Hartford Courant Political Coverage Laughable

The Hartford Courant illustrates what is wrong with political reporting with a report entitled Dodd’s Showing in Polls Laughable. It is about a year until the caucuses and primaries begin, and standing in the polls at this point means little. This is the period in which we should be hearing what the candidates have to say on the issues and see them debate themselves, and then decide which are credible candidates. By concentrating on the horse race at this point we risk the media deciding which candidates will remain credible.

While I think such coverage makes it much harder for candidates such as Dodd to compete with those considered front runners by the media, there is evidence that some candidates can overcome low poll results. The Pollster provided this data on where a number of candidates stood at this point in the election cycle:

  • 6% – George McGovern, August 1971
  • 3.5% – Jimmy Carter, February 1975
  • 2.9% – George Bush, January 1979
  • 1.6% – Gary Hart, December 1982
  • 3.0% – Bill Clinton, February 1991
  • 3.8% – John McCain, March 1999
  • 4.0% – Howard Dean, January 2003

McGovern, Carter, and Clinton went on to win the nomination, and others became credible candidates at some point during the race. I wonder how many other deserving candidates went no where because of news coverage such as this. We need more coverage of what the candidates believe and of their records and less concentration on poll numbers, especially at this early stage in the race.

Molly Ivins Dies at 62

Columnist Molly Ivins, who tried to warn the country in her book Shrub, The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, died of breast cancer at age 62. After her warnings were proven correct she wrote BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush’s America. Here are some brief examples of her writing:

On covering politics: “I believe politics is the finest form of entertainment in the state of Texas: better than the zoo, better than the circus, rougher than football, and even more aesthetically satisfying than baseball.”

On her own politics: “Yes, I’ve called myself a little-’d’ democrat. I am a populist, maybe even a left-wing Libertarian. It used to be if you didn’t have a hyphen in your definition, you clearly had not thought about it.”

On experience: “The longer I cover politics, the more I respect good compromises. I didn’t used to.”

Her way of paying a compliment: “He (Democrat Jim Mattox) was a wonderfully good attorney general. And somewhere underneath all that ruthless-pol, no-holds-barred fighter stuff there lurks a decent human being.”

Her views on President Bush, whom she had know since their high school days: “Although Bush rather promptly becomes defensive and prickly when questioned, he is by and large perfectly affable.”

One of her old columns on George Bush is reprinted under the fold. (more…)

Biden’s Macacca Moment: Obama Clean

Joe Biden is in the race, and his appearance on The Daily Show might be worth watching as Biden has already had his own “macacca moment.” The New York Observer reports he has attacked the three leading candidates. He had the following to say about Barack Obama in an interview held before Obama released his Iraq plan:

Mr. Biden is equally skeptical—albeit in a slightly more backhanded way—about Mr. Obama. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

But—and the “but” was clearly inevitable—he doubts whether American voters are going to elect “a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate,” and added: “I don’t recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic.”

He will have some explaining to do, especially about Obama being the first “clean” African-American. Obama’s office responded:

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton wrote in an e-mail: “Senator Obama opposed the Iraq War from Day 1 and has articulated clear principles in how to address the tragic mistakes President Bush has made there.” And as for rest—including Mr. Biden’s use of the words “articulate” and “nice-looking” to describe the Senator from Illinois—the spokesman said, “Senator Biden’s words speak for themselves.” The press offices for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Edwards declined to say anything at all.

Update: Biden apologizes

Update II: Biden calls Obama to explain

Obama vs. Fox News

The Sleuth reports that Barack Obama is freezing out Fox News:

Sources tell The Sleuth that the Obama camp has “frozen out” Fox News reporters and producers in the wake of the network’s major screw-up in running with the erroneous Obama-the-jihadist story reported by Insight magazine.

“I’m still in the freezer,” one Fox journalist said, noting that the people at Fox “suffering the most did nothing wrong.” (It was “Fox and Friends” host Steve Doocy who aired the Insight magazine piece, which reported that operatives connected to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) found out that Obama, as a child, was educated at a Muslim madrassah in Indonesia.)

Another Fox journalist called the network’s airing of the story “unfortunate” for the network’s journalists who have to cover Obama and who are being adversely affected despite not being involved in the incident.

Since the madrassah incident, Obama has given interviews to ABC, CNN, CBS and NBC — pretty much every other network except Fox. Sources close to Obama acknowledged that they’re not thrilled to play ball with Fox journalists, but they stopped short of saying they are freezing the network out.

Fox argues that a candidate can’t afford to write off Fox News, but I wonder how many Democratic primary voters get their news from Fox. In contrast, seeing him take on Fox might increase support from Democratic activists, and offers a contrast for those who feel John Kerry lost because he didn’t do enough to counter unfair media coverage. Besides, it is doubtful this is intended to be permanent, and coverage from Fox News would be more important in a general election campaign than it is now.

It would be to Obama’s benefit to have less coverage on Fox now if it meant making the coverage a little fairer should he be in the general election campaign. I don’t really expect to see Fox News change their ways, but this is a step in the right direction:

John Moody, vice president for news at Fox, issued this missive to staff in his daily editorial note on Jan. 23: “For the record: seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC. The urgent queue is our way of communicating information that is air-worthy. Please adhere to this.”

Obama and Schumer Introduce Bill to Reduce Election Fraud

Election Law reports on a bill introduced by Senators Obama and Schumer: The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2007:

Among other things (such as setting up a task force and requiring the production of reports on deceptive voter practices), this bill would do two main things: (1) it would criminalize knowlingly making certain false speech in connection with elections, such as fraudulently giving information about polling place locations. (2) It would allow a private party to seek an injunction in federal court to stop the giving of such fraudulent information.

Election Law does note that there might be legal challenges if this passes due to concerns over whether provisions restrict freedom of speech. The New York Times also has an editorial on the bill. Full text of the bill is here.

Spreading the Truth

Science bloggers are using google bombs to spread the truth. By linking to the word truth this has moved up from number 300 in the google rankings a week ago to a current ranking of number 18.


By you (the reader)
(In no particular order)

1. Cigarettes are bad for you.

2. Men and Women are equal.

3. Global Warming is real.

4. It’s not all relative.

5. Intelligent Design is wrong.

6. Over consumption is a serious problem.

7. The Millenium Development Goals are worthy*.

8. Wilco is good, sometimes exceptional, but often inconsequential.

9. Shit happens (ditto for sex).

10. Creationism is silly. (also, see 5)

11. Sloths are not purple.

12. Science, for better or for worse, is all around.

Right Wingers Rewrite History on Kyoto

The Kyoto Protocol provides a good example of the dishonesty of the right wing media and blogosphere. John Kerry raised the Bush administration’s rejection of Kyoto at Davos:

“When we walk away from global warming, Kyoto, when we are irresponsibly slow in moving toward AIDS in Africa, when we don’t advance and live up to our own rhetoric and standards, we set a terrible message of duplicity and hypocrisy,” Kerry said.

Many conservative blogs, such as Blue Crab Boulevard, tried to attack Kerry by falsely claiming he voted against Kyoto in the Senate when in fact it was George Bush who was responsible for the rejection. The right wing media made the same false claims. The Boston Herald rewrites history in an op-ed:

Perhaps Sen. Kerry simply forgot that it was President Clinton who failed to send the Kyoto Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification. Perhaps Sen. Kerry forgot that Clinton had to dump Kyoto in 1997 after a unanimous Senate vote rejected the treaty in advance.And perhaps Sen. Kerry forgot that in 1997 he was, in fact, a U.S. senator who cast one of those votes.

As there was never a Senate vote on Kyoto, they make this claim by distorting the meaning of the Byrd-Hagel resolution. The Natural Resources Defence Council provides information on the resolution:

Q. Did the U.S. Senate vote against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol?

A. No. The protocol has never been submitted to the senate for ratification. The Bush administration has referred to a vote on the non-binding Byrd-Hagel resolution, which registered views on some aspects of protocol negotiations. The vote on the Byrd-Hagel resolution took place prior to the conclusion of the Kyoto agreement, and before any of the flexibility mechanisms were established. The resolution was written so broadly that even strong supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, such as senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) voted for it. In doing so, Sen. Kerry said: “It is clear that one of the chief sponsors of this resolution, Senator Byrd . . . agrees … that the prospect of human-induced global warming as an accepted thesis with adverse consequences for all is here, and it is real…. Senator Lieberman, Senator Chafee and I would have worded some things differently… [but] I have come to the conclusion that these words are not a treaty killer.”

Election Guide 2004 had a similar assessment of the resolution:

An example of this relates to the 1997 passage of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution. 17 The Resolution is often portrayed as anti-Kyoto, though it’s not that simple. 18 According to Hagel, the non-binding resolution, submitted in the midst of international negotiations, was “intended to change the course of negotiations”, 19 not to pull out. The treaty was never submitted to the Senate for ratification, although this vote on the Byrd-Hagel Resolution was used by Bush in 2001 to justify pulling out of negotiations. Bush said,

“The Senate’s vote, 95-0, shows that there is a clear consensus that the Kyoto Protocol is an unfair and ineffective means of addressing global climate change concerns.” 2

Similarly, Bush’s campaign website states that the U.S. Senate rejected the treaty. 1

Kerry’s vote for passage of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution recognized the then-present state of negotiations – that the treaty would unfairly and severely burden the US. These were the premises on which the resolution was based. Kerry and Byrd believed that climate change was a clear and present danger…

Kerry sees flaws in the protocol, including the weaker requirements imposed on developing nations, but he wants to reopen negotiations, fix them, and move forward. 20

Despite the attempts of the right wing noise machine to rewrite history, the distinction is clear that Kerry has been concerned about global warming and supported Kyoto while Bush pretended global warming did not even exist until recently.

Obama Calls For Iraq Deadline

Barack Obama is joining other Senators in introducing legislation to attempt to set a deadline to get US troops out of Iraq:

The Obama plan, called the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007, would begin a troop withdrawal no later than May 1, 2007, but it includes several caveats that could forestall a clean break:

It would leave a limited number of troops in place to conduct counterterrorism activities and train Iraqi forces. And the withdrawal could be temporarily suspended if the Iraqi government meets a series of benchmarks laid out by the Bush administration. That list includes a reduction in sectarian violence; the equitable distribution of oil revenue; government reforms; and democratic, Iraqi-driven reconstruction and economic development efforts. Obama’s proposal also would reverse Bush’s troop-increase plan.

Further information on the bill is available at Obama’s web site. Glenn Greenwald reviews the history of the Senators callling for restrictions on the President’s ability to wage war, noting that Republicans “certainly did not seem to believe that Congress lacked the ability to restrict the President’s power to deploy troops. “

Finally Listening to Kerry on the War

By taking himself out of the Presidential circus there is no longer reason for people to care if he botched a joke or wind surfs. They can now pay closer attention to what he says as a member of the Senate. Marie Cocco is listening:

Within a few days, Kerry is to offer the Senate yet another chance to consider what always have been his well-informed—and often wise—ideas for how to manage the disaster that is Iraq. The media shorthand will be that Kerry calls for “withdrawal.” The Massachusetts senator is, indeed, working on a measure that will most likely set deadlines for redeploying American troops and outline a diplomatic thrust that is so urgently and obviously needed to quell a civil war that threatens to become a regional conflagration.

It is worth noting that when Kerry proposed a similar approach last June, most of the political commentariat ridiculed him as pandering to antiwar activists, a supposedly crucial bloc of support needed for a 2008 Democratic presidential run. Kerry’s resolution went down by a vote of 86 to 13. Republicans were still echoing White House talking points that ridiculed all alternatives as “cut and run.” Most Democrats were still cowering.

Now, having given up his dream of becoming president, Kerry is more public servant than politician. He has reached down inside to tap that same quality that led him to volunteer for duty in Vietnam when others of his social status found safe havens from the fight. It is the same impulse that led him to win medals for his valor, the same courage that led him to return home to protest a dirty war when he could have tucked away his medals and marched off to law school.

It is, in fact, a quality we are always saying we want in a president: character.

Cocco discusses the plans for leaving Iraq and then returns to discussing John Kerry, and the problems of the political system which helped deny him, and the country, the Presidency: (more…)

Maureen Dowd on Hillary in Iowa

Maureed Dowd wrote about Hillary in Iowa, but ultimately it all goes back to Iraq:

Unlike Barack Obama, who once said he was bored by the suburbs, she introduced herself in the land of bingo and bacon as a product of the suburbs, wallowing in the minutiae of kitchen-table issues.

W. and Cheney have lavished attention and money on Iraq, leaving Americans feeling neglected. Hillary offered Iowans a warm bath of “you,” homey rumination rather than harsh domination.

(Though Jon Stewart warned on “The Daily Show” that her slogan — “Let the conversation begin!” — will not help her with men. “I think the typical response would be, ‘Now?’ ” he said, adding that her new Iraq policy is, “America, let’s pull over and just ask for directions.”)

Thomasine Johnson, a 66-year-old African-American from outside Des Moines, complained that Hillary talked too much about “traditional women’s issues,” but many in the audiences seemed enthralled.

The Achilles’ heel of “The Warrior,” as she is known, is the war. She expressed outrage about Iraq, but ended up sounding like a mother whose teenage son has not cleaned up his room: “The president has said this is going to be left to his successor … and I think it’s the height of irresponsibility, and I really resent it.”

She uttered the most irritating and disingenuous nine words in politics: “If we had known then what we know now. …”

Jim Webb knew. Barack Obama knew. Even I knew, for Pete’s sake. The administration’s trickery was clear in real time.

Hillary didn’t have the nerve to oppose a popular president on a national security issue after 9/11, and she feared being cast as an antiwar hippie when she ran. Now she feels she can’t simply say she made a bad decision. And that makes her seem conniving — not a good mix with nurturing.