On a seemingly never-ending hunt for bad news about Hillary Clinton and her political prospects, the New York Times recently published a front-page article about how the former first lady is busy trying to mend fences between herself and African-Americans, "the constituency that was most scarred during her first bid for the presidency."
Under the headline, "Eye on 2016, Clintons Rebuild Bond With Blacks," the Times claimed the turbulent Democratic primary from 2008 left deep wounds and assumed Hillary Clinton's appearances before black audience this year represented a pointed effort to fix that.
Usually when trying to assess a voting community's perception of a politician or public figure, reporters consult polling data. In this case the Times did not. Certain that Hillary needed to "rebuild" a "bond" with black voters, the Times chose to ignore all the polling data that indicates she currently enjoys extraordinary support among black voters. Indeed, including polling results in the article would have completely undercut the premise. (Why would you "rebuild" a bond that's amazingly strong?)
Instead, the Times omitted any reference to a Quinnipiac poll from this summer that found 88 percent of black voters view her favorably. The Times also ignored the recent NBC/WSJ poll that found in a hypothetical match-up against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Clinton would receive 83 percent of the black vote, versus Christie's four percent. As Political scientist John Sides noted, "Among black voters, any negative feelings about Hillary Clinton were erased long ago."
As for Bill Clinton, a Fox News poll from this year revealed that 90 percent of "non-whites" view the former president favorably.
The Times piece seemed to be little more than an attempt to pick at a five-year old political wound, while glossing over the fact that the abrasion's been healed for years. It was the Times trolling around in search of a conflict and justifying the creation of a dedicated beat devoted to the former secretary of state when, in this case, no conflict exists. (What's next for the daily, a look at how Clinton has to "rebuild" her bond with middle aged women?)
The baffling Times article was just the latest, and perhaps the most egregious, example of a new school of commentary that's cropped up around the Clintons, and specifically around speculation regarding Hillary's presidential plans in 2016. Not content with what-if columns, articles and panel discussions, the press increasingly spends significant time and energy conjuring up what could go wrong if Clinton ran.
Despite Clinton's enviable position with regards to her sky-high name recognition, a proven ability to fundraise, and her strong favorable ratings, the starting point for much of the Clinton coverage lately is She Might Be Doomed. (The New Yorker's Amy Davidson has already declared Clinton's 2016 campaign to be a "predestined" "train wreck.") Does anyone remember two years worth of He Might Be Doomed coverage for George W. Bush when he emerged as the clear Republican front runner well before the 2000 campaign?
That's not to suggest that Clinton is off limits from tough, skeptical coverage and commentary. She's not. But pretending she has to rebuild a relationship that's not broken? That's not skepticism, that's just spin.
After weeks of highlighting negative aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), media outlets have largely underreported the law's success in helping slow the growth of health care costs.
After an agreement was reached with Iran to halt parts of their nuclear program, right-wing media figures responded by calling the compromise "abject surrender by the United States" and comparing negotiations between the United States and Iran to British appeasement of Nazi aggression in the lead up to the Second World War.
Washington Post political blogger Jennifer Rubin is, like most pundits sympathetic to the Republican cause, upset over the move by Democrats to change Senate rules so that judicial and executive branch nominees will no longer have to face down a filibuster in order to get a confirmation vote. "It's a bad way to run the country," Rubin writes. But at the same time she is wistful for what might have been had the filibuster been done away with long ago, and what the nation might have discovered about... Benghazi?
If only. . .
The president cared as much about Iran's nuclear option as he does the Senate's.
The nuclear option was in place for superbly qualified Republican-nominated judges like Miguel Estrada whom the Democrats filibustered.
The nuclear option had prevented Sen. Barack Obama from blocking the confirmation of John Bolton as United Nations Ambassador in 2005.
The nuclear option had removed fear of a filibuster and allowed Susan Rice to get nominated as secretary of state so then she could have been questioned about Benghazi.
This is a perplexing hypothetical. At the time Susan Rice's name was being thrown around as a potential nominee for Secretary of State, there were few people in the media who opposed the idea more than Jennifer Rubin. "From my perspective, it makes no sense to have a three-ring confirmation hearing and lose over a subpar nominee such as Rice," Rubin wrote on December 4, 2012. When Rice asked that her name be withdrawn from consideration for the position, Rubin wrote: "To be frank, she should never have been floated as a possible nominee."
Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus took Mary Cheney to task for challenging her sister Liz's opposition to marriage equality, arguing that - even though it's wrong to deny gays and lesbians the right to marry - Mary Cheney and her wife Heather Poe should have stayed silent instead of "[g]oing nuclear on Facebook."
In her November 20 column, Marcus echoed right-wing pundits who are casting Mary Cheney as the villain in the family feud, accusing Mary of unfairly jeopardizing Liz's chances of being elected to the U.S. Senate by deigning to say how she feels about having a sister who opposes her right to marry:
In the matter of the Cheney Family Feud: Something in me balks at leaping on the let's-all-bash-Liz bandwagon.
Sure, it would be fun. For one thing, she's wrong about same-sex marriage. As her sister, Mary, now famously posted on Facebook after her big sis re-proclaimed her opposition on "Fox News Sunday": "Liz -- this isn't just an issue on which we disagree -- you're just wrong -- and on the wrong side of history."
Then there is the unfortunate matter of waging this family war in public. It's easy to imagine how infuriating it felt for Mary and her wife, Heather Poe, to be sitting at home watching Liz spout off on Fox News. The urge to fight back obviously was irresistible.
But taking matters further public? Going nuclear on Facebook? Heather's post painted her sister-in-law as a political carpetbagger who shifted positions along with states:
"I can't help but wonder how Liz would feel if, as she moved from state to state, she discovered that her family was protected in one but not the other," Heather wrote in a post Mary shared.
Look, I would have been tempted to post, too. I would have been tempted to tweet. Then I would have thought better of it -- or, more likely, my spouse would have told me to step away from the keyboard. That's what Heather should have done for Mary. Instead, Mary reposted Heather's incendiary message.
Like a number of right-wing pundits before her, Marcus argues Mary is to blame for the public Cheney family feud. Liz, who chose to run for public office and make her anti-equality position known, apparently bears no responsibility for putting her gay sister and her family in the spotlight.
The reality is that while gay and lesbian couples are able to marry in 15 states and the District of Columbia, they're second-class citizens in the rest of the country. Pointing out that Liz's position relegates millions of gays and lesbians to second-class status isn't "incendiary" - it's basic truth-telling.
To be fair, Marcus criticizes Liz Cheney's claim that she has always been "compassionate towards" Mary and her family, but she concludes by suggesting that Mary's family may have read too much into Liz's previous warmth. Perhaps, Marcus offered, Liz Cheney was just "being polite":
And [Heather Poe posted], "when Mary and I got married in 2012 -- she [Liz] didn't hesitate to tell us how happy she was for us. To have her now say she doesn't support our right to marry is offensive to say the least." But maybe Liz was merely being polite at the time. To say she's happy for the married couple is not the same as saying she embraces their marriage.
It's easy for Marcus - who's never had her right to marry put up to a referendum or become a political wedge issue - to call for restraint. But Mary and Liz aren't having a minor political disagreement. Liz's opposition to marriage equality has a direct impact on the livelihood and well-being of her gay sister. For gay and lesbian couples - whose freedom to marry isn't uniformly enjoyed and whose legal protections have come only after years of hard-fought struggle - keeping quiet just isn't that simple.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a year out from not being elected vice president, has "an ambitious new project," according to the Washington Post. Ryan wants to steer "Republicans away from the angry, nativist inclinations of the tea party movement and toward the more inclusive vision of his mentor, the late Jack Kemp." As part of that mission, the Post notes, Ryan "has been quietly visiting inner-city neighborhoods" to "talk to ex-convicts and recovering addicts about the means of their salvation." And his staff has been bouncing around "center-right think tanks" for some new ideas to include in "an anti-poverty program to rival his budgetary Roadmap for America's future in scope and ambition."
All this is well and good, until you read on a bit into the Post piece and try and pick out a few of the "new ideas" Ryan wants to bring to his war on the war on poverty. His vision emphasizes "volunteerism and encouraging work through existing federal programs, including the tax code." One of the ideas floated by a think tank staffer advising Ryan's team is to give "poor parents vouchers or tax credits to invest in their kids' educations." And all of this is to be done, of course, while slashing spending on anti-poverty programs and cutting taxes for the well-off. In other words: he wants to repackage the same old Paul Ryan agenda, brushed with a fine patina of compassionate conservatism. It's all glitz and PR, and the Post ate it up.
Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, sweeping the island nation with near-record winds and a towering storm surge. There are many scientific uncertainties around the factors contributing to storms such as Super Typhoon Haiyan, but scientists know that rising sea levels driven by manmade climate change worsen the damage caused by these storms. Yet an analysis of Typhoon Haiyan coverage in television and print media finds that less than five percent of stories mentioned climate change.
As Republicans gear up to filibuster yet another of President Obama's highly-qualified judicial nominees, Democrats are mulling Senate rule changes to allow a straight up-or-down vote on these picks. After unprecedented obstructionism on the part of the GOP, media should note that the so-called "nuclear option" may be the only way for these nominees to get a vote.
After hyping an alleged "pause" in global warming, mainstream media have entirely ignored a groundbreaking study finding that warming over the last 16 years has actually proceeded at the same rate as it has since 1951 with no "pause" compared to that time period.
The study, published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society by Dr. Kevin Cowtan of the University of York and Robert Way of the University of Ottawa, found that the average global surface temperature has warmed 0.12 degrees Celsius between 1997 and 2012 (see the bold "Global" line in the graph above) -- two and a half times the UK Met Office's estimate of 0.05°C (see "Met Office" line). According to the new estimate, over the last 16 years the globe has warmed at the same rate as it has since 1951.
Writing about the study at the scientific blog Real Climate, climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf concluded that the public debate about the "pause" has "become"completely baseless" and that any speed bump in warming is "not surprising" with natural variability:
The public debate about the alleged "warming pause" was misguided from the outset, because far too much was read into a cherry-picked short-term trend. Now this debate has become completely baseless, because the trend of the last 15 or 16 years is nothing unusual - even despite the record El Niño year at the beginning of the period. It is still a quarter less than the warming trend since 1980, which is 0.16 °C per decade. But that's not surprising when one starts with an extreme El Niño and ends with persistent La Niña conditions, and is also running through a particularly deep and prolonged solar minimum in the second half.
An earlier Media Matters analysis found that mainstream media mentioned the alleged "pause" in nearly half of coverage of a major international climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). However, media have often been reluctant to cover data contradicting that narrative, including a study finding that heat may have been stored in the intermediate depths of the ocean, where warming has proceeded 15 times faster than in the past 10,000 years, rather than in the atmosphere.
As for claims that global warming has "stopped" or that global warming is "[o]ver," the study found with 94 percent probability that there has been some warming over the last 16 years. Dr. Cowtan wrote that "the hypothesis that warming has accelerated ... is four times as likely as the hypothesis that warming has stopped."
Why were previous estimates off?
For years, when major news outlets had to admit factual errors or other major mistakes, they drew the most respect and admiration when they opened up with full disclosure and in-depth investigations of what went wrong and why.
That is what makes this weekend's 60 Minutes apology so disappointing.
60 Minutes has always been the gold standard, not only for news magazines but for quality journalism. Even nine years ago, when it conducted an internal review of the 60 Minutes II report on George W. Bush's Air National Guard service, it appointed an outside panel to look at the facts and, rightly or wrongly, fired four staffers. It also helped lead to the eventual departure of legendary anchor Dan Rather.
Fast forward to today, and we find 60 Minutes' October 27 story on Benghazi has been retracted, given that Dylan Davies, the key source witness, apparently lied about his actions the night of the September 2012 terror attacks. But CBS stonewalled critics for days, long after serious questions about Davies' credibility had arisen.
Then the 90-second apology Sunday night by correspondent Lara Logan left a lot of unanswered questions about how the mistake occurred and what, if anything, was going to be reviewed further at CBS News.
All day Monday, criticism mounted from all corners of the media world, with observers saying the correction did not do enough to explain what happened or provide hope that further understanding would be given.
This is a stark contrast from some of the most well-known corrections and reviews of journalism disasters dating back decades. In most cases, such open-book approaches to admitting mistakes and explaining have helped news outlets regain credibility and draw in reader trust.
Among them is the infamous 1980 Washington Post story, Jimmy's World, the Pulitzer Prize-winning account of an eight-year-old boy who was a heroin addict. After it was revealed reporter Janet Cooke had fabricated the piece, the Post returned her Pulitzer, fired Cooke and published a lengthy account of what went wrong by then-Ombudsman Bill Green.
In addition, Executive Editor Ben Bradlee offered to resign. But as the explanation drew acceptance, he remained on the job for another 10 years. Had the Post not been so open and willing to admit its mistake, and explain how it happened, perhaps Bradlee is not allowed to remain.
Conservative Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor George Will cherry-picked outlier examples of campaign finance violations while ignoring legitimate concerns about the potential for big-money donors to corrupt elections and balloted measures .
In his October 30 column, Will attacks campaign finance reform and celebrates the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for large donors to corrupt elections with outsized contributions. Will highlights a pair of lower-court cases where judges struck down regulations on political speech that affected seemingly small-time civic participation to downplay the danger of political corruption, conveniently overlooking how these decisions might make it easier for large corporations to obfuscate their own political participation:
Brick by brick, judges are dismantling the wall of separation that legislators have built between political activity and the First Amendment's protections of free speech and association. The latest examples, from Mississippi and Arizona, reflect the judiciary's proper engagement in defending citizens from the regulation of political speech, a.k.a. "campaign finance reform."
In 2011, a few like-minded friends and neighbors in Oxford, Miss., who had been meeting for a few years to discuss politics, decided to work together to support passage of an initiative amending Mississippi's Constitution. The amendment, restricting the power of the state and local governments to take private property by eminent domain, was provoked by the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo ruling that governments could, without violating the Fifth Amendment ("nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation"), take property for the "public use" of transferring it to persons who would pay more taxes to the government.
The Mississippi friends and neighbors wanted to pool their funds to purchase posters, fliers and local newspaper advertising. They discovered that if, as a group, they spent more than $200 to do these simple things, they would be required by the state's campaign finance law to register as a "political committee." And if, as individuals, any of them spent more than $200 supporting the initiative, they must report this political activity to the state.
Mississippi defines a political committee as any group of persons spending more than $200 to influence voters for or against candidates "or balloted measures." Supposedly, regulation of political activity is to prevent corruption of a candidate or the appearance thereof. How does one corrupt a "balloted measure"?
The answer to this question should be obvious, and even Will begrudgingly admits "there is some slight informational value in knowing where money supporting a voter initiative comes from." Although Will doesn't mention it, the judge in the Mississippi case clearly left the door open for future regulations of political speech, giving a nod to the possibility of improper influence with respect to ballot initiatives:
Significantly, the Court does not hold that Mississippi may not regulate individuals and groups attempting to influence constitutional ballot measures. Instead, the Court holds only that under the current regulatory scheme, which is convoluted and exacting, the requirements are too burdensome for the State's $200 threshold.
Nevertheless, Will goes on to call the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United -- one that allowed a tsunami of corporate money to enter the election process -- an "excellent" one. But even Citizens United noted the corrupting danger of unchecked money in the political system, and transparency was explicitly recognized as the critical protection against such a problem.
The Los Angeles Times recently announced it does not publish Letters to the Editor that deny man's role in climate change, but most major newspapers are not following suit. A study from Media Matters found that 14 letters that deny manmade climate change have been printed in The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, The Washington Post and The New York Times so far in 2013.
Washington Post columnist Charles Lane recycled erroneous Fox News claims about California's new TRUST Act, which details how state officials can constitutionally participate in federal immigration policy.
On October 21, Lane provided misleading talking points to right-wing media on the topic of an appellate judge's recent admission that strict voter ID has proven to be voter suppression. A week later, the exchange was reversed, with Lane repeating debunked misinformation on the TRUST Act previously broadcast by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly.
In his most recent column, Lane falsely claimed that the TRUST Act was "in tension" with the Supreme Court's decision in Arizona v. United States, which reaffirmed long-standing Supremacy Clause precedent that forbids state law from conflicting with federal immigration law. Like O'Reilly's confused analysis before him, this is a conflation of the unconstitutional attempts of Arizona to usurp federal immigration powers with the separate - and unchallenged - constitutional justification behind the TRUST Act. From the October 29 edition of the Post:
California's new law limits cooperation with the federal Secure Communities program, under which the fingerprints of arrestees that local police routinely send to the FBI also get routed to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
When ICE registers a "hit" against its database, it tells the state or local jail to hold the individual for up to 48 hours so that federal officials can pursue deportation if appropriate. Between March 2008 and September 2011, Secure Communities led to more than 142,000 deportations.
California's new law forbids police to detain anyone under Secure Communities unless the individual has been convicted of or formally charged with certain serious crimes such as murder or bribery -- but not, say, misdemeanor drunk driving.
It's the mirror image of a provision of Arizona's immigration law that essentially required Arizona police officers to check with ICE about everyone they arrested. The Obama administration opposed that as unwanted and unnecessary meddling in federal decision making -- but it was the only aspect of Arizona's crackdown that the Supreme Court upheld.
So: If the Supreme Court says that one state (Arizona) may pester federal immigration authorities with more information about detainees than they asked for, can another state (California) deny the feds information they might seek?
But the surviving provision in Arizona's troubled immigration law (SB 1070) mentioned by Lane involved communication between state and federal officials, whereas the TRUST Act delineates immigration detention powers. These are two entirely separate areas of enforcement underpinned by separate legal justifications.
Contrary to Lane's argument, that is not a "mirror image."
In his Washington Post column, Fox News contributor George Will downplayed the explicitly racist, segregationist presidential campaigns of Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, referring to them as merely focused on the "burning issues" of "regional grievances relating to race" and "venting class and cultural resentments," respectfully.
In the context of lauding Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian Party's candidate for governor in Virginia, Will made note of several third party candidates who ran at the national level, writing:
At the national level, the most potent third-party candidates have had vivid personalities and burning issues: Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, taming corporations; Strom Thurmond in 1948, asserting regional grievances relating to race; George Wallace in 1968, venting class and cultural resentments; Ross Perot in 1992, shrinking the federal deficit. Sarvis is more bemused than burning.
By describing the motivations behind Thurmond and Wallace's campaign in this manner, Will severely minimizes the racial animus at the heart of both campaigns.
In the week following the end of the 16-day government shutdown, major print media outlets shifted their attention to upcoming bipartisan budget negotiations. This coverage of budget priorities was far more likely to mention the need for deficit and debt reduction than economic growth and job creation, despite economists warning that growth is the more pressing concern.