[UPDATE: A federal judge has now intervened and ordered Sarah Murnaghan be put on the adult transplant list.]
I'm going to tell you what media bias is really all about. It's about a dying, 10 year-old girl and a sexagenarian, politically connected trial lawyer. It's about official malfeasance treated as human error when a Democrat is President. It's about power and systemic corruption that is unremarkable to people offended that George W. Bush didn't call his advisers liars to their face.
It is about Fred Baron and Sarah Murnaghan.
Fred Baron was a plaintiff's asbestos lawyer, a prolific Democratic bundler, a man who made a great deal of money by breaking Fortune 500 companies (possibly through subornation of perjury), a personal friend of former Presidential candidate John "Baby Daddy" Edwards and of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and in 2008, a man dying of multiple myeloma. At 61, Baron had become one of the Democrats' foremost source of trial lawyer funds, and they rewarded him with access and influence.
Politics as usual, really.
Where this story diverts from the usual depressing tale of money and influence is in the closing days of Baron's life. Stage 5 cancer of any kind is a bad day; stage 5 multiple myeloma, as Baron (somewhat ironically, given his profession) had is a death sentence. Because Baron had the luxury of being rich, he spent a great deal on doctors to discover what the rest of us would know: he was a dead man walking.
However, his doctors believed that Tysabri -- a monoclonal antibody that is used primarily to treat multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases (by killing or impeding the movement of dysfunctional white blood cells that would otherwise attack the brain) -- might save Baron's life. (The mechanism for this is more complicated, but essentially, they were hoping the drug would slow or block the cancer cells through the same mechanism that the drug worked on autoimmune diseases.)
The problem of course was that the Food and Drug Administration had not cleared the drug for use on cancer patients. The drug's manufacturer had the drug in what are called Phase I trials -- the first part of the labyrinthine approval process for a drug that makes us one of the slowest drug approval regimes among modern societies -- for use in treating multiple myeloma. The drug's manufacturer could not approve the drug's use out of the very limited number of test patients receiving it, and the drug would be at best 5-7 years from broad market use. (Really, that would likely be its turnaround time to Phase III trials, which have a much broader number of patients.)
Fred Baron did not have five years to live.
His family mounted a public and private campaign to get the manufacturer to allow Baron to use the drug. The manufacturer balked because allowing use outside of the trials can set back or destroy your chances for FDA approval (extra mortality, illegal use, and just general persnickitiness apply).
Enter Nancy Pelosi. Through means to which we have never been privy, Ms. Pelosi got the FDA to give the manufacturer the all-clear to give Baron the drug. Baron got the drug, Baron took the drug, Baron died anyway, but his family remains grateful to the party to whom they'd given so much.
This bit of horrifying corruption was reported slobberingly by the Dallas Morning News (Baron's hometown paper), which neatly managed to turn a private company's obedience to the law into another dragon for Fred Baron to posthumously slay.
Sarah Murnaghan is a 10 year old girl who will die without a lung transplant. The only lung on tap is an adult lung, and HHS guidelines forbid the use of adult lungs on child recipients because of high mortality. Miss Murnaghan's father is not a Democratic bundler. Miss Murnaghan has never brought down a Fortune 500 company through the use of mass nuisance suits.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius refuses to waive the regulation forbidding the transplant, even though Miss Murnaghan's doctors believe she has a good chance of surviving the transplant (and no chance at all of surviving without it).
This bit of news got its only real play in conservative media.
Today, a 10 year old girl is being sentenced to death because she is not rich and is not a Democratic donor of fantastic proportions.
The stones cry out for reporting on this. Right now, the Washington Post should have reporters all over this story and the easy comparison -- and they should be asking if there are other Fred Barons out there. They should be asking if there are other agencies and processes where the wealthy and powerful have been given a free pass, while the weak and poor suffer.
We know that the IRS, at least at a certain level, targeted conservatives, pro-lifers, and Israel backers for extra scrutiny. We know this because the IRS admitted it. Those same allegations, made by conservatives for over a year, were ignored by a media too compliant with the ruling party.
This is what liberal bias is like. It's not shading, it's not playing up the Democrats against the Republicans. It is ignoring the stink of corruption from Democrats and government in general, because they can't be wrong. It is about systemic corruption that goes unreported.
Fred Baron's free pass came in the lame duck days of George W. Bush, when the apparently-permanent Speaker of the House carried more sway with the permanent bureaucracy than its nominal head. Are we really to believe that this sort of thing hasn't been repeated? We know about cronyism for Tesla and Solyndra and so many others; is that all? Shouldn't these be questions a press corps heavily invested in Washington, D.C. is asking?
Because the stories of Fred Baron and Sarah Murnaghan should absolutely thrill a real watchdog press. Those stories tell of massive government dysfunction in drug approval; of corruption; of influence and power; of the power of the strong to work government for their own ends, while the weak are instead crushed by leviathan.
It is the corruption and politicization of every aspect of our health system in one story. It is the powerful beating the people. It is someone's baby girl dying because he has not given Democrats money, and a 61 year old trial lawyer getting extra chances.
A rich Democrat worked the system and broke the rules to have a chance at life. A not-rich, not-Democrat is publicly told to just die already.
A real press would dedicate whole reporting desks to this. If John McCain or Mitt Romney was President today, HHS would be under constant assault (and rightfully!) for potential cronyism. Yet the national papers with the most investment in covering the Federal Government won't even look at this.
That is the danger of liberal bias. The press is not the fourth branch of government, despite pretensions to the contrary. But it is vital to a functioning government.
The media -- regardless of political preference -- should be asking basic questions: Which agencies have done terrible, corrupt, wasteful and despicable things and haven't admitted it? Which Congressmen have pulled strings for donors and broken the law? If we had a truly free press, these stories would drive coverage -- and more importantly, reporting -- for a year if not more.
The media were all over Duke Cunningham, and rightfully so. And they briefly covered William Jefferson because IN HIS FREEZER. But the danger isn't stupid, easily-caught bribes. It is a government that works by breaking its rules for the powerful.
But a press that sees liberals as the good guys, and government as justice personified, can't see this when their side is the powerful.
Now, this is made worse because media watchdogs are too close to those they cover by class and ideology. But they're not robots. We're not Marxists. We know that class and even ideology can be put aside.
Yet they won't.
Liberal media bias is about small people crushed under a leviathan while the great and the good ride high on its back. It is about small stories that add up to a giant, sickening picture being systematically ignored. It is about the failure of people who think the First Amendment was crafted for their personal use not bothering to exercise it.
Someone's baby girl will either die because she didn't give to Democrats; or won't, because she was the rare one whose father worked the system to shame the powerful.
How many others of the weak will suffer while the powerful who gave to the ruling party prosper? And will we ever hear about it?
Spoilers: We won't.