Obama transition

By Erin R. Brown | January 9, 2009 | 2:26 PM EST

One celebrates movies that people actually watch and the other celebrates movies that critics think people should watch. “Milk,” the biopic starring Sean Penn about Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, perfectly illustrated the divide between “the people” and “the critics.” Critics loved the movie, as evidenced by a 92 percent favorable rating on the aggregate film review site Rottentomatoes.com and the eight nominations “Milk” received from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Sean Penn received the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Milk, and the entire cast garnered the Best Acting Ensemble at last night’s Critics Choice Awards ceremony. 

By Ken Shepherd | January 9, 2009 | 11:55 AM EST

Noting that "supply has far outpaced demand," Washington Post staffer David Nakamura filed a story in the January 9 Metro section on how "Inaugural Rentals [Are] Begging For Takers."

While I wouldn't hold my breath for say Chris Matthews to notice, the story works against the mainstream media portrayal of the Obama inauguration as such a must-attend historic event that the nation's capital will be deluged with visitors hoping to get as close as they can to Obama's radiant aura (emphasis mine):

"I'm blown away by how little demand there is," said Tania Odabashian, vice president at Corporate Apartment Specialists in Northern Virginia.

"Initially, we were flooded with calls from people looking for [inaugural] housing. For about four or five days, the phone would not stop ringing. . . . But now we have apartments as low as $150 a night that we can't get rid of. I've rented one two-bedroom in Tysons Corner. We have six or seven apartments inside the Beltway that will probably end up empty."

By Mark Finkelstein | January 9, 2009 | 10:38 AM EST
Chris Matthews won't be working alone.  Back in November, the Hardball host said it was his job to make Barack Obama's presidency a success.  Today, another TV journalist expressed a similar sentiment. Tavis Smiley has declared that "we're all working for Barack Obama" and that "we have to help make Obama a great president." [H/t reader dronetek.]

The host of Tavis Smiley on PBS was a guest on Morning Joe.  Reacting to Harry Reid's claim last week that he doesn't work for Barack Obama, Smiley said Reid should "put down the crack pipe."  Smiley added "we're all working for Barack Obama." It soon became clear that was no passing quip, but a literal description of how he sees his role.

View video here.
By Kyle Drennen | January 8, 2009 | 4:10 PM EST

Obama Stimulus Plan, CBS In a news report that sounded like an Obama campaign commercial, CBS Early Show correspondent Kelly Wallace declared: "Facing the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Obama Administration is asking for the biggest stimulus plan in history. An estimated $775 billion to prop up a very sick economy." In the report, Wallace cited Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for Global Insight, who exclaimed: "We really need something big, bold, and swift to kick start the U.S. economy. And I think the Obama plan looks like it meets almost all those criteria."

Wallace ran through some of the key talking points of the plan: "Roughly $300 billion of that relief money will go directly to tax cuts for 95% of American workers...For businesses, a proposed $100 billion in tax incentives and refunds to jump start job creation...Of the 3.2 million jobs that the Obama Administration says will be saved or created, a million will come from a $25 billion investment in infrastructure...while making a long-term investment in renewable energy and other green initiatives." Wallace concluded her report: "Obama is confident he can get his stimulus plan passed within two weeks of taking office. Some economists believe the sooner, the better."

By Ken Shepherd | January 8, 2009 | 12:59 PM EST

Updated below: In late 2001, "Punisher" storyline had threat against President Bush's life.

Spider-Man will swing to the rescue at the Obama inauguration in the Marvel comics universe, USA Today's David Colton reported in a January 8 story for the newspaper's Life section. Colton's story sought to portray the move not merely as a money-maker for Marvel but part of a storied tradition of graphic novel artists of including the commander-in-chief in comic book cameos:

In a growing world of Barack Obama collectibles, one item soon may be swinging above the rest.

On Jan. 14, Marvel Comics is releasing a special issue of Amazing Spider-Man #583 with Obama depicted on the cover. Inside are five pages of the two teaming up and even a fist-bump between Spidey and the new president.

By Matthew Balan | January 8, 2009 | 12:57 PM EST

On Thursday’s Newsroom program, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta indirectly compared the Obama family to the pregnant Virgin Mary and St. Joseph looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem during a report about the unavailability of the Blair House: “...[I]t’s still not clear why there wasn’t enough room at the inn for the Obamas. The 70,000 square foot complex is actually bigger than the White House. There are 119 rooms, 14 guest bedrooms, 35 bathrooms, four dining rooms, dry cleaning facilities, an exercise room, and a fully-equipped hair salon.” Acosta also played clips from two sympathetic liberals who bewailed the situation.

Acosta began his report by presenting the lack of accommodations at the presidential guest house as a “Washington mystery.” He then played his first clip from Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University who unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Maryland in 2006. The on-screen graphic described Lichtman, who ran on anti-war, pro-abortion platform in the primary, as merely a “presidential historian.”

By Brent Baker | January 7, 2009 | 9:23 PM EST
Prompted by the CBO's forecast of a $1.2 trillion annual federal budget deficit, the NBC Nightly News on Wednesday commiserated with the challenge ahead for the incoming President. “On our broadcast tonight, facing facts,” Brian Williams teased, “President-elect Obama confronts the hard realities he's up against, deficits as far as the eye can see.” A dire Williams proceeded to lead with how Obama will take over “during one of the most challenging times in the modern history of the United States.”

From the White House lawn, Chuck Todd piled on: “You know, it's becoming a cliche to say that the problems Obama is inheriting are among the worst ever, but I tell you, the realities of the situation on the economy hit home hard today. As Obama took the podium, he was greeted by the dire news that before he spends one dollar to stimulate the economy, he'll be adding to a deficit that is now 13 digits long...”

Do you think Ronald Reagan got such empathetic treatment in January of 1981 when he was about to assume office at a time of soaring interest rates, raging inflation (12%), high unemployment (7.5%) and a declining GDP? Or, just maybe the media were more concerned about his proposed “tax cuts for the rich”?
By Ken Shepherd | January 7, 2009 | 5:26 PM EST

Shortly before noon today, CNN anchor Tony Harris turned to producer Tyson Wheatley for a look at the latest from CNN's "iReport" desk. Wheatley proceeded to show Harris and the viewers at home some of the art work done by CNN's "iReporters," including one item that evoked an image from a promotional poster for 2004's Mel Gibson film, "The Passion of the Christ." [audio excerpt here]

Here's the CNN.com transcript, you can view the video embed at the right (h/t fellow NewsBuster Mark Finkelstein):

By Kyle Drennen | January 7, 2009 | 2:50 PM EST

Harry Smith, CBS On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith talked to Michael Crowley, editor of the liberal magazine The New Republic, about some of Obama’s recent appointments, including former Clinton chief of staff, Leon Panetta, for CIA director: "Dianne Feinstein, had her, you know, was -- her feathers were ruffled to say the least. Is this just the way of the Senate saying you've got to go through us first? Or is there real opposition to Leon Panetta?"

Crowley explained that their was some "real opposition" to Panetta: "Now, a little bit controversial here...some people are concerned that Panetta does not have an intelligence background. Has never worked at the agency, never had a national security-specific job." However, Crowley quickly added: "Other people say he is a competent, tough, good organizer, and someone Obama trusts. So, looks like he's going to have a smooth confirmation after a little bit of initial complaints." Smith agreed and remarked: "Somebody who can connect the dots, maybe. That's the most important thing."

By Ken Shepherd | January 7, 2009 | 1:58 PM EST

A bureaucrat serving under Obama Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan spent $70,000 on espresso machines for Chicago's school system, according to a January 7 report in the Chicago Tribune. Of course, Duncan's name was not mentioned and his ties to the incoming presidential administration were left out of the 13-paragraph story:

One Chicago Public Schools manager must have really been jonesing for a cup of coffee when officials say she spent nearly $70,000 of the district's money to buy 30 cappuccino/espresso machines for a high school program.

But five months after the machines were purchased, 22 remained unopened, one disappeared and three were being used at two schools—though not in the culinary arts program for which they were intended, the district's inspector general said Tuesday.

Officials in a department dealing with work-school programs allegedly separated the purchases to make them appear they came from 21 different schools and were under $10,000.

By Noel Sheppard | January 7, 2009 | 1:56 PM EST

If the Senate was currently controlled by Republicans, and a black Congressman, in response to Roland Burris not being seated as president-elect Barack Obama's replacement Tuesday, accused that body of racism, do you think media would have reported it?

Probably every hour on the hour, right?

Well, on Tuesday, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said: "I believe sincerely that if Roland Burris had not been an African-American, then he would be appointed. They think that they are above the law, and although they might not be termed racist, their action is racist."

Oddly, despite tremendous media coverage of Burris's refused seating Tuesday, Rush's comments went largely unnoticed:

By Rich Noyes | January 7, 2009 | 12:33 PM EST

While he was anchoring live coverage of the Roland Burris Senate drama on MSNBC this morning, anchor Chris Matthews interrupted his discussion with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter to narrate pictures of Barack Obama being driven to the White House for a luncheon with all of the living U.S. presidents.

Matthews celebrated the moment by proudly announcing poll numbers that showed Obama and the ex-Democratic presidents having higher approval ratings than the Republicans, particularly the "kid" George W. Bush.

Matthews announced at 11:24am ET: