The conventional wisdom is the media seizes on bad news, much like sharks thrashing to the scent of blood in the water, and virtually ignores good news.

But what if GOOD news happens to individuals and affiliations NOT in accord with the prevailing philosophy of the media? Think of it this way: If a tree falls in a forest, does it make any sound?

And if BAD news happens to individuals and affiliations IN accord with the prevailing philosophy of the media? Hmmm…does the tree metaphor still apply?

What am I babbling about?

What if Standard & Poors Corp., Moody’s Investor Service or Fitch Investors Service, Inc., (or any combination thereof) choose to withstand the intense behind-the-scenes lobbying from the White House and/or Treasury and actually downgrades federal debt from its hallowed Triple A bond rating?

Will the media cover the story? Sure.

Will the media bludgeon the president and Treasury? Not so sure.

That means the bad news/good news tendencies of the media don’t always apply.

If the downgrade does occur, you can be certain that Mitt Romney, Rick Perry (assuming the Texas Governor chooses to run) and presumably other Republican contenders will use this subject in political “comparison” ads. The question remains how will the media view these ads? Will they rally around President Obama?

Alas, this subject is not new to me. I was still-green-behind-the-ears as an assistant press secretary when California first lost its vaunted Triple A credit rating in 1983. The resulting media coverage was in a word: explosive.

And when California regained its best-possible credit rating three years later, the coverage from the exalted members of the Fourth Estate was almost non-existent.

Will that be the case this time around if the US loses its Triple A credit rating a little more than 12 months before President Barack Obama goes before the voters?

Not necessarily.

Naturally, there is a difference between Washington D.C., the Citadel of Infinite Wisdom, and California, a mere state.

There is also a difference between a Republican governor, a Democratic president and the treatment of the two by the political media, especially the elites.

As a rookie press assistant back in 1983, I found out all about Moody’s, Standard & Poors and Fitch’s ratings on the credit worthiness of California debt. It’s analogous to credit ratings for individuals.

California had a new governor, my boss George Deukmejian. He inherited a $1.5 billion deficit (almost sounds quaint by today’s standards), a post-recessionary economy and Democrats dominating Sacramento.

And then came the thud of the credit downgrade. Screaming headlines and editorials demanded a tax increase making the government bigger, to restore California’s Triple A bond rating. The governor refused, used his veto pen, and insisted on a $1 billion reserve for emergencies.

The Triple A bond rating was restored three years later, but it was a non-event for California’s political media, the very same crowd that was attempting to dance on the governor’s political grave upon the downgrade just 36 months or so earlier.

One Democrat in particular noted the glaring discrepancy in the coverage, California state Treasurer at the time, Jess “Big Daddy” Unruh. It was also no secret of the animosity between Unruh and the Democratic nominee for Governor, LA Mayor Tom Bradley. Unruh sent the signal that he was open to a bipartisan media gathering celebrating California’s return to a Triple A bond rating.

And on July 30, 1986 there was an extraordinary news conference in the state Capitol with Republican Governor Deukmejian standing beside Democratic Treasurer (and former Speaker of the Assembly) Unruh extolling the return of California’s Triple A bond rating. They also reminded the media of the discrepancy in attention between when California lost the highest bond rating in 1983 and the dearth of coverage three years later.

After Unruh praised California’s “fine” governor, he was asked who he was supporting for California’s top job. He replied: “Who’s running?”

Certainly, no one should be rooting for the country to lose its Triple A bond rating for paper issued by the government. The result would be an international loss of prestige as well as taxpayers paying more for the government to float bonds to pay for its operations. And today, Fitch indicated that a downgrade may not be in the cards. However, Fitch made no long-term guarantees. And what about the other bond rating houses?

A downgrade between now and November 2012 could be politically devastating to the re-election prospects of Barack Obama . . . or maybe not. A lot depends on the media. After all, they set the agenda for how we think and act in America. Right? Err . . . Correct?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bond_credit_rating

http://finance.toolbox.com/blogs/credit-eyes-thoughts/californias-credit-rating-four-decades-of-momentum-based-credit-analysis-43704

http://articles.latimes.com/1986-07-31/news/mn-20318_1_fiscal-health

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Fitch-US-Debt-deal-alone-wont-apf-48023357.html?x=0&sec=topStories&pos=6&asset=&ccode=

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/08/fitch-reaffirms-us-triple-a-rating-after-debt-deal-approval.html

http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/801-economy/174943-geithner-congressional-spectacle-has-damaged-nations-reputation

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