2. CNN's Gergen: Obama Agenda 'One of Greatest Dramas of Our Time'
3. Obama 'Grabbed Center,' Jindal 'Far Right,' 'Micro-Cosmic' Chat?
4. CBS's Early Show Celebrates One-Month Anniversary of POTUS Obama
5. ABC Ignores Personal Responsibility in Look at Home Foreclosures
6. Time Mag Trashes Goldberg's Bias Book as One to 'Toss' Not Read
7. Profs Claim Nets Slanted Toward GOP in Presidential Races 92-04
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod made the rounds of the broadcast network evening newscast anchors on Tuesday to discuss President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress, but CBS's Katie Couric, in uniquely offering some balance by matching Axelrod with a segment featuring House Minority Leader John Boehner, only served to expose her impatience toward GOP opposition. With Axelrod, she cued him up to expound on the administration's policies, pressed him about nationalizing banks and empathized with the terrible conditions inherited by Obama's team. In contrast, with Boehner she wondered if Republicans are "out of touch," suggested they are stuck between having either the country or their base "hate" them and asked: "Do you think the Republicans are digging themselves in a hole by not being more supportive of the President's proposals?"
Couric prompted Axelrod to explain how the administration will overcome criticism of the mortgage plan: "How do you explain that this is not going to be helping out somebody's brother-in-law who put down no money, spent too much money on his house and basically cut corners while other families feel like, 'listen, we did everything right.'?" She soon lamented what Bush left behind: "When you were running this campaign did you ever envision inheriting this job at a time when the country is in such deep trouble?"
Interviewing Boehner, Couric cited some poll numbers and then demanded: "Are you out of touch with the American people?" She made Boehner react to an Obama operative's formulation of how not doing what President Obama wants means "the country will hate" Republicans: "One high-ranking White House official told me today: When it comes to Republicans on Capitol Hill the administration plans to hug them until it hurts. If you hug back your base will hate you and if you don't hug back the country will hate you. What's your reaction?"
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Couric's questions to Axelrod, as aired on the Tuesday, February 24 CBS Evening News, after she set up the segment: "This afternoon I asked him how Mr. Obama will underscore the gravity of the situation and yet make Americans optimistic about the future?"
- There seems to be some trepidation, even anger, about the mortgage bailout plan. How do you explain that this is not going to be helping out somebody's brother-in-law who put down no money, spent too much money on his house and basically cut corners while other families feel like, 'listen, we did everything right.'?"
- But what about people who just cut corners and put no money down and spent way too much money?
- What about nationalizing some of the banks? Have you ruled that out?
- Isn't owning shares of CitiBank technically nationalization?
- When you were running this campaign did you even envision inheriting this job at a time when the country is in such deep trouble?
Couric's questions to Boehner:
- Leader Boehner, how do you think President Obama's speech will be received tonight by members of your party?
- A recent CBS News poll shows that 53 percent of the American people fully backs the stimulus package, 63 percent of people we polled thought the Republican opposition to the stimulus package was for political reasons. So, are you out of touch with the American people?
- President Obama says he wants to cut the deficit in half in four years. Do you believe that's realistic?
- One high-ranking White House official told me today: When it comes to Republicans on Capitol Hill the administration plans to hug them until it hurts. If you hug back your base will hate you and if you don't hug back the country will hate you. What's your reaction?
- Do you think the Republicans are digging themselves in a hole by not being more supportive of the President's proposals?
CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen was positively aglow after hearing President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening: "This was the most ambitious President we've heard in this chamber in decades. The first half of the speech was FDR, fighting for the New Deal. The second half was Lyndon Johnson fighting for the Great Society, and we've never seen those two presidents rolled together in quite this way before." He later gushed over the agenda set by the executive during his speech: "I think we're watching one of the greatest political dramas of our time."
Gergen made the remarks as he participated in a panel discussion during a special post-speech edition of the network's Anderson Cooper 360. Eleven minutes into the 10 pm Eastern hour of the program, host Anderson Cooper asked the analyst for his immediate reaction to his speech. After making his lofty comparison, he underlined the apparent ambition of President Obama: "I think most people would have felt just trying to recover from this recession and stop the flow of blood, and get a recovery going would be enough for one President. He's saying no, no, no -- we're going to do health care reform this year....Do energy -- we'll do education. Thankfully -- do national service, and we're going to cut the deficit."
[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Cooper responded to the analyst's outline by asking, "Can he [President Obama] do that all?" Gergen's answer: "I think that's part of the drama of this presidency....I think we're watching one of the greatest political dramas of our time."
Earlier in the evening, during Campbell Brown's program, Gergen did his best to hype the President's then-upcoming address:
CAMPBELL BROWN: David, you know, people are scared -- not a lot of patience right now for partisan politics, and that is good for the president in a way, yes?
Some of the odd and/or noteworthy takes in television coverage following President Barack Obama's Tuesday night address to a joint session of Congress:
- On MSNBC, Chris Matthews predicted "we're going to hear a fairly right-wing speech tonight," from Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in response to Obama, because "the only position left in America right now politically that he's left open is on the far right, and Bobby Jindal is headed for it," along with Sarah Palin, since "Barack has grabbed the center with the charm he showed tonight in his excellent rhetoric."
- ABC's Charles Gibson, who like his broadcast network colleagues refrained from labeling Obama or his speech as liberal, introduced Jindal with an ideological tag: "He is a very conservative Republican and you'll hear that reflected, I think, in his remarks tonight."
- On CBS, Katie Couric reacted to Obama's speech with some strange "cosmic" analogies, touting how Obama had succeeded in his effort to "really connect the dots, in a way, to explain to people that micro-cosmically this will help them, this is just not a national macro-cosmic plan for the economy."
- Couric's colleague Jeff Greenfield hailed how "this was actually a fireside chat. This is what I found so fascinating" as "it reminded me, in some sense, of the radio speeches FDR gave where he talked about complicated issues in simple ways."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Matthews did at least acknowledge that in his speech Obama was saying "I'm a left of center President" and Olbermann echoed how Obama plans to fix things "in a left-wing, in a liberal fashion."
The closest anyone on ABC, CBS or NBC got to labeling Obama came when Couric, following Jindal, observed that the two speeches displayed the "ideological fault line" in today's politics.
Gibson noted, the MRC's Rich Noyes alerted me about the Obama speech, that "this is an expensive speech when you look at it line by line in what he wants to spend."
MSNBC at about 10:15 PM EST, as provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
KEITH OLBERMANN: There is still the partisanship that Washington will never get rid of. What can the Republican response be, however, to one in which there seemed to be so many themes? How do you come out against recovering the nation's sense of self and its optimism? How do you come out against words like "boldly," "wisely," "swiftly," and "aggressively"?
Jeff Greenfield on CBS, shortly after Couric's remarks about the "micro-cosmically" and "macro-cosmic" aspects of Obama's address: "This was actually a fireside chat. This is what I found so fascinating. From the very first sentence he basically said to the Congress 'I'm not talking to you, I'm talking to the people who sent us here.' And it reminded me, in some sense, of the radio speeches FDR gave where he talked about complicated issues in simple ways. Obama tried to explain how he got into this mess, why will my program make it better. Very intensely personal in the sense of talking to people at home watching one or two at a time in front of their TVs."
In commemoration of the one-month anniversary of the Obama family moving into the White House, on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "For the last month, as President Obama has settled into running the country, the first family has settled into life at the White House. While President Obama has been trying to repair our failing economy, First Lady Michelle Obama has become his number one advocate. Visiting five federal agencies this month, plugging her husband's economic stimulus plan."
Rodriguez went on to describe the Obamas hitting the Washington D.C. social scene: "In one month, the Obamas have engaged in their community, reading to school kids and visiting community organizations...They've become part of the local scene, eating out and attending a performance at the Kennedy Center. They're familiarizing themselves with their new home...They just hosted their first black-tie dinner and have entertained nearly 200 school children at the White House. But above all, in five weeks, Mr. and Mrs. Obama have learned their role as parents-in-chief to daughters Malia and Sasha."
[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Rodriguez asked former Hillary Clinton social secretary Capricia Marshall about the First Family's first month: "How do you think they're doing in their first month? They seem to be handling things well. All the balls in the air." Marshall responded: "They are handling things spectacularly. It has been a whirlwind of a first month for this new first family. And America, I think, is thrilled in the way that they have embraced this new challenge and have started this new administration."
Rodriguez went on to ask: "They really have said that they're trying to make this the people's White House. They opened it up for a tour. They brought the students -- the culinary students into the kitchen the other day. Are they really trying to make it different than ever before?" Marshall agreed: "Well, I think that they're doing -- setting the right tone. They are making sure that the White House is the people's house. And it's wonderful to see that, opening it up to so many different types of people, so many different types of events. I was thrilled with the Lilly Ledbetter event. That was really amazing for women across the country."
Marshall was greatly impressed by Michelle Obama's party planning skills: "But they've got lots planned coming up in the next few weeks. But last Sunday's Governors' Ball was pretty extraordinary. They only had three weeks to put that together." Rodriguez agreed: "Yeah, it's amazing."
Tuesday's Good Morning America ignored the liberal leanings of a Florida attorney who is instructing people on how to stall home foreclosures. In the segment, reporter Jim Avila showcased individuals who have drawn out the process by demanding that banks produce the original note to their home (which has often been sold in loan packages that are then traded on Wall Street). At no time did he ever question if the homeowners in question had any responsibility for their current situation.
Avila talked to lawyer Chris Hoyer who runs the Consumer Warning Network [CWN], a group whose stated purpose is to investigate fraud by large companies. The CWN website features an interview conducted by Hoyer in summer 2008 of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. In that video, Hoyer can be seen telling Dean that he hopes the coming White House "will be a Democratic administration in tune with consumers." Of course, at no time in Avila's piece did he identify the partisan leanings of the Florida lawyer. See Consumer Warning Network, at: www.consumerwarningnetwork.com
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
While Avila spent much of the piece explaining how Americans could delay being foreclosed on, he never asked Kim Kolaski or Kathy Lovelace, two Florida women who could lose their homes, what responsibility they had. Kolaski explained that she bought her house for $39,000 and now owes $145,000. Avila simply informed, "She bought in the neighborhood where she grew up...But during the big Florida bubble, refinanced and remortgaged, over and over."
After describing how Kolaski planned on delaying foreclosure by demanding the bank produce the ownership note, the woman asserted, "Well, if they can't prove that I owe them, why should I pay them?" Again, Avila offered no challenge to this statement.
Two weeks ago, on February 10, Good Morning America promoted the efforts of a left-wing housing group run by a CEO who calls himself a "bank terrorist." And just as with the February 24 piece, there was no mention of agenda or partisan leanings. See a February 11, 2008 CyberAlert posting for more: www.mrc.org
A transcript of the February 24 segment, which aired at 7:42am:
DIANE SAWYER: Something new from the front lines of the housing crisis this morning. As we know, a quarter million Americans got a foreclosure notice last month. Homeowners doing whatever they can to stay in their homes. But it turns out, there is a new tactic. It's a new phrase, that could buy you time. And senior justice and law correspondent Jim Avila is here with it. Jim?
Last year, Time magazine created a little mini-book review featured called "The Skimmer," to quickly determine for readers whether a new book is something they should either Read, Skim, or Toss. In the March 2 edition, Time took up Bernard Goldberg's media-bias expose, A Slobbering Love Affair. Unsurprisingly, they trashed it as a book to "Toss."
A look back over the feature quickly demonstrates that Time has used the feature to offer raves and "Read" recommendations for fellow members of the liberal media, especially when they're bashing President Bush or his war on terror. The list begins with former Wall Street Journal reporter Jane Mayer (July 28, 2008 issue), Washington Post bias legend Bob Woodward (September 22), Washington Post reporter Steve Fainaru (November 24), New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (December 22), and New York Times reporter David Sanger (February 2).
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Time's Gilbert Cruz bashed Goldberg throughout his mini-review:
As a conservative media critic writing for a conservative publishing house addressing a conservative audience, Bernard Goldberg, a former CBS journalist and the author of the media-bashing memoir Bias, doesn't have to do much to notch a best seller.
Step 1: sarcastically criticize the "mainstream media" as hopelessly liberal. Step 2: repeat for 20 or so abbreviated chapters. Goldberg's objections to "mainstream media" coverage of Barack Obama are fairly well worn. Among the many complaints, he notes that Obama's associations with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former Weatherman Bill Ayers didn't get enough press scrutiny during last year's election campaign, while Sarah Palin's clothing and Joe the Plumber's personal life got too much.
Because of their fawning over Obama, the "mainstream media" '€" if the author removed that modifier, this book would be a pamphlet '€" have left their credibility "in tatters," Goldberg writes. Of course, just saying something doesn't make it so. But that won't matter to Goldberg's readers, who will devour his latest with gusto.
END of Review
That's online at: www.time.com
Cruz could easily look at his first sentence and realize he is a liberal book critic writing for a liberal magazine addressing a liberal audience. But perhaps that's too much to ask.
The popular Poynter Institute weblog Romenesko highlighted a new study Tuesday insisting the TV networks favored the Republicans in presidential campaigns from 1992 to 2004, with this blurb: "'We don't think this is journalists conspiring to favor Republicans,' says Indiana University's Maria Elizabeth Grabe, who wrote Image Bite Politics with Erik Bucy. 'We think they're just so beat up and tired of being accused of a liberal bias that they unknowingly give Republicans the benefit in coverage.'"
The Indiana University professors came up with this bizarre result by studying the visuals of TV news, the "image bites." A glance at the press release shows the study's sample size was tiny: "They examined 62 hours of broadcast network news coverage -- a total of 178 newscasts -- between Labor Day and Election Day over four U.S. presidential elections between 1992 and 2004. Cable news outlets, including CNN and Fox News, were not included in their research. The professors are now looking at 2008 election coverage." Press release: newsinfo.iu.edu
That's 62 hours of coverage over four election cycles, or less than 16 hours a cycle! Even within the last two months of an election cycle, the three networks would have 90 hours of evening newscasts (which would mean they're skipping more than 80 percent of the sample.) They also discovered a conservative bias -- by turning the volume down to zero!
[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Tuesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
More from the press release:
Grabe and Bucy found the volume of news coverage focusing exclusively on each party -- one measure of media bias -- favored Republicans. Their research found there were more single-party stories about Republicans overall and in each election year except 1992. When they studied the time duration of these stories, no pattern of favoritism was evident.
But they did spot differences when they studied visual coverage, that is, with the volume turned down.
They claimed that Republicans were more likely to be cited last in a story, and less likely to be subject to a "lip flap" shot, when reporter shows video of a candidate while the reporter talks over it. But they can't determine that with the sound off.
Are these professors liberals with an agenda of countering the evidence of a liberal media bias? In a podcast, co-author Erik Bucy claimed there was not a pronounced pro-Obama bias in the 2008 Democratic primaries, and if there was, it was simply because it was matching Obama's record of victories. (There's no notion that positive coverage can drive primary victories, and not the other way around?) He found it ironic Hillary would complain, even if it was effective: "Usually, this is an accusation leveled by the Republicans, of media bias, and of course, it's you know, the accusation is liberal media bias, but if you look for evidence of that, it's very difficult to find. So it tends to be more of a political strategy than an actual reality in a lot of news coverage." Podcast: www.ns.umich.edu
Bucy added that Hillary benefited from the Saturday Night Live skit carrying the theme of a pro-Obama bias, even if "this is just a perception."
The other co-author, Maria Elizabeth Grabe, has an interesting 2006 research project listed online in her curriculum vitae: a paper titled "Bill O'Reilly's 'No Spin Zone': Using 1930s Propaganda Techniques and Constructing Villains, Victims, and The Virtuous." It says it was well-received at an international conference in Dresden, Germany. The paper compares O'Reilly to Father Charles Coughlin, an anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi radio host of the 1930s. Her online bio: www.indiana.edu
Her anti-O'Reilly vitriol: www.allacademic.com
-- Brent Baker