The Washington Post's Dana Milbank defends Marco Rubio's CPAC teleprompter joke:
The first three CPAC speakers made a variation of the teleprompter joke. I think in fairness to Rubio he was reading his speech (carefully) from paper, but the prompters were definitely up and he was looking back and forth mechanically, so it gave the appearance that he was using the hated technology. [Emphasis added]
That's totally irrelevant. The criticism of Obama for using a teleprompter isn't some luddite fear of The Machines; it's that he isn't delivering speeches from memory. Thus if someone poking fun at Obama for relying on a teleprompter is, himself, reading his speech from a paper copy, that's just as hypocritical as it would be if he was reading from a teleprompter.
Later in his online Q&A, Milbank -- perhaps best known for calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" -- made what appears to be a joke about Roseanne Barr being fat:
Q. Bill Maher's show Dana, why aren't you on Bill Maher's show? I defy anyone to do snark better than you.
A. Dana Milbank writes: I did do his show once but I was eaten by my fellow panelist Roseanne Barr.
This weekend at CPAC, a riled-up Andrew Breitbart told Mediaite's Tommy Christopher: "The worst thing you can do right now in the United States, in politically correct America, is to accuse somebody of being a racism [sic] through slurs and innuendo without evidence."
Breitbart likes to use this refrain, as he did last year on Real Time with Bill Maher, when he defended Rush Limbaugh from such charges:
MAHER: "Oklahoma is out of ammo because they're afraid that Obama and his Negro army are going to come and get you."
BREITBART: "Who's afraid? Where is this racism coming from?"
MAHER: "The racism is coming from Rush Limbaugh. But it's taking root in Oklahoma."
BREITBART: "Whoa, whoa. I find that offensive because there's nothing in this country that's a worse accusation. It's where, in America, if you accuse somebody of racism, that person has to disprove that. It's completely un-American to call him racism [sic]. You tell me what he has done that is racist. The man has been on the air for 21 years, 15 hours a week. And if you had..."
Of course, Limbaugh's history of racially-charged comments has been well documented by Media Matters. From his numerous comments about Donovan McNabb to his repeated use of the "Barack the Magic Negro" song to his most recent comments -- arguably his most disturbing yet -- in which he said he said, "Yes, I spoke a little Negro dialect there. I can do that when I want to."
But where was Breitbart when Limbaugh actually called Salon editor-in-chief "the real racist" with a "race-based materialistic -- or maternalistic attitude toward black people"?
How about when Sean Hannity asked: "Do the Obamas have a race problem of their own?"
And where was Breitbart when CPAC keynote speaker Glenn Beck repeatedly called Sonia Sotomayor a "racist"? Or when he called the president a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture"?
Oh yeah, he was promoting Beck's defense of them.
Breitbart -- like Beck and Jonah Goldberg -- loves to portray the conservatives as victims of baseless charges of "racism," but when conservatives levy such charges, Breitbart is uncharacteristically quiet.
Almost three months to the day since Fox News instituted its "zero tolerance for on-screen errors" policy, the following on-screen graphic was displayed during the February 22 edition of America's Newsroom:
Jay Rosen has an excellent post you should read. Go check it out; I'll wait. But come back, because I want to elaborate on something he writes.
OK. Here's Rosen:
My claim: We have come upon something interfering with political journalism's "sense of reality" as the philosopher Isaiah Berlin called it (see section 5.1) And I think I have a term for the confusing factor: a quest for innocence in reportage and dispute description. Innocence, meaning a determination not to be implicated, enlisted, or seen by the public as involved. That's what created the pattern I've called "regression to a phony mean." That's what motivated the rise of he said, she said reporting. [Emphasis added]
I don't disagree with anything Rosen wrote, but I think he left out something that is very important (and something I suspect he knows): When reporters omit reality from their stories in order to avoid being seen as "involved" or "taking sides," they are taking sides. And they are taking the wrong side. When you treat two statements -- one true and one false -- as equally valid and equally likely to be true, you are conferring an undeserved benefit on the false statement.
I will simply offer an analogy. When a basketball referee fails to call a foul late in a close game, broadcasters will often say the referee "didn't want to decide the game" or "wanted to let the players decide the game on the court." The implication is that if the referee calls a last-second foul, he is deciding the outcome of the game -- but that if he doesn't call it, he is letting the players determine the outcome. This may be aesthetically and dramatically pleasing to some, but as a basic matter of fact and logic, it is incorrect. By not blowing the whistle on a clear foul, the referee is doing the opposite of what the announcers say he is doing. He isn't really letting the players decide the game on the court; he's giving one team a distinct advantage. When the people in charge of enforcing the rules stop doing so, their actions are the opposite of neutrality. Not calling a foul is a decision, too -- and it, too, has consequences.
That was my initial reaction when I skimmed Bill Bennett's post over at National Review Online, in which the conservative talker, and former GOP Secretary of Education, took issue with Beck's CPAC speech this weekend. For the last 13 months I, along with lots of others, have been wondering when the supposed Wise Men of the GOP and the conservative movement would step forward and finally call Beck out for the kind of unhinged madness he propagates.
I've been wondering when people on the right who take politics and public policy seriously were going to summon up the courage and part ways with Beck as he spread his crazy, tinfoil hat, anti-government conspiracies, and denigrated the President of the United States as a racist, communist, socialist, Nazi dictator.
I've been waiting and waiting, but it's mostly been crickets. (That's like suggesting conservatives publicly disagree with Rush Limbaugh. Are you insane?)
So yes, my hopes were momentarily raised when I saw Bennett's piece because he watched Beck's CPAC speech Saturday night and Bennett did not like what he saw: [emphasis added]
There's a lot to say about CPAC. This morning the major papers are highlighting Glenn Beck's speech. I like Glenn a lot and I think he has something to teach us. But not what he offered last night.
And look at how the Bennett posted concluded:
The first task of a serious political analyst is to see things as they are...To ignore these differences, or propagate the myth that they don't exist, is not only discouraging, it is dangerous.
Wow. What Beck's doing is dangerous, wrote conservative Bennett.
But alas, Bennett's effort was no profiles in courage. Instead, Bennett's central beef with Beck -- the reason he's so dangerous -- was that at CPAC Beck suggested Democrats and Republicans are alike and they're both to blame the country's woes.
For uber-partisan Bennett, Beck finally crossed the line with that attack.
Politico's John Harris has a weird navel-gazing article about Jonathan Allen's return to journalism -- and Politico -- after a brief stint working for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Actually, it's about Politico struggling to decide whether it should take Allen back -- not because of doubts about his skills as a journalist, but because they feared a month working for a politician would irrevocably taint him:
It was a couple of weeks ago that we heard from Allen again. After a month on the job, he decided he had made a mistake. He concluded that his talents and temperament were those of a journalist, not an operative. He wanted to come back to POLITICO, if we would have him.
Ugh, again. Two thoughts were immediately at war: "Damn right, we want him," and "I'm not sure we can take him." Some critics would say he was too compromised by his brief sojourn in politics - in which he publicly aligned himself with Democrats and made a modest contribution to Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln - to return to straight reporting. I wasn't sure the critics were wrong.
I have no doubt about Jonathan Allen's ability, or my own ability, to separate personal or ideological views from reporting.
But I am enough of a traditionalist to be wary of the revolving door between politics and journalism. And it seemed likely that Allen's brief tenure with a Democrat might open us to shots at our fairness by Republicans. I viewed this as a matter of perception, not of reality.
So, Harris didn't have any doubt about Allen's ability to separate his personal views from his journalism, but worried that hiring a reporter who had a month of experience working for a Democratic politician might "open us to shots at our fairness by Republicans."
Huh. Seems like a good time for Harris to mention that Politico reporter Jonathan Martin previously worked for a Republican Virginia gubernatorial candidate, two Republican congressional campaigns, and a Republican congressman, for whom he worked for more than three years.
But Harris never mentioned Martin. Weird.
Glenn Beck has worked hard to portray himself as a regular guy -- just an everyday Joe who fears for his country -- despite the fact that Beck, as my colleague Brian Frederick rightly pointed out, is hardly the everyman he likes to say he is.
The latest incarnation came during his keynote address at the CPAC conference (which itself is such an everyman thing to do), where Beck told the audience about how he grew up working in his father's bakery and became the first person in his family to go to college, and how he only went for one semester because he couldn't afford it:
BECK: My father, eventually, business, because of the 1970s and the small town was dying, we went out of business. He moved. But you know what? I learned from that. I learned from the mistakes. I learned from the failure.
I'm the first person to go to college in my family. I went for one semester. I took one class. Do you know why? I couldn't afford it. Now I never once even thought: "This isn't fair." I never once thought: "I want to take it from him, how come he gets to go and I can't go?" I never once thought I was owed an education. I was 30 when I went. I was trying to find answers.
When I couldn't afford to go anymore, I was okay. I went to work, I got -- I picked up my kids from school. I spent the afternoon with them. I put them down to bed, or whatever we did. I did my homework, if you will, for the next days show, and I went and I read. I educated myself. I went to the library -- the books are free. I went to the bookstore. I read until two, three o'clock in the morning some nights -- I still read until two, three o'clock some mornings -- after everything's done.
I educated myself. My education was free and I'm proud of that. When did it become something of shame or ridicule to be a self-made man in America?
Now, working to try and afford college while trying to support a family is a story being played out all over America. However, in Beck's case key details widen the gap between his everyman persona and reality. See Beck -- who has reportedly said, "I was making, I don't know, a quarter of a million dollars by the time I was 25" -- previously stated that the reason he was able to attend Yale (the everyman school) was due to a letter of recommendation from a sitting U.S. Senator. As he explained in his book, A Real America (a real everyman title)
I know Joe [Lieberman] very well. Well, we're not buddies or anything, not like we're out buying yarmulkes together. But Joe is responsible for my being accepted at Yale. He wrote a recommendation for me, and I attended Yale University. [A Real America, p111]
Of course, with details like that, his everyman act might start to feel as contrived as Beck's regular waterworks.
Her recent declaration was quite definitive:
"We never claimed that he went in with a pimp costume," said Giles. "That was b-roll. It was purely b-roll. He was a pimp, I was a prostitute, and we were walking in front of government buildings to show how the government was whoring out the American people."
Of course, 'never' is a dangerous word in terms of making sweeping denials, especially in the age of Google, and especially when Giles and her ACORN partners, James O'Keefe and Andrew Breitbart, were so talkative last year about their ACORN sting. (I've already documented how both men pushed the phony dressed-as-a-pimp storyline.)
So before I write anything else on this topic, and as a courtesy to Giles, I'll ask again: Does she intend to stand by her claim that she and her cohorts "never" suggested O'Keefe was dressed as a pimp when he entered the ACORN offices?