Enron Wins One For The Media
by L. Brent Bozell III
February 14, 2002
The House took a vote on campaign "reform." The media won.
After the victory, Bryant Gumbel smiled at House sponsor Marty Meehan and observed, "In a strange way do you have Enron to thank for not only guaranteeing you no presidential veto, but also nulling Republican opposition?"
Don't thank Enron, Marty. Thank the "news" media, which used the Enron scandal to lobby shamelessly for campaign reform legislation even though there's not a lick of evidence of any wrongdoing as a result of Enron's political giving.
On this issue, more than perhaps any other, the media have demonstrated a slant that's out of control, and they've been at it for years. Enron gave them the final advantage and they used it to roll over their opponents with imbalanced coverage which intimidated Republicans (an oxymoron?) into surrender. Look at how it worked on Bush. He spent the days before the House vote in hiding, while liberals and Democrats rejoiced over his silence.
He and the GOP will regret this.
Welcome to the world after McCain-Feingold is victorious. With paid political activism so drastically limited, it will be the news media controlling the flow of information. The McCains will get favored treatment on television, because only they are right; their opponents will be cast in the negative, because they are wrong. If you want to try to balance that slant by buying a commercial, forget it. You'll no longer have that right.
Obsessed as they are over the campaign finance reform debate, the media hate to address that natty little item known as the United States Constitution. Not only do the McCains and the Feingolds and the Meehans utterly ignore Supreme Court rulings that campaign spending equals free speech, they blatantly want banned what they call "sham ads" on TV or radio that mention a politician within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. So if a pro-life group wants to run an ad saying a congressman it supports is pro-life, it can be dragged into a lengthy Federal Election Commission investigation until financially ruined.
Ask the Christian Coalition how that works.
How surreal is the media take on fragging free speech? A Washington Post diagram illustrated an "example of ad allowed" under the newly restrictive regime. Now, how would they feel if we were debating an "example of newspaper allowed?" What if legislators were trying to shut down "sham newspapers" within 60 days of an election? Apparently when it comes to free speech, the Washington Post feels it's protected, a privilege not to be accorded to the Christian Coalition or the National Right to Life Committee.
Senator Mitch McConnell is goading "reform" boosters by noting that trying to push troublesome donations and advertisements out of politics is "like putting a rock on Jell-O. You can squeeze it down, but it just goes in other directions." Predictably, the Post's response was an editorial titled "Squash the Jell-0" - in other words, squash everyone else's troublesome right to be heard.
And how the media love to demonize opponents of "reform!" PBS's Gwen Ifill even compared them to terrorists. When "reform" crumbled in 1998, she mourned, "It was a bill that was doomed to die. The last time you heard people so eager to claim responsibility for something like this, they were terrorists."
With their suffocating insularity, the media almost never allow a second for the concept that opposition to squashing campaign speech is based on idealism. Nor when it comes to their side, seldom do they mention the possibility that supporting "reform" could be a scheme for Democratic advantage. As the Cato Institute discovered, Democrats grew in passion only when their soft-money donations started to slip behind the Republicans, and good luck trying to get that point on TV.
The target is conservatism. Liberals believe they can pass liberal legislation much more easily if they don't have conservative and business lobbies making an end-around the liberal media, giving their perspective to the American public - even if they have to pay to do so. Take the Clinton health plan in 1994. When it failed to pass, journalists quickly blamed multi-million dollar ad campaigns by health insurers, despite the fact those millions were offset by pro-Hillary ads from unions, corporations, and foundations - not to mention the daily in-kind contribution from the "objective" press pushing her perspective.
ABC's Nightline asked, "Has big money hijacked health care reform ... will members of Congress respond to the interests of voters or the influence of big money?" To the liberal media, a victory for conservatism just cannot be "in the interests of voters." They can't possibly believe voters would find it in their interest to oppose liberalism. Conservatives now muzzled, they can hope voters never learn what is in their best interest other than what liberals say is in their best interest.
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