Taking (slight) issue with E.J. Dionne

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

The WashPost columnist wrote a welcome piece on Thursday about how the press is treating Noise Machine leaders such as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich like actual party leaders, even though they have no traditional power; the kind of power that the Beltway press always required before taking players seriously.

Dionne was dead on when he wrote:

If you doubt that there is a conservative inclination in the media, consider which arguments you hear regularly and which you don't. When Rush Limbaugh sneezes or Newt Gingrich tweets, their views ricochet from the Internet to cable television and into the traditional media. It is remarkable how successful they are in setting what passes for the news agenda.

Shorter version: Who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks?

But here I have to take issue with Dionne, who, at least to my ear, stretches too far in order to blame Democrats for creating the Limbaugh/Gingrich media monster:

Democrats are complicit in building up Gingrich and Limbaugh as the main spokesmen for the Republican Party, since Obama polls so much better than either of them.

I don't buy it. Or to be more specific, I think Dionne's at best 20 percent correct. Because yes, there may have been times when, strategically, Democrats wanted the radical right rhetoric of AM talk show hosts and disgraced former speakers of the House out front. But to suggest that has been the driving force I think is off the mark.

Here's a for-instance. I was watching Wolf Blitzer last night report on Obama's speech to Muslims and as part of CNN's prepared report, virtually the first voice Blitzer introduced to guage reaction to Obama's speech was Rush Limbaugh. That's the media's first pivot. That's where Beltway journalists start their reporting: What did Rush and Newt say? It's unprecedented, of course. But 'serious' political media in the country have abandoned longtime standards and have decided to turn right-wing hate talkers into legit news players.

And trust me, that has not been done at the prompting of Democrats.

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