Blog

  • Quality journalism

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Given that Sarah Palin spent much of the week blasting Barack Obama for allegedly "palling" around with a "domestic terrorist" with whom Obama was not actually close, you might think the news media would examine Palin's ties to far-right extremists who support not only Alaskan succession, but speak favorably of 30 other states succeeding, too.

    You'd be wrong.

    But Salon picks up the slack with a detailed look at Palin's relationship with Alaska Independence Party and John Birch Society leaders who "helped launch Palin's political career in Alaska."

    Salon reports:

    Though Chryson belongs to a fringe political party, one that advocates the secession of Alaska from the Union, and that organizes with other like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South, he is not without peculiar influence in state politics, especially the rise of Sarah Palin. An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin's campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory.

    Palin backed Chryson as he successfully advanced a host of anti-tax, pro-gun initiatives, including one that altered the state Constitution's language to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. She joined in their vendetta against several local officials they disliked, and listened to their advice about hiring. She attempted to name Stoll, a John Birch Society activist known in the Mat-Su Valley as "Black Helicopter Steve," to an empty Wasilla City Council seat. "Every time I showed up her door was open," said Chryson. "And that policy continued when she became governor."

    There's more. Much more.

    Salon isn't the only independent news organization doing the journalism the establishment media is ignoring. Yesterday, the Washington Independent published a lengthy look at a topic the rest of the media has largely ignored: Cindy McCain's financial ties to Charles Keating. The Independent finds their business dealings lasted far longer than was previously understood:

    Sen. John McCain's wife and father-in-law continued a lucrative business partnership with disgraced financier Charles H. Keating Jr. for 11 years after the GOP presidential nominee said he ended his close friendship with Keating in March 1987.

    Cindy McCain's business partnership with Keating in a real-estate development between 1986 and 1998 netted her a tidy profit, in addition to years of significant tax benefits. Her father, who died in 2000, earned similar returns.

    Read the rest.

  • Ambinder: Media not covering Ayers; Obama running "scuzzy" campaign

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In my column this week, I noted that The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder seemed to suggest that the media is not covering Bill Ayers.

    Shortly after that column was finished, Time's Michael Scherer posted (with permission) an email exchange he had with Ambinder, in which Ambinder makes that point more clearly:

    But it's not working. To the extent that questions are being raised, they are being raised at the extreme margins of a 10 point race (or seven point race). They know this; they see the same polls and do the same focus groups. They're not grabbing news cycles. The news isn't about Ayers...

    In fact, the stories that seep through seem to be about conservative intellectuals abandoning McCain, not about William Ayers -- or they're about McCain's soul -- or about conservatives questioning whether McCain has lost his soul, or they're about angry Republicans at events... One CNN segment on ACORN?. [emphasis added]

    This is nothing short of delusional. As I noted in my column, a Nexis search returns more than 1,800 news stories mentioning Barack Obama and Bill Ayers -- in the past week alone. 1,800.

    But Ambinder thinks that what the media is really focusing on is "conservative intellectuals abandoning McCain." Oh yeah? How many news stories have there been about that in the past week? Since he can't be bothered to provide actual facts to back up his assertions, I'll be happy to do the Nexis searches if Ambinder provides the names of the "conservative intellectuals" he thinks are getting more attention than Ayers. But I'm confident it's going to be a heck of a lot fewer than 1,800 hits.

    (Ambinder demonstrated the absurdity of his own claims less than two hours later, when he noted that ACORN came up during an ESPN college football broadcast. At 6:05 PM, he was claiming ACORN wasn't seeping through; that there had only been "One CNN segment on ACORN." By 7:53 PM, he was forced to acknowledge it had seeped all the way through to ESPN.)

    And this delusion that the media is paying more attention to -- what? Bill Buckley's kid endorsing Barack Obama? -- than to Bill Ayers leads Ambinder to suggest that the media is in the tank for Obama. Of course, his suggestions of media bias are always just that -- suggestions. He doesn't say it directly; maybe he thinks that removes any obligation to actually provide evidence. In this case, Ambinder says the media is "let's face it, kind of in tank for change, if not for Obama."

    Speaking of Ambinder and Ayers ... earlier this week, I noted that Ambinder called Obama's decision to bring up the Keating Five "scuzzy" -- but his numerous posts about the McCain campaign's focus on Ayers and Jeremiah Wright contained no such denunciations. Well, Ambinder has written a lot more about McCain's focus on Ayers since then. And the turn McCain has taken over the past few weeks has been blasted even by Republicans who have supported McCain. But Ambinder hasn't called McCain's tactics "scuzzy," or offered criticism anywhere near that harsh. The closest he's come seems to be complaining that they're poorly executed.

    To sum up: Marc Ambinder thinks the media is not covering Bill Ayers. And he thinks it's Obama who is running a "scuzzy" campaign.

  • More on CNN's ACORN report

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The American Prospect's Adam Serwer explains the basic problem with CNN's report about ACORN: "CNN is unable or unwilling to make the critical distinction between registration fraud and voter fraud."

    That's a huge distinction. Here's CNN's Drew Griffin last night:

    GRIFFIN: ACORN's voting registration drives are under investigation or suspicion in several states. Just yesterday, local authorities raided this ACORN office in Las Vegas where ACORN workers allegedly registered members of the Dallas Cowboys football team.

    And here's how Griffin ended his report:

    GRIFFIN: It absolutely is a crime. That was a fraud, somebody who filled out those forms. And I looked at them, Anderson. They're obviously a fraud.

    But the election workers say we have to turn this over to the actual elected board of elections. The board of elections has to then bring in the county attorney to see if an investigation, a criminal investigation, should begin. So all of that will be, you know, weeks, maybe even months down the road, and of course, that's going to be after the election.

    By noting that the "criminal investigation" might not come until "after the election," Griffin suggests the fraud will have an effect on the outcome of the election. This is alarmist: Unless those members of the Dallas Cowboys actually show up to vote in Nevada, the fact that someone registered them to do so won't make a bit of difference on election day.

    From time to time, people whose job is to sign up new votes are going to fill out voter registrations for Mickey Mouse to pad their totals. That's a problem, but it isn't going to affect vote totals unless Mickey Mouse actually shows up to vote. But you wouldn't know that from the media's frenzied reporting of the Republicans' biennial attacks.

  • Bill Kristol's deepening campaign ties to McCain

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Kristol has been saying he plays no official role in the campaign, and the NYTimes has been mouthing the same talking points, since its columnists are not supposed to active election players. But this report from Scott Horton suggests Kristol was instrumental in getting Sarah Palin tapped as the VP.

    Horton writes:

    Kristol is one of the few conservative columnists whose support of Palin has been unflinching. He has used his space as a New York Times columnist to tout her candidacy repeatedly. But in the process Kristol has never bothered to disclose his role in the decision making process that led to the Palin pick. Kristol's Weekly Standard has figured as Palin's chief defender, and its writers have gone after even those who dare to pose questions about Palin's candidacy. Bill Kristol, it seems, has much at stake in the Palin candidacy.

  • Fraudulent reporting

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Every election year, conservatives start screaming about "voter fraud." And the media pays a great deal of attention. And, when all is said and done, there is typically a negligible amount of actual voter fraud.

    Meanwhile, as we've been reminded in recent election cycles, voter disenfranchisement does happen.

    You'd think the media would have learned by now. And yet they're in a frenzy over the Right's attacks on ACORN ... and all but ignoring stories like this:

    Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.

  • The WSJ misses a bailout story

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Says David Sirota, who claims the daily soft peddled the blog Naked Capitalism's recent scoop about a Treasury Dept. conference call held amidst the recent bailout negotiations. On the call, which was designed to reassure Wall Street speculators, officials stressed all the supposed Democratic "improvements" to Henry Paulson's original bill were specifically written to be unenforceable.

    The Journal on Friday finally got around to reporting on the two-week-old conference call, but only after the bailout passed.

  • Jeffrey Goldberg covers for David Brooks

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Times columnist is catching flack this week for saying one thing about Sarah Palin while speaking to media elite swells (her VP candidacy is joke), and another in his Times column (she is the rising star of the GOP).

    But critics have it all wrong, claims Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg. Brooks isn't being dishonest or a hypocrite, by toasting her debate performance last Friday in the Times and then on Monday calling her a "cancer" on the Republican Party.

    Brooks wasn't being duplicitous, says media elite Goldberg, he was just being honest; he just "wrestles" with tough issues in public. And you know what, we ought to toast him for it.

    For the record, both Goldberg and Brooks were loud cheerleaders for the war in Iraq and now say well, it wasn't the best idea. Are we supposed to thank them for wrestling with that issue as well?

  • Accountability

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Beltway journalists -- so long in love with John McCain -- seem to have trouble accepting this, but John McCain owns his campaign. He's responsible for it. Its actions are his actions. It is him. You can like it, dislike it, whatever. But it's his campaign. Journalists and pundits shouldn't give him credit for leaving the extra-nasty lines to his minions.

    But that's just what David Gergen did on Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN:

    ANDERSON COOPER: David, "The New York Times" published a scathing editorial about the McCain campaign today and saying in part "They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent's record into the dark territory of race baiting and xenophobia."

    McCain campaign says, "Look this is just standard fair from 'The New York Times' what else do you expect?" Do you think the "Times" is on to something?

    DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think "The New York Times" has a serious point and it should be considered.

    The good news, Anderson, is that over the past 24 hours or so there have been very encouraging signs from John McCain himself.

    He did not bring out Bill Ayers last night. He has put Reverend Wright off limits for his campaign. And after the debate last night his top aides told "Politico" that he did not intend to bring up Bill Ayers. He wasn't going to go down that road. And he wanted to keep Reverend Wright off the -- out of the campaign.

    The issue has been what's been going on at Sarah Palin's rallies. That's where the real trouble is because it's the combination of her rhetoric, which is whipping up these crowds, and these ugly scenes that have occurred in these rallies.

    And when Obama's name has been used it not only brought these boos, but we've had reports now of somebody yelling out "terrorist," about Obama. And at another rally somebody yelling out "kill him, kill him." At another rally people shouting racial epitaphs --

    COOPER: You can't control though what people say in a crowd though, can you, David?

    GERGEN: Yes, you can.

    MADISON: Oh yes.

    GERGEN: And it is up to Sarah Palin at her rally and for John McCain to tell her if she doesn't start doing this, to stop right there and take issue with what's been said and say this has no place in our campaign and we do not condone this and please let's show more respect.

    COOPER: That's a fair point.

    GERGEN: I think it's up to her.

    [...]

    GERGEN: Again, I think we should give credit to John McCain for not going down this road himself last night in the debate. And for making it clear he does not want to go down the road in the next few days.

    Last night, Gergen seemed to stop giving McCain credit:

    COOPER: There's also the question of ruling after this, and bringing the country together. It's going to be all the more harder to do that whoever wins with all this anger out there.

    GERGEN: This -- I think one of the most striking things we've seen now in the last few day. We've seen it in a Palin rally. We saw it at the McCain rally today. And we saw it to a considerable degree during the rescue package legislation. There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence. I think we're not far from that.

    COOPER: Really?

    GERGEN: I think it's so -- well, I really worry when we get people -- when you get the kind of rhetoric that you're getting at these rallies now. I think it's really imperative that the candidates try to calm people down. And that's why I've argued not only because of the question of the ugliness of it.

    But I think McCain ought to get his campaign off the road and look at the -- and get the best economic minds in the country together and come back Monday, Tuesday, with a really serious speech. He's the one who ought to be buying TV time, talking to the country.

    It's actually very important that journalists recognize that John McCain is personally responsible for what he and his campaign are doing, for better or worse. Journalists who think John McCain's campaign is honorable and virtuous and honest should recognize that campaign is McCain's doing, and their reporting should reflect that. But journalists who think McCain's campaign is behaving dishonorably or recklessly but let McCain himself off the hook (by insisting this isn't the real McCain, and he's better than this, and claiming that he isn't personally "going down this road") are, in effect, excusing these tactics. They're sending a signal to future candidates that they won't be held responsible for their campaign tactics.

    One of the key incentives to run a clean campaign is the desire to avoid being thought of as sleazy. But if the media insists that candidates who run sleazy campaigns are not themselves sleazy, that incentive disappears.