Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center (MRC), the publisher of NewsBusters. He’s been the central figure in the MRC’s News Analysis Division since the MRC’s 1987 founding and in 2005 spearheaded the launch of NewsBusters.
Baker oversees the selection of the award nominees and “winners” for the MRC’s “DisHonors Awards,” presented at an annual gala, and each week he helps the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard select a “Mainstream Media Scream.” Those picks are added, on a one week delay, to NewsBusters. (Archive for 2012-2014 on MRC.org)
An avid fan of the Washington Capitals NHL hockey team, in January of 2009 the Washington Post's "DC Sports Bog" took note of Baker's attendance at a Caps game with John Kerry: "The Caps, John Kerry and a Scourge."
Baker lived in Massachusetts through high school, whereupon he fled the liberal commonwealth for George Washington University in DC and, since graduation, a life in Northern Virginia. Full bio on MRC.org.
On Monday night's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric announced her day “on the campaign trail with Governor Palin” won't air until Tuesday, but CBS still made room for an excerpt of her time Monday in Ohio with Sarah Palin and John McCain in which Couric repeatedly pressed the two about an overheard comment Palin made Saturday about Pakistan, badgering them with five follow-ups before moving on to Palin's “reaction” to criticism of her answers during her previous Couric session. But a week-and-half-ago, when Couric's day on the campaign trail story with Joe Biden was delayed by news on the financial front, CBS ran video of Couric cuing up Biden on what he and Obama would do to resolve the crisis followed by one challenging question with no follow-up.
At a Philadelphia restaurant on Saturday a man demanded: “So we do cross-border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan, you think?” Palin answered: “If that’s what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should.” Couric decided: “That's almost the exact position Barack Obama has taken and that you, Senator McCain, have criticized as something you do not say out loud. So, Governor Palin, are you two on the same page on this?” Couric pounded away: “Is that something you shouldn't say out loud?” and “Are you sorry you said it Governor?” When McCain called it a “gotcha soundbite,” Couric retorted: “It wasn't a 'gotcha.'”
Couric turned to Palin: “What did you learn from that experience?” Palin: “That this is all about 'gotcha' journalism.”
Awarding Barack Obama two grades of A-minus and one B-minus while presenting John McCain with two grades of B-plus and one B-minus, at the end of his “Nightline Report Card” segment on Friday night, ABC's George Stephanopoulos declared Obama the “winner” -- with a big illustrative check mark on screen:
Bottom line, the winner is Barack Obama. He comes into this race where the country wants change. His number one goal was to show that he belonged on that stage. He was a credible commander-in-chief, that he could hold his own on national security. He did that tonight. He gets the win.
The grades from the ex-Democratic operative: On “Strategy,” Obama an A-minus, John McCain a B-plus; for “Style,” Obama another A-minus, McCain another B-plus; and on “Accuracy,” Obama got his lowest grade, a B-minus, McCain a B.
In the 20 minutes of post-debate analysis before the broadcast networks ended coverage and the cable channels moved on to other shows Friday night, on MSNBC Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell fretted that Barack Obama wasn't tough enough in attacking John McCain on the economy as Mitchell also hailed Obama -- “But, boy, he did show a command of foreign policy in terms of the nuts and bolts of it” -- and regretted Obama didn't do more to tie McCain to George Bush, a theme echoed on NBC by Tom Brokaw who “was surprised he didn't work harder at pinning John McCain to the eight years of the Bush administration.”
CBS featured only one citizen reaction, a man who touted Obama and compared McCain to Nixon, before ending with a quickie poll (neither ABC or NBC had one) that found twice as many “uncommitted voters” thought Obama won (40 percent) than McCain (22 percent).
Interviewing ABC News reporter turned Obama operative Linda Douglass, Matthews pleaded: “Why did your candidate agree so much -- openly and relentlessly -- with his opponent tonight?” He followed up with an impassioned lecture about Obama's missed opportunities to pound McCain:
Why didn't he talk more about the terrible state of the economy, the jobless rate, unemployment, the degree of deficit we're in right now, the degree of national debt, all of those issues out there that effect the average person, the number of foreclosures? He let his opponent talk about taxes and earmarking, his specialties. He seemed to lose control of the economic topic.
The Late Show's “Top Ten” list on Thursday's show was read by ten citizens of Wasilla standing on the shore of Lake Lucille. Of the ten, only one really made fun of Palin (#2). To watch Flash video of the presentation, click on the video-camera icon at the top of the list on this page.
On Thursday night, CBS anchor Katie Couric began a short news update on Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska by immediately highlighting his party affiliation: “The senior Republican in the U.S. Senate went on trial today for corruption...” Stevens was appointed to his seat in 1968.
But the night before, in an item on ethical questions surrounding Congressman Charles Rangel of New York, a House veteran elected in 1970 who is Chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Couric failed to inform viewers he's a Democrat. Though, as his bio recites, he's “Chairman of the Board of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” sans any party ID Couric announced on Wednesday's CBS Evening News:
The House also plans to investigate one of its own: New York Congressman Charles Rangel. He's come under fire for, among other things, failure to pay taxes on a luxury villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. Rangel has rejected calls that he step down as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Keith Olbermann, who was hardly reticent during the conventions to express his far-left opinions, told David Letterman on Wednesday that he's pleased about being relieved by MSNBC of anchor duties for upcoming debates and on election night since it will enable him “to be on more than I was previously and I can say what I think.” On Wednesday's Late Show, where he filled in at last-minute for his nemesis John McCain, Letterman asked about his removal from the anchor slot along with Chris Matthews. Olbermann expounded:
We're not the anchors any more. We're just going to be commentators...I'm actually going to be on more than I was previously and I can say what I think rather than sit there going “now here's more from such and such over there.”...Basically, I can just sit there between appearances and eat ice cream for 20 minutes at a time and then come back and go “that's the crappiest answer I've ever heard in a debate.”
Interviewing John McCain on Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Katie Couric informed him and viewers that, during an interview of Sarah Palin she conducted earlier in the day, Palin warned of a “Great Depression” if the bail out is not passed, leading Couric to scold Palin to McCain: “But isn't so much of this, Senator McCain, about consumer confidence and using rhetoric like the 'Great Depression,' is that the kind of language Americans need to hear right now?” Quite a bit of chutzpah for Couric, chutzpah CBS didn't even hide from viewers since in the subsequent excerpts from the Palin interview which viewers saw it was Couric herself who raised the ominous phrase.
Palin had not used the term when Couric asked Palin: “If this doesn't pass, do you think there's a risk of another Great Depression?” Palin's reaction, in full:
Unfortunately, that is the road that America may find itself on. Not necessarily this, as it's been proposed, has to pass or we're going to find ourselves in another Great Depression. But, there has got to be action taken, bipartisan effort, Congress not pointing fingers at this point at one another, but finding the solution to this, taking action, and being serious about the reforms on Wall Street that are needed.
And Couric was not the only network news star on Wednesday to raise the spectre of a “Great Depression” -- or worse. NBC's Tom Brokaw: “Do you worry about a cataclysmic event coming out of all of this, that we go into a Great Depression?”
Video/audio: Click above for Flash video of Couric's question to McCain followed by what she proposed to Palin. Matching MP3 audio (25 seconds, 150 Kb).
In suspending his campaign to deal with the bail out bill before the House and Senate, John McCain canceled his appearance on tonight's Late Show with David Letterman, a program to be recorded today in New York City. The show is normally produced at 5:30 PM EDT, but MSNBC reported it was to be taped at 4 PM today.
The night before CBS's Katie Couric will sit down with Sarah Palin to discuss foreign policy and just under two weeks after ABC's Charles Gibson got three interview sessions over two days with Palin in Alaska, the NBC Nightly News, the only broadcast network evening newscast snubbed so far by Palin, devoted a full story to how reporters were initially barred from her photo-ops with foreign leaders and her general lack of availability to the press.
“The McCain campaign has been launching something of a campaign against the news media these days, and when things heated up for a time today, we almost didn't see those pictures” of her in Manhattan with Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe as well as Henry Kissinger. Reporter Savannah Guthrie explained how “campaign officials invited the media to attend the beginning of the meeting but at the last minute banned reporters, a departure from the usual practice, saying only photographers would be allowed. When news organizations threatened to pull the cameras if reporters were banned, the campaign relented.” Guthrie rued:
In the month since Palin joined the ticket, she’s granted just two major interviews, appeared at one joint town hall and held no news conferences. Reporters on the trail rarely see her.
If Katie Couric is to be consistent and treat Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whom Couric is scheduled to interview this week, as gently as she did Democratic VP nominee Joe Biden in her day with him Thursday in Ohio which became a story on the Monday night CBS Evening News, she will (Couric quotes from the Biden story in the parentheses):
Three Sundays ago, in a 60 Minutes interview CBS's Steve Kroft cued up Barack Obama with Sarah Palin's presumed lack of qualifications compared to him: “Does the fact that he chose as his Vice President someone who has less experience than you take that weapon out of his arsenal?” But on Sunday night, in a 60 Minutes devoted to new interviews with both Obama and John McCain, Scott Pelley also hit McCain from the same angle on Palin's qualifications, telling him “the criticism of Governor Palin is that she was a brilliant marketing choice for the campaign, but she's not well versed on the economy or foreign affairs,” before he demanded: “In your judgment, can you see her as President of the United States?” When McCain replied “Absolutely,” Pelley's voice betrayed astonishment as he fired back: “As President of the United States?”
Steve Kroft again got the sit-down with Obama and when Obama contended that if he loses, his race will not be the cause, Kroft countered that he knows “for a fact...there are a lot of people out there...who won't vote for you because you're black.” Kroft declared as the two sat in Elko, Nevada:
I know, for a fact, that there are a lot of people out there, there are a lot of people right here in Elko, who won't vote for you because you're black. I mean, there's not much you can do. But how do you deal with it? I mean, are there ways that, from a political point of view, that you can deal with it? And how do you fight that?
At a Tuesday night fundraiser for Barack Obama held at the Regent Beverly Wilshire, donors heard Barbra Streisand sing, but as ABC's Jake Tapper noted in his “Political Punch” blog, “the press was not permitted (inflicted?) with permission to hear her.” So, there's no video of it, which reminded me of how back in 2002 the Fox News Channel played a brief clip from her appearance at a September 29, 2002 fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, video we played in “The I’m Not a Geopolitical Genius But I Play One on TV Award” category at the MRC's 2003 DisHonors Awards where we added Streisand's lyrics at the bottom of the screen along with a bouncing ball to help the audience follow along.
The customized stanzas from her 'Miseries' adaption of the 'Way We Were' as played on the October 2, 2002 Special Report with Brit Hume:
Scattered pictures Of the House we left behind. Lovely Democratic mem'ries Of the way we were.
Unprecedented growth in the economy. The Dow was up, the deficit was down. As long as Democrats were the majority, I could sleep nights, Not weep nights.
(This item contains a vulgarity. It also overlaps with an earlier posting by Noel Sheppard, but I wrote this up last night and even had the video ready to go, then fell asleep, so here's a different angle with video.)
The suggestion that talking about Sarah Palin is not important, sent HBO Real Time guest panelist Andrew Sullivan, a media veteran who now writes the “The Daily Dish” blog for The Atlantic, into an angry rant about Palin (reflecting PDS: Palin Derangement Syndrome) that was so much of an over-reaction, though it earned loud applause from the audience, that host Bill Maher, who agreed with Sullivan's perspective, called it a “shit fit” as he tried to calm him down and finally had to mimic an ape as he held up his fists by his head and yelled “grrrrrr!” to silence Sullivan.
Leading into Sullivan on the Friday night show, left-wing journalist Naomi Klein called Palin “Bush in drag” and “when you add the hunting you got Cheney,” prompting musician William Adams, who goes by “will.i.am,” to complain: “You know what scares me about Palin, is that we're talking about Palin and we're not talking about how to get out of the hole.” That set off Sullivan, the British born and raised frequent contributor to Time magazine and the New York Times, his voice getting louder and his hands gesticulating more as he proceeded:
We have to talk about Palin. Bill, let me just say, I don't want to go this far in talking about her. She is a farce. This nomination, the nomination of this person to be potentially President of the United States next January – that's the possibility, technically speaking she could be President next January – is a joke. It is absurd! It is something that should be dismissed out of hand as the most irresponsible act any candidate has ever made, ever!
Notes on Friday night coverage of the Wall Street bail out:
On the NBC Nightly News, the always hyperbolic Jim Cramer saw “Great Depression II” avoided by the rescue effort, anchor Brian Williams raised 9/11 as he contended “this was the kind of jittery week in New York a lot of people had to go back to 9/11 to remember how they felt then,” prompting an “oh, wow” from CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, and Williams passed along how “a Democratic politico said to me this week, if the Democrats do their job, they'll make this 'fundamentals of the economy' quote to McCain what 'mission accomplished' was to President Bush.”
ABC's World News brought up Iraq as David Muir referred to how a man in Manhattan “asked today what about the more than $600 billion already spent on Iraq?” Muir also read an e-mail: “Why make the little people bail out these companies?” Of course, the “little people” won't since they barely or don't pay any income tax. One-third of those who file pay nothing or get money back while the bottom 50 percent ($32,000 down), who earn 12 percent of the total income, pay less than 3 percent of taxes collected. The top 25 percent ($65,000 up) pay 86 percent and the top 1 percent ($389,000) pay 40 percent, so maybe the wealthier will get something for all they put in.
Thursday night's edition of E!'s risque, celebrity gossip driven Chelsea Lately half-hour variety and talk show opened with a skit of host Chelsea Handler as a “dodgeball addict” pelting balls at her helpless staff members.
CBS News reporter Chip Reid, who was general counsel in 1987 for Joe Biden's short presidential run, on Thursday night, unlike his colleagues on ABC and NBC, highlighted how Republican Senator Chuck Hagel denigrated the qualifications of Biden's VP competitor, Sarah Palin. Reid concluded his CBS Evening News story by noting how “Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, says it's a 'stretch' to say 'Sarah Palin is qualified to be President,'” and, with matching text on screen, Reid read how Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald: “You get a passport for the first time in your life last year?”
Reid did at least acknowledge that “Hagel has split with his party on a number of issues” (and, though Reid didn't get specific, traveled with Obama to the Middle East in August), but Reid saw Hagel as emblematic of wider concern, asserting “he's one of a number of prominent Republicans who have questioned whether Palin has enough experience in foreign policy.”
Comparisons to the current Wall Street financial situation to the Great Depression have not been unusual in the media, but Thursday's NBC Nightly News went a step further into inducing panic. Delivering a healthy dose of hyperbole, Steve Liesman of CNBC prompted a “wow” from anchor Brian Williams when he raised the spectre that the credit troubles could lead, “some” would say, to the “U.S. becoming a banana republic” while those in favor of federal action to take over bad debt “would say by losing our banking system, and maybe even Wall Street the way we're going, we would be that much closer to being a banana republic.” Leisman's warning:
I think there are some people who would say that this is, creates a danger, taking on all this bad debt of the U.S. becoming a banana republic. I think those, the proponents of this plan would say by losing our banking system, and maybe even Wall Street the way we're going, we would be that much closer to being a banana republic.
Two weeks after Sarah Palin's convention speech “reporters are still fact-checking what they hear from her, as our own Savannah Guthrie does for us tonight,” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams announced Wednesday evening. But of Guthrie's five presumed misstatements by Palin, two were remarks made by Palin “aides,” not Palin herself; one, the “Bridge to Nowhere,” was already dissected eight days ago on the same newscast; and on another, how previous VP nominees have not met foreign leaders, Guthrie didn't disprove Palin's contention.
Up first, how Palin asserted “my job has been to oversee nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of oil and gas.” Guthrie pounced: “She's wrong. Alaska accounts for only 3.5 percent of America's total energy production, 7.5 percent of oil and gas.” Unmentioned by NBC: How the Alaska Resource Development Council's Web site has stated: “Alaska's oil and gas industry” accounts “for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production.”
ABC reporter David Wright on Tuesday night, forced to summarize the tax plans of John McCain and Barack Obama in 30 seconds, described them through a distorted liberal prism. Though McCain wishes to continue all the income tax rates from the Bush tax cuts, with no hike or decrease for any income level, Wright asserted: “He'd make permanent the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.” No, for all Americans.
Obama, Wright proceeded to report, “would raise taxes on the wealthy, people who make more than $250,000 a year, but cut them for most households.” The text on screen, however, stated an impossibility: “Cut taxes on most households (95%).” That 95 percent is impossible since one-third of those who file with the IRS are “non-payers,” people who end up paying no tax or get money back which exceeds their payments. Obama plans to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and create other credits. For those for whom the credits surpass their tax obligation, those are not tax cuts, but spending hikes or federal giveaways akin to welfare.
In a Sunday Washington Post hit piece on Sarah Palin, “As Mayor of Wasilla, Palin Cut Own Duties, Left Trail of Bad Blood,” reporter Alec MacGillis took this inadvertently humorous shot at the growth of Wasilla during her years as Mayor, an observation that could be made just as well about many booming suburban and ex-urban areas of the lower 48:
The light hand of government is evident in the town's commercial core, essentially a haphazard succession of big-box stores, fast-food restaurants and shopping plazas.
Sounds like most of Northern Virginia outside of Washington, DC, or many other areas of the country, most with a pretty heavy hand of government-ruled zoning.