Thursday, June 14, 2012

Is Steve Kornacki An Objective Political Analyst?

One of the many sources of news and commentary I frequent is the left-leaning Salon.com. Glenn Greenwald's excellent work there on civil liberties and war issues was the only reason I visited at first, but since then I've discovered Steve Kornacki's articles and have followed them for months. His impressive knowledge of political history and fairly objective analysis is very useful for anyone who wants to keep up with election news.

But here and there, more often these days, I'm spotting more political bias getting slipped in, and it's now hard to believe he does not favor the Democrats like most other Salon writers. Perhaps he was always like this, and I'm just now realizing it with the republican primaries all but over.

The problem is, bits of Kornacki's political agenda- quietly tucked between his objective reporting  and analysis- will go unnoticed for what it is and assumed to be just more objective reporting and analysis.

In today's column, Kornacki writes:
"The key point here is that Clinton was asking voters not just to give Obama two more years (they had no choice but to do that), but also to give Democrats two more years of congressional control, to allow the party to continue implementing its agenda. As you’re probably aware, voters ended up ignoring this plea and installing a Republican House, which has pretty much made it impossible for Obama and Democrats to do anything substantive to boost the economy these past two years – like, say, pass a jobs bill that economists widely agree would incease growth and cut unemployment." (my emphasis)
Bad Republicans! See what Kornacki did? First, he pretends that only Republicans, not also the Democrats, were too stubborn to compromise; and only the Democrat plans would substantially boost the economy. Secondly, he points us to mainstream economists... who, oops, with few exceptions, couldn't foresee the housing bubble and financial crash of 2008. (But they sure see what we need to do now!) Those who actually saw what was coming, many of whom- incidentally- find proposals like the 'jobs bill' harmful, are simply ignored.

Kornacki's May 22nd article on deficits is even worse:
The CliffsNotes version of what’s wrong with this: 1) There’s been no spending explosion under Obama; 2) the increase in debt under Obama can be traced to the economic crash (which dramatically reduced federal revenue), the wars, the Bush tax cuts (which, yes, Obama agreed to extend – at the insistence of Republicans), the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law, and only to a very minor extent the 2009 stimulus; and 3) the economy would actually be in better shape now if Obama had spent more.
Here we go again. The first item laughably attempts to paint Obama as a fiscal conservative; on the second, increasing debt could only be the fault of falling revenues, citizen, rather than lack of leadership in cutting spending, and note he goes out of the way to make sure Republicans- and not poor, helpless President Obama- is considered the cause for extending the Bush tax cuts; and the third item is just blatant progressive/Keynesian propaganda.

There's nothing wrong with Steve Kornacki writing political commentary- I do it all the time. But you have to watch out for political agendas, they are everywhere and often hard to spot if you're not paying attention. It would help readers if reporters and analysts like Kornacki explicitly disclosed their personal political views, so that readers understand the worldview that informs the inescapable biases of every author..

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