WASHINGTON –If history repeats, the loser of this year's presidential election will blame the news media.
Richard Nixon, in the wake of his loss in the 1962 California gubernatorial race, bitterly taunted reporters, telling them: "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."
(Turned out he was wrong on that point.)
Barbara Bush also had some choice words about the press when her husband, President George H.W. Bush, lost his reelection bid in 1992.
The media could be even a larger target this year because of the influence of blogs and talking heads — folks who are not shy about airing their political preferences. These so-called journalists are willing to go into an attack mode to bolster a favored candidate.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said "to be first lady you have to have the skin of a rhinoceros."
That goes for politicians too. Heavy criticism, sometimes unfair, goes with the turf. It's not easy out there with political opponents loaded for bear and spending big money for attack ads.
Then there's the honey trap that smart reporters and politicians try to avoid.
For example, take Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the likely Republican presidential nominee.
McCain has his share of admiring reporters because he often chooses to schmooze with them.
Are both sides of that conversation cozying up? Sure. Reporters are vulnerable when it comes to access; getting close to the candidate might give them some insights into the candidate's plans.
But there is always the potential problem that the reporter or the candidate may become confused about their roles and mistakenly think of each other as friends. They're usually not. It's not that they're enemies, either. They are simply professionals doing their respective jobs.
On the topic of loyalties, Sen. Hilary Clinton, D-N.Y., must have a few choice thoughts, now that some of her Democratic friends have switched to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. — some believing that Obama has a better chance to win the presidency.
Among them was liberal former Labor Secretary Robert Reich who broke with the Clintons when he was still in the Clinton Cabinet.
Two conservative former Democratic senators, David Boren of Oklahoma and Sam Nunn of Georgia, have signed up with Obama.
Obama also has the support of rock star Bruce Springsteen and Oprah, the TV and magazine mogul.
Once the Democrats' civil strife is finished, one way or another, reporters should zero in on the November election candidates and ask relevant questions, such as:
• How do we get out of Iraq?
• What should be done in Afghanistan?
• How can we get the economy moving and get more jobs created?
• Do we need more tax cuts at a time of enormous war-time spending and gaping budget deficits?
• Enough talk about universal health care — how do we attain it?
• Does our new national policy favor preemptive war? Torture?
• what is the solution to global warming?
By now, the candidates should know where they stand on these pressing issues and the voters should be perfectly clear about their solutions when they go to the polls.
It's the job of reporters to put the candidates on the spot. But if the past is prologue, you can be sure that the media will be blamed by the loser on Election Day.
(c) 2008 Hearts Newspapers