Politicians always whine about being treated unfairly by the media.
Just last week, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were all complaining that the White House press corps, which served as little more than a cheerleading squad in the months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, has started to ask a few pointed questions about the quagmire that has developed.
The grumblings from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are so laughable that no one in America - with the exception of the recently institutionalized Rush Limbaugh and his fairly imbalanced friends over at the Fox News Channel - has even tried to take them seriously. Media coverage of this administration and its war is still about as aggressive as Pravda's coverage of Stalin.
And those who were actually right about the war remain off radar.
That was obvious last week, during CNN's televised debate featuring the nine Democratic presidential candidates. Moderator Judy Woodruff put the candidates into a ridiculous situation where they essentially had to beg to be called on to answer questions.
Then she refused to call on the one candidate who has most consistently and effectively challenged the president's war-making: Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-chair Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.
This is National Journal's breakdown of how much time each of the candidates was permitted to speak during Thursday's debate:
Howard Dean - 14 minutes, 7 seconds.
John Kerry - 12 minutes, 31 seconds.
Wesley Clark - 10 minutes, 36 seconds.
Richard Gephardt - 10 minutes, 2 seconds.
Joe Lieberman - 9 minutes, 26 seconds.
Carol Moseley Braun - 8 minutes, 39 seconds.
Al Sharpton - 8 minutes, 28 seconds.
John Edwards - 8 minutes, 0 seconds.
Kucinich - 5 minutes, 9 seconds.
As a result of the lopsided nature of the debate, it might have been easy to think that the range of debate within the Democratic Party with regard to the war runs the gamut from the "it was a bad idea, but we're stuck now" crowd (Dean, Clark, Kerry) to the "it was a good idea, but we're stuck now" crowd (Gephardt, Edwards, Lieberman).
Though Kucinich had just released a detailed plan for turning over responsibility for Iraq to the United Nations - which would, by any measure, have been a fine topic for discussion in a debate among candidates who could end up dealing with that precise issue - he was accorded dramatically less time to explain his views than Braun and Sharpton, whose campaigns have been shamefully neglected by most media.
Considering the circumstances, Kucinich acquitted himself reasonably well. He addressed the basic points of his plan, and he put the issue of the Bush administration's request for an additional $87 billion to fund the occupation of Iraq - which Kucinich opposes - on the table.
But it cannot be said that he was afforded an equal opportunity to discuss the issues, and he certainly was not allowed to push the debate in the more serious direction where it should have gone.
The neglect of Kucinich and his campaign ought to concern not merely his supporters but all Americans. A basic sense of fairness, and respect for the process, ought to guarantee a reasonably equal measure of attention to a serious candidate who has done a better job than most of the contenders when it comes to addressing the issues.
Major media outlets that did a miserable job of covering the public debate before the Iraq war started do a profound disservice, not just to this campaign but to this nation, when they warp the political debate about how best to end it.
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