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If Republicans in high elective office had urged the media not to report on the ideas of Democrats on contentious issues because such reporting would tend to legitimatize really absurd notions, the protests would be deafening, especially from the likes of The New York Times. Likewise if Republicans had taken to referring to Democratic legislators who outmaneuvered them in a losing political battle as “terrorists.”
Yet when these claims were actually made by Democrats against Republicans, there was barely a ripple. In fact, the Times was complicit in the effort. This not only says a lot about the intolerance of the left, but also about its hesitancy in debating issues on the merits. It further suggests that unless the Democrats stop treating as crackpots those who argue a policy of less spending and no new taxes is the way to rein in our runaway debt, there will be no end in sight to the economic woes now gripping the nation.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, former presidential nominee and current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is one of the most powerful Democrats in government. In the course of lamenting the broad public support for Tea Party views on dealing with the debt ceiling issue, he said:
And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely, the media in America has a bigger responsibility than it’s exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everyone knows is not factual. It doesn’t deserve the same credit as a legitimate idea about what you do. And the problem is everything is put into this tit-for-tat equal battle and America is losing any sense of what’s real, of who’s accountable, of who is not accountable, of who’s real, who isn’t, who’s serious, who isn’t?
We suppose Mr. Kerry has forgotten his civics lessons about America being “the marketplace of ideas.” Or that a key to our democracy is a fully informed citizenry that decides what policies to support, and that to further that end it is the critical responsibility of a free press to report the news, not to serve as a gatekeeper for one political party or another. One might have thought the senator would urge more exposure of Tea Party ideas rather than less, if only to invite critical comment. And of course in addition to calling for censorship of views he opposes, he is seeking the boycott of the views of elected members of Congress. What exactly is this senior Democrat telling us about his views of democracy?
And then there’s Vice President Biden. Citing “several sources in the room,” Politico reported last week that in a closed-door meeting with House Democrats about the debt limit controversy, Biden said of tea party Republicans, “They have acted like terrorists.”
The vice president’s office initially denied the report but Mr. Biden himself later explained, “What happened was there were some people who said they felt like they were being held hostage by terrorists. I never said that they were terrorists or weren’t terrorists, I just let them vent.”
What is not disputed is that earlier that day Mr. Biden told Senate Democrats that GOP leaders have “guns to their heads.” So whether he did or did not utter the precise words, it is pretty clear where his head is at. Nor is there any doubt about the feelings of the Democratic negotiators who “vented.”
In an editorial last Saturday, The New York Times supported this blatant attempt to stifle debate by raging against members of Congress who insisted on sticking to their principles:
Through a combination of fear and fervor, Republican leaders in Congress and in the presidential campaign have lined up behind a radical new strategy in which all major decisions are made under threat – to shut the government in April, to implode the economy in July, to cut off money for the Federal Aviation Administration in August .
The Tea Party did not come up with this strategy. Although several of its elected members said they would never vote to raise the debt ceiling, it was John Boehner, the House speaker, who in May devised the fatal formula that President Obama would have to agree to cut more from the spending than the amount of the debt-limit increase. This nonsense finally won the day .
You see, in the cloistered world of the New York Times editorial board, pushing “to cut more from the spending than the amount of debt-limit increase” is “nonsense.” Plainly, the Times is not interested in reasoned debate. Indeed, for some time, its leading columnists have taken the name-calling approach.
This, for example, is what Joe Nocera had to say in an August 1 piece titled “Tea Party’s War on America”:
You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them.
These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took . For now, the Tea Party Republicans can put aside their suicide vests. But rest assured: They’ll have them on again soon enough. After all, they’ve gotten so much encouragement.
And no one beats Paul Krugman when it comes to demonizing anyone benighted enough not to recognize the superior wisdom possessed by Mr. Krugman and his colleagues. “Republicans,” he wrote in a July 28 column, “have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy” and Democrats should have rejected this “extortion.” He went on to say,
Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of the Planet.”
…[W]hen reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.
Instead of empty invective and censorship, why don’t Messrs Kerry, Nocera and Krugman mount a truth squad and put the tough questions to those who believe spending should be cut, taxes should not be raised and that there must be a balanced budget?
Then again, maybe they have good reason to avoid reasoned debate.
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