We don't normally comment on foreign press coverage of the Beltway, but this news report from Murdoch's Times of London regarding the Blago saga is so egregious, so dishonest and so bad, we thought it deserved attention. Especially in light of the fact how we noted last week that Murdoch's WSJ seemed to be straining the facts in order to hype the Blago story with an anti-Obama spin. Question: Has Murdoch issued marching orders to all his news orgs about this "scandal"?
Times of London headline: "Senate scandal snares Obama's chief aide."
The aide in question is Rahm Emanuel and as we pointed out last week Emanuel is not the target of any Blago-related investigation because he did nothing wrong. But the fact that Emanuel was referenced on the Blago wiretaps doing nothing wrong means to the Times that he's been "ensnared."
It gets worse. Here's the lead as written by Sarah Baxter [emphasis added]:
The bullish, foul-mouthed but effective Chicago arm-twister Rahm Emanuel has come under pressure to resign as Barack Obama's chief of staff after it was revealed that he had been captured on court-approved wire-taps discussing the names of candidates for Obama's Senate seat.
That's a new claim and the newspaper makes it in the article's very first sentence: Emanuel is under pressure to resign?! By whom, is the obvious question. Behold the Times' answer: "Grover Norquist, an influential conservative tax reform lobbyist." We kid you not. A professional GOP partisan throws out a pointless silly claim that Emanuel should be fired and Murdoch's newspaper treats it as breaking news.
Amazingly, the article gets even worse as Baxter, in a supposed news article, just becomes unhinged with the rhetoric in terms of Blago's impact on the president-elect:
-"the spiralling controversy has been an alarming distraction"
-"the scandal is lapping at Obama's own ankles."
-"Obama is himself embroiled in a sub-plot of the scandal with uncomfortable connections to Blagojevich"
Baxter also fantasizes in print about what might have occurred:
-"[Emanuel] may have been fully aware of what Blagojevich was attempting."
And about what might happen in the future:
-"If he were to throw him out of the inner circle now with his reputation under siege, it would be a singular act of disloyalty before the transition team has even had a chance to take office."
And it gets even worse when Baxter claimed matter-of-factly that "[Emanuel] is being investigated by Patrick Fitzgerald." Of course, Fitzgerald's team has made it perfectly clear Emanuel is not being investigated. But for Murdoch's Times, it makes for a better read if Emanuel is under the prosecutor's gun.
Sarah Baxter's news dispatch from Washington, from top to bottom, represents sham journalism, complete with invented facts and key omissions. And fair warning to Journal employees: Before Murdoch bought the Times of London it was considered to be a great newspaper.
Today? Not so much.
We noted earlier this year the problem with Rove's transformation from White House player to pundit if his new Murdoch paid outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, refuse to acknowledge that Rove remains active in GOP politics. That he's not just commenting on current events, he's trying to shape them. Like being an adviser to McCain's campaign in 2008.
If the Journal and FNC (as well as Newsweek, which also pays Rove to pontificate) are even going to pretend to hold Rove to any kind of journalism standards (that is, after all, what they're paying him to produce), they ought to come clean immediately about his role in the unfolding Holder story.
From the Trib's blog [emphasis added]:
The "unanswered questions'' -- as the Republican National Committee and others are calling them -- will continue to haunt President-elect Obama and staff in the sordid case of the Illinois governor accused of attempting to sell Obama's Senate seat. Until Obama, and his staff, answer them.
Take a knee Trib, because the breathlessness (Obama's haunted!) must leave everyone there exhausted.
Did Rahm Emanuel speak to Blago's team about filling Obama's senate seat? Yes. Is that in any way, shape, or form unusual? No. Is it illegal? Of course not. Are prosecutors targeting Emanuel in any way? No. Is the RNC hyping a non-story? Yes. Is the Trib doing the RNC's bidding? Gladly.
FYI, John McCain is not impressed by the RNC's attempt to hype the Blago story to the press.
Chris Beam unfurled a beloved Beltway CW as way to prop up the breathless Blago story in terms of it being an "Obama scandal." (And yes, in the last paragraph of his piece, Beam noted "The Blagojevich complaint leaves him pretty much untainted." Of course, if that had been in Beam's first paragraph the whole piece would have been pointless. Nifty trick, eh?)
According to Beam, this is what everyone within elite media circles agrees about scandals, and plus it's been true forever:
The first rule of political crisis management: Tell everything. Every megascandal, from Watergate to Monica, was exacerbated by the slow trickle of embarrassing information. Better to put it all out there at once, take the heat, and move on.
Personally, I admired how Beam immediately raised the specter of previous presidential impeachments when analyzing the Blago story. But the key point was that presidents always have to release all embarrassing information. Immediately. It's the only way to make a story go away. It's the only way to get the press to back off. And if presidents (or president-elects) don't immediately disclose every morsel of information, the tenacious Beltway press is never going to be satisfied.
To that I have a two word response: Harken Energy.
Think back to when that embarrassing presidential scandal broke in 2002. Did Bush instantly reveal every Harken-related fact, figure, time and date? Did the White House do everything it could to make sure journalists had as much relevant information as possible and do it in a timely fashion? Please.
But if Bush stonewalled, that meant the press hounded him mercilessly about his fishy Harken entanglements, right? Again, don't make us laugh.
Slate claims the press rules for presidents have been carved in stone for ages. Actually, the rules being applied to the Democrat today are exactly like the ones that applied to Clinton the Democrat in the 1990's. Yet for some miraculous reason the same rules did not apply to Bush the Republican, and people like Beam play dumb about it.
Here's a list of news orgs that have reported that one of Sen. Norm Coleman's big donors is under investigation for possibly try to funnel money his way:
New York Times, Houston Chronicle, Washington Times, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, UPI, Hotline, Salon, washingtonpost.com, usnews.com, CNN.
A news org that still hasn't yet touched the story? AP.
Actually, being right twice a day would be an improvement for the NYT columnist. He tops the "The 10 Worst Predictions for 2008" as compiled by Foreign Policy:
Weekly Standard editor and New York Times columnist William Kristol was hardly alone in thinking that the Democratic primary was Clinton's to lose, but it takes a special kind of self-confidence to make a declaration this sweeping more than a year before the first Iowa caucus was held. After Iowa, Kristol lurched to the other extreme, declaring that Clinton would lose New Hampshire and that "There will be no Clinton Restoration." It's also worth pointing out that this second wildly premature prediction was made in a Times column titled, "President Mike Huckabee?" The Times is currently rumored to be looking for his replacement.
Let's hope those rumors come to fruition.
(h/t Crooks and Liars)
Just to update our post below regarding the Sun-Times' remarkably bad Rahm Emanuel/Blago report, the AP is now reporting that prosecutors have more formally confirmed that Emanuel is not the target of any investigation because he did nothing wrong. But of course that won't stop the press from clinging on its Blago story. "This story will not go away," Politico's John Harris announced on Hardball, until the White House discloses who talked to Blago.
Again, not to be repetitious, but the press will remain in a frenzy until it finds out which Obama aides talked to Blago. Until it finds out which aides talked to Blago and did nothing wrong. This really has been a landmark week for the Beltway press.
And BTW, Emanuel, no doubt thanks to the wildly irresponsible reporting this week, has received Blago-related death threats.
Digby is, as usual, right:
These trumped up scandals present a serious Catch 22 for politicians. If they are prudent and follow the law, they will use careful and precise language. If they follow their political instincts and play these situations like the soap opera the media demands, they will deny everything in the most emotional terms. Either way they are screwed.
The Catch 22 may be the defining characteristic of the media's coverage of (Democratic) faux-scandals. They want their controversy, and they're going to get it one way or another. Take that Howard Kurtz complaint that Obama waited too long -- 24 hours! -- to call for Blago's resignation. Is it even remotely difficult to imagine what would have happened had Obama made the resignation request an hour after Fitzgerald announced the criminal complaint? He'd have been criticized for doing so prematurely -- recklessly, even. And there's no doubt some reporter would speculate that Obama's haste was evidence that he has something to hide.
Anxious to keep the Blago drama percolating, many in the press have decided that among the most pressing question facing the nation is who on Obama's staff may have talked to Blago about filling Obama's senate seat. If you read the coverage and listen to the talking heads, you know this is hugely important.
Why? We're not sure since prosecutors don't even hint that any conservations that took place between the two camps were improper. Indeed, it would bizarre if Obama aides hadn't reached out to the governor about filling the president-elect's seat.
But none of that matters now because Obama and his aides won't talk, or so we're told. We need to know who talked to Blago and told him Obama wouldn't play ball for any kind of deal. Who told the corrupt pol to forget about getting any kind of deal from Obama. Follow? We need to know who talked to Blago and did the right thing. But of course, the press leaves off the did-the-thing part, and simply obsesses over who talked to Blago because that sounds more sinister. (There's a criminal complaint!)
Let's note the Chicago Sun-Times whose Blago/Emanuel article has landed top honors at the Drudge Report. Headline [emphasis added]: "Is Emanuel the adviser on gov tape? MUM: Obama's chief of staff refuses to answer the question."
Oh my. And the lead:
President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refused to take questions from reporters this morning about whether he was the Obama "advisor" named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Looks shady, no? And where did Emanuel duck reporters questions? Where did he refuse to come clean to the Sun-Times? At his kids' school concert. No joke. Behold:
Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama's news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago's City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet. A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.
He's barely out to door of CNN Headlines News and on his way to Fox, and already Beck is revising his CNNHN stint. In a Q&A with Time, Beck claims:
I also think they made me a better broadcaster because, believe me, I was the most well-researched show on CNN. They never let me get away with anything. At the time, it was like, come on guys, cut me some slack. But in retrospect, they made me better. I know what I know because they forced me to document it.
CNN made Beck document everything on that show. Except, of course, when CNN did not: