Archive for the ‘Media and Obama’ category

Off Topic | Wayne Barrett, Donald Trump, and the Death of the American Press

February 23, 2017

Wayne Barrett, Donald Trump, and the Death of the American Press, Tablet MagazineLee Smith, February 23, 2017

(Please see also, Off Topic:  A Purblind Press, Unable To Admit Error, Boycotts the President. — DM)

How did we get from ‘Village Voice’ reporters digging up everything there is to know about a flashy New York real estate salesman to not knowing anything about the President of the United States and his ties to Russia?

So when does the other shoe drop? Who’s going to break the story proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the president of the United States is so deeply connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House has become a Muscovite colony in all but name?

Time to use some common sense—it’s not going to happen, there is no story. The narrative that Donald Trump is effectively Putin’s prison wife is an information operation orchestrated by Democratic hands, many of whom served in the Obama administration, sectors of the intelligence community, and much of the American press. The purpose of the campaign is to delegitimize Trump’s presidency by continuing to hit on themes drawn from the narrative that Russia “hacked” the election and stole it away from Clinton.

The narrative is contorted because it’s not journalism. It’s a story that could only make sense in a profoundly corrupted public sphere, one in which, for instance, Graydon Carter is celebrated for speaking truth to power with an editor’s letter critical of Trump in a magazine that has no other ontological ground in the universe except to celebrate power.

Oh, sure, there are regular hints that there’s still more to come on Trump and his staff’s ties to Russia—the big one is about to hit. But the steady sound of drip-drip-drip is the telltale sign of a political campaign, where items are leaked bit by bit to paralyze the target. Journalists, on the other hand, have to get their story out there as quickly, and as fully, as possible because they’re always worried the competition is going to beat them to it.

No, if Trump really was in bed with the Russians, the story would already be out there, and I’m pretty sure it would have had a Wayne Barrett byline.

When I worked at the Village Voice in the mid-1990s, my office was right around the corner from Barrett’s and his bullpen of interns, a team that kept the heat on local politicians like Rudy Giuliani, Ed Koch, and others. Barrett was the first journalist who wrote at length about Trump, starting in the mid-1970s. His biography, Trump: The Deals and the Downfall, was published in 1992, and reissued in 2016 as Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.

When Trump won the nomination and the pace of Trump stories picked up, Barrett became something of an official archivist, with reporters visiting his Brooklyn house to go through his files in the basement. Anyone who wanted to know what Trump’s deal with Russia was, for instance, would want to talk to Barrett because either he or his team of interns, 40 years’ worth, would have it. After all, New York City is the world capital for information on Russians, even better than Israel—because even though the city got a smaller number of post-Cold War immigrants, New York got a higher percentage of mobsters.

Let’s compare the institution of Wayne Barrett, a subset of the institution of journalism, to the so-called Russia dossier, the document placing Trump in a shady underworld governed by Putin and other Russian thugs. The former includes not only Barrett’s body of work over nearly half a century, but that of the hundreds of journalists he trained, and many thousands of sources whose information is, therefore, able to be cross-checked.

The latter, a congeries of preadolescent pornographic fantasy and spy tales, was authored by a British intelligence officer who has gone to ground since the dossier was made public. The dossier started as work made for hire, first paid for by Republican opponents of Trump and then the Clinton camp, and is sourced to Russian “contacts” who are clearly using the document as an opportunity to proliferate an information operation for perhaps various and as yet unknown purposes. The former is journalism. The latter, part oppo research and part intelligence dump, is garbage. Clearly, it is also the new standard in the field, which is why journalists on both sides of the political spectrum are boasting about their willingness to let their bylines be used as bulletin boards for spy services and call it a “scoop.”

Barrett had Trump on a whole variety of issues, but check the records yourself—up until the day of his death, the day before Trump’s inauguration, there’s nothing on Trump and Putin. Does this mean Trump is totally clean? Who knows? But the journalists now clamoring like maniacs about Trump’s ties sure aren’t going to find it. They’re thin-skinned hacks outraged that Trump dared violate the inherent dignity of that most important of American political institutions, the presidential press conference. And as we all know, this is the apex of real journalism, where esteemed members of the press sit side by side with other masters of the craft to see who gets their question televised.

Does Trump really believe the media are “an enemy of the people”? Please. Let’s remember how he rode his wave to fame on the back of the New York Post’s Page Six (and Graydon Carter’s Spy magazine). He still speaks regularly to the head of CNN (aka “Fake News”), Jeff Zucker, who put him on The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice at NBC, where Trump sat atop the Nielsens for 13 years. Trump uses his Twitter feed to boost his replacement Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings because the president still has a credit as executive producer. No, Trump, doesn’t hate the media. Like Howard Stern, he sees himself as the king of all media. What he’s doing here is playing gladiator in front of an audience that wants to see the lions slain.

Maybe Trump deserves the heat with the fake Russia stories. He backed the Obama birth certificate story, and what goes around comes around. But the American public sure doesn’t deserve a press like this.

Trump adviser Steve Bannon calls the media the opposition party, but that’s misleading. Everyone knows that the press typically tilts left, and no one is surprised, for instance, that The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican candidate since 1956. But that’s not what we’re seeing now—rather, the media has become an instrument in a campaign of political warfare. What was once an American political institution and a central part of the public sphere became something more like state-owned media used to advance the ruling party’s agenda and bully the opposition into silence. Russia’s RT network, the emir of Qatar’s Al Jazeera network—indeed, all of the Arab press—and media typically furnished by Third World regimes became the American press’ new paradigm; not journalism, but information operation.

How did this happen? It’s not about a few journalists, many of whom still do honor to the profession, or a few papers or networks. It’s a structural issue. Much of it is because of the wounds the media inflicted on itself, but it was also partly due to something like a natural catastrophe that no one could have predicted, or controlled.

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I was at the Voice when the meteor hit. Like many papers back then, dailies and weeklies, the Voice made its money on classified advertising. The New York Times, for instance, had three important classifieds sections—employment, automotive, and housing—but if New Yorkers really wanted to find a great apartment, they’d line up at the newsstand on 42nd Street to get a copy of the Voice hot off the press.

And then the internet came along, and it was all there in one place—for free. The press panicked. The Voice’s publisher at the time, David Schneiderman, announced to the staff that the paper was going free. It made no sense, he argued, to keep charging $1 for what consumers could get on the internet for nothing.

Here’s how the staff heard it: Who would want to pay $1 a week to read Nat Hentoff on civil liberties, Robert Christgau on music, Michael Musto on New York nightlife—or Wayne Barrett on the follies of real-estate mogul Donald Trump? That is, who would want to pay $1 a week to feel themselves a part of what the Village Voice had made them feel part of for decades? But at the time, devaluing content was in fashion—which meant, as few saw back then, the profession was digging its own grave.

The American press’ new paradigm: not journalism, but information operation.

In midtown, Tina Brown had taken The New Yorker, a notoriously sleepy rag that entry-level assistants stacked in a corner of their studio apartments to spend a rainy Saturday with a 10,000-word Ved Mehta article, and turned it into a hot book that everyone from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Harvey and Bob Weinstein was talking about. “Buzz” was Tina’s catchword, and she made her writers stars. But something else was happening on the business side that wasn’t good for the content providers.

Before Brown, The New Yorker made its money by selling the magazine to readers who wanted to feel like a part of the world only The New Yorker made available, a cozy world reflected by the modest, but very profitable, number of subscriptions, which hovered around 340,000. Advertising was an afterthought. It may have been the only magazine in history at which the business side held ads because there wasn’t space for them, or because, well, Mr. Shawn might not like them.

Condé Nast owner Si Newhouse, who bought The New Yorker in 1985, and publisher Steve Florio turned the business model on its head when Brown came on in 1992. Forget about making readers pay for content; instead, bill advertisers for access to your readers—charge them for eyeballs. They slashed the subscription price dramatically and readership swelled by many hundreds of thousands. This enabled the sales team to bump up ad rates to levels on par with other Condé Nast glossies, essentially fashion catalogs, that enjoyed much larger readerships, like Vogue, GQ, and Glamour.

The paradox was that The New Yorker lost money because each of the new subscriptions was costly. Paper, printing, and postage are expensive, and even the new ad rates couldn’t cover the costs now that circulation had grown to something like 800,000—not monthly like Vogue, but weekly.

Instead of paying for the cost of high-level reporting and editing, subscribers now cost The New Yorker money. In Brown’s last year at the magazine, The New Yorker lost $10 million—a giant black hole that her successor would endeavor mightily to fill while retaining the magazine’s new subscribers, who had little knowledge of or attachment to the magazine’s prior mix of literary reporting and sophisticated whimsy. If the subscribers didn’t feel interested and flattered, the magazine was sunk.

With a new media model that devalued content, no one had a very clear picture of the problems ahead. The future was further obscured by what seemed to be an astonishing reflorescence of the press, with tiny internet startups throwing lavish parties in Manhattan bistros and paying writers Condé Nast-level fees. The internet was the messiah, everything was great—until the IT bubble burst and media giants like TimeWarner stopped throwing money at a platform they didn’t understand. So now who was going to pay?

For the next decade, the media couldn’t decide which slogan of the moment carried more weight—“content is king” or “information wants to be free.” Sure, you can give away “information,” but someone has to find some way to cover expenses, and yet no one had figured out how to make internet advertising work. Maybe you really could charge for content. Of course you could—The New Yorker had done it for decades.

Even if you bring your own glass to a lemonade stand, there is no 8-year-old entrepreneur who is not going to charge you for his product. Why didn’t media grandees get it? When they saw their ad-based business model collapse, why didn’t they do the logical thing and raise the price on consumers? Sure, they’d lose some readers and have to cut some staff and departments, but they’d have established a fundamental defense of the product, the industry, and the institution itself—news is worth paying for.

As the old Chinese saying has it, the first generation builds the business, the second generation expands it, and the third spends it all on Italian shoes, houses in the Hamptons, and divorces. For the most part, the people inheriting these media properties didn’t know what they were doing. It took The New York Times more than a decade to settle on billing consumers for its product—after giving it away, charging for it, giving it away again, then billing for “premium content,” etc. By then, it was too late. Entire papers went under, and even at places that survived, the costliest enterprises, like foreign bureaus and investigative teams, were cut. An entire generation’s worth of expertise, experience, and journalistic ethics evaporated into thin air.

In January, Bannon told the Times that the press doesn’t “understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.” But the Times had already acknowledged its blunder in a letter to its readers after the election. However, neither Bannon nor the Times seemed to grasp the logistical reasons for the failure—it wasn’t because the paper of record slants left, or because it was too caught up in its own narrative. It’s in large part because it had long ago cut the regional bureaus in the South, the Midwest, etc., that would’ve forced reporters to speak to Americans outside the urban bubble and thereby explain to readers what the world looks like once you wander off the F train.

By the time two planes brought down the World Trade Center towers in September of 2001, everyone in the industry knew the media was in big trouble. The Iraq War partially hid and then later amplified that fact. The media spent millions it didn’t have for coverage it gave away free of a war that the press first supported and then turned against. If journalists prided themselves on their courageous about-faces, to much of their audience it further discredited a press whose main brief is not to advocate for or against, but to report facts.

This is the media environment that Barack Obama walked into—where Post columnist David Ignatius was no more important a media figure than Zach Galifianakis, on whose precious and often funny internet show Between Two Ferns the president marketed the Affordable Care Act. I suspect the Obama White House was a little sad that the press we’d all grown up with was basically dead. As Ben Rhodes, former national security adviser for strategic communications, told The New York Times Magazine, “I’d prefer a sober, reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take a vote. But that’s impossible.”

He was right. What was once known as the prestige media became indistinguishable from the other stuff that Facebook gives away. Was it The New York Times or BuzzFeed that published that video about cats terrorized by cucumbers? Or was it Fake News because, in fact, cats aren’t scared of vegetables? It doesn’t matter where it came from, because there is no longer any hierarchy in the press. The media, as Thomas Friedman might say, is flat.

Obama didn’t kill journalism, but he took advantage of it in its weakness, because he knew the press would do anything to feel relevant again. All those 27-year-olds at the Times, the Washington Post and others hired as bloggers—“who literally know nothing,” as Rhodes told the Times Magazine—when the foreign and national bureaus were closed, they didn’t know it wasn’t OK to be a journalist and a political operative at the same time. They thought it made them more valuable, even patriotic, to put themselves in the service of a historic presidency. And they’d replaced for pennies on the dollar all the adults who could have taught them otherwise.

That’s the raw material out of which the Obama administration built its echo chamber, the purpose of which was to drown out the few remaining vestiges of journalism in order to sell the president’s policies. And there really were real journalists still putting in the hours, still doing the work, but the echo chamber, a relentless, frenzied chorus of incoherent and nearly illiterate prose, shouted them down.

Yes, it would have been nice if the American public had a chance to discuss a policy of vital importance to our national security, like the Iran nuclear deal, but the press congratulated itself for silencing those who dissented from Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative. These weren’t simply critics or opponents of the White House, they weren’t just wrong; no, they were warmongers, beholden to donors and moneyed interests and lobbies, they were dual loyalists.

But it was all OK for the press to humiliate and threaten Obama’s opponents in accordance with the talking points provided by Obama administration officials—they were helping the president prevent another senseless war. That’s for history to decide. What everyone saw at the time was that the press had put itself in the service of executive power. This was no longer simply tilting left, rather, it was turning an American political institution against the American public.

Now with Trump in the White House, commentators on the right are critical of those angry with the press for calling out Trump on the same stuff that Obama got away with. Let’s be above it, they argue. Just because Obama did it doesn’t make it OK for Trump to do it. Fine, obviously, call out Trump—but this isn’t about playing gotcha. It’s about a self-aggrandizing press corps gaslighting the electorate. The public is astonished and appalled that the media has now returned after an eight-year absence to arrogate to itself the role of conscience of the nation.

It’s not working out very well.

Consider the Washington Post, whose new motto is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” which presumably was OK’d by owner Jeff Bezos, the man who closed virtually every independent bookstore in America. Here’s a recent story about riots in Sweden:

Just two days after President Trump provoked widespread consternation by seeming to imply, incorrectly, that immigrants had perpetrated a recent spate of violence in Sweden, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the northern suburbs of the country’s capital, Stockholm.

You’ve probably never seen the phrase “seeming to imply” in the lede of a story in a major American newspaper before—a news story. So did Trump imply, or seem to imply? How are readers supposed to parse “incorrectly” if the story is about the reality of riots in a place where Trump “seemingly” “implied” there was violence? So what’s the point—that Trump is a racist? Or that Trump can see the future?

The press at present is incapable of reconstituting itself because it lacks the muscle memory to do so. Look at the poor New Yorker. During the eight years of the Obama administration, it was best known not for reported stories, but for providing a rostrum for a man to address the class that revered him as a Caesar. Now that the magazine is cut off from the power that made it relevant, is it any wonder that when it surveys the post-Obama landscape it looks like Rome is burning—or is that the Reichstag in flames?

The Russia story is evidence that top reporters are are still feeding from the same trough—political operatives, intelligence agencies, etc.—because they don’t know how to do anything else, and their editors don’t dare let the competition get out ahead. Why would the Post, for instance, let the Times carve out a bigger market share of the anti-Trump resistance? And what’s the alternative? Report the story honestly? Don’t publish questionably sourced innuendo as news?

And still, you ask, how could the Russia story be nonsense? All the major media outlets are on it. Better to cover yourself—maybe it’s true, because the press can’t really be this inept and corrupt, so there’s got to be something to it.

I say this not only out of respect for a late colleague, but in the hope that journalism may once again merit the trust of the American public. Wayne Barrett had this file for 40 years, and if neither he nor the reporters he trained got this story, it’s not a story.

Where was McCain when Obama attacked the free press?

February 19, 2017

Where was McCain when Obama attacked the free press? American ThinkerMonica Showalter, February 19, 2017

Senator John McCain poured it on for the press at a Munich defense conference Saturday, warning in a veiled attack on President Trump that attacks on the press are a leading danger for democracy. “That’s how dictators are made!” he shrieked. It was rich stuff, given that most of his European listeners do not have the same wide press freedoms found in the states. But more to the point, it was McCain up to his old tricks: Ingratiating himself to the anti-Trump press by playing its champion, in a bid to be the media’s darling.

What stands out here is the hypocrisy of his claims. He’s suddenly concerned about press freedoms and dictators?

Where was McCain when President Obama was systematically violating press freedoms every which way to Tuesday?

Seven examples of Obama’s attacks on a free press spring to mind and not one of them drew any significant criticism from McCain.

Where was McCain when Fox News correspondent James Rosen was illegally followed around by Obama’s Department of Justice in 2013 over a story he published on North Korean activities? It was a clear-cut example of reporters just doing their jobs, even as someone in government was leaking the story, but Team Obama went after Rosen with the Espionage Act.

Where was McCain when CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was being taken over and hacked in late 2012 by what were almost certainly Obama agents over her Benghazi scandal reporting? She described the still-unresolved incident in her book Stonewalled (which ought to give another clue about the Obama record on press freedoms) but her story about the computer hacking, which included planting classified documents and keystroke changings, certainly was disturbing. We didn’t hear much from McCain.

Where was McCain when New York Times reporter James Risen was threatened with prosecution if he did not reveal his sources? Risen certainly thought Obama was acting like a dictator in a recent interview. McCain, not so much.

Where was McCain when Obama illegally wiretapped the communications systems of the Associated Press in 2013 bid to find out its sources? Nowhere to be found.

Where was McCain when radio show host Rush Limbaugh was attacked by Obama – in 2009 and 2012 for unfavorable commentary?

Where was McCain when Fox News was singled out for criticism by President Obama? This event was not only a blast at the outfit but highly inappropriate collaboration with Media Matters, which made Fox News its bugbear.

And where was McCain when Obama’s spokesman John Kirby attacked a RT News correspondent at a 2016 White House press conference who asked an uncomfortable question on Syria, questioning its legitimacy as a press outfit? If the Russian state-funded press agency was that illegitimate, explain to us why it had a press pass issued by the White House at all? We heard nothing about it from McCain.

The Obama list is quite long, and that is not surprising. Obama was a socialist and socialists of all stripes have a long record of suppressing freedom of the press, subordinating its expression to the interests of an all-powerful state and its dictator. McCain found nothing wrong with that when Obama was playing that game and undercutting the press in what seemed to be pretty oppressive and downright illegal behavior. Breitbart News has another list of problems here. But when Trump, three or four weeks into his presidency, calls out some fake news on Twitter, suddenly we have a dictator descending.

When President Obama’s National Security Advisor Lied, The Media Laughed

February 17, 2017

When President Obama’s National Security Advisor Lied, The Media Laughed, The Federalist, February 17, 2017

medialaughed

Sometimes the hypocrisy, double standard, and outright lies by the media under the Trump presidency is funny. Sometimes it is infuriating. But never was the media’s complicit sheep-like coverage more evident than it the days after Benghazi, behavior you can never imagine now. They have yet to admit their mistakes and failures, even as more evidence is revealed.

Remember that the next time you want to worry about how Trump is responsible for undermining the media’s integrity and credibility.

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Buried deep beneath the Michael Flynn hysteria this week was Judicial Watch’s release of newly obtained State Department documents related to the Benghazi terrorist attack on September 11, 2012. One email confirms—again—that the Obama administration knew the day after the attack it was not a random act of violence stemming from an anti-Muslim video. That was the excuse shamefully propagated by top Obama administration officials (including the president himself) and swallowed whole by a media establishment desperate to help Obama win re-election six weeks later.

According to the summary of a call on September 12, 2012 between State Department Under-Secretary Patrick Kennedy and several congressional staffers, Kennedy was asked if the attack came under cover of protest: “No this was a direct breaching attack,” he answered. Kennedy also denied the attack was coordinated with the protests in Cairo over the video: “Attack in Cairo was a demonstration. There were no weapons shown or used. A few cans of spray paint.”

It’s somewhat ironic—galling?—that this email was disclosed the same day the anti-Trump universe was spinning into the stratosphere over Flynn’s resignation as President Trump’s national security advisor. It begs for a little trip down memory lane, to a kinder, gentler time when the media gave a great big pass to another national security advisor in the days after four Americans, including an ambassador, were murdered in Libya by Islamic terrorists under her watch.

Lying to Us Only Matters If We Dislike You

Fun fact: While Trump press secretary Sean Spicer fielded 55 questions on February 14 related to the Flynn debacle, Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney received only 13 questions from reporters on September 12, 2012, three of which were set-ups to blast Mitt Romney’s criticism of the administration after the attack. 55 to 13.

So as we now suffer through yet another patch of media mania, conspiracy theories, and unsubstantiated claims about how Trump hearts Russia, as well as the daily beatings endured by Spicer, let’s reminisce to when the media and Obama’s press flaks spun, deflected—even joked about golf and “Saturday Night Live!”—less than a week after Benghazi.

The day after Hillary Clinton’s deputy had that call with key Capitol Hill staffers, including advisors to senators Durbin, Feinstein, and McGaskill, to dispute the notion the attack was about an anti-Muslim video, here’s what Carney said: “I think it’s important to note with regards to that protest that there are protests taking place in different countries across the world that are responding to the movie that has circulated on the Internet. As Secretary Clinton said today, the United States government had nothing to do with this movie. We reject its message and its contents. We find it disgusting and reprehensible.”

On September 14, hours before the remains of the Benghazi victims would arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, Carney was still blaming the video. Just steps from the Oval Office, Carney opened his briefing with this: “First of all, we are obviously closely monitoring developments in the region today. You saw that following the incidents in response to this video, the president directed the administration to take a number of steps to prepare for continued unrest.”

Carney went on to mention the video/film/movie another 30 times during his briefing. He stuck with his story even after some reporters pushed back, citing other sources who said it was indeed a pre-mediated attack. One reporter said several senators admitted the “attack on Benghazi was a terrorist attack organized and carried out by terrorists, that it was premeditated, a calculated act of terror,” and asked Carney, “is there anything more you can — now that the administration is briefing senators on this, is there anything more you can tell us?”

Carney: “Again, it’s actively under investigation, both the Benghazi attack and incidents elsewhere. And my point was that we don’t have and did not have concrete evidence to suggest that this was not in reaction to the film. But we’re obviously investigating the matter…” Who cares, Sean Spicer called Justin Trudeau Joe, OMG!

Susan Rice’s Audacity of Trope

But of course nothing matches the audacity of trope by Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice on September 16, 2012. Rice went on several Sunday shows to peddle a story she knew was completely phony, one that was already quickly unraveling even as most in the media and administration tried to keep it intact.

You can read most of her comments here, but Rice repeats the line that Benghazi attack was not premediated and was connected to the demonstrations in Cairo over the video (a document obtained by Judicial Watch last year shows Hillary Clinton met with Rice a few days before her television appearances). Which presidential administration is fact-challenged, again?

In a press gaggle on Air Force One the next day, guess how many times Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about Rice’s comments? Ten? Five? One? Not once. Let me repeat that. The day after Obama’s national security advisor was on five news programs to blame a terrorist attack on a YouTube video, not one reporter asked the White House about it. I actually had to re-read the transcripts several times, even checking the date over and over, to make sure this was accurate. Her name did not even come up.

No discussion about the investigation. No discussion about emerging evidence from around the world that Benghazi was indeed a terrorist attack. (The only time it was mentioned was when Jen Psaki criticized Mitt Romney’s comments about how the administration handled Benghazi and questioned whether he was ready for “primetime.”)

Here’s what they did discuss: Debate prep, Occupy Wall Street, and the Chicago’s teachers strike. An actual human reporter asked this: “It was a beautiful weekend for golf and he wasn’t out on the course. Is it safe to assume maybe he was doing some preparation at the White House?” WHAT? Then they joked about football and “Saturday Night Live.”

Sometimes the hypocrisy, double standard, and outright lies by the media under the Trump presidency is funny. Sometimes it is infuriating. But never was the media’s complicit sheep-like coverage more evident than it the days after Benghazi, behavior you can never imagine now. They have yet to admit their mistakes and failures, even as more evidence is revealed.

Remember that the next time you want to worry about how Trump is responsible for undermining the media’s integrity and credibility.

Chutzpah: AP Decries “Softball” Questions

February 14, 2017

Chutzpah: AP Decries “Softball” Questions, Power LineJohn Hinderaker, February 14, 2017

Now that we have a Republican president, the press has gone oppositional. Today, the Associated Press complains that President Trump isn’t taking antagonistic enough questions during his press conferences: “News conferences raise issue of Trump seeking softballs.”

President Donald Trump managed to avoid questions about hot-button issues facing the White House — such as the future of national security adviser Michael Flynn and a North Korean missile launch — in a news conference Monday where selected reporters asked non-challenging questions and other, shouted-out inquiries were ignored.

Heh. The president ignores “shouted-out inquiries”? Who can forget “What about your gaaaffes”?

The president selected his questioners: Scott Thuman from Washington’s local ABC News affiliate and Kaitlan Collins of The Daily Caller, a conservative website founded in 2010 by Fox News Channel anchor Tucker Carlson.

Thuman asked Trump about his relationship with Trudeau, given the two men have outlined policy differences, and whether there were any areas where Trump had changed his stance on issues following their conversation. The president offered no specifics.

Collins asked Trump what he saw as the most important national security issues facing the nation.

Good questions. Kaitlyn Collins took no grief from the AP. Asked about her question, she responded:

“Personnel questions are interesting, but our readers want substance. They don’t want Washington bull—-. They want to know where the next war is going to be,” Collins told The Associated Press by email later in the day.

What’s funny about the AP’s pique, of course, is that for eight years Barack Obama rarely answered questions from the press, and when he did, he almost never got anything except softballs. See, for example, Freedom of the Press to Kiss A**, Obama Dodges the Big Questions, and The White House Press Corps Bids a Slobbering Farewell to President Obama.

Now, suddenly, the AP and other Democratic Party news outlets have woken from their slumber and are telling us their job is to fight the new administration. I doubt that anyone is fooled.

The Associated Press Goes To War With Trump

January 24, 2017

The Associated Press Goes To War With Trump, Power LineJohn Hinderaker, January 24, 2017

[A]s we saw during the campaign, Trump can be accused of exaggeration. But the liberal press is far more guilty of outright falsity, and its accusations vastly overstate Trump’s purported sins.

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As of January 20, the liberal press has a new mantra: no more mister nice guy! We’re going to call a lie a lie, damn it! That would have been a nice practice during the last eight years, but better late than never, I suppose.

The Associated Press manifests its new attitude–all-out war on the president–with today’s “news” story: “Trump bridge-building overshadowed by false voter fraud line.”

Even as President Donald Trump starts reaching out to lawmakers and business and union leaders to sell his policies, he’s still making false claims about election fraud.

That’s a bold lead sentence. It would be interesting to try to find an instance in the last eight years when the AP attributed “false claims,” without qualification, to Barack Obama.

During a bipartisan reception with lawmakers at the White House Monday evening, Trump claimed the reason he’d lost the popular vote to his Democratic rival was that 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally had voted. That’s according to a Democratic aide familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

There is no evidence to support Trump’s claim.

The assertion appeared to be part of a developing pattern for Trump and his new administration in which falsehoods overshadow outreach efforts.

Extraordinarily harsh words. Note, however, that the AP takes at face value the report of a “Democratic aide…who spoke on condition of anonymity.” That is a very thin reed on which to base the assertion that Trump lied.

What about the AP’s flat assurance that “[t]here is no evidence to support Trump’s claim”? If Trump said that three million illegal immigrants voted in the election, the AP is simply wrong. There is evidence to support that claim. This study by professors from Old Dominion and James Mason Universities concluded that as many as 2.8 million illegals voted in the 2008 and 2010 elections, and the illegal immigrant population has continued to grow. The study also found that:

this [illegal] participation has been large enough to change meaningful election outcomes including Electoral College votes, and Congressional elections. Non-citizen votes likely gave Senate Democrats the pivotal 60th vote needed to overcome filibusters in order to pass health care reform and other Obama administration priorities in the 111th Congress.

The Associated Press is free to disagree with the conclusions reached by Professors Richman, Chattha and Earnest, and to offer its own estimates of the extent of illegal voting. But it hasn’t done so, and the AP’s claim that there is “no evidence” to support Trump’s claim is false. The AP also describes Trump’s assertion as “debunked,” with no reference to what evidence supposedly debunked it.

The AP goes on to accuse Trump’s of further lies:

The start of Trump’s first full week in office had begun as a reset after a tumultuous weekend dominated by his and his spokesman’s false statements about inauguration crowds and their vigorous complaints about media coverage of the celebrations.

Again, the Associated Press casually accuses both Trump and Sean Spicer of making “false statements” about the crowd at the inauguration. This flap duplicates a pattern that we saw repeatedly during the campaign. It starts with a lie about Trump by the press. Trump responds with what probably is an exaggeration, which the press hysterically denounces as a lie, without acknowledging its own role in the controversy.

Here, the press started the conflict by putting out a lowball estimate that only 250,000 attended Trump’s inauguration. The New York Times deceptively tried to further that narrative by circulating a photo of the crowd that was taken before the inauguration began, and before the crowd was fully assembled. That deception, which we wrote about here, was repeated by pretty much the entire press corps.

So what was Trump’s alleged falsehood?

“I made a speech. I looked out. The field was — it looked like a million, a million and a half people.”

The president went on to say that one network “said we drew 250,000 people. Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie.” He then claimed that were 250,000 right by the stage and the “rest of the, you know, 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed.”

Trump didn’t say there were a million people there, he said it looked like a million when he looked out from the podium. And there were people extending back to the Washington Monument, although it probably wasn’t “packed” there. So Trump exaggerated, but there is only one flat-out falsehood in the picture: the original press report that only 250,000 people attended.

What was Sean Spicer’s alleged falsehood?

Spicer has taken heat for his main claim that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” while offering other inaccurate statements including that Trump’s was the first inauguration in which white floor coverings were used on the mall. White floor coverings were used during Obama’s second inauguration in 2013.

I assume the press isn’t going to try to create a credibility gap out of the white floor coverings. Spicer’s sin is saying that the largest ever international audience witnessed Trump’s inauguration. But whether that statement is true or not is unknown. While television ratings were higher for Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, online viewership around the world could indeed have been enough to make the Trump inauguration the most-watched.

Here, as we saw during the campaign, Trump can be accused of exaggeration. But the liberal press is far more guilty of outright falsity, and its accusations vastly overstate Trump’s purported sins.

It is hard to say how the all-out war on Trump by the Associated Press and other liberal outlets will end. But so far, Trump has done pretty well by running against the media.

The Thrill: The Story of Chris Matthews and Barack Obama

January 19, 2017

The Thrill: The Story of Chris Matthews and Barack Obama, Washington Free Beacon, , January 18, 2017

MSNBC host Chris Matthews infamously pronounced that a 2008 speech delivered by Barack Obama gave him a “thrill going up my leg.”

As this new Washington Free Beacon supercut shows, that thrill remained for the next eight years. The liberal cable host called Obama perfect, incorruptible, and post-racial, claimed he had “never done anything wrong in his life,” and was fond of chalking up opposition to the Obama agenda to racists, racism, and being racist.

Such was Matthew’s love for Obama that he thanked Superstorm Sandy for coming along in 2012 and helping the president’s successful reelection bid, a remark for which he later apologized.

Obama is leaving the White House, but the Tingle is surely there to stay.

Obama’s White House, 2009: ‘Don’t Pretend’ Fox News Is a ‘Legitimate News Organization’

January 12, 2017

Obama’s White House, 2009: ‘Don’t Pretend’ Fox News Is a ‘Legitimate News Organization’, PJ MediaDavid Steinberg, January 11, 2017

trumpnewsconfPresident-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in New York. The news conference was his first as President-elect. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Now, here’s a more insightful take: since Obama’s done it since it his first year in office; since Obama went two entire terms without taking more than a handful of questions from any center-right outlet, never mind singling out just one; and since not being one of the lucky dozen or so people out of 300 million Americans who gets to ask the president-elect a question does not infer that your rights have been violated . . . .

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Donald Trump refused to take a question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta today, labeling Acosta’s employer as “fake news.” Since then, mainstream media and celebrities are hyperventilating over Trump as if he bears the same viciously totalitarian impulses as, say, Fidel Castro — and that Trump is SCARY and GOING TO GET THEM.

As comforting as tweeting one’s victimhood status to millions appears to be to today’s left — and as ironic as exercising one’s free speech to millions via Twitter to claim the death of the First Amendment is to everyone else — this reactionary response sure doesn’t look good for the left in terms of ideological consistency.

Or sanity. For example, here’s one-percenter Patton Oswalt, who I’ll assume is tweeting from an in-home hyperbaric chamber:

Did the New York Times fear freedom of the press had been eradicated? No, the headline was simply that “Fox’s Volley With Obama” was … “Intensifying.”

Ironically, current CNN host and Trump critic Brian Stelter wrote the article. It begins:

Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.

We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent,” said Anita Dunn, the White House communications director, in a telephone interview on Sunday. “As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”

In 2009, the White House’s position on Fox News was that it was “an opponent,” at “war(!)” with the White House. And that they were not, in fact, a legitimate news organization.

They were to be treated as fake news. It was White House policy.

Here’s Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post:

John Harwood of NBC:

Mother Jones:

Media Matters:

Here’s George Takei:

Now, here’s a more insightful take: since Obama’s done it since it his first year in office; since Obama went two entire terms without taking more than a handful of questions from any center-right outlet, never mind singling out just one; and since not being one of the lucky dozen or so people out of 300 million Americans who gets to ask the president-elect a question does not infer that your rights have been violated, this tweeter brings some sanity whether you’re a Trump supporter or not:

Much better.