From the Times' Helene Cooper, traveling with Obama in London:
Is President Obama trying to muzzle his press corps?
A rather loaded/provocative charge, no? Cooper's basis for making the claim? We'll let Politico's Michael Calderone explain:
So what did the president do? Well, during today's joint presser, Gordon Brown took four questions but Barack Obama only took three! Yes, that's it.
Oy. We tend to agree with the conclusion posted by Times reader Greg, who wrote:
Please, stop your whining Ms. Cooper. "They" got one more question than we did? And it was a softball at that? I love the Times and respect its coverage but this posting is juvenile.
I know, my head hurts too, reading the 'coverage.' (I'm waiting for some reporter to combine the gift 'story' with a detailed description of what Michelle Obama was wearing when she gave the Queen of England the gift.)
Aside from the fact that key facts have been omitted by the press, the 'story' reeks of double standards because I don't remember any detailed coverage of the gifts Bush gave dignitaries over the years. Plus, Obama is being mocked, in part, for being a narcissist by including some of his speeches on the Queen's iPod. That's why this part made us chuckle, from Politico:
As for the queen, she gave the Obamas a signed photo of herself and her husband in a silver frame. But she had it easier than Obama — that's the same thing she always gives visiting dignitaries.
Is that an appropriate gift? It certainly seems so. But imagine the media reaction if Obama had given the queen a signed photo of himself.
UPDATE: More overseas 'reporting,' courtesy of Time's migraine-inducing dispatch about how Michelle Obama appeared to touch the Queen for "just a second or two." Time tells us that's a protocol no-no:
The rules are set in stone, and so the eagerly watching British media sputtered when the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, briefly put her hand on the back of Queen Elizabeth II as the two chatted at a reception.
The British media "sputtered," Time relayed. But Time didn't bother to, y'know, actually quote any sputtering examples from the British media. Readers just have to trust Time. Same here:
Still, the sight of anyone apparently touching the Queen with anything more than a limp handshake is enough to send the British (or traditionalists in the old Commonwealth) twittering.
Did the British twitter after Obama appeared to touch the Queen for "just a second or two"? Again, Time doesn't quote anybody to suggest they did. We're supposed to trust Time's judgment. But considering the fact that the article itself is an embarrassment, from premise to execution, that's hard for us to do.
UPDATE: From a CF reader in the comment section:
If I may chime in from the UK. Saw that Michelle Obama put her hand on the Queen's back last night on the BBC news. It was like, 5 seconds of the 10 o'clock news, and the brief comment from the Beeb reporter was to say how unmoved the Queen was when it happened.
UPDATE: More breaking giftgate news here.
From Minnesota Public Radio today [emphasis added]:
Though it looks like Norm Coleman will not prevail before the three-judge panel hearing the Senate election case, the battle is far from over. Coleman's side took a hit Tuesday when the panel said it would consider counting only up to 400 more votes. Coleman quickly announced plans to appeal. But is Coleman risking looking like a sore loser?
It's a start.
We clipped this video yesterday, mostly to highlight the part where Beck claims the government "is a heroin pusher using smiley-faced fascism to grow the nanny state." The larger context was that Beck, loyally following Drudge's lead, was making fun of a new online government initiative, overseen by the Dept. of Health and Human Services, to help Americans deal with the additional stress that's accompanied the painful economic recession.
Beck thinks that's pathetic and it's part of the larger "Nanny State" meme the right-wing has been pushing. (i.e. How dare the government try to help people!) But here's where Beck just made stuff up [emphasis added]:
We don't need a website. We didn't need one after Oklahoma City. We didn't need one after Columbine. We didn't need one even after 9-11. You know why? Because we had each other.
Hmm, well what do you call this, which was published by the Bush administration's Dept. of Health and Human Services, following the attacks of 9-11:
Mental Health Response to Mass Violence and Terrorism
(h/t No More Mister Nice Blog)
This side show is really becoming quite entertaining to watch. We noted this week the conservative writers and bloggers who were calling out members of the GOP Noise Machine for their completely unhinged reaction to Obama's first days and weeks in office.
Now the far right FrontPageMag is declaring the beloved Obama-wasn't-born-in-Hawaii story is, without question, false:
Obama's birth certificate posted online is exactly the same birth certificate everybody in Hawaii gets from the State Department of Health. It is not forged. There is nothing unusual about the design or the texture...It is time for folks to stop being played by the Obama campaign and drop this counter productive 'phony birth certificate' nonsense.
Just a footnote: Shouldn't this have been written, like, 20 weeks ago?
Just making sure.
But let's highlight another part of his recent column, where the tightly wound conservative writer explains that it's because of media bias that Obama enjoys sky-high job approval ratings, why very few voters blame the Obama administration for today's economic woes, and why the number of people who think America is heading in the right direction has tripled under the Democrat.
One word: media bias. (Well okay, two words.)
Bozell decided the latest WashPost poll wasn't accurate and the poll itself was part of an elaborate ruse by the media to shower Obama with good news. Or something like that.
So Bozell goes to work and does his best to show that Americans don't really support Obama. What's really going on is that the Post and the pollsters have stacked the deck. And Bozell can prove it. Like the part where the Post/pollsters asked Americans who was to blame for the downturn.
Watch Bozell in action [emphasis added]:
"How much of the blame do you think [fill in the blank] deserves for the country's economic situation?" The choices were corporations, banks, consumers, the Bush team, and the Obama administration. There's a built-in pro-Obama bias in there already: assigning blame to Obama for the current economy when he's been in office for nine weeks just seems harsh to most people. But just because they (correctly) don't blame him as the primary cause for our current woes, this doesn't mean for a second that the public endorses his "solutions," as the Post suggests.
Bozell claims the Post read too much into the poll results because Americans never said they endorsed Obama's "solutions" the way the daily claimed. But here's the thing--the Post never claimed the public endorsed Obama's solutions. The world "solution" does not appear in the Post article and does not appear anywhere in the poll itself. Bozell just made that part up. And then put it in quotes.
In an effort to ridicule the Post's journalism, Bozell made stuff up. Ironic, don't you think?
UPDATE: If anything, the Post polling article that Bozell attacks raised doubts about whether Americans supported Obama's solutions/initiatives:
Despite the increasing optimism about the future, the nation's overall mood remains gloomy, and doubts are rising about some of the administration's prescriptions for the economic woes.
But Bozell ignores all that in order to weave his unique brand of conservative fiction.
Because right-wing blogger Erick Erickson actually posted the item on March 31. In it he demanded:
At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?
Why could that double as a punchline? Because, as blogger Matthew Yglesias notes, Erickson's call for mob violence was prompted by "an environmental regulation relating to dishwasher detergent."
On Monday, the conservative writer published an unintentional side-splitter in the WashTimes about how vicious, unethical liberals were inundating right-blog sites and trashing the the comment sections. Breitbart was, if nothing else, quite animated:
Much of Mr. Obama's vaunted online strategy involved utilizing "Internet trolls" to invade enemy lines under false names and trying to derail discussion. In the real world, that's called "vandalism." But in a political movement that embraces "graffiti" as avant-garde art , that's business as usual. It relishes the ability to destroy other people's property in pursuit of electoral victory.
He lamented that some big name GOP blog sites even had to pull the plug on comments because so many liberal "goons and liars" had infested the sites.
But this recent passage from the right-wing blog Little Green Footballs caught our eye [emphasis added]:
Good for David Horowitz; his latest column for FrontPage makes many of the same points I've been hammering away at since Barack Obama was elected (leading to a series of meltdowns in our comment threads, and a barrage of hate mail that shows no sign of letting up). Horowitz is on the mark when he says way too many on the right are now suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome.
Here's the context: LGF was cheering a column that conservative David Horowitz wrote at FrontPageMag that raised concerns about how conservatives were wallowing in Obama Derangement Syndrome; that they were reacting to Obama's presidency with unhinged rhetoric, etc. LGF agreed, and mentioned it had been making the same points on its blog: conservatives had become unhinged under Obama.
And what was the reader reaction to that critique? LGF's reader comment threads got trashed by conservatives. LGF was inundated with hate mail from fellow conservatives.
See the irony? Breitbart whines in the pages of the WashTimes about some diabolical left-wing plan to sabotage conservative blog sites with nasty comments. (Breitbart provides zero proof, BTW, that such a plot exists.) But when you poke around the right-wing blogs, what do you find? Complaints that conservative readers are sabotaging conservative sites that have the nerve to criticize people suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome.
Seems that before Breitbart blames liberals again for trashing right-wing Internet sites, he might want to talk to LGF.
Current MSNBC Chyron: "GOP RELEASES DETAILED BUDGET PLAN WITH SPECIFIC NUMBERS"
Prediction: The media will be so impressed that the GOP managed to produce a document that contains "specific numbers" rather than bizarre line-drawings, they won't bother to assess whether those numbers are accurate or reasonable, or whether the "plan" would be good or bad for the country.
MRC's Brent Bozell has a problem with the latest ABC/Washington Post poll. But Bozell doesn't object to the poll's slanted and inaccurate suggestion that Democrats have a history of being reckless with the public's money. Here's what he's upset about:
It has become almost amusing, watching how the so-called "news" media are manipulating their own polls to keep the political weather sunny for their hero. The Washington Post kicked off President Barack Obama's European trip with the headline "Blame For Downturn Not Fixed on Obama." Of course, what was "fixed" was the poll itself.
They did the usual tricks for a more liberal sample of "public opinion" - they polled on the weekend and oversampled Democrats (36 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican). By themselves, these things are shameless - but expected. And still that wasn't enough of a slant. Check out the way this question was asked by the Post pollsters.
"How much of the blame do you think [fill in the blank] deserves for the country's economic situation?" The choices were corporations, banks, consumers, the Bush team, and the Obama administration. There's a built-in pro-Obama bias in there already: assigning blame to Obama for the current economy when he's been in office for nine weeks just seems harsh to most people.
I'm sorry: What? Brent Bozell thinks asking if Barack Obama deserves some blame for the economic situation demonstrates "pro-Obama bias" because most people don't think he deserves such blame?
By that logic, asking if people approve of Obama's job performance reflects "pro-Obama bias" because most people do. And poll questions that asked about George W. Bush's job performance must have demonstrated "anti-Bush bias." By that logic, the only unbiased poll questions are those that yield 50-50 results.
That's insane. Simply insane.
But that's the conservatives' idea of "media bias" -- any question or fact that is inconvenient for conservatives must reflect "bias."
By the way, Bozell's certainty that polling over a weekend yields a "more liberal sample" is misplaced. Many pollsters are, indeed, skeptical of polling conducted over weekends, but there is nothing approaching a consensus about how such polling might skew. Republican pollster Bill McInturff and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, for example, both avoid weekends:
Voters who do answer calls those nights add up to a "more downscale" group, McInturff said -- more likely to be Democratic. That discovery is a legacy of the Reagan years. "Reagan's support would dip in polling on Friday and Saturday nights," McInturff said, "and then on Monday it would be right back where it was."
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake avoids Fridays, too, but for the opposite reason. "We never poll on Friday night because more Democrats are likely to be out," she said. "Friday is bowling night and there are Friday night football games, so you get fewer blue-collar people at home.
"Same for Saturday," she said. "Because younger suburban couples, two-earner families, are out doing stuff. Sunday night is a good time to get everybody, but we never call on Sunday morning because religious voters are likely to resent it. You don't poll during the Super Bowl football game if you want men."
In November, 2006, Slate's "Explainer" column addressed this issue:
In theory, younger people are more likely to be out on Friday and Saturday nights, which would make them less likely to be included in the sample.
What would that mean for the results of a given study? Weekend polling would skew the sample away from the young and active types and toward the oldsters who sit at home. That doesn't mean the weekend poll gives more credence to the elderly vote. It might mean just the opposite: Pollsters can correct for having too many old people by giving extra weight to everyone else. In that case, the opinions of the few young people who are in the sample would count extra.
While it's a common claim that weekend polls favor the Democrats, there isn't much hard evidence to support that idea. One of the best studies of this question was conducted by two polling experts at ABC News. Gary Langer and Daniel Merkle looked at the data from ABC's tracking polls for the last three presidential elections. They compared results from people reached on Sunday through Thursday with those reached on Friday and Saturday and found no difference.