Is it just us, or are reporters just bending over backward trying to find some sort of conflict and tension as the new Obama administration is being put together.
The latest to try the trick is the LA Times, whose headline claims "Obama's picks challenge party." Sounds bad, right?
President-elect Barack Obama's speed in naming Cabinet nominees and top White House staffers has drawn praise from many within his party, but it also has left a series of likely vacancies that could endanger Democratic electoral prospects in the coming months and reduce diversity within party ranks.
But once again, there's hardly any there there. The only real evidence of the vacancy challenge is that Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, who is set to become the head of Homeland Security, may be replaced by a Republican in Arizona. That hardly stands out as unusual in terms of transition teams.
As for diversity, the Chris Cillizza piece claims, "In picking New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as Commerce secretary, Obama has removed the country's lone Latino governor."
Of course, the other way of thinking of that is by picking New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary, Obama has elevated a Latino to one of the highest ranking positions in government.
Guess it's all in the way you spin it. And right now, the press seems anxious to spin dire scenarios for Democrats.
At the newspaper's blog, Sharon Otterman writes about Hillary Clinton's upcoming SoS confirmation hearings. The headline: "Clinton May Face Tough Confirmation Questioning."
Sounds intriguing, right? Like a real political showdown is brewing. Well, there might be, but the Times provides no evidence to suggest there is. Instead, the blog post quotes Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN.) who appeared on a Sunday talk show and who said he would vote to confirm Clinton for SoS, and that there would be "legitimate questions" asked about Bill Clinton's post-presidential activities. (Lugar never used the word "tough," or anything like it.)
Talk about anti-climatic. Instead of "tough" questions, Lugar thinks senators will simply ask "legitimate" ones, which means Clinton's SoS confirmation hearings, at least according to Lugar, will be pretty much be like every other cabinet confirmation hearing.
Good to know.
And is the stated purpose there to be as misleading as possible? Because it's become something of an epidemic.
Here's the latest: "Latinos unhappy with Obama picks."
Now, if you're a Politico novice, you might see that headline and think the article, written by Gebe Martinez, will detail how Obama's early key picks for his new administration have angered Latinos and that the article will include relevant quotes to back up the headline's crystal-clear claim.
But if you're a Politico veteran, you understand that headlines often have little to do with the article's content and that specifically in recent days/weeks headline that try way too hard to gin up conflict regarding the new Obama team usually fall flat.
Well, add this "Latinos unhappy with Obama picks" article to that pile because there is virtually nothing in the piece to justify the headline. Zero.
No joke, this is as close as the article comes to substantiating the "unhappy" headline [emphasis added]:
But at this early stage in the appointments process, there is a trickle of disappointment running through the Latino community.
We understand that in the click-through world headlines can make or break a story. But is maintaining some semblance of journalistic guidelines when hyping stories asking too much?
The NYT's David Barstow returned Sunday and updated his April blockbuster story about how the Pentagon, during the run-up to the war with Iraq and for years after that, worked closely with retired military officers who became TV talking heads. The Pentagon did that by, among other things, treating the analysts to special briefings and taking them on guided tours of Iraq. But this wasn't simply a fact-finding initiative. According to the Times, when at least one of the analysts began to criticize the war, he was promptly suspended from the Pentagon program.
According to Media Matters' research, the Pentagon pundits were quoted more than 4,500 times on broadcast networks, cable TV, and NPR.
Among the participants in the Pentagon program were NBC and MSNBC, which threw open their studio doors to the Pentagon pundits without ever disclosing their closed-door prep sessions with the pro-war administration. In the wake of the Times' expose, none of the TV news outlets implicated in the story reported on the revelation, despite the fact the article prompted Congressional hearing.
In the latest installment, Barstow focused on Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who is still featured on NBC News despite his substantial, albeit undisclosed, financial conflicts of interest.
Here's Glenn Greenwald's take:
Worse than mere suppression, NBC and Brian Williams have just outright ignored this scandal, continuing to use McCaffrey as an analyst without requiring that he sever -- or even disclose -- his numerous conflicts, allowing him to continue to use NBC News to propagandize for the military policies from which his affiliated companies benefit. Now that Barstow has added substantially to the set of incriminating facts, it remains to be seen whether NBC will finally be forced to tell its viewers about what happened with its own involvement in the Pentagon's program and/or to take corrective action.
Question: When Barstow wins a Pulitzer next April for his series on the TV generals, will television news still boycott the story?
Not only is Strassel about 15 days late to the topic (did you hear Hillary might be SoS??), but she manages to pile up like boxes every conceivable CW cliché on the topic.
1. How can Obama "fire" Clinton?
2. Bill Clinton has "baggage"
3. Bill Clinton will be "co-secretary of state"
4. If still in the Senate, Hillary Clinton would try to "gum up" Obama's domestic agenda
5. Obligatory mention to Bosnian sniper fire
6. Clinton might "go rogue" as SoS
7. "Ugly internal disputes" will erupt between State Dept. and White House
8. Bill Clinton is hiding the "conflicts" of the Clinton Foundation
So basically, in her column Strassel repeats everything that every pundit has already said and does it two weeks later. And oh yeah, Strassel doesn't waste one word on what Clinton might actually do substantively as SoS. Great work, WSJ.
See CJR's excellent dissection of Conde Nast's wobbly business magazine.
The Miami Herald's Wasserman has a good column about Dan Rather's ongoing detective work regarding Memogate and how his former employer, CBS, stacked the deck when forming its "independent" panel to answer the network's right-wing critics.
Wasserman notes how little coverage Rather's revelations have received:
A panel is convened by one of the country's most powerful news organizations to scrutinize the journalism that produced a scathing portrayal of the dubious military record of a sitting president. And the panel is assembled to the specifications of the president's most zealous supporters. To me, that's remarkable. Even scandalous. Surely newsworthy. Yet The New York Times report from which I drew the above details was the only substantial coverage I found.
We've noticed lots of news outlets that have done this. When discussing Bill Clinton and the foundation he heads (and there's been lots of discussion lately about possible conflicts of interest with Hillary perhaps becoming SoS), the word that the Beltway media often refuses to use in connection with the foundation is "charity."
Chris Matthews did this all the time on MSNBC in recent days, relentlessly referring to international "business" connections Bill Clinton has. Charity was almost never mentioned.
Slate just published a 900-word piece in which writer Christopher Beam insists Clinton close down his foundation because of the "inevitable" financial scandals that will emerge in coming years, and how it would distract from his wife's work as SoS. The tsk-tsking article mentions "foundation" 21 times. But for some reason it only mentions "charity" once. ("Charity" also appears in the pun-driven headline.)
Interestingly, the piece never actually explains to readers what the Clinton Foundation does. Answer: It helps poor people around the world.
Why does Slate purposely play dumb about what the Clinton Foundation is? Why does Slate carefully avoid mentioning the Clinton Foundation battles the HIV/AIDS pandemic and fights hunger in Africa? My guess is that makes it easier for Slate to make the cavalier demand that, in order to please Beltway nay-sayers, the foundation must be shut down; that "the Clinton Foundation effectively has to close shop."
If Slate thinks its narrow definition of conflict of interest trumps helping poor people around the world, than just say so. But don't play dumb in the process.