Money changes everything


Eric A. has a new Think Again column on campaign spending, "The Best Things in Life Are Free ..." here, and a new Nation column, "The Politics of Pundit Prestige," here.

Alterman's out sick today (not even the early-season heroics of the Amazin's could lift his woes), so it's Media Matters backup shortstop Eric Boehlert filling in today.

Today's Washington Post manages to give Barack Obama's blockbuster, $25 million posting a bad-news-for-Democrats spin (i.e. all that money raised makes it "all but certain that Democrats will face a costly and protracted battle for their party's nomination.") But of course, the combined $80 million raised by Democratic candidates in the first quarter represents an unprecedented cash victory over the GOP:

In 1999, the last presidential race without an incumbent in the race, Republicans raised $33 million in the first quarter, compared with $13 million by the Democrats, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. The disparity was also evident in 1988, when the Republican field reported $19 million in first-quarter fundraising, compared with $3 million by the Democrats.

I think this episode lends an awful lot of credence to the suspicion that Matt Drudge routinely fabricates the anonymous quotes he uses for his original reports. On Wednesday morning, Drudge, going on nothing more than a hunch, published a banner headline that clearly suggested that Sen. John McCain might be suffering a cancer relapse. Drudge's proof for the report was that a brown "nickle-sized spot" was visible on McCain's forehead during his recent trip to Iraq. In his very thin item Drudge quoted -- anonymously -- "a top McCain source" who insisted the spot was just "a minor blemish" and who stressed that "[t]he senator remains in excellent health." Nonetheless, Drudge announced the spot was "raising concern among campaign watchers."

Later in the day, after an apparently freaked-out McCain camp convinced Drudge the spot was truly no big deal, Drudge posted a follow-up headline: "UPDATE: A source reveals: 'The Senator hit his head getting out of a helicopter during his time in Iraq. Nothing more than a scrape'..."

Hmmm, so prior to posting his original report, Drudge supposedly contacted a "top McCain source" to find out about the spot. The "top McCain source" said it was just a blemish. But then later in the day Drudge with more clarity reported that McCain had simply bumped his head. So why on earth would "a top McCain source," when first contacted by Drudge about a potentially damaging story regarding whether or not the senator had suffered a cancer scare (a report that would appear on a hugely influential website) -- how did that aide not know that McCain simply bumped his head?

I think one plausible answer is the "top McCain source" didn't' know the facts because Drudge never spoke with a "top McCain aide" while reporting his story. He just made up the quote.

After all, this is Make Stuff Up Week at the Drudge Report.

In case you missed it, the latest Newsweek poll shows a huge majority of Americans support the Democratic-passed legislation calling for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq in 12 months.

Sid Blumenthal's not so impressed with the recent recantation from Bush insider Matthew Dowd. The Daily Howler's also not so impressed.

Just asking: Why on earth were Wal-Mart, Bayer, and, to a lesser extent, Visa, proud corporate sponsors of the Media Research Center's recent 20th anniversary gala, right alongside the National Review Institute, the NRA and the Young America's Foundation? Why would Visa, Bayer, and Wal-Mart want to be associated with loopy Brent Bozell and his annual right-wing gala, which doubles as a black-tie circus of press hatred? Yet there the corporate giants were, listed as MRC supporters. (Click here and scroll down for the mentions.)

Noted. If, in the wake of Mark Halperin's unexpected exit, ABC's The Note wants to maintain its relevance and salvage its reputation among increasingly influential progressives and Democrats, The Note will throttle back on its rampant, worshipful coverage of Republicans, not to mention the creepy, incessant stroking of media egos that Halperin promoted. Read more here.

Really, what better way to spend a quiet Easter evening with the family?

Meanwhile, any remaining, lost and lonely soul who harbors any notion that Bush would be too embarrassed to pardon Scooter Libby because it would look too unseemly and unethical (and because Libby doesn't even qualify for a free pass under Department of Justice guidelines), he/she needs to look no further than yesterday's truly audacious recess appointment of Sam Fox, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth supporter (to the tune of $50,000), as ambassador to Belgium. Bob Geiger, who previously noted that Fox made his whopping Swift Boat contribution after the front group had been thoroughly discredited, has the unsightly details.

Fred Hiatt continues to do real damage to The Washington Post. And is it me, or does it appear that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria, in some small way, helped free the British troops being held in Iran? (i.e. Syria's claiming behind-the-scenes credit for the release.)

With all the chatter about billionaire Sam Zell's pending purchase of the Tribune Co., I'm surprised there hasn't been more attention paid to Zell's previous investment in the mainstream media. That came in the early '90s when he teamed with radio maverick Randy Michaels to resuscitate Jacor Communications and then, thanks to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, took Jacor into the consolidation stratosphere. Jacor was then swallowed up by Clear Channel, although Michael and his often raunchy Jacor crew were allowed to essentially run Clear Channel radio. Not that Tribune employees need anything else to be anxious and nervous about these days, but the fact that their new boss was one of the guys who played a part in the creation of the Clear Channel culture cannot be cause for celebration.

Will the curtain finally come down on the Beltway's annual silly season?

Ralphie Parker's sad day.

Grambling's sad day.

I continue to be puzzled why the usually astute folks at the Pew Center for The People and the Press are pushing this angle that news consumers aren't interested in the unfolding AG purge story; a mini-meme that has spread throughout the Beltway. Last week, Media Matters detailed the flaws in the Pew narrative. Yet this week, Pew returned with this headline: Attorney Firings: Important but Not Interesting. There's no doubt people think the story's important to the country; a whopping 68 percent, according to Pew's own numbers. Yet the "not interesting" angle remains very thin. Again, Pew's most recent survey shows 20 percent of Americans are paying "very close" attention to the scandal. And although Pew reports it's "only" 20 percent, that 20 percent puts Purge-gate right on par with the percentage of people who were paying very close attention to the Janet Jackson Super Bowl controversy (February 2004), the murder of Laci Peterson (July 2003), the Senate impeachment trial of President Clinton (January 1999), and the O.J. Simpson trial (July 1995).

In fact, that 20 percent, in terms of real-time news consumer interest, puts Purge-gate ahead of the campaign examination of Bill Clinton's alleged extramarital affairs (March 1992), Paula Jones' sexual harassment accusations (May 1994), and the Whitewater investigation (July 1996). I don't recall much media chatter back then about how those sordid Clinton stories were "not interesting."

Alter-reviews: I realize it's a bit dated, but here's a Grammy postscript note. I know the awards show is not supposed to be taken seriously, and not that long ago I was writing snarky articles about the telecasts. But I have to say this year's program really fulfilled its ultimate mission, which, aside from handing out hardware, is to expose some of the year's most deserving artists to a massive, prime-time audience of viewers who may or may not have time to sort through all the new releases. And this Grammy performance in particular just blew me away. Congrats to the producer who came up with the idea of grouping Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend and John Mayer. Although there was little or no interaction between them, the three songs performed were sublime.

Particularly stunning was R&B crooner John Legend's sweeping and heart-wrenching "Coming Home," a breathtaking work of pop music genius. I'm guessing -- hoping -- that years from now, Legend's "Coming Home" will stand as the take-way song from the Iraq nightmare years.

Meanwhile, I had my first real iTunes discovery not long ago; a record that's I've completely fallen in with love and would have only found about via iTunes. The irony is it's an artist I've known and admired for years: Mary Chapin Carpenter, the country/folk pride of Chesapeake Bay. Her latest is The Calling, and it's easily her best work in years -- smart, confident and soulful. The music she creates with partner John Jennings is a gift. (Read a real music pro, Alanna Nash, gives The Calling its proper due with her Amazon review, here.)

One of many highlights from the mostly contemplative record is the angry "On with the Song," which undresses both Bush and Clear Channel. Brilliant:

This isn't for the man who can't count the bodies
Can't comfort the families, can't say when he's wrong
Claiming I'm the decider, like some sort of messiah
While another day passes and a hundred souls gone

This isn't for the ones with their radio signal
Calling for bonfires and boycotts they rave
Exhorting their listeners to spit on the sinners
While counting the bucks of advertising they'll save

Sadly, if I hadn't, on a fluke, clicked on the folk section on iTunes a couple weeks ago, I never would have found the album. Carpenter, after years with Sony Music, is on an indie label now, and her profile is not as high as it was during the '90s, when country radio embraced her vibrant, independent style. But still, I haven't heard any Calling cuts on the usually excellent WFUV in New York City, or on XM Café or The Loft. And criminally, I don't see any evidence of Carpenter's airplay on the latest Triple-A charts.

And OK, since I'm on the overlooked, groundbreaking-female-singer-songwriter beat, there are moments on Rickie Lee Jones' latest, The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard, that truly are transcendent. I'm thinking about "Nobody Knows My Name" and "Falling Up."

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.