Saturday, December 18, 2010


Steve Benen flags this story from the New York Daily News:

Arizona Sen. John McCain did it again, insulting 9/11's heroes and belittling the push to pass a health bill as "fooling around."

The Arizona Republican, dubbed McWeasel for blowing off an ailing Ground Zero construction worker two weeks ago, whipped up new fury last night by suggesting Senate Democrats have wasted time trying to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, among other bills.

At the time, McCain was refusing to accept a time limit for debating the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

"To have a time agreement after all of the fooling around that we've been doing on [the] Dream Act, on New York City ... we will not have a time agreement from this side," he insisted angrily....

Of course, part of the reason there's limited time in the lame-duck session for debate on the START treaty is that Republicans have played games by blocking the Zadroga 9/11 bill on more than one occasion.

It's maddening that this isn't a national outrage. Jon Stewart, of course, has been quite forceful in his disgust at the blockage of this bill -- but, alas, the only people who watch Jon Stewart are Jon Stewart fans. That's not a mass audience. That's a niche.

Lefty blogs have a niche audience. MSNBC prime time has a niche audience. Add these sources up and there's not enough outrage to be mainstream.

Fox, alas, is big enough to make a partisan outrage go mainstream. But there's nothing comparable on the left. Right-wingers talk about the "liberal media" and the mainstream ("lamestream") media as if they're interchangeable, but, of course, as Stewart notes, there's literally been no coverage of the Zadroga bill on the three major networks. Fox takes small stories and turns them into big controversies, for partisan reasons. The three major networks don't. (I don't even think that's because they're corporate-run, or just because of that. That just isn't what they think their job is.)

We have a belief right now in the ability of scruffy niche areas of the media to make things "go viral" -- but it seems to me that you still need a big dog to catapult a story into the mainstream.

OK, forget the media. You know who could make this a big deal? The president. Anyone know how often he's mentioned the Zadroga bill?

I go to and I see exactly one mention of the bill in a White House statement. One.

Well, it isn't the kind of thing Obama likes to emphasize. He wants to be a big-item president. This isn't a big item. Right now he's excited about trying to pass START.

Well, if you don't shame Republicans on the seemingly small things -- the way Republicans and Republican media outlets shame Democrats every chance they get -- it's a hell of a lot harder to get their cooperation on anything, including big things. They aren't eyed suspiciously. They sustain the good graces of the public. So they feel they can get away with stuff. Of course, they're right.

Lacking a Fox, we need a political leader who'll sometimes pick big fights on seemingly small issues. If it's not the president, it should be a Democratic McCain or Gingrich, who'll get angry on Sunday talk shows as often as humanly possible. We need something.


And if you doubt that there's a huge difference between the status if Fox and the status of MSNBC in this political culture, check out this result from the recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll (PDF):

Seven percent of the country gets most of its televised news from MSNBC; for Fox, it's 27%.

Think of it this way: If we're more or less a 50/50 country, then half of GOP voters get their TV news primarily from Fox -- but for Democrats and MSNBC, it's something like one out of seven.

That's a huge difference in clout. (And I'm not even going to get into the question of how many stay-at-home types and retirees are getting their spin from Scarborough.)

No comments: