Here’s a textbook definition of bias by story placement in a newspaper. On Christmas Eve, the Washington Post placed the release of the Obama’s transition team’s report on contacts with Gov. Rod Blagojevich on page A3 – headlined "Obama Report Clears Dealings with Blagojevich." Centered right underneath the headline in this four-column story was a gray two-column box with a sidebar headlined in capitals "OBAMA ATTENDS SERVICE FOR GRANDMOTHER." But on Christmas Day, this Obama story was on Page One of the Post: "As Duties Weigh Obama Down, His Faith in Fitness Only Increases."
The December 25 front-pager, written by Obama-friendly Post reporter Eli Saslow, began by showing how devoted the new president will be to the people’s business:
Being elected president forces a man to take inventory of his life, so Barack Obama has trimmed his schedule to the bare essentials. He’s not in the White House yet, but gone are the hours he once spent reading novels, watching television, and obsessing over the daily transactions of Chicago’s sports teams. He eat out only once every few weeks. He visits friends rarely, if at all.
If you thought Chris Matthews gets a thrill up his leg when he thinks about Barack Obama, you ain't seen nuttin' yet, for on Christmas Eve, CNN's Bill Schneider practically aired a love letter for the president-elect.
Even worse, after gushing ad nauseum about how Obama is "really sweeping people off their feet" -- with statistics to back up his sick-making adoration, of course! -- Schneider concluded his report by disgracefully stating "the country has just gone through a failed marriage with the current president."
I kid you not.
For those that can stand it, a partial transcript and embedded video follow (h/t NBer talkradio03):
The Tuesday morning shows of NBC, ABC, and CBS all promoted Barack Obama’s celebrity status as hosts and reporters ogled the latest paparazzi photo of Obama in swim trunks while on vacation in Hawaii, as NBC’s Matt Lauer declared on Today: "And fit to serve, Barack Obama photographed shirtless in Hawaii and a lot of women are giving him the presidential seal of approval."
On ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host Diane Sawyer outlined Obama’s workout routine: "...these photos of the first abs, which we've all been analyzing this morning. I just want to reminder you, to get those abs, he does standing triceps push-downs, shoulder presses, sit-ups with a high platform, one set of triceps, and calf raises." Fellow co-host Chris Cuomo added: "The most important thing that he does to be fit, is his diet. He's very careful about his diet. He's in good shape, certainly for a man his age. But I think it's how he eats."
On the CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith proclaimed: "Obama in Oahu. Why he’s getting a lot of attention." Smith later referenced a newspaper cover with the shirtless picture of Obama: "This picture is in a lot of papers around the country...‘Fit For Office.’" Meanwhile, fill-in co-host Debbye Turner Bell held up the paper declaring: "Take a look at this. I'll be happy to pick this up!"
Rev. Jeremiah Wright was a voice crying in the wilderness that the mainstream media and middle class America weren't quite ready for and megachurch pastor Rick Warren is an ignorant evangelical rube who isn't totally without hope, given his awareness of AIDS and other favored liberal causes.
At the end of Monday’s ABC Good Morning America, co-host Chris Cuomo talked to Newsweek editor Jon Meacham about the magazine’s ‘Elite 50' list of influential people, as Cuomo put it: "People who will literally be able to shape our lives in many different ways." Meacham explained: "Our goal with this was, you know, elite got a bad rap this year. It wasn't a good thing to be an elitist. But there's a difference between elitism and excellence...we wanted people who really had fought their way up through a lot of obstacles in life, chiefly, the President-elect of the United States, and were able to exert that kind of command and control." Apparently, Obama staying at a $30 million Hawaiian resort for Christmas is a sign of his excellence.
Cuomo followed up by observing: "It's interesting because the aspects, the dynamics you're trying to capture here in the list, you have politics, economics, and then kind of other, other significant situations. Number one on the list, President-elect, soon to be President Barack Obama, incorporates all three of those." To that, Meacham replied: "With Obama there's been a kind of resurgence of American credibility. At least the world after several years of kicking us around a good bit, they're giving us a chance, I think, to reassert our leadership." [audio excerpt here]
At the top of Monday’s ABC Good Morning America, co-host Chris Cuomo teased a story on Barack Obama’s Christmas vacation plans: "And Aloha, President-elect Barack Obama says Mele Kalikimaka on a bright Hawaiian holiday. We'll take to you to the $30 million retreat where the future first family is spending Christmas." Later, fill-in co-host Elizabeth Vargas introduced the segment: "Barack Obama and his family arrived in Hawaii over the weekend to a multi-million dollar ocean-front home, where they will spend Christmas." At no point in the story did anyone contrast Obama’s lavish getaway with the tough economic times. In fact, Cuomo seemed to dismiss any such criticism at the end of the segment: "I can already hear the rumblings, ‘who paid for the house? Who paid for the house?’"
The report on the Obama vacation, by correspondent Yunji de Nies, seemed more like an episode of ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ than a news story: "The Obamas are waking up to this, Kailua Beach, with 2 ½ miles of pure white sand. At the end sits the family's vacation paradise...The Obama's, along with close friends, rented three houses, worth more than $30 million. Each, a spaces 5,000 feet, with waterfalls and a lagoon pool that flows throughout." de Nies talked to the owner of the resort, David Zimel, who remarked: "It's a home fit for a king. It's a place where royalty actually gathered. So it's -- I think it's pretty fitting that we'd have our next president spend some time here and try to relax."
Don't get me wrong. I love Christmastime. But in many other respects it can be the most dreaded time of the year for us media watchers. It is, after all, the time when liberal journalists decide to assign their year-ending accolades on everything from movies and music to politicians.
It's doubly dreadful when we're talking about Time magazine's Joe "Anonymous" Klein.
In a December 17 piece doling out his "Teddy awards" -- as in the first President Roosevelt, not the lingerie -- Klein began by cooing sweet nothings over Obama's political courage before giving muted praised for McCain. When all was said and done, Klein even praised Condi Rice, but even that was in service of his left-wing affinity for negotiating with dictators. [for our archive of Klein bias, click here]
While Klein largely disdained the McCain campaign's post-Palin message, he cheered the Arizona Republican for keeping Rev. Jeremiah Wright off-limits:
Newsweek’s latest issue celebrates the most influential people in the world, the "Global Elite," and Jonathan Alter was happy to oblige with another testimonial for the Clintons, and how "the most powerful couple in politics may find the times suited to their skills." Bill and Hillary are so globally popular, they can remake America’s image in the world while President Obama fixes the home front:
Preoccupied with economic woes at home, Obama simply won't have time to spend a big chunk of his first year in office on the road. In many ways the crucial restoration of America's prestige in the world will fall instead to the Clintons. The couple are already so popular abroad that when they land at a foreign airport, they can hit the tarmac running on all the bilateral and multilateral issues they know so well.
Alter has already predicted that Hillary will make no trouble in Team Obama turf battles (perhaps the media elite is signaling they fully expect her to play nice, since Obama didn’t have to offer this plum job):
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz found a story in USA Today that qualified for the "Obama Adulation Watch." Reporter Maria Puente oozed over incoming First Lady Michelle Obama on Friday as the black Jackie Kennedy, and insisted the Obamas undermined the conservative "caricature" of her "through widely viewed television interviews in which they demonstrated warmth, affection, humor -- and normality." It began:
You could call it "Obamalot."
That makes some sense. The incoming presidential couple, Barack and Michelle Obama, bear superficial similarities to John and Jacqueline Kennedy of the 1960s "Camelot" White House — charisma, vigor, her fondness for sheath dresses, for instance.
In an abbreviated edition of Sunday's NBC Nightly News (shorted by golf in the EST/CST), the network still found time to tout as newsworthy how Vice President-elect Joe Biden will chair a “White House Task Force on Working Families.” With “Focus on the Middle Class” on screen below a picture of Biden, anchor Lester Holt, referring to ABC's This Week, asserted Biden had “revealed” his function: “In an interview that aired today, the Vice President-elect, Joe Biden, revealed his role as the new administration's point man on the middle class.” (This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos summarized the interview on Sunday's World News, yet didn't mention the middle class angle.)
NBC reporter John Yang affirmed that “making good on a central theme of the campaign,” Biden “laid down a bold political yardstick for economic policy.” Viewers then heard a fairly pedestrian clip of Biden on ABC: “Is the middle class no longer being left behind? We'll look at everything from college affordability to after-school programs, the things that affect people's daily lives.” Yang then heralded, with “front and center” enlarged on screen from the press release: “Biden will head a cabinet-level task force making sure middle class and working families are 'front and center.'” How reassuring.
Some quick items from the Sunday interview shows and newspapers:
♦ On Meet the Press, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell, who last month hailed Obama's “all-star cabinet,” on Sunday trumpeted the cabinet's “meritocracy,” and how it's supposedly made up of “superstars,” as she gushed over “people with so much brain power and so much education.”
♦ Over on ABC's This Week, during the roundtable's look at Caroline Kennedy as a potential Senator from New York, Sam Donaldson opined that “my preference would be Andrew Cuomo,” the liberal Attorney General for the Empire State, because, in part, “I thought his father would make a very good President.” That would be the far-left Mario Cuomo.
♦ In her final column for the Washington Post, outgoing ombudsman Deborah Howell urged the paper to address its lack of political diversity. Since “too many Post staff members think alike,” she advised: “Make a serious effort to cover political and social conservatives and their issues; the paper tends to shy away from those stories, leaving conservatives feeling excluded and alienated from the paper.”
The top-left corner of the Saturday Washington Post carried the decidedly inaccurate headline "For Obama Cabinet, A Team of Moderates." Reporter Alec MacGillis asserted that Obama finished assembling "a team full of outsize personalities with overlapping jurisdictions and nominees who are known more for pragmatism than for strong leanings on the issues they will oversee." Hillary Clinton and Tom Daschle, no strong liberal leanings?
Naming Rep. Hilda Solis (lifetime American Conservative Union voting score: a tiny 2) to the Labor spot wasn’t moderate: "the daughter of a union family who has a strongly pro-labor voting record, came as a relief to some liberals who had grown slightly anxious about Obama's commitment to organized labor's agenda....But many of Obama's other picks reflect his apparent preference for practical-minded centrists who have straddled big policy debates rather than staking out the strongest pro-reform positions."
Liberals have "the strongest pro-reform positions." Can't a centrist be a reformer? The Post story stars former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner warning about all this pragmatism as a potential problem:
Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer reports that New England liberals in the Phoenix chain of "alternative" newspapers are launching a "Take Back Barack" campaign (complete with ahem, a white hand holding a little black Obama doll. Where’s the PC police?) Boston-based Maloney adds: "Considering how vehemently these publications supported the former Illinois senator, this represents an abrupt turn of events coming rather soon after November's election." Will the media notice liberal disaffection, or try to keep it quiet? One blog complained about the Rick Warren prayer minute at the Inauguration:
So Rick Warren's been chosen to give the invocation at Obama's inauguration. Anybody else super-excited to see a rabidly pro-life, anti-choice, anti-gay evangelical cleric blessing Obama and the nation? Fine, so he cares about poverty and children in Africa. You don't have to turn over too many steeples to uncover exciting, progressive clergymen and -women who feel the same way about those issues, and who recognize that legislating things like pregnancy and partnership are never good.
The blogger suggests (among many names linked) the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church of State. But wouldn’t he decline praying on the steps of the Capitol, just on principle? The irony would be too, too rich if he accepted.
On CBS’s Sunday Morning, correspondent Chip Reid compared Obama’s economic plan to that of Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal: "During the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt started the Works Progress Administration, the WPA. It would put 8.5 million to work...Now a new American president-elect is vowing to put the country back to work. This Sunday Morning, we'll take a look back at the WPA. And the lessons it may hold for him and for the nation." Reid later played a clip of Obama addressing the economic crisis and then observed: "In 1933, another new president faced a collapsing economy and rallied the nation with similar words...75 years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt began the New Deal."
In a segment that was a glowing tribute to FDR and the New Deal, Reid described Obama’s economic plan as a triumphant return of big government: "And now, President- elect Obama is talking about his own jobs program, that could cost half a trillion dollars. Economic analyst Jeff Madrick believes Mr. Obama is also sending a very clear message." Madrick observed: "Well, I think the government is back and we're all the better for it. In fact, the government's been away at least since Ronald Reagan." Reid touted Madrick’s latest book: "Madrick recently published 'The Case for Big Government.' He says today, as in the Depression, only government action can stop an economic dive to an unknown bottom." Reid did wonder: "So who's going to pay for big government?" Madrick replied: "I think down the road higher taxes, even on the middle class -- and I know this is anathema right now -- will be necessary to pay for the social programs we need."
On Friday's "Good Morning America," anchors and reporters fretted about there being no room in Washington D.C. for Barack Obama. It seems that the President-elect's children start school on January 5 and Blair House, the presidential guest quarters, will not be available until the 15th of that month. News anchor Chris Cuomo worriedly insisted, "I mean, you know, he has got enough on his mind. He is worried about getting his kids situated, which is testament to the Obamas as parents."
Co-host Robin Roberts sympathetically wondered of Obama, "You know, he can't check in early?" An ABC graphic hyperbolically asked, "President-Elect Housing Crisis?" During a tease for the David Wright segment, Roberts labeled the Obamas as like "so many folks" who are "scrambling to find a hotel room."
Barack Obama is finding out that his honeymoon with the mainstream media may be considerably shorter than he had expected. Inviting Pastor Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration hasn't endeared him to a core constituency and now Time Magazine has joined in the bash fest. Its Web site carries the piece, "The Problem for Gays with Rick Warren — and Obama." Authored by John Cloud, the article begins by citing Warren's criticisms of homosexuality and then clobbers Obama for his association with him:
Gays and lesbians are angry that Barack Obama has honored Warren, but they shouldn't be surprised. Obama has proven himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the non-pedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships. He did throughout his campaign, a campaign that featured appearances by Donnie McClurkin, a Christian entertainer who preaches that homosexuals can become heterosexuals.
While the media are fixated on the ire gay activists are directing at the president-elect for selecting Prop 8 proponent Rick Warren to give the invocation at the Obama inaugural, I've noticed little attention given to the fact that the man selected to give the benediction is pretty much the polar opposite of Warren on some key doctrinal matters related to homosexuality.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, a liberal United Methodist minister, has mostly been referred to in the media in connection to his work in co-founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of the key organizations in the civil rights movement. Yet freezing Lowery in time as an icon of the 1960s civil rights era doesn't do justice to his status as a vocal clerical advocate of same-sex marriage and openly gay clergy.
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:
On Sunday’s Face the Nation on CBS, host Bob Schieffer concluded the broadcast by sharing a recent political cartoon: "...a cartoon from the Houston Chronicle caught the flavor, a man standing in front of a burning building labeled the ‘Economy’ is shouting into a phone, ‘My house is on fire. How soon can you get here?’ A fireman who looks like Barack Obama answers, ‘January 20th.’" Schieffer went on to explain:
...this is an observation on how ineffectual both Congress and the administration have become. Years of political spin, rosy reports that never seemed to match the pictures on television -- remember 'Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job' -- and endless partisan turf wars have left the country cynical and suspicious of everything Washington says and does, so Washington is unable to generate the political will to do anything. Government's credibility has sunk so low that the pronouncements, no matter how dire, from the lame duck president, and the even more unpopular Congress, go unheeded if not unheard.
Schieffer concluded: "Yes, there's a new fire chief coming January 20th, but his first assignment is not to put out the economic fire. First, he must restore the government's credibility."
Barack Obama doesn't mind a fight with gay activists over selecting Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration because the President-elect is bound and determined to govern as a centrist.
President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration has ignited a firestorm of criticism from the gay-rights community, where Warren is considered something of a sworn enemy.
Yet Obama’s response to a question about his selection of Warren seems to confirm one perception: that this is a fight that the president-elect isn’t necessarily sorry to be having.
"The way they wrote this story... it's an embarrassment. If you go to the Obama for President site, you won't see the kind of language that Time magazine put in a news story," Media Research Center president Brent Bozell told viewers of the December 17 "Hannity & Colmes." [audio available here]
Look at this quote. I mean, [Democratic strategist] Kirsten [Powers] says that they're flowery. Get this: "We are all accustomed to that Obi-wan Kenobi calm, though we may never entirely understand it." What they hell are they talking about?!
Picking up on a Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) report on how several Hollywood actors and actresses have ponied up $50,000 each for VIP access to Barack Obama's inaugural events, CNN reporter Samantha Hayes marveled: “It's a measure of the excitement around Obama, that the stars are themselves star struck.” She highlighted, in a story run on Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360, that “the Hollywood 'A' list is snapping up top-dollar tickets,” naming Halle Berry, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jamie Foxx, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson as amongst those who have donated the maximum $50,000 to the inaugural committee.
Hayes, however, stressed how “the Obama inauguration has dramatically cut the ability of the rich and famous to get insider access,” quoting how “Linda Douglass, the top spokesperson for the inauguration committee” (and a former ABC News reporter), told CNN they have “a $50,000 limit on individual donations, far below some limits in the past.” Offering corroboration, Hayes recalled how “the Bush inaugural committee took donations of up to a quarter million dollars.” But Hayes failed to note that, as the CRP report determined, most give the highest allowed and few are small givers: “72 percent of the donors who have contributed to the inauguration have given the maximum $50,000 donation. Only 12 percent of the donors have given less than $25,000.”
ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday night hailed President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet, pointing to how his national security team is made up of “coalition builders,” including Hillary Clinton, before praising Obama for how “he has also kept his promise of reaching out beyond Washington for change with younger reformers like Shaun Donovan at HUD, Arne Duncan at Education and Lisa Jackson at the EPA.” (All could just as well be described as big city Democratic political hacks.) Thus, ABC's chief Washington correspondent decided:
He’s managed to get this diversity and competence without engaging in any tokenism.
But then Stephanopoulos recited Obama's political tokenism, pointing out how he “picked people in the cabinet with an eye towards fast-growing voter groups” as two cabinet nominations went to Hispanics and two to Asians and three choices were purely about electoral politics, not competence: “The Southwest has been a real prime target area, and look what the President-elect has done. He’s picked Governor Napolitano of Arizona, Governor Richardson of New Mexico, Senator Salazar of Colorado, trying to lock in gains in those three key states.”
"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism," the Left was found of reminding us again and again during the Bush administration, particularly after the commencement of hostilities in Iraq. So now that Barack Obama is assuming office on January 20, surely patriotic liberal newspapers like the Washington Post will publish paid classified advertisements by conservatives that are critical of the soon-to-be-inaugurated President Obama, right?
Eh, not so much, reports FishbowlDC, noting that the fine print for the Washington Post's inaugural congratulations classifieds holds that "all ads must be congratulatory in nature" and that the Post "reserves the right to reject any notice."
The notices will appear in the January 20 dead tree edition as well as "online until President's Day."
The first of just three questions asked of Barack Obama at his December 17 press conference [audio available here]:
CYNTHIA BOWERS, CBS News Chicago correspondent: I have a question. You ran on a platform of transparency. How difficult is all this having to wait to release your inquiry business when the American people expect transparency?
Yes, you read that correctly. Bowers prompts Obama for an answer wherein he can lament having to wait to answer questions about the nature of his interaction with indicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.).
Perhaps the lap dog media are cowering in the corner after Obama yesterday swatted Chicago Tribune's John McCormick on the proverbial nose for his Blagojevich question. Bowers has covered Chicago for CBS News since 1999 and hence seen the president-elect rise from relative obscurity to the highest office in the land.
Time magazine's Jay Carney, who said over the summer that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is "incredibly prone to say the wrong thing," will soon be in charge of ensuring that doesn't happen again.
In July, before Barack Obama picked the senator from Delaware as his running mate, Carney said on MSNBC that "Biden may be the answer" because of his foreign policy credentials. The "downside," Carney said, is that Biden has said the wrong thing "throughout his career. . . . He's smart, but he speaks -- shoots from the hip and sometimes says just wrong thing at the wrong time."
President-elect Barack Obama said Monday a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides did nothing inappropriate.
Obama pledged to make the review public, but said he decided to hold off because prosecutors asked for a delay and "I don't want to interfere with an ongoing investigation." U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald released a statement confirming the request.
By contrast, back in October when Gov. Sarah Palin (R) released her own report denying impropriety in her firing of Alaska's public safety commissioner, the AP noted that "Palin Pre-Empts State Report, Clears Self in Probe." As e-mail tipster Matt Healy observed in his e-mail:
Time's Washington bureau chief Jay Carney is quitting his magazine post to take the fearsome task of managing the communications problems of incoming vice president Joe Biden.
This hardly comes as a surprise. During his tenure at Time, Carney accrued a reputation for bashing Republicans. In March, he urged President Bush to give a speech on the economy and say that he is "a Republican who actually cares about people that are suffering."
In a November 2007 blog post, Carney slammed the Bush administration for "los[ing] touch with reality" for insisting that the situation in Iraq was improving, despite many indicators that the surge strategy was working.
Less than a week after a new report from the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee showcased hundreds of scientists who disagree with the United Nations' alarmist take on global climate change, ABC’s World News Sunday featured a report devoted solely to cheering Barack Obama’s new “green team” — the promotional term was embraced by ABC News — and laying the groundwork for radical action on global warming after what ABC termed “censorship” and “stonewalling” by the Bush administration.
The story by ABC’s Bill Blakemore offered a manipulative presentation, asserting that “wildfires, droughts and downpours [are] increasing exactly as predicted for global warming” — but not mentioning that global temperatures are actually lower now than in 1998 — and scolding how the Bush White House allowed “political assistants in their 20s to rewrite the conclusions of leading climate scientists” — as if the liberal political opinions of scientists could not be second-guessed.