The Media's Primary Double Standard

The Media's Primary Double Standard

By Jack Kelly - May 16, 2010

The first casualty of voter dissatisfaction with business as usual in Washington was a (more or less) conservative Republican senator from Utah.

Bob Bennett, 76, was denied the opportunity to run for a fourth term when he garnered only 27 percent of the vote from delegates to the state GOP convention May 8. Under Utah's rules, a candidate must get at least 40 percent to run in the state's primary.

Though Mr. Bennett has a lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union of 84 percent, a majority of delegates were unhappy with his vote for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, his support for a health care plan much like Obamacare and his past support for a "comprehensive" immigration bill that included amnesty for illegal aliens.

Others simply believed the two younger conservatives -- businessman Tim Bridgewater and attorney Mike Lee, who will duke it out in the primary June 22 -- were more in touch with the state. In 2009, only eight Senate Republicans had voting records more liberal than Mr. Bennett's, according to the conservative union.

"This is a damn outrage," said David Brooks, a "conservative" columnist for The New York Times on NBC's "Meet the Press" program last Sunday.

"It's almost a nonviolent coup," agreed E. J. Dionne Jr., a liberal columnist for The Washington Post.

"The long promised purge is on," wrote Kathleen Parker, a "conservative" columnist for the Post.

The same day Utah Republicans rejected Mr. Bennett, Utah Democrats forced their only member of Congress, Rep. Scott Matheson, into a primary. Liberals were upset with Mr. Matheson because he voted against Obamacare and carbon taxes.

I didn't see any journalists describe what happened to Mr. Matheson as "a damn outrage," a "coup," or a "purge."

The media double standard in which primary battles among Republicans are described as "civil wars" reflecting extremism and intolerance, but primary battles among Democrats are not has reached ludicrous proportions in Florida, where Gov. Charlie Crist, who was badly trailing Marco Rubio in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, decided to run as an independent, despite earlier pledges not to.

Mr. Crist is the victim of a "Stalinesque purge," said Chris Matthews of MSNBC.

"Did you desert the party or is this a case where once again has your party become so intolerant that it doesn't have room for moderate voices?" NBC TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira asked Gov. Crist.

"The crucifixion of Crist by Republican leaders says less about him than it does about the party," said Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.

This despite evidence Mr. Crist's only beef with Florida Republicans is their distinct preference for Mr. Rubio.

Switching registration primarily for personal advantage isn't working out so well for Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter, who could be the next victim of voter dissatisfaction with Washington. (Rep. Alan Mollohan was defeated in West Virginia's Democratic primary Tuesday, but that seemed more anti-corruption than anti-incumbent, given Mr. Mollohan's frequent ethical troubles.)

Sen. Specter switched parties last year after polls indicated he'd get thumped in a Republican primary by former Rep. Pat Toomey. It now appears likely he'll lose the Democratic primary to Rep. Joe Sestak.

By preferring someone else to him, Pennsylvania Republicans had "forced out" Sen. Specter, Mr. Milbank said. If he loses to Mr. Sestak on Tuesday, will Mr. Milbank say Mr. Specter was "forced out" by Pennsylvania Democrats?

Will Ms. Vieira wonder out loud if a Specter defeat indicates the Democratic party "doesn't have room for moderate voices?"

Will Mr. Matthews declare that Mr. Specter was the victim of a "Stalinesque purge?"

I don't think you'd want to bet on that.

Mr. Bennett has already served one term more than the two he promised to limit himself to when he was first elected in 1992. Mr. Specter, 80 and in poor health, was first elected in 1980. The proper thing for both to have done when polls indicated they were in political trouble was to retire, which they could have done with dignity.

Instead, they're getting run out of town because they've come to believe the Senate seats they've occupied for so long belonged to them, rather than to the people of their states, a belief evidently shared by the scribes of the Royal Court Party.

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

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