In their column for the Center for American Progress, Eric Alterman and George Zornick note that the media has paid shockingly little attention to new revelations that the Bush administration spied on journalists:
[A] former analyst at the National Security Agency revealed on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" that Bush's National Security Agency "monitored all communications" of Americans and that U.S. news organizations and individual journalists were specifically targeted.
Former analyst Russell Tice told Olbermann that, "The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications—faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. And it didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made any foreign communications at all."
So, how did The New York Times cover Tice's revelations that ordinary American citizens, journalists in general, and possibly one of their own reporters in particular, had their communications monitored without a warrant? As far as we can tell, not at all.
Neither Tice nor his charges were discussed in the Times, either in print or online. This was standard across much of the mainstream media—The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and Associated Press have all remained completely silent about Tice's allegations.
In January 2006, when the New York Times first broke the story of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, I compared the resources devoted to the emerging story by the Times and the Washington Post to the resources they devoted to the story of Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
For both stories, I looked at the number of articles the two papers ran the day after the stories broke, the number of words devoted to the stories, and the number of reporters credited with working on the stories. And I looked at the same things for the 35th day after the story broke:
All told, on January 22, 1998, the Times and the Post ran 19 articles (five on the front page) dealing with the Clinton investigation, totaling more than 20,000 words and reflecting the words of at least 28 reporters -- plus the editorial boards of both newspapers.
In contrast, on December 17, the Times and the Post combined to run five articles about the NSA spying operation, involving 12 reporters and consisting of 6,303 words.
On February 25, 1998, 35 days after the story first broke, the Post ran four articles and an editorial about the Clinton investigation, totaling 5,046 words, involving 11 reporters, and the paper's editorial board. The Times ran four articles, two opinion columns, and an editorial -- seven pieces in all, totaling 5,852 words and involving at least six reporters and columnists, in addition to its editorial board. The papers combined for 12 articles, columns, and editorials, involving 17 reporters and columnists, as well as both editorial boards.
On January 20, 35 days after the NSA story first broke, the Times ran one 1,324-word article about the NSA operation written by two reporters. The Post ran one 945-word article written by one reporter. Combined: two articles, three reporters, 2,269 words.
Basically, the media didn't care nearly as much about the possiblity that a president was illegally listening in on the telephone conversations of innocent Americans as they did about the possiblity that a president had an affair. As Alterman and Zornick point out, that hasn't changed even now that we know that journalists were among those spied upon.
Fox News' Bret Baier asserted that Rep. David Obey is "under fire" because the economic stimulus bill provides more than $2 billion for the National Park Service, "the industry for which his son lobbies," and cited a Washington Times article reporting that, in Baier's words, "a spokeswoman for Congressman Obey's office says nepotism was not a factor." But Baier did not mention that the Times article also reported the spokeswoman saying the funding for parks "was included at the request of [Rep.] Norm Dicks." Nor did Baier note that Dicks has repeatedly made similar appropriations requests for national parks in previous appropriations bills.
Lou Dobbs falsely claimed on his radio show that "the Congressional Budget Office did a study on the president's so-called economic stimulus package. It says output would be increased somewhere between one and a half, three and a half percent." In fact, the CBO estimated that output would increase "between 1.5 percent and 3.6 percent" in fiscal year 2009 alone and estimated that output would increase as a result of the stimulus package in subsequent years as well.
Fox News' Glenn Beck falsely claimed that "[o]nly 3 percent" of the Democratic economic stimulus plan would be "spent in the next 12 months." Beck's figures were based on a partial Congressional Budget Office cost estimate that excluded faster-moving provisions in the bill. According to the CBO's full cost estimate of the bill, 11.2 percent of the $816 billion bill would be spent in the first seven-and-a-half months after the bill is enacted, and, when including the bill's tax cut provisions, $169 billion -- or 20.7 percent of the bill's total cost -- would take effect in the first seven-and-a-half months.
It just never ends, does it? At first, the whole soggy story revolved around the fact that foreign governments or leaders had donated money to Clinton's Foundation and that was an awful, terrible thing because with Hillary Clinton becoming SOS she might hand over America's foreign policy to the highest bidder. (Plus, how dare foreign dignitaries give money to a foundation that, among other things, helps poor people around the world.)
Well, despite Christopher Hitchen's Clinton-hating heavy breathing, that Hillary's-going--to-be-sold-to-the-highest-bidder storyline (nothing sexist there, right?) hasn't really gone anywhere. But fear not, the AP has a new Clinton $ angle.
Headline: "Bill Clinton made millions from foreign sources"
Former President Bill Clinton earned nearly $6 million in speaking fees last year, almost all of it from foreign companies, according to financial documents filed by his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
More foreign funny business, right? At this point, after reading these never-ending stories I actually wish somebody would uncover some actual news, even if it was hugely embarrassing to the Clintons. But that somebody aint the AP. The entire story's about how Bill Clinton was paid speaking fees by business located outside the U.S. That's the "foreign sources." A Canadian publisher. A German entertainment company. etc.
Bill Clinton is one of the most famous people in the world and businesses headquartered outside of the U.S. have paid him a lot to hear him speak.
Thanks for the news flash, AP.
UPDATE: From Politico, which, of course, is very excited about the latest Clinton $ news [emphasis added]:
Former President Clinton's globetrotting speaking tours and charitable activities were considered the major impediment to his wife's confirmation
Clinton, of course, was easily confirmed.
In his most recent column, Media Research Center's Brent Bozell made an egregious factual error while (cough, cough) chastising the press for not doing its job properly.
Specifically, Bozell was hyping the incorrect story that Obama's inauguration cost much, much more than Bush's bash in 2005:
For the record, the 'lavish' Bush inaugural cost $43 million. Final tallies are not complete, but according to some sources, like the Guardian newspaper, the Obama inaugural will cost more than $150 million.
That's not accurate. The final tally of Bush's inauguration, including all the money the federal government spent on security and logistics, was $157 million. Bush supporters raised $43 million, and then taxpayers spent $115 million more. From the New York Times, January 6, 2008:
In 2005, Mr. Bush raised $42.3 million from about 15,000 donors for festivities; the federal government and the District of Columbia spent a combined $115.5 million, most of it for security, the swearing-in ceremony, cleanup and for a holiday for federal workers.
While highlighting how much (supposedly) less expensive Bush's inauguration was in 2005 as compared to the estimates for Obama's, Bozell wrote that Bush's inauguration cost $43 million. It did not. It cost $157 million.
So the question now becomes, will Bozell correct his error? Will a man who makes a living criticizing the press admit to his own obvious factual error?
We're waiting Brent....
P.S. Does Brent really think that the government spent $0 on security for Bush's 2005 inauguration? Because the $43 million he cited didn't cover security. Does Brent think that the 6,000 law enforcement and 7,000 troops that were deployed throughout Washington, D.C. for the 2005 swearing-in, the armed Coast Guard boats that patrolled the Potomac River, didn't cost taxpayers a single penny? That they were there voluntarily? Either Brent doesn't understand how the government works (i.e. its money goes toward paying military and law enforcement costs), or Brent made a rather enormous factual error in his column.
Which one is it Brent?
The Washington Post asserted that "a report from the Congressional Budget Office ... said the majority of money in the Democratic [stimulus] plan would not get spent within the first year and a half." In fact, a document described by The Huffington Post as being the "whole" CBO " 'report' " accounts for only approximately $358 billion out of the "more than $850 billion" that the Post reported is included in the Democratic proposal, meaning that the CBO analysis could not possibly reach any conclusions about "the majority of money in the Democratic plan."
The Washington Post reported, "Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research, said he was skeptical of the stimulus package because much of the spending in it may come well after the crisis is over, as a report from the Congressional Budget Office has suggested." But the Post did not include a response from the Obama administration or the Democratic leadership anywhere in the same edition of the newspaper.
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Ed Henry reported that a "study" from the Congressional Budget Office "was suggesting that a lot of the spending proposals in the original [economic stimulus] plan would not really take effect for a couple of years, so it wouldn't clearly help create jobs in the first two years of the president's administration." However, the director of the Office of Management and Budget stated in a letter that his agency's "analysis indicates that at least 75 percent of the overall package ... will be spent over the next year and a half" -- which Henry did not report.
Big shock, we know. But it's almost comical to read this headline "DAVE PICKS GILLIBRAND AS LIBERAL DEMS HOWL," and then read the Fredric Dicker article and realize the right-wing Post provided no facts, quotes, or hard evidence to back up its reporting about how liberal Democrats supposedly feel.
Must be nice to practice journalism at a newspaper that requires very little actual journalism.
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Parroting GOP talking points about how rapturous the media coverage was of Obama inauguration, the WaPo's Kurtz wrote:
Well, the coverage has been so positive in the past week that you almost got the impression Obama would solve all of America's problems while fixing the college football playoff system and discovering a cure for cancer.
Kurtz didn't offer up any specific examples of coverage that was somehow offensively "positive." But more importantly, what was Kurtz comparing the coverage to, all that nasty, negative coverage George Bush got when he was first sworn in? Give us a break.
Inauguration coverage is what it is. The press, and especially television, loves tradition and pomp and circumstance and pretty pictures. And whenever a new president is sworn in the press produces wall-to-wall, feel-good coverage built around those pretty inaugural pictures. This week was no different than what Bush received for his first inaugural in 2001.
So where's Kurtz's actual proof that somehow this year's inauguration coverage was unusually positive?
Ignoring the additional costs of security, transportation, and other expenses incurred by federal, state, and local governments in conjunction with former President Bush's 2005 inauguration, Fox News' Sean Hannity allowed former Gov. Mitt Romney to claim that "[President] Barack Obama spen[t] three times" what Bush spent on his 2005 inauguration. In doing so, Hannity allowed his show to become the latest media outlet to promote the false comparison between the costs of Obama's inauguration and Bush's 2005 inauguration.
That's the question the press ought to be asking. But apparently unwilling, or incapable, to perform actual journalism, lots of reporters and pundits remained fixated on the supposed cost of the Obama bash, which the press excitedly claims will cost $160 million, including security costs.
As Media Matters has been noting for close to a week now, the tab for Bush's second inauguration, after figuring in security costs, totaled $157 million. Yet it's virtually impossible to find a single press report in the last week that has documented that fact. That number does not exist. It has been suppressed and flushed down the memory hole. Because if it's mentioned alongside the Obama tab, than the Obama's-inauguration-is-historically-expensive storyline evaporates. (Because it's not historically expensive.)
But let's move on. The official crowd estimate for Tuesday's swearing now stands as a eye-popping 1.8 million. How many attended Bush's 2005 inauguration? The official estimate was 400,000. So let's do some math. 157 million divided by 400,000 equals 392. It cost nearly $392 per-person to cover the expenses for Bush's modest sized bash.
For Obama? Based on the current projection of $160 million (the final official tab, once security costs are factored in won't be known for months), and divided by 1.8 million people in attendance, the per-person cost for the Obama bash came out to $88.
So we ask again, why was the Bush inauguration so wildy expensive?