MSNBC’s Liberal Hosts Question the Obama Administration’s Drone Strike Program

You’d never see Fox criticize a Republican administration the way MSNBC is taking on this Democratic president’s policy

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During the presidency of George Bush, Fox News operated as an adjunct to the White House political office (or was it vice versa?). That’s why, if there were Fox hosts who had concerns about the many nefarious activities of the Bush administration — breaking the international anti-torture treaty that Ronald Reagan signed or deliberately betraying the covert identity of a CIA specialist in the WMD black market, for example — they rarely, if ever, voiced their criticisms on air.

I don’t watch Fox 24/7, so I can’t say that it never happened, but if it did, questioning Bush-Cheney policies was never given the high-profile airing that concerns about the Obama administration’s drone strike program have been given by liberal hosts on MSNBC this week. This is notable because it upends the meme in the political media — of which Andrew Sullivan is a prime exemplar — that Fox and MSNBC are just obverse and reverse on the same coin.

It’s true that Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz and the other hosts of MSNBC’s primetime opinion block usually agree with the Obama administration’s policies. But they don’t always — and when they don’t, they feel free to criticize the president or the Democratic Party.

The existence and contents of the memo detailing troubling aspects of the drone program was broken by NBC News reporter Michael Isikoff and first reported on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC earlier this week. Fox rarely, if ever, breaks news, and if it did, it’s hard to imagine that the network would uncover a story that might damage the Republican cause.

This is the difference between a propaganda channel like Fox, which functions as the house organ for the Republican Party, and a real news channel like MSNBC that operates on a foundation of rigorous journalistic practices while also offering opinion-centered programming that slants toward the Democrats as well as independents and moderates.

It also underscores the difference in the two parties and the difference in perspective and temperament between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives tend to put their trust in people whom their perceive as authority figures, while liberals have a tendency to question authority.

There is even some interesting science to back this up:

  • Reliance on quick, efficient, and “low effort” thought processes yields conservative ideologies, while effortful and deliberate reasoning yields liberal ideologies. [PDF]
  • Liberals have more tolerance to uncertainty (bigger anterior cingulate cortex), and conservatives have more sensitivity to fear (bigger right amygdala). [PDF]
  • Conservatives and liberals react similarly to positive incentives, but conservatives have greater sensitivity to negative stimuli. [PDF]
  • Conservatism is focused on preventing negative outcomes, while liberalism is focused on advancing positive outcomes. [PDF]
  • Liberals are more open-minded and creative whereas conservatives are more orderly and better organized. [PDF]
  • When faced with a conflict, liberals are more likely than conservatives to alter their habitual response when cues indicate it is necessary. [PDF]

The transcript of the Rachel Maddow Show segment above follows:

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