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Thursday, November 29, 2007
(1:43 PM) | Stephen:
At Least It's Interesting

Rudy Giuliani has not only been married three times, and he not only was forced out of the Mayor's Residence by his then-wife because of his affair with his now-wife, apparently used New York City funds to pay for his romantic getaways with his then-mistress/now-wife in the Hamptons. He used his security detail to help cover things up and tried to hide the public financing of his private affair by using the budgets of fairly obscure city departments like the Office for People with Disabilities.

I'm sure everyone reading this blog already knows about this. You knew about it yesterday. The question is, what about the rest of the country? My recent Google News search for "Giuliani" brought up over 1,000 articles relating to the debate last night and how Rudy and Mitt went after each other. There were approximately 250 articles on Giuliani's misappropriation of city funds.

Drudge led with the story for a while, and even Fox News has paid some attention to it, although "Special Report with Brit Hume," for example, spent most of their time blathering about Bill Clinton and managed to squeeze in only a hurried reference to the Giuliani story at the end.

That, I think, is the real problem with the story: it's not about Bill Clinton. Or to put it another way, it doesn't fit established storylines and narratives. It has the potential to be treated as a Big Deal, but there's no guarantee at this point that it'll really go anywhere in the press. Giuliani was a pretty rotten mayor. When he left most New Yorkers hated him, none more than the FDNY because of how Giuliani's decisions regarding their radio system led to many of the Fire Department's losses on 9/11. His BFF Bernie Kerik is a complete crook. Almost everything he's said about his record in NYC has been not only false but easily demonstrated as such.

Yet he still has managed to sit atop polls and receive good press, not only from Roger Ailes but other media outlets as well. They've crafted a narrative around him, one that a bunch of the country seems to accept, and that's what will make it hard for the news media to turn on him now rather than just dismiss this story.

Nothing shows the news media's dysfunction more than how loyal they are to the myths they construct. It's why everything is good news for Republicans, why people are concerned about Bill Clinton's potential for infidelity in the White House and not Giuliani's, why it keeps getting reported that the Democrats' FISA bill would have required court approval for President Bush's bathroom breaks (as opposed to Condi's) or whatever it is Joe Klein made up.

The danger we face in trying to pressure the media to report stories like the US Attorney purge or Giuliani's criminal misuse of NYC money is that we'll only be able to change the prevailing narrative rather than actual journalistic practice. Broder is mythologically committed to his perverted "centrism" rather than ideologically committed, and the same is true for the rest of them. We can change the myth; the GOP has the route all mapped out, and that destination is easier to reach with all of the technological tools available to us now. But all that means is someday the tide will turn against us again. I want a media that reports facts, that doesn't consider the horserace to be the only side of a campaign that exists, that doesn't mistake he said/she said articles with false equivalence as balance. If we can get them to report on the Giuliani story because it's about criminal activity and breach of the public's trust and not because Giuliani was having The Sex, then we'll have a real accomplishment under our belt.

I'm not holding my breath for either the possibility that the press will really run with it or, if they do, that they'll put the focus where it belongs.

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