Aug
01
2008

Dubious Debates

How media moderators lowered the level of Election ’08

Brian Williams--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Peabody Awards

Given the early start and lengthy run of Election 2008’s presidential primaries, the full slates of candidates in both the Democratic and Republican parties, and voters’ concerns with pressing issues, it is not surprising that the media featured a large number of debates. Roughly 40 were held between April 2007 and May 2008 (depending upon whether so-called “forums” and an interactive “mashup” online debate created by Yahoo! and the Huffington Post are included). The volume at times seemed overwhelming, as in January 2008, when six debates (one called a forum) were held. Despite the potential for voter exhaustion, we might […]

Jul
01
2008

Selling the Colombia Trade Pact

Papers spin deal into a ‘no-brainer’

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Public Citizen

In an April 10 editorial headlined “Drop Dead, Colombia,” the Washington Post excoriated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for holding up passage of a proposed trade promotion deal with Colombia. With the hyperbole the paper seems to reserve for this issue, the Post declared, “The year 2008 may enter history as the time when the Democratic Party lost its way on trade.” Refusing to wave the deal through without challenge is an error of historic proportion, the Post declared, because “economically, it should be a no-brainer—especially at a time of rising U.S. joblessness.” Perhaps more significantly, the deal deserves support as […]

Jul
01
2008

SoundBites

‘Too Cumbersome to Mention’ The Los Angeles Times (5/7/08) carried a story about a Miami party celebrating Cuban exile and CIA veteran Luis Posada Carriles, the reputed mastermind of a 1976 bombing that killed 73 civilians, now living freely in the U.S. after escaping from a Venezuelan prison. The L.A. Times story by Carol Williams described Posada as a “dapper octogenarian in a crisp blue suit.” What the paper didn’t call Posada was a confessed terrorist, even though the New York Times (7/12/98) reported that Posada “proudly admitted authorship” of a number of hotel bombings in Cuba in 1997. One […]

Jul
01
2008

Letters to the Editor

Beyond the Beltway Interesting articles in the May/June issue on media coverage of candidates’ stances on civil liberties and the semantics of waterboarding. I wondered, though, why the surveys were limited to the New York Times, the Washington Post, a few additional papers and the networks. A broader look would have found articles contradicting Cynthia Cooper’s thesis that the press is ignoring the candidates’ views on basic rights. An outstanding example was a December 22 piece in the Boston Globe by Pulitzer Prize-winner Charlie Savage, giving details of each candidate’s position on a variety of issues related to presidential power. […]

Jul
01
2008

Sidebar: The Most Liberal Senator?

[Note: This is a sidebar to "Obama the Snob?: Hanging the 'elitist' label on another Democratic candidate"] In the 2004 election, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was crowned by an influential Beltway publication with an unexpected designation: He was, according to its calculation, the most liberal member of the Senate (National Journal, 2/28/04). The ranking was endlessly trumpeted by Republican spokespeople. Almost four years later, the soon-to-be Democratic presidential candidate had the same label attached to his record—by the same publication. On January 31, 2008, the National Journal’s annual ranking of senators placed Barack Obama as the furthest left Senate […]

Jul
01
2008

Obama the Snob?

Hanging the ‘elitist’ label on another Democratic candidate

It’s safe to assume that Barack Obama knew he could expect certain lines of attack when he decided to run for president: whispers about his religious beliefs, for example, or questions regarding his patriotism. And sure enough, those issues came up almost as soon as the campaign started. But it’s difficult to imagine that Obama—whose one grandfather was a high-school dropout and the other a colonial servant—expected to fend off the accusation that he is “elitist.” Corporate media coverage of political campaigns often rests on certain storylines, though, that don’t necessarily bear any relationship to reality—Al Gore the exaggerator vs. […]

Jul
01
2008

Pope Gets Pass on Church Abuse History

Media overlook Benedict’s record of downplaying the issue

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/MATEUS_27: 24&25

When Pope Benedict XVI visited the U.S. in April, Fox News anchor and managing editor Brit Hume spoke of the Catholic leader in language that was more worshipful than journalistic (Fox News Sunday, 4/20/08): And he turns out to have about him sort of a beatific sweetness that I think is enormously important for a religious leader, that you’re drawn to him. You feel a need to be around him. . . . There was a tremendous sense of his kindness and of the message always, which permeates the Christian faith, of forgiveness. Hume’s adoration was extreme, but not a […]

Jul
01
2008

Sidebar: An 'Elitist' by Any Other Name

[Note: This is a sidebar to "Obama the Snob?: Hanging the 'elitist' label on another Democratic candidate"] It’s “not always easy to say exactly who, or what, constitutes the elite,” pointed out New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller (5/25/08). But it’s not that hard to see what message is being sent by those who level the charge against certain politicians. As the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi put it (4/18/08), “Other than being called a criminal, a philanderer or a terrorist sympathizer, is there an accusation in American politics worse than being branded an ‘elitist’? The word supposes something fundamentally effete […]