Sunday, November 23, 2008
Mark Halperin just gave notice that the honeymoon is over and the media must redeem itself by turning on Obama:
Media bias was more intense in the 2008 election than in any other national campaign in recent history, Time magazine's Mark Halperin said Friday at the Politico/USC conference on the 2008 election.
"It's the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war," Halperin said at a panel of media analysts. "It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage."
This is from the man who wrote, without irony, "Drudge rules our world."
This isn't the first time Halperin has addressed the notion of press bias, of course. His book discusses the charges that the press was biased in the 2000 election in some depth:
HARRIS/HALPERIN (page 129): No one who kept a close eye on the media coverage of the 2000 campaign would deny that the press corps assigned to Gore was more aggressive and more hostile toward the candidate than those assigned to Bush ...This discrepancy made Old Media reporters much more likely to buy into political party press releases, late-night comic jokes, and the general story line that mirrored the Bush campaign’s crafted version of Gore.
A number of members of the Gang of 500 are convinced that the main reason George W. Bush won the White House and Al Gore lost was that Gore’s regular press pack included the trio of Katherine “Kit” Seelye (of the New York Times), Ceci Connolly (of the Washington Post), and Sandra Sobieraj (of the Associated Press)...
But he didn't actually blame the press for this:
Those three influential reporters—and the influential news organizations for which they worked—certainly played their part in churning out negative copy about Gore, but they were more representative of Gore’s problem than they were the cause. At some point along the way, those reporters contributed to the vice president of the United States losing control of his public image. Seelye, Connolly and Sobieraj most assuredly never resolved to confer with the Gore campaign to help the candidate recover his image. But a more adept campaign (and candidate) would have worked to defuse the danger early on.
The main Trade Secrets to be learned from Gore’s experience are: If your traveling press corps is hostile to you and the Old Media has settled on a negative meta-narrative about your candidacy, you cannot make real progress in any part of your campaign until you address those problems.
Somerby, needless to say, has throughly examined this in detail.
So, in Halperin's view the Gore campaign is held responsible for its own bad coverage while the McCain campaign was terribly victimized by biased coverage. But this should not surprise us. We've known for a long time that Halperin is very, very concerned that anyone might think he is some sort of liberal.
I am going to quote at length from one of Glenn Greenwald's classic posts to illustrate the absurdity of paying attention to Mark Halperin on this subject. He's discussing Halperin's three hour interview on Hugh Hewitt's show:
First, Halperin pleas with Hewitt to recognize that Halperin shares his core world view, and to convince him, Halperin couples that with some drooling praise for Hewitt:
HH: And so why is she…I think this is going back to media again. I think my giant unified field theory here is that liberal media has destroyed the necessity of the left having to debate, having to reach a message across, because you guys have always papered over the weakness of their arguments. And so, in essence, by creating an echo chamber, and by allowing them to get away with saying silly things, you’ve destroyed the incentive to be smart and facile.
MH: I agree.
HH: (laughing) That’s too easy. I’ve stormed the castle.
MH: Hugh, you and I have agreed on a lot during this show. For the purpose of jacking up your already sky-high ratings, occasionally you pick fights with me where they don’t exist. But you and I agree about that basic premise. I’m keeping notes here on the things we disagree on.
Halperin, on the goodness and innocence of the victimized Karl Rove and the terribly unfair media depictions of him:
MH: Let me say one thing we say in the book about Karl Rove, who I respect and enjoy…I enjoy his company. If you look at the allegations of Karl Rove that have been propagated in Texas and in Washington by the media, the liberal media, and by Democrats, and you look at the allegations, there’s…except for the useful indiscretions to which Karl has admitted, there is no evidence for the allegations against him.
And the ability of the press to paint him as this evil guy, and say that accounts for his success, is fundamental and outrageous. Maybe he did the things he’s accused of, but to have this guy’s image portrayed and defined by things that are accusations that are unproven, we say in the book is really outrageous.
Halperin, trying to convince Hewitt that he is not like those horrible biased lefties who dominate the media, because at least Halperin confesses the sickness:
MH: If, though, you want to in a casual introduction, lump me in with people in my business who are liberally biased and don’t seem to care about it, I think that’s doing your listeners a disservice. They should read the book and what we say in The Way To Win about how the media’s been liberally biased in presidential campaign coverage, what needs to be done to try to fix it, and why the current system may not be any better with new media. But to lump me in with everybody else, I think, is doing people a disservice, because most of my colleagues, as you know, are in denial about it, or blind to it.
Halperin, begging Hewitt to recognize that his new book is appropriately reverent of the Leader:
MH: Number two, you keep saying how much nice stuff there is in the book about Bill Clinton. The book writes at length, in fact, half the book is about Karl Rove and George W. Bush, and I would believe is one of the most favorable, in terms of judging them, and not treating them as evil, things that have been written about Karl Rove since he came to Washington.
Halperin, desperately displaying his contempt for the handful of White House journalists who are not sufficiently reverent of the Leader
, including his own colleague:
HH: Mark Halperin, is David Gregory
[Halperin's colleague at ABC News] a buffoon?
MH: Define buffoon for me.
HH: Oh, just use your own operational definition.
MH: I wouldn’t use that word, no.
HH: Is he a journalist?
MH: He’s definitely a journalist.
HH: Does he make you proud of being a journalist?
MH: I think that the relationship between the Bush White House Press Corps, and the Bush White House press staff has not produced a pretty picture for either side. . . .
HH: Does Helen Thomas make you proud?
MH: She…the questions she asks, that represent a point of view, have no place in the briefing room.
In contrast to the undignified and biased Helen Thomas and David Gregory, here is Halperin paying homage to the objective, unbiased journalist Brit Hume (while obediently adopting Hewitt's idiotic nomenclature of the "center-right" versus "the left"):
HH: Do you watch Special Report?
MH: With Brit Hume?
MH: I do.
HH: Do you admire it?
MH: Do I admire it? I like it. It’s an entertaining program.
HH: Why do you think Brit Hume has the trust of the center-right?
MH: Because the center-right is looking for voices who are experienced journalists, who aren’t liberally biased. And Brit is not liberally biased.
HH: Coming right back. That’s exactly right.
Halperin eagerly and self-consciously touting his Red America roots to a disbelieving Hewitt:
HH: And so, I want you to finish off by telling me about your project…Nick Lemann’s got a project where he’s going to add another extra year of power skills, and it’s not going to work, because everyone who enters the place is a hard lefty. You’ve got an ambition, but you’re not transparent. The media keeps hiring from the Harvard Crimson. It keeps self-perpetuating from self-elected elites.
MH: Can I introduce you to my interns from Bob Jones University?
HH: I’m glad that you have one. They must feel like a stranger in a strange world.
MH: No, because within my unit, we’re all about being fair and non-partisan [ed: like Brit Hume].
Halperin, like a battered wife, blaming himself and his colleagues -- and defending Bush and Rove -- for the endless, vicious attacks from the Bush administration on journalists:
The founders saw the importance of a free press. What this country has now is a press that no one likes, and which is weak. And the reason George Bush and Karl Rove found the way to win in dealing with the old media, which Richard Nixon dreamed of doing, but couldn’t do, is because they recognized that we were seen as a spoiled, corrupt, biased, special interest that wasn’t interested in the public interest, and they’ve taken advantage of that.
I deplore it, or I decry it in the sense that I wish everybody was helping build up the media, but I don’t blame them from a tactical point of view, because their supporters do not trust the old media, and do not like the way we behave in the briefing room, the output that we produce, and conservatives are trying to deal with an America more on their terms. And I understand why they’re doing that, and like I said, we are responsible for that, not George Bush and Karl Rove, not Richard Nixon.
Halperin, explaining how Bill Clinton destroyed the dignity of Washington and drowned politics in tactics of personal destruction -- trends which Bush has heroically reversed (seriously):
HH: Did [Bill Clinton] radicalize politics by inventing the politics of personal destruction?
MH: I think what Bill Clinton did, we say in The Way To Win is, he helped usher in this freak show. The politics of personal destruction was part of it, but it was also making the office of the presidency undignified, wearing shorts into the Oval Office, answering boxers and briefs…
HH: That was hardly how he made the Oval Office undignified.
MH: Well, there’s that, too. But we’re talking about early on in his presidency, with the birth of the freak show, in the early 90’s when he got elected. Obviously, he did more to further this along later on through his personal conduct. But the ability of this president, and certainly this first lady, as we write in the book, to restore some of the dignity, personal dignity to the office, has been quite an achievement in the wake of what Bill Clinton did, given the freak show environment in which we live.
Halperin, teaching us who the serious and unserious people are in Washington:
HH: Do you see any evidence of superior brainpower in places like Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha, as opposed to Rove and Cheney?
MH: Those specifically?
HH: Are they on the same playing field?
MH: You want me to compare those specific four people?
HH: Yeah, because you’ve got two leaders…
MH: If I were running for president, I’d hire Rove and Cheney over Pelosi and Murtha.
It goes on and on like that. I had other selected excerpts but reading these engenders a strong urge (one could even say a need) to stop reading them. The intrepid Halperin, for instance, bravely refused to take a position one way or the other on whether The New York Times should have published the story of the President's warrantless NSA eavesdropping program ("In this case, without knowing the arguments that were made, it’s hard to know which it is") and repeatedly affirms the right-wing view that the media is hopelessly stacked against them ("for forty years, conservatives have rightly felt that we did not give them a fair shake").
In sum, Halperin, in one interview, illustrated the crux of the sickness of the national media -- every tenet of right-wing mythology, embraced. Every opportunity to debase himself before Hewitt in the hope of getting a little head pat as one of the Good Boys, seized. Every left-wing bogeyman, bashed. Every right-wing hero, glorified and praised and treated with intense reverence.
And the funny thing is that Hewitt continued to bash Halperin as a liberal causing Halperin to write him a petulant complaint:
Again, I respect much about you, but I am mystified by your determination to lump me in with others. Acknowledging the liberal bias that exists in the Old Media -- as John Harris and I do in The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008
doesn't necessarily prove that I am not liberal, but I would think you would be open to giving me the benefit of the doubt, when you have no actual evidence to the contrary.
I'm mystified too. How much more does the poor guy have to do to prove that he isn't a liberal?
Today, Halperin put the press on clear notice. He said that the coverage of Obama during the campaign was a "disgusting failure" and an example of "extreme bias" and the "most disparate of any campaign" he's seen, by far. And the press will get the message, no doubt, that they'd better straighten up and fly right.
Halperin made them feel embarrassed today. The article says that nobody on the panel strongly disagreed with him. They know what they have to do.
* And by the way, the trope about Bush bringing "dignity" to the White House is a crock:
He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.
George W. Bush slipped a piece of cheese into his mouth. "Let's order first." He took a quick glance at the day's menu prepared for him and his guest, saw nothing on it he cared for, and announced to the steward, "I'll have a hot dog. Low fat hot dog."
His hot dog arrived. Bush ate rapidly, with a sort of voracious disinterest. He was a man who required comfort and routine. Food, for him, was fuel and familiarity. It was not a thing to reflect on.
"The job of the president," he continued, through an ample wad of bread and sausage, "is to think strategically so that you can accomplish big objectives. As opposed to playing mini-ball. You can't play mini-ball with the influence we have and expect there to be peace. You've gotta think, think BIG." he said as bread crumbs tumbled out of his mouth and onto his chin.
And he didn't just behave this way when he was in private.
digby 11/23/2008 12:30:00 PM