Monday, 18 August 2008

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR ON MEDIA'S OBAMA OBIAS

Ken Berwitz

All credit to Washington Post ombudsperson Deborah Howell, for doing nothing more than just plain telling the truth about how disparate her paper's coverage has been between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Here is Ms. Howell's piece, complete with the numbers that prove her point:

 Obama's Edge in the Coverage Race

By Deborah Howell

Sunday, August 17, 2008; Page B06

Democrat Barack Obama has had about a 3 to 1 advantage over Republican John McCain in Post Page 1 stories since Obama became his party's presumptive nominee June 4. Obama has generated a lot of news by being the first African American nominee, and he is less well known than McCain -- and therefore there's more to report on. But the disparity is so wide that it doesn't look good.

In overall political stories from June 4 to Friday, Obama dominated by 142 to 96. Obama has been featured in 35 stories on Page 1; McCain has been featured in 13, with three Page 1 references with photos to stories on inside pages. Fifteen stories featured both candidates and were about polls or issues such as terrorism, Social Security and the candidates' agreement on what should be done in Afghanistan.

This dovetails with Obama's dominance in photos, which I pointed out two weeks ago. At that time, it was 122 for Obama and 78 for McCain. Two weeks later, it's 143 to 100, almost the same gap, because editors have run almost the same number of photos -- 21 of Obama and 22 of McCain -- since they realized the disparity. McCain is almost even with Obama in Page 1 photos -- 10 to 9.

This is not just a Post phenomenon. The Project for Excellence in Journalism has been monitoring campaign coverage at an assortment of large and medium-circulation newspapers, broadcast evening and morning news shows, five news Web sites, three major cable news networks, and public radio and other radio outlets. Its latest report, for the week of Aug. 4-10, shows that for the eighth time in nine weeks, Obama received significantly more coverage than McCain.

Obama's dominance on Page 1 is partly due to stories about his winning the bruising primary battle with Hillary Rodham Clinton and his trip overseas in July. The coverage of June 4, 5, 6 and 7 led to six Page 1 stories in The Post, including Obama's nomination victory, his strategy, elation among African Americans over the historic nature of his win and his fundraising advantage. Then he made an appearance at Nissan Pavilion with Virginia's Gov. Timothy Kaine and Sen. James Webb, and it became a local Page 1 story. During those few days, there was one Page 1 reference to an inside-page story about McCain going after Clinton's disgruntled supporters.

When Obama traveled to the Middle East and Europe, the coverage dwarfed that of McCain -- six Page 1 stories from July 19 to July 27, plus an earlier front-page story announcing the trip. McCain managed one Page 1 story and one Page 1 reference; the July 25 story said he might pick a vice presidential candidate soon, but that didn't happen. While there was no front-page story about Obama on July 25, it seemed wrong not to count that day because a photo of him in Berlin dominated the front page. I also counted a story about a Post-ABC News poll concerning racism and its potential impact on the election; 3 in 10 of those polled acknowledged racial bias.

Not all Page 1 coverage has been favorable. Obama was hit right away with two Page 1 stories about Washington insider James A. Johnson, a former Fannie Mae CEO, who was criticized for mortgage deals and then withdrew from vetting Obama's potential running mates. A story about Obama's former Chicago church reminded readers of the controversy over his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. There were also stories with a favorable cast -- about his patriotism, his first appearance with Clinton and the coverage from his foreign trip.

McCain's Page 1 stories were a mix -- a story about the flap over former senator Phil Gramm's comment about a "nation of whiners" over the economy and a story about conservatives wanting to battle McCain on the party platform. But there also were stories about plans to make the federal government more environmentally responsible and McCain's proposal for offshore drilling.

The single most revealing story about McCain -- and one of the best Post stories on either candidate -- was a top-of-the-front-page look at McCain's intellect. The story, by veteran reporter and editor Robert G. Kaiser, was the kind of analysis that tells readers something they didn't know. It was neither positive nor negative, just revealing and insightful.

Another favorite was by Business reporter Lori Montgomery on how both candidates will have trouble lowering the deficit with their spending plans. A Style & Arts change of pace was movie critic Stephen Hunter's look at McCain and Obama as film icons-- McCain as John Wayne and Obama as Will Smith.

Page 1 coverage isn't all that counts, but it is the most visible. Certainly there were many stories on the Politics page and elsewhere in the paper. (I'm not counting opinion columns.) The Trail, The Post's politics blog, had dozens of short items about both candidates, all interesting to political junkies. Post inside coverage has been a mix of horse-race coverage -- stories about endorsements, advisers, who can win where -- and issues stories.

Style stories have dealt with the Internet, voters and volunteers, and the cultural aspects of the campaigns. Cindy McCain was featured in a big Style spread and Michelle Obama in a Metro story about her recent visit to Virginia.

Bill Hamilton, assistant managing editor for politics, thinks that I'm wrong to put weight on numbers. "We make our own decisions about what we consider newsworthy. We are not garment workers measuring our product every day to fulfill somebody's quota. That means as editors we decide what we think is important, because that's what our readers look for us to do -- not to adhere to some arbitrary standard.

"The nomination of the first African American presidential nominee after a bitter primary campaign and his efforts to unite a party afterward were simply more newsworthy than a candidate whose nomination was already assured and who spent much of that time raising money. In the end, we can and should be judged on the fairness of our coverage, but that is a judgment that must be made over the course of the whole campaign, not a single period of time."

Numbers aren't everything in political coverage, but readers deserve comparable coverage of the candidates.

Good for Ms. Howell and the Post for publishing this embarrassing admission.  Now I'll wait for the countless other media venues which are every bit as slanted, if not a good deal worse, to do the same.

I have a feeling this is going to be a long wait.


BARACK OBAMA AND NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING

Ken Berwitz

So tell me:  If your opponent calls you and your party a bunch of "bums" and "knuckleheads" would that count as negative campaigning?

Well, to Barack Obama the answer apparently is no, it does not. 

In my previous blog I showed you Mr. Obama's arrogance, his celebrity status and Nancy Pelosi's comment that he is God-sent. 

In this one I will show you what he does not consider to be negative campaigning.  Here is what he said at a campaign rally just yesterday.  Again, the information comes from Ben Smith of www.politico.com:

"Now, you want to win. And saying it doesnt make it so," he told the crowd. "It would be nice to think that after eight years of economic disaster, after eight years of bungled foreign policy, of being engaged in a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, that cost us a trillion dollars and thousands of lives, that people would say, lets toss the bums out. Toss the bums out, were starting from scratch, were starting over. This is not working."

So I understand why a lot of folks are saying, this should just happen. Why are we having to run all these television commercials? Why do we have to raise all this money? Just read the papers. These are the knuckleheads who have been in charge. Throw em out. But American politics arent that simple," he said.

If John McCain had said that, or even a fraction of that, it would be the lead story in every newspaper and on every network news show.

And since the News papers and the network news shows angrily assure you they are completely neutral, if you read a newspaper or watched the news or caught the morning shows, you knew all about what Mr. Obama said before you read this. 

Well?  Did you?

There is no way that any Republican would ever get away with such raw, offensive insults.  By contrast, Barack Obama mouths them and the media collectively look the other way.  They leave YOU ignorant of what he is, what he thinks and what he says.

Gee, I guess these bums must think that you're a bunch of knuckleheads.

But listen to them squeal like stuck pigs if you call them biased.


OF ARROGANCE, CELEBRITY STATUS AND RAW POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM

Ken Berwitz

From Ben Smith's piece this morning at www.politico.com:

Obama: 'I will win'

A confident Barack Obama raised an extraordinary $7.8 million Sunday at three California fundraisers.

I will win. Dont worry about that, he said to the crowd of about 1,300 at his third event of the evening, according to the pool report.

He was warmly received by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called him "a leader that God has blessed us with at this time."

Let's count 'em up:

-Arrogance:  "I will win.  Don't worry about that";

-Celebrity status:  Almost $8 million raked in during a single day ;

-Raw political opportunism:  The ever-opportunistic, always political rather than sincere Nancy Pelosi claiming Obama is god-sent -- the day after he was questioned by evangelical preacher Rick Warren, (and was outmatched in that forum by John McCain);

Remember the story of the hare and the tortoise?  You may be seeing the human version of it in this presidential race.  All it takes is for Barack Obama to relax because he knows he's "...going to win.  Don't worry about that".


OBAMA AND BAIPA (CONT.)

Ken Berwitz

This comes from the (obviously partisan) www.blogsformccain.com.  But it is well referenced and wholly accurate (as regular readers are aware, I have been writing about Obama's votes on BAIPA for a half year):

Obama Campaign Finally Admits Vote to Keep Infanticide Legal in Illinois


The Obama Campaign admitted yesterday that Barack Obama did vote against a bill as an Illinois State Senator that would have required babies born alive after attempted abortions be given life-saving care. As recently as Saturday, Obama had indignantly denied (see video) that he had or would ever have voted against such a bill. He claimed the bill he voted against was not identical to Federal Legislation he said "everyone" would support. Turns out, his campaign now admits he did vote against "identical legislation" on the Illinois state level:

Indeed, Mr. Obama appeared to misstate his position in the CBN interview on Saturday when he said the federal version he supported "was not the bill that was presented at the state level."

His campaign yesterday acknowledged that he had voted against an identical bill in the state Senate, and a spokesman, Hari Sevugan, said the senator and other lawmakers had concerns that even as worded, the legislation could have undermined existing Illinois abortion law. Those concerns did not exist for the federal bill, because there is no federal abortion law.

In other words - Obama has been lying all these years about voting to keep infanticide in Illinois legal. He feigned indignation when asked about it two days ago, and now is having to admit he helped keep the heinous practice of allowing babies to die for lack of care just to protect the altar of Abortion on Demand. And this is the man who wants us to trust him to confront evil in our world.

In my initial blog of February 16 , I assured you that BAIPA would not be a major campaign issue during the Democratic Party primaries, but would be in the general election campaign.  I didn't consider that a prediction, I considered that a slam dunk. 

Well here it is.  And there is not a thing that Barack Obama can say about his despicable voting record on BAIPA that will make him look better or make this issue go away.

For someone with a rsum as thin as Mr. Obama's, anything he has a clear record on is going to stand out.  This, I suspect, is not the kind of record he had in mind.


RESENTING MICHAEL PHELPS

Ken Berwitz

I know this is sacreligious.  But I have gone from annoyance, to mild resentment, to deep resentment of Michael Phelps.

Before you go ballistic on me, please understand that this has nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Phelps himself, or his mother and sisters.  They all seem like really terrific people.

It is that NBC, desperately clinging to a superstar they think is boosting olympic viewership (thanks, Barack you get an assist on that wording), has been pushed on us so relentlessly and so much to the exclusion of the other swimmers and (with few exceptions) other athletes of any sport on the USA olympic team, that I can't stand the sight of him anymore.

This morning on the Today show, after the 4,825th interview with Phelps and the 3,953rd time they asked him how it felt, etc. etc. etc., they actually put on Jason Lezak for a couple of minutes.  If I remember correctly, the short interview of Mr. Lezak was preceded by a reference to Michael Phelps' "supporting cast" (i.e. the little people that he brings along with him). 

Then, immediately afterwards, there was Michael Phelps again.  Interview 4,826.  You barely got to remember Mr. Lezak's name.

Well Jason Lezak , Cullen Jones and Garrett Weber-Gale, are the reasons why Michael Phelps won the 400 meter freestyle.  It was Lezak, in particular, who swam that amazingly fast final leg of the 400 meter freestyle, overcame the French team's seemingly insurmountable lead and therefore enabled Phelps to stand on that podium with gold around his neck.

And it was Jason LezakAaron Peirsol and Brendan Hansen whose great performances enabled Phelps to get an 8th medal in the 4 X 100 Medley.

If any one of the four great swimmers in each of these two relay events had faltered, Michael Phelps would not have won gold.

So, again, all credit to Michael Phelps, an amazingly gifted athlete and one who - unlike some others, sad to say - seems to have his head on straight, will leave Beijing with a record 8 gold medals.

But als, for god sake, all credit to the world class (and, in several cases, world record holding) other USA swimmers without whom this would not have happened.

And shame on NBC for making me resent a young man I should be so proud of.


THE ENDLESS SECRECY AROUND BARACK OBAMA

Ken Berwitz

This short campaign blog from National Review needs no commentary from me.  It speaks for itself:

The Endless Secrecy Around Barack Obama

Just to review, the public cannot get access to paperwork related grants distributed by then-state-legislator Obama (records from 1997 to 2000 aren't available); his state legislative office records (which he says may have been thrown out); he refuses to release a specific list of law clients, instead giving a list of all of his firm's clients, numbering several hundred each year; he won't release his application to the state bar (where critics wonder if he lied in responding to questions about parking tickets and past drug use); hes never released any legal or billing records to verify that he only did a few hours of work for a nonprofit tied to convicted donor Rezko; and he's never released any medical records, just a one-page letter from his doctor.

Now the University of Illinois at Chicago is denying Stanley Kurtz access to documents relating to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a small foundation, founded and inspired by Bill Ayers, for which Obama served as board chairman.

What the hell? Really, what possible reason is there to seal documents like this, beyond saving Obama some embarrassment? And is any fool out there still claiming that they're voting for Obama because the Bush Administration has been too secretive?


NBC NAILED ON ITS "NEUTRAL" COVERAGE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Ken Berwitz

It's about effing time that NBC was nailed for this.

Here are the particulars, courtesy of Mike Allen, writing for www.politico.com:

McCain protests NBC coverage

 
 

Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) campaign manager Rick Davis asked Sunday for a meeting with Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, to protest what the campaign called signs that the network is "abandoning non-partisan coverage of the presidential race."

Davis made the request Sunday in a letter that is part of an aggressive effort by McCain to counter news coverage he considers critical.

In this case, the campaign is objecting to a statement by NBC's Andrea Mitchell on "Meet the Press" questioning whether McCain might have gotten a heads-up on some of the questions that were asked of
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who was the first candidate to be interviewed Saturday night by Pastor Rick Warren at a presidential forum on faith.

Warren told the audience that McCain was being held in "a cone of silence" so he wouldn't hear the questions, which were similar for both candidates.

Warren referred again to "the cone of silence" when McCain came onstage, and the senator joked: "I was trying to hear through the wall."

Mitchell reported that some "Obama people" were suggesting "that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. He seemed so well prepared."

A McCain aide said that is not the case: "Senator McCain was in a motorcade led by the United States Secret Service and held in a green room with no broadcast feed."

Mitchell made the comment in the context of saying McCain did better, and that the Obama camp was defensive. In response to the campaign's letter, she pointed out that journalists get criticism from both sides.

"I wasn't expressing an opinion," Mitchell said. "I was reporting what they were saying."

Here is the text of the letter:

August 17, 2008
Mr. Steve Capus
President, NBC News
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112

Steve:

We are extremely disappointed to see that the level of objectivity at NBC News has fallen so low that reporters are now giving voice to unsubstantiated, partisan claims in order to undercut John McCain.

Nowhere was this more evident than with NBC chief correspondent Andrea Mitchell's comments on "Meet the Press" this morning. In analyzing last night's presidential forum at Saddleback Church, Mitchell expressed the Obama campaign spin that John McCain could only have done so well last night because he "may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama." Here are Andrea Mitchell's comments in full:

Mitchell: "The Obama people must feel that he didn't do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context, because what they are putting out privately is that McCain may not have been in the cone of silence and may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama. He seemed so well-prepared." (NBC's "Meet The Press," 8/17/08)

Make no mistake: This is a serious charge. Andrea Mitchell is repeating, uncritically, a completely unsubstantiated Obama campaign claim that John McCain somehow cheated in last night's forum at Saddleback Church. Instead of trying to substantiate this blatant falsehood in any way, Andrea Mitchell felt that she needed to repeat it on air to millions of "Meet the Press" viewers with no indication that 1.) There's not one shred of evidence that it's true; 2.) In his official correspondence to both campaigns, Pastor Rick Warren provided both candidates with information regarding the topic areas to be covered, which Barack Obama acknowledged during the forum when asked about Pastor Warren's idea of an emergency plan for orphans and Obama said, "I cheated a little bit. I actually looked at this idea ahead of time, and I think it is a great idea;" 3.) John McCain actually requested that he and Barack Obama do the forum together on stage at the same time, making these kinds of after-the-fact complaints moot.

Indeed, instead of taking a critical journalistic approach to this spin, Andrea Mitchell did what has become a pattern for her of simply repeating Obama campaign talking points.

This is irresponsible journalism and sadly, indicative of the level of objectivity we have witnessed at NBC News this election cycle. Instead of examining the Obama campaign's spin for truth before reporting it to more than 3 million NBC News viewers, Andrea Mitchell simply passed along Obama campaign conspiracy theories. The fact is that during Senator Obama's segment at Saddleback last night, Senator McCain was in a motorcade to the event and then held in a green room with no broadcast feed. In the forum, John McCain clearly demonstrated to the American people that he is prepared to be our next President.....

We are concerned that your News Division is following MSNBC's lead in abandoning non-partisan coverage of the Presidential race. We would like to request a meeting with you as soon as possible to discuss our deep concerns about the news standards and level of objectivity at NBC.

Sincerely,

Rick Davis
Campaign Manager
John McCain 2008

Sometimes I think NBC must have run a clearance sale on integrity.  What else explains their behavior in recent years?

A few questions for NBC:

-Is it so unfathomable that John McCain just plain cleaned Obama's clock on Sunday?   He has dramatically more experience in and out of politics than Barack Obama does.

-If there is any evidence whatsoever that Mr. McCain got wind of the questions beforehand, where is it? 

-If there isn't any evidence, just a few sour-grapes comments from Obama supporters who didn't like how badly their guy did versus John McCain, why is it being reported in any context at all?

NBC is the network that is going to feature keith olbermann and Chris Mouthews for convention coverage.  I guess it shouldn't surprise me (or you) that a network which would slip this pair into what should be an indisputably nonpartisan role would broadcast factless insinuations about John McCain.

Great going, guys.  Why not have Michael Moore do the wrapups too.


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