From the Fox Nation, accessed on March 5:
Laura Bush's former flak steps in it (again!) while heaping credit on Fox News for uncovering the damaging DUI story back during the final days of the 2000 campaign. (The controversy's back in the news because of Karl Rove's forthcoming book, in which he addresses it.)
Malcolm's misleading headline:
The Fox News story that nearly sank a Bush presidency before it began
And lede [emphasis added]:
One of the overlooked details of the forever-fight over the widely-debated conservative leanings of the Fox News Channel (besides the fact that a third of its viewers are Democrats) is that it was Fox that broke the then-shocking story in 2000 of candidate George W. Bush's 24-year-old DUI charges.
OMG, Fox News can't really be an unprofessional bastion of conservative advocacy because it broke the DUI story ten years ago! If Fox News was deeply in the tank for the GOP, why did Fox News break the story that almost cost Bush the WH? It really is "fair and balanced."
Here's why: It was a local Fox affiliate, WPXT-TV in Portland, Maine, that uncovered the DUI story, not the partisan, national operation run by Ailes. (Traditionally, local TV Fox News outlets have been far more down-the-middle with their mostly local news coverage, and don't act as RNC outlets.)
As I detailed at Salon a few years ago, once the local Fox courthouse reporter stumbled onto the DUI story, word began to spread and other reporters started chasing it that day, which meant Fox News in NYC could not kill the story. Carl Cameron, who covered the Bush campaign for Fox News, was given the job of getting a comment from the Bush team about the local Maine scoop, and that's how Fox News came to air the story.
But please, anyone who thinks Ailes and company, desperately trying to push Bush across the finish line in 2000, dug this story up and then pushed it out, is delusional. In fact, immediately after the story broke -- a story that Rove admits nearly cost Bush the WH -- look at how national Fox News personalities shifted into damage control:
*Bill O'Reilly: "It is a non-issue in my opinion. The DUI incident has no relevance to the campaign."
*Brit Hume: "My sense is that there's no indication it hurt anybody or helped anybody in the polling. I think it's a wash."
*Cameron: "A lot of people are saying, '24 years ago? We knew the governor has already disclosed his alcohol problem. What's the big deal?'"
*Fox guest Matt Drudge: "We're talking tonight about a story about a guy pulled over for driving too slow with a little too many beers. This is amateur chump stuff."
*Fox News guest Mara Liasson: "I think it's going to have little effect on George W. Bush's chances for the White House. It's not a bombshell."
*Fox News contributor Mort Kontracke: "I think this is a minor story."
Fox News only 'broke' the DUI story because, thanks to the diligent work of a local Maine reporter, it had no choice. But then after airing the blockbuster, Fox News did its best to downplay its own 'scoop.'
But hey other than that, Malcolm got everything right.
When the Washington Post hired the habitually-wrong Bill Kristol to write misinformation-laden columns, Post opinion boss Fred Hiatt explained "I think he's a very smart, plugged-in guy," adding "I thought he wrote a good column" at the New York Times, which tired of Kristol after only a year. Hiatt even suggested that the Times dumped Kristol merely because its readers disagreed with his opinions:
"It seems to me there were a lot of Times readers who felt the Times shouldn't hire someone who supported the Iraq war," said Hiatt, adding that he wants "a diverse range of opinions" on his page.
But the real problem with Kristol is that, unlike a broken clock, he's rarely right twice in one day. And that he often seems enthusiastically dishonest. And that he loves war and torture the way chocolate loves peanut butter. And... well, you get the point.
Anyway: Salon's Glenn Greenwald points out that the Washington Post editorial board -- which Fred Hiatt runs -- has now denounced a video attacking the Obama administration as a "smear" that plays on "ignorance and fear" at the expense of reason. Oh, and Bill Kristol is among those responsible for the video. Here's Greenwald:
So according to the Post Editors, this "Department of Jihad" ad is a "smear" campaign based in "hysteria, ignorance and fear" that is designed to "cloud reason." Yet those very same Post Editors continue to employ as a Columnist one of the primary parties responsible for this "smear" campaign. That's a strange thing to do. Once a newspaper's editors decide that someone is responsible for what they themselves denounce as a repugnant "smear" that traffics in fear, hysteria and ignorance and is designed to "cloud reason," one would think they'd no longer want to provide a forum to the person responsible. Why would a newspaper want to amplify and elevate a person who they know smears others using fear, hysteria and ignorance?
It's hardly news that Bill Kristol is a rank propagandist responsible for some of the most destructive falsehoods in our political culture, but now that the Post Editors explicitly recognize this, doesn't it speak volumes about them if they continue (as they will) to employ such a person as a regular Columnist?
Why does the Washington Post employ a columnist who is responsible for what it believes are nasty smears on honorable public servants? Simple: Because the Washington Post's opinion pages under Fred Hiatt are a cesspool of lies and propaganda and fear-mongering; a safe haven for those who endorse (or turn a blind eye) to torture, political thuggery, and everything in between.
As we noted last week, the New York Times, and specifically its public editor, Clark Hoyt, managed to emerge among the losers in the ACORN pimp hoax story. Why? Because the Times, both last year and this, erroneously reported that James O'Keefe had worn his outlandish pimp costume into the ACORN offices last summer.
But that was just bogus right-wing spin.
That's right. Hoyt confirmed the Times got the facts wrong, and then claimed there was no need for the newspaper to correct those mistakes.
Now ACORN is urging people to contact the daily, as well as other newspapers that got the story wrong, and press editors to publish formal corrections. The community organizing group has set up this site to make the letter-writing easier.
From ACORN [emphasis original]:
The New York Times continues to refuse to state the obvious -- that O'Keefe deceived the public, specifically by editing in "b-roll" of his absurd pimp costume and more broadly by misrepresenting what ACORN organizers do. This despite the clear admission by O'Keefe co-conspirators Hannah Giles and Andrew Breitbart both being caught on tape saying he never wore the pimp suit in any ACORN office. Despite the findings of the Harshbarger report. Despite Breitbart's admission that the pimp get-up was just a marketing gimmick.
Please send a letter to the editor asking the New York Times and other publications to change their reporting to reflect the truth about the ACORN videos.
It looks like the Associated Press really wanted to run a "Democrats are crooked" article -- so much so that they didn't care whether their examples made any sense. Here's AP's aggressive opening:
Democrats mired in swamp they vowed to drain
By LAURIE KELLMAN and LARRY MARGASAK (AP) - 12 hours ago
WASHINGTON - A rash of ethics lapses has given Democrats an election-year headache: how to convince skeptical voters that they're any cleaner than Republicans they accused of fostering a "culture of corruption" in 2006.
From the conduct of governors in Illinois and New York to back-room deals over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, Democrats are drawing their own criticism when it comes to the ethics of public officials.
The party that pledged to "drain the swamp" if given control of Congress finds itself sinking in the muck nine months from Election Day, when every member of the House and 36 Senate seats will be chosen.
Pretty harsh, huh? But that second paragraph gives away the weakness of the AP's examples. "Governors in Illinois and New York" obviously don't have much of anything to do with what Democrats have done with their "control of Congress." And "back-room deals" over health care reform have certainly been criticized, but there's no credible suggestion that they were in any way unethical.
Perhaps because of the weakness of the examples the AP builds its case upon, the article quickly introduces a "hypocrisy" angle. See, while "hypocrisy" is legitimately a political vice, suggestions of hypocrisy are also the refuge of reporters who can't show as much underlying malfeasance as they'd like. Anyway: Just wait until you see who the AP turns to in order to make the hypocrisy case:
The sword of sanctimony cuts both ways, warns a Republican felled by his own scandal in the weeks before the 2006 elections, as then-Rep. Nancy Pelosi led the campaign cry to end "the culture of corruption that has thrived under this Republican Congress."
"If you claim that you are going to hold a group accountable, as she professed, then it requires you to really be serious about that and not make excuses when members of their own party don't meet those same standards," former Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned weeks before the 2006 election because of allegations he pursued former House pages, told The Associated Press.
"Otherwise," he added, "the public becomes cynical and suspicious."
Mark Foley! "Allegations he pursued former House pages" is an awfully tactful description of Foley's transgressions, isn't it? Nineteen paragraphs later, the AP offers slightly more detail, mentioning "Foley's e-mails to former pages."
Having established the hypocrisy angle through the expert testimony of Mark Foley, the AP drove the point home:
But because Democrats gained control of the White House and Congress in part by vowing to cleanse the institutions of government, breaches by party members high and low raise questions of hypocrisy.
The list is long.
Actually, the AP's list is short: Two governors, Charlie Rangel, Bill Jefferson, and "the perception of payoffs to states represented by senators who hesitated on supporting the Senate's health care bill."
That's two people who have nothing to do with Congress, a third (Jefferson) who isn't in Congress and hasn't been since losing his 2008 campaign (and who, while he was in Congress, was stripped of his committee assignment by Democrats) and legislative wrangling that is not unethical. Oh, and Charlie Rangel. So, basically, the list is not "long" -- it's "Charlie Rangel."
Here's how the AP described deals made to win votes for health care reform:
Then there's the perception of payoffs to states represented by senators who hesitated on supporting the Senate's health care bill, part of the overhaul that Obama had named his top legislative priority.
Dubbed the "Cornhusker kickback" and the "Louisiana purchase," the deals with Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana drew derision for the perception of sneakiness they created.
Dark-of-night dealmaking and misbehaving members are traditions as old as government itself, the price of putting ambitious human beings in positions of power and showering them with privileges unknown to most people they govern. "There must be some sort of greed virus that attacks those in power," U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said in November when sentencing former Democratic Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana to 13 years in prison for taking bribes. The judge called public corruption "a cancer on the body politic."
This is nothing short of sleazy on the AP's part. Linking the "Cornhusker kickback" and "Louisiana purchase" with Bill Jefferson creates the impression that Nelson and Landrieu -- like Jefferson -- took bribes. That they voted for health care reform in exchange for a duffel bag full of cash. What actually happened is that they voted for health care reform after winning the inclusion of legislative language that they thought made the bill better, and made it better for their constituents. You don't have to like the provisions they got included to recognize that what they did was simply an inherent part of the legislative process*, or that it doesn't belong in an article about "ethics lapses" -- and certainly cannot honestly be compared to a congressman who kept his bribe money in his freezer. Using the word "kickback" -- a word that has a specific meaning that has nothing to do with the deal Nelson struck -- without explaining what the deal was, and linking it to Jefferson's acceptance of bribes, is simply dishonest.
Then there's this doozy from the AP: "Between now and November can be several lifetimes in political terms. But there are plenty of scandalous developments that could pop in the interim." True! It could happen! And the AP could be rocked by a plagiarism scandal next month. Who knows? By the AP's logic, the fact that they could, at some later date, face an unspecified and currently-unknown "scandalous development," they are now "sinking in the muck."
* Here's a challenge for the AP: Find a member of congress who has never conditioned support for legislation on the inclusion of a provision s/he favors. I bet the AP can't do it -- because such actions aren't bribe-taking, they are negotiations. It's what legislators do.
From the March 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
From a March 5 Washington Post op-ed by Walter Dellinger, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration:
It never occurred to me on the day that Defense Department lawyer Rebecca Snyder and Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler of the Navy appeared in my law firm's offices to ask for our assistance in carrying out their duties as military defense lawyers that the young lawyer who worked with me on that matter would be publicly attacked for having done so. And yet this week that lawyer and eight other Justice Department attorneys have been attacked in a video released by a group called Keep America Safe (whose board members include William Kristol and Elizabeth Cheney) for having provided legal assistance to detainees before joining the department. The video questions their loyalty to the United States, asking: "DOJ: Department of Jihad?" and "Who are these government officials? ... Whose values do they share?"
That those in question would have their patriotism, loyalty and values attacked by reputable public figures such as Elizabeth Cheney and journalists such as Kristol is as depressing a public episode as I have witnessed in many years. What has become of our civic life in America? The only word that can do justice to the personal attacks on these fine lawyers -- and on the integrity of our legal system -- is shameful. Shameful.
From Noah's March 4 Slate post titled, "Why Stupak is Wrong":
Stupak is right that anyone who enrolls through the exchange in a health plan that covers abortions must pay a nominal sum (defined on Page 125 of the bill as not less than "$1 per enrollee, per month") into the specially segregated abortion fund. But Stupak is wrong to say this applies to "every enrollee." If an enrollee objects morally to spending one un-government-subsidized dollar to cover abortion, then he or she can simply choose a different health plan offered through the exchange, one that doesn't cover abortions. (Under the Senate bill, every insurance exchange must offer at least one abortion-free health plan.)
One dollar exceeds health insurers' actual cost in providing abortion coverage. In fact, it's entirely symbolic. The law stipulates that in calculating abortions' cost, insurers may consider how much they spend to finance abortions but not how much they save in foregone prenatal care, delivery, or postnatal care. (This is on Pages 2074-2075.) This is to keep insurers from pondering the gruesome reality-one they surely know already-that covering abortions actually saves them money. For health insurers, the true cost of abortion coverage is less than zero, because hospitals and doctors charge less to perform abortions than they do to tend pregnant women before, during, and after childbirth. (Ironically, only the Senate bill-not the House bill-provides some small counterweight to this calculus by increasing aid for adoption assistance.)
What really rankles Stupak (and the bishops) isn't that the Senate bill commits taxpayer dollars to funding abortion. Rather, it's that the Senate bill commits taxpayer dollars to people who buy private insurance policies that happen to cover abortion at nominal cost to the purchaser (even the poorest of the poor can spare $1 a month) and no cost at all to the insurer. Stupak and the bishops don't have a beef with government spending. They have a beef with market economics.
On tonight's Hannity, Fox News contributor and "Word Doctor" Frank Luntz appeared to make a very revealing error during his health care reform focus group segment.
As shown in the clip below, Luntz asked the focus group participants if Democrats "should try to get any health care through and accept 51 votes as being enough," noting that, "it's called reconciliation." At that point, close to half of the group raised their hands, apparently in agreement with this idea. After a brief pause, Luntz altered his question, asking who wanted Democrats to use the "so-called nuclear option." At that point, several people in the focus group lowered their hands. Check out the video:
As Media Matters has repeatedly documented, "nuclear option" has been the preferred term for reconciliation on Fox News (and this is after they redefined what the "nuclear option" meant). And based on the negative reaction that is invoked by using "nuclear option" displayed in that clip, it's clear why.
From the March 3 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show:
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