It's a skill that makes journalism that much easier because it allows you to not only report the facts but also assign motivation, which is no easy task. It allows you to announce why somebody said something, even if you don't have proof.
Today's Post pulls off the mind-reading trick in an article about Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who commented Monday that military advisers, in order to better serve the president, ought to keep their opinions regarding warfare out of public view.
Here's what Gates said:
"In this process, it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations -- civilians and military alike -- provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately."
Gates' comments were reiterated by Gen. George Casey. Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Both men spoke in the wake of weekend remarks by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander of U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan, who said that any attempt to significantly scale back the U.S. military presence in the country would be "shortsighted."
McChrystal made his views known in public; Gates and Casey thought that was a bad idea. But the Post could read minds and its report added this [emphasis added]:
The Army's top general immediately echoed Gates's remarks, which seemed designed to rein in dissent within the ranks.
Neither Gates nor Casey suggested they opposed dissent within the ranks. And in fact, when asked directly on Monday whether Gates was trying to stifle McChrystal's evaluation, Gates replied, "Absolutely not."
The Post had no evidence that anyone was trying to "rein in dissent." But it seemed like that was going on, so the Post reported it as news. Why? Because the Post can read minds.
UPDATED: The Los Angeles Times managed to report out the same Gates/McChrystal story without trying to read minds.
Almost six years to the day after radio host Rush Limbaugh resigned in disgrace from his brand-spanking new gig on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown for, as CNN reported at the time, "his statement that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed," El Rushbo confirmed today that he's interested in buying the St. Louis Rams.
From KMOX News Radio in St. Louis:
Rush Limbaugh issues a statement confirming he's seeking to buy a stake in the St. Louis Rams.
Limbaugh is now responding to reports that he and Blues owner Dave Checketts are trying to buy the Rams:
"Dave and I are part of a bid to buy the Rams and we are continuing the process. But I can say no more because of a confidentiality clause in our agreement with Goldman Sachs. We cannot and will not talk about our partners. But if we prevail we will be the operators of the team."
Marge Schott, eat your heart out.
UPDATE: This could get interesting. According to an OpenSecrets.org review of Federal campaign contributions between 1989-2009, the Rams are the bluest team in the NFL giving 98% of its contributions to Democrats. (H/T to S.L.)
More than 60 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 October 5 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
Oh what a wicked web we weave when first we … well, you get the picture.
RedState's Erick Erickson, whom we humorously errr conclusively tied to ACORN just two weeks ago, has now tied Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele to the dreaded ACORN. I guess that means ACORN has deep ties to everyone in the Republican Party?
From his Twitter profile:
Maybe this is what happens when all journalistic standards are thrown out the window in a wild game of guilt by association.
From an Oct. 5 Associated Press article:
Upscale British supermarket chain Waitrose said Monday it was pulling its advertisements from Fox News in the U.K. after customers complained about the cable news channel's Glenn Beck program.
The popular and controversial talk show host is already the target of a boycott campaign in the United States after he accused President Barack Obama of harboring "a deep-seated hatred for white people."
Waitrose, known for its upmarket fare and focus on organic foods, said in a statement it was responding to customer concerns, and that the move was not politically motivated.
The wide coverage afforded to Beck's tirade against the U.S. president and the subsequent boycott campaign has also been noticed in Britain - where Fox owner Rupert Murdoch controls a powerful news and broadcasting empire.
Color of Change, the group which has lobbied advertisers to steer clear of Beck's show, claims that about 80 U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have deserted the pugnacious television host.
Last month The Independent newspaper quoted James Rucker, Color of Change's executive director, as urging British companies to put similar pressure on Fox in the U.K., where it is broadcast by British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC - a satellite TV service 39 percent owned by Murdoch's News Corp.
Although most U.S. companies who have dropped Beck's program still continue to advertise on other segments of Fox News, Waitrose spokesman James Armstrong said the company was pulling out of the channel as a whole.
He declined to say how much money was involved in the ad deal, calling the information commercially sensitive. Sky Broadcasting, which looks after Fox News advertising sales in Britain, did not provide a figure either.
As Joe Conason notes in his Salon column, during the 1990's reporter Christopher Ruddy, cheered on by his boss Richard Melon Scaife, became something of a one-man, right-wing clearing house for all kinds of hateful and misleading attacks on the new Democratic president [emphasis added]:
Working at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, owned by billionaire and avowed Clinton foe Richard Mellon Scaife, Ruddy popularized the canard that Foster had not committed suicide, as determined by five official investigations, but more likely had been murdered -- possibly to cover up corruption in the Whitewater land deal or because of an illicit affair with Hillary Rodham Clinton or both.
Beyond spreading paranoia about the Foster tragedy, Ruddy and Scaife both played central roles in the distribution of nearly half a million copies of "The Clinton Chronicles" and other covert machinations against the Clinton White House –- most notably the "Arkansas Project," a $2.4 million scheme to dig up or invent crimes by the president and first lady, with assistance from several unsavory characters, including die-hard segregationist Jim Johnson, a couple of private detectives and a bait-shop owner.
Virtually none of that Ruddy/Scaife-sponsored nonsense ever panned out. And now, 15 years later, the two are forces behind Newsmax, which (surprise!) has become a clearing house for all kinds of hateful and misleading attacks on the new Democratic president.
Ruddy was among the most insistent endorsers of the Obama birth certificate myth, playing much the same role he once did during the Vince Foster affair. He has assiduously promoted the "tea party" movement and the "socialism" meme. When Newsmax published an essay by an obscure former newsman that seemed to urge a military coup against Obama last week (and then removed it), the reverberations were felt across the political spectrum. Every day the site blasts forth a barrage of supposed Obama scandals and embarrassments to be amplified by Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the panoply of talk radio and cable megaphones, knowing that by sheer volume, some of it will stick.
Here's the kicker though. In today's Washington Post, Ruddy concedes that his often hysterical reporting during the Clinton years was bogus. He confesses he was "overzealous" and "over the top" in his partisan Clinton hunting. In fact, Ruddy now considers Clinton to have been "a great president."
So why on earth would anyone take seriously a single word published in the Obama-hating Newsmax publication if in ten or fifteen years Ruddy is just going to turn around and admit he'd been a bit "over the top." Meaning, Ruddy and Scaife built their journalism 'reputations," as they were, on mindless Clinton pursuit and were caught peddling dark fantasies; fantasies that Ruddy admits were bogus.
Now the two are doing the exact same thing with regards to Obama via Newsmax, and we're supposed to expect different results?
As Eric Boehlert pointed out earlier today, a significant fissure is opening up on the Right. The increasing influence of extremists like Fox News' Glenn Beck and radio host Rush Limbaugh has shaken more mainstream conservatives who are searching for a new set of leaders -- and the conservative establishment is lashing out. Consider some of the recent comments from prominent conservative media personalities and elected officials:
These are just a few examples of a serious trend. Right-wing media figures are now routinely attacking each other's tactics and relevancy. On Friday, Brooks (nonsensically) dedicated an entire column to explaining why conservative media leaders like Beck and Limbaugh are not worthy of attention. He argued that we are once again witnessing "the story of media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche -- even of the Republican Party." It's a point he made several weeks earlier, when he said that "[i]f the Republican Party is sane, they will say no to these people." Beck, in turn, responded by reading Brooks' editorial on the air and mocking the idea that he was the overlord of thoughtless, right-wing radio audiences who will "kill people because we tell you to." Feeling defensive, Glenn?
Numerous other conservatives are speaking out as well, with Beck taking a good deal of the heat. On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said to Fox News' Bret Baier that Beck "doesn't represent the Republican Party," adding, "You can listen to him if you like. I choose not to, because quite frankly, I don't want to go down the road of thinking our best days are behind us."
On September 22, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough went after Beck specifically. "You need to call out this type of hatred, because it always blows up in your face," he said. "You cannot preach hatred. You cannot say the president's a racist. You cannot stir up things that could have very deadly consequences."
Peter Wehner, a former Bush speechwriter and a regular blogger for Commentary, wrote in September that the content of Beck's broadcasts "should worry the conservative movement," and that some of his attacks "are quite unfair and not good for the country." Another former Bush speechwriter, David Frum, has employed even harsher language:
Glenn Beck is not the first to make a pleasant living for himself by reckless defamation. We have seen his kind before in American journalism and American politics, and the good news is that their careers never last long. But the bad news is that while their careers do last, such people do terrible damage.
The View's Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Charles Johnson of the popular conservative blog Little Green Footballs, and Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) have all offered similar assessments. Even Mark Levin himself seems to dislike Beck and has called him "mindless," "incoherent," "pandering," and "pathetic."
It will be very interesting to watch the growing disharmony on the Right play out. But for now, it wouldn't be too surprising if the ego-driven, media-led conservative movement continued forming its firing squad into a circle.
The rather vague phrase appears in a Journal news article about the rise of Dick Armey's conservative group, Freedom Works, which has tapped into the right-wing Tea Party movement [emphasis added]:
The growing movement has turned off some high-profile conservative voices, such as former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, who worry that raucous displays and occasionally extreme language risk alienating moderates.
What exactly are those "raucous displays" and bouts of "extreme language" that have powered the anti-Obama movement this year? The Journal is dutifully mum. And that's the way so many players within the Beltway press corps prefer it. Rather than illustrating and/or explaining the type of wild, radical rhetoric that's now front and center in the conservative movement, lots of journalists play down the communist/racist/Nazi rhetoric, and they certainly don't detail or quote it. Not even in a single sentence was set aside in the Journal article to spell out today's rampant hate speech.
All readers need to know is pieces of it have been "extreme" and "raucous." Nothing more. That way, the whole anti-Obama movement seems much more mainstream, which allows the political press to treat it seriously.
UPDATED: I have to chuckle at the notion in the Journal article that some conservatives are anxious that the anti-Obama brigade is in danger of alienating "moderates." Like moderate Democrats? Like independent voters might--just -might--be turned off by the incessant communist/racist/Nazi Obama hate? That seems like a stretch. Truth is, Frum and company seem to be afraid that the hate crew is so radical and so unhinged that it's going to alienate conservatives (i.e. Republican voters), let alone moderates or independents.
Today's Washington Post features another installment of "Topic A," the "occasional feature in which The Post asks for first impressions on a hot topic." Today's "hot topic" is "Sotomayor's First Term," and The Post published "first impressions" from four conservatives and three liberals. (And of the four conservatives, only one was given a bio line that made his leanings clear, while only one of the liberals was ambiguous.)
Four conservatives to three liberals actually isn't that bad, considering The Post's recent track record. The paper doesn't make it easy to find archived "Topic A" features, so I may be missing one, but by my count the last three installments have featured a total of 14 conservatives and 8 liberals.
This, of course, is more proof that The Post needs to pay more attention to conservatives.