Well, at least Harwood at the New York Times has a shtick. Every columnist needs a good shtick and Harwood's under Obama is to routinely remind readers that while the new president enjoys good political fortunes today, it could all go south very fast.
This was Harwood back in March [emphasis added]:
President Barack Obama enjoys robust support from the American public, but a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll suggests potential bumps ahead for his ambitious domestic agenda.
And here was Harwood last week:
Mr. Obama currently holds the upper hand, riding high in the polls while Republicans appear chaotic and hapless. But he is racing to capitalize for good reason. Political history, and some early signs this spring, suggest that time is not on his side.
And how about this week:
On the economy, President Obama has a timing problem. Congressional Democrats may have a bigger one...The lag between recovery and falling unemployment carries multiple potential consequences for Mr. Obama's agenda. The lag could erode his popularity and, thus, his clout.
OK, we get it John. You want to be first in line to claim credit if and when Obama's strong approval ratings soften. The awkward part for Times editors though, is how long are they going to let Harwood keep writing the same column, esp. if Obama shows no real signs of faltering?
He wants to. He wants to follow the success that the Wall Street Journal has had in getting subscribers to fork over money for the right to log onto the Journal's website. (And soon, to sign up for Journal micro-payments for web reading.) Murdoch wants to do that with his other news properties, but he won't be able to. Why not? Because most of other news outlets are junk.
I'll let Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff explain [emphasis added]:
[Journal editor Robert] Thomson is saying that it would be great if News Corp. could charge for its other websites like it's charging for the Journal. But it obviously can't because New Corp.'s other sites—the New York Post, Fox News, and at the Australian and British papers—are a joke. They're unmanned, unsupported, and, with technology that's often a decade old, they don't work. That is, except for the Journal, and, also, the Times of London, a site which Thomson ran before coming to the Journal and, not incidentally, got Murdoch to make a big investment in.
Here's Joe Biden talking about his dog to a group of schoolchildren in Syracuse, New York:
Do I have a dog? I got a great dog. Have I ever petted a dog? Oh yeah, and guess what? I got one who lives with me. The coolest, smartest dog in the world. His name is Champ. And he's a German sheppard. And he is the neatest dog ... I kid the president. My dog is smarter than Bo, his dog. [Schoolchildren laugh] I think, yeah I do. I think he is. But Bo is a beautiful dog, too.
Here's the video. Watch for yourself. This is clearly not someone who is insulting President Obama's dog; this is clearly someone who A) loves his dog and B) is making a joke about the relative intelligence of his dog and the President's dog. Schoolchildren understand that; they laugh at the joke.
Now here's how Christian Science Monitor reporter Jimmy Orr describes the comments, under the headline - yes, he put this nonsense in the headline! -- "Biden insults President Obama's dog at Syracuse":
It was as though Vice President Biden time-warped back to last fall. Because on Sunday he was in full campaign attack mode.
You've praised your dog. Why denigrate another?
Because in campaigns you have to differentiate yourself from your opponent. And campaigns are in Biden's blood. That's when he let it be known that Bo Obama was a dolt.
"The new dog I have is only five months old and his name is Champ," Biden told the schoolkids.
"My dog is smarter than Bo, his dog," he jabbed.
"I think so," he taunted. Yeah, I do."
To watch the full shocking video, click here. To understand what Vice President Biden meant to say, watch Robert Gibbs' press briefing tomorrow.
Nowhere did Orr indicate that Biden was clearly joking around. Perhaps he really didn't understand what was clear to the laughing schoolchildren. In any case, his descriptions of Biden in "full attack mode" are absurd, and he introduces a direct falsehood: Joe Biden did not say Bo is a "dolt." Nothing like it.
Enter Andrew Malcolm. Here's how the Los Angeles Times reporter described the event, based on Orr's work (after referring to "Obama's dumb dog" in the headline):
Perhaps the real Biden news of the day, however, comes this morning from Jimmy Orr over at the Vote blog. He tells us that after his commencement address, Biden stopped by the old neighborhood where he lived and visited with about 100 schoolchildren, who must have been thrilled to be called in on a Sunday for a political photo op.
One of them asked if the VP had ever pet a dog. And Biden took the occasion to praise his new dog Champ, and to insult Obama's new dog, Bo, as being far less intelligent than Champ. Biden quickly added that Bo was "a beautiful dog too." But the damage had been done. Add that one to the gaffe book.
Again: false. Biden didn't say Bo was "far" less intelligent than Champ. That may seem like nit-picking, but when reporters feel the need to exaggerate what politicians say in order to portray the comment as a "gaffe," that's a pretty good sign there wasn't really anything wrong with the actual comment.
Oh, but the "damage had been done," according to Malcolm. Damage? What damage? The kids in the audience laughed at the obvious and harmless joke. Andrew Malcolm, however, exaggerated and mischaracterized the joke so that he could call it a "gaffe," continuing his bizarre war on Biden.
What kind of person twists a politician's loving comments about his dog into a "gaffe"? What kind of person twists an innocent and playful comment that is so clearly a joke that young schoolchildren understand it into a "full campaign attack mode" insult?
Maybe some background information is in order: Andrew Malcolm was Laura Bush's press secretary. Jimmy Orr was a spokesman for George W. Bush.
Saturday morning, as you may have heard, a few hundred political reporters got together at brunch before the White House correspondents dinner. Many of them brought guests -- political figures, celebrities, people like that.
Fox's Greta Van Susteren brought Todd Palin, perhaps because Joe The Plumber was unavailable.
So there they are, at brunch, when a Politico reporter starts to "chat" with Palin (or, depending on whose account you believe, to attempt to interview him.) Apparently Palin did not want to be interviewed.
So far, so good: There's nothing wrong with a reporter trying to interview someone, even at brunch. And there's nothing wrong with not wanting to be interviewed.
So Van Susteren jumped in and announced that the conversation was "off the record." Which was a little strange, since that request would normally be made by the interviewee (Palin) or his communications staff, not another journalist. That led some to describe Van Susteren as Palin's "handler," to which she took great offense.
Here's Van Susteren:
On Saturday morning (before the night's big dinner) I was at a social brunch (like everyone else in the media), and brought a guest like almost everyone in the media did. A Politico reporter came up to our Fox guest Todd Palin with a pad to take notes and interview Todd Palin (it says "started to chat" but that is not what happened or what was going on....no one is that stupid to believe that.) It was an attempt to interview him when he did not agree to it or ask for it - print paparazzi at a brunch /party!
If Todd Palin had said something about coming there for a social event (instead of me), you know what would have happened - he would have been trashed....which would have been unfair. The reporter may have been working - but he was not. He was at a social event and not looking to be ambushed by a surprise interview.
I did not bring a guest to be interviewed or grilled by the press but, like everyone else in the media, I brought the guest so the guest could meet people and have a good social time. And I certainly did not bring the guest so that Politico could interview him - I have enough friends in the business that I could do better if that were my motive....or I would have interviewed him myself. If you noticed, I did not interview him.
Here is another tidbit: our guest is NOT a candidate for office - and never has been a candidate for office. Our guest is a family member of a politician. Our guest was there to simply attend a social event.
So, when the Politico reporter started to interview my guest with pad and paper and I politely say this is a social event, off the record, I am suddenly a "handler?" a handler? Huh? Maybe I had just had good manners for a guest?
Now, there's quite a bit of defensiveness in there, quite a bit of it amusing. But let's focus on this: "The reporter may have been working - but he [Todd Palin] was not. He was at a social event and not looking to be ambushed by a surprise interview."
So, here's the thing: if Fox reporters are going to complain about people being "ambushed by a surprise interview," they might want to denounce Bill O'Reilly first. Otherwise, they look like frauds.
After all, Bill O'Reilly sent his goons to follow Amanda Terkel from her home to a weekend vacation, where they ambushed her with a video camera. (And that's just one of many examples.) Yet Greta Van Susteren is indignant that Todd Palin -- who voluntarily walked into an event that was lousy with reporters -- was approached by one of those reporters for an interview? Nobody followed Todd Palin; nobody shoved a camera in his face.
UPDATE: And, of course, Greta Van Susteren's husband is a Palin advisor. She must have just forgotten to mention that.
In truth, despite their supposed disdain for free speech infringers, conservatives have always had way more PC media cops on the prowl, announcing what was and what was not acceptable in terms of political commentary. For instance, I believe people who opposed the Iraq War in real time were often condemned as traitors by the Noise Machine. Stuff like that.
Under Obama, the movement has simply intensified, as the right-wing now whistles each imagined PC infraction and writes up tickets for those with dare to say what should never be said out loud. (i.e. That the Noise Machine is nuts.)
The latest example came in the wake of comedian Wanda Sykes's performance at the White House Correspondents Association dinner in Washington, D.C., where she made a couple jokes at the expense of Rush Limbaugh. Not funny! announced PC-er Jonah Goldberg. Not only was the Noise Machine aghast by Sykes' punchlines, but they also targeted Obama for a PC infraction.
His thought crime? He chuckled when a comedian told a joke at a roast.
UPDATE: Read the hand-wringing comments from Rush supporters about Sykes' jokes going "over the line," and ask yourself if anybody from within the GOP ever makes that claim about the hate that Limbaugh peddles on a daily basis. Or could we just not hear their protests when Limbaugh's show recently likened the POTUS to a terrorist?
Just in case folks missed it over the weekend, here's the image the newspaper came up with to accompany Maureen Dowd's column (at least it accompanied it online):
FYI, Dowd's column was a collection of gibberish about how the new "Star Trek" movie relates to the new president and the struggling newspaper industry. Or something like that.
From a May 10 Associated Press article:
CBS Sports golf analyst David Feherty apologized Sunday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for a morbid joke that went bad in a Dallas magazine.
Feherty, one of the most popular golf analysts for his sharp wit and self-deprecating humor, was among five Dallas residents who wrote for "D Magazine" on former President George W. Bush moving to Dallas.
"From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this though," Feherty wrote toward the end of his column.
"Despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death."
Feherty, a former Ryder Cup player who grew up in Northern Ireland, has gone to Iraq over Thanksgiving the past two years to visit with U.S. troops, and he created a foundation to help wounded soldiers.
"This passage was a metaphor meant to describe how American troops felt about our 43rd president," Feherty said in a statement. "In retrospect, it was inappropriate and unacceptable, and has clearly insulted Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, and for that, I apologize. As for our troops, they know I will continue to do as much as I can for them both at home and abroad."
You may remember GOPUSA as the right-wing advocacy organization/mailing list that created a phony news organization in order to send Jeff Gannon -- a professional escort whose real name wasn't Jeff Gannon -- to the White House as a correspondent.
The folks at GOPUSA shut down that part of the operation soon after it was exposed by Media Matters and others, but they continue to operate a mailing list and web page in order to spread their crazy.
One recent email came with the subject line "Extremely Urgent: Society to Come Unglued." A 6,000+ word screed followed, with instructions to "read what I am about to say carefully, because your very life may depend on it." Amidst the hysterics about plummeting ozone, the email did offer one reassuring bit of advice: "You don't necessarily have to bury a huge cache of silver coins in your backyard to be able to barter in an emergency situation."
Whew. That's good to know.
Anyway: GOPUSA emails tend not to get much attention. After all, most of their recipients are probably too busy fashioning hats out of aluminum foil to read through 6,000 words. But on Friday, GOPUSA sent out an email that is bound to get picked up by Fox News or some right-wing radio host or Newsbusters blogger:
The Department of Homeland Security Strikes Again
A Special Report by Archie Jones, American Vision Staff Writer
A customer service representative at The Patriot Depot just received a call from Rosemary in Ball, Louisiana alerting him that her brother-in-law was stopped by small town Louisiana police and detained by the roadside for half an hour. A background check was conducted to determine whether he was a member of an "extremist" group. Why? Her brother-in-law (name not disclosed for privacy) had purchased a conservative "Don't Tread on Me" bumper sticker from The Patriot Depot and displayed it on his car.
Now: That obviously didn't happen.
Oh, in case you're wondering, this purported harassment of Rosemary's brother for displaying a "Don't Tread on Me" bumper sticker was just another example of "The notorious Department of Homeland Security memo" being used to "harass, intimidate, and silence all political opposition -- and probably an attempt to demonize them as a prelude to governmental oppression and persecution."
Today's Washington Post profiles Leah Ward Sears, chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, under the header "Supreme Court Prospect Has Unlikely Ally." The subhead explains a little further: "Friendship With Thomas May Complicate Chances for Left-Leaning Georgia Judge."
Wait a second. Her chances may be complicated simply because of her friendship with Clarence Thomas? Who says?
As it turns out, no one.
Oh, sure, the Post tried, right up top, to make the case that her friendship could hurt Sears' chances:
Many years after that phone call, the friendship that has endured makes for one of the more intriguing subplots of President Obama's upcoming decision. In naming Souter's replacement, Obama is likely to choose a liberal jurist. Some in the civil rights community are hoping that person will be an African American, such as Sears, to soothe the lingering bitterness over the appointment of Thomas, a conservative who is the court's only black justice.
But if the choice does turn out to be Sears, the nation's first black president would be nominating someone whose closest friend on the court is the very person civil rights activists have accused of failing to represent African Americans' interests.
But that's as close as the paper came. In 1,400 words, the paper gave no indication that anyone would oppose Sears because of her friendship with Thomas. In 1,400 words, the paper quoted or paraphrased nobody -- named or otherwise -- saying the friendship gave them concerns about Sears.
And Sears and Thomas have vastly different records.
So why was a 1,400 profile of Sears focused so heavily on Thomas?
The first 8 paragraphs -- and 21 of 25 overall -- involved Thomas.