In my most recent column, I looked at some of the absurd claims by journalists and pundits that Barack Obama's staffing choices are inconsistent with the idea of "change."
Yesterday, National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez offered the dumbest claim that Obama is failing to bring change that we've yet seen:
The Director of Emily's List Will Be The Face of the New Administration
And that's change you can believe in from the Democrats? Establishing the Obama administration as the voice pro-abortion Left?
Lopez refers to the announcement that EMILY's List executive director Ellen Moran will be Obama's White House communications director. But the White House communications director is rarely thought of as "the face of the administration." The President might be thought of that way, to be sure. And the press secretary - who delivers daily televised news briefings - is often described that way. Depending on the context, the Secretary of State could be called the "face of the administration." But the communications director? Not so much -- unless you consider Kevin Sullivan the face of the Bush administration. It seems Kathryn Jean Lopez knows less about White House roles than does a casual viewer of the West Wing.
More substantively: Lopez thinks the choice of a pro-choice communications director is inconsistent with Obama's promise of change? That's a simply nonsensical complaint. The current administration opposes abortion rights, so as a literal matter, a pro-choice administration is "change." More broadly: how many people does Kathryn Jean Lopez think voted for Barack Obama, but will be shocked that Obama has chosen a pro-choice communications director, and convinced that the choice conflicts with his message of change?
Lopez seems to be conflating "change" with "things I, Kathryn Jean Lopez, approve of." They are not one and the same. Indeed, given her ideological leanings and the election outcome, they are likely to be very different things.
In a Washington Times article, Jerry Seper repeated accusations in a House Republican report of wrongdoing by Eric Holder -- reportedly President-elect Barack Obama's choice for attorney general -- in the 2001 pardon of Marc Rich. In doing so, Seper falsely suggested that Holder was the author of an email telling Rich's attorney that "the 'timing is good' for Mr. Rich's request for a pardon," and did not report the refutation of the allegations by House Democrats.
Attacking Media Matters on his radio show for noting that his previous claim that Sen. Norm Coleman "was certified the winner" in the Minnesota Senate race was false, Bill O'Reilly repeated the falsehood, claiming: "[W]hat I said was, Coleman's victory was certified by the state because it was. He had 215 more votes, which is absolutely true." In fact, the Minnesota State Canvassing Board did not "certif[y]" a "victory" for Coleman or Al Franken, having authorized an automatic recount of ballots for that race; Minnesota election law states that "no certificate of election shall be prepared or delivered until after the recount is completed."
On his radio show, Michael Savage said, "I am telling you that there's gonna be a wholesale firing of competent white men in the United States government up and down the line, in police departments, in fire departments. Everywhere in America, you're going to see an exchange that you've never seen in history, and it's not gonna be necessarily for the betterment of this country."
Writes Michael Hirsh:
For the last few days, the blogosphere has been ablaze with speculation about the kind of damage Hillary Clinton could do to the Obama presidency if she becomes secretary of state.
Of course, for the last few days there's been comparatively little speculation within the blogosphere about what kind of "damage" Hillary Clinton could to the Obama presidency. It's been the mainstream media that's played up the "damage" angle and been childishly obsessed with pushing the "soap opera" angle of the story.
For the most part, lib bloggers have been treating the story seriously, like adults. We're still waiting for the Beltway pundits to catch up.
Amid reports that President-elect Barack Obama has decided to nominate Clinton Justice Department veteran Eric Holder to be attorney general, Chris Matthews criticized Obama on Hardball: "You could do this in any bureaucratic state, you could do it in the old Soviet Union. ... You don't need elections for this crap." But in 2001, Matthews said of George W. Bush's Cabinet picks, which included veterans of past administrations: "There's some real heavyweights in terms of experience."
NPR has a piece online about the incoming Obama administration and how the press is nervous the new White House won't be open with the media.
All White House beat reporters raise the same concerns each time a new team arrives in town, and it's a legitimate one. But the comments included in the story from the press left us wondering.
For instance, Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times, comparing the current closed-off access to Obama, remembered when Obama was a state senator from Illinois and how he was a "one-man show" in terms of being open with the media and handling his own press. And that as a freshman U.S. senator he was, as NPR put it, "expansive with reporters in Washington - particularly during the short shuttle rides between the Capitol building and his office building."
That's fine. But what's that have to do with being president of the United States? What reporter would expect the Commander in Chief to maintain the same relationship with the press as he did when he was a local politician? The comparison strikes us as a bit unrealistic.
It also reminded us of another incoming president who was known for being open with the local press, and for even handing out nicknames to the local scribes: George W. Bush. And looked at what happened when he arrived in the White House. His communication team practically installed a hermetically sealed wing of the White House where Bush remained impenetrable from the press. (Regular press conferences with reporters? Think again.)
Our point isn't that since Bush was inaccessible to the press so that means Obama should be. It's that news consumers ought to be reminded of what the recent context has been with Bush. NPR did make mention of Bush's lack of press conferences. But the Bush team's effort to pretty much neuter the White House press corps went far beyond that. So if reporters are going to ponder how the Obama White House will operate in terms of the press, we ought be reminded of how the Bush one did.
Chris Matthews echoed the discredited rumor that 32 ballots from Minneapolis were mishandled in the Minnesota Senate race. Matthews asked: "What about these absentee ballots that were found in somebody's back seat and they're now counting them as official -- what is that about? That sounds pretty squirrely or sneaky or what -- I don't know what it sounds like." In fact, a lawyer for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman has reportedly said regarding those ballots that "[i]t does not appear that there was any ballot-tampering, and that was our concern."
The top of this article seems fine as the reporter outlines the extraordinarily close recount race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. But boy, the piece completely falls apart as the Times' Christina Capecchi stuffs the second half of the dispatch with right-wing talk points presented by right-wing talking heads.
*The article quotes Coleman's election attorney who accuses the Franken camp of vote-counting ""shenanigans," but requires the attorney to provide not proof/examples.
*In addressing the fact that the Secretary of State overseeing the recount is a Democrat (last time we checked that was allowed), the Times reports that Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten traced the official's "ties to liberal Democratic groups."
The Times though, doesn't bother to note that Kersten is a right-winger who smeared Franken right before Election Day as a "slanderer of Christianity." She's hardly a source worth citing in the New York Times.
*Speaking of dubious sources, the Times also quotes Sean Hannity who claims there's some "fishy business" unfolding in Minnesota. This has been the right-wing mantra all week: Dems are trying to "steal" the Minnesota election. The proof? There is none, which means there's absolutely no reason for the newspaper to be legitimize that kinds of GOP conspiracy talk.
In total, the Times article quotes or references six Coleman supporters but just one Franken backer.
The Franken/Coleman recount is going to be a lengthy process. Let's hope the Times can improve its coverage.
Reporting on the appointment of Rep. Rahm Emanuel as President-elect Barack Obama's White House chief of staff, Reuters quoted RNC spokesman Alex Conant's assertion that Obama's choice of Emanuel "undermines his promise to 'heal the divides.' " But Reuters did not note that Republicans have reportedly praised Emanuel, including Sen. Lindsey Graham who said that he is "a wise choice" and that he "understands the need to work together."
On World News, Jake Tapper quoted House Minority Leader John Boehner's statement that Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who has agreed to be President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, "is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center." However, Tapper did not note that Sen. Lindsey Graham praised Emanuel as "a wise choice," saying Emanuel "understands the need to work together."
On Bob Grant's radio show, Ann Coulter suggested that President-elect Barack Obama's "civilian national security force" would lead to "a lot more Waco raids, Elian Gonzalez snatchings." In fact, Obama's comments about the necessity of a "civilian national security force" referred to expanding the Foreign Service, AmeriCorps, and the Peace Corps.
Sean Hannity asserted that Barack Obama's new White House chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, is "one of the hardest left-wing ... radicals" and stated that the choice of Emanuel shows that Obama is "hard, hard left." But contrary to Hannity's assertion, a study using every non-unanimous vote cast in the House in 2007 to determine relative ideology placed Emanuel in a tie for the ranking of 126th most liberal Democratic congressman, and news reports have labeled Emanuel as "a centrist," who has "worked at good relations with Republicans."
The Washington Post distorted a quote by Sen. Barack Obama in reporting that Sen. John McCain "ma[de] fun of something Obama had told a reporter, 'The only thing I've said with respect to coal, I haven't been some coal booster.' " In fact, Obama said during a January 2008 interview: "The only thing that I've said, with a respect to coal -- I haven't been some coal booster -- what I have said is that, for us to take coal off the table as a ideological matter, as opposed to saying, if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it. You know, that I think is the right approach."