“Where were you when George Bush was President?” You know that question well. It’s been asked of each of us more times than any of us would care to count. Do you know how I usually answer it?
I was home, enjoying my life. I went to work every day and focused on doing the best job that I could do. When I wasn’t working, I hung out with family and friends. I went to baseball games, and barbecues, and obscure little hole-in-the-wall joints to hear some of my favorite live music over a couple of Guinnesses. Yum.
Why? Because while George Bush was president, we had a media establishment that was challenging our government, not our citizens.
I wasn’t necessarily happy with the direction of the country in those days. But I could sleep at night, knowing that we had media that pressed George Bush and our Congress on every single issue. I could know at any given moment what the “death count” was in Iraq because just about every channel splashed a persistent counter in the bottom corner of the television screen. When bills like the Patriot Act were first introduced in Congress, I never lacked for any detail on the dangers of the legislation. There was barely a single detail that went uncovered in the daily political grind. When there was a scandal to research and report, I certainly never had to do that myself. There were reporters who did all that.
Yep, I’m actually missing the Bush days now. I had so much more free time. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always done my homework and researched issues on my own anyway. I recognize that all media is biased to some degree (and has been for quite some time). But I could always count on the media to challenge the government in the days of George Bush. I wrote my fair share of letters, I called and complained about the spending, even attended a few protests, but I can’t say that I ever felt there just wasn’t anyone challenging the president in the mainstream media. Quite the contrary, there was never any lack of DC pushback from the collective press in those days.
But we live in extraordinary times today. There now exists this giant, open cavity where that healthy pushback against government used to be. And when the mainstream media stepped away from that opening in 2008, two things happened: