Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Pres.-elect Barack Obama and VP-elect Joe Biden meet in Washington January 14, 2009, after Biden and Graham's recent trip to Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
The news media are giddy with excitement as Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day approaches — CNN’s Jim Acosta on Tuesday’s American Morning touted how "Obama has some big shoes to fill, roughly the size of the ones up on the Lincoln Memorial....Barack Obama’s inaugural address may be more than the speech of his lifetime. Historians and speechwriters say it could be one for the ages."
But it would be a mistake to think reporters are always so worshipful of new presidents. While most presidents do start with a media honeymoon, a review of the past 20 years finds reporters are more celebratory when Democrats are taking over the White House, while coverage of GOP inaugurals has included a fair number of anti-conservative stinkbombs:
Pssst. Eight hundred rooms in Washington, D.C. proper and a total of 15,000 rooms "in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and the District" remain unbooked for the Obama
apotheosis inaugural. Pass it on.
"Actually, Hotel Space Remains Available," the Washington Post's Paul Schwartzman quietly reported on page B2 of the January 15 edition's "Inauguration Watch." Staffer Paul Schwartzman cited Washington's "official tourism office, Destination DC" as the source of the stat.
Near the end of Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith unveiled the latest painting by artist Peter Max, a mural of 44 portraits of Barack Obama. Max has created numerous paintings for the Early Show set and Smith praised the artist’s latest work: "Okay, wow. That is really, really, really cool...Wow. Well, that is pretty impressive. I hope somebody in the President-elect's transition office is taking a look at this. That is really amazing. Wow."
Smith asked Max: "What is your feeling as an artist as we come up on to this inauguration time and time of change?" Max replied: "Unbelievable, unbelievable. You know that night when he was announced being president and the whole country cried, I was in that same place...I couldn't believe it." Max later remarked on how: "You know, galleries from all over the country have called. I mean, I don't -- wouldn't even know where to start...I just love doing him. Doesn't he -- he just looks great...Young, energetic, fantastic guy." Smith ended the segment by declaring: "Wow...Yeah. Has a good smile, too, right? There you go. Peter, thank you so much...Really, really like it."
Yesterday, details discovered about Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner's tax situation moved it to well past the level of an "honest mistake."
You wouldn't know it from the Associated Press's Julie Hirschfeld Davis, who, as I noted yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), continues to run interference for him. A story from Thursday afternoon that has since been dynamically updated had a final paragraph alluding to the fact that Geithner had signed annual statements acknowleding his obligation to pay his own payroll taxes (Update: That Thursday afternoon story is still at Breitbart). That paragraph is not present in the story as updated at 3:13 a.m. this morning (saved here for future reference). Even that paragraph, when it was present, didn't note that Geithner had applied for and received reimbursement for payroll taxes he didn't pay.
First, here are key paragraphs from Davis's cheerleading roundup, including disconcerting statements of support for Geithner from many who should know better:
The NBC morning program’s coverage of Clinton’s hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began with correspondent Andrea Mitchell briefly mentioning during a report that the “only controversy [was] over possible conflicts of interest with foreign donors to her husband’s charities.” This was followed by a clip where Republican Senator Richard Lugar raised the issue and the outgoing New York Senator responded to his point. Mitchell concluded her report by stating that “no one questioned Bill Clinton’s good works -- only the possibility of undo foreign influence on his wife. Clinton says that she and her husband are already doing more than the ethics rules or the law require, and support for her confirmation is so overwhelming that her senate colleagues are holding a farewell party for her today.”
On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Thalia Assuras reported on a down-trodden family who had their spirits lifted by an invitation to the Obama Inauguration: "...struggling Americans like Telisha and Kenny Brown...Unable to pay their rent, they turned to an interfaith shelter for families, with their boys, Donovan, 12, and Dylan, 9. They had planned to celebrate the inauguration in their tiny apartment...But now the Browns will have a front-row view to history. Here in Washington, D.C."
Assuras went on to explain that: "They'll be part of a glittering fantasy world, thanks to a dream realized by Virginia millionaire, Earl Stafford...Months before the election, Earl had a spiritual inspiration to bring those less fortunate to the inauguration, no matter what the cost." In the report, Stafford exclaimed: "It was providential, I was inspired by the Lord to do this." Assuras described how: "Stafford bought a million dollar hotel package of rooms, food, and an inaugural ball, to accommodate homeless people, wounded veterans, the terminally ill, and others selected by social service organizations, at least 300 rubbing shoulders with dignitaries."
Near the end of the segment, Assuras asked 12-year-old Donovan Brown: "Is it special because it's Barack Obama?" The boy replied: "Yes." Assuras concluded her report by declaring: "For this family, January 20th offers something new...Hope for a brighter future." The camera then focused in on a 2009 Obama calender in the Brown’s apartment.
Four years ago, the Associated Press and others in the press suggested it was in poor taste for Republicans to spend $40 million on President Bush’s inauguration. AP writer Will Lester calculated the impact that kind of money would have on armoring Humvees in Iraq, helping victims of the tsunami, or paying down the deficit. Lester thought the party should be cancelled: “The questions have come from Bush supporters and opponents: Do we need to spend this money on what seems so extravagant?”
Fast forward to 2009. The nation is still at war (two wars, in fact), and now also faces the prospect of a severe recession and federal budget deficits topping $1 trillion as far as the eye can see. With Barack Obama’s inauguration estimated to cost $45 million (not counting the millions more that government will have to pay for security), is the Associated Press once again tsk-tsking the high dollar cost?
Nope. “For inaugural balls, go for glitz, forget economy,” a Tuesday AP headline advised. The article by reporter Laurie Kellman argued for extravagance, starting with the lede:
President-elect Barack Obama is truly the man to "change the tone in Washington," something at which outgoing President George W. Bush failed miserably.
That's the tacit argument one could infer from Washington Post staffer Lori Aratani's January 14 Metro section front-pager, "At Rallies, Giving 'Please' a Chance: Activists Weigh How to Push Message While Abandoning Adversarial Tacks." Aratani profiled both left and right-wing activists who plan to demonstrate during the inauguration, but have a decidedly respectful tack to criticizing the incoming Obama administration.
Aratani began her Metro section front-pager finding that left-wing organizers known for over-the-top histrionics and disrupting congressional hearings face "a new problem: how to make demands without appearing adversarial" (emphasis mine):
Australia is and has been, through both Democratic and Republican administrations a staunch and steadfast ally of the United States. The Aussies have fought alongside American forces in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and the U.S. and Australia are partners in a free-trade agreement. Given that, readers of the Washington Post should reasonably expect reporters and editors at the paper to understand the propriety of President Bush hosting former Prime Minister John Howard at Blair House in the closing days of his administration, especially since Howard was in town to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
But for some reason, that's asking too much of Post staffer Manuel Roig-Franzia and his editors. Roig-Franzia opened his January 14 below-the-fold Style section front pager by calling Howard "America's most inconvenient houseguest."
The Post writer continued in his second paragraph by reminding readers of a gripe that liberal journalists have been fixated on even as President-elect Obama brushed off the "inconvenience" as no big deal:
Jan. 14 Update: "AP's Early-AM Revision Flushes Many Details, Calls His Tax Problems 'Goofs'"
Timothy Geithner, pictured at right in an AP photo, is Barack Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary.
Mr. Geithner will, among many other duties, oversee the Internal Revenue Service.
How odd, to say the least, that Mr. Geithner has had persistent tax filing and payment problems going back over 15 years involving self-employment taxes for both himself and his paid help, as well as with the employment of someone who for a time did not have proper legal status to remain in the country.
You would think that such things might place a cabinet nominee, especially to head Treasury, in jeopardy, and to cause the president who nominated him to have second thoughts. After all, in 2001, Linda Chavez's nomination as Labor Secretary went down in flames over matters relating to an illegal immigrant whom Chavez had sheltered in her home a decade earlier. Also, in 1993, Zoe Baird withdrew as Bill Clinton's nominee for Attorney General over the employment of illegal-immigrant domestic help and her failure to pay the related employment taxes on a timely basis.
But Geithner's nomination is apparently getting the all clear, with pliant Republicans giving the okey-dokey, and press outlets like the Associated Press giving his problems the relatively no-big-deal treatment.
Here are some excerpts from tonight's AP story by Brett J. Blackledge (stored here for future reference when there are subsequent updates; 5 AM Update: The link did indeed change; an alternate link that seems to match what AP had up at its own site at the time of this post appearance is here):