In the post-debate spin room, should journalists at least try to differentiate what's being said? Jeralyn at TalkLeft notes as an example Nicole Wallace's claim on CNN that Obama would raise taxes "on the vast majority of the American people."
Headlines on ABCNews.com and on The Page website falsely characterized a reported conversation between Henry Paulson and House Democrats as Paulson blaming the Democrats for failed negotiations on economic recovery legislation, "plead[ing]" with them not to "blow up" the deal. But the article to which both headlines linked characterized the exchange differently, with Paulson acknowledging that House Republicans bore responsibility for the failure of negotiations.
Today's New York Times features an article by Patrick Healy that portrays Barack Obama as "out of sync" with Americans who are upset about their struggling economic conditions and accuses Obama of "convey[ing] a certain distance from the ache that many voters feel."
But Healy does not support his thesis with any poll results. And for good reason: his own newspaper's public polling badly undermines his point.
A CBS/New York Times poll conducted September 12-16 found that 60 percent of Americans "think Barack Obama understands the needs and problems of people like yourself." Only 48 percent say the same of John McCain.
That same poll found that 60 percent of Americans are confident of Obama's "ability to make the right decisions about the economy." 53 percent said the same of McCain. And 66 percent said Obama "shares the values most Americans try to live by," compared to 61 percent who said the same of McCain.
If Healy distrusts his own newspaper's polling, he could have looked to the LA Times poll, which found that by a margin of 48-32, more Americans think Obama has "better ideas for strengthening the nation's economy." Or Pew, which found that by a margin of 47-35, more Americans think Obama would "best address the problems investment banks and companies with ties to the housing market are having."
Instead of providing public opinion polling relevant to his thesis (polling that, for the most part, completely falsifies the thesis) Healy included several quotes from "experts" that are contradicted by the polling. Incredibly, Healy didn't include a single quote from a source saying Obama's approach has been effective - despite the fact that the polling shows it has been more successful than McCain's.
Healy did, however, find a way to work Obama's race into an article that would seem to have nothing to do with the topic:
For Mr. Obama, the financial crisis poses different risks. He wants to appear fired up over the economy, but he has written before about wanting to avoid appearing like a stereotypical angry black man. Unlike Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton and other black leaders whose fulminations could scare white voters, Mr. Obama is not from and of New York, Detroit, or the segregated South; he grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. To some degree Mr. Obama faces the opposite challenge from fiery black leaders who came before him: Is he too cool for a crisis like this one?
In its news report about Thursday's hectic White House negotiations regarding the financial bailout, Politico reports, "And when Democrats left to caucus in the Roosevelt Room, Paulson pursued them, begging that they not "blow up" the legislation."
What Politico left out was that, according to ABC's report last night, Paulson then immediately conceded it was "both sides" that were threatening to derail the bailout.
Again, this is part of what seems to be the media's attempt to set the groundwork for the blame game by not reporting accurately what Paulson said yesterday.
And yes, it tarnishes Dems.
Headline at Halperin's The Page at time.com: PAULSON TO DEMS: "DON'T BLOW THIS UP".
The item links to an ABC News bulletin headlined, "Bailout Talks Go On Amid Presidential Scuffle." The report includes mention that when Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson ran into senior Democrats in the White House today during all-day negotiations he reportedly said, "Please don't blow this up."
House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reportedly shot back, "We're not the ones trying to blow this up. It's the House Republicans."
To which Paulson replied, "I know, I know; it's both sides." [Emphasis added.]
Halperin's screaming headline makes only one point: Paulson thinks Dems, and Dems alone, will be responsible if the bailout fails. But the article itself makes perfectly clear Paulson himself does not believe that.
Discussing the current financial situation on his radio program, Bill O'Reilly said of Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd, "I swear to God, if they were in this room right now, I would hit them. Dodd and Frank -- the House Finance and Senate Finance. They knew. Don't point a finger at anybody, I'll break that finger off."
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, interviewing Sen. Claire McCaskill about the proposed bailout: "I'm talking politics and strategy, not good governance."
Ok ... when is MSNBC going to get around to the "good governance" part?
NBC News' Andrea Mitchell falsely asserted that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis "has not been at all involved in anything involving Fannie or Freddie." In fact, Davis reportedly served as president of the Homeownership Alliance, a Washington-based advocacy group whose founding members included Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Moments before President Bush spoke from the White House about the state of the economy, CNN's Wolf Blitz announced that Bush, "faces an uphill battle to convince the American people he knows what he's doing."
During her ABC World News report on the Bush administration's $700 billion Wall Street proposal, Betsy Stark uncritically aired Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's claim that he "welcome[s]" oversight of the administration's plan, but did not note that a section of the bill states: "Decisions by the Secretary [of the Treasury] pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."
Former New York Times reporter -- and Pulitzer-winner -- David Cay Johnston has some important suggestions for reporters covering the proposed Wall Street bailout:
In covering the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street don't repeat the failed lapdog practices that so damaged our reputations in the rush to war in Iraq and the adoption of the Patriot Act. Don't assume that Congress must act instantly, as so many news stories state as if it was an immutable fact. Don't assume there is a case just because officials say there is.
The coverage of the Paulson plan focuses on the edges, on the details. The focus should be on the premise.
Much more here.
In an article, The New York Times suggested that only Democrats use the label "privatization" to refer to proposals like that supported by Sen. John McCain to "invest a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes in stocks and bonds" -- but many Republicans and conservatives, including McCain himself, have used the term "privatization" to describe such a plan for private Social Security accounts.
In case you had any doubt, Matt Yglesias shows that the New York Times' assertions about the causes of market fluctuations seem to be pulled out of thin air.
That's what Glenn Greenwald sees in Brooks' reassuring column today about how a "new establishment" is going to step in and safely steer the country out of crisis.