Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Whines and Laments (con't)

As we said yesterday, the complaints made by former candidate Ferrer and his erstwhile friend and advisor Roberto Ramirez about the "unfairness" of the media, sans any mea culpas, only open them up to the accusation of sour grapes. Today in the Daily News Michael Goodwin obliges them by saying that Freddy's complaints "proved beyond doubt that he is not fit to be mayor."

This is unduly harsh but, given Goodwin's previous observations about Ferrer and his lionization of the mayor, quite unsurprising. What both Freddy and Goodwin leave out of course is that the major unfairness lies in monetary disparities. The fact that this 800 pound gorilla remains unacknowledged by Goodwin says a great deal about his own "fitness."

As we all know, incumbency confers an automatic home court advantage and for a challenger to overcome it he or she must have substantial resources. People need a rationale to change horses and inertia, in other words, the devil I know, is a powerful force in politics. Without any major mishaps the general public will be reluctant to shift.

That being said, spending $75 million for a saturation bombing ad campaign can create an even greater degree of reluctance to change and can even transform a charismatically challenged and hard-to-warm-up-to official into someone of almost Olympian stature.

What else explains the fact that in his three years Bloomberg never was able to break the 50% approval mark yet soared into the high 60s after his expensive re-introduction to the voters? Add to this unrelenting media barrage the inability of the cash-strapped challenger to go after the incumbent's negatives which, after the stadium fiasco, were ripe for the underscoring.

Not only was Freddy cash poor he was facing someone who, if he could spend $75 million on cotton candy ads, could spend another $20 million or so in negative retaliation ads. It is at this point that there is a legitimate complaint to be made about the media's role in the campaign. It appears to us that it should have gone all out, in the interest of the public, to try to level the playing field, to get behind the Bloomberg sea shells and balloons in an attempt to balance the one-sided narrative saturating the airwaves.

Certainly Michael Goodwin never even attempted this, which was his right as a columnist. His paper, however, could have done a better job at a more aggressive deconstruction of the mayor's good news miasma. It not only didn't do this but it seemed to us to skew in the opposite direction. Its reviews of the mayor's first term were unfailingly flattering and we don't remember any hard-hitting exposes of anything that the mayor did.

In fact, when Bill Egbert had spent months on the questionable BTM deal the News' editors truncated the story and ghettoized it out of the main section and into relative harmlessness. In addition, the editors saluted the "highly competent" Dan Doctoroff (the BTM deal's midwife) in the paper's canonization of the mayor's second term.

All of which gets lost when Ferrer and Ramirez start to whine about the unfairness of the media. They're simply the wrong messengers and distract from the legitimate focus on the press' failure to forcefully perform as a necessary democratic corrective in the past campaign.