The beauty of the Internet: we say it here and comes out there.
Last week we were very critical of an A1 Post story that declared without the slightest bit of evidence that "the public" was abandoning the Obama White House over the unfolding bonus scandal. This week during his weekly online chat with readers, Kurtz was asked about the article from a questioner who used our CF post as the premise.
Kurtz defending the Post article by saying he "didn't think the piece was opinionated."
Hmm, Let's take a look:
President Obama's apparent inability to block executive bonuses at insurance giant AIG has dealt a sharp blow to his young administration and is threatening to derail both public and congressional support for his ambitious political agenda.
Post proof in the article that the AIG story was "threatening" to derail Obama's entire agenda? Proof as in quotes from independent experts, telling anecdotes, or polling data? None.
The populist anger at the executives who ran their firms into the ground is increasingly blowing back on Obama, whom aides yesterday described as having little recourse in the face of legal contracts that guaranteed those bonuses.
Post proof in the article that the AIG was "blowing back" on Obama? None.
Obama himself sought to channel the public's sense of disbelief yesterday.
Post proof in the article that Obama was simply trying to "channel" disbelief, rather than expressing his own actual disbelief? None.
But the bonus issue, in particular, is hounding Obama as he pursues his larger goals, in part because of the president's own repeated declarations of outrage -- offered again yesterday -- aimed especially at the firms that are feeding at the public trough.
Post proof in the article that the AIG issue was "hounding" Obama? None.
Post reporters last week knew exactly the tale they wanted to tell. The problem was they didn't even go through the normal motions of assembling quasi-evidence to back it up. Instead they wrote a news story that simply expressed how they felt the AIG story was playing; how they thought the "public" would react.
The Post's online reader was right: the piece belonged on the opinion pages.
UPDATE: Actual polling data now exists and we know the press was dead wrong when it claimed the public was blaming Obama. Not even close.
Here's what Mr. "Punch Drunk" told Howie Kurtz about interviewing the POTUS, just hours before Kroft's Obama interview aired on 60 Minutes Sunday night [emphasis added]:
"I think that interviews with presidents are different than almost anything else. They're sort of the last bastion of civility ... particularly when you're in the Oval Office. You're not supposed to wag your finger at him, and you're not supposed to get -- it's supposed to be civil. And so you always try and keep that in mind."
Keenly aware that Oval Office interviews are supposed to be especially civil, what did Kroft do? He inserted himself into the story--he manufactured news--by asking Obama the idiotic and disrespectful question about whether the president was "punch drunk."
Obama had smiled and laughed a couple times during the interview. Once was in response to an even dumber question from Kroft (see here). And in another instance, Obama used what he called "gallows humor" to acknowledge the fact that public support for bailing out the U.S. auto workers had collapsed. And from there, Kroft began lecturing Obama--figuratively wagging his finger at him--about laughing too much, and then he asked a juvenile question about being punch drunk.
As conservative Fred Barnes noted yesterday, Kroft's left-field query was "extremely disrespectful and rude."
So much for Kroft being "civil."
A month ago, Stuart Rothenberg used his Roll Call column to tout the possibility that 2010 could be "the start of a comeback for the GOP in the Northeast." Today, Politico runs what is essentially the same article, headlined "GOP sees signs of life in Northeast."
Though he devoted nearly 1,300 words to the article, Politico reporter Josh Kraushaar couldn't find space to quote or paraphrase a single Democrat. That would be bad enough if the article simply included comments from Republicans predicting electoral success. But Kraushaar includes Republican attacks on Democrats, such as this:
Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), who entered the race last week, immediately blasted Dodd for "failing in his oversight duties" as chairman. And he accused Democrats of backing legislation that would stifle economic growth - sounding off on the major theme of his campaign.
How do Dodd and other Democrats respond to these charges? Do they have anything critical to say about Simmons and the Republicans? Politico doesn't think it matters. One side of the story is plenty.
The 23rd paragraph of the Politico article does, however, begin "Not everything is looking rosy for Northeastern Republicans." Sadly, that's as close as it comes to balance.
FOX contributor Newt Gingrich is upset:
To which Matt Cooper replies:
That isn't really fair to Newt, though. Gingrich has only been divorced twice so far. There was Jackie, his former high school math teacher, whom he divorced as she was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery, and Marianne, whom he married shortly after divorcing Jackie, and with whom he was still married when he began his relationship with Callista -- an affair that occurred around the time he was promising to never give another speech as Speaker of the House without mentioning the Lewinsky scandal. He and Callista are still married.
Anyway, in fairness to Gingrich, that's only two divorces.
UPDATE: Maybe Gingrich was just getting a head start on displaying the enthusiasm of the convert. Chris Cillizza reported today:
Gingrich To Become a Catholic Saturday: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will officially convert to Catholicism this Saturday at St. Joseph's in Washington, D.C. The move has long been planned -- the New York Times Matt Bai mentioned it in a profile of Gingrich last month -- and will allow Gingrich and his wife, Calista, to practice the same faith. (Gingrich was a Baptist for much of his life.) Let the "what does this mean for 2012" speculation begin!
So he isn't even a Catholic yet, and he's already lecturing Notre Dame about how best to uphold Catholic values. Nice.
We already mocked the NYT for echoing the chattering class' claim that Obama, thanks to the AIG story, suffered a "cataclysmic" week, last week.
That sky-is-falling meme was everywhere:
--"[Obama] did not seem at all concerned about what the press has been playing up as his worst week." (CBS's Steve Kroft, quoted in the WashPost.)
--"Not a good week at all for Obama." (Pollster John Zogby, quoted in US News & World Report.) Zogby graded Obama's week as a C-.
--"Another bad week for the Obama administration." (New York Post editorial.)
--"This has been the Obama administration's lost week." (ABC's The Note.)
--"For Barack Obama, it was a horrible way to end the week, but perhaps that was only fitting: it had been a horrible week." (Guardian UK)
But we thought the press was sure "the public" was going to blame Obama for the AIG fiasco; that it was "hounding" Obama, as the WashPost announced last week. Yeah, not so much.
According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, Obama's pretty much the last person voters are blaming for the AIG bonuses. And this may shock members of the Beltway press, many of whom tripped over themselves last week to announce "the public" was furious with Obama, but according to the polling data, when asked who they blamed for the AIG bonuses, most Americans said...AIG.
The Dow is now up more 1,000 points since Bloomberg published the March 6 White House take-down, "'Obama Bear Market' Punishes Investors as Dow Slumps." Bloomberg's Eric Martin quoted lots of Wall Street insiders claiming Obama's agenda was driving the market down. That it was punishing investors and the new White House just didn't get The Street.
It was that Bloomberg article that legitimized the simplistic right-wing claim that Obama, in office for just a few weeks, was personally responsible for the Dow's decline; a Dow that had already fallen 6,000 points under Bush.
But since that hit piece, the stock market has rebounded strongly, capped off by yesterday's nearly 500-point rally. Still nothing though, from Bloomberg's Eric Martin about the 'Obama Bear Market.'
We'll continue to keep you posted and let you know when Bloomberg revisits the topic.
UPDATE: Turns out Bloomberg News' Eric Martin did write about the Obama rally, just hours before I posted this item. My apologies.
Charles Babington files a dispatch.
Headlined, "SPIN METER: Obama cools rhetoric on AIG bonuses."
Here's the painfully bad lead:
President Barack Obama raced to the front of the pitchfork crowd last week, feeding public furor over bonuses paid to publicly rescued companies. But now, amid signs that rescinding the bonuses might undermine his financial-sector bailout plan, the president is waving an olive branch.
That's right. According to the AP, Obama spent last week feeding public furor with some apparently wild rhetoric about AIG bonuses. This week, not so much.
That struck us as odd because we remember reading lots of theater critiques last week about how Obama wasn't being animated enough; that he was acting too cool and was lagging behind the public outrage over AIG. But according to Babington, Obama was out front of the angry pack and was in fact feeding it.
So what exactly did Obama say last week to suggest he was feeding the angry mobs? Wouldn't you know it, Babington forgets to quote angry Obama. It's true. The entire premise of the article is suggesting that Obama's rhetoric changed on the topic of AIG; how it went from hot to cold. Yet nowhere in the article does Babington ever quote what Obama said about AIG last week.
In an article all about Obama's rhetoric, the AP leaves out any specific examples of Obama's "pitchfork" rhetoric.
Like we said, just when you thought...
We already noted how painfully dumb one of the questions Steve Kroft posed to Obama was on 60 Minutes; a question that prompted a laugh from Obama. And a laugh which then prompted Kroft to ask the absurd question of whether Obama was "punch drunk."
That's how the story was first manufactured; Kroft asked a dumb question and then followed it up with a bizarre, non sequitur ("punch drunk") premise.
Now, in order to keep the story afloat it's important for other members of the press to play dumb about what exactly Obama was laughing about. Enter Mary Ann Akers at washingtonpost.com [emphasis added]:
The most memorable moment of the president's interview on "60 Minutes" Sunday night came when reporter Steve Kroft asked, "Are you punch drunk?" That came after Obama, in what could otherwise be deemed a nearly flawless interview, inexplicably chuckled as he talked about the disaster that is the nation's economy.
See, Kroft's manufactured moment was "the most memorable" of the 20-minute interview. That's a must if you're inside the Beltway today. Nothing was more important. Second, note what Obama was laughing at: "the disaster that is the nation's economy." Oh my, that doesn't sound good. Why would a president laugh about that?
Answer: That's not what prompted the biggest laugh from Obama. Obama laughed at how the only thing today less popular than the government bailing out the banks, is the government bailing out America's car manufacturers. That was the gallows humor that was referenced.
But Akers, who wrote a whole item on whether Obama should have laughed, made sure to pretend that the president was laughing on TV "about the disaster that is the nation's economy."
Basically, the only way the "punch drunk" story lives is if lots of journalists do their jobs poorly. Unfortunately for Obama, the Beltway has lots of eager participants.
But most of the anger we see and hear comes from people who are paid to be angry, on cue, on cable television--as opposed to people with actual grievacnes. Suddenly, the White House press corps goes barking mad over the AIG Bonuses. It is said that the bonuses are an aspect of the bust that the "public" can understand; in truth, the bonuses are an aspect of the bust that reporters can understand. Suddenly, the Obama Administration has a "crisis." The President has to go on television and act as if he's angry, even though he knows these bonuses are the tiniest outcropping of outrageousness.
If you want to be angry about something, get pissed at a media culture that goes beserk about bonuses one week and forgets all about them the next. And be worried, quite worried, about a society for whom anger is a form of entertainment.