On Monday, Glenn Beck unveiled his latest smear campaign - which he credited to serial smear merchant Andrew Breitbart - on Robert Creamer, the author of Stand Up Straight! How Progressives Can Win who pled guilty to federal bank fraud and tax charges in 2005 due to his handling of Illinois Public Action. Creamer had been "writing checks on accounts without sufficient funds to cover them while moving money between accounts and playing the so-called float to prevent the checks from bouncing," but doing so in order to keep the nonprofit from failing, not in order to steal from it.
It turns out Creamer attended the November 24 state dinner at the White House with his wife, Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
"I understand that's exceptionally rare for a felon to attend something at the White House," Beck said in the middle of his falsehood-ridden attack on Creamer.
It's probably even rarer for one to attend the White House and receive a presidential medal.
Yet, that's exactly what George W. Bush did in December 2008. Bush awarded the Presidential Citizen Medal to Chuck Colson, who "pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for devising a scheme to get and disseminate derogatory information about Pentagon Papers Defendant Daniel Ellsberg" and was sentenced to one to three years in prison.
Here's the AP's report:
Bush recognized Charles Colson, the first member of the Nixon administration to serve prison time for Watergate-related offenses. After being released from Maxwell prison in Alabama, Colson founded Prison Fellowship in 1976, which conducts outreach to prisoners, former convicts, crime victims and their families.
"For more than three decades, Chuck Colson has dedicated his life to sharing the message of God's boundless love and mercy with prisoners, former prisoners and their families," the White House said in the citation. "Through his strong faith and leadership, he has helped courageous men and women from around the world make successful transitions back into society."
Somehow, in Beck's world, attending a state dinner at the White House is something more than attending a state dinner at the White House. So much so in his mind that his latest conspiracy theory is that the Salahi's were used as a distraction for - or by -- the media so that nobody would pay attention to Creamer's attendance. (You know because Creamer's comments to fellow diners over "Green Curry Prawns" were tantamount to setting policy in the Obama administration.)
Moreover, Beck's own network is home to at least one convicted felon. Mark Fuhrman -- who pled guilty to perjury charges -- is a Fox News "forensic and crime scene expert." And Beck's show accepts advertising money from gold-hawking G. Gordon Liddy, who has also made appearances on the network.
To remind you, here's Liddy's litany of offenses, which Beck would have a field day with if he didn't have a double standard:
Liddy served four and a half years in prison in connection with his conviction for his role in the Watergate break-in and the break-in at the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. Liddy has acknowledgedpreparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in "if necessary"; plotting to kill journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a "gangland figure" to kill Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap "leftist guerillas" at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis. (The murder, firebombing, and kidnapping plots were never carried out; the break-ins were.) During the 1990s, Liddy reportedly instructed his radio audience on multiple occasions on how to shoot Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents and also reportedly said he had named his shooting targets after Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Referring to the state dinner, Beck said: "I'm pretty sure convicted felons are usually barred from such events."
They're obviously not barred from appearing on Fox News.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his December 7 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
During his show today, in the midst of an extended attack on progressive activist Robert Creamer, Glenn Beck claimed that Creamer had "no problem completely ripping off the non-profit entity that he's working for." Beck later added that the progressive movement was "the people that [Creamer's] stealing from." This isn't even close to right.
Creamer pled guilty to federal bank fraud and tax charges in 2005 due to his handling of Illinois Public Action, but no one ever alleged that he had stolen money from the group. Creamer had been "writing checks on accounts without sufficient funds to cover them while moving money between accounts and playing the so-called float to prevent the checks from bouncing," but doing so in order to keep the nonprofit from failing, not in order to steal from it.
In fact, the judge in the case reportedly gave Creamer a lesser sentence than prosecutors had sought "because no one suffered 'out of pocket losses' and Creamer acted not out of greed but in an effort to keep his community action group going without cutting programs."
It seems Beck's trouble with felonies continues.
Here's a new twist to the never-ending, right-wing game of 'proving' liberal media bias: when a reporter asks for a quote to a news story, give the reporter an incoherent, name-calling rant and then claim bias when the reporter fails to reproduce the rant in full in his article.
That's pretty much what Breitbart did after the AP contacted him about a new internal ACORN investigation (overseen by a former Massachusetts AG), which found no pattern of law-breaking following the Breitbart-sponsored pimp-and-prostitute undercover video sting. (The report did detail lots of problems with ACORN and its management.)
Anyway, Breitbart emailed the AP a long, rambling response about ACORN, and then Breitbart called foul when the AP only published the small snippet. Apparently Breitbart thinks he's entitled to dictate paragraph-long responses to the AP, and if the new org doesn't don't use it in full, that proves Breitbart's the victim. (Whitewash!)
Earlier today Markos Moulitsas did us all the favor of providing a glimpse into Politico's next effort to win the mid-morning-after-breakfast-but-not-quite-brunch hour, relating an exchange he had with Politico's Daniel Libit as the reporter fished for a "buyer's remorse" storyline highlighting the similarities between President Obama's agenda now and then-candidate Hillary Clinton's platform during the Democratic primaries. Markos' response to Libit's inquiry is worth reprinting in its entirety:
My god, what a stupid premise.
Indeed. Kos rightly pointed out that reporting on "similarities" between the agendas of two mainstream Democrats is hardly big news. What's more, Libit is late to this particular party. This exact story was written seven months ago, appearing in the pages of -- you guessed it -- the Politico. The fact that this story is resurfacing at all is a testament to how much the political press love to flog the Obama-versus-Clinton meme, even though it hasn't shown any signs of life for some time now. The Democratic primaries ended over a year and a half ago, Obama won the election over a year ago, Clinton joined his Cabinet eleven months ago, and there's been nary of whiff of discord between the two since. And yet, here's the Politico taking another swing at it.
Were there any bad blood between Democrats, the "buyer's remorse" that Politico believes is out there, a good place to look for it would be in opinion polls. If Democrats really are souring on Obama, then you'd think the president's approval rating among Democrats would have taken a sizeable hit. That doesn't appear to be the case -- Obama's approval among Dems is holding strong in the 80s.
Of course, that's no reason why Politico still won't run with the article. Just look at the Drudge-baiting dreck they've served up in the past two weeks alone: an article on how Obama says "unprecedented" too much; John Harris' round-up of right-wing smears repackaged as the "seven storylines Obama needs to worry about;" and an article giving space to Senate Republicans complaining that Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is too partisan.
That's what they consider news. Their goal is to produce articles like these.
My god, what a stupid premise.
The punchline: it appears Politico's Editor Jim VandeHei was elected to the position because he represents the brave new world of online journalism. Yep, the Pulitzer Board arrives roughly six years late to that media revolution and ends up tapping the old school, CW-worshiping Politico as its agent of change.
Howard Kurtz in a Q&A today:
Look at the steroids scandal. Many sportswriters wondered how these baseball guys were bulking up, but only later did we learn that McGwire, Sosa, Giambi, Clemens, Bonds and A-Rod were using banned substances. The era of unvarnished hero worship has passed.
Wrong. The only so-called performance enhancing drug we have "learned" that Mark McGwire used is androstenedione, which was a legal, over-the-counter product that was not banned by Major League Baseball. (Andro was banned by the FDA and Major League Baseball years after McGwire retired.)
If Howard Kurtz has any evidence the rest of the world lacks that Mark McGwire used a "banned substance," he should produce it. Otherwise, an apology is in order.
I won't bother going through the other players Kurtz mentioned, but suffice to say that Kurtz's certainty that they "were using banned substances" is overstated. "Using banned substances" and "using substances that were later banned" are very different things, and Major League Baseball did not ban THG, for example, until 2004.
What's really hilarious about Kurtz's claim is that it came in response to a questioner who asked "Is it too much to hope to see honest coverage of sports figures?" Kurtz replied that "it's already happening" -- then wrote a dishonest paragraph about "banned substances."
This isn't directly about politics, of course, though the question of the standards and process we use to determine guilt certainly has implications broader than Major League Baseball. And Kurtz's reckless claims certainly say something about his approach to journalism.
Howard Kurtz on CNN, yesterday:
Friday night, a new scandal story emerged involving Senator Max Baucus, leading -- one of the leading Democrats in the health care debate. It turns out that he recommended to the U.S. attorney, the top federal prosecutor in his home state of Montana, his girlfriend, a woman who had been on his Senate payroll and suddenly was being -- she did not get the job, but she was on this list.
I just think that news organizations that have played this down have left themselves open to charges after the John Ensign story and after the Mark Sanford story that they're a little less enthusiastic about Democratic scandal.
This is crazy-talk, pure and simple.
Remember: During the 1996 presidential campaign, Howard Kurtz's own newspaper spiked a story about Bob Dole having an affair, after having covered allegations that Bill Clinton had affairs. Was that an example of the media being "a little less enthusiastic" about Democratic affairs? How about when the Post assigned half its newsroom to cover the Lewinsky story?
Or when MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski (who, according to Kurtz, is a liberal host on a liberal cable channel) allowed Rudy Giuliani to invoke Bill Clinton's infidelity earlier this year, without calling Giuliani on his own high-profile affairs? When Howard Kurtz was asked about that, he didn't suggest the media is "a little less enthusiastic about Republican scandal." But, less than 48 hours after the Baucus story broke, he's ready to claim it demonstrates that the media is less enthusiastic about Democratic scandals. Nonsense.
PS: Maybe Kurtz has heard of Whitewater?
Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon argues that media focus on Tiger Woods and the Salahis does not distract from more important issues:
Perry Bacon Jr.: I would submit most Americans can follow Tiger, the Salahis, health care and Afghanistan in the same week. It's not that complicated. I think most people aren't following the date to date details of health care because it's fairly complicated and some of it (the abortion language in the bill) won't affect them. But my guess is everywhere in America people know about Tiger, the White House dinner controvery and that the president is increasing troops in Afghanistan.
Bacon more or less rebuts himself, but it's worth piling on for a moment.
Just this morning, Bacon's Post colleague Ezra Klein noted that two-thirds of Americans don't think they could explain what the public option is, which is probably lower than the number who could not explain it. (I do not find this surprising. Not one bit. And it is, in large part, a result of the media doing an abysmal job of explaining health care.)
As Klein added:
And so far as health-care reform goes, the public option is fairly simple, and undeniably prominent. Imagine how many could explain the exchanges, or the mandate, or the benefit package ...
But Bacon seems to be satisfied if people have a passing, superficial awareness of issues. Look at his last sentence: "people know ... that the president is increasing troops in Afghanistan." Ok, but what do people know about the fact that he is doing so? Do they know why? Do they know how? Do they have any understanding of the pros and cons of the decision? Probably not.
But, it's true that, if you think that all the public needs to know is "health care is being debated" or "the president is sending more troops to Afghanistan," the news media does a reasonably good job of keeping them informed.
From a December 7 column, headlined, "Eligibility issue goes 'mainstream,'" by WorldNetDaily CEO and founder Joseph Farah:
Sarah Palin, last year's vice presidential candidate and the best-selling author in the world right now, affirms that questions about Barack Obama's eligibility for office are legitimate.
This is no longer the "fringe" issue as most of the media would like to portray it.
One of the things people love about Sarah Palin is her shoot-from-the-hip frankness. They admire her courage. They like the fact that she doesn't just offer TelePrompTer answers in interviews. She demonstrated that candor once again in her interview with Rusty Humphreys.
And since she must be regarded as one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, that puts this eligibility issue right where it belongs - at the forefront of the national debate.