NEW YORK - I've been going to political conventions - Democrat and Republican - for 32 years, and I've never seen a bigger disconnect between what is actually going on at the convention and the way it is being reported.
The networks decided to skip the opening night of the Republican convention. So unless you were one of the fewer than 10 million Americans who tuned into Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC or C-SPAN to hear Sen. John McCain or former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, you'd have no idea how powerful a case these two men made for George W. Bush's re-election.
Inside Madison Square Garden, the crowds were passionate, hanging on every word of Mr. Giuliani's long oration, jumping to their feet when he promised, "President Bush will make certain that we are combating terrorism at the source, beyond our shores, so we can reduce the risk of having to confront it in the streets of New York. ... President Bush will not allow countries that appear to have ignored the lessons of history and failed for over 30 years to stand up to terrorists, to dissuade us from what is necessary for our defense. He will not let them set our agenda. Under President Bush, America will lead rather than follow."
Even up in the nosebleed section where I watched the speech, the crowd's enthusiasm rocked the Garden. But The New York Times didn't see it that way. Instead, the nation's "paper of record" reported: "There is only the finest of lines between invoking a disaster in which all New Yorkers, and all Americans, regardless of party, felt such a devastating stake, and exploiting it for partisan advantage. From morning to night, the Republicans strode proudly, even defiantly, right up to that line - if not over it."
Interestingly, the Times didn't feel the Democrats had exploited 9/11 for partisan purposes, despite some 100 mentions of 9/11 during the Democratic convention.
"At their convention in Boston last month, the Democrats offered their own emotional tribute, with stirring music and videos, and delegates holding small flashlights simulating candles in the darkened hall. But that was nothing compared to the intense and personal speeches here," writes the Times, "and Mr. Bush has already faced criticism for using images of firefighters and the flag in early campaign advertising."
Criticism from whom? Why, the liberal media, of course. The media are the arbiters of acceptable behavior. When Mr. Giuliani recounts what he and many New Yorkers felt, and said, on Sept. 11, 2001 - "Thank God George Bush is our president" - he's politicizing a national tragedy. But when a prominent Democrat accuses the president of having been "warned ahead of time by the Saudis" that the country would be attacked, as Howard Dean did to little notice on National Public Radio earlier this year, well, that's just one man's opinion.
When Democrats host a convention featuring military themes even though delegates are overwhelmingly opposed to the war in Iraq, the media see no inconsistency. But when the GOP invites pro-choice Republicans to address the convention, that's proof that those sneaky right-wingers are trying to pull a bait-and-switch on the unsuspecting public, and it's the media's role to report endlessly on the GOP's attempt to put forward a disingenuously "moderate" image.
Thankfully, we no longer have to accept the Times' version of the truth. More Americans are getting their information from alternative news sources today than ever before, including talk radio and the Internet. But the problem is too many people have simply decided to tune out altogether. I'm not sure what's worse, remaining totally ignorant or accepting the deception that masquerades as news being dished out by the liberal media.
Linda Chavez's syndicated column appears Thursdays in The Sun.