• It isn't us. It's you.

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Over the weekend, Digby highlighted Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank's bewilderment that he continues to get complaints from liberal readers despite the fact that President Bush has been replaced by President Obama.

    It shouldn't really be that hard to understand. Dana Milbank is not the personification of the White House. If he was, you might expect him to received fewer complaints from liberals now that Bush is gone. But Dana Milbank is a journalist; the complaints he get are likely in response to his journalism.

    As Digby noted:

    It doesn't seem to occur to Milbank that "the left" might just not like the snotty, juvenile, shallow kind of journalism he practices, no matter who is in office. If they're mad at his reporting whether it's Bush or Obama, does it not occur to him that it might be him and not them?

    Digby's post reminded me of Jake Tapper's defensiveness in response to criticism from liberals that the media was paying too much attention to an iPod given by President Obama to the Queen of England. Tapper posted the following defense on his Twitter page:

    for angry libs complaining about the iPod story: who do you think is sharing this info about the iPod? u think we broke into buckingham?

    Tapper seemed to be suggesting that Obama aides were the ones "sharing this info about the iPod" with reporters, so liberals shouldn't criticize the media for obsessing over it. Here's what I wrote at the time:

    I can't speak for all "angry libs," but what Tapper seems not to understand is that few, if any, liberal media critics think the media should simply report anything handed to them on a presidential spoon - even if the president in question is a Democrat.

    This attitude isn't unique to Tapper. I've seen more than a few journalists respond to criticism from progressives by saying something similar - that their report reflects what Democratic sources told them. That's a valid response when the criticism is that the report omitted a Democratic viewpoint. But when the criticism is that the report is false, or flawed in some other way, "hey, we're just reporting what Democrats tell us" isn't a meaningful defense.

    What neither Milbank nor Tapper seems to understand is that the criticism they are getting from liberals is a result of liberals not thinking their journalism is any good. Of course, Tapper and Milbank don't have to agree with those assessments of their work product - sometimes, no doubt, the criticism is incorrect. But it would be nice if they (finally) realized that the criticism they've been getting isn't about who is in the White House, it's about their own work.

  • When will reporters stop taking Cheney claims at face value?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Greg Sargent is trying to pin down former Vice President Cheney's staff on the details of his claim to have "formally" asked the CIA to release intelligence that he claims proves the efficacy of torture. Several news organizations are uncritically repeating Cheney's claim, but Sargent has a source who says the CIA never received such a request, and a Cheney spokesperson is refusing to explain how the request was made.

    Meanwhile, I haven't seen any reporter ask Cheney or his staff what seems like an obvious question: If there exist documents that prove that torture prevented attacks on the US, and those documents can be released without jeopardizing national security, why didn't the Bush administration release them before leaving office?

    It isn't like it's a surprise that the Obama administration has made some changes in Bush administration torture policy; Cheney and Bush had to know that was a possibility. So why didn't they release this evidence that supposedly proves that torture is a necessary national security tool? (If the answer is that they feared releasing the documents would jeopardize national security, there's an obvious follow-up: Why does Cheney want them released now?)

  • Apparently, it's puff profile day at the Politico

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    First Amity Shlaes, now this. Richard Scott couldn't have asked for a better profile than the one Politico gave him today.

    Start with the warm-and-fuzzy headline: "A conservative health care champion."

    It gets worse from there.

    Politico doesn't quote any progressives, or anyone who favors a public heath care plan, or anyone who disagrees with Richard Scott in any way. The article does paraphrase public plan advocates - but in doing so, weakens their arguments. After noting that Scott plans on releasing a film showing "people [negatively] affected by the Canadian and British health care systems" and quoting Scott talking about the film, Politico explains:

    Proponents of the public plan say comparisons between U.S. and foreign health care won't resonate at a time when many Americans are desperate for lower insurance costs. Not to mention, there are plenty of horror stories to highlight about health care in this country, they say.

    Well, ok. But many proponents of the public plan make another, less defensive argument: That other nations have health care systems that deliver better care at lower costs, so comparisons between U.S. and foreign health care will resonate - to the benefit of public plan advocates. It's probably too much to hope that Politico would actually quote public plan proponents in an article about opposition to the public plan, but the paper could at least include a stronger argument for the public plan than something that boils down to "advocates say attacks on the public plan won't resonate."

    Politico then prints the transcript of an interview it conducted with Scott. Somewhat surprisingly, Politico asked Scott about his tenure at the head of Columbia/HCA. Unfortunately, the question downplayed the problems that occurred on his watch:

    You lost control of the Columbia/HCA hospital chain in 1997 following a Medicare investigation. How do you respond to criticism that you come to the fight with some baggage?

    I started with $125,000 and built at the time the largest hospital company, and I did that for 9½ years. We had a great run. We had 343 hospitals, 135 centers, took care of over 130,000 patients a day. We did a good job on outcomes.

    The hospital industry was under investigation, probably starting in the mid-'90s. So we ended up with an investigation, and the board decided that someone else could run the company better. So I left, went on vacation, changed my life.

    That's it. No follow-up. Politico delicately referred to "a Medicare investigation," leaving readers to assume that nothing came of the probe other than a little unpleasantness. After all, according to Scott, Columbia/HCA was only investigated because the entire "industry was under investigation," so they "ended up with an investigation." In fact, Scott's company "ended up" being investigated because it was guilty of massive fraud. And it ended up paying $1.7 billion - BILLION - in fines and penalties.

    It probably goes without saying that Politico didn't challenge Scott's claims about health care, though some were dubious at best. Like this one: "There are 40 percent of the people who make more than $50,000, so is that an issue? They can afford insurance. ... The people that have the money who don't want to buy insurance, I don't think you can do anything about that. " It seems a pretty safe assumption that there are families making $50,000 a year who cannot afford health care, though Politico didn't bother to press Scott on that point.

  • Politico's love letter to a flawed book

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Under the header "Why Republicans are devouring one book," Politico hypes Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man, in which she "takes issue with the value of government intervention in a major economic crisis," so enthusiastically, you'd think they're getting a cut of the sales.

    A quick word count of the quotes in the Politico article gives a pretty good indication of how one-sided it is:

    211 words quote people (other than Shlaes) praising the book's content

    12 words quote people (other than Shlaes) praising the book's sales

    271 words quote Shlaes herself.

    1 word ("revisionist") quotes a critic of the book

    And Politico is hyping its article about Shlaes' book nearly as much as it is hyping the book itself: most of above-the-fold portion of the web site's front page is currently devoted to pushing the story.

  • The Red Scare Index: 93

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Marxistic, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for Monday, April 20, 2009:

    TOTAL: 93
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 33
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 27
    Marxism/Marxist: 4
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 29

    By Network:

    CNN: 7
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 3
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 3

    CNN Headline News: 2
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox News Channel: 25
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 16
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 4
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 4
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    Fox Business Network: 8
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 4

    MSNBC: 44
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 9
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 14
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 21

    CNBC: 7
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 3
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 4
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a power search for these terms on these networks.

  • How bad is WH reporting?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Let Sheryl Gay Stolberg at the New York Times provide today's answer. (Hint: It's really bad):

    On the theory that every little bit helps, Mr. Obama convened the first cabinet meeting of his presidency on Monday and said that in an effort to make the government "as efficient as possible" and to ensure that "every taxpayer dollar is being spent wisely," he was challenging department heads and agency chiefs to come up with ways to save $100 million over the next 90 days.

    Budget analysts promptly burst out laughing. A reporter declared at the White House briefing that the initiative would become fodder for late-night talk show hosts. The Republican Study Committee, a group of fiscal conservatives, put out a news release with the headline "Obama's 0.0025% spending cut."

    The key is that second paragraph, so let's walk through it and see how dreadful the journalism is being produced at the WH.

    A) You'll note Stolberg used the plural in her reporting, claiming "analysts" were "laughing" at the Obama plan. Yet Stolberg only quoted one analyst in the entire article and that analyst is a conservative from the hyper-partisan Heritage Foundation. So to be accurate, Stolberg should have reported, "A Republican budget analyst" promptly burst out laughing. (Even though there's no evidence he did.) Instead of doing that, Stolberg just made stuff up about lots of analysts ridiculing the Obama plan.

    B) Who cares if a WH reporter predicted late-night comedians might make fun of the initiative? I mean that literally; who cares? And on what planet would that kind of pointless WH press room chatter possibly qualify as news? Just amazing.

    C) The GOP press release gives away the whole story. i.e. Odds are it was their mocking press release that set in motion the WH press chatter about the $100 million initiative (all the cool kids in the press room thought it was lame), which then lead to Stolberg making stuff up about "analysts" laughing at Obama and turning that into her belittling lead.

    Behold your liberal media.

  • Andrew Malcolm spins Gallup poll results

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, Gallup released poll results that show public concern about "big business" at the highest level it has ever been, aside from an uptick in 2002 in the wake of the Enron scandal. Meanwhile, public concern about the threat posed by "big government" is lower than it has been for almost all of the past 20 years.

    Here's how former Laura Bush press secretary Andrew Malcolm portrayed Gallup's findings on his LA Times blog:

    [A] substantial majority (55%) still see big government as the larger threat; 32% see big business as the biggest threat, up slightly from 25% three years ago.

    A "substantial majority"? Perhaps -- but less substantial than at any point in the past 20 years, except the post-9/11 period. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who see big business as the bigger threat is "up slightly" only if you consider a 28 percent increase "slight." And, of course, Malcolm ignores the fact that numbers for big business are the second-worst they have ever been in the 40+ years Gallup has been asking this question.

    Regular readers of Malcolm's work will probably not be surprised to learn that he used his business-friendly portrayal of the Gallup results to argue that the Republicans "message" may "resonate" in next year's congressional elections:

    The results provide at least a possible blueprint for beleaguered Republicans struggling in disarray that their message of too much spending-too much government may resonate by the time of the 2010 midterm elections.

    But, as Gallup noted:

    Gallup's history of asking this question dates back to 1965. Since that time, Americans have always viewed big government as posing the greatest threat of the three institutions tested, although the percentage naming it has varied over time.

    A glance at Gallup's chart makes clear that the gap between the percentage of Americans who see "big government" as a threat and those who see "big business" as a threat is smaller than it has been at nearly any point in the past 25 years -- a fact that pretty thoroughly undermines Malcolm's spin that the poll presents good news for the GOP.

  • Who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As long as Politico keeps trumpeting Gingrich's anti-Obama tirades as breaking news, we'll keep asking the simple question: who cares what Newt Gingrich thinks? We're hoping at some point Politico tries to answer the question.

    In the meantime, here's the latest installment, where Politico, stuck in its Gin Blossoms `90's mode, pretends Gingrich is still Speaker of the House:

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tore into President Barack Obama Monday for his friendly greeting of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying Obama is bolstering the "enemies of America."

    As we mentioned before, not only was Gingrich essentially driven from Congress more than ten years ago, but we can't think of a single Bush initiative from this decade that had Gingrich's fingerprints on it. Now, Newt can't be bothered with running for office, nor does he seem to represent any larger institution.

    He's just a partisan talking head, which is fine. So why has the D.C. press corps, and Politico in particular, carved out a special niche for what's-Newt-thinking-today coverage?

  • Barstow wins Pulitzer for military analysts story; will networks notice?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    New York Times reporter David Barstow has won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the conflicts of interest of "military analysts" used by television networks.

    The networks have given scant attention to the military analysts story; maybe now that the story has won a Pulitzer for Barstow, they'll pay attention.

    Networks continue to ignore NY Times' military analyst story, but all find time for Hannah Montana

    Networks reportedly refused to appear on PBS' NewsHour to respond to NY Times' military analysts story; several continue blackout

    Multiple choice: Of the following, which outlet covered two recent major national security stories -- NBC, CBS, NPR, PBS, or ... Comedy Central?

  • WaPo's Bacon: Universal health care is a "tired" idea

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Perry Bacon:

    If you watch the Sunday shows, the Obama people are no longer arguing the GOP has "no ideas." Now it's they have "no ideas" or "the same old tired ideas." I don't know what's more tired, Republicans calling for tax cuts or Democras for expensive health health care programs, and I suspect voters just want something to help them get through this recession, whether the idea is tired or not.

    Well, let's see ... we've implemented the GOP's tax cut proposals - many, many times - with somewhat limited success. We haven't tried universal health care. So it should be pretty obvious which is the "more tired" idea, shouldn't it?