Did NewsBusters Help AP Notice Inauguration Spending Hypocrisy?

On Saturday, the Associated Press published an article that not only questioned the rationale behind President Barack Obama spending huge sums of money on his inauguration while the economy is in the middle of the worst recession in decades, but also noted how critical some were four years ago of how much President Bush was spending on his second inauguration.

Interestingly, NewsBusters Senior Editor Rich Noyes, in a piece that was linked by the Drudge Report Wednesday, wrote about how the AP bashed Bush for his inaugural spending four years ago but was arguing for extravagance now.

Do you think the AP noticed?

Here's what Matt Apuzzo wrote Saturday in an article titled "Obama Hosting Pricey Party in a Dicey Economy":

Unemployment is up. The stock market is down. Let's party.

The price tag for President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration gala is expected to break records, with some estimates reaching as high as $150 million. Despite the bleak economy, however, Democrats who called on President George W. Bush to be frugal four years ago are issuing no such demands now that an inaugural weekend of rock concerts and star-studded parties has begun.

Obama's inaugural committee has raised more than $41 million to cover events ranging from a Philadelphia-to-Washington train ride to a megastar concert with Beyonce, U2 and Bruce Springsteen to 10 official inaugural balls. Add to that the massive costs of security and transportation — costs absorbed by U.S. taxpayers — and the historic inauguration will produce an equally historic bill.

In 2005, Reps. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and Jim McDermott, D-Wash., asked Bush to show a little less pomp and be a little more circumspect at his party.

"President Roosevelt held his 1945 inaugural at the White House, making a short speech and serving guests cold chicken salad and plain pound cake," the two lawmakers wrote in a letter. "During World War I, President Wilson did not have any parties at his 1917 inaugural, saying that such festivities would be undignified."

The thinking was that, with the nation at war, excessive celebration was inappropriate. Four years later, the nation is still at war. Unemployment has risen sharply. And Obama pressed Congress to release the second half of a $700 billion bailout package in hopes of rescuing a faltering banking industry.

Here's what Noyes wrote Wednesday:

Four years ago, the Associated Press and others in the press suggested it was in poor taste for Republicans to spend $40 million on President Bush’s inauguration. AP writer Will Lester calculated the impact that kind of money would have on armoring Humvees in Iraq, helping victims of the tsunami, or paying down the deficit. Lester thought the party should be cancelled: “The questions have come from Bush supporters and opponents: Do we need to spend this money on what seems so extravagant?

Fast forward to 2009. The nation is still at war (two wars, in fact), and now also faces the prospect of a severe recession and federal budget deficits topping $1 trillion as far as the eye can see. With Barack Obama’s inauguration estimated to cost $45 million (not counting the millions more that government will have to pay for security), is the Associated Press once again tsk-tsking the high dollar cost?

Nope. “For inaugural balls, go for glitz, forget economy,” a Tuesday AP headline advised. The article by reporter Laurie Kellman argued for extravagance, starting with the lede... [...]

That spin is a far cry from four years ago, when the AP seemed interested in spurring resentment of the Bush inaugural’s supposedly high cost. [...]

To get a real feel for the contrast, here’s an excerpt of Lester’s January 13, 2005 piece (as recounted in the MRC’s CyberAlert), starting with a lede designed to rain all over Bush’s parade and including the suggestion from two liberal Democrats that Bush eat cold chicken salad and pound cake instead: [...]

New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, suggested inaugural parties should be scaled back, citing as a precedent Roosevelt's inauguration during World War II.

"President Roosevelt held his 1945 inaugural at the White House, making a short speech and serving guests cold chicken salad and plain pound cake," according to a letter from Weiner and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. "During World War I, President Wilson did not have any parties at his 1917 inaugural, saying that such festivities would be undignified."...

See some similarity? You think the AP saw Noyes's piece and were shamed a bit by it?

Regardless of the answers, please note that Apuzzo wasn't apologizing for the wire service's own hypocrisy, as there was no specific reference in his piece to how the AP admonished Bush's inaugural spending four years ago while applauding Obama's extravagance today.

I wonder why.

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Noel Sheppard's picture


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