• NYT's Patrick Healy is just not up to the task

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Of analyzing, in any kind of serious way, a White House campaign for The New York Times. He's just not. That became glaringly obvious from his almost uniformly awful, and trivial, coverage of Hillary Clinton during the primary season.

    Now he's moved over to covering Obama and his work is just as bad. Healy's car-wreck effort today in the Times affirms that depressing fact.

    Headlined, "Obama Wraps His Hopes Inside Economic Anxiety," the shaky premise is that Obama has been running on the message of hope but now, thanks to the economic meltdown, all the Wall Street news is depressing so there's a contradiction there.

    Healy thinks is hugely important or jarring or significant or something that on the campaign trail the hope candidate acknowledges the country if facing a crisis and uses words like "anxiety," and "worse" and "crisis." So gloomy!

    At the same campaign event, Healy reported, Obama "veered sharply" toward a more optimistic theme, stressing "there are better days ahead." Confused, Healy announced that represented a "disconnect," because the candidate had just claimed the country was facing a crisis.

    Are you following this? Basically, Obama told supporters things are bad now and if you vote for him he'll make things better. That's what Healy thought was newsworthy about the candidate's appeal.

    The reporter also stressed that Obama "continues to promise that everything will get better once he is president, but does not explain how his programs and governing philosophy will adjust to new economic realities." But has Obama's opponent explained how his programs would adjust to the new economic realities? Not that we've seen, which suggest Healy's entire premise--Obama talks hope and won't detail pain--is hollow.

    In the end, the article itself is not especially damaging to Obama mostly because it makes no sense. (Healy appears to be a graduate from the Jeff Gerth school of writing.) And in that regard it's just frustrating to watch the Times publish dreadful articles like this.

    And oh yeah, the opening and the closing of Healy's article are also senseless.

    The opening [emphasis added]:

    When Senator Barack Obama began speaking about the economy on Wednesday, it sounded, at first, as if ghastly news was coming. Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, told thousands of people at a rally here that America was "at a moment of great uncertainty."

    What person at the campaign rally, aside from Healy, thought that when Obama began talking about the economic crisis he was unveiling "ghastly news"? Doesn't everyone in America already know about the meltdown? Yes. So it made no sense to suggest "ghastly news was coming" when Obama referenced current events.

    The closing (quoting Obama):

    "We will all need to sacrifice. We will need to work a little harder," he said. "We will need to work a little smarter; parents will need to turn off their TV sets and make sure their children are doing their homework." Some in the grandstand applauded. Others laughed. It was hard to tell which sentiment Mr. Obama was looking for.

    To analyze Obama's speech, Healy turned to "some [unnamed people] in the grandstand" and found that some applauded and some "laughed." But why did they laugh? It made no sense, but that's all we know because Healy didn't interview any of the laughers. But because it made no sense that people would laugh, Healy's conclusion that Obama was "looking for" people to laugh at his mention of TV and homework was also nonsensical. And that's how the article mercifully ended.

    The New York Times has a long, proud tradition of highlighting campaign reporters who are able to size up elections and write with grace and insight about unfolding events and help make the campaign more sensible for readers.

    Patrick Healy pretty much does the opposite.

  • FOX complains that Newsweek did not retouch Palin photo

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake says it's ironic that FOX News is "in high whine mode because Newsweek didn't retouch Sarah Palin's photo on their latest cover." As Jane notes, FOX indulged in some controversial photoshopping of pictures of New York Times reporters Jacques Steinberg and Steven Reddicliffe earlier this year.

    Seems to me this isn't irony -- it is just the rare case of FOX news being intellectually consistent: they're pro-photo-doctoring. Good to know.

  • ABC refuses to run We Campaign ad

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    ABC is refusing to air an Alliance for Climate Protection ad criticizing "big oil" for "spending hundreds of millions of dollars" on lobbyists and ads to "block clean energy."

    I wonder how much of that ad money has gone to ABC?

    More than 100,000 people have already sent a message urging ABC to air the ad.

    UPDATE: Apparently this is ABC's excuse for not running the ad:

    "Per our Guidelines, national buildings may be used in advertising provided the depictions are incidental to the advertiser's promotion of the product or service. Given the messages and themes of this commercial, the image of the Capital building is not incidental to this advertising. Please replace the image with one that is not of another national building or monument."

    "Not incidental"? The ad is 30 seconds long. The Capital building is on-screen for less than two of those seconds.

  • Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Right-wing radio talker Hugh Hewitt still can't find a publisher for his book, How Sarah Palin Won the Election... And Saved America, according to The New York Observer. In fact, his agent has given up trying to sell the project.

    Maybe Hewitt, who last year wrote a Mitt-Romney's-gonna-be-president book, should go with a Plan B book proposal: How George Bush Transformed America and Left It A Stronger Country.

  • Charlotte Observer relies on flawed claims to criticize VoteVets ad

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Charlotte Observer reports on a new VoteVets ad:

    Meanwhile, a veterans' group is spending $200,000 on TV ads saying [NC Sen. Elizabeth] Dole voted against body armor for troops.

    The ad by features a man identified as an Iraq war veteran firing shots from an AK-47 through a flak jacket given out early in the war. He also fires into more modern body armor, which stops the shots. It claims Dole twice voted against the more modern armor.

    The ad appears to be the same one used in 2006 in a Virginia Senate race. According to the watchdog site, the votes came on a 2003 amendment that would have appropriated just over $1 billion for unspecified "National Guard and Reserve Equipment" but made no mention of body armor. The amendment lost on a generally party-line vote.

    The group called the ad false.

    Problem is, got it wrong, as Media Matters documented at the time.

    Here's the short version:

    But as Media Matters for America noted in response to FactCheck's September 20 analysis, [ director Brooks] Jackson's assertion that "[t]here has never been a vote on body armour" is false. Allen opposed an October 2003 amendment offered by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), which would have provided additional funding explicitly for body armor. Moreover, Landrieu repeatedly stated on the House floor that the bill would ensure that National Guard soldiers had "helmets" and other "force protection" equipment intended to "minimize causalities." And in a March 26, 2003, press release, Landrieu further explained that the bill "targets shortfalls identified by the National Guard and Reserve in their Unfunded Requirement lists," including the "shortage of helmets, tents, bullet-proof inserts, and tactical vests."

  • Is that a threat?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    CBC's Dean Reynolds filed a lengthy piece online comparing and contrasting what it was like to cover the Obama and McCain campaigns from a journalist's perspective; which team was more informed and made life easier on the road for reporters.

    According to Reynolds, it's no contest. He much preferred the way the McCain camp ("helpful" and "friendly") treated the press, how it printed up schedules well in advance and how it was flexible in terms of accommodating deadline needs. By contrast, Dean complies a long list of complaints about Team Obama, including the fact the press' chartered press plane smelled bad.

    That's Reynolds' opinion and, since he's the one schlepping around the campaign trail, he's entitled to it. But the essay does end on a rather ominous note, and seems to indicate that angry journalists like Reynolds are already plotting their revenge against Obama if he wins the election.

    How else could you read this closing [emphasis added]:

    Maybe none of this means much. Maybe a front-running campaign like Obama's that is focused solely on victory doesn't have the time to do the mundane things like print up schedules or attend to the needs of reporters. But in politics, everything that goes around comes around.

  • "Off message"?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    That's how Ben Smith describes the most recent instance of a Republican speaker at a McCain event invoking Barack Obama's middle name.

    How many times do speakers at McCain events have to invoke Obama's middle name before reporters stop stipulating that McCain doesn't want it to happen?