• 2009, meet 1993

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In the Financial Times, columnist Martin Wolf, addressing Obama's handling of the unfolding financial crisis, writes:

    Has Barack Obama's presidency already failed? In normal times, this would be a ludicrous question. But these are not normal times.

    I had to chuckle. Wolf prefaced his comments by ackowleding it normally would be "ludicrous" for a pundit just weeks into a new president's term to declare it a failure. Sheer madness.

    What Wolf should have suggested was that it would be ludicrous for a pundit just weeks into a new Republican president's term to declare it a failure. Because that truly is crazy talk. Nobody in the press would ever air such an insulting claim. But when it comes to declaring Democratic presidents to be complete failures just weeks into their tenure, that's old habit by now.

    See, members of the press did the same thing back in 1993, the last time a new Democratic president arrived in the White House. As I noted in a November column:

    On January 31, 1993, 12 days after Clinton had been sworn into office, Sam Donaldson appeared on ABC and made this jarring announcement: "Last week, we could talk about, 'Is the honeymoon over?' This week, we can talk about, 'Is the presidency over?' " (At the time, Clinton's approval rating hovered around 65 percent.)

    I'm chuckling again reading about Clinton's 65 percent approval rating at the time of the media's failed presidency meme: Isn't that the exact same approval rating Obamaacknowledging enjoys today?

  • Zogby embarrasses itself with anti-stimulus push polling

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Get a load of these "some say" and "most Republicans oppose" questions:

    "Some people say that the nearly one trillion dollars in debt and subsequent interest incurred by the stimulus bill during an economic downturn will make the recovery hard to achieve. Do you agree or disagree?"

    "Some Republicans say the Obama stimulus package spends too much and stimulates too little. Do you agree or disagree?"

    "Most Republicans oppose the currently proposed stimulus bill supported by President Obama because they say there is too much money being spent for non-stimulus items. Do you agree or disagree that too much money is being spent on items that won't improve the economy?"

    How loopy is the poll, done in conjunction with something called ATI-News? It doesn't even register the response among Democrats. It only measure answers from Republicans and Independents. (At least, that's what the press release does.)

    Naturally right-wingers are pushing the "Zogby poll," but if a single news organization runs with this data it will be a disgrace.

    UPDATE: As we learn from the ConWebBlog:

    ATI News is merely an aggregator of other news websites and generates no original content, and O'Leary is author of the WorldNetDaily-published Obama-bashing speculative fantasy "The Audacity of Deceit." So O'Leary clearly has a biased agenda to push, as if the Zogby poll he commissioned wasn't evenough proof of that.

  • Old habits die hard

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Actual question from Politico's Patrick Gavin to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: "Do you think you look pretty in pink?"

    If chiding the White House press secretary for wearing a pink tie seems like the kind of behavior you would expect from an insecure 13 year old rather than a prominent national news organization, you haven't been paying attention. This is just the latest in a long pattern of media figures attempting to feminize promintent male Democrats -- from jokes about John Kerry getting manicures to calling John Edwards the "Breck Girl" to Maureen Dowd's comparison of Barack Obama to Scarlett O'Hara.

  • Scary rhetoric?, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We noted this earlier; this media meme about how Obama shouldn't be saying all these bad things about the economy. And that he's trying to scare people into supporting his stimulus bill. We also detailed how Americans, according to the polling data, have pretty much been freaked out of their minds about the economy for months, and long before Obama began talking about passing legislation.

    At FDL, they caught the fact that the AP's Jennifer Loven played that same card during Obama's primetime presser [emphasis added]:

    Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier today in Indiana, you said something striking. You said that this nation could end up in a crisis without action that we would be unable to reverse. Can you talk about what you know or what you're hearing that would lead you to say that our recession might be permanent when others in our history have not? And do you think that you risk losing some credibility or even talking down the economy by using dire language like that?

    Ugh. What had Obama been hearing that led him to use "dire language" about the country's economic crisis? Honestly, if Loven doesn't know, she shouldn't be asking questions at the WH.

  • Dept. of Bad Timing

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Via Calderone, it seems Esquire has a new profile of Fox's Shepard Smith. In it, the anchor offers a common defense of Fox's objectivity:

    "There has to be news at a place called Fox News," he says, and he's not the only one. It's the mantra of the network, the fallback equation that — until the recent entrance of Glenn Beck, anyway — has enabled its employees to distinguish between the programming that takes place between nine in the morning and eight at night, which is called News, and the programming that takes over thereafter, which is called Opinion. "I think we do a pretty good job of labeling it for the viewer," Shep says.

    Again: that's the Standard Fox Line. O'Reilly and Hannity may be ideologues, but during the day, Fox is straight news. Fair and balanced.

    That has always been an absurd claim, of course. But today, it's particularly funny. See, on today's edition of Fox's Happening Now, one of those supposedly unbiased daytime news programs, Fox tried to pass off a Republican press release as its own reporting. As Media Matters demonstrated, the Fox "reporting" copied the GOP press release word for word -- right down to a typo.

    So, what was that you were saying, Shep?

  • Politico uncritically reports Huckabee's "anti-religious" nonsense on economic recovery plan

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    As Washington Monthly's Steve Benen notes, former Arkansas Governor and current Fox News host Mike "Huckabee doesn't know what he's talking about."

    Perhaps Politico should have taken that into consideration before uncritically repeating Huckabee's false claim that the economic recovery package is "anti-religious." Though the provision Huckabee cited is correct -- the bill would not provide money to be used on a religious "school or department of divinity" -- Politico did not note that, contrary to Huckabee's suggestion that this provision is a consequence of the liberal trifecta of Pelosi-Reid-Obama, such provisions were included in bills passed when the Republicans were in the majority, as Media Matters has noted.

    Benen continues:

    Look, if Mike Huckabee doesn't like the stimulus bill, fine. But to tell people the legislation is "anti-religious" is just insane. Or, to put it another way, Huckabee is bearing false witness, which as he may have heard, is generally frowned upon.

    Regular readers know the story by now, but if you're just joining us, this myth has been making the rounds in right-wing circles for about a week. Originally, the American Center for Law and Justice, a right-wing legal group formed by TV preacher Pat Robertson, said the stimulus bill includes a provision that would prohibit "religious groups and organizations from using" buildings on college campuses. Soon after, religious right groups and right-wing blogs were up in arms, demanding that lawmakers fix the "anti-Christian" language of the bill. Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network helped get the word out to the far-right base about the nefarious measure. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) actually tried to have the provision removed from the bill.

    There was, however, one small problem: there was no such measure. The ACLJ doesn't know how to read legislation, and didn't realize that the standard language in the bill simply blocks spending for on-campus buildings that are used primarily for religion (like a chapel, for example). This same language has been part of education spending bills for 46 years. It's just the law, and it's never been controversial.

    More on this issue: Fox promotes falsehood that provision in recovery bill would prohibit any religious activity in facilities receiving money

  • Jonah Goldberg, still a god-awful media critic

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I recently dissected Goldberg's dreadful media critique published over at USA Today last week, noting that in order to prove Obama's has had a press honeymoon Goldberg had to stoop to inventing news invents. Never a good sign when you're pretending to be a media critique.

    Goldberg has responded over NRO and it's telling he never even addressed the fact that I called him out for concocting a story about how Obama allegedly "walked into an Oval Office window." Goldberg used that as a pillar in his column to illustrate how the press looked away when Obama goofed. But Obama never did what Goldberg claimed he did, which is why the press never covered the fabricated story. (A radical idea, I know.) I highlighted that fact in my column and Goldberg, tellingly, doesn't want to touch it in his response.

    I also called Goldberg out for making a false statement in the very first sentence of his column when he claimed that Obama has been "relentlessly" comparing himself to FDR. As I noted, Obama had occasionally evoked FDR, as is custom for new Democratic presidents, but there was simply no evidence to claim that Obama himself has been "relentlessly" comparing himself to FDR.

    On that point, Goldberg claims I got it wrong, that Obama has "relentlessly" compared himself to FDR. Goldberg's entire proof? A 60 Minutes interview when Obama said this:

    There's a new book out about FDR's first 100 days and what you see in FDR that I hope my team can— emulate, is not always getting it right, but projecting a sense of confidence, and a willingness to try things.

    In order to prove that Obama has "relentlessly" compared himself to FDR, Goldberg points to a single interview where Obama, just as I said, had evoked FDR.

    Now might be a good time for Goldberg to reflect on the difference between Obama occasionally mentioning FDR, and Obama "relentlessly" comparing himself to FDR. In his USA Today column, Goldberg claimed the latter. In his response to me, Goldberg tries to document the former. (Note that Goldberg, king of the strawmen, spends the bulk of his defense documenting something I never even disputed; that pundits and supporters have compared Obama to FDR.)

    Meanwhile Jonah, if you ever try to explain away that Obama-walked-into-a-window story you invented, let me know and I'll be sure to post it.

    UPDATE: Note that in his USA Today column, Goldberg, as proof of the Obama honeymoon, pointed to CNN's John King who claimed at the time of inauguration that "nobody disputed" that journalists had become caught up in the historic nature of Obama's victory. (A quote I was originally unable to confirm.)

    Goldberg pointed to the King quote as an ah-ha! moment: Even journalists admitted they were being soft on Obama! First, note the King quote was from before Obama had even been sworn in and Goldberg used it in a column about Obama's press coverage after he became president.

    But more importantly, in my piece when I quoted several Beltway journalists in recent days, including one from the conservative Washington Times, insisting Obama's honeymoon was over, Goldberg dismisses that as pointless. In his defense to my column he wrote:

    [Boehlert] cites as proof the press has been hard on Obama, inside the beltway "chatter" about how the press has been hard on Obama. Obviously, we should take the press corps own back-patting as proof of the yeoman work they've been doing.

    Do you see the unique Goldberg logic? When a Beltway journalist like CNN's King suggests there might be a honeymoon, it's proof positive and everybody should take note. But when other Beltway journalists subsequently report honeymoon's over, that's irrelevant because you can't trust Beltway journalists to tell the truth.

  • More unintentional comedy from Newsbusters

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    It seems like every day the good folks over at the Media Research Center give us something new to laugh at. Today, it's the latest in their increasingly comical obsession with George Stephanopoulos.

    When we last checked in on their crusade to get the ABC host fired for having conversations with longtime friends, MRC's Brent Bozell was making a fool of himself by bellowing that the network had refused to comment on Stephanopoulos' phone calls. What was wrong with Bozell's claim? Well, ABC had, in fact publicly commented on the matter ... and, it turns out, they had reached out to MRC employees, and given an on-the-record comment to an MRC subsidiary, which then spiked the article in question -- probably so they wouldn't undermine Bozell's claims that ABC refused to talk.

    ConWebWatch has details on MRC's efforts to spin themselves out of that mess.

    Today, MRC announced on its Newsbusters blog that "MRC has released a new Profile in Bias for the "This Week" host." And what do they choose to highlight as the definitive evidence of Stephanopoulos' "bias"? Take a look:

    "[I]n his on-air role at ABC, Stephanopoulos has been a reliable mouthpiece for the Democratic spin of the day — using his perch as an analyst and correspondent to add an extra boost to liberals, undermine conservatives and push a liberal policy agenda," the profile notes before listing scores of examples, such this one from March 18, 2008, wherein Stephanopoulos lauded Obama for refusing to castigate his former pastor:

    By refusing to renounce Reverend Wright, that was in many ways an act of honor for Senator Obama.

    Now, here's the full Stephanopoulos quote in question:

    I think it's enough to reassure the relatively affluent, liberals and independents, who are already with Barack Obama. They might have been worried, but this reassured them. He's been having a bigger problem with white, working-class voters. And the problem - the fact that Senator Obama sat in those pews for 20 years is not going to sit well with them. A speech probably can't solve that. But also, Charlie, this speech today, by refusing to renounce Reverend Wright, that was, in many ways, an act of honor, for Senator Obama. And it's hard to know how that's going to play out with voters, but it has to count for something.

    That's right: Stephanopoulos said Obama was having a "bigger problem with white, working class voters" who were unhappy that he "sat in those pews for 20 years" and didn't solve the problem with a speech. Now, does that really sound like Stephanopoulos was acting as a "reliable mouthpiece for the Democratic spin of the day"? Of course not. You'd have to be paranoid, or intentionally dishonest, to describe that as shilling for Obama.

    What's even more pathetic about MRC's use of that Stephanopoulos line to prove his supposed liberal bias is that it came right around the time the ABC host was asking questions of Obama on behalf of Sean Hannity. Stephanopoulos' handling of that debate came under withering criticism from a variety of observers who thought he and debate co-moderator Charlie Gibson obsessed over trivia and were unduly harsh on Obama.

    At this point, I can only assume MRC is actively trying to discredit themselves.

  • The real story behind HuffPo's q at the presidential presser

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Greg Sargent has a good write-up on Sam Stein's question at last night's prime-time Presidential press conference. Noting the real innovation behind The Huffington Post reporter's turn in the spotlight had more to do with what the outlets are doing online than the ideology of their reporters:

    Some at the traditional news orgs are likely to see this decision as proof that the White House is determined to make use of an evolving Web-based apparatus of lefty news orgs that's supposedly more committed to advancing a partisan agenda than to doing balanced journalism. Whatever the White House's motives, the point is that some traditional journalists are likely to see the decision through the prism of their own presumed journalistic superiority.

    But the real innovation isn't in what Obama did. It's in what outlets like HuffPo are doing. Places like HuffPo and my alma mater, Talking Points Memo, are striving to demonstrate that it needn't necessarily be mutually exclusive to care along with your audience what happens in politics -- to have a predisposition towards one outcome or another -- while simultaneously doing real journalism. This innovation isn't wholly confined to the left, though even some conservatives admit that it's more advanced on the liberal side.

    Stein writes for an outlet whose predispositions are well known, but he produces fair, even-handed, thoroughly reported pieces. In other words, he's a legit reporter. And so ultimately it's perfectly natural that Obama took his question.

  • WSJ: Obama still hasn't changed everything

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This is becoming somewhat comical the way members of the press are noting that three weeks into his first term Obama has failed to make all sorts of sweeping political, cultural and diplomatic changes.

    From a Journal column by Bret Stephens which, yes, sorta reads like The Onion:

    Barack Obama has now been president for 21 days, following an inauguration that was supposed to have pressed the reset button on America's relations with the wider world and ushered in a new period of global cooperation against common threats.

    See? Obama hasn't substantively altered America's relations round the world in three weeks time. Fraud!