They're tryin' to wash us away ...


George Zornick writes: Today, it's a good time to remember that, when it comes to the economy, a vast majority of the television reporting is thoroughly conservative. Last week Eric noted the CNN Situation Room segment in which Wolf Blitzer compared Barack Obama and John McCain's tax plans -- on people with incomes $161,000 and up. There was also, for example, the focus by Charlie Gibson during the primary season on the horrors of raising taxes on people with incomes over $200,000, which he asserted was an "average" income. And here, Jared Bernstein recounts his difficult experience on CNBC, trying to discuss the very important Census Bureau report last week. It contained many crucial revelations, most important, that over the entire business cycle 2000-2007, middle class incomes were unchanged, which has never happened before. Also, as Bernstein notes:

  • The income trends were worse for working-age families, headed by someone under 65. The weakest job market on record meant diminished earnings opportunities over the 2000s, and the real median income of these households went down $2,010 between 2000 and 2007.
  • This is an even more amazing loss when you consider that working families contributed to quite stellar productivity growth rates over these years. This measure of how efficiently the workforce is producing rose 2.5 percent per year, 2000-07, half-a-percent faster than in the 1990s, when the real median income of working-age households rose more than $5,000. Middle-income workers were more productive, but ended up with less.
  • The growth that occurred over these years also bypassed low-income families. Poverty rates were 1.2% higher in 2007 than in 2000, up from 11.3 percent to 12.5 percent, an addition of 5.7 million to the poverty rolls, making this the worst cycle for poverty on record.

These are basic, and troubling, facts. Yet, Bernstein writes of how he was forced to argue with conservatives on CNBC, who kept insisting on any metric they could think of to paint the numbers in a positive light -- choosing different years for the comparison, and "that strong capital goods orders were signs of a turnaround, and on Thursday that better-than-expected GDP growth in the second quarter meant the economic debate was over." This is CNBC -- let's not get started on the Fox Business Channel.

While a lot of progress has been made getting liberals on television recently -- I am looking forward to Rachel Maddow's nationally televised show -- we really need some Jared Bernsteins on the air, much more often.

It was great fun watching television reporters and pundits whip themselves into a frenzy Friday morning, as they attempted to report -- or rather, guess -- who John McCain would tap for vice president. When the pick was revealed, it proved, as Atrios noted, that for all of their prided connections, most mainstream journalists don't know much that the campaigns don't want them to know. The first reports that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be the pick came about two hours before the announcement rally, after Palin had already spent several days in a hotel near McCain's Arizona compound and was flown to Ohio for the rally. The reporters found out only because the McCain campaign finally chose to tell them. If reporters want to go all-out on vice-presidential speculation, at least do some old-fashioned reporting. And, of course, even that is a waste of time -- we'll all find out soon enough. Perhaps the time would be better spent covering real issues, or at least getting some background on vice-presidential possibilities. When Palin was announced, nobody even knew who she was -- Carl Cameron of Fox News kept calling her "Susan Palin." Admittedly Palin was out of left field, but her name had been floated by right-wing blogs, Kristol, Rove, et al, and there must have been someone in the big television news bureaus who could have put together a file on her.

The media's total unawareness of Palin allowed the McCain campaign to immediately press their narrative. Whether the media would have challenged the narrative anyhow is open to speculation, but in this case, they had no choice but to accept what they were told -- they didn't know anything else.

For example, the McCain team assured reporters that Palin was a maverick. And so it was:

  • Referring to Palin during the August 29 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews claimed, "I think she is a maverick," and added, "[T]he several years she's been in public life has been that of a maverick, someone taking on the good ol' boys. ... Every time one party runs the show, it gets corrupt, and she was challenging it."
  • Discussing the choice during the August 29 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Kevin Corke said of McCain: "I'm thinking he likes this idea that she's also a bit of a maverick."
  • During the August 29 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer uncritically asserted, "Republicans call her a uniter and a tough maverick."
  • During the August 29 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto asserted, "First, the maverick. He picks a maverick."
  • An August 29 Detroit Free Press article was headlined "McCain chooses maverick Alaska governor to be his vice president."
  • In an August 29 post on the blog The Fix, staff writer Chris Cillizza claimed, "In choosing Palin, McCain also doubles down on the maverick argument; Palin is the face of reform in the Republican party nationally and is clearly not of Washington -- a key element of her biography given how negative voter sentiment toward the nation's capital is currently."

During her speech, Palin claimed she was against the "Bridge To Nowhere" -- this presumably was a big reason that reporters immediately began referring to her as the "face of reform in the Republican party," as we see Cillizza did above. Mainstream reporters asserted that again and again -- Bob Schieffer, Chris Wallace, and The Wall Street Journal, for example.

Presumably they were unaware of the basic fact that Palin supported (the bridge while she was running for governor. And of course, the vacuum of any information on Palin allowed conservatives to step in and advance ridiculous things, unchallenged. David Brooks said on PBS that Palin "pretty progressive on gay and lesbian issues" and "talks about global warming quite a lot." As is true on many issues, Palin's views on gay and lesbian issues aren't know, and Brooks didn't offer any support. (Given her other social-issue positions, I assume Palin is "progressive" only if the Taliban is the baseline measurement, but we'll have to wait and see). And while Palin does "talk about global warming quite a lot," she says things like "I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made."

Josh Marshall offers some angles for reporters to pursue, now that they have time to look into Palin and ask some real questions. Hopefully, we'll be able to distinguish the media's reporting two weeks from now from its reporting when they thought her name was Susan.

This is also a good time to recall "New Orleans After the Storm," our Think Again column from earlier this summer about the mainstream narratives on reconstruction and culpability in New Orleans. This is going to be a big week for re-examining the events of three years ago, and the media need to get it right.

This year marked the first time any major American political party had a Muslim outreach program at a convention - the Faith in Action initiative engaged American Muslim communities as part of its programs for the week, and was attended by several members of Congress. This is despite the relentless underground effort to tar Barack Obama as a secret Muslim.

Seems newsworthy, no? But virtually nobody covered it. Nobody, that is, but those who were able to step into the vacuum with an agenda. If you Google "American Muslim Community DNC," you get results from Family Security Matters ("When it comes to Islamism, the DNC still doesn't get it") and of course Fox News: "Critics Question DNC's Pick for Islamic Speaker at 'Interfaith' Gathering."

So that's all people will know of the DNC's outreach. Forwarding chain emails isn't the only way create the perception that Obama is really a Muslim - and that it's a smear in the first place, even if it were true.

Last week, we noted that was fronting a Larry King Live segment with Ben Stein, describing it thusly: "Ferris Bueller' actor unimpressed by Dems."

Here's a suggestion for today: "Larry King Finally Gets Fed Up With 'Ferris Bueller' Actor's Bullsh*t."

Sentences that make me feel all warm and tingly: "President George W. Bush will give what is likely the last major political speech of his career."

At long last, the NFL season begins. While the team most likely to make a dark-horse run at the Super Bowl is stuck with a 1 p.m. game against Seattle, last year's champions are playing in prime time Thursday night -- the same night, incidentally, that John McCain is giving his acceptance speech. The NFL has graciously moved up the game an hour, so as to minimize the possibility of interference, but if the game goes long, NBC will not break away, and John McCain will likely delay his speech. Country (and football) First.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Ben Miller
Hometown: Washington, DC

Mr. Alterman --

Well it did not take long. By 10:20 a.m. this morning, had already removed the story about Barack Obama's historic speech from its main page, and replaced it with the generic who is the VP going to be story that offer no news and essentially says, we still don't know. Glad to see CNN didn't waste any time showing again its priorities are completely screwed up.

Name: Tim Dean
Hometown: Medford, NJ

Check out this snippet on Note that the link from the CNN home page is titled "Governor seen as bold, maverick pick", and the link even has the word maverick in it! But that's not enough. (Note that another headline says "Palin known as pioneer...", stopping just short of using the m-word to describer her also.)

In the video, Jim Clancy introduces the uber-Republican Amy Holmes as "an independent with a conservative viewpoint", neglecting to mention that she was a speechwriter for former Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Then he throws out the hard-hitting question, "how brilliant is this?" Sure seems like an unbiased question, right? Amy Holmes then goes on to say that the choice of Sarah Palin is a "bold, maverick, maverick pick." Yes, you heard it correctly ... two mavericks in a row! Just in case you missed the first one. Only a true independent would recite the required McCain campaign tagline twice in a row.

Which raises a question in my mind that I don't think has really been discussed much. If we've reached the point where every single talking head "political analyst" on television can be absolutely counted on to take the exact stance that we all knew they would take before "analyzing" an event, why even bother? At this point, the political "analysis" boils down to a well-metered commercial for whatever candidate the "analyst" happens to favor. The quaint notion that maybe, just maybe, one of them might be persuaded to see something differently has been completely abandoned. And yes, the conservative ones are the most egregious perpetrators. Fox News doesn't even pretend anymore, and CNN seems to be following in their cloven footsteps. It's all so tiring.

Name: Michael Rapoport

To all those who've expressed exasperation with the convention coverage, there's a simple antidote: C-SPAN. Gavel-to-gavel coverage, speeches in their entirety, a nice sense of the scene in Denver ... and no pundits.

Name: Charles Poston
Hometown: Bedford, TX

What? No one watched the live feed and saw John Kerry give a great speech he should have given 4 years ago and Montana Gov. Schweitzer make a brilliant speech on energy independence and many more that even my casual viewing discovered? You preferred watching Brokaw slur like a drunk and Chris Matthews become orgasmic over a piece of lint he just saw on the end of his nose? We will be better off as a country when everyone has to vote (maybe to get a tax cut?) and the major networks do what they do best -- which is apparently reality TV geared for 7th graders. All political information will be carried on a live feed at shared public expense without the braying boring jackasses that exist to distract us from what is really happening.

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

On Thursday, Barack Obama delivered a speech that even Pat Buchanan characterized as "the best acceptance speech" he'd heard going back to 1948. So what's David Brooks' Friday column? A parody mocking Obama -- and a parody not worthy of a smallish middle school newspaper.

Apparently, Brooks has seen the work that Kristol and Dowd have been doing and has decided to enter the competition for "Worst NY Times columnist." I feel progressively sadder for Bob Herbert; it's got to feel awfully lonely in the office.

Name: Merrill R. Frank
Hometown: Jackson Heights, NYC

Dr. While some in the media and the usual wingnuts have flashbacks and search for the illusive old VW Microbus with Bill Ayers behind the wheel along with members of the Weather Underground thus ending up in a wild goose chase.

Where are they regarding McCain terror supporting fundraisers? As well as Charlie Black and his lobbying efforts on behalf of some of the most reprehensible dictators in the world. Not to mention a few old terrorists who happen to be part of a key Republican constituency hiding out in Miami drinking Cuba Libres

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