• One side to every story

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico's Ben Smith, in response to Obama campaign complaints that the New York Times as inadequately covered John McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal:

    The Keating Five scandal, though, is hardly a secret. Indeed, the story is central to McCain's political narrative. He's called his actions a mistake, and the episode is what transformed him into a self-stylled reformer.

    "He has basically dedicated his career since that moment to the cleaning up of Washington," McCain aide Douglas Holtz-Eakin told me last week.

    Smith says the Keating Five scandal is well-known -- and points to McCain's spin on it as evidence. But that doesn't contradict the argument that McCain's actual relationship with Keating (as opposed to the pro-McCain spin that the incident turned him into a reformer bent on "cleaning up" Washington) -- it reinforces it.

    If there's a clearer example of the media's continued failure to subject McCain to the level of scrutiny they've given to Obama's relationships with Tony Rezko and Rev. Wright, I don't know what it is. Reporters rarely bring up Keating unless it's to remind us that the incident turned McCain into the World's Greatest Reformer.

    And yet when this is pointed out, Ben Smith says Keating isn't a secret -- hey, we know McCain's hand-picked "narrative" about it. What more could anyone ask for?

    How about a version of the story that isn't McCain's own chosen "narrative"?

  • Newsweek: America is a center-right country

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And that for "40 years, Democrats have been mostly out of stop with the nation."

    Oh my. So for all those years in the last four decades when Democrats controlled Congress (and often the White House) they were out of step with the country? And when Democrats threw out the Republican majority in recent years, they were out of step?

    Also note that Newsweek's Jonathan Darman, in making his case, does not point to a single poll or survey result to back up his claim that America is a center-right claim. We're not surprised. Because as a Media Matters study indicated, the relevant polling data suggests just the opposite; that across the board Americans side with a Democratic, or liberal agenda, in terms of big government, gun control laws, gay rights, abortion rights, tax cuts and foreign policy.

  • Michael Scherer & Social Security, Part 3

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Following up on last week's posts about Time's Michael Scherer's Swampland post about Obama, McCain and Social Security ...

    Today, Scherer acknowledges that "McCain supported the Bush plan then, and still speaks in favor of the private account idea in the future" and concludes:

    The social security example did not belong where I put it in the post, and by placing it there I launched a confusing discussion about the issues--committing the same crime that I was chastising the candidates for committing.

    Scherer still insists the Obama's ad's assertion that Social Security privatization constitutes "risking Social Security on the stock market" is a "distortion" that "exaggerat[es] the worst-case scenario of Bush private account plan." Since Scherer acknowledges that the plan involves investing some Social Security funds in the stock market, and since (I assume) he would acknowledge that investing the stock market involves "risk," it seems misguided at best to continue to call the ad a distortion.

    Nonetheless, Scherer's post today is a welcome acknowledgment that he was wrong, and that he muddied the issue rather than illuminating it. Scherer could have ignored the matter, as many journalists do when they are wrong. Or he could have offered a terse two-sentence statement that walked back his original claim without really making clear what he got wrong in the first place. That, too, would have been all-too-typical of "corrections" to flawed news reports. Scherer didn't do that. Instead, he posted five paragraphs of explanation, including clear statements that he got it wrong and that he confused the debate rather than clarifying it.

    More journalists should take their mistakes as seriously as Scherer does in his post today.

  • Politico paints Biden as a goof

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This media narrative has already become quite tiresome: Joe Biden, while campaigning non-stop, often makes unscripted comments that journalists try desperately to whip into "gaffes" so they can write stories about how Biden is gaffe-prone. The Politico is the latest on the Biden-is-a-goof assembly line and the results are embarrassing. Not for Biden but for Politico.

    Headlined, "Blue-collar vote, one gaffe at a time," readers likely expect Politico to provide a long list of gaffe's to substantiate the article, right? Wrong. Here's Politico money graph where it pretty much details all its proof of Biden's gaffey-ness:

    Among other things, the Delaware senator has said that Hillary Rodham Clinton may have been a better vice presidential pick; accidentally referred to his partner as "Barack America"; told a wheelchair-bound man to "stand up"; and called Michelle Obama's convention speech "the most remarkable speech I have heard in my life."

    Let's take those one at a time.

    1. Biden's comment about Clinton came in response to a voter in New Hampshire who told Biden he was glad Barack Obama picked Biden over Clinton. Meaning, Biden was being a gentleman and saying something gracious about Clinton in return. The Politico left out the context.

    2. So what if he referred to Obama as "Barack America"?

    3. The wheelchair incident was indeed a gaffe and Biden quickly apologized for it.

    4. Biden said Michelle Obama's speech the most remarkable he'd ever heard because that's what he believes. Who are Politico reporters to doubt Biden's word?

    Elsewhere is the soggy story, Politico thinks it's a big deal that while campaigning in parts of Pennsylvania where there are lots of Catholic voters, Biden talks about his Irish Catholic roots.

    Note to Politico: That's called smart campaigning, not making a gaffe.

    The deep irony with the media's beloved, Biden-says-nutty-things narrative is that campaign journalists whine incessantly about how scripted candidates are and that their interaction with voters out on the trail isn't authentic. But when somebody like Biden comes along and communicates freely with voters and routinely ventures off-script, what does the press do? It mocks the candidate for not being scripted enough.

  • WaPo editors don't return calls

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    At least not the one Eric Alterman placed to the paper's deputy editor of the national section, Bill Hamilton, asking for a clarification regarding the daily's policy on passing along campaign falsehoods to readers.

    And Alterman even made sure his phone message was polite.

  • The Beltway hearts David Brooks

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Howard Kurtz publishes one of his patented media mash notes on Monday where he seemingly spins a wheel containing names of (mostly conservative) elite Beltway pundits and decides that that week they're hotter than hot and then collects quotes from that pundit's media pals who couldn't agree more. The whole ritual is rather tired and hollow and high schoolish.

    Today, for no apparent reason, it's David Brooks turn to wear the tiara.

    And FYI, despite Kurtz's best efforts to suggest Brooks is somehow respected on the Left, which makes his appeal unique, the truth is Brooks is routinely mocked by liberal for being intellectually dishonest. But none of that matters, because the Beltway crowd thinks Brooks is just swell.

  • Just curious

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    About the the just-released Ohio News Organization poll that shows McCain with a six point lead in that state. Why would a poll conducted between Sept. 12-16 not be released until Sept. 21? Did it really take the newspapers five days to crunch the numbers? And given the enormous news events that have occurred in the last five days, wouldn't the news orgs be concerned about the results being somewhat outdated?