Jewish World Review May 16, 2001 / 23 Iyar, 5761
Specifically, as both John F. Harris and Howard Kurtz have reported in The Washington Post, Democratic war-roomers have brought forth a new bottle of the old whine that the national press corps, manipulated by right-wing ideologues, unfairly savaged Bill Clinton--and is too soft on Bush.
The latest proof for this is supposed to lie in the differing tones of press coverage afforded to Clinton and to Bush in their first hundred days in office. "The Washington press corps has become like little puppy dogs; you scratch them on the tummy and they roll right over,'' complained the master dog trainer and former Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel.
This would be interesting if true, since it would seem to confound all logic. That the national press corps, shown in every survey to be overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic, would grant friendlier treatment to a conservative Republican president than to a liberal Democratic president--can it really be so?
No. "Contrary to Democratic complaints, George W. Bush has not gotten an easier ride from the American media in his first 100 days than Bill Clinton did in his famously rocky start. ... Despite a very good first month, Bush's coverage overall was actually less positive than Bill Clinton's eight years ago.''
That is the conclusion of "The First 100 Days: How Bush Versus Clinton Fared in the Press,'' a report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, an independent group run under the auspices of the Columbia School of Journalism and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. To produce this report, the project examined 899 stories reported by four network news divisions, two major newspapers and one major newsweekly during the first 60 days of the Clinton administration and the first 60 days of the Bush administration.
Among the specific findings:
Bush does not suffer analogous doubts as to character, and has done nothing serious to confirm doubts as to intelligence. He has properly gotten decent press as a manager. But the coverage of Bush in policy terms has been sharply and heavily negative--because most reporters do not approve of his policies. Because they are conservative policies.
And this is the bias that