Fleisher appeared on Fox News this afternoon to criticize Sen. Arlen Specter's decision to jump to the Democratic Party today.
Specifically, Fleisher thought Specter's move was dishonorable and that Specter should have done what Sen. Joe Lieberman did in CT when he faced a tough inner-party challenge: take his lumps in the primary and then run as an independent in the general election.
You know there is a case where somebody actually did it honorably, and that was Joe Lieberman. He stood his ground, stood his principles, lost his primary and said I have more to offer, and ran as an Independent in a 3-way race, and the people of Connecticut elected him. Sen. Specter could have chosen that path. It would have been the more honorable, principled path.
Slight problem. According to PA election law, a candidate who loses a primary challenge cannot run in the general election, even if he/she becomes an independent.
Hint: It ain't good.
Two recent headlines:
Gibbs gives nonanswers at briefing
Obama gets ahead of prompter
The first 'news' story was about how WH spokesman Robert Gibbs did not fully answers all the questions posed to him at Monday's daily briefing, which, in the longview of WH briefings, is equivalent to the headline, "Sun rises in the east." (Think Scott McClellan and Ari Fleischer for the masters of the nonanswer.) But Gibbs did it this week so according to Politico, it was news.
The second 'news' item was, sadly, pretty self-explanatory.
It's like Politico knew I was going to write a column called "100 Days of the media's trivial pursuits."
With Arlen Specter's switch to the Democratic Party, Al Franken will be the 60th Democratic Senator Senator caucusing as a Democrat when he is eventually seated. That has led to a lot of media speculation that Norm Coleman, the Republican Senator Franken defeated last Fall, to continue to drag out his lawsuits, preventing Franken from being seated for as long as possible. Now Politico's Glenn Thrush reports that Coleman's campaign has released a statement "regarding Sen. Specter's party switch" in which Coleman's campaign manager insists they will "keep on fighting."
So, it seems pretty clear that Coleman is not "fighting" to win, but rather to keep Franken from being seated for as long as possible (why else would they have a statement on Specter's switch?) And the media knows this; that has been clear in their comments about Coleman today. So when will they begin asking and investigating the obvious question: What's in it for Coleman? What does he get in return for delaying Franken's seating as long as he can?
Joe Scarborough on MSNBC, talking about the Specter switch, and sounding more like a Republican Party activist than a journalist (for the second time today):
The problem is that the Republican Party has become a Southern, conservative party. Our leaders have been George W. Bush from Texas, Tom DeLay from Texas, Newt Gingrich from Georgia, Dick Armey from Texas. We are a party that talks with a Southern twang. There is good reason why we have been culturally disconnected from New England, good reason why we have been culturally disconnected from the Pacific Northwest, good reason why we've been disconnected from California and the Midwest.
Or it does, and also plays dumb very well. (Distinct possibility.)
Here's Rick Klein's Note lede today, as he props up the claim that Obama gets a free pass from the press:
This is a fun day to play an old game: What would we be buzzing about if George W. Bush was still president? What, that is, would the storyline be the day after a fighter jet and a plane used as Air Force One spooked New York City, all for a photo op?
President Obama probably doesn't have to find out -- and therein rests a very big secret to his early success. This is Day 99, and proclamations to the contrary notwithstanding, the honeymoon is not over.
See, Obama's got it made because the press didn't make a big deal about the plane that spooked NYC. But boy, if it had happened under Bush, the press would have played it up big time!
Yeah, except that the plane story's A1, above-the-fold news in the New York Times today, has been all over the web for 24 hours, and been covered regularly (relentlessly?) on TV. Except for that, The Note is right that the fly-by story failed to create a news buzz.
One of the worst things about the media's coverage of policy is that it tends to focus on the politics of the policy (and that it often gets the politics wrong, but that's another story) rather than on the actual merits and efficacy of the policy. All too often when a question of policy comes up, a reporter will immediately turn it into a political question. See for example yesterday's exchange between Norah O'Donnell and Jon Decker about torture.
Here's an all-to-rare example of the opposite: During today's online discussion, Washington Post reporter Alex MacGillis was asked about the politics of swine flu - and immediately turned it into a policy question:
Arlington, Va.: Wouldn't the safe political move for Obama be to close the border with Mexico as called for by Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.)? While some few in the US have been exposed, why keep the border open and allow tens of thousands of passengers and drivers, who have either been infected or exposed to the disease in Mexico, enter the US every day? Isn't the administration gambling with the nation's health in order to prevent the airlines and transportation industries from taking a short-term financial hit?
Alec MacGillis: I'm sure all options have been considered. But it's interesting that you plug this as a 'safe political move', and not necessarily something that's necessary from public health standpoint. The president might score some points at home, but one has to bear in mind that such a move would be deeply unpopular with Mexico, which is already upset at us over our role in the drug war that is wreaking such havoc there. Also bear in mind that such a closure would hurt not only airlines and transportation but the enormous amount of back and forth that occurs on a daily basis along the border -- there are tens of thousands who live in Mexico and work in the US, and vice versa.
Good for MacGillis. More like this, please.
The Newsbusters crew, not yet over the fainting spell they went through upon learning that longtime friends Rahm Emanuel and George Stephanopoulos talk on the telephone, thinks it has found more evidence of a shadowy leftist cabal. Here's Warner Todd Huston, under the overheated headline "WaPost Shocker: Obama Staffers Attend Secret Dinners With Lefty Media":
HUSTON: The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz has let the cat out of the bag in the Post's April 27 issue about a regularly scheduled secret media dinner attended by some of the top left-wing journalists in the country. But it isn't just the lefty scribblers that have attended these secret, off-the-record dinners for these gatherings have each featured a guest. Rahm Emanuel, Sec. of the Treasury Tim Geithner, and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke have all recently had their chance to schmooze the press and guide them with the spin desired by the White House.
So, not only does Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have secret daily phone calls with which to program the media's coverage of the White House, now it is revealed that Emanuel and other Obama staffers have been attending secret dinners to help the press understand what the White House wants reported? As Kurtz says, it all sounds "rather cozy," doesn't it?
Huston continues: "The secret dinners for Obama staffers and his boosters in the Old Media have been going on for 'more than a year' and are sponsored by David Bradley, the owner of the Atlantic."
That's a pretty glaring distortion of Kurtz' report; the "secret dinners for Obama staffers" are actually dinners that sometimes involve Obama staffers. Other guests have included Karl Rove, General David Petraeus, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and GE's Jeffrey Immelt.
More Huston: "In attendance have been some of the most well known lefty journalists in Washington. Not surprisingly, not a single name mentioned in the Kurtz report is conservative." Huston then quoted a paragraph in which Kurtz listed some of the regular attendees. The very first name listed? Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Still more Huston:
HUSTON: Kurtz tries to liken these secret media programing dinners to those long-held dinners put on by Godfrey Sperling until he retired from the Christian Science Monitor. But those dinners were not secret, were on the record, and were also not by invite only as are the Atlantic's dinners.
Wow, Huston really caught Kurtz pulling a fast one, huh? Oh, wait - Kurtz drew precisely the same differences between the Sperling and Bradley gatherings that Huston pretends Kurtz ignored:
KURTZ: Bradley, a native Washingtonian, had long been intrigued by the Sperling breakfasts, the 35-year ritual conducted by the Christian Science Monitor's Godfrey Sperling until his retirement. But those were on-the-record affairs open to any hungry journalist, while Bradley's dinners are both uber-exclusive and decidedly discreet.
Finally, Huston admits that some of the dinner guests have been conservatives. But he tries to explain it away - unsurprising, since it destroys his premise that the dinners are "secret dinners for Obama staffers":
HUSTON: Kurtz also reports that a few Bush folks have been invited to the dinner. Carl Rove is mentioned, but one rather assumes he had long since left the Bush White Hose before that invite came. From Kurtz' reporting, it seems rather clear that this secret dinner has been rather more left-leaning than not.
I'm not sure why it matters if Rove had left the Bush White House before he was invited to the dinner; it isn't like he has since become a liberal Democrat. But I do rather think that Huston would be rather well-served by being rather more careful about his writing, given that just two days ago he posted a lengthy screed attacking Sean Penn as an "illiterate":
HUSTON: Penn's brand is proof of the lowest quality of education. I mean the man can barely put two words together sensibly much less exhibit a grasp of grammar and syntax. It really is a crime how badly he's been educated.
It's "Karl" Rove, Warner. Not "Carl." And the President lives and works in the "White House," not the "White Hose."
Joe Scarborough, sounding more like the Republican congressman he once was than the journalist he's supposed to be, said this morning that people should "blame Dana Priest" if "planes go into buildings," because the Washington Post reporter exposed waterboarding.
As Atrios noted, Scarborough essentially came out in opposition to journalism. The kind of journalism that has actual value, anyway. Journalism like Dana Priest's is all too rare in a media climate that values empty snark and mindless horse-race obsession over investigation and information. Priest's work should be held up as a goal for journalists to aspire to, not attacked.
Along with the demagoguery of his attack on Priest, Scarborough also assumes that torture works, and works better than the alternatives. There's plenty of evidence to the contrary. And the best "evidence" supporting that assumptions pretty much boils down to the tired statement that "we haven't been attacked since 9/11." Lisa Simpson has explained the flaws in that reasoning:
Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
UPDATE: For what it's worth, Scarborough has repeatedly said Priest did not first disclose waterboarding. 12 days ago, for example: "Newsweek wrote about waterboarding in 2003 after we captured Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, nobody said a word. Suddenly Dana Priest writes an article, everybody`s stunned. Stunned, this is going on?"
The one Howard Kurtz mentioned in his column Monday. It was released this week by the Center for Media and Public Affairs and this was the angle CMPA played up:
The media have given President Obama more coverage than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton combined and more positive coverage than either received at this point in their presidencies, according to a new study by researchers at George Mason and Chapman Universities.
CMPA makes no conclusions about the uptick in Obama coverage, but it's no stretch to assume conservatives will seize upon it to claim that the press has been rewarding Obama with far more press attention than reporters gave to Bush in early 2001.
Here's the thing about that: Bush aides in January and February wanted less press coverage for the new president. They claimed Bill Clinton had been overexposed and wanted to draw the curtain back for Bush. WH aides Mary Matalin told the Washington Post in April 2001, that Clinton had talked too much--"[he] would just get there and talk about anything, any time, and place"--and that Bush would be more "efficient" in the way he made news."
As I noted earlier this year:
What a coincidence. The White House wanted less coverage and scrutiny from the press in 2001 (when Bush often appeared unsure of himself in public settings), and the GOP White House got less coverage and scrutiny.
So the media's lack of early Bush presidency coverage was not a sign of disdain. It was a sign that the press was, from the get-go, taking its orders from the GOP WH.