As the Obama staff labors to deny they’re waging what’s being called “Obama’s war on journalism,” it might not help to have journalists mocked as fussy “figure skating judges.”
In today’s Washington Post that’s what we read from David Plouffe as he defended the White House from the “minutiae” that the White House counsel urgently wanted to keep Obama clueless about a Treasury Department inspector general’s report on the IRS scandal:
The Washington Post tiptoed gently on Friday around Joe Biden’s hopes of being elected president in 2016. “For Biden, dreams vs. realities” is the story’s headline, but at the very top of Page One, it says “At the top of his political game, the vice president shines as Obama’s personable No. 2. But events may conspire against a 2016 promotion.”
Post reporter Philip Rucker rather comically took 30 paragraphs to establish one series of “events” that threaten Biden are gaffes. The front page says Biden is a “long shot at best,” but insists he’s seen as “genuine, down-to-earth, rock solid on the issues" and “clearly has the experience and gravitas to ascend to the presidency.”
Despite President Obama’s reelection nearly a month ago, MSNBC has continued to attack Mitt Romney and his family every chance it gets, with the latest being a vicious critique of Ann Romney on the December 3 The Last Word w/ Lawrence O’Donnell. Mr. O’Donnell brought on Washington Post writers Jonathan Capehart and Philip Rucker to comment on recent articles they penned on the Romneys.
Mr. O’Donnell started the segment by gleefully claiming that, “They [friends of Ann Romney] said she has been crying in private and trying to get back to riding her horses." "[G]iven the way you saw the character of Ann Romney unfold during the course of the campaign, what’s your reaction to that?” O'Donnell asked Capehart, a liberal columnist. [See video below page break. MP3 audio here.]
"Someone should have told Mitt Romney that they still speak English in England," snarked Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza as he awarded Romney the "Worst Week In Washington" on Sunday for calmly laying out security concerns to NBC before the London Olympics -- concerns the networks themselves reported beforehand.
That matches the attitude that political reporter Philip Rucker brought to his Romney story's lede on Saturday: "Mitt Romney’s Friday was better than his Thursday. He did very little." Cillizza said Romney "seemed to be talking in a foreign language, politically speaking," and once again, the Post cited the "Mitt the Twit" headline:
On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose yet again ripped a line from a liberal print media outlet that portrayed the GOP as a radical faction. Rose quoted a front-page article about Mitt Romney from that morning's Washington Post to Republican media favorite Peggy Noonan: "The Republican Party will have selected an unlikely standard bearer for 2012...a man of moderate temperament in a party fueled by hot rhetoric...a flip-flopper in a party that demands ideological purity."
Noonan herself endorsed this left-leaning spin: "That's very well put." The columnist also denounced the "freak show atmosphere to the Republican primaries in the past six months or so." [audio available here; video below the jump]
In a May 25 front-page story headlined "Romney's outreach meets hostile reception," Washington Post staff writers Nia-Malika Henderson and Philip Rucker passed off a political activist by the name of Madaline G. Dunn as simply being a 78-year-old "protester" who has lived in West Philadelphia for 50 years and was "personally offended" by the fact that "Romney would visit her neighborhood."
"It's not appreciated here.... It's absolutely denigrating for him to come in here and speak his garbage," Henderson and Rucker quoted Dunn. Yet what the Post staff writers left out is that Dunn is no otherwise-apolitical resident who happened to be on hand to react to Romney's campaign swing. She's a seasoned political activist, having served as the legislative committee chair for the Philadelphia Congress of the National Congress of Black Women (PCNCBW).
Republican presidential candidates are meeting too many businessmen in their travels and too few unemployed folks or working-class wage earners, at least in the eyes of the Washington Post.
Post staffer Philip Rucker lamented in his 23-paragraph August 25 story that in a recent "50-minute session" with voters in New Hampshire that former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) -- who "is campaigning to be the jobs president" -- "hadn't heard from anyone who is unemployed, underemployed or simply clocks in for a working wage every day."
Borrowing a line from one of her Harvard colleagues, the Washington Post entitled its June 10 front-page profile of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, "Her work is her life is her work."*
But the 60-paragraph story by staff writers Ann Gerhart and Philip Rucker shed barely any light on the judicial philosophy that Kagan's life work demonstrates. Instead, Gerhart and Rucker presented a gauzy profile that rehashed the usual trivia -- Kagan loves poker and the opera -- while painting Kagan as a workaholic who still has time to lend an ear or a shoulder to cry on to friends in distress:
She has arrived at the age of 50 in a blaze of accomplishment. But her achievements can obscure how relatively narrow her world has been.
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."
CPAC made the front page of Friday’s Washington Post, but reporter Philip Rucker wrongly insisted the convention was "once a venue for the right fringe" of the GOP, but now it hosts presidential aspirants. Below that, there was a promotional blurb in bold type for Dana Milbank’s column inside: "Rubio is the far right’s anti-Crist." Here’s Rucker’s sneering introduction:
Emboldened by a belief that their political fortunes are on the rise, conservative activists descended Thursday on the capital city they love to hate, seeking to stoke what they consider a grass-roots uprising against President Obama and Democrats in Congress.
The annual Conservative Political Action Conference was once a venue for the right fringe of the Republican Party, but in recent years it has drawn more mainstream party figures and now provides a stage for presidential aspirants to prove their conservative credentials.
When were the days of "right fringe"? Rucker later suggests it’s been fringy since Nixon, up until very recently.
Friday’s Washington Post offers a highly timely article on its front page: grass-roots liberal anger at southern Democrats who voted against health "reform." But the Post hints at its own anger between the lines. The caption under its photo on page A-22 reads: "Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC) voted against health-care reform even though it is badly needed in the largely rural district he represents."
The front-page headline was "Democrat's vote on health bill leaves backers feeling betrayed." It could have been titled "Kissing Off Kissell." Liberals now want him ousted.
Reporter Philip Rucker asserted Kissell upset incumbent Republican Robin Hayes by 11 points as he "ran on a promise to bring a progressive everyman's sensibility to Congress." The caption writer may have echoed Rucker's rhetoric on the "need" for nationalizing the health-care system in North Carolina:
Word choice can be a subtle but effective way in which the media colorfully editorialize on the news, skewing the perceptions of readers in one direction or another. Take Washington Post's Philip Rucker, who did masterful job in skewing his 19-paragaph-long page A4 story "Activists bring 'tea party' to Capitol Hill" in favor of ObamaCare proponents while smearing conservatives in a negative light.
Rucker's labeling bias was a thread woven through the entire piece, starting with the lead paragraph (emphasis mine):
This afternoon, the Washington Post's Web site offers readers two looks at how the Democrats and the GOP will proceed following the 2009 elections, but, surprise, surprise, the paper only forsees internecine squabbles for the GOP.
Even before delving into the content of the articles, it's clear by the labeling that the Post sees the GOP's pending "ideological fissures" as a matter of objective news reporting, while the Democratic postmortem is a matter of informed "analysis," not hard news.
For their part, Rucker and Bacon aimed, like others in the mainstream media -- click here, here, and here -- to gin up an ominous narrative for the GOP party-wide from the New York 23rd congressional district saga:
Noting how the Palmetto State "has a history of rowdy politics" and that Rep. Joe Wilson (R) has made himself "the latest in a legendary line of South Carolina politicians who appeared to revel in renegade behavior," the Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Ann Gerhart turned to South Carolina Democratic operatives Don and Carol Fowler to smear Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) in their September 11 front-pager entitled "The Gentlemen From South Carolina."
Rucker and Gerhart turned to the husband-wife couple -- he was a Clinton era DNC chairman and she is the current South Carolina state Democratic chairwoman -- to practically tag-team in slamming Wilson. Rucker and Gerhart also acknowledged some Palmetto Democrats' brushes with political infamy before cuing up Don Fowler to quip that he thinks "it is something in the water."
Yet nowhere in their story did Rucker and Gerhart note Don Fowler's gaffe from August 2008, when, on a flight from the Democratic Convention, he made an inappropriate joke involving hurricane victims in New Orleans (video embedded above at right):
Filing his January 2 Style section front-pager, "Hawaii's Still Waters Run Deep for the President-elect," staffer Philip Rucker made clear all he needs in life are some cool waves and a tasty Obama buzz:
HONOLULU -- In his two weeks in Hawaii, Barack Obama has oozed island cool: the black shades and khaki shorts, the breezy sandaled saunter that suggested he had not a care in the world. Who said anything about the presidency?
He strolled shirtless near the beach, enjoyed a shave ice and a local seaweed-wrapped delicacy called Spam musubi. One day, the president-elect flashed the friendly "shaka" sign, shaking his pinky and thumb in a local surfing gesture.
On Tuesday morning’s Today show, NBC substitute anchor Lester Holt and correspondent Savannah Guthrie all but expressed regret over President-Elect Barack Obama having to make an “adjustment” -- not being able to “just pick up and go anytime he wants” due to “not just Secret Service, but a traveling corps of journalists now follows his every move, even in Hawaii.” Guthrie reported on the “signs Obama is growing a bit frustrated with all the attention.” The on-screen graphic accompanying her report inflated this apparent frustration on the part of future chief executive: “Man in a Bubble: Obama Chafes at Constant Scrutiny.”
Holt introduced Guthrie’s report with a lament over Obama’s seeming predicament: “He may not be president yet, but Barack Obama is getting an early taste of what life as leader of the free world is really like -- a lack of freedom, and an entourage documenting his every move.” Guthrie then began her report along a similar line: “Obama came here to Hawaii to get away from it all -- get one last vacation in before becoming president. But even here, he can’t just pick up and go anytime he wants, and that’s been quite an adjustment for the president-elect.”
He's a "burly man" with "rhetorical punch" from Catholic, blue collar roots in Baltimore who trekked a "remarkable rise" to become "one of Maryland's most powerful public officials." But today former state senator Thomas Bromwell (D-Md.) finds himself facing a judge and entering a guilty plea in a federal racketeering case that's been years in the marking. Reporting the story, the Washington Post's Philip Rucker calls Bromwell's saga "one of the state's largest public corruption investigations in years." Yet nowhere in Rucker's Metro section front pager "Bromwell Says He Accepts His Fate," is any mention of the politician's party affiliation, Democratic.