Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Nation agrees with Montana Headlines

Montana Headlines was surprised to learn that the leading left-wing journal in the U.S. recently agreed with the assertion of our inaugural post -- namely that the Billings Gazette's editorial endorsement of Jon Tester probably swung the election in his favor.

Actually, John Nichols, writing in The Nation, gives the credit to all of the Montana newspapers that endorsed Tester: " the Helena Independent Record, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Great Falls Tribune, the Montana Standard and the Billings Gazette..."

That imprimatur by The Nation is sure to send warm fuzzies fluttering around a few Montana editorial board tables.

Of course, most of Nichols's article demonstrates the fact that he didn't spend much time in Montana during the campaign. To hear him tell the story, the noxious fumes from Karl Rove's machine had Jon Tester and his embattled little liberal band of bloggers down for the count.

Then, the legitimate media of Montana came riding over the ridge to save the day for Tester.

They did save the day for Tester, but those living in Montana saw a rather different reality regarding the first half of the story -- a reality where Tester led the race from the beginning and where saturated the airwaves and phone lines with Burns smears.

Most importantly, it was a reality where the national GOP early-on abandoned Burns, whom Republican Washington insiders never cared for.

Only when it began to dawn on the national GOP that control of the Senate could very well hang on this little backwater Montana race (something the Democrats seemed to have no problem figuring out -- Republicans aren't called "the Stupid Party" for nothing) did any real help come. By then, it was too little, too late.

The national GOP was needed months earlier when Burns was getting pummeled non-stop by the state and national media. Unindicted, uncharged, and unconvicted, Burns deserved at least as much moral support from the national GOP as Bill Clinton (who was indicted, impeached, and disbarred) got from the national Democrat party during his days of proven perjury.

Nichols goes on to draw larger lessons from the Montana experience: "as the Tester win illustrates, the dinosaurs still have enough life in them to guide--and perhaps even define--our politics." The reader is breathlessly told that "at the local and state levels, where the fundamental fights for control of a nation less red and blue than complexly purple play out, daily newspapers remain essential arbiters of what passes for news and what Americans think about it." A shocking revelation.

The remainder of the article is a tedious paean to the vanished days of real journalism (i.e. when liberals controlled every aspect of the media,) combined with predictable calls for government intervention to save journalism: "government can in the right circumstances and with the right intentions play a useful role in stabilizing the fortunes of newspapers and in encouraging investments in serious journalism."

For a more insightful (and interesting) treatment of the role of newspapers in the 2006 election, read James Bowman's recent article "Biased Sensationalism" in The New Criterion. Bowman analyzes the techniques used by the Washington Post in demonizing Sen. George Allen in Virginia, unquestionably making the difference in Democrat James Webb's tiny margin of victory, a scenario eerily similar to the one recently experienced by Montanans. As Bowman puts it, the Post "simply wanted a Democratic congress and saw an opportunity to help bring that about by manufacturing scandals about George Allen.

Thanks to the liberal blog 4&20 blackbirds for bringing the Nation link to Montana's attention. It must be confessed that The Nation isn't read as often as it should be around the Montana Headlines editorial offices -- an observing space alien would be more likely to catch a Montana Moment.

Maybe its the glum recycled paper The Nation is printed on. Maybe it's the fact that it has, as the libertarian magazine Reason puts it, 70 years of Stalinist apologias to justify. Whatever the reason, Commentary Magazine is more likely to be lying about.

Thus again thanks to 4&20BB for an article that would otherwise surely have been missed.