Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Today is Link to Ezra Klein day

I actually went over there looking for this excellent discussion of why the US media slipped up and actually reported on the policy debate for once (they promise it won't happen again). I will quote it in full


Ryan Avent brings us some good news:

A majority of Americans believe that the gas tax holiday is bad idea. How about that? When the press focuses intensely on an actual policy issue, and includes information on expert opinion, Americans come to the correct conclusion. Now what if that had been the press’ MO on health care, Iraq, climate change, and so on?

But the key, I suppose, is that there was a fierce and entertaining fight between the candidates on the subject, whereas on other policy positions, there is largely agreement, meaning that the fur only flies on other, decidedly stupid, issues.

The problem with the press's relatively good behavior on the gas tax is that it was a one-off produced by a fairly rare set of circumstances: Namely, a 1) high profile fight between two leading national candidates who were 2) on the same side of the partisan divide and were 3) squabbling over a policy issue where there was utter unanimity among experts. You didn't, for instance, have a bunch of Cato or AEI economists popping up in articles to explain the merits of a windfall for Exxon Mobil gas tax holiday. Shift the discussion over to health care or Iraq or blotting out a small portion of the sun to deal with global warming, however, and the O'Hanlon's and Tanners of the world will happily back up awful ideas and the reporters will happily reprint their quotes. What freed the media in this instance was that experts all said the same thing and that was a discoverable fact that they could relay to readers.

If credentialed experts disagree, however, the media will still refuse to render a judgment. And when it becomes Democrat vs. Republican, all sorts of "experts" who have been given credentials (a sinecure at AEI) specifically in order to support Republican candidates will pop up and loudly proclaim support for health savings accounts or surges or sun blotting and the media will slowly back off in confusion.

Posted by Ezra Klein on May 5, 2008 10:29 AM |

Good points. Also they were playing by the Clinton rules that reporters dump on a Clinton when they wouldn't do it to anyone with a different last name.

When was the last time a Clinton made an absurd argument on policy ? I can't remember, but I'm willing to guess (I wrote bet then reconsidered) that the press would report it as an absurd argument even if Democratic hacks argued otherwise (of course Democratic hacks have jobs as campaign consultants and not sinecures at hack tanks).

Note how the www.WashingtonPost.com gradually deleted all reference to the fact that the proposal was originally McCain's in links to their article about how it was a bad idea.

oh hell since it's link to Ezra Klein day, I will just note that these two are great too.

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