The biggest story in local broadcast news Monday night had well-known names, controversy, plenty of TV reporters on the scene—and it didn't air on a single station that night.
WMAQ-Ch. 5 lead anchor Warner Saunders accused former Chicago Sun-Times TV/radio columnist Robert Feder of bias at the local American Federation of Television and Radio Artists chapter's annual meeting, where Feder was a guest.
Quinn comes in with a squeaky clean reputation at a time when the past two governors have faced serious federal charges.
An Illinois Democrat with a squeaky clean reputation? Now that is news. It also conflicts with assertions made by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in 1996, when he faced Quinn in the party's primary. The (Springfield, IL) State Journal-Register covered a February debate:
It looks like President Obama hasn't gotten acquainted to his White House surroundings. On the way back to the Oval Office Tuesday, the President approached a paned window, instead of the actual door -- located a few feet to his right.
Doors didn't open automatically for Obama’s predecessor either. While making a hasty exit from a 2005 press conference in Beijing, former President George W. Bush tugged on the handles of a door, only to find it locked.
Bush laughed off the blunder, but the pictures still live on as part of Bush's lame duck legacy. However, there was little note taken of Obama's rookie mistake.
But I'm being coy here. We all know what people mean when they say Obama is a "literary" president—and, sadly, it has less to do with our widely beloved new leader than it does with the apparently unloved man he replaced: George W. Bush. Bush became the poster president for the non-literary set, for people who not only don't read, but also seem to be rather proud of not reading. Reading, to certain people, is classified as a sort of prissy, fussy, sissified activity, equivalent to daydreaming or lollygagging. It's a sign of elitism. Of having too much leisure time and too little drive.
Yet shortly before Bush left office, his closest adviser—Karl Rove, now a columnist for the Wall Street Journal—made a shocking revelation: Bush, it turns out, reads. He reads a lot. Two books a week, in fact. That, anyway, is the claim.
That George W. Bush reads would be a "shocking revelation" only to someone whose bias is so pervasive that he - or in this instance, she - spent little time researching the question.
PHILLIPS: Well, if anything, I think this just exemplifies how Barack Obama is going to be out of the box on everything, whether it's who he decides to have speak at the inauguration or what covers he decides to go on the front of or who he puts into his administration. It is all going to be about going out of the box and making people talk and bringing everybody together, whether it's gender, race, whatever it is.
Thinking out of the box, that's Obama alright. Mr. Originality's stacked his administration with loads of Clinton administration retreads. In terms of magazine covers, it's doubtful that he decides which periodicals feature him. Did he pose as Superman for Ms.? Not likely. That would have been a step down for his messiahship.
Then there is Phillips's belief that Obama is "bringing everybody together, whether it's gender, race, whatever it is." That's patently unrealistic. The notion that any politician can bring everyone - regardless of life experiences, political views, values, opinions, and traditions - together is a liberal pipe dream. And a selective pipe dream at that. After years of bashing President Bush and other Republicans, it's expected that magically all Americans will suddenly, joyously unify as one big happy family under Obama.
We've seen the mainstream media afflicted with Palin Derangement Syndrome. We've experienced the media in the throes of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Over at CNN, which modestly styles itself as the most trusted name in news, there's now an outbreak of Joe the Plumber Derangement Syndrome.
Meanwhile, something else to take note of today. I want to share with you the thoughts of Samuel Wurzelbacher -- you know, "Joe the Plumber" -- now Joe the war correspondent. Yes, he's been in Israel filing reports.
And here's his analysis, as reported by the Associated Press. You're going to love this: "I don't think journalists should be anywhere around war. I mean you guys report where our troops are at. You report what's happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it's asinine. I think media should be abolished from, you know, reporting, war is hell."
There you have it.
Samuel, let me talk to you directly.
First, I was born in a communist country, so I'm familiar with people like you -- and Fidel Castro, by the way -- not to name drop -- who also think "that media should be abolished."
PHILLIPS: Oh, Lord, Joe The Plumber's got a new gig. It's got nothing to do with the pipes, it's got everything to do with Gaza.
And later again:
PHILLIPS: You've seen the last of this guy? Not. Now Joe The Plumber wants to flush out the truth as a war correspondent. I know, there are just no words. Stay here for details on his Middle East trip.
Minutes later she reported:
Hey, Joe, what do you know? No, seriously, what do you know? Since that whole plumbing thing didn't work out, I mean. Now, Joe Wurzelbacher is decamping to the Middle East. That's right, the plumber slash author slash singer.
His latest career gambit? War correspondent. He's going spend ten days in Israel reporting for the conservative Web site pjtv.com. And he says he hopes to air Israelis' views on the Gaza offensive. Lord, help us.
To some staunch conservatives watching President Bush relinquish the reins of power to President-elect Barack Obama, a few too many ardent liberals are now crashing the gates.
Some well-known Democratic activists are advising Obama on how to steer federal agencies, including a few whom conservative Republicans fought hard to keep out of power in the Clinton administration. They include Roberta Achtenberg, a gay activist whose confirmation as an assistant housing secretary was famously held up by then-Sen. Jesse Helms (N.C.), and Bill Lann Lee, who was hotly opposed by foes of affirmative action and temporarily blocked from the government's top civil rights job.
So who are these conservatives disturbed by the liberalism of Obama's aides? The Washington Post quotes one, Roger Clegg:
"The transition team as described to me was made up of nothing but people on the far left. Though Obama is more moderate, that makes you wonder what kind of advice the president is given, and what range of choices he'll be given when it comes time to make appointments."
In the sheer exhilaration of the impending Age of Obama, it's understandable that some stories are overlooked. One that might not be considered newsworthy is the fact that last year homicides in Barack Obama's hometown of Chicago substantially exceeded the number of deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. As the AP itself reported:
According to a tally by The Associated Press, at least 314 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq in 2008, down from 904 in the previous year.
Q Can you give us an update on Elian Gonzalez, the boy rescued off the coast of Florida in 1999, then returned to Cuba over the protests of his U.S. relatives?--Mark Larsen, Calhoun, Ga.
A Elian, 15, has been well taken care of by Fidel Castro. His dad was rewarded with a seat in Cuba's national assembly, and the family was given a spacious home. Says Ann Louise Bardach, whose Without Fidel will be published next spring: "Fidel has been known to forget the birthdays of his own children, but never Elian's."
Heartwarming, isn't it? That Fidel is such a sweetheart. So massive is his affection for the young man that he, with the complicity of the U.S. government, forced the terrified boy back to Cuba. Just yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Cubans:
are preoccupied with staying afloat in a sclerotic economy where basics like toilet paper often disappear from store shelves and most people eat meat only a few times each month.
Barack Obama is finding out that his honeymoon with the mainstream media may be considerably shorter than he had expected. Inviting Pastor Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration hasn't endeared him to a core constituency and now Time Magazine has joined in the bash fest. Its Web site carries the piece, "The Problem for Gays with Rick Warren — and Obama." Authored by John Cloud, the article begins by citing Warren's criticisms of homosexuality and then clobbers Obama for his association with him:
Gays and lesbians are angry that Barack Obama has honored Warren, but they shouldn't be surprised. Obama has proven himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the non-pedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships. He did throughout his campaign, a campaign that featured appearances by Donnie McClurkin, a Christian entertainer who preaches that homosexuals can become heterosexuals.
QUIJANO: But, Betty, the question remains, when is it exactly that the president-elect and his team will disclose what contacts there actually were between their camp and people within the governor's office? What is taking so long? The president-elect said yesterday his staff was looking into it and would release that list in the coming days. So we continue to wait for that -- Betty.
I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I'm confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat. I think the materials released by the U.S. attorney reflect that fact.
I've asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor's office about this vacancy so that we can share them with you over the next few days.
Several mainstream media accounts suggest that about the only thing Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich have in common is they both live in Illinois. Today at the Washington Post's Web site, for example, we learn that "Obama Worked to Distance Self From Blagojevich Early On." The article begins by noting that the Illinois governor, unlike other major state Democratic politicians, wasn't allowed to address this year's national convention. There was at least one good reason for that, although it wasn't covered by today's Washington Post. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times explained it last August:
The Obama campaign on Tuesday afternoon released more speakers for the second night of the Democratic convention in Denver, a batch of Democratic governors. Missing from the list: the first governor to back Obama, his homestate Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich, who threw a heck of a party in Boston in 2004, has had no profile in the Obama campaign because of the scandals surrounding his administration, notably the Tony Rezko probe.
Because of Rezko, I never, ever expected Blagojevich to be tapped to speak.
Today's Chicago Tribune boasts an interview with Barack Obama. Carried in both the print and Web editions, the latter version is headlined: "Barack Obama plans to reach out to Muslim world: In exclusive interview, he says he plans to be sworn in like every other president, using his full name: Barack Hussein Obama"
The article begins:
Barack Obama says his presidency is an opportunity for the U.S. to renovate its relations with the Muslim world, starting the day of his inauguration and continuing with a speech he plans to deliver in an Islamic capital.
And when he takes the oath of office Jan. 20, he plans to be sworn in like every other president, using his full name: Barack Hussein Obama.
The problem with this is it's not accurate. Not every president has taken the oath "using his full name" and the Chicago Tribune should have so informed its readers. Of the last six presidents, three didn't use their full names: Gerald R. Ford,Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan.
President-elect Barack Obama's decision to keep a distance from his state's governor, who was arrested on corruption charges on Tuesday, should enable him to escape becoming tainted by the scandal, analysts said.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich stands accused of trying to sell the president-elect's vacant U.S. Senate seat for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife, among other charges.
And who precisely are these analysts expecting Obama to avoid the connection?
If Gov. Blagojevich does not resign immediately, impeach him.
This is the inescapable conclusion that comes after reading Tuesday’s 76-page criminal complaint against the governor alleging a runaway crime spree of political corruption.
Even if the governor were found not guilty of every accusation against him — and given the apparent weight of the evidence against him, we’re not taking any bets — the criminal charges would cripple his already limited ability to lead Illinois.
The newspaper's editorial conveniently overlooks that Milorad Blagojevich is a Democrat. It also ignores that only two years ago the Chicago Sun-Times endorsed him. Its October 20, 2006 editorial, "Blagojevich for governor," took passing note of ethical problems and decided they were of little consequence:
Everything good that happens is because of Barack Obama. Everything bad is attributable to George Bush or Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin or some other Republican. In keeping with these mainstream media-manufactured verities, USA Today's Web site reports "President-elect Obama's actions perk up stock market." The story begins:
President-elect Barack Obama hasn't even moved into the White House yet. But Wall Street is already showering him with praise for injecting confidence into the battered psyche of investors and working quickly to hatch a plan meant to jolt the economy out of its worst funk in decades.
A market that two weeks ago was desperate for political leadership and a clear strategy to repair the economy appears to have found it in Obama, who is fast emerging as a decisive economic commander in chief.
Stocks soared last week after Obama moved aggressively to fill the power vacuum until he's sworn in and demonstrated his commitment to dig the USA out of its economic rut.
If it's Sunday, it must be worship time at the Temple of Obama, at least at the Chicago Tribune. Today the top of the front page has a picture of Barack and Michelle embracing. The headline is: "White House romances: Obamas' affection is notable among presidential pairs." Page 4 carries the story, also shown on the Trib's Web site with the headline "Scenes from Obamas' love story." We learn:
Over the last two years the future first couple has made a practice of sharing such small, intimate moments on the grandest of stages, whether trading fist bumps, whispering "I love you" or stealing quick kisses on the campaign trail.
The Obamas' unabashed affection for each other suggests they could become the one of the most engaging sets of lovebirds in White House history. Though the home has known many deeply committed couples (as well as some infamously uncommitted), few were as young, attractive or willing to put their passion on public display.
Both of Chicago's major dailies have sold out editions containing special "commemorative" sections devoted to Barack Obama. Judging by today's Chicago Tribune, perhaps the strategy is to push out an Obama commemorative issue every day.
The top half of the front page includes a huge color photo of a smiling Obama in a Chicago deli yesterday, a color picture of Obama with one of his daughters, and a color shot of a Chicago crowd watching Obama's motorcade speed by. "At home: A brief taste of normalcy" is the accompanying story and it notes:
On Friday, he made time to leave the office briefly to pick up a corned beef sandwich and cherry pie from Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli, a favorite spot for Chicago politicians.
"I'm just glad to be out," Obama said amid applause and shouts of congratulations from surprised diners.
Yet the roughly 15-minute stop seemed more designed to provide a media photo opportunity—the first in nearly a week—than to let the president-elect step out for some fresh air.
President-elect Barack Obama and his wife have chosen Sidwell Friends School for their two daughters, opting for a private institution that another White House child, Chelsea Clinton, attended a decade ago.
"A number of great schools were considered," said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama. "In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now."
The AP further noted:
Michelle Obama went to public schools on Chicago's South Side, and understands the importance of strong public schools, Lelyveld said, and the administration plans to work hard on that issue.
The election is over, but quite clearly the Palin Derangement Syndrome suffered by many in the mainstream media isn't. This morning's CNN Reliable Sources was typical. Joining host Howard Kurtz to discuss Sarah Palin were Beth Fouhy, an Associated Press political reporter, Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik, and Julie Mason, the Washington Examiner's White House correspondent. Mason opined: "I don't think she helped herself at all this past week. I think she actually probably made it worse." To Zurawik, the Alaska governor's recent interview with NBC's Matt Lauer "shows you how in a way, deviously clever Palin is in trying to repair her image." Then it was the AP reporter's time to take a few shots:
FOUHY: Well, I think what we learned is that she is extremely ambitious. I guess we already knew that, but she's as ambitious as ever despite the brutal campaign that she herself described that she went through. But she's also pretty unprepared.
Jarrett, who hired Michelle Obama for a job in the Chicago mayor's office years ago, is one of the president-elect's closest friends and advisers. Her name has been floated for several top administration jobs. But Obama settled on the senior adviser role, said a person close to the president-elect and willing to speak only on background because the decision has not been officially announced.
A White House senior adviser can handle a range of duties. President George W. Bush's top political aide Karl Rove held the title in the current administration.
Jarrett has a background in real estate and politics in Chicago.
Perhaps some in the mainstream media are starting to acquire a few of the Superman qualities enjoyed by The One. Yesterday on the 3:00 PM edition of CNN Newsroom, anchor Rick Sanchez demonstrated his impressive mind-reading abilities. He had shown a clip of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaking. Discussing her presentation with a panel of guests, he - as anchors are wont to do - moved the conversation into a direction he preferred:
SANCHEZ: Well, let's talk about this, too, because I think this is important. You know, a lot of people are watching at home and they listen to her speak and they're thinking, why don't I understand what she's saying? Is there a syntax problem here?
In fact, we've got one now. This is MySpace, right? Yes. This is a MySpace comment that just came in moments ago. Have you got that, Robert?
"Oh, my God. She did not talk about Joe -- not the plumber. I get confused trying to listen and understand what she's talking about." She says, "I feel dumber and dumber by the second."
On Thursday, CNN aired "Escape from Jonestown," presented by CNN special investigations unit corespondent Soledad O'Brien. This week marks thirty years since the horrific deaths of more than 900 people, roughly a third of them children, at Jonestown. The massacre was orchestrated by "Reverend" Jim Jones. What CNN barely referenced was Jones's connection to several leading Democratic politicians of the time. O'Brien did identify Jones as a believer in socialism and, with a survivor, passingly alluded to his influence in the Democratic Party:
O'BRIEN: In 1975, Jones moved his church headquarters from Redwood Valley down to San Francis, to a larger stage, where he became a political force and a face in photo-ops.
GOSNEY: Roslyn (sic) Carter was campaigning for Jimmy Carter. I believe that was 1976. And there was going to be a rally downtown. Literally, we stuffed the building. We were -- we were the rally.
Studs Terkel, author and broadcaster, died on Halloween. Barack Obama observed: "Studs was not just a Chicago institution, he was a national treasure. His writings, broadcasts, and interviews shed light on what it meant to be an American in the 20th century." Obama highly praised Terkel when he was alive, declaring him " not just a national treasure - he's one of Chicago's treasures."
Terkel's politics were liberal, vintage FDR. He would never forget the many New Deal programs from the Great Depression and worried that the country suffered from "a national Alzheimer's disease" that made government the perceived enemy.
The Associated Press today reports on the death of Gerard Damiano, described by AP writer Sarah Larimer as the director of a "pioneering pornographic film":
Damiano's "Deep Throat" was a mainstream box-office success and helped launch the modern hardcore adult-entertainment industry. Shot in six days for just $25,000, the 1972 flick became a cultural must-see for Americans who had just lived through the sexual liberation of the 1960s.
Mainstream box-office success? A cultural must-see? Not as I recall. In a 2005 Los Angeles Times piece disputing claims of how much money was made by "Deep Throat," Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Michael Hiltzik noted that the movie was "banned in half the country and generally exhibited in one theater at a time even in the biggest cities, such as New York and Los Angeles."
Like much of the mainstream media, CNN anchor Jack Cafferty has set aside any pretense of objectivity in this year's presidential election. On today's Situation Room he used a "Cafferty File" segment, in which a question is posed to viewers for their response, to attack GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. He prefaced the question:
But McCain chose Sarah Palin, who immediately became a national joke to everybody, except the conservative base of the Republican Party. Even some Republicans are convinced the Palin selection showed a total lack of judgment on McCain's part.
Oh, what about Florida Governor Charlie Crist? Would winning Florida help John McCain? You get the idea here.
Here's the question: Was it a mistake for John McCain to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate?
Last Thursday, his question for viewers was if they think John McCain has run an honorable campaign. Some of his background "information":
In fact, in the last few weeks, John McCain has become downright nasty.
In case you've been in a cave the last few news cycles, it's been widely reported that the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska's largest newspaper, has endorsed Barack Obama. Typical was this from NPR's Morning Edition:
Newspapers have been making presidential endorsements. Republican John McCain won the backing of his home state's largest paper, The Arizona Republic. The Chicago Tribune endorsed Chicago resident Barack Obama — the first time that paper has endorsed a Democratic candidate for president. And Obama received the backing from another paper you might not expect — the Anchorage Daily News. The state's largest newspaper was not swayed by the fact that McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, is the state's governor.
On Thursday's ABC World News, anchor Charles Gibson's lead-off story was on the presidential campaign:
"Two weeks, five days to go, home stretch. Barack Obama and John McCain began today laying out their closing strategies. And while Obama continues to hold a double-digit lead in most national polls, it is the results in individual states that are all important."
The emphasis on Obama's supposedly huge, possibly insurmountable lead is used by some in the mainstream media to suggest the inevitability of a Democratic win. But you have to wonder, at least in this instance, what polls ABC News is examining. Obama enjoys a lead in most opinion surveys, but it's not as large as Gibson claimed.