Over the weekend, the WSJ got a head start on the competition. Looking ahead to Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing, the Journal stressed how Sotomayor's now famous "Latina woman" quote would certainly become a very big deal. (Y'know, the single sentence from a campus speech given eight years ago, the kind of obscure public utterance that always dominates SCOTUS confirmation hearings, right?)
It should come as no surprise that the Journal article, which revolved solely around the "Latina woman" quote, completely failed to place it in context. It's not surprising because Beltway journalists covering Sotomayor appear to have taken some kind of solemn loyalty oath to never place the quote in its proper context. Because if anybody does, than the whole 'controversy' (she's a racist!) collapses.
FYI, Sotomayor's quotes about a wise "Latina woman" making a better decision than a white judge was made specifically in the context of race and gender discrimination cases. But the press has categorically refused to spell that out and pretends Sotomayor was talking about all decisions from the bench. That she had espoused this nutty notion that one group of judges (Latina women) make inherently better legal judgments than another (white men.) If Sotomayor had made that claim, critics would have every right to question her temperament, not to mention her sanity.
But of course, that's not what Sotomayor said. It's just what the press, at the urging of the GOP, pretends she said. It's really an elaborate con game: Reporters and pundits know the correct context. They understand the larger point she was making. They simply refuse to spell it out.
Journalism doesn't get much more dishonest, or gruesome, than watching the "Latina woman" tale play out, yet again. That's why we're already bracing for a dreadful week.
UPDATED: Hey look, Fox News' Juan Williams thinks "Latina woman" was a racist statement because Sotomayor thinks she's "endowed in a much better, superior way, than white people." Did I mention how depressingly awful journalism is going to be this week?
On today's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski quoted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg saying of Sonia Sotomayor, "think of how many times you've said something that you didn't get out quite right." Brzezinski then said as an aside, "I can think of something I said recently."
That was apparently a reference to Brzezinski's comment last week about "real Americans." Well, if Brzezinski didn't mean what she said, there's a simple solution: She could make that clear during the three-hour television show she hosts each day. Instead of defending her comment, she could have said "I misspoke. I don't think Sarah Palin's fans are any more or less American than any other Americans. I regret echoing the common smear of progressives and urbanites as less American than their conservative and rural counterparts." That would have taken about twenty seconds.
Instead, Brzezinski defended her comments, digging herself a deeper hole in the process, as I explain in my latest column.
Let's be clear about who objectified a 17 year old girl at last week's G-8 summit.
They treated this junior G-8 delegate as an object - for all the world to see - simply so they could crack some stupid jokes about President Obama, or to score some infintismaly small (and false) point against a political figure they don't like.
And then when it was debunked, they just said, essentially, "Oh, we hadn't see the video yet. Bygones." Well, no. The smear of Obama is already out there; a young woman was already dragged into a ridiculous story that treated her as an object rather than a person. That can't be undone.
Is it really that hard for professional journalists to understand that they shouldn't have peddled this non-story before they actually reviewed the video to see if there was anything to it? Tapper, at least, should already have learned a lesson about watching video before passing on bogus claims about it.
But, having pushed the photo, it isn't enough to now say "never mind." They owe their viewers, President Obama, and the young woman an apology.
UPDATE: I should have made this clear earlier, but Reuters bears ultimate responsiblity for this mess. Reuters originally distrubted the highly misleading photo in question, and they should have known it would be misinterpreted by some and used in an opportunistic way by others. Whether it was a simple mistake on their part, or a calculated effort to get attention for their photo, they did a big thing badly, and should be first in line with an apology.
From Barone's July 12 Washington Examiner column titled, "Who's afraid of global warming?":
I am open to arguments on this issue, but as I have written several times it seems to me that many global warming alarmists are motivated by something that is more like religion than science. It makes sense to try to mitigate negative effects of any change in climate or weather, as we are quite capable of doing, technologically and economically. Though not always politically, as seen by our decades-long failure to protect our one major city under sea level, New Orleans, from the effects of a catastrophic storm, in the ways that the Dutch have protected their country in which most people live below sea level. But imposing huge costs on our private sector economy on the basis of computer models of something as complex as climate, and which have not done a good job of predicting the present or recent past, seems the height of folly.
I think it makes more sense to monitor and mitigate--keep our eyes open for problems that may occur and take intelligent action to prevent negative effects.
As for global warming, why assume that every affect will be negative? I grew up in Michigan and would have been grateful for some global warming as I waited in the dark for the school bus. As [Ian] Plimer explains in the opening chapter of Heaven and Earth, climate has been much warmer and much cooler at various times in the past. Human beings have adapted--and it's been a lot easier to adapt to warming than cooling.
From Jeff Durstewitz's July 11 Wall Street Journal op-ed, headlined, "Europe Should Hope Obama Fails":
The great irony here is that the European model American leftists envy couldn't survive without its despised cowboy counterparty. If the U.S. economy weakens because of increased regulation, heavy-handed unionization, and higher taxes and debt to support an expensive social agenda -- all policies Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress are pushing hard -- it will hurt Europe.
The market for Europe's exports will shrink, and the U.S. will be less able to defend Europe. Europe is also facing a demographic cataclysm in the near future because of low birth rates (under 1.3 children per woman in the EU, well below the 2.1 necessary to maintain the population). Thus Europe will be increasingly unable to sustain its current welfare state, the very model that the left in the United States adores.
The Post's ombudsman eviscerates the paper for its colossal "salon" blunder:
The Washington Post's ill-fated plan to sell sponsorships of off-the-record "salons" was an ethical lapse of monumental proportions...The Post's reputation now carries a lasting stain.
Meanwhile, Marcy Wheeler looks at Post reporter Ceci Connolly's featured role in the newsroom debacle.
Yesterday, Politico published a special glossy magazine covering the "50 Politicos to Watch." In it, four journalists were highlighted for their reporting and commentary. Charles Krauthammer was among them.
Mr. Krauthammer is, of course, free to voice any political point of view he likes, and he should never draw criticism simply for his professed conservative beliefs. But like so many conservative critics, Krauthammer's work is characterized by sloppy thinking, factually-challenged analysis, and partisan hyperbolae that undermine his credibility as an analyst and pundit.
Despite his record, Politico described him as having "emerged as arguably the leader of the conservative media's opposition" to President Obama. Krauthammer was portrayed as providing "clear, concise criticism of left-wing orthodoxy" that "could make the Obama era his." The piece ended with glowing praise from David Brooks: "He's the most important conservative columnist right now."
The fact that Brooks is probably correct is an indication of the sorry state of conservative media, analysis, and commentary. Politico quoted Krauthammer as saying that he "doesn't want Obama to fail" – hence, supposedly drawing a contrast between him and conservative critics like Rush Limbaugh. But the truth is the opposite, as Krauthammer said himself on April 1: "It's a little early to declare a presidency failed – although I would like to do it."
The consequences of such a partisan world view are obvious for all to see. There is a reason why Krauthammer has expressed the belief that Fox News, a station that makes no commitment to fact-gathering or responsible reporting, is actually a noble venture, providing "the one, only, voice of opposition in the media." Indeed, much like Fox, Krauthammer has excelled in confidently providing irrational, baseless analysis. Consider the following brief review of some of his proclamations since President Obama was elected last November:
In his February 6 Washington Post column, Krauthammer asserted that the economic recovery legislation supported by Obama contains "hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus," echoing myths about the legislation contradicted by Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Douglas Elmendorf.
On February 16, Krauthammer, again commenting on the stimulus bill, attacked it for a fictitious provision which would have built a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. "And that's the old politics that Obama campaigned against," he said. "This train is really an atrocity. It goes from Disneyland, as you said, to Vegas. It should be called the fantasy land express." The project in question was itself a fantasy.
On March 13, Krauthammer likened President Obama's reasoning on stem cell research to that which justified the work of Nazi researcher Josef Mengele and those who conducted the Tuskegee Experiment, during which a group of poor African-Americans with syphilis were deliberately denied treatment by government scientists so that the progression of their condition could be studied.
On April 3, Krauthammer expressed his belief that Europe has been "sucking on [America's] tit for 60 years." He also continued to advance the idea that President Obama was apologizing to Muslims and the world in general for America's actions, a gross distortion of his statements. "We're a country who went to war six times on behalf of Muslims in the last 20 years," he said, "and we're apologizing?"
On April 24, he referred to Hugo Chavez as "Obama's new pal."
On May 20, Krauthammer supported keeping Guantanamo Bay open, explaining his position thusly: "I know it's the romantic in me."
On May 26, Krauthammer took Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina woman" quote out of context, saying that it showed she is "a believer in the racial spoils system." That same day, he commented that empathy has no role in the justice system, as it represents "the overturning of the idea of...justice being about the content of a character." In doing so, he ignored the fact that George H.W. Bush praised the empathy of Clarence Thomas when nominating him.
The list goes on and on, but Krauthammer is only part of the problem. This isn't the first time Politico has gone out of its way to praise him uncritically. In May, the paper cited an October, 2006 article he had written for the National Review Online as a perfect example of the "clarity of his opposition to Obama." The Krauthammer piece boldly put forth a prediction regarding Obama's chances in the upcoming presidential race: "He should run in '08. He will lose in '08."
The real question, of course, is why someone with this kind of a record is still portrayed by the press as being worth listening to.
As we've noted for the past week or so, the Beltway press seems rather obsessed with highlighting what journalists insist are the president sagging (and troubling!) poll numbers. The urge was so strong that the entire news teams at ABC pretty much refused to report accurately on its own poll which showed Obama enjoying a sky-high job approval rating of 65 percent. (For the CW crowd, that was def. the wrong poll result.)
What's been completely missing from most of the poll reporting is any context as to how Republicans are doing right now. The press seems to think it's a very, very big deal that Obama's approval rating, in general, seems to have slowly slid down in recent weeks. But that slight decline is usually viewed in a vacuum. What voters think of Republicans is of little interest to the press. And I think I know why. If reporters spell out how historically unpopular the GOP is right now, it completely undercuts the drama they're trying to create about Obama's relatively robust poll numbers.
For instance, in his piece on Obama polling this week Politico's Ben Smith not once spelled out for readers where Republicans stood. The only passing reference came in this passage, where Smith quoted a spokesman for a Democratic Congressional candidate:
Furthermore, he noted, despite some signs of Democratic weak spots, the opposition is even less popular on key issues. "The national Republican brand is not in good shape," [Jared] Leopold said.
You don't say.
The context is important because right now the press, purposely I think, is painting a false portrait. The press stresses Obama's approval rating is falling. But politically, Obama is not competing with himself. He's competing with the opposition party, whose popularity is actually in free fall. Theoretically, it's possible that if voters continue to hold Republicans in such low regard, Obama's approval rating could fall another 15 points in the next three years and he could easily be re-elected. But the press pretends that with each lost approval point Obama is inching into trouble.
Which brings me to this Minnesota report from Public Policy Polling which does put things into proper perspective:
Barack Obama's approval rating in Minnesota has dropped six points since April, but that doesn't mean voters are responding too positively to some of his Republican alternatives.
The poll details that Obama's approval rating in Minnesota is down six points, but that he would easily defeat home state Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty if here were the GOP nominee in 2012. The poll also found that, in Minnesota, Obama would crush Sarah Palin if she were the 2012 nominee.
That's the context the press often ignores; Obama's approval ratings are down, but he still dominates over Republicans. For some reason most pundits and reporters only want to focus on the first half of that equation.
NewsBusters' Tim Graham repeats a Gawker post claiming that, in Graham's words, "the White House press elite partied down with President Obama on ahem, Independence Day" in an off-the-record event that featured a performance by the Foo Fighters. Graham went on to tut-tut: "Even if you weren't a fan of Obama (or a fan of picnics, or the Foo Fighters), an ambitious reporter might take the tickets just to get some off-the-record schmoozing in with people they'd like to line up as sources. It would be nice to know which ones who daily pledge to uphold the 'people's right to know' attended and accepted the pledges of secrecy."
What Graham didn't mention is that President Bush did the very same thing. A 2006 New York Times article noted that "Mr. Bush holds an annual off-the-record barbecue with reporters during his summer vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Tex."
We searched the archives of NewsBusters and its parent organization, the Media Research Center, and couldn't find any mention of Bush's reporter barbecues, let alone evidence that Graham was similarly outraged by the "off-the-record schmoozing" going on there.
(Not that there was all that much of it going on at the Obama event: As Politico's Michael Calderone points out, most of the "White House press elite" weren't there because they were on their way to Moscow to cover Obama's trip to Russia, and the president himself left early.)