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Sun-Sentinel Tries for Middle Ground in Tea Party Coverage

Trying to reason with the tea party is an exercise in futility, but that didn't stop outgoing Sun-Sentinel editor Earl Maucker from making it the subject of his Sunday column, the point of which is... (I'm struggling here)... to show how hard it is to please readers? Writes Maucker:

Every day we are bombarded with notices of rallies and meetings. If we choose not to cover a particular event, we are told by the conservative crowd that "you're a bunch of press liberals." Their claim is that we deliberately downplay or, worse, ignore the movement.
But if the paper does cover the tea party, Maucker writes, it gets battered by liberals for "pandering" to the right.

The movement deserves news coverage. But that coverage must reflect what the tea party very obviously is: an emotional reaction (anger!) to a complex problem (the economy!).

The denizens of the tea party may all have perfectly rational opinions on most matters; but they're simply too pissed off about the economy (or immigration, or some other pet topic) to have a constructive discussion.

Ask the tea party why it blames Barack Obama and not George W. Bush for the current economic climate. Ask it why it screams about high taxes after a year in which two-out-of-three Americans have had their taxes cut by Obamba. Ask them why they hate big government but don't tear up their Social Security checks or refuse Medicare coverage.

Most of all, ask them for a detailed plan for how to bring the American economy roaring back. Hint: the solution won't fit on a posterboard or on a bumper sticker.

Economics is an incredibly complex discipline. No one who practices it -- not Paul Volcker nor Ben Bernanke, nor Alan Greenspan, nor Larry Summers -- would dare speak with the absolutes you hear at tea party rallies and read on signs. These are amateur economists who enjoy the kind of clarity of purpose that comes to those full of rage.

But it's not the newspaper's job to resolve the contradictions of the tea party's arguments; and it's not remotely surprising that the tea party faithful would be upset by the newspaper's coverage. Anyone not named Glenn Beck is part of the liberal media conspiracy.

On some news topics, there is no middle ground. You're either a member of the tea party. Or you're think they're hysterical.

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Thomas Francis

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