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  • Kathleen Parker, meet Christopher Buckley

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Both National Review writers have broken from the conservative pack (Parker dissed Palin; Buckley chose Obama) and both are now feeling the wrath of the GOP faithful.

    Writes Buckley:

    Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails. No one has yet suggested my dear old Mum should have aborted me, but it's pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land. One editor at National Review-a friend of 30 years-emailed me that he thought my opinions "cretinous." One thoughtful correspondent, who feels that I have "betrayed"-the b-word has been much used in all this-my father and the conservative movement generally, said he plans to devote the rest of his life to getting people to cancel their subscriptions to National Review.

  • Is PBS burying a torture documentary?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Over at The Daily Beast, Scott Horton reports that PBS is apparently burying a documentary about torture until after President Bush is scheduled to leave office -- and, as a result, until after election day.

    This spring, PBS's distinguished Frontline series aired a mildly critical account of the lead-up to the Iraq War entitled "Bush's War." As the airing of the program was announced, the Bush Administration proposed to slash public funding for PBS by roughly half for 2009, by 56% for 2010 and eliminating funding entirely for 2011. Did PBS get the message? Perhaps.

    On Thursday evening WNET in New York will air an important new documentary by Emmy and Dupont Award winning producer Sherry Jones entitled "Torturing Democracy." It appears on WNET and several other affiliates independently because PBS would not run the show—at least not until President Bush has left office. The show delivers impressively on a promise to "connect the dots in an investigation of interrogations of prisoners in U.S. custody that became 'at a minimum, cruel and inhuman treatment and, at worst, torture'" (quoting Alberto Mora, who served as general counsel of the Navy under Donald Rumsfeld, and features in an interview).

    Over the past few years, the American government has taken to comitting torture and listening in on Americans' phone calls (including recording and storing the personal telephone conversations of journalists.) We've had an administration that has been so aggressive in its grab for power, and so dismissive of the Constitution, it has gone so far as to claim that Vice President Cheney is a heretofore unknown Fourth Branch of government.

    There's a very good argument to be made that those things are the most important issues we face as Americans -- not the housing crisis, or the economic meltdown, or health care, or the war in Iraq. All of those are serious matters, to be sure, but whether the next president will continue the Bush administration's approach to executive power and civil liberties and the Constitution go to the most basic questions about who we are as a nation -- not to mention how, structurally, decisions about the economy and war get made.

    And yet the news media steadfastly refuses to talk about these matters during the presidential campaign.

  • Drudge's Mickey Mouse Reporting

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Matt Drudge is hyping a report that Orange County, Florida rejected a voter registration form filled out in the name of "Mickey Mouse":

    Drudge Mickey Mouse

    Drudge's sensationalist headlines aside, this isn't evidence of a problem with ACORN; it is evidence of the system working. Elections officials rejected an apparently illegitimate registration form.

    Drudge suggests ACORN did something wrong in submitting the registration form in the first place. But ACORN shouldn't be in the position of deciding which registrations are legitimate and which are not; that's why we have elections officials. There are two clear problems with placing that burden on a private organization.

    First, private organizations shouldn't make decisions about which forms are submitted because there would be too much potential for wrongdoing in such a scenario - an organization shredding voter registration forms for people attempting to register in the "wrong" party, for example.

    Second, it may seem obvious that some forms are illegitimate. That's Drudge's point here - Hahahaha, they tried to register Mickey Mouse! Fools! But here's the thing: there are 32 people named "Mickey Mouse" listed in the White Pages nationwide, including two in Florida:

    32 Mickey Mouses in the White Pages

    Now, that doesn't mean the registration form in question was legitimate. It probably wasn't. After all, elections officials tossed it. (Which, again, means that the system worked, and no illegal ballot was cast.)

    What it does show is that in a nation of 300 million people, there are a lot of names. Some of them might seem funny to Matt Drudge. Some of them might seem obviously fake to Matt Drudge. That doesn't mean they are. That's why election officials, not ACORN or Matt Drudge, should make that determination.

    UPDATE: On MSNBC, NBC deputy political director Mark Murray just referred to "Harry Potter" and "Han Solo" as other obviously fake names. There are 77 Harry Potters in the White Pages. No Han Solos, but there is a Hans Solo. And 8 Luke Skywalkers. This is really simple: You cannot tell that a voter registration form is illegitimate based solely on the name.

  • Don't Call It A Comeback

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    MSNBC's Chuck Todd explains the "comeback" narrative:

    "What they're [the McCain campaign] hoping is that the media buys into the comeback story. I noticed today: LA Times used 'comeback' in their headline. Wall Street Journal used 'comeback.' That's what they're hoping. And, in this case, they're hoping perception becomes reality. If you say the word 'comeback' enough, maybe voters will actually -- 'Oh, ok, we'll do a comeback.'"

  • Department of Unintended (But Completely Obvious) Consequences

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post reporter Dan Balz:

    The presidential race is not over, but at this point, Obama has a better chance of becoming president than McCain, and as a result, the questions ought to be going toward him as much or more than McCain -- questions not of tactics but of substance.

    [...]

    McCain has been criticized for raising questions about Obama that were seen as questioning his patriotism or his commitment to the values the country holds dear. But there ought not to be any moratorium on asking hard questions of both candidates right now, and especially of the Democratic nominee who sits in the pole position heading into the final three weeks.

    Balz is not only suggesting an overt double-standard, he is suggesting a glaringly illogical double-standard.

    Say the press does (or, if you prefer, continues to do) what Balz suggests and scrutinizes Obama more closely than McCain. What then? Well, potentially, that scrutiny results in John McCain beating Barack Obama.

    In which case, in an attempt to ensure that the next president is thoroughly scrutinized, Dan Balz will have helped elect the candidate who, because of his own suggestion, has not been scrutinized.

    I know this is a crazy idea, but if reporters want to make sure the next president has been thoroughly scrutinized before voters make their decisions, they could thoroughly scrutinize both candidates.

  • Another reason the current debate format ought to be scrapped

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From the New York Times:

    In a far more low-key manner than the lavish sponsorships at the two political conventions, corporate America is providing cash donations and in-kind contributions and lending their executives to the debates. In return, many sponsors are getting coveted tickets to the debates and, even more, the chance to polish their image as good corporate citizens.

  • Let the navel-gazing begin

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    And let me guess, the press thinks it's doing a fabulous job this campaign!

    Michael Calderone reporterd from Time Warner's media elite forum on Monday, "Politics 2008 – The Media Conference for the Election of the President":

    The group from CNN over the next two days includes network president Jon Klein, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, Campbell Brown, Jeffrey Toobin, David Bohrman, Roland Martin, Howard Kurtz, Fareed Zakaria, Alex Wellen. Donna Brazile, John King, Sam Feist, and David Bohrman. Time offers Rick Stengel, Mark Halperin, Joe Klein, and Karen Tumulty will here, too.

    And just handful of the rest: Frank Rich, Graydon Carter, Dan Rather, Peggy Noonan, Jeff Greenfield, Alex Castellanos, Howell Raines, and Jim VandeHei.

  • Bob Schieffer felt sorry for Tom Brokaw

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    While watching the last presidential debate, because the rules were so constraining. Schieffer takes his turn in moderator seat this week.

    He claims, "If [candidates] try and get off track, I'm not going to be bashful about saying, 'Gentlemen, that was not the question.'""

    We'll see.

  • Fox News has ACORN on the brain

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    FNC has gone all in on the ACORN voter registration story in recent days. Since Friday, Fox News has mentioned the community organizing group 342 times, according to TVeyes.com. (That's compared to the 61 mentions on CNN.)

    Here's a glimpse of what Fox News' ACORN-mania looked like on Monday.

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