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Politicians, Pigs and the Media

Written by John W. Whitehead

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My 6, 2008
jw_2008-3_72dpi_rgb.jpgBy John W. Whitehead

Bill O'Reilly: This is the most fun interview you've ever done, I know it is. I can just tell.
Hillary Clinton: I was going to say it's the most fun interview you've ever done.
O'Reilly: It is. Well, I don't know about that.
Clinton: Come on. Get on the record.
O'Reilly: No, I interviewed Cher one time, and that was just a blast.
Clinton: That must have been really fun.
O'Reilly: That was great.
Clinton: Yes.
O'Reilly: Senator, thanks for taking the time. We really appreciate it.
Clinton: Thanks a lot, Bill.


The last sentence in George Orwell's novel Animal Farm aptly sums up the state of politics today. As Orwell observed, "No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

This almost surreal merging of two different organisms is epitomized in many ways, but nowhere is it more clearly seen than in the strange political marriage of late between Fox News, known for its right-leaning viewpoint, and the Democrats. They have become, as journalist Brian Stelter writes, "strange bedfellows." Indeed, Terry McAuliffe, chairman of Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign, recently praised Fox as being "fair and balanced."

For those befuddled by the odd pairing, the New York Times explains: "Fox News and the Democrats abruptly find each other useful." For Fox, it's partially about the ratings, while for the Democrats, it's about reaching out to Fox's viewing audience, which is largely white, conservative and undecided.

This alliance, while it may seem strange to some, has actually been a long time coming. Just two years ago, in July 2006, conservative media owner Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News, hosted a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton at Fox News headquarters in New York City. No cameras were present, and as the New York Daily News reported, Murdoch "tried to keep their political get-together as secret as possible." Indeed, when it was over, Clinton slipped out a side door.

Considering that Murdoch is known for his financial support of Republican agendas and right-wing causes, this fundraiser caused many on both sides of the political aisle to scratch their heads in bewilderment. One commentator characterized political analysts' responses as "punditocracy in a tailspin."

Now Bill O'Reilly has added himself to the cozy mix, with his recent four-part interview with Hillary Clinton that scored high ratings and set a year-to-date viewership record for Fox's O'Reilly Factor. Yet as the Clinton-O'Reilly interview illustrates, it no longer matters what side of the aisle these politicians claim to hail from because this presidential election has turned into one big game.

But where does that leave the American people?

Most Americans want to believe that the voting process works and that when we elect a president, we're getting someone who takes the job of representing us seriously--someone who truly cares about finding solutions to our problems and is more interested in representing "we the people" than playing partisan politics.

We also want the media to be square with us and give us the news without some hidden agenda. Unfortunately, the lines have been so blurred between so-called "news items" and entertainment coverage that it's nearly impossible to get at the truth anymore, let alone stay abreast of what's really happening in our government.

Above all, most Americans desperately want someone or something to place our faith in, who can offer us even a glimmer of hope that things will get better. That's why so many people fervently back political candidates or seek guidance from talk show hosts. But as any student of history will tell you, there is little hope to be found there.

For instance, take a close look at the front runners for the White House, and you'll see that there is really very little difference between them. None of the candidates present any real solutions to the myriad of problems that average Americans must grapple with every day--such as an economic recession, the mortgage crisis, near-crippling gas prices, inflation, soaring food prices, the unbelievably large deficit, never-ending wars, immigrants rushing across the border, ad infinitum.

Furthermore, none of the candidates have made any discernible impact on the nation while in office. Nor do they really represent "the people." What's more, these candidates are all members of one of the most corrupt institutions in the history of the United States--the present U.S. Congress. What does it say about Congress that a cross-section of its members are under investigation, criminal or otherwise? Or that many of them routinely work less than a hundred days a year and earn a salary much greater than the average American earns? Or that many of them are multimillionaires with virtually nothing in common with average Americans like you and me?

Little surprise, then, that Americans find themselves dissatisfied with our nation's leadership and the direction in which they're moving our country. This country is going to hell in a hand basket, and when all is said and done, the last thing this country needs in the White House is another politician. But that's unlikely to change this time around. No matter who wins this year's election, it will still be politics as usual. Thus, if hope is to be found, we'll have to look elsewhere.

Perhaps the solution for leadership in America lies outside Washington, DC, in the business sector. Certainly, we could use someone in office who understands the importance of running our government efficiently, economically and responsibly.

Bottom line, it's time for a reality check. Otherwise, we'll soon find ourselves on the road to nowhere.
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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization whose international headquarters are located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s president and spokesperson, in addition to writing a weekly commentary that is posted on The Rutherford Institute’s website (www.rutherford.org), as well being distributed to several hundred newspapers, and hosting a national public service radio campaign. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties issues has earned him numerous accolades, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom.

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