Her husband may finally be facing scrutiny, but the media still faint for Michelle. “Pep rally.” “Rock show.” “Church service.” These were the words a Washington Post staff writer used to describe a brief appearance by the first lady at a government agency on Wednesday. It’s part of the ongoing drumbeat of press adulation for all things Obama. On Feb. 5, Richard Leiby penned a glowing narrative of Michelle Obama’s political stop at the Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters in Washington, D.C. to promote her husband’s economic plan.
By now most people have heard that Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Daschle, has backed out due to some major tax problems. Many have probably even heard that the bulk of his problems involve his affinity for free limo service, not to mention the inevitable limousine liberal jokes that followed. However, most have no idea exactly who was paying for Daschle's free rides.
That company is a media investment firm named InterMedia Partners. They own or have controlling stakes in a variety of media platforms from outdoor magazines to Spanish language television to Christian publishing companies. On top of providing him with the now troublesome transportation they also paid Daschle a million dollar annual salary for his advice. Here is how Fox News described Daschle and InterMedia's car troubles:
Senator Daschle is a limited partner in InterMedia Partners of Englewood, CO and Chairman of its Executive Advisory Board. Senator Daschle also is an independent consultant to InterMedia Advisors, LLP of New York City. He entered into a business relationship with InterMedia in February, 2005. Beginning in April, 2005, the senator was provided the use of a car and driver by Mr. Leo Hindery, the Managing Partner of InterMedia. In addition to being business partners, Mr. Hindery and Senator Daschle have been personal friends for many years. Charges for the car and the services of the driver were billed to InterMedia. InterMedia did not issue Senator Daschle a Form 1099 for the value of the car service and Senator Daschle did not report the value of the car service as income on his original tax returns for 2005, 2006 and 2007.
In that 1995 film (IMDb page), in which Douglas played Democratic President “Andrew Shepherd,” after compromising with Congress, he returns to his left-wing sensibilities and, in the climatic point of the movie cheered by liberal film-goers, walks to the press room where he delivers an impassioned lecture -- which earns affirmative nods from the journalists -- praising the ACLU, pushing for extreme action on global warming and promises, in the portion Williams admired, “to get the guns.” President Shepherd:
The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today it no longer exists. I’m throwing it. I’m throwing it out and writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security and I will go door-to-door if I have to but I’m going convince Americans that I’m right and I’m going to get the guns.
Appearing on Wednesday's "Good Morning America," former top Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos assured viewers that Barack Obama can now move on from his multiple failed cabinet officials. Referring to individuals such the (now) former Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle, who resigned on Tuesday due to tax problems, Stephanopoulos asserted that "the good news is, even though the President was forced to apologize so many times yesterday, is that these nominees now are gone. They've chosen to withdraw. So, the President can move on."
He added, "This was running the possibility of really hurting his reformist image. He can move on from that." Of course, just three days ago, on Sunday's GMA, Stephanopoulos touted a different message. He allowed that Daschle's nomination might be slowed down, but also predicted, "I don't think it's going to imperil it, though." He also forecasted, "The key is going to be those Republicans and, of course, is this the last of the bad news for Senator Daschle? If he gets some Republican support, this is the last of the bad news, I believe he will be confirmed."
Back on November 24, 2008, Stephanopoulos enthused over the greatness of Obama's unfolding cabinet. Talking to GMA co-host Robin Roberts, he raved, "We have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes." (The MRC has been heavily covering the controversy, first revealed last week by Politico, that Stephanopoulos has been having daily phone conversations with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. See an MRC press release for more.)
On last Friday's "Today" show, Ann Curry interviewed two magazine editors on the subject of Michelle and Barack Obama and rhapsodized over the effect the power couple could have on America. Speaking to the creative director of Ebony magazine, she fawned, "The question I think, really, ultimately, is who are we going to be because of them? Who are we going to be as a nation?"
In a set-up piece to the segment, NBC reporter Norah O'Donnell described how the first lady, during ceremonies in the days after the inauguration, personally greeted Americans at the White House. She extolled, "In fact, Michelle Obama is slowly reinventing the traditional role of the President's wife, bringing her own version of change to the White House." O'Donnell also seemed impressed with the reports that Barack Obama no longer requires a tie and coat in the Oval Office. She touted, "And things just seemed more casual around the White House. The President without a jacket in the Oval Office. The first lady sporting J. Crew."
All of the broadcast and cable network anchors challenged President Barack Obama in some questions during their Tuesday afternoon Oval Office interview sessions, but CBS's Katie Couric and NBC's Brian Williams also painted Obama as a victim of Washington's culture which forced HHS Secretary nominee Tom Daschle's withdrawal. “You campaigned to change the culture in Washington, to change the politics as usual culture here,” Couric noted as she empathized: “Are you frustrated? Do you think it is much, much harder to do that than you ever anticipated?”
Williams noted “you lost two nominees, two appointments today,” so, as if Obama were an uninvolved casualty of unfairness: “Did that make you angry, I imagine?” Echoing Couric, Williams fretted: “How do you prevent the lesson from being that, no matter how lofty the goals of the new guy coming in, Washington wins, in the end?” Maybe it was just following the law and paying a penalty for avoiding taxes which won in the end.
During MSNBC's live coverage on Tuesday of the sudden resignation of Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle, reporter Andrea Mitchell suggested to Republican Senator Jim DeMint that the American public will see this as the GOP having "brought him [Daschle] down." The Democratic nominee resigned over a growing controversy which revealed that the former Senate majority leader owed $140,000 in back taxes. (He has since paid them.) Mitchell sympathetically described talking to the ex-senator: "I just got off the phone with Tom Daschle. And it was an emotional conversation. He was clearly- it sounded as though he were tearful, overwrought." [audio excerpt here]
Later, while speaking to DeMint, Mitchell bristled at the South Carolina senator's contention that Democrats were also skeptical of Daschle's nomination. The journalist chided, "Well, Senator DeMint, you can say that the Democrats were uncomfortable as well, but they were all supporting him publicly." She then lectured, "So, this does read to the public as though the Republicans went after this man, someone that the President very much wanted, and brought him down."
New numbers are out about President Obama's performance and they show that, while most Americans favor the majority of actions he has taken, two of his more controversial decisions are highly unpopular. One of the disputed actions, the closing of the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has long been a high-profile issue the media can hardly dodge. But the other, reversing the “Mexico City” policy, has gotten little news coverage. It will be interesting to watch whether they finally report on Mexico City, or even note that Obama has made any unpopular moves.The mainstream media is still head over heels for our new commander in chief, and he still has honeymoon popularity with the public. But according to a Feb. 1 USA Today/Gallup Poll telephone survey of 1,000 adults, only 35 percent of Americans approved of Obama's decision to overturn the Mexico City Policy, a ban on U.S. funding of overseas family planning groups that promote abortion.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer and Vanity Fair correspondent Maureen Orth raved about the core members of the Obama administration and their pictures taken by photographer Annie Liebovitz during a segment on CNN’s Situation Room on Monday. Their conversation sounded as if the two were suddenly back in high school browsing a new yearbook. Blitzer gushed over the photos of President Obama and his wife Michelle and that of UN Ambassador Susan Rice, while Orth extolled how “they [the new administration] want a green America. They really do.”
Blitzer zeroed-in on Liebovitz’s photography at the beginning of the segment, as he introduced Orth: “...[Y]ou’ve got a new cover. It’s a pretty nice cover, about the new president of the United States....These pictures by Annie Liebovitz, the photographer, are really great pictures because it says a lot about the president, the first lady.” The two first discussed a shot of the Obamas walking outside the presidential limo on Inauguration Day, and the CNN anchor just couldn’t get enough: “[T]hey were walking down Pennsylvania Avenue. Who can forget that moment?...Look at those huge smiles....They are obviously holding hands, and very excited.” Orth replied, “Yeah, total energy. That was such an energetic day all the way around.”
But the member of a press corps which usually showed more concern for the Bush administration's tactics than the terrorist threat they were meant to avert, empathized with the burden of the “pretty sobering stuff” the new President now learns about: “There are millions, tens of millions of people watching this broadcast right now Mr. President, and if they were to have access to the same information you have now on a daily basis, how much less sleep would we all be getting?” Lauer next pressed Obama as to whether “a substantial number” of service men and women in Iraq “will be home in time for next Super Bowl Sunday?”
Lauer asserted that the House passage of the stimulus bill without one Republican vote “disappointed a lot of people” and he painted a dire picture of the economy, treating the President as an expert economist and giving him an excuse for lack of a recovery. Lauer contended that after watching the Super Bowl, for many people “tomorrow morning...the worry's going to start again and they're going to worry about losing their jobs and their homes and putting their kids through school and making ends meet. How much worse is the economy going to get, Mr. President, before it gets better?”
Sleep a little, miss a lot.
As noted Friday evening (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), Jake Tapper at ABC's Political Punch blog revealed that former South Dakota senator Tom Daschle, Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, had failed to pay over $100,000 in federal income taxes for 2005, 2006, and 2007, because he did not originally report the "the services of (a free) car and driver" provided to him by his employer, private equity firm InterMedia Advisers.
At 11:24 last night, Tapper posted a separate update (HT to NB commenter "slickwillie2001") indicating that Daschle's tax problems involve larger amounts, go well beyond the matter of a "mere" car and driver, and are not completely resolved (bolds are mine):
Former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle (picture at right is part of a Getty Images pic at a related New York Times story) has just upped the ante in Washington's tax-avoiding/evading game of "Can you top this?"
Whereas recently confirmed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner "only" $40,000 in back taxes and interest, principally relating to unpaid Social Security and Medicare taxes (with a dash of retirement-plan penalty and illegally deducted overnight summer camp expenses included in the mix), the man who Rush Limbaugh used to call "Puff" Daschle during his Senate days has upped to ante to six figures.
Bumps in the Road: Obama's HHS Secretary Nominee Faces Tax Questions Over Car and Driver