Is it me, or is the Beltway press forever concerned when Democrats play hardball and use tough language in partisan battles with Republicans, in a way that the press never seems to mind when the GOP lets the invective fly?
Sunday's MTP was a perfect example. Host David Gregory pressed U.S. Senate Leader Sen. Harry Reid about tough language he'd used in the past in describing the most unpopular president since modern polling was created nearly one century ago:
Before you go, do you have any regrets about the way you have publicly battled with President Bush? Over the years you've called him a liar, a loser, and you've described him as, quote, our worst president ever.
Reid, for the record expressed no regrets.
What's so odd is that I'm thinking back to January of 2001, and I can't recall the MTP moderator pressing leading Republicans if they had any "regrets" about the nearly non-stop insults they had heaped on the sitting Democratic president, who at the time of his exit was the most popular president to ever leave the Oval Office.
See the double standard? When Harry Reid pointed out a widely accepted fact, that Bush is considered by many to be among the worst president's ever, Gregory wanted to know if the Democrat had any regrets; had he gone too far. But when Republicans spent nearly eight years trying to dehumanize Bill Clinton, MTP remained mostly mum.
BTW: Why did CNN pretend that Reid went on NBC on Sunday and ranted about Bush, calling him the worst president ever? CNN's dispatch clearly suggested that Reid wouldn't let Bush leave office peacefully, when in truth it was Gregory who brought up the old Reid quotes about Bush.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Alberto Gonzales "was pilloried by Congress in a manner not usually directed toward cabinet officials," falsely suggesting that only members of Congress have publicly criticized Gonzales over his actions as attorney general. The Journal also quoted Gonzales asking, "What is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?" The Journal did not note that a report by the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General on the firings of nine U.S. attorneys concluded that Gonzales' congressional testimony on the subject was "not true" and recommended that a special counsel be appointed to investigate whether any crimes were committed with regard to testimony on the scandal.
On NBC's Nightly News, Savannah Guthrie and Chuck Todd suggested that findings in an internal report on President-elect Obama's top advisers' contacts with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his staff were inconsistent with Obama's previous statements suggesting that he would have a "hands-off" approach to the selection of his replacement in the U.S. Senate. But neither Guthrie nor Todd mentioned statements in the report that appear to contradict their suggestion.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed asserted in a column that she "hears rumbles President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is reportedly on 21 different taped conversations by the feds -- dealing with his boss' vacant Senate seat!" Sneed added: "A lot of chit-chat? Hot air? Or trouble? To date, Rahm's been mum. Stay tuned." Despite the complete absence of sourcing, many in the media have run with Sneed's assertion, in some cases simply quoting Sneed, in others, paraphrasing the assertion, and in still others, actually expanding on it.
To trumpet the release of the Obama report regarding Blago contacts, CNN went into hyperventilating mode.
The on-screen graphic [emphasis added]: "Breaking News: Team Obama Reveals Secret Report".
Simple question for CNN, what's secret about the report?
Mike Allen preps the release of the internal Obama report regarding contact between his staff and Blago's re: filling his U.S. senate seat. The press has been hyping the issue, and the pending report, beyond recognition, with all sorts of claims the new Democratic team has become ensnared and that dark clouds have descended.
Reporters now, it seems, don't even bother to offer up evidence when suggesting Obama has been tainted by the soggy story. Here's Allen [emphasis added]:
The complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose conversations had been secretly taped by federal investigators, tested the smoothly running Obama transition, with some Democrats fretting that the case presents a distraction that could last into the new administration.
Number of Democrats quoted or mentioned in the article suggesting the Blago "distraction" could drag on? Zero.
Number of Democrats even quoted or mentioned in the entire article, period? Zero.
Neat trick, right?
First, what's the nation's most pressing issue? On Matthews' weekend syndicated show, the first topic up for discussion was Obama's relations with the press. Because, as Crooks and Liars noted, "it's all about the media, dontcha know?"
Second, that's where Matthews compared Obama to Nixon and Bush. Both Republicans displayed an open contempt for the media (with Nixon, it was more of an unhinged hatred), and Matthews suggested Obama (aka "this guy") was going to be just like them.
Third, it's curious that Obama hasn't even taken office yet and already Matthews was harping on the president-elect's press relations. I'd sure be interested to see, during Bush's eight years in office, how many panel discussion the Chris Matthews Show hosted to complain about how Bush treated the press. We doubt there were many during the Lapdog days.
The ABC anchor scored a coup over the weekend with his report re: Rahm Emanuel's contact with Blago and his top aides about Obama's vacant U.S. senate seat. Most news outlets, like the AP, remain in heavy breathing mode, suggesting Emanuel's contacts could lead to all sorts of political trouble for Obama.
Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, [Blago's Chief of Staff John] Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, "all we get is appreciation, right?" "Right," Emanuel responded.
Seems like that represents something of a story/innuendo killer. We'll see if the Village plays dumb or not.
Teasing a segment on Hardball echoing the Politico's suggestion that political family dynasties are largely a Democratic phenomenon, Chris Matthews said, "if the Republicans are the party of family values, the Democrats sure seem to be the party of family ties." On-screen text during the segment read: "Democratic Nepotism?" But, as MSNBC failed to do in a similar segment earlier, Matthews did not note that, in the last 10 years, two Republican senators have been appointed to their fathers' Senate seats.
During an interview with President Bush that aired on Fox News' Special Report, Bret Baier asked Bush, "Do you believe that there hasn't been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in more than seven years because of the policies your administration has implemented?" The question tracked a talking point reportedly contained in a "two-page memo" that the Los Angeles Times reported "presents the Bush record as an unalloyed success" and "mentions none of the episodes that detractors say have marred his presidency."
Like John McCain before him this week, Newt Gingrich let it be known he's unhappy with the RNC for posting a very partisan, gotcha-style web ad making all sorts of dark insinuations about Obama and the unfolding Blago story.
The recent web advertisement, "Questions Remain," is a destructive distraction. Clearly, we should insist that all taped communications regarding the Senate seat should be made public. However, that should be a matter of public policy, not an excuse for political attack. In a time when America is facing real challenges, Republicans should be working to help the incoming President succeed in meeting them, regardless of his Party.
Gingrich's point is well taken. But as we noted last week, it's been the Beltway press corps that been waaaaay out in front of the GOP in terms of laying on the Blago spin as thick as possible. It's been the press for the most part, not Republican operatives, who have been scheming and dreaming up all sorts of what-if scenarios.
On MSNBC Live, David Shuster said that President-elect Barack Obama and his staff decided "repeatedly" to "release virtually no information about the Blagojevich scandal," while Mark Leibovich said that Obama's responses to questions about the scandal "hearken to a kind of echo of what other White Houses in the past have said when they don't want to answer questions immediately." However, neither noted that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald reportedly requested that Obama "delay the release of a report" about an internal review of the contacts between his aides and Blagojevich's office.
On Hardball, Chris Matthews cited a Politico article as purported evidence that "zero -- count 'em, zero Southerners have been named to the Obama Cabinet so far," and a Bloomberg article similarly asserted that Obama's Cabinet is lacking in Southerners. These claims either ignore or discount Obama's selection of Lisa Jackson, Hillary Clinton, and Robert Gates.
Discussing "family dynasties" on MSNBC Live, Politico senior editor Beth Frerking and David Shuster mentioned that several incoming Democratic senators and Democrats who could become senators in the future have relatives who have been elected to public office, but did not note that, in the last 10 years, two Republican senators have been appointed to their fathers' Senate seats, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was appointed in 2002 by her father.
On MSNBC Live, discussing political diversity in President-elect Barack Obama's administration, Jonathan Allen said that Obama had chosen "Robert Gates as defense secretary, and that's something that I think [Obama's] people will point to." Tamron Hall responded, "Gates is not a registered Republican." Hall did not note that Gates himself has said, "I felt, when I was at CIA, that as a professional intelligence officer, like a military officer, I should be apolitical, and so I didn't register with a party. I consider myself a Republican," and noted that until his selection by Obama, "all of my senior appointments have been under Republican presidents."