MRC's Brent Bozell has a problem with the latest ABC/Washington Post poll. But Bozell doesn't object to the poll's slanted and inaccurate suggestion that Democrats have a history of being reckless with the public's money. Here's what he's upset about:
It has become almost amusing, watching how the so-called "news" media are manipulating their own polls to keep the political weather sunny for their hero. The Washington Post kicked off President Barack Obama's European trip with the headline "Blame For Downturn Not Fixed on Obama." Of course, what was "fixed" was the poll itself.
They did the usual tricks for a more liberal sample of "public opinion" - they polled on the weekend and oversampled Democrats (36 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican). By themselves, these things are shameless - but expected. And still that wasn't enough of a slant. Check out the way this question was asked by the Post pollsters.
"How much of the blame do you think [fill in the blank] deserves for the country's economic situation?" The choices were corporations, banks, consumers, the Bush team, and the Obama administration. There's a built-in pro-Obama bias in there already: assigning blame to Obama for the current economy when he's been in office for nine weeks just seems harsh to most people.
I'm sorry: What? Brent Bozell thinks asking if Barack Obama deserves some blame for the economic situation demonstrates "pro-Obama bias" because most people don't think he deserves such blame?
By that logic, asking if people approve of Obama's job performance reflects "pro-Obama bias" because most people do. And poll questions that asked about George W. Bush's job performance must have demonstrated "anti-Bush bias." By that logic, the only unbiased poll questions are those that yield 50-50 results.
That's insane. Simply insane.
But that's the conservatives' idea of "media bias" -- any question or fact that is inconvenient for conservatives must reflect "bias."
By the way, Bozell's certainty that polling over a weekend yields a "more liberal sample" is misplaced. Many pollsters are, indeed, skeptical of polling conducted over weekends, but there is nothing approaching a consensus about how such polling might skew. Republican pollster Bill McInturff and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, for example, both avoid weekends:
Voters who do answer calls those nights add up to a "more downscale" group, McInturff said -- more likely to be Democratic. That discovery is a legacy of the Reagan years. "Reagan's support would dip in polling on Friday and Saturday nights," McInturff said, "and then on Monday it would be right back where it was."
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake avoids Fridays, too, but for the opposite reason. "We never poll on Friday night because more Democrats are likely to be out," she said. "Friday is bowling night and there are Friday night football games, so you get fewer blue-collar people at home.
"Same for Saturday," she said. "Because younger suburban couples, two-earner families, are out doing stuff. Sunday night is a good time to get everybody, but we never call on Sunday morning because religious voters are likely to resent it. You don't poll during the Super Bowl football game if you want men."
In November, 2006, Slate's "Explainer" column addressed this issue:
In theory, younger people are more likely to be out on Friday and Saturday nights, which would make them less likely to be included in the sample.
What would that mean for the results of a given study? Weekend polling would skew the sample away from the young and active types and toward the oldsters who sit at home. That doesn't mean the weekend poll gives more credence to the elderly vote. It might mean just the opposite: Pollsters can correct for having too many old people by giving extra weight to everyone else. In that case, the opinions of the few young people who are in the sample would count extra.
While it's a common claim that weekend polls favor the Democrats, there isn't much hard evidence to support that idea. One of the best studies of this question was conducted by two polling experts at ABC News. Gary Langer and Daniel Merkle looked at the data from ABC's tracking polls for the last three presidential elections. They compared results from people reached on Sunday through Thursday with those reached on Friday and Saturday and found no difference.
Newsbusters is running a poll asking readers whether Barack Obama will be a one term president. Just one problem -- they forgot to include a "yes" option:
Keep in mind: Newsbusters is the work of the Media Research Center, the Right's premiere media criticism organization. Little wonder Tom DeLay recently said the conservative movement lacks organizations that can "match Media Matters."
Here's the "news":
With President Barack Obama showing the ailing U.S. auto industry some tough love Monday, POLITICO wondered -- what's in the driveways of White House aides? A lot of foreign cars, as it turns out...The lot was sprinkled with BMWs, Mercedes, Hondas, Toyotas, Saabs, Audis, Volkswagens and a Volvo.
Here's how the item would have made sense [emphasis added]:
With President Barack Obama showing the ailing U.S. auto industry some tough love Monday, and urging everybody to buy American cars, POLITICO wondered -- what's in the driveways of White House aides? A lot of foreign cars, as it turns out.
But Obama didn't do that, so the item's pretty much pointless. Also, aren't lots of BMW's, Mercedes, Hondas and Toyotas, y'know, made in America these days?
A couple things are goofy about this Bridget Johnson piece, in which she seems to be auditioning for a gig at Politico. First, many of the examples she sites as Obama "gaffes" aren't actually gaffes. And second, she suggests it's the new media landscape of "Instant Internet communication and an explosion in political commentary," that has put the new (Democratic) president under such a media microscope.
Excuse me, but I'm pretty sure when President Bush left office two months ago the Internet, as well as the 24-hour news cycle, existed. So why the double standard for Obama?
But back to the gaffes. Here's how Johnson lays them out at the top of the story:
Last week was notable for budget battles and a new Afghanistan strategy, rather than for headline-hogging gaffes, although the president didn't escape a few media jeers for his reliance on a giant TV screen in place of his trademark teleprompter to feed him his lines at Tuesday's primetime press conference.
His careful responses to reporters' questions, in an appearance that many commentators branded as boring, didn't wander into such hot-button territory as he found himself in the previous week when he told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" that his bowling skills were akin to those of the Special Olympics.
I can only find one actual gaffe; the ill-advised Special Olympics comment. But how is using a large teleprompter an embarrassing miscue? The pointless issue is only a topic of debate because the press corps wants to make it one. Same with Obama's "boring" press conference. Suddenly, if presidents are articulate and philosophical while discussing the pressing issues of the day at a White House press conference the press dubs that a blunder?
The Hill published an article about Obama's gaffes. But in truth the miscues often cited are errors in judgment made by the press. Sort of ironic, no?
Which of these statements comes closer to your view: (Beneath it all, Obama is an old-style, tax-and-spend Democrat.) -OR- (Obama is a new-style Democrat who will be careful with the public's money.)
The only president to balance a budget in the past 40 years was Democrat Bill Clinton, so ABC and the Post should probably drop this nonsense about Democrats not being careful with the public's money.
Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush -- both Republicans, one of them universally embraced as a role model by the GOP -- ran up huge amounts of debt. And they did so by doing things like launching unnecessary wars against countries that didn't attack us and giving massive tax cuts to billionaires.
So, when can we expect to see ABC and the Washington Post ask the public questions premised on the Republicans' history of fiscal recklessness?
MSNBC anchor Melissa Francis, on Michelle Obama: "Is there a danger in looking too glamorous during a recession, though, on a more serious note? I mean, we're talking about clothes, we're having a good time, but obviously, you know, there's a recession going on right now."
That's MSNBC's idea of a "serious note"? How about considering whether MSNBC should devote segments to Michelle Obama's clothes in the first place?
UPDATE: Less than an hour later, MSNBC devotes another segment to Michelle Obama's wardrobe, during which Norah O'Donnell said: " You know, we've got this banner up that says 'What will she wear?' I mean, isn't that sort of demeaning, that that's all that this first lady is about, by saying 'what is she going to wear?'"
She then spent the remainder of the segment discussing what Obama will wear with Washington Post reporter Robin Givhan.
So, in the past hour, MSNBC has told us that these are serious times -- too serious for Michelle Obama to be glamorous. And they've told us that it is "sort of demeaning" to focus on what Obama will wear. And they've devoted two different segments to focusing on precisely that "demeaning" topic.
Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communistic, Marxism and Marxist.
Here are the numbers for yesterday, Monday, March 30, 2009:
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 34
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 24
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 6
CNN Headline News: 7
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 7
Fox News Channel: 29
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 19
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 10
Fox Business Network: 9
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 8
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 5
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 2
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
The above numbers are the result of a TVeyes.com power search for these terms on these networks.
Jason Linkins at HuffPost draws our attention to a WashPost article about an unfolding court drama in Cambodia where "a notorious genocidaire of the Khmer Rouge" acknowledged his role in the death of more than 15,000 people while overseeing a Khmer Rouge torture center during Cambodia's reign of terror during the 1970s.
Detailing the gruesome revelations, the Post reported that the man's victims "were tortured with electric shocks, waterboarding or beating to extract a confession, which would implicate new victims."
Note the explicit use of "torture" to describe the act of waterboarding. Writes Linkins:
It's a break from typical media traditions, obviously. See, when outfits like the WaPo typically talk about waterboarding, it's referred to as "a form of simulated drowning that U.S. officials had previously deemed a crime" or "harsh interrogation tactics" or an "interrogation tactic" or "harsh interrogation practices" or "a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill." But unless you are in possession of whatever gland produces honesty, like Dan Froomkin, you never, never, ever just come right out and say that waterboarding is torture.
From VF's Michael Wolff in the new issue:
Indeed, for 20 years, three hours a day, nothing in radio has so moved the audience to action as Rush: the Republican base both buys the pre-owned cars he suggests ought to be bought and champions the causes he's hot on. Nothing in politics, or the news cycle, is as direct and powerful as this. In seconds, he can move an awesome tide, unleashing e-mail, telephone calls, and scary Web-site rage.
People sure have short memories. Because it was just 13 months ago that Limbaugh led the conservative revolt against candidate John McCain. It was Limbaugh out in front of the pitchfork crowd demanding that McCain not be the GOP nominee for president, saying that McCain wasn't sufficiently conservative to carry the Republican mantle into the general election.
So what did Republican voters nationwide do in response? They awarded McCain with an easy primary-season victory and pretty much handed him the nomination on a silver platter.
Not much of an "awesome tide" there.
Terry Krepel, a senior web editor at Media Matters and founder and editor of ConWebWatch, has a great piece up at Huffington Post about the reemergence of the Western Journalism Center. Be sure to check out the entire piece.
Here's just a taste:
How is Barack Obama's birth certificate like Vince Foster?
To answer that, we must go back to the very beginning. After leaving the Sacramento Union in 1991, Joseph Farah and former Union publisher James Smith founded the Western Journalism Center -- under whose aegis Farah later founded WorldNetDaily. (After WND was spun off as a for-profit subsidiary in 1998, the WJC's share of of it was gradually transferred over the years to Farah.)
Farah likes to peddle the story that the WJC was founded "to fill a growing void in my industry's commitment to investigative reporting" and that its "mission was not ideological." In fact, the WJC didn't do all that much actual investigating; its main function was to attack the Clinton administration by promoting conspiracy theories surrounding the death of deputy White House counsel Vince Foster -- it accepted $330,000 in donations from then-Clinton-hater Richard Mellon Scaife toward that end, and other conservative foundations contributed as well -- and it went dormant as soon as Clinton left office.
Now that there's a Democrat in the Oval Office again, guess who's back?
The first hint of the WJC's resurrection came last August with a WorldNetDaily commentary by Andrea Shea King touting Jerome Corsi's factually dubious anti-Obama book, asserting that the book contains "legitimate questions about Obama that the author meticulously documents in the book's nearly 700 footnotes." The article contained the tagline, "This column was commissioned by the Western Journalism Center."
After undergoing a slight name modification -- it now prefers to call itself the slightly more highfalutin'-sounding Western Center for Journalism -- the WJC website is functional again, if only as a blog linking to other articles trashing President Obama and the so-called "liberal media" in general while offering no original commentary. According to its archives, blog posts began sporadically last September, but the blogging efforts have ramped up over the past few months. All posts thus far are anonymous.