By Arthur Alpert
“In Response and Results This is Obama’s Katrina,” the Journal’s editorial last Thursday, reflected the national Republican Party’s views. You can read similar views at gop.com. So it’s for Democrats to argue with it.
Still, a journalism critic can profit from the editorial.
First, it’s evidence the Journal prefers partisanship to conservative ideology.
For in it the Journal – normally an advocate of laissez-faire economics and corporate America – accepted regulation.
“But it was an Obama appointee,” the Journal wrote, “who was heading up the Minerals Management Service that issued the permit for the Deepwater Horizon well.”
Say you’re a conservative, the laissez-faire kind who loves the (fantasy) economics that dominates the (post-Domenici) Journal. This must offend you.
Why should oil companies need permits? Neither Adam Smith nor the Austrians ever wrote that. Why doesn’t the Journal defend the liberty of corporations to make money and, courtesy of the “invisible hand,” share it with us all?
Also, this true believer asks, having conceded BP’s “negligence,” why didn’t the Journal defend it against jackbooted Feds? Conservative Joe Barton and laissez-faire true believer Rand Paul did. Not so the Journal; it played the political card.
Case closed. The Journal would rather score political points than hew to conservative doctrine.
But the editorial raises a larger issue – should journalism be reality-based?
You may have noticed that the Journal didn’t clobber the President for his failure to clean out the MMS. Why not? Well, the dirt consisted of oily regulators left over from the George W. Bush administration. (Wouldn’t want to spotlight that.)
And further journalistic drilling would reveal the MMS has enabled the oil industry for years – during Republican and Democratic administrations.
The Journal won’t open that can of worms lest what wriggles out is the reality that most regulated industries take over the agencies supposed to curb them. (In the 1960s, FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson said some industries wanted regulation, the better to cloak their actions.)
In fact, one reason industries lobby and transfer dollars to politicians is to neuter or capture regulators. It’s not about party; they buy Republicans and Democrats. It’s about corporate power vs. everybody else’s.
This is American history and the American present.
Sadly, management’s partisan agenda keeps the Journal from going there – to history or the “can of worms” or reality or journalism.
So the “Obama’s Katrina” editorial is useful as a reminder:
The worst result of the Journal’s partisanship is not its detectable bias. It’s what doesn’t get published.