For those who are old enough, think back to the 1992 U.S. Presidential Election. (Admittedly, I don’t recall any details of the 1988 Election, as I was only 5 years old.) On the one side, we had the old and familiar George H. W. Bush. His Democratic counterpart, the young and experienced Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton. Here was a fresh face with new ideas. Despite his established political alignment, many of his ideas crossed and blurred party lines and were thus considered centrist.
And for the most part, the media ate it up, as they love to accumulate accolades for a new face in Washington. Furthermore, the nation had entered a recession under Bush’s 1988 – 1992 Presidency and was torn over how he had ended the Gulf War. These outstanding poor decisions only served to further boost the popularity of this new face with centrist ideas to bridge the inter-partisan gap.
The news media accolades continued for some time after his election and on into his Presidency. However, his wife Hillary was wont to put herself in the public eye and speak on political issues, at times more prominently than her husband. In a sense, she took First Lady as less a title than an office. As such, jokes about President Hillary and the First Husband began to circulate. As time wore on, this emasculating air about the President began to permeate news reports, as it became apparent that increasingly fewer people were taking him seriously.
By the time he ran for re-election in 1996, the news stations were regarding him as something of a joke. However, it was undeniable that his approach to politics had, thus far, proven successful. His opponent, Bob Dole, seemed more of the same that put our nation in the dire straits from which Clinton was pulling us. Thus, the jokes were shifted toward the back burner, and the accolades resumed for the most part. That is, except for one station born just one month before that election.
Fox News, established October 7th, 1996, often boasts of being Fair and Balanced in spite of CEO Roger Ailes’s career as a Republican political strategist. In what seemed to be an extreme left wing media market, they spoke on what they felt our President had done wrong in his first four years. As far as they were concerned, this made them centrist. In relative terms, they were correct, but the exact positions were shifted significantly to the left. In any case, here was a news station who was willing to hold fast to its convictions.
Soon after his re-election, the entire news media were reeling with talk of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. She was followed by a handful of other women, and it was soon established that our President was something of an adulterous lecher. However, his moral fiber was rarely brought into scrutiny. Instead, he was treated as a joke, both as a person and a politician. Within the year, those who had painted him once again in so positive a light were ridiculing his every move. Soon they spoke of impeachment in spite of his having paid off the national debt. The counterpart to Fox News, CNN, continued to paint him in a positive light, focusing on his accomplishments. Fox News, on the other hand, focused on such failures as his attempt to catch Osama Bin Laden.
In 2000, when George W. Bush ran against Al Gore, both were taken as a joke. On the one hand, we had the country bumpkin son of who had come to be a widely disliked former President. On the other, the environmentalist oft-misspeaking Vice President. While most news media were cracking wise about either or both of them, Fox News and CNN held to their alignments, supporting Bush and Gore respectively.
Not much can be said about a shift in behavior after Bush’s victory, but it took three burning buildings to get the nation as a whole behind him for any length of time. Unfortunately, his lack of foresight in Afghanistan seemed to have his judgment brought into question by the news media in all his actions, even those unrelated to the war. The media hadn’t taken him seriously during the election, but now he was becoming an absolute joke.
His campaign for re-election in 2004 was much the same. However, with John Kerry’s tendencies towards indecision and empty words, support began to pile up for the more decisive President Bush. The media had shifted in favor of Fox News, while CNN held to its left wing convictions. Shortly thereafter, once his continued Presidency was assured, the jokes and ridicule resumed. Oftentimes, the criticism was unrelated to politics but construed as reason to oppose his policies.
It is because of these eight years that conservatives often rant about the left wing media. For nearly a decade, the media had been showing a bias towards the left wing, or at least against the right wing, nigh continuously.
Come 2008, the people of America had developed a stronger interest in Presidential politics, watching the polls and campaigns from the beginning rather than waiting until existing political buffs had decided the front-runners. On the right, we had John McCain, who had been proven to have supported more than 90% of Bush’s policies. The media still in its anti-right wing state of mind put a negative spin on this, especially since President Bush had run up a national debt of ten trillion dollars in his eight years. Fox News, alternately, focused on the positive aspects of both Bush and, thus, McCain.
On the left, we eventually had Barack Obama. Even during his grueling campaign against Hillary Clinton, accolades and public interest were building for yet another fresh young face with big ideas to blur party lines. He was vetted and scrutinized rigorously, even bringing into question the nature of his citizenship, behaviors of his once Reverend, his religious affiliation, and the actions of his birth father who died during Obama’s infancy. In spite of all this, his eloquence, charismatic nature and outside-the-box approach to politics garnered him support from much of the news media, especially CNN.
However, in spite of his attempts to cross party lines, his assertive nature has already begun to bring a negative perspective to his Presidency. Already, people are misconstruing policies and apparently expecting a quickly-passed economic stimulus package to repair the economy as hastily as it was passed and perhaps even give them a new job and house. The media which had so recently sung his praises are beginning to show negative connotation when they speak of him. This is evident in how they speak of his budget plan as further spending, seeming to imply that the sum of that money will be borrowed rather than coming for the most part from tax dollars, blame him for the AIG bonus scandal – despite that having been an act of the Bush Administration – and the occasional reference to him as Mister Obama.
So, for at least the past 18 years, the majority of news media has followed the trend of ridiculing and cracking wise at the President and his Administration. During the campaigns, new faces with new ideas, as they often contradict those of the ones currently in office, are placed upon a pedestal. Soon after the election is won, as people seem to expect the effects to be immediate, in some cases beginning the day after Election Day, the pedestal collapses and the criticism and ridicule set in.
Regardless of the rest of the Presidency, a couple of poor decisions or qualities come to define it in the media, and the cycle begins anew, pushing the arm bipartisan metronome. However, for their durations, CNN and Fox News have held true to their respective left and right wing positions, even if at least one of them will unendingly deny their alignment. Aside from those two shining exceptions, the rest of the news media is something of a whore, operating only in the interest of popularity and thus money.