Defending Newsweek's global warming panel, which was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and featured API president Jack Gerard -- but no representative of environmental groups -- Newsweek director of external relations Mark Block insisted "These events are transparent. They're on the record. ... There's no concern of appearance of impropriety because it's an open and transparent process." Newsweek's Howard Fineman, who moderated the panel, agreed earlier this week: "I see nothing wrong with an open, on-the-record balanced discussion like this."
"Open"? "Transparent"? That's interesting, because when a Greenpeace staffer caught up with Gerard after the event and asked him how much API paid for his seat on the panel, Gerard refused to answer.
So: By "balanced discussion," Newsweek means "the panel doesn't include environmental groups, but does include oil lobbyists who pay us" and by "transparent," they mean "but we won't tell you how much they pay us."
Rep. Ed Markey, the chief sponsor of the House cap-and-trade bill and a leading environmental advocate, is a full participant in the open, on-the-record discussion with no control by API over the questions or flow. Dem Sen Byron Dorgan is also participating and will reflect various views in Dem caucus. Rep Fred Upton, who opposed the House bill, will also participate. I see nothing wrong with an open, on-the-record balanced discussion like this. Newsweek has a long tradition of enviro reporting, including our annual green issue.
Seriously? The "discussion" featured the president of the American Petroleum Institute -- which just happens to fund Newsweek -- but no representatives of environmental organizations ... and Howard Fineman calls that a "balanced discussion"?
Apparently to Newsweek, "balance" means "Industry representatives who fund us and--Hey! Look over there!"
Newsweek's Jon Meacham argues that Dick Cheney should run for president in 2012. There's so much wrong with Meacham's thinking, it's hard to know where to start. But let's try the beginning:
I think we should be taking the possibility of a Dick Cheney bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 more seriously, for a run would be good for the Republicans and good for the country. (The sound you just heard in the background was liberal readers spitting out their lattes.)
Really? We're still on this liberals-drink-lattes crap? Yawn.
Back to Meacham:
Why? Because Cheney is a man of conviction, has a record on which he can be judged, and whatever the result, there could be no ambiguity about the will of the people.
Right there, in his third sentence, Jon Meacham gave away his little game: He seeks to suggest that there is currently "ambiguity" about the will of the people. That two straight elections in which the Democrats kicked the Republicans' butts -- so much so that Barack Obama carried Indiana and North Carolina -- were somehow ambiguous and don't count. That Barack Obama isn't really a legitimate president, because he didn't have to defeat Dick Cheney to get the job.
This is stupid and dangerous.
The best way to settle arguments is by having what we used to call full and frank exchanges about the issues, and then voting.
A) Not really and B) We've actually had a few of those voting things recently, despite what Meacham seems to think. And we'll have a few more in the future, with or without Dick Cheney.
One of the problems with governance since the election of Bill Clinton has been the resolute refusal of the opposition party (the GOP from 1993 to 2001, the Democrats from 2001 to 2009, and now the GOP again in the Obama years) to concede that the president, by virtue of his victory, has a mandate to take the country in a given direction.
Right. I remember the Democrats being so convinced that President Bush wasn't legitimate and didn't have a mandate that they filibustered his 2001 tax cuts (which were significantly larger than those he campaigned on) and his education bill and tried to impeach him as soon as they got the opportunity and ... Oh. Wait. Never mind. That didn't happen. None of it did. Jon Meacham's both-sides-are-guilty paint-by-numbers approach to column-writing is nothing but a lie.
Also: Meacham's complaints about "the opposition party" refusing to concede that "the president, by virtue of his victory, has a mandate" to govern are a little odd coming so soon after Meacham refused to concede that President Obama, by virtue of his victory, has a mandate to govern.
A Cheney victory would mean that America preferred a vigorous unilateralism to President Obama's unapologetic multilateralism, and vice versa.
Well, no, that isn't really what elections mean. And if it was ... Well, again, we just had two straight elections in which the results were pretty damn unambiguous, no matter how badly Meacham wants to pretend otherwise.
Back to Meacham (skipping ahead a bit):
A campaign would also give us an occasion that history denied us in 2008: an opportunity to adjudicate the George W. Bush years in a direct way. As John McCain pointed out in the fall of 2008, he is not Bush. Nor is Cheney, but the former vice president would make the case for the harder-line elements of the Bush world view.
Well, actually, the direct way to "adjudicate" the George W. Bush years would be to, you know, put people on trial for crimes they committed during those years. An election eight years after the fact is an awfully indirect way to adjudicate anything.
Anyway, here's the basic problem: Meacham simultaneously downplays the importance of elections in determining the will of the people (by pretending that the "thumpin'" Bush took in 2006 and Barack Obama's convincing 2008 victory were meaningless) and overstates it (by pretending that the Obama-Cheney Steel Cage Death Match of his schoolboy dreams would forever remove any ambiguity.)
There is, then one impressive thing about Meacham's column: He manages to be completely wrong in two opposite directions simultaneously.
Everybody knows about the non-apology apology -- when a public figure says, for example, "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" rather than "I shouldn't have made that racist comment, and I apologize for doing so."
It turns out the non-apology apology has a sibling: the non-explanation explanation.
This week's issue of Newsweek features a cover photo of Sarah Palin wearing short running shorts -- a photo that was originally taken for a recent issue of Runner's World, and which has no obvious connection to Newsweek's coverage of Palin. Earlier today, Media Matters' Julie Millican has explained the problems with that cover:
Making matters worse is the equally offensive headline Newsweek editors chose to run alongside the photo -- "How Do You Solve a Problem like Sarah?" -- presumably a reference to the Sound of Music song, "Maria," in which nuns fret about "how" to "solve a problem like Maria," a "girl" who "climbs trees" and whose "dress has a tear."
Now, this photograph may have been completely appropriate for the cover of the magazine for which the picture was apparently intended, Runners World. But Newsweek is supposed to be a serious newsmagazine, and the magazine is certainly not reporting on Palin's exercise habits.
As Julie noted, Newsweek's lousy judgement extended beyond the cover: The magazine also ran a gratuitous photo focusing on Palin's legs, and another photo of a "disgusting Sarah Palin-as-a-slutty-schoolgirl doll."
So what does Newsweek have to say for themselves? The magazine's editor responded to a question from Politico's Michael Calderone, but he couldn't even muster an "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" non-apology apology:
Editor Jon Meacham responds in an email to POLITICO: "We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do. We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard."
That's a textbook example of the non-explanation explanation. Read it again, and tell me: What does it mean? Meacham wants you to think he's explaining the cover choice, but he really isn't.
How, exactly, does putting Sarah Palin on the cover in short shorts "illustrate the theme of the cover"? (Let's assume Meacham meant the theme of the cover article; saying you choose a cover photo to illustrate the theme of the cover is more than a bit circular.) Meacham doesn't say. What is that theme? Meacham doesn't say.
How does the leg-centric image of Palin's legs "convey what we are saying"? Meacham doesn't explain. What is Newsweek "saying" with the article and the photo? Meacham doesn't explain.
It's a refusal to explain, dressed up as an explanation.
Another recent example: When Washington Post reporters Chris Cillizza and Dana Milbank produced an infantile and unfunny video calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" and describing a wife suing for divorce from a cheating spouse as a "bitter woman from hell," they tried to explain the controversy away by saying the video was "satire."
But they didn't say what it was they were supposed to be satirizing. That's probably because what they were doing quite plainly was not satire; it was simply a couple of jerks sitting around making mean-spirited and sexist comments. There is a difference.
It's satire ... The photo illustrates the theme of the cover ... These things are designed to look like explanations; to win credit for addressing the issue and to cut off further questions and to justify bad behavior. But they aren't actually explanations at all. They are a refusal to deal with criticism in a forthright way, and should be recognized (and mocked) as such. Just as we all recognize the non-apology apology for what it is.
There are a lot of legitimate reasons to criticize Sarah Palin, her new book, and her policies, but you don't have to stoop to sexism to do it. Newsweek's November 23 issue, however, does just that by publishing on its cover a photo of Palin in short running shorts and a fitted top, leaning against the American flag. Making matters worse is the equally offensive headline Newsweek editors chose to run alongside the photo -- "How Do You Solve a Problem like Sarah?" -- presumably a reference to the Sound of Music song, "Maria," in which nuns fret about "how" to "solve a problem like Maria," a "girl" who "climbs trees" and whose "dress has a tear."
Now, this photograph may have been completely appropriate for the cover of the magazine for which the picture was apparently intended, Runners World. But Newsweek is supposed to be a serious newsmagazine, and the magazine is certainly not reporting on Palin's exercise habits.
Like her or not, Palin is a former governor and vice presidential candidate. She deserves the same respect every single one of her male counterparts receives when they are featured on the cover of the magazine. I must have missed the cover of Vice President Joe Biden in short shorts or of Mitt Romney in a bathing suit.
Newsweek's sexist treatment of Palin doesn't get any better inside its pages. The mag ran this photo to lead off its "Features" section, which focused on Palin:
Then, for no apparent reason, illustrating Christopher Hitchens' piece on "Palin's base appeal," Newsweek ran a picture of this disgusting Sarah Palin-as-a-slutty-schoolgirl doll:
What kind of message is the magazine trying to send here?
This is just the latest in a pattern of the media's sexist coverage of female politicians. With regard to Palin, Media Matters documented the sexist treatment both Palin and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received throughout the 2008 campaign. For instance, after McCain announced Palin as his VP, sexist commentary on cable news soon followed.
Some "raise[d] the issue of how much time will she have to dedicate to her newborn child?" Others promoted the sexist notion that Biden will have to soften his tone and manner in a debate against Palin, since she is a woman. And despite repeatedly accusing liberals of engaging in sexist attacks on Palin, conservative males were no better.
In addition to drooling over the "panty line" he convinced himself he saw, radio host Chris Baker claimed Palin "shoulda had a little cleavage going" during the vice presidential debate in order to "[d]istract [Sen.] Joe Biden a little bit" and advised Palin: "[S]how your stuff, you know what I'm saying? Use all your assets." Discussing the "ugly skanks" in the Democratic Party who are jealous of Palin's "good look[s]," radio host Lee Rodgers offered: "I mean, my God -- you know, guys sitting around, talking, perhaps in a bar someplace -- they have a way of scoring them. ... I know, it's sexist. It's sexist. It's unfair, and all of that, but they will look over a female who comes in and just make an announcement: How many drinks it would take before you'd jump her bones, you know." According to Rodgers, that's what liberal women are "PO'd about. Sarah Palin's good-looking and they hate that."
Newsweek offers some interesting analysis of Palin and her appeal in its November 23 issue. Unfortunately, its sexist treatment of Palin's physical appearance distracts from any legitimate arguments the magazine and its contributors wish to make.
The Nation's Ari Melber notes that Yuval Levin, formerly an aide in George W. Bush's domestic policy shop, is Newsweek's editor of national affairs, in which position he has written that liberals must "pull back to the center--or suffer the consequences." And warned of "Obama fatigue." And suggested the stimulus package passed earlier this year should have contained a "meaningful tax-cut component." (Melber notes that in fact the stimulus contained $280 billion in tax cuts, which seems pretty meaningful to me.)And in June, Levin co-wrote a column with Bill Kristol, declaring "ObamaCare is wrong. It should and can be defeated."
In March, a piece Levin wrote for Newsweek identified him as a "Bush veteran." But more his more recent bylines have described him simply as "editor of National Affairs and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center," so Melber asked Newsweek why Levin's partisan background is no longer disclosed. Here's the response he got from a Newsweek spokesperson:
Levin's previous article for Newsweek involved the issue of bioethics, his primary focus while at the White House. He disclosed his prior position in the body of that piece. His most recent article was not related to that topic. We believe our readers are aware of Mr. Levin's background, and are able to discern a reported news article from argument, which Levin's recent piece was. (Emphasis added.)
This is absolute nonsense. There isn't one person in a hundred who knows Yuval Levin worked in the Bush White House. Is there even one person in a thousand? In ten thousand? And how many know he co-authors attacks on "ObamaCare" with Bill Kristol and contributes to National Review Online?
Newsweek's apparent belief that because they disclosed Levin's background once, long ago, all of their readers have committed his resume to memory reminded me of Anne Applebaum's recent defense of her failure to disclose the fact that her husband is an official in the Polish government who was lobbying for leniency for Roman Polanski while she was writing in support of the same.
Applebaum, a columnist for Newsweek's sibling publication, the Washington Post, wrote: "For the record, I will note that I mentioned my husband's job in a column as recently as last week, and that when he first entered the Polish government three years ago I wrote a column about that too. I have to assume that the bloggers who have leapt upon this as some kind of secret revelation are simply unfamiliar with my writing."
This is nonsense. If a conflict exists, it isn't sufficient to disclose it once. It must be disclosed every time it is relevant. Applebaum seems to assume that Washington Post readers make a mental catalogue of every Post reporter and columnist, their relationships, and their conflicts of interest. That anyone who ever reads anything she writes will take it upon themselves to keep a running tally of her conflicts, so she need disclose them only once. That, obviously, is not going to happen. And it displays a stunning arrogance -- she thinks everyone who reads her column cares enough about her to know where her husband works.
Finally, she's misstating the nature of what she mocks as the "secret revelation." The criticism wasn't that her husband is an employee of the Polish government. Nobody cares about that. It's that her husband is a Polish government official who is currently lobbying for the very thing Applebaum is arguing in favor of. Surely she understands the difference?
(For the record, Applebaum had another, much better, defense of her failure to disclose her husband's lobbying for Polanski: she says she didn't know he was doing it.)
And then there's Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post media critic with the lucrative side-job hosting a television show for CNN. He's promised to disclose his financial relationship with CNN every time he writes about the cable news giant -- but he doesn't do so. Not even close.
What Kurtz, Levin, and Applebaum have in common -- besides a corporate parent -- is the apparent belief that as long as they disclose potential conflicts of interests once, anyone who ever reads anything they write will be completely aware of their background. That is obviously foolish -- not to mention arrogant. This may be hard for Washington Post Company journalists to believe, but most readers have more important things to do than to memorize the life story of every reporter whose reporting they might encounter.
In a November 7 Newsweek column, George Will claimed that global warming "has not increased" for 11 years and suggested that the world may be cooling in order to attack an October 31 Newsweek profile of former Vice President Al Gore. Scientists and statisticians reject Will's claim that recent temperatures are evidence that there is no global warming as they have rejected many of Will's previous claims about global warming.
The New York Times has a good article spelling out the obvious problems with Newsweek's decision to team up with the American Petroleum Institute for a forum titled "Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?"
Here's the situation in a nutshell: API is paying Newsweek, in exchange for which API president Jack Gerard gets to be the featured participant in a Newsweek forum moderated by Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman. Newsweek says there's nothing wrong with the arrangement, because it is "transparent":
"There's absolutely no conflict of interest, because they're not driving our editorial" content, [Newsweek director of external relations Mark] Block said. "These events are transparent. They're on the record. They're inclusive of media. They're inclusive of people that might disagree. There's no concern of appearance of impropriety because it's an open and transparent process."
That does not, strictly speaking, appear to be true. Take a look at a "V.I.P. Invitation" email Newsweek External Relations Manager Jennifer Slattery sent out about the forum:
The panel discussion will be moderated Howard Fineman, Newsweek National-Affairs Columnist and Senior Washington Correspondent with special guest panelist Jack Gerard, President & Chief Executive Officer of American Petroleum Institute (API). Newsweek is also honored to have forum invitations currently pending confirmation with notable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
No mention of the fact that API paid for Gerard's participation in the event. So much for "an open and transparent process."
[J]ournalism and ethics experts decried the arrangement.
"You're selling access," said Edward Wasserman, Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. "Newsweek is using its reputation as a great news organization to convene these officeholders to talk about public policy. Then it's renting out a space at the table for one of its customers who would not be at the table if not for giving money to Newsweek."
John Watson, associate professor of communication law and journalism ethics at American University in Washington, agreed.
"You're enticing them to buy these ads to get this thing of value," Watson said.
Newsweek's claims that API's funding doesn't influence its editorial decisions are undermined by the fact that the forum features Gerard -- but doesn't include any representatives of environmental organizations. And, it seems, Newsweek doesn't have any pans to address that exclusion:
Asked whether Newsweek planned to invite a representative from an environmental group to the upcoming event, to balance Gerard's appearance, Block said the magazine "would definitely consider that opportunity," if there were a high-profile environmentalist who might be appropriate. But he said that because members of Congress would likely also participate, time constraints might dictate against it.
Yeah, I bet they might.
And I'm sure it's just a coincidence that Newsweek happily publishes global warming deniers like George Will. And its probably just another coincidence that Will's column relies on the work of the American Enterprise Institute, which gets funding from the likes of Exxon Mobil and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Trust.
That's Charles Koch as in Koch Industries, which was once required to pay "the largest civil fine ever imposed on a company under any federal environmental law to resolve claims related to more than 300 oil spills from its pipelines and oil facilities in six states." Or perhaps you know Koch Industries better as the company that got rich in part by stealing oil from Indian reservations and federal lands -- that is, from U.S. Taxpayers. Then they used the money they stole from taxpayers -- that is, from you -- to fund right-wing think-tanks that advocate policies that would help people like Charles Koch at the expense of, well, you. (Koch Industries agreed to pay $25 million in penalties for stealing all that oil.)
Anyway, I'm sure that's all just coincidence.
Oh, and it's probably also a coincidence that Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post Company, and that the Post got caught earlier this year trying to sell off access to its reporters to corporate sponsors.
In Sunday's Washington Post, Newsweek editor-at-large Evan Thomas reviewed Taylor Branch's The Clinton Tapes. After some throat-clearing, Thomas begins the meat of his review with a refreshing confession rarely seen from mainstream media figures:
It is possible to sympathize with Clinton. Today, when the mainstream media seems so weakened, we forget how powerful -- and arrogant -- the New York Times and The Washington Post, along with the networks and news magazines, seemed to be in the early and mid-1990s. They were part of a giant scandal machine that dominated official Washington in the first few years after the Cold War. The endless string of special prosecutors and the media's obsession with Whitewater seem excessive in retrospect. [Note: it seemed excessive to rational people even at the time; Gene Lyons wrote a whole book about it 15 years ago.]
Clinton was not wrong to be frustrated or to believe that the single greatest mistake of his administration (against the advice of the first lady) was to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Whitewater. He also had the canny insight that Whitewater served as a proxy for what really interested reporters: those rumors of "bimbo eruptions" floated by political enemies and less-than-reliable state troopers.
But just when you think that finally (and belatedly) a major journalist may grasp the simple concept that the 'Clinton scandals' were media scandals, not political scandals, Thomas shows that he still just wants to hear about the "bimbo eruptions":
Given all that, how could Clinton have been so foolish as to take up with a White House intern just as he was turning back the tide of Gingrichism in the fall of 1995? The reader longs for some insight, some Shakespearean narrative to help explain Clinton's self-destructive recklessness. But Branch does not deliver; he merely reports that Clinton said he "just cracked." Branch seems almost too embarrassed to try to find out more.
And Thomas seems not to realize that not everything is a Shakespearean drama. Sometimes a dumb affair is just a dumb affair. Millions of people have them; they don't all yield the kind of fascinating morality play Thomas yearns for even 11 years later.
And that yearning makes up pretty much Thomas' entire review. He doesn't waste a word on health care, or on national security, or on welfare reform or the 1994 crime bill or ... Well, much of anything. Thomas may finally realize the media's obsession with Whitewater was obsessive, but he remains fully obsessed with the "bimbo eruptions" that Whitewater was merely a "proxy for."
Salon's Joan Walsh nails it:
Jesus, take me now. We know way too much about the Lewinsky mess; we know not nearly enough about the collapse of health care reform, the compromises over Clinton's crime bill, the strategies of GOP leaders in those years, and yes, certainly, Haiti. Who really thinks we don't have enough insight into what Clinton thought and felt about the Lewinsky affair? What grownup journalist who lived through Whitewater, the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment, in the prosperous days before 9/11 and the Bush economic collapse, doesn't hate themselves in the cold light of (post-Bush) day?
Sadly, most of them don't. Many are reliving minor Clinton issues through the lens of Branch's book, at the neglect of the major ones, including my friend Chris Matthews on "Hardball."
From the July 10 edition of Newweek's "The Gaggle":
From the July 10 edition of the Fox Nation:
Referring to a question he asked at President Obama's press conference, on Morning Joe, Chuck Todd suggested Obama was being inconsistent in not asking the American people for sacrifice -- during a recession, with millions recently unemployed -- after having criticized President Bush for failing to ask for sacrifice following 9-11.
Newsweek reported that Sen. John McCain is among the Republican "Party luminaries" who "have stumped" for Sen. Saxby Chambliss, but did not mention that McCain reportedly criticized as "worse than disgraceful" and "reprehensible" a campaign ad Chambliss used during his 2002 race against then-Sen. Max Cleland.
In a Newsweek article headlined "Is Obama the Antichrist?" senior editor Lisa Miller treated as newsworthy purported debate among some "conservative Christians" over whether President-elect Barack Obama is "the Antichrist." In doing so, she gave credibility to the views of RaptureReady.com editor and founder Todd Strandberg, who has, among other things, smeared gays and lesbians, Islam, progressives, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Newsweek's Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe repeated the assertion previously made by Newsweek colleague Jon Meacham that the country "remains right of center." Thomas and Wolffe cited as evidence exit polling that showed more respondents identifying themselves as "conservative" than as "liberal." But political scientists dispute the reliability of voters' identification with political ideologies, and the former editor of The Washington Times' editorial page asserted "the only problem" with conservatives claiming America is a "center-right" country is that "[i]t isn't true. Or at least, not anymore."
In reporting on whether Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama would accept public funding in a general presidential election, The New York Times and Newsweek did not mention that McCain faces possible fines and jail time for breaking spending limits imposed on candidates participating in the public financing system during the primary.