OK, this is getting downright weird. Not one, not two but now three Gail Collins columns within three weeks dealing in one way or another with Rudy Giuliani's sentimental attachments. On November 8th came the suggestively-headlined "Pat Loves Rudy," about the Robertson endorsement. As observed here, that column contained Collins lurid allusion to Rudy "busy committing adultery." Just two days later, as noted here, Collins captioned her column about the Kerik indictment "Rudy and Bernie: B.F.F.’s" ["Best Friends Forever," in the lingo of groovy gals like Gail].
Unless memory fails it's hard to recall Keith condemning Bill Clinton for his flings on grounds of morality. But when it comes to a Republican presidential candidate, has the Countdown host gone Cotton Mather on us?
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter was Olbermann's guest on this evening's Countdown to discuss the issue of Giuliani's accounting for the expenses of his security detail accompanying him on trips to Long Island, assertedly for purposes of visiting his then girlfriend and wife-to-be Judith Nathan.
Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, a member of Hillary Clinton's campaign, in the audience at CNN's Republican debate of November 28th, making comments after the airing of his YouTube question on gays in the military.
Furthering the media’s love affair with Hillary Clinton, Friday’s CBS "Early Show" featured a segment on her recent speech at Saddleback Church in Southern California and how Evangelical Christians may be moving to the left in 2008. As co-host Harry Smith wondered at the top of the show, "Hillary Clinton addresses an Evangelical megachurch in California. Is it really possible that the Christian Right could be convinced to turn left?" Later, co-host Julie Chen further teased:
Also, the Evangelical vote in the 2008 presidential race --is it up for grabs? Hillary Clinton believes the Republicans no longer have a lock on it...We'll ask Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback if it's really possible that the Evangelical Right, President Bush's key voting block, could be moving to the left.
The segment began with a report by CBS Correspondent Bill Whitaker, who described the uphill battle for Democrats to win such votes:
To detractors and supporters alike, Democrat Hillary Clinton walking into an Orange County Evangelical bastion was like Daniel entering the lion's den...Four years ago, a Democratic presidential candidate coming to speak at an Evangelical megachurch would have been unthinkable, even politically futile.
On Friday's "Good Morning America," reporter Kate Snow continued her habit of happily spinning Hillary Clinton's campaign maneuvering as nothing less than brilliant politics by the presidential candidate. She parroted talking points from the '08 contender's campaign about how smart it would be to target South Carolina voters who frequent hair salons. Sitting in a sylist booth, a smiling Snow gushed, "It makes a lot of sense, actually. Because women, when you think about it, we talk about everything in the hair salon from family to politics."
The segment, which focused on the battle between Obama and Hillary over the black vote, then cut to a quote from Kelly Adams, the South Carolina director of Clinton's campaign, who, unsurprisingly, expressed the same sentiment: "We talk politics....But, you know, there's a lot of conversations had in hair salon, serious political conversations and decisions are made there." The story, first reported over a month ago in the Washington Post, continued a template developed by Snow: Laud any action by the Clinton camp as political gold. On October 1, she reported on the former First Lady's laugh, which many found odd and off-putting. However, according to the GMA correspondent, the cackle is representative of someone either having a great time or "she's the master of a shrewd political skill, disarming her critics with a gleam in her eye and a roar straight from the belly." (A gallery of Snow, always smiling as she commits bias, can be found below.)
The St. Petersburg Times, the "hometown newspaper" for the CNN-YouTube Republican debate, published an interesting story on CNN’s reactions to conservative criticism. Their list of excuses was extensive, and ridiculous. As far as conservatives are concerned, CNN has two choices: either they were extremely cynical in knowingly placing Democratic supporters into a Republican debate, or they were extremely unprofessional in failing to do five minutes of work to prevent the publicity fiasco of allowing Hillary supporters to try and embarrass her opponents on national TV.
CNN is responding by attacking their critics (Michelle Malkin by name) for being stalking horses for Fox News. In their report, Wes Alison and Eric Deggans asked if there wasn’t enough time for vetting (when they’ve been receiving questions for three months?):
A conservative comedian [yes, there are some], appears at a venue in a heavily-white suburb at a campaign event for a white candidate and tells his audience composed overwhelmingly of people of pallor they'd be embarrassed if they supported a black candidate and the white candidate won, saying "Oh no. I can't call him now. I had that black guy. What was I thinking?"
What are the odds the MSM would laugh it off?
But when Chris Rock does the equivalent on behalf of Barack Obama, the MSM raises nary an eyebrow. Rock appeared last night at an event for Barack Obama at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater and said:
"You'd be real embarrassed if he won and you wasn't down with it. You'd say, 'aw man, I can't call him now. I had that white lady. What was I thinking?'"
Richard Stengel is still a newbie as the top editor at Time, but he’s experienced enough that he ought to know how to mount a challenging interview with a presidential candidate. That’s not what he did in his new Barack Obama interview. (That’s the same one Brent Baker found CBS loved. Scroll down to end.) Here are the softball questions Time published:
You've been engaging with Senator Clinton in a more direct way. Is there a danger of damaging your brand of new politics? (Obama said "you'd be hard-pressed to say that at any point we've been gratuitous, nasty, personal.")
Her campaign just issued a statement saying you had less foreign policy experience than any President since World War II. (Obama: "It seems to get less traction as people hear me talk.")
On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith teased the lead story of the day on a scandal involving Rudy Giuliani and the possible misuse of taxpayer money during Giuliani’s affair with now wife, Judith Nathan, "Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani goes on the attack against Romney as the former New York Mayor's extramarital scandals of the past return to haunt his campaign." This story came prior to analysis of the Republican YouTube debate on CNN and followed a story about the scandal on Wednesday’s "CBS Evening News."
CBS of course pounded Giuliani on the indictment of former NYPD Commissioner, Bernard Kerik, just three weeks ago. Meanwhile, the CBS "Early Show" never covered the Hillary Clinton fund raising scandal involving Norman Hsu. In addition, when Harry Smith interviewed author Sally Bedell Smith on her new book on the Clinton marriage in October, he never once referred to any of Bill Clinton’s "extramarital scandals."
Co-host Hannah Storm later introduced the segment, "But first the scandal that is rocking the presidential campaign of Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani. CBS News National Correspondent Byron Pitts has the story that won't go away." Apparently the Hillary-Hsu scandal never even arrived.
Do none of the Republican presidential candidates, including the former mayor of New York City, care about crime in the African-American community? According to "The View’s" Sherri Shepherd, they do not. Joy Behar says those encouraging a more stable family structure are "mental midgets" because they will not discuss racism.
On discussing the Republican YouTube debate, Joy Behar said she was "slightly annoyed" that Mitt Romney stated a large factor in black on black crime are unstable families, and that he did not address racism. Sherri Shepherd scoffed that "not one of these candidates ever thought about black on black crime."
Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg also exclaimed why no one ever asks about "white on white crime." Joy Behar did concede that Rudy Giuliani dramatically reduced black on black crime in New York City, but questioned "the way he did it." Sherri Shepherd responded "because one of my cousins called me from jail."
CNN is defending its job in vetting questions for last night's debate, reports Politico's Kenneth Vogel:
The retired general who quizzed Republican presidential candidates about gays and lesbians in the military was not the only person linked to a Democratic presidential candidate who got to ask a question at Wednesday’s CNN/YouTube debate.
In the greatest of ironies, after Democrats refused to participate in debates sponsored by Fox News due to its supposed partiality, CNN has now shown itself in back-to-back debates to be as biased as biased can be.
After either participating in or allowing the planting of campaign operatives at November 15's Democrat presidential debate in Las Vegas, it has now become apparent that similar stocking of audience questioners occurred in Wednesday's Republican debate.
On Thursday morning, Michelle Malkin identified two plants from the Obama and Edwards campaigns. As her website is having some problems at the moment, Inside Cable News reported that according to Malkin, one plant was David Cercone, a declared Obama supporter, who asked the following question:
Wednesday night's CNN/YouTube presidential debate for the Republican candidates largely lived up to its promise to be a debate fitting for Republican voters as the vast majority of the questions used were asked from a conservative point of view. But the GOP debate's slant toward conservative questions was less than the July 23 CNN/YouTube Democratic debate's slant toward liberal questions. On Wednesday, out of a total of 34 video questions presented, conservative questions outnumbered liberal questions by 14 to 8, with the remaining questions ideologically ambiguous or neutral. During the Democratic debate, out of a total of 38 video questions, the slant toward liberal questions came in at 17 liberal to 6 conservative, with the remainder ambiguous or neutral.
Their infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad . . . Be assured, Baghdad is safe, protected. There are no American infidels in Baghdad . . . There is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad. -- Saddam's Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, AKA "Baghdad Bob."
Not bad, Bob. But if you want to see how flackery is done at its supremely sycophantic best, you should have tuned into tonight's "Tucker" to catch Lanny Davis's act, as he defended Bill Clinton's claim to have opposed the Iraq war "from the beginning."
As reported by NewsBuster Matthew Balan, Barbra Streisand's endorsement of Hillary Clinton provoked liberal CNN columnist Jack Cafferty to call Streisand a 'reclusive, over-the-hill vocalist'. However, unlike supposed professional journalist Cafferty, 'Wheel of Fortune' host Pat Sajak managed to take an analytical approach to the entire celebrity endorsement system, and in the process, expose more than a few of them as emperors without clothes. Sajak has a remarkably clear view of the actual role of a celebrity and he appears to be well aware that most celebrities are experts in exactly nothing. He writes in Human Events online magazine,
If any group of citizens is uniquely unqualified to tell someone else how to vote, it’s those of us who live in the sheltered, privileged arena of celebrityhood.
Wednesday's editions of the CBS "Early Show" and NBC's "Today" show both ignored Bill Clinton's incredible assertion on Tuesday that he opposed the Iraq war from its inception. Only "Good Morning America" correspondent Jake Tapper pointed out the obvious fact that Clinton was no vocal critic of the military action. Filing a report on the subject, Tapper incredulously wondered, "Bill Clinton opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning?"
After acknowledging that the ex-President did call for the U.N. weapons inspectors to have more time, Tapper clarified the record: "...[Bill Clinton] was hardly, at least publicly, an opponent of going to war against Saddam Hussein." The ABC journalist then read from a 2003 speech on the Clinton Foundation's website that featured the former Commander in Chief asserting, "I supported the President when he asked the Congress for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." So, despite the fact that ample information exists calling into question the validity of Clinton's recent statement, only GMA covered the story.
"You sort of have to be a little careful. There's a whole campaign handbook of things that you say to dismiss polls. But you should mire them in a little bit of truth." -- John Zogby, responding to criticism by Mark Penn, chief Hillary Clinton strategist, of Zogby's online polling.
Mark Twain, famously warning against getting into a spat with newspapers, said "never pick a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel." To his chagrin, Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton's chief campaign strategist, is learning a modern corollary: never pick a fight with someone with three hours of national airtime. And for gosh sakes, don't use arguments in picking the fight so false as to be child's play to disprove, and don't leave obvious fingerprints when you try to intimidate the networks.
In his "Final Word" at the end of Sunday’s Face the Nation on CBS, host Bob Schieffer made the cliched charge:
Candidates now race to tell us what we want to hear. They load us down with spin, tiptoe around controversial issues, and give us tortured explanations of how a change in their position really wasn't a change at all.
This pandering to popular public sentiment toward politicians was brought on by Schieffer quoting a November 20 Op/Ed piece by "New York Times" commentator David Brooks, who wrote of Rudy Giuliani’s recent shift to a tougher stance against illegal immigration. Schieffer took the last line of the "Times" article, where Brooks lamented how "Some day Rudy Giuliani will look back on this moment and wonder why he didn't run as himself." How dare Giuliani pander to those right-wingers who want secure borders.
Conservatives examining whom to support in the primary elections might do well to welcome an examination of both candidates and how they have departed from GOP orthodoxy on numerous social and fiscal issues. And while Rudy and Mitt aren't the only candidates being grilled by conservative activists for less-than-conservative positions, it's a good starting point, even if much of Romano's piece is snarky in tone (which it is).
According to "Nightline" host Terry Moran, Iowa voters are listening to Barack Obama's "real argumentthat he is tomorrow, a fresh face who represents a real change from our bitter, polarized politics." The ABC anchor, who profiled the Democratic candidate for Tuesday's edition of the program, spent part of the interview interpreting the feelings of caucus voters. He gushed, "...You get the sense they know they might be part of something big here, something historic." After listening to one Iowan laud Obama's leadership, he prompted the man: "It would be an historic thing, Barack Obama?"
Upon noting that Obama is "hitting his stride on the stump in this state after some poor reviews earlier in the campaign," Moran allowed that the senator is "not a perfect candidate." However, a November 2006 "Nightline" segment might lead viewers to wonder which "poor reviews" he's referring to. Then, as with the November 26, 2007 piece, Moran spent the day with Obama. For that report, the ABC journalist gushed that Obama is "an American political phenomenon." Just as he would more than a year later, Moran speculated as to what the voters were thinking:
Mary Katharine Ham briefly chatted with CNN's Anderson Cooper and David Bohrman about tomorrow's CNN/YouTube debate and concerns about the agenda of questions that will be picked. For the whole thing, go here, but I just had to share this priceless gem (my emphasis in bold). First Ham's question, then Cooper's answer:
Q: There’s been a bit of scandal about the screening that CNN did on its “undecided voters” for the last Democratic debate. The diamonds-and-pearls question was attacked by the questioner herself. There were some allegations that several of the voters were in fact liberal activists on quite a few issues (and one Democratic Party operative). What’s the process for checking these YouTube questioners and their affiliations?
AC: “Well, campaign operatives are people, too. We don’t investigate the background of people asking questions…that’s not our job...
For years, NewsBusters and its parent, the Media Research Center, have been reporting on the disparity in economic coverage by mainstream media outlets during the Clinton and Bush administrations.
In the past seven years, economic data that would have been praised when Bill Clinton was in the White House has continually been presented as recessionary, or even depression-like.
With that in mind, CNN's Lou Dobbs was discussing the economy, and, in particular, the recent holiday sales figures with WOR radio's Steve Malzberg Monday. The conservative host asked Dobbs, "If these numbers were the numbers nearing the end of a Clinton administration or a Democrat's administration, wouldn't they be touting it as a wonderful, strong economy?
"Good Morning America" host Diane Sawyer apparently has a significant problem with 2008 GOP contender Mike Huckabee's new ad that identifies the candidate as a "Christian leader." On Tuesday's program, Sawyer fretted over whether "we crossed a line here" and asked guest Newt Gingrich if the campaign spot is "just too heavy-handed about specific denominations?" The GMA host also speculated that Huckabee might be playing the "religion card."
Sawyer simply couldn't let go of the "Christian leader" phrase, which appeared in an onscreen graphic of a new ad for the Arkansas Governor. After playing a clip of the spot, Sawyer sputtered, "He put up there on the screen, Christian, Christian leader. Not spiritual leader, Christian leader." She then asked the former House Speaker, officially appearing to promote a pro-religion documentary he worked on, if Huckabee's usage of the term would "backfire" on him. After pointing out the political benefit that the 2008 candidate might receive, Gingrich dryly noted, "You know, he's not running in New York State." Not to be deterred, Sawyer pressed for specifics. "But do you approve of that 'Christian leader' on his ad," she wondered.
Wash, spin, rinse, spin. Phone, spin, report, spin, poll, spin. The similarities between the work of the mainstream media and a laundry machine are striking. Yet there is nothing about the cycle -- the spin-report-poll-spin cycle -- that does for political events what detergent does for your boxers or briefs.
The media, as One, spend days or weeks bashing someone or something they do not like. They then conduct a poll to prove to you that they were right all along. In a campaign season, their one-sided coverage is calculated, then executed to produce a result. It’s not about reporting the events, it’s about changing the prevailing view.
And the polls -- such as the ones by the media, which are not independent surveys like those undertaken by the likes of Rasmussen or Gallup -- aren’t intended as much to gauge the public view of a candidate or events as they are to reinforce that which they have “reported”, or provide the media guidance on how effective their spinning of the news has been.
Update | 10:25 AM -- Zogby says Penn should know better . . . Clinton campaign #1 user of Zogby results. See entire Zogby response at foot.
Presaging the kind of press control a President Hillary Clinton might try to impose, a member of her inner circle scolded Joe Scarborough today for having the audacity to mention a poll with results unfavorable to Clinton.
Yesterday, Zogby International released a new poll indicating that in a general election head-to-head match-up, Hillary Clinton would lose to all of the leading Republican contenders by a 3-5% margin. Even worse from the perspective of Clinton heading into the Dem primaries, the same poll shows Barack Obama beating each of the Republicans by 5-7%.
Chief Clinton strategist Mark Penn was a guest on "Morning Joe" during today's 7:30 ET half-hour. Nothing could be more natural than for Scarborough to raise these newsworthy results. But Penn wasn't pleased.
Financial Times US Managing Editor Chrystia Freeland has become a "Hardball" regular of late.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: The other thing that people worry about is if someone forecloses on their home, and that's the issue we haven't really seen raised too much in the Rudy-Romney debate. I think as we move into 2008 and the economy looks a lot grimmer, that's going to be another important battleground.
According to MSNBC host Chris Matthews, 2008 Republican candidate Mike Huckabee has been given "the biggest free ride from the liberal media that I have ever seen in my life." Appearing on Monday's edition of "Morning Joe," the "Hardball" anchor speculated that left-wingers would enjoy seeing the GOP "chaos" that a Huckabee victory in Iowa would produce and, as a result, are ignoring the Republican's "crazy" views on gun control. Matthews derided as "black helicopter stuff," the former Arkansas governor's assertion that owning a gun gives Americans the ability to fight tyranny. "It sounds crazy," he told "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough.
It's interesting to note that it wasn't Huckabee's position on taxes or immigration, which have been attacked as liberal by other conservatives, that Matthews objected to. The "Hardball" host lamented that a "sophisticated" media is allowing the '08 contender's position on guns to fly "under the radar." When Scarborough protested that conservatives view gun rights as meaning more just hunting, Matthews dismissively replied, "You really believe the only thing protecting you from the federal government coming into your neighborhood with helicopters and seizing you is your guns?" He then condescendingly claimed that the Founding Fathers designed the Second Amendment only for fighting the British and added, "I hate to tell you that the United States government is our government now."
Consider yourselves warned. Should conservative and Republicans hold fast to strong stands on illegal immigration in the coming election year, and if they ultimately do well at the polls because of it, look for the Boston Globe to lament the tactic as a cynical "wedge issue," rather than a reaction to valid concerns from the electorate.
The Boston Globe editorial board may be sharpening their knives for the coming election season with a November 25 editorial, "A wedge issue for our times." The Globe laments that immigration is proving a "radioactive" issue and in one passage made an odd characterization of how Democratic New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's backpedaling on illegal immigrant drivers licenses "rescued" Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) from twisting in the wind over her contorted answer on the topic of licenses for illegals.