Media Watch: Is Kyl v. Obama The Story?

The headline on the New York Times top stories bar read, “Key GOP Senator Deals Blow To Obama On Arms Treaty”. The message, from a source often called a liberal bastion, is an old one; Republicans versus Obama and the Republicans win. This is the very same message screamed from the headlines and cable talk-fests for two years, regardless of which “bias” the given source is alleged to have. Turn on your TV now, or flip through the national pages of your local fish-wrap, and you will find all of your political reporting wrapped up into neat little packages of us versus them.

As Barack Obama is the President (and a very different looking and sounding President than we the people are used to), it is a simple matter to make him into them. The Republican Party is fortunate indeed to have inherited the role of us (the only institution with lower approval ratings than the Congress at large being Congressional Republicans.) The headline betrays the true bias of most media outlets in our nation; the story-telling bias. Listen to local anchors, ESPN, or the network nightly news; it is always about the story. It should be about the news.

So what is the news and how is it so different from the story the Times is telling? The new START treaty with Russia is a classic piece of diplomacy; it has a small effect on strategic arsenals with a negligible effect on strategic readiness. Largely symbolic, the treaty is more about building lines of communication and trust than it is about the ultimate goal of a nukes-free world. Despite this fact, the forces in our two-sided society have made the treaty an issue of absolutes. One side is willing to trumpet the treaty as a grand step in the march to a nuclear-free world, the other is willing to portray it as a blow to U.S. national security. Neither is true.

The news in Senator Jon Kyl’s decision to pull his support from ratification of the treaty this year is buried within the story. If his intention with the move was indeed to strike a blow against the President, then the headline should have read, “Kyl Puts Politics Ahead Of National Interest”. I am no fan of Senator Kyl, but this seems far-fetched. Even if such a motivation were to exist, the secondary nature of the notion would not have merited a headline. No, the real issues with this move are far different, and warrant study independent of editorial flourish.

Jon Kyl stated that he would not support ratification in the so-called lame duck Congress because the issue was too complicated and Congress had other business. We the people should evaluate his motives and methods so that we may better inform our representatives of our feelings on the issue. To that end, The Rational Middle has three questions that should be answered regarding this issue.

  1. With just less than 10% of the time allotted remaining in the 111th Congress, what other business will Senator Kyl be moved to act on more pressing than international nuclear security and the Russo-American bilateral relationship? Further to that question, is the United States Senate no longer able to consider more than one piece of business at a time? Perhaps classes on simultaneous walking and gum-chewing might be in order for the District.
  2. As the START treaty was signed some eight months ago, what issues with the treaty are not transparent to Senators with six-figure salaries and large, well-paid staffs?
  3. With the current focus on budget deficits, and our nation’s strategic status (at least two systems, ballistic missiles and Trident submarines are able to deliver nuclear weapons anywhere, anytime, and with complete impunity), why is Senator Kyl demanding that $18 billion per year over ten years (that is $180 billion) be allocated to modernize our strategic arsenal as the price to ratifying a treaty designed to reduce our strategic arsenal?

The above represent a few thoughts one might run by the junior senator from Arizona. More questions will occur to the keen minds of The Rational Middle, but the point is that these are questions that should occur to the privileged members of the professional media. That friends, is their job, and the reason that the right to a free press is enshrined at the very top of our Bill Of Rights. It is not their constitutional mandate to tell stories, nor is it their wont to afflict the news with their personal motives. They are tasked with reporting the facts we the people need to make relevant decisions within our representative democracy. They are emphatically not protected constitutionally so that can battle over ratings with Paris Hilton and the Real Housewives Of Who Cares.

The Rational Middle is listening…

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