Yesterday, Media Matters noted that Politico's Ben Smith followed in the footsteps of his colleagues Jonathan Martin and Carol Lee in noting that Barack Obama has not attended church since being elected president without noting that President Bush rarely attends church.
Today, Smith responds ... sort of:
If nothing else, the tone of the responses reflect how defensive the left still is on faith. The Media Matters post was four times longer than my item, and I don't really think that a single story and a blog item constitute "such a big deal."
It is pretty much impossible to deny that you're being defensive without appearing defensive, so I'll leave it to readers to decide whether that adjective fits our post.
For the sake of argument, let's stipulate that "the left" is "defensive ... on faith." Here's what Ben Smith misses: In this case, at least, "the left" is "defensive" because journalists like Ben Smith are unfairly advancing the false caricature of progressives as lacking faith. Smith and his Politico colleagues are going out of their way to point out that Barack Obama, a Democrat and a person of faith, has not attended church in the past few weeks - while ignoring the fact that President Bush, a Republican and a person of faith, rarely attends church.
If "the left" is being "defensive," it is because Ben Smith and others at the Politico are giving them reason to defend themselves. For Smith to sneer that liberals are being defensive after he gives them reason to be literally adds insult to injury.
In defending his, and his colleagues', focus on Obama's church attendance, Smith wrote: "Obama doesn't seem to consider his faith private: He talked about it all the time on the campaign trail, wrote about it in searing detail, and campaigned on it before Rick Warren's megachurch in a forum broadcast live on CNN. ... So it doesn't seem particularly unreasonable to note his habits of observance."
But Media Matters didn't say it was unreasonable to note Obama's "habits of observance." We pointed out that Smith and his colleagues failed to note that Bush - who also cannot be said to have behaved as though he "considers his faith private" -- has rarely attended church over the past eight years.
It doesn't seem particularly unreasonable to expect a reporter who purports to compare the church attendance of Bush and Obama to note the infrequency of Bush's attendance over the past eight years.
Which is probably why Smith chose not to even try to defend himself on this point. He didn't even acknowledge that point - the entire point of Media Matters' item - even exists. He offered no explanation or defense of his decision to omit the information that Bush rarely attends church. Indeed, he neither quoted nor responded to a single word of Media Matters' critique. He simply sniffed that the Media Matters post "was four times longer" than his item.
If nothing else, the tone of Smith's response reflects how defensive some journalists are when their shoddy and one-sided reporting is demonstrated.
I'll save Smith the trouble of counting words: This particular post is more than twice as long as his post. I'll be happy to make my next post on this topic shorter -- if Smith makes his next post better.
From just released tapes, April 4, 1972 [emphasis added]:
NIXON: "Return the calls to those poor dumb bastards ... who I know are our friends. Now do it ... We made the same mistake [Dwight] Eisenhower made, but not as bad as Eisenhower made, because he sucked the Times too much ... G-d damn it, don't talk to them for a while. Will you enforce that now?'
Note how Nixon wanted to freeze out the Times. Sort of like Bush has frozen out the Times. The more things change...
UPDATE: Listen to Nixon repeat like a mantra, "The press is the enemy."
The Great Recession really has been, among other things, a rather large embarrassment for large parts of the professional business press, which has spent so many years simply cheerleading Wall Street while missing the economic Story of the Decade.
Oh well, seems CNBC is still bullish. Or, to be more precise, CNBC's favorite economists and analysts remain bullish. Note the online headline: "Huge Job Losses Could Be Signal That Worst Is Over." The article itself is pretty much non-stop, happy-days-will-be-here-again:
"This is history," says veteran Wall Street economist Ram Bhagavatula. "December payrolls will be weak as well. The leading indicators will come from a slow re-activation of the credit markets and increases in consumer spending. You should begin to see that in the next couple of months."
Bhagavatula is among a growing number of economists who say the seeds of recovery are already in place, even if they are revising their forecasts for GDP contraction in the fourth quarter to show an even greater decline.
"Every recession has its worst day, and this is probably the worst day," says Chris Rupkey of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.
Economists say there's a lot of tailwind to drive an economic recovery and already emerging signs of one. "There's now starting to be some visibility about how this might end." Says David Resler, chief economist at Nomura International.
We noted last week that the media's favorite analysts, when polled about predictions for what November's job loss numbers would be, were only off by 200,000 jobs. The same type of analysts who reporters liked to quote in the spring about the chance of a "mild recession."
We think AmericaBlog got it right: "Everything is fine and as long as you close your eyes, don't listen and talk loudly over everyone else you'll be fine. Just ask CNBC."
Rice made the rounds on Sunday for likely the last time as SoS and she reiterated the WH's final talking point about Iraq and how everyone just wished they had had better intel before launching America's unprecedented pre-emptive invasion.
As we noted last week, Bush, Rove and Kristol have each echoed that point recently. The media's reaction to the blatant falsehood what somehow it was unknowable in 2003 that Iraq didn't have WMD's? The press has done almost nothing. We suggested the press might be sleep-walking this story because it just brings back bad memories about how it so eagerly signed off on the bogus rationale for war.
Meanwhile, Rice's series of Sunday interviews simply confirmed that the unspoken rule among Beltway elites is that nobody, and we mean nobody, is supposed to ask Rice truly uncomfortable questions about a war she helped engineer.
It literally is a game. The TV hosts ask innocuous questions about Iraq. Rice responds with misleading information knowing full well that her host is never going to call her on it. And then the two dance onto another topic. And by the way, Rice also appeared on CNN's Late Edition, but host Wolf Blitzer didn't even bother to ask the out-going SoS about Iraq. Talk about a gracious host.
For the Sunday low point, we'd have to point to this answer Rice gave to Wallace on Fox News about the intel [emphasis added]:
The fact is, at the time, we believed that they were - that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted this biological and chemical weapons program and was likely making progress on his nuclear program. And that was the assessment of the intelligence community. Now, we have reformed the way that information gets to principals. And if I had it to do over again, yes, I'd have the system in place that we have now, not the system that we had then. But this system of alternative views that are put forward in a more - a crisper and clearer way is important to understanding intelligence...And so while it's fine to go back and say what might we have done differently, the truth of the matter is we don't have that luxury. And we didn't at the time.
See, it was the system's fault. Principals in the WH weren't getting the right intel about Iraq. But fear not, the system has been fixed. Slight problem with Rice's fictionalization of history, and slight problem with Chris Wallace's playing dumb about Rice's answer: The intel system in place for the run-up to Iraq was specifically created by Donald Rumsfeld, and supported by VP Dick Cheney, in order to cherry pick information to make sure principals inside the WH were mislead. Or at least could later claim to have been misled.
A topic worthy of debate, right? But that's not a question Rice is going to have answer on TV.
The good news about Medved's opinion piece in the USA Today, was that it called out the talk radio genre for its growing irrelevance. A GOP talker himself, Medved was quite straight forward:
But if the new president [Obama] makes credible efforts to govern from the center, then talk radio can't afford long-term marginalization as a sulking, sniping, angry irrelevancy. It makes no sense to react with pre-emptive rage (and an odd obsession over Obama's birth certificate) to a president-elect who has remained pointedly vague on policy.
The bad news was Medved kept peddling this notion that right-wing radio hit its nadir--the "Golden Age"-during the Clinton years and that GOP radio played a crucial, deeply important role in the political life of America during the 1990's:
With no Republican power base in the federal bureaucracy, dispirited conservatives turned to talk radio as a sort of government in exile. Deploying wit, passion and ferocious focus, Rush (and his many followers and imitators) rallied GOP loyalists to fight back against the Clinton agenda, from gays in the military to Hillary's health care scheme. Within two years, Republicans came roaring back to capture GOP control of both houses of Congress and pointedly acknowledged the role of radio - naming Rush the "Majority Maker" and making him an honorary member of their caucus.
Technically, that's all true. But Medved is talking about a period that ran from approximately June 1993 to November 1994; 16 months. The question is what did right-wing radio do the rest of decade? How did right-wing radio defeat the Clintons? How did it "change minds," as Medved claimed? Answer: It didn't. Bill Clinton won re-election with ease and left office as the most popular president in modern history.
The irony is that Medved is urging talk radio today not to become half-cocked in its pursuit of Obama--not to become unhinged--or it'll end up irrelevant. But wasn't that what right-wing radio did from, say 1995 to 2000?
It's hard to laugh when you see the Beltway press, yet again, type up stories about how Bush is set for a job approval ratings comeback. Like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, the Beltway press has been sure--just positive--that Bush is gonna rebound any minute now. And hey, if it happens as Bush boards Air Forces one for the last time, than the press wants to make sure it's there to capture the magic.
Believe it or not, two Times writers online recently set aside space to alert readers how Bush's job approval ratings are bound to go up between now and January. i.e. "Bush may well be buffing up those numbers before he departs for Texas." The news hook was a report from Gallup which noted lame duck presidents have often enjoyed a modest gain in approval rating during their last two months in office. And because, according to Gallup, Bush's God-awful approval ratings have gone from 24% to 28% recently, the Times suggested Bush was in line for a boost.
Two things. The LA Times' analysis completely ignored the fact that America the just entered the Great Recession and that might, just might, stand in the way of Bush's big bounce. (Jobless people tend to dislike the president.) And second, the Times writers remained mostly blissfully unaware that Bush is the most consistently unpopular president in the history of 20th century polling. Oh sure, they make passing reference to his unpopularity. But the Times makes no effort to highlight the fact that Bush remains an absolute freak of job approval nature.
It's true that Harry Truman and Richard Nixon dropped down into the 20's in terms of job approval ratings. But Truman's was a quick dip and then he was back to the races. Nixon's fall, of course, came courtesy of a sweeping criminal enterprise he was running out of the White House. No president in the history of modern America has ever come close to posting the type of unimaginably bad job approval ratings, and do it for as long as Bush has.
But hey, he's due for a comeback!
Meanwhile, here's the Times Andrew Malcolm writing about Bush: "His popularity has jumped to 28%. Still not that great." I'm almost certain Malcolm, who once worked as Laura Bush's flack, was not being facetious. He was being serious. He was serious that Bush had jumped to 28%. And he was serious that no, 28% is "still not that great."
The real punchline came in the form of headline to Malcom's post post [emphasis added]: "With only 46 days left, Americans start re-liking George W. Bush."
As Atrios explained years ago, the press can report whatever it wants about the Clintons--it can bend or ignore whatever journalism standards are necessary--and it's all good.
We thought of that simple truth while reading this NYT piece about a speech Bill Clinton gave in Malaysia. Headlined: "Bill Clinton Speech in Malaysia Irks Investors." Uh-oh, sounds like Bill's in deep water again. When will he learn? See, everybody was right to worry about the "baggage" he'd bring when Hillary became SoS. At least that was the vibe of the article.
Here are the nuts and bolts:
Mr. Clinton spoke before nearly 3,000 people in Kuala Lumpur at the invitation of Vinod Sekhar, a Malaysian businessman whose foundation paid Mr. Clinton $200,000, according to several people with knowledge of the fee. The figure is on the lower end of the scale that Mr. Clinton usually commands for his speeches.
"You should be proud of this man," Mr. Clinton told the audience, pointing at Mr. Sekhar, the 40-year-old chief executive of the Petra Group, a privately held rubber technology company.
But several angry investors in Britain and Malaysia say they disagree with the former president's glowing assessment of Mr. Sekhar, whose company has suffered a rough few weeks.
The key is that last sentence: Some investors don't think Sekhar's a great guy because his company has suffered a rough few weeks. The Times then notes recent action taken by disgruntled investors and the Times quotes several saying all sorts of disparaging things about Sekhar. Got it?
Okay, now let's take a step back and look at the logic the Times used in order to decide this was a newsworthy event which required the time and reporting of three separate reporters, and let's try to figure out if under any possible terms the Times would have suggested a similar situation involving another speaker was newsworthy. Because obviously, there are scores of former Beltway big shots who travel the globe pocketing big checks for speaking fees. Off the top of my head I'll throw out the random names of Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove and Henry Kissinger.
Now, if any of them accepted a speaking gig from a man whose company had unhappy investors, who thinks the Times would write up a story suggesting that Gingrich, Rove or Kissinger were the news story? I suspect none because it defies logic to think a paid speaker is somehow responsible for external investors complaints.
And let's face it, this article has nothing to do with concerns about Hillary being SoS and Clinton raising international funds for his Foundation. There's not even a whiff of that here. The entire premise of the article is that Clinton accepted a speaking engagement from a man who runs a company and whose company has some unhappy investors. The news angle literally makes no sense and represents a completely novel way to cover paid speakers.
But hey, those are the Clinton Rules.
Like Glenn Greenwald, whose work this week forced Sen. Dianne Feinstein to clarify her views on interrogation. But according to the Times, it was "some [nameless] bloggers" who forced Feinstein's hand.
This kind of media treatment of the liberal bloggers has become utterly predictable as the traditional press again and again refuses to spell out the often eye-opening public policy work being done by liberal bloggers. And when the press does concede their impact, it's done with vague references to "some bloggers."