• The press and the Bradley effect

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Boy, the flow of these stories has become a torrent. The latest comes from "Will the Bradley Effect Be Obama's Downfall?"

    To us, the stories have the same ring as the McCain "comeback" narrative, and that the press seems more interested in injecting some missing drama into the campaign (Obama could still lose!), than advancing real news stories.

    The problem, as illustrated by the ABC story, is that despite the breathless headlines, there's very little that's news to substantiate the Bradley effect narrative, which is named after former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African-American, who he ran for California governor in 1982 and lost, despite pre-Election Day polls showing him with a comfortable lead. The theory was that voters mislead pollsters about whether they would vote for a minority candidate.

    The issue is a legitimate one for debate and discussion. It's just that in terms of the press presenting it as a burning news issue right now, there were few if any examples of The Bradley effect during the very long primary season. Polling pro's say there hasn't been a clear example of the Bradley effect in decades. And the Obama campaign claims the notion is absurd:

    "I think this is a completely overblown story," said Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, saying concerns about hidden racism skewing polling data are "ridiculous."

    Yet the press won't stop writing about it. And worse, journalists claim they're not the ones obsessed [emphasis added]:

    Despite the lack of empirical evidence, the Bradley effect lives on, fueling anxiety and nervousness among many Democrats that Obama's lead will disappear on Election Day.

  • Fox News continues its ACORN-mania

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Updating our earlier tally, since Friday, Fox News had mentioned the community organizing group at least 556 times, according to

    Let's put that in perspective and help illustrate just how obsessively over-the-top the Fox News coverage has become.

    *Number of times CNN has mentioned ACORN since Friday: 67

    *Number of times Fox News has mentioned Joe Biden since Friday: 130

    *Number of times Fox News has mentioned Sarah Palin since Friday: 541

    *Number of times Fox News has mentioned ACORN since Friday: 556

  • The David Brooks contradication, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Does Times columnist Brooks regret telling the media swells at Le Cirque last week that Sarah Palin represents a "cancer" on the Republican Party and that she was clearly unqualified to be VP?

    As Greg Mitchell notes today, readers of the Times have no idea because Brooks still has not addressed or explained the comments; comments that appear to contradict what he has written about Palin in the Times.

    As we detailed here, it's an embarrassment for the Times to have one of its most prominent political columnists pulling his punches in print and not leveling with his readers. What else has Brooks written for the Times that may or may not believe?

  • What is voter fraud?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The relatively straight-forward question seems to be alluding lots or reporters this week. Especially ones employed by Rupert Murdoch.

    In a lengthy media analysis, the Brad Blog looks at how conservatives online are whipping themselves into a frenzy over a story that may be less than what it appears:

    Those who wish to believe in the hoax, however, attempt to link to article after article about allegations of voter fraud carried out by ACORN. And yet, the articles themselves

    if one bothers to actually read them

    reveal that either 1) They describe allegations and investigations brought by Republican agents, with little or no evidence of any wrong doing, and certainly no "voter fraud" 2) Where voter registration fraud has occurred it has been by rogue ACORN employees, originally reported to authorities by ACORN themselves (who are the actual victims of any such fraud by their employees), or 3) Smoke and mirrors are used to cloud the fact that not a single fraudulent vote has actually been cast by anyone.
  • Why the New York Post isn't really a newspaper

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In the sense that it doesn't practices journalism. Instead, it has a long history, especially with its coverage of Democrats, of simply making stuff up whenever the moment strikes.

    Today's a perfect example with a campaign article that's generating buzz online. The piece is headlined, "OBAMA FIRES A 'ROBIN HOOD' WARNING SHOT." Note how Robin Hood is in quotes.

    The Post's Charles Hurt reports that during an exchange with a voter "caught on video" (note the high drama), Barack Obama, "let slip his plans to become a modern-day Robin Hood in the White House, confiscating money from the rich to give to the poor."

    In fact, what Obama did was explain to a voter the theory behind his tax policy:

    "My attitude is that if the economy's good for folks from the bottom up, it's gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

    That's sort of Democratic Policy 101 and is hardly newsworthy. Hurt simply did his best to whip the exchange into something controversial. But back to the headline. Why did the Post put Robin Hood in quotes? Was somebody in the article quoted calling Obama Robin Hood? Maybe the voter Obama spoke to, or a tax expert?

    No. In fact, the only time the phrase appeared in the article was when Hurt himself introduced it; when Hurt called Obama Robin Hood.

    Which means, the Post quoted its own news reporter for the headlines to a news article.

    Like we said, the Post doesn't really practice journalism as it's commonly defined.

  • "Comeback": Thoughtful analysis or wishful thinking?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    CF has mentioned how it's in the press' best interest to see the campaign tighten up in the final weeks. And look for lots of pre-debate chatter about how tonight's debate might just do that.

    The problem is the comeback talk is often bereft of any substance. It seems to be built on just a hunch, or a wish, from the press corps which wants badly for some drama to be injected back into the story.

    Take Politico on Tuesday, which declared that McCain had won the day, in terms of Politico's dreadful, daily who won/who lost tabulation. Read this part of the explanation as to why McCain won the day and see if Politico's forward-looking analysis doesn't strike you as leaning heavily on the what-if:

    All the public polling data – from Politico's battleground-county poll, to today's Quinnipiac swing-state polling, to the Los Angeles/Times Bloomberg poll that showed Obama up 9 points nationwide at the end of the day – still shows the Democrats with a very comfortable advantage. But as McCain-Palin gets its sea legs back, Obama-Biden may have to be a little tougher and a little more vigilant about protecting their lead in the days to come – starting at tomorrow's debate.

    See, the facts tell us there has been no change in the state of the race. (Although frankly, the NYT/CBS poll released yesterday suggested the race has opened even wider for Obama.) But according to Politico, McCain could make the race closer in coming days. It's possible.

  • Why can't the press quit the Cintons?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From Wednesday's Washington Times:

    She's the most important political figure not on the stage Wednesday in the final presidential debate, yet Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has been mentioned just once in the first three presidential and vice-presidential debates.

    Maybe she hasn't been mentioned because only the press, still hunting for campaign trail drama, is still obsessing over the Clintons.

  • Kathleen Parker, meet Christopher Buckley

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Both National Review writers have broken from the conservative pack (Parker dissed Palin; Buckley chose Obama) and both are now feeling the wrath of the GOP faithful.

    Writes Buckley:

    Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails. No one has yet suggested my dear old Mum should have aborted me, but it's pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land. One editor at National Review-a friend of 30 years-emailed me that he thought my opinions "cretinous." One thoughtful correspondent, who feels that I have "betrayed"-the b-word has been much used in all this-my father and the conservative movement generally, said he plans to devote the rest of his life to getting people to cancel their subscriptions to National Review.

  • Is PBS burying a torture documentary?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Over at The Daily Beast, Scott Horton reports that PBS is apparently burying a documentary about torture until after President Bush is scheduled to leave office -- and, as a result, until after election day.

    This spring, PBS's distinguished Frontline series aired a mildly critical account of the lead-up to the Iraq War entitled "Bush's War." As the airing of the program was announced, the Bush Administration proposed to slash public funding for PBS by roughly half for 2009, by 56% for 2010 and eliminating funding entirely for 2011. Did PBS get the message? Perhaps.

    On Thursday evening WNET in New York will air an important new documentary by Emmy and Dupont Award winning producer Sherry Jones entitled "Torturing Democracy." It appears on WNET and several other affiliates independently because PBS would not run the show—at least not until President Bush has left office. The show delivers impressively on a promise to "connect the dots in an investigation of interrogations of prisoners in U.S. custody that became 'at a minimum, cruel and inhuman treatment and, at worst, torture'" (quoting Alberto Mora, who served as general counsel of the Navy under Donald Rumsfeld, and features in an interview).

    Over the past few years, the American government has taken to comitting torture and listening in on Americans' phone calls (including recording and storing the personal telephone conversations of journalists.) We've had an administration that has been so aggressive in its grab for power, and so dismissive of the Constitution, it has gone so far as to claim that Vice President Cheney is a heretofore unknown Fourth Branch of government.

    There's a very good argument to be made that those things are the most important issues we face as Americans -- not the housing crisis, or the economic meltdown, or health care, or the war in Iraq. All of those are serious matters, to be sure, but whether the next president will continue the Bush administration's approach to executive power and civil liberties and the Constitution go to the most basic questions about who we are as a nation -- not to mention how, structurally, decisions about the economy and war get made.

    And yet the news media steadfastly refuses to talk about these matters during the presidential campaign.