August 2, 2007
Are conservative radio talk show hosts an endangered species? They will be if the Democrats in Congress have their way. Senators Dick Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, and Ted Kennedy are among those want to apply the "Fairness Doctrine" in such a way that local radio stations would be coerced into providing a "balanced" mix of political commentary or else lose their Federal licenses. In other words, they see freedom of expression not as a basic right but as a privilege bestowed upon the humble citizens by the all-knowing, all-benevolent government.
In response, the Heritage Foundation has launched DefendTalkRadio.com, as a public service. It's a worthy cause, no doubt, but a little odd. Do the blustering pontificators of the Right really need a charity campaign in order to survive? The best way to show support for Rush, Sean, Laura, et al. is just to patronize their sponsors.
The latest flurry of attention was apparently sparked last week when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin disclaimed any intention of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine on radio broadcasters. This was in response to a letter from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN). See washingtonpost.com.
Actually, this story has been brewing for several months, and I'm wondering if the Democrats aren't just baiting the Republicans into over-reacting. As "pros" in the media-spin business, they excel at that sort of manipulation, which is precisely why we need those old-fashioned right-wing blowhards to offset their influence on the public mind and keep the leftists in check.
In the Sunday Outlook section of the Post, Anne-Marie Slaughter (dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs) had an interesting observation about the current state of politics in America:
The fiercest battle is no longer between the left and the right but between partisanship and bipartisanship.
She argues that the Bush administration began on a bipartisan note but found it convenient to use post-9/11 patriotism for its own partisan ends. I think she is exaggerating both the initial outreach to Democrats by Bush and the subsequent hardening. Bush has been guided by short-term expedience all along, I think, and there isn't much evidence of major shifts in political strategy during his term. Indeed, he has been "staying the course," set by Karl Rove. Dean Slaughter calls for a "bipartisan backlash," which sounds good to me.