That the so-called "secret" video of Gov. Mitt Romney from May, published by Mother Jones this week, had been on YouTube for months should have had the media suspecting a plant -- but they seem nose-deaf to what the supporters of the Obama campaign are shoveling.
In the video, Romney says in part that he will not win the 47 percent of voters Obama has locked up, claiming those are people "who are dependent upon government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to take care of them, who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
There are two truths in Romney's remarks: Obama has locked up 47 percent that few argue would be swayed by Romney, and the entitlement state has ballooned, with more than 100 million people on some form of government support.
But as New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks explained well in Thurston Howell Romney: "The people who receive the disproportionate share of government spending are not big-government lovers. They are Republicans. They are senior citizens. They are white men with high school degrees."
Sept. 20, 2012: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrives at Palm Beach, Florida, for fundraising events. Image: © Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post/ZUMAPRESS.com
The video was brought to Mother Jones by none other than former President Jimmy Carter's grandson, an opposition researcher, and it worked to Obama's advantage by preceding an appearance on the David Letterman's Late Show.
How this story has played out in the last few days highlights the stark contrast of media coverage between the two candidates, raising deeply concerning issues of class in America, as well as what's at the heart of the leadership style of these two very different men.
But if you listened just to the media coverage, you'd think minds were made up and Americans have already re-elected Obama.
Yet Gallup daily tracking shows the president up by just one point -- coincidentally, with 47 percent.
As if there needs to be further proof of the media's unembarrassed partiality to Obama, let's consider weeks of hard and fast criticism from the media directed at Romney -- over moves that would have gotten a pass were they made by Obama.
Endlessly, the media criticized Romney's response to the embassy killings, but polling shows that job approval of Obama's foreign policy took a massive hit. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found the president's foreign policy approval at 49 percent, down from 54 percent a month ago. NBC reported that the cross tabs were more damning among independents, dropping from 53 percent to 41 percent.
Just as initial word of the mob attacks on American diplomatic outposts began to hit the airwaves, the condemnation of Romney's justified criticism of the president was called ""crass and tone deaf" by MSNBC's Chuck Todd.
That was the story for days: Romney's inappropriate response.
Never mind the four American deaths, embassies burning, mobs running amok -- on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. It's that laser focus on Romney to exclusion of all else that indicates what's at stake: the media's choice for president.
It was opportunistic, they screamed, for Romney to criticize the president in the midst of a foreign crisis, even though the State Department didn't know where Ambassador Chris Stevens was at the time.
Let the president be the president, the media commanded.
And while scrutiny dogged Romney day and night, the media showed footage of the president scooting off mid-crisis to Las Vegas for a campaign fundraiser. Where was the outrage?
Then, a British journalist reported that there were warnings of the embassy attack after what's now being considered a long, ongoing security breach.
The Independent in Great Britain continued to cover what the American media had not. On September 14, it reported that "senior officials are increasingly convinced" that the attacks had nothing to do with an online video called "Innocence of Muslims."
It took a full 10 days before the White House called it a terrorist attack yesterday.
It's downright galling for the media to charge Romney with being "tone deaf," while turning a blind eye to Obama's foreign policy weaknesses and playing along with the proud display of opportunism at the DNC, where for three days, the Democrats shamelessly exploited the military raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.
But that level of orgiastic display of self-aggrandizement's different. Because, well... obviously.
And let's not forget about the media's attacks on class differences over Romney's remarks on the "secret" video, continually branding them as out of touch with Americans of all income brackets.
When Romney released his tax returns yesterday, showing that he pays 14 percent in taxes and donates a praiseworthy 30 percent of his income to charity, even the New York Times had to give it a rest, but not before noting that his "$13.7 million in income puts him in the top 0.01 percent of earners, by the way."
And yet Gallup shows Romney with as much support among the lowest-income voters as Obama has with the highest-income voters.
But disparaging the Romney's prosperous image is fair game. The LA Times joined in the class warfare, noting that in some cases the "government-hugging freeloaders" are his "fellow millionaires."
"Romney may want to keep that in mind when he speaks of these people. They ain't heavy. They're his brothers."
Conversely, liberals applauded the president's $4 million, $40,000-a-plate fundraiser hosted by Beyonce and Jay-Z last week. Even ABCNews joined in the adoration, reporting that Beyonce sent an email to Obama supporters saying "she's a huge fan and will do whatever it takes to help him win in a close race."
The Huffington Post gushed that Obama raised a record $84.7 million in August, saying he "Crushes Mitt Romney in Advertising Spending."
But the Koch Brothers are made out as evil for hosting three fundraisers and raised $3 million total. Those fundraisers were hounded by 200 protesters, many of whom singled out the ticket price as objectionable:
Some of the 200 protesters marched down mile-long Coopers Beach toward the home in a cloud of sand, bearing banners and signs: “Your $50,000 ticket equals my child’s education,” “End corporate personhood” and “Don’t forget to tip the help.”
I'm not surprised that Occupy wasn't there to protest the Beyonce fundraiser tickets, but where was the media to make the connection? No wonder distrust of the media has hit a new high, according to Gallup.
Romney's not facing an easy challenge in defeating a president with a friendly press corps.
But he can be formidable, particularly if he recognizes the opportunities revealed in the last week of polling to unpack some of Obama's greatest failings -- foreign policy and America's position as a superpower -- along with the ongoing domestic concerns of the economy.
Americans get to compare these two very different candidates on the national stage with the first debate on October 3 focused on domestic policy with Jim Lehrer of PBS NewsHour.
- Follow me @erica_holloway.
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