Last Thursday, Barack Obama's nominee for Attorney General, Eric Holder, admitted during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing that he supported renewing the part of the Patriot Act that allows for the FBI to seek records from businesses, libraries and bookstores as the policing agency investigates suspects in this country. For years we've seen news agencies and opinionists rail against the expanded power of the FBI to search such records. But, now with Obama's AG announcing in his confirmation hearing that he agrees that the FBI should have this power, all anti-Bush administration voices are silent on the matter that had them so exercised for 6 years.
Since 2002 the debate has raged about the efficacy and Constitutionality of the Patriot Act with the power of the FBI to search bookstore and library records coming in for special condemnation. Even as the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld the law, right to privacy groups, the media and anti-Bushies have pointed to this particular policy and cried Orwell or worse.
“I'm so happy my children havea real hero to look up to” in “a truly scholarly man” who will make an “intelligent, constitutionally brilliant President” at a time when “people are so ready to rejoice and celebrate what is hopefully the return of the foundation of the United States” so “my eyes well up just thinking about” Barack Obama being sworn in since “I'm calm for the first time in eight years,” knowing “somebody is in charge that has such intelligence and grace and is so thoughtful.”
That's some of the giddy excitement expressed by a few of the many celebrities swarming to Washington, DC this weekend for Obama's inauguration which were collected by USA Today for articles in Thursday's and Friday's “Life” section:
Actress Gloria Reuben (IMDb page), now in TNT's Raising the Bar and formerly on NBC's ER, will be on hand Tuesday “to watch the magic moment happen” since she yearns for an end to the “hell” of the Bush years. (Screen capture is from Reuben on ABC's This Week in 2006 when she was promoting a play in which she played Condoleezza Rice):
It's a once-in-a-lifetime situation. The last eight years have been such hell. We're all so excited about the hope of things to come. I really think that's part of it. People are so ready to rejoice and celebrate what is hopefully the return of the foundation of the United States.
Friday's CBS Evening News delivered a parting shot at outgoing President George W. Bush as fill-in anchor Maggie Rodriguez paired how a just-released CBS News/New York Times survey pegged Bush's approval rating “at just 22 percent” -- which she noted “is the lowest for an outgoing President since the question was first asked more than 70 years ago” -- with how “68 percent said they expect Barack Obama to be a good or very good President.”
Views of Mr. Bush's popularity are highly partisan. Only 6 percent of Democrats approve of the job he has done as president, while 57 percent of Republicans approve. Eighteen percent of independents approve.
The short item from Rodriguez on the Friday, January 16 CBS Evening News:
At a time when the United States is fighting two wars and faces a severe recession and huge budget deficits, the inauguration of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president is estimated to cost $45 million. Bush's 2004 inauguration cost roughly $40 million. But though the figures are similar, there's been a major shift in the tone of coverage at the New York Times.
While the Times spent much of January 2005 making clear its disapproval of Bush extravagantly celebrating his inauguration during wartime, that concerned tone is conspicuously absent from the Times in January 2009, although the country is not only still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in danger of a deep recession. The difference? Perhaps because this time, it's the Times's favored candidate who is readying to assume the highest office.
A January 11, 2005 editorial on Bush's second inauguration, "Victor's Spoils," sniffed:
At the rate President Bush's supporters are giving money, his second inauguration threatens to stand out in the history books like the common folks' muddy boot prints on the White House furniture at Andrew Jackson's gala. The $40 million record for inaugural partying set four years ago for Mr. Bush is expected to be shattered this month....Ordinary citizens might have hoped that the overriding issue in Washington -- the perilous Iraq war, with its drain on the nation's blood and treasure -- would dictate restraint. But plans for the four-day extravaganza roll forward with nine celebratory balls being underwritten by the usual corporate and fat-cat supplicants in the political power mill. There's nothing new in Washington's triumphalist celebrations, festooned with price tags for access, but war usually mutes the singing and dancing. Not this year.
"For the first time in a long time, it's cool to be an American."
No, that's not First Lady-in-waiting Michelle Obama, although it sounds a lot like her infamous comment from the 2008 Democratic primary campaign. It's American expatriate Kit Maloney, as quoted by London-based Washington Post foreign service staffer Mary Jordan at the end of her January 16 article, "Americans, Feeling the Love."
Sharing some credit with a total of nine additional Post contributors based in London and seven other foreign capitals, Jordan's 27-paragraph story relayed the stories of Americans sharing their tales of low-grade persecution by anti-Bush, anti-American Europeans.
Rather than question the incivility or poor etiquette of said snooty Europeans towards Americans working in their countries, Jordan painted Europeans and Americans living abroad as uniformly breathing a welcoming sigh of relief at Barack Obama's inauguration next Tuesday.
PHILLIPS: Well, if anything, I think this just exemplifies how Barack Obama is going to be out of the box on everything, whether it's who he decides to have speak at the inauguration or what covers he decides to go on the front of or who he puts into his administration. It is all going to be about going out of the box and making people talk and bringing everybody together, whether it's gender, race, whatever it is.
Thinking out of the box, that's Obama alright. Mr. Originality's stacked his administration with loads of Clinton administration retreads. In terms of magazine covers, it's doubtful that he decides which periodicals feature him. Did he pose as Superman for Ms.? Not likely. That would have been a step down for his messiahship.
Then there is Phillips's belief that Obama is "bringing everybody together, whether it's gender, race, whatever it is." That's patently unrealistic. The notion that any politician can bring everyone - regardless of life experiences, political views, values, opinions, and traditions - together is a liberal pipe dream. And a selective pipe dream at that. After years of bashing President Bush and other Republicans, it's expected that magically all Americans will suddenly, joyously unify as one big happy family under Obama.
Are you a latte liberal who can't make the pilgrimage to D.C. for the Obama inauguration? Or do you think that if you did, you'd in the January chill without your mid-day brew? Well, MSNBC is looking out for you!
The Obama leg-thrill network has teamed up with Starbucks Coffee to open more than 600 java joint locations in New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco.
Not into coffee? MSNBC also has movie theaters dedicated to the ceremony, although sitting next to Chris Matthews in a dark room watching Obama sounds a little sketchy to me.
A federal judge threw out a spurious lawsuit by serial atheist litigant Michael Newdow. Yet in reporting the story in its January 16 print edition, the Washington Post made it sound like a federal judge has ended the suspsense and permitted prayers to be offered at the inauguration, as though they were seriously in danger in the first place.
"Judge Clears the Way for Prayer at Swearing-In," declared the page B4 headline in the Inauguration Watch digest. Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber echoed the headline's language in his lede:
A federal judge yesterday cleared the way for government officials and ministers to pray and make references to God during the swearing-in.
Wilber explained that "U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton refused to grant an injunction in a lawsuit seeking to block such references." Nowhere in his 3-paragraph-long brief did Wilber mention Newdow by name, nor his history of frivolous litigation such as trying to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency.
"Sometimes, Brian, I think we live in a parallel universe, where the media see the world one way when it's a Democrat in power and another way when a Republican is in power," NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell told Fox News Channel's Brian Kilmeade. [audio of segment available here]
The Media Research Center president appeared on the January 16 "Fox & Friends" to discuss an astounding contrast that illustrates the media's liberal biases: the Associated Press scorned the roughly $40 million spent on the 2005 Bush inauguration but is assuring readers that it's okay to glam it up for the 2009 Obama inauguration.:
BRENT BOZELL: Look at these headlines. We found this, this is from AP. Four years ago on the eve of George Bush's second inauguration. This is the lede: "President Bush's second inauguration will cost tens of millions of dollars. Forty million alone in private donations for parties, balls, etc. Then it goes on to say, what else could that money buy..... Now, four years later, same AP news outlet. A story on Barack Obama. According to the Guardian newspaper, he could spend as much as $150 million. That would be three times more than George Bush spent. This is their [AP's] lede: "So you're attending an inaugural ball saluting the historic election of Barack Obama in the worst economic climate in three generations. Can you get away with glitzing it up and still be appropriate not to mention comfortable and finacially viable? To quote the man of the hour, 'Yes, you can.' Veteran ballgoers say you should, and fashionistas say you must."
The news media are giddy with excitement as Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day approaches — CNN’s Jim Acosta on Tuesday’s American Morning touted how "Obama has some big shoes to fill, roughly the size of the ones up on the Lincoln Memorial....Barack Obama’s inaugural address may be more than the speech of his lifetime. Historians and speechwriters say it could be one for the ages."
But it would be a mistake to think reporters are always so worshipful of new presidents. While most presidents do start with a media honeymoon, a review of the past 20 years finds reporters are more celebratory when Democrats are taking over the White House, while coverage of GOP inaugurals has included a fair number of anti-conservative stinkbombs:
Pssst. Eight hundred rooms in Washington, D.C. proper and a total of 15,000 rooms "in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and the District" remain unbooked for the Obama apotheosis inaugural. Pass it on.
"Actually, Hotel Space Remains Available," the Washington Post's Paul Schwartzman quietly reported on page B2 of the January 15 edition's "Inauguration Watch." Staffer Paul Schwartzman cited Washington's "official tourism office, Destination DC" as the source of the stat.
Last Friday, I noted how the Post reported that "Inaugural Renters [Are] Begging For Takers." That 29-paragraph story was given the front page treatment on the paper's January 9 Metro section:
Near the end of Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith unveiled the latest painting by artist Peter Max, a mural of 44 portraits of Barack Obama. Max has created numerous paintings for the Early Show set and Smith praised the artist’s latest work: "Okay, wow. That is really, really, really cool...Wow. Well, that is pretty impressive. I hope somebody in the President-elect's transition office is taking a look at this. That is really amazing. Wow."
Smith asked Max: "What is your feeling as an artist as we come up on to this inauguration time and time of change?" Max replied: "Unbelievable, unbelievable. You know that night when he was announced being president and the whole country cried, I was in that same place...I couldn't believe it." Max later remarked on how: "You know, galleries from all over the country have called. I mean, I don't -- wouldn't even know where to start...I just love doing him. Doesn't he -- he just looks great...Young, energetic, fantastic guy." Smith ended the segment by declaring: "Wow...Yeah. Has a good smile, too, right? There you go. Peter, thank you so much...Really, really like it."
Federal spending is already at a record level, but instead of asking President-elect Barack Obama about the effectiveness of his proposed additional deficit spending, in an “exclusive” interview excerpted Wednesday night, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric hit him on the tax cut component:
Forty percent of your stimulus package relies on tax cuts with the hopes that people will invest that money or put it back into the economy. But some critics have said, "hey, that didn't really happen the last time." Why will it this time?
Couric did at least raise how “your nominee for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, failed to pay some taxes, and did so only after he learned he would be tapped as Treasury Secretary. How embarrassing do you think this is for a future Treasury Secretary who will be overseeing the IRS?” Otherwise, the excerpt covered Couric's inquiries about Osama bin Laden and the situation in Gaza. A longer portion will air Tuesday night during a prime time special, “Change and Challenge: The Inauguration of Barack Obama.”
On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Thalia Assuras reported on a down-trodden family who had their spirits lifted by an invitation to the Obama Inauguration: "...struggling Americans like Telisha and Kenny Brown...Unable to pay their rent, they turned to an interfaith shelter for families, with their boys, Donovan, 12, and Dylan, 9. They had planned to celebrate the inauguration in their tiny apartment...But now the Browns will have a front-row view to history. Here in Washington, D.C."
Assuras went on to explain that: "They'll be part of a glittering fantasy world,thanks to a dream realized by Virginia millionaire, Earl Stafford...Months before the election, Earl had a spiritual inspiration to bring those less fortunate to the inauguration, no matter what the cost." In the report, Stafford exclaimed: "It was providential, I was inspired by the Lord to do this." Assuras described how: "Stafford bought a million dollar hotel package of rooms, food, and an inaugural ball, to accommodate homeless people, wounded veterans, the terminally ill, and others selected by social service organizations, at least 300 rubbing shoulders with dignitaries."
Near the end of the segment, Assuras asked 12-year-old Donovan Brown: "Is it special because it's Barack Obama?" The boy replied: "Yes." Assuras concluded her report by declaring: "For this family, January 20th offers something new...Hope for a brighter future." The camera then focused in on a 2009 Obama calender in the Brown’s apartment.
Four years ago, the Associated Press and others in the press suggested it was in poor taste for Republicans to spend $40 million on President Bush’s inauguration. AP writer Will Lester calculated the impact that kind of money would have on armoring Humvees in Iraq, helping victims of the tsunami, or paying down the deficit. Lester thought the party should be cancelled: “The questions have come from Bush supporters and opponents: Do we need to spend this money on what seems so extravagant?”
Fast forward to 2009. The nation is still at war (two wars, in fact), and now also faces the prospect of a severe recession and federal budget deficits topping $1 trillion as far as the eye can see. With Barack Obama’s inauguration estimated to cost $45 million (not counting the millions more that government will have to pay for security), is the Associated Press once again tsk-tsking the high dollar cost?
Nope. “For inaugural balls, go for glitz, forget economy,” a Tuesday AP headline advised. The article by reporter Laurie Kellman argued for extravagance, starting with the lede:
Aratani began her Metro section front-pager finding that left-wing organizers known for over-the-top histrionics and disrupting congressional hearings face "a new problem: how to make demands without appearing adversarial" (emphasis mine):
Australia is and has been, through both Democratic and Republican administrations a staunch and steadfast ally of the United States. The Aussies have fought alongside American forces in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and the U.S. and Australia are partners in a free-trade agreement. Given that, readers of the Washington Post should reasonably expect reporters and editors at the paper to understand the propriety of President Bush hosting former Prime Minister John Howard at Blair House in the closing days of his administration, especially since Howard was in town to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Post writer continued in his second paragraph by reminding readers of a gripe that liberal journalists have been fixated on even as President-elect Obama brushed off the "inconvenience" as no big deal:
Can you feel the excitement, the energy, the mystical unity our country is taking on since Barack Obama's election? The Seattle Times sure can.
President-elect Obama is bringing America together, and luckily for reporter Sanjay Bhatt, he had the high privilege of dutifully writing a 42-paragraph metro section story about Obama fans Teresa Pelayo, Sam Song and Tabetha Thomas. The Times took the story out of relative obscurity in the paper's local section to rest on the paper's Web site front page.
But wait, it gets better! These three close friends used to be rivals for delegate slots to the 2008 Democratic Convention. Who said Obama can't perform miracles? The Seattle Times sure didn't:
Invoking the threat of "religious fundamentalists abroad" and tacitly comparing them to religious conservatives in the United States, Newsweek's Lisa Miller advises President-elect Obama to ditch the practice of having clergy offer prayers at the presidential inauguration:
Our new president might use his Inauguration then to showcase the values that have made this country great: pluralism, moderation—and the separation of church and state. Though not as politically expedient, the better choice might be to pray in private.
Miller wrote her article for the January 19 print edition in light of a lawsuit "filed by the atheist gadfly Michael Newdow." While she noted that "[e]ven some of Newdow's ideological allies are steering clear," Miller went no further in exploring whether it may be Newdow who is showcasing a modern value that threatens the country's greatness: the filing of spurious lawsuits.
Instead, Miller sought to show that historians are uncertain just how traditional the role of religious faith plays in presidential inaugurals. Indeed, as far as Miller is concerned, the convention is all too recent and worse, a musty relic of the Cold War (emphases mine):
HBO will air the star-studded inaugural event from the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday which includes such headliners as Beyonce, U2, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Usher, Shakira, and Sheryl Crow.
Although this cable network is only available for a monthly fee to subscribers, Sunday's celebration will be free to anyone that wants to watch.
HBO also aired this event in 1993 when President Bill Clinton was first inaugurated. For some reason, the cable network skipped it in 2001 when George W. Bush was moving to Washington, D.C., as reported by the Associated Press:
The night before the inauguration, Dave Hughes reported Saturday on his DCRTV.com blog, "Virginia's Inaugural Black Tie and Blue Dominion Ball" will be emceed by two anchors at Washington, DC's Gannett-owned CBS affiliate (WUSA-TV channel 9 which is airing ads to sell tickets, see screen capture) while Del Walters, a veteran reporter/anchor until a few years ago for the local ABC affiliate (WJLA-TV channel 7), will produce the event. Amongst those scheduled to join "9 News Now" anchors JC Hayward and Lesli Foster at the National Air And Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport: Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and former Gov. Doug Wilder as well as Democratic Congressman Jim Moran.
The Commodores will provide musical entertainment and the Web site for the affair lists actress Jenna Elfman and astronaut Buzz Aldrin as among the "celebrity hosts." As for whether Obama will make the trek out to the Virginia suburbs for the January 19 gala, Waters hoped: "Like all of Washington and Northern Virginia, we are keeping our fingers crossed that he will celebrate along with the 1.95 million Virginians who turned this once red state blue."
The ball's home page shouts: "A Celebration of a Dream Fulfilled!"
Interviewing President-elect Barack Obama for Sunday's This Week, ABC's George Stephanopoulos zeroed in on criticism of including tax cuts in the “stimulus bill” and repeatedly pressed Obama about naming a special prosecutor, a 9/11-like commission or at least getting “your Justice Department to investigate” what an e-mail Stephanopoulos showcased on screen described as “the gravest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.” On taxes, Stephanopoulos demanded: “Do you really believe those business tax cuts are going to work to create jobs?” He soon yearned: “But you might give up on some of the business tax cuts?”
Stephanopoulos put this e-mailed question up on the screen from “Bob Fertik of New York City,” failing to note he's a left-wing activist with “Prosecute Bush & Cheney!” at the top of his Web site: “Will you appoint a special prosecutor (ideally Patrick Fitzgerald) to independently investigate the gravest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.?” As Obama expressed reticence, Stephanopoulos pushed for alternatives to drag national security officials into the legal process: “So, no 9/11 commission with independent subpoena power?” Not giving up, he offered another way to go: “So, let me just press that one more time. You're not ruling out prosecution, but will you tell your Justice Department to investigate these cases and follow the evidence wherever it leads?”
On World News Saturday, during the show’s "A Closer Look" segment, ABC anchor David Muir gave attention to those who question whether CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has sufficient qualifications to be Barack Obama’s surgeon general. Muir even played a clip of David Letterman poking fun at Gupta twice during the show: "The choice, it was between a Gupta, Dr. Phil, and a guy on Scrubbs. I don’t know what the hell-" He also recounted that Muir was forced to apologized to liberal filmmaker Michael Moore after making errors in a report fact-checking Moore’s film Sicko. As Muir gave voice to those in the pro-Gupta camp who believe it is important for the surgeon general to be well known to the public, the ABC anchor reminded viewers that Dr. C. Everett Coop talked about AIDS while President Reagan was "largely silent," and that President George W. Bush’s surgeon general resigned in protest in 2006 charging he had been "muzzled by the White House."
One celebrates movies that people actually watch and the other celebrates movies that critics think people should watch.
“Milk,” the biopic starring Sean Penn about Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, perfectly illustrated the divide between “the people” and “the critics.”
Critics loved the movie, as evidenced by a 92 percent favorable rating on the aggregate film review site Rottentomatoes.com and the eight nominations “Milk” received from the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Sean Penn received the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Milk, and the entire cast garnered the Best Acting Ensemble at last night’s Critics Choice Awards ceremony.
While I wouldn't hold my breath for say Chris Matthews to notice, the story works against the mainstream media portrayal of the Obama inauguration as such a must-attend historic event that the nation's capital will be deluged with visitors hoping to get as close as they can to Obama's radiant aura (emphasis mine):
"I'm blown away by how little demand there is," said Tania Odabashian, vice president at Corporate Apartment Specialists in Northern Virginia.
"Initially, we were flooded with calls from people looking for [inaugural] housing. For about four or five days, the phone would not stop ringing. . . . But now we have apartments as low as $150 a night that we can't get rid of. I've rented one two-bedroom in Tysons Corner. We have six or seven apartments inside the Beltway that will probably end up empty."
With a liberal Democrat coming to power, the New York Times has evidently gotten over the false fear of "big cuts" in Medicare it displayed when Republicans tried to trim the program back in 1995.
Thursday's lead story by Jeff Zeleny and John Harwood, "Obama Promises Bid To Overhaul Retiree Spending," characterized the president-elect's stated willingness to tackle huge entitlement programs Social Security and Medicare in mostly positive terms. The reporters described Obama's vague proposal as an "overhauling," an "approach to rein in Social Security and Medicare," and an "effort to cut back the rates of growth of the two programs."
President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday that overhauling Social Security and Medicare would be "a central part" of his administration's efforts to contain federal spending, signaling for the first time that he would wade into the thorny politics of entitlement programs.
In a news report that sounded like an Obama campaign commercial, CBS Early Show correspondent Kelly Wallace declared: "Facing the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Obama Administration is asking for the biggest stimulus plan in history. An estimated $775 billion to prop up a very sick economy." In the report, Wallace cited Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for Global Insight, who exclaimed: "We really need something big, bold, and swift to kick start the U.S. economy. And I think the Obama plan looks like it meets almost all those criteria."
Wallace ran through some of the key talking points of the plan: "Roughly $300 billion of that relief money will go directly to tax cuts for 95% of American workers...For businesses, a proposed $100 billion in tax incentives and refunds to jump start job creation...Of the 3.2 million jobs that the Obama Administration says will be saved or created, a million will come from a $25 billion investment in infrastructure...while making a long-term investment in renewable energy and other green initiatives." Wallace concluded her report: "Obama is confident he can get his stimulus plan passed within two weeks of taking office. Some economists believe the sooner, the better."
When president-elect Barack Obama appointed Carol Browner to be his "energy czar" back in December, the conservative blogosphere was buzzing about her being a member of Socialist International, "the worldwide organisation of social democratic, socialist and labour parties."
At the time, she was fourth on the website's list of members in the "Commission for a Sustainable World Society."
Not any longer, although it still is cached by Google (h/t Steven Milloy):
Updated below: In late 2001, "Punisher" storyline had threat against President Bush's life.
Spider-Man will swing to the rescue at the Obama inauguration in the Marvel comics universe, USA Today's David Colton reported in a January 8 story for the newspaper's Life section. Colton's story sought to portray the move not merely as a money-maker for Marvel but part of a storied tradition of graphic novel artists of including the commander-in-chief in comic book cameos:
In a growing world of Barack Obama collectibles, one item soon may be swinging above the rest.
On Jan. 14, Marvel Comics is releasing a special issue of Amazing Spider-Man #583 with Obama depicted on the cover. Inside are five pages of the two teaming up and even a fist-bump between Spidey and the new president.