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  • The Clinton Rules

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    As Atrios explained years ago, the press can report whatever it wants about the Clintons--it can bend or ignore whatever journalism standards are necessary--and it's all good.

    We thought of that simple truth while reading this NYT piece about a speech Bill Clinton gave in Malaysia. Headlined: "Bill Clinton Speech in Malaysia Irks Investors." Uh-oh, sounds like Bill's in deep water again. When will he learn? See, everybody was right to worry about the "baggage" he'd bring when Hillary became SoS. At least that was the vibe of the article.

    Here are the nuts and bolts:

    Mr. Clinton spoke before nearly 3,000 people in Kuala Lumpur at the invitation of Vinod Sekhar, a Malaysian businessman whose foundation paid Mr. Clinton $200,000, according to several people with knowledge of the fee. The figure is on the lower end of the scale that Mr. Clinton usually commands for his speeches.

    "You should be proud of this man," Mr. Clinton told the audience, pointing at Mr. Sekhar, the 40-year-old chief executive of the Petra Group, a privately held rubber technology company.

    But several angry investors in Britain and Malaysia say they disagree with the former president's glowing assessment of Mr. Sekhar, whose company has suffered a rough few weeks.

    The key is that last sentence: Some investors don't think Sekhar's a great guy because his company has suffered a rough few weeks. The Times then notes recent action taken by disgruntled investors and the Times quotes several saying all sorts of disparaging things about Sekhar. Got it?

    Okay, now let's take a step back and look at the logic the Times used in order to decide this was a newsworthy event which required the time and reporting of three separate reporters, and let's try to figure out if under any possible terms the Times would have suggested a similar situation involving another speaker was newsworthy. Because obviously, there are scores of former Beltway big shots who travel the globe pocketing big checks for speaking fees. Off the top of my head I'll throw out the random names of Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove and Henry Kissinger.

    Now, if any of them accepted a speaking gig from a man whose company had unhappy investors, who thinks the Times would write up a story suggesting that Gingrich, Rove or Kissinger were the news story? I suspect none because it defies logic to think a paid speaker is somehow responsible for external investors complaints.

    And let's face it, this article has nothing to do with concerns about Hillary being SoS and Clinton raising international funds for his Foundation. There's not even a whiff of that here. The entire premise of the article is that Clinton accepted a speaking engagement from a man who runs a company and whose company has some unhappy investors. The news angle literally makes no sense and represents a completely novel way to cover paid speakers.

    But hey, those are the Clinton Rules.

  • Note to NYT, "some bloggers" have actual names

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    Like Glenn Greenwald, whose work this week forced Sen. Dianne Feinstein to clarify her views on interrogation. But according to the Times, it was "some [nameless] bloggers" who forced Feinstein's hand.

    This kind of media treatment of the liberal bloggers has become utterly predictable as the traditional press again and again refuses to spell out the often eye-opening public policy work being done by liberal bloggers. And when the press does concede their impact, it's done with vague references to "some bloggers."

  • Did Bill O'Reilly lie about NYer's Hendrik Hertzberg?

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    O'Reilly sent his producer to ambush the writer outside his NYC home because the Fox News crew claimed Hertzberg took comments Newt Gingrich made about gays and used them out of context. The comments were first highlighted by MMA, and here's what Hertzberg's wrote.

    The key to O'Reilly's otherwise soggy non-story may be the fact that the host claimed on-air that Hertzberg had refused to appear on the show to discuss the matter. "That's an outright lie," Hertzberg told the Politico's Michael Calderone. When Calderone contacted Fox News to find out when exactly O'Reilly had invited Hertzberg to appear on the show, the Fox flack did not respond.

  • Newsflash! The candidate who easily won the election received more "postive" news coverage

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    That would be Barack Obama. Although, amazingly, McCain, who lost by nearly 200 electoral votes, actually ran up better coverage at Fox News as compared to the landslide winner. That's the conclusion from a TV news study re: campaign coverage, released this week by Center for Media and Public Affairs.

    We're sure conservatives will use the study advance their claim that the media were in the tank for Obama. But honestly, the idea that McCain, who even some prominent Republicans conceded ran an awful campaign, would benefit from lots of "positive" coverage down the stretch seems absurd. CMPA wasn't doing studies back then, but does anybody think Jimmy Carter got great press during the run-up to his blow-out loss in 1980?

    Add in the fact that so much of today's so-called campaign coverage is really just race-horse chatter that revolves around which team is up and which team is down, of course the candidate that was waaaaay up got better press.

    The CMPA report announced:

    On the network newscasts, the Democratic ticket received 91% positive comments about their standing and prospects in the horse race, compared to only 31% positive comments about the Republicans - a margin of 60 percentage points.

    Can it get any more obvious? The candidate with the better standing in the polls got more "positive" coverage regarding "prospects in the horse race."

    That's why studies like this remain so suspect, especially when analyzing a campaign that was as lopsided as Obama-McCain.

  • Chris Matthews, Pennsylvania and the press

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    Either the MSNBC host is going to run for the senate, or he and his agent are engaged in the most bizarre type of contract negotiations ever witnessed. (i.e. Give me a new contract or I'll run for the elected office!)

    If Matthews does decide to pack up his belongs (including his three Mercedes) and move to PA. (he'll still vacation on Nantucket, of course), we hope the press doesn't play dumb about the Hardball host. Sadly, in an article about how Matthews' public utterance and appearances on cable TV could haunt him in the political arena, The Hill already is. (The Hill actually suggests Matthews' ill-advised dancing on Ellen represents one of his biggest hurdles.)

    The Hill notes that Matthews has taken heat for his treatment of women politicians, and especially one particular Democratic woman, over the years. Here's how The Hill addressed the issue of Matthews and sexism, and where The Hill dutifully played dumb:

    And besides the made-for-TV moments, Matthews has given several noteworthy print interviews, including his participation in an 8,100-word New York Times magazine profile.

    The piece noted bloggers have accused Matthews of being sexist, pointing to a YouTube video of him ogling CNBC host Erin Burnett.

    Matthews vigorously defended himself to the Times, saying: "I don't think there's any evidence of that at all. I've gone back and looked. Give me the evidence. No one can give it to me. I went through all my stuff. I can't find it."

    This is pretty much the Beltway sanctioned CW on Matthews: If the Hardball host has a problem with women it's that he likes them too much and sometimes he leers at them, the way he did with Burnett. That may be the sanitized media script, but it's not the truth and I don't think it will stand up to the scrutiny of any campaign. The truth is Matthews is a misogynist and has advertised that fact for year, whether The Hill or the rest of the polite Beltway press wants to acknowledge that is another question.

    If Matthews runs for the senate as a Democrat, than we're pretty sure at some point he'll have to address his history of women-bashing as viewed through the lens of his relentlessly negative, personal and irrational attacks on Hillary Clinton, one of the most powerful Democrats in the country. The way he:

    -Featured a Photoshopped image of Clinton sporting "She Devil" horns while discussing Republican efforts to demonize her;

    -Repeatedly likened Clinton to "Nurse Ratched," the scheming, heartless character from the mental hospital drama One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest;

    -Described her laugh as a "cackle," suggested she was "anti-male," "witchy," and was on a "short ... leash";

    -Reported that the only reason Hillary Clinton was elected to represent New York in the senate was because he husband "messed around";

    -Referred to Clinton as "Madame Defarge" and described male politicians who endorsed Clinton as "castratos in the eunuch chorus";

    -Suggested U.S. soldiers would not follows the orders of a woman president;

    -Compared Clinton to a "strip-teaser," wondered whether she was "a convincing mom," referred to Clinton's "cold eyes" and the "cold look" she supposedly gives people;

    -Claimed that "some men" say Clinton's voice sounds like "fingernails on a blackboard."

    We might not know as much about politics as The Hill, but we think that that library of TV utterances is going to be more problematic for Matthews, especially among female Democratic voters in PA., than his YouTube clip 'dancing' on Ellen.

  • Should Reuters even bother to poll financial "analysts"?

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    Number of jobs lost in November: 533,000

    Number of jobs lost in November as predicted by "analysts polled by Reuters": 340,000

    It's their job to predict job losses and analysts weren't even in the ballpark? Seems like the mainstream press, including Reuters, needs to expand its roster of trusted/acceptable sources as they cover the Great Recession. The media's beloved financial "analysts," the same CW crew that journalists have depended on for years, and who warned of a "mild recession," no longer seem to have a clue.

  • Maureen Dowd is a "stupendous reporter"

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    So says her pal on the NYT Op-ed page, Gail Collins. No really. Plus this: "She [MoDo] works really, really, really hard, and she mines the territory that she's writing about with great skill and great effort."

    Like when the often painful-to-read MoDo wanted to take the temperature of race relations in the nation's capitol following Obama's election and she tried to engage her "cute black mailman" in small talk? Was that what Collins had in mind when she claimed her friend "works really, really, really hard"?

    Or when she invented a John Kerry quote during the 2004 campaign? Was that why Collins announced MoDo was a "stupendous reporter"?

    If Collins wants to defend Dowd from the common accusation that her column is a joke and a long-running embarrassment to the Times, than sure, that's what good friends do. But trying to suggest that the often fact-free, and certainly policy-free, Dowd is some sort of hard-working super sleuth, well that just spreads the embarrassment around.

  • Different press rules when covering lib Dems?

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    It appeared that way in when CongressDaily reported on whether Dem. Pete Stark should be the successor to Charlie Rangel on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. As Matt Stoller at OpenLeft highlighted, the article is built entirely around anonymous sources, including lots of lobbyists tossing darts at Stark:

    'Journalist' Peter Cohn puts together a wholly conventional ideological hit job on Democrat Pete Stark using nine anonymous quotes or statements attributed to 'sources'. Not one single person will go on the record to discuss why the seniority system shouldn't work in the case of Stark, not one policy idea is considered in the article vis-a-vis Stark or anyone else's record, and the reader learns nothing about the tax writing committee from it other than nine anonymous sources in Congress think something. Apparently, the amorphous business community will 'go nuclear', whatever that means, Stark is gaffe-prone, but neither the public, policy, or the shift leftward in Congress as evidenced by Waxman's recent committee victory in the Energy and Commerce tussle are even referenced.

    (h/t C&L)

  • Now ABC News plays dumb about Iraq revisionism

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    As we've noted, the look-the-other way coverage has been rampant this week, as the media allow Bush and his former aides to make the wildly misleading claim that if they'd know Iraq had not WMD's--if the intel hadn't failed--than no, America wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Karl Rove says the administration would have worked to "contain" Saddam Hussein like in the 1990's.

    In other words, if it hadn't been for the WMD's, the White House would've done exactly what peace activists suggested in 2002 and early 2003. But darn it, everybody thought Saddam had WMD's. The press' response to that fanciful re-telling of history? Pretty much crickets. ABC News, which didn't even include a single sentence noting that revisionist look at history is false, is just one example.

    We suppose the kid gloves approach make sense. How else would you expect a lapdog press corps to deal with Bush's exit?