This morning, BigGovernment.com contributor Kyle Olson offered a rousing defense of his colleague James O'Keefe, the undercover ACORN video auteur currently under parents' house arrest after getting pinched by the Feds for allegedly trying to tamper with Sen. Mary Landrieu's phone lines. Olson specifically defended O'Keefe against the "hypocritical" left, writing:
The alleged crimes committed by ACORN employees in the O'Keefe and Giles videos were excused, and even rationalized, by the Left. But they don't apply the same level of patience and understanding for O'Keefe and Company. Even worse, they're jumping to conclusions about their guilt, and the nature of their alleged crime.
OK, so jumping to conclusions about guilt is a bad, bad thing to do. With that in mind, let's take a look back at what BigGovernment.com contributor Kyle Olson wrote in December about the report issued by former Massachusetts attorney general Scott Harshbarger, which found no evidence that the ACORN employees involved in the O'Keefe video sting had acted illegally:
One of Harshbarger's most startling conclusions was that ACORN Housing Corp. employees committed no crimes when they were caught on video repeatedly giving advice to a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute. He even suggests that the employees may have been represented in a false light, and were not as guilty as they appeared on video.
Oh my... It seems that Kyle Olson jumped to a conclusion about the guilt of ACORN employees. Not only that, he considered them guilty even though, unlike O'Keefe, they hadn't been charged with an actual crime.
That's not to say that hypocrisy like this from a Breitbart outfit is at all surprising. "Jumping to conclusions" before the facts are in is pretty much their business model.
Deep thoughts from ABC's Rick Klein, under the headline, "Obama's Speech: Longer Despite Fewer Interruptions" [emphasis added]:
It's not the most scientific way to measure a president's popularity. But our producers at ABC tallied up the ovations and found some slippage from year to year.
Last February, in the president's first address to a Joint Session of Congress, he received applause some 65 times, including five standing ovations, over 51 minutes.
Last night, over some 70 minutes, there were 56 interruptions for clapping. But 19 times, at least some members of the House and Senate -- usually Democrats -- rose to their feet.
That's right, Klein wrote an item detailing how Obama included 9 fewer applause lines in his speech last night. For Klein, that's news.
Oh, and you know what else is SOTU news? John McCain's reaction, of course. And specifically John McCain's reaction to the applause lines:
Intriguingly, after the speech last night, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., rolled his eyes at all the interruptions, calling them "juvenile." Americans' attention spans, he said, are less than half as long as the president's speech last night.
He told ABC News that if he had been elected president, he would have asked the House speaker and Senate majority leader to ask members of Congress to sit silently through his State of the Union, and hold their applause to the end.
At ABC News, it's intriguing that the guy who lost in an electoral landslide two Novembers ago, claims that if he were president he'd do things differently. He'd make people hold their applause until the end of the SOTU address, even though members have Congress have been clapping their way through it for, oh, more than half-a-century.
UPDATED: According to CBS polling, 83% of viewers approved of Obama's SOTU proposals. But in its extensive round-up of SOTU reaction articles and columns, in which it linked to more than 36 dozen items, the Note forgot to link to any of the polling results from last night; results which gave Obama high marks for the speech.
Maybe the The Note was too busy interviewing the guy who lost to Obama in 2008.
Despite being firmly stuck in the first two decades of the 20th century, Glenn Beck's history-mangling machine is chugging along at full-steam, reinventing facts at will to demonize the progressive movement. On Tuesday he smeared Teddy Roosevelt as anti-Constitution, on Monday he said George Bernard Shaw's pro-eugenics rhetoric spoke for all progressives, and last Friday he tied the entire progressive movement to the genocidal policies of communist dictators.
Last night, he set his sights on Woodrow Wilson and the income tax:
BECK: Woodrow Wilson, this is an evil S.O.B. Man, you need to read about Wilson. Bad dude. He passed the Revenue Act of 1913. Blatantly unconstitutional, but people let it slide because it was only going to be on the rich. [Glenn Beck, 1/27/10]
It's true that Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Revenue Act of 1913, which established a federal income tax to offset revenue losses from the bill's prescribed reduction in tariff duties. However, a federal tax on income had been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1895. So what happened in the intervening years that allowed Congress and the president to enact this law? The Sixteenth Amendment.
Proposed, passed by Congress, and ratified by the states during the administration of Wilson's predecessor, William Howard Taft, the amendment empowered Congress to "lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration." The passage of the amendment overruled the 1895 Supreme Court decision, and in 1916 the court upheld the constitutionality of the Revenue Act of 1913 and the federal income tax it established. Several circuit court rulings since then have reached the same conclusion.
So when Beck says the Revenue Act of 1913 was "blatantly unconstitutional," he is either a) relying on precedent that was overturned almost a century ago, b) unaware of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, or c) lying.
From Fox Nation, accessed on January 28:
No doubt attempting to fan the flames of an imagined Clinton-Obama feud, the top story currently on the Drudge report screams: "What is she up to? Hillary Skips State of Union."
Answer: Attending two important national security related meetings in London--a trip that was sanctioned by the President. The Washington Post reported on January 27:
Seems there's an important international meeting Wednesday in London on battling radicalization in Yemen, and then another, long-planned conference there Thursday on development and security in Afghanistan.
Once the Wednesday meeting was "locked in," we were told, the State Department and National Security Council staffs agreed that Clinton had to be in London. These are both big administration priorities. Key allies will be gathering there to discuss Yemen, an uber-concern of late, especially since the Christmas Day airplane bombing attempt.
And everyone who's anyone -- including maybe the neo-Soviets and the Chicoms and possibly even the Iranians -- will be there to talk about Afghanistan.
Clinton laid out the situation in a meeting last week with Obama, and he agreed that she should go.
Nonetheless, some on the right have taken Drudge's bait and run with speculation that there's a riff between Clinton and Obama and that Clinton may be angling for a run at the Presidency in 2012. Case in point, on Fox News' America's Newsroom, after positing that Clinton could be considering a 2012 run, co-host Martha MacCallum echoed Drudge in reporting, "People who follow politics closely ... think that might be a little odd that she wasn't at the State of the Union address. Next thing you know she's saying she doesn't necessarily serve two terms as Secretary of State, and they wonder if everything's OK between Hillary Clinton and the president." Despite later noting the purpose of Clinton's trip and acknowledging that it seemed like a "legitimate" reason for Clinton to miss the State of the Union, MacCallum went on to say "it does raise some questions about how she'll sort of game out the political scene" and pushed her guest, Douglas Schoen, to speculate if there was "anything that would make her change her mind about the possibility of running against him?"
Fox Nation has also taken the bait by asking, "What's Hillary Plotting" and linking to an article on Clinton's absence from the State of the Union address:
And, just in case it wasn't obvious what Drudge was trying to suggest in trumpeting that Clinton missed the State of the Union, Drudge is now linking to Peter Roff's U.S. News & World Report blog post, which asks the question: "A Hillary Clinton Primary Challenge to Obama in 2012?" From Drudge:
From Fox Nation, which links to a Business Insider article with the same headline:
From a January 28 Politico article titled, "James O'Keefe and accomplices trained in conservative journalism" [emphasis added]:
The four young men arrested this week in an apparent plot to tamper with the phones in Sen. Mary Landrieu's New Orleans office had been groomed for years to be part of a new wave of activist conservative journalists by a series of influential and often deep-pocketed benefactors.
But their recent exploits and now their arrests have troubled some of those supporters. And they are now questioning the kind of guerilla journalism that connected the four young men and that many conservative activists celebrated when one of those arrested, James O'Keefe, secretly videotaped ACORN employees last year as they appeared to encourage him and a partner, posing as a pimp and prostitute, to circumvent the law.
"There is a responsible way to creatively generate a story or an incident which challenges the left in an ethical, yet aggressive way," said Steven Sutton, who heads campus journalism outreach at the conservative non-profit Leadership Institute in Arlington, Va., where O'Keefe worked in 2006 and early 2007 training right-leaning students on how to start and run publications. Sutton supervised O'Keefe at the institute until O'Keefe was asked to leave because his investigative work could interfere with the Institute's Internal Revenue Service standing.
"Then there's the other way, where you cross the line - and we teach people not to do that - and you expose yourself, whatever organization you're affiliated with, and the people that you're associated with to a deserved and justified backlash," Sutton said.
In an interview posted last week on a website affiliated with the Leadership Institute, O'Keefe espoused his philosophy to conservative student journalists, telling them to push conventions.
"Don't just respond to news, but actually create your own headlines," he said. "Make demands upon your professors. Make demands upon your university to actually change things. Don't just wait for something to happen and sit back and report on it."
The institute, which trains conservatives in activist journalism and more general organizing techniques, provided hands-on training and $500 apiece to O'Keefe and two of his alleged co-conspirators - Joe Basel and Stan Dai, both 24 - while they were still college students to help them start conservative newspapers at Rutgers University, the University of Minnesota-Morris and George Washington University, respectively.
But Sutton said that what O'Keefe, 25, did with his ACORN videos - and what is he is accused of doing in New Orleans - crossed the line and "is not something that we teach here."
Yesterday, Washington Post reporter Bill Turque wrote a lengthy blog post for the paper's site in which he explained how it came to happen that his article Tuesday morning reported that DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee had not commented on or explained her controversial claims about teachers having sex with children, while an editorial in the same edition of the paper did include such an explanation. Turque's explanation basically boiled down to Rhee having a good relationship with Jo-Ann Armao, who writes the Post's education editorials.
Turque then wrote that because of Rhee's "obvious rapport with Jo-Ann" -- who, it should be noted, Turque described as "a dogged journalist who pursues her own information" -- "DCPS has a guaranteed soft landing spot for uncomfortable or inconvenient disclosures--kind of a print version of the Larry King Show."
Turque concluded:"Are Fenty and Rhee gaming the system by using the editorial page this way? Of course. Is this a healthy thing for readers of The Post? Probably not."
Well, the powers that be at the Post didn't like that, and Turque's post was pulled down sometime yesterday, and replaced with a new version -- one that omitted the "Larry King" line, and omitted the bit about the dynamic being an unhealthy thing for Post readers.
I happen to still have the original version open on my computer, as I had been thinking of writing something about it.
Somewhat ironically, I was going to praise Turque for his post -- including the portions that have been excised. He introduced some transparency to the Post's operation, and he was critical of what he apparently views as a situation in which the Post's editorial board is not serving its readers well. I think those are both good things. Reporters shouldn't be in the business of remaining silent when they think other reporters are doing things badly. Just think how differently things might have gone if a few Washington Post reporters regularly and publicly spoke out against Ceci Connolly's war against Al Gore, and called for her to be removed from the 2000 campaign beat.
But I was also thinking of taking issue with something Turque wrote:
But it's the disconnect between the editorial page and the news section that I feel requires some kind explanation. So let me try.
The news and opinion columns of The Post are wholly separate and independent operations. This assertion frequently draws a torrent of skepticism, but if this episode does nothing else, it should give the lie to the notion that there is some sort of sinister linkage. I have little-to-no contact with Jo-Ann Armao, who writes The Post's education editorials (full disclosure: Jo-Ann hired me in 2002 when she was the assistant managing editor for metro news; but we're all allowed a lapse of judgment now and then). About the only time we cross paths is at news events involving District education. Jo-Ann is a dogged journalist who pursues her own information.
I don't doubt Turque's assertion that he has little contact with Armao, or with his implication that he doesn't know what the Post's editorial writers are doing and they don't know what he is doing.
But I've always bristled at the Post's insistence* that its news and opinion sections are "wholly separate and independent operations." They aren't, really. They can't be truly separate as long as they report to the same people -- and, ultimately, they do. If they really were "wholly separate and independent," as I have explained in the past, they would more frequently take issue with each other's work. Here's something I wrote in 2006 after a Post editorial directly contradicted the paper's news reports:
If the newsroom is right, its work and credibility are being falsely and unfairly undermined by one of the most powerful media institutions in the nation: The Washington Post editorial page. And there should be no doubt: the editorial does undermine Post reporters. For example, a reader asked [Howard] Kurtz during his April 10 online discussion, "Doesn't it make the reporters look foolish when the editorial page is so dead on with their analysis while the reporters are basically carrying the water of those who are against President Bush?"
But maybe Post reporters are so selfless they don't care about protecting their own reputations. In that case, maybe they should consider their responsibility to their readers. If the newsroom is right and the editorial board is wrong, Post readers -- and the nation -- are being misled about matters of enormous importance by one of the most powerful media institutions in the nation. Isn't that something that a newsroom that stands among the nation's most influential should confront head-on and try to stop?
Finally: With every Post newsroom employee who has commented publicly on this matter refusing to weigh in on the substantive merits of the editorial, does anyone really believe that the newsroom and editorial board are truly "separate," as they all claim? If they really are so separate, why are Post reporters so reluctant to contradict the editorial? The editorial board certainly isn't reluctant to contradict Post news reports. That certainly looks like a situation in which the two departments aren't free from interference from each other -- one very much seems to have the upper hand.
More and more, it seems like the Post uses the fiction of complete separation between news and opinion to justify a lack of accountability -- particularly for its opinion pages. Just yesterday, Ari Rabin-Havt explained that the Post's ombudsman can't do anything about errors in the paper's editorials or columns.
Back to the present: Bill Turque wrote something that was critical of the Post's opinion pages. The offending passages were then disappeared, without so much as an explanation. They did, however, leave in Turque's statement that the paper's opinion and news operations are wholly separate and independent -- a statement that is badly undermined by events of the past day.
* And that of other newspapers, though the Post seems to make this claim more often than most, perhaps owing to the generally poor quality of its opinion pages.
UPDATE: The Washington City Paper's Erik Wemple explains how Turque's post came to be pulled:
Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt wasn't happy with Turque's scribblings when he caught wind of them around 8 p.m. He walked into the office of Post Managing Editor Liz Spayd, pointed out the item, and "expressed my unhappiness," says Hiatt. Then he left.
Spayd says she then pulled the item from the site, on the following grounds: "Where it went over is where it ascribed motive to Chancellor Rhee's decision to speak to our editorial board and, more importantly, I don't think that he should be challenging or seeming to assess the stances of our editorial board or questioning their integrity, and I think that that blog did that."
So, editorial page editor Fred Hiatt got a blog post by news reporter Bill Turque pulled from the Post's site. But the Post's opinion and news divisions are completely separate and independent. Yeah, right.
UPDATE 2: Washington Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander reports on the mess:
That irritated Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, who Wednesday evening alerted Managing Editor Liz Spayd. Both Spayd and Hiatt described it as a brief conversation in which Hiatt made Spayd aware of the blog post.
Spayd immediately called Turque on the carpet. Soon, the blog post disappeared. ...
"She was pretty hot," Turque said of Spayd. "She said it was completely inappropriate" and that "I had no place as a beat reporter taking on the editorial board."
Spayd gave a similar version of what she said to Turque in her 5th floor office. "I don't think it's appropriate for a reporter in our newsroom to be challenging the views, or challenging the integrity, of our editorial board," she told me. "And I also don't think that he should be ascribing motives of Michelle Rhee as to who she picked to speak with."
Wow, if that doesn't make clear that the idea of a separation between newsroom & opinion at the Post is a fiction, I don't know what will.
But wait: Alexander has more:
Spayd told me that she thought it would have been fine for Turque to explain the "church and state" separation between the news and editorial sides of The Post. "Going beyond that, I think, is not the job of a news reporter."
What? Look, this is simple: If the newsroom is not allowed to write about the editorial side, there is no separation between the two. If Fred Hiatt is able to get a blog post produced by the newsroom pulled because a beat reporter has "no place ... taking on the editorial board," there obviously is no "'church and state' separation" between the two. There is quite obviously a power structure in place in which the newsroom is subservient to the editorial side.
From a January 28 column about KVVU-TV Fox 5 in the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
"We're as fair and balanced as they're not," says Fox-5 news director Adam P. Bradshaw, referring to Fox News Channel, which -- as any sentient human within earshot of a Glenn Beck crying jag knows -- is the Republicans' de facto PR machine. "We don't have an agenda."
Yet viewer perceptions of FNC's red-meat, red-state dogma can carry over unfairly to Fox broadcast affiliates -- the Vegas affiliate included, based on some feedback to this columnist -- stung by the ideological guilt-by-association syndrome that turned the phrase "fair and balanced" into a bad media joke.
Last fall, the Fox News brand was further vilified when the White House criticized the cable prattler like an A-student calling out the school bully.
"Some viewers draw that connection," Bradshaw says. "Most have never been able to tell a network from a local (station). I'll get on a plane in my Fox-5 jacket and somebody goes, 'I love (Fox News Channel's) Shepard Smith!' Or hate him. But it doesn't have any impact on our coverage."
Some broadcast affiliates are indeed inclined to ape their cable cousin's tea-partying rhetoric -- the "O&Os" owned and operated by Fox, rather than independents such as Fox-5, run by the Meredith Corp. "Their (O&Os) coverage is more in line with the Fox attitude," Bradshaw says. "We're not following their political agenda in any way, shape or form."
Oh well, that explains everything and I'm sure federal prosecutors will immediately drop charges against O'Keefe and his three prankster pals. Because if right-wingers want to allegedly go 'undercover' and enter a federal building under false pretense and then film the inside of a senator's phone closet, while monkeying around with the senator's phone (i.e. if they're tagged with an intent to commit a felony), well, who is the FBI or the U.S. Marshall's Office to stop them right?
According to O'Keefe's mentor, Andrew Breitbart, the pranksters were simply trying to make somebody look "foolish" and they will be "vindicated." (i.e. They did nothing wrong.) So of course, established laws should not apply to them. Being a "conservative journalist" means the rules don't matter, I guess.
After all, if in our post-9/11 world, if four liberal, Arab-American twentysomething activists went undercover and sneaked their way into a GOP senator's office and filmed their escapade, fact-free folks like Breitbart would have no problem with that, right? They would never demand a DOJ investigation or try to connect imaginary dots to the Obama White House, right?
Fact: The stench of hypocrisy surrounding Breitbart and his protégé's other apologists is becoming truly pungent.
UPDATED: Maybe Breitbart should listen to his readers:
He [O'Keefe] should be prosecuted for anything he did that was illegal, period. We can't hold ourselves to a different standard, and I do have to admit that I'd go ballistic if I heard some lib filmmaker was being suspicious in a republican senator's office.