Someone at the Washington Post must be leaning their head out of an office door, shouting "We need more Milbank!" Sort of like the old "Saturday Night Live" skit about Blue Oyster Cult needing "more cowbell." So the Post's Sunday "Outlook" section had a new feature called the "Zeitgeist Checklist," which is pretty much a complete ripoff of Jon Alter's dopey "Conventional Wisdom Watch" feature in Newsweek. Most noticeable was the usual drama-queen readings about press criticism:
Homeland Security: It's open season (again) on the press, with Dick Cheney leading the firing squad and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)accusing the New York Times of treason for publishing information about how the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication(SWIFT) is helping to track terrorist finances. Never mind that much of the information had already been public; it's good politics to blame the media.
We might assume that on a holiday like the Fourth of July, there's not going to be a lot of liberal media bias. But a search through the MRC's "Notable Quotables" archive shows there have been a few sharp examples that could ruin an Independence Day. I'd begin with with this one from 1994: "We hear the stories of discrimination in education and housing and jobs all the time. We hear the violence between races. Do you think it's possible that America is simply an inherently racist place?" That was Today (then-substitute) co-host Matt Lauer, not exactly waving the flag. If it was an audition, it must have worked. Here are some others:
2003: "Tonight, we’re going to show you a new true face of homelessness in America. Today’s homeless are families, and the families you will meet have done everything right and yet there’s no place for them. Still, they struggle to find a home....There are more families homeless in New York City now than at any in the last 20 years....in numbers, it’s estimated, not seen since the Great Depression." – NBC’s John Hockenberry on the July 4 Dateline.
Over the course of the past few weeks – and much to the delight of many conservative new media journalists – no less than seven major news outlets have published rather derogatory articles about Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, the highly-successful proprietor of the überleft-leaning blog Daily Kos.
Conspicuously at the same time, most media avoided or downplayed the recently revealed stock fraud allegations surrounding Zuniga’s colleague and co-author Jerome Armstrong – the man that helped Howard Dean’s presidential campaign back in 2004, and is now working for 2008 Democrat presidential candidate Mark Warner.
As this negative media focus came soon after Zuniga’s much-heralded liberal bloggers’ convention, The Yearly Kos, in Las Vegas – where the usual media suspects were writing great praise for the event as well as for Kos himself – some awkward and so far unspoken questions arise:
On the roundtable of Sunday's edition of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," Newsweek columnist and Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria declared he was going to say "something controversial," that he favored amnesty for Iraqi insurgents. ABC White House correspondent Martha Raddatz said she didn't see why that was controversial, just a required step. When Stephanopoulos suggested amnesty "makes sense," CNN anchor Lou Dobbs said the idea "sticks in my craw."
Zakaria knows the idea is "controversial" because it will rub the American public the wrong way, but also because the Democrats on television (like Sen. Durbin minutes earlier on "This Week") have made a strong pose against amnesty for insurgents. Here's how it unfolded, as the segment began:
15 People Who Make America Great Newsweek Magazine #4 Brad Pitt "If it wasn't for Brad Pitt, most Americans would never have heard of Namibia. They might not know about AIDS orphans in South Africa, or the plight of children in Haiti, or what transpired at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland."
Google News: "Brad Pitt Namibia World Economic Forum Davos Switzerland" Results about "what transpired at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland": ZERO. (lots of Newsweek award mentions though)
Google News: "Brad Pitt plight of Haitian children" Results: ZERO
As part of their "Giving Back Awards" cover package this week, Newsweek honors what they call "Philanthropy's All-Star Team," a list of "no-brainers" for all the good they do in the world. Some choices are less political (Lance Armstrong, Oprah), but many are not: Paul Newman, Rosie O'Donnell, abortion-rights activist Bill Gates, embryo-destruction enthusiast Michael J. Fox, Ted Turner, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore. Wow. Al Gore? Getting on a philanthropy list is pretty nice work for the guy who reported giving $353 to charity on one annual tax return. Newsweek explained:
The folks below are, to be blunt, the no-brainers. In some cases, their very names have become synonymous with a cause. Lance Armstrong: cancer research. Al Gore: the environment. Oprah: free cars. (Actually, those famous wheels are just the tip of the "niceberg" for Winfrey.) They've used every asset they've got to spread the gospel of giving—their money, their brains, even their pretty faces. Let's return the favor by giving them a tip of the cap.
Here were some of the more notable stars, in their original alphabetical order:
Jimmy Carter Global Health
Nobel Peace Prize winner, widely admired ex-president, tireless disease-prevention worker. Latest crusade: ending river blindness in Africa. Not bad for a peanut farmer.
Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas, who in March condescendingly charged on Inside Washington that opposition to the UAE ports deals was a “classic for talk radio" since "it's something simple idiots can understand,” on this weekend's edition of the panel show again ridiculed talk radio -- this time as a caldron of “anger” on illegal immigration. But Thomas was dubious about whether the anger is really about immigration, or just where talk radio listeners have parked their incessant anger. He asserted that “in conservative talk radio there's this constant anger and it attaches itself to different issues. It sort of moves around. And right now, or for some months, it's been attached to immigration. What's not clear is whether that moveable anger will just find some other issue if Congress does nothing...”
Here's a few tidbits from this week's news magazines.
1. Newsweek's predictably liberal "Conventional Wisdom Watch" box is clearly unhappy with the good-news-for-Bushies trend. Bush and Rove each get an up arrow. Each also get incredibly whiny blurbs. Bush: "Surprise Baghdad trip boosts troops' morale -- and his own. But he still had to sneak in, three years after invasion." Rove: "Being cleared in CIA leak probe clears his to go back to attacking Democrats as pansies. To the well once too often?"
Answer: No, not when you're pushing withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the year.
In Newsweek, Allison Samuels hypes the latest music from Ice Cube. Over a full-page black-and-white photo of the rapper, his latest “social commentator” lyrics from his song “Why We Thug” are highlighted boldly in capital letters:
“Since I was little not a damn thing changed / It’s the same ol’ same / Bush runs things like Saddam Hussein.”
Most of these words are in green, but “Bush” and “Saddam Hussein” are in white letters for emphasis. Newsweek’s Samuels is giddy: “He was a savagely angry (and wickedly witty) social commentator on N.W.A.’s late-‘80s benchmarks ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and ‘F—- tha Police’…Cube’s new album may be the his best since the searing ‘Amerikkka’s Most Wanted’ in 1990.” Samuels lauds this junk as part of “rap’s long tradition of politically righteous anger.”
Without question, one of the most liberally biased journalists and political commentators in the mainstream media today is Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift. Week after week, her columns and her words spoken on “The McLaughlin Group” sound eerily similar to Democrat talking points coming directly from the likes of Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, and John Kerry.
This is what makes her column on Friday quite shocking, for it not only deviates from the party line that she rarely strays from, but is also written without her normal inflammatory hyperbole for anything right of center. And, even more surprising, Clift actually had negative things to say about her left-leaning brethren.
Clift’s rare moment of sanity was evident right in the first paragraph:
“The death of the top-ranking operative of Al Qaeda in Iraq is a welcome moment of clarity in a war desperately in search of a rationale. Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi personified the face of evil and was controversial even among jihadists for staging large-scale attacks on civilians. The news out of Iraq has been gloomy for so long that Zarqawi’s demise, along with the agreement on the remaining cabinet ministers to fill out the new government, may buy some time with the American public, and give President Bush the breathing space to figure out what to do next when he meets with his advisers at Camp David next week.”
She continued with the importance of Zarqawi's death:
If you want a date to mark the beginning of the end of the Bush era in American life, you may as well make it this one: May 25, 2006. The Enron jury in Houston didn’t just put the wood to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. The jurors took a chainsaw to the moral claims of the Texas-based corporate culture that had helped fuel the rise to power of President George W. Bush.
(What "moral claims" did the "culture" make? Is Fineman claiming that businessmen and women in Texas are pervasively and exceptionally immoral?)
What makes the Fineman piece noteworthy -- almost hilarious -- is Fineman's admittedly admirable attempt to be fair by including caveats to his thesis that Enron belongs on "the debit side of the Bush-era ledger." Fineman's caveats outnumber his proofs by 2-1, resulting in a piece that proves the opposite of what Fineman contends.
This week's edition of Newsweek was the first magazine to land in our mailbox yesterday, and it probably goes without saying that there is no major Patrick Kennedy coverage in it. In fact, there's just this: a brief mention in the "Conventional Wisdom Watch" box with the note: "Bad news: Woozy wee-hour car wreck sends him to rehab. Good news: Nobody died." And this quote on the "Perspectives" page (number five): "I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police or being cited for three driving infractions...That's not how I want to live my life...I know that I need help."
That's it. Newsweek's editors could say there was little room for the story to breathe, what with a massive cover story package on AIDS, in which Newsweek acts like a complete copycat of Time magazine by honoring Bill Clinton and Melinda Gates with self-promoting columns. (Clinton's is "Editor's Choice" on the website.) But look at what else they have room for:
As a follow-up to yesterday's item on Newsweek's Jonathan Alter and his new book championing Franklin Roosevelt, we peek at the Washington Post's Sunday book review by historian Alonzo Hamby. Is this company policy? After all, the Post and Newsweek are kissing corporate cousins. (One clue: Newsweek editor Jon Meacham's book also receives the book review today -- two weeks after his big authored piece in the Sunday Outlook section.) The Hamby review is mixed, but here's where the sterner words come in:
Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift has certainly never been accused of being an impartial journalist. Quite the contrary, when compared with other antique media members, Clift has to be considered one of the most consistently biased – unashamedly and unapologetically appearing as though the ideas for her columns as well as her screechy sermonettes on “The McLaughlin Group” emanate directly from Democrat talking points in her e-mail inbox.
This is why it must have been shocking for many readers to see the sub-headline of her most recent Newsweek piece (emphasis mine): “The Original Old-Fashioned Liberal: The descendant of Irish immigrants, Ted Kennedy badly wanted a reform bill. In the end, his own party stopped him.”
Now, before you get all excited over the possibility that Eleanor either had an epiphany or a rare moment of clarity, be advised that, in the end, she really didn’t blame the Democrats for anything.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been under attack lately from those in the press, and with Congress out of session, and not much happening in the world of politics over the Easter weekend, the attacks continued this morning on CBS’s "The Early Show." And, once again, Harry Smith got confused by the facts (remember this and this).
Smith interviewed Evan Thomas, Assistant Managing Editor of "Newsweek" magazine regarding an article that appeared in today’s edition of the publication, particularly the portions of the article that dealt with a chat Thomas had with former Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki. Smith’s first question contained erroneous information:
Jonathan Alter is having an utterly typical week in his "Conventional Wisdom Watch" box at Newsweek this week, labeled the "You're Doing a Heckuva Job, Rummy Edition." Once again, there is absolutely no separation between what the average MoveOn.org type thinks and what Alter writes:
Bush gets the typical down arrow: "Hearty Rummy endorsement shows he still puts loyalty before reality. And accountability? Ha!"
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, another down arrow: "Puts own ego ahead of White House needs. Time to fall on your sword, for goodness' sake."
"Generals" (and by this, Newsweek means Bush-Hating Generals) get a sideways arrow: "Candor about Iraq failures is good, but where were you in '03? Families of the fallen want to know."
Newsweek’s senior editor Jonathan Alter was Keith Olbermann’s guest on Wednesday’s “Countdown,” and, as could be expected, the two engaged in quite a Bush Bash (hat tip to Crooks and Liars with video link to follow). First, Alter suggested that the administration has changed Franklin Roosevelt’s famous depression phrase of “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” into “The only thing we have to use is fear itself.” As a result, in Alter’s view, “what you could see coming up on these midterm elections is them trying to use fear to restore their political position.” Of course, neither of them addressed the likelihood that candidates on the other side of the aisle will use the fear of losing abortion rights or losing Social Security or Medicare benefits to scare women and seniors into voting for them as has happened in every election for decades.
Sadly, the best was yet to come. After Olbermann mentioned the president’s poll numbers, Alter replied “there are not a lot of people who expect him to move very much in the polls. And once you`re tagged as an incompetent, that`s pretty hard to recover from.” I guess that's why folks like Olbermann and Alter continue to reiterate such a view, a delicious irony that seems lost on these two intellectual heavyweights.
Of course, Alter didn’t just attack the president, for Cheney was next on the hit parade:
In her Newsweek back-page column this week, feminist Anna Quindlen dances a Superiority Dance on the declining Miss America pageant, as the subheadline read: "Miss America was supplanted by her sisters, who carried briefcases instead of roses and preferred a suit to a maillot and heels." Quindlen made yet another karma connection between anchor-in-waiting Katie Couric and president-in-waiting Hillary Clinton:
There are better contests today, with much better prizes. Katherine Anne Couric, from the great state of Virginia, wins the anchor seat at CBS and a reported annual salary equal to the gross national product of an emerging nation. Hillary Rodham Clinton, resident of New York, waits in the wings (or at least the Senate) for a possible stint as the leader of the free world. Granted, both require tap dancing and fixed smiles. But the white gloves are off and there are no dummies involved.
Newsweek's lame weekly "Conventional Wisdom Watch" box in the up-front "Periscope" section this week announces its theme as the "Exterminated Edition," that "The CW won't have Tom (The Hammer) DeLay to kick around anymore. Luckily, there's no shortage of power-abusing hacks to take the arrows." DeLay was awarded one last down arrow, with the snippy line: "Guy who led Clinton impeach claims he's a victim of 'politics of personal destruction.' That's a good one."
President Bush gets another down arrow (and even the up arrows and sideways arrows are often accompanied by negative takes on Bush): "Old CW: I'll fire anyone who leaks classified info. New CW: Of course, I didn't mean me." This is not to say "Conventional Wisdom" feels the need to be accurate. As Newsweek's sister publication The Washington Post explained, "In June 2004, Bush replied 'yes' when asked if he would fire anyone who leaked the agent's [Valerie Plame's] name. In other statements, Bush has pledged to 'take the appropriate action' if anyone in his administration leaked classified information." (In this 2005 story, Bush had grown more specific to making "committing a crime" the firing offense.) Other typical liberal-media "conventional wisdom"?
Any faithful watcher of “The McLaughlin Group” knows that one of the most transparently biased members of the antique media over the past two decades has been Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift. Week in and week out, Eleanor rips apart every Republican on the political landscape while oozing nothing but adoration for those on the opposite side of the aisle even when they are found guilty of serious transgressions.
Clift’s op-ed posted at Newsweek’s website on Friday is a fine example. After somewhat misrepresenting the seriousness of the recent allegations that have emerged from Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff I. Lewis Libby concerning unclassified information from a National Intelligence Estimate by President Bush, Clift went right into a stump speech: “The only way the American people can stop Bush’s imperial expansion of power short is to turn out in massive numbers to take back one or the other body of Congress from Republican control.”
You could see this one coming a mile away. As soon as Matt Lauer announced that Today was inaugurating a series called 'One Nation Under God' on the role religion plays in our country, and that the first episode would focus on President Bush, you knew we were in for a bumpy ride.
The series plays off a new book, 'American Gospel', by Newsweek Managing Editor Jon Meacham. In his set-up [and I do mean set-up] piece, David Gregory claimed that "the Bush era has created not just a political but a religious divide."
Continued Gregory: "Critics have accused the president of using religion to close himself off from opposing points of view." Oh, I don't know, David. He seems to hear you pretty loud and clear.
In a week in which immigration has unquestionably been the big story, how did Newsweek choose to frame the issue? The national security implications of a porous border, perhaps? The impact on our economy of millions of illegals, some of whom work, some of whom are a drain on social services? Come on. We're talking the magazine whose most visible reporter is Eleanor Clift. Newsweek chose to focus on . . . the plight of illegal immigrants, with its cover blaring "Illegals Under Fire".
Consider that editors scrutinize every word on the cover of a national newsweekly for its implications and impact. They didn't choose "Under Fire" randomly. With its allusions to lethal force, and printed in red, Newsweek was sending a not-so-subliminal message.
When Hillary Clinton charged that the House Republican immigration bill would "criminalize...Jesus himself," there was national-media notice – if not criticism. Even Hillary’s "hometown" newspaper The New York Times reported on March 23 that Senator Clinton intensified her criticism of Republican immigration proposals, albeit on page B-5. But no one in the story criticized Hillary for her harsh attack. Instead, reporter Nina Bernstein noted only critics to Hillary’s left: "Mrs. Clinton had been criticized by some immigrant activists for saying little about the issue until March 8, and then speaking at an Irish-only rally, rather than at a forum more representative of immigrants. But yesterday all seemed forgiven." Bernstein’s story, headlined, "Mrs. Clinton Says GOP Immigration Plan Is At Odds With The Bible," began:
To mark the third anniversary of launching the war to depose Saddam Hussein, the manufacturers of the “news” have established their usual template, Realistic Media vs. Pollyanna Bush. It’s not pessimism versus optimism, but reality versus hallucination.
How, then do we greet the bleats of liberals as they wildly overstate the alleged utter awfulness of the war situation? On CNN, Time writer Joe Klein, one of the nation’s leading worshipers of Bill Clinton, declared to Anderson Cooper, “Rumsfeld ran the most criminally incompetent military campaign, you know, in the last 100 years, perhaps in American history.”
In this week's Live Chat on the Newsweek website, Howard Fineman came online to chat about the pro-life trend in South Dakota and how that might affect the Republicans. (Their answer: it will hurt them.) Fineman seemed to be having a fine time, claiming "I'm glad to be doing one again. I always learn a lot doing them. As Newsweek's chief political correspondent, I can't do my job by hunkering down inside the Beltway, either literally or digitally." But it wasn't long before the hunkering down occurred:
Hudson, OH: Given the majority of the media is liberal and pro-choice do you expect the media including Newsweek to cover this issue objectively and without personal bias?
The national media was full of broken hearts last week when Dana Reeve died at 44, after nearly a decade of caring for disabled “Superman” star Christopher Reeve. It was obvious from the coverage that this woman had won hearts and made friendships in the media elite. But something strange happened in all the laudatory waves of coverage. Someone shrunk her activism.
It’s common for reporting on embryo-destroying stem cell research to leave out the embryo-destroying part. But the tear-stained accounts of Reeve’s sudden end often left out the words “stem cell” as well. This week’s Newsweek has a two-page article, largely about lung cancer, headlined "A Legacy of Love and Hope: Dana Reeve dedicated her life to finding a cure for spinal-cord injuries, only to fall victim to lung cancer."
AP hyped up the rest of the press last Wednesday about its "confidential" tape it wrongly suggested was evidence Bush lied about no one discussing the breaching of New Orleans levees before Hurricane Katrina. On Friday, AP backed down with a "clarification," admitting "The story should have made clear that Bush was warned about floodwaters overrunning the levees, rather than the levees breaking."
None of this is mentioned in Newsweek, which wraps up its issue on Sunday. Most egregiously ignoring the new AP line was Jonathan Alter's "Conventional Wisdom Watch," which continued its Keith Olbermannesque streak of shameless Bush bashing. Bush received his traditional down arrow with the snarky line: "Falsely claimed no one could have predicted New Orleans levee breach. Let's go to the videotape!"
This week's hands-down winner in the Worthless Piece of Air category is Howard Fineman's page in Newsweek puffing up the presidential prospects of Rudy Giuliani. Any political reporter worth his salt knows that pro-gay, pro-abortion Rudy is this cycle's Republican Don Quixote. (Fineman, do you forget Arlen Specter for President? Or Pete Wilson for President? Aren't experienced political reporters supposed to reflect their experience?)
Fineman knows the score: "There are those who think the presence of a pro-choice, pro-gay rights New Yorker would help McCain by making him seem to be a comparative godsend to evangelicals." But then it's more ridiculous (not to mention more than a month old) to hype his January appearance before evangelical pastors in Florida:
The most transparently obvious way of displaying liberal bias is to take an issue like an abortion, and suggest the conservative side is extreme, while describing the liberal, abortion-on-demand side without a label, as reasonable, almost non-ideological. Newsweek's that obvious in this week's issue, carrying the headline:
Reality Check for 'Roe'
With the hard right hoping for reversal, the black-and-white war over abortion finds itself immersed in shades of gray.
But where is the "hard left" that's so extreme they would abort a baby that was mistakenly born alive? Even as they claim the abortion debate is more ambiguous than either side would like, reporters Evan Thomas and Martha Brant are still displaying their labeling imbalance:
Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift has never been good at hiding her liberal bias. Whether in her columns that ooze with hatred for everything just slightly to the right of the extreme left-wing politicians she worships, or as a regular on “The McLaughlin Group,” Clift’s partisanship has always been apparent…maybe more so than any other member of the antique media.
Friday’s Newsweek column was a fine example, as Clift’s unabashed bias was in its customarily unprofessional form. In fact, her partisanship was apparent in the title’s subheading: “The controversy over the control of U.S. harbors is pitting Bush against his conservative base. Can the Democrats capitalize on this in the upcoming election?”
I guess Clift didn’t feel it was necessary to hide her bias by at least waiting until the body of her column to begin strategizing for her party. If only it ended there. Unfortunately, it didn’t, for the following was paragraph one: