1. Okay, I’m a Jindal shill, but even apart from that, this Politico story about Jindal’s appearance on ABC’s This Week is interesting for what it says about media dynamics. On one level, the debate between Jindal and Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is deeply boring. The Romney camp sent Jindal out there to talk about the lousy economy and the Obama campaign sent O’Malley out there to talk about Romney’s foreign bank accounts. This discussion had nothing to do with principle. If Romney were a Republican President with 8.2% unemployment and anemic job growth and Obama was a Democratic challenger with Swiss bank accounts, O’Malley would have been talking about the unemployment rate and Jindal about European banking. It’s just politics.
What was more interesting was what the Politico story tells us about the norms of the liberal-leaning, but-not-explicitly-liberal media. The writer pretty clearly decided that a story about the weak Friday jobs report was like so Friday you know? The news of Romney’s foreign accounts from even earlier in the week was a really relevant story with legs (to its credit, ABC kept its eye on the ball.) This was the Politico writer seeing the story she wanted to see. This emphasis bias is probably the most important factor in the what is called liberal bias in the “mainstream” (as distinct from say MSNBC) media. But this liberal-leaning bias also comes with a set of norms. These are (usually) liberals trying to produce news rather than liberals trying to produce liberal propaganda. So even though the Politico writer looks at the previous week and sees the Swiss bank accounts rather than the American unemployment rate as the big news, the norms virtually dictate that Politico extensively quote Jindal in the story. So you get a headline about the Swiss bank accounts, but the story is mostly made up of focused Jindal attacks on Obama’s economic management. It could be a lot worse, and this kind of media treatment does allow conservatives to make their points (though without actually providing a level playing field.)
2. William Kristol argues that Romney is going to have to get more specific if Romney wants to maximize his chances of winning. So far, Romney is taking the safe path of giving speeches that:
a) Complain about the bad economy that people already know about.
b) Make vague comments about being for the free markets of private sector entrepreneurial freedom that give little or no idea of what policies he will actually pursue as President.
This must seem like a safe play. Talking about free market entrepreneurs is a lot less complicated and a lot more safe than explaining premium support Medicare. The problem is that this is a case where what seems like safe might be dangerous. Romney has already come out with a bunch of specific proposals and has a profile as a rich-guy businessman. People are going to hear about Romney’s proposals and they are going to hear interpretations of what those proposals tell us about Romney. If people don’t get a firm idea from Romney about Romney’s agenda, then all they know about Romney’s agenda will be what they hear from President Obama and his allies. Romney isn’t really inoculated against charges of extremism by his record as an opportunistically moderate Massachusetts governor. Romney’s Medicare, Social Security and health care policy proposals are significant and they will effect tens of millions of people if they are implemented. If Romney doesn’t explain to people why things will be okay if those policies are implemented, then all people will have is Obama’s explanation that Romney will take away your health care and retirement (and trade in Granma’s health care for coupons) so that Romney’s Bain friends can make even more money. In a close election, that could make the difference.