This, the-media-is-always-tough-on-new-presidents talking point is pretty much everywhere now. Howard Kurtz hit it this morning, and former New York Times reporter Judy Miller hit it on Fox News today:
They are inevitably are going to turn on him, as all - this happened to every administration. I don't see why we should be surprised. It is the natural turn of events.
It happens all the time, Miller stressed. The professionally skeptical press always holds new administrations accountable. It always breaks in the White House newbie by hounding him with tough questions.
Except, of course, when the press does not.
When the Democrats last arrived in Washington, D.C. with a new president in early 1993, the press absolutely greeted him with tough questions; questions that, within a matter of days, morphed into open hostility, where they pretty much stayed for eight years as the press and the Democratic White House waged an endless war.
Don't take our word for it. This was the Los Angeles Times headline for a 1993 story that examined Clinton's early press coverage: "NOT EVEN GETTING A 1ST CHANCE; EARLY COVERAGE OF THE PRESIDENT SEEMED MORE LIKE AN AUTOPSY. WHITE HOUSE MISSTEPS AND AGGRESSIVE MEDIA PURSUIT NEVER ALLOWED CLINTON THE CUSTOMARY HONEYMOON."
By contrast, at the dawn of 2001, a new Republican president arrived in Washington and the press absolutely did not greet him with tough questions. Instead, a blanket of calm seemed to cover Beltway newsrooms.
So when mainstream media watchers today like Kurtz and Miller insist the press always plays hardball with the new president, recent history suggest they're only half right.
According to FNC's Greta Van Susteren, Cameron told her he "messed up on this one," referring to the laundry list of anonymous GOP attacks (smears?) that were broadcast about Palin after the election.
Like the claim that Palin didn't know Africa was a continent, she was a shop-aholic," clueless about NAFTA, and that she once answered a campaign hotel room door wearing a bathrobe.
The claims set off a firestorm within right-wing media circles. And now Cameron regrets it all.
The WaPo's Howard Kurtz today looks at what the relationship between the Beltway press and the incoming Obama administration may look like:
Journalists, who were widely seen as giving Obama an easy ride during the campaign, generally hailed his election as a breakthrough moment for racial progress. Once a president takes office, though, an adversarial relationship usually flourishes, at least with beat reporters.
Coverage is likely to turn nasty for Obama because the skeptical White House press corps regularly wages war with new administrations.
Does anybody else see the problem with that convenient equation? Something about Bush and a lapdog press.
Following Matt Drudge's lead, the GOP Times claims that in her Sunday column, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell conceded the Post had been "bias" in favor of Barack Obama in its campaign coverage.
As we already noted, what Howell did was tally up the raw numbers from the campaign and found that, to a very small degree, the Post during the general election ran more Obama articles and photos than McCain. Howell though, made no conclusions about the contents of the articles or whether the Post was "bias" toward Obama and was unfair to McCain.
The ongoing spin is all part of the conservative effort to blame the press for McCain's loss. What conservatives always fail to mention in their dissection of the press coverage is that was conservative columnists who often led the charge in harshly criticizing the McCain/Palin ticket. But that part doesn't fit into the GOP talking point about an unfair liberal media, so it's always left out of the discussion.
This Dan Rather lawsuit against CBS, in the wake of his removal following the 2004 Memogate controversy, gets more and more interesting, thanks mostly to the reporting of Felix Gillette at the New York Observer.
Last week Gillette noted how CBS came up with a list of possible members to the "independent" panel it was assembling to look into its reporting on Bush's National Guard service. Among the names floated internally were right-wingers Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Safire, in part because CBS was so spooked by the conservative attacks on the network.
Now Gillette reports that during his investigation, GOP attorney Dick Thornburgh, who was eventually tapped to run the panel, sent over eight questions to the White House and asked aide Dan Bartlett to gets answers from Bush regarding the gaping holes in his national guard service during the Vietnam War.
To Thornburgh's credit, the eight questions were dead-on for anybody who actually wanted to get to the bottom of the Bush scandal; and the eight questions the press pretty much refused to ask Bush for years on end.
A spooked out Bartlett, who for years had been the point man for spreading misinformation about Bush's service, informed Thornburgh that Bush would not be answering any further questions about his service.
Here are the eight questions that remain unanswered to this day:
(1) Was there a waiting list to become a pilot of the Texas Air National Guard at the time you entered?
(2) Do you recall Colonel Killian being dissatisfied in any way about your National Guard service in 1972 and 1973?
(3) Were you ever ordered to take a physical in May 1972 or at any other time?
(4) Did Colonel Killian say in May 1972 that you could do Equivalent Training for three months or transfer?
(5) Do you recall being suspended from flight status on or about August 1, 1972? If so, how was that suspension communicated to you?
(6) Why were you suspended from flight status? Was there a reason other than not taking a physical?
(7) Describe your communications with Colonel Killian about a transfer to Alabama in 1972.
(8) Did Colonel Killian or anyone else ever inform you that Colonel Killian was being pressured in any way about your status by a superior officer?
NPR's "On the Media" talks with The Atlantic's Ross Douthat about the rift emerging between pro-Palin conservative populists (i.e. The Weekly Standard) and conservative intellectuals (NYT's David Brooks).
Speaking of Brooks, over the weekend he announced on CBS that the conservative movement has "no leaders," is in a "world of pain," and lacks a "coherent belief system." So there's that.
Think about it. The right-wing talkers just spent the last two months advocating non-stop for the defeat of Barack Obama in the general election, following the primary season when both men advocated, at times non-stop, for the defeat of John McCain in the GOP primaries. And yes, both candidates won each of those contests with ease.
Meaning, right-wing talk radio, if it accomplished nothing else this calender year, proved that its political influence is on sharp decline. Yet we have mainstream media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times rushing in post-election to detail exactly what Rush and Sean are saying about political events. (Hint: they still don't like Obama.)
We're not really picking on the Times here, since the article makes important points about the nature of right-wing radio. It's just so weird the way even after these string of GOP defeats (stretching back to 2006), the press still has this knee-jerk reaction to document what the right-wing press is up to, while remaining largely obliviously to the triumphant left-wing press, particularly the surging blogosphere.
His headline reads [emphasis added], "WASHINGTONPOST: We were biased for Obama. Oops. Sorry..."
The links goes to Sunday's column by WaPo's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, who tallied up the raw numbers from the campaign and found that, to a very small degree, the Post during the general election ran more Obama articles and photos than McCain. Howell though, made no conclusions about the contents of the articles or whether the Post was "bias" toward Obama and was unfair to McCain.
That's just what GOP spinners like Drudge are claiming.
We've written about the Post's fashion writer before and how her attempt to bridge the worlds of fashion and politics by dissecting what politicians wear and supposedly making it all very revealing and important, is, almost without exception, and unbearably painful process to watch.
There's nothing wrong with the territory she's trying to mine. It's just that Givhan's not up to the task and the type of political journalism she's producing is not good.
Recall that it was Givhan who may have hit the absolutely low point of the 2008 campaign journalism when she wrote her for-the-ages column about how Hillary Clinton has breasts. Also, it was Givhan who claimed to be able to divine all sorts of insights into John Edward's character based on what color shirts he wore. And it was Givhan who swung and missed regarding Sarah Palin's wardobe.
Her latest is a think piece on Michelle Obama, because Givhan says "all eyes are on her," although we suspect all eyes are on Michelle's husband, and because "we obsess about her clothes." (We?) Specifically, Givhan dissects what Michelle and the other Obama family members wore on Election Night. Givhan devotes the first six paragraphs of her piece to the fact that some of the Obamas were dressed in mostly black and others had splashes of red; that the family "matched." Givhan thinks this is wildly important and ponders the significance at length:
But that kind of coordination also is a way of controlling the family image, of making sure that these four individuals are perceived as a seamless unit, a supportive clan. The color matching declares loudly: We are a family. We are in this together. And don't we take a nice picture?
We're not sure we can take four years of this.