Digby recently made a compelling argument when, trying to pinpoint moment when the Bush administration, and the larger conservative movement, lost touch with America, she pointed to the showdown surrounding Terri Schiavo in early 2005.
I would just add to her insight that the episode also represented a telling, and I'd suggest historic, tipping point for the press, as well. Having convinced themselves that Bush had won a "mandate," in 2004, despite earning the slimmest margin of re-election for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson, reporters and pundits immediately declared the GOP's all-in on the Schiavo right-to-die story to be a brilliant strategic move.
As I noted in Lapdogs:
The Schiavo coverage began with a strikingly deferential tone with the MSM clearly awed by the Republican's culture-of-life strategy. Indeed, radical was a word the MSM all but refused to use when reporting any part of the Schiavo story, despite the fact it was being fueled by rampant far-right extremism. The controversy highlighted not only how far to the right the GOP had lunged -- a 2003 Fox News poll found just 2 percent of Americans thought the government should decide the right-to-die issue -- but it also illustrated how paralyzed the MSM had become in pointing out the obvious: that the GOP leadership often operated well outside the mainstream of American politics. Reporters, fearful of being tagged as liberal or anti-religion, politely ignored the salient fact.
The press, and especially ABC News, also seemed to do everything in its power to ignore early polling data that showed that Republicans were in the very steep minority when it came to the Schiavo controversy.
Perhaps the larger point here is that the fortunes of Bush and the Beltway press in 2005 were intertwined. So it was inevitable that when, as Digby argues, Bush began his descent with the Schiavo story, so did the media.