s favored candidate. So yeah, if that’s someone’s definition of bias, then there’s some bias in the press Romney’s been getting for awhile, and after last night it will probably continue all week.