Yesterday, Politico published a special glossy magazine covering the "50 Politicos to Watch." In it, four journalists were highlighted for their reporting and commentary. Charles Krauthammer was among them.
Mr. Krauthammer is, of course, free to voice any political point of view he likes, and he should never draw criticism simply for his professed conservative beliefs. But like so many conservative critics, Krauthammer's work is characterized by sloppy thinking, factually-challenged analysis, and partisan hyperbolae that undermine his credibility as an analyst and pundit.
Despite his record, Politico described him as having "emerged as arguably the leader of the conservative media's opposition" to President Obama. Krauthammer was portrayed as providing "clear, concise criticism of left-wing orthodoxy" that "could make the Obama era his." The piece ended with glowing praise from David Brooks: "He's the most important conservative columnist right now."
The fact that Brooks is probably correct is an indication of the sorry state of conservative media, analysis, and commentary. Politico quoted Krauthammer as saying that he "doesn't want Obama to fail" – hence, supposedly drawing a contrast between him and conservative critics like Rush Limbaugh. But the truth is the opposite, as Krauthammer said himself on April 1: "It's a little early to declare a presidency failed – although I would like to do it."
The consequences of such a partisan world view are obvious for all to see. There is a reason why Krauthammer has expressed the belief that Fox News, a station that makes no commitment to fact-gathering or responsible reporting, is actually a noble venture, providing "the one, only, voice of opposition in the media." Indeed, much like Fox, Krauthammer has excelled in confidently providing irrational, baseless analysis. Consider the following brief review of some of his proclamations since President Obama was elected last November:
In his February 6 Washington Post column, Krauthammer asserted that the economic recovery legislation supported by Obama contains "hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus," echoing myths about the legislation contradicted by Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Douglas Elmendorf.
On February 16, Krauthammer, again commenting on the stimulus bill, attacked it for a fictitious provision which would have built a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. "And that's the old politics that Obama campaigned against," he said. "This train is really an atrocity. It goes from Disneyland, as you said, to Vegas. It should be called the fantasy land express." The project in question was itself a fantasy.
On March 13, Krauthammer likened President Obama's reasoning on stem cell research to that which justified the work of Nazi researcher Josef Mengele and those who conducted the Tuskegee Experiment, during which a group of poor African-Americans with syphilis were deliberately denied treatment by government scientists so that the progression of their condition could be studied.
On April 3, Krauthammer expressed his belief that Europe has been "sucking on [America's] tit for 60 years." He also continued to advance the idea that President Obama was apologizing to Muslims and the world in general for America's actions, a gross distortion of his statements. "We're a country who went to war six times on behalf of Muslims in the last 20 years," he said, "and we're apologizing?"
On April 24, he referred to Hugo Chavez as "Obama's new pal."
On May 20, Krauthammer supported keeping Guantanamo Bay open, explaining his position thusly: "I know it's the romantic in me."
On May 26, Krauthammer took Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina woman" quote out of context, saying that it showed she is "a believer in the racial spoils system." That same day, he commented that empathy has no role in the justice system, as it represents "the overturning of the idea of...justice being about the content of a character." In doing so, he ignored the fact that George H.W. Bush praised the empathy of Clarence Thomas when nominating him.
The list goes on and on, but Krauthammer is only part of the problem. This isn't the first time Politico has gone out of its way to praise him uncritically. In May, the paper cited an October, 2006 article he had written for the National Review Online as a perfect example of the "clarity of his opposition to Obama." The Krauthammer piece boldly put forth a prediction regarding Obama's chances in the upcoming presidential race: "He should run in '08. He will lose in '08."
The real question, of course, is why someone with this kind of a record is still portrayed by the press as being worth listening to.
Many media figures have dubbed President Obama's health care reform proposal "ObamaCare," reinventing the terms "HillaryCare" and "ClintonCare" that were used by opponents of the Clintons' reform proposal. In doing so, these media are often seeking to frame the debate in negative terms.
Yes, as Politico's Michael Calderone points out, Huffington Post is asking readers to vote for their favorite White House correspondent:
Current nominees: Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie, John Yang, Suzanne Malveaux, Ed Henry, Bill Plante, Jake Tapper, Major Garrett and Wendell Goler.
Henry would like your vote. But some think there are some notable exemptions: Former White House press office staffer Pete Seat wants Chip Reid and Washington Times White House correspondent Christina Bellantoni thinks Mark Knoller was robbed.
From Politico's Michael Calderone (emphasis added):
While it's already been noted that CNN's prime-time audience has dropped sharply in recent months, less viewers are tuning in at 7 p.m., too. Compared with May 2008, The Observer reports that Lou Dobbs has dropped 29 percent in total viewers and 27 percent in the key 25-54 demo.
I wonder if there is a helpless scapegoat that Dobbs can blame for this. Hmmm, I just can't put my finger on it.
Numerous media figures followed a Politico article in noting that President Obama did not use the words "terror," "terrorism," "terrorist," or "war on terror" during his speech at Cairo University, suggesting the omission was notable, but did not discuss possible reasons why Obama chose other words.
Media figures have used President Obama's second overseas trip to Europe and the Middle East to stoke fears that he may be too close to the Muslim world or harbors a secret, anti-American agenda.
Conservative media figures have been quick to describe Sonia Sotomayor as, in Sean Hannity's words, "left-wing" and an "activist." Several media figures and legal experts reject this characterization, describing her as a "political centrist."
In two days, a Republican strategist's baseless suggestion that Nancy Pelosi could fall victim to "a coup in Congress" spread from his Politico.com op-ed to all three cable news channels, TheFoxNation.com, a New York Times blog, and the print edition of The Wall Street Journal.
On a Hardball segment concerning the chances that Sen. Barack Obama would select Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) as a running mate, Ken Vogel said: "[L]et's not forget that Obama, too, was the subject of a story in The Washington Post, actually, suggesting that he got a good deal on his mortgage. So unless they want an all-sweetheart-mortgage ticket, I think this is probably not the way to go." In fact, the Washington Post article provided no evidence that Obama had received preferential treatment in obtaining his mortgage.
The Politico's Ben Smith falsely suggested that Sen. Hillary Clinton criticized Sen. Barack Obama's proposal to address the solvency of Social Security, which includes raising the payroll tax on workers earning more than $250,000 per year. In fact, while Clinton said in November 2007 that she opposes "lift[ing] the cap completely," she has not said that she opposes raising the cap on payroll taxes if the plan to do so includes a so-called "doughnut hole" exempting those earning less than $250,000 from a tax increase, as Obama has proposed.
On Mike Gallagher's radio show, Mike Allen said of Scott McClellan's new book: "Scott does adopt the vocabulary, rhetoric of the left-wing haters. Can you believe it in here he says that the White House press corps was too deferential to the administration ... in the run-up to the war?" By contrast, two of Allen's former colleagues echoed the media criticism of Allen's so-called "left-wing haters." Michael Dobbs asserted that "on the question of whether the American press did its job properly during the run-up to the Iraq war, it is difficult to argue with his conclusions. We failed you." Similarly, Howard Kurtz stated that print coverage during the run-up to the war was "flawed," adding: "It was only when violence surged in Iraq and public opinion began turning against the war that ABC, CBS, NBC, and the rest of the media turned more skeptical."
In reporting on Sen. John McCain's efforts to woo Hispanic voters, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, the Politico, and Reuters mentioned McCain's previous support for comprehensive immigration reform but did not note that he has since said he would no longer support a comprehensive reform measure he co-sponsored.