In my column last week about media coverage of health care reform and abortion, I pointed out some flaws with arguments by Chris Matthews and others that money is fungible, so any government funds that go to any insurance company that also provides abortion coverage constitutes federal funding for abortion.
In today's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus makes an excellent point I wish I'd thought of:
The same folks who squawk about money being fungible when it comes to federal funding and abortion take the opposite view when it comes to federal funding and parochial schools, or federal funding and faith-based programs.
When the Catholic Church takes government money to run homeless shelters or soup kitchens, it frees up dollars for other, religious expenses that wouldn't be a permissible use of government funds. Somehow, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which pushed the Stupak amendment, isn't bothered by this reality.
When the government gives low-income families tuition vouchers to use at parochial schools, or sends educational material and equipment to parochial schools, the bishops aren't worried about whether that money is being commingled to subsidize religion.
"The simple fact that broad governmental social programs may have some effect of aiding religious institutions . . . cannot be cause for invalidating a program on Establishment Clause grounds," the bishops argued in one case before the Supreme Court.
Last week, Matthews insisted:
Everybody knows that money's fungible and that this is basically an accounting trick. And I don't think it'll work with people who have a moral problem with abortion funding by the federal government.
For some reason, I doubt he'll address Marcus' point on his show tonight.
We've noted that conservatives such as Jon Henke have called for a boycott of WorldNetDaily because it traffics "in the paranoid conspiracy theories that take away from our ability to discuss more important issues." Yesterday at the Capitol, four House Republicans found no more important issue than promoting and legitimizing the conspiracy website.
As the Washington Independent's David Weigel noted, actual GOP members of Congress appeared at a press conference to endorse and promote the efforts of WorldNetDaily to deliver 5 million "pink slips" of paper to Congress. The press conference featured WND CEO Joseph Farah and columnist and campaign organizer Janet Porter, along with "U.S. Reps. Michelle Bachmann, R-Minn.; Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Steve King, R-Iowa; and Trent Franks, R-Ariz., [who] hailed the effort as an innovative new vehicle for the American people to express themselves to members of Congress."
How is WND helping Americans "express themselves?" By graciously allowing us to buy pink slips of paper at the "WND SUPERSTORE" for the "Discount Price" of $29.95.
So not only is WND receiving congressional praise, it's also getting help making money.
Here are some of the WND conspiracy theories and smears those pink slip profits can help pay for:
Porter has also warned that voting for Obama would send you to hell; passed on the rumor that Obama's a secret soviet mole; said that "this movement toward a global currency is a sign that the last days are coming"; claimed that "Pushing away an unwelcome advance of a homosexual, transgendered, cross-dresser or exhibitionist could make you a felon under this [hate crimes] law"; and warned that if we don't stop the Obama "dictatorship ... we'll lose our lives" (good thing we have the pink slips!).
Noted serious people Farah and Porter with members of Congress:
The avalanche of free Palin publicity being generated by the press continues unabated. And that's why Palin and her marketing team must be having a good laugh at the press' expense these days.
Specifically, Palin still has not allowed herself to be interviewed by an actual, professional political journalists this week. Palin has completely snubbed Beltway media elites (the same ones who won't stop writing and talking about her), yet there hasn't been a single murmur of discontent.
In other words, Palin's using the Beltway press to generate free publicity. And then Palin snubs that same Beltway press corps. I'd think that kind of smack-down would sting. But apparently not. I guess political journalists think it makes sense that a high-profile political figure would launch a very political book and begin paving the way for a possible 2012 political campaign and, y'know, not talk to the political press. And I'd also think that a few political journalists might even raise doubts about Palin's future if she's unwilling to sit down with a single A-list reporter and answer tough, detailed questions.
And I'd think that skepticism would be especially strong considering how Palin so famously botched her big-time interviews last fall during the fall campaign. (i.e. She didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was.) Palin bombed in her serious press interviews in 2008. And now in 2009, she's rolling out a new book and what do you know, she's stiffing the serious press.
Instead, she's opting for lifestyle interviews (i.e. Oprah and Barbara Walters) as well as taking questions from her professional enablers, such as Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levine, Bill O'Reilly, Matthew Continetti, NRO, RedState, etc. But nowhere on her press schedule do I see where Palin's agreed to take questions from serious political reporters who might press her on specifics, as well as the contradictions found in her book.
Palin is completely snubbing Beltway journalists; she's going right around them. But they're so busy helping her sell books that they don't even notice. Or care.
UPDATED: And oh yeah, there's evidence that Palin lied about journalists in her book. But pay not attention to that, press corps members. Keep selling more Palin books!
NBC Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker thinks it's sexist to say Sarah Palin isn't ready to be president:
Still, the widespread suggestion in some of the media commentary that she simply isn't qualified enough to be considered a viable presidential candidate is ridiculous.
For male politicians, it's always been a rule of thumb in politics and the media that once you were on a presidential ticket, you were automatically elevated onto the short list of contenders for future races. If George H.W. Bush had lost in 1988, does anyone think Dan Quayle would not have been talked about as a potential candidate for 1992, even with all the political flaws he revealed in that race? Would the media have taken John Edwards as seriously in 2008 if he hadn't been John Kerry's running mate in 2004?
I don't buy it.
By the end of the 1988 campaign, Quayle had served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was in the middle of his second term in the Senate. And as much as his performance during the '88 campaign was ridiculed, I don't recall him being incapable of naming a single newspaper he read. By the end of the 2004 campaign, John Edwards had served six years in the Senate, where he served on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Like Quayle, Edwards wasn't stumped by a question like "What newspapers do you read?"
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, served about 60 percent of a term as Governor of Alaska before abruptly and bizarrely quitting. And her Vice Presidential campaign made both Quayle and Edwards look positively Jeffersonian.
Oh, and even after serving a term as Vice President, Dan Quayle was widely portrayed as an idiot. I find it amazing that Whitaker thinks that if Bush/Quayle had lost in '88, nobody would have questioned whether he was ready to be a viable candidate in 1992. Amazing. And Whitaker can't possibly be under the impression that John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign was free of media figures claiming he was a lightweight or mocking him.
There is plenty of sexist media treatment of Sarah Palin. Arguing that she has displayed no qualifications for, or ability to function in, the highest office in the land isn't it.
UPDATE: Here's a reminder of a media question about the qualifications of a prominent woman running for President that was in appropriate: ABC's Charlie Gibson asked Hillary Clinton if she would be a "credible" candidate were it not for her husband. I suspect the next time Gibson asks a male candidate that question will be the first. John McCain, first elected to Congress on the strength of his wife's money and connections, certainly never got a question even remotely like that.
And the suggestion that Clinton -- a United States Senator with a grasp of policy detail that few of her harshest critics would deny -- was only a viable candidate because of her husband was a constant feature of her presidential campaign, as Whitaker's colleague Chris Matthews can remind him.
Point being: there certainly are sexist ways in which the media can question the qualifications of women running for office. Unfortunately, Palin will likely be the target of some of them. But simply questioning the qualifications of someone who can't name a newspaper she reads doesn't fit the bill.
That phrase makes me nostalgic for 2002 or 2003, because, let's face it, that's probably the last time people actually had that debate about Fox News. Clearly the question on the table today isn't whether Fox News is "fair and balanced." (Almost nobody thinks it is.) It's whether Fox News still even resembles a legitimate news organization. (Hint: It does not.)
But that doesn't stop Robert Lichter from the Center for Media and Public Affairs, who argues in Forbes that Fox News is really, really fair and balanced, specifically when it comes to the channel's coverage of Obama. Not surprisingly there are all sorts of problems with Lichter's pitch. The first rather obvious hurdle is that Lichter spends a lot of time dissecting Fox News' 2008 treatment of Obama. Lichter claims Fox News is fair and balanced today based on how it covered Obama 12 months ago.
I don't mean to be a stickler here, but the latest debate sparked by the White House is that in 2009 Fox News no longer functions as a legitimate news organization. And that in 2009 Fox News has basically cut the chord with traditional journalism. So I'm just not sure about the usefulnesses of Lichter's commentary since he spends a lot of it looking back on 2008.
That's actually only the first glaring problem in Lichter's piece. The second? To prove Fox News was "fair and balanced" to Obama in 2008, Lichter notes the results of an on-going Center for Media and Public Affairs study which monitors political news coverage on TV. As part of the study, CMPA monitors the first 30 minutes of Fox News' nightly Special Report. And that's it. Yet from that tiny, almost laughably small 30-minute daily sample, Lichter draws sweeping conclusions about whether a 24-hour news channel is "fair and balanced"? That's almost too silly for words. Lichter makes conclusions about Fox News while ignoring more than 90 percent of its programming day?
More? Sadly, there is. In his Forbes piece, Lichter actually concedes that even judging Fox News from just that 30- minute chunk of Special Report last year, the channel delivered more negative coverage of the Democratic candidate than did the nightly newscasts for ABC, CBS, and NBC. In fact, on Fox News last year, 64 percent of Special Report's evaluations of Obama were unfavorable. But somehow Fox News was "fair and balanced" in 2008?
More? Yep. Lichter eventually addresses how "fair and balanced" Fox News has treated Obama in 2009, at least according to CMPA. The conclusion? [Emphasis added]
It turns out that Fox's coverage of President Obama has been even more negative than its coverage of candidate Obama: From Inauguration Day to Oct. 10, only 27% of Special Report's comments on the president were favorable
I'm not making this up. Lichter claims Fox News has been fair to Obama, yet concedes that on one of Fox News' few remaining 'straight' news program, the commentary has been overwhelmingly negative toward the president this year, just as it was toward Obama in 2008.
Safe to say, Lichter's attempt to exonerate Fox News is lacking. But hey, at least the guys at Newsbusters like it.
That's the claim made by the Times' former editorial page Richard Miniter, who also claims he was "coerced" by the newspaper's president into attending a Unification Church mass wedding ceremony in New York City last year. The Moonie Times, owned by the Rev. Sung Myung Moon, the self-proclaimed son of God, has been beset with internal, Moonie-related conflict. Editor John Solomon quit the daily last week.
Miniter has filed discrimination charges, according to a report in today's Washington Examiner. The article reports:
This incident and several others make up the discrimination charges that Miniter filed Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He said he was discriminated against because of his religion, age and disability. He also maintained that the company's vice president of human resources started a series of investigations against him, causing him to work from home, in retribution for his refusal to sign a fraudulent document. In addition, he says, he signed a year-long contract with the paper in February when he was promoted to editorial page editor. "The Times backed me in a corner and it looked like the company was going to go under and not ... pay me," Miniter said.
Miniter's complaint comes at a time when The Washington Times' future is in question. The paper's top three executives were ousted last week, and the departure of the top editor John Solomon soon followed. "We tried for weeks to amicably work something out," Miniter said. "With the departure of John Solomon and the other executives, I don't know if the company is going to exist next week," he added, as an explanation for why he chose now to file these claims.
On the November 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly referenced a 2008 report by the Media Research Center's Culture & Media Institute, which claims that out of 69 stories on network news about Sarah Palin in the two-week period examined, 37 were negative, 30 were neutral and only two were positive. O'Reilly further complained, citing the report: "Twenty-one of the stories portrayed Sarah Palin as unintelligent and unqualified. Eight stories used clips from Saturday Night Live to ridicule her." O'Reilly added: "Is that kind of presentation an accident? No."
But the report O'Reilly cited was more a function of the MRC's shilling for Palin than any serious media research. The tone of the report is more about complaining that anything negative was reported about Palin at all, what was reported didn't reflect the McCain campaign's talking points, and (channeling Stephen Colbert) facts and reality have a well-known liberal bias.
The report's scope was carefully limited to only the broadcast news networks -- no Fox News -- and only to coverage in "the two weeks beginning September 29 and ending October 12," thus avoiding having to discuss the period immediately following Palin's nomination and Republican National Convention speech, when news coverage of her was largely -- and perhaps disproportionately -- positive.
The report conflated negative coverage with bias, scoring stories by "negative," "positive" and "neutral," then deciding that the network that ran the most "negative" stories versus "neutral" or "positive" ones was the "most biased." Despite suggesting that the "negative" stories were not factual or fair, no evidence is offered to support it. The report's basic premise is that all news about Palin must be balanced or positive, whether or not the facts call for it.
The report complained: "Most observers agree that Palin did not perform well in the [Katie] Couric interview, but the network coverage dwelled on the worst moments, making Palin look as unprepared and inexperienced as possible." After noting the focus on Palin's refusal to give a straight answer to Couric's question about what magazines and newspapers she read, the report further stated:
The network coverage of this exchange left the impression that Palin was unable to identify any news sources because she isn't interested in current events -- an implausible supposition to make about an accomplished politician.
The networks would have provided a more accurate portrayal of Palin had they highlighted the Alaska governor's thoughtful responses to other questions from Couric.
The report doesn't mention the fact that Palin could have avoided that kind of focus by simply giving a straight answer to the question.
The report then baselessly asserted that "Palin's strong performance during the October 2 vice-presidential debate sucked the oxygen out of the attacks on her qualifications and intellect," failing to note that polls taken immediately after the debate found that a majority of viewers thought that Joe Biden won. The report also complained that Tina Fey's dead-on Saturday Night Live impression of Palin got media attention, calling the impression "demeaning" and adding: "Funny stuff, but is it news?"
After lamenting that the networks reported "criticism of Palin from a handful of conservative writers," the report added, "The networks failed to mention that Palin enjoyed the enthusiastic support of far more influential conservative pundits, including premier talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin." So a guy who said, as Levin did, "It's not the National Organization of Liberal Women. It's the National Organization of Ugly Women," is a "premier" conservative radio host in the eyes of the MRC?
The report went on to express annoyance that the networks were "depicting Palin as nothing more than GOP presidential nominee John McCain's attack dog. ... Rather than investigate the substance of Palin's accusations against Obama, the media suggested the criticism was somehow improper." In fact, Palin was the McCain campaign's attack dog, substantive allegations or no.
Finally, the report arrived at its key bit of annoyance: "The networks failed to acknowledge adequately that Palin was doing more during her speeches than attacking Obama. She was also talking about issues, McCain's plans for the nation, and her own qualifications." In other words, the networks weren't mindlessly repeating McCain campaign talking points to the MRC's satisfaction.
This is a study that simply can't be taken seriously and must be seen through the MRC's pro-Palin, anti-media agenda.
The conservative Examiner newspaper is hyping a new poll from pollster John Zogby that purportedly shows that 43% of respondents would support the re-election of President Obama. The poll was commissioned by Brad O'Leary (author of an anti-Obama book called "The Audacity of Deceit"), who has previously comissioned misleading polls to push an anti-Obama agenda.
Zogby was recently caught pushing a racially charged poll question asking if the FCC should ask "good white people" to step aside for African-Americans and gays.
In February, Zogby pushed out an anti-stimulus poll with some extremely loaded language.
With that kind of track record and pedigree, Zogby's work should probably be treated with healthy skepticism.
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 17 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
Everybody knows about the non-apology apology -- when a public figure says, for example, "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" rather than "I shouldn't have made that racist comment, and I apologize for doing so."
It turns out the non-apology apology has a sibling: the non-explanation explanation.
This week's issue of Newsweek features a cover photo of Sarah Palin wearing short running shorts -- a photo that was originally taken for a recent issue of Runner's World, and which has no obvious connection to Newsweek's coverage of Palin. Earlier today, Media Matters' Julie Millican has explained the problems with that cover:
Making matters worse is the equally offensive headline Newsweek editors chose to run alongside the photo -- "How Do You Solve a Problem like Sarah?" -- presumably a reference to the Sound of Music song, "Maria," in which nuns fret about "how" to "solve a problem like Maria," a "girl" who "climbs trees" and whose "dress has a tear."
Now, this photograph may have been completely appropriate for the cover of the magazine for which the picture was apparently intended, Runners World. But Newsweek is supposed to be a serious newsmagazine, and the magazine is certainly not reporting on Palin's exercise habits.
As Julie noted, Newsweek's lousy judgement extended beyond the cover: The magazine also ran a gratuitous photo focusing on Palin's legs, and another photo of a "disgusting Sarah Palin-as-a-slutty-schoolgirl doll."
So what does Newsweek have to say for themselves? The magazine's editor responded to a question from Politico's Michael Calderone, but he couldn't even muster an "I'm sorry if anyone was offended" non-apology apology:
Editor Jon Meacham responds in an email to POLITICO: "We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do. We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard."
That's a textbook example of the non-explanation explanation. Read it again, and tell me: What does it mean? Meacham wants you to think he's explaining the cover choice, but he really isn't.
How, exactly, does putting Sarah Palin on the cover in short shorts "illustrate the theme of the cover"? (Let's assume Meacham meant the theme of the cover article; saying you choose a cover photo to illustrate the theme of the cover is more than a bit circular.) Meacham doesn't say. What is that theme? Meacham doesn't say.
How does the leg-centric image of Palin's legs "convey what we are saying"? Meacham doesn't explain. What is Newsweek "saying" with the article and the photo? Meacham doesn't explain.
It's a refusal to explain, dressed up as an explanation.
Another recent example: When Washington Post reporters Chris Cillizza and Dana Milbank produced an infantile and unfunny video calling Hillary Clinton a "bitch" and describing a wife suing for divorce from a cheating spouse as a "bitter woman from hell," they tried to explain the controversy away by saying the video was "satire."
But they didn't say what it was they were supposed to be satirizing. That's probably because what they were doing quite plainly was not satire; it was simply a couple of jerks sitting around making mean-spirited and sexist comments. There is a difference.
It's satire ... The photo illustrates the theme of the cover ... These things are designed to look like explanations; to win credit for addressing the issue and to cut off further questions and to justify bad behavior. But they aren't actually explanations at all. They are a refusal to deal with criticism in a forthright way, and should be recognized (and mocked) as such. Just as we all recognize the non-apology apology for what it is.