With Howard Dean floundering as leader of the Democratic Party and as Daily Kos loses influence with its Blogola scandal (probably making room for the Next Big Thing, as Kos replaced MoveOn), the Left is proving once again that it cannot form a united front against Bush for more than several months.
How could such meager opposition possibly survive? Columnist Peggy Noonan noticed something as she read ABC News' The Note: The political digest inadvertently noted who Bush's true opposition is, and it's not the Democratic Party. Said The Note, "[Mr. Bush] is going to need to be focused and impressive, not easy pickings for the Rich-Krugman-Dowd-Stewart axis."
As I read I nodded: That's exactly true. What was significant is that The Note did not designate as Mr. Bush's main and most effective foes Pelosi, Dodd, Reid, Biden, et al. Mr. Bush's mightiest competitors are columnists and a comedian with a fake-news show.
This is one reason the media is important. (Not "are important." Language evolves; usage changes; people vote with their tongues. It's not the correct "return to normality"; it's the incorrect "return to normalcy." It's not "the media are" it's "the media is." People see the media as one big thing.)
One big reason the media is important is that they change things. And they lead. On 9/11 itself it was the media--anchors, reporters, crews sent to the scene, analysts--that functioned, for roughly 10 hours, as the most visible leaders of the United States. The president was on a plane; the vice president was in the bunker and on the phone. It was on-air journalists who informed, created a seeming order, and reassured the public by their presence and personas and professionalism.
So they're important. But very recently it seems to me they're important because it is from the media that Mr. Bush's most effective opposition--attacks on his nature and leadership, attacks on his policies--comes. Among the Democrats an op-ed columnist has more impact than a minority leader.
It is common wisdom that newspapers are over. But when the most powerful voices against a powerful president at a crucial time are op-ed jockeys, newspapers are not over. Or perhaps one should say paper may be over, but news is not.