This weekend's feature in the Sunday New York Times magazine told us a lot about the state of political journalism. Bottom line? It's style over substance. In fact, it's no longer even close -- style wins in a rout.
The Times' Frank Bruni wrote the velvety soft, 5,200-word profile of the unlikely Massachusetts senator. What I found interesting was how the article opened by detailing a Saturday Night Live skit about Brown, his centerfold spread in Cosmopolitan when Brown was 22, the pick-up truck Brown (symbolically) drove around the state during the campaign, and the family story about how Brown showed up on his first date with his future wife wearing pink leather shorts.
Combined, Bruni spent the first 15 paragraphs, and more than 1,200 words, on those very light items.
As for what Brown stands for politically in terms of his agenda and what he ran on in his campaign, Bruni was much less interested in that. In fact, this was one of the very few paragraphs that even addressed that bothersome issue [emphasis added]:
But the campaign also showed Brown to be diligent, patient and shrewd. He embraced all of the hand-shaking and barnstorming that Coakley seemed averse to. If he wasn't particularly eloquent in explaining why he opposed federal health care legislation modeled largely on a Massachusetts measure he supported, he nonetheless made it through interviews and debates without any outsize flubs. And his campaign advisers and legislative colleagues in Massachusetts say that he had a keener grasp of what was going on in the Massachusetts electorate than they did — that he in particular recognized many voters' qualms with Congress and their readiness, once again, for a fresh, unconventional face.
In the final days of his campaign, Brown's candidacy centered around the fact that his victory would help stymie Obama's health care push in the U.S. senate. But it turns out Brown supported a very similar health care push for Massachusetts. According to Bruni, Brown wasn't even eloquent in explaining the glaring inconsistency. But in the end that didn't matter because in interviews and in debates, Brown didn't make any outsize flubs.
Other than, y'know, flip-flopping on the central issue of health care reform.
Discussing President Obama's recent medical check-up, which reportedly noted that Obama "has not kicked the smoking habit," Fox Nation posted a doctored photo of Obama with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. As the Museum of Hoaxes notes, the photo is a "fake" spread during the 2008 campaign. From The Fox Nation:
From the Museum of Hoaxes:
In early 2008 the top photo began circulating online, showing Obama with a cigarette in his mouth. It is not real. The original photo (bottom) was taken by Kwame Ross on Aug. 3, 2004 while then-State Sen. Obama met with constituents at the University of Illinois while campaigning to become a U.S. Senator.
An unknown hoaxer digitally added the cigarette into the photo.
Last August, the Arizona GOP featured the doctored photo with a press release slamming Obama's "Broken promises, rampant government spending, and Chicago-style politics." The original version of the photo can be found here.
Last summer, Fox Nation -- a purported "fair and balanced" news website -- posted a fake picture of then-Senator-elect Al Franken in diapers holding a stuffed animal. The photo was doctored and has been disseminated by detractors of Franken, including the Ohio Republican Party.
Fox News' penchant for doctored photos isn't limited to its online properties -- in 2008, Fox & Friends featured digitally altered photographs of New York Times reporters with whom they disagreed. In the photos, the reporters' teeth had been yellowed, their facial features exaggerated, and portions of one reporter's hair was moved further back on his head. Media Matters has also noted that Fox News has a history of doctoring videos to smear progressives and Democrats.
Even before the passage of the economic recovery act, the Washington Times attacked it in articles and editorials. The Times has since referred to the package as "failed," "ruinous" and attacked it in a January 18 editorial headlined, "Obama is killing the economy."
In a February 11 editorial, the Times wrote that "the result of so much government spending has been anything but stimulating":
It was a year ago this week that Democrats passed a bloated $787 billion package of pet projects ostensibly to try to stimulate the economy. The price tag has crept steadily higher, and the result of so much government spending has been anything but stimulating. Now, Democrats in Congress and the White House are planning more massive spending bills. If there is any hope of a recovery anytime soon, it's important that the stimulus sequel be derailed.
However, in a February 23 article, the Times' Stephen Dinan wrote that "[t]he stimulus act added at least 1 million new jobs and possibly as many as 2.1 million jobs in the final three months of last year, and lowered the unemployment rate by at least a half a percentage point, according to a new analysis from" the Congressional Budget Office."
And according to an article by the Times' Patrice Hill today, it's a good thing we had that stimulus after all. Otherwise, the economy might have "completely collaps[ed]."
Without record levels of welfare, unemployment and other government benefits as well as tax cuts last year, the income of U.S. households would have plunged by an astonishing $723 billion - more than four times the record $167 billion drop reported last month by the Commerce Department.
Economic growth typically depends on consumer spending, which is fed by wages, rents, interest and other forms of income. But the tentative revival of consumer spending in the second half of last year appears to have been fed largely by an extraordinary flood of government spending, as growth in other kinds of income has disappeared.
"Governmental support was critical in keeping the economy, particularly consumer spending, from completely collapsing during the crisis," said Harm Bandholz, an economist at Unicredit Markets. He said he is concerned that so much of the economic rebound is a result of government spending rather than a revival of private income and jobs. That situation is unsustainable, he said, because the government has had to borrow massively to prop up the economy and cannot continue that binge for long.
From Fox Nation on March 1:
Last Thursday, Reuters reported that January, like November and the last decade, was quite warm:
"January, according to satellite (data), was the hottest January we've ever seen," said Nicholls of Monash University's School of Geography and Environmental Science in Melbourne.
"Last November was the hottest November we've ever seen, November-January as a whole is the hottest November-January the world has seen," he said of the satellite data record since 1979.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in December that 2000-2009 was the hottest decade since records began in 1850, and that 2009 would likely be the fifth warmest year on record. WMO data show that eight out of the 10 hottest years on record have all been since 2000.
Strangely, though, this report cannot be found on National Review's "Planet Gore" blog, where they think that a snowy Moscow winter is evidence that global warming is a hoax. I'm sure National Review's obsessive global warming denialists just missed teh Reuters report.
Newsbusters' Kyle Drennen is upset that CBS's Bill Plante described the Bush tax cuts passed through reconciliation as "giant":
CBS's Plante: GOP Used Reconciliation to Pass 'Controversial,' 'Giant' Tax Cuts
By Kyle Drennen (Bio | Archive)
Mon, 03/01/2010 - 11:52 ET
On Monday's CBS Early Show, White House correspondent Bill Plante reported on the possibility of Democrats using reconciliation to pass a health care reform bill and noted how Republicans used the procedure when they were in the majority: "In the past it has helped the majority party push through some controversial legislation. In 2001, Republicans used it to pass a giant $1.3 trillion tax cut."
A Media Research Center special report conducted from January 20 to March 31 in 2001 found that out of 94 judgements of the size of the Bush tax cuts on ABC, NBC, and CBS, "84 percent...labeled it as 'big' or 'huge' or otherwise portrayed it as large." CBS was one of the worst offenders, with various reporters describing the cuts as large a total of 14 times in that ten-week period. Then-CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather alone used the word "big" 11 times to describe the tax cuts.
Then Kyle Drennen describes President Obama's health care legislation, which the administration thinks will cost $950 billion over ten years, as "the massive ObamaCare legislation."
So, Drennen describes a $950 billion package as "massive," but gets upset when Bill Plante describes a $1.3 trillion package as "giant." Got it.
If you're going to make up poll findings, why stop at one? Here's another from Fox Nation:
That links to this Las Vegas Review-Journal article:
POLL: Obama's visit just bounced off Reid
Poll shows senator gained little ground in re-election battle
Gee, "gained little ground" doesn't sound like Obama's visit hurt Reid, does it? There's more:
But as Reid faces an uphill path to win re-election to a fifth Senate term, Obama's enthusiastic endorsement does not appear to have improved the Senate majority leader's standing among constituents, according to a new poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Reid got no bounce from Obama's visit on Feb. 19, when the president spoke highly of him at Green Valley High School and to business leaders at CityCenter, polling indicates.
"Reid was not helped, and Obama was not any more popular than he was before he came to the state," said Brad Coker, managing director at Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
Obama's day in Vegas "did not have much of an effect" on Reid's re-election chances, notably among independent voters, Coker said.
So Fox Nation's evidence that a poll has found that Obama's visit to Nevada "hurt" Harry Reid is an article in which a pollster said Obama's visit "did not have much of an effect" on Reid.
I don't think "record low" means what Fox Nation thinks it means.
When you click through, you eventually get to this Rasmussen story, which says absolutely nothing even remotely like "Obama sinks to record low approval." And if you poke around on Rasmussen's site, you find that according to Rasmussen, Obama's approval rating is the highest it has been in nearly two weeks.
My understanding is that "record low" means "the lowest ever." What does Fox think it means?
Politico comes through with an extraordinary example of mind-reading:
Health care: Pelosi and other top House Democrats say publicly that they have the votes to push through a comprehensive package, but privately, they know they don't.
Not only is Politico -- for reasons unexplained -- certain that Democrats don't have the votes to pass health care, Politico is certain that Democrats "know" this.
Don't ask how Politico knows this. They just do.
I recently highlighted how Fox News host Greg Gutfield excitedly helped spread the lie that James O'Keefe was dressed as a pimp during his undercover ACORN sting last year.
Interviewing O'Keefe's pal Hannah Giles (who made no effort to correct the record), Gutfiled made this sizable factual error [emphasis added]:
It's amazing to me because, seriously, you guys look like you came from a frat party where it was pimps 'n' hos. I would think they just would've said, "Get out of here!" But in fact they were trying to help you set up a brothel.
Since I noted that glaring error, Gutfield, to my knowledge, has refused to acknowledge it, or correct it.
And now take a look at what Gutfield wrote at Breitbart's site, Big Hollywood, on Sept. 18, as the Fox News host hyped the breaking ACORN story:
But when two amateur journalists (in their early twenties, poorly dressed as sex workers, with under two grand in their budget) casually take down a sleazy behomoth [sic] that leeches off American taxpayers, you'd think Hollywood and the media would be all over this.
Yeah, that's completely false. Gutfield, either duped by O'Keefe and Andrew Breitbart about the pimp hoax, or just making stuff up because it sounded good, claimed O'Keefe brought down ACORN making undercover videos while dressed as a "sex worker."
Last September, Gutfield ran to the front of the pack to attack ACORN, and used to pimp story to do it. Now the facts are out (not even Breitbart will defend the hoax anymore) and it's time for Gutfield and friends to come clean.
Or does Fox News and Big Hollywood not do corrections?
UPDATED: And how about the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto? He also fell for the phony pimp bait last year:
Dressing up as a pimp and prostitute in order to seek Acorn's help in starting a child sex-slavery ring wasn't Andrew Breitbart's idea. But without the Internet entrepreneur's flair for publicity, the hidden-camera sting might not have produced such impressive results.