In a recent article in which self-parody and self-congratulation fought each other to a draw, Prof. Reynolds made the following statement:
The press has been in the tank for Kerry to a degree that is, I think, without precedent in recent history. But it’s now, as another law professor/blogger, Ann Althouse, notes, beginning to change its tune: “The media are looking ahead and imagining how the history of the 2004 presidential campaign will read and how their performance will measure up.”
I think that’s right. But while the media’s willingness to side with Kerry has been striking, it’s also like the proverbial thirteenth chime of the clock — not only wrong itself, but calling into question everything that came before. The loss of credibility that has come with that, coupled with the press’s poor performance on all sorts of topics (don’t these people know how to use Google? don’t they realize that we do?) will be a long-lasting blow.
Leave aside the transparently ridiculous empirical claim that the press has been “in the tank” for Kerry. What’s amazing is that a stridently pro-Bush blogger is using the corporate astroturf site run by James “Dow 36,000” Glassman–a site famous for publishing articles so tendentious and scientifically illiterate they don’t even qualify as effective propaganda–to accuse other people of bias and incompetence. Remarkable.
The faults Reynolds ascribes (sometimes accurately) to the mainstream media seem to involve a rather large amount of projection. Let’s take his most recent attempt to claim that Bush and Kerry basically have the same position on gay marriage. This is a good test case, as Reynolds claims to be not the ass-licking Republican hack the content of his posts would indicate but a non-partisan libertarian. Admittedly, his form of libertarianism–which involves unstinting praise for a hyper-statist, fiscally irresponsible president and admiration for the literally authoritarian sentiments of a dimwitted Lester Maddox protege–is rather, ah, unique. (I’m not sure what version of libertarianism can square with Zell’s arguments that criticism of a President’s foreign policy is inherently treasonous, but maybe I missed a footnote in Anarchy, State and Utopia or something.) At any rate, here he goes:
Now, of course, any question beginning “what is John Kerry’s position. . .” is a tough one. But — correct me if I’m wrong here — the only real difference between Kerry and Bush is that Bush has offered vague support to the certain-to-fail Federal Marriage Amendment. But it’s, er, certain to fail. Now that’s a difference, I guess. But it’s not a huge one, and to me it doesn’t seem to be a big enough difference to justify the vitriol. (Kerry’s been, maybe, more supportive on civil unions, but I wouldn’t take that to the bank.)
Could this possibly be more feeble?
- Even if this were an accurate characterization, the argument is ridiculous on its face. Apart from having diametrically opposed positions on the central relevant issue, their position is exactly the same! Similarly, Barry Bonds and I have similar baseball skills, except that he is the best player in major league history and I can’t hit a 50 MPH fastball. But other than that, our baseball abilities are exactly the same.
- The attempt to conflate the two positions on civil unions is utterly dishonest. Kerry unwaveringly supports civil unions. Bush supports a constitutional amendment that would prevent states from having civil unions. Reynolds provides no substantiation for this assertion, but merely repeats the lazy media script about Kerry being a flip-flopper.
- Reynolds also, conveniently, omits any discussion of the last major federal policy initiative in this area: The Defense of Marriage Act. Bush staunchly supports it. Kerry was one of a handful on Senators who voted against it. (And, yes, Clinton signed it into law. Which was a disgrace, and I never have and never will make the pathetic excuses for Clinton that Reynolds does for his beloved Bush.)
- Yes, the FMA was destined to fail. But this was about symbolic politics. Bush was using his bully pulpit to use hatred against a group of people to win votes; how this is a defense of Bush I can’t imagine. As it happens, I do think that Reynolds is correct to imply that Bush didn’t care about the FMA. Although nobody knows, I suspect that Bush doesn’t give a rat’s ass about gay marriage. Which makes his conduct even less defensible; I respect a Santorum, who really believes in the FMA, much more than a Bush, who just takes the same position for cynical purposes.
- Finally, note the egregious double standard Reynolds uses in evaluating the context facing Bush and Kerry. Bush gets a free pass for supporting a reprehensible amendment for political gain, because he had no choice. Kerry, on the other hand, gets no slack for nominally opposing gay marriage, although this is almost certainly a position taken out of political necessity (as his support for gay marriage in all but name indicates.) When the generational shift occurs, who is more likely to support gay marriage? The answer is painfully obvious. (Reynolds also takes this opportunity to heap more condescension on Andrew Sullivan and others who dare to call a homophobic policy a homophobic policy. Somehow, I suspect that if it was southern law professors who were denied the right to marry that this issue might not be considered so trifling.)
If anything can make the quickly decaying New York Times look good, it’s Instapundit.
UPDATE: In response to Thomas, who raises an interesting question in the comments, here is the text of the constitutional amendment passed by Missouri earlier this year:
That to be valid and recognized in this state, a marriage shall exist only between a man and a woman.
While this is a bad amendment and I disagree with Kerry for supporting it, there isn’t the slightest contradiction between his support for this and his support for civil unions. This amendment does not prevent the state of Missouri from passing civil unions that have every benfeit, right, and privelege of marriage, so long as they are not called “marriage.” (In addition, supporting state and federal constitutional amendments is not symmetrical. State amendments can be easily amended if public opinoon changes; federal ones cannot.)
Roy Edroso has more on the general topic.