As Mitt Romney and Barack Obama square off in this year’s presidential race, it will be helpful to catalog a few of the ways reporters are trying to train us to think of the two candidates, for those who prefer to think independently.
Last election cycle, broadcast TV news reports were twice as favorable to Obama, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University. That was no surprise: The creators donated money to Obama’s campaign at a wildly disproportionate rate, reported the Washington Examiner.
“The World According to Newsweek” shows how one magazine tried to characterize political opponents. What are the reporters trying to get us to think this time?
Myth 1: Mitt Romney is a “Thurston Howell III” rich guy facing off against Barack Obama, the community organizer-in-chief.
There is no doubt that Romney is a wealthy man. But the truth is, this election is just like every other presidential election: Rich guy vs. rich guy. The Bushes were rich. Clinton was Rich. Reagan was rich.
Obama, too, is a very rich man: estimates put his net worth at $10.5 million. Obama is a multimillionaire with multimillionaire friends who lives a wealthy lifestyle. He has spent more time vacationing away from home than the last president ever did; he also golfs more, and has held more high-dollar fundraisers.
Obama recently tried to contrast his poverty to Romney’s wealth when he said he and Michelle didn’t have the “luxury” for one parent to stay at home with their kids like the Romneys did. Talk about out of touch. The Obamas had plenty of money and the Romneys’ choice was the one more in line with poorer Americans, according to the census figures.
Myth 2: Mormons can’t be trusted.
I totally understand why people worry about Mormonism. I love Dwight Longenecker’s post: “I Am Not Mormon: Here’s Why.”
Salon Magazine reported that “Latter-day Saints are leaving the fold in droves,” and cited at least one Mormon leader who agrees. The article says the Internet is to blame: It is too easy to find the historical evidence against Mormon beliefs.
No doubt: Mormon beliefs are odd and fantastic to Christians. But our nation was founded by Deists and Freemasons whose beliefs were also odd and fantastic. And it seems clear in 2012 that a member of a religious minority who is motivated to protect religious liberty will be better for religious people on questions of faith than a Christian who is actively trying to take our religious liberty away.
Myth 3: There is a “likeability gap” between Obama and Romney.
While Obama is friendly and affable, according to news stories, Mitt is stuffy and prickly. I first came across this myth when I read a report about an interview in which Mitt snapped at a reporter. I played the clip to see the damning evidence and saw … nothing extraordinary.
Huffington Post blogger Jason Linkins had a similar experience, reading about Mitt’s peculiar anger, then looking for himself and finding nothing remarkable.
The real reason for the so-called “likeability gap”: People who are polarized by their politics are convinced not only that their opponents are mistaken about legislation, but that they are nasty, unlikeable people.
This goes both ways. In certain circles, it is grave matter to admit that Obama is likeable. And on the other side, Daily Show producer and novelist Michael Rubens wrote in Salon recently about how surprised he was to find out that even the most extreme of his ideological enemies were likeable.
Journalists always assume there must be a likeability gap separating their guy because, after all, how could anyone like that guy they oppose?
Myth 4: There is a GOP War Against Women.
Here is an issue where you can clearly see the press fighting on Obama’s side. Headlines often introduce the Obama campaign phrase “war on women” when no one in the story has said it.
But what is the war on women? A war ought to involve a concerted attack on an enemy, and casualties.
Meanwhile in this “war,” the casualties are all on the pro-abortion side. More than half of the children who are aborted worldwide are girls (“more than half” because aborting girls is a “huge problem” in several countries).
The other front in the “war on women” is the Catholic opposition to contraception. Obama’s administration wants to force Catholic institutions to violate our consciences and pay for contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs.
This is also an odd “war.” The side that wants women to continually assault their bodies with hormones in order to be always sexually available to men, sacrificing their own libidos in the process, are counted as being on the side of women. Those of us who say, “Gee … can we at least not have to pay for that?” are supposedly thereby “declaring war on women.”
So here we have just four myths. If Americans want to oppose Mitt Romney for a substantive issue, they should by all means do so. But let’s make sure it is a fair fight … and not simply buy a story.