Slow news Friday? In “With a Change in Top Aides, The West Wing Quiets Down,” New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes fawned over Obama’s top aides, chief of staff William Daley and advisor David Plouffe, as a welcome balm after the frenzied working atmosphere set by former chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel (though the paper hardly maintained a drumbeat of criticism during Rahm’s reign).
Blogging at the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin says the Times piece “gives ‘fluff’ a bad name....maybe the Times should look inward and be asking how such suck-uppery gets passed off as news.”
When Rahm Emanuel was the White House chief of staff, decisions about what President Obama would say in the short address he delivers on the radio and Internet each Saturday changed so often that speechwriters would wait until Friday to write.
But since William M. Daley took over two months ago, and David Plouffe succeeded David Axelrod as communications chief, the decision is made early -- and it sticks.
New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes appeared on a panel discussion on “The Role of Minority Party in Congress” held at the Wilson International Center for Scholars on Monday, and outlined four liberal complaints against Republicans for not sufficiently accommodating Barack Obama early in his presidency (when they were distinctly the minority party and rather powerless) on his allegedly moderate measures like health reform and financial regulation.
Blaming Republicans for Obama’s woes ignores the fact that the Democrats had just won huge filibuster-proof majorities in 2008. The party controlled the Senate by a 60-40 margin and the House of Representatives by a health 257-178. And conservatives would argue that Obama’s claims of bipartisanship were severely overstated and amounted to trying to pick off individual Republicans to get on board with his sweeping liberal agenda on stimulus and health care “reform,” instead of reaching out to the Republican caucus as a whole with more moderate and modest proposals.
Talking on the panel Monday, aired by C-SPAN, about the need for political accommodation in Congress, Calmes took “the risk of sounding like I’m expressing an opinion" in her closing remarks, about an hour and ten minutes into the discussion:
It’s one thing for the Obama administration to refuse to admit that throwing more than $800 billion in so-called “stimulus” at the recession hasn’t worked. But on Friday night’s Washington Week roundtable on PBS, New York Times national correspondent Jackie Calmes accepted the idea that “it’s too early to say” how Team Obama should be graded while unemployment remains high. That’s called charitable procrastination:
NANCY YOUSSEF, McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: So how would you rank or rate the administration on its economic policy? Can you give it a rating this soon, or is it too early to say?
JACKIE CALMES, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it's too early to say when unemployment remains stuck at 9.5 percent. Most people think that -- most economists who aren't partisan think we will avoid a double-dip recession, but, and that the stimulus did work, but it, you know -- maybe should have been more of it, or better designed.
A few seconds earlier, Calmes complained that after the "stimulus" bill passed, “things worked so slowly that people still to this day think it was a failure”:
In today's "It Took You Long Enough To Figure It Out" segment, the New York Times is seriously worried that if the only Bush tax cuts that expire in January are those for the wealthiest Americans, the rich still win.
Not surprisingly, Jackie Calmes' piece on Wednesday also referred to extending existing law as "tax cuts," a neat little trick the Left employ to give the appearance new cuts are being discussed when in fact the only thing on the table is whether what's on the books will continue to be so.
But facts aren't important in this debate. Scaring folks into believing rich people are taking money away from them is:
The paper's political team let Obama fully sell himself as a down-home populist by completely skipping (in the print edition) the fact that Obama would be departing from a town in New Jersey to two glitzy fundraisers in the Times's home town Manhattan. The Washington Post, on the other hand, did notice that Obama later traveled by helicopter to a fundraiser at the Four Seasons in Manhattan, then went on to Vogue editor Anna Wintour's townhouse for another.
Calmes filed a report on the fundraisers Wednesday night for the paper's "Caucus" blog: "After an afternoon of populism, lunching with small-business owners in New Jersey and gabbing with the opinionated ladies of ABC-TV's "The View," President Obama ended his day on Wednesday at separate $30,400-a-person fundraisers here in Manhattan."
But those politics-as-usual details didn't make it into the print story, leaving room for these vital nuggets: Obama "ordered a 'super sub with everything,' to highlight his party's small-business agenda....Mr. Obama ordered a six-inch 'super sub' -- he declared that at nearly 49 he can no longer eat the 12-inch variety -- and sat down at a table with the owner, Dave Thornton, and the owners of three businesses in nearby towns."
"Far-Right" Angle on G.O.P. Senate Candidate From Nevada
"But on the other hand some of these women are, like in Nevada, against Harry Reid, Sharron Angle has, she's a Tea Party candidate who's given Democrats renewed hope of saving Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, from what was looking to be near certain defeat, because she is so extreme....The Democrats generally at first blush on Wednesday morning when the results were in were happy that both Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, looks newly secure because the Nevada Republicans had nominated such an extreme, Tea Party-type member." -- Reporter Jackie Calmes in a June 10 "Political Points" podcast.
"Among her detractors and her supporters [Angle] is known as a far-right conservative and a thorn in the side of both parties, routinely voting no on almost everything that came before the Legislature." -- Reporter Jennifer Steinhauer, June 10.
G.O.P. Already Doomed
"Some critics are already asking Republican leaders how they managed to let a promising election season get so mightily out of control." -- June 10 front-page teaser to a story by Matt Bai on Republican election prospects for November.
Meet the "so extreme," "far-right conservative" Sharron Angle, who won the Nevada Senate primary on Tuesday and will face Democrat Harry Reid in the fall. Those quotes aren't from Daily Kos or even a New York Times columnist, but from two of the Times's political reporters, Jennifer Steinhauer and Jackie Calmes.
(This post is based on two items previously posted on Times Watch.)
Further, Ms. Angle -- the Tea Party-blessed candidate who bested her two better-financed competitors in Tuesday's primary -- is an untested statewide candidate whose positions as a lawmaker put her firmly to the right of most mainstream Nevada voters. The hot lights of national exposure can be a liability for new -- and overly loquacious -- candidates, as Rand Paul, the Republican Senate nominee from Kentucky, quickly found.
Among her detractors and her supporters she is known as a far-right conservative and a thorn in the side of both parties, routinely voting no on almost everything that came before the Legislature. She is also a tireless campaigner. When a 2002 redistricting forced her to face off with a wildly popular Republican incumbent, Greg Brower, she went door to door nightly, won and ended his political career.
Yesterday, in the midst of the commencement address he delivered at Hampton University, President Obama made a startling "admission" (readers will see why "admission" is in quotes shortly):
And meanwhile, you're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads; and Xboxes and PlayStations -- none of which I know how to work -- (laughter) -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it's putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.
There are more troubling overtones inherent in the excerpt that many observers have already noted. I'll stay away from them for the purposes of this post.
Those matters aside, there are still a few pesky items that arise from the bolded portion of the excerpt.
New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes claimed in Tuesday's Obama-pitying "For Obama, A Nonstop Juggling Act" that his "supporters" call him a pragmatist. So does that make Times reporters Obama supporters as well? And is the Tea Party really "far right"?
By his own reckoning, Mr. Obama has always been hard to peg ideologically. His Republican opponents charge that he is masking a left-wing agenda in centrist-sounding words.
His supporters, including those who work for him, say he is a pragmatist whose instincts are genuinely centrist, both as a matter of politics and style.
The Times also constantly sells its readers on the idea that the big-spending, socially liberal Obama is some kind of moderate "pragmatist."
Calmes also repeated popular Democrat-friendly talking points, calling the left-leaning retiring Sen. Evan Bayh a "centrist" and claiming his retirement had to do with the "dysfunctional Congress," as opposed to dimming Democratic prospects for the 2010 election.
Senator Evan Bayh's comments this week about a dysfunctional Congress reflected a complaint being directed at Washington with increasing frequency, and there is broad agreement among critics about Exhibit A: The unwillingness of the two parties to compromise to control a national debt that is rising to dangerous heights.
On the eve of President Obama's first State of the Union address, the lead story in Wednesday's New York Times by Jackie Calmes focused on Obama's abrupt transformation into a born-again deficit hawk: "Obama, On Own, To Set Up Panel On Nation's Debt."
In a related video, Calmes played along with Obama's sudden about-face, claiming "the president wants to make deficit reduction a big part of his second-year agenda." Obama can apparently do no wrong: After spending months defending Obama's costly stimulus package, Calmes is now giving Obama credit for the opposite: cutting spending!
Obama's pre-State of the Union political woes were barely mentioned, a far cry from how the Times treated George W. Bush's political misfortunes before his last two addresses.
In a Friday news analysis piece that appeared in the paper's print edition today (teased at its web site as seen on the right), Jackie Calmes at the New York Times began with a pathetic headline, and opened with pity on our poor overwhelmed, stressed-out, stretched-in-all-directions President:
Obama Tries to Turn Focus to Jobs, if Other Events Allow
President Obama keeps trying to turn attention to “jobs, jobs, jobs,” as his chief of staff has put it. But he is finding that it can be hard to focus on any one issue when so many demand attention, often unexpectedly.
This is simply another variation on the "distracted" President theme I noted last year (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog). You know, if those terrorists and other messy realities wouldn't intervene, Barack Obama could do his job sooooo much better.
Calmes resumed the pity party in her seventh paragraph:
In the eyes of many in the liberal media, President Obama can do no wrong. If he does, it's not his fault; he is simply a victim of circumstance, or he made the best decision he could given the options. One can tell news items portraying Obama in this light by their descriptions of problems in the passive voice.
Take yesterday's New York Times article by Jackie Calmes, for instance. The piece displays a conspicuous use of the passive voice in the headline: "Promise to Trim Deficit Is Growing Harder to Keep", instead of, say, "Obama's Policies Make Deficit Reduction Unlikely".
The refrain is getting old. When Obama's economic policies caused the debt to skyrocket, and didn't lead to recovery but rather to more federal spending aimed at shoring up the economy, it was because the recession was worse than the administration had planned. Obama's brilliant plans to raise taxes on businesses failed because Congress succumbed to political pressure. Anticipated savings in Iraq were nullified when it turned out winning a war in Afghanistan might actually require significant funding. And Medicare is already being cut to pay for the health care overhaul, so those cuts can't go towards drawing down the deficit. You see, it's never actually Obama's fault.
If you haven't noticed, a lot of media outlets have gotten worked up into a tizzy over the mere mention of death panels. The New York Times got so worked up, it went after a few conservatives outlets by name in its Aug. 13 issue.
"But the rumor [that Obama's health care proposal would create death panels] - which has come up at Congressional town-hall-style meetings this week in spite of an avalanche of reports laying out why it was false - was not born of anonymous e-mailers, partisan bloggers or stealthy cyberconspiracy theorists," Jim Rutenberg and Jackie Calmes wrote for the Times. "Rather, it has a far more mainstream provenance, openly emanating months ago from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating President Bill Clinton's health care proposals 16 years ago, including the editorial board of The Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, New York's lieutenant governor)."
Unless you are hopelessly liberal and/or drinking WAY too much Kool-Aid, you are fully aware that President Obama and his Democrat minions on Capitol Hill can't get enough money from the so-called rich to pay for all the programs they're proposing.
On Saturday, such an inconvenient truth was actually revealed by none other than the New York Times:
"This idea that everything new that government provides ought to be paid for by the top 5 percent, that's a basically unstable way of governing."..."There is no way we can pay for health care and the rest of the Obama agenda, plus get our long-term deficits under control, simply by raising taxes on the wealthy...The middle class is going to have to contribute as well."
What follows are the questions that President-elect Obama took today at his 11 a.m. news conference after formally announcing former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as his choice for Health and Human Services Secretary.:
JACKIE CALMES, Wall Street Journal: Given the, in your statement when you addressed the controversy over Gov. Blagojevich, you did not repeat what your spokesman said yesterday about having him, that he should resign. Why did you not? And could you tell us what context, if any, you know that your staff or any emissaries for you have had with prosecutors or the FBI?
PHIL ELLIOTT, Associated Press: Thank you. Have you or anyone in your transition or campaign been intereviewed as it relates to the criminal complaint? And who is the transition advisor referenced in the complaint?
Meet the newly minted traditionalists at the New York Times, two female reporters who seem to doubt whether or not a woman can have it all -- at least if she's a Republican vice-presidential nominee.
The Labor Day edition of the Times's "Political Points" podcast, recorded at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn, was hosted by Jane Bornemeier with commentary from reporters Jackie Calmes, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and David Kirkpatrick. The conversation was predictably dominated by "baby-gate" -- the news that Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol was pregnant. Some choice excerpts in which the two female reporters question the judgment of McCain and Palin and find the issue of a teenager's pregnancy fair game: