May 8, 2012
In their recent Post article, Mann and Ornstein noted that one of the problems in dealing with Republican extremism is that the media are reluctant to expose it, and instead play the blame-both-sides game.
We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.
That’s good advice, but will it be taken? Not by the Post, which felt compelled to achieve "balance" by tacking on at the end of the article a link to a comment by one of its pundits, the ubiquitous Jennifer Rubin. Although the title of her column is "Right Turn," which exposes its bias, she had the chutzpah to describe Mann and Ornstein as "Democratic hacks." For good measure, she declared that they are "shopworn founts of conventional wisdom, . . not serious pundits, let alone scholars."Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?
Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein are scholars, and are especially interested in the function, performance and problems of Congress, as shown by their book The Broken Branch. Glancing at the introduction to that book would have revealed to Ms. Rubin the truth of this statement in their article: "In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted." Paying attention to current events would have shown her the truth of this one: "Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party."