Sunday, May 14, 2006

Journal-Star Double-Standard

by Kyle Michaelis
Last week, I denounced a Lincoln Journal-Star editorial for its conspicuous discussion of Congressional corruption without a single mention of the Republican Party's overwhelming dominance in the field. In fact, every instance of corruption the Journal-Star singled-out was committed by a Republican - with the complicity and some even to the benefit of Nebraska's own GOP Congressmen - yet the title "Republican" never even appeared in the article.

"Okay," I told myself, "they're a newspaper. They're trying to avoid making this a partisan issue - though, by its very nature and who holds the power in Washington D.C, that's already what it is. Still, I should respect such an effort to serve the public, no matter how misguided and unproductive."

Fair enough. I could have left it at that. After all, it's not like the bias I perceived was so blatant that it might not have been a simple case of journalistic oversight. And so I would have moved on...if two of the last three Journal-Star editorials had not played so perfectly into my fears of GOP partisanship on the part of the editorial board.

First, Friday's editorial was little more than a back-handed slap-in-the-face to the Democratic Party masquerading as praise for Sen. Ben Nelson:
Nebraska’s Ben Nelson was the only Democrat in the U.S. Senate to sign on to a bill that would have allowed small businesses to join across state lines to buy health insurance.

Too bad Nelson’s Democratic colleagues were more interested in partisan dust-ups than making a conscientious effort to solve one of America’s major health problems.

On Thursday, the Democrats successfully filibustered the bill.

There are about 46 million uninsured individuals in the country. By some estimates, the legislation sponsored by Nelson and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., would have reduced that number by as much as a million....

Democrats have opposed the bill on the grounds that its coverage would be exempt from state requirements that insurance cover things such as mammograms and diabetes supplies....

Lack of good faith on the negotiations on the bill was shown by Democratic attempts to attach non-germane amendments such as expansion of stem cell research and an extension of the May 15 deadline for application for Medicare drug prescription benefits.....

Since 2000, group premiums for family coverage have grown by about 60 percent. Small businesses are hard-pressed to keep up with the cost. Nelson’s Washington office estimated that 20,000 small businesses in Nebraska would be included in the legislation.

Those problems will only keep getting worse until more members of Congress emulate Nelson’s willingness to focus less on partisanship and more on the search for workable solutions.

No pretense of nonpartisanship there. After being so cautious and gun-shy on ethics reform, look at the way they pull the trigger with Democrats in the cross-hairs.

With the shenanigans pulled by Congress, particularly in the budgeting process, it's ridiculous that the Journal-Star would call a prescription drug benefit extension "non-germane" to any bill addressing the nation's health care crisis. Honestly, it seems quite reasonable, just the effort at compromise to make this proposal acceptable to both parties that the Journal-Star supposedly wanted to see. Except, it seems what they really wanted was for Democrats to roll-over and give-give-give without expecting anything in return.

And, nice to see the Journal-Star protecting America from health insurance coverage that includes mammograms and diabetes supplies. How dare those Democrats have any standards or expectations of quality care?

But, the worst thing about this editorial is the way it seems to praise Nelson while helping pave the way for his defeat in November. It's clear Nebraska voters are very fond of Ben Nelson - he's one of the most popular leaders this state has ever seen. There's absolutely no way that he's going to lose in November on his own merits.

This editorial, however, plays perfectly into the hands of Republicans' only hope of defeating Nelson, wrapping the "D" by his name around his neck like a noose and praying that will be enough to get voters to play executioner to their own self-interests, to their common sense, and to their well-deserved affection for a public servant of Nelson's caliber.

Now, on a new issue, taking aim at a new target - domestic spying - look at how the Journal-Star pulls back from its partisanship when Republicans are again the natural focus of their criticism:
The revelation that the Bush administration has been secretly collecting phone call records of ordinary Americans raises the question of whether bedrock American values are being eroded.

The enormous scope of the program as reported by USA Today doesn’t jibe with the administration’s earlier assertions that its surveillance was limited to conversations with an international connection.

Congress needs to find out what the Bush administration is doing in the name of protecting the country. The secrecy that surrounded it and the denials that preceded its exposure provoke suspicion that it may not have been conducted with proper oversight.

President Bush says that appropriate members of Congress were briefed and approved the program, but Sen. Chuck Hagel, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he did not know of the program.

From this perspective it seems like Hagel should have been consulted. The administration should not be allowed to get away with checking only with a few compliant cronies in Congress.

Quick polls showed that most Americans didn’t feel threatened by the program. But they should be. The Bill of Rights that dates back to the founding of the country has the specific purpose of limiting the exercise of government power against individuals.

Sources told USA Today that the National Security Agency, which began the program after Sept. 11, 2001, has amassed the “largest database ever assembled in the world.”

Sources say that the companies did not turn over names, street addresses or other personal information, but that information can be obtained fairly easily by cross-checking with other databases that are public.

Knowledge is power. Think of how that secret trove of information could be misused by unscrupulous officials trying to collect dirt on their political enemies, whether they be someone like Karl Rove or Hillary Clinton....

Like previous Bush administration grabs for power, the NSA program was justified on the grounds that it was necessary to protect Americans in the age of terror.

But as Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., put it, “The idea of collecting millions or thousands of phone numbers, how does that fit into following the enemy?”

With each new disclosure about government surveillance in the United States, the Bush administration has tried to cobble together legalistic justification for its actions.

This time, the administration shouldn’t be allowed to wriggle away without a thorough investigation. American tradition and values must be protected not only from terrorists, but also from misguided officials who think themselves above the law.

A good editorial? Yes. One that I agree with? Absolutely. But, how can I turn a blind eye to the fact that, after the Journal-Star made a partisan issue of the Nelson editorial, it here fails to point out that it's been no-questions-asked Republicans and "a few compliant REPUBLICAN cronies in Congress" who have enabled Bush's every infringement on our civil liberties.

Why it was only two months ago that the same Chuck Hagel and the same Lindsey Graham lionized above already rolled-over for the Bush Administration by voting not to hold hearings investigating these domestic spying activities.

They have had their chance to do the work demanded of them by the Constitution and the American public, but they chose to put their Republican Party before those responsibilities. The Journal-Star writes as if that didn't happen - as if that hasn't been the case for the last 6 years. In fact, look....besides a single "R" by Graham's name - when he's being presented in an underservedly positive light - again, you won't see any hint of the "Republican" label under which this dangerous power grab is being conducted and enabled.

If that's not indicative of a double-standard by the Journal-Star, then I can't imagine what would be. I hate running the risk of being "the boy who cried wolf" in instances of journalistic bias, but, here - with evidence like this - what choice do I have?

Readers deserve better. This just plain stinks, and I'm not afraid to say it.


Anonymous TedK said...

I knew you'd spot that! I was going to write a letter to the Journal-Star but just never got around to it this weekend. Keep up the good work.

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


I hope you'll still consider writing that letter to the editor. I put the Journal-Star's e-mail address up top in the right-hand column specifically for that reason.

As much as I appreciate the good people who do me the courtesy of reading the New Nebraska Network, none of this does a lick of good if our ideas don't find their way into the general population.

Sure, I can talk a tough game on my private online playground, but we all need to take a stake in the future of our state and nation - speaking out and not being afraid to put our names on the line for the issues that we care about.

Of course, I know Ted's willing to do that - does so all the time - but consider this my personal plea to others that they might follow suit.


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