Beneath the Veil of Objectivity

If you’ve ever attended a luncheon where a well-known public official is the featured speaker, you may have noticed that members of the media do not applaud when the speaker has finished his or her address.  And, even though hundreds of people may be giving the government official a standing ovation, the press will not follow suit, stoically sitting in their seats to demonstrate their objectivity.

Unfortunately, this is true even in a time of war.  

Recently, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican from Pennsylvania who’s running a hard-fought campaign for re-election, gave a policy address to the Pennsylvania Press Club.  When the packed ballroom gave the Senator a standing ovation, a number of members of the media refused to rise, signaling their refusal to take sides in the hotly-contested Senate race.  That race pits Santorum against Democrat Bob Casey, a man known best for being the son of the late Robert Casey, the esteemed former governor of Pennsylvania.  

I don’t have a problem with press objectivity in covering political races—in fact, I applaud it.  But the problem is is that there is a distinctly hypocritical element to the behavior of many reporters when covering political races.

One bureau chief accused Santorum of portraying himself as Winston Churchill in his speech, in which he pointed out the dangers of a nuclear Iran.  You would have thought that Santorum had declared, “I am the next Winston Churchill.”  The fact is, he did no such thing.   

Other press reports pounced on the fact that one woman in the audience questioned why, as a single working mother, she should vote for the senator, given the comments he had made in his book.  That book is now light-years old by news standards, and so whatever Santorum did or did not write in that manuscript should have no news value whatsoever.  But there it is, his prose cast in a negative light once again in the glare of the media spotlight.

There’s a good reason why a number of the members of the Fourth Estate cannot stand Santorum.  He’s a Republican who acts like a Republican in the vast majority of  cases.  He believes in a strong defense, the sanctity of life and the sacredness of family life, and in lower taxes.  And these are all the things that many members of the media fight tirelessly against.

The Democrats are hungry for a win in Pennsylvania.  The defeat of Santorum would be a major coup for the party of Hillary, and could help to tip the balance of power in the Senate.  A number of polls show the hate campaign is working, with Casey in the lead.  However, Santorum has been narrowing the gap and, with the election still a couple of months off, he has plenty of time to rally.

Granted, there is a great deal of anti-incumbent fever in the American heartland.  But the Democrats should not take the election for granted. There are too many variables—and, chief among them is our continuing war against terror. If the election hinges on the issue of terrorism, voters are far more likely to cast their votes for Republicans. The GOP is perceived as the party that is more trustworthy when it comes to protecting our national security interests.  

So, while some reporters may dismiss anti-terrorism crusaders such as Santorum as Churchill wanna-bes, average voters may perceive them as respected statesmen who have America’s best interests at heart.  We are, after all, in a time of war, and, as the voters of Civil War America knew, it’s best not to switch horses in mid-stream.  Or Republican senators.