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  • Bush, the press and Osama bin Laden

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    A final thought on Bush's "wistful and introspective" (LA Times) press conference.

    The day-after headlines certainly focused on the laundry list of mistakes Bush admitted to making during his eight years in office. The AP summed up the greatest misses Bush mentioned this way:

    _Putting a "Mission Accomplished" banner on an aircraft carrier shortly after Saddam Hussein was toppled from power.

    _"Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake."

    _Going immediately for an overhaul of the Social Security program, rather than seeking immigration reform, in the wake of his re-election to a second term in 2004.

    _The revelations of abuses at the Abu Ghraib detention camp in Iraq, which he described as a "huge disappointment."

    _Never turning up weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which he called a "significant disappointment."

    _Not getting congressional approval for three, bilateral free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

    Noticing anything missing from that list? Like the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden, which for years, we were told, was the administration's top priority since bin Laden was behind the terrorist attack that killed more than 3,000 Americans.

    Since the press conference though, I haven't seen or heard any press reports mention that glaringly obvious gap in Bush's list. Instead, reading off the White House play sheet, the press no longer thinks bin Laden matters.

    Lapdogs to the end.

    UPDATE: A check of the transcript shows that Osama bin Laden, the man who defined Bush's presidency, was never mentioned by either Bush or anyone in the press corps during the president's expansive, 45-minute farewell press conference.

  • Associated Press, please define "strictly"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Speaking of Bush's farewell presser, credit the AP for producing a fact-check report on the misstatements the president made. Fault the AP however, for being too timid with the task at hand.

    Here's how the AP addressed Bush's claim (it's a White House evergreen) that he "inherited" a recession in 2001 [emphasis added]:

    BUSH: "In terms of the economy — look, I inherited a recession, I'm ending on a recession. In the meantime, there were 52 months of uninterrupted job growth."

    THE FACTS: There have been two recessions during Bush's time in office. The first was a relatively mild downturn that began in March 2001 and lasted eight months, ending in November 2001. Since the first one did not begin until after he took office in January 2001, it is not strictly accurate to say he "inherited" it.

    Why the "strictly," when the sentence would have been more factual without it? Bush did not inherit a recession. Period. His claim is inaccurate and the AP ought to say so without muddying the language with phrases like "strictly."

  • Was Bush "candid" about Katrina at his press conference?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Bush is getting all kinds of credit from reporters for his farewell press conference yesterday. (CBS's Bob Schieffer, an old Bush family friend, called the president's performance "gracious.") The press seems very impressed that Bush addressed some of the controversial topics of his administration; some of the mistakes that created what pollster say is historic ill-will among American voters.

    ABC News, for instance, claimed, "the president candidly addressed serious issues ranging from the economy, to Hurricane Katrina, to the Iraq war." Yet here's what ABC New reported regarding Bush's comments about the federal government's Katrina relief effort, which may go down in history as one of the most incompetent of its kind:

    "Could things have been done better? Absolutely," Bush said. "But when I hear people say the federal response was slow, then what are they going to say to those chopper drivers or the 30,000 that got pulled off the roofs?"

    That's Bush being "candid"? Doesn't sound like it to me.

  • The death of The New York Times? cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Times columnist David Carr looks at the recent Atlantic essay by Michael Hirschorn and comes to the same conclusion I did last week; if the Times went out of business it would be a big deal because, despite what some online optimists think, websites and bloggers and tweeters would not be able to replace what the huge news organization does.

    Elsewhere, Carr pines for a Steve Jobs-type figure to come in and rescue newspapers the way Apple did the music industry. Writes Carr:

    Remember that when iTunes began, the music industry was being decimated by file sharing. By coming up with an easy user interface and obtaining the cooperation of a broad swath of music companies, Mr. Jobs helped pull the business off the brink. He has been accused of running roughshod over the music labels, which are a fraction of their former size. But they are still in business.

    Still in business, yes. But just barely. The idea that 99 cent downloads from iTunes pulled the music industry from the brink is pretty misleading. Music industry sales have absolutely cratered since the music-should-be-free mantra was unleashed by the Internet. The steep declines show no signs of abating and the revenue that iTunes is generating in no way offsets the losses for the music labels.

    So while yes, it's nice that Apple convinced people songs are worth paying for, the idea that iTunes saved the music industry, and that an iTunes-like creation could save the newspaper industry, seems misplaced.

    P.S. Am I the only one who notes the irony in that back during the Napster craze an awful lot of print journalists spent an awful lot of time lecturing the music industry about how it should stop fighting technology and should start embracing the Internet, even if that meant giving its product away. Today, lots of those print outlets are going out of business, or in danger of going under, thanks to the Internet.

  • Terri Schiavo and the press

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Digby recently made a compelling argument when, trying to pinpoint moment when the Bush administration, and the larger conservative movement, lost touch with America, she pointed to the showdown surrounding Terri Schiavo in early 2005.

    I would just add to her insight that the episode also represented a telling, and I'd suggest historic, tipping point for the press, as well. Having convinced themselves that Bush had won a "mandate," in 2004, despite earning the slimmest margin of re-election for a sitting president since Woodrow Wilson, reporters and pundits immediately declared the GOP's all-in on the Schiavo right-to-die story to be a brilliant strategic move.

    As I noted in Lapdogs:

    The Schiavo coverage began with a strikingly deferential tone with the MSM clearly awed by the Republican's culture-of-life strategy. Indeed, radical was a word the MSM all but refused to use when reporting any part of the Schiavo story, despite the fact it was being fueled by rampant far-right extremism. The controversy highlighted not only how far to the right the GOP had lunged -- a 2003 Fox News poll found just 2 percent of Americans thought the government should decide the right-to-die issue -- but it also illustrated how paralyzed the MSM had become in pointing out the obvious: that the GOP leadership often operated well outside the mainstream of American politics. Reporters, fearful of being tagged as liberal or anti-religion, politely ignored the salient fact.

    The press, and especially ABC News, also seemed to do everything in its power to ignore early polling data that showed that Republicans were in the very steep minority when it came to the Schiavo controversy.

    Perhaps the larger point here is that the fortunes of Bush and the Beltway press in 2005 were intertwined. So it was inevitable that when, as Digby argues, Bush began his descent with the Schiavo story, so did the media.

  • Newsbusters applauds as Hume & Bush mislead

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard gushes over the Presidents Bush:

    "Fox News Sunday" featured a fabulous interview with Presidents George H. W. and George W. Bush today demonstrating that regardless of their political leaning, these are two fine gentlemen who deeply love their country and have the utmost respect for the office they held.

    What was particularly fascinating was how they both had nothing but positive things to say about president-elect Barack Obama, as well as his cabinet picks, and that they refused to say anything negative about him.

    In fact, if you forward to minute 3:00 of the video embedded below the fold, you'll witness an absolutely marvelous discussion about why they believe former presidents should keep their opposing views of the current executive to themselves

    Here's that "absolutely marvelous discussion" in which the Bushes demonstrate that they "are two fine gentlemen who deeply love their country and have the utmost respect for the office they held":

    HUME: Well, what - look, you - this is very like you, and like you, as well, to refrain from comment on the other political figures, the incumbent President and so on. Why?

    FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, why be out there looking like you're carping and criticizing and know everything? I mean, I've heard what the President said about President Obama, President-Elect Obama. I feel the same way; support him where you can, and don't go out there criticizing and carping. You look small yourself for one thing, but that's not the main reason; the main reason is he needs support. And if it's something you disagree with violently, sit on the sidelines and shut up.

    THE PRESIDENT: There will be plenty of opportunities for people to carp, trust me. I mean, this is a job that -

    FORMER PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, yes, I know there will.

    Such noble gentlemen!

    But it isn't true. Former President Bush now says that he doesn't criticize his successors because he would "look small" if he did so, and that instead he should "sit on the sidelines and shut up." But, as Media Matters has documented, Bush repeatedly criticized Bill Clinton during Clinton's presidency.

    Media Matters pointed that out after Fox's Brit Hume claimed that former President Bush did not criticize his successor. That resulted in the following correction from Hume:

    Two nights ago on this program, we said that, in attacking President Bush on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and the budget, former president Clinton did something that Bush's father did not do, and that is to criticize his successor. That was incorrect. While the first President Bush did so rarely, he did criticize President Clinton and his administration several times, including on his Haiti and Somalia policies. We stand corrected and regret the error.

    And yet there was Brit Hume on Fox yesterday, claiming it is "very like" President Bush to refrain from criticizing Barack Obama. And how does Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard react to Brit Hume repeating a falsehood for which he has previously apologized, and to former President Bush denouncing conduct he himself has engaged in.

    Sheppard praises it as an "absolutely marvelous" discussion.

    And that reveals a great deal about Newsbusters and the Media Research Center: their idea of quality journalism is when a conservative reporter joins a conservative guest in misleading their audience. And "bias" is when a comic book depicts a superhero preventing a criminal from disrupting a presidential inauguration.

  • Power Line and warbloggers continue their serial mendacity

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Right-wing warbloggers are keeping up their attacks on journalism, as well common sense, by insisting that reporters covering the Gaza fighting are concocting tales of violence. Why? Because "the media loves terrorists and their propaganda." We documented the warbloggers' most recent bouts of media-bashing dementia last week.

    This week the trend continues with John Hinderaker. Writing for Power Line, a leading light of the right-wing blogosphere, we discover Hinderaker can miraculously divine the intentions and motivations of children 6,000 miles away in war-torn Gaza. In a post headlined "Manufacturing Disaster" (because the reports of violence in Gaza are invented; keep up people), Hinderaker dissects an Associated Press photo [emphasis added]:

    In this photo, taken during the current conflict in Gaza, the man on the left appears to be injured, but the children on the right do not. They look as though they were told to lie down so they could be photographed with the injured man and described as "children...wounded in an Israeli missile strike:"

    Hinderaker's conclusion: The children are fine.

    Behold the right-wing blogosphere.

    P.S. Did you note that, according to Hinderaker, the man on the left appears to be injured. Can't we create a separate Internet for these wingnuts?

    P.P.S. Is it me, or is Michelle Malkin sitting out the latest press-hating crusade in which warbloggers announce, without any actual proof, which reports and images from Gaza are authentic and which ones are not? Meaning, did Malkin actually learn a painful lesson when she lent her name to previous (laughable) warblogger jihads against the press (paging Jamil Hussein...) and has she decided her reputation could only take so many hits? We'll be interested to see if Malkin backs Hinderaker's hollow claims.

  • Even Sarah Palin can spot awful Politico headlines

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We've noted them many times in recent months; headlines that often have little connection to the content of the article. We assume this is done by Politico editor to goose the click-through rate by promising readers juicy stories that Politico often cannot deliver. But the practice is wildly misleading and represents bad journalism.

    In a statement following her recent interview with John Ziegler in which she addressed her own press coverage during the campaign, Palin singled out a recent Politico headline as being unfair: "Palin: Media Goes Easy on Kennedy."

    This was Politico's lead [emphasis added]:

    Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) believes Caroline Kennedy is getting softer press treatment in her pursuit of the New York Senate seat than Palin did as the GOP vice presidential nominee because of Kennedy's social class.

    "I've been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope," Palin told conservative filmmaker John Ziegler during an interview Monday for his upcoming documentary film, "How Obama Got Elected." Excerpts from the interview were posted on YouTube Wednesday evening.

    "It's going to be interesting to see how that plays out and I think that as we watch that we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be."

    Did you note the verb tense problem? Politico reported Palin claimed Kennedy "is getting softer press treatment." (Present tense.) But in her comments to Ziegler, Palin was clearly looking forward and wondering whether the press "will" handle Kennedy with kid gloves if she gets appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat. (Future tense.)

    Politico though, just fudged the facts and reported something more pleasing.

    And Newsbusters please take note, I just defended Sarah Palin from an unfair press report.

  • Olbermann names Beck "Worst Person" for hypocrisy in decrying Communist-name calling

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On the January 9 edition of MSNBC's Countdown, Keith Olbermann , echoing a recent item by Media Matters for America, highlighted remarks made by Glenn Beck in a promotion for his upcoming Fox News program:

    Promoting upcoming Fox show, Beck -- who has called Obama "a Marxist" and criticized "Comrade Clinton" -- decries communist name-calling

    video: msnbc-20090109-worst
  • NYT reporter already mapping out Obama's failure

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Reports Politico:

    If his stimulus plan "doesn't work out, he may very well be a one-term president," said [the Times'] Jeff Zeleny, who covered Obama's campaign. "It's hard to imagine that he could be reelected if the economy's in the exact same position four years from now."

    Funny, we don't recall any Times reporters suggesting Bush would be a one-term president days before his inauguration. But of course we do remember lots of reporters and pundits announcing that Bill Clinton had failed in his first month in office.

    Note the double standard?