Junk Journalism, NY Times Division

by tristero

Jeebus, the mainstream media is atrocious. Forget the obvious examples of bias and propaganda, like this, where a half-page in the print edition pimps a conference by global warming deniers and paints them as reasonable folks who disagree amongst themselves. Moderates, like one speaker, a spokesman for the insane Senator Inhofe. But ignore this, at least for now. This kind of junk journalism is too obviously propagandistic to be effective for many people. It's just a waste of space.

But get a load of this. Here's the lede:
While lifting the Bush administration’s restrictions on federally financed human embryonic stem cell research, President Obama intends to avoid the thorniest question in the debate: whether taxpayer dollars should be used to experiment on embryos themselves, two senior administration officials said Sunday.
That compromising coward Obama! What a wimp.

And that is as much as many busy people will trouble themselves with: Obama's ducking the issue. But let's read on. The issue at stake is lifting a Congressional ban, called the "Dickey-Wicker amendment," on the creation of human embryos for stem-cell research. And you have to read halfway through an incredibly tedious piece for the punchline:
Mr. Obama has no power to overturn the Dickey-Wicker ban. Only Congress, which attaches the ban to appropriations bills, can overturn it.
That's right, folks. According to the NY Times, Obama is avoiding doing something he has no power to do. The article continues:
Mr. Obama has not taken a position on the ban and does not intend to, Melody C. Barnes, his chief domestic policy adviser, said Sunday. The president believes stem cell research “should be done in compliance with federal law,” she said, adding that Mr. Obama recognizes the divisiveness of the issue.

“We are committed to pursuing stem cell research quite responsibly but we recognize there are a range of beliefs on this,” Ms. Barnes said.
Now, there are many ways to characterize this position, but the least accurate way - by far - is to say that Obama is avoiding the issue. If anything, it is certainly more likely to assume that by "lifting the Bush administration’s restrictions on federally financed human embryonic stem cell research," Obama is signaling his support for overturning Dickey-Wicker. Rather than avoiding the issue, Obama is refusing to waste valuable political capital directly opining on a highly contentious piece of legislation which he has no power to overturn. That sounds like shrewd politicking, not cowardice, to me.

But no, that won't fly, because the meme the press is toying with right now, surely abetted by Republican operatives, is that Obama always avoids the hard decisions. A nice guy, the president, but just not tough.

Whether Obama will have a successful presidency, especially by liberal standards, is an open question (cue the inevitable comments that Obama has already and irretrievably failed liberalism). But a press corps that mistakes political intelligence for avoiding the issue is uniquely unqualified to provide us realtime coverage of this president's behavior. And they wonder why newspapers are hurting right now.

Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you think Obama could be more forceful. All I can say is that I, too, wish Obama was a liberal, but he's not, he's a moderate. That said, his position, and his actions here are clear as a bell, even if the Times can't, or won't, report them in an objective manner.