We’re halfway through 2013, and PBS’s Washington Week used last Friday’s episode to reflect on the past six months of D.C. politics. During the course of the reflections, moderator Gwen Ifill trotted out the oft-uttered liberal complaint about “distractions” that have impeded President Obama’s second-term agenda so far.
She lamented, “You know, the one thing that's been a common theme throughout this first six months has been distractions. The ways in which pure politics has driven what ends up happening.” [Video below the break.]
On last Friday’s Washington Week, PBS moderator Gwen Ifill brought in a panel of four liberal journalists to dissect the three scandals that have plagued the Obama administration the past couple of weeks. Predictably, most of the panelists attempted to downplay the seriousness of the Benghazi fiasco.
Midway through the Benghazi discussion, Ifill turned to The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe and posed the question that has surely been on every left-wing reporter’s mind for months: “But Ed, why is this -- why is this stuck? Why is this a story that never went away?” [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
My Wednesday blog on PBS anchor Gwen Ifill emceeing a gay group's fundraiser that honored HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for implementing ObamaCare drew some attention across the web, including The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. WashPost media blogger Erik Wemple looked askance at the PBS star's appearance of a conflict of interest. But the strongest response came from PBS ombudsman Michael Getler: he declared Ifill should have skipped the event.
Ifill responded to Wemple's questions by claiming she isn't being paid, she wasn't going to honor Sebelius, and she accepted without knowing of the honor. She was just going to say "welcome," announce some anodyne agenda items, and "announce dessert." The Whitman-Walker Clinic is "just using me as a draw." That's still using her name (and PBS cachet) to raise money for gay-left lobbying, legal services, and health services. Wemple wrote:
In 2008, it was questionable that PBS NewsHour and Washington Week anchor Gwen Ifill could moderate the vice-presidential debate as she was writing a book called “The Breakthrough” about the rise of Barack Obama and other black liberal politicians. On Thursday night, Ifill will cross another Obama line by acting as emcee for a fundraiser for the LGBT health and advocacy group the Whitman-Walker Clinic that will honor Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services for her work in implementing ObamaCare.
The invitation says “Please join Gwen Ifill, managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for the PBS News Hour, and the Whitman-Walker family as we honor United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius for advancements in health care.” To be an "event host" and be listed on the program requires a $1,000 donation. Individual tickets are $150.
After Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's win in Saturday's Iowa Straw Poll, the Obama-loving media have been working overtime to make darned certain the public doesn't think this has any significance.
Doing her part was PBS's Gwen Ifill who said on Sunday's "Face the Nation," "The last person to actually get elected president to win a Straw Poll was George W. Bush" - as if that was soooo long ago (video follows with transcript and commentary):
PBS fans love how the show Washington Week is such a peaceful regurgitation of the conventional liberal media wisdom. But there are times in the calm that you wonder what world these liberals are living in. For example, the show's host, Gwen Ifill, seems to think it's plausible that President Obama -- the man who's made trillion-dollar-plus deficits a routine -- could take the "deficit slasher" label away from a conservative. New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny suggested that seniors might be willing to consider seriously Medicare reforms if they'll help lower the debt.
Ifill replied: "Is that why when we see the president come out this week and make speeches like this, it seems like he was snatching the mantle of deficit slasher from Paul Ryan's hands and saying 'No, no, no -- me'?"
It’s one thing for the Obama administration to refuse to admit that throwing more than $800 billion in so-called “stimulus” at the recession hasn’t worked. But on Friday night’s Washington Week roundtable on PBS, New York Times national correspondent Jackie Calmes accepted the idea that “it’s too early to say” how Team Obama should be graded while unemployment remains high. That’s called charitable procrastination:
NANCY YOUSSEF, McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: So how would you rank or rate the administration on its economic policy? Can you give it a rating this soon, or is it too early to say?
JACKIE CALMES, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it's too early to say when unemployment remains stuck at 9.5 percent. Most people think that -- most economists who aren't partisan think we will avoid a double-dip recession, but, and that the stimulus did work, but it, you know -- maybe should have been more of it, or better designed.
A few seconds earlier, Calmes complained that after the "stimulus" bill passed, “things worked so slowly that people still to this day think it was a failure”:
In Friday night stories on President Barack Obama's plan to reduce troops in Iraq by 90,000, neither the CBS Evening News nor NBC Nightly News mentioned a key factor raised by ABC reporters Jake Tapper and Martha Raddatz.
On ABC's World News, over video of Tapper standing at Camp Lejeune with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Tapper noted: “Defense Secretary [Robert] Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen today credited President Bush's surge, opposed by then-Senator Obama, with helping to pave the way for today's announcement.” Viewers then heard a short soundbite from Gates: “It clearly has put us in a very different place in terms of where Iraq is.”
Up next on the February 27 newscast, Raddatz addressed the military's reaction, and shared her assessment:
I think if there hadn't been a surge, if there hadn't been such success, you wouldn't have seen those Marines clapping today. It would be a very different kind of speech.
If you were dying to know what Gwen Ifill was thinking when the controversy arose about her so-called Obama book and how that might have effected her ability to moderate the 2008 vice-presidential debate - now's your chance.
In that appearance, Ifill claimed she didn't believe the book inhibited her ability to moderate that debate and pointed out her ability to overcome racism as how she dealt with the controversy - by strapping on her "blinders." She also took a couple of passive jabs at former GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin - commenting on her "thin" biography and remarking on Palin's debate performance.
In the midst of a discussion about President-elect Barack Obama's national security team, Washington Week host Gwen Ifill on Friday night's program sought confirmation for her theory that “what people are beginning to say is that this President-elect should be President now” as “people are saying why isn't Barack Obama leading the fight about the auto-makers?”
New York Times reporter Peter Baker agreed: “That's right, exactly.” He proceeded to fret over how “people voted for change and this strange, odd 77-day waiting period that we impose...between our election and our inauguration” just isn't compatible with the “hyperactive 24/7 fast-moving culture that we have today.” Baker admired how “Obama is trying to find some balance between respecting President Bush,” whom Baker conceded is “still in charge,” and “finding a way to assert leadership.”
Jeanne Cummings, a former political reporter for the Wall Street Journal who now works at the Politico, displayed an obvious double standard in her appearance on Friday night’s Washington Week show on PBS. Joe Biden’s prediction that a President Obama would be tested quickly with an international crisis was worth dismissing, since it came so late in the campaign, after Obama had already convinced many voters he was a capable leader. But the RNC buying "pricey togs" for Sarah Palin was a political disaster that completely undermined her just-folks appeal. It showed "a huge disconnect. And it has the risk of robbing her of the real strength that she had brought to the campaign."
There’s a professional reason Cummings was so invested in the damage that story did: it was her story. But at what point does another journalist like Ifill ask: so, are you happy that you damaged her strength? Here’s how the exchange happened:
CUMMINGS: It does seem like that Biden at some point was going to do this. He was going to go off message.
On The Situation Room today, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer made a surprising admission to, of all people, real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump:
BLITZER: What do you think of his (Obama's) decision to pick Joe Biden as his running mate?
TRUMP: I really don't know Senator Biden but I know one thing. He's run a number of times for president. He's gotten less than 1 percent of the vote each time. And that's a pretty tough thing. You know, he's also been involved in pretty big controversy like plagiarism in college and various other things. That's a pretty big statement. So perhaps you change over a period of time. But when you plagiarize, that's a very bad statement. That hasn't been brought up yet, but I'm sure at some point it will. I'm sure that Sarah Palin will bring it up in a debate or somebody's going to bring it up.
BLITZER: Are you talking about plagiarism when he was running for president?
TRUMP: No, I'm talking about when he was a college student as I understand it, and this was a big issue originally but he supposedly plagiarized as a college student. That's a pretty serious charge.
BLITZER: I don't remember that. We'll check it out. But maybe you obviously have a better memory about that.
On CNN's American Morning today, White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux reported on Barack Obama's campaigning in Virginia. Afterwards, anchor Kiran Chetry had a question:
CHETRY: All right. And Suzanne, what's on tap for the campaign today? And please tell me it's not lipstick again.
MALVEAUX: Let's hope not. He's going to be in Norfolk, Virginia. That is in southeast Virginia, and it's home to the world's largest Naval base. It's one of the most competitive areas that the Democrats and Republicans are fighting over. It's a critical piece of property, piece of land there with folks in Virginia, and they want those voters.
Washington Post reporter and columnist David Broder, known as the “dean” of the Washington press corps, perfectly encapsulated, on Friday's Washington Week on PBS, the media establishment's more government spending is the answer to everything attitude when he acted bewildered as to how anyone could oppose a massive expansion of a federal health insurance program. When host Gwen Ifill raised how “Congress would like to double the number of children covered” by the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Broder marveled at how “the President has threatened the veto, and everybody I've talked to in the administration this past week says take that threat seriously.” Broder equated federal spending with resolving a problem as he wondered: “I mean, who can be against providing health insurance for kids?” Talking over him, Ifill, a veteran of the New York Times and NBC News, echoed, “yeah.” Neither Ifill nor Broder noted the amount of the proposed additional spending Bush would veto: $50 billion.
The panel of "mainstream" reporters on PBS's Friday night "Washington Week" roundtable sounded typically sympathetic to John Kerry's "botched joke" excuses, and dismissed its importance to the election. PBS host Gwen Ifill called it the "Kerry kerfluffle." Which is also a botched joke of some sort, since she must have meant "kerfuffle." (Doesn't she read her daily Taranto at Opinion Journal?)
Ifill: Let's talk about some of the other things that we're not certain how they will affect the outcome on Tuesday. One this week I called the ‘Kerry kerfluffle,’ where Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee last time around, came out and he said a few things which many Democrats found unhelpful. And many Republicans found to be a godsend and by the end of the week we don't know how it washes. Let's listen again."
This past Friday, on PBS’s "Washington Week," NBC’s Andrea Mitchell noted that Hezbollah is winning the PR war around the world:
"And, I have to say, if you look at the mainstream media around the world everywhere other than in the United States, it is remarkably pro-Hezbollah. Hezbollah at this point is being described in most places now as a social service organization and a legitimate part of the Lebanese government, not as a terror group.
Was she critical of the world press for covering Hezbollah in this light, or critical of the American press for not being Hezbollah boosters? Her own comments about Hezbollah may provide some insight. As mentioned in Brent Baker’s July 18 CyberAlert, Mitchell praised Hezbollah as a group that provides social services and it’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, as a populist:
On Friday's Washington Week on PBS, taped at the Aspen Ideas Festival (“Inspired Thinking in an Idyllic Setting”), when asked by host Gwen Ifill about hateful speech in politics and directed at journalists -- “Is that polarization real or is it just people blogging?" -- NBC News reporter Andrea Mitchell charged that “the kind of hateful speech that we have seen...in a lot of the blogosphere...goes back, in my own experience, to 1989 when the talk radio shows went crazy about the congressional pay raise.” She then reasoned: “The anti-Washington, anti-bureaucrat bias that was built into that debate was then taken up by cable talk hosts as well and that became the kind of really combative conversation that displaced reasoned discussions about controversial issues."
PBS picked six members of the Colorado conference audience to pose questions to the panel. None came from the right and four were clearly from the left, starting with a woman who wondered: “How can we keep religion out of government and politics?" A man complained: “What's the responsibility of government and the press regarding poor people and why do we hear so little about housing crisis, minimum wage, homeless people and low-wage workers?" That pleased James Bennet, a former New York Times White House reporter who is now Editor of The Atlantic magazine: "It's a great question. I've been wondering what happened to the issue of homelessness in America.” (Partial transcripts follow)
Friday night PBS chat shows delivered a couple of slams from journalists at President Bush over his surprise trip to Baghdad early this week. After Richard Keil of Bloomberg News, who accompanied the President’s entourage, described some of the security precautions taken, Washington Week host Gwen Ifill cited “excessive security” as she derided the trip: “I wonder to what degree anybody in the White House thought maybe it might undermine our point if we have to take such excessive security precautions in order to go claim victory or whatever it was the President was trying to accomplish?" So trying to keep the President of the United States and his traveling party, including journalists, safe was “excessive”?
Up next on Washington, DC’s PBS affiliate after Washington Week: Inside Washington. On it, NPR reporter Nina Totenberg suggested Bush was rude toward Iraq’s new Prime Minister since he arrived “unannounced” and she compared Bush going to congratulate a just-chosen leader of a fledgling democracy, where over 100,000 U.S. troops are located, to British Prime Minister Tony Blair flying into DC congratulate Bush: “How would we feel if Tony Blair showed up right after -- you know, to say congratulations and didn't tell us, right after President Bush had won an election?" (Brief transcripts follow)
The bad news keeps coming for the Bush administration, at least that’s what we were told on PBS’s "Washington Week." For those not familiar with the program, it is moderated by Gwen Ifill, and is a roundtable discussion of reporters, each reporter taking a turn focusing on a political topic while the others ask them questions.
This week, one of the guests was Doyle McManus from the Los Angeles Times who discussed President Bush’s low approval ratings. Ms. Ifill introduced the topic:
"But if Donald Rumsfeld is having some credibility problems with the senior military, it pales in comparison to the credibility problems President Bush appears to be having with the American people. A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll shows more than twice as many people strongly disapprove of the president's performance as strongly approve."
Picking up where we left off, here are the judges' picks for worst Quote of the Year during the Slick Willie era.
Onward, Christian Mouth-Breathers, 1993: "Corporations pay public relations firms millions of dollars to contrive the kind of grass-roots response that Falwell or Pat Robertson can galvanize in a televised sermon. Their followers are largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command." -- Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf, February 1 news story.
Hurray, Grown Men Can Weep, 1994: "Around the global village, women cheered and grown men wept. At his press conference, [Gold medal-winning speed skater Dan] Jansen paused to take a call from the President, the man who's made America safe again for tears." -- Newsweek Senior Writer David A. Kaplan, February 28 news story.
Many Americans that are truly concerned about bias in the media fear that what is reported by the press will immediately be accepted as fact by the citizenry regardless of accuracy. This morning on ABC’s “This Week,” Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean cited the opinion of an ABC News correspondent, Martha Raddatz, as evidence that rampant fraud occurred in the recent Iraq referendum (video link of Raddatz's comments to follow):
Dean: Secondly, on "Washington Week" this week Martha Raddatz from ABC said she had recorded on tape I believe that she saw a gentleman come in, fill out seven ballots, yes, yes, yes and stick them all in the box. If that's what we're fighting for in Iraq, we don't belong there.
On Friday’s Washington Week on PBS, Washington Post reporter Michael Fletcher informed the panel that “the little bit we know about” the “record” of Harriet Miers “indicates kind of a, you know, bridge-builder, moderate” and “so there's deep concern among conservatives, some of whom have called for her to withdraw." That prompted befuddled fill-in host Michel Martin, of ABC News, to seemingly presume moderation and consensus-building should be higher values than conservative ideology: "Is that a dirty word, 'bridge-builder,’ 'moderate,’ consensus builder? I'm sorry. I wasn't aware that those were epithets." Gwen Ifill is the usual host of the show. (More complete transcript of the exchange follows.)