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:
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:
Mayor Gary Becker of Racine, Wisconsin, received some unwanted attention from the Old Media and the local police today because of his arrest for using a computer to solicit sex from a child. According to the Associated Press, Becker is "tentatively charged with attempted second-degree sexual assault of a child, child enticement, possession of child pornography, exposing a child to harmful materials, using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and misconduct in public office."
The AP spends several paragraphs detailing the world of Mayor Becker. It describes his election, his marriage and kids. It describes his accused crime and where and how he was snapped up by the police. But there is one little thing the AP can't seem to find any information on... his party.
That's right, once again the Old Media gives us an alleged criminal sexual pervert politician and somehow forgets to mention the accused is a Democrat.
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:
In a post last night, I criticized the Associated Press for glossing over the 15 years of personal and domestic self-employment tax filing and payment problems of Timothy Geithner, Barack Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary (pictured at right in an AP photo).
It turns out that Brett Blackledge's Tuesday evening report was relatively hard-hitting in comparison to Julie Hirschfeld Davis's rendition early this morning (stored here, because her original 3:33 a.m. report has since been updated).
Davis's assignment appears to have been to shorten and update Blackledge's original writeup. To be fair, Davis immediately indicated that Geithner's nomination is no longer on cruise control. But she deleted, or pushed to later paragraphs, quite a few details that would cause an average reader to go "Huh? This guy wants to be Treasury Secretary?" What's more, her vague title ("Tax problems may plague Obama's treasury pick") replaced a much more specific one from Blackledge ("Geithner failed to pay self-employment taxes").
Davis's most obvious airbrush is in her second paragraph (bold is mine):
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):
Now that Barack Obama is assuming the presidency, partisan criticism is suddenly so passé. Just ask Chris Matthews. In the course of cheerleading anchoring the MSNBC coverage of Hillary Clinton's confirmation hearing today, Matthews suggested that the media shouldn't cover the Republican National Committee's criticism of Clinton.
The comments came during the Hardball host's chat with Newsweek's Jonathan Alter. A few minutes earlier, Matthews had assured us that those who had the privilege of knowing Hillary personally were aware of what a "wonderful" person she is. Then it was time to attack Republicans for refusing to join the Hillary love-fest.
Far be it from me to sow discord in MSNBC ranks, to stir up old animosities between colleagues there. But if Joe Scarborough is going to do a mocking imitation of Keith Olbermann in full Special Comment rant, well then, blogging ethics compel me to report it.
The jumping-off point on Morning Joe today was Eugene Robinson's current WaPo column. After claiming that he didn't want to kick the president on his way out the door, Robinson proceeded to do just that. The columnist described a variety of measures adopted by the president in prosecution of the war against terror as "departures from American values and traditions." Robinson recommended an investigation if not a criminal prosecution. That led Pat Buchanan and Scarborough to cite, chapter and verse, the ways in which Bush's supposed abrogation of "American values and traditions" were small potatoes compared to the actions of predecessors including Lincoln, Wilson and FDR.
Without mentioning the Countdown host by name, Scarborough closed with an unmistakable impression of Keith Olbermann in pompous Special Comment peroration of the sort that can be seen here.
On a day when GMA ran two warm-'n-fuzzy items about Barack Obama, the ABC show found yet another way to hit President Bush—literally and figuratively stooping to bash Barney, the presidential pooch. Relying on some ambiguous remarks by an aide to Pres. Bush, weekend co-anchor Bill Weir declared that "Barney's a jerk" and "everyone hates him."
We all know that for months, Harry Smith has been demanding that the international community force Hamas to stop shooting thousands of rockets into civilian areas of Israel. So Smith speaks with unique moral authority now in calling for Israel to be stopped.
Oh, wait. As far as I know, Smith never uttered a peep of protest over the Hamas bombardment of Israel. But that didn't prevent the Early Show host from demanding this morning that someone in the US stand up to stop Israel from doing what no one else could or would. Smith served up some heaping hyperbole to make his case, claiming there is "no" food, water or electricity in Gaza.
With a liberal Democrat coming to power, the New York Times has evidently gotten over the false fear of "big cuts" in Medicare it displayed when Republicans tried to trim the program back in 1995.
Thursday's lead story by Jeff Zeleny and John Harwood, "Obama Promises Bid To Overhaul Retiree Spending," characterized the president-elect's stated willingness to tackle huge entitlement programs Social Security and Medicare in mostly positive terms. The reporters described Obama's vague proposal as an "overhauling," an "approach to rein in Social Security and Medicare," and an "effort to cut back the rates of growth of the two programs."
President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday that overhauling Social Security and Medicare would be "a central part" of his administration's efforts to contain federal spending, signaling for the first time that he would wade into the thorny politics of entitlement programs.
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:
Media Research Center Director of Communications and NewsBusters.org Contributing Editor Seton Motley appeared on this morning's Fox & Friends on the Fox News Channel to discuss the egregious media double standard when it comes to Republicans and Democrats misbehaving.
Motley pointed to the media's incessant chant in 2006, the "Republican Culture of Corruption," and noted that no such parallel moniker has been affixed by the press to the Democratic Party despite a great and apparently growing number of their members having become embroiled in scandals.
Motley "defended" New Mexico Governor and recently withdrawn Commerce Secretary designee Bill Richardson, currently under federal investigation for swapping large government contracts for large campaign contributions, saying Richardson was only engaging in his form of commerce, preparing for his (almost) next gig.
He stopped short of demanding they be branded with a scarlet 'U.' But the suddenly puritanical David Shuster insists that the proper term for Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston is "unwed parents."
Shuster rendered his verdict on this evening's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the MSNBC show he's been hosting since David Gregory parted for Meet The Press. Shuster teased the issue at the top of the program, then devoted a segment to it later on.
Presumably a last minute replacement for the possibly NBC banned Ann Coulter, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow appeared on Tuesday's "Today" show to drop invective about the Bush administration's "torture" policies. Instead of the rousing bit of Barack Obama bashing and criticism of the fawning coverage of him by the liberal media that would've surely been delivered by Coulter, "Today" viewers were treated to the following slam of Bush policies via a Maddow defense of Obama's choice of Leon Panetta as CIA Director:
RACHEL MADDOW: Well, I think that he made a bold choice in Leon Panetta, and we have seen from Barack Obama a lot of leadership by building consensus, by making people not disagree with him about important and hot-button issues. But on Panetta that was an, "elections have consequences" moment. If you were in the Bush administration and which, with, with warrantless wiretapping and enhanced interrogation, torture. With rendition, with these other controversial policies in the intelligence community, that's not going to be a career asset. And if you were a Democratic senator in an intelligence oversight role, while all these things were happening, your objections may not be the most important thing for this new president looking to make a clean break.
Maddow appeared during the 7am half-hour where, according to the Drudge Report, Coulter was originally scheduled to have been slotted before being bumped/banned. The following is the full transcript of the Maddow segment as it was aired on the January 6, "Today" show:
Liberal journalism professor Jay Rosen was puzzled when Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wondered aloud whether he and other journalists should be skeptical of Barack Obama. Conservative blogger Jon Henke was downright flabbergasted:
I'm not sure I understand why this is even a question. Indeed, it would seem to me that it would be grounds for immediate dismissal.
"Immediate dismissal" is an overreach, but Jon is right to call Froomkin out for his bizarre musings about how to cover Barack Obama. No journalist should ever wonder whether skepticism of politicians is warranted; it always is.
The problem these days is that few mainstream journalists are the least bit skeptical of Obama. And the fact that the Post columnist tasked with covering the Obama administration is even thinking of giving Obama a pass, if only for an extension of the honeymoon that began with his candidacy, doesn't bode well for future coverage of "The One."
For at least ten seconds there, it appeared Margaret Warner thought PBS stood for the Palestinian Broadcast Service.
On last night's NewsHour Ms. Warner, whilst interviewing Israel's Ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor, posed one of the dumbest questions in the long, dumb history of broadcast journalism.
So banal was her query that there was for nearly five seconds the most pregnant of pauses, broken finally by Ambassador Meridor's bemused and chagrined response. Which Ms. Warner followed with another question of nearly equal asinine force.
Ms. Warner was fairly addled throughout (transcript below the fold), but nothing else she said rose quite to the heights of foolishness as did this. We have edited in after the exchange an earlier statement from Ambassador Meridor that we think pretty much sums it all up.
Failing to Grace the WaPo Front PageThe Washington Post has certainly taken a timeworn media tack in it's coverage of the latest instance of Israel stubbornly insisting on continuing to exist. That being: keep nearly all mentions of the prolonged and incessant attacks of Israel by the Palestinians off the front page and to an absolute minimum, then deliver maximum coverage of the Israelis' response.
A response that Israel on Christmas Day openly announced was to come were the rocket bombardments from the Gaza Strip not halted. This called shot gave the Post two (additional) days to provide a description of the nearly daily asaults Israel has faced from Gaza since they ceded the territory to the Palestinians in September 2005 (and that have been stepped up even further in the last month plus). To provide some sort of context for why the Israelis were planning what they have now begun.
But rarely if ever does the Post find these Palestinian attacks worthy of any coverage at all, let alone the stuff of front page placement. It didn't this time either. No mention -- of Israel's warning or why they had issued it -- made the Post's front page at all on either day.
What do Bill Maher slamming Pope Benedict XVI as the criminal head of a pedophilia ring, Washington Post's Sally Quinn defending anti-American Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Ted Turner founder prophesying environmental apocalypse have in common?
They are just three of the most outrageous quotes from the mainstream media in 2008 and were featured on the December 23 "O'Reilly Factor" in a segment with MRC's Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham.
You can view the segment in the embedded video at right.
History will tell that the New York Times actually endorsed John McCain as its preferred Republican nominee, albeit in a hold-your-nose fashion. History will also tell that the paper began souring on its former favorite "maverick" and moderate Republican almost immediately after he clinched the nomination and becoming the only thing standing between the White House and a historic Democratic victory for either the first woman or first black president.
Even before the presidential race narrowed down to an Obama-McCain matchup, the Times did its best to kneecap GOP candidates, reserving special hostility to its hometown Republican, New York Gov. Rudy Giuliani, portraying him as a racist mayor who exaggerated his post 9-11 herosim.
Times Watch has put together the 10 absolute worst stories that appeared in the Times during Campaign 2008, pitting that historic beacon of hope, Democrat Barack Obama, versus the temperamental, inarticulate appeaser of right-wing racists, Republican John McCain.
In 2005, I sensed that journalists in general prefer to call this time of the year in commerce that of “holiday shopping” instead of “Christmas shopping,” but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to “Christmas.” My instincts have been proven correct during the past three years.
So did anything change in 2008?
Not that much, but slightly in the secular direction. Here are the overall results of various relevant Google News searches for the past four years (searches have been done three times each year -- just before Thanksgiving, about weeks later, and shortly before Christmas Day; this years Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively; image courtesy of commenter "siouxcityranch" at Dr. BLT's Blog n Roll Studio):
You would think from reading yesterday afternoon's report by the Associated Press's Tom Murphy that companies like Toyota, Nissan, and Honda are not that far from finding themselves in the situations US taxpayer bailout recipients General Motors and Chrysler are in.
Murphy tries mightily to make the foreign-owned companies' situations look serious, at one point even putting out the howler that they are "not quite" as bad off as Detroit's Big Three.
You've got to be kidding me.
Murphy's "Meltdown 101: Foreign automakers struggle too" apparently just arrived from the School of Hard Laughs. It is mostly written in a Q&A format. Here are some excerpts (bolds are mine):
In its year-ending double issue Newsweek couldn't resist injecting liberal media bias into its mini obituaries entitled "Remember Them Well."
Yet the newsmagazine seemed to forget, perhaps intentionally, the left-of-center politics of prominent liberals profiled while using terms like "far-right" to describe the politics of deceased conservatives such as Paul Weyrich.
But wait, there's more, Newsweek used the occasion to link the civil rights struggles of the 1960s with the fight for same-sex marriage and to approve the first President Bush's breaking of the "no new taxes" pledge.
Take Studs Terkel, the hard-left Communist journalist who passed away at age 96. Newsweek ignored his political leanings, euphemizing them by referencing his "working-class empathy and patient, guileless style [that] helped a confused nation speak its mind."
CJR's Trudy Lieberman announced it was "ominous news" that a government health insurance plan might be delayed:
"Ezra Klein over at The American Prospect’s blog was right on point last week when he sent along some ominous news. Klein, quoting a story in Congressional Quarterly, said that John McDonough, the former head of a Massachusetts advocacy group who now works for Ted Kennedy, seemed to be backpedaling on the public option..."
On the other side, Lieberman warned, "right-wing think tanks" are "on the march," illuminating problems with a government-controlled approach to medicine. She noted The Heritage Foundation's criticism of a federal health board, a top idea of Health and Human Services Secretary-designate Tom Daschle. Lieberman's warning:
CNN, which long ago abandoned the concept of credible journalism, ran a story today regarding the attack by Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi on our nation's President as a feel good story about the shoe industry.
The title itself reveals that CNN reporters simply can't contain their giddiness when it comes to covering someone attacking the President:
Bush assailant kick-starts sales for shoemaker
The media are simply tripping over themselves in their attempt to uncover even the most loosely associated positive aspects of a physical attack on our President.
The piece reiterates the theme throughout the MSM in their attempts to glorify the incident and the reporter involved. In fact, the following statement seems to be mandatory in every article which covers the topic:
As NewsBuster Dan Gainor has noted, Playboy Mexico thought it could make some pesos by peddling an issue with a scantily-clad Virgin Mary on the cover—just in time for Christmas. Today's Los Angeles Times contains an editorial denouncing the tasteless stunt. All well and good. But it set me to wondering. Did the LAT protest similar outrages against religous symbols when they appeared in the US?
The infamous "Piss Christ" comes to mind. Even more on point is the portrait of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by lacquered elephant dung and cutouts from pornographic magazines, that the Brooklyn Museum found worthy of display.
Associated Press writer Glen Johnson's story on the indictment of a close friend of Salvatore DiMasi, Massachusetts's Democratic Speaker of the House, is the latest in a long line of fairly long stories about Democratic politicians in trouble that fails to identify their party affiliation.
The story names a half-dozen politicians, all of whom are Democrats, without identifying the party of any of them. No variation of the word "Democrat" appears anywhere.
When It's the Democrats, the Media Falls SilentWe are now a week into the wall-to-wall coverage of the tape recorded fall of Senate seat auctioneer and sometime Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. But there has always been a distinctly different tenor from the media in stories involving scandalized Democrats compared to their reports on corrupt Republicans.
During the 2006 mid-term elections, the news world was saturated with talk of a GOP "Culture of Corruption," a Democratic slogan repeated incessantly by the traditional media. The press cast three bad Congressmen and a single scamming lobbyist as representative of an entire Party gone bad, and their incessant drumbeat helped drive the GOP out of power.
Meanwhile, one prominent Democrat after another has been tinged with scandal, but the media has yet to stamp their Party as "Culturally Corrupt."
"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism," the Left was found of reminding us again and again during the Bush administration, particularly after the commencement of hostilities in Iraq. So now that Barack Obama is assuming office on January 20, surely patriotic liberal newspapers like the Washington Post will publish paid classified advertisements by conservatives that are critical of the soon-to-be-inaugurated President Obama, right?
Eh, not so much, reports FishbowlDC, noting that the fine print for the Washington Post's inaugural congratulations classifieds holds that "all ads must be congratulatory in nature" and that the Post "reserves the right to reject any notice."
The notices will appear in the January 20 dead tree edition as well as "online until President's Day."