CNN"s Jessica Yellin just said of Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich: "The two men seemed cordial when they met at a governor's event nine days ago."
CNN then showed video of Obama approaching a line of people, the first of whom was Blagojevich, who can be heard saying "Hello, Mr. President." But in the video, Obama doesn't even stop walking to greet Blagojevich; he spends maybe a few tenths of a second glancing at Blagojevich on his way to someone else.
Were Blagojevich not currently embroiled in scandal, and the media not therefore interested in linking Obama and Blagojevich, it isn't hard to imagine reporters describing the video as evidence of Obama snubbing Blagojevich.
I will say this: Barack Obama could have expressed a bit more disgust.
[...] the president-elect limited himself to such bromides as "sad" in discussing the Blagojevich scandal. Actually, it's more than sad. Based on the wiretapped conversations recounted in the criminal complaint, it's an outrageous, appalling and thoroughly disgusting glimpse of government for sale.
The governor of Illinois deserves the presumption of legal innocence, but not the presumption that he acted honorably.
By yesterday Obama's position had "evolved": Blago should resign (though he said it via a written statement). Why did it take the president-elect 24 hours to reach that conclusion, when the facts haven't changed? Is that kind of excessive caution going to define his presidency?
Obama's call for Blagojevich's resignation came so early in the scandal, Howard Kurtz had to measure the time elapsed between criminal complaint and resignation call is mere hours, not days. And yet Kurtz thinks that represented "excessive caution" on Obama's part? As Kurtz notes, Blagojevich "deserves the presumption of legal innocence" -- yet Kurtz suggests Obama should have decided within minutes that Blagojevich should resign. That's nuts.
Furthermore, Kurtz seems to think the fact that "the facts haven't changed" makes Obama's purported delay in calling for the resignation all the more odd. It apparently hasn't occured to Kurtz that it could be precisely because the facts haven't changed that Obama called for Blago's resignation. In other words, it is possible that Obama waited a day to see if exculpatory facts emerged before calling for a resignation.
Given Kurtz's own history, he's lucky the rest of the word doesn't share his appetite for snap judgements about whether people deserve to keep their jobs.
Kurtz writes [emphasis added]:
Still, Obama is exonerated on the tapes by none other than F-bomb Rod, who calls him a "mother [expletive]" and complains that the only thing O will offer for having his person picked for the Senate is gratitude. Obama, it turns out, won't pay to play. That's not how things are done in bleeping Chicago!
The facts, of course, didn't stop some conservative pundits from arguing that Obama has now been tainted by association with the Chicago machine.
As much as I hate coming to the defense of "conservative pundits," they're hardly the only ones making the "tainted" claim, despite the fact Obama was "exonerated" on the tapes. It's pretty much the entire Beltway press corps that's been playing up that angle.
But so far, nothing from the wire service about the breaking political news from Minnesota.
The new twist in the senate race between Coleman and Al Franken has generated news all across the state as well as nationwide. But a check of Nexis indicates the AP still has not posted any information about the FBI's investigation.
We noted yesterday that the Journal seemed to go a bit overboard with his gigantic A1 story/headline about the Blago story. (The spread was so big, Journal editors had to redesigned the front page just for the occasion, bumping the familiar, left-hand, "What's News" column down below the fold.) The business daily usually only devotes that kind of A1 space to blockbuster business stories, but opted to give the local Illinois corruption story gigantic play.
Well, if anybody was wondering if that was a fluke, and if anybody thought when Rupert Murdoch took over the newspaper that his political opinions would not, directly or indirectly, impact the news pages, today's Journal offers key clues. The Journal features another huge headline, heavy on the spin: "Graft Case Touches Jackson Jr.: Democrat Denis Seeking Senate Seat from Blagojevich; Service Union is Scrutinized."
The lead also lays on the what-if innuendo quite thick [emphasis added]:
The scandal surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's alleged attempt to sell President-elect Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat widened on Wednesday, threatening to taint a rising Democratic star and pull in one of the nation's biggest labor unions.
Of course, as CF noted:
As long as reporters keep including qualifiers like "could" and "threaten" and "may," they can just keep running these stories over and over again.
As we said, the Journal spins the Blago story very hard today (much harder than the other mainstream dailies and much harder than the established facts would dictate), and in an anti-Democratic, anti-union way that makes it hard to dismiss the possible Murdoch factor.
Ben Smith claims the Obama transition team has "censored" Blago questions on its news Change.gov site. Jake Tapper at ABC News pretty much makes the same claim.
What the Change.gov feature does is allow citizens to pose questions to Obama and then the online community votes on the questions, and the ones with the most votes rise to the top of the list. Anybody who is even vaguely familiar with how Digg or Daily Kos works understand the ladder concept. (i.e. Understands the Internet.)
Not so much Smith and Tapper (Smith especially) who claim Blago-related questions have been "censored" because they haven't been voted up the ladder or because they have been tagged by community members as "inappropriate." Read this comment posted under Tapper's piece:
Oh, please... Like all similar social promotion websites that do this kind of crowdsourcing, in the process of policing itself, the community has developed a relative consensus on what it wants to see, and what it doesn't want to see. You'll see similar effect on Digg, Reddit, Yahoo Buzz, and the rest of Google's Moderator service on which the Obama technology is based. It is a simple artifact that emerges from all such social communities.
Note that Smith, after claiming Blago questions were being ominously "censored," suggested the Obama team step in and basically manipulate the votes by propping them up to the top of the list:
So far, Obama's team does not seem to have stepped in to allow uncomfortable questions to rise to the top.
In other words, the Obama team has stepped back and allowed community members to pick the best questions and Smith suggests the Obama team has indirectly "censored" questions. So Smith suggests the Obama team go in and cherry-pick certain question and put them at the top of the question list? Are double standards any more obvious than that?
UPDATE: Smith responded to his onlline critics who raised all kinds of questions about his report and his use of the term "censored." Here's the response. We don't really get it. (Smith seems to suggest we all misread his original report.)
We've highlighted some absurd attempts by news media to tie Barack Obama to Rod Blagojevich's alleged corruption. But this may be the most ridiculous, from Time magazine:
On more than one occasion during his stunning press conference on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald bluntly said he has found no evidence of wrongdoing by President-elect Barack Obama in the tangled, tawdry scheme that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich allegedly cooked up to sell Obama's now vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. But for politicians, it's never good news when a top-notch prosecutor has to go out of his way to distance them from a front-page scandal.
So, the US Attorney who is going after Blagojevich says there is absolutely no evidence Barack Obama has done anything wrong.
This, naturally, is bad news for Barack Obama. Also, up is down and black is white.
Note also that Time says Fitzgerald "has to go out of his way to distance" Obama from the scandal. But Fitzgerald did so not because there have been indications that Obama is connected to the scandal -- no, he did so because reporters asked him multiple questions about whether Obama was involved.
Let's sum up:
1) Reporters ask Fitzgerald, based on nothing, if Obama is involved.
2) Fitzgerald says there is no evidence Obama is involved
3) Reporter writes that it is bad news for Obama that Fitzgerald had to go out of his way to distance Obama from the scandal.
Heck of a racket, isn't it?
More on irresponsible reporting on this topic from Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake, Taylor Marsh, Greg Sargent, HuffPo's Jason Linkins, Bob Fertik, and Steve Benen. D-Day wraps up the media coverage:
When Will Obama Resign?
To hear the traditional media tell this story, Barack Obama personally directed millions of dollars into Rod Blagojevich's personal bank account and promised to make Blago "President for Life" at the end of his term. They also baptized one another.
The AP's silly formulation -- that the scandal "threatens" to dog him -- is a story that could literally be written every day for as long as the scandal drags on, whether or not Obama or anyone from his team is ever actually implicated in any sense at all. Of course, even if no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Obama camp ever emerges, Obama will be nonetheless dogged by the scandal -- because of stories like these.
Right. As long as reporters keep including qualifiers like "could" and "threaten" and "may," they can just keep running these stories over and over again. It'll be stupid and hurt the country, but when has that ever stopped them?
Here's a classic example of "could" journalism from ABC's Rick Klein:
The scandal surrounding Blagojevich, the Democratic governor of Illinois, may or may not implicate members of Congress, in addition to at least the outer ring of advisers in the incoming Obama administration.
Got that? The scandal "may or may not implicate members of Congress." That's a completely meaningless thing to "report." Klein may as well write that the scandal "may or may not implicate" the Easter Bunny. It's just as true!
Obviously, the news media should report actual evidence of wrongdoing by any public official, at any time. But that isn't what many journalists are doing now. They're baselessly speculating that there may be, at some indeterminate time in the future, some evidence that someone has done something wrong. They have no idea what that evidence might be, who might have done what wrong, or when. They're just speculating that someone might have done something. Sometime.
That isn't reporting a scandal, that's baselessly inventing a faux scandal out of thin air, when a real one does not yet exist*, and may never exist.
* For anyone other than Blago and others who have actually, rather than theoretically, been implicated.
The Journal sure went huge with its Blago coverage on Wednesday, complete with mongo A1 headline and story. It's curious because the story has pretty much no business angle, yet the Journal treated the unfolding scandal, featuring a previously obscure pol, as monumentally important.
Part of that is the Journal's attempt to branch out and be a more national, general interest newspaper. But part of that, of course, is the fact that president-election Obama is connected with the story. (If a corrupt governor this week in Oklahoma, or wherever, tried to sell off a senate seat, would that Journal have treated that the same way? No.)
To its credit, the Journal in its A1 piece spells our rather clearly that Obama himself played no role in the story. The problem occurs in the overly excited sidebar on A16, "Obama Ties in the Spotlight," by Cam Simpson and Jonathan Weisman, where readers learn Obama "will be forever linked to the case." Yikes, sounds bad.
And what about those ominous Obama "ties"? Read this and weep [emphasis added]:
The matter also highlights ties between the disgraced Democratic governor and some members of Mr. Obama's inner circle. His top campaign strategist, David Axelrod - who will move to the White House for a senior adviser's job - lists Mr. Blagojevich on his firm's Web site as one of his clients, when the politician was a candidate for Congress.
P.S. Bob Cesa reminds us that the Beltway press hasn't always been so insistent that politicians denounce and reject other indicted pols, especially when the GOP's involved.