No doubt attempting to fan the flames of an imagined Clinton-Obama feud, the top story currently on the Drudge report screams: "What is she up to? Hillary Skips State of Union."
Answer: Attending two important national security related meetings in London--a trip that was sanctioned by the President. The Washington Post reported on January 27:
Seems there's an important international meeting Wednesday in London on battling radicalization in Yemen, and then another, long-planned conference there Thursday on development and security in Afghanistan.
Once the Wednesday meeting was "locked in," we were told, the State Department and National Security Council staffs agreed that Clinton had to be in London. These are both big administration priorities. Key allies will be gathering there to discuss Yemen, an uber-concern of late, especially since the Christmas Day airplane bombing attempt.
And everyone who's anyone -- including maybe the neo-Soviets and the Chicoms and possibly even the Iranians -- will be there to talk about Afghanistan.
Clinton laid out the situation in a meeting last week with Obama, and he agreed that she should go.
Nonetheless, some on the right have taken Drudge's bait and run with speculation that there's a riff between Clinton and Obama and that Clinton may be angling for a run at the Presidency in 2012. Case in point, on Fox News' America's Newsroom, after positing that Clinton could be considering a 2012 run, co-host Martha MacCallum echoed Drudge in reporting, "People who follow politics closely ... think that might be a little odd that she wasn't at the State of the Union address. Next thing you know she's saying she doesn't necessarily serve two terms as Secretary of State, and they wonder if everything's OK between Hillary Clinton and the president." Despite later noting the purpose of Clinton's trip and acknowledging that it seemed like a "legitimate" reason for Clinton to miss the State of the Union, MacCallum went on to say "it does raise some questions about how she'll sort of game out the political scene" and pushed her guest, Douglas Schoen, to speculate if there was "anything that would make her change her mind about the possibility of running against him?"
Fox Nation has also taken the bait by asking, "What's Hillary Plotting" and linking to an article on Clinton's absence from the State of the Union address:
And, just in case it wasn't obvious what Drudge was trying to suggest in trumpeting that Clinton missed the State of the Union, Drudge is now linking to Peter Roff's U.S. News & World Report blog post, which asks the question: "A Hillary Clinton Primary Challenge to Obama in 2012?" From Drudge:
From Fox Nation, which links to a Business Insider article with the same headline:
From a January 28 Politico article titled, "James O'Keefe and accomplices trained in conservative journalism" [emphasis added]:
The four young men arrested this week in an apparent plot to tamper with the phones in Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office had been groomed for years to be part of a new wave of activist conservative journalists by a series of influential and often deep-pocketed benefactors.
But their recent exploits and now their arrests have troubled some of those supporters. And they are now questioning the kind of guerilla journalism that connected the four young men and that many conservative activists celebrated when one of those arrested, James O'Keefe, secretly videotaped ACORN employees last year as they appeared to encourage him and a partner, posing as a pimp and prostitute, to circumvent the law.
"There is a responsible way to creatively generate a story or an incident which challenges the left in an ethical, yet aggressive way," said Steven Sutton, who heads campus journalism outreach at the conservative non-profit Leadership Institute in Arlington, Va., where O'Keefe worked in 2006 and early 2007 training right-leaning students on how to start and run publications. Sutton supervised O'Keefe at the institute until O'Keefe was asked to leave because his investigative work could interfere with the Institute's Internal Revenue Service standing.
"Then there's the other way, where you cross the line - and we teach people not to do that - and you expose yourself, whatever organization you're affiliated with, and the people that you're associated with to a deserved and justified backlash," Sutton said.
In an interview posted last week on a website affiliated with the Leadership Institute, O'Keefe espoused his philosophy to conservative student journalists, telling them to push conventions.
"Don't just respond to news, but actually create your own headlines," he said. "Make demands upon your professors. Make demands upon your university to actually change things. Don't just wait for something to happen and sit back and report on it."
The institute, which trains conservatives in activist journalism and more general organizing techniques, provided hands-on training and $500 apiece to O'Keefe and two of his alleged co-conspirators - Joe Basel and Stan Dai, both 24 - while they were still college students to help them start conservative newspapers at Rutgers University, the University of Minnesota-Morris and George Washington University, respectively.
But Sutton said that what O'Keefe, 25, did with his ACORN videos - and what is he is accused of doing in New Orleans - crossed the line and "is not something that we teach here."
Yesterday, Washington Post reporter Bill Turque wrote a lengthy blog post for the paper's site in which he explained how it came to happen that his article Tuesday morning reported that DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee had not commented on or explained her controversial claims about teachers having sex with children, while an editorial in the same edition of the paper did include such an explanation. Turque's explanation basically boiled down to Rhee having a good relationship with Jo-Ann Armao, who writes the Post's education editorials.
Turque then wrote that because of Rhee's "obvious rapport with Jo-Ann" -- who, it should be noted, Turque described as "a dogged journalist who pursues her own information" -- "DCPS has a guaranteed soft landing spot for uncomfortable or inconvenient disclosures--kind of a print version of the Larry King Show."
Turque concluded:"Are Fenty and Rhee gaming the system by using the editorial page this way? Of course. Is this a healthy thing for readers of The Post? Probably not."
Well, the powers that be at the Post didn't like that, and Turque's post was pulled down sometime yesterday, and replaced with a new version -- one that omitted the "Larry King" line, and omitted the bit about the dynamic being an unhealthy thing for Post readers.
I happen to still have the original version open on my computer, as I had been thinking of writing something about it.
Somewhat ironically, I was going to praise Turque for his post -- including the portions that have been excised. He introduced some transparency to the Post's operation, and he was critical of what he apparently views as a situation in which the Post's editorial board is not serving its readers well. I think those are both good things. Reporters shouldn't be in the business of remaining silent when they think other reporters are doing things badly. Just think how differently things might have gone if a few Washington Post reporters regularly and publicly spoke out against Ceci Connolly's war against Al Gore, and called for her to be removed from the 2000 campaign beat.
But I was also thinking of taking issue with something Turque wrote:
But it's the disconnect between the editorial page and the news section that I feel requires some kind explanation. So let me try.
The news and opinion columns of The Post are wholly separate and independent operations. This assertion frequently draws a torrent of skepticism, but if this episode does nothing else, it should give the lie to the notion that there is some sort of sinister linkage. I have little-to-no contact with Jo-Ann Armao, who writes The Post's education editorials (full disclosure: Jo-Ann hired me in 2002 when she was the assistant managing editor for metro news; but we're all allowed a lapse of judgment now and then). About the only time we cross paths is at news events involving District education. Jo-Ann is a dogged journalist who pursues her own information.
I don't doubt Turque's assertion that he has little contact with Armao, or with his implication that he doesn't know what the Post's editorial writers are doing and they don't know what he is doing.
But I've always bristled at the Post's insistence* that its news and opinion sections are "wholly separate and independent operations." They aren't, really. They can't be truly separate as long as they report to the same people -- and, ultimately, they do. If they really were "wholly separate and independent," as I have explained in the past, they would more frequently take issue with each other's work. Here's something I wrote in 2006 after a Post editorial directly contradicted the paper's news reports:
If the newsroom is right, its work and credibility are being falsely and unfairly undermined by one of the most powerful media institutions in the nation: The Washington Post editorial page. And there should be no doubt: the editorial does undermine Post reporters. For example, a reader asked [Howard] Kurtz during his April 10 online discussion, "Doesn't it make the reporters look foolish when the editorial page is so dead on with their analysis while the reporters are basically carrying the water of those who are against President Bush?"
But maybe Post reporters are so selfless they don't care about protecting their own reputations. In that case, maybe they should consider their responsibility to their readers. If the newsroom is right and the editorial board is wrong, Post readers -- and the nation -- are being misled about matters of enormous importance by one of the most powerful media institutions in the nation. Isn't that something that a newsroom that stands among the nation's most influential should confront head-on and try to stop?
Finally: With every Post newsroom employee who has commented publicly on this matter refusing to weigh in on the substantive merits of the editorial, does anyone really believe that the newsroom and editorial board are truly "separate," as they all claim? If they really are so separate, why are Post reporters so reluctant to contradict the editorial? The editorial board certainly isn't reluctant to contradict Post news reports. That certainly looks like a situation in which the two departments aren't free from interference from each other -- one very much seems to have the upper hand.
More and more, it seems like the Post uses the fiction of complete separation between news and opinion to justify a lack of accountability -- particularly for its opinion pages. Just yesterday, Ari Rabin-Havt explained that the Post's ombudsman can't do anything about errors in the paper's editorials or columns.
Back to the present: Bill Turque wrote something that was critical of the Post's opinion pages. The offending passages were then disappeared, without so much as an explanation. They did, however, leave in Turque's statement that the paper's opinion and news operations are wholly separate and independent -- a statement that is badly undermined by events of the past day.
* And that of other newspapers, though the Post seems to make this claim more often than most, perhaps owing to the generally poor quality of its opinion pages.
UPDATE: The Washington City Paper's Erik Wemple explains how Turque's post came to be pulled:
Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt wasn't happy with Turque's scribblings when he caught wind of them around 8 p.m. He walked into the office of Post Managing Editor Liz Spayd, pointed out the item, and "expressed my unhappiness," says Hiatt. Then he left.
Spayd says she then pulled the item from the site, on the following grounds: "Where it went over is where it ascribed motive to Chancellor Rhee's decision to speak to our editorial board and, more importantly, I don't think that he should be challenging or seeming to assess the stances of our editorial board or questioning their integrity, and I think that that blog did that."
So, editorial page editor Fred Hiatt got a blog post by news reporter Bill Turque pulled from the Post's site. But the Post's opinion and news divisions are completely separate and independent. Yeah, right.
UPDATE 2: Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander reports on the mess:
That irritated Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, who Wednesday evening alerted Managing Editor Liz Spayd. Both Spayd and Hiatt described it as a brief conversation in which Hiatt made Spayd aware of the blog post.
Spayd immediately called Turque on the carpet. Soon, the blog post disappeared. ...
"She was pretty hot," Turque said of Spayd. "She said it was completely inappropriate" and that "I had no place as a beat reporter taking on the editorial board."
Spayd gave a similar version of what she said to Turque in her 5th floor office. "I don't think it's appropriate for a reporter in our newsroom to be challenging the views, or challenging the integrity, of our editorial board," she told me. "And I also don't think that he should be ascribing motives of Michelle Rhee as to who she picked to speak with."
Wow, if that doesn't make clear that the idea of a separation between newsroom & opinion at the Post is a fiction, I don't know what will.
But wait: Alexander has more:
Spayd told me that she thought it would have been fine for Turque to explain the "church and state" separation between the news and editorial sides of The Post. "Going beyond that, I think, is not the job of a news reporter."
What? Look, this is simple: If the newsroom is not allowed to write about the editorial side, there is no separation between the two. If Fred Hiatt is able to get a blog post produced by the newsroom pulled because a beat reporter has "no place ... taking on the editorial board," there obviously is no "'church and state' separation" between the two. There is quite obviously a power structure in place in which the newsroom is subservient to the editorial side.
From a January 28 column about KVVU-TV Fox 5 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
"We're as fair and balanced as they're not," says Fox-5 news director Adam P. Bradshaw, referring to Fox News Channel, which -- as any sentient human within earshot of a Glenn Beck crying jag knows -- is the Republicans' de facto PR machine. "We don't have an agenda."
Yet viewer perceptions of FNC's red-meat, red-state dogma can carry over unfairly to Fox broadcast affiliates -- the Vegas affiliate included, based on some feedback to this columnist -- stung by the ideological guilt-by-association syndrome that turned the phrase "fair and balanced" into a bad media joke.
Last fall, the Fox News brand was further vilified when the White House criticized the cable prattler like an A-student calling out the school bully.
"Some viewers draw that connection," Bradshaw says. "Most have never been able to tell a network from a local (station). I'll get on a plane in my Fox-5 jacket and somebody goes, 'I love (Fox News Channel's) Shepard Smith!' Or hate him. But it doesn't have any impact on our coverage."
Some broadcast affiliates are indeed inclined to ape their cable cousin's tea-partying rhetoric -- the "O&Os" owned and operated by Fox, rather than independents such as Fox-5, run by the Meredith Corp. "Their (O&Os) coverage is more in line with the Fox attitude," Bradshaw says. "We're not following their political agenda in any way, shape or form."
Oh well, that explains everything and I'm sure federal prosecutors will immediately drop charges against O'Keefe and his three prankster pals. Because if right-wingers want to allegedly go 'undercover' and enter a federal building under false pretense and then film the inside of a senator's phone closet, while monkeying around with the senator's phone (i.e. if they're tagged with an intent to commit a felony), well, who is the FBI or the U.S. Marshall's Office to stop them right?
According to O'Keefe's mentor, Andrew Breitbart, the pranksters were simply trying to make somebody look "foolish" and they will be "vindicated." (i.e. They did nothing wrong.) So of course, established laws should not apply to them. Being a "conservative journalist" means the rules don't matter, I guess.
After all, if in our post-9/11 world, if four liberal, Arab-American twentysomething activists went undercover and sneaked their way into a GOP senator's office and filmed their escapade, fact-free folks like Breitbart would have no problem with that, right? They would never demand a DOJ investigation or try to connect imaginary dots to the Obama White House, right?
Fact: The stench of hypocrisy surrounding Breitbart and his protégé's other apologists is becoming truly pungent.
UPDATED: Maybe Breitbart should listen to his readers:
He [O'Keefe] should be prosecuted for anything he did that was illegal, period. We can't hold ourselves to a different standard, and I do have to admit that I'd go ballistic if I heard some lib filmmaker was being suspicious in a republican senator's office.
From the January 28 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
From the January 28 RedState.com post "A Declaration of War":
After reflection on Barack Obama's State of the Union address, I am left with one overarching conclusion: while boring, preachy, dull, overly serious, then flipping to overly jocular tones while trying to balance pandering to the middle class with holding his base -- Barack Obama's State of the Union address was a declaration of war on the free market.
Barack Obama said, "Now, the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America's businesses."
But prior to that, he said, "Because of the steps we took, there are about two million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed. 200,000 work in construction and clean energy. 300,000 are teachers and other education workers. Tens of thousands are cops, firefighters, correctional officers, and first responders. And we are on track to add another one and a half million jobs to this total by the end of the year."
Review the list. Every job listed is either a government job or a job so connected to government that it would not exist but for government. The clean energy industry? It would not exist, but for government subsidy. Construction? He is talking about roads and other infrastructure -- jobs that will go away once the project is done and the whole way through is dependent on the government.
All of these are government jobs.
Barack Obama wants to create a new entitlement that will drive the costs of collegiate education through the roof. If a student knows that only ten percent of their income will be used to pay their student loans and no matter what those students loans are they will be forgiven after 20 years, neither the student nor the college has any incentive to save money. It is basic free market economics.
That the President of the United States would say such a thing and think it a good, responsible idea suggests the man is truly ignorant of or an enemy of the free market.
Beyond that, note the preference for government work. Job creators are given a disincentive. Job regulators are given an incentive. This is both perverse and noxious.
One cannot read through the State of the Union address and come to any other conclusion than that Barack Obama is declaring war on the free market. It is more and more clear that Barack Obama does not have an American world view.
From the January 27 Big Journalism post, titled "With the Moon Missions Scrapped, Is Christianity Next in Obama's Gunsights?":
The Orlando Sentinel recently reported that President Obama wants to nix NASA's moon missions and instead intends to spend funding for space ventures beyond earth's orbit. Perhaps to Avatar's beautiful planet Pandora? Now what would make the president stray so far from JFK's vision of lunar supremacy? Perhaps he wasn't that thrilled to learn what I just did about what occurred on the first moon landing. My friend Eric Metaxas wrote a great book, Everything You Alwayhs Wanted to Know About God (But Were Afraid To Ask), and in it he recalled that Buzz Aldrin confirmed to him that he took communion on the Moon.
When the ACLU and the other secular protesters start hammering CAIR and radical imams about their tax-free status with the IRS, I'll start giving a rat's tookus about Christian codes that preach love and salvation.
There have been plenty of rumors floating around Barack Obama's religious affiliations that suggest his Christian roots don't run very deep. It must be very difficult for him to be faced with the reminder that this nation is overwhelmingly Christian.
It was upsetting enough for the president to deal with the alarming news that the government has been purchasing gun sights with Christian codes. In 2005, the military supplier Trijicon won a $660 million dollar multi-year contract to supply up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional sights to the U.S. Army. The company was founded by Glyn Bindon, a devout Christian from South Africa who was killed in 2003 plane crash and according to a spokesman from Trijicon, Tom Munson, these messages have always been on their weapons and there is nothing wrong or illegal in adding them.
Here's the thing I don't understand. I've looked at these codes and I have to wonder who noticed that they referred to biblical passages? They look at first glance the same as ordinary serial numbers that are found on all merchandise. When I first learned of the controversy I assumed that the messages were more blatant but they are indeed very subtle. Judge for yourselves.
So the military have used these sights for several years without a fuss yet now the company is being forced to remove the messages which are being viewed as a violation of the separation of church and state clause in the Constitution which does not even exist. Hmmm. Critics complain that these Christian codes send the wrong message to the Muslim world: that we are in a religious war. Hmmm...
Then what are we surmise from the suicide bombers who shout Allahu Akbar before they blow themselves and others to kingdom come? If its perfectly all right to use the sacred Koran as the rational to commit jihad, then wouldn't that mean that a religious war is being waged against us?
In a January 27 post to his BigJournalism.com site, Andrew Breitbart writes:
For those in the mainstream media committed to report the false and libelous narrative of "Watergate Jr.," "wiretapping" and "bugging," I predict much egg on your J-school grad faces. In your rush to judgment to convict James O'Keefe and his companions, you vengeful political partisans of press forgot to ponder: "Was Mr. O'Keefe up to one of his patented and obvious clown nose-on hidden camera tricks, trying to make his subjects look foolish?" Blog commenters seem to be quicker on the uptake than six-figured Washington-based pundits these days. And I predict there will be tape to vindicate these four pranksters, too.