President Bush may have spurned any attempt to manage or manipulate his own approval-rating polls, but the media clearly see Bush’s low approval numbers as their achievement. Discussing Bush’s last press conference January 12 on the PBS talk show Charlie Rose, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham declared the poll numbers showed Bush’s leadership was below mediocre:
If you are a president of the United States for eight years, through the kind of tumult we faced, and you come out with this kind of approval rating, you have failed at a very basic job, which is to convince the people, enough people that your course is the right one. And so as a clinical matter -- that’s not a smart-aleck media point, it’s not a liberal media point -- it's just simply true that George W. Bush has not led the democracy in ways that our greatest presidents and even mediocre ones have done.
This quote was used to summarize the interview segment at the top of the show. Meacham added that President Bush looks at his father’s legacy and argued that everything that defeated him for re-election was right, including the 1990 tax hikes:
Susan Crawford's recent assertions of torture simply do not add up, and your main stream media isn't going to investigate anytime soon. Had Crawford made an assertion that there was unequivocally no torture to speak of at Guantanamo, the media would be sifting meticulously through her statements with a fine-toothed comb, smearing her reputation at every turn. Instead, her arguments seemingly confirm what the leftist media has long assumed - that our government has condoned torture tactics - and because of that, everything is taken at face value.
Crawford recently told Bob Woodward of the Washington Post that:
"We tortured (Mohammed al-) Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.
The basic premise of this story however, had apparently been completely refuted in retrospect, back in February of 2008. By whom? Why, the Washington Post.
On February 12th, 2008, the Post printed an article titled:
U.S. to Try 6 on Capital Charges Over 9/11 Attacks
New Evidence Gained Without Coercive Tactics
You read that correctly, the staff writers went out of their way to inform the public that the evidence against the 9/11 conspirators was ‘gained without coercive tactics.'
"Lying" about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, holding detainees at Gitmo, and prosecuting the saintly matron of all things domestic, Martha Stewart. Those are just three reasons taxpayer-financed journalist Bonnie Erbe finds for filing criminal charges on outgoing President George W. Bush and his dastardly underlings.
I understand the politics of letting bygones be bygones. But Bush has so thoroughly destroyed this country and encouraged such heretofore unimaginable abuses of office (lying about weapons of mass destruction to lead the country into an unnecessary war; the firings and politicization of the attorneys general; the prosecution of active Democrat Martha Stewart for relatively minor stock abuses while permitting subprime lenders and GOP donors to swindle billions from the economy; the abuses at Guantánamo; and the list goes on and on and on) that to act as if this never happened is to encourage future abuse.
Bush's behavior, and that of his subordinates, should be punished so future presidents and their appointees will not feel free to mimic it with impunity.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell appeared on the PBS show Charlie Rose on Wednesday night, and discussed what aroused her political zones. Rose clumsily asked which story "turns you on," and naturally, Mitchell said "this young president" with a globe-traveling upbringing and his team of "meritocracy," an "extraordinary group of very large figures," stars who will resolve today’s crises.
Mitchell decried the idea that new media would trouble the President’s first days: "I guess my passion is for something to happen to fix these problems and for dialing down of all of the sharp criticism that we have on cable talk, on talk radio, from the, you know....the blogosphere. I just wish that we could find something in the center that would be bipartisan and would be productive and constructive."
Rose and Mitchell discussed the Gaza fighting before turning back to the domestic front:
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.
No one should feign surprise at a new poll showing women more supportive of Caroline Kennedy's bid to replace Hillary Clinton as New York's junior U.S. senator. But what is interesting about this poll is why men are less likely to support her:
Fifty-seven percent of the women taking part in the new CNN-Opinion Research Corp. Poll said that Kennedy is qualified to be a senator from New York. But only 47 percent of men agreed.
In our year-end edition of the Best of Notable Quotables, two of our winners for outrageous liberalism were unloaded on the Charlie Rose show on PBS, a very comfortable TV salon for liberals to speak freely without conservative rebuttal. On December 18, the Rose show was one stop for Time editor Richard Stengel to tout his "titanic" figure Barack Obama as the magazine’s person of the year. Rose played the hype up in the show’s opening:
STENGEL: The story of Barack Obama was the great overarching, titanic narrative of this past year. And so it just -- it would have been pretty much impossible not to select him.
ROSE: And a narrative that had global proportions.
RICK STENGEL: Absolutely. I mean, he was Person of the Year in the most universal sense.
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.
The Media Research Center today announced its Best Notable Quotables of 2008: The 21st Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting, and MSNBC's Chris Matthews "won" the dubious honor of Quote of the Year for gushing over a Barack Obama speech back in February: "I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often….And that is an objective assessment."
Top runner-up for Quote of the Year went to Reuters for this ridiculous post-election headline: "Media bias largely unseen in U.S. presidential race."
MRC President Brent Bozell offered this comment: "Year after year, the liberal media outdo themselves in providing conservatives the sheer joy of laughing at their own words. The year of the Obama Paparazzi was no different, as they salivated over their savior and did everything in their power to crush conservatives. And we wonder why Americans don't trust the media."
PBS Washington Week host Gwen Ifill participated in her monthly Internet chat at washingtonpost.com on Thursday, and committed at least one noticeable error. When someone asked Ifill about the "revolving door" between the media and politics – now symbolized by Time Deputy Washington Bureau Chief James Carney working for Vice President-elect Biden – she claimed that it’s "more often the other way" – more often between Republicans and the media.
For many years, MRC’s Brent Baker chronicled the Revolving Door, and it was dominated by Democrats, about three Democrats for each Republican – and that included liberal Republicans like Sen. John Chafee.
Ifill also mysteriously suggested Illinois qualified as the South when one chatter complained Obama had no cabinet picks from the South:
Breaking News: WaPo says Ron Kirk (Dallas) for USTR -- does that satisfy the South?
Gwen Ifill: Texas works for me. And some parts of Illinois(Ray LaHood) might too.
Ray LaHood represents Peoria, which doesn’t exactly border Kentucky.
Here's the question about Jay Carney and the Revolving Door:
In today's "You've Got To Be Kidding Me" moment, PBS's Jim Lehrer actually defended the corrupt actions of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Friday asking his guests, "What's the big deal here?"
I kid you not.
During his discussion with regulars Mark Shields and David Brooks on Friday's "News Hour" the subject of Blago arose, and Lehrer took what has to be considered an absurd position on this issue (video available here with relevant section at 6:00, partial transcript follows, h/t Mike Francesa via NB reader John F.):
Plugging her new book The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging, Arianna Huffington appeared on the PBS talk show Tavis Smiley on Tuesday night to receive smiles and affirmations from the host. Smiley told Huffington of his personal joy when the Huff-Post is quoted in tainted crown jewel of New York's Old Media:
SMILEY: Speaking of influencing the course of events, I read a number of papers, as do you, every single day before I get moving, and I always smile when I'm reading The New York Times, especially, and I see The New York Times quoting The Huffington Post and I say, "Arianna's having a good day, The New York Times is quoting her." What do you make of the fact that blogs now are the place where news is broken and that the traditional mainstream media outlets end up quoting the blogosphere?
Former Philadelphia Inquirer editorial page editor Chris Satullo, who in a July 1, 2008 editorial suggested that “America doesn't deserve to celebrate its birthday” on Independence Day due to the “waterboarding, the snarling dogs, the theft of sleep” used on some enemy combatants since 9/11, has been hired to become the director of news operations for WHYY, the PBS affiliate in the Philadelphia area.
Inquirer television critic Jonathan Storm, who wrote about Satullo’s hiring on Thursday, mentioned how William J. Marrazzo, WHYY’s president and CEO, complimented the liberal columnist as an “an outstanding journalist with a track record in civic engagement who understands this community like the back of his hand.”
This same “outstanding journalist,” in his November 9, 2008 column in the Inquirer, referred to the ideology of Sarah Palin supporters as “a rump conservatism that is small-town, resentful, anti-intellectual, and lily white” and praised “smarter analysts” such as David Frum, Kathleen Parker, Christopher Buckley and David Brooks, all of whom criticized the Alaska governor and/or supported Obama.
Perhaps the PBS Nova producers should have consulted the Naked Archaeologist or The Bible as History before making a show whose purpose is to debunk the Old Testament. Here is the description of the special two hour edition of Nova as reported by Reuters/Hollywood Reporter:
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Bill Maher, on HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher," frequently refers to the Old Testament of the Bible as the Book of Jewish Fairy Tales. The description might anger the pious and the fundamentalists, but guess what? Maher's close to the truth.
A visually stunning two-hour special edition of "Nova" examines decades of archaeological studies that contradict much of what is in the Bible. The entire Exodus story is debunked, as is the idea that the Israelites were monotheistic following the contract made between God and Abraham. It turns out idol worship was common through the reign of King David and right up to the Babylonian exile.
Liberal CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin appeared on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS on Wednesday night, and Smiley focused on several "hot button" issues that were largely ignored in the general election: campaign finance reform, abortion, racial preferences, and gun control. Toobin insisted that Obama’s long list of small (and unidentified) donors suggests "there’s less risk of corruption, I think." On Supreme Court picks, he said Obama will pick someone with liberal views on abortion and racial preferences, but insisted that Obama really matches Reagan appointee Sandra Day O’Connor’s views on race. On gun control, Toobin defined the struggle strangely, like he wasn't very smart about weapons: "What's the line between a handgun in D.C. and a surface-to-air missile? I think the courts are going to have to figure that out."
First, Toobin found no need for reform of the current campaign finance system, with the favorable results and all:
SMILEY: The money in this campaign, with all due respect to Barack Obama and the three-quarters of a billion dollars he raised in this campaign, do we need to get back now to a serious conversation about campaign finance reform? Because everybody can't do what Obama did.
[Update, 8:55 pm EST: Below link added for the video of the segment.]
Newsweek’s Evan Thomas and Jon Meacham shared a bizarre Obama love-fest session with Charlie Rose on the PBS host’s program on Wednesday. Meacham stated that he was "very struck watching the stagecraft" of Obama and pointed out how Obama gave his victory speech by himself: "...[H]ave you ever seen a victory speech where there was no one else on stage? No adoring wife, no cute kid -- he is the message." Thomas went one step further in this vein: "There is a slightly creepy cult of personality about all of this." Rose confronted him on his use of this phrase, and he explained that it made him "a little uneasy that he's so singular. He's clearly managing his own spectacle. He knows how to do it. He's a -- I think, a deeply manipulative guy..." Later, all three marveled about how it was "amazing" that Obama "watches us watching him."
Thomas and Meacham appeared during the second segment of Rose’s program on Wednesday night. The host first asked Thomas about how Obama seemed to be "always in charge of this campaign." After giving an anecdote about a meeting in which Obama discussed his vice presidential pick with his advisers, Thomas commented that Obama is very inclusive, yet very self-contained. It's an unusual leadership style."
NBC anchor Brian Williams appeared on the Tavis Smiley show on PBS on Monday night and trashed Joe the Plumber's anti-tax cause as a silly issue, not a serious question about the redistribution of wealth: "Look at how our attention was able to get pulled into pigs and lipstick and plumbers. We got a plumber who's the third member of the GOP ticket, in effect, and that's - it's all of our fault, yes, and there will be time to bloody our own backs with chains, but it's also the sorry state of our discourse as if, Tavis, we don't have enough serious issues to concentrate on." Williams added: "I think we may find out it was a movement year, we may find out we all had to step aside and just let it happen, and we may decide we went down too many rat holes of distractions on our way there."
Williams also complained once again about the delay in his Sarah Palin interview, given his network’s leading stature. "I went more than third -- I went fifth or sixth," even as he added: "I think she's a professional at her job, I try to be at mine, and we kind of quickly got over it." Sounds like he hasn’t.
In a Thursday night appearance on the PBS show Charlie Rose, it was revealed that the Democratic ticket could have been Obama-Brokaw. Rose reported: "I think it was Caroline Kennedy who said that when they have the short [running mate] list for Barack Obama, there was a name down there somewhere?" Tom Brokaw replied: "My name was on it." Rose pestered Brokaw to go into public service after his latest NBC stint ends: "There comes a time, you are reminding me of a conceited anchorman who once said to raise your right hand to enlist." Brokaw didn’t utterly reject the idea of serving a new administration: "I understand the need to step up from time to time, and if the right opportunity came along, I would certainly be willing to take a good, hard look at that."
Rose also curiously worried that a President Obama might end up being a very cautious centrist: "What do you make of him? Tell me what you see there. Because I was talking to a friend of mine, and he said, I see someone who is clearly aspirational, someone who is clearly bright, someone who is clearly ambitious in the best sense of that, but who is clearly cautious, and in the end, he may very well be a man of the center."
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.
It's got to be incredibly frustrating for Republican voters to see that PBS, the taxpayer-funded television network, is so completely incapable of finding a balanced panel of analysts after a presidential debate. After the third debate, Jim Lehrer lined up this anti-McCain crew:
-- David Brooks, the increasingly fraudulent "conservative," who effusively praised Obama for being grand and calm "like a redwood forest," a "source of comfort," while McCain "seemed tight" and "hard to live with for four years," and who ended up the night announcing McCain would lose. (UPDATE: On Charlie Rose later, Brooks decided Obama was so cool he was "a mountain.")
-- Mark Shields, the liberal former Bobby Kennedy campaign aide, who obviously agreed about Obama's "eerie coolness."
-- Historian Michael Beschloss, a liberal who's written books with Clinton Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who trashed McCain for saying anything about Bill Ayers, which caused Lehrer to at least suggest that Bob Schieffer raised the subject.
On Monday, NewsBusters wondered how much coverage the sex scandal involving Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fl.) -- the Democrat Congressman who in 2006 won the seat previously held by the disgraced Mark Foley -- would get.
Early indications suggest that as far as the television news outlets are concerned, the answer is "not much."
In fact, though all three broadcast network evening news programs covered the Foley sex scandal when it was first revealed on September 29, 2006, not one of them felt that the man who replaced him admitting to having an affair with a former campaign staffer was at all newsworthy.
On his PBS talk show after the debate Tuesday night, Charlie Rose devoted most of the first 20 minutes of the show to top Obama aide Valerie Jarrett. He claimed "We also invited a representative from the McCain campaign, but they were unable to do so this evening." Neither Rose nor the McCain campaign could find a person to match 20 minutes for Obama?
As for the pundits, New Yorker magazine editor (and former Washington Post reporter) David Remnick blasted Sarah Palin for going "negative in the lowest way possible," and said her slection "really is turning out to be a great misery." He said the race is turning strongly to Obama, "and deservedly so."
Remnick pulled no punches:
McCain began the debate in a sarcastic and frustrated mood. He used the phrase ‘he and his cronies,’ ‘that guy over there’ – you can tell there was a real antipathy there that lasted from beginning to end. Obama was collected. He was eloquent. He was clear. He was unfazed by attacks. He gave the message that he wouldn’t brook attacks that would go personal. So I think he won this debate in dramatic fashion.
One candidate for Biggest Biden Spinner on Thursday night was John F. Harris, the editor-in-chief of Politico.com and a former political reporter for The Washington Post. In Jim Lehrer’s half-hour of post-debate analysis on PBS, Harris declared that "just as a neutral observer," it was obvious: on "whose answers were more substantive, who was more detailed, who responded to the question that was asked, there’s really no reason to assert a false equivalence -- Senator Biden won this debate." Historian Michael Beschloss agreed they weren’t equals, and insisted Biden "was a lot more human."
Harris also insisted that the reporters around him found Biden won: "I don’t think there’s any question that Senator Biden had the more substantive night, the crisper, at least to my ear more spontaneous night – because so many of Governor Palin’s answers were clearly points she was going to make irrespective of whatever good questions Gwen asked....If seemed to me and a number of us coming out of the filing center here that an awful lot of those questions, she got through the evening, but was hanging on for dear life."
Of the three morning shows on Wednesday, only "Good Morning America" highlighted the growing controversy regarding the disclosure that PBS reporter Gwen Ifill, the moderator of Thursday's vice presidential debate, has authored a supportive book about Barack Obama and other African American politicians. CBS's "Early Show" and NBC's "Today" both skipped the subject.
GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo mentioned the book during the 7am hour and actually observed that it "has some conservatives claiming she will be biased tomorrow night." The ABC journalist added, "Ifill has said, though, she's only concerned about getting straight answers from the candidates." And although Cuomo did not repeat the story during the 8am news brief, at least ABC brought the issue up.
[UPDATE, by Brent Baker: Wednesday evening, of the broadcast network evening newscasts, only the NBC Nightly News mentioned Ifill. Andrea Mitchell ended a story by citing an unidentified "one conservative critic" and how colleagues and McCain say she's not biased:
As the stage is set for tomorrow night, one conservative critic challenged the moderator, Gwen Ifill of PBS because Ifill is writing a history of a generation of black politicians titled Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Palin said tonight that's motivating her to work harder. Ifill's colleagues and the McCain campaign say she is a respected professional.]
There's one good reason Gwen Ifill, the host of the PBS show Washington Week, is moderating the vice-presidential debate: she has a forthcoming book about Barack Obama (and other black Democrats) called The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Ifill talks about the book project on YouTube here.
In addition to her portrait of Obama, Ifill will also investigate Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a close friend of Obama's; Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who Ifill describes as "very charismatic" in the video; and Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama. "They all chose to get into politics for the most upstanding of reasons, and they all have achieved much more than their parents could have hoped." It doesn't hurt that it's made Obama a mega-best-selling multi-millionaire author.
Long-time PBS anchor Jim Lehrer, the first host of the 2008 fall presidential debates, is dead serious about his utter lack of bias. Appearing November 27, 2006 on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, Lehrer insisted with a very straight face that “I am bias-free....Bias is what people who hear or read the news bring to the story, not what the journalist brings to the reporting.” When Colbert insisted Lehrer must add some flavor, straight-faced Lehrer declared his contribution was “the flavor of neutrality.”
Lehrer can offer a different flavor. During live coverage of the Democratic convention on August 25, he gauzily reacted to Jimmy Carter’s florid praise of Barack Obama’s race speech in March: “If it happens that he is elected, or even his just being nominated, will send positive ripple effects throughout the country on the race issue.”
At the same time, he defended a poll on NOW on PBS's home page. NewsBuster Jacob S. Lybbert noted the poll was comprised of a single question: "Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as Vice President of the United States?" Some viewers thought the question inherently unfair; after all, PBS never ran a poll asking if Barack Obama or Joe Biden are qualified for the positions they're seeking.
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.