Is it too early to start calling for Walter Isaacson to resign as head of CNN? Or should we wait until next week when he’ll probably head up to the Hill for another round of bitch slapping at the hands of Tom DeLay? Isaacson has managed to lose more credibility for CNN since the beginning of August than the previous management of the network was able to pull off in twenty years.
(And I’m including in the tally the Operation Tailwind debacle and the six-month run of Spin Room!)
Let’s review. On August 2nd, as one of his first acts as head of CNN, Isaacson went to the Hill to meet with House Republican leaders to find out how the network could be seen more favorably by conservatives. “I was trying to reach out to a lot of Republicans who feel that CNN has not been as open covering Republicans, and I wanted to hear their concerns,” Isaacson told Roll Call a few days later. That was the line; but the reality wasn’t hard to decipher.
Now we have reports that Isaacson’s CNN is trying to woo Rush Limbaugh into the CNN fold either by rebroadcasting his show, a la Don Imus on MSNBC, or by creating a new show specially for the network. (This would presumably be to balance the pervasive left-wing bias of Larry King Live.)
For years conservatives have been knocking CNN for liberal bias. Roger Ailes — one-time Republican media impresario and currently head of FOX News — took to dubbing CNN the ‘Clinton News Network.’ In other words, conservatives have been mau-mauing CNN because it doesn’t have an editorial line closer to that of the transparently conservative FOX News. And now that CNN is losing a ratings war with FOX, Isaacson has decided to play ball and curry favor with prominent conservatives to solve the problem.
Even if you think CNN really is biased toward the left, Isaacson’s antics still don’t pass muster. If he really thought CNN tilted too much to the left the answer would be elementary — shift the editorial line further to the center. Isaacson’s a smart guy; he doesn’t need outside advice from Trent Lott on how to do this. On the other hand, if he wanted to curry favor with right-wing pols to blunt their criticism, pander to conservative viewers, and compete more effectively with FOX then you’d expect him to be doing pretty much what he’s doing right now.
Worse than practicing bad journalism, Isaacson seems intent on achieving what can only be called a tour de force of pitifulness. Nominally, Ailes and company are praising Isaacson’s efforts, but they make little attempt to conceal that they really think he’s pathetic, a chump, someone who’s easy to roll. They’re patting him on the back just like the wise-ass high schooler pats a push-over teacher on the back after he’s cowed him by mouthing off a few times in class.
It’s sad to see Isaacson pull CNN (which could have been the BBC of the 21st century) down this dignity-scrapping path. FOX has nothing to be ashamed of; they’re conservative. They are what they are. CNN just looks desperate and pitiful.