When the Arlen Specter story broke last week, “most journalists assumed the role of handicappers,” writes Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post. The value-neutral reporting focused on how powerful this would make Democrats, and what it meant for the wilderness-dwelling Republicans. “Little attention was devoted to this question: Was this a betrayal of the voters who elected Specter?” Kurtz asks.
Commentators, too, were kind. Compare the treatment of Specter and Jim Jeffords to the treatment of Richard Shelby when he joined the GOP in 1994—the New York Times accused him of “slipping out of the hills to bayonet the wounded.” As for the hype about the death of the Republican Party, recall that in 2004, analysts predicted prolonged pain for Democrats. “Crystal-ball journalism tends to be overtaken by events,” Kurtz concludes.