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  • UPDATED: Why the Village is so mad at Nico Pitney

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Within hours of online writer Nico Pitney asking a single question at a WH presser, the WashPost's Milbank swooped into action, loudly mocking Pitney's involvement as being terribly troubling and phony. But please note that in 2005 when it was revealed that right-wing partisan James Guckert had been waved into the WH press room nearly 200 times without proper credentials, wrote under an alias (Jeff Gannon), and asked Bush officials softball questions, Milbank remained mum. (He wasn't alone.)

    According to Nexis, Milbank never wrote about the Gannon story.

    But Pitney, the national editor for one of the most-read and widely respected online news outlets? His singular WH presence sent Milbank into an immediate tizzy.

  • The Red Scare Index: 13

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Marxistic, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for yesterday, Wednesday, June 24, 2009:

    TOTAL: 13
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 9
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 3
    Marxism/Marxist: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    By Network:

    CNN: 1
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    CNN Headline News: 0
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox News Channel: 6
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 5
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox Business Network: 4
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 4
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    MSNBC: 1
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    CNBC: 1
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a TVeyes.com power search for these terms on these networks.

  • How many marriages does a Republican have to have to get some attention?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    In the wake of Mark Sanford's admission of an affair yesterday, The Washington Post and MSNBC both have features listing "sex scandals" of various politicians.

    Somehow, both managed to omit thrice-married former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton even as he was having an affair (with a staffer!) of his own. The Post also left out Bob Livingston, who also admitted to an affair while trying to impeach Clinton, costing him the chance to be Speaker of the House. And the paper omitted Rudy Giuliani, whose wife had to get a restraining order to keep him from bringing his mistress to the mayor's mansion, and who dumped his wife via press conference.

  • More on that ABC/WaPo health care poll question

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday, I explained that the ABC/Washington Post poll finding that support for a public health care plan " dropped sharply, to 37 percent" when "respondents were told that meant some insurers would go out of business" was deeply flawed, because the poll gave respondents an argument against a public plan, but not one for the public plan.

    Well, there's another, related, flaw in the poll that I should have realized yesterday, but didn't. Take another look at the questions the poll asked:

    21. Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans? (IF SUPPORT) Would you rather have that plan run by a government agency, or run by an independent organization with government funding and oversight?

    21a. (IF SUPPORT) What if having the government create a new health insurance plan made many private health insurers go out of business because they could not compete? In that case would you support or oppose creating a government-run health insurance plan?

    As I explained yesterday, question 21 doesn't actually give an argument for a public plan. It doesn't, as the Washington Post's write-up implies, compare a public plan to the "patient-friendly Medicare" program; it doesn't really include any reason why someone might support it. Question 21a, on the other hand, includes a reason why someone might oppose it: the possiblity that many private health insurers would go out of business.

    That's a problem with the poll's wording, and it's probably enough of a problem that you should disregard the results. But there's another problem, one with the poll's structure, and it's definitely enough that you should disregard the results.

    The ABC/Washington Post poll gave respondents two chances to oppose a public plan, and only one chance to support it. People who answered question 21 by indicating their opposition to a public plan were placed in a "No" pile and left alone. But people who indicated their support for a public plan were then told something bad about such a plan, and given another opportunity to oppose it.

    The poll should have included a question 21b, in which those who opposed a public plan in 21 were told something good about a public plan -- say, that it could be cheaper and more effective than private insurance -- and given another chance to support it. That would have balanced things out.

    But that isn't what ABC and the Washington Post did. They gave respondents an argument against a public plan, but not an argument for it. And they gave respondents two chances to oppose such a plan, and only one chance to support it. Then the Post hyped their finding of only 37 percent support for such a plan as the result of balanced questioning. It wasn't. The wording of the questions was slanted, and the structure of the poll was rigged. The 37 percent figure is meaningless, and should be disregarded.

  • Why the Village is so mad at Nico Pitney

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I think Matthew Cooper, writing at The Atlantic, comes awfully close to the truth with this observation [emphasis added]:

    Besides, the Iranian who posed the question via Pitney offered up one a lot smarter question than some of the eyerollers offered by other reporters like, did you speak out on Iran because of Lindsay Graham and John McCain (CBS News's Chip Reid) or (Fox News's Major Garrett) What took you so long?

    Meaning, does it surprise anyone that the Washington Post's Dana Milbank was among the Villagers shrieking the loudest about Pitney's presence in the White House briefing room, and that Milbank writes a column for the Post which, week in and week out, is nearly uniformly lacking in substance?

    Does it surprise anyone that people like Milbank, who for professional reasons prefer to have a White House press corps that obsesses over trivia and process, was among the scribes most insulted when an online writer breached the Village gate and asked a deeply substantive question?

    As Media Matters noted, Milbank wrote an entire column belittling Pitney's press questions and mocking the "prepackaged entertainment" of the Obama presser. But oops, Milbank forgot to tell readers what Pitney actually asked. In other words, Milbank ignored the substance. He was only interested in the process.

    FYI, the question (via an Iranian) was this: "Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn't that a betrayal of the -- of what the demonstrators there are working towards?"

  • AP's "new" Sotomayor narrative not-so-new

    Blog ››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

    Today, the AP boldly declared:

    Senate Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a new narrative ahead of Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings, questioning her commitment to constitutional guarantees on the right to keep and bear arms and equal treatment under the law regardless of race or gender.

    [...]

    The Republican messaging from now through the confirmation hearings beginning July 13 includes issues popular among conservatives: Sotomayor's commitment to Second Amendment gun rights, her opinions on whether the Fifth Amendment protects against public takings without just compensation and on the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

    But we've heard all of these before. In some cases, before Sotomayor was even named the nominee.

    Indeed, the Politico noted "None of these lines of attack are new." In fact, according to the Politico, "the use of Senate floor time suggested that Republicans are trying to create some sense of unity within the party - and perhaps rally conservative activists - leading up to the July 13 confirmation hearings."

    Rally conservative activists? Ah yes. Conservatives did say all along they were going to use this nomination for that purpose. Well, for that and for jump-starting their fundraising...

    Another tired talking point surfaces at the end of the AP article: you can EITHER "hew to the Constitution and the law" OR "also employ ... empathy."

    Republicans also want to know more about whether Sotomayor would hew to the Constitution and the law in her rulings or also employ the empathy that President Barack Obama said he wants in a justice on the high court. Sotomayor has told senators that a justice must ultimately and completely follow the law.

    Conservatives' history of citing the importance of empathy in a judge? Not mentioned.

  • UPDATED: Because Politico is really just a GOP bulletin board

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    You can't make this stuff up.

    Today's Politico headline:

    A Republican comeback?

    From last week's New York Times/CBS News poll:

    While Republicans have steadily increased their criticism of Mr. Obama, particularly on the budget deficit, the poll found that the Republican Party is viewed favorably by only 28 percent of those polled, the lowest rating ever in a New York Times/CBS News poll. In contrast, 57 percent said that they had a favorable view of the Democratic Party.

    From this week's Washington Post/ABC News poll:

    The state of the Republican Party remains grim. Just 22 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as Republicans, near April's decades-long low point. Thirty-six percent said they have a favorable impression of the GOP, and 56 percent said they have an unfavorable impression. (Fifty-three percent said they have a favorable view of the Democratic Party.)

    Yep, the GOP has Dems right where they want them.

  • George Stephanopoulos, please define "obsessed"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This clip is from Sunday, but it's so indicative of the larger Beltway press problem with regards to Fox News, and how media elites turn a blind eye to its Obama era hate rhetoric, that it still requires attention.

    Take a look:

    Obama, says Stephanopoulos, is "obsessed" with Fox News and to prove it, ABC airs a clip of Obama declining to even mention Fox News by name. Okay, not exactly the best piece of evidence to support the "obsessed" claim, but Stephanopoulos is sure the charge is true.

    I have my doubts though. In fact, my hunch is that if somebody at ABC News dug through all of Obama's public comments since becoming president they'd find that Obama has not made any meaningful references to "Fox News." (i.e Obama may have uttered the words at a count press conferences when calling on a reporter, but nothing more.) So where's the proof he's "obsessed," a phrase Stephanopoulos did not choose lightly and which was clearly used to suggest that something was creepy about Obama's fixation with Fox News.

    Do I even have to point out the obvious, that it's Fox News that's been broadcasting an all-consuming, stalker-like obsession with Obama since January 21? That it's Fox News which has turned bashing and demeaning Obama into its core programming feature for the last five months? That Fox News now positions itself as the Opposition Party to the Obama White House? And that Fox News has portrayed the Democratic president as a Marxist, a socialist and/or a communist who's destroying America on purpose?

    For media elites like Stephanopoulos though, who dutifully read off the same pre-approved Beltway script, none of that unhinged behavior by Fox News can be mentioned, let alone called into question. Nobody is supposed to ask out loud why a 'news' organization has unapologetically transformed itself into the Opposition Party. Instead, elites like Stephanopoulos play dumb about the hateful and harmful game Fox News is playing and pretend it's Obama who "obsessed" (he's the weird one!), even though Obama rarely, if ever, mentions Fox News by name.

  • Journalism as theater criticism

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Another Obama press conference, another wave of media critiques. What Obama actually says in terms of policy and the direction of the country is of increasingly little interest to Beltway scribes. It's how he says it.

    Last time: too boring.

    This time: too nasty.

    At least according to The Hill, which excitedly reported that Obama had lost his "cool" during the press; that he "snapped" at reporters, his critics had "gotten under his skin," and he flashed his "frustration." The Hill must have watched a different press conference than I did, because the one I saw featured an awful lot of light hearted give-and-take.

    Let's take a look at the transcript [emphasis added]:

    OBAMA: I'm not going to make news about Ben Bernanke...

    (LAUGHTER)

    ... although I think he has done a fine job under very difficult circumstances.

    And

    OBAMA: What do you think?

    (LAUGHTER)

    And:

    OBAMA: All right, if that's your question.

    (LAUGHTER)

    You think you're going to -- are you the ombudsman for the White House press corps? What's your question -- is that your question?

    (LAUGHTER) QUESTION: Then I have a two-part question.

    (LAUGHTER)

    And:

    OBAMA: OK. You're pitching; I'm catching.

    QUESTION: OK.

    (LAUGHTER)

    OBAMA: I got the question.

    First of all, was the reference to Spock, is that a crack on my ears?

    (LAUGHTER)

    And:

    OBAMA: A few questions?

    QUESTION: Well...

    (LAUGHTER)

    And:

    OBAMA: I -- I am not suggesting that I have a crystal ball, since I -- since you just threw back at us our last prognosis, let's not -- let's not engage in another one.

    (CROSSTALK)

    (LAUGHTER)

    And:

    QUESTION: Right here.

    (LAUGHTER)

    How you doing?

    And:

    OBAMA: Hold on a second, Helen. That's -- that's a different question.

    (LAUGHTER)

    Can't you just feel Obama's burning frustration?