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.
Fact: Between June and mid-September, 23 percent of American news consumers told pollsters that the economy was the story they followed closely each week.
Fact. Between June and mid-September, the mainstream media set aside just five percent of their news coverage for the economy; 31 percent for the campaign.
During interviews with Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft characterized Obama's economic agenda as "ambitious and expensive," citing the costs of Obama's infrastructure, alternative energy, and health care plans, but there was no similar characterization of McCain's tax agenda by correspondent Scott Pelley, who interviewed McCain, even though, according to the Tax Policy Center, McCain's tax plan would likely add $1.5 trillion more to the federal deficit over 10 years than Obama's tax plan.
Today, Scherer acknowledges that "McCain supported the Bush plan then, and still speaks in favor of the private account idea in the future" and concludes:
The social security example did not belong where I put it in the post, and by placing it there I launched a confusing discussion about the issues--committing the same crime that I was chastising the candidates for committing.
Scherer still insists the Obama's ad's assertion that Social Security privatization constitutes "risking Social Security on the stock market" is a "distortion" that "exaggerat[es] the worst-case scenario of Bush private account plan." Since Scherer acknowledges that the plan involves investing some Social Security funds in the stock market, and since (I assume) he would acknowledge that investing the stock market involves "risk," it seems misguided at best to continue to call the ad a distortion.
Nonetheless, Scherer's post today is a welcome acknowledgment that he was wrong, and that he muddied the issue rather than illuminating it. Scherer could have ignored the matter, as many journalists do when they are wrong. Or he could have offered a terse two-sentence statement that walked back his original claim without really making clear what he got wrong in the first place. That, too, would have been all-too-typical of "corrections" to flawed news reports. Scherer didn't do that. Instead, he posted five paragraphs of explanation, including clear statements that he got it wrong and that he confused the debate rather than clarifying it.
More journalists should take their mistakes as seriously as Scherer does in his post today.