On Wednesday, President Obama will pardon Courage, a turkey raised on a family farm in North Carolina. In doing so he will carry on a long tradition dating back to the administration of George H.W. Bush. (Seriously -- it's not a long tradition.)
But the pardoning comes at a particularly vulnerable time for Obama. Following a week of coverage in which he was attacked by the conservative media (which was amplified by the mainstream media) for bowing to Japanese Emperor Akihito (which the majority of Americans approved of), Fox News senior correspondent Brit Hume claimed of the "bowing and scraping" overseas: "This president seems quite willing to embrace weakness as a position for the United States."
Combined with the right-wing media's outrage that by actually demonstrating that the U.S. actually practices the kind of justice it promotes around the world, the pardoning couldn't come at a worse time for Obama.
How will Fox News react to this latest sign of Obama's "weakness"?
One thing is for certain: If Sarah Palin were president, she would pardon Courage as well, but would ensure that the rest of the turkeys were slaughtered.
Sarah Palin's book tour was the third-biggest news story from November 16-22 -- and second-biggest on television and radio talk shows:
Given her status as a polarizing public figure, it's no surprise that Palin's book tour last week-which included her doing interviews with everyone from Rush Limbaugh to Oprah Winfrey-was a hot topic in the talk show world. Indeed more than one-fifth (21%) of the airtime studied on the 12 cable and radio talk shows in the NCI was devoted to the 2008 GOP vice-presidential candidate, making it the No. 2 story there after health care. By a narrow margin, coverage of her book tour last week (8%) exceeded the attention devoted to her decision to resign as Alaska governor (7% from July 6-12, 2009).
That's an extraordinary amount of attention for an unpopular politician who holds no office.
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren aired the first part of her interview with Sarah Palin last night, during which she "hopped on the [book tour] bus with Governor Palin." But the people who were really taken for "a ride" were Van Susteren's viewers: throughout the nearly 40-minute long interview, which spanned questions of policy and political ambitions, Van Susteren failed to disclose that her husband, John Coale, reportedly advised Palin after her 2008 vice presidential run and reportedly stated that he conceived of and created Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC.
This lack of disclosure isn't terribly surprising given Van Susteren's track record. It's not like she bothered to mention that fact when she used her Fox perch to actively "campaign" to secure the interview and hype Palin's memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life.
And it's not terribly surprising given Fox's record of giving free rein to its evening commentators to seamlessly merge commentary and advocacy, most notably in the case of Glenn Beck. If Fox isn't concerned about its Beck problem, presumably Van Susteren's journalistic malpractice isn't even showing up on their radar screen.
Maybe Van Susteren will go rogue tonight when she airs the next installment of her Palin interview and, in a radical departure from Fox's status quo, disclose her conflict of interest. But somehow I doubt that she'll get off the bus and on the level with her viewers.
Interesting piece in Editor & Publisher, by college prof's Christopher Martin and Peter Dreier who argue that, thanks to lazy journalism, reporters often got the ACORN story wrong during the last year.
Write the duo:
How is it that after laboring in relative obscurity as a community organizer for almost 40 years, ACORN was so falsely framed in news stories that many Americans believed the absurd and alarming notion that it stole a presidential election? The answer is a tale of not only how the Republican Party and conservative news media framed ACORN, but also how most mainstream journalism organizations were negligent by repeating rather than fact-checking the spurious allegations.
And the Andrew Breitbart freak-out begins in 5...4...3...2...1!
WorldNetDaily -- the far-right web site that even some conservatives say peddles "paranoid conspiracy theories" -- is now touting a book that purports to demonstrate that liberalism is a mental disorder:
WND goes on to assert: "Rossiter explains with great clarity why the kind of liberalism being displayed by Barack Obama can only be understood as a psychological disorder."
Given WND's track record, I can only assume WND is engaging in a Rovian effort to accuse their counterparts of their own shortcomings.
With its signature breathless/naive style, Politico plays the role of Lou Dobbs booster [emphasis added]:
Former CNN host Lou Dobbs fueled already rampant speculation about his political future Monday, sending the clearest signals yet that he's mulling a bid for president — and leaving third-party political operatives salivating over the possibility of a celebrity recruit for the 2012 campaign.
Honestly, is there anyone besides Lou Dobbs and Politico reporters who can detect any kind of "rampant speculation" about his political future? (I'd settle for any speculation.) Seems like it's been mostly crickets on that front since Dobbs left CNN.
UPDATED: I think humorist Andy Borowitz gets it about right:
Former CNN host Lou Dobbs said today that he was seriously considering running for president after being urged to do so by an imaginary friend.
The Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib has a piece about Sen. Joe Lieberman's opposition to the public option that serves as a clear reminder of why politicians lie: they know they won't get called on it.
Mr. Lieberman also notes that the public option wasn't a big feature of past health-overhaul plans or the campaign debate of 2008.
Well, no. Mr. Lieberman doesn't "note" that. Mr. Lieberman lies about that.
Lieberman claims that "if you look at the campaign last year, presidential, you can't find a mention of public option...It was added after the election." In fact, the Obama-Biden campaign health care plan included a public option, and the New York Times reported as far back as May 2007 that "Mr. Obama would create a public plan for individuals who cannot obtain group coverage through their employers or the existing government programs." And when it is pointed out to Lieberman that his claims are incorrect, he reiterates them.
Seib, continuing directly:
So he says he finds it odd that it now has become a central demand -- which it has, he suspects, because some Democrats wanted a full-bore, single-payer, government-run health plan, and were offered a public option as a consolation.
But it isn't "odd" at all -- because Lieberman is lying when he says the public option wasn't part of the discussion until post-election. Seib completely gives him a free pass on those lies. Worse, he presents Lieberman's lies as the truth.
What happens when reporters present politicians' lies as truth? They encourage politicians to lie. That's pretty obvious, isn't it? Gerald Seib and the Wall Street Journal are encouraging Joe Lieberman to lie about health care.
Seib also quotes Lieberman's claims that he opposes a public option for fear of increasing the debt -- and, no, Seib does not bother pointing out that CBO says health care reform containing a public option will reduce the deficit.
It's important to keep in mind that Seib's entire piece is about Lieberman's opposition to health care reform. This isn't a case in which a reporter inserts a quick paragraph about Lieberman into a larger health care article without fact-checking his statements. That would be bad enough. But this is so much worse: an entire piece dedicated to Lieberman's opposition that presents Lieberman's false claims as truth, and neglects to mention that the CBO contradicts his claims.
For reasons no one seems able to explain, the right's criticism of health care reform legislation tends to drift toward matters of counting. First they complained that the bill(s) had too many pages, falsely claiming that Tolstoy's epic War and Peace boasts a lighter page count, as if this is indicative of anything other than an irrational prejudice against long books. Now, RedState.com has decided to sharpen their criticism by counting the words in the Senate health care bill -- not all the words, mind you, just arbitrarily selected words that offer "an interesting study in word choices that tell you all you need to know about the bill."
In one column they listed what I assume are the scary-liberal-socialist words, like "shall" and "provide" and "tax." In a second column are the freedom-liberty-Constitution words, like... well, "freedom," "liberty," and "Constitution." Without ever explaining what the point of their little exercise is, RedState shows that the scary-liberal-socialist words appear with much greater frequency than the freedom-liberty-Constitution words.
Well, two can play at this incredibly stupid game. I took RedState's two lists of words and checked* to see how frequently they appear in the twenty-or-so pages of the Constitution. The results are damning:
|Scary-liberal-socialist words||Freedom-liberty-Constitution words|
Shall or Shall Not: 337
Choose or "Chuse": 11
Constitution: 29 (not entirely fair)
If the raw numbers themselves aren't shocking enough, consider this: by RedState's count, the words "Shall" or "Shall Not" appear 3607 times in the 2074 pages of the health care bill, meaning they appear 1.74 times per page. Those same words appear 337 times in the 20 pages of the Constitution, for an average of 16.85 appearances per page.
The evidence is clear: the Constitution of the United States is at least 10 times as socialist and tyrannical as the Senate health care bill. Thank you, RedState, for helping us to expose this founding document as the commie, Marxist, rag that it is.
*My "methodology" consisted of copying and pasting the Constitution into a Word document and using Find-and-Replace to count the instances of each term. It's admittedly crude, but conducting a thoroughly scientific analysis of the words in the Constitution for the purposes of smacking down RedState's on-its-face-stupid premise would be like using a bazooka to kill a mosquito.
Nearly 2,200 words into Howard Kurtz's column today, he finally got to something that could conceivably be considered media criticism -- and that consisted of quoting three paragraphs of a conservative blogger's attack on the New York Times.
If Kurtz is at a loss for story ideas, might I suggest this?
National Journal seems to make a bit of a thing out of the fact that Sarah Palin turned down all of CBS's interview requests last week. NJ linked the snub to the fact that Palin famously bombed during her Katie Couric interviews during last year's campaign. (In her book, Palin, without providing any evidence, claims it was biased CBS editing that made her look bad in those extended interviews. Okaaaay)
Here's NJ's Hotline:
Sources tell Hotline OnCall that Couric's producer sent two requests to Palin's publisher for interviews during the "Going Rogue" book tour, and so far, Couric has been denied.
It's not surprising -- Palin has not agreed to sit down with more than a small handful of mainstream media interviewers -- but the move looks to be part of a larger Palin blackout from CBS News and Entertainment.
But here's the thing to remember, and Hotline makes a passing reference to it above, Palin's freezing out all independent Beltway journalists during her book launch. She hasn't agreed to sit down with a single political reporter, even though Palin just wrote a very political book. (The boycott got so bad MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell was forced to elbow her way to the front of a fan rope line in hopes of simply asking Palin a couple questions.)
Can you imagine if Hillary Clinton, for instance, published a book and then refused to sit down with a single non-partisan cable host or a single political reporter from a major newspaper or magazine? Imagine if Clinton only agreed to do interviews with The Nation, Rachel Maddow and Air America? The Beltway press would go berserk mocking Clinton's timidity. But Palin snubs the entire D.C. press corps, and rather than complain, they just keep obsessing over her.
The whole spectacle has been rather pathetic to watch:
-Step 1: Palin launches a new book.
-Step 2: The news media lavish tens of millions of dollars in free publicity on the book.
-Step 3: Palin tells the news media to get lost and drives her book launch tour bus right around the independent press, which never complains. And in fact, it continues to give Palin even more free publicity.
As I asked last week, do journalists enjoy being used by Palin and then completely snubbed?