Every winter, there are two things you can count on, two things that are absolutely assured of happening. The first is that at some point somewhere in the northern hemisphere, it will snow. The second is that some thick-as-a-brick conservative will guffaw loudly that the presence of snow on the ground means that Al Gore is a moron and climate change is a fraud.
It happens all the time, and as funny as those jokes weren't the first time they were made, they're downright tiresome now.
But for Politico writers seeking to nab their latest link from Matt Drudge (a connoisseur of lame Al Gore/winter snowfall jokes), conservative mockery of the former vice president stemming from the record snowfall in Washington, DC is big news:
Conservatives mock Al Gore on snowstorms
By Andy Barr
With the nation's capital buried in several feet of snow and the federal government brought to a halt by Mother Nature, conservatives are mocking former Vice President Al Gore and his crusade to curb global climate change.
The vocal doubters of global warming frequently use any unseasonal snowfall or cold spell to mock Gore and the scientists who believe human actions are unnaturally warming the planet.
But the historic snowfall in Washington -- coinciding with a push from Democrats to enact legislation capping emissions -- has given conservatives more fodder than usual to bash the former vice president.
What follows are quotes from Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin all making THE SAME EXACT JOKE about Gore -- a joke they've probably all made dozens of times in the past.
Absent from the article was any indication that these conservatives, in addition to demonstrating a marked aversion to fresh comedic material, are also flat-out wrong to suggest that isolated weather phenomena, like the DC snowstorms, are at all relevant to the climate change debate. They certainly don't disprove climate change theory, much in the same way that unseasonably warm temperatures in Vancouver do nothing to confirm it.
But why let facts get in the way when there's a tired joke to flog and a Drudge link to be had?
UPDATE: Politico has since updated their article, citing Media Matters' item from yesterday documenting the plethora of conservatives using the snowstorms to make foolish and ignorant attacks on Al Gore and climate change theory. The Politico article now contains the following language:
Most climate scientists would disagree with the two senators -- both of whom are frequent critics of cap-and-trade legislation -- pointing to numerous studies indicating that carbon emissions have contributed to rising global temperatures.
The left-leaning group Media Matters wrote in its blog Tuesday that "conservative media figures have used the recent snowstorms in the Washington, D.C., area to level more science-free attacks on global warming."
But criticism of the position has not deterred global warming deniers from using an unusually snowy winter in Washington to bash Gore.
In an article headlined "Republicans revive 'soft on terror' charge," Politico uncritically repeated several GOP attacks on the Obama administration's response to the attempted Christmas Day bombing which are undermined by the similarity of that reaction to the Bush administration's response to Richard Reid's 2001 attempted shoe bombing. The attacks included that President Obama was "slow to speak to the public" after the attempted Christmas Day bombing, and that the Justice Department was wrong to read the bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights and decide to try him in a civilian court; moreover, Politico pushed the misleading GOP attack that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "said 'the system worked' because passengers on the plane jumped on" Abdulmutallab.
Politico's Ben Smith posted the FBI agent's affidavit in the alleged plot to interfere with the phones* at Sen. Landrieu's office by O'Keefe and three others to his Twitter account this afternoon. You can read it here (pdf).
In a Politico article headlined "History according to Glenn Beck," reporter Michael Calderone asked history professors what they thought of Beck's documentary on "the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara - 'the true unseen history of Marxism, progressivism and communism; as Beck described it."
In the article, Clemson professor Steven Marks called Beck's assertions "a complete lie":
Clemson University professor Steven Marks, author of "How Russia Shaped the Modern World," said that while Beck doesn't explicitly tie the left-wing totalitarian regimes of the past to contemporary liberals, that's what "he's hinting at here."
"No one in their right mind is going to defend Stalin or Mao or Che Guevara," Marks said. "The implication is that this is what's going to happen if Democrats get their way. This is just a complete lie."
Boston College professor Alan Wolfe said Beck "lives in a complete alternative universe":
Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Life at Boston College, said that the film not only isn't accurate, but that Beck "lives in a complete alternative universe."
As an example, he said, Beck mentions how the Nazis supported programs like universal health care as evidence that their ideology may have more to do with the left than the totalitarian right.
Nazi Germany was "not evil because of their economic program," said Wolfe, which he noted included a few programs designed to promote public health.
"It was evil," he said, " because it aimed at the extermination of European Jewry."
Politico's Michael Calderone reports this morning that, Alexander Zaitchik who "wrote a multi-part series for Salon looking at the life of Glenn Beck, probably the most comprehensive take in terms of back story that I've seen on the conservative talk star" will be releasing a new biography on the right-wing conspiracy-theorist this spring titled, Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance (Wiley & Sons, 2010).
If you've not yet read Zaitchik's amazing series on Beck for Salon, you can do so here.
Politico has been in the hot seat in recent months for, as MSNBC's Chris Matthews put it earlier this week, serving as a "hot line" for Dick Cheney, saying, "[h]e uses you like you'd use Drudge or somebody."
The pressure has been so intense that Politico editor John Harris was forced to offer up a lame defense of his publication's stenography services for the former Vice President.
All is not lost however. One Politico employee wants us to know that he hasn't been pulling any punches when it comes to Bush's former number two. In fact, so seemingly upset by the spat of negative attention hovering around the beltway rag, this enterprising soul sent an email to Romenesko to straighten things out once and for all. Did I mention he's the cartoonist?
I kid you not.
The email from Matt Wuerker to Romenesko follows:
I couldn't help but have my fragile cartoonist ego hurt by the building beef out there about the Cheney coverage by Politico.
As part of the slowly shrinking tribe of editorial cartoonists, it's hard not to be a little thin skinned these days, so it pains me to have to point out myself that at least in my little corner of Politico (which runs off our home page) I don't think Cheney's getting a free ride. The bloggers that are all howling about how we're so clearly in the tank for Cheney seem to not read down toward the bottom of our homepage.
To bolster my case I'm attaching three examples from just this past year. I have many more going further back. I know that my little cartoon corner doesn't have nearly the reach that Mike Allen does, but still, even ink-stained wretches hate to be completely overlooked.
It was reported this morning by paidContent.org that Politico is estimated to be a $20 million operation. The dollar figure is all the more interesting when you consider this post from Think Progress today:
Reporting on criticisms of right-leaning pollster Scott Rasmussen, Politico presented as fact his official bio as "an independent pollster" who "has never been a campaign pollster or consultant." The article quotes Rasmussen's critics, but fails to question his supposed independence.
According to the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity, Rasmussen has been a paid consultant for the RNC and President Bush's 2004 campaign. The RNC paid Rasmussen $95,500 between 2003 and 2004 for items listed as "survey," "survey cost" and "voter data." Bush's campaign paid Rasmussen $45,500 for "survey research."
You'd think with that kind of dough on hand they could afford to hire a few more fact-checkers.
Earlier today Markos Moulitsas did us all the favor of providing a glimpse into Politico's next effort to win the mid-morning-after-breakfast-but-not-quite-brunch hour, relating an exchange he had with Politico's Daniel Libit as the reporter fished for a "buyer's remorse" storyline highlighting the similarities between President Obama's agenda now and then-candidate Hillary Clinton's platform during the Democratic primaries. Markos' response to Libit's inquiry is worth reprinting in its entirety:
My god, what a stupid premise.
Indeed. Kos rightly pointed out that reporting on "similarities" between the agendas of two mainstream Democrats is hardly big news. What's more, Libit is late to this particular party. This exact story was written seven months ago, appearing in the pages of -- you guessed it -- the Politico. The fact that this story is resurfacing at all is a testament to how much the political press love to flog the Obama-versus-Clinton meme, even though it hasn't shown any signs of life for some time now. The Democratic primaries ended over a year and a half ago, Obama won the election over a year ago, Clinton joined his Cabinet eleven months ago, and there's been nary of whiff of discord between the two since. And yet, here's the Politico taking another swing at it.
Were there any bad blood between Democrats, the "buyer's remorse" that Politico believes is out there, a good place to look for it would be in opinion polls. If Democrats really are souring on Obama, then you'd think the president's approval rating among Democrats would have taken a sizeable hit. That doesn't appear to be the case -- Obama's approval among Dems is holding strong in the 80s.
Of course, that's no reason why Politico still won't run with the article. Just look at the Drudge-baiting dreck they've served up in the past two weeks alone: an article on how Obama says "unprecedented" too much; John Harris' round-up of right-wing smears repackaged as the "seven storylines Obama needs to worry about;" and an article giving space to Senate Republicans complaining that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is too partisan.
That's what they consider news. Their goal is to produce articles like these.
My god, what a stupid premise.
This morning, Politico published a story, the premise of which appears to be that Republican senators are mad at Al Franken for having proposed an amendment - which passed two months ago - banning federal contracts from being awarded to companies who require their employees to use their firms arbitration process - rather than the courts - for workplace discrimination claims. Why was this article published? I have no idea.
A Franken press release sent out after the amendment passed stated that Franken had been "inspired" to offer the amendment by the story of Jamie Leigh Jones, "a 19-yr-old employee of defense contractor KBR (formerly a Halliburton subsidiary) stationed in Iraq who was gang raped by her co-workers and imprisoned in a shipping container when she tried to report the crime" who subsequently "learned a fine-print clause in her KBR contract banned her from taking her case to court, instead forcing her into an "arbitration" process that would be run by KBR itself."
According to the Politico article, the amendment has - horror of horrors! - "spawned attacks like the satirical website RepublicansforRape.org." And so, the Republican senators in the article are complaining that Franken has been excessively partisan, demanding that he come out and say that opponents of his amendment are not effectively pro-rape, and claiming that until that happens, Franken's ability to work with Republicans in the future will be undermined.
Why has the Politico decided to let Republicans like John Cornyn - the head of the Republican National Senate Committee, i.e., the chief Republican partisan in the Senate - decide what constitutes excessive partisanship? No idea.
Does the Politico think it's somewhat unusual for Senators to be criticized for the votes they cast, and respond by complaining? Sure looks like it.
Why is the article running now, two months after Franken's amendment passed? Dunno.
But I'm sure it has nothing to do with this blog post, in which a different Politico reporter complains that Franken won't talk to him in the halls.
Remember how the media flipped out when Rep. Alan Grayson said the GOP's health care plan was: "Don't get sick, and if you do get you do get sick, die quickly"? NBC Nightly News covered it, with anchor Brian Williams calling the comment "incendiary" and noting that Republicans wanted him to apologize. Politico's Roger Simon said Grayson is "like a guy on crack who is always searching for a bigger high."
CNN's Howard Kurtz claimed Grayson benefitted from a "media double standard" -- that Grayson's comment drew less criticism than GOP Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's address to congress.
Well, if Kurtz is right about media double standards, there should be a huge media firestorm over Republican Sen. Tom Coburn's statement yesterday that under the Democratic health care plan, seniors will "die sooner." Seems pretty unlikely to me, but we'll see.
From Kenneth P. Vogel's 738-word November 20 Politico article:
Glenn Beck, the controversial Fox News television host, is planning on becoming more active in the populist conservative movement he spawned, according to sources familiar with his thinking.
At a rally Saturday at a massive retirement community in Central Florida, Beck is planning to unveil what he has billed as a "big plan" for 2010, which is expected to involve the 9.12 Project, the group he started earlier this year and named for the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when he says the nation was unified.
"Coming this January, my whole approach changes on this program," he hinted cryptically on his Wednesday show. "This next year is going to be critical, and I think it's going to change and I think we are going to set it right, at least set our course right. And if that means the Democrats or the Republicans are destroyed along the way, well, good. Good."
Beck's Saturday rally, which is set for 3 p.m., is timed to coincide with the kickoff of a tour promoting his new book, "Arguing with Idiots."
Washington Post reporter Michael Shear explains his paper's wall-to-wall coverage of Sarah Palin's new book:
Why do we spend so much time on Palin? And is it too much? Perhaps. There's a danger that we are overdoing it -- four stories in today's paper may have reached that point. On the other hand, there seems to be an insatiable demand from our audience -- liberals and conservatives -- and at the end of the day we have to, and should, respond to that.
Really? There's an "insatiable demand" from Washington Post readers for coverage of Sarah Palin's book? How does the Post know this? The book just came out -- has the paper's switchboard been flooded with demands that for all-Going-Rogue, all the time? Are Post editors getting angry emails insisting that three articles in one day's paper just won't do -- a fourth is absolutely necessary, though still not sufficient?
I doubt that very much.
I don't mean to single Shear out here. You see this kind of thing all the time -- reporters justifying something they can't justify on the merits by asserting public demand they can't (or won't) quantify.
Like when Howard Kurtz defended obsessive cable news coverage of a balloon that was not carrying a little boy by writing "The ratings, forgive me, must have soared." Must have? Well ... Did they? Or when Politico's Mike Allen asserted that "Fox executives are relishing" their recent fight with the White House because "ratings at Fox are through the roof" -- without actually providing the ratings to back up that claim. As Eric Boehlert has explained in detail, Fox's ratings spike is a myth.
It's bad enough when journalists suggest that the news media should simply report what the public to see. That isn't journalism -- and if we go too far down that road, it won't be long before NBC Nightly News consists of nothing more than cat videos and B-list celebrity sex tapes. But it's even more frustrating when they make decisions about what to cover based on baseless assumptions about what the public wants.
For years, local news producers have led their stations in a race to the bottom, driven by the prevailing belief that "eyeball grabbers" and "soft news" are the only hope for local news in an era of declining TV audiences.
But a 2004 study* argues that they might want to rethink their approach. In "The Local News Story: Is Quality a Choice?" political science professors Todd L. Belt and Marion Just conclude that sensationalistic news does not lead to sensational ratings.
Belt, assistant professor at the University of Hawai'i, Hilo, and Just, a professor at Wellesley College and the Joan Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, argue that the prevailing worldview in the nation's newsrooms has it all backward: Good, solid journalism, not tawdry, tabloid-style content, keeps viewers tuned to their TVs.
What Belt and Just found certainly goes against industry conventional wisdom.
"The data show quality journalism produces commercial success," they write. Newscasts that posted high scores on the quality index nabbed higher ratings than their mediocre counterparts. The finding held true for both the early and late evening news time slots. It also held for lead stories, suggesting that the old TV news mantra - "If it bleeds, it leads" - might be in need of revision.
Although local news viewership as a whole fell during the period covered by the study - 1998 to 2002 - the data nonetheless show that those stations that produced high-quality newscasts did better in hanging on to their audience.
BUCHANAN: When I went into New Hampshire, I went down to a basement store, and they said "Get rid of the Florsheim shoes and the blue suits and the red ties. We're gonna go get you what we call North Country Clothes: brand-new sweaters that look very old and all that stuff." You saw me up there, Andrea.
MITCHELL: I know, you were authentic, Pat.
Old sweaters are not more "authentic" than Florsheim shoes and blue suits. Nor are they less "authentic." They're both just clothes. Yet Andrea Mitchell thinks that Pat Buchanan wandering into a New Hampshire store and, on the advise of some unspecified "they," discarding his typical outfit in favor of new sweaters that are designed to look old was a mark of authenticity.
(It goes without saying that if Al Gore told precisely the same story Buchanan told, he would not be praised as having been "authentic.")
And just a few minutes ago, Politico's Andy Barr was on MSNBC, talking about the AP fact-checking Sarah Palin's new book:
This fight with the AP she's got going on is kind of funny ... It seems like they really took that slam from her personally, and in that fact-check they're really maliciously going after her, kind of point by point.
"Maliciously"? This is the state of modern political journalism: When a news organization fact-checks false claims by prominent Republicans, a reporter calls it "malicious."
Me? I'd call it "journalism."
Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports (emphasis added):
The New York Post editor fired after speaking out against a cartoon depicting the author of the president's stimulus package as a dead chimpanzee has sued the paper. And as part of her complaint, Sandra Guzman levels some remarkable, embarrassing, and potentially damaging allegations.
Guzman has filed a complaint against News Corporation, the New York Post and the paper's editor in chief Col Allan in the Southern District Court of New York, alleging harassment as well as "unlawful employment practices and retaliation."
As part of the 38-page complaint, Guzman paints the Post newsroom as a male-dominated frat house and Allan in particular as sexist, offensive and domineering. Guzman alleges that she and others were routinely subjugated to misogynistic behavior. She says that hiring practices at the paper -- as well as her firing -- were driven by racial prejudices rather than merit.
And she recounts the paper's D.C. bureau chief stating that the publication's goal was to "destroy [President] Barack Obama."
The most outrageous charges, however, involve Allan. According to the complaint:
"On one occasion when Ms. Guzman and three female employees of the Post were sharing drinks at an after-work function. Defendant Allan approached the group of women, pulled out his blackberry and asked them 'What do you think of this?' On his blackberry was a picture of a naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis. When Ms. Guzman and the other female employees expressed their shock and disgust at being made to view the picture, Defendant Allan just smirked... [N]o investigation was ever conducted and the Company failed to take any steps to address her complaints."
Guzman's complaint goes on:
"On another occasion, upon information and belief, Defendant Allan approached a female employee during a party at the Post, rubbed his penis up against her and made sexually suggestive comments about her body, including her breasts, causing that female employee to feel extremely uncomfortable and fearing to be alone with him."
And finally: "... [W]hile serving as the top editor at the Post, Defendant Allan took two Australian political leaders to the strip club Scores in Manhattan..."
Guzman alleges that while at the paper, misogynistic and racist behavior was directed at her specifically. According to the complaint, she was called "sexy" and "beautiful" and referred to as "Cha Cha #1" by Les Goodstein, the senior vice president of NewsCorp. After doing an interview with Major League Baseball star Pedro Martinez, she says Allan asked her whether the pitcher "had been carrying a gun or a machete during the interview" -- a line Guzman said was racist and offensive.
When she would walk by certain offices at the paper, Guzman alleges, editors would routinely sing songs from West Side Story -- a nod to her Hispanic heritage -- including the tune: "I want to live in America."
Guzman also makes the following allegations to supplement her case that the Post harbored an environment that was offensive to women and minority employees.
"A White male senior editor sexually propositioned a young female Copy Assistant, telling her that 'If you give me a blowjob, I will give you a permanent reporter job.'"
"The last five employees who were recently terminated by Paul Carlucci, the Publisher of the Post.... Have all been black and/or women of color."
Read Stein's entire piece and the compliant in full here.
Politico's Ben Smith picks up an interesting angle to the story:
The New York Post and New York Daily News, for a time, complemented their fierce competition for circulation with bitter attacks on each other's staff and on their owners, Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman.
But Murdoch and Zuckerman, as has been reported, reached a truce of sorts, and they've been reported to be in sporadic talks about some sort of merger of -- at least -- the paper's back ends. And the clearest signal I've seen in a while of that rapprochement came this week, when a fired Post employee, Sandra Guzman, filed suit against the paper and its brawling Australian editor, Col Allan.
The Daily News offered a sanitized version of the story: "A New York Post editor sacked after complaining that a cartoon likened President Obama to a monkey sued the paper on Monday, claiming rampant racism and sexism in the newsroom," but detailed none of the actual allegations.