The mainstream media has curious understanding of fairness as it applies to criticism of the two major political ideologies. If a conservative commits some minor transgression or is even perceived to have done so, he earns a barrage of negative articles. A progressive will only draw criticism if he takes a naked disregard for the truth to absurd heights, and even then, professional journalists tend to blunt the sting of rebuke by pairing him with a conservative so "both sides" get criticized.
So not only do conservatives get quickly punished for small or imagined offenses, they also get punished when the media finally gets around to putting some bombthrower on the Left back into line.
Mitt Romney has to be one of the cleanest candidates ever to run for president. The only facts that President Obama's campaign has been able to dig up is 1) he's rich, 2) he put his dog safely on the roof of a car one time, and 3) back in high school he might have cut someone's hair.
So, they've resorted to smearing Romney with unsubstantiated accusations. Senator Harry Reid, a progressive stalwart, has infamously said on the Senate Floor that Romney didn't pay taxes for ten years.
That whopper was hard even for the media to ignore. But instead of just taking Reid to task, some outlets strained to draw a moral equivalency between Reid and Romney.
CNN fretted that the presidential campaign just got "even dirtier"--citing, among other things, that Romney said his opponents' accusations are "Obamaloney."
Hypocritical. Contemptible. Dishonest. "Obamaloney." The rhetoric, charges and counter-charges flew fast and thick Tuesday as the presidential election campaign continued on its sharply negative trajectory.
Huh? Somebody lies about you, you say it's baloney, and now you're both to blame for the "sharply negative trajectory" of the campaign?
That's like saying a robbery victim is responsible for creating negative vibes for criticizing his robber.
[Reid's] tactics are part of the big-picture efforts by both sides to frame the election in terms favorable to their man. For Romney, that means portraying Obama as a failed president unworthy of a second term. For Obama, that means depicting the former Massachusetts governor as a champion of the wealthy class and special interests.
See the moral equivalency. "Both sides" are trying "to frame the election in terms favorable to their man." One problem-- Reid is just pulling damaging accusations out of thin air. Yes, Romney is saying Obama is a failed president, but at least there's proof of that!
CNN offered a glimpse into the strategy of Reid's dirty trick:
Reid's unsubstantiated claim, based on an unidentified source, was intended to keep alive the push by Democrats to force Romney to release more of his past tax returns than the two years disclosed so far...
Surely the media would see right through that blatant attempt at manipulation and not echo the call for Romney to release more returns!
The Washington Post editorial board started out good, stating that "Mr. Reid's smear tactics are not unlike those of Joseph McCarthy and deserve equal condemnation."
But, the Post notes, Romney won't release more tax returns. Well, gee, I wonder why--the other side is already lying about him being an evil rich guy. Why give them more ammunition that shows he's got money? Nevertheless, the Post concludes both sides are wrong.
Why is it so hard for these two men to grasp that voters are rightly fed up with sleazy rhetoric and sleight-of-hand campaign finance?
The Ventura County Star also called for Romney to release the tax returns in light of Reid's accusation, which it called, along with Romney's denial "on the friendly confines of Fox", a "fact-free discussion." The returns, the Star editorialized, will only show that Romney is "a very rich guy with great tax lawyers" because he paid "a very attractive rate of 13.9 percent on an income of $21.6 million" in 2010 (the maximum rate he could have paid for that type of income was 15 percent, but all of his charitable contributions helped reduce it to 13.9).
I wonder, since people are so concerned about putting to bed wild rumors by releasing documents, that they will call on President Obama to release his college transcripts. In both cases there are unfounded accusations and an unreleased record that can confirm or disconfirm it.
But I doubt we'll see that anytime soon.