The Politico, which purports to cover "the politics of Capitol Hill and of the presidential campaign ... with enterprise, style, and impact," largely ignored a June 19 Newsday article reporting that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R) "membership on" the Iraq Study Group (ISG) "came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group." By contrast, The Politico continues to report on former Sen. John Edwards' (D-NC) $400 haircuts and their effect on his presidential campaign.
Newsday reported on June 19 that Giuliani, rather than attend the ISG meetings, delivered speeches that earned him $300,000:
Rudolph Giuliani's membership on an elite Iraq study panel came to an abrupt end last spring after he failed to show up for a single official meeting of the group, causing the panel's top Republican to give him a stark choice: either attend the meetings or quit, several sources said.
Giuliani left the Iraq Study Group last May after just two months, walking away from a chance to make up for his lack of foreign policy credentials on the top issue in the 2008 race, the Iraq war.
He cited "previous time commitments" in a letter explaining his decision to quit, and a look at his schedule suggests why -- the sessions at times conflicted with Giuliani's lucrative speaking tour that garnered him $11.4 million in 14 months.
Giuliani failed to show up for a pair of two-day sessions that occurred during his tenure, the sources said -- and both times, they conflicted with paid public appearances shown on his recent financial disclosure. Giuliani quit the group during his busiest stretch in 2006, when he gave 20 speeches in a single month that brought in $1.7 million.
Journalist and blogger Joshua Micah Marshall discussed the story's significance in a June 19 entry to his Talking Points Memo weblog, writing: "So Rudy's running on terrorism and Iraq. But he got booted off a congressionally-mandated blue ribbon panel because he couldn't be bothered to show up for the meetings. It conflicted with his for-a-price speaking gigs. Like I said, it's the kind of story that ends campaigns." Indeed, the Politico has acknowledged that Giuliani is casting himself as "tough" on national security and terrorism. For instance, chief political columnist Roger Simon wrote in an April 26 article: "Giuliani, whose past positions on abortion, gun control and gay rights have made him anathema to some in his party, believes his tough stance on national defense and his post-Sept. 11 reputation as a fighter of terrorism will be his trump card with doubting Republicans."
The Politico, however, did not report on Giuliani's exit from the ISG. A search conducted by Media Matters for America revealed that the only attention the Politico gave the story were two short blog entries by senior political writers Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith. Acknowledging that he did not set out to report on the Giuliani-ISG story, Martin wrote on June 19: "Without asking for it, I received pushback from Rudy's camp on the Newsday story today which reports that Giuliani quit the Iraq Study Group after being told by James Baker to show up at the meetings or resign from the panel." Martin uncritically accepted the Giuliani campaign's "pushback":
Said a Giuliani campaign official:
"Once again, the paper wrote a story with little regard to the facts. The facts are these -- as someone considered a potential presidential candidate, the Mayor didn't want the group's work to become a political football. That, coupled with time constraints, led to his decision."
The sensitivity - as demonstrated by the shot at a news organization -- reflects the danger of the story. It's not just that he missed two sessions of the panel, but that he did so because he was giving paid speeches.
Or, as Newsday puts it in newspaper-ese, "By giving up his seat on the panel, Giuliani has opened himself up to charges that he chose private-sector paydays and politics over unpaid service on a critical issue facing the nation."
In fairness to Rudy, though, many of us in the press probably would have been squawking about conflict-of-interest matters had he stayed on the panel through December, by which point his presidential ambitions had become obvious.
As blogger and media critic Greg Sargent noted, however, Giuliani's claim that "as someone considered a potential presidential candidate" he "didn't want the group's work to become a political football" is undermined by the fact that Giuliani had hinted at the possibility of running for president months before his role with the ISG was announced in March 2006. Smith noted the Newsday story and Sargent's critique of Giuliani's response in a June 20 blog entry, writing: "Newsday's piece on Rudy Giuliani's non-service on the Iraq Study Group got a bit lost yesterday (at least in my head) amid a lot of other 2008 news, but its implication, that he was more concerned about speaking fees than Iraq policy, is pretty damaging."
In the June 20 edition of his daily "Politico Playbook" -- which purports to offer "a quick look at news that will drive the political conversation over the next 24 hours" -- Politico chief political correspondent Mike Allen mentioned Giuliani several times, but only in relation to current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's announcement that he had left the Republican Party. Allen did not note Newsday's reporting.
But while the Politico made no mention of the Giuliani-ISG story in any article, a June 20 article by Allen and senior political writer Ben Smith once again revisited the effects Edwards' haircuts are allegedly having on his campaign. Allen and Smith wrote:
Asked by MSNBC's Chris Matthews why the Democratic Party is having such a hard time connecting with the American people, Edwards shot back with a big smile: "Well, this Democrat's not having trouble connecting with the American people, I can tell you that!"
In fact, though, his campaign has many worries. For starters, Edwards has never really gotten over the scalding publicity for what Republicans and his Democratic opponents call "the three h's" -- the haircut that cost $400, his huge house and his lucrative involvement with a hedge fund.
As Media Matters noted, Smith "broke" the Edwards haircut story in an April 16 blog entry, and the story was immediately seized upon by the media. Blogger Glenn Greenwald wrote that The Politico appeared to have an "obsession" with the story, noting that the publication referenced Edwards' haircuts at least eight times between April 16 and May 3, while eschewing other political news stories "of even marginal significance."