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  • Vanity Fair and the attack of the "family friend"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I'm talking about a new article by Ed Klein (oy) which is a supposed inside look at the drama that unfolded within the Kennedy clan last year as Caroline tried to enter the race for New York senator, while Ted Kennedy's health gave way. The piece is actually an excerpt from Klein's upcoming Kennedy book.

    And after reading the VF slice, the only question is, can the entire book be this bad? Sadly, if Klein's at the helm and he's writing about powerful Democrats, the answer is yes.

    The excerpt is mostly a cut-and-paste job, with Klein relying on the work of others. But the writer does some original reporting and offers up juicy tidbits. But are they true? Readers can't really tell because readers have no way of judging the quality of Klein's sources since they're presented as an interchangeable group of anonymous no-names. Here's pretty much the entire sourcing, as described in the article:

    -"According to one family friend"

    -"according to a family friend"

    -"a friend of the Kennedy family"

    -"said another family friend"

    -"said a family friend"

    -"said a family friend"

    -"said a longtime family adviser"

    -"said the Kennedy-family adviser"

    -"said the family adviser"

    Discussing the article on Hardball last night, Chris Matthews may have summed it up best: "Ed Klein is out to lunch with this piece and Vanity Fair shouldn't have run it."

    UPDATE: The only thing more depressing than reading glossy mag journalism like Klein's, is watching other journalists take it seriously. From ABC's The Note:

    It appears the ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy's vision of his niece Caroline to carry the Kennedy family banner forward in the Senate for another generation may have been thwarted by Ms. Kennedy's children according to a published excerpt of a new book about Sen. Kennedy's life.

    If by "appears," The Note means that those were the words that appeared on the pages of Vanity Fair, than that's accurate. But trust me, there's nothing beyond that in Klein's reporting that even remotely suggest he nailed down any key facts about possible generational struggles within the Kennedy family.

  • The Red Scare Index: 35

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Marxistic, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for yesterday, Tuesday, May 4, 2009:

    TOTAL: 35
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 23
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 8
    Marxism/Marxist: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 4

    By Network:

    CNN: 5
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 3
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    CNN Headline News: 3
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 3
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox News Channel: 5
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 5
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox Business Network: 13
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 10
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 3

    MSNBC: 4
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    CNBC: 5
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 5
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a TVeyes.com power search for these terms on these networks.

  • Somebody protect Amity Shlaes from those nasty Obama bloggers!

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Byron York kicked off the GOP meme and now Shlaes dutifully hauls it around in her Bloomberg column: libs, and esp. those darn bloggers, are so angry even though Obama won!

    As with York's piece, you'll laugh until you cry reading Shlaes in full-on whining mode:

    What is surprising is that the [liberal] attacks are continuing after an election. In the past, politicians and policy thinkers tended to be magnanimous in victory. They and their friends focused, post- victory, on policy and strategy -- not on trashing individuals...Still, somehow, the magnanimity isn't there. Indeed, the closer the Democrats get to total power, the nastier the commentators friendly to them have become.

    See, it's liberals who won't turn off the partisan hoses after the November election. It's liberals who refuse to be magnanimous. It's liberal who are strangely angry.

    Question: Has Shlaes ever turned on Fox News?

    Ha! Trick question, because I saw her on Fox News a few days ago, so I know she's aware of the Fox News programming in the Obama era. Therefore, the thin-skinned columnists who's so upset about angry Obama liberals must be aware that Fox News, along with the rest of the right-wing media, has become completely unhinged since Obama's election and have embraced and broadcast the most paranoid, angry, irresponsible kind of rhetoric perhaps ever recorded in mainstream American politics. Or at least in modern American politics.

    Shlaes must be aware that it's the Fox News crowd that has routinely accused the new, wildly popular president of being a socialist and/or a communist and/or a fascist, and who warn of a looming totalitarian state under Obama.

    But according to Shlaes, it's liberals who are angry in the Obama era. It's liberals who aren't being "magnanimous"; who won't just accept Obama's victory. Wow. Just, wow.

    And do I even have to point out that in her entire column Shlaes never once mentions the run-away right-wing anger that's careening out of control?

    UPDATE: As if to pile on the absurdity in a an ill-advised column already drowning in the stuff, Shlaes points to George Will as a target of those mean, Obama bullying libs:

    Writers who are not pro-Barack Obama are suffering character assassination as well. George Will of the Washington Post, the nation's senior conservative columnist, has been so assaulted by bloggers that his editor, Fred Hiatt, recently wrote, "I would think folks would be eager to engage in the debate, given how sure they are of their case, rather than trying to shut him down."

    Love the use of "assaulted" don't you, as Shlaes scrambles to tie liberal writers with acts of violence. (How dare anybody critique George Will?!) But here's the best part, which Shlaes completely ignores: Will was called out by liberal bloggers because he wrote a column that was filled with falsehoods and because he, along with the Post, refused to correct the egregious errors.

    If Will and Hiatt don't want to be on the receiving end of stinging rebukes, than here's an idea: don't stand by falsehoods.

  • UPDATED: The Washington Times vs. reality

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We told you it was no contest.

    Last week CF called out the Times for its bizarre, fact-free editorial that claimed Obama's job approval ratings were "in the basement" and that he was historically unpopular. True Alice-in-Wonderland stuff since recent polling data suggest the exact opposite about the president's popularity.

    Well, it only took a week but the Times finally walked back that nonsense:

    We hereby retract our April 28 editorial "Barack's in the basement" because we misapplied several polling comparisons of various presidents after their first 100 days in office.

    "Misapplied several polling comparisons"? That's being generous. In truth, the entire piece was invented out of whole cloth.

  • UPDATED: Rumsfeld aides trash NYT Pulitzer Winner

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Now what are Rumsfeld's minions going to use to smear Times reporter David Barstow who snagged journalism's top prize last month for his expose into the Pentagon's close working relationship with retired generals and television producers during the Iraq War coverage? The one piece of evidence Rumsfeld's pals had been using in the press to undercut Barstow's report just went poof today when the DOD withdrew its investigation into Barstow's allegations.

    The back story: Earlier today we noted the item in U.S. News & World Report about how Rumsfeld's aides were trash talking Barstow's Pulitzer. According to the US News [emphasis added]:

    Leading the charge are two allies of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "Does the Pulitzer give prizes for works of fiction? Perhaps they just got the wrong category," says former Pentagon Assistant Secretary Dorrance Smith. Rumsfeld's current spokesman, Keith Urbahn, cites a January 2009 Pentagon inspector general's report debunking the story: "The Times's reporting on DoD's routine outreach to military experts didn't merit a place in the paper, much less a Pulitzer."

    Urbahn mocked Barstow because the DOD inspector general's report had 'debunked' his Times prize-winning story. Until today, this is. As of May 5, that January report no longer exists because the DOD announced it was withdrawing it. Why?

    The internal review concluded that the report did not meet accepted quality standards for an Inspector General work product.

    In other words, the January report that Rumsfeld's crew has been talking up was a joke:

    Report findings relied, in part, on a body of testimonial evidence that was insufficient or inconclusive. In particular, former senior DoD officials who devised and managed the outreach program refused our requests for an interview.

    Say this about the Rumsfeld crowd; it still has impeccable timing.

  • Detroit Free Press columnist ought to try Google

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The newspaper's Laura Varon Brown created a bit of a stir among right-wingers for a recent column which claimed free speech was being squashed during the Obama presidency. ("Obama Criticism Shuts Down Conversation") And honestly, that would have made for an interesting column if that's what she had actually written about it in a serious way.

    Instead, Brown took laziness to new heights by casually claiming, without the slightest bit of evidence, that dissent was being silenced because nobody's allowed to criticize the new president. Here's the centerpiece for her claim (no joke):

    One example: Obama's comment to Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show," comparing his bowling abilities to someone in the Special Olympics. Can you imagine the uproar had Bush said that? He'd be banished from bowling alleys for eternity. His bowling average and IQ would have immediately been compared in Twitter messages demanding his resignation. But instead, media and water cooler conversations the next day were about bowling scores and how tough the game can be.

    According to the columnist, Obama made a big blunder on late-night TV and nobody said boo about it, which proved her point about how a new era of political correctness had dawned in America.

    Whatever you say. Except that in the real world it was obvious that Obama's ill-advised Special Olympic crack became a very big deal and was discussed endlessly.

    See this Google search for the obvious proof.

  • Wash. Times' Pruden compares Japanese competitors' impact on U.S. automakers to Pearl Harbor

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From Wesley Pruden's May 5 Analysis/Opinion piece in The Washington Times:

    Putting together loans backed by greedy governments will be considerably easier than fixing what went wrong in Detroit. The further irony is that the United Auto Workers, which extracted the featherbed contracts a quarter of a century ago that doomed GM and Chrysler, will now hold a majority stake in Chrysler and a slightly smaller stake in GM.

    We'll see now how the UAW deals with self-abuse. In the early '70s GM imagined that it could stay rich forever selling junk if only it could avoid strikes that shut down the junk-assembly lines. So it agreed to anything the unions demanded.

    Then the Japanese arrived with cars of modest size and high quality; the impact on Detroit was of a reprise of Pearl Harbor. This time there was no wake-up call. Good times continued in the junkyard. Soon the Japanese were through with lunch and beginning to sup on Detroit's dinner.

  • Sen. Hatch, the press, and code words

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Utah Republican made news this week with his claim in a law journal essay that the next SCOTUS pick should be judged on how that nominee decides law, not whether they're compassionate. And on ABC's This Week, Hatch sweetened the pot by claiming that Obama's previous use of "empathy" to describe an ideal justice was really a "code word" for wanting to select an activist jurist.

    According to press accounts:

    The [law journal] essay serves as an early warning shot to President Obama that conservative Republicans do not put much stock in the notion that judges should be empathetic on the bench.

    Going forward, the press better make that "some" conservative Republicans don't put much stock in the trait.

    Here's Sen. Strom Thurmond's (R-S.C.) testimony from the confirmation hearing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

    Over the years I have determined the special qualifications I believe an individual should possess to serve on the Supreme Court. They are as follows...Third, compassion. While a nominee must be firm in his or her decisions, they should show mercy when appropriate.

    And here's Sen. Mike De-Wine (R-Ohio) during the John Robert nomination hearings:

    We need you to bring to the court your compassion and your understanding for the lives of others who haven't been as successful as you have been.

  • Rumsfeld aides trash NYT Pulitzer winner

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That, according to US News & World Report:

    It won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting, but now critics of the New York Times story about how retired generals were co-opted by the Pentagon to brag on the Iraq war are nominating it for another prize: fiction writing. Leading the charge are two allies of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "Does the Pulitzer give prizes for works of fiction? Perhaps they just got the wrong category," says former Pentagon Assistant Secretary Dorrance Smith. Rumsfeld's current spokesman, Keith Urbahn, cites a January 2009 Pentagon inspector general's report debunking the story: "The Times's reporting on DoD's routine outreach to military experts didn't merit a place in the paper, much less a Pulitzer."

    Boy, that would be an interesting story for TV news to cover, right? A look at how even removed from office, Rumsfeld and his minions are still at war with the D.C. press corps. It would made for some interesting reporting, but TV can't cover it because Barstow's expose, which made television news look bad for cozying up to the pro-war generals, is the report that must not ever be mentioned.