LA Times shocked to discover that Republican congressmen are partisan hacks

This is the headline on a Los Angeles Times article, at least in the online version:

Opposition to California’s vehicle emission limits comes from surprising corner

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Is the Sierra Club opposing the limits? Or the NRDC? Robert Kennedy, Jr? SF Mayor Gavin Newsom? So I started to read the article:

WASHINGTON — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants California to implement its own vehicle emission standards to fight global warming. At first glance, Congress might seem a likely ally in his efforts to overturn the Bush administration’s refusal to let the state do so.

After all, global warming is at the top of the agenda in Washington. The three presidential candidates back California’s efforts. And the state’s congressional delegation is the largest.

But legislation to clear the way for the state’s standards may fail for a reason that is close to home for Schwarzenegger — his fellow California Republicans.

Most of the congressional delegation’s GOP members are siding with the Bush administration in trying to keep states from imposing stricter regulations on greenhouse gas emissions than the federal government. Without bipartisan support from the state’s House members, the bill’s proponents say, the measure’s prospects are dim.

To whom is this surprising? When redistricting occurred in 2000, the California legislature, showing rare bipartisan cooperation, designed districts so that Republican districts would be likely to remain Republican and Democratic districts would be likely to remain Democratic. One result is that California’s congressional representatives tend to be highly partisan, rather than occupying the more moderate political terrain where statewide officials like Dianne Feinstein and Arnold Schwarzenegger dwell. The same LA Times article even notes farther down that California’s congressional delegation is “famously fractured” and hasn’t had a bipartisan meeting in over a year, whereas Texas’s delegation all meet together monthly.

What’s surprising isn’t that California Republicans would side with the Bush administration instead of Schwarzenegger, who has long been viewed with suspicion by many Republicans for some of his moderate positions (he’s now in the Republican doghouse for suggesting that he might be willing to close some tax loopholes in order to resolve the state’s multi-billion-dollar deficit — heresy!) What’s surprising is that the LA Times would expect congressional Republicans to oppose the EPA just because the law “enjoys widespread support in California. A poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California last year found that most Democratic and Republican voters were in favor of it.”

There’s a bias in journalism towards the surprising, and since most congressional positions aren’t at all surprising, the report or his editors probably felt the need to play up the “surprising” divide between Schwarzenegger and his fellow California Republicans. God forbid the paper should publish an article that just laid out the facts of the bill, without editorializing about whether or not Congressional Republicans would be a “likely ally” in California’s efforts to impose stricter emissions standards.

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One response to “LA Times shocked to discover that Republican congressmen are partisan hacks

  1. Good catch. Your own headline sounds like it’s straight from Dean Baker. Another possible reading, of course, is that the headline is ironic. That’s what it looks like to me. Or else it’s that the newspaper’s effort to construct its own impartiality is so tortured and difficult that they don’t even notice when they end up with a neutrality that looks absurdly like naivety. You know what I mean? As if being impartial meant having to go back to the worldview of a very slow or sheltered eight year old.

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