• Will the Beltway press follows Stephanopoulos' lead, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, the answer is a resounding no.

    Technically, Isikoff's Blago piece, which takes breathlessness to new heights, was likely written before Stephanopoulos' Sunday scoop about how there may be no 'there' there re: Emanuel and Blago; the angle the press is praying provides some actual spark to the soggy saga. But even if Stephanopoulos' scoop completely deflates Isikoff's almost comicly innuendo-driven report, it's still worth a look just to understand the sad state of Beltway journalism, where concocting what-if's about Democrats has become a full-time profession.

    Isikoff's headline: "If I Had Subpoena Power: Five Questions for Obama."

    Note right away Newsweek invokes the spector of Obama being dogged by subpoenas, which is interesting considering prosecutors have made clear they don't think Obama or Emanuel did anythng wrong in the Blago case. But Newsweek wants to create the Clinton-like impression of the Democratic president seeing supbeanas at every turn.

    Isikoff's lead:

    Invoking his wartime commander-in-chief authority, NEWSWEEK Editor Jon Meacham has granted yours truly, a lowly investigative correspondent, sweeping subpoena power to demand that President-elect Barack Obama and his transition team answer all my questions about their dealings with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who stands accused of putting Obama's vacant U.S. Senate up for sale to the highest bidder. (He vowed on Dec. 19 to fight the charges "until I take my last breath.") It remains unclear whether Obama's assorted spinmeisters and lawyers will honor these subpoenas-or even return my phone calls. But in the meantime, the public at least deserves to know the most crucial questions.

    A couple things are telling here. Note the almost fooling around/ha-ha tone at the top; Iskikoff's editor has granted the "lowly" reporter subpeana power. See, it's a game. Newsweek's just having a laugh while it smears the president-elect by painting a false picture of him at the center of a criminal investigation, which he is not.

    Second, don't you love how at the end Isikoff claim's he's only wallowing in what-if's because the public deserves to know. See, it's not the Village that's obsessed wtih the Blago story, it's the public. (We have our doubts about that.)

    But this part is also priceless: Isikoff thinks the public needs to know what the most crucial questions are. Not the answers, but the questions. Why is that key? Becuase any journalist can sit around and dream up Blago-related questions. That takes no actual reporting, which is why the Blago story remains such a big hit. Answers, though? Those are much harder to produce. (Credit Stephanopoulos, he seems to have uncovered some.)

    As for the hyped five questions Isikoff would ask if he could put the president-election under oath (gee, nothing presumptuous with that premise, right?), trust us, his five have been floated, literally, by every other Blago-obsessed pundit in the Beltway over the last two weeks.

    Behold your press corps at work.

  • Will the Beltway press follows Stephanolpous' lead?

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    The ABC anchor scored a coup over the weekend with his report re: Rahm Emanuel's contact with Blago and his top aides about Obama's vacant U.S. senate seat. Most news outlets, like the AP, remain in heavy breathing mode, suggesting Emanuel's contacts could lead to all sorts of political trouble for Obama.

    Stephanopoulos reported:

    Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, [Blago's Chief of Staff John] Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, "all we get is appreciation, right?" "Right," Emanuel responded.

    Seems like that represents something of a story/innuendo killer. We'll see if the Village plays dumb or not.

  • NYT pretends liberal blogosphere does not exists

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    This weekend the Times addressed the controversy sparked when Barack Obama extended an invitation to conservative, evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver a public prayer at Obama's inauguration. According to the Times, Obama is "facing criticism this time from liberal and gay rights groups."

    Technically, that's accurate. But the Times went out of its way to ignore the fact that the Obama/Warren story was born in the blogosphere. The Times itself would not have covered the story if it weren't for the cackles raised online. The blogosphere made the story. Period. Yet not one blogger is quoted in the Times article and the liberal blogosphere isn't even mentioned.

    Instead, the Times, like so many traditional news outlets over the years which have tip-toe around the blogs and been reluctant to acknowledge online's ability to create news, played dumb and pretended the Warren story--and specifically, the outrage expressed on the left that made the pastor pick newsworthy--simply materialized out of thin air. It didn't. The liberal bloggers made that story and the Times chose to play dumb.

  • Let's not pretend Time didn't fawn over Bush/Cheney

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    Time's unexpected pick of Barack Obama as its Person of the Year raised lots of cackles among the right-wing because, they whine, it was just another example of the press fawning over Obama.

    Newsbusters lamented:

    David Von Drehle's marshmallowy cover story celebrating Time Person of the Year Barack Obama was fraught with too much bias for just one post.

    Newsbusters remains determine to shred apart Time's Person of the Year feature article because it was too nice to the Person of the Year. So far, Newsbusters has posted three separate angry items (including a video of Leader Brent himself!) because--think about this, now--Time's Person of the Year feature was too nice to the Person of the Year.

    And Newsbusters was expecting what exactly? Aren't syrupy worshipful features pretty much what Time's Person of the Year write-ups are all about? Leader Brent says no way. Time never treated Republican presidents like this, he claimed.

    Actually, Time did, and it was just a few short years ago. It's true. Go back to Time's 2002 year-end issue when it toasted, for 4,500 glowing words, the Partnership of the Year between George Bush and Dick Cheney. Trust us, worshipful barely begins to describe the Time treatment.

    A sample:

    With that posture—leaning forward, fists clenched—the Bush Administration has promised to set aside a longtime tradition of restraint in waging war, because the danger demands no less. Its members believe that the enemy is mobile and can't be deterred, the targets are soft and can't be protected, and the old rules of battle no longer apply. The war on terror is a war of annihilation, and the President's every instinct tells him that however divided America may be over policy or priorities, this is the only fight that matters.

    And this:

    But in the national crisis, when all the bright lights came up on the White House stage, there was a chance to rewrite the rules, rewire the whole Executive Branch. Bush had the zeal to make the war on terrorism his mission; Cheney provided the theology.


    What two people have in common may bring them together, but what makes them different tells their fortune. Some of history's most powerful partnerships are not friendships, and this is true of Bush and Cheney.


    "Together [Bush and Cheney] are leading us along a rough road with sharp curves, and while we may argue about where we're heading, we have no choice but to follow, because a nation fights as one."


    However anxious they may be, most Americans are inclined to give Bush the benefit of the doubt; they trust his motives and approve of his performance. In war, it's not enough for people to like Bush; they have to follow him, and for many, that's easier when he has Cheney marching at his side.

    P.S. Is anybody else completely creeped out reading this kind of thinly veiled agitprop again, and being reminded just how mindlessly pro-war the mainstream media often was in late 2002?

  • Note to WaPo: The FBI is investigating a big Norm Coleman donor

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    First it was the AP that dragged its feet over the Minneapolis story, which broke amidst the ongoing Coleman/Al Franken recount. And now we see the WaPo remains silent. To date, nothing in the newspaper of Beltway record about the FBI investigating a wealthy donor of a sitting U.S. senator for trying to improperly funnel money to the senator's family.

    Last time we checked, that was news.

  • Let the Clinton Foundation guilt by association begin, cont'd

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    We see the New York Post treated the release of the donor list like its own Festivus celebration. Dick Morris thinks the names raise all kinds of headaches for Hillary. (You didn't see that one coming, did you?)

    Aside from the Post's signature breathless innuendo, we were struck by the daily's creepy obsession with the fact that millions of the Clinton Foundation money came from donors in the Middle East. The Post just assumed that the revelation was wildly damaging to Clinton. And perhaps its readers know they're supposed to recoil at the news that wealthy Arabs from allied countries gave millions to a foundation that helps poor people around the word, but we thought it was odd.

    Just a few Post lowlights:


    -"It's time to get Bubba fitted for a burnoose."

    -"Desert-dwelling donors"

    -"in what could be called the world's biggest sheik shakedown"

    -"Clinton finally said "open sesame" to his foundation's books"

    And yes, this was language used in a news article. (Of all the newspapers facing bankruptcy, why can't the Post be one of them?)

    Meanwhile, we loved this quote about the Clintons from a former Reagan adviser:

    "People may say, well, even if they are not sharing the same bed at night, they still may talk to each other and it doesn't look right," [Harvey] Sicherman said.

    Stay classy, NY Post.

  • Hey CNN, where's the pork?

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    Blogger Bill Scher does a thorough and important dissection of a recent story that purported to examine possible pork layered into infrastructure spending requests recently made big city mayors.

    There's nothing wrong with that premise in terms of good enterprise reporting. The problem, according to Scher, was that CNN simply gave a platform to conservative partisans to sound off about "pork" without providing a larger context.

    For instance, the CNN article raised red flags because:

    A report to Congress that requests $73.2 billion to pay for infrastructure projects around the country includes plans for a polar bear exhibit, an anti-prostitution program, a water park ride, zoos, museums and aquatic centers, CNN has found...Those projects -- plus money for aquatic centers, museums, bike paths, zoos, skateboard parks, dog and equestrian parks, police department stun guns, tree planting and murals -- total $376.5 million.

    Noted Scher:

    1) Do the math. CNN claims the mayors' request includes $376.5 million of "pork." But the entire request totals $73.2 billion.

    That means one-half of one percent of the proposal is pork, and 99.5% are solid requests.

  • Let the Clinton Foundation guilt by association begin

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    Bloomberg News leads the charge by announcing that somebody who gave money to the Clinton Foundation is being investigation by the feds for wrongdoing.

    We suspect this is really why the press, for years, has been clamoring for the Clinton Foundation to release a list of its donors, which it recently did in order to aide Hillary Clinton's confirmation as SoS. The press wanted to see the donor list so the press could suggest that Clinton is tainted by his post-White House work.

    We saw that most recently when the NYT published a dreadful piece of journalism that tried to raise questions about Clinton based on the fact that a wealthy business man who paid Clinton to speak before a group was being separately criticized by a group of his investors. Clinton, the Times seemed to suggest, was responsible for private investors upset with an international businessman. Talk about adopting new standards.

    Anyway, Bloomberg trumpets this big news [emphasis added]:

    Canadian investor Victor Dahdaleh, facing a U.S. federal probe of allegations that he helped Alcoa Inc. defraud a Bahrain government-controlled metals company, is among donors who gave as much as $5 million to former President Bill Clinton's charitable foundation... Dahdaleh's dispute with Bahrain shows how entanglements by Bill Clinton's financial backers may pose headaches for Hillary Clinton as the New York senator seeks confirmation as President-elect Barack Obama's secretary of state.

    Quick journalism point. Bloomberg noted that the probe began in March. When did Dahdaleh give his money to the Clinton Foundation? Bloomberg either does not know or simply does not report the fact, which wouold offer some illumination, no? Because if Dahdaleh gave his money to the Foundation before his company was probed, Clinton would had to have been a fortune teller to see any pending (paper-thin) conflict. But again, Bloomberg leaves that pertinent information out.

    Meanwhile, the actual significance of Dahdaleh giving money to a charity? Bloomberg never really says. But c'mon, there's an unrelated federal probe involved. (No indictments yet, of course.) Doesn't that speak for itself?

    Actually, that's not entirely true. Bloomberg does uncover this quote:

    "It certainly creates a couple of extra hurdles for the Obamawould administration," said Joel Rosenthal, president of New York's Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

    Let's map this out. According to this person, Obama has troubles because the husband of his SoS choice runs a charity and among the 200,000 of people who gave money to that charity, one is being questioned by authorities regarding his business operation.

    We're pretty sure that's the definition of guilt by association.

    UPDATE: The WaPo's Eugene Robinson pens a Clinton donor column today. At the very top he announces it's "far-fetched" to think Hillary as SoS would be influenced by any of the Foundation donors. Nonetheless, he thinks the released donor list will "provoke suspicion and give rise to conspiracy theories." So what does Robinson do? He spends pretty much his entire column fueling those suspicions by raising questions about the donors.

    Behold this dreadful passage:

    More ominous would be any perceived tilt toward India in its bitter standoff against neighboring Pakistan. The list reports several huge donations from Indian tycoons and a high-six-figure donation from the Confederation of Indian Industry. Pakistan is not similarly represented. I know this is a ridiculously slim thread from which to hang any charge of bias, or potential bias. But India and Pakistan, in their unbounded mutual suspicion, take the concept of paranoia to a new level. I guarantee that somewhere in Islamabad, a sense of grievance is already being nurtured.

    I'd argue it's the Betlway press that suffers unbounded suspicion...of the Clintons.

  • The NYT's failed Bill Krisol experiment, cont'd

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    For those watching the calender, only three weeks left until Kristol's contract runs up with the Times. Gawker's Alex Pareene is guessing there will not be a renewal:

    What the New York Times needs is semi-reasonable token conservatives on its op-ed pages. Ones, like David Brooks, who occasionally wander slightly off the reservation to promote some mildly independent view, or ones like William Safire who are nakedly intellectually dishonest but smart and weasley enough to get away with it. Kristol, a lightweight, was not up to the task. His very first column was not only headlined "President Mike Huckabee?" but it warranted an immediate embarrassing correction (a rarity on the op-ed page).

  • Howie Kurtz misses the points about Obama/the press

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    Talk about day dreaming up narratives, take a look at this [emphasis added]:

    Why is Obama's coverage different than that of every other president-elect? Plenty of reporters were enamored of President-elect Clinton and agreed with many of his views. But he was seen as an outsize figure, a man of enormous talent and appetites, and a Bubba-like figure from Hope, Arkansas. He was Not Like Us.

    But the reason there are so many stories about Obama having to give up his normal life, surrender his BlackBerry, yadda yadda, is that reporters identify with him. He is a writer who produced two books. He lives in a big city. He was not born to a wealthy family. And yet he keeps his essential core hidden. So journalists, I believe, are as curious about Barack as the public at large.

    First, notice how president Bush does not exist and has been erased by the Beltway media? Because I'm pretty sure Kurtz could have just as easily made the case that "plenty of reporters were enamored of President-elect" Bush. But that topic is not to be addressed.

    Second, it's never a good sign when a journalist doesn't even bother to back up the central point in his piece. i.e. How on earth has Obama been treated different than every other president-elect. And is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is Kurtz actually suggesting the press, currently in day No. 10 hyping the paper-thin Blago/Obama "scandal," has been showering the president-elect with good press?

    Specifically, Kurtz is just amazed that the press is obsessed with the trivia (i.e. his BlackBerry) and minutia surrounding Obama's transition. The writer thinks that quite unusual.

    Please. It's utterly predictable because the Beltway press has consistently advertised the fact, and only underscored it in recent weeks, that it revolves around trivia and minutia. It lives for distractions. As Politico recently noted (without an ounce of irony):

    Reporters have been bombarding the president-elect's transition office and those close to Obama with the most detail-obsessed questions about his every move. Among the inquiries received in recent weeks: Does Obama prefer Macs or PCs? Who designed that tie he's wearing? Where does he buy his suits? What's his morning exercise routine like? How about his basketball techniques? What movie has he seen recently? Who cuts his hair? Will he sell his house in Chicago? What did he have for Thanksgiving dinner? What's his favorite food?

    Behold your press corps at work.