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.
Today's dose of unintended humor from the Chicago Sun-Times is Mary Mitchell's "McCain slings mud up from the low road." It's a standard anti-John McCain diatribe from the increasingly venomous Mitchell. To buttress her contention, she falls into tailoring her facts:
Throughout his campaign, Obama has been loathe to talk about race. And frankly, that apparently was a winning strategy since most people can't talk about race without getting angry.
And while black people used to be accused of whining when they talk about race, we're now called racist for daring to believe anyone can be racist.
But white people can apparently talk about race and get away with it.
Sun-Times columnist Andrew Greeley called out Palin in a way only a white writer can.
OK, Mary, let's try this once more. Obama has not "been loathe to talk about race." He's the one - or do you prefer The One? - who injected race into the campaign.
"South Pacific" is a morality play for our time. Sarah Palin is the Ensign Nellie Forbush -- an All-American girl as racist, this time a racist with her eye on the White House. She can stir up crowds to shout "Kill him!" at the mention of the presidential candidate of the other party a couple of weeks before the national election.
Playing the race card explicitly merely guarantees what I have thought from the beginning -- racism in this country precludes the possibility of a sepia-colored man becoming president. However, the last-ditch attack on him guarantees that McCain and Palin will be blamed as the candidates who were content to hear crowds calling for the death of Obama.
Today on CNN's American Morning, Cook County sheriff Tom Dart was interviewed by anchor John Roberts. Dart has announced his office will quit carrying out evictions stemming from mortgage foreclosures until lenders start exercising "due diligence." During the interview, Dart made the point that some evictions involve people who have not defaulted on their mortgages, but have simply been paying rent to landlords who did. Roberts's comments at the end of the interview are telling:
ROBERTS: So the Illinois Bankers Association is accusing you of "vigilantism" and, quote, "at the highest level of an elected official." What do you say to that?
DART: I think the outrage is on my part with them. That they would so cavalierly issue documents and have me throw people out of homes who have done absolutely nothing wrong. They played by all the rules. And because of their ignorance and their lack of diligence and going out to their own property and finding out who is out there, innocent people are being set out.
On Saturday's Ballot Bowl 2008, CNN anchor Ed Henry interviewed actor Jon Voight. Henry must have been surprised when Voight very quickly made an important point, one that it's impossible to deny: Much of the mainstream media has become unabashedly partisan. Henry asked Voight how he thought Sarah Palin did in the recent vice presidential candidate debate:
JON VOIGHT, ACTOR: She was wonderful in the debate. My deepest concern, you know. Let me just say -- can I say something honestly about the debate? The thing that concerned me about the debate, all these people, 70 to 80 million people watching this debate, and I found so many things that I found Joe Biden said that were - that I recognized as out-right lies. So I'm saying, isn't anybody on this? And of course, we're talking to CNN and I know where you guys stand. And I'm saying, guys, we've got to not have a partisan press. We've got to have real journalism here. And it's a sad event for me to witness this.
CBS News' Dean Reynolds may get in hot water with his mainstream media associates for doing the unforgivable: He's committed the truth. On CBS's "From the Road" blog yesterday, Reynolds wrote, "Reporter's Notebook: Seeing How The Other Half Lives." The reporter recently switched from covering Barack Obama's campaign to that of John McCain. His rumination includes these interesting tidbits:
The (Obama) national headquarters in Chicago airily dismisses complaints from journalists wondering why a schedule cannot be printed up or at least e-mailed in time to make coverage plans. Nor is there much sympathy for those of us who report for a newscast that airs in the early evening hours. Our shows place a premium on live reporting from the scene of campaign events. But this campaign can often be found in the air and flying around at the time the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" is broadcast.
Jane Pauley, one-time co-host of NBC's Today and Dateline NBC programs, is actively campaigning for Barack Obama. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote of one such appearance in Portage, Indiana that attracted only eight people. That event also featured Steve Skvara, the retired steelworker who in August of last year tearfully asked Democratic presidential candidates at a debate, "What's wrong with America? And what will you do to change it?"
It's only fair that I follow up by reporting that Pauley's current efforts are being met with much more enthusiasm. Maybe it's because she's now campaigning at Democratic headquarters and that's a more welcoming venue than the previously utilized union hall, difficult as it is to distinguish between the two. Perhaps the advance planning, blamed for her earlier poor turnout, was improved. Possibly it's because she lost Skvara, even though his admirers include MSNBC's Chris Matthews, who last year asked Skvara, "Well, can I pay tribute—can I pay tribute to you, sir?"
The McCain-Palin campaign had said the tax returns would be released Monday, but it suddenly put them out Friday afternoon — a time long used by government to reveal embarrassing news because few people watch TV or read newspapers Friday evening and Saturday.
Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife on Friday released a decade of their personal financial records, showing a veteran U.S. senator who earned less than many of his congressional colleagues.
Oddly, no mention was made that Friday is "a time long used by government to reveal embarrassing news."
It actually came after the debate, when for seemingly the millionth time, Sarah Palin trotted out her piece de resistance, her favorite prop of this campaign season: her five and a half month old son Trig.
Why is this child up so late every time there is a camera op? Why isn't this baby sleeping in a crib or bassinet somewhere with a sleep sheep or some other sound apparatus lulling him into night-night? Is it just me or does it seem like she carts this poor child around like a living breathing example of how wonderful a mom she is? After all, she's more than adopted the "I'm just a mom, just like you moms out there, America" attitude.
Today on CNN's American Morning, network correspondent Alina Cho conducted yet another "truth squad" check of a claim made by a presidential candidate. In this instance, it's the claim Barack Obama makes that he was a leader in ethics reform when he served in the Illinois state senate. Anchor Kiran Chetry led off the segment:
CHETRY: Welcome back to the "Most News in the Morning." Time again to check in with the "Truth Squad." Alina Cho looking at some statements that Barack Obama is making about taking on lobbyists. "Lobbyist," the dirty word in presidential politics.
ALINA CHO, CNN GENERAL ASSIGNMENT CORRESPONDENT: Big, bad dirty word, Kiran. Good morning. Good morning, everybody. It's something that Barack Obama talks about often on the campaign trail. No surprise how he's taken on lobbyists and he says as president, he'll do it again to reform health care and take on Wall Street. Here he is on Tuesday in Reno, Nevada.
In their quest to supply as many reasons as possible to vote for Barack Obama, the mainstream media have expressed a particular interest in John McCain's mortality. Last May, McCain made available more than 1,000 pages of medical records for press scrutiny. In contrast, Obama released a one-page letter from a physician pronouncing the Democrat in excellent health.