Clarence Page on America's Political Polarization: 'I Blame the Media'

July 7th, 2013 5:23 PM

The Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page made a comment about the country's political polarization this weekend that might raise eyebrows on both sides of the aisle.

Appearing on the syndicated Chris Matthews Show, Page said, "I blame the media" (video follows with transcript and commentary):

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: In our 11 years it seems that our politics have grown more divisive. The right has moved further right, and the left has certainly dug in its heels. But where is the country at large? Let’s go to David Brooks.

DAVID BROOKS, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the politics stinks. So, is that short enough for you?

MATTHEWS: Anybody thinks it doesn't stink?

BROOKS: I mean, does anybody here think it's not worse than anything we've ever covered? The good news I think is the country is not where Washington is. Polarization is primarily but not entirely an elite phenomenon. It's the institutions we work in. It’s the Congress. It’s the way the politicians act. The country is still basically the country. We’re still a bell curve country.

MATTHEWS: But don’t, I get a sense looking at the Hill, where Kelly works and a lot of us cover, that the people you have almost like a daisy chain. You’ve got Boehner as the Speaker worried about his lieutenants, and they're all with their ears to the ground about which way this big block of Tea Party people are headed. And those Tea Party people seem to be worried about the next primary, which means that they’re worried about the conservative voters at home. So isn't it the voters?

BROOKS: No, I think when I got here there were people like Jack Kemp, there were people like Jim (?) or even Newt Gingrich. There were intellectual entrepreneurs with their own little policy agendas floating around the Hill. Now they're all scared out of their minds because they follow the leaders, they’re scared of the Tea Parties, there's a lack of initiative in Congress.

ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS: It’s completely Balkanized, and people I think are so, are legitimately turned off on what's happening in Washington, and that includes the media. And there’s no sort of bigger, grand purpose of civil society.

MATTHEWS: Clarence, your thoughts?

CLARENCE PAGE, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Well, I blame the media. [Laughter] And not just the old news media but the new media as well. The social media, etc., have empowered ordinary people, dog gone it, to be able to have more of a say. It's made members of Congress more independent of their traditional leadership because they can just go right to the web with an inflammatory sound bite or something and they’ve got money flowing in on clicks immediately.

Actually, there's a larger issue that Page ignored and that is the media taking sides.

For years, people on the right watched the media tear President George W. Bush apart.

We saw them blame him for hurricanes, tornadoes, and anything bad that happened anywhere on the planet.

Then we watched them actively campaign for a Democratic presidential candidate doing everything within their power - much of it going completely against the rules of journalism - to get him elected.

Next we saw them savage a new grassroots conservative movement called the Tea Party misrepresenting its views while labeling its members as racists, homophobes, and fools.

They then championed a much smaller grassroots liberal movement called Occupy Wall Street despite its violent, destructive tendencies.

Finally, we saw them do everything within their power to get their president re-elected.

As a result, a significant portion of the nation believes the media are completely against them which has unquestionably added to the political polarization we're experiencing.

As such, although I appreciate Page pointing his finger, I wish he would have taken his admonition much further.