Not long ago I had the pleasure of exchanging some tweets with media-personalities Lawrence O’Donnell and Jonathan Capehart, both of whom I respect and usually agree with, but not this time. Lawrence had once shown some appreciation for one of the Koch brothers, who had made a sizeable donation to a hospital where he was treated after a traffic accident, and tried to convince me that one should not hate the Kochs but only disagree with them politically. Jonathan had written two columns about Marco Rubio’s announcement that he is running for President, one admiring Rubio’s family history, the other denouncing his hostile attitude towards gay families.
Both cases raise the question if we should distinguish between ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ in politicians and their financial supporters, and in the name of ‘neutrality’ mention both as a matter of principle. I understand that journalists think they cannot be perceived as partial, and are therefore seeking some kind of ‘balance’ in their reporting, but when it comes to the question if that balance informs voters about political realities or rather disguises them I’m convinced it’s the latter.
The Koch brothers are philanthropists. They are also the owners of industries and the backers of policies that could destroy the planet within a foreseeable future, and have already declared that they are willing to spend close to $1 billion to try and have such policies implemented. In my opinion there is no need to mention their philanthropical activities in any context that addresses their political agenda, because it can only create the impression that ‘they’re not all that bad,’ while in fact they are.
Next to his anti-gay stance, Marco Rubio throws non-documented immigrants, many of whom are Hispanic, under the bus, by opposing Obama’s policies and promoting a much harder if not impossible path to a legal status. He tries to embellish his inhumane position with a tearjerker about his grandfather’s initial struggles in the US that only makes you wonder why he wants to make things even harder for others. Only what he would do as President counts, not the fact that he appears to love his family, like frankly most people do.
On a larger scale, the nineteen or so anticipated Republican candidates all belong to a party that would not only keep the planet on a path to destruction but accelerate that process, while dismantling the US democracy by allowing unlimited amounts of unregulated money to bribe politicians and limiting the ability of minorities to vote. Economically, they would increase poverty and income inequality with supply-side policies that have miserably failed for decennia, and recreate the conditions that led to the second most serious depression in US history.
In that context it doesn’t matter if Jeb Bush is ‘a little better’ on immigration than Ted Cruz because his wife is from Mexico, if Chris Christie would go to the wedding of his gay cousin because they both are fat but Bobby Jindal would not, if Rick Perry has a cat and Scott Walker a dog. What matters is the total package, and that’s pretty bad for all of them. The political press has to inform us accurately about their political positions and leave the personal stuff to People Magazine. That is the only kind of neutrality that is acceptable.