This morning it was ABC's The Note. Now it's CQ.
Look at CQ's dispatch about the release of two major new public opinion surveys. Under the headline, "Honeymoon Over: It's on Obama's Watch Now," CQ reports:
Early in his presidency, Barack Obama had a grace period when the public saw the nation's problems as ones he inherited, but two new polls -- by New York Times/CBS News and Wall Street Journal/NBC News - make clear that there are rising concerns about his policies.
The biggest public concern is over the size of the deficit being run up by Obama's economic recovery proposals and how much more it will rise if his plan to overhaul health care and increase coverage for uninsured Americans is enacted. But there is also discomfort about his intervention in the auto industry and taking a big government stake in ownership of General Motors.
CQ's pretty definitive: Early on in his administration, the public gave Obama a pass; voters didn't hold him responsible for troubles he may have inherited. But that's changed now, especially on big issues like the economy and the deficit. i.e. "It's on Obama's Watch Now."
Except, at least in the case of the NBC News/WSJ poll highlighted by CQ, the findings are pretty much the opposite.
As Ed Kilgore notes at FiveThirtyEight:
Five months into the Obama administration, and after weeks of steady Republican hammering of the president as a big spender, only 6% of Americans primarily blame Obama for the budget situation, while 46% primarily blame George W. Bush.
CQ spin: Polls show voters are now blaming Obama for the economy.
Fact: Polls show that virtually nobody is blaming Obama for the economy.
Specifically, that they ranted against members of the U.S. military. That Olbermann demonized Army recruiters and that Rich talked down U.S. soldiers during the Iraq War.
That's the claim Beck has been pushing when confronted with questions about the right-wing hate that's been flooding the airwaves and what connection it has with the rise in fright, domestic attack from the right. According to Beck, his hands are clean and that it's not fair to blame a pundit when somebody does something nutty and violent.
And to prove his point, he insists it would be unfair to blame Olbermann or Rich for the recent murder of an Army recruiter in Arkansas. It wouldn't be fair, says Beck, even though Olbermann and Rich have attacked members of the U.S. military. Even though they have created a dangerous environment for soldiers.
Or so Beck claimed:
Keith Olbermann has railed against recruiters. Keith Olbermann has railed against the baby killers that our U.S. soldiers are.
But has he? And has Times columnist Frank Rich "talked about how bad our soldiers are" as Beck now insists? Note, not the war planners, commanders or politicians who launched the war. Beck clearly claims that Rich has bad-mouthed our soldiers. A lot.
To date though, neither Beck, nor anybody else on the right pushing this false moral equivalency claim, can point to any quotes from high-profile media liberals who have attacked, demonized and dehumanized military recruiters or soldiers the way Bill O'Reilly, for instance, attacked, demonized and dehumanized abortion provider Dr. George Tiller before an extremist murdered him.
So if Beck is going to keep making this charge against liberal pundits (he made it again during an online washingtonpost.com chat this week), it might be nice to actually back it up, the way Media Matters, for instance, has cataloged the vigilante-style rhetoric O'Reilly engaged in.
Facts are easy things to document. Maybe that's why Beck's having such a tough time of it.
Time's Mark Halperin frequently repeats right-wing myths about the "liberal media." But today he undermined his already-weak case by arguing that one reason "to bet AGAINST major health care reform passing this year" is that "Most journalists still have health insurance."
The clear implication is that because most journalists have health insurance, they don't see the need for reform -- and that colors their reporting.
Sounds pretty reasonable.
Now, when do you think Halperin will consider other, similarly reasonable things? Like the fact that all working journalists have jobs, which -- by Halperin's logic -- colors their coverage of policies meant to help the unemployed. Or the fact that few national political reporters earn the minimum wage -- and, indeed, those like Mark Halperin make considerably more than the average worker, which likely colors their coverage of minimum wage proposals and tax policy. And so on.
(Another of Halperin's reasons to bet against reform is "1/6 of the economy can't be remade without genuine bipartisan support." But polling shows that roughly 80 percent of Americans support health care reform that includes a public plan. There is "genuine bipartisan support" for real reform -- in America, if not in Washington, DC. Halperin makes the mistake journalists often make: thinking the likes of Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans are even remotely representative of Americans.)
I'm sure it won't be alone among media outlets today, but I noticed US News typed up the latest in the non-story about ABC's White House special next week about health care. You'll recall that Drudge erroneously "reported" that no dissenting views would be aired in the special, thereby manufacturing a mini-scandal.
Now a conservative group has concocted the latest twist: ABC won't let the group buy an advocacy ad during the primetime program. Drudge thinks this is a big deal, which means apparently Matt Drudge has no idea how network television works, since ABC has a longstanding tradition of not airing any advocacy ads. Ever. Plus, the idea that a potential, first-time advertiser could just dial up the ABC sales team a week before a primetime show and buy a 60-second spot is comically naive.
But not for US News, which simply types up the conservative press release (i.e. the "growing controversy") and leaves out any mention that ABC never airs advocacy ads. See, that way the press can pretend there's actual news here.
I traveled to Fox News studios in New York City yesterday for a report on the press' coverage of Obama. (It aired on Special Report last night.) And the producer who interviewed me asked about a column former San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein had written about how the press and Obama should 'get a room,' because the honeymoon affection was becoming gratuitous. And I noticed Fox News on Wednesday aired clips of a Bronstein interview where he made the same points; the press is going too easy on Obama.
But is that true? And what kind of proof did Bronstein come up with in his column to prove his point? Well, it turns out the very first example cited in his column doesn't withstand much scrutiny, and it seems Bronstein had to improve upon the facts to make it work for his press critique; to make it fit his narrative about a lapdog press corps for Obama.
Here's what Bronstein wrote:
When Barack Obama decided that questions from the German press about his trip agenda in that country were too pesky, he told the reporters, "So, stop it all of you!" He just wanted them to ask things he wanted to talk about. Well, what politico wouldn't want that?
OK, dad. We'll behave.
Bronstein's point was that when Obama traveled overseas, "pesky" reporters did what their American counterparts don't--ask tough questions--and so Obama barked back ("So, stop it all of you!") because he was only used to talking about what he wanted to talk about.
Slight problem, that's not how the scene played out in Germany with reporters. As was quite plain from the coverage at the time, rather than scolding the press, Obama was joking with reporters who laughed at his "stop it" comment. But Bronstein improved the story and pretended Obama had lashed out at reporters.
Here's the back story, as reported by ABC News on June 5: [emphasis added]:
At a joint press availability in Dresden, Germany, this morning, President Obama jokingly chastised the German press for playing up stories about alleged tensions between him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mr. Obama was responding to a question from a German television reporter, who noted that there has been certain "mild, sometimes even wild speculation" about the president not leaving much time for a visit with Merkel on his way from Cairo, Egypt, yesterday, where he gave his major address to the Muslim world, to Normandy, France, tomorrow where he will join in the commemoration ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Some in the German press have suggested this constitutes a slight and is part of a history of tensions between the two leaders.
"I think your characterization of wild speculations is accurate -- they are very wild and based on no facts," President Obama said, with a smile...The president then jokingly scolded the German reporters to his left.
"So stop it, all of you," he said." I know you have to find something to report on, but we have more than enough problems out there without manufacturing problems."
It's a bit dubious when a pundit turns into a media critic and claims the press is falling down for Obama, yet the very first example the pundit points to as proof doesn't add up.
Surveying a pair of new national polls, The Note writes:
The new polls have little good news for Republicans -- unless you count worrisome news for the president as good news for his opponents.
Actually, this is what the New York Times/CBS poll found [emphasis added]:
While Republicans have steadily increased their criticism of Mr. Obama, particularly on the budget deficit, the poll found that the Republican Party is viewed favorably by only 28 percent of those polled, the lowest rating ever in a New York Times/CBS News poll. In contrast, 57 percent said that they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party.
From the last several days of Fox News:
Predictable. You just can't win with Dowd and Politico. Today, Dowd wrote that Obama would be wise to showcase healthy food in his next photo-op because that's what "America really needs." Politico44 then linked to her column with the headline "Fitness flip-flop?"
(You know, just asking!)
[M]aybe when Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer come next week to broadcast a special on health care from inside the White House, the president should forgo the photo-op of the grease-stained bovine bag and take the TV stars out for what he really wants and America really needs: some steamed fish with a side of snap peas.
Yes, that's the same person who wrote:
As Margaret Carlson told Mike Barnicle on "Hardball," in a segment called "Is Obama Too Cool?" about whether he relates to average Americans, sometimes you just want to tell the guy, "Eat the doughnut."
The person who wrote:
At the Wilbur chocolate shop in Lititz Monday, he spent most of his time skittering away from chocolate goodies, as though he were a starlet obsessing on a svelte waistline.
Yes, that's coming from the same person who offered the following advice just last year:
If Obama offers only eat-your-arugula chiding and chilly earnestness, he becomes an otherworldly type, not the regular guy he needs to be.
He's already in danger of seeming too prissy about food - a perception heightened when The Wall Street Journal reported that the planners for Obama's convention have hired the first-ever "director of greening," the environmental activist Andrea Robinson.
For years, personal indiscretions by elected officials have been viewed as fair game by the press. The political impact of the ensuing stories is left to the public, which must determine whether a particular aspect of an individual's private life is relevant to their public one.
When reporting on personal issues, the press owes the people a full and accurate accounting, especially when suggesting reasons why a certain action might be relevant to voters. But today's print coverage of Senator John Ensign's affair demonstrates how often stories concerning personal problems miss a central part of the tale.
If Mr. Ensign's actions are indeed newsworthy (an idea some would dispute), it is because they represent hypocrisy on behalf of a lawmaker with future political ambitions. To that end, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times noted in their articles that Sen. Ensign had been highly critical of former Idaho Senator Larry Craig for his alleged actions in a Minneapolis bathroom, adding that Ensign had also called on Bill Clinton to resign during the Monica Lewinsky affair. Reuters and the Associated Press included the Craig connection, but failed to mention the statements regarding Clinton. The New York Times, to its discredit, chose not to mention Ensign's reaction to either event.
But more importantly, not one of these news organizations felt compelled to note that Senator Ensign has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage, as well as being a public and proud supporter of the Defense of Marriage Amendment (DOMA). As a readily available press release on Mr. Ensign's website makes clear, for him, "Marriage is an extremely important institution in this country and protecting it is, in my mind, worth the extraordinary step of amending our constitution."
This obvious and highly consequential hypocrisy was immediately picked up on by several progressive blogs, such as DailyKos and Think Progress.
An editorial in today's Las Vegas Review-Journal shows why this major omission on behalf of print journalism's standard bearers is so galling. Not content merely to ignore all of Senator Ensign's past statements on the behavior (and marriage rights) of others, it defended him by illogically shifting the focus onto the "leftists" who couldn't recognize that this was a "personal matter":
[D]espite the predictable cries of "hypocrisy" from leftists who are only spared the label because so little is expected of them, it's worth pointing out that this is a personal matter -- not the kind of betrayal of official trust Democrats demonstrate every time they sacrifice the public welfare to satiate their paymasters, the trial lawyers or the public employee unions.
For the Review-Journal, it is worth noting, Bill Clinton's personal behavior was anything but personal.
The piece follows this purely partisan attack by noting that "Sen. Ensign remains one of the more principled spokesmen now on the Washington stage for a government limited in size and intrusiveness into our lives." Apparently, federally mandating which consenting adults can and cannot marry one another fits the "limited intrusiveness" guidelines.
Nevada readers are regrettably exposed to such poorly reasoned conservative dogma every day, much to their detriment. As such, more responsible news organizations with a national reach have a responsibility to pick up the pieces and provide them with the full story.
The omission of Sen. Ensign's support of DOMA from coverage both at the national and state level therefore represents the kind of failure that does a disservice to readers and voters, and must not be repeated.