• Poll Porn

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As Atrios accurately calls it. And guess who has the worst addiction? The press.

    From Karl Rove's WSJ column today [emphasis added]:

    There has been an explosion of polls this presidential election. Through yesterday, there have been 728 national polls with head-to-head matchups of the candidates, 215 in October alone. In 2004, there were just 239 matchup polls, with 67 of those in October. At this rate, there may be almost as many national polls in October of 2008 as there were during the entire year in 2004.

    Suggestion: With so media companies strapped for cash, perhaps in coming election cycles they can cut back on the avalanche of often useless polling data they pay for; polling data that seem more designed to generate headlines (i.e. manufacture news), than to shed light on elections.

  • Behold the Village

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    TNR takes a look at how the press is holding up at the end of the long campaign season:

    Veterans point out that despite the length of this race, the reporters' relationships to the candidates and to each other aren't nearly as toxic as they had been in previous years. There's been little of the high school cliquishness that plagued the Kerry press corps, and reporters don't seem to loathe McCain or Obama the way they loathed Gore--who refused to hold a press conference for upwards of 60 days--in 2000.

    The sympathetic article goes on and on about how long the campaign has been and how difficult it's been to cover. And how there aren't any interesting articles to write any more. (Y'think?)

    But journalists get very little sympathy from us. We wrote nearly 20 months ago that the press was going way overboard with its breathless, celebrity-based campaign coverage and that the campaign, as presented by the press, was going to be unbearably long.

    But that's the beast the mainstream media desperately wanted to build (because campaigns now double as entertainment content/programming) and that's the beast that had to be fed. So let's not whine about the process now.

    BTW, loved the suggestion that the press loathed Gore because he wouldn't hold a press conference. Whatever you say TNR. (Fact: The press loathed Gore on the campaign trail 14 months before he ever pulled back on press conferences.)

  • The AP and the Obama ad

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Following last night's 30-minute, primetime broadcast, the AP's analysis was misleading and disingenuous, writes thereisnospoon at Daily: "Putting words in Obama's mouth and then attacking him for lying about the words you just made up--now that's journalism."

  • So nice, Politico wrote it twice

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's about Joe Biden and how he talks too much and says funny thing. (I know, right?)

    Politico, September 22, headline, "Blue-collar vote, one gaffe at a time":

    In the four weeks since becoming Barack Obama's running mate, Biden has been a reliable fount of gaffes, awkward statements and hyperbole...He seems constitutionally incapable of conforming his quirky and anachronistic political style to the punishing and unforgiving modern news cycle.

    Politico, October 28, headline, "Joe the Talker: Can Biden be good until Election Day?":

    For starters, the state of being Joe Biden means odd things can come out of one's mouth - sometimes harmlessly, even endearingly, but sometimes with real consequences.

  • Fox News and the ACORN charade

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    By the end of this month, FNC will likely have mentioned the community organizing group nearly 1,500 times, according to (The tally currently hovers around 1,480, which is about 1,300 more than CNN). The cabler's over-the-top obsession with the group's urban-based voter registration initiative has become something of a running campaign joke.

    Yet asked about it in Politico, retiring Fox News anchor Brit Hume took great pride, boasting, "We had a great run on ACORN."

    Hume's self-satisfying view really does capture the FNC ethos. Because in truth, Fox News never advanced the ACORN story one inch. It never broke any news. It never contributing anything journalistically to the story. Meaning, news organizations never (I don't think) had to cite Fox News for anything regarding its ACORN coverage. And its reporting certainly had no impact on the overall campaign.

    Fox News couldn't stop talking about ACORN, and yet FOX News never managed to uncovering anything newsworthy about ACORN. It just rehashed and speculated, rehashed and speculated.

    Still, Hume boasts FNC had a "great run" on the story. Why, because it filled up endless hours of Fox News programming? Is that how Hume determines a Fox News success?

  • Worst Headline of The Day

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Goes to the Boston Globe: "Obama on defense in Pa. as McCain senses an opening."

    Fact from Globe article: "Obama's advisers point out that almost every public poll over the last month shows Obama with a double-digit lead."

    Let's just say McCain probably wishes he was on the "defense" in PA. like Obama is.

  • Inventing new newsroom standards

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The McCain camp is demanding the Los Angeles Times release a video that shows Barack Obama attending a going away party in 2003 for former University of Chicago professor and Obama friend, the semi-controversial Palestinian, Rashid Khalidi.

    The issue of the video has suddenly become an all-consuming one online among right-wing bloggers who see it as a game-changer. (i.e. It would show Obama's allegiance with nasty people.)

    The Times wrote about the video in April but now the campaign's insists the Times make the video public. That the newspaper is "intentionally suppressing" information.

    The request strikes us as odd. Since when do politicians have the right to order news organizations to do anything? It would be one if McCain were sitting on a senate committee and decided to subpoena news executives. But last time we checked candidates can't demand newsrooms "release" anything.

    As the Times spokesman told Politico, the newspaper isn't' suppressing the Khalidi story. After all, it was the Times that first reported the story. How can you be hiding a story that you broke?

    Still, Politico's Ben Smith was puzzled by the Times' refusal:

    L.A. Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan wouldn't discuss the decision not to release the tape in detail.

    "When we reported on the tape six months ago, that was our full report," she said, and asked, "Does Politico release unpublished information?"

    The answer to that question is yes - Politico and most news outlets constantly make available videos and documents, after describing them in part, which is why the Times' decision not to release the video is puzzling. My instinct, and many reporters', is to share as much source material as possible.

    Really? So if next week a politician or a reader demands that Smith release his notes from a story he reported, he would oblige? Or if they demand that he release emails he received from sources, or voice mail messages, or early drafts of a story? All of that "unpublished information" would be released in the name of transparency?

    That strikes us as absurd. Since when did the process of reporting a story--since when did journalism--become a completely open process in which journalists had to "release" whatever unpublished materials politicians demanded.

    UPDATE: A Times editor Russ Stanton issued this statement:

    "The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it. The Times keeps its promises to sources."

    Ben Smith agrees that logic is hard to argue with.

  • Dick Morris rewrites history

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Morris appears on the opinion pages of the Boston Herald to announce that John McCain can still win this election. And that McCain's climb isn't really that daunting because lots of candidates have pulled off White House comebacks, just like McCain can.

    The hitch is that Morris has to reinvent the recent past to make the claim stand up. We know Morris is no stranger to fiction, but this bout of creative writing (i.e. fabricating) seems especially noteworthy.

    Yes, McCain's a long shot ,Morris admits, announcing that the Republican is trailing by nearly 7 points in the national polls. But that's okay, he reassures the faithful:

    it is not too late for the Republican to pull out a victory. Three times in the past 30 years a presidential race shifted dramatically in the final week.

    Wow, really? Three times in the last 30 years somebody has come back from as far back as McCain "in the final week" and won the White House? Well, technically, no. In fact, nobody in the last 30 years has come back from nearly seven points down "in the last week" to win the election. And, I'm guessing nobody ever will.

    But let's watch Morris reinvent the past.

    *"In 1980, Reagan came from eight points behind to a solid victory by winning his sole debate with Carter in the last week of October."

    *"In 1992, Clinton, who had fallen behind in the polls because of the pounding he was taking over his liberalism and propensity to raise taxes, surged ahead of Bush when Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh announced that he was indicting Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, an indication of Bush's possible complicity in the Iran-Contra scandal."

    *"And in 2000, Bush's 3 to 4 point lead in the polls was erased over the final weekend when reports surfaced that he had been cited for DWI 20 years before and had not revealed the fact to the public. Bush still won the election, of course, but Gore won the popular vote by half a point."

    Just for the record, neither Reagan in 1980, nor Clinton in `92, nor Bush in 2000 were ever behind by nearly seven points with one week to go. Not one of them. Yet that's the proof Morris concocts on the eve of Election Day.

  • Bring back the League of Women Voters

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Because the media aren't up to the presidential debate task, writes Cynthia Stead in the Cape Cod Times.

    This election cycle had 20-odd candidates, not including rumors, winnowed down to the final two. After the two-year primary cycle, these debates were important to inform the public about the stances and temperaments of the survivors - and were hideously bungled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a wholly owned subsidiary of the successful campaigns.

    Jim Lehrer did a respectable job of herding cats in the first debate, almost getting the candidates to answer the questions actually asked instead of ones they wanted to answer. The vice presidential debate was a ratings star, but Gwen Ifill did a terrible job as moderator, unable to get questions answered. Even the ones she chose to ask, like, 'What is your greatest weakness' reeked of Entertainment Tonight.

    (h/t Media Nation)