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Bush Adviser to Host ABC News Show: Further Evidence of TV's Rightward Tilt

Matthew Dowd, President Bush's former political adviser, is guest-hosting ABC's Sunday-morning show. As politicos invade TV journalism, the news tilts ever rightward.
 
 
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So ABC News apparently thinks it's appropriate to invite Matthew Dowd, the former political adviser to George W. Bush, to guest-host ABC's "This Week" next week. Dowd found himself on the outs with Bush when he joined ABC in 2007, but he has never denounced the political principles that led him to join the most right-wing administration in American history to begin with. Nor insofar as I am aware, has he demonstrated any particular commitment to the principles of journalism. According to The Huffington Post, he remains a corporate consultant for ABC, and an ABC spokesperson says that Dowd can be depended upon to provide "independent and fair analysis on issues confronting the country...He has tremendous ability to speak to and understand all sides of an issue."

Well, perhaps. I really could not say. But he's the first person that ABC has asked to host the program who is not a journalist. Recent temporary hosts have included Elizabeth Vargas, Jake Tapper, Terry Moran, Barbara Walters, and Jonathan Karl -- not a Bush administration official or a corporate consultant among them. So the question is why Dowd? And what about his potential conflicts of interest with his previous clients among Republican power brokers or his current ones in the corporate world?

We've seen this movie before. MSNBC had to drop Richard Wolffe as a substitute host for Keith Olbermann over this issue exactly. Wolffe had a consulting business going, and he touted his role as an MSNBC analyst on the firm's website. (Of course when you're hosting "This Week," you don't need to tout it to clients. It's known.)

And again, I haven't seen enough of Dowd's analyses to make an informed judgment about whether he has dropped a lifetime of political beliefs and can remain neutral -- or at least appear to on TV. But it's been an unfortunate rule of thumb that when right wingers are hired as news analysts, they are hired to propound their beliefs, and when liberals get the nod, they are expected to denude themselves of any previous insight into the way the world works.

Consider as a couple of not-so-random examples two appearances on two networks with two famous hosts by the extremist and occasionally delusional Republican ex-presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. The man who likes to call himself "America's mayor" went on ABC's "Good Morning America" and insisted, "We had no domestic attacks under Bush; we've had one under Obama." Alas, this nutty statement went entirely unchallenged by the show's host George Stephanopoulos, who happened to be a long-time Democratic aide to various congressmen and to President Clinton.

I was reminded upon hearing Giuliani's statement of another of his appearances, this one just before Christmas in 2001. He was on NBC's "Meet the Press" to discuss America's response to the 9/11 attacks with First Lady Laura Bush and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington. Rudy found himself being ask by Tim Russert, a former aide to liberal Governor Mario Cuomo and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whether George Bush had been given the election in 2000 despite having lost the popular vote by divine intervention. I swear I'm not making this up. There was no mention of the antidemocratic shenanigans of the likes of Katharine Harris and Antonin Scalia and the mobs who interfered with Florida vote counting. Interestingly Mrs. Bush demurred at this crazy question, but Rudy took the bait. "I do think, Mrs. Bush, that there was some divine guidance in the president being elected," was his expert opinion.

Chris Matthews, who was also an aide to a top Democratic politician Tip O'Neil, has demonstrated a similar tendency to fall in love with right-wing politicians. George W. Bush reminded him of Ernest Hemmingway, he said. Really. Here's Matthews's tough-minded critique of Bush's ability to throw a strike at Yankee Stadium: "There are some things you can't fake," he explained breathlessly. "Either you can throw a strike from 60 feet or you can't. Either you can rise to the occasion on the mound at Yankee Stadium with 56,000 people watching or you can't. On Tuesday night, George W. Bush hit the strike zone in the House that Ruth Built...This is about knowing what to do at the moment you have to do it -- and then doing it. It's about that ‘grace under pressure.'"