When the editorial board of The Star-Ledger of New Jersey gathered last October to consider an endorsement for governor, it was clear their support for Gov. Chris Christie was lukewarm at best. Even the board vote was an unusual split decision, 3-1, in favor of Christie, according to Editorial Page Editor Tom Moran.
Four months later the board has done an about-face, unanimously agreeing that they now regret the endorsement and, in the words of Moran, admitting they "blew this one."
"Yes, we knew Christie was a bully," Moran wrote in the February 9 column. "But we didn't know his crew was crazy enough to put people's lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor. We didn't know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn't know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno."
The endorsement U-turn follows growing evidence tying Gov. Christie's administration to the so-called Bridgegate scandal, in which Christie aides shut down several approach lanes of the busy George Washington Bridge for four days in September, deliberately sparking traffic tie-ups in the town of Fort Lee as a means of political retribution.
Christie fired the aides in question when their role became public, and the issue has sparked demands for more information on what the governor knew and triggered legislative and criminal investigations into the incident.
"We had a severe case of buyer's remorse after endorsing him," Moran said Monday, a day after publishing an unusual column announcing the board's change of heart. "Since his re-election, we have learned some new things about him. We learned that his senior staff was willing to put people's lives at risk to make a political point on the bridge, we've learned that the Hoboken mayor has credible charges of criminal activity by the Lt. Governor and a couple of cabinet members, and we see more and more evidence that he is misusing [Hurricane] Sandy funds for political purposes."
News coverage of Occupy Wall Street is starting to pick up.
Although the media attention, and specifically the television interest, lags far behind what the emerging Tea Party enjoyed during its early days, the ongoing protests entrenched in New York City's Financial District show new signs of growth as they enter their third week. Mass arrests over the weekend, along with the fact the protests have entered a semi-permanent stage in lower Manhattan, has likely prompted reporters and producers to give the progressive event a second look, after mostly dismissing the happening last month.
However, when covering Occupy Wall Street, the press still refuses to accurately label the protests as what they are: a distinctly populist uprising.
Condemning criminal behavior and the sweeping destruction Wall Street's big banks and their executives have caused the U.S. economy in recent years, Occupy Wall Street's message is without question a populist one. (i.e. "Populism: A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.") And it's an agenda that strikes an anti-Wall Street chord with the American people.
So why don't the dispatches from Zuccotti Park, home base for the growing anti-Wall Street movement, include that alluring, on-the-side-of-the-people phrase that so many politicians covet? And more importantly, why isn't the press heralding Occupy Wall Street as a populist movement when reporters and pundits have spent the last three years declaring, in unison, that the right-wing, Obama-hating Tea Party movement is a "populist" one, when it most certainly is not.
The press has been profoundly wrong about the Tea Party since the very beginning. Far from being a populist surge, the partisan-to-the-core movement remains completely divorced from the traditional sense of what "populism" has stood for in American politics. (Reactionary? Yes. Populist? No way.)
The Tea Party practically worships at the alter of big business and millionaires, whom the movement seems willing to sacrifice its political life for in order to protect them from paying higher taxes. That's not populism. But trying hold Wall Street accountable most definitely is.