Obviously, the fact that three of Barack Obama's nominees have had tax trouble gives the Republicans and the media something of an opening to poke a little fun at Obama and the Democratic Party. But reporters should keep in mind that Republicans have had their share of tax troubles, too.
Countless reporters have quoted GOP Rep. Eric Cantor saying "It's easy for the other side to sit here and advocate higher taxes because - you know what? - they don't pay them." Others have made the same argument in their own voice.
Quoting Cantor is fine -- it's a good line. But news reports that simply quote Cantor or express a similar sentiment give the impression that tax troubles are a problem unique to prominent Democrats.
Not so. During last year's presidential campaign, it emerged that Cindy McCain hadn't bothered to pay taxes on one of her homes. Several other Republican candidates last year had tax troubles. Republican Party Strategist and Mascot Joe Wurzelbacher had a tax lien placed against him. Dick Morris -- who has criticized Tim Geithner's failure to pay taxes -- had a $1.5 million tax lien filed against him by the IRS, and the state of Connecticut said he owed more than $450,000 in unpaid taxes and penalities. There are presumably dozens of other examples.
Obviously, that doesn't mean the media shouldn't mention the tax troubles of Obama's nominees. Nor does it mean they shouldn't quote Republican criticisms. But when they quote Republicans suggesting unpaid taxes are a uniquely Democratic problem, they have an obligation to make clear that this is not true. And, certainly, they should avoid making that suggestion themselves.
From the second sentence [emphasis added]:
Two weeks into his presidency, Barack Obama proved that even a clearly gifted politician cannot escape the gravitational pull of Washington forces that have humbled many of his predecessors. The new president, seen by some as arrogant, was anything but on Tuesday.
Note that nowhere--nowhere--in the lengthy piece does the AP quote anybody, either on the record or off, who claims that Obama is arrogant. The only person who makes that claim is the AP's Charlie Babington, while hiding behind the cowardly "some say" cliche.
Let's just call this what it is. It ain't journalism and it ain't political analysis. It's casual character assassination, courtesy of the AP.
A footnote to my weekly column, where I stressed that the press, when covering the issue of bipartisanship, appears only interested in blaming Democrats, and Obama specifically, for the lack of legislative cooperation. And how the press has set up Republicans with perhaps the easiest short-term political victory on record. All the GOP has to do is oppose Obama on the stimulus package, and the Beltway media will proclaim Obama the loser. Because, apparently for the press, it's up to Obama, and Obama alone, to change the tone.
But here's the new USA Today/Gallup polling data on the topic.
Question: Since Obama was elected, has the overall tone and level of civility in Washington between Democrats and Republicans?
Result: Improved, 21%. Stayed the same 51%. Gotten worse, 23%
Question: Of those saying the tone has not improved, whom do they blame?
Result: Republicans, 41%. Democrats 30%. Both, 23%.
So, contrary to the media's current Obama narrative, more Americans blame Republicans for the fact that the tone in Washington has not improved with the arrival of the new administration.
The Times today suggests there's been an unusual number of journalists going to work for the Obama administration, which (yawn) raises questions about liberal bias:
But this year the accusation has a new twist: In some notable cases it has become true, with several prominent journalists now on the payrolls of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership.
Who are the prominent journalists? Well, the first example the Times references is MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who kinda, sorta thought about running for the U.S. senate from Pennsylvania. But is Matthews going to run? Apparently not. And even if he did run, and even if he won, would Matthews be "on the payrolls of Mr. Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership"? No.
So the first example the Times points to is pretty much irrelevant to the issue at hand: journalists joining the payrolls of Democrats.
The Times' third example [emphasis added]:
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the leading candidate for surgeon general, is CNN's chief medical correspondent. His résumé as a practicing neurosurgeon — and one of People magazine's "sexiest men alive" in 2003 — is not that of a traditional journalist. But he reported on the health records of the presidential candidates last year, along with their health care proposals.
Has Gupta joined the Obama administration? No. Has he been asked to? No.
In total, the Times points to four journalists to back up its claim that "an unusual number of journalists from prominent, mainstream organizations started new government jobs in January." Of the four referenced, two--Matthews and Gupta--did not start new government jobs in January.
Check out of the fine print from yesterday's CNN chron:
Yes, it reads "Stimulus gains $80 billion; are Dems sabotaging it with extras?"
Gee, nothing loaded about that language, right?
Responding to Adam Green's piece over at Huffington Post, which admonished Burnett for her MTP appearance this weekend where she seemed to act more like a spokeswoman for Wall Street firms, and less like a reporter covering them, Burnett's CNBC colleague Jim Cramer came to her defense on the air yesterday.
Meanwhile, Green has invited Burnett to live blog with him and Huff Post readers about the topic of the Wall Street bailout. Let's hope she accepts.
And note to Green: if the debate takes place, please be sure to ask Burnett about her claim on MTP that taxpayer money did not help pay for those recent corporate bonuses for Wall Street execs. It appears she got the facts wrong.
This one's gonna make your head hurt, trust us. It's what happens when trivial pursuits collide with incompetence.
First up, NBC apparently does not know how to transcribe its presidential interviews, even when the president speaks clearly and slowly. NBC managed to botch the transcripts to its Obama interview. Specifically, at the end of the Q&A, Matt Lauer, for whatever reason, decided to ask Obama about his wife and daughters being on the cover of US magazine.
Lauer held up the magazine, which also featured cover photo and headline in the upper-right hand corner about singer Jessica Simpson's' apparent weight gain. ("Inside Jess' weight battle.") In fact, the unflattering photo of Simpson actually cropped out Obama himself on the US cover.
From the NBC transcripts which were released to the press:
LAUER: You got replaced by Jessica Simpson.
OBAMA: Yeah, who's losing a weight battle apparently. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. Oh, well.
Well, that ticked some people off, including Karen Tumulty at Time. "He laid a big one in yesterday's interview with Matt Lauer," she wrote as she reproduced the NBC transcript online. And yes, right-wing blogosphere also denounced Obama, printing up the same transcript.
Thing is, Obama never said Simpson was "losing a weight battle." As Politico notes, NBC mangled the transcripts. Here's what Obama actually said:
LAUER: You got replaced by Jessica Simpson.
OBAMA: Yeah, who's in a weight battle apparently. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. Oh, well.
It's obvious from watching the clip that Obama was not making fun of Simpson's weight. If anything he was very gently mocking the fanzine culture in which Simpson's weight is considered to be newsworthy.
But back to Tumulty and then the blogs. How did they respond to the fact that Obama never said what they criticized him for saying? From Tumulty [emphasis added]:
*Alert Swampland commenter travellingatlanta notes that the transcript that NBC put out was wrong. "Who's losing a weight battle" is actually "who's in a weight battle." I went back and listened to the video, and it sounds that way to me, too. Which makes it slightly better. I guess. But in the future, Mr. President, just don't go there.
I'm chuckling over Tumulty's detective work; about how she went back and listened to the video again and confirmed that, yes, Obama said "Yeah, who's in a weight battle apparently." I'm chuckling because the audio/video is clear as day and there is no dispute, which only highlights how supremely NBC mucked up by concocted parts of the transcripts in the first place.
Second, Obama shouldn't go there? Give us a break. The only reason Obama mentioned any of this was because a network news anchor brought up the frivolous topic of US magazine. The president was simply, and politely, humoring the interviewer by reading back to him the inane mag cover line.
As for the right-wing blog, well it's just priceless. This is what Gateway Pundit wrote:
UPDATE: The Politico is defending the president for joking about Jessica Simpson's weight problem. Figures.
Classic, right? Gateway pundit first mocked Obama for something he never said. When Politico pointed out Obama never said what NBC (and Gateway Pundit) claimed the president said, Gateway Pundit simply informed readers that Politico was "defending" Obama. What did Gateway Pundit fail to do? It failed inform readers that Obama never said what Gateway Pundit claimed Obama said.
Just keep moving along folks, nothing to see here. Corrections? Retractions for flogging phony story? Pleeease.
We told you this was gonna make your head hurt.
Pajamas Media, which was supposed to help build up the right-wing section of the blogosphere, announced that it's pulling the plug on its advertising network. It couldn't make enough money selling ads on GOP-friendly sites. That means some right-wing outposts may soon go dark.
Question: Is this Rightroots thing ever going to get off the ground?
Jonathan Chait has an interesting read in the upcoming edition of The New Republic that looks at, at least in part, the disparity in media coverage of the scandals involving the now-impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the FBI-investigated-soon-to-be-former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. For those of you not following the Coleman scandal, Chait's article offers a decent summary:
What, you say--Norm Coleman? Yes, Norm Coleman! Let me explain. The soon-to-be-former senator's scandal is pretty simple. Nasser Kazeminy, a wealthy businessman and close Coleman friend, allegedly paid him $75,000 under the table.
And by "allegedly," I mean "almost certainly." Here's how the almost certainly true alleged scheme worked. The payments to Coleman came in the form of what Tony Soprano would call a "no-show job." One of Kazeminy's companies is called Deep Marine Technology. Kazeminy allegedly ordered Deep Marine's CEO, Paul McKim, to make a series of $25,000 payments that would go to Coleman's wife. According to McKim, Kazeminy was utterly blatant. He said the reason for the payments was that Coleman needed the money and McKim should disguise them as a legitimate business transaction.
I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first many have heard of Coleman's predicament – as Chait notes, it has hardly registered in the national media:
Some differences in the scale of relative guilt do present themselves. In Coleman's defense, he's currently just a subject of an FBI investigation, while Blagojevich has been voted out of office. And, of course, Coleman hasn't been caught boasting about his scheme. On the other hand, Coleman is accused by a Houston businessman of having actually accepted illicit funds, while Blagojevich is merely being accused of harboring an intention to sell his Senate seat.
Now consider how the two stories have fared in the national press. Blagojevich has turned into the biggest crime story since O.J. Simpson. Can you guess how many articles about the Coleman scandal have appeared in the national media? One short wire story. When I bring up Coleman's scandals with my colleagues, many of whom follow politics for a living, invariably they have little or no idea what I'm talking about.
The national media have almost completely ignored the Coleman scandal but they've found plenty of time to misreport key aspects of the Minnesota recount and ensuing ballot disputes. Al Franken may be a former comedian but the real joke has been the national media's coverage of this Senate race.