During an interview with President Bush that aired on Fox News' Special Report, Bret Baier asked Bush, "Do you believe that there hasn't been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in more than seven years because of the policies your administration has implemented?" The question tracked a talking point reportedly contained in a "two-page memo" that the Los Angeles Times reported "presents the Bush record as an unalloyed success" and "mentions none of the episodes that detractors say have marred his presidency."
On Hardball, Chris Matthews cited a Politico article as purported evidence that "zero -- count 'em, zero Southerners have been named to the Obama Cabinet so far," and a Bloomberg article similarly asserted that Obama's Cabinet is lacking in Southerners. These claims either ignore or discount Obama's selection of Lisa Jackson, Hillary Clinton, and Robert Gates.
On Fox News' America's Newsroom, Andrea Tantaros falsely claimed that "[t]his past weekend," President-elect Barack Obama said that "the economy is only gonna get worse." Tantaros continued: "Well, you can't say that kind of thing when you're president. ... He's got to be more positive." Co-host Bill Hemmer did not point out in response to Tantaros that Obama did not say "the economy is only gonna get worse"; he said the economy would get worse but would subsequently recover.
In recent weeks, several conservative media figures, echoed by Republican lawmakers, have responded to comparisons in the media of President-elect Barack Obama to FDR, or assertions in the media that a New Deal-level of government intervention will be necessary to resolve the current economic crisis, by asserting that the New Deal was a dismal failure, plunging the 1930s economy into a depression, an assertion that prominent progressive economists flatly reject.
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.
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.
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."
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."
Reporting on a rally Gov. Sarah Palin held in Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted an audience member saying of Sen. Barack Obama: "Tell him to go back to Indonesia. Tell him to show his birth certificate." The Post-Gazette did not note that the charge that Obama has not released a valid U.S. birth certificate has been widely debunked.
Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and Jerome Corsi suggested or asserted that the true purpose of Sen. Barack Obama's current trip to Hawaii is not to visit his ailing grandmother, as Obama claims, but rather to address rumors -- widely debunked -- that Obama has failed to produce a valid U.S. birth certificate. However, in addition to FactCheck.org and a Hawaiian Health Department official, even Corsi's employer, the right-wing website WorldNetDaily, has reportedly determined that the birth certificate provided by the Obama campaign is authentic.
G. Gordon Liddy asserted on his nationally syndicated radio show: "[W]e still don't have a birth certificate for [Sen. Barack] Obama. There are claims that he was actually born in Kenya." The Washington Times' Wesley Pruden similarly wrote that a "summer-long controversy continues about when and where the senator was actually born" and falsely asserted that "[t]he Obama campaign has been reluctant to produce a birth certificate." In fact, the Obama campaign has released Obama's birth certificate, and even the right-wing website WorldNetDaily has reported that claims about Obama's birth certificate being fraudulent are false.
On Fox News, David Asman falsely claimed of Sen. Barack Obama's reported plans for a White House transition months before the November election: "It's never been done before." Similarly, on MSNBC Live, U.S. News & World Report's Kenneth Walsh asserted that Obama is preparing for taking office "very early, and it plays into this notion that the Republicans are talking about, about Obama being too arrogant, that he has sort of a sense of inevitability that has set in there." However, a Media Matters review confirms that Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter all planned for a White House transition months before the election.
On MSNBC Live, Alex Witt reported on a statement by Sen. John McCain's campaign criticizing Sen. Barack Obama for reportedly having "already set up a White House transition team." Witt did not challenge the suggestion that it is unusual or inappropriate for a presumptive nominee to plan for a presidential transition; indeed then-Gov. George W. Bush did in the summer of 2000. Nor did Witt note that Bush-Cheney transition director Clay Johnson said at the time that it would be "irresponsible not to be doing this."
In an article on President Bush's plans for his last year in office, The Washington Post included a quote from "a senior White House official" saying, "Don't ever underestimate the leverage of the presidency. ... Many of us here still believe there are a number of things that will get done." The Post, which has repeatedly allowed administration officials to praise Bush anonymously, gave no indication as to why a White House source required anonymity in order to express confidence in the White House's ability to achieve its goals.