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  • The RNC literally writes the lead for Chicago Tribune Blago/Obama story

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From the Trib's blog [emphasis added]:

    The "unanswered questions'' -- as the Republican National Committee and others are calling them -- will continue to haunt President-elect Obama and staff in the sordid case of the Illinois governor accused of attempting to sell Obama's Senate seat. Until Obama, and his staff, answer them.

    Take a knee Trib, because the breathlessness (Obama's haunted!) must leave everyone there exhausted.

    Did Rahm Emanuel speak to Blago's team about filling Obama's senate seat? Yes. Is that in any way, shape, or form unusual? No. Is it illegal? Of course not. Are prosecutors targeting Emanuel in any way? No. Is the RNC hyping a non-story? Yes. Is the Trib doing the RNC's bidding? Gladly.

    FYI, John McCain is not impressed by the RNC's attempt to hype the Blago story to the press.

  • Slate concocts new standards for "scandal" coverage

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Chris Beam unfurled a beloved Beltway CW as way to prop up the breathless Blago story in terms of it being an "Obama scandal." (And yes, in the last paragraph of his piece, Beam noted "The Blagojevich complaint leaves him pretty much untainted." Of course, if that had been in Beam's first paragraph the whole piece would have been pointless. Nifty trick, eh?)

    According to Beam, this is what everyone within elite media circles agrees about scandals, and plus it's been true forever:

    The first rule of political crisis management: Tell everything. Every megascandal, from Watergate to Monica, was exacerbated by the slow trickle of embarrassing information. Better to put it all out there at once, take the heat, and move on.

    Personally, I admired how Beam immediately raised the specter of previous presidential impeachments when analyzing the Blago story. But the key point was that presidents always have to release all embarrassing information. Immediately. It's the only way to make a story go away. It's the only way to get the press to back off. And if presidents (or president-elects) don't immediately disclose every morsel of information, the tenacious Beltway press is never going to be satisfied.

    To that I have a two word response: Harken Energy.

    Think back to when that embarrassing presidential scandal broke in 2002. Did Bush instantly reveal every Harken-related fact, figure, time and date? Did the White House do everything it could to make sure journalists had as much relevant information as possible and do it in a timely fashion? Please.

    But if Bush stonewalled, that meant the press hounded him mercilessly about his fishy Harken entanglements, right? Again, don't make us laugh.

    Slate claims the press rules for presidents have been carved in stone for ages. Actually, the rules being applied to the Democrat today are exactly like the ones that applied to Clinton the Democrat in the 1990's. Yet for some miraculous reason the same rules did not apply to Bush the Republican, and people like Beam play dumb about it.

  • Note to AP: The FBI is investigating a big Norm Coleman donor, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Here's a list of news orgs that have reported that one of Sen. Norm Coleman's big donors is under investigation for possibly try to funnel money his way:

    New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Washington Times, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, UPI, Hotline, Salon, washingtonpost.com, usnews.com, CNN.

    A news org that still hasn't yet touched the story? AP.

  • Bill Kristol and the stopped clock

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Actually, being right twice a day would be an improvement for the NYT columnist. He tops the "The 10 Worst Predictions for 2008" as compiled by Foreign Policy:

    Weekly Standard editor and New York Times columnist William Kristol was hardly alone in thinking that the Democratic primary was Clinton's to lose, but it takes a special kind of self-confidence to make a declaration this sweeping more than a year before the first Iowa caucus was held. After Iowa, Kristol lurched to the other extreme, declaring that Clinton would lose New Hampshire and that "There will be no Clinton Restoration." It's also worth pointing out that this second wildly premature prediction was made in a Times column titled, "President Mike Huckabee?" The Times is currently rumored to be looking for his replacement.

    Let's hope those rumors come to fruition.

    (h/t Crooks and Liars)

  • Stay classy, Chicago Sun-Times, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Just to update our post below regarding the Sun-Times' remarkably bad Rahm Emanuel/Blago report, the AP is now reporting that prosecutors have more formally confirmed that Emanuel is not the target of any investigation because he did nothing wrong. But of course that won't stop the press from clinging on its Blago story. "This story will not go away," Politico's John Harris announced on Hardball, until the White House discloses who talked to Blago.

    Again, not to be repetitious, but the press will remain in a frenzy until it finds out which Obama aides talked to Blago. Until it finds out which aides talked to Blago and did nothing wrong. This really has been a landmark week for the Beltway press.

    And BTW, Emanuel, no doubt thanks to the wildly irresponsible reporting this week, has received Blago-related death threats.

  • Catch-22

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Digby is, as usual, right:

    These trumped up scandals present a serious Catch 22 for politicians. If they are prudent and follow the law, they will use careful and precise language. If they follow their political instincts and play these situations like the soap opera the media demands, they will deny everything in the most emotional terms. Either way they are screwed.

    The Catch 22 may be the defining characteristic of the media's coverage of (Democratic) faux-scandals. They want their controversy, and they're going to get it one way or another. Take that Howard Kurtz complaint that Obama waited too long -- 24 hours! -- to call for Blago's resignation. Is it even remotely difficult to imagine what would have happened had Obama made the resignation request an hour after Fitzgerald announced the criminal complaint? He'd have been criticized for doing so prematurely -- recklessly, even. And there's no doubt some reporter would speculate that Obama's haste was evidence that he has something to hide.

  • Stay classy, Chicago Sun-Times

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Anxious to keep the Blago drama percolating, many in the press have decided that among the most pressing question facing the nation is who on Obama's staff may have talked to Blago about filling Obama's senate seat. If you read the coverage and listen to the talking heads, you know this is hugely important.

    Why? We're not sure since prosecutors don't even hint that any conservations that took place between the two camps were improper. Indeed, it would bizarre if Obama aides hadn't reached out to the governor about filling the president-elect's seat.

    But none of that matters now because Obama and his aides won't talk, or so we're told. We need to know who talked to Blago and told him Obama wouldn't play ball for any kind of deal. Who told the corrupt pol to forget about getting any kind of deal from Obama. Follow? We need to know who talked to Blago and did the right thing. But of course, the press leaves off the did-the-thing part, and simply obsesses over who talked to Blago because that sounds more sinister. (There's a criminal complaint!)

    Let's note the Chicago Sun-Times whose Blago/Emanuel article has landed top honors at the Drudge Report. Headline [emphasis added]: "Is Emanuel the adviser on gov tape? MUM: Obama's chief of staff refuses to answer the question."

    Oh my. And the lead:

    President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refused to take questions from reporters this morning about whether he was the Obama "advisor" named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich

    Looks shady, no? And where did Emanuel duck reporters questions? Where did he refuse to come clean to the Sun-Times? At his kids' school concert. No joke. Behold:

    Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama's news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago's City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet. A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.

  • Glenn Beck misremembers his CNN past

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    He's barely out to door of CNN Headlines News and on his way to Fox, and already Beck is revising his CNNHN stint. In a Q&A with Time, Beck claims:

    I also think they made me a better broadcaster because, believe me, I was the most well-researched show on CNN. They never let me get away with anything. At the time, it was like, come on guys, cut me some slack. But in retrospect, they made me better. I know what I know because they forced me to document it.

    CNN made Beck document everything on that show. Except, of course, when CNN did not:

    -Beck called "Comrade Clinton" a "liberal fascist," Edwards "a communist"

    -CNN's Glenn Beck: "[C]ongressional game-playing by Nancy Pelosi will end up killing Americans"

    -Beck mischaracterized Media Matters item quoting his interview with controversial evangelist Hagee

    -Beck revived falsehood that Bill Clinton said, "We've got to slow down our economy" to fight global warming

    -Beck inflated estimated ANWR oil production by nearly 7,000 percent

    -CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck on Obama: "[T]his guy really is a Marxist"

    -Glenn Beck, Debra Saunders falsely claimed Palin supports benefits for same-sex partners of state employees

  • Reading List

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Now would be a good time to read The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason & Gene Lyons and Fools for Scandal by Lyons, if you haven't already done so. Even if you have ... can't hurt to read them again. Hunting is available in convenient film form if you prefer.

  • WaPo still trying to hype Obama-Clinton rivalry; still failing badly

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Didn't anything important happen yesterday?

    The Washington Post must not think so. Otherwise, why would the paper devote nearly 700 page-2 words to Anne Kornblut's idle speculation that there may be unpleasantness between the Obamas and people who supported or worked for Hillary Clinton when they encounter each other at events at Sidwell Friends, the Washington school the Obama children will attend alongside the children of a wide variety of other DC luminaries?

    Kornblut suggests the Obamas could have some awkward encounters in their future because Sidwell

    is also home to some of the very strategists who once worked to defeat Obama's presidential bid (one or two of whom, despite the recent Obama-Clinton detente, are rumored to carry a lingering grudge). Obama's older daughter, Malia, is about to enter the fifth grade at Sidwell alongside the child of Lissa Muscatine, a speechwriter for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Numerous other Clinton loyalists are Sidwell parents as well, among them Mark Penn, the former Clinton chief strategist; Mandy Grunwald, the ad maker; Capricia Marshall, the senior adviser; and Beth Dozoretz, the prolific Clinton fundraiser.

    Given that Barack Obama will be the president of the United States, and that there will be people who supported Clinton's primary campaign in a variety of influential positions around Washington, including within Obama's administration, I have a hunch that Obama would encountered one or two of them even if his kids didn't go to Sidwell. Hell, he chose Clinton herself to be his Secretary of State. Shouldn't that be enough to get Kornblut and the Post to drop their middle-school obsession with who is in whose clique?

    Worse, Kornblut implies that Muscatine, Penn, Grunwald, Marshall and Dozoretz might in some way behave negatively towards the Obamas when they run into each other at school plays and soccer games. What is Kornblut basing this on? Not. A. Damn. Thing.

    She quotes no one -- not a single person, not even anonymously -- who suggests that there could be any kind of unpleasantness when such encounters occur. She doesn't even paraphrase anyone making such a suggestion. There is, in short, absolutely no indication in the entire article that it is based on anything other than her own fevered imagination. And Kornblut gives no indication that she made any attempt to contact Muscatine, Penn, Grunwald, Marshall or Dozoretz for comment.

    The one and only person Kornblut does quote is Patti Solis Doyle, the longtime Clinton aide who worked for Obama during the general election. And that quote pretty thoroughly undermines the premise of the article.

    Having taken the meanspirited and baseless speculation that Mandy Grunwald and Lissa Muscatine would cause a scene at a grade-school recital about as far as it can go (and then some), Kornblut turns her article into an apparent attempt to audition for a spot writing for the society pages. Her last three paragraphs consist of simply listing famous (for DC) people whose children attend Sidwell. Howard Fineman's kids go there! Katty Kay, too! And Jay Carney, Bob Woodward, Nick Baldick and EJ Dionne!

    That's news you can use.