Time: Conflating Big Spending With ‘Moderate’

(My first piece for Breitbart’s new BigJournalism.com site is up. And here it is…)

One of the tricks that the Old Media consistently uses to paint conservatives as walking on the dark side is to call Republicans who lean left “moderates,” while those who lean to the right are “right wing” or “hardcore” Republicans. This media-speak reserves the harsher words for conservatives and makes anyone on the right seem like an extremist, yet paints the center-left as being on the side of the angels.

It’s a subtle flavoring of rhetoric that leads the reader to a prearranged conclusion as opposed to a reporting of the facts. A recent Time Magazine article by Tim Padgett on the Republican primary Senate campaign between Florida’s Charlie Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio is a perfect example of this.

To Time the primary fight between Rubio and Crist is apparently one of light versus dark, the evil extremist “right wing” siding with Rubio against the nice, “inclusive” moderates supporting Crist. But with this characterization, Time is misrepresenting the political battle between Rubio and Crist. Unfortunately for Time’s agenda, the argument in Florida between Rubio and Crist has little to do with moderates, inclusion, or big tent politics but has everything to do with economics. Rubio is a fiscal conservative while Crist, the incumbent governor, has been a profligate spender.

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Like Time, the Old Media love to call anyone not a fiscal and social conservative a “moderate” as if that meant they were somehow less mean-spirited. From the Time piece on Rubio/Crist there are many examples of the loaded rhetoric so often used by the Old Media to cast conservatives in as bad a light as possible.

Here, for example, is how Time characterizes the rise in conservative sentiment that swept the country that culminated in the many hundreds of Tea Parties in 2009:

Ever since a conservative tent revival began sweeping America last summer, sparked by angry misgivings about health care reform and other harbingers of big government, Republican purists have targeted Crist’s moderate, bipartisan style. Seizing on his embrace of President Obama’s $787 billion economic-stimulus plan, they’ve treated him as a whipping boy for everything that’s wrong with the battered GOP as well as Florida’s recession-ravaged economy, whose unemployment rate of 11.5% is the state’s worst since 1975.

Notice the characterization of Tea Party goers as “purists” and how it’s all about the “angry” conservatives juxtaposed against the nice, “moderate, bipartisan style” of the put-upon Crist? Notice how Crist’s leftward leaning economic policies don’t make him a big spender, they make him a “whipping boy” for the meanies on the far right?

A few paragraphs later, Padgett describes Crist’s political style more specifically and, naturally, the rhetoric makes Crist’s opponents out to be wild-eyed fanatics and Crist to be the nice guy.

And it’s just the latest warning that if Crist hopes to take his less strident and more inclusive brand of Republicanism to Washington – an approach, shared by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, that many thought the GOP should adopt after last year’s disastrous election losses – he has to reckon first with the [Jeb] Bush brand.

In Padgett’s view, Crist is “less strident” and “inclusive” the kind of candidate the GOP “should adopt.” The only conclusion that a reader can come to is that Crist’s opponents are “strident” and “exclusive,” of course. But, once again, this is not what the argument is between Crist and Rubio. Few in Florida’s conservative political scene are saying that Crist is somehow too inclusive. What they are saying is that he is a big government, big spending RINO who too often works against conservative principles. It’s all about economics and principle, not “inclusiveness.”

Yet, even as Time keeps using the words “moderate” and “inclusive” throughout the piece to describe Crist, the same article presents few examples of the conservative argument against him. The complaints that Time ascribes to Florida conservatives show that they are hammering Crist as a big spender on such things as wasteful high-speed rail programs that no one really wants (a reversal of the Jeb Bush agenda, which stood against high-speed rail). Florida conservatives are also agitated by Crist’s vocal support of the Obama Administration’s stimulus freebies and his support for “cap and trade.” Notice that all these things are things that conservatives think makes no good economic sense.

So, why does Time keep using the loaded words “moderate” and “inclusive” in its piece to describe Crist? Why else but to subtly paint Crist’s conservative opponents as mean spirited and extreme? Why else but to make Crist’s opposition out as haters and nuts?

And as if to bring home Time’s feeling that anyone that opposes Crist is “angry” and mean, they even find room for Crist’s own quote to that effect.

In a speech to Republicans in Fort Lauderdale last month, a seemingly frustrated Crist read off a litany of his conservative stances and said, “I don’t know what else you’re supposed to be, except maybe angry too.” And yet, if he’s going to right his campaign, he has to engage the anger of his party’s base.

It is striking that the piece takes little time to say why conservatives in Florida are angry, yet calls them that over and over again, even portraying Crist as “frustrated” by the right’s condemnation. All in all, this piece is weighted against conservatives and its rhetoric paints Crist as the unduly aggrieved party throughout. It is subtle, of course, but that is how the Old Media constantly characterizes conservatives as the extremists.

Finally, it is rare indeed ever to see the left treated in a similar manner. Rare is it when lefty Democrats are called “left wing” or “radical” or “extreme” in the same ways those on the right are identified. The closest we get is when conservative leaning Democrats are called “blue dogs,” and even this is a nebulous handle unless one is informed enough about the political scene to know ahead of time that a “blue dog” is a conservative Democrat. So, in the case of the discussion on middle- versus left-leaning Democrats, it is characterized as “blue dogs” against mere Democrats. Pelosi is never called a “hardcore” Democrat, or an “ultra liberal,” or a “left wing” Democrat. The media has a special set of harsh words for politicians on the right, but none for those on the left.

Now why do you suppose that is?

(Originally published at BigJournalism.com)

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