Bozell Column: An Ugly Sunrise for Republicans

No one thinks Barack Obama is sitting pretty in this race for the White House. The Real Clear Politics average of the mid-September approval-rating polls measures him at 43 percent approval, 51 percent disapproval. With these numbers, they should be measuring his political coffin. But to listen to the networks talk, it’s the Republican field that is a mess in desperate need of new talent, and its debate audiences are a blood-thirsty horror movie.

One place that Democratic contenders go for positive publicity is the network morning shows. Their audiences are diminished, but they remain a powerful national platform, especially for female voters. Rich Noyes and Geoff Dickens of the Media Research Center have demonstrated how ABC, CBS, and NBC set a pretty pleasant table for the Democratic candidates (and potential candidates like Al Gore) from January 1 through July 31, 2007. 

Back then, most of the questions were about the horse race, but 111 were questions that clearly reflected an ideological point of view. Of those, more than twice as many were softballs  from the liberal perspective (77 questions) than hardballs from the conservative side (34). That doesn’t make sense if the intention was to challenge the candidates. It makes sense if the networks are trying to help Democrats. 

Now fast forward to 2011. The MRC team found 98 ideological questions posed to Republican contenders (and potential contenders like Donald Trump) from January 1 to September 15. Guess what? The overwhelming majority of those questions (81 of them) reflected the liberal agenda, while just 17 inquiries came from the right. That makes no sense in helping Republicans choose a nominee. But they hope to damage whoever the Republicans nominate.

The 5-to-1 disparity merely underlines that the networks do not carefully attempt to balance out their questions. In every election cycle, they present their liberal obsessions as the nation’s most pressing business. 

The morning shows are especially fixated on raising taxes. It’s a tape loop this year. “Is raising taxes on the table?...What about raising taxes?....Does that revenue side include raising taxes?...Do you have to look at raising taxes, and do people have to pay more for what’s needed in this country?”

Four years ago, they praised Democrats for favoring tax hikes. On February 5, 2007, NBC’s Matt Lauer saluted John Edwards: “I’m going to — I’ll applaud your honesty. You basically have come out and said, ‘Look, I want universal health care for everyone in this country, and I’m going to raise taxes to accomplish it.’”

That’s called a “question” to the Democrats – like this socialist softball from ABC’s Robin Roberts to Hillary Clinton on March 26, 2007: “A lot of people feel like they’re rolling the dice every morning about their health care. They can’t afford it,” Roberts declared. “And two-thirds — did you realize this? — two-thirds of Americans who do not have health insurance are working.” 

ABC’s “Good Morning America” was noticeably interested in helping Democrats with long interviews four years ago. By this time in the election cycle, they had offered 38 minutes of air time to John Edwards in a town-hall setting, and 26 minutes to Hillary Clinton. None of the Republican candidates received that favor in 2007. None have received that favor in 2011, either.

It’s not hard to see a slant. Four years ago, Sen. Joe Biden’s pathetic campaign for president had earned him four morning-show interviews with 19 minutes of air time – more than the apparent GOP front-runner, Rudy Giuliani, who was offered three interviews taking 17 minutes.  

Then there are the evening shows. By this point in 2007, CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft had already offered a first supportive”60 Minutes” interview with Obama (in January), asking if the “country is ready for a black president.” In May, Mike Wallace pelted Mitt Romney and his family with nasty questions, such as why none of his five sons ever joined the military. None of the Republican candidates have been featured on “60 Minutes” this year.

Republicans may not be eager to face hardball interviews with liberal network anchors, but they feel it’s necessary to be considered a viable national candidate. When they sit down on a network set, they know the anchors aren’t there to make their presidential dreams come true. They know they’ll be lucky if their campaign doesn’t vanish with the next gotcha question. 

Considering all this, it’s a little amazing that Obama is doing so poorly he only beats Ron Paul by four points in the latest CNN poll. If Obama loses, no one can blame the liberal media.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center