A reporter asked a stray question, and Obama blew all the careful planning of his staff. He varied from his initial remarks, creating a new narrative for a story the White House does not want to linger. Was he adding an asterisk to his remarks, as the Washington Post put it? Was it a recalibration, as the New York Times put it? In short, this is a communications disaster. The White House had to release a statement clarifying the new statement, or restatement, or whatever.
The president's opponents, who had been pushing the mosque issue for weeks as a way to get Democrats on the wrong side of the polls in an election year, came out celebrating. Liz Cheney, who can diminish just about any nuanced thought into a barbed cable news talking point, emailed Politico's Mike Allen from her iPhone. "I guess President Obama was for the mosque before he was against it. You can quote me," went the message.
But everybody's doing it!
That excuse may not have gotten you out of hot water with your parents, but it seems to hold some sway with Time magazine, at least when it comes to ethically-challenged former House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).
Staffer Michael Scherer apparently drew the short straw for the August 13 assignment, in which he focused on just one of the numerous allegations of impropriety against Rangel: that he misused his congressional office to solicit contributions to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.
Of course, there are other serious charges against Rangel -- who used to chair the House committee responsible for federal tax policy -- namely that he avoided paying taxes on property that he owns. From the July 29 Washington Times:
UPDATE: HuffPo's Jason Linkins offers explanation (see bottom)
Maybe this is the way former Hearst Newspapers columnist and so-called dean of the White House Press Corps Helen Thomas would have wanted it.
Although Thomas' old seat in the White House press briefing room hasn't officially been designated for a particular outlet, and this might be wishful thinking on the part of the Huffington Post's Sam Stein, the White House correspondent for website, took the seat for the July 27 briefing with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
Stein's questions from the front row dealt with the possibility of President Barack Obama making recess appointment, in dealing with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and what he deemed the "lethargic pace" of judicial confirmations. Stein then followed up with four additional questions for his piece posted on the Huffington Post later that afternoon.
Video Below Fold
"Ailes understands," Scherer said in an email on the much-maligned JournoList, "that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organization. You can't hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong . . ." Though Scherer clearly has a bone to pick with the channel, he and Time have vehemently denied claims that he would silence Fox News.
Ironically, according to Politics Daily's Matt Lewis, Scherer "may actually be in a position to hurt Fox" by denying the cable network the front-row seat in the White House briefing room left vacant by Helen Thomas. Scherer sits on the Board of Directors of the White House Correspondents' Association, which controls access to White House press conferences.
Jonathan Strong of the Daily Caller has more shocking e-mails from liberal journalists today. He starts with an NPR producer who admits flaming hatred for Rush Limbaugh:
So much for the idea that NPR is an oasis of civil discourse in a desert of vituperation. Spitz is a producer for trendy-hot NPR station KCRW and its nationally distributed talk show Left Right & Center (which could be called Three Leftists and Tony Blankley). But Spitz has also done stories for NPR's evening newscast All Things Considered.
While the broadcast and cable news media have paid plenty of attention to Martha Coakley's embarrassing Curt Schilling gaffe, much less attention has been paid to more serious matters that exemplify Coakley's hard-left campaigning tactics, such as her insulting devout Catholics as unfit for working in emerg
Mainstream media journalists delighted in joining left-wing bloggers in mocking President George W. Bush over his penchant for verbal miscues, often when speaking off-the-cuff. Of course, President Bush wasn't too prickly on this point and on occasion made self-deprecating jokes about his penchant for mangling the English language.
Yet when it comes to right-of-center bloggers playfully mocking President Barack Obama's dependence on the teleprompter, don't expect most journalists to yuk it up with conservatives.
Witness Time magazine reporter Michael Scherer's March 25 blog post with some thoughts on the president's second prime-time news conference:
When Time magazine likes a liberal, they really, really like them.
Time’s profile of Obama’s "economic wise man" Larry Summers boils over with superlatives. The February 9 edition’s Table of Contents is brief, but gooey: "The brilliant, slightly bumbling man who may save our butt." His photo carried the caption: "Big brain: Summers is planning nothing short of a complete overhaul of the U.S. economy." The headline was "It’s Now or Never For Larry Summers: Obama’s brash and brilliant economic adviser has attained vast power and a chop on nearly every issue. Can the former Treasury boss sort out the financial mess before it gets worse?" The online headline was blunter: "Can Larry Summers Save the Economy?"
Turn the page, and former Time editor Strobe Talbott pays tribute in a bold-faced pull quote: "To have an argument with Larry Summers is a little like being run over by a tank with a Lotus engine." Liberals are touted for their brilliance. Smart conservatives are painted as Uncle Scrooge on Time’s cover (recall Newt Gingrich at the end of 1994).
The actual story on the National Economic Council chair, by Time’s Michael Scherer and Massimo Calabresi, includes one paragraph about his verbal gaffes (including a sentence about his dismissal from the top job at Harvard for suggesting women have displayed less scientific acumen), but it’s described as the fault of his "raw brainpower." The profile began with the adjective "wunderkind":
Update at bottom of post.
In a story on "Potential Problems at the Polls," Time's Michael Scherer passed along to readers a misleading anecdote about some nuns from South Bend who were "turned away" from the polls in Indiana's May presidential primary. The scary tale of sweet elderly nuns being robbed of their right to vote was how he introduced Time readers to potential problem #6, "New Burdens of Proof."
The sisters of the holy cross [sic] in notre [sic] Dame, Ind., don't have much use for driver's licenses. Or at least that's what a dozen of the nuns thought on May 6, when they went to vote in the presidential primary. They were each turned away as a result of a recently established ID-check requirement at Indiana polls.
In truth what actually happened was the nuns refused to avail themselves the opportunity of voting via provisional ballot and Scherer is hardly the first to mislead readers as to the facts of the incident in question.As I noted in a May 6 NewsBusters post:
Yesterday in a chat with USA Today reporters, former President Jimmy Carter complained that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was "milking every possible drop of advantage" from his stay in the Hanoi Hilton.
Perhaps picking up on that talking point, Time magazine's Michael Scherer asked in an August 28 article, "Is McCain Overplaying the POW Card?" Yet not once in his did Scherer point to Carter's comments. Instead Scherer resorted to the ever-so-reliable journalistic convention of "some critics":
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is "prickly" with the press, particularly Time magazine, reporters for the publication insist on the heels of a recent interview. Yet reporters for the same publication had a decidedly less confrontational chat last week with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), although they did question if he was tough enough to topple McCain in November.
In the August 28 item, "McCain's Prickly TIME Interview," Time editors prefaced the transcript of James Carney and Michael Scherer's interview by lamenting McCain's less frequent engagement of the press as compared to his 2000 Republican primary run. They then insisted that McCain "quickly soured" and refused to "stray off message" during a Time interview:
McCain at first seemed happy enough to do the interview. But his mood quickly soured. The McCain on display in the 24-minute interview was prickly, at times abrasive, and determined not to stray off message.
By contrast, Time editors didn't add prefatory commentary to a relative soft August 20 interview, "Obama on His Veep Thinking" by Karen Tumulty and David von Drehle. That interview began with two questions on Obama's toughness, particularly from the perspective of nervous partisan Democrats: