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  • WaPo, please define "too late"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Post's hand-wringing editorial about Obama's stimulus package insists the president needs to do more to placate Republicans; he needs to make more cuts in order to win their bipartisan support. (Why? Is legislation passed without Republican support somehow seen by the Beltway press corps as being not legitimate?)

    But get a load of this pretzel logic:

    Mr. Obama has sought bipartisan support for the bill. This is to his credit, but by simultaneously courting Republicans and assigning the actual drafting of the bill to Democratic congressional leaders, he has wound up zigzagging between the two parties rather than herding them together. When he seemed to lean toward more tax cuts to win over Republicans, Democrats rebelled and opted for more spending. When they proposed hundreds of millions of dollars for contraceptives and the Mall, Mr. Obama had the controversial provisions removed, but too late to win over Republicans.

    Did you follow? Prior to the vote in the House on the stimulus package, Obama pulled provisions Republicans objected to. But according to the Post editorial, it was too late.

    Go ahead and re-read the Post passage a second and third time, because the editorial never makes any sense even after multiple readings. The Post urged Obama to listen to Republican complaints about the stimulus package and to act on them. Obama did precisely that prior to the House vote. Yet Republicans, unanimously, still voted against the bill.

    So according to the Post, who's to blame for the lack of bipartisan support? Obama, of course.

  • Why didn't CNN fire Glenn Beck years ago?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We kept pointing out what a colossal ratings failure the right-wing talker was at CNN Headlines News. And here's the latest proof: Ever since Beck left for Fox News, CNNHN had been getting better ratings in Beck's old slot with a show hosted by a relative unknown, Jane Velez-Mitchell:

    From the Huffington Post [emphasis added]

    In its third full month on the air, "Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell" posted HLN's largest 7PM audience since it launched its primetime block in February 2005. For January 2009, "Issues" averaged 531,000 total viewers and 221,000 Adults 25-54, a 50% increase in total viewers and a 46% increase in the demo over Beck's January 2008 ratings. Velez-Mitchell's January ratings also represent an 8% increase in total viewers and a 19% increase in the demo over Beck's last (and best) month on HLN.

  • WSJ Op-Ed plays (really) dumb

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It comes courtesy of the conservative Hoover Instituter's Peter Berkowitz, last seen in these parts publishing the insightful, "The Case for the War in Iraq." Anyway, Berkowitz's latest piece, "Bush Hatred and Obama Euphoria Are Two Sides of the Same Coin," really represents the gold standard in mendacity and intellectual dishonesty. Even for the casually accurate WSJ page, Berkowitz's effort manages to stand out.

    His premise is that the same crazy people who hated Bush are the same crazy people who love Obama. Berkowitz claims he's talking about liberals; those mindless liberals who belittled Bush, but who back Obama. (And oh yeah, the media and professors were in on it too.) Of course, as any honest adult could attest, Berkowitz is actually talking about Americans. Because it's Americans who by huge margins disapproved of Bush's performance, and Americans who by huge margins currently approve of Obama's performance.

    Nonetheless, Berkowitz thinks he's onto something very deep and revealing and insightful here. (He even gets biblical!) It's all about zealotry and the "dangerous political passions" that haunt politics.

    You don't say, Peter. You mean the kind of mindless right-wing zealotry that defined the 1990's when Republicans unleashed wave after wave of hysterical anti-Clinton crusades. (It's generally referred to as Clinton Derangement Syndrome, you might want to check it out Peter.) You mean the kind of right-wing zealotry that the WSJ editorial page practically copyrighted during the Clinton years as it hyped every half-assed conspiracy theory born in the fever swamps? And you mean the kind of mindless right-wing attacks that have already been unleashed on Obama less than two weeks after being inaugurated. (America is now less safe!)

    Where does all that fit into Berkowitz's deep-thinking Journal Op-ed? Naturally, rather than confronting the uncomfortable facts, he just plays dumb about the naked hate that has defined the Republican Noise Machine for nearly two decades.

    The Hoover Institute must be proud. Again.

  • Media ignore news of Bush administration spying on media

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In their column for the Center for American Progress, Eric Alterman and George Zornick note that the media has paid shockingly little attention to new revelations that the Bush administration spied on journalists:

    [A] former analyst at the National Security Agency revealed on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" that Bush's National Security Agency "monitored all communications" of Americans and that U.S. news organizations and individual journalists were specifically targeted.

    Former analyst Russell Tice told Olbermann that, "The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications—faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made any foreign communications at all."

    ...

    So, how did The New York Times cover Tice's revelations that ordinary American citizens, journalists in general, and possibly one of their own reporters in particular, had their communications monitored without a warrant? As far as we can tell, not at all.

    Neither Tice nor his charges were discussed in the Times, either in print or online. This was standard across much of the mainstream media—The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Associated Press have all remained completely silent about Tice's allegations.

    Alterman and Zornick have more here.

    In January 2006, when the New York Times first broke the story of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, I compared the resources devoted to the emerging story by the Times and the Washington Post to the resources they devoted to the story of Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

    For both stories, I looked at the number of articles the two papers ran the day after the stories broke, the number of words devoted to the stories, and the number of reporters credited with working on the stories. And I looked at the same things for the 35th day after the story broke:

    All told, on January 22, 1998, the Times and the Post ran 19 articles (five on the front page) dealing with the Clinton investigation, totaling more than 20,000 words and reflecting the words of at least 28 reporters -- plus the editorial boards of both newspapers.

    In contrast, on December 17, the Times and the Post combined to run five articles about the NSA spying operation, involving 12 reporters and consisting of 6,303 words.

    On February 25, 1998, 35 days after the story first broke, the Post ran four articles and an editorial about the Clinton investigation, totaling 5,046 words, involving 11 reporters, and the paper's editorial board. The Times ran four articles, two opinion columns, and an editorial -- seven pieces in all, totaling 5,852 words and involving at least six reporters and columnists, in addition to its editorial board. The papers combined for 12 articles, columns, and editorials, involving 17 reporters and columnists, as well as both editorial boards.

    On January 20, 35 days after the NSA story first broke, the Times ran one 1,324-word article about the NSA operation written by two reporters. The Post ran one 945-word article written by one reporter. Combined: two articles, three reporters, 2,269 words.

    Basically, the media didn't care nearly as much about the possiblity that a president was illegally listening in on the telephone conversations of innocent Americans as they did about the possiblity that a president had an affair. As Alterman and Zornick point out, that hasn't changed even now that we know that journalists were among those spied upon.

  • Peggy Noonan flip-flops

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    It's shocking, we know. But it's worth a look, courtesy FDL. Especially midst all the media chatter of bipartisanship. Shorter Noonan: In 2001 the GOP was right to ignore Dems, but in 2009 Dems were wrong to ignore the GOP.

  • In search of Dick Armey's apology

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Y'know, the one he owes Salon's Joan Walsh for the horrendously sexist comments Armey made on Hardball this week. Writes Steven Kettman at Huffing Post:

    Every booker for every cable talk show who is considering inviting Armey to appear should have to watch the entire Walsh-Armey segment over and over again for an hour before bringing the cynical old hack back.

  • The AP's Thursday train wreck

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Just in case you didn't follow these developments, as highlighted by MMA yesterday (here, here, and here), you really ought to take a minute and familiarize yourself with the details because they represent an almost a complete breakdown in journalism. The fact that the AP, one of the oldest and most respected news organizations, could produce such a shoddy product in the process of peddling phony GOP talking points really makes you wonder about where journalism stands these days.

    The colossal embarrassment also highlighted the hand-to-mouth feeding that's going on in Washington, D.C. today as the GOP tries to undermine the Obama administration's stimulus packaged, and news orgs scramble to the first ones to air the often baseless claims, without bothering to confirm if they're accurate and without bothering to contact Democrats for comments.

    Like we said, the AP suffered a complete journalism breakdown yesterday and to date, nobody at the news org has acknowledged the fiasco, or explained how so many newsroom rules were ignored.

    UPDATE: In the comments below "James" raises interesting points about how, according to some Congressional reporters, Democratic offices in Congress are slow to respond to reporters' requests, whereas Republicans very quickly return calls. The point being, for reporters on continuous deadlines all day, getting information from Democrats can be maddeningly slow.

    That's certainly a valid critique. (And frankly, it's one I experienced over the years as a reporter with Salon.) Obviously the more information that reporters have in a timely basis is better for everyone involved. But in this specific case of the AP train wreck, it's not an excuse because the AP in its first report never even indicated that it tried to contact any Democrats for comment. There was no indication the AP ever tried to determine if the GOP spin about the stimulus package was accurate. Also, the entire AP story was built around a single anonymous Republican source.

    There's simply no reason why the AP published a story as incomplete and inaccurate as the one it posted on its wires yesterday.