We're talking about the right-wing obsession with Fairness Doctrine, and how the conservative media, much to our amazement, continues to elevate the relatively minor media-related debate into a tip-top priority for the GOP.
Writes Steven Benen, who shares our sense of wonder:
Everyone from obscure right-wing bloggers to Rush Limbaugh to Washington Post columnists are prepared for a fight that isn't going to happen.
And yet, the nonsense doesn't stop. Perusing the news this morning, there are still more conservative columnists railing against the "plan" to bring back the fairness doctrine, and unhinged propaganda about the "unprecedented government assault upon the First Amendment" that is allegedly on the way.
The New Republic's Marin Cogan asked around, trying to find Democrats who actually support bringing the fairness doctrine back, or media-reform liberals who might push for action on this. Cogan couldn't find any.
This is some pretty weak tea, courtesy of the AP.
First the unfortunate headline: "Napolitano is no stranger to Washington scandals."
And here's the lead:
President-elect Barack Obama's likely pick for Homeland Security secretary, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, is no stranger to headline-making Washington scandals and controversies.
Napolitano was a U.S. attorney in Phoenix, appointed by former President Bill Clinton, when the Justice Department decided against prosecuting Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's wife, Cindy, for the theft of prescription drugs from her medical charity.
First, what does being the U.S. attorney in Phoenix have to do with "Washington scandals"? Shouldn't Napolitano, like, be in Washington to play a part in "Washington scandals"?
Second, we'd suggest that to most casual news consumers the AP headlines certainly indicates Napolitano was the subject of the controversies, not that she, in the everyday duties of her job, simply oversaw prosecutions that were deemed controversial. Meaning, the press should probably resist throwing around terms like "Washington scandals" in reference to public officials who are making their introduction on the national stage if the officials themselves did nothing controversial.
In an article about how Holder will likely become Obama's AG nomination, the Times, like so many in the press, plays up as a huge deal the relatively modest role Holder had in the Marc Rich pardon scandal that marked the end of the Clinton administration.
According to the newspaper's headline Holder is "haunted" by the Marc Rich scandal (Oh my.) And in the lead, the Times announces rather breathlessly that Holder's name was "dragged very publicly through the mud" by the pardon ordeal. (Oh my!)
To prove what a huge ordeal the mostly forgotten saga was for Holder, the Times quotes from some anonymous GOP staffers as well as RNC-issued talking points and allegations, like Holder looked the other way regarding the pardons because he wanted to be Al Gore's AG, if Gore got elected. That's what GOP attack dogs like Rep. Dan Burton claimed in 2001, but there was no proof of that then, or now.
If Holder is officially nominated, will the pardon issue come up in his confirmation hearings? Almost certainly. Has Holder been "haunted" by the issue? The Times offers no real suggestion he has. In fact, it's quite the opposite: If Holder had been "haunted," and if his name really had been "dragged very publicly through the mud," he wouldn't be preparing to become the country's next AG, right?
Addressing students at Vassar College, the cabler chief bemoaned "the parlous condition of traditional news media," according to a local newspaper account.
Griffin also informed the students that, looking back on the historic 2008 campaign, Sarah Palin ""made this election."
We're pretty sure there's a connection between those two points.
P.S. Griffin complains that the network news outlets are "losing viewers, which means they're losing advertising revenue, which means their ability to do the very expensive job of international and investigative journalism is under serious threat."
But does anyone think that if the three networks had become miraculously flush with cash in 2008 that they would have devoted the windfall to international reporting and investigative journalism?
Or is he joking? He's a sly writer, so sometimes it's hard to tell. But after several run-throughs we have (sadly) concluded he's serious in his WaPo column today about Obama and smoking [emphasis added]:
Smoking is a disgusting habit that can kill you and those around you. Barack Obama claims to have quit, but the evidence is ambiguous. And the media's lack of interest in this question supports the charge that Obama is enjoying a honeymoon with the press. Compare the attention given to John McCain's melanoma -- a health problem more likely than smoking to kill him in the next four years, but also a problem beyond his control. Smoking, by contrast, is behavior. It sets a deplorable example for young people, millions of whom Obama has inspired into active citizenship.
We wish it was a parody.
UPDATE: The Daily Howler agrees.
That seems to be the GOP manta, post-Election Day. They're even making a movie about it.
The idea is simple: Because the press did not sufficiently air the right-wing smears about Obama, American voters didn't have all the facts when they awarded Obama an electoral landslide victory.
This was quite revealing. On MSNBC, as Media Matters noted, Scarborough was going on about Christopher Hitchens' bout of Clinton Derangement Syndrome. Scarborough thought Hichene's utterly predictable and factually-challenged screed about why Clinton should not become SoS was all very important, blah, blah, blah.
But here's the interesting part. Note who Scarborough claimed Hitchens spoke for during his attack. I've highlighted the language below and I'm pretty sure if you substitute the phrase "the press," you actually hit the real truth.
Scarborough: "What he said may resonate with some of her critics."
By "some of her critics," he meant the press.
Scarborough: "Hitchens last night weighed in on it and basically spoke for a lot of Hillary detractors."
By "a lot of Hillary detractors," he meant the press.
Scarborough: "He talked about...concerns that a lot of Clinton detractors may be bringing up."
By "a lot of Clinton detractor," he meant the press.
That's the point we've been making for the last week as we've watched MoDo and Chris Matthews and David Broder and the rest of the Village elders raise a stink about Clinton joining the Obama administration. And our point is this: The press represents nobody but the press on this topic. Meaning, the press has no political cover on this story because there's no partisan angle to the SoS story, which means their long-running Clinton hatred is just sort of out there, exposed for all to see.
Think about. It's been virtually impossible to find any senior members of Congress--Republican or Democrat--who publicly oppose Clinton as the SoS, which in and of itself is rather astonishing.
And within the liberal blogosphere, where one might expect there to be vocal opposition to Clinton since so many within the netroots opposed her during the primaries, most A-list writers have been extremely quiet in terms of airing opposition. (Whether they oppose Clinton for the slot and have simply accepted the possibility, we don't know. But if bloggers were truly upset, we'd know about it.)
So, if you're keeping score at home, that means the Obama White House is in favor of Clinton, Republicans in Congress are in favor, Democrats in Congress are in favor, and liberal activists are, essentially, in favor. (And so are most Americans.)
So we go back to our original point. Who was Scarborough talking about when he kept referring to these detractors who Hitchens represented. Who were these SoS "critics"? Answer: Scarborough was talking about the Beltway press corps. And if the Beltway press corps thinks Clinton should not be SOS, then that's big news.
Just so you know.
P.S. Did you also laugh when Scarborough claimed, "the Obama campaign is dragging their feet" on Clinton as SoS?
As Eric noted earlier, much of the media has been "childishly obsessed with pushing the 'soap opera' angle of the story" that Hillary Clinton may be the next Secretary of State. Nowhere has this obsession been more clear than on MSNBC.
On Hardball tonight, Chris Matthews suggested that a Clinton spokesperson had said that Clinton would only take the job (which may or may not have been offered) if she got help retiring her campaign debt:
"I'm looking at the New York Times today ... here's Philippe Reines, who is Senator Clinton's press secretary saying that one the concerns they have from their end is they want to pay off $7.6 million in campaign debts. They also want to pay the money back that Hillary Clinton leant her campaign as a precondition to getting this job. That's being done in public."
But, as with most things Matthews says about Clinton, this is nonsense. The Times didn't report that Reines set any such "precondition" on the job -- not even close. Here's what the New York Times actually reported:
One complication that Mrs. Clinton will face if she becomes secretary of state is the mountain of campaign debt leftover from her presidential run.
Mrs. Clinton has $7.6 million in outstanding bills from the campaign, Mr. Reines said, not including personal loans she made to her campaign.
That is the entire reference to Reines talking about campaign debt -- and it says nothing like what Matthews claimed it said. (The article contained only one other reference to Reines: "Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, declined to comment, referring questions to the Obama transition team.")
UPDATE: In fact, Matthews' claim that Clinton wants the money she leant her campaign to be repaid not only is not true, it cannot be true. Clinton's campaign cannot repay the money she leant it; the deadline for doing so has past. As Politico reported in August:
Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who once deducted $6 on their taxes for donating three pairs of his underwear, plan to take a $13-million hit to their personal bank account by forfeiting loans she made to her failed presidential campaign.
The campaign will allow to expire a mid-September deadline for paying them back, sources close to the campaign told Politico, at which point they will automatically be recategorized as contributions, confirming a decision by Clinton to forego repayment that many had expected her to make.
So Matthews not only made up a quote he attributed to Clinton's spokesperson, he made up a quote that couldn't possibly be true.
A few minutes ago, MSNBC's David Gregory spent about thirty seconds telling viewers about the recount in the Minnesota Senate race. In those thirty seconds, Gregory said very little -- but he did tell viewers the recount will occur "at a total cost of about $86,000 to Minnesota taxpayers."
It's odd that Gregory would focus on the recount's cost, particularly given that it wasn't a detailed report -- the cost of the recount was one of very few bits of information Gregory gave viewers. The cost just isn't newsworthy. Media outlets don't typically emphacize how much elections cost; they certainly don't emphacize how much individual aspects of elections cost. (When was the last time you saw a newscaster announce "election workers rolled voting machines out of storage this morning, at a cost to taxpayers of ..."?)
And that's all this recount is: it is one part of the elections process. Its cost is, simply put, irrelevent. Elections are worth doing correctly no matter how much they cost. Not only that, but $86,000 is, even in the midst of a struggling economy, an utterly trivial amount of money for the state of Minnesota to spend in order to get the results of an election right.
How trivial? The $86,000 cost comes out to 1.7 cents per Minnesota resident. One point seven cents. It's a mere three cents per vote. Anybody out there think making sure each vote is counted correctly isn't worth three cents? Anyone at all?
So why is David Gregory making a point of stressing the cost of the recount, if that cost is completely trivial (and would be worth spending if it were ten times as much)?
What we do know is that Norm Coleman, clinging to a 200 vote lead, has stressed the cost of the recount in arguing that it should not proceed. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has reported "Coleman urged Franken to waive his right to a recount, saying that the prospect of changing the result was remote and that a recount would be costly to taxpayers (about $86,000)."
Awfully nice of Gregory to carry Coleman's water like that, isn't it?