Is it in my head?

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

It was 8:55 a.m. on Friday, less than 12 hours after the end of the Republican National Convention, when Ruler of the Media Universe Matt Drudge posted one of his infamous "alerts" at the top of the Drudge Report. It read: "Oprah Winfrey may have introduced Democrat Barack Obama to the women of America -- but the talkshow queen is not rushing to embrace the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket! Oprah's staff is sharply divided on the merits of booking Sarah Palin, sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT." There was nothing else to the story -- no other information or confirmation, should you not actually believe that Matt Drudge has sources inside the Oprah Winfrey production room. (Although Drudge did helpfully add: "It is not clear if Oprah has softened her position after watching Palin's historic convention speech.")

The storm brewed as predictably as all the others we've seen. Conservative blogs picked up the "story" -- at the Corner, Kathryn Jean Lopez huffed that "Oprah Jumps the Shark If she can't bring herself to book Palin," of course linking to Drudge. Oprah released a statement -- explaining that the Drudge memo was "categorically untrue," and pointing out that she has not hosted any candidate since the beginning of the campaign. Not Obama, not Michelle, not Biden, not his wife, not McCain, not Mrs. McCain. Oprah proclaimed the show candidate-free until after the election, after she appeared at some Obama rallies and endorsed him.

But that didn't stop a full-on Drudgified media frenzy. "Is Oprah Biased? Host Won't Interview Palin," asked ABC News. "Obama-backer Oprah says no Sarah Palin on her TV show," the LA Times politics blog reported. Naturally, Fox News ran with it, as did the New York Post, which put the story on the front page Saturday. This didn't escape the notice of Tom Brokaw, who, while interviewing Joe Biden on Meet the Press, pondered thusly:

BROKAW: I want to move on in a moment, but here's another headline that appeared in the New York Post -- Oprah Winfrey decided not to have Sarah Palin on the show before the election. "No-Prah!" -- that's the New York Post headline. "TV First Lady's Palin Insult," as they called it. Oprah did come out for Barack Obama, did have him on the show. Do you think that some people will see that as an elitist position, that, in some ways, Democrats may be afraid of her -- Sarah Palin?

(As Media Matters notes, Oprah never had Obama on when he was a presidential candidate. Nice elitist addition, too.)

And so it was -- questions of Oprah's "bias" were the political talk of the weekend. Of course she's biased -- she endorsed Obama. But she's not the host of the CBS Evening News, and she made it clear months ago that her show wouldn't have any candidates, which naturally would include Palin. There is not one iota new about this story, other than Drudge's completely unfounded "alert." Meanwhile, none of the above-mentioned outlets, nor the many others who wrote Oprah stories, spent that time asking if Palin would be giving any real, non-Oprah interviews.

It shouldn't be this easy for Drudge, but it still is.

George Zornick writes: The Conservative Echo Chamber, Part 2: On Saturday, Fox News ran several reports -- the first of which was done by reporter Carl Cameron -- about thousands of flags that the DNC supposedly threw out in Denver, which the RNC heroically and patriotically rescued for re-use in Minneapolis.

The story, of course, is complete bullflop. There is no truth to it, but as Media Matters notes, Fox ran with it for hours before even bothering to check with the DNC or the Obama campaign. The controversy has again been picked up by right-wing blogs, and is starting to appear in mainstream outlets. Will we see it spread? (Is Tom Brokaw paying attention?)

(Josh Marshall helpfully reminds us that in the last presidential election, Cameron was busted for fabricating John Kerry quotes, like "Didn't my nails and cuticles look great? What a good debate!" He may now be two for two).

The Conservative Echo Chamber, Part 3: From Ryan Lizza's New Yorker piece on his time inside the McCain media room set up near the Democratic National Convention:

Someone turned up the volume on a monitor broadcasting Fox News. Fred Barnes, the conservative writer, was enthusiastically reciting the McCain campaign's talking points about Obama's lack of experience. [Spokesman Ben] Porritt watched and nodded his head. "Fred Barnes!" he said. "God, I love that guy."

You've probably seen that Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews have been removed from anchoring any more election coverage. Here's how The New York Times explained the endgame -- on Thursday night, the RNC showed a video of graphic Sept. 11 imagery, including planes hitting the towers, the towers falling, injured people, and so on. The cable networks carried this video as part of their coverage. Writes the Times:

Mr. Olbermann abruptly took off his journalistic hat. "I'm sorry, it's necessary to say this," he began. After saying that the video had exploited the memories of the dead, he directly apologized to viewers who were offended. Then, sounding like a network executive, he said it was "probably not appropriate to be shown."

This, the Times reports, "restarted months-old conversations about [Olbermann's] role on political nights."

The story is a mess of contradictions and terrible assumptions -- like that such an observation by Olbermann amounts to "taking off his journalistic hat" - but it does helpfully note that the McCain campaign has been complaining about the network's coverage for months, apparently now to some success. Olbermann and Matthews will be replaced by David Gregory. You know, this guy:

GREGORY: Welcome to Race for the White House on a busy Friday. I'm David Gregory -- happy to have you here. It's your stop for the fast pace, the bottom line, and every point of view in the room. Tonight, more on Edwards and the fallout from his admission today about a sexual affair: Is this another skeleton in the Democratic closet that Barack Obama must struggle to overcome? Will Edwards appear at the Democratic convention? All of that ahead.

Mastering the echo chamber, working the refs -- this stuff has worked, is working, and will continue to be the strategy until November. We've seen this all before.

Bob Woodward's preview of his book, in The Washington Post, is very interesting. Woodward reveals that, while planning the surge, Bush locked out his top military advisers -- the American Enterprise Institute appears to have had more influence than even the generals. There is this very interesting exchange in light of Republicans' consistent -- and the media's much repeated -- claim that Republicans listen to their military advisers, while Democrats, well ...:

"On another occasion, in late 2005, [General George Casey] butted heads with Rice after her testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which she offered a succinct description of the U.S. military strategy in Iraq -- "clear, hold and build: to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely and then build durable Iraqi institutions."

"What the hell is that?" Casey asked his boss at U.S. Central Command, Gen. John P. Abizaid.

"I don't know," Abizaid said.

"Did you agree to that?"

"No, I didn't agree to that."

When Rice next came to Iraq, Casey asked for a private meeting with her and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

"Excuse me, ma'am, what's 'clear, hold, build'?"

Rice looked a little surprised. "George, that's your strategy."

"Ma'am, if it's my strategy, don't you think someone should have had the courtesy to talk to me about it before you went public with it?"

I'll bet you can't remember just how many times President Bush has complained about those who would "substitute[] the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders."

From TomDispatch:

As we head into the final stretch of the presidential campaign season, the Bush administration and the McCain campaign are pounding the "success," and even the "victory," drums when it comes to Iraq. Sociologist and TomDispatch regular Michael Schwartz, the author of the forthcoming book, War Without End: The Iraq War in Context, suggests another reality entirely. For all the administration's talk over the years about "tipping points" reached and "corners" turned, it's just possible, he writes in his latest TomDispatch post, that the U.S. might be heading for a genuine tipping point right now -- an unexpected and resounding defeat administered by the very government it has supported all these years. The victor in Iraq, when all is said and done, may turn out not to be Washington, but Tehran.

Bush administration officials have long had the largest of ambitions in Iraq -- as Bush speechwriter David Frum once suggested, to "put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans." Through all the twists and turns, all the disappointments, the administration, Schwartz points out, has never given up on these ambitions, including the long-term occupation of the country via permanent military bases and delivering control of the Iraqi oil industry to major international oil companies.

In his latest piece, Schwartz shows just how strongly those objectives have remained part of the Bush arsenal and just how the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, long nurtured by the U.S., is now thwarting such aims. In Iraq, opposition to foreign occupation has, if anything, grown stronger, and a powerful strain of oil nationalism has re-emerged -- and the two together have had the effect of pulling Iraq out of Washington's orbit.

In this canny piece, Schwartz concludes: "The question remains: Can anything reverse the centripetal forces pulling Iraq from Washington's orbit? Will the President's 'surge' strategy prove to have been the nail in the coffin of its hopes for U.S. dominance in the Middle East?

"If this turns out to be the case, then watch out domestically. The inevitable controversy over 'who lost Iraq' -- an echo of those earlier controversies over 'who lost China' and 'who lost Vietnam' -- is bound to be on the way."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Brian
Hometown: St. Louis

So let me get this straight. The past 8 years with a Republic Congress, in large part with McCain's leadership, has seen government spending grow at an outrageous rate. Yet "It's likely that McCain would keep spending lower than Obama would." Also they note that part of McCain's savings would occur through slowing the growth in spending for Social Security and Medicare, which I cannot see happening with a Democratic Congress.

What Liberal Media?

Name: Brian Geving
Hometown: The police state of the Twin Cities

Well, it's been a long week here in the Twin Cities, but it's all over except for the inevitable lawsuits against both Minneapolis and St. Paul. The police in both cities along with the FBI set new standards in violating the constitutional rights of both peaceful protesters and the press.

This diary from Daily Kos is one of many examples of police misconduct, as is this, this and this horrifying story about a minor that was arrested, beaten by police and then illegally released without his parents ever being notified. And then there were the many stories of journalists like Amy Goodman who were arrested even though she was only doing her job. That was covered brilliantly by Glenn Greenwald here.

Kudos to the local media who are finally waking up to the fact that the arrests of their reporters are a threat to democracy and a violation of the 1st amendment. KARE-TV reported on the arrest of their photographer caught up in a dragnet arresting everyone on the street, and the reporter was pretty direct on what he thought about the police arresting journalists for no reason. You can see the video here, but the printed story on their website doesn't mention any of the constitutional issues, unfortunately.

Eric replies: Where's, um, my go** am petition?

Name: Daniel Schensul
Hometown: Brooklyn

The $400 Edwards haircut was all the rage.

Will we hear much about the $313,000 Cindy McCain outfit?

Name: Jay Sherman-Godfrey
Hometown: Astoria, NY

I won't miss the lunacy of the Sun's op-eds either, but I second the kudos to the arts pages. To Giddins, et al, I would add the the erudite and witty film analysis of Bruce Bennett.

Name: Jon
Hometown: DC

The Sun was a joke. RIP. My all-time favorite article, though, was their "scoop" from an Israeli general who, while over dinner with a reporter, rolled out the silly conspiracy theory that Saddam's WMD had been secreted to Syria.

Name: DM
Hometown: Arlington, VA

I found the intern manual amusing but more than that, it reveals that the NY Sun is probably in serious violation of the labor laws. When you read the duties there is nothing educational about the internship. They are fetching, running errands, schlepping coffee, and going to the editor's favorite sushi place to procure lunch. This is not an unpaid educational internship but unlawfully unpaid labor. And given that the interns are on call and expected to be back in the office within 30 minutes, probably includes a whole lot of overtime. If I were one of the abused interns I would consider whether I wanted to collect my unpaid wages.

Name: Bill Skeels
Hometown: Raleigh

Per your commentor David Fuller: "Ironically, I believe it was Ronald Reagan who said that 'Facts are stubborn things,' (even if John Adams said it first)."

This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Reagan was TRYING to quote Adams, but what he actually said was 'facts are stupid things'. You couldn't make it up.

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