• Laura Bush's former flack continues to embarrass at the LA Times

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That would be Andrew Malcolm who, as CF has pointed out, seems to see his job as a Times blogger to pass along GOP spin in the guise of news. Malcolm's latest GOP duties include beating the extremely dead horse about how (ugh, it bores us to even type this up) the Clintons aren't doing enough to elect Obama.

    Malcolm, in full Democratic mocking mode, dissects Bill Clinton's recent appearance on CNBC and declares, after much deep analysis using his special decoder, that Clinton did not utter the correct phrases in pointing out again and again how and why Obama will win the election.

    A couple of particular Malcolm lowlights:

    -"The Democratic ex-president made the wannabe Democratic president come up to his Harlem office last week to have lunch, all friendly-like."

    See, Clinton didn't recently invite Obama to lunch, he made Obama come to lunch. Also, what's up with Malcolm referring to Obama as "the wannabe"? Does Malcolm often refer to McCain as the "wannabe Republican president"? Pretty flippant, condescending language by Malcolm, if you ask us.

    -"And the ex-president tore himself away from still preparing to go out and campaign for the kid long enough to go on CNBC because.... several hundred people a day watch that channel and it's a good opportunity to not yet be out on the road campaigning."

    Ha-ha! It was a big joke that Clinton recently appeared on CNBC. According to Malcolm Clinton should have been out campaigning for Obama, instead of appearing on CNBC this week, which nobody watches.

    Question: Does Malcolm not live in America? Is he not aware of the financial meltdown taking place and that CNBC this week is posting among its highest ratings ever?

    Honestly, this stuff is just too dumb for words and highlights what happens when mainstream news org create political blogs and allow staffers to print nonsense that would never make it into print.

  • Bill O'Reilly, meteorologist

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Prior to killer Hurricane Ike making land fall and devastating southeast Texas, O'Reilly told is radio audience the media warnings about the storm was just "hype." Will O'Reilly now apologize? See Steve Young.

  • Great journalism

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Yes, there's stuff we actually like. From the Wall Street Journal, this incisive and descriptive paragraph from a prize-winning caliber article describing the financial meltdown:

    The U.S. financial system resembles a patient in intensive care. The body is trying to fight off a disease that is spreading, and as it does so, the body convulses, settles for a time and then convulses again. The illness seems to be overwhelming the self-healing tendencies of markets. The doctors in charge are resorting to ever-more invasive treatment, and are now experimenting with remedies that have never before been applied. Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, walking into a hastily arranged meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday night to brief them on the government's unprecedented rescue of AIG, looked like exhausted surgeons delivering grim news to the family.

  • Michael Scherer debates Michael Scherer, loses

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Time's Michael Scherer has been kind enough to respond to my earlier post by ... well, by debunking his original post.

    Here's Scherer's initial claim that an Obama ad distorted McCain's position on Social Security: "it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street."

    Now here's Scherer's update: "Read what I have written above, and decide if I am trying to hide the fact that McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets, which is the main allegation by Media Matters. I make this fact very clear."

    Ok. Um ... if Scherer acknowledges "McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets," what exactly is his problem with the statement that "McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street"?

    Scherer explains:

    The ad says McCain favors "risking social security on the stock market," which is what I paraphrased as Obama's claim that McCain wants to "turn social security over to Wall Street," which the unbiased folks at Media Matters calls a strawman. I think it's a fair--though not exactly precise--characterization of the Obama claim.

    Ok. Let's review:

    According to Michael Scherer, "McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets."

    But, according to Micahel Scherer, Obama's ad's statement that "McCain favors 'risking social security on the stock market'" is a distortion of McCain's position.


    Scherer continues:

    The post mentions three ads that all share the same problem, which is clearly identified in the first paragraph. To wit, instead of talking about the opponents' plans, the ads talk about the opponents' past votes. This process obstructs the debate that should be happening about the candidate's plans. The Obama social security ad says McCain wants to do what Bush did. This is not what McCain now says he wants to do. That's the point.

    The problem is, that point is wrong. Scherer supports it with nothing more than a vague statement from McCain's web page (a statement that actually undermines Scherer's point, as it endorses "personal accounts") and a slightly less vague statement from Mark Salter. He ignores John McCain's repeated comments this year in support of private accounts -- comments that a simple Google search for "McCain Social Security privatization" will unearth in seconds. Comments that I linked in my earlier post. And Scherer ignores his own statement -- just a few sentances earlier -- that "McCain wants to pursue a plan to invest Social Security funds in the markets."

    Scherer says there should be a debate about the candidates' plans. I agree. But his post obscures McCain's plans; it doesn't clarify them. For instance, Scherer keeps suggesting that McCain's current statements contradict (and moot) his previous votes -- but he hasn't explained how they do so.

    When he does get around to explaining -- perhaps in his next update? -- maybe Scherer can also explain why he dismisses the votes cited in the ad, one of which occured in 2006, as having taken place "a decade ago."

  • CNBC feeling the heat

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Anchor Erin Burnett questioning the patriotism of short sellers? Analyst Jim Cramer wondering if terrorists are behind the financial madness that continues to unfold on Wall Street?

    CJR thinks it's time for the CNBC team to regroup.

  • Dodgy Journalism: Time's Michael Scherer debates strawman, loses

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    UPDATE: Scherer has responded. My response to his response is here.

    Under the header "Dodgy Politics: Using Old Votes to Obscure Current Policies," Time's Michael Scherer unsuccessfully debunks a claim Barack Obama didn't make in order to accuse the Democratic candidate of offering misleading criticisms of John McCain.


    In the last couple days, Obama has shown an increased enthusiasm for playing this same dodgy game. ... In the first [ad], Obama says that McCain voted three times to privatize Social Security, and that he is willing to risk the nation's retirement program on the risky stock market. Now, it is true that McCain did support President Bush's effort to privatize a portion of Social Security. But it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street.

    I'm sure the McCain campaign appreciates Scherer's statement that "it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street." But that statement is completely irrelevant to the ad Scherer purports to debunk. See, the ad doesn't say McCain is running on such a platform. It says McCain has voted in favor of privatization in the past, and supported Bush's privatization plan. Which Scherer acknowledges is true. But it doesn't accuse McCain of "running on" turning Social Security over to Wall Street; Scherer made that up in order to debunk it.

    Scherer then quoted from McCain's web page:

    Here is what his campaign says: "John McCain supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts -- but not as a substitute for addressing benefit promises that cannot be kept. John McCain will reach across the aisle to address these challenges, but if the Democrats do not act, he will."

    But that doesn't really tell us anything. It certainly doesn't debunk anything in the Obama ad, since it is so vague as to be basically meaningless. It simply says he will "act" (how?) to address "benefit promises that cannot be kept" (how?) But to the extent that it does say something, it reiterates McCain's support for "personal accounts." That's the phrase Republicans turned to when their pollsters told them that "privatization" is wildly unpopular.

    Indeed, multiple times this year, McCain has reiterated his support for "personal savings accounts" in which workers could "put part of their salary, part of their taxes into Social Security, into an account with their name on it."

    That's Social Security privatization - or it was before the Republicans began browbeating reporters into calling it something else. So, John McCain has, multiple times during his presidential campaign, advocated allowing workers to divert part of their Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts. And yet Time's Michael Scherer insists that "it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street" - a rebuttal to a claim that isn't present in the Obama ad Scherer pretends to debunk.

    The result of all this is not only that Scherer has baselessly accused Obama of dishonesty. The bigger problem may be that Scherer made McCain's position on Social Security privatization less clear. Rather than explaining what McCain has done about the topic in the past, and quoting McCain's campaign statements, Scherer simply quoted a vague position paper statement and falsely asserted that McCain hasn't talked about private accounts during the campaign. In his rush to play "gotcha" on an ad, Scherer left his readers with little understanding of what McCain actually has said and done about Social Security privatization.

  • FAIR busts myth of pro-Obama media bias

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    FAIR takes on "The Myth of Pro-Obama Media Bias" and offers some facts to counter the assertion that the media demonstrated a liberal bias in covering Obama more than McCain earlier this year:

    The amount of coverage for both candidates is unprecedented, but the advantage held by Obama in overall coverage is nothing unusual, as shown by figures compiled by the Tyndall Report (7/25/08). Measuring the first six months of each election year, Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis got only 32 percent of the coverage garnered by then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988; incumbent Bill Clinton got only 28 percent of the coverage Republican challenger Bob Dole got in 1996. Incumbent George W. Bush got 85 percent as much coverage as Democratic Sen. John Kerry in 2004—the closest thing to parity in early campaign coverage since Tyndall has been keeping track.

  • Rachel Maddow beware

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The good news is your new show is a ratings smash; the highest rated-program on MSNBC right now.

    The bad news is Phil Donahue had the top-rated program on MSNBC when they fired him right before the Iraq war.

    For some reason, the television industry uses different standards to judge the success and failure of liberal hosts.