Extremely timid offering on the Post's A1 today about how Bush is feeling during the closing days of his presidency, as he bounces along the lowest regions of job disapproval any U.S. president has ever registered. (He's surprisingly sanguine!)
The story basically offers Bush apologists a forum to claim the president's been unfairly attacked and that "his closest advisers are confident that history "will remember him well."" Whatever.
But this misleading passage especially caught our eye:
Others inside and outside the administration, however, say the upbeat talk masks disappointment and frustration among many White House staffers, who believe Bush's reputation has been unfairly maligned for a series of calamities -- from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to the financial crisis -- that were beyond his control and which he handled well.
If we had to assemble a list of "calamities" for which Bush has been blamed, we don't think the terrorist attack of Sept. 11 would even make the top ten. Yes, there's been healthy debate over the years about whether the Bush White House paid enough attention to anti-terrorism initiatives and how the FBI ignored lots of tell-tale signs that trouble was brewing.
But in general, I don't think Bush's reputation has been "maligned" by 9/11. It's been maligned by everything that happened after 9/11. The way he was unable to secure Afghanistan, decided to lead the U.S. into war with Iraq, tried to privatize Social Security, completely botched Hurricane Katrina relief, and on and on and on.
It's puzzling that the Post would point to 9/11 as an example.
Or something like that.
It's getting very confusing in terms of tracking the studies that purport to show 'positive' and 'negative' coverage of the campaign. The latest to lay out its findings is Center for Media and Public Affairs, which claims that after watching the evening news broadcasts have favored Obama over McCain.
According to the AP:
Comments made by sources, voters, reporters and anchors that aired on ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts over the past two months reflected positively on Obama in 65 percent of cases.
The Center's Robert Lichter sounds surprised by the findings [emphasis added]:
For whatever reason, the media are portraying Barack Obama as a better choice for president than John McCain. If you watch the evening news, you'd think you should vote for Obama.
Two slightly monumental problems with that way of thinking. First, Republican John McCain went from being tied in the polls in September to trailing by double-digits in October, so of course the coverage of his campaign is going to be more 'negative' because it's headed south. That seems self-evident.
The second problem is the methodology that Lichter's Center used. As the AP explained:
When NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported Oct. 1 that some conservatives say that Sarah Palin is not ready for prime-time, that's marked in the negative column for McCain.
Re-read that and let it sink in. When conservatives criticized the GOP ticket on the evening news, that was chalked up as negative coverage in the Center's study. Yet now conservatives are going to use that study to claim the networks have a liberal bias.
Neat trick, eh?
There's no question that if McCain loses on Tuesday, conservatives are going to embrace their favorite meme about how the liberal media bent over backwards during the campaign to sink the GOP ticket; how the press ganged up on Republicans.
The hitch this time around, as Brian Normoyle details at HuffPost, is that it's been conservative writers at the front of the line critiquing McCain/Palin in recent weeks. So how is that the fault of "the liberal media"?
Livingblogging a Q&A with Chris Matthews from Nathans restaurant in Georgetown this week, Mediabistro's fishbowl DC caught this exchange:
On McCain campaign: "They think they can win by attacking the media. ... It's never worked before."
Hmm, no campaign has ever won the White House by attacking the media? Was Matthews not around four years ago when the Bush/Cheney campaign was pretty much built around attacking the media? Or did Cheney banning a New York Times reporter off his campaign plane not count as attacking the press?
Ironically, Matthews earlier in the Q&A announced, "I sometimes think my memory's too good."
Ben Smith puts together a round-up of all the nasty rumors that have surfaced about Obama and McCain during the campaign and notes that Politico reporters have been inundated with emails from partisans demanding they investigate the stories, which are mostly just conspiracy theories.
This is an important topic and could have been a chance for Politico to pull back the curtain on the behavior of right-wing bloggers during his election cycle who have been pushing some of the flimsiest and loopiest conspiracies ever recorded. It could have been chance for Politico to document how the right-wing bloggers have become a joke.
It could have been, but that's now how the Beltway press treats right-wing bloggers. Instead, the Beltway press prefers to look away when partisan GOP bloggers embarrass themselves, as they've done continuously this campaign.
Smith never even types up the phrase "right-wing bloggers" and in fact he never even mentions them in his article. (He does though, call out the "die-hard pro-Hillary section of the blogosphere" for shoddy behavior.) His article also strains mightily to pretend the anti-Obama and anti-McCain conspiracy theories were roughly equal in number this season. (i.e. Smith presents three targeting each candidate.)
Basically, it's a whitewash.
What's curious is that Smith himself last week linked to a definitive blog post by Jon Swift, which cataloged all the idiotic anti-Obama rumors the bloggers chased this season. Rather than amplifying those findings in his rumor article, Smith just ignored them.
Since Politico won't highlight the smears peddled by conservative blogs this campaign, we will:
*While attending Columbia University in the early 1980's and interested in the South African divestiture movement, Obama was involved in violent protests, including domestic terrorist bombings, that erupted when a South African rugby team toured America.
*Obama's deeply personal memoir, Dreams of My Fathers, was actually ghost-written by Bill Ayers, the former '60's radical-turned college professor who befriended Obama in Chicago in the 1990's.
*When Obama went to visit his ailing grandmother in Hawaii in October, he was really traveling there in order to deal with controversy about his birth certificate.
* Obama was getting answers in the first debate through a clear plastic hearing aid in his ear.
*The Obama campaign conspired with a Los Angeles PR firm to peddle anti-Palin video smears on YouTube.
*Michelle Obama gave an unsolicited phone interview to an obscure Norway-based news organization in which she railed against "American white racists" trying to derail her husband's campaign.
That's what right-wing bloggers have been obsessing about this campaign. But Politico remains mum.
The Washington Times complains:
The Washington Times, which has covered the Barack Obama campaign from the start, was kicked off the Democrat's campaign plane for the final 72 hours of the race.
The Obama campaign informed the newspaper Thursday evening of its decision, which came two days after The Times editorial page endorsed Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama. The Times editorial page runs completely independent of the news department.
"This feels like the journalistic equivalent of redistributing the wealth, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars covering Senator Obama's campaign, traveling on his plane, and taking our turn in the reporter's pool, only to have our seat given away to someone else in the last days of the campaign," said Washington Times Executive Editor John Solomon.
Solomon is still relatively new to the job, and I know he sometimes struggles with the basics, so here's a free tip: When claiming that your newsroom is independent of the right-wing leanings for which your editorial page is well-known, it probably isn't a good idea to parrot McCain campaign talking points about Obama "redistributing the wealth." It kind of undermines your point.
One of the mundane-but-necessary tasks that occasionally falls to those of us in the reality-based community is debunking the Right's laughable claims of media bias. It typically isn't difficult work, though it is sometimes time-consuming.
Fortunately, conservatives sometimes do the heavy lifting for us by leveling self-debunking attacks on the media, as Bill Kristol did on The Daily Show:
Appearing once again on The Daily Show, Bill Kristol, Jon Stewart's favorite whipping boy ("Bill Kristol, aren't you ever right?"), tonight defended the McCain-Palin ticket, at one point informing the show's host that he was getting his news from suspect sources. "You're reading The New York Times too much," he declared.
"Bill, you work for The New York Times," Stewart pointed out.