A couple of weeks ago, I addressed a piece from the AP's Jennifer Loven. Loven, the wife of a former Clinton administration environmental official, found it necessary to write, as gasoline prices were rising, about how George W. Bush was probably the greatest consumer of gasoline. Well, after almost two weeks of absolutely relentless criticism of the President for not taking Katrina seriously, the AP has run a Loven article today (Many Chiefs in White House Recovery Effort) which criticizes the President for having his administration focused on the Hurricane relief effort.
So President Bush was blamed for Hurricane Katrina, because he wouldn't support and sign the Kyoto protocol. And he was responsible for the slow Federal response, because he was vacationing in Texas/golfing in Arizona/giving a speech in California. And he didn't care about saving the people in New Orleans because they're black. And now we discover that his diabolical foresight is staggering. Because back in April, he added hardships to the people victimized by Katrina, essentially setting a trap for them, and springing it with the storm. At least that's what this Knight-Ridder story (New bankruptcy law imposes more burdens on Katrina survivors) seems to be implying...
Hurricane Katrina survivors whose finances are in shambles may not qualify for federal bankruptcy protection once a new law with tough eligibility restrictions takes effect Oct. 17. And anyone who intends to file before the new standards take effect must overcome other Katrina complications such as injuries, being moved to out-of-state shelters, the loss of personal financial records and the closure of the five federal courthouses in hurricane-ravaged areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention & Consumer Protection Act, which President Bush signed into law April 20, allows only people who earn less than their states' median income to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, which lets them erase their debts after they forfeit their assets.
The question that leaps to mind is "does he get blamed for the environmental disaster of Lake Pontchartrain next, or is there something else before they get to that?"
When President Bush returned to the Gulf Coast on Monday, many of us thought it was a part of the Hurricane relief effort. Maybe he wanted to check again on FEMA's progress. Or possibly he felt that it would help the relief effort to keep attention focused on it. Or he wanted to meet again with the local representatives, to see what else needed to be done. But, no, apparently none of that was the case. At least not according to Knight-Ridder's Ron Hutcheson. No, apparently the reason that the President returned was political damage control.
The AP's Ron Fournier has got another news analysis piece up (Newsview: Rhetoric Not Matching Reality) that is filled with negative spin on President Bush. But he's gone a little bit further this time, as he's using several "facts" that are not, in fact, facts.
"On Iraq alone, the rhetoric has repeatedly fallen far short of reality. Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. " While it is certainly true that we never found the stockpiles that we - and everyone else - expected to be there, the WMD argument for going into Iraq was by no means invalidated. The final report of the Iraq Survey Group concluded that "Saddam wanted to recreate Iraq’s WMD capability...after sanctions were removed and Iraq’s economy stabilized...Saddam aspired to develop a nuclear capability...but he intended to focus on ballistic missile and tactical chemical warfare (CW) capabilities."
"The mission wasn't accomplished in May 2003." The President didn't say that it was. That banner was the work of the crew of the USS Abraham Lincoln, whose mission was over as they were headed home. The President said that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended," which was true as there was no army left to fight against. The fact that there's been a terrorist campaign inside the country since then doesn't make the statement false.
"Most allies avoided the hard work of his 'coalition of the willing.'" The fact that France and Germany and Russia didn't help doesn't mean that there wasn't a coalition, or that they weren't willing. Ron Fournier may not approve of the coalition, but that doesn't mean that it wasn't there.
"Bush's spokesman said anybody involved in leaking the identity of a CIA agent would be fired, but no action has been taken against officials accused of doing so." Where to start on this one? OK, in the first place, Bush said that anyone found to have "violated law" in releasing the name would be "taken care of." Secondly, no one in the administration has yet been found to have "leaked" the name anyway.
He threw these things out as examples of the "shady art" of "spin" that "the Bush White House has perfected." The context was the President's comments on the Hurricane.
This is what the president had to say about the relief effort earlier in the week: _"There's a lot of food on its way, a lot of water on the way, and there's a lot of boats and choppers headed that way." _"Thousands have been rescued. There's thousands more to be rescued. And there's a lot of people focusing their efforts on that." _"As we speak, people are moving into New Orleans area to maintain law and order."
Nothing is soon enough for the people suffering, but does anyone think that there's anything false, in any way, about any one of those comments? Of course not. The first few days for a catastrophe like just happened are inevitably going to have people that don't get as much help as they need as soon as they need it. It takes time to mass force in the right place, to open roads that are blocked, to route around flooded areas. I don't know that the third statement was strictly true, because I'm not sure when he said it or what was happening at the time, but the first two are indisputable. They aren't "spin," they're facts. Which Fournier seems to have some trouble recognizing...
The AP is running yet another piece in which the White House is being blamed for the disaster that is New Orleans. It starts with the title of the piece (White House Backpedals on Flood Control) and takes off from there.
The White House scrambled Thursday to defend itself against criticism that it has consistently proposed cutting the budget for Army Corps of Engineers water and flood control projects — including several that could have mitigated the disaster in New Orleans. Just in February, President Bush proposed cutting the Corps' budget by 7 percent. The year before, Bush proposed a 13 percent cut.
Everybody got that, right? There were plans to protect New Orleans, and President Bush cut them. It's all his fault. Or, at least, that's the impression that will be taken away by anyone who reads the headline, or the headline and the first couple of paragraphs. But buried down toward the end, there are a couple of lines that put things into a slightly different context.
Other presidents also have taken aim at the Corps' budget. President Carters' [sic] first veto came against a big water projects bill passed by a Democratic-dominated Congress. And President Clinton squeezed the Corps budget as well.
Yes, that information is in the article. But a casual reader isn't going to get it. The headline and the first paragraph set the tone and agenda of the piece so completely that most people won't come away with the whole picture.
In early August, the Democrats responded to the news reports of the President's physical results with an incredibly petty statement about non-existent "cuts to education funding." As one internet observer remarked, "if George Bush walked on water tomorrow, the DNC would issue a press release entitled Bush Can't Swim." And the AP's Ron Fournier would carry it. Fournier's "newsview" this evening is pre-emptively criticizing the President for whatever it is that he's about to do in regards to the disaster on America's gulf coast.
George Stephanopoulos was hired by ABC news several years ago to play a journalist on television. In 2002, he was given the keys to ABC's venerable "This Week," acting as sole host in replacing Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson. At the time, Stephanopoulos remarked that "if I were biased, I don't believe I would have gotten the job." A laughable comment, it would be funny if it weren't so delusional. But there he is, and the bias just shines through. It was in full bloom on Sunday morning, as he spoke with two US Senators about the newly drafted Iraqi Constitution. To pro-Bush Republican John Thune, he addressed questions from the left. To anti-Bush Democrat Joseph Biden, he addressed questions from even further on the left. Thune wasn't criticizing Bush, so Stephanopoulos had to do it. Biden was, but not enough, apparently, so Stephanopoulos had to go even further.
Jack Kelly has a great story at Jewish World Review about how good news in the real world becomes bad news in the New York Times. The basics of the story go something like this:
The Army has greatly improved the body armor soldiers are wearing over the past 15 years. It's lighter and tougher.
There are some types of ammunition that can penetrate it, but no evidence that the "insurgents" are using that ammunition.
"...though the specifications weren't set until early in January, new plates were being manufactured — and delivery begun to U.S. troops — in March. Those familiar with the Pentagon's procurement process recognize this as lightning speed. "
Many times the bias in the mainstream press shows itself in just the stories it chooses to run. The homeless disappeared from the press when a Democrat was in the White House, President Clinton's vacations were never a big story the way that Reagan's and Bush's have been. Well, another story has crossed the wire tonight that falls, I believe, into the same category. Of All Gas Consumers, Bush May Be Biggest
Getting President Bush from here to there consumes an enormous amount of fuel, whether he's aboard Air Force One, riding in a helicopter or on the ground in a heavily armored limousine. The bill gets steeper every day as the White House is rocked by the same energy prices as regular drivers. Taxpayers still foot the bill.
I wrote a week and a half ago that the AP was acting as a PR firm for Cindy Sheehan. It doesn't appear that anything's changed. At all. If anything, it has gotten worse. They're still refusing to run with any of the controversial statements that she's made. They've not reported her comments on Hardball that "we should have gone after al Qaeda and maybe not after the country of Afghanistan." She told Chris Matthews that the purpose of her visit to Crawford "is actually to hold [the President] accountable for things he has already said," but no one in the "tough, skeptical" mainstream press has done anything to hold her accountable for the things that she's said.
While all indications are that the negotiating parties are coming closer to agreement on a constitution that will create a democratic country, the Iraqis missed a self-imposed deadline at midnight last night. There are many different possible ways to approach this story. The AP's Anne Gearan has chosen to use the occasion for a news analysis piece (masquerading as straight news) criticizing the President. Her article (Bush Pushes for Elusive Progress in Iraq) focuses, not on the Iraqis, but on the Bush administration.
One of the big problems with the American "mainstream" media apparatus is the completely uncritical way in which they accept everything that fits their template, printing anything they agree with, and suppressing or ignoring or criticizing things that they don't. We've got another fine example today in an AP story about some congressmen "call[ing] on President Bush to announce by year's end a plan for withdrawal from Iraq." The story is focused on NC Republican Walter Jones, a pre-war supporter of going in to Iraq, which does make it a legitimate news story. But, because he's now disagreeing with the President, what he's got to say is accepted as gospel truth. I think it's safe to say that the AP didn't do a lot of respectful quoting of Walter Jones when he was supporting the President in the run-up to the war.
The Boston Globe this morning leads with a large picture, first column, above the fold, of a group of candle-holding protestors in a "vigil" to show solidarity with Cindy Sheehan. It's a lovely shot, taken on a beach at sundown, and the people look like nice people. It is also framed in such a way that the crowd looks like it might have been much bigger than it actually was.
It would be an understatement to say that Cindy Sheehan, mother of a serviceman killed in Iraq, has gotten a lot of coverage in the past couple of weeks. The media, gathered in Crawford, Texas, at the site of President Bush's ranch, has devoted much of its time and energy to coverage of her "vigil," as she demands to meet with the President. The Associated Press has averaged almost 4 stories per day over the past 12 days on Sheehan and her mission.
But, in addition to being a bereaved mother, Cindy Sheehan appears to also be a committed left-wing peace activist. One who has already met once with the President a year ago at Fort Lewis in Washington State. One who thinks that George Bush is a terrorist, that Israel should get out of Palestine, that we need to act now to prevent climate change and that the truth as to why we went to war, "the real answer...it was to make his buddies rich...it was about oil."
(As read on-air today by Rush Limbaugh. Click here to listen to introduction)
The main political headline from the AP today is the results of an AP-Ipsos poll taken a week ago.
Bush Approval a Low for Recent 2-Termers reports that President Bush's job approval is down to 42% with 55% disapproving. That certainly sounds disturbing, or at least it would if he were running for anything again. But looking at it again, something suspicious jumps out.
The partisan divide for Bush is stark — 80 percent of Democrats disapprove of his overall performance while nearly 90 percent of Republicans approve.
According to Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, Democrats [are] Conflicted on Playing Rough, a headline that should be absolutely mystifying to anyone who has watched American politics over the past 40 years. From LBJ's "Daisy" ad to Ted Kennedy's assault on Robert Bork to the "Bush = Hitler" meme of the 2004 campaign, any conflicts that Democrats have had have been resolved, quickly and quietly, in favor of taking the low road.
None of which has prevented spirited whining from the left every time the Republicans dare to play rough. Milbank's piece offers, without a hint of skepticism, both the Democratic self-congratulatory "we only take the high road" and more whining about the ads that they've had to put up with. The trigger for this piece was the scurrilous and false NARAL ad, an ad that even CNN eventually decided that it could not, in good conscience, keep running.
An article yesterday about state and city investigations of a loan made by a Bronx social service agency to the liberal radio network Air America quoted incorrectly from comments made on the air by Al Franken, the host of an Air America program. Referring to Evan M. Cohen, a former official of the network whom Mr. Franken accused of having engineered the loan, from the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club, Mr. Franken said: "I don't know why they did it, and I don't know where the money went. I don't know if it was used for operations, which I imagine it was. I think he was robbing Peter to pay Paul." (He did not say: "I don't know why he did it. I don't know where the money went. I don't know if it was used for operations. I think he was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul.")
A couple of years ago, there was a bit of a media firestorm, at least on the web, when New York Times' columnist Maureen Dowd was caught removing a portion of a comment that the President made. The omission rendered a clear and straightforward statement as a delusional and misleading one. Eventually the Times was forced to "correct" the quote.
Well, the New York times is "Dowdifying" quotes again, leaving out crucial information with no indication that they're doing so. Only now, instead of merely doing it in a Maureen Dowd opinion piece, which is bad enough, they're doing it in an actual news story. (Big tip of the hat to Michelle Malkin, who's been all over this story.)
As anyone who's been paying attention on the internet knows, the liberal Air America radio network has been operating, in part, on a "loan" of $875,000 from a Bronx Boys and Girls Club. Anyone reading the New York Times did not know it until today, and still doesn't know much. In any event, Franken spoke about the story on the air yesterday, and the Times quoted him. Sort of.
Federal prosecutors are seeking bank fraud charges against lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a key figure in investigations involving House Majority Leader Tom DeLay
DeLay, R-Texas, was not mentioned in any lawsuits involved in the SunCruz deal.
There's an old joke about the New York Times that goes something like this; if the world were ending, the headline in the Times would read "World To End," with a sub-head reading "Women And Minorities Hardest Hit." Today's front page calls that to mind, as the center of the front page is devoted to a story on Entrenched Epidemic: Wife-Beatings in Africa...
Cindy Sheehan, the Vacaville, CA woman whose son was killed in Iraq in 2004, has been a major media phenomenon for the past several days since she showed up outside the President's ranch in Texas. But looking at the latest release from the AP, Grieving Mother's War Protest Draws Notice, you'd think they were breaking news.
The mother of a fallen U.S. soldier who started a quiet roadside peace vigil near President Bush's ranch last weekend is drawing supporters from across the nation. Dozens of people have joined her and others have sent flowers and food. One activist called her "the Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement."