In which the NY Times reveals itself, yet again, to be a simple, partisan rag...
In 2005, the Republicans in the United States Senate were frustrated by the Democrats' use of the filibuster to thwart Presidential nominations to the Federal judiciary, and were particularly concerned with the threat of a filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, which had never previously happened. Because of this, they contemplated a rule change to eliminate, or significantly limit, the filibuster, a change that was termed the "nuclear option." The mainstream press, as represented here by the New York Times, was appalled. This despite the fact that, with Democrats in the White House and control of the Senate, they had favored filibuster reform. No, they were just wrong earlier, and their new, more fully matured position, was the right one. Clearly, the filibuster was wrong. A problem.
What interests the media? Let's look at a couple of stories.
Over the course of the last 30 days, the McCain campaign has raised questions - legitimate questions - about former community organizer* Barack Obama's relationship with unrepentant terrorist William "Bill" Ayers. The McCain campaign even released an ad, to which the Obama campaign responded with an ad of their own, specifically about the Ayers-Obama relationship. The release of papers by the University of Chigago from the Annenberg Challenge revealed that Obama's earlier assertion that "this is a guy who lives in my neighborhood. ... He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis" was, at best, incomplete and inaccurate.
On Monday, it was revealed that Republican VP Candidate Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol, 17, is pregnant and preparing to marry the father.
The storyline. That's the thing. Feed the storyline.
The media has been just enthralled with the idea that the removal of political appointees, and their replacement with other political appointees, somehow constitutes a grand scandal, since it's a Republican adminstration that did it. The storyline was promoted again in a Reuters piece on Friday.
An assistant attorney general at the Justice Department announced her resignation on Friday, becoming the seventh official to quit the department since the Democratic-led Congress launched an investigation in March into the firing of nine federal prosecutors. Rachel Brand, assistant attorney general for legal policy, said she would step down on July 9. No reason was given.
Sounds pretty suspicious, doesn't it? Pretty sinister? Just more fuel on the fire that is the scandal of the President exercising his power to appoint and remove federal prosecutors.
The Washington Post, this morning, is demonstrating that they aren't biased in favor of liberals, nosirree. What, just attack Republicans? Us? No way! This fascinating column by Ruth Marcus, prominently positioned on page A21, demonstrates that they aren't going to just roll over on corruption just because it's a Democrat being talked about! Nope, Marcus is actively going after Jack Murtha, going so far as to say that "On its own, Murtha's ... conduct is disqualifying."
"The Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history," Pelosi pledged on election night. Five days later she wrote Murtha a letter endorsing his bid to become her No. 2.
Linda Greenhouse is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who covers the United States Supreme Court for the New York Times. As we all know, the New York Times, along with the rest of the mainstream press, is adamant about their commitment to unbiased journalism. Reporters don't have opinions, at least not opinions that impact their journalism. It's nonsense, of course, but nonsense that's maintained by the likes of the Times.
Well, Linda Greenhouse, in a recent speech at her alma mater, Radcliffe, expressed some opinions. And if she really feels this way, there's absolutely no way that it could possibly not color her reporting. What she chooses to highlight, the way she expresses things, what she covers or doesn't cover, what she thinks is news and what isn't - that's all determined by her worldview.
Yesterday, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma took to the floor of the United States Senate and gave a passionate and informed speech about Global Warming and the American media's coverage of it. He noted that
During the past year, the American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry, which link every possible weather event to global warming. The year 2006 saw many major organs of the media dismiss any pretense of balance and objectivity on climate change coverage and instead crossed squarely into global warming advocacy.
Well, ABC's Good Morning America addressed the Global Warming issue this morning. One might think that the entire point of this morning's report was to prove Inhofe right.
A couple of snippets from this morning's "news" segments on ABC and CBS...
On The Early Show, Rene Syler interviewed the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, and former Bush administration official, Richard Haass. After having played the video of Chavez calling Bush "the devil," of crossing himself and saying that he could still smell the sulfur in the air, Syler's first question for Haass, her first question on this head-of-state behaving that way on the world's primary diplomatic stage?
"Let's start with those comments by Hugo Chavez yesterday. He makes this personal attack on the president calls him the devil a number of times. Is that appropriate?"
What, Rene -- you couldn't figure that one out for yourself?
Back in July, Time magazine elevated left-liberal blogger Ana Marie Cox, better known as Wonkette, to Washington editor of their online site, Time.com. Cox, whose background includes stints at Mother Jones and The American Prospect, had built her reputation, and audience, with occasionally witty, constantly snarky and generally profane commentary on the sex lives of Washington residents. But she had an audience, and Time apparently felt that that justified her promotion. So she moved from the fringes of the blogosphere towards the mainstream press.
And now she's moved further. It's a good bet, I'd think, that most of the audience of The Early Show don't know her background. Well, they didn't learn any of it from her appearance this morning, when she was introduced as, yes, the Washington editor of time.com. Yes, that's what she is. But she's not a non-partisan political analyst, not in any way, shape or form, even though CBS treated her, presented her to their audience, as if she were. She was the first analyst that CBS had on to talk about the President's speech last night. At least through the first hour, she was the only analyst that CBS had on to talk about the President's speech last night.
I wrote, earlier today, about how The Early Show began the broadcast this morning by politicizing 9/11. I had stopped watching after the Axelrod segment to write about it, and just recently got back to it. I was almost stunned by how right my headline had been. I just didn't know the half of it. The first hour of the show was filled with politics, the vast majority of it negative towards the Bush administration and the rest just inappropriate.
First, we had the Axelrod piece, as referenced earlier.
Axelrod: The President's aides have made it clear this is no time for politics, although his very presence here is a reminder of the lost popularity for Mr. Bush in the past five years....In the days and weeks after the President climbed that rubble pile at Ground Zero and promised revenge, the President had an 89% approval rating. Five years later that number is 36%. Later today the President will head from here in Manhattan to Shanksville, Pennsylvania. At 11:45 A.M., Mr. Bush will participate in a ceremony in Shanksville. He will then fly to Washington to lay a wreath at the Pentagon. At 9:00 tonight the President will address the nation in what we're told will be a non-political speech.
The 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, is clearly an event that needs to be marked and acknowledged. One can only imagine the furor that would arise if the President of the United States were to neglect observing and commenting on the day. On the other hand, if he were to choose this particular time to come out with partisan political attacks, to attempt to take advantage of the anniversary observances in purely political ways, I believe we can say, with some confidence, that the mainstream press would be vociferous in their condemnation. History suggests to us that the media in this country is on the lookout for any signs of partisanship from the President today. (It also suggests that that vigilance is, shall we say, one-sided. Attacks against the President for allowing the towers to be destroyed "on his watch," as it were, would be unlikely to arouse the same sense of outrage.)
The President of the United States addressed the nation, the media and the world today (well, most of the world - the mainstream networks felt it unnecessary to break from their soaps to carry the speech) from the White House. He spoke for 37 minutes, and addressed the current state of the War On Terror. He talked about the attacks on September 11th. He talked about the terrorists who have been caught, and how the information from them led to the capture of other terrorists. He talked about multiple attacks on the United States that had been thwarted by the capture and interrogation of these terrorists. He spoke about the need to continue to gather information. He spoke about the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision, and the bill that he has sent to Congress to authorize military tribunals. He talked about the transfer to Guantanamo of certain high-profile terrorists, and the treatment that everyone at Guantanamo has received. He talked about trying the men responsible for 9/11, the USS Cole, the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
The New York Times continues its coverage of the world the way they think it ought to be, with the Democratic party in control of the United States Congress. This morning's piece - Issues Await if Democrats Retake House - goes through the issues facing our gallant Dems as they prepare to take back the various House chairmanships that were usurped by Speaker Newt lo these many years ago. The New York Times, of course, is in favor of that happening. So they're willing to make sure that NY Times readers are aware that the potential Democratic committee chairs are "increasingly being portrayed by Republicans as liberal extremists." They aren't liberal extremists, of course. But they're being "portrayed as liberal extremists." John Conyers has a lifetime rating of 5 (out of 100) from the American Conservative Union, Barney Frank and Charles Rangel have 4s, but they're just being "portrayed" as liberal extremists.
The Boston Globe is not a media outlet known for its sympathetic view towards fundamentalist religious types. Everyone is aware of this. The Globe coverage of fundamentalist religious types is never particularly positive. Iran is a repressive fundamentalist theocracy. Everyone knows this.
But this morning, the Boston Globe has rapturous praise for the repressive fundamentalist theocrats in Tehran. In this front page story, the Globe manages to praise the freedom and openness of a regime that won't let women go out in public without having their heads covered.
The white-coated scientists at Tehran's Royan Institute labor beneath a framed portrait of the turbaned, bearded supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the head of a state that enforces strict religious rules governing everything from how women dress to what kinds of parties people throw.
But in the cutting-edge field of human embryonic stem-cell research, the scientists work with a freedom that US researchers can only dream of: broad government approval, including government funding, to work on the potent cells from early-stage embryos that researchers believe hold the promise to cure many diseases.
Let us try, for a moment, to imagine a media figure. Let us assume that this figure has been a major media personality for more than 20 years, but has, on occasion, been known for making racially tinged comments. This media personality has built a reputation as an intellectual, so he's aware of what kind of comments can be mis-interpreted or mis-construed.
Now, let us a imagine a professional sports league which is in the process of changing commissioners. It has been an extremely successful league, with billions of dollars in revenue, and a long period of relative labor peace between ownership and the player's union. Let us suppose that the Commissioner in question (we'll call him "Paul Tagliabue") is a white man, and the President of the Players Association ("Gene Upshaw," for short) is a black man.
Juan Williams is a long-time columnist and commentator, who has been at the Washington Post (where he has an excellent column today) for years, as well as NPR and FoxNews. He has also written several books, the latest of which was reviewed in The Washington Post yesterday, by one Peniel E. Joseph.
Anyone who's followed the Washington media for any length of time over the past 20 years knows who Juan Williams is. And he knows that Williams is not a conservative. But the Washington Post, which has employed him and run hundreds of his columns, went out and found someone to savage his latest book. From the left.
Mr. Joseph, who is a teacher of "Africana Studies" at Stony Brook University, is apparently not interested in any discussion of black issues in America that isn't focused on white racism. The idea that blacks in America need to take any responsibility for their condition is apparently "simplistic."
When the New York Times originally broke the story of the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, the rest of the media leapt to the bandwagon, and immediately began referring to President Bush's "Domestic Surveillance Program." One of the forums where this has been particularly egregious is CBS' The Early Show. Well, the last 7 months and all of the discussion has done nothing to change the view of the program held by CBS. There were two separate comments in a 30-second news snippet from Tracy Smith that were either inaccurate or incomplete, and, of course, they were inaccurate or incomplete in a manner that made the program sound worse than it is.
The first was the continued mis-labeling. The program is not, despite the mainstream press' continued insistence, a "domestic" surveillance program. The NSA is not monitoring American's domestic calls without warrants, or at least, if they are, that has not been made public. That's not what the program being talked about covers. The NSA is monitoring overseas communications of suspected terrorists and terrorism supporters. If some of those communications are into the United States, they're continuing to monitor. That doesn't make the conversations "domestic."
One of the interesting evidences of bias in the mainstream press is the way that all political discussions tend to be written from the point-of-view of "what do the Democrats need to do to win?" This New York Times "analysis" is just the latest example. All of the factors that you'd expect to see from a PR firm trying to help Democrats get elected are present.
Introductory paragraph framing the issue from the Democrats' perspective? Check.
After being outmaneuvered in the politics of national security in the last two elections, Democrats say they are determined not to cede the issue this year and are working to cast President Bush as having diminished the nation’s safety.
The Boston Globe has been running an occasional series of editorials on the issues for the upcoming gubernatorial campaign. Today's, they're talking about crime and punishment. The Globe opinion writers, doctrinaire liberals that they are, are concerned about the former, but more concerned about the latter. But sometimes you have to wonder whether they're even reading and paying attention to what they themselves are writing. The following paragraph comes directly from this morning's essay.
But for several years now, fortunately, the pendulum has swung back toward rehabilitation. None of this year's candidates for governor would subscribe to the busting rocks doctrine. But being smart on crime, as well as tough, takes leadership. With violence on the rise and a majority of inmates being released unsupervised, the next governor will have to make reshaping the state's corrections policy a public-safety priority. (emphasis mine)
OK. The pendulum has swung back toward rehabilitation and violence is on the rise. Therefore, apparently, we need more rehabilitation and less punishment. The fairly standard liberal approach to all societal ills. We spend tons of money on poverty programs and poverty increases? Spend more! We spend on education, test scores go down? Spend more! We swing from punishment to rehabilitation and violence increases? More rehabilitation! (This is, of course, the largest newspaper in a state in which a gubernatorial candidate is currently running on simultaneously increasing both jobs and the minimum wage, so a spot of cognitive dissonance is nothing new or unusual.)
Shortly after 9:00 this morning, MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer introduced a report on the potential political ramifications of plot that was foiled by the British yesterday. Her introduction was questionable, but not necessarily offensive:
Here we are, a day after this plot's uncovered, and already the focus has turned to politics, and who gets the credit for this terror bust, and was it the US War on Terror?
MSNBC reporter Kevin Corke then reported from Texas. He had some political analysis, all of which was fairly straightforward and non-controversial. He reported on the President's comments from yesterday, and the fact that he's been in pretty constant contact with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. At no point during the report did he report on the President doing, or quote the President, or any member of his administration saying, anything that could be construed as a partisan political statement. Nothing. It was a straight news report, and everything that was reportedly said or done was related strictly to the arrests and the ongoing war.
It comes like a punch to the gut, at times like these, when our leaders blatantly use the nation’s trauma for political gain.
Profound words, from the NY Times. And, of course, we all remember when they said that. They've pointed out how the Democrats have attempted to use the trauma of every dead American soldier for political gain. They've criticized John Kerry and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. They've excoriated John Murtha and Ned Lamont. Attempting to score political points on the flag-draped coffins of American servicemen. It's reprehensible behavior, and the NY Times has rightly called them on it.
Oh, wait - no they haven't. As a matter of fact, if memory serves, they've actually played that same tune themselves. So, what, exactly, are they talking about in this editorial today? Who do they think is "blatantly us[ing] the nation's trauma for political gain" if it's not the Ned Lamonts of the left? Why, it's Ned Lamont's opponent, Joe Lieberman!
On Wednesday's edition of CBS' The Early Show, anchor Harry Smith discussed the primary election results from the state of Connecticut with Senator Joe Lieberman and political analyst Amy Walter. Harry took his standard, normal position - the left side. (I would bet that at some point in his life, some place and some where, at some time, Harry Smith asked a question of someone from the more conservative side of an issue, but I've never seen it.) In the course of his interviews, Smith asked a question or prompted Lieberman with a comment, 5 times. 4 of them could be considered as coming from a neutral point-of-view, though the emphasis and context certainly seemed to be the Democratic point-of-view. The fifth was clearly a question from the Democratic point-of-view. (You can click here to see Harry Smith's questions for Senator Lieberman...)
HS: Incumbents do not get turned out of office, especially in primaries in this country. Do you understand that your support for the war is the reason you lost Tuesday?
HS: And that's why you've said you're going to run as an independent, even though polls show among Democrats, 61% of people polled yesterday said don't do it.
Elian Gonzalez sent a note Sunday wishing a speedy recovery to "my dear grandpa Fidel," ...Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the center of an international custody battle with family members in Miami six years ago, published a letter in the Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde signed with "little kisses" from him and his half-siblings and cousins.
"We send you this letter to let you know that we are worried about your health," Elian, now 12, wrote. "We hope for your speedy recovery and take the opportunity to wish you a happy birthday, may you have many more."
So, Cindy Sheehan is back in Crawford, and the Associated Press is continuing to act as her publicity agents. They still haven't shown any inclination to address any comments of hers that might be controversial. They still treat her as the grieving mother of a marine, rather than a leftist peace activist.
A year after her first war protest in President Bush's adopted hometown attracted thousands and reinvigorated the nation's peace movement, Cindy Sheehan resumed her vigil Sunday....
"It doesn't say my new address, but I do live here now," said Sheehan, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., and recently bought land in Crawford for war protests. "My name is Cindy and Bush killed my son."
The writers of The New York Times apparently think that every day's a good day to bash the Bush administration. And any hook will work, whether it's factually correct or not. Today's example comes from yesterday's Times, and Niall Ferguson. He's got a long piece about the burgeoning Federal debt.
Well, I'm all in favor of concern about the debt, because I'd rather have a lower debt than a larger. (I rather suspect that, as a matter of policy, the New York Times would not agree with me on the proper means for lowering the debt, but we'll leave that aside for the moment.)
So, what exactly is Ferguson's take?
Since becoming president, George Bush has presided over one of the steepest peacetime rises ever in the federal debt. The gross federal debt now exceeds $8.3 trillion. There are three reasons for the post-2000 increase: reduced revenue during the 2001 recession, generous tax cuts for higher income groups and increased expenditures not only on warfare abroad but also on welfare at home. And if projections from the Congressional Budget Office turn out to be correct, we are just a decade away from a $12.8 trillion debt — more than double what it was when Bush took office. [emphasis mine]
To paraphrase Douglas Adams, "this is obviously some strange usage of the word peacetime that I wasn't previously aware of." Even if you want to describe the 1990s as "peacetime" despite the fact that we had troops active in Iraq (and Somalia and Bosnia), it is difficult to comprehend how someone could describe the period since 9/11 as "peacetime." After the United States was clearly attacked, we have responded militarily, removing the governments of two different nations in the past 5 years, with all of the military costs that those operations have required. There's no legitimate usage of the word "peacetime" in that context. The only reason that you would use that word is to make a false comparison that makes the Bush administration's performance look worse than it has been.
How unusual to see something like that in the New York Times...
The CBS Early Show this morning continued its tradition of "fair and balanced" reporting, as they addressed the interminable firestorm that has surrounded Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, seemingly since he was first appointed 5 1/2 years ago. They addressed the Rumsfeld issue twice in the first hour, and both times the focus was on the critics and criticism. There were no defenders of Rumsfeld in evidence, save for short clips from the President and the SecDef himself, and their comments were immediately followed by critics explaining how they're lying.
The first segment was the "straight news" report from CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante. This segment did include short clips from Bush and Rumsfeld, but immediately followed by "balancing" their comments with those of critics.
CBS's The Early Show dealt with the resignation of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card this morning, and, in the process, demonstrated again their lack of interest in presenting anything that might be beneficial to the President in a positive, or even a neutral, fashion. This attitude showed itself more, however, in the way that things were said, rather than in what exactly was said. There were the typical offhand accusations of insincerity, but most of the reporting was fairly straightforward. And the questions that Harry Smith asked of Mary Matalin were, for the most part, appropriate. But the tone and attitude that Smith displayed were not. (Windows Media video available here.)
The first piece was the news report on the resignation, from CBS' White House Correspondent Bill Plante. Of course Plante's report started, as most CBS reports on the President do, with emphasis on negatives.
The Associated Press is running a piece of video on which they're claiming exclusivity, of some of the FEMA preparation meetings prior to the landfall of Hurrican Katrina. They've also got video of the President speaking to FEMA, and then, later, speaking to ABC in the aftermath. They've chosen to portray the President as oblivious to what happened in New Orleans.
Vice-President Cheney spoke, last night, to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. The AP has a snippet of his speech in their video stories this morning. The passage that they've got up includes the following from the Vice President, speaking on the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program:
Some of our critics call this a "domestic surveillance program." Wrong. That is inaccurate. It is not domestic surveillance. We are talking about communications, one end of which is outside the United States and therefore interational and one end of which we have reason to believe is somehow tied to or related to Al-quaeda. It's hard to think of any category of information that could be more important to the safety of the United States.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for most of the day, yesterday, explaining in some detail why the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program is legal, why it's necessary, and why it is not "domestic spying." It was the lead news story on CBS' The Early Show this morning, and they demonstrated that, while they saw it, it didn't all meet their criteria for news. Obviously, you cannot capture the entirety of an 8-hour hearing in a 2-minute report, but, as always, it is instructive to see what makes the cut, and what doesn't. Here are some of the comments from the hearing, a couple from Attorney General Gonzales and a couple from different US Senators.
The mainstream press absolutely refuses to cast the NSA terrorist surveillance program in anything other than a negative light. The latest example is this piece from Time Magazine. In addition to continued use of the adjective "domestic" when talking about international calls ("U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales speaks about domestic wiretapping policies at Georgetown University"), the article focuses on AG Gonzales' expected testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary committee this coming week.
Specter's hearing, which is scheduled to last most of Monday, will focus on presidential powers in wartime and will examine whether Bush took legal shortcuts in implementing the program, which allows the National Security Agency to monitor communications involving suspected al-Qaeda members if one party to the conversation is inside the U.S. The program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks and was exposed by the New York Times in December. Since then, lawmakers have complained that the administration's legal arguments are shaky, and have contended that briefings for the House and Senate intelligence committees were inadequate or misleading.