• But is it true?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Earlier today, I wrote that it's important for journalists to actually apply some critical thought to their work rather than simply regurgitating Republican talking points.

    Right on cue, here's Marc Ambinder (emphasis added):

    Here's a peek at the major planks in the economic recovery plan being introduced by House Republicans tomorrow.

    It starts with a permanent five percentage point reduction for those who qualify for the 10% and 15% tax brackets, averaging about $500 per year for the poorest of the bunch and $1,200 for the slightly more wealthy.

    The talking point here is that poorer Americans would see more money from the GOP plan than from Obama's -- and it would be permanent.

    Well, of course that's the "talking point." Who the hell cares? Is it true? Marc Ambinder doesn't say. He doesn't even acknowledge that it might be an interesting question. The concept of which plan actually gives "poorer Americans" "more money" is literally nowhere to be found in his post.

    There are people for whom "distributing Republican talking points" is part of their job description. They are called "deputy press secretaries," and they work at the RNC and in Republican congressional offices. Reporters for The Atlantic ought to behave a bit differently.

    (Is it true? I don't know -- but it seems unlikely. The GOP plan, as Ambinder describes it, would do nothing for the many Americans who work hard and pay state, local, sales, and FICA taxes -- but who do not make enough money to pay federal income taxes.)

  • Woodward breaks out the tarot cards

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    As noted by Sam Stein over at the Huffington Post, Bob Woodward appeared this past Sunday on the Chris Matthews Show where he waxed cryptically about scandals the Obama Administration will undoubtedly face in the future:

    "This may be tantalizing but vague," said the Washington Post scribe. "I don't think the nanny or household tax problems and so forth are over for the Obama administration..."

    Matthews pressed ever so slightly for more information, but Woodward did not oblige: "I say it's not over."

    It was the type of gossip ginning, insider reporting that makes D.C. journalism what it is. But it wasn't without a glimmer of irony. Earlier in the week, Matthews had shut down similar banter on Hardball when the New York Daily News' Liz Benjamin noted that the unconfirmed rumor mill was saying that Caroline Kennedy had an "affair issue."

    "Well, how about let's stick to journalism," Matthews said, over her. "I don't do that here, Liz. Liz, if it's just blogging, let's drop it, OK?"

    Of course Matthews would never traffic in unsubstantiated gossip. Change may have come to Washington but it still hasn't hit the press core when it comes to issues like this – unless of course you consider the White House press core awakening from its Bush slumber.

  • The Brent Bozell Correction Watch, Day 4

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In his most recent column, Media Research Center's Brent Bozell made an egregious factual error while (cough, cough) chastising the press for not doing its job properly.

    Specifically, Bozell was hyping the incorrect story that Obama's inauguration cost much, much more than Bush's bash in 2005:

    For the record, the 'lavish' Bush inaugural cost $43 million. Final tallies are not complete, but according to some sources, like the Guardian newspaper, the Obama inaugural will cost more than $150 million.

    That's not accurate. The final tally of Bush's inauguration, including all the money the federal government spent on security and logistics, was $157 million. Bush supporters raised $43 million, and then taxpayers spent $115 million more. From the New York Times, January 6, 2008:

    In 2005, Mr. Bush raised $42.3 million from about 15,000 donors for festivities; the federal government and the District of Columbia spent a combined $115.5 million, most of it for security, the swearing-in ceremony, cleanup and for a holiday for federal workers.

    While highlighting how much (supposedly) less expensive Bush's inauguration was in 2005 as compared to the estimates for Obama's, Bozell wrote that Bush's inauguration cost $43 million. It did not. It cost $157 million.

    So the question now becomes, will Bozell correct his error? Will a man who makes a living criticizing the press admit to his own obvious factual error?

    We're waiting Brent....

    P.S. Does Brent really think that the government spent $0 on security for Bush's 2005 inauguration? Because the $43 million he cited didn't cover security. Does Brent think that the 6,000 law enforcement and 7,000 troops that were deployed throughout Washington, D.C. for the 2005 swearing-in, the armed Coast Guard boats that patrolled the Potomac River, didn't cost taxpayers a single penny? That they were there voluntarily? Either Brent doesn't understand how the government works (i.e. its money goes toward paying military and law enforcement costs), or Brent made a rather enormous factual error in his column.

    Which one is it Brent?

  • Journalists Against Accountability

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Glenn Greenwald has an excellent post about Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen's long history of arguing against accountability for wrongdoing by Republicans. Greenwald:

    Reflecting the vast diversity of our national media, Richard Cohen now joins fellow Washington Post columnists Ruth Marcus, David Ignatius, David Broder and Fred Hiatt -- as well as virtually every other Beltway journalist -- in demanding that Bush officials not be prosecuted even if they committed felonies. The only political leaders any of them ever want to see pay a price for wrongdoing are those who get caught in titillating sex scandals (Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer) or other fun and tawdry episodes that are easy and entertaining to report (Rod Blagojevich, Duke Cunningham). Actual abuse of power and the commission of true felonies should be ignored and forgotten when committed by the Serious and powerful leaders of the royal court they serve. As usual, the most striking aspect of all of it is how unapologetically eager "journalists" -- of all people -- are to argue on behalf of the powerful political leaders over whom they actually still claim to serve as "watchdogs."

    I do have to offer a bit of disagreement, however. The national news media was obsessive in pursuing all manner of (bogus) allegations against Bill Clinton, not only those involving sex. The media's obsequiousness towards power has, in recent years, been quite a bit more thorough when the power in question is held by Republicans.

    In any case, Greenwald's entire post is well worth a read.

  • Forbes, please define "liberal," cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Remember last week we made fun of Forbes for putting a whole bunch of obviously non-liberal pundits on its list of most influential liberals in the media today?

    Well, this pretty much proves our point about Forbes including WaPo's head war cheerleader Fred Hiatt on that list:

    Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt called [Bill] Kristol "very smart and very plugged in," saying Kristol would be an influential voice in the coming debate over redefining the Republican Party. "It seems to me there were a lot of Times readers who felt the Times shouldn't hire someone who supported the Iraq war," said Hiatt, adding that he wants "a diverse range of opinions" on his page.

    Guess one man's diverse range of opinion is another man's dumbing down.

    UPDATE: Diverse? Like the WaPo didn't have enough people on its Op-ed page who mindlessly rooted for war in Iraq?

  • Politico's Thrush stumbles on victory lap

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Glenn Thrush seems to think his post yesterday about Nancy Pelosi & family planning funds is vindicated by reports that House Democrats may strip those funds from their stimulus package.

    It isn't.

    Here's Thrush today:

    We took some heat yesterday for suggesting Nancy Pelosi needed to do something to stem political damage from GOP attacks on the inclusion of contraceptive cash in the stimulus.

    Apparently she has -- at the behest of President Obama.

    Actually, Thrush "took some heat" for baselessly repeating bogus GOP spin, and falsely suggesting that public support for contraception funding is unpopular.

    Most notably, Thrush suggested supporting funding for contraceptives would make Pelosi look like a "Bay area liberal" with a "far left agenda." In fact, backing public funding for contraceptives isn't a "far-left" position, as Thrush later acknowledged. It is a position that enjoys overwhelming public support. So overwhelming that opposing such funding could probably be described as a "far-right" position.

    Thrush's post yesterday was reminiscent of the first media reports during the Terry Schiavo controversy - the ones that contained the baseless speculation that the "wedge issue" would play to the GOP's benefit. But it didn't: the American public isn't where the conservatives think they are - or where reporters think they are. That's been true for quite some time.

    The fact that House Democrats may drop funding for contraceptives from their bill doesn't vindicate Thrush's lazy reporting. If it says anything at all about that reporting, it is that the credulous repetition of false right-wing spin can have an effect on public policy debates. That shouldn't be something to be proud of; it should be a reminder that reporters have a responsibility to carefully and factually assess spin - and their own assumptions - before they write their articles.

  • In search of Hillary's Caroline Kennedy critics, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    New York magazine has a big Caroline Kennedy feature this week, dissecting the behind-the-scenes drama of Kennedy's pursuit of Hillary Clinton's former N.Y. senate seat. As part of the feature, there's a Spy-like graphic ("Keystone Kamelot!") to spell out all the roles played by the various pols. (It's here.) And here's what it says under the photo of Clinton [emphasis added]:

    Perhaps upset that Caroline had endorsed Obama, Clinton and her camp were thought to be trying to derail her candidacy.

    Yowie-zowie. "Were thought to be trying"? I don't even know what verb tense that is. Keep in mind, the caption accompanied a 6,00-word reported article by Chris Smith and contained no evidence--none--that anybody associated with the Clinton ever even got involved in the process of picking her replacement or trying to sink Kennedy's chances. In fact, Clinton and her clan barely even appear in the article.

    Nonetheless, continuing a media tradition of trying to create a public spat between Hillary Clinton (or at least her backers) and Caroline Kennedy, even when there's no proof to back it up, New York mugged the English language in an effort to make Clinton look bad.

  • MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell's, she's repeating GOP talking points as fast as she can!

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From Crooks and Liars, here's O'Donnell morphing from journalist into GOP spokesperson, as she dissects the suddenly urgent national debate about contraception. A sample of her questions:

    1. With all due respect isn't that a bunch of pork in here and how is that exactly stimulus?

    2. I take your point Congressman. but go ahead and answer what Congressman Boehner said. How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives. How does that stimulate the economy?

    3. Well, let me ask you that then, do you think 200 million dollars essentially contraceptives is wasteful spending?

    4. You get my point, (scowl on her face) there is going to be since this is over 800 billion dollars there's going to be a lot in there that people are going to raise questions about in the long run about wasteful spending, whether it's democrats efforts just to HUGE massive, unprecedented spending bill to put stuff and get stuff paid for that they haven't been successful or paid for in the past.

    Digby said it best this week: "The media are going to be the death of this country."

  • It's like GOP Reefer Madness, con't

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Media Research Center spells it out: Obama's declared "war" on Rush Limbaugh. And Obama's soon going to revive the dreaded Fairness Doctrine. Grab your rations and run people!

    Not but seriously MRC, in terms of Obama's "war" on Limbaugh. The only evidence you have of Obama's declaration was a single passing reference the president made to the talk show host: "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done" he told Congressional Republicans last week. That just doesn't seem very war-y.

    Question (as we do our best Dwight Schrute impersonation), what constitutes further acts of "war"? Is Obama allowed to mention Limbaugh by name? Is Obama allowed to make eye contact with Limbaugh if the two men are ever in the same room? And is Obama allowed to tune into Limbaugh's AM show, or would that be considered unwarranted government intimidation?

    MRC, we await further wartime instructions.