Terry Mattingly at the Get Religion blog is on my wavelength on the Bush's-clumsy-over-Christmas issue (as opposed to my pal Kathryn Lopez, who suggests I shouldn't be spouting silly Bush wimp nonsense.) He says Bush's joke the other day cheekily replacing Jesus with Santa as our Christmas savior is "a sign of how tone deaf the whole Bush clan is about the cultural style and lingo of evangelical Christianity. I know there are people who think that George W. is a raging theocrat, but I just don’t see it." He contrasts this year's joke with 2002's earnest Christian commentary.
I'm not saying Bush's Christianity isn't sincere, and he's not just president of Christian America. But he does seem quite spooked out of being a public personal Jesus freak like he was in the 2000 primaries. It's easy to see how the freaked-out secular liberal media might discourage you. Perhaps it's never been the same since 2001 began the Era of We're Not At War With Islam, the Peaceful Religion. If the Christmas card flap started by the Washington Post is much ado about nothing (and I can be sympathetic to that view), it's also worth noting that it wouldn't ruin him to stick to a few statements like his Christmas message in 2002.
When you wonder if the national media's biggest film critics rave over movies based on their own personal politics instead of the product they're watching, you can always think of Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday. The D.C. premiere (in one art house theater) of a revival of the hard-left documentary "Winter Soldier," chronicling John Kerry and others trying to create (often falsified) accounts of American soldier atrocities in Vietnam, gives Hornaday the chance to rave over it today, calling it "extraordinary," "spellbinding," "impressive," "stunning," and even authentic as it reminds of our atrocious position in Iraq:
Recreational killing of civilians, rape, arson, torture: They did it, or saw it, all. Having been trained to see their enemies as less than human -- they were always called gooks or commies -- and having been taught to dissociate from the violence they were committing lest they be killed themselves, they simply learned not to care...
Of particular interest, Simpson notes that Weisman fell hook, line, and sinker for a flawed study by a handful of Federal Reserve economists. Portions in bold are my emphasis:
Weisman hyped a flawed report from the Federal Reserve Board to draw the conclusion that the earlier dividend tax cut package “had no real impact on the stock market and prompted ‘only muted gain in total corporate payouts.’
A recent report published by the Gallup Organization stated:
“a majority of U.S. investors continue to describe the current economy as being ‘in a slowdown’ or ‘recession’ as opposed to being ‘in a recovery’ or ‘sustained expansion.’”
Regardless of continuously strong economic reports, such bearish assessments have been regularly portrayed by public opinion polls for several years. During this period, economists and politicians – including the Bush administration – have wondered what is responsible for this disconnect between perception and reality.
A detailed look at how unemployment numbers are shared with the public by mainstream media outlets gives us some clues. The Labor Department on Friday announced very strong employment gains for the month of November. In fact, this was the largest number of job creations since April. However, this news was reported to the public in a fashion that largely downplayed its significance. A 3.2 percent annual increase in wages was characterized as employees “basically treading water.” Although energy prices have been steadily declining since September, jobs market stories included references of this still being a “huge concern.” Other news accounts referred to the unemployment rate being “stuck at 5 percent,” as if a 5 percent unemployment rate is a bad thing, while one cable news outlet told viewers to take the numbers “with a grain of salt.”
In Sunday’s Washington Post, Stephen Pearlstein noticed in his "Sunday Briefing" (page F-2) that "The Economy Grabs the High Ground," as the headline said. He wrote: "Defying hurricanes and inflation, rising interest rates and political gridlock, the U.S. economy demonstrated its remarkable strength and stamina last week." Despite the drama implicit in that sentence, the Post’s editors buried the news inside the paper.
Last Wednesday, as PostWatch noticed, Nell Henderson's story on growth, "Economy Grew Briskly In 3rd Quarter," was placed on D-1, the front page of the Business section. (On October 29, a Henderson report headlined "Hurricanes Didn't Stop Economy From Growing" was also on D-1.) A strong jobs report? "Growth in Jobs Overcame Slump in November" appeared on page D-1 on Saturday. Negative-sounding economic news appeared on page A-1: on Sunday, the front page carried the story that struggling car companies want help with benefits: "Automakers Are Lining Up Aid, But Just Don't Call It a Bailout." A peek at Nexis back to March 1 at the stories on economic indicators reported by Nell Henderson showed a continuing pattern of Henderson making A-1 or the A-section with bad news:
The Washington Post puts on the top left of its front page Monday reporter Robin Wright's story that "among the Democratic foreign-policy elite...there are stark differences -- and significant vagueness -- about a viable alternative" to ending the Iraq war successfully. "In interviews, veteran policymakers offered no end of criticism" of Bush's handling, "but only one had a clear vision of what he would do if the Iraq problem was handed over to a Democratic administration tomorrow." The Post headline: "Democrats Find Iraq Alternative Is Elusive." A better headline: "Democrats Have No Plan."
"I'm not prepared to lay out a detailed policy or strategy," said Richard Holbrooke, "widely considered the leading candidate to be secretary of state" if Kerry had won the presidency in 2004. "It 's not something you can expet in a situation that's moving this fast and has the level of detail you're looking for." Translation: wooh, aren't you glad the Democrats didn't win? We'd be stuck with Unfrozen Caveman Secretary of State: the Iraqi terrorists' modern ways of war frighten and confuse him. Then turn inside.
Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan (pronounce that zhiv-AHN, darlings) has drawn great attention to herself in the last five years by writing about the fashions of America's top politicians, often with a nasty edge toward conservatives and a thoroughly enraptured take toward liberals. But today's column is a wonder. She can trash Katherine Harris, and Dick Cheney, and John Bolton. But you have to hand it to Saddam. He's a fashion plate. The title is "The Dictator, Dressing Down the West." Make that "former dictator," thanks. He reminds her of Sinatra in Vegas. He was...
Kudos to Washington Post columnist in reporter's clothing Dana Milbank today for his piece on the abortion debate outside the Supreme Court yesterday. It's not that it doesn't contain his usual liberal flavor, but that he quotes the protesters of both sides for readers to hear:
"Over 47 million of America's finest have fallen at the hand of Roev. Wade !" shouted Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. "You're out here to kill kids!" another demonstrator, Joan McKee, shouted. The women from NOW answered the antiabortion taunts with pep-rally chants. "Pro-life? That's a lie! You don't care if women die!" And: "Racist, sexist, anti-gay. Right-wing judges, go away!"
The Chicago-based organization - supported by several Protestant denominations that believe Christianity forbids all war-making and violence - has sent activists into war zones, including Bosnia and Haiti, since the late 1980s. It has about 160 members around the world and about a dozen in Iraq.
Don't miss my latest writing for the Free Market Project: Media claims about a “housing bubble” are nothing new. Since before the 9/11 terror attacks, the media have been calling the housing market a “bubble” while predicting an imminent, devastating decline. Not only have they been wrong in forecasting such a top, they have thoroughly mischaracterized what an investment bubble is. Now that the market for homes has finally slowed a bit, the media are declaring the bubble has burst.
A Bubble?: Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has denied the existence of a national housing bubble for several years, but the media have used the term repeatedly.
Strong Gains: The increase in real estate values the past five years has not resembled the rapid rise typically seen in a bubble. In 2000, the national median existing-home value was $139,000. This grew to $215,900 by the third quarter of 2005 – a 55-percent nominal increase but a 34-percent inflation-adjusted gain.
Home Sales Still Going Up: New home sales jumped another 13 percent in October. While sales of existing homes were down 2.7 percent from September, the median national price rose to $218,000, a 16.6 percent increase since October 2004.
Dan Froomkin writes a White House column weekdays for the Washington Post’s web site. In case you're not familiar with his work, let's just say that in terms of bias and tone, he's sort of an online version of Dana Milbank. (And, in case you're not familiar with Milbank: Lucky you.)
The Justice Department has criticized as misleading and inaccurate a Washington Post report about the FBI's expanded power to collect the private records of ordinary Americans while conducting terrorism and espionage investigations.
The Nov. 6 article detailed the dramatic increase in the use of "national security letters," a three-decade-old investigative tool that was given new life with the passage of the USA Patriot Act in 2001. The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, a hundredfold increase over historic norms, the article said....
Today, in his weekly web chat, syndicated Washington Post humor columnist Gene Weingarten provided an unintentionally funny response to a "conservative-leaning" reader. Here's the exchange:
Anonymous: I love (not) that the designations on your poll are "pro-choice" and "anti-abortion." Did you do this purposefully to stir up the righteous indignation of conservative-leaning chatters like myself? Why not change "pro-choice" to "anti-life?" At least make it even, either "pro-choice or pro-life" or "anti-life or anti-abortion."
Gene Weingarten: Bullhockey. These are designations that best describe the positions. They are the ones used by almost all newspapers, which are striving for objectivity.
Secular liberalism emerges in the funniest places, or pages. There was a Washington Post review yesterday of Carrie Underwood’s new country album. In attacking the entire album as a pre-fabricated mishmash, Dave McKenna had to mock her mention of Jesus Christ in the music:
It’s probably not the first time it has happened, but with the exception of ABC’s George Will – who, of course, has been a regular on that network’s “This Week” for many years – the networks’ Sunday political talk shows had no established conservative guests to participate in their weekly panel discussions. Joining George Stephanopoulos and George Will this morning were Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile, TIME magazine’s Jay Carney, and ABC’s Claire Shipman. NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” featured Katy Kay of the BBC, Michael Duffy of TIME magazine, Norah O’Donnell of MSNBC, and Terry Neal of the Washington Post. CBS’s “Face the Nation” did its annual Thanksgiving “historians” program.
The most left-leaning of the panels was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” where Tim Russert invited Judy Woodruff, formerly of CNN’s “Inside Politics,” David Broder of the Washington Post, Eugene Robinson also of the Washington Post, and David Gregory of NBC News. While the “This Week” and “Matthews” panels actually engaged in a comparatively well-rounded discussion, the “Meet the Press” group spent the bulk of its half-hour talking about the “disaster” in Iraq. For instance, Robinson said, “I think that there's general agreement now that there will be a mess in Iraq when U.S. troops finally withdraw and it certainly won't be an Athenian democracy, as the administration said it was out to create.” Gregory agreed, “And unfortunately, perhaps the only outcome is a kind of low-level civil war that's akin to the Arab- Israeli situation with U.S. soldiers in the way.”
Woodruff then joined in by paraphrasing a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly:
The Washington Post's political feature writer Mark Leibovich today reports on the jostling to succeed Sen. Jon Corzine in New Jersey, headlined "For Sen. X, D-N.J., the Line Forms to the Left." But the ideological label that might be expected in the text, Democrats on the "left," or "liberals," are never used.
Since Corzine is now Governor-Elect, he can select his successor until next November. (This doesn't always go well: ask Sen. Sheila Frahm or Sen. Bob Krueger). But c'mon, Post people, some of the applicants have liberal voting records, if you check ACUratings.com. Donald Payne has a lifetime ACU rating of 3 percent out of 100, Rush Holt has an 8, Frank Pallone has a 15, Bill Pascrell has an 18. Finally, the two I've seen mentioned in the national press the most, and occasionally tagged as centrists or moderates, are Bob Menendez (11) and Rob Andrews (19). The most amusing part of the article is how Sen. Chuck Schumer (head of the Senate Democrats' campaign committee) interviewed applicants as if he had some role in Corzine's decision. Leibovich notes:
Dana Milbank's snarky "Washington Sketch" column in the Washington Post Tuesday employs a bad, even mildly offensive, analogy in comparing Bush and Cheney to the last two Popes: "As vice president, Cheney has always played the hard-line Cardinal Ratzinger to Bush's sunny John Paul II. Before the war, Cheney asserted that Iraq had 'reconstituted nuclear weapons.' Since the invasion, he has gone further than others in the administration in asserting Iraq's ties to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He caused a stir when he directed an obscenity at a Democrat on the Senate floor, and he has sparred with senators in both parties in his bid to block a ban on torture."
As much as I may admire the president and vice president, comparing them to holy men that millions of Catholics believe were chosen by God to lead the worldwide church of Jesus Christ is just wrong -- starting with Cheney the Ratzinger telling Sen. Patrick Leahy to go (love) himself. Milbank was so pleased with the analogy he used it within seconds on MSNBC with Keith Olbermann Monday night, that Cheney and the Holy Father were both "dour hardliners." This is a caricature of both men. But secular reporters also focus only on where the Pope draws a line on hot-button social issues, and not on his love and care for the church and its members and its traditions.
The hed isn't snappy, but I'm trying to come up with new slogans for a paper
that can't bring itself to accurately describe Rep. John Murtha.
There's a slim ray of hope from congressional reporter Shailagh Murray, who in a live chat today acknowledged there was more to his background than what we've been reading in her paper:
Why won't the Post tell its readers about Murtha's mixed record on the
Iraq War? For example, he said two years ago that he'd been misled
about WMD and joined with Rep. Pelosi in calling for high-level
administration resignations; he accused Bush of delaying a major
military callup until after the presidential election (a callup that
never happened); he joined a small minority in voting against a
resolution declaring the world safer for having been rid of Saddam; and
voted in favor of Rep. Rangel's (in my view, bogus) resolution to
reinstate the draft. He's entitled to these views -- but aren't the
Post's readers entitled to know about them, as opposed to the simple
"hawkish Democrat" narrative you and your colleagues are presenting?
Montgomery Gentry are too blue collar for blue America.
At least that's the impression you would get reading Bill Friskics-Warren's review of the country duo's latest album, a "greatest hits" entitled Something To Be Proud Of.
"Staunch blue-collar populists" like Montgomery Gentry, worries the reviewer, root themselves in nostalgia for a time before "among other cultural advances, the women's and the the civil rights movements."
As proof of sexism and misogyny, Friskics-Warren bemoans the subject of "She Couldn't Change Me" being "put in her place," and is chagrined by the "smugness of the song's macho protagonist."
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, in a new article entitled “Bush at the Tipping Point,” joined an expanding list of media representatives that have not only completely ignored statements made by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) concerning his disappointments with the Iraq war that came before his Thursday call for troop withdrawals, but also thoroughly misrepresented the level of support that Murtha gave to the initial war resolution back in October 2002:
“Murtha was the one-man tipping point. Initially a strong supporter of the conflict, he had voted for it and the money to pay for it. But on his last trip to Iraq, he had become convinced not only that the war was unwinnable, but that the continued American military presence was making matters far worse.”
As reported by NewsBusters here, Congressman Murtha first voiced dissent for this war in September 2003, and then again in May 2004. However, maybe most important, the record before the war resolution passed on October 11, 2002 shows Murtha as having initially been against invading Iraq, and only getting onboard when a revised resolution was proposed on October 2. Prior to those revisions authored by Democrats in the House to assuage dissenters like Murtha, the Congressman was quite vocal against an invasion:
Since his surprise call on Thursday to withdraw American troops from Iraq, the media have been speaking nothing but high praise for Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn). Yet, the press haven’t always been so fond of the congressman, and their recent love affair with Mr. Murtha is totally ignoring their past depictions of him as being “a leading pork-barrel politician” who is often in the middle of a great deal of questionable spending related to defense contracts.
In fact, many of the headlines Murtha made in the ’90s were specifically connected to projects that he pushed through the House that largely benefited his home district in the state of Pennsylvania. His “earmarking” was so legendary that Roll Call’s Mary Jacoby stated in a February 24, 1994 article that it might have prevented him from becoming the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations:
Rep. John Murtha is no Cindy Sheehan, but the Washington Post's inability to do some simple reporting on Murtha's Iraq war record is reminiscent of its limited Lexis-Nexis skills last summer. As I documented at the time, the Post simply ignored Sheehan's wild ravings about President Bush being the biggest war criminal and a lying bastard, about liberal bloggers being the only thing preventing the U.S. from becoming a fascist state, about insurgents being freedom fighters and Iraq having held a sham election, etc., etc.
Now I see a story slated in the Post for Saturday's front page about an excitable evening in the House, which voted 400 million to 3 against an immediate withdrawal from Iraq: House GOP Calls For Vote On Iraq Pullout, by Charles Babington. And here's the nut graf on Murtha:
An Italian film crew claims that the US military indiscriminantly blanketed civilians in Fallujah with the white phosphorus during last year's assault on the city. The Denver Postpicks up the Colorado angle on the white phosphorus non-story, and while it impeaches the credibility of the film's star witness, it buries the lead, and leaves most of the background fabrications intact.
Here's the big news. The "witness," Jeff Englehart, can only claim to know that 1) white phosphorus was used in the attack, and 2) someone inside the city got caught in it:
Englehart said Thursday that some of his statements were taken out of context. He maintained that he believes white phosphorus killed civilians, though he never saw anyone burned by it while in Fallujah.
An Editor and Publisher article released late last night came to an aggressive conclusion from a front-page New York Times story by Todd Purdum. In E&P’s estimate, since Purdum reported that Vice President Dick Cheney has not specifically denied being the newly revealed source of Valerie Plame’s name to the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, this suggests that Purdum was “[wondering]” if Cheney could be the source:
Bob Woodward's own paper, the Washington Post, reports that the Watergate hero's new revelations might help Scooter Libby with his legal troubles.
The revelation that The Washington Post's Bob Woodward may have been the first reporter to learn about CIA operative Valerie Plame could provide a boost to the only person indicted in the leak case: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Legal experts said Woodward provided two pieces of new information that cast at least a shadow of doubt on the public case against Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, who has been indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges....
The Libby legal team plans to use Woodward's testimony to try to show that Libby was not obsessed with unmasking Plame and to raise questions about the prosecutor's full understanding of events. Until now, few outside of Libby's legal team have challenged the facts and chronology of Fitzgerald's case.
Bob Woodward's revelations, in a Wednesday Washington Post front page story, “Woodward Was Told of Plame More Than Two Years Ago,” seemingly undermined two premises of special prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald's case against Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney's former Chief-of-Staff -- that he was the first to tell a reporter about Valerie Plame and that everyone involved remembers when they were told about Plame. But while the developments animated cable television all day, all the broadcast networks ignored it in the morning and in the evening both CBS and NBC, which led October 28 with multiple stories of Fitzgerald's indictments, spiked the story while ABC's World News Tonight devoted a piddling 31 seconds to Woodward's disclosures. The CBS Evening News found time for supposed dangers to kids of cold medicines and a look at "why the obesity crisis is far worse for African-Americans." The NBC Nightly News provided stories on claims the U.S. used “chemical weapons” in Iraq and on the effectiveness of diet pills. (Story rundown follows.)
At his October 28 press conference, Fitzgerald asserted, as shown tonight on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume: "He [Libby] was at the beginning of the chain of the phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter." In fact, the Post reported that “a senior administration official,” not Libby, told Woodward “about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed” and thus before Libby talked about it with a reporter, a disclosure which provides some support for Libby's contention that he heard about Plame from a journalist. The Post also noted how “the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling” in 2003 about Plame's job, Walter Pincus, “does not recall the conversation taking place,” thus boosting Libby's contention that different people can have different recollections of old conversations.
What ABC squeezed in and how MSNBC's Chris Matthews saw nefarious motives (“a confidential source could be using rolling disclosure here for a political purpose” to help Libby) behind Woodward's source allowing him to talk, follows.
[UPDATE, 2:45pm EST Thursday: On Thursday morning, CBS held the development to a very brief news update item, NBC squeezed it into the very end of a session with Tim Russert while ABC actually touted it at the top of Good Morning America and provided a full story. See full rundown below.]
[UPDATE #2, Thursday 10:30pm EST: CBS and NBC caught up Thursday night with full stories -- by Gloria Borger on the CBS Evening News, by Andrea Mitchell on the NBC Nightly News.]
It’s become almost too commonplace of late – an article by a major, mainstream newspaper suggesting that President Bush misled the American people, as well as Congress, concerning the existence of WMD in Iraq, and the threat Iraq represented to America. For instance, just yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial with such a premise:
“To avoid having to account for his administration's misleading statements before the war with Iraq, President Bush has tried denial, saying he did not skew the intelligence. He's tried to share the blame, claiming that Congress had the same intelligence he had, as well as President Bill Clinton. He's tried to pass the buck and blame the C.I.A.”
And, a front-page Washington Post article this past Saturday by Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus asserted this same theme:
“President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.”
Yet, neither of these two publications was so convinced about this issue before Bush was first inaugurated in January 2001, and both took rather strong positions about the existence of such WMD in Iraq, and the threat that country represented to America.
Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s op-ed yesterday did not mince words. In Dionne’s view, the president’s speech on Veterans Day was pure, “partisan politics” that “will only add to his troubles.” Dionne’s contention was that the president is just continuing a pattern of partisan attacks that he started in October 2002 as Congress was debating the Iraq war resolution:
“There is a great missing element in the argument over whether the administration manipulated the facts. Neither side wants to talk about the context in which Bush won a blank check from Congress to invade Iraq. He doesn't want us to remember that he injected the war debate into the 2002 midterm election campaign for partisan purposes, and he doesn't want to acknowledge that he used the post-Sept. 11 mood to do all he could to intimidate Democrats from raising questions more of them should have raised.”
Washington Post reporter Dana Priest is casting herself as some kind of detached third party, as expressed in Howard Kurtz's column on Monday about her Nov. 2 story exposing a secret CIA prisoner detention program:
Says Priest: "My overall goal is to describe how the government is
fighting the war on terror, and that gets you right to the CIA. This is
a tactic. People can read it and decide whether that's good or bad."
Priest is a citizen of the United States, not a neutral observer from the planet Zorac. She has taken sides in a policy dispute, having decided either that this classified program isn't generating valuable intelligence or that protecting our country from terrorist attack is less important than human rights violations that may be attached to it. There might be something admirable about her actions if she owned up to them.