From TNR's Michael Crowley, after news broke last night that Barack Obama was meeting with conservative columnists [emphasis added]:
I imagine this will generate some outrage from the left--potentially at the idea that Obama is already falling into the Beltway cocktail-circuit trap, or perhaps out of mere loathing for the crew in question (although the four fall into different categories, and Will and Brooks in particular have written some pretty nice things about Obama). But I think liberal outrage would be misplaced here.
Just as a general rule of journalism, isn't it a better idea to comment on events that have actually happened, rather than to comment on events that might take place. Although admittedly, the second approach makes life a lot easier for pundits.
Nonetheless, Crowley writes an entire piece about how blogger outrage, which he predicted would appear (it really hasn't), was all wrong. Beltway pundits love to do this; assign all sorts of motivation and blame to 'angry' liberal bloggers, regardless of whether it's accurate or not. Sorta like when they blamed bloggers for spreading the Palin fake pregnancy story during the campaign...
WaPo's Ruth Marcus is upset that Labor Secretary-designee Hilda Solis didn't answer a question "about giving private employers more leeway to implement comp and flextime arrangements." Marcus:
it's important to point out: Democrats had little tolerance for nonanswers when Republican nominees were doing the bobbing and weaving. It is an imperfect comparison, but recall their consternation -- and ensuing "no" votes -- when Michael Mukasey, in his confirmation hearing to be attorney general, said he did not have enough information about the precise technique involved to say that waterboarding was torture.
Yeah, I'd say it's an "imperfect" comparison. One is about whether private employers have more leeway to implement comp time arrangements; the other is about whether the United States of America tortures people.
We took a long look this week at Palin's recent charge that during the campaign the mainstream press picked up the "faked" pregnancy rumor from "liberal bloggers" and ran with it. Neither claim is true. The press ignored the story until the McCain camp called attention to it. And liberal bloggers actively avoided the topic.
But it turns out Palin is even upset with media outlets who tried to debunk the pregnancy story. See Alex Koppleman at Salon.
Politico's Roger Simon: "How come Roland Burris has had such an easy time getting to the U.S. Senate while Caroline Kennedy has had such a hard time?"
Simple Answer: Roland Burris was appointed by a sitting governor to fill a vacant seat. Caroline Kennedy has not been.
Air America host Cenk Uygur notes that despite the constant haranguing Fox News hosts do about how the liberal talk radio network has not talent, can't score ratings, and doesn't make money, the facts say otherwise:
In 2008, former Air America host, Al Franken was elected the next Senator from Minnesota. Current Air America host Rachel Maddow was given her own television show on MSNBC, where she instantly doubled the ratings and even beat legendary Larry King on CNN (and also tripled the ratings of current Fox host Glenn Beck when he was on CNN Headline News in the same time slot).
And also this:
Did you know that Fox News lost $90 million a year for its first five years of operation? Air America has never come close to losing that kind of money.
Halperin, on CNN last night: "If you are president like Bill Clinton and like George Bush, who is polarizing, if the country remains polarized, this kind of stuff looks horrible and will alienate both sides."
But neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush is really all that "polarizing." Throughout Bill Clinton's second term, the American people approved of his job performance, by pretty healthy margins. Not everyone approved, of course, but his approval ratings were high. That the Beltway chattering class could never understand that people basically thought Bill Clinton was a good president doesn't make it any less true.
And George Bush? There has long been broad consensus that his presidency has been an unmitigated disaster. Again, Beltway journalists like Mark Halperin seem to struggle with this, but the American people have been quite clear for nearly four years: they don't like Bush, don't like the job he has done, and would like him to go away. The latest CNN poll found 72 percent of Americans disapprove of Bush. 72 percent! Bush isn't polarizing; indeed, he has made good on his promise to be a uniter: He has united Americans against him.
Now we know what Weekly Standard's in-house Bush superfan Fred Barnes was doing during his recent Oval Office interview with the outgoing president (since he definitely wasn't practicing journalism at the time.) Barnes was likely picking up a rough draft for this farewell column.
His presidency was far more successful than not. And there's an aspect of his decision-making that merits special recognition: his courage. Time and time again, Bush did what other presidents, even Ronald Reagan, would not have done and for which he was vilified and abused. That--defiantly doing the right thing--is what distinguished his presidency.
There will always be a warm meal in Dallas waiting for Barnes.
Something to keep in mind as Barack Obama takes office: Howard Kurtz on whether President Bush was right to refuse to answer a question from Helen Thomas yesterday: "He's the president(for another week, that is). He can call on whoever he wants."
Later during the same online Q&A, Kurtz defended his claim that MSNBC leans to the left:
Howard Kurtz: "Morning Joe" (a show I like) is the only MSNBC program hosted by a conservative, albeit one who spent plenty of time criticizing his Republican Party over the last two years. Tucker Carlson has been banished. The evening programming is handled by Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, who just got finished exploring running for the Senate from Pennsylvania as a Democrat.
Forget, for a moment, the absurdity of using Chris Matthews as evidence of liberalism run amuck at MSNBC. What Kurtz doesn't tell you is that Olbermann, Maddow and Matthews each have one-hour programs. Scarborough's show is three hours long.
Notice also that Kurtz qualifies his description of JoeSco as a conservative ("one who spent plenty of time criticizing his Republican Party") but offers no such qualification for his contention that Matthews is a Democrat, despite Matthews' lengthy history of gushing over conservatives like George W. Bush and John McCain, and of attacking progressives and Democrats. Basically, Kurtz' entire answer was spin.
Later, when he was called on his failure to note that JoeSco's show is three hours, Kurtz kept spinning:
Kurtz: By the way, Scarborough has a co-host, Mika Brzezinski, who is certainly to his left. And the three hours are filled with guests from both parties and both sides of the media spectrum, from Peggy Noonan to Gene Robinson.
Well, ok. Chris Matthews' show is "filled with guests from both partes and both sides of the media spectrum," too, but Kurtz didn't mention that. He simply continued to pretend that the hours of MSNBC hosted by a conservative don't count for various reasons, while ignoring the fact that those same reasons apply to the MSNBC hosts he considers liberal.
During the same Q&A, Kurtz pointed to the fact that "Tucker Carlson has been banished" from MSNBC as evidence of the cable channel's liberal leanings. When a reader pointed out that Carlson wasn't "banished," his terrible show that nobody watched was cancelled, presumably because it was terrible and nobody watched it, Kurtz replied:
Kurtz: Why could Tucker, a smart guy, not have continued as a contributor and commentator? MSNBC just didn't have much appetite for his services.
Kurtz seems to think Carlson was entitled to a job; he wasn't. (And he doesn't seem all that "smart" lately.) Kurtz's insinuations aside, there is no reason to believe that MSNBC lacks "appetite" for Carlson's "services" because Carlson is a conservative. After all, MSNBC is plenty hungry for Pat Buchanan's services as a commentator. But Kurtz never mentions Buchanan, perhaps because MSNBC's continued relationship with such an unrepentant bigot undermines Kurtz's claims that the channel leans to the left.
Kurtz's comments about MSNBC are so one-sided, holding the conservatives and liberals there to such different standards, that it becomes harder and harder to avoid the conclusion that Kurtz' claims about MSNBC's ideological leanings reveal more about his own than about the cable channel's.
UPDATE: More Kurtz:
Boston, Mass.: Hi Howard, I notice more and more stories quoting from the Washington Times. I have never even seen that paper, but always thought of it as sort of a right wing rant rather than a legit newspaper. Opinion based on nothing, but just curious as to your opinion on it.
Howard Kurtz: The Washington Times has always been a legitimate newspaper, but it's gained in respectability since my former Post colleague John Solomon took over as executive editor. In past campaigns, I found the paper's coverage blatantly tilted toward the Republicans; in 2008, while I found things to criticize, I also saw an effort to be fair.
Got that? In previous years, Kurtz has found the Washington Times "blatently tilted toward the Republicans" and only last year saw an "effort to be fair" -- but he says the Times has "always been a legitimate newspaper." If being "blatently tilted" towards the GOP and failing to make an "effort to be fair" doesn't disqualify a newspaper from being considered "legitimate," what does?
As for John Solomon, it is likely true that his move from the Washington Post to the Washington Times improved the quality of both publications.
Matthew Yglesias on the media obsessing over the purported awkwardness of John Kerry, who reportedly wanted to be Secretary of State, chairing Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearings for that job:
Kerry and Clinton have both been in big-time politics for decades, I'm pretty certain they can muster the wherewithal to cooperate. The underlying supposition of this coverage seems to be that there's some kind of shortfall of noteworthy substantive issues related to the conduct of US foreign policy that we could speculate about. And that's nuts.