In this section from a longer article about press bias in the US. Political Journalist Nick Turse describes the way the media battle between the right and the left is unfairly tilted from the start………
“Put simply, there are two sets of rules: one for liberals and Democrats, the other for conservatives and Republicans. The former are supposed to be fair-minded and rule-abiding, as befits a tradition that harkens back to the likes of Jefferson, Madison, Montesquieu and Locke. The latter are expected to be Nixonian streetfighters—whatever they do is “just politics,” and “everybody does it,” so there’s “nothing to see here.”
These differences are deeply rooted in political culture. Liberalism descends from a long line of urban-, commercial- and professional-based culture, built on three major movements that have shaped the modern Western world: the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment. It is primarily bourgeois, though influenced by proletarian strivings from below. Success in this world—a non-zero-sum game—is largely reflected in the uncoerced judgement of one’s equals, one’s peers. Conservatism’s roots, in contrast, are rural, provincial and aristocratic, centered in institutions of hierarchy: the military, the church and, more recently, big business, as well as the patriarchal family. Success in this zero-sum world comes from subordinating others to one’s will, from coercing them, from escaping the judgement of one’s equals and peers—indeed, even from denying that one has equals or peers. These cultural differences—which even stretch back as far as ancient Greece—are in turn built upon differences in psychology and physiology, as I recently wrote about here at Salon.
For months, years, even decades on end, liberals and Democrats have played by these bifurcated rules, and they have repeatedly gotten clobbered as a result. The single biggest reflection of this lies with attitudes toward presidential impeachment. Republicans and conservatives routinely think of impeaching Democratic presidents, expending considerable energy to roil their bases, elaborating paranoid, fantastical, conspiratorial narratives. Democrats do quite the opposite—preemptively discouraging talk of impeachment, even when major political scandals raise serious questions of legitimate rule.
When the Iran/Contra scandal broke in late 1986, for example, Democratic lawmakers preemptively indicated that impeachment was not on the table, and although they controlled the Senate, in December they appointed an investigative committee weighted in favor of Reagan’s Central American policies implicated in the scandal. Just three of the six Democrats appointed (along with five Republicans) had voted against funding the Contras the previous August, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported at the time. The intent not to investigate aggressively could not be more clear—though couched in the language of “responsibility”:
Democratic leader Sen. Robert C. Byrd, who held a joint news conference with Republican Leader Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas to announce their selections, lauded the high caliber of his six Democratic choices.
He said he took care to pick senators “who will be fair, who will be tough, who will not be out to get anybody and who will not be out to protect anybody, but who will be interested in revealing to the public the facts, all the facts, and nothing but the facts.”
… Acknowledging the conservative cast of the committee, [Democrat Howell] Heflin [of Alabama] said he saw no deliberate attempt to exclude liberals–only a determination by both Senate leaders to put together a “fairly impartial” panel of members that will ”not jump to a conclusion or who are not of the knee-jerk variety.”
Said Heflin, “We are seeking the truth here, and I hope it doesn’t end up in an adversary posture.”
Indeed, the intent was not even to investigate competently. Conspicuous by his absence was John Kerry, the only member of the Senate who had already begun investigating the Contras, and who had staffers who were deeply knowledgeable about the investigative details. As explained in Salon in 2004 by Robert Parry—coauthor of the initial AP stories on the Contras:
In December 1985, when Brian Barger and I wrote a groundbreaking story for the Associated Press about Nicaraguan Contra rebels smuggling cocaine into the United States, one U.S. senator put his political career on the line to follow up on our disturbing findings. His name was John Kerry….
In early 1986, the 42-year-old Massachusetts Democrat stood almost alone in the U.S. Senate demanding answers about the emerging evidence that CIA-backed Contras were filling their coffers by collaborating with drug traffickers then flooding U.S. borders with cocaine from South America….
In taking on the inquiry, Kerry challenged President Ronald Reagan at the height of his power, at a time he was calling the Contras the “moral equals of the Founding Fathers.” Kerry’s questions represented a particular embarrassment to Vice President George H.W. Bush, whose responsibilities included overseeing U.S. drug-interdiction policies.
Although Kerry’s final report would not be issued until 1989, an interim report released on Oct. 16, 1986—the month before the Iran/Contra scandal officially broke—linked Oliver North to the Contras via a former Senate staffer, Robert Owen, and implicated the Contras in drug trafficking. If there was any interest in getting to the truth in the Iran/Contra investigation, Kerry and his staff members would have been the top draft picks for the Senate committee. Instead, they were left out in the cold. Still, the truth eventually did come out.
The Iran/Contra special prosecutor, Lawrence Walsh, was a lifelong Republican who had been appointed to the federal bench by Dwight Eisenhower. Walsh’s 1997 book about the scandal and its investigation, ”Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up,” primarily drew its title from the firewall protecting Vice President Bush from prosecution, as he was operationally closer to the action than Reagan was. However, Walsh’s investigation clearly established that both men had committed unambiguously impeachable acts. When “Firewall” came out, Parry wrote about it:
According to “Firewall,” the cover-up conspiracy took formal shape at a meeting of Reagan and his top advisers in the Situation Room at the White House on Nov. 24, 1986. The meeting’s principal point of concern was how to handle the troublesome fact that Reagan had approved illegal arms sales to Iran in fall 1985, before any covert-action finding had been signed. The act was a clear felony–a violation of the Arms Export Control Act–and possibly an impeachable offense.
Though virtually everyone at the meeting knew that Reagan had approved those shipments through Israel, Attorney General Edwin Meese announced what would become the cover story. According to Walsh’s narrative, Meese “told the group that although [NSC adviser Robert] McFarlane had informed [Secretary of State George] Shultz of the planned shipment, McFarlane had not informed the president.
All this is a matter of public record—but it’s far less publicly known than all manner of purely invented “scandals” attributed to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. At the root of that difference is a profound ambivalence, at best, toward aggressive investigation and truth-telling on the liberal/Democratic side.
It’s undoubtedly true that many Democrats thought that their restraint in not going after Reagan or Bush would help to set a productive bipartisan tone going forward—but in this they were sorely disappointed, as Republicans almost immediately began to look for ways to bring down Bill Clinton’s presidency. As if the record of under-investigating Iran/Contra weren’t enough, there was another impeachment-worthy investigation that the Democrats also tanked, and which Parry also reported on, as I explained in a Salon story this June.
In 1992-93, there was a House investigation into the “October Surprise,” the reported effort by the 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign to delay Iran’s release of the hostages taken from the American embassy until after the election. As Parry reported in a 1995 series, “The October Surprise X-Files,” the report was all but finished in January 1993, when a belated report from Russian intelligence came in, basically confirming key elements of the October Surprise:
To the shock of the task force, the six-page Russian report stated, as fact, that Casey, George Bush and other Republicans had met secretly with Iranian officials in Europe during the 1980 presidential campaign. The Russians depicted the hostage negotiations that year as a two-way competition between the Carter White House and the Reagan campaign to outbid one another for Iran’s cooperation on the hostages. The Russians asserted that the Reagan team had disrupted Carter’s hostage negotiations after all, the exact opposite of the task force conclusion….
But apparently, there was no serious follow-up….
So, in short, in the course of just over six years, congressional Democrats effectively tanked not one, but two investigations that might have uncovered impeachable acts by two Republican presidents—and Republicans, over the next six years, responded by impeaching Bill Clinton—only the second president ever impeached!—for lying about sex.
Clearly, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, represent two entirely different ways of approaching the world. What liberals/Democrats see as “acting responsibly,” trying to “minimize partisan sparring,” “focusing on the business of government,” and “serving the American people” are seen by conservatives/Republicans as showing signs of incredible weakness and lack of resolve, which are an open invitation for them to utterly crush everyone and everything that might possibly stand in their way. It’s not an invitation to peace, but to war—or, more accurately, to slaughter or wanton terrorism.
This is not a caricature. Ted Cruz is not a caricature. He’s a real live U.S. senator. Newt Gingrich is not a caricature. He was a real live speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Dick Cheney is not a caricature. He was a real live vice president of the United States. For all these men—and countless legions more—any sign of compromise is always and automatically a sign of weakness. And that’s not just how they see Democrats, as Ted Cruz’s talk of Republican “squishes” makes absolutely clear.
Now, every once in a while, something unusual happens. A significant chunk of liberals and Democrats wake up and decide to fight back—at which point conservatives and the GOP counter-attack them for “being mean” and “political” and “cynical”–in short, for acting like Republicans. And that’s precisely what we’re seeing now, as the GOP tries to pretend that impeaching Obama is Obama’s idea. And of course, what conservatives and Republicans are counting on is that only a portion of liberals and Democrats have woken up to the game they’re playing. The rest will just stay in their usual default mode, trying to be “balanced” and “reasonable,” and “responsible” and such. Which means they can easily be turned against the other liberals and Democrats who’ve somehow managed to take the red pill this time.
In short, conservatives’ strategic advantage consists in being relatively unified themselves, and in being able to split liberals and set them against one another relatively easily. Disingenuous appeals to a range of liberal values are often key to this success, starting with simple pragmatism—”We have to pay our bills!”—all the way up to high principles, such as religious freedom.
Yet, here again, we see the same asymmetry emerge in the conservative’s “religious freedom” argument—religious freedom for conservatives does not mean what it does for liberals. It does not mean everyone enjoying equal protection of their freedom of religious conscience—it means imposing their religion on everyone else, as in the Hobby Lobby case. When faced with other people’s actual religious freedom, they respond to it hysterically, as an attack on their religious freedom”