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  • NYT, please define "tough"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    At the newspaper's blog, Sharon Otterman writes about Hillary Clinton's upcoming SoS confirmation hearings. The headline: "Clinton May Face Tough Confirmation Questioning."

    Sounds intriguing, right? Like a real political showdown is brewing. Well, there might be, but the Times provides no evidence to suggest there is. Instead, the blog post quotes Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN.) who appeared on a Sunday talk show and who said he would vote to confirm Clinton for SoS, and that there would be "legitimate questions" asked about Bill Clinton's post-presidential activities. (Lugar never used the word "tough," or anything like it.)

    Talk about anti-climatic. Instead of "tough" questions, Lugar thinks senators will simply ask "legitimate" ones, which means Clinton's SoS confirmation hearings, at least according to Lugar, will be pretty much be like every other cabinet confirmation hearing.

    Good to know.

  • Honestly, who writes the Politico headlines?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And is the stated purpose there to be as misleading as possible? Because it's become something of an epidemic.

    Here's the latest: "Latinos unhappy with Obama picks."

    Now, if you're a Politico novice, you might see that headline and think the article, written by Gebe Martinez, will detail how Obama's early key picks for his new administration have angered Latinos and that the article will include relevant quotes to back up the headline's crystal-clear claim.

    But if you're a Politico veteran, you understand that headlines often have little to do with the article's content and that specifically in recent days/weeks headline that try way too hard to gin up conflict regarding the new Obama team usually fall flat.

    Well, add this "Latinos unhappy with Obama picks" article to that pile because there is virtually nothing in the piece to justify the headline. Zero.

    No joke, this is as close as the article comes to substantiating the "unhappy" headline [emphasis added]:

    But at this early stage in the appointments process, there is a trickle of disappointment running through the Latino community.

    We understand that in the click-through world headlines can make or break a story. But is maintaining some semblance of journalistic guidelines when hyping stories asking too much?

  • NBC's military analysts

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The NYT's David Barstow returned Sunday and updated his April blockbuster story about how the Pentagon, during the run-up to the war with Iraq and for years after that, worked closely with retired military officers who became TV talking heads. The Pentagon did that by, among other things, treating the analysts to special briefings and taking them on guided tours of Iraq. But this wasn't simply a fact-finding initiative. According to the Times, when at least one of the analysts began to criticize the war, he was promptly suspended from the Pentagon program.

    According to Media Matters' research, the Pentagon pundits were quoted more than 4,500 times on broadcast networks, cable TV, and NPR.

    Among the participants in the Pentagon program were NBC and MSNBC, which threw open their studio doors to the Pentagon pundits without ever disclosing their closed-door prep sessions with the pro-war administration. In the wake of the Times' expose, none of the TV news outlets implicated in the story reported on the revelation, despite the fact the article prompted Congressional hearing.

    In the latest installment, Barstow focused on Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who is still featured on NBC News despite his substantial, albeit undisclosed, financial conflicts of interest.

    Here's Glenn Greenwald's take:

    Worse than mere suppression, NBC and Brian Williams have just outright ignored this scandal, continuing to use McCaffrey as an analyst without requiring that he sever -- or even disclose -- his numerous conflicts, allowing him to continue to use NBC News to propagandize for the military policies from which his affiliated companies benefit. Now that Barstow has added substantially to the set of incriminating facts, it remains to be seen whether NBC will finally be forced to tell its viewers about what happened with its own involvement in the Pentagon's program and/or to take corrective action.

    Question: When Barstow wins a Pulitzer next April for his series on the TV generals, will television news still boycott the story?

  • WSJ's Kimberley Strassel: Cliché machine

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Not only is Strassel about 15 days late to the topic (did you hear Hillary might be SoS??), but she manages to pile up like boxes every conceivable CW cliché on the topic.

    1. How can Obama "fire" Clinton?

    2. Bill Clinton has "baggage"

    3. Bill Clinton will be "co-secretary of state"

    4. If still in the Senate, Hillary Clinton would try to "gum up" Obama's domestic agenda

    5. Obligatory mention to Bosnian sniper fire

    6. Clinton might "go rogue" as SoS

    7. "Ugly internal disputes" will erupt between State Dept. and White House

    8. Bill Clinton is hiding the "conflicts" of the Clinton Foundation

    So basically, in her column Strassel repeats everything that every pundit has already said and does it two weeks later. And oh yeah, Strassel doesn't waste one word on what Clinton might actually do substantively as SoS. Great work, WSJ.

  • Edward Wasserman, please read County Fair

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Miami Herald's Wasserman has a good column about Dan Rather's ongoing detective work regarding Memogate and how his former employer, CBS, stacked the deck when forming its "independent" panel to answer the network's right-wing critics.

    Wasserman notes how little coverage Rather's revelations have received:

    A panel is convened by one of the country's most powerful news organizations to scrutinize the journalism that produced a scathing portrayal of the dubious military record of a sitting president. And the panel is assembled to the specifications of the president's most zealous supporters. To me, that's remarkable. Even scandalous. Surely newsworthy. Yet The New York Times report from which I drew the above details was the only substantial coverage I found.

    Agreed. But just for the record, let's note that CF has been all over the story. Here, here, here and here. And that was all before the NYT came aboard.

  • Slate plays dumb about the Clinton Foundation

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We've noticed lots of news outlets that have done this. When discussing Bill Clinton and the foundation he heads (and there's been lots of discussion lately about possible conflicts of interest with Hillary perhaps becoming SoS), the word that the Beltway media often refuses to use in connection with the foundation is "charity."

    Chris Matthews did this all the time on MSNBC in recent days, relentlessly referring to international "business" connections Bill Clinton has. Charity was almost never mentioned.

    Slate just published a 900-word piece in which writer Christopher Beam insists Clinton close down his foundation because of the "inevitable" financial scandals that will emerge in coming years, and how it would distract from his wife's work as SoS. The tsk-tsking article mentions "foundation" 21 times. But for some reason it only mentions "charity" once. ("Charity" also appears in the pun-driven headline.)

    Interestingly, the piece never actually explains to readers what the Clinton Foundation does. Answer: It helps poor people around the world.

    Why does Slate purposely play dumb about what the Clinton Foundation is? Why does Slate carefully avoid mentioning the Clinton Foundation battles the HIV/AIDS pandemic and fights hunger in Africa? My guess is that makes it easier for Slate to make the cavalier demand that, in order to please Beltway nay-sayers, the foundation must be shut down; that "the Clinton Foundation effectively has to close shop."

    If Slate thinks its narrow definition of conflict of interest trumps helping poor people around the world, than just say so. But don't play dumb in the process.

  • Welcome to the Obama era, Fox News style

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Its message: We're all doomed.

    Writes Newshouds about FNC's new on-air promo:

    Checkout the explosions. The fires. The terror, despair and anger in people's faces. Listen to the music. Note the countdown at the end (10, 9, 8, etc.) and the explosion that caps it all off. Oh, and look - the only nationally known people pictured are Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama.

  • Still waiting for the Rightroots movement, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We're just repeating ourselves at this point, but repetition has it's place. The point here is that the traditional Beltway press literally cannot stop writing about conservative bloggers. Yes, they've been lapped by their liberal counterparts. Yes, they just proved themselves to be incredibly inept and almost completely irrelevant during the White House run. But for the mainstream press, they're a hot story. (Has the losing side ever garnered this much press attention before?)

    The latest outlet that jumped on the bandwagon was the WaPo. That's the same WaPo that, by our calculations, has never published a full-length feature on an A-list liberal blogger. Just sayin'.

    Here's what's really annoying about the Post piece and about all the other, can-the-GOP-figure-out-the-Internet-stories. They all whitewash what today's conservative blogosphere is. For instance, the Post suggests that the reason the netroots took off was because it opposed Bush, and now with Obama in the White House maybe the rightroots will do the same. The Post also mentions that historically conservative bloggers have taken a more top-down approach vs. the organic debate found at Daily Kos.

    So that's it. GOP bloggers have lagged behind because they didn't have an opponent in the White House and they just took a different, top-down approach. Here's what the Post politely failed to mention: Lots of the high-profile conservative bloggers are pretty much insane and they wallow in the most laughable conspiracy theories ever hatched.

    Again, the Post was too nice to mention these, so, with a hat tip to Jon Swift, we'll highlight some of the rightroot's greatest hits from the recent campaign. We think they pretty much answer the question of why conservative bloggers aren't a serious political force in this country. For some reason none of this ever make into the the gee-whiz stories about the 'emerging' rightroots movement.

    Here were just some of the stories (i.e. conspiracy theories) that prominent conservative bloggers chased, at times relentlessly, during the 2008 campaign; stories they complained the mainstream media just wouldn't touch:

    *While attending Columbia University in the early 1980's and interested in the South African divestiture movement, Obama was involved in violent protests, including domestic terrorist bombings, that erupted when a South African rugby team toured America.

    *Obama had an affair with a young female staffer who was promptly exiled to a Caribbean country by an angry Michelle Obama who discovered the blossoming relationship.

    *Obama's deeply personal memoir, Dreams of My Fathers, was actually ghost-written by Bill Ayers, the former '60's radical-turned college professor who befriended Obama in Chicago in the 1990's.

    *Michelle Obama did an interview with something called African Press International where she condemned "American white racists" who were bringing up issues of Obama's citizenship.

    *Obama was not born in the United States, and therefore not eligible to President. The birth certificate his campaign posted online to debunk that story was actually a forgery. And that he was actually born in Kenya.

    *When Obama went to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii in October, he was really traveling there in order to deal with controversy about his birth certificate.

    *Obama was getting answers in the first debate through a clear plastic hearing aid in his ear.

    *Obama is the illegitimate son of Malcolm X.