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  • The press and new presidents: The media's double standard

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Unless you know the history and understand the context, there's probably not much about Chris Cillizza's piece at washigntonpost.com that seems unusual. Headlined, "Obama team springs leaks during transition: Rumors disrupt once-disciplined team's plan for unveiling Cabinet nominees," the piece looks at how the once-disciplined Obama team can't control transition team leaks.

    Legit news story, right? Well, here's the interesting part. If you go back to late 1992, when the last Democrat was setting up shop in Washington, D.C., the press got very, very upset that the Clinton team was not leaking enough news about its transition team. And in fact, in 1993 some journalists pointed to the tight-lipped transition period to when the press' relationship with the new Clinton team began to sour.

    Here's how the Los Angeles Times' reported it back in 1993:

    But the exchange of [information] (and of virtually everything else) shut down abruptly during the transition period between Clinton's election and his inauguration -- a time when he might have capitalized on his triumph and on whatever goodwill he had in the press.

    Reporters covering the transition sat around Little Rock day after day, week after week, waiting for announcements of Cabinet appointments and other news. But Clinton and his transition team moved slowly, held their cards close to the vest and acted as if, now that they had won, they no longer had to court the media.

    The National Journal concurred in a report that year:

    The amity suffered, however, as the campaign continued -- as the crowd of reporters grew and Clinton's accessibility dwindled. It deteriorated more during the transition. Reporters ensconced in Little Rock, Ark., and in pursuit of a story each day focused on Clinton's leisurely pace in making appointments and on the campaign promises he'd forsaken. By Clinton's last press conference before moving north toward his new home, the tone of the questioning had grown nasty.

    So please note that in 1992, the press was peeved when the Democratic transition team didn't leak enough.

    Fast forward eight years, and when the Bush team didn't leak transition-team information in late 2000, the press praised the new White House for its discipline and message control, an obvious double standard.

    Now, the press has changed its mind again and writers like Cillizza suggest that transition team leaks coming from the Obama team signal weakness.

    It's hard to keep track of the shifting standards, no?

  • More prizes for Paul Krugman?

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    Former NYT editor Howell Raines suggests Krugman should be a lock for a Pulitzer Prize come next fall, which would follow up Krugman's recent Nobel Prize for economics.

    For nearly a decade, Krugman has been the Times' smartest, most articulate columnists, not to mention its most boldly liberal. What's interesting is that Raines reminds us Krugman, "had been passed over for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2006."

    We guess during the Bush years, Krugman's writing--his stinging critique of Bush--wasn't worth celebrating. But now as Krugman documents the economic collapse that he warned about during the Bush years, it's going to be tougher for the media Establishment to ignore his work.

  • Pundits: It's Obama's fault

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    The first phase of the Hillary Clinton/SoS "drama" may soon be over (will Tweety pull a Howard Beale tonight?), but members of the press want everyone to know they had no choice but to wallow in the drama. The drama was practically forced upon them. And of course the Clintons are the blame.

    But as CDS spread, pundits began cast a wider net. And now some say it's Obama's fault too, for unleashing the "huge" drama by, y'know, asking Clinton to join his cabinet. According to the press, that was a deliberate choice the president-elect made to un-bottle the drama. And folks, once the drama's been let loose, there's just no containing it.

    Just sayin'.

    (FYI, The "they" in the clip below refers to the Obama campaign.)

  • Surprsingly, Glenn Beck does not like being the target of hate

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    Apparently a truck driver ripped into Beck while the two of them were standing in line at Wendys, with the trucker tagging the right-wing talker as a "racist bigot." And then he railed about how conservatives like Beck had destroyed the country.

    On his blog, Beck lamented the level of hate the trucker displayed. But, as FAIR reminds us, Beck is pretty familiar when in comes to trafficking in that kind of thing for a living:

    I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out--is this wrong?

  • It's like GOP Reefer Madness

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    We're talking about the right-wing obsession with Fairness Doctrine, and how the conservative media, much to our amazement, continues to elevate the relatively minor media-related debate into a tip-top priority for the GOP.

    Writes Steven Benen, who shares our sense of wonder:

    Everyone from obscure right-wing bloggers to Rush Limbaugh to Washington Post columnists are prepared for a fight that isn't going to happen.

    And yet, the nonsense doesn't stop. Perusing the news this morning, there are still more conservative columnists railing against the "plan" to bring back the fairness doctrine, and unhinged propaganda about the "unprecedented government assault upon the First Amendment" that is allegedly on the way.

    The New Republic's Marin Cogan asked around, trying to find Democrats who actually support bringing the fairness doctrine back, or media-reform liberals who might push for action on this. Cogan couldn't find any.

  • The AP hypes Janet Napolitano drama

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    This is some pretty weak tea, courtesy of the AP.

    First the unfortunate headline: "Napolitano is no stranger to Washington scandals."

    And here's the lead:

    President-elect Barack Obama's likely pick for Homeland Security secretary, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, is no stranger to headline-making Washington scandals and controversies.

    Napolitano was a U.S. attorney in Phoenix, appointed by former President Bill Clinton, when the Justice Department decided against prosecuting Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy, for the theft of prescription drugs from her medical charity.

    First, what does being the U.S. attorney in Phoenix have to do with "Washington scandals"? Shouldn't Napolitano, like, be in Washington to play a part in "Washington scandals"?

    Second, we'd suggest that to most casual news consumers the AP headlines certainly indicates Napolitano was the subject of the controversies, not that she, in the everyday duties of her job, simply oversaw prosecutions that were deemed controversial. Meaning, the press should probably resist throwing around terms like "Washington scandals" in reference to public officials who are making their introduction on the national stage if the officials themselves did nothing controversial.

  • The Los Angeles Times hypes Eric Holder drama

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    In an article about how Holder will likely become Obama's AG nomination, the Times, like so many in the press, plays up as a huge deal the relatively modest role Holder had in the Marc Rich pardon scandal that marked the end of the Clinton administration.

    According to the newspaper's headline Holder is "haunted" by the Marc Rich scandal (Oh my.) And in the lead, the Times announces rather breathlessly that Holder's name was "dragged very publicly through the mud" by the pardon ordeal. (Oh my!)

    To prove what a huge ordeal the mostly forgotten saga was for Holder, the Times quotes from some anonymous GOP staffers as well as RNC-issued talking points and allegations, like Holder looked the other way regarding the pardons because he wanted to be Al Gore's AG, if Gore got elected. That's what GOP attack dogs like Rep. Dan Burton claimed in 2001, but there was no proof of that then, or now.

    If Holder is officially nominated, will the pardon issue come up in his confirmation hearings? Almost certainly. Has Holder been "haunted" by the issue? The Times offers no real suggestion he has. In fact, it's quite the opposite: If Holder had been "haunted," and if his name really had been "dragged very publicly through the mud," he wouldn't be preparing to become the country's next AG, right?

  • MSNBC's Phill Griffin answers his own question

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    Addressing students at Vassar College, the cabler chief bemoaned "the parlous condition of traditional news media," according to a local newspaper account.

    Griffin also informed the students that, looking back on the historic 2008 campaign, Sarah Palin ""made this election."

    We're pretty sure there's a connection between those two points.

    P.S. Griffin complains that the network news outlets are "losing viewers, which means they're losing advertising revenue, which means their ability to do the very expensive job of international and investigative journalism is under serious threat."

    But does anyone think that if the three networks had become miraculously flush with cash in 2008 that they would have devoted the windfall to international reporting and investigative journalism?

  • Is Michael Kinsley serious?

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    Or is he joking? He's a sly writer, so sometimes it's hard to tell. But after several run-throughs we have (sadly) concluded he's serious in his WaPo column today about Obama and smoking [emphasis added]:

    Smoking is a disgusting habit that can kill you and those around you. Barack Obama claims to have quit, but the evidence is ambiguous. And the media's lack of interest in this question supports the charge that Obama is enjoying a honeymoon with the press. Compare the attention given to John McCain's melanoma -- a health problem more likely than smoking to kill him in the next four years, but also a problem beyond his control. Smoking, by contrast, is behavior. It sets a deplorable example for young people, millions of whom Obama has inspired into active citizenship.

    We wish it was a parody.

    UPDATE: The Daily Howler agrees.