Yesterday, Media Matters pointed out that MSNBC has repeatedly hosted NBC News military analyst and retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey in recent days. McCaffrey has used his appearances to criticize possible "deadlines" to the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and highlight the importance of training the Afghan security forces. But at no point have McCaffrey or the MSNBC anchors hosting him disclosed a substantial conflict of interest McCaffrey has with regard to the U.S. government's presence in Afghanistan and focus on troop training: McCaffrey serves on the board of directors of DynCorp International -- a company under contract to provide support to U.S. bases in Afghanistan for up to five years, as well as to train a portion of those security forces McCaffrey is calling "the center of gravity of the entire war."
But DynCorp isn't the only company linked to McCaffrey that has received government contracts in Afghanistan. McCaffrey also serves on the board of directors of McNeil Technologies, a company whose "core competencies include language, intelligence, information technology, records management, and aviation services." According to the company's website, 'The Directors of McNeil Technologies bring a wealth of unparalleled experience and expertise. They are internationally recognized experts on military and business issues. Their experience, wisdom, and counsel are made available to McNeil clients." And, luckily, MSNBC viewers as well.
McNeil lists the following among the "Recent Contract Awards" posted on its website:
August 26, 2009: U.S. Army (USA) -- Army Material Command (AMC)
Subcontract to provide aviation support to LOGCAP program in Afghanistan
August 7, 2009: U. S. Central Command (CENTCOM)
Classified contract supporting CENTCOM mission in Afghanistan
May 18, 2009: U. S. Central Command (CENTCOM)
Classified IDIQ contract to support CENTCOM mission in Afghanistan
MSNBC lists McCaffrey's position with McNeil on his bio on their website, but does not note that they contract with the federal government in Afghanistan (they do note that DynCorp "provides support to the U.S. Government in countries including Afghanistan and Iraq"). In any case, very few people watching McCaffrey on MSNBC are likely to immediately rush to the MSNBC website to determine whether he has conflicts of interest. Those conflicts should be disclosed on-air every single time they host him.
Via Politico's Ben Smith, I see that the the five fastest-falling Google queries of the year include three politicians: John McCain (#1), Barack Obama (#4), and Sarah Palin (#5).
What's striking about that list is that, despite the public's rapidly decreasing interest in those political figures, they continue to enjoy massive media attention.
Now, the media pretty much have to cover Barack Obama. He's the most powerful person in the world.
But John McCain is not president, he chairs no Senate committees, he represents two percent of the U.S. population, he lacks a strong constituency even among his own party -- a party that is pretty widely disliked and has taken a thumpin' in two straight elections. He is not playing a central, or even peripheral role in the health care debate. And yet he's on television all the time. As Steve Benen notes, McCain is about to make his 16th Sunday show appearance of the year. Sixteen.
I'm not a fan of letting public interest drive news decisions, but that's the only real justification for covering McCain and Palin this much -- one is a minority-party Senator kicking around the periphery of most of the year's key public policy debates, and the other is a former half-term governor of one of the nation's least-populous states. So the only real reason to cover them is that people are interested. But these new Google stats suggest the public is rapidly losing interest in McCain and Palin -- yet the media still keeps treating them like political superstars.
Remember how the media flipped out when Rep. Alan Grayson said the GOP's health care plan was: "Don't get sick, and if you do get you do get sick, die quickly"? NBC Nightly News covered it, with anchor Brian Williams calling the comment "incendiary" and noting that Republicans wanted him to apologize. Politico's Roger Simon said Grayson is "like a guy on crack who is always searching for a bigger high."
CNN's Howard Kurtz claimed Grayson benefitted from a "media double standard" -- that Grayson's comment drew less criticism than GOP Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's address to congress.
Well, if Kurtz is right about media double standards, there should be a huge media firestorm over Republican Sen. Tom Coburn's statement yesterday that under the Democratic health care plan, seniors will "die sooner." Seems pretty unlikely to me, but we'll see.
I'm a little late to the party, but the attempt by Politico's John Harris to throw a bunch of anti-Obama themes agains the wall in hopes of something gaining traction probably can't be scrutinized too much. And while there are individual absurdities contained in the article, the real problem is much broader than the bogus examples Harris uses.
Sure, there are questionable and overly-simplistic assertions; this is, after all, Politico.
Like Harris' claim about "The flight of independents away from Democrats last summer," which ignores the question of the extent to which this is a result of existent independents shifting away from Democrats, as opposed to the pool of Democrats becoming more conservative as a result of the ever-decreasing number of people willing to call themselves Republicans.
Or his linkage of "fiscal discipline" with "spending reductions that would cramp his own agenda and that of congressional Democrats," despite the fact that a significant part of that agenda -- health care reform, which Harris portrays as inconsistent with fiscal discipline -- would actually reduce the deficit.
Then there's the hilarious disclaimer on the entry about the Obama White House being "dominated by brass-knuckled pols": "This is a storyline that's likely taken root more firmly in Washington than around the country." Hilarious because that could aptly describe much of Harris' piece. Are we really supposed to believe, for example, that all across America people are lamenting Barack Obama's failure to be an "American exceptionalist"? Please.
And the utter inanity of describing the White House's "delight in public battles with Rush Limbaugh" as "Chicago-style politics." For decades, "Chicago-style politics" has referred (fairly or not) to things like voter fraud and corruption. Now John Harris waters it down to criticizing a loud-mouth hate-radio host? Was George H. W. Bush engaging in "Chicago-style politics" when he denounced "sleazy" questions from CNN? Was his son doing so when he told people not to believe what they saw on CBS news? Of course not; such a description would have been nothing short of stupid. But now Politico applies it to similarly mundane actions by the Obama White House. Why? Because he's from Chicago, I guess. So anything he does is "Chicago-style politics," if you're desperate to make him look bad.
And there's this: "If you are going to be known as a fighter, you might as well reap the benefits. But some of the same insider circles that are starting to view Obama as a bully are also starting to whisper that he's a patsy. It seems a bit contradictory, to be sure." Yeah, to be sure. Thank you, Politico, for explaining to us that Barack Obama is both damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Really insightful stuff. Harris acknowledges "In truth, most of these episodes do not amount to much," so I won't bother responding to them.
But none of that is the real problem with Harris' piece. The real problem is simple: Why? You could write an article about storylines that could be damaging to any politician at any time -- particularly if you get to include, as Harris did, potential storylines. (And you could probably find less inane explanations than these for most politicians.) Why Barack Obama, why now?
Absent a reason -- and none is given -- the Politico article isn't analysis and it isn't information; it's a hit piece. It's an attempt to crystalize negative sentiment among Washington insiders, if not Americans.
There are people whose job it is to wake up in the morning and list things bad things about Barack Obama, for no reason other than making Obama look bad. Their paychecks say "REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE" on them, and they do not pretend to be journalists. Then there are Politico reporters -- though it is at times awfully difficult to tell the difference.
UPDATE: I see that Politico's Ben Smith reflexively calls Harris' piece "smart" (probably a smart move, given that Harris is editor-in-chief.) But then Smith subtly undermines his boss's work: "It probably doesn't hurt the White House that many of these narratives contradict one another." Yeah, probably not.
We told you right-wing bloggers were not going to be happy reading yesterday's Little Green Football fond farewell, as blogger Charles Johnson detailed the reason he could no longer be part of the far-right Internet movement. ("Homophobic bigotry," 'anti-government lunacy," "hate speech," and "conspiracy theories," were among the stated reasons.) And we told you insults, rather than reasoned debate, were going to be the end result.
And oh my, angry right-wing bloggers love to throw around insults. And so they spent all day yesterday denouncing Johnson for being (are you ready?) "illogical," a "lunatic," "leftard," "worthless piece of shit," "leftist asshole," "self loathing," "traffic-whore drama-queen." They mocked "Chuckles," for being an "execrable CAIR tool," with a "sickness of soul," for being "barking moonbat unhinged crazy," a "whiny girly man," the "Driver of Crazy Train," and just plain"crazy,"
Gee, think LGF hit a nerve?
From a December 2 New York Times blog post:
Lou Dobbs won't be talking to CNBC again anytime soon.
The business news network said Tuesday evening that it was no longer talking to Mr. Dobbs, the former CNN anchor, about a potential job.
The statement came after The New York Times reported on Tuesday morning that Mr. Dobbs had "held talks with the business news network CNBC in recent weeks." A network spokesman did not deny the report about the talks, but said: "We are not in talks or negotiating with Lou Dobbs. He is not going to work for CNBC."
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
From the September 23, 2003, edition of NPR's All Things Considered (accessed from the Nexis database):
FRIEDMAN: Well, there were, I believe, three great bubbles in the 1990s. You know, there was the Nasdaq bubble. There was the Enron bubble, the corporate governance bubble. And there was the terrorism bubble. And all three were based on creative accounting. The terrorism bubble was based on moral creative accounting. And the terrorism bubble really began to inflate with the attack on American troops at Khobar Towers, then East African embassies. And it reached its apex on 9/11. And the terrorism bubble basically said that plowing your planes into the World Trade Center is OK. Wrapping yourself in dynamite and blowing up Israelis in pizza parlors is A-OK. Having your charities raise money for people who do those things is just fine and dandy. And calling people who do those things martyrs in your own press and houses of worship is just wonderful.
And not did many, many people in the Middle East believe that was all OK, they believed it was actually going to level the balance of power between them and us. And I believe that bubble, that bubble motivating people to do things that threaten us, was a fundamental threat to our open society. And there was no wall high enough, no metal detector smart enough, no border guard efficient enough to protect us ultimately by people motivated by that bubble, and what we had to do, I believe at some point, was to go into the very heart of that world and burst that bubble. And the message was, 'Ladies and gentlemen, which part of this sentence don't you understand? We are not going to sit back and let people motivated by that bubble threaten an open society we have built over 250 years. We really like our open society. We mean no ill to you, OK? But we are not going to sit back and let that bubble fundamentally distort our open society and imprison us.'
And that's what I believe ultimately this war was about. And guess what? People there got the message, OK, in the neighborhood. This is a rough neighborhood, and sometimes it takes a 2-by-4 across the side of the head to get that message. But they got the message and the message was, 'You will now be held accountable,' and one can see that in Syria. One can see it in Saudi Arabia. I think one can see it in Iran.
From the May 30, 2003, edition of PBS' The Charlie Rose Show:
ROSE: Now that the war is over, and there's some difficulty with the peace, was it worth doing?
FRIEDMAN: I think it was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie. I think that, looking back, I now certainly feel I understand more what the war was about . . . . What we needed to do was go over to that part of the world, I'm afraid, and burst that bubble. We needed to go over there basically, and take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble. . . .
And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: which part of this sentence do you understand? You don't think we care about our open society? . . . .
Well, Suck. On. This. That, Charlie, was what this war was about.
We could have hit Saudi Arabia. It was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That's the real truth.
Get ready for this talking point tomorrow to be repeated ad nauseam Wednesday: Obama never mentioned the word "victory" in his speech on Afghanistan.
Here's Red State's Erick Erickson: "In 4608 words, he did not once mention the word "victory" and the closest he came to using the word "win" was those three letters appearing in the word 'withdrawing.' "
And the Fox Nation loudly proclaimed: "Major Wartime Speech But Obama Doesn't Say 'Victory' or 'Win'?"
Apparently, Obama wasn't clear enough in the very beginning of his speech:
"To the United States Corps of Cadets, to the men and women of our armed services, and to my fellow Americans: I want to speak to you tonight about our effort in Afghanistan - the nature of our commitment there, the scope of our interests, and the strategy that my Administration will pursue to bring this war to a successful conclusion."
Given the right-wing's insistence that Obama mention "victory," George Bush must have used the word in his speeches more times than Johnny Drama, right?
In announcing the attacks on the Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, Bush never mentioned victory. Not once.
Nor in his January 28, 2002 statement with Hamid Karzai on a "new partnership" between the two countries.
Bush's second inaugural speech - nada.
Bush's September 24, 2008 speech to UN general assembly - nope.
Bush's farewell address - nope.
In his 2006 State of the Union speech, Bush did use the word or its variants a whopping six times. Just not about Afghanistan - only to Iraq. In fact, he devoted only two sentences to the war in Afghanistan while devoting significantly more to the one in Iraq.
But then, I guess that's kind of illustrative of why we're in this mess in the first place.
And why words like "victory" are meaningless if you do nothing for seven years to actually accomplish victory. (Hell, even Sarah Palin didn't fall for this foolishness, titling her latest Facebook post: "Finally, a Decision for Afghanistan: We're In It to Win It.)
Or if you fail to send adequate troops to Tora Bora to finish off Osama Bin Laden. Wonder how many times "Tora Bora" will be mentioned in the media tomorrow?
From Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review Online:
MSNBC reached a new shameful low tonight when Chris Matthews referred to West Point as an "enemy camp." He was trying to convey his surprise that Barack Obama would go to such a place, somewhere, he said, where Paul Wolfowitz would be more comfortable.
Chris, he's commander-in-chief.
In a November 30 piece, FoxNews.com contributor John Lott joins the conservative freak-out over "climate-gate," claiming that "CRU's temperature data and all of the research done with it are now in question" and "[t]here is no precedent for so many academics engaging in coordinated efforts to distort research for political ends."
We've already debunked much of the hysteria over "climate-gate," but Lott probably isn't the best person to complain about research integrity.
In 2003, it was revealed that Lott had been defending the integrity of his own research online over the previous three years under the pseudonym "Mary Rosh." In one posting, Lott/Mary gushed: "I have to say that [Lott] was the best professor I ever had." Lott was trashed by liberals and conservatives alike; Michelle Malkin wrote that "Lott's invention of Mary Rosh to praise his own research and blast other scholars is beyond creepy. And it shows his extensive willingness to deceive to protect and promote his work." Lott has also been caught using fraudulent data for his research.
More recently, Lott was criticized for botching research to cry voter fraud in the Franken-Coleman recount. Veteran Minnesota reporter and media critic David Brauer called Lott's purported research "baseless sliming" and "disgusting," while Minneapolis Star Tribune editor Glenn Howatt said that Lott's "numbers are simply wrong."
Commenter M. Rosh, however, calls Lott's "climate-gate" piece "brilliant."