On Wednesday, the Washington Post endorsed James Webb’s “independent-minded challenge” running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate against Sen. George Allen. If ever an endorsement has seemed less necessary to identify a newspaper’s position on a federal election, I’m not sure what it is. To match the endorsement, Wednesday’s Post had a classic Webb-fanzine story on the front of the Metro section.
The Metro section article was titled “Webb Is Reluctant To Advertise Duty: Veteran Blasts Allen’s Public Comments.” In a typical display of utter shamelessness, Michael Shear and Tim Craig reported “Webb said it is improper to use military service in an overtly political way.” Webb’s quote: “I don’t think it’s right to use someone’s service directly for a political reason.” This article should have been laughed away from the Metro desk. Webb’s biography as a Vietnam veteran and eight-month Navy Secretary under Reagan has been his constant, everyday calling card in this race. The man with the motto "Born Fighting" on every bumper sticker and yard sign? Need we remind the Washington Post of the Webb campaign's first TV ad? It went like this:
GREENSBORO, N.C., Oct. 18 -- President Bush said Wednesday that the current surge of violence in Iraq "could be" comparable to the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, a succession of battles that became a milestone because it helped turn the American public against the conflict and its political leadership.
What the WaPo won't come right out and say is that it wasn't the Tet Offensive itself that had such a devastating effect upon civilian morale, it was the abjectly incompetent reporting of the event by American journalists.
Is Iraq a terrific issue for anti-war liberal Democrats? Which way is it?
A) "With three weeks until Election Day, Republican candidates are barely mentioning Iraq on the campaign trail and in their television advertisements....It is the Democrats who have seized on Iraq as a central issue. In debates and in speeches, candidates are pummeling Republicans with accusations of a failed war." -- Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times, October 19.
B) "After months of fighting over Iraq, the candidates for Senate barely mentioned the war in their first general-election debate here on Monday, instead arguing over Social Security, health care and the national deficit." -- Jennifer Medina on the Connecticut Senate debate, October 17.
The Washington Post noticed today that Rep. Steny Hoyer made a racial boo-boo on Sunday, that black Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele has "a career of slavishly supporting the Republican Party." In 2002, Hoyer denounced Steele as a "token." Did the Post paste it at the top of the front page? No, it’s on B-2. It’s a lot different than the long-running, transparently partisan "Macaca" campaign waged by Michael Shear, Tim Craig and the rest of the Post against Sen. George Allen. (Today’s Nexis count: 92 Post articles, news and editorial, with the word "Macaca." Four of them were news accounts on the front page.)
Ann Marimow’s story couldn’t match the Shear & Craig treatment. Where they dropped "Macaca" in every story they could work it in, Marimow did not remind the Post reader that Steele’s Democratic Senate opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin, fired a junior staffer for blogging about being a "sex object" for Cardin's Jewish friends and alleged that the attempted discipline of a black campaign staffer failed because "he plays the racism card, the magic passport to a different chain of command." (The Post reported the firing on September 15, and Marimow mentioned it vaguely on October 4. That’s about 92 to 2.)
On Oct. 11, the Washington Post's David Brown filed Study Claims Iraq's 'Excess' Death Toll Has Reached 655,000, reporting this year's Lancet pre-election broadside against the war. While Brown noted the earlier study claiming 100,000 deaths was "controversial" and said this one would be too, he failed to cite a single critic attacking it. He did quote outside experts who support the study, and of course one of its co-authors, Gilbert Burnham. Since then the paper's only mention of the study has been in passing, again without any mention of its critics.
This blinkered view of the world was exposed today in a live chat with Post congressional reporter Jonathan Weisman:
Don't they realize they are going to lose bigtime? Then why are they so optimistic? This was the theme of a Washington Post article by staff writer Michael Abramowitz titled, "White House Upbeat About GOP Prospects." The tone of the article reminds one of a great scene from the movie Cinderella Man in which boxer Art Lasky was completely befuddled by the fact that his underrated opponent, James J. Braddock, not only remained standing after a severe beating in the ring but actually looked confident of ultimate victory. An equally befuddled Abramowitz writes:
In keeping the the liberal mantra that the Republican leadership is the most "secretive" ever, the Post seemed worried that the House rules change is somehow a danger to American democracy because the persons chosen by Speaker Hastert to succeed him has not been made public knowledge.
The Post's story over this rules change is filled with foreboding, doubt and dread over a possibility that is remote at best as well as a list that is simply perfunctory.
In Monday's daily political chat at the Washington Post website, reporter Shailagh Murray was defending her Saturday front-pager on hot-looking Democrats. She claimed that it was not biased to say Democrats were better looking this year. The bias was "in the facts," she claimed:
Alexandria, Va.: On the good-looking thing: to do a story like that -- ooh, look at the Democratic hotties! -- in mid-October looks a bit like electioneering (leering electioneering?). When you have a good-looking Republican, the media treat them as automatically devoid of depth. That's why this article came across as tilted.
Shailagh Murray: This year, Republicans are incumbents and Democrats are challengers. That's why I focused on Democrats. Because they're the ones pushing the boulder up the mountain. As I pointed out, Republicans did something similar in 1994, when a lot of their candidates were younger and more fresh faced, less like traditional politicians. I realize that some people see bias in everything we all write, but sometimes the bias is in the facts.
It could have been Speaker Dennis Hastert's team skills or dexterity or experience or ingenuity that is being tested, but no, it's his "mentality."
It takes until the second paragraph for the authors, Michael Grunwald and Jim VandeHei, to make the relevant point that Mr. Hastert is "the beefy former wrestling coach - who's a bit bearlike himself." Just in case that's too subtle, we're later advised: "He looks like a cross between actor Wilford Brimley and Jabba the Hutt, and his unassuming Midwestern public demeanor makes for dull television."
Obituaries aren't the best articles for piling on negatively on the recently deceased, although as Amy Ridenour pointed out, the Washington Post tried that approach with former conservative Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage earlier this month. Compare that to the WashPost obituary for former liberal Rep. Gerry Studds published on Sunday, headlined "Gay Pioneer in Congress."
Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb lauded his work for noble causes: "Gerry E. Studds, the first openly gay person elected to Congress and a longtime proponent of environmental protection, New England fishermen and human rights, died Oct. 14" in Boston, reporting the health details from "Dean Hara, who married Mr. Studds in 2004 shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts." She touted his work on the environment, "gay rights," and "peace."
In his Monday "Media Notes" column in the Style section of the Washington Post, media reporter Howard Kurtz highlights the success of anti-war/anti-Bush books by liberal reporters -- with those Kos-cuddling titles from "Fiasco" to "Hubris" to "State of Denial" -- but he doesn't use any of those ideological labels. He doesn't even use the L-word for the media outlets that have generated "enormous news coverage" for the liberal books, or the hard-left activists that think that every anti-Bush morsel that gets delayed for a book is a betrayal of the country:
With striking swiftness, a series of books about the Iraq war has exposed deep flaws in its planning and execution, made the Bush administration appear dysfunctional at times and generated enormous news coverage. All are by journalists with access to daily or weekly outlets...
Saturday's Washington Post includes the article "Democratic Faces That Could Launch Thousands of Votes." Authored by staff writer Shailagh Murray, the story states: "By a combination of luck and design, Democrats seem to be fielding an uncommonly high number of uncommonly good-looking candidates.
"The beauty gap between the parties, some on Capitol Hill muse, could even be a factor in who controls Congress after Election Day.
"Democratic operatives do not publicly say that they went out of their way this year to recruit candidates with a high hotness quotient. Privately, however, they acknowledge that, as they focused on finding the most dynamic politicians to challenge vulnerable Republicans, it did not escape their notice that some of the most attractive prospects were indeed often quite attractive."
Now it's not my desire to be mean. And certainly I'm not known for my own good looks.
But it seems to me that a party boasting such attractive folks as Barbara Mikulski, Rosa DeLauro, Janet Reno, Madeleine Albright, Michael Moore and John Kerry hasn't practiced "the politics of beauty" all that much.
In Thursday's daily morning political chat at washingtonpost.com, Post National Political Editor and author John F. Harris professed "astonishment" that anyone would drag the Clinton adminstration's diplomatic legacy into the debate over North Korea. When pressed that obviously, the Clintons' designs on recapturing the White House add modern relevance, Harris still pooh-poohed that "these arguments about things that happened a decade ago can be a distraction to more vital contemporary debates." For those who might not know, Harris has been at times a very receptive water-carrier for Team Clinton. See an old article on that tendency here. Or here.
It's not something you often see talked about but there's basically an unwritten assumption in national political circles that if you're a political liberal and you're also a reporter, you should be willing to be a "team player" and not admit that you even are one.
This point is important, you see, because conservatives are liars bent on "hurting America" (to use Jon Stewart's phrase), so anything that gives them comfort is something you should never do.
That attitude was very much on display in an online chat today with former Washington Post reporter Thomas Edsall. If you recall, Edsall was the one who caused a stir by admitting (to conservative talker Hugh Hewitt) the blatantly obvious fact that liberals dominate the national elite media. Everyone who has any sort of contact with the New York and DC press corps knows this. People who work for Democrats tell me it all the time.
But in the mind of some liberals, most of them journalists, this is something that should never be publicly talked about for fear that if "the little people" get wind of this fact, we won't believe the proposition that journalists are demigods who can invariably see past their personal and group biases. And if we don't believe that line from them, perhaps we'll begin to question the received wisdom we get from them on a daily basis. Maybe then, we might start realizing that what you believe is primarily shaped by the information you take in.
Dante Chinni writes in the Christian Science Monitor that Watergate hero Bob Woodward has an uncanny ability to produce quotes for whatever his line of narrative is at the moment.
As this Michael Ramirez cartoon demonstrates, even the most innocuous statement can be modified for a preestablished narrative.
It's exciting to feel as though you're a fly on the wall when, on July 10, 2001, then-CIA Director George Tenet tells then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that there is a "compelling case" to be made that Al Qaeda is preparing for "the big one." And as a reader of "State of Denial," Woodward's latest book on the Bush administration, there's frustration when you learn Mr. Tenet felt that he was "not getting through to Rice" and she was giving him "the brush off."
But then you wonder: Why didn't I hear this before now? It's 2006. Why hasn't more been made of the fact that Ms. Rice, now secretary of State, brushed off the CIA director's warning only two months before the terrorist attacks of Sept 11, 2001? Those are good questions and they go to the heart of not only problems with "State of Denial," but the shortcomings inherent in the way Woodward puts his books together and the style of journalism he champions.
Tuesday's Washington Post carries one of those editorials disguised as a "news analysis" headlined "Bush's 'Axis of Evil' Comes Back to Haunt United States." The writers displayed their liberal stripes by quoting only Democrats and Clinton staffers. Reporters Glenn Kessler and Peter Baker began:
Nearly five years after President Bush introduced the concept of an "axis of evil" comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the administration has reached a crisis point with each nation: North Korea has claimed it conducted its first nuclear test, Iran refuses to halt its uranium-enrichment program, and Iraq appears to be tipping into a civil war 3 1/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion.
David Broder and Dan Balz wrote a rather lengthy, front-page story for the Washington Post this morning with the cautionary headline “Poll Shows Strong Shift Of Support to Democrats.” However, Broder and Balz chose not to share some key information from this poll with their readers, the most important of which being the political breakdown of those questioned. In fact, the meager percentage of Republican respondents to this survey should have led the Post to headline this article "Poll Shows Strong Shift Of Questions to Democrats!"
The article began: “Democrats have regained a commanding position going into the final weeks of the midterm-election campaigns, with support eroding for Republicans on Iraq, ethics and presidential leadership, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.”
Yet, nowhere did the authors let their readers know that 41 percent more Democrats were questioned for this survey than Republicans. That’s right. The breakdown was:
Everybody's got an opinion about what should've been done, and what needs to be done, about North Korea's nuclear weapons tests - especially, newspapers. An article by Susan Jones of CNSNews.com recaps how papers are blaming Bush and China, and providing foreign affairs advice about how to defuse the situation.
In Tuesday's Washington Post, Peter Marks praises "Get Your War On," a left-wing comedy performance at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Unsurprisingly, the critic from the liberal paper finds invective is a lovely thing, if applied to conservatives:
The show bills itself as 'Hardball.' But in surrounding himself with regulars who are either certified liberals or renegade Republicans, doesn't Chris Matthews prove himself to be a softy, unwilling or unable to take the high heat from true-blue Republican flamethrowers?
Let me say something that might surprise some NewsBusters readers and dismay others. I like Matthews. Not that conservatives are the arbiters of patriotism, but I do consider Chris someone who loves his country and, as misguided as he may be on various policy issues - has its best interests at heart. He's no Keith Olbermann.
That said, although he professes not to be a partisan and will speak to Democrats about "your" - not "our" - party, there can be little doubt that his rooting interest hasn't changed much since the days he was a top aide to Tip.
Shailagh Murray's front-page story in the Washington Post today is called "A Balancing Act in the Upper South." A better title might have been "I'm NARAL-Endorsed, But I'm Hoping You Don't Notice." It's funny how Murray can't seem to locate that endorsement, and she doesn't call McCaskill a pro-abortion liberal, but she is merely in the "mainstream" -- of the liberal Democratic Party:
As a supporter of abortion rights, McCaskill fits into her party's mainstream on the biggest of all lightning rods for cultural conservatives.She responds by mostly not talking about it, and is attempting to define her values more broadly.
It takes a lot of effort to miss 810,000 new jobs. The Labor Department managed it, but at least they corrected the problem. The networks have over-reported job losses and now this huge piece of good news got lost in the shuffle.
The October 8 Washington Post highlighted the incredible revision. “Unemployment is down to 4.6 percent, the lowest in five years, the Labor Department reported, adding with some embarrassment that it had suddenly discovered an estimated 810,000 net new jobs that it had somehow overlooked in the year ended in March,” wrote Steven Pearlstein.
In all the many media interviews with Bob Woodward about his book, State of Denial, they were almost exclusively focused on the supposed mistakes of the Bush administration. The pundits almost unanimously concluded that Woodward's book would therefore be harmful to the Republicans going into this November's elections. However, overlooked by them is a section of the Woodward book that is now causing a firestorm in the Leftwing blogosphere against perhaps the most important Democrat political operative of them all, James Carville. M.J. Rosenberg in "The Coffeehouse" blog asks, "Did Carville Tip Bush Off to Kerry Strategy (Woodward)"?
For Virginia voters who may want a story or two about where their Senate candidates stand on the issues, they may want to try a newspaper other than The Washington Post. Once again today, aggressively Allen-bashing reporter Michael Shear is skipping the issues and sticking to personal attacks. At the top of Metro, Shear once again tried to undermine Allen for wearing cowboy boots and riding a horse in parades. Byron York already made the case very effectively at The Corner, so here he is:
Shear reports that "Allen's detractors" make fun of his fondness for all things cowboy. "To them, it screams phony," Shear writes. Shear quotes one such detractor who says, "With all due respect, I know cowboys. I grew up with cowboys. I have nephews who bull ride. I'm sorry, George, you're not a cowboy."
In State of Denial, Bob Woodward claims Marine Gen. James L. Jones, the U.S. commander for Europe, said that the Iraq war is a "debacle" and that "the Joint Chiefs have been systematically emasculated by Rumsfeld."
Two reporters from two publications followed up on the story. They couldn't have reached more diametrically opposed conclusions as to whether Woodward quoted Jones accurately. How's this for dueling headlines?
The Washington Post has gotten around to noticing the popularity of baseless conspiracy theories about gas prices.
After all, a recent USA Today poll found 42 percent of respondents believe gas prices are being deliberately rigged for the GOP's political advantage.
But even as he sought to dismiss the theories' plausibility, reporter Steven Mufson relied on liberal activist Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen to argue a kernel of truth to the notion that politics plays a role in oil and gas prices.
"I don't think the influence is as explicit as some people out there are alleging. But all markets are susceptible to politics, and oil is no exception," Slocum told the Post.
John F. Harris explores the role of the "new media" in politics in a Friday front-page story related to his new book "How to Win." Bill Clinton told Harris that they expect the (liberal) old media to crush the new media, as Kerry expected the old media to defeat the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:
Democrats of his generation tend to be naive about new media realities. There is an expectation among Democrats that establishment old media organizations are de facto allies -- and will rebut political accusations and serve as referees on new-media excesses.
"We're all that way, and I think a part of it is we grew up in the '60s and the press led us against the war and the press led us on civil rights and the press led us on Watergate," Clinton said. "Those of us of a certain age grew up with this almost unrealistic set of expectations."
After all, it is remarkable that the Post would run any story comparing the disparate treatment Democrats have received at the hands of the press and their constituencies as a result of sex-related scandalous behavior compared to their Republican counterparts.
But upon further review, as surprising as Farhi's effort is, when you group all of the people identified in Farhi's article into categories by party and how they were treated, you realize that Farhi glossed over important elements relating to Democrats who were (eventually) punished, and you note at least two very, very glaring omissions.
The Washington Post, an altogether shameless publication on many levels, is running this inexcusable excuse for an obituary by Patricia Sullivan for the late Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, a great defender of freedom who died in a car accident Monday. The obituary, which maintains the Post's tradition of including factual errors, is, in a word, bitchy. (Go read it, if you question my use of that particular word.)
Helen Chenoweth-Hage was a very gracious and kind lady who believed strongly in liberty and fought for it in Congress and out. Although the undeservedly smug mainstream press unfairly parodied her beliefs during her six years on Capitol Hill (95-00 -- unfortunately, before the advent of blogs that could help balance the reporting), she was undeterred.