Washington Post #Fail In 5th CD Article

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Another day, another abysmally written article about Virginia politics in the Washington Post. This time, it's an op-ed masquerading as a "news" article on the 5th CD, and it's an epic #fail. A few examples of this #fail:

1. The author begins with this howler, "By all rights, Tom Perriello should have almost no chance to win reelection to Congress."
Riiiight, an incumbent Congressman "should have almost no chance to win reelection," even though the "reelection rate" for incumbent members of the US House of Representatives was 94% in 2006 and 2008.

2. The article continues with this monstrosity of a sentence on Tom Perriello: "He's a stimulus-backing, health-care-reform-loving, cap-and-trade-supporting liberal Democrat who represents a conservative central Virginia district where antipathy to the president and all things Washington runs high."
My god, where do we even begin here? First, is Perriello a "liberal Democrat?" Uh, not so much. According to Progressive Punch, in fact, Perriello is the 236th most progressive member out of 259 House Democrats. To put it another way, Perriello is the 23rd least progressive Democrat in the House. If Tom Perriello is a "liberal Democrat," then so are Blue Dogs Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Charles Melancon of Louisiana, Gene Taylor of Mississippi, and Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, all of whom rank as more "liberal" than Perriello in Progressive Punch's ranking scheme. In other words, according to the Washington Post, basically every Democrat is a "liberal" Democrat. Not that there's anything wrong with being a "liberal," but to call Tom Perriello one simply means the word no longer has any value in differentiating one Democrat from another.

Second, with regard to the string of hyphenated adjectives attached to "liberal Democrat," this sounds like Virgil Goode speaking at a Tea Party rally, not a serious piece of journalism. The fact is, only 11 Democrats voted "nay" on the "stimulus," while 244 voted "aye." Only 39 Democrats voted "nay" on health care reform, while 219 voted "aye." On the American Clean Energy and Security Act, 44 Democrats voted "nay" while 211 voted "aye." Again, according to the Washington Post, the vast majority of Democrats in the US House of Representatives are "liberal Democrats." That's fine if the Post believes this to be the case, but is it "objective" news or opinion? And if it is opinion, shouldn't it be clearly labeled as such by the newspaper? Also, what's with the use of words like "loving" in here? Just because a congressman votes for a piece of legislation doesn't mean he or she "loves" it. Just give us the facts and spare us the editorializing, Washington Post. Thank you.

Third, we have this beauty of a clause: "who represents a conservative central Virginia district where antipathy to the president and all things Washington runs high." No empirical evidence - polling, perhaps? - is provided to back up these assertions, yet they are presented as factual, objective news. That's not journalism, it's blogging. Bad blogging, at that.

3. "As in New York, Republican leaders in Virginia are backing a moderate state lawmaker, Sen. Robert Hurt..."
I, Robert Hurt is objectively speaking - not the opinion of tea partiers and conservative Republicans, but objectively - a "moderate." That's fascinating, because a quick glance at Project Vote Smart certainly doesn't indicate that. In fact, Hurt gets a ZERO rating from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. Hurt gets an abysmal 20% rating in 2007 (and 0% in 2005) from Equality Virginia. Hurt gets a perfect 100% score from the Family Foundation of Virginia. Hurt gets a lame 25% rating in 2008 from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. Hurt gets an "A" rating from the NRA. And Hurt gets a measly 13% rating from the Virginia AFL-CIO. If this guy's not "conservative," I guess there's a new meaning to the word.

4. "[Perriello] was able to win in 2008 in part by riding the coattails of President Obama..."
In fact, Barack Obama won 48.29% of the 5th CD vote in 2008. Tom Perriello won 50.08% of the 5th CD vote that same year. That's right, Perriello outperformed Barack Obama in the district. So much for "riding the coattails..."

The point is, this article is not "objective" journalism, it's opinion masquerading as fact. But it's not labeled as such, and that's extremely misleading. Sadly, that's the way it often is in the Washington Post, certainly when it comes to the Post's coverage of Virginia politics and its fawning coverage of Frank Wolf, Tom Davis, Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, Gerry Connolly, Tim Kaine, etc., etc. It's one thing to write that way on a blog, where the biases are right out in the open, but to do so in a newspaper which claims to be objective is truly egregious.

UPDATE: Along these lines, you might want to check out The New Republic article, "Post Apocalypse: Inside the messy collapse of a great newspaper."

UPDATE #2: I forgot to mention the line that begins, "That enthusiasm is a boon to Republicans in a liberal place like Massachusetts..." Yeah, so liberal that they elected Mitt Romney (R) as governor, William Weld (R) as governor, Paul Celluci (R) as governor, and now Scott Brown (R) as U.S. Senator. Hey, don't let the facts get in the way of your lazy, simplistic "liberal" vs. "conservative," "red" vs. "blue" state framing, Washington Post!