In September, I detailed how Fox's Chris Wallace, who used to enjoy sort of hold himself up being part from the boisterous Fox News, how Wallace like to present himself as the adult supervising the Fox News romper room, had gulped the kool-aid and embraced the Glenn Beck era of Fox Land.
So just a couple thoughts re: Wallace's recent Limbaugh interview. Watching a Sunday morning talk show host leaving his D.C. studio and flying half way across the country to interview a AM talk show host really told us all we needed to know about the state of Wallace's journalism career, and how he had completely abdicated any sense of professionalism. It also told us all we needed to know about Wallace's last place Sunday morning show, which has been in the cellar longer than the Oakland Raiders. Meaning, going to kiss Limbaugh ring, to me at least, certainly had the air of desperation to it, as Wallace practically groveled for a one-time ratings spike via Limbaugh's large radio audience.
As for the interview itself? You expected actual journalism on display? Didn't think so. The whole thing was just a 30-minute Obama-bashing infomercial for Limbaugh. But this comment by Wallace, made to to the Fox online audience as Wallace tried to drum up interest in the softball interview, caught my attention [emphasis original]:
I was surprised by the strength of his feelings about this president.
Got that? Chris Wallace sat down to interview Rush Limbaugh who, in 2009, has literally run out of way to express his unabiding contempt, disgust and outright hatred for the President of the United States, and the tuned-out Fox anchor was surprised to find out Limbaugh really didn't like Obama.
Chris Wallace is a supposedly serious journalist, and Chris Wallace was surprised to find out that Rush Limbaugh really dislikes Obama?
That's just another example of how Chris Wallace has become irrelevant.
UPDATED: Crooks and Liars' John Amato did a nice job dismantling Wallace Sunday performance:
Chris Wallace had a chance to prove to America that he actually has journalistic integrity and is not part of the Fox Sphere of phony reporting when he interviewed Rush Limbaugh on Fox News Sunday. What we got was FOX News #1, fair and balanced reporter acting like a bowl of jelly for Limbaugh's rants.
Like we said, in terms of serous journalism, Chris Wallace has become irrelevant.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his November 2 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
From the turbo talker:
"I think he's got an out-of-this-world ego. He's very narcissistic. And he's able to focus all attention on him all the time."
You don't say.
Newsmax has apparently learned nothing from the controversy over columnist John L. Perry calling for a military coup against President Obama. It has followed WorldNetDaily by publishing a column by Pat Boone calling for a "tenting" of the White House.
As we noted, Boone describes the current residents of the White House has "social and political voracious varmints" who need to be dealt with, "figuratively, but in a very real way," through tenting: "Experts come in, actually envelope the whole dwelling in a giant tent -- and send a very powerful fumigant, lethal to the varmints and unwelcome creatures, into every nook and cranny of the house. Done thoroughly, every last destructive insect or rodent is sent to varmint hell -- and in a day or two, the grand house is habitable again."
Newsmax actually showed some responsibility by removing Perry's column (though not to the point where it apologized to its readers for publishing it in the first place). Will Newsmax show the same quasi-responsibility here by curbing Boone's eliminationist rhetoric?
As for Boone, his eliminationist rhetoric pretty much destroys his nice-guy reputation, much more than his heavy-metal album did.
UPDATE: Newsmax seems to have placed Boone's column in some sort of stealth mode -- the link is still active as of this writing, but it's been removed from Boone's article archive.
Sometimes it's healthy to step back from the blaring din of political news coverage, separate oneself from the gritty minutiae of polling data and CBO scores, and look at issues of broader significance and deeper meaning, if only to obtain a fleeting dose of perspective before plunging back into the cable news fray. In that spirit, I wandered over to Dan Gilgoff's God & Country blog at USNews.com, which is featuring a written debate on Darwin, evolution, and Creationism between National Center for Science Education executive director Eugenie Scott and New Zealand-born minister Ray Comfort. Comfort, as I noted last month, is celebrating the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species by publishing his own edition of the landmark scientific work with a 50-page Creationist screed tacked on as an introduction, and this re-release of Darwin is the very the reason Scott and Comfort are locking horns.
The initial posts from Comfort and Scott should immediately clue you in to the motivations each person brought to the debate. Comfort's opening statement is little more than a pitch for his books and television program. He carries on about commenters on Amazon.com and atheists, and lobs insults at Richard Dawkins with the likely goal of getting Dawkins to respond. Only once does he attempt to address issues of scientific weight, and the result is comically absurd. Comfort writes that "believers in evolution" cite as evidence "small bumps on whale bones (proving it once had legs), or experiments with bacteria, or conjecture that modern turkeys were once dinosaurs." His response, in its entirety, is a sneering "Sure." To finish things off, he mocks Mormons and "believers in evolution" as being equally foolish and gullible.
Scott's riposte, on the other hand, is a thoughtful dissection of Comfort's publicity stunt. She observes that Comfort, in addition to appending his introduction to Origin, excised "no fewer than four crucial chapters" that contain "some of Darwin's strongest evidence for evolution." Responding to Comfort's mockery of "small bumps on whale bones" and "conjecture that modern turkeys were once dinosaurs," Scott points out that there "are splendid fossils of dinosaurs that have feathers and of whales that have legs-and even feet." (See: Georgiacetus vogtlensis and Beipiaosaurus inexpectus.) I particularly enjoyed Scott's closing line, in which she expressed her "faith that college students are sharp enough to realize that Comfort's take on Darwin and evolution is simply bananas" - a sly reference to Comfort's well-known and widely mocked theory that bananas prove the existence of God.
There's an argument to be made that the media should not grant publicity-seeking clowns like Ray Comfort legitimacy they haven't earned by allowing them a seat at the table, and the best support for that argument is the sort of nonsense that Comfort brought to bear in his opening statement for USNews.com. But if a crank like Comfort is going to get his 15 minutes, then it's helpful to pair him with someone like Scott, whose measured grasp of scientific reality makes Comfort's cynicism and self-promotion seem all the more crass.
Baltimore: The filibuster is out of control. Why should 40 Republicans get to veto what the majority wants? Do you think we'll ever get filibuster reform? It wasn't always like this -- filibusters used to be rare.
Perry Bacon Jr.: The Democrats filibustered lots and lots of things from 2003 to 2007.
Bacon's questioner is right. Filibusters used to be much more rare. It's hard to believe it's even possible that a Washington Post political reporter would be unaware of this basic fact. And yet, here we are, with Bacon pretending there's nothing unusual about the Republicans' use of the filibuster.
Then another questioner (who apparently reads this blog) noted that last week Bacon wrote "I think we may have misstated the strength of the opposition to the public option in the first place" and asked Bacon to explain why the media got it wrong. Here's Bacon's response:
Perry Bacon Jr.: I'm skeptical of polling on issues as complicated as the public option that I think I fairly complicated. I'm still convinced the most energy around that issue is conservatives opposed it, as opposed to liberals backing it. Polls often don't influence what Congress does because polls don't reflect intensity, who is calling offices, etc. I think the big thing here was not the polls, but the intensity of the public option supporters in Nevada, as they pressed Harry Reid on this issue.
I'm sorry, but ... Huh? Bacon said (last week) he and the rest of the media overstated the strength of opposition to the public option. Asked to explain how and why that happened, he says he's skeptical of polling, that he's "still convinced the most energy around that issue is conservatives opposed it," then says "the big thing here was ... The intensity of the public option supporters in Nevada." Not only is that seemingly random and contradictory, it doesn't have anything to do with the question.
The candidates Democrats recruited in 2006 and 2008 are pro-life and pro-gun
Following the November 7  midterm elections, Media Matters for America examined the policy positions of those Democratic House candidates who, as of the morning of November 8, had defeated Republican incumbents or been elected to open seats previously held by Republicans.
Only five of the 27 candidates describe themselves as "pro-life."
Connecticut, born and bred: How come none of you ace political reporters are asking Joe Lieberman a very simple and obvious question - why is he against the public option when polls clearly show that more than 60 percent of Connecticut residents support it? Aren't elected officials supposed to represent the beliefs of their constituents? We ain't Texas - start listening to us Joe, or in 3 years I guarantee that you'll be out of office.
Perry Bacon Jr.: Well, Connecticut, lots of poeple [sic] there didn't like the Iraq War, and Lieberman still has his seat. I take him at his word he thinks the public option is bad public policy.
Why would you do that? Lieberman's stated reasons for opposing the public option appear to be bunk. Why would a reporter think it's appropriate to take "at his word" a politician whose words seem to be at odds with reality?
This press trend has now become something of a stampede. Looking ahead to tomorrow's three off-year elections, the political press is interested in one storyline, and one storyline only: what if Democrats lose?
As we noted last week, that laser-like focus is a bit odd since according to available polling, Democrats stand a reasonable chances of winning two of the three races; the scrambled special Congressional election in NY-23, as well as retaining the NJ governorship. (The VA. gov. race looks like a lock for the GOP.) Yet rather than pondering the implications for Republicans if they lose (again) on Election Day, the media direction is focused in one direction only; towards the Dems.
The latest entry in this bad-news-for-Democrats movement came from The Wall Street Journal:
Virginia Race Tests Obama's Staying Power
That seems monumentally dumb. The Journal's news team actually suggests that a state-wide election in VA. will indicate whether Obama wins a second term three years from now?
But the meat of the article is worse than the headline, as the piece completely ignores indications that Democrats might do well this week [emphasis added]:
In Virginia, as in New Jersey, Republicans have pushed aggressively to tie the Democratic candidate to Mr. Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress, whose efforts on health care and the economy are unpopular with some voters. The Republican Governor's Association spent about $13 million on TV ads in the two states.
That's the Journal's only mention of the NJ race in the entire article about off-year elections and the possible implications for the Democratic White House. The Journal makes no reference to the fact that the GOP candidate in NJ blown his double-digit lead since this summer. Pondering the ramifications of Tuesday's election, the Journal chooses to ignore N.J.
UPDATED: On ABC's Good Morning America today, more GOP-friendly spin:
"You can tell how much the White House may be anticipating to have a bad day tomorrow by how much they're already saying the results won't say anything" about the president's political standing."
I have no idea who is going to win on Tuesday. But neither do reporters and pundits, who seem only interested in one storyline.
UPDATED: Am I the only one who thinks it's odd that the press often lumps in the N.Y.-23 special election into articles about what the Tuesday votes will say about Obama's political standing, when N.Y.-23 hasn't sent a Democrat to Congress since the 1800's?
Over the weekend, the Washington Post quoted Republican Senator Jim DeMint asserting that Republicans "don't need The Washington Post to cover things anymore ... Something can get on a conservative blog, then on Fox News, then it's everywhere."
It's true: conservative blogs often set the agenda for Fox News shows - with the rest of the media following in tow. Perhaps most infamously, in 2007, Fox & Friends gave widespread promotion to the bubbling smear on conservative blogs that then-Senator Barack Obama attended a madrassa as a child.
DeMint's view of Fox News as part of the GOP's messaging strategy is echoed among other members of his party. A quick sampling:
Bachmann, a frequent guest on Fox News, knows how Fox News works as a political organization. Bachmann recently appeared on Hannity to promote her re-election website and a protest against health care reform. And during the debate over cap and trade, Bachmann and Beck (who has offered to fundraise for her) implored viewers to call Congress to oppose "that national energy tax."
The Republican chorus that Fox News is a part of GOP messaging is something that Fox News has as much admitted, with executives describing the network as the "voice of opposition" and "the Alamo" during the Obama administration.
Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon, giving undue attention to right-wing media critics:
Perry Bacon Jr.: The New Mexico governor Bill Richardsson was basically denied a Cabinet post on the basis of a scandal for which little has proven. The Post has highlighted the problems of Jack Abramoff, a mainly Republican lobbyist, but also John Murtha, a veteran Democrat. Not sure I see much here, although I know Andrew Brietbart, who I worked on these ACORN videos and is a big media critic who I wrote a piece about last week, claims conservatives scandals are covered much more than liberal ones.
Sigh. Why would Bacon take that seriously? Why would he think Breitbart's claim is so important, it deserves to be the only media criticism he mentions? And how can any Washington Post reporter cite complaints that "conservatives scandals are covered much more than liberal ones" without responding with the words "Whitewater" or "Lewinsky"? Or, for that matter, "Harken"?