Paul Begala has a great piece up at Huffington Post about the media's double standards when it comes to minor mistakes made by politicians. This is driven, undoubtedly, by the conservative noise machine that mocks liberal politicians for the most marginal of errors, while defending or ignoring glaring errors from the right.
The most recent example that Begala notes is when Mitt Romney said that if "Saddam Hussein had open[ed] up his country to IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors and they'd come in and they'd found that there were no weapons of mass destruction."
Hussein, of course, did open up Iraq to inspectors who found no weapons of mass destruction. Or has the press already forgotten Hans Blix?
But, as Begala and Media Matters noticed, there was a virtual media silence on Romney's glaring error.
Contrast, says Begala, to Gore's minor error in the 2000 debate when he misstated the title of a FEMA employee.
In a 2000 debate, Al Gore said that during wildfires in Texas he'd met with the director of FEMA. In fact, Vice President Gore had met with the deputy director of FEMA. Although I had been at the meeting as well, I didn't remember it either. But the press, spoon-fed by the Republican smear machine, used the misstatement to damn Gore as a "serial exaggerator."
This is how the right operates - hone in on a minor error by liberals and mischaracterize it to cast doubt on the individual's integrity. The press uses these to reinforce negative narratives about liberals - Gore as a "serial exaggerator," for example. The press seems willing to use anything the right hands them to back up these phony descriptions.
It's not surprising that the right operates this way. What else should we expect from a political movement that believes that if you ignore something, it will go away?
But we should expect more from the news media. As Begala so well puts it,
But with all respect to Jon Stewart, that's not what hurts America. What hurts America is when powerful media elites excoriate a Democrat for an insignificant error, but turn a blind eye to a campaign of lies about war.