‘CJR’ Busts the Media: Obama ‘Evolves,’ Romney Flip-Flops’

Columbia Journalism Review is far from a haven of right-wingers:

Are Barack Obama and Mitt Romney so different after all? Despite the media’s portrayal of Romney as a uniquely craven politician, the recent controversy over Obama’s views on gay marriage highlights the ways that both candidates—like nearly all politicians—have adjusted their positions over their careers for political reasons.

On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Vice President Joe Biden made unexpected news by saying he is “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage—a remark that seemed to contradict Obama’s stated opposition to same-sex marriages. Though Obama adviser David Axelrod promptly denied that there was any difference between the two men’s views, many observers interpreted Biden’s statement as the latest example of the administration’s hedging of its position on the issue. President Obama indicated support for gay marriage in a questionnaire as a state senate candidate in Illinois but has opposed it since his 2004 US Senate campaign. As public support for gay marriage increases and the Democratic base’s demands grow more insistent, the President has acknowledged their concerns, stating last year that his views were “evolving” and that he “struggle[s]” with the issue.

In the wake of Biden’s comments and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s open declaration of his support for gay marriage, White House spokesman Jay Carney was battered during his press briefing Monday by reporters who are frustrated by the administration’s doubletalk on the issue. ...

By contrast, the press has treated the changing positions of Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, far more harshly. Consider the Globe, which has probably written more about Romney than any other publication due to his stint as Massachusetts governor. Reporter Glenn Johnson, for instance, has written of “the numerous flip-flops undertaken by Romney before, while, and since he served as governor of Massachusetts,” and suggested that they raise “character questions” about Romney. Like most of the press, the Globe thus gave significant coverage to the reference to “an Etch a Sketch” by Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom despite the ambiguity of the statement in question. Johnson himself wrote that “the Etch a Sketch comment affirmed… basic truths about the candidate, his staff, and the nature of the campaign they have run for the nation’s highest office,” including the fact that “there appear to be few core beliefs that bind Romney to any governing or political philosophy.”

Why have Obama and Romney’s “evolutions” been covered so differently?

Ooh, ooh, I can answer that: Because the media wants Obama to win and Romney to lose.

It really is that simple.