Why George Bush Sr. Was Not Re-Elected
Derek Chollet is the Principal Deputy Director of the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff. Prior to joining the State Department, he was a Senior Fellow at The Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a non-resident fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development Program and an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University. During the Bill Clinton administration, he served in the State Department in several capacities, including as Chief Speechwriter for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, and Special Adviser to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Mr. Chollet also assisted former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher with the research and writing of their memoirs, Holbrooke with his book on the Dayton peace process in Bosnia, and Talbott with his book on U.S.-Russian relations during the 1990s. He was foreign policy adviser to Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), both on his legislative staff and during the 2004 Kerry/Edwards presidential campaign.
Mr. Chollet has been a Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin and a visiting scholar and adjunct professor at The George Washington University. He is the author, co-author or coeditor of five books on American foreign policy, including The Road to the Dayton Accords: A Study of American Statecraft (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and America Between the Wars: From 11/9 to 9/11, coauthored with James Goldgeier (PublicAffairs, 2008). His commentaries and reviews on U.S. foreign policy and politics have appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, Washington Monthly, and many other books and publications. Educated at Cornell and Columbia, Mr. Chollet was raised in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Topic: Why George Bush Sr. Was Not Re-Elected
Derek Chollet: There was a sense with the Cold War over that foreign policy mattered less as a political issue and what’s interesting is the Democrats saw this as a huge opportunity. Foreign policy, and national security more specifically, had been an Achilles heel for Democrats really since Vietnam, and how the Democratic presidential candidate in the elections in ’76 and ’80 and ’84 and ’88 would approach communism was a very divisive issue within the party and also then troubling politically because there was a sense of weakness and inability. So when the Cold War ends many Democrats were very optimistic, not only that foreign policy would matter less, and there were some who believed that who thought we could sort of take care of things here at home but also that foreign policy could be different. The struggle wasn’t just about how strong you would be against communism.
Topic: Bill Clinton and the neoconservatives
Derek Chollet: One of the things that’s interesting looking back, particularly given how notorious neo-conservatives had become in the last seven or eight years, neo-conservatives were, in the ‘70s, Democrats. Big D Democrats who had left the party more or less in the wake of Vietnam believing that Democrats had become soft on national security issues and on the fight against communism specifically. So it’s interesting, many of the characters, people like Richard Pearle, had worked for Democratic politicians in the 1970s. But they were hawkish on the Soviets and hard line in terms of the Cold War. So there was a hope that some Democrats had in 1992 and some of the influential advisors to then Governor Clinton, candidate Clinton, in 1992, was that with the Cold War over and this bitter divide over communism gone, that neo-conservatives would actually come back into the party and many prominent neo-conservatives in the 1992 campaign endorsed Bill Clinton for president. They were very unhappy with George H.W. Bush, they believed that George H.W. Bush didn’t care enough about promoting democracy, that he didn’t do enough to stand up to dictators around the world. Remember in the early 1990s Bosnia exploded as Yugoslavia fell apart and Bill Clinton in the campaign of ’92 criticized George H.W. Bush for not doing more in Bosnia, for not doing enough to stand up to, as Bill Clinton called it, the Butchers of Beijing, and for not doing enough in terms of promoting democracy and that was a message that many neo-conservatives believed was ideas that they shared. It was not just about ideas but it was also about politics in the sense that the fact that neo-conservatives had left the Democratic party many believed was a sign of Democratic weakness. There was a hope that if they could be brought back into the party it would signal a sign of renewed strength.
Recorded on: 07/08/2008
According to Derek Chollet, the end of the Cold War left Americans unconcerned about foreign policy, and the Democrats used this to their advantage.
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Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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