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From today's column
On 9/11, President Bush learned of disaster while reading "The Pet Goat" to grade-school kids. On Tuesday, President Obama escaped from disaster by reading "The Moon Over Star" to grade-school kids. "We were just tired of being in the White House," the two-week-old president, with Michelle at his side, explained to students at a public charter school near the White House.
See, just like Bush, who read a book to school children after being told by his chief of staff that a second plane had struck the World Trade Center and that America was under attack, Obama read books to kids after learning that his pick to head the HHS was dropping out.
From MoDo's perspective, the events are exactly the same. So glad Beltway pundits are able to put breaking news events into context. (More here.)
P.S. And here's MoDo on what Obama should have done to get more support for his stimulus bill:
Mr. Obama should have taken a red pencil to the $819 billion stimulus bill and slashed all the provisions that looked like caricatures of Democratic drunken-sailor spending. As Senator Kit Bond, a Republican, put it, there were so many good targets that he felt "like a mosquito in a nudist colony."
In other words, Obama should have done whatever Republicans told him to do to his own legislation. Y'know, just like when Bush was president, and how he always rewrote his legislation based on Democratic input and concern.
P.P.S. Yes, MoDo spends the bottom one-third of the column blaming Obama for the way banks are spending money from the bailout crafted and passed by the previous Republican administration.
All in all, a priceless dumbing-down performance by MoDo today.
From the second sentence [emphasis added]:
Two weeks into his presidency, Barack Obama proved that even a clearly gifted politician cannot escape the gravitational pull of Washington forces that have humbled many of his predecessors. The new president, seen by some as arrogant, was anything but on Tuesday.
Note that nowhere--nowhere--in the lengthy piece does the AP quote anybody, either on the record or off, who claims that Obama is arrogant. The only person who makes that claim is the AP's Charlie Babington, while hiding behind the cowardly "some say" cliche.
Let's just call this what it is. It ain't journalism and it ain't political analysis. It's casual character assassination, courtesy of the AP.
The Times today suggests there's been an unusual number of journalists going to work for the Obama administration, which (yawn) raises questions about liberal bias:
But this year the accusation has a new twist: In some notable cases it has become true, with several prominent journalists now on the payrolls of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership.
Who are the prominent journalists? Well, the first example the Times references is MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who kinda, sorta thought about running for the U.S. senate from Pennsylvania. But is Matthews going to run? Apparently not. And even if he did run, and even if he won, would Matthews be "on the payrolls of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership"? No.
So the first example the Times points to is pretty much irrelevant to the issue at hand: journalists joining the payrolls of Democrats.
The Times' third example [emphasis added]:
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the leading candidate for surgeon general, is CNN's chief medical correspondent. His résumé as a practicing neurosurgeon — and one of People magazine's "sexiest men alive" in 2003 — is not that of a traditional journalist. But he reported on the health records of the presidential candidates last year, along with their health care proposals.
Has Gupta joined the Obama administration? No. Has he been asked to? No.
In total, the Times points to four journalists to back up its claim that "an unusual number of journalists from prominent, mainstream organizations started new government jobs in January." Of the four referenced, two--Matthews and Gupta--did not start new government jobs in January.
In an article stating that the "thinnest chapter" of a book about Nancy Pelosi's term as speaker of the House might be "Bipartisanship and the 111th Congress," the Politico cropped Pelosi's statement on the passage of the House recovery bill, omitting comments supporting her statement that "we have reached out to the Republicans all along the way."
This one's gonna make your head hurt, trust us. It's what happens when trivial pursuits collide with incompetence.
First up, NBC apparently does not know how to transcribe its presidential interviews, even when the president speaks clearly and slowly. NBC managed to botch the transcripts to its Obama interview. Specifically, at the end of the Q&A, Matt Lauer, for whatever reason, decided to ask Obama about his wife and daughters being on the cover of US magazine.
Lauer held up the magazine, which also featured cover photo and headline in the upper-right hand corner about singer Jessica Simpson's' apparent weight gain. ("Inside Jess' weight battle.") In fact, the unflattering photo of Simpson actually cropped out Obama himself on the US cover.
From the NBC transcripts which were released to the press:
LAUER: You got replaced by Jessica Simpson.
OBAMA: Yeah, who's losing a weight battle apparently. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. Oh, well.
Well, that ticked some people off, including Karen Tumulty at Time. "He laid a big one in yesterday's interview with Matt Lauer," she wrote as she reproduced the NBC transcript online. And yes, right-wing blogosphere also denounced Obama, printing up the same transcript.
Thing is, Obama never said Simpson was "losing a weight battle." As Politico notes, NBC mangled the transcripts. Here's what Obama actually said:
LAUER: You got replaced by Jessica Simpson.
OBAMA: Yeah, who's in a weight battle apparently. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. Oh, well.
It's obvious from watching the clip that Obama was not making fun of Simpson's weight. If anything he was very gently mocking the fanzine culture in which Simpson's weight is considered to be newsworthy.
But back to Tumulty and then the blogs. How did they respond to the fact that Obama never said what they criticized him for saying? From Tumulty [emphasis added]:
*Alert Swampland commenter travellingatlanta notes that the transcript that NBC put out was wrong. "Who's losing a weight battle" is actually "who's in a weight battle." I went back and listened to the video, and it sounds that way to me, too. Which makes it slightly better. I guess. But in the future, Mr. President, just don't go there.
I'm chuckling over Tumulty's detective work; about how she went back and listened to the video again and confirmed that, yes, Obama said "Yeah, who's in a weight battle apparently." I'm chuckling because the audio/video is clear as day and there is no dispute, which only highlights how supremely NBC mucked up by concocted parts of the transcripts in the first place.
Second, Obama shouldn't go there? Give us a break. The only reason Obama mentioned any of this was because a network news anchor brought up the frivolous topic of US magazine. The president was simply, and politely, humoring the interviewer by reading back to him the inane mag cover line.
As for the right-wing blog, well it's just priceless. This is what Gateway Pundit wrote:
UPDATE: The Politico is defending the president for joking about Jessica Simpson's weight problem. Figures.
Classic, right? Gateway pundit first mocked Obama for something he never said. When Politico pointed out Obama never said what NBC (and Gateway Pundit) claimed the president said, Gateway Pundit simply informed readers that Politico was "defending" Obama. What did Gateway Pundit fail to do? It failed inform readers that Obama never said what Gateway Pundit claimed Obama said.
Just keep moving along folks, nothing to see here. Corrections? Retractions for flogging phony story? Pleeease.
We told you this was gonna make your head hurt.
Jonathan Chait has an interesting read in the upcoming edition of The New Republic that looks at, at least in part, the disparity in media coverage of the scandals involving the now-impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the FBI-investigated-soon-to-be-former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. For those of you not following the Coleman scandal, Chait's article offers a decent summary:
What, you say--Norm Coleman? Yes, Norm Coleman! Let me explain. The soon-to-be-former senator's scandal is pretty simple. Nasser Kazeminy, a wealthy businessman and close Coleman friend, allegedly paid him $75,000 under the table.
And by "allegedly," I mean "almost certainly." Here's how the almost certainly true alleged scheme worked. The payments to Coleman came in the form of what Tony Soprano would call a "no-show job." One of Kazeminy's companies is called Deep Marine Technology. Kazeminy allegedly ordered Deep Marine's CEO, Paul McKim, to make a series of $25,000 payments that would go to Coleman's wife. According to McKim, Kazeminy was utterly blatant. He said the reason for the payments was that Coleman needed the money and McKim should disguise them as a legitimate business transaction.
I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first many have heard of Coleman's predicament – as Chait notes, it has hardly registered in the national media:
Some differences in the scale of relative guilt do present themselves. In Coleman's defense, he's currently just a subject of an FBI investigation, while Blagojevich has been voted out of office. And, of course, Coleman hasn't been caught boasting about his scheme. On the other hand, Coleman is accused by a Houston businessman of having actually accepted illicit funds, while Blagojevich is merely being accused of harboring an intention to sell his Senate seat.
Now consider how the two stories have fared in the national press. Blagojevich has turned into the biggest crime story since O.J. Simpson. Can you guess how many articles about the Coleman scandal have appeared in the national media? One short wire story. When I bring up Coleman's scandals with my colleagues, many of whom follow politics for a living, invariably they have little or no idea what I'm talking about.
The national media have almost completely ignored the Coleman scandal but they've found plenty of time to misreport key aspects of the Minnesota recount and ensuing ballot disputes. Al Franken may be a former comedian but the real joke has been the national media's coverage of this Senate race.
Newsbusters' Tim Graham thinks Barack Obama is insufficiently patriotic and pro-Marine. Why? Because the president likes Cole Porter.
Responding to a CBS report that Obama's appearances have featured a pianist performing Porter's "Night and Day" and Sting's "Desert Rose" rather than sticking to "Hail to the Chief," Graham writes:
To many Americans, this excessive informality suggests a real distaste for "official" or "patriotic" music, not to mention the Marine band that plays it.
Graham didn't provide any quotes or citations to support his contention that "many Americans" think this, so we can only assume he was projecting. In any case, it's an ugly smear to say that Obama has "a real distaste" for the Marine band simply because he enjoys piano renditions of Cole Porter tunes.
Some conservatives are upset about the fact that longtime friends and former colleagues George Stephanopoulos, Rahm Emanuel, Paul Begala, and James Carville regularly talk to each other.
Emanuel is the White House chief of staff, which supposedly means that Stephanopoulos, who works at ABC, and Begala and Carville, who are affiliated with CNN, cannot be objective in talking about the Obama administration. Or something. Greg Sargent and Steve Benen explain.
Honestly, this is all a bunch of nonsense. Two quick points:
First - for better or worse - friendships between journalists and the politicos they cover are nothing new. Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer is friends with George W. Bush. Conservatives didn't say he should be fired over that friendship - nor were they bothered when Schieffer moderated a presidential debate between Bush and John Kerry. Basically, for nearly any major political figure you can name - Democrat, Republican, conservative, liberal - there will be some journalists with whom they have friendships.
Second, the idea that Stephanopoulos will be in the tank for Obama or other Democrats because he talks to Rahm Emanuel ignores history. The four men talked regularly in 1998, too, when Emanuel and Begala worked in Bill Clinton's White House - but that didn't stop Stephanopoulos from being among the first people to speculate that Clinton might be impeached over the Monica Lewinsky matter. Stephanopoulos brought up the possibility on television early in the morning on the day the story broke.
This was the Vietnam-driven, Time doomsday cover for the issue published just weeks after the new Democratic president was sworn into office in 1993:
Now here's the latest Vietnam-driven, Newsweek doomsday cover for the current issue, published just days after the new Democratic president was sworn into office:
Aside for the bogus way the news weeklies jumped at the chance to hang a foreign policy "Vietnam" around the neck of brand new Democratic presidents, behold the especially surreal logic connected to the Newsweek cover and its attempt to connect Obama, in office for less than 14 days, to the battle for Afghanistan, which the Bush administration oversaw for nearly seven years.
It comes courtesy of the conservative Hoover Instituter's Peter Berkowitz, last seen in these parts publishing the insightful, "The Case for the War in Iraq." Anyway, Berkowitz's latest piece, "Bush Hatred and Obama Euphoria Are Two Sides of the Same Coin," really represents the gold standard in mendacity and intellectual dishonesty. Even for the casually accurate WSJ page, Berkowitz's effort manages to stand out.
His premise is that the same crazy people who hated Bush are the same crazy people who love Obama. Berkowitz claims he's talking about liberals; those mindless liberals who belittled Bush, but who back Obama. (And oh yeah, the media and professors were in on it too.) Of course, as any honest adult could attest, Berkowitz is actually talking about Americans. Because it's Americans who by huge margins disapproved of Bush's performance, and Americans who by huge margins currently approve of Obama's performance.
Nonetheless, Berkowitz thinks he's onto something very deep and revealing and insightful here. (He even gets biblical!) It's all about zealotry and the "dangerous political passions" that haunt politics.
You don't say, Peter. You mean the kind of mindless right-wing zealotry that defined the 1990's when Republicans unleashed wave after wave of hysterical anti-Clinton crusades. (It's generally referred to as Clinton Derangement Syndrome, you might want to check it out Peter.) You mean the kind of right-wing zealotry that the WSJ editorial page practically copyrighted during the Clinton years as it hyped every half-assed conspiracy theory born in the fever swamps? And you mean the kind of mindless right-wing attacks that have already been unleashed on Obama less than two weeks after being inaugurated. (America is now less safe!)
Where does all that fit into Berkowitz's deep-thinking Journal Op-ed? Naturally, rather than confronting the uncomfortable facts, he just plays dumb about the naked hate that has defined the Republican Noise Machine for nearly two decades.
The Hoover Institute must be proud. Again.
In their column for the Center for American Progress, Eric Alterman and George Zornick note that the media has paid shockingly little attention to new revelations that the Bush administration spied on journalists:
[A] former analyst at the National Security Agency revealed on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" that Bush's National Security Agency "monitored all communications" of Americans and that U.S. news organizations and individual journalists were specifically targeted.
Former analyst Russell Tice told Olbermann that, "The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications—faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made any foreign communications at all."
So, how did The New York Times cover Tice's revelations that ordinary American citizens, journalists in general, and possibly one of their own reporters in particular, had their communications monitored without a warrant? As far as we can tell, not at all.
Neither Tice nor his charges were discussed in the Times, either in print or online. This was standard across much of the mainstream media—The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Associated Press have all remained completely silent about Tice's allegations.
In January 2006, when the New York Times first broke the story of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, I compared the resources devoted to the emerging story by the Times and the Washington Post to the resources they devoted to the story of Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
For both stories, I looked at the number of articles the two papers ran the day after the stories broke, the number of words devoted to the stories, and the number of reporters credited with working on the stories. And I looked at the same things for the 35th day after the story broke:
All told, on January 22, 1998, the Times and the Post ran 19 articles (five on the front page) dealing with the Clinton investigation, totaling more than 20,000 words and reflecting the words of at least 28 reporters -- plus the editorial boards of both newspapers.
In contrast, on December 17, the Times and the Post combined to run five articles about the NSA spying operation, involving 12 reporters and consisting of 6,303 words.
On February 25, 1998, 35 days after the story first broke, the Post ran four articles and an editorial about the Clinton investigation, totaling 5,046 words, involving 11 reporters, and the paper's editorial board. The Times ran four articles, two opinion columns, and an editorial -- seven pieces in all, totaling 5,852 words and involving at least six reporters and columnists, in addition to its editorial board. The papers combined for 12 articles, columns, and editorials, involving 17 reporters and columnists, as well as both editorial boards.
On January 20, 35 days after the NSA story first broke, the Times ran one 1,324-word article about the NSA operation written by two reporters. The Post ran one 945-word article written by one reporter. Combined: two articles, three reporters, 2,269 words.
Basically, the media didn't care nearly as much about the possiblity that a president was illegally listening in on the telephone conversations of innocent Americans as they did about the possiblity that a president had an affair. As Alterman and Zornick point out, that hasn't changed even now that we know that journalists were among those spied upon.
Fox News' Bret Baier asserted that Rep. David Obey is "under fire" because the economic stimulus bill provides more than $2 billion for the National Park Service, "the industry for which his son lobbies," and cited a Washington Times article reporting that, in Baier's words, "a spokeswoman for Congressman Obey's office says nepotism was not a factor." But Baier did not mention that the Times article also reported the spokeswoman saying the funding for parks "was included at the request of [Rep.] Norm Dicks." Nor did Baier note that Dicks has repeatedly made similar appropriations requests for national parks in previous appropriations bills.