The real corruption being exposed by this whole Gov. Chris Christie bridge closure story is President Obama's. Or so Republicans claimed on the Sunday political talk shows, and in print, and online.
You could see this coming. When Erick Erickson last week suggested turning Christie's problems into a critique of Obama, it didn't take long for that plan to swing into effect. On Sunday, it really matured.
It's the Benghazi comparisons that have captured the popular attention over the past 24 hours, probably because 1) it was actually the big Republican names trying to draw shaky threads between the two, and 2) contrasting the New Jersey governor's administration's role in causing traffic jams in Fort Lee with the death of ambassador in Libya seems … bold. So:
- Karl Rove, on Fox News: "[Y]ou'll notice we haven't been hearing a lot from the Clinton camp about this. The contrast with President Clinton and Secretary Clinton's handling of Benghazi."
- GOP chair Reince Priebus, on NBC: "Now only if Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would give us 111 seconds of that would we find out some things we want to find out about Obamacare, Benghazi, the I.R.S."
- Rudy Giuliani, on ABC: "[H]e was in campaign-mode at the time, during campaign-mode you miss a lot of things. You're not paying as much attention. We see that with Benghazi."
Despite the evocativeness of the Benghazi claims, it was the IRS analogy that was more common. Fifteen times, guests or the host of the four major political talk shows brought up the IRS' targeting of Tea Party groups as an analogy to the Fort Lee traffic problems, compared to seven mentions of Benghazi (more than half on Fox) and 10 mentions of "Fort Lee" itself.
It wasn't only the talk shows that linked the incidents in Fort Lee to the IRS. In the New York Post, John Podhoretz suggested that the IRS scandal was ignored by the media while Christie's problems were embraced because the media is Democratic. (This argument was also made by no less esteemed a personality than Rush Limbaugh.)
Christie belongs to one political party. Obama belongs to the other. You know which ones they belong to. And you know which ones the people at the three networks belong to, too: In surveys going back decades, anywhere from 80% to 90% of Washington’s journalists say they vote Democratic.
He goes on from there: the media is friends with Obama, they're married to "Obamans," they're willing to ignore "tush-covering cover-up." (Imagine typing that!) All this anger dangling from the rhetorical thread that there's less coverage of the IRS than Christie.
About that! Podhoretz relied on "research" from the conservative Media Research ("Research") Center showing that two days of TV coverage last week offered 44-times as much coverage as the last six months of the IRS scandal. ("Scandal.") It's a nifty bit of computation, complete with a giant graph, showing those 88 mentions of Christie and only two discussions of the IRS targeting. Rove made this point, too: "[T]he amount of attention paid to Chris Christie makes the coverage of Benghazi, at the same time, the coverage of the IRS, pale in significance."
Of course, the Media Research Center only went back six months. Had it gone back eight months — to the actual revelation of the IRS' targeting — the figures would be very different. In May and June of 2013, the IRS situation was mentioned online about 135,000 times. About 1,000 of those hits were from FoxNews.com.
As for Podhoretz's argument that the media is biased for Democrats, the line-up of Sunday talk show participants offers a contrasting picture. In 2013, 10 of the 13 guests with more than 10 appearances were Republican.