Assessing President Bush's first 100 days, media figures and outlets repeatedly set a low bar -- which in some cases they explicitly acknowledged -- and then judged him as having cleared it.
Misconstruing a Politico article, Sean Hannity criticized the media for giving President Obama credit for authorizing the use of lethal force against Somali pirates.
Almost as bad as Jonah Goldberg! (I kid. Sorta.)
But that didn't stop National Review from running the former RNC chief's Ground Hog Day critique about how the news media are too liberal. (They're nothing if not persistent, right?)
The premise pretty much writes itself, but Gillespie commits a mortal media critic sin; he doesn't show, he tells. Like here:
When I joined the White House in June 2007, I was still naïvely hopeful that we could get an honest hearing from the MSM. It did not take long for the scales to fall from my eyes. The national press corps loathed the president — not personally, I don't think, but politically. Their reporting dripped with disdain, and their stories were frequently riddled with negative adverbs and adjectives. On issues like the Iraq War, the environment, and life, there was often little distinction between our treatment in liberal blogs and our treatment in major daily newspapers.
Well, that's certainly a sweeping generalization. But what did Gillespie offer in his piece to back up the claim? i.e. What were the reporting examples he cited that dripped disdain for Bush? Answer: He didn't. Gillespie took the lazy way out and just assumed everyone who read his piece would agree with his allegation. That's certainly true within the GOP echo chamber. But in the real world, not so much.
Elsewhere, Gillespie isn't so much lazy as he is loopy. Like when he dips into the Rush Limbaugh story that percolated within the Beltway about whether the AM talker was the de facto leader of the GOP. At one point, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, responding to Limbaugh's endless on-air taunts and hate speech, simply suggested reporters ask Republican members of Congress whether they agree or disagree with Limbaugh's comments.
Here's Gillespie's take:
Now, this is the kind of suggestion that operatives from both parties give reporters from time to time, but it's usually whispered at a campaign event, or after half a bottle of wine at one of those painful black-tie press dinners. President Obama's press secretary can say it right out loud from the White House podium. And instead of being insulted, or asking Gibbs whether it's proper for a public official paid with taxpayer dollars to say such a thing, the reporters carry out the hit.
Because apparently the First Amendment no longer applies to the White House? Because White House spokesmen are not allowed to mentioned Limbaugh's name without first being granted permission? Honestly, only a sap would think Gibbs' innocuous request represented a "hit," or would be insulted by the question, or would whine about taxpayer dollars.
But what was our absolute favorite part of Gillespie's very serious dissection of today's "biased" press and how unprofessional journalists insert their opinion into news reporting? No mention of Fox News. It doesn't exist in Gillespie's essay.
He laments that "too many reporters no longer report; they comment" and that "the lines between news and 'news analysis,' and between 'news analysis' and opinion, have been all but washed away." That's Gillespie's big beef with the press, yet he's stone-cold silent about Fox News.
Folks, playing dumb doesn't get much harder than that.
Since President Obama's inauguration, Rush Limbaugh has made numerous baseless and ominous claims warning of what will happen if the United States adopts either Obama's policies or those pushed by other progressives, often while invoking fears of rising socialism, communism, and tyranny.
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Here's the headline on an article in The Hill about purported Obama missteps: "Experts say Obama needs to watch the gaffes"
And here's the 18th paragraph:
The presidential experts don't believe that Obama has been more gaffe-prone than his predecessors. "Most presidents make rookie mistakes because everything they say is going to be newsworthy, and even prominent individuals get surprised by that," West said.
In between, The Hill lists various supposed Obama "gaffes" going back two years. Included among them: "saying that bailed-out businesses shouldn't be going to Las Vegas." The Hill may consider that a "gaffe," but I suspect few Americans want companies that have been bailed out by the government using that tax money to head to Vegas.
The Hill then inadvertently shows that Obama is being held to a higher standard than his Republican predecessors:
Ironically, a tool that Obama keeps at the ready to avoid verbal missteps - the teleprompter - has quickly become a running gag, with a popular blog launched pretending to be the voice of Obama's omnipresent teleprompter. This might not play against a politician, except for the fact that Obama was praised as a great orator on the campaign trail by right and left.
The fact that the same people who would mock Obama for verbal missteps mock him for taking unremarkable steps to avoid them isn't really "ironic" -- it's an indication that Obama is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. The Hill continues:
Noting Reagan's reliance on note cards, [Lee] Edwards said the teleprompter was a new factor in presidential assessment. "It's just strange," he said. "We haven't been able to figure out why he's so dependent on it, because he's a really intelligent guy.
So, Ronald Reagan relied on note cards, but it's supposed to be remarkable and inexplicable that Barack Obama uses a teleprompter? Huh? Do Lee Edwards and The Hill think there is some fundamental difference between note cards and a teleprompter?
Finally, would it surprise you to learn that Edwards is the Heritage Foundation's "Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought," or that Heritage touts him as "the chief historian of the American conservative movement"?
On America's Newsroom, Stuart Varney asserted that Rick Wagoner's departure is "the first time in modern history that the government has fired the chief executive of a private corporation." In fact, the government did not "fire" Wagoner, but made his departure a condition of further government aid for the company.
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How? By suggesting Obama is becoming something of a chameleon who reinvents himself depending on the political setting. The press spent most of 2000 depicting candidate Gore as somebody who was so unsure of his own political skin that he was constantly 'reinventing' himself.
Basically, that Gore was a phony.
Now check out the headline to the Times' article on the press conference: "In a Volatile Time, Obama Strikes a New Tone."
See, it's a new tone; a new approach. It's a new, different Obama. The Times leans heavily on that approach in the lead:
For just under an hour on Tuesday night, Americans saw not the fiery and inspirational speaker who riveted the nation in his address to Congress last month, or the conversational president who warmly engaged Americans in talks across the country, or even the jaunty and jokey president who turned up on Jay Leno.
Instead, according to the Times, what we got "was the professor in chief."
Note how the Times stressed that Obama last night was completely different than the Obama who addressed Congress just one month ago. Back then Obama was a "fiery and inspirational speaker." The Times considers this to be newsworthy.
First of all, it seems self-evident that presidents communicate differently when addressing the nation with a prepared speech before Congress (or on a TV talk show), than they do when answering questions extemporaneously at a press conference. Second, it seems self-evident that there's nothing wrong with presidents communicating differently in different situations. But the Times seems to think it's a big deal Obama acted one way at the press conference and another way in his Congressional debate. That Obama wasn't fiery.
But was Obama really "fiery" when he addressed Congress in February? That's not how we remember his rather somber address to the nation. So we went back and read the Times' next-day article about Obama's speech (Headline: "Amid Gloom, Obama Pledges Recovery"). And guess what, according to the Times, Obama wasn't "fiery," or anything even approaching that.
It's only now, when trying to hype the idea that Obama is changing his tone (reinventing himself?), that the Times retroactively claims Obama was "fiery" in February and professorial in March.
Todd Gitlin at TPMCafe offers up the context by looking back at a February, 2001 presser and how scribes covered it. Notes Gitlin:
But at least when George W. Bush stood tall in the White House we didn't have any of that persnickety, fussy, lugubrious, pompous, professor stuff, and the nation's watchdogs fidgety students weren't bored out of their gourds "waiting for the ring of the bell."
A Washington Times article reported GOP criticism of Democrats over the AIG bonus issue and quoted a Republican strategist asserting: "This is not something [Democrats] can point to George Bush. ... They own the issue of giving bonuses to the AIG executives." But the article did not note that $53 million in AIG bonuses that the article mentioned were reportedly paid out under the Bush administration, or that a Bush-appointed special inspector general for TARP has stated that the Bush Treasury Department knew about the AIG bonus contracts and did not insist on their abrogation as a condition of AIG's receiving bailout money.
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We noted over the weekend that:
Even when announcing how "the public" is reacting to a news story, the press doesn't actually really care what "the public" thinks. The press decided immediately that the AIG story was a "cataclysmic" event for Obama and that "the public" was blaming him.
Polling guru Nate Silver digs through the data and fleshes out that claim:
But so far, and in spite of numerous assertions to the contrary inside both the blogosphere and the mainstream media, there's little evidence that the bonus controversy is hurting Barack Obama.