Kennedy–Nixon

Even with all the discussion of media bias since the dawn of the cable revolution and the intense media scrutiny offered by the explosive growth of the blogosphere, the essential story of media bias is still best revealed by a trenchant example from forty years ago. The media treatment then (and now) of our two flawed political icons of the sixties, Kennedy and Nixon, tells you all you need to know.

It all began in 1960 as the Kennedy election machine revved up to take on Nixon. As Gary Wills, no great fan of Nixon, wrote in 1980, '...at some point they (press) all agreed, to hate Nixon, and to love Prince Charming.'

The die was cast, and during the formative years of many of today's liberal pundits, the pro—Kennedy media helped fuel a puppy—love infatuation with government and liberalism that no amount of Vietnam, exploding CIA cigars, Bay of Pigs fiascoes or Dr. King wire—tapings could extinguish. For many, the glow of Camelot has never faded.

But then neither have the dark, dreadful days of Nixon.

The love of Kennedy is so deep that it is mostly implicit, so ingrained and genuine that it is taken for granted, and the infatuated don't realize it is there. Several years ago, Tim Russert, one of the most respected of today's media stars, inadvertently provided a particularly nauseating example of this phenomenon. He was interviewing John Kennedy, Jr. at the start of his George magazine enterprise on Meet the Press. The fawning manner and worshipful demeanor of Russert were bad enough, but the line of questioning about his mother and father (think People Magazine and Princess Di) was so gushing and superficial that it clearly embarrassed Kennedy, Jr., who, after all, was there to sell his magazine.

Toward end the broadcast, Russert ran, unhappily for the startled John John, a clip of his father on the very same broadcast sometime during the fifties. It had nothing to do with George, of course, but everything to do with why he was there. Really. Poor Kennedy, Jr. was rendered speechless but, to his credit, managed to maintain some poise, as the clueless Russert looked lovingly his way.

It really is magical. Say the word "Kennedy," and a warm, knowing smile emerges on the face of your average media star. Say Nixon, a stern, grim visage results.

Of course, this state of affairs exists in spite of the historical record. A notion as true as it is ignored.

Kennedy, a man of unquestionable strengths, was plagued with a legion of faults. Amid much rumor and exaggeration, the documented failings are now irrefutable. He lied about his health (Addison's disease, VD). He lied about his family (Rosemary). He lied about much in his war record (PT—109). He lied about his writings (bogus Pulitzer Prize). He stole Illinois to win the election in 1960. He caved to Khrushchev in Vienna and Turkey. He permitted the murder of Diem. He cheated on his wife——constantly. While in the White House, he had his girlfriend carry cash to mobster Giancana. He began the disastrous Vietnam escalation. And yet...  and yet he is consistently ranked as one of our greatest Presidents in public opinion polls and his 'eternal flame' burns bright in Arlington Cemetery. After so many years and revelations the adoring media elites continue to see nothing but greatness through the 'charismatic Kennedy' prism.

Nixon, on the other hand, was also a man of unquestionable strengths, with his own unique frailties. But in contrast to Kennedy his faults are constantly scrutinized.  His dark brooding is a fixture of unsympathetic accounts. Where Kennedy can commit any indiscretion with impunity, not so RN. And the contempt is palpable. He drinks! He lies! He despises the Press! (For good reason.) His wife is cold and distant! He wears wing—tips on the beach! He is awkward! He is just not the cool kid in class — not like Jack. (An aside— have you noticed the aggressive and increased use of the nickname 'Jack' to refer to JFK? — something the reserved President only allowed his intimate friends and family).

Journalist Richard Reeves has written two excellent, and for the most part, objective, accounts of both the Kennedy and Nixon administrations. These books focus on the happenings of the administrations in a day—by—day, almost 'real—time', format, a you—are—there approach that is most effective. But Reeves, despite the similar technique and editorial style of both books, has created two very different portraits. In an almost imperceptible, but nonetheless emphatic manner, he betrays his commitment to objectivity and reveals his sympathies. He can't help himself. It is not a matter of facts but rather a matter of tone, through his judicious choice of details, atmosphere, quotations, even adjectives and adverbs, it becomes clear that he detests Nixon and admires Kennedy. After finishing President Kennedy the reader will invariably think,'What a great guy.' And after reading President Nixon the same reader will think,'What a jerk.'

And so it has continued, for over forty years.

The 'objective' press, the chroniclers of record, follow their hearts as they report on the day's events and the great and powerful. It is just that simple.

See it now, and recognize it. As you watch the lionization of 'Deep Throat' by the same people who reviled Linda Tripp.

Andrew Sumereau is a frequent contributor.

Even with all the discussion of media bias since the dawn of the cable revolution and the intense media scrutiny offered by the explosive growth of the blogosphere, the essential story of media bias is still best revealed by a trenchant example from forty years ago. The media treatment then (and now) of our two flawed political icons of the sixties, Kennedy and Nixon, tells you all you need to know.

It all began in 1960 as the Kennedy election machine revved up to take on Nixon. As Gary Wills, no great fan of Nixon, wrote in 1980, '...at some point they (press) all agreed, to hate Nixon, and to love Prince Charming.'

The die was cast, and during the formative years of many of today's liberal pundits, the pro—Kennedy media helped fuel a puppy—love infatuation with government and liberalism that no amount of Vietnam, exploding CIA cigars, Bay of Pigs fiascoes or Dr. King wire—tapings could extinguish. For many, the glow of Camelot has never faded.

But then neither have the dark, dreadful days of Nixon.

The love of Kennedy is so deep that it is mostly implicit, so ingrained and genuine that it is taken for granted, and the infatuated don't realize it is there. Several years ago, Tim Russert, one of the most respected of today's media stars, inadvertently provided a particularly nauseating example of this phenomenon. He was interviewing John Kennedy, Jr. at the start of his George magazine enterprise on Meet the Press. The fawning manner and worshipful demeanor of Russert were bad enough, but the line of questioning about his mother and father (think People Magazine and Princess Di) was so gushing and superficial that it clearly embarrassed Kennedy, Jr., who, after all, was there to sell his magazine.

Toward end the broadcast, Russert ran, unhappily for the startled John John, a clip of his father on the very same broadcast sometime during the fifties. It had nothing to do with George, of course, but everything to do with why he was there. Really. Poor Kennedy, Jr. was rendered speechless but, to his credit, managed to maintain some poise, as the clueless Russert looked lovingly his way.

It really is magical. Say the word "Kennedy," and a warm, knowing smile emerges on the face of your average media star. Say Nixon, a stern, grim visage results.

Of course, this state of affairs exists in spite of the historical record. A notion as true as it is ignored.

Kennedy, a man of unquestionable strengths, was plagued with a legion of faults. Amid much rumor and exaggeration, the documented failings are now irrefutable. He lied about his health (Addison's disease, VD). He lied about his family (Rosemary). He lied about much in his war record (PT—109). He lied about his writings (bogus Pulitzer Prize). He stole Illinois to win the election in 1960. He caved to Khrushchev in Vienna and Turkey. He permitted the murder of Diem. He cheated on his wife——constantly. While in the White House, he had his girlfriend carry cash to mobster Giancana. He began the disastrous Vietnam escalation. And yet...  and yet he is consistently ranked as one of our greatest Presidents in public opinion polls and his 'eternal flame' burns bright in Arlington Cemetery. After so many years and revelations the adoring media elites continue to see nothing but greatness through the 'charismatic Kennedy' prism.

Nixon, on the other hand, was also a man of unquestionable strengths, with his own unique frailties. But in contrast to Kennedy his faults are constantly scrutinized.  His dark brooding is a fixture of unsympathetic accounts. Where Kennedy can commit any indiscretion with impunity, not so RN. And the contempt is palpable. He drinks! He lies! He despises the Press! (For good reason.) His wife is cold and distant! He wears wing—tips on the beach! He is awkward! He is just not the cool kid in class — not like Jack. (An aside— have you noticed the aggressive and increased use of the nickname 'Jack' to refer to JFK? — something the reserved President only allowed his intimate friends and family).

Journalist Richard Reeves has written two excellent, and for the most part, objective, accounts of both the Kennedy and Nixon administrations. These books focus on the happenings of the administrations in a day—by—day, almost 'real—time', format, a you—are—there approach that is most effective. But Reeves, despite the similar technique and editorial style of both books, has created two very different portraits. In an almost imperceptible, but nonetheless emphatic manner, he betrays his commitment to objectivity and reveals his sympathies. He can't help himself. It is not a matter of facts but rather a matter of tone, through his judicious choice of details, atmosphere, quotations, even adjectives and adverbs, it becomes clear that he detests Nixon and admires Kennedy. After finishing President Kennedy the reader will invariably think,'What a great guy.' And after reading President Nixon the same reader will think,'What a jerk.'

And so it has continued, for over forty years.

The 'objective' press, the chroniclers of record, follow their hearts as they report on the day's events and the great and powerful. It is just that simple.

See it now, and recognize it. As you watch the lionization of 'Deep Throat' by the same people who reviled Linda Tripp.

Andrew Sumereau is a frequent contributor.