President Obama authorized the state of Hawaii to release a copy of his long-form birth certificate, resulting in massive media attention and a front-page splash by New York Times reporter Michael Shear on Thursday, “Citing ‘Silliness,’ Obama Shows Birth Certificate.”
But a Times media reporter wrongly suggested the “Birther” theories only erupted after Obama became president, among conservatives, when in fact they first circulated during the Democratic primaries, stirred up by supporters of Obama rival Hillary Clinton.
While previous attempts at reform of Medicare by Republicans were eviscerated in the Times as “big Medicare cuts” or (just this week) a “shrinking” of the program, the paper greeted Obama’s own vague proposals with benign, soothing words like “overhaul” or claims that Obama was merely looking for Medicare “savings.” Thursday’s headline insisted Medicare and Medicaid would be “spared” and the text by reporters Mark Landler and Michael Shear described Obama as only proposing “changes to social welfare programs” and to “strictly limit the growth of Medicare and Medicaid.”
In New York Times-land, only Republicans can be ideologically motivated politicians. Michael Shear, chief writer for the paper’s political blog “The Caucus,” showed stark labeling disparity in two separate stories on the budget compromise averting a government shutdown, one focused on Democrats, the other on Republicans.
His Saturday morning post focused on Democratic disappointment about the budget deal: “Some Democrats Complain About Budget Compromise.” Yet of the six Democrats quoted (including President Obama) only one was ideologically labeled: “Representative George Miller of California, a veteran liberal member of Congress.” Neither labor secretary Robert Reich and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were called liberal.
In contrast, Shear’s pre-agreement Friday afternoon post, “Conservatives Urge Boehner to Cut a Budget Deal and Move On,” was full of ideological labels. Of the five Republicans Shear quoted, three were called “conservative” and two were called moderate, and the story opened with overuse of the C-word.
For days, the assumption has been that Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio was dug into his hardened position on behalf of the conservatives in his House caucus and from socially conservative voices in the Republican Party.
In the past several weeks, events outside the United States have commanded as much of Mr. Obama’s attention as the nation’s domestic concerns. The upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa have provided a fresh reminder that the Oval Office is occupied by the nation’s commander in chief.
That alone might not be enough to displace the economy as the No. 1 issue for Mr. Obama. But as the president’s top advisers survey the field of potential Republican rivals in 2012, one other fact is glaring: Almost none of them have any serious foreign policy credentials.
New York Times political blogger Michael Shear used loaded language to describe the Republican Party’s “assault” on Obama-care on the one-year anniversary of that “historic measure," in his Wednesday morning post “Boehner, McConnell Push Assault on Health Care Law”
A year after President Obama signed his health care law into effect, the two leading Republicans in Congress are making it clear that they do not intend to let up in their assault on thehistoric measure.
Chief New York Times “Caucus” blog contributor Michael Shear celebrated Bracket Obama in a Saturday morning post on the president's college basketball tournament pool picks --“Obama’s N.C.A.A. Bracket Is One of the Best.” The wins just keep piling up for the president, at least on the court, in Shear’s telling.
Being president is an ego trip. So you would have thought President Obama wouldn’t need to add to his bragging rights. But Mr. Obama’s N.C.A.A. men’s basketball bracket stands -- for the moment, anyway -- as one of the best out there.
Out of 32 games, Mr. Obama has accurately predicted all but three. As of Saturday morning, he ranks at No. 16 on The Times’s bracket site, tied with many others. Mr. Obama has a total of 166 out of 195 points possible.
On Thursday the House voted 228-192 to end direct federal funding of NPR, but “Caucus” correspondent Michael Shear on Friday morning dismissed the move as a “distraction” in “NPR Vote One of Many Distractions to Come.”
The vote by House Republicans Thursday to strip National Public Radio of much of its federal funding is an early example of the ways in which narrow issues are likely to repeatedly distract lawmakers during the upcoming 2012 election season.
Republicans have put more emphasis on spending cuts, while Democrats have put their focus on job creation, but leaders of both parties in both chambers of Congress have declared themselves committed to addressing the nation’s biggest economic challenges: reducing the spiraling deficits and debt, bringing down unemployment, addressing the long-term health of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Even as the Republican governor of Wisconsin was signing a bill Friday that all but ended collective bargaining for state employees, Democrats nationally had put out advertisements and letters to use his own success against him.
In a push to raise money for their candidates, Democrats hope Wisconsin will be for them what the health care overhaul was for Republicans in last year’s midterm elections: a galvanizing force for their base, and an example of overreaching that will win them crucial independent voters, not just in Wisconsin but also in Congressional races and the presidential election next year.
That’s not exactly how the Times covered the passage of Obama-care. Adam Nagourney’s front-page “political memo” of March 23, 2010, “For G.O.P., United Stand Has Drawbacks, Too,” strongly suggested Republicans could pay a political price for opposing Obama-care. (Oops.)
It seems that the Times's Michael Shear is disappointed that Dear Leader is yet again caught up in a "distraction" ("Pat-Downs Ensnare White House in New Distraction"). It's headlined in the item's browser window as "Pat-Downs Ensnare White House in New Controversy." Interesting edit, don't you think? If it's a "controversy," the President owns it. If it's a "distraction," well, it's an unfair intrusion. Clever.
Shear wrapped it in a narrative whose theme was that "It all felt vaguely familiar." Well, yeah. What's more than vaguely familiar has been the press's tendency to lament the distractions our supposedly otherwise focused like a laser beam chief executive must endure. On April 9, 2009 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that "The words 'Obama' and 'distraction' have both appeared in 2,425 articles in just the past 30 days; excluding duplicates, it's about 450."
In his blog entry, Shear listed many other awful distractions the president has encountered. What's interesting are how many of them escalated because of Obama or people working directly for him:
Thus reads the page A2 headline for Michael Shear's August 20 Washington Post story that reads like an extended Obama White House campaign press release.
Shear opens with a story about how Obama prayed with "three Christian pastors" over the phone as he flew to Chicago to celebrate his 49th birthday. "As he celebrated his birthday, he was in a reflective mood," Shear cooed. "He told them he wanted to pray about the year that had passed, what's really important in life and the challenges ahead," the Post staffer added before cuing up Joel Hunter, "an evangelical pastor who ws on the call and who is part of a small circle of spiritual advisers who frequently talk to Obama by phone."
Hunter served up the argument of Shear's article, that because Obama is private about his Christian faith, it's no wonder polls show a growing number of people unsure of his faith, with some even thinking he's a Muslim. "You know what happens with a vacuum?" Hunter asked, before answering his own question, "It gets filled."
Thursday's Washington Post reports that a new poll by the Pew Research Center found “The number of Americans who believe – wrongly – that President Obama is a Muslim has increased significantly since his inauguration and now account for nearly 20 percent of the nation's population.” Team Obama quickly blamed “'misinformation campaigns' by the president's opponents.” The Post's Jon Cohen and Michael D. Shear just pass that along without any specifics.
But what's really shaky is the story's accuser, Obama “faith adviser” Joshua DuBois, trying to tout how the president is deeply, “diligently” Christian, when the president is much more diligent at golfing than he is at church attendance. The number of Sunday church services Obama has attended since the Inauguration doesn't get beyond counting on one hand, even bypassing the pews at Christmas.
As the Joe Sestak job-offer scandal took a weird turn on Friday -- Bill Clinton offered me an unpaid, obscure presidential advisory panel placement to dissuade me from a Senate run? -- The Washington Post found in the new story a chance to hail Bill Clinton. At the very end of a Saturday report headlined "Bill Clinton has evolved into Obama's Mr. Fix It," reporters Philip Rucker and Paul Kane slipped into fanboy mode:
Sestak said Clinton briefly brought up Emanuel's suggestion that if Sestak dropped out he might end up on a presidential advisory board for the Pentagon or the intelligence community. Sestak flatly turned him down.
"I knew you'd say that," Clinton replied. Even the master can't fix everything.
Left unsaid: if Clinton is "the master," why is Obama president instead of his wife? (Or do you just repeat "Even the master...") On the front page, the Post seemed to be buying this square-peg-for-round-hole tale about this weird, very unpersuasive offer no one would accept. Reporter Michael Shear tried playing cute and light in his opening, that Obama "resisted acknowledging what the top West Wing lawyer finally admitted on Friday: This administration plays politics. And not always effectively."
Reporters and editors at the Washington Post are defensive about new health-care ads mocking President Obama's vacation. In Monday's Washington Post, after disposing with the official line that no news will be made during the time off, reporter Michael D. Shear insisted Obama's vacation was brief, next to those lazy Bushes:
Past presidents have been queasy about time away from the White House, fearing the image of a checked-out president. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs expressed none of that concern last week, saying, "I don't think the American people begrudge a president taking some time with his family that's well earned and well deserved, for a few days to see and spend time with them."
Obama is taking a week off from his day job, far less than some of his predecessors. Former president George H.W. Bush spent weeks at Kennebunkport, Maine. Son George W. Bush did the same at his ranch in Crawford, Tex.
The Washington Post put the first White House celebration of Gay Pride Month on the front page Tuesday, but reporter Michael Shear left out some of the president’s most liberal and most supportive lines from the transcript. Obama pledged to be "an ally and a champion" of the gay left’s agenda and hailed gay activists "who have refused to accept anything less than full and equal citizenship."
He implied there was still work to do with all those fuddy-duddies who still followed the "worn arguments and old attitudes" from old sources like the Bible:
There are unjust laws to overturn and unfair practices to stop. And though we've made progress, there are still fellow citizens -- perhaps neighbors or even family members and loved ones -- who still hold fast to worn arguments and old attitudes, who fail to see your families like their families and who would deny you the rights that most Americans take for granted. And I know this is painful. And I know it can be heartbreaking.
It’s uncommon for newspapers to hype Sunday morning TV interviews in advance, especially if presidents aren’t involved. But Saturday’s Washington Post carries this page 3 story: "In TV Appearance, Powell Plans to Answer Right-Wing Critics." Reporters Michael D. Shear and Perry Bacon Jr. play up a GOP feud: "Under intense fire from the right, former secretary of state Colin L. Powell is preparing to answer his Republican critics this weekend in a television appearance that is likely to add fuel to his long-standing feud with top conservatives in his party."
Message to liberal Post readers: the conservatives are going to get thrashed tomorrow on CBS's Face the Nation, so don’t miss it.
Shear and Bacon didn't tell readers that this "feud" was fueled by the liberal media, by CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, who asked former vice president Dick Cheney whether Powell or Rush Limbaugh was a better voice for Republicans. They only explained "Rush Limbaugh and former vice president Richard B. Cheney have attacked Powell in recent days as a traitor to his party."
Naming a man who wants to levy sin taxes on soda pop to be the head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) might not be the politically wisest thing for President Obama to do, especially on the heels of massive TEA Party protests. But then again, with media outlets like the Washington Post leaving that controversy unmentioned, perhaps the White House calculated correctly that the risk of staffing the federal government's public health branches with nanny state activists was minimal.
On May 15, President Obama announced in a press statement that New York City health commissioner Thomas Frieden will take the helm of the CDC in June. Reporting the story in the May 16 paper were Post staffers Debbi Wilgoren and Michael D. Shear (along with some help from staffer Ceci Connolly).
Wilgoren and Shear allowed "an industry-funded group" spokesman to slam Frieden as "barely recogniz[ing]" the line between "government's responsibility in regulating health and what is the individual's responsibility," yet they curiously omitted perhaps the clearest example of the same, Frieden's support of a penny-per-ounce soda tax. This even though the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on the idea earlier in the week.
Slate's William Saletan noted Frieden's push for a penny-per-ounce soda tax in early April:
A terse one-paragraph mea culpa by a White House staffer now qualifies as a "profuse apology" at least when it's the Obama White House, and the paper reporting the story is the Washington Post.
That's how the paper's Tomoeh Murakami Tse and Michael D. Shear characterized an apology by White House Military Office director Louis Caldera for Monday's low altitude flyover photo-op of New York Harbor. Here's same 54-word apology in its entirety:
Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision. While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it’s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.
The November 12 story by staffer Michael Shear began by noting that Obama "campaigned as an anti-Washington candidate" and that his transition team "made it clear" that the president-elect "would seek to build on that theme over the next two months."
As evidence of that, Shear explained the transition team's rules "that restrict how federal lobbyists can participate" in the Obama transition. Yet Shear failed to note how the standard has shifted over the course of Obama's campaign (emphasis mine):
Washington Post staffer and chief "Macaca-gate" peddler Michael D. Shear filed an October 9 story from Waukesha, Wisconsin, on the McCain rally there. Joined by fellow reporter Perry Bacon Jr., Shear focused on the "anger" in the crowd at the liberal media. Their lead paragraph:
WAUKESHA, Wis., Oct. 9 -- There were shouts of "Nobama" and "Socialist" at the mention of the Democratic presidential nominee. There were boos, middle fingers turned up and thumbs turned down as a media caravan moved through the crowd Thursday for a midday town hall gathering featuring John McCain and Sarah Palin.
While Shear and Bacon did eventually quote some attendees who explained their concerns, they were buried deep in the page A4 article in the October 10 paper, along with a references to less-than-civil rhetoric by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) at the tail-end of the 32-paragraph article, "Anger Is Crowd's Overarching Emotion at McCain Rally":
On May 13, John McCain supporter John Hagee issued an apology to the Catholic League for controversial anti-Catholic comments he's made in the past. "Catholic League President William Donoghue [sic] accepted the apology," noted Washington Post's Michael D. Shear in the midst of his 8-paragraph story published the following day.
Shear closed by noting that "[n]ot all Catholics were mollified" by Hagee's letter of apology, citing "Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good." Shear failed to label Kelley nor the Alliance as liberal, although a visit to their Web site makes it pretty clear their political agenda skews in favor of liberal Democratic social welfare initiatives.
But more telling is this: Kelley used to work for the DNC during the Kerry campaign as Director of Religious Outreach. Catholic or no, it's not all that surprising that the former liberal Democratic Party staffer would refuse to let the Hagee matter drop in a tense election year when presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has his own share of problems, to say the least, with loopy clergymen in his corner.