Fox News is Right For Once in Calling Richardson Number Three in Democratic Race and Romney Number One in GOP Race

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnIeUwscR8s]

I’ve criticized Fox News so many times here that I feel, in the spirt of being fair and balanced, I should defend them after seeing a liberal blog attack them in a rare case where Fox is right. Newshounds criticizes the Political Derby segment (video above) because their assessment of the horse race differs from the national polls. Newshounds particularly protests that Bill Richardson and not John Edwards is placed in fourth place despite Edwards being third in the national polls, and that Mitt Romney is placed first in the GOP race despite ranking between third and fifth in most national polls.

During the segment, Jason Wright explains that he looks at factors beyond the national polls. This is a perfectly sensible thing to do. National polls this far before the primaries begin have had very little predictive value historically unless there was a clear and undisputed favorite such as an incumbent. During the fall of 2003, John Kerry even trailed Al Sharpton in some national polls. The nomination is determined by a series of state events and, as we saw after Kerry’s Iowa victory, early victories have considerable influence on the subsequent national polls. Most voters do not even make up their minds until the final couple of days before voting, as was seen in Kerry’s move from fourth place to first place in Iowa over the final ten days in 2004. Besides, there would be be little point in having a segment predicting the race if they were required to stick to the rankings of the national polls.

Not only is Fox correct in looking at factors beyond the national polls, there rankings are quite reasonable. I’ve considered Richardson to be the number three candidate in terms of chances to win for quite a while based upon factors including fund raising and the trends in the polls. Edwards has benefited from name recognition but the more many voters see him the less they like him while the reverse is true of Richardson. Edwards is also relying on a risky strategy of following John Kerry’s path of gaining momentum from an Iowa victory. As Edwards has virtually lived in Iowa since 2005, anything less than a landslide win is likely to give more momentum to whoever comes in second. Even if Edwards wins in Iowa, he is not as likely as Kerry to be able to follow this with a win in New Hampshire where his populist platform is not likely to be received as well as in Iowa.

Fox News and I are hardly the only ones to note this trend. James Boyce recently picked Richardson as the number two candidate. Some predict that Richardson will even win the Iowa caucus, which would not only establish Richardson as a major candidate but also eliminate Edwards from the race. The Concord Monitor has also noted that Richardson is on the way up while support for Edwards is falling.

The Republican race is very difficult to predict right now, and Fox certainly has a case for believing that Rudy Giuliani will not win the nomination, especially as more Republicans discover his past statements on abortion and gay rights. Romney is well positioned to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, which could easily lead to victory. Placing Giuliani second also runs counter to recent suspicions of a bias in his favor due to his ties to Roger Ailes. With Thompson not even officially in the race it is even harder to predict how he will do, and a third place ranking at this time looks reasonable.

This is not to say that my rankings or Fox’s rankings will correctly predict the outcome. Such predictions are based upon conditions and trends at present and a lot can change between now and January. Edwards could still wind up in third place, and possibly even win, and Giuliani might win the Republican nomination. However, if forced to predict now I agree with ranking Edwards fourth and Romney first in their races.

Wright also expressed the view that Elizabeth Edwards and Michelle Obama might be harming their husbands and that “the more Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Edwards run their yappers, the better Hillary looks.” I agree with him with regards to Elizabeth Edwards following two serious gaffes. Not long after pondering whether John is at a disadvantage for being a white male, Elizabeth hurt John’s chances of getting the support of all us voters who do not meet her definition of an “actual Democrat.” My only real disagreement with Wright is over his belief that Michelle Obama has harmed her husband. I can hardly find serious fault with a commentator who I agree with on three out of four controversial statements.

Keith Olbermann To Air on Prime Time Network Television

Keith Olbermann is getting a shot at the big time. The New York Times reports (via TV Newser) that Countdown will be shown be shown by NBC on a Sunday before a preseason football game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Countdown’ is rocketing right now over at MSNBC — its ratings are going through the roof,” said Phil Griffin, senior vice president of NBC News. (In July Mr. Olbermann’s show averaged 721,000 viewers, an increase of 88 percent over last July, according to MSNBC.) Mr. Griffin added, “The world has changed, and I think people have come in line with the smart, focused approach he has on the show.” No immediate plans for additional network appearances of “Countdown” have been made, but Mr. Griffen did not rule them out. “It may be the first of several times you see Olbermann on the network,” he said.

Has the world changed in that people want the smart, focused approach, or are people getting smarter and want to hear views other than the conservative views normally spread by Tim Russert on NBC? Regardless, it will be nice to get more balance from NBC. I’ve always suspected that the turn to the right by NBC and MSNBC was more because of a perception of greater income potential than simple ideological bias. As modern conservativism continues to lose favor, maybe even Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch will make changes to avoid having their viewers limited to an aging fringe audience. The bias for profit will generally win out over ideological bias in the media.

Fox News Friendly To Republicans, Friendlier to Rudy?

It is common knowledge that Fox News is practically the in house PR office for the Repubican Party. It seems they might like some Republicans more than others. The New York Times reports on the relationship between Roger Ailes and Rudy Giuliani:

Mr. Ailes was the media consultant to Mr. Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989. Mr. Giuliani, as mayor, officiated at Mr. Ailes’s wedding and intervened on his behalf when Mr. Ailes’s company, Fox News Channel, was blocked from securing a cable station in the city…

Whether their friendship would ever affect coverage — Fox insists that it has not and will not — it is nonetheless the sort of relationship that other campaigns are watching, though none wanted to speak publicly for fear of offending the station.

So far this year, one political journal found, Mr. Giuliani has logged more time on Fox interview programs than any other candidate. Most of the time has been spent with Sean Hannity, an acknowledged admirer of the former mayor, according to the data compiled by the journal, known as The Hotline.

Fox executives say Mr. Giuliani’s appearances have been driven by his news value and by his status as a front-runner, not by his relationship with Mr. Ailes.

“I can’t remember his ever saying anything, one way or the other, about our coverage of the Giuliani campaign,” Brit Hume, the anchor who coordinates much of Fox’s political coverage, said of Mr. Ailes. “And I am under no injunctions, restrictions, encouragements or directions of any kind as to how that campaign should be covered.”

Yet the relationship between Mr. Ailes and Mr. Giuliani is of the sort that led Mr. Ailes to grouse about CNN during the Clinton administration. Rick Kaplan, the president of CNN at the time, and President Clinton were established friends. Mr. Ailes, asserting the cable channel’s coverage of the president was altogether too warm, called it the “Clinton News Network.”

Regarding Fox News: Let’s Rumble

Roger Ailes  was quoted as again complaining about the Democrats who decided against providing the appearance to credibility to Fox News at the Eric Breindel awards for opinion writing. “The candidates that can’t face Fox, can’t face Al Qaeda,” said Mr. Ailes. “And that’s what’s coming.”

It is fitting that this story appears in connection to an award for opinion writing, as opinion, and not news, is what Fox News is all about. It’s not that the Democrats can’t face Fox, but that they don’t believe an organization which has used previous coverage of Democrats to distort their message should be allowed to cover their debate as news.

In phrasing this as Democrats facing Fox we see the real story. Fox doesn’t want to honestly host a Democratic debate, but wants another forum to attack Democrats and distort what they say. We also see how far conservatives will use hysteria about terrorism to promote their cause.

If Fox were to put aside the claims of being fair and balanced, then a debate involving Democrats and Fox could be possible. If Fox would admit that their function is not to report news but to promote a conservative agenda, including partisan support for Republicans over Democrats, then there is an avenue for a debate. However, such a debate would have to be the Democrats versus Fox News. That’s a debate I’d love to see, but it makes absolutely no sense to allow Fox to cover a debate between Democrats.

Democrats Drop Fox Debate Following Ailes Jokes

In his acceptance speech for the 2007 First Amendment Leadership Award, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes told numerous jokes which Democratic bloggers found offensive:

A man in France was arrested today for using his car to run down a pedestrian. He said he thought it was Osama bin Laden. Ok, it was a mistake, but it still ranks as France’s biggest military victory ever….

It is true that just in the last two weeks Hillary Clinton has had over 200 phone calls telling her in order to win the presidency she must stay on the road for the next two years. It is not true they were all from Bill.

And it is true that Barack Obama is on the move. I don’t know if it’s true that President Bush called Musharraf and said, ‘Why can’t we catch this guy?’

I’m not sure if Bush or Obama supporters should be more offended like the last one, which is in the format of numerous Bush jokes where Bush confuses names and words. Regardless of how the Obama joke was taken, this highlighted the fact that, to Roger Ailes and Fox News, Democrats (as well as France) are the enemies. Ailes also included an apparent threat to John Edwards, who announced earlier in the week that he would not take part in the debate:

Any candidate for high office of either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake about journalists.

Bloggers and other activists have been protesting involvement in the debate hosted by Fox. MoveOn reports that  over 265,000 signed a petition sent to the Nevada Democratic Party. These statements from Ailes may have been the final straw as Democrats cancelled plans to participate in a debate hosted by Fox News

SciFi Friday: Battlestar Galactica and 24

The top news of the week was predicted. Battlestar Galactica has been renewed for a fourth season. As discussed in this report from the Los Angeles Times, the Sci FI Channel is not likely to cancel the show regardless of ratings:

But “Battlestar Galactica” stands as one of the most critically acclaimed series on television. It also won the prestigious Peabody Award and was counted among the American Film Institute’s top 10 outstanding TV programs two years in a row. Critics often describe the show in lofty terms, referring to it as a multilayered allegory for a post-9/11 world that raises questions about the ethics and politics of war.

The Sci Fi Channel cites the series’ strong buzz and critical praise — a halo effect that can’t be quantified in ratings points or ad dollars — as the reason for its renewal.

” ‘Battlestar’ is a cachet show. It gives us a lot of credibility with the creative community,” said Mark Stern, head of programming for the cable network. “It’s the kind of series we want to continue producing in the future.”

Although Battlestar Galactica is Sci Fi Channel’s most expensive original series, part of the cost is also offset by DVD sales. While I doubt it brings in much money, the show is also currently rerun in high definition on Universal HD. I would assume that the show will be able to bring in money in the future in reruns on larger channels.

The article also notes what has been rumored elsewhere. “Moore and Eick recently confirmed rampant online speculation that by the end of the season, one of the main characters would be revealed as a Cylon, the robotic race set on wiping out its human counterparts.” I wonder if the character is someone who has realized they were a Cylon or if it is someone who has believed they were human such as with Sharon. If a main character (other than Baltar) turns out to knowingly have been a traitor I hope this is something which has been planned and will fit in with previous episodes. I hope they don’t make the mistake that 24 made when they decided late in the first season to make Nina Myers a traitor, or to suddenly change President Logan from a weakling to a traitor involved with the terrorist plots. When watching 24 viewers primarily are following the action and don’t pay as much attention to the continuity as science fiction fans typically do with a show like Battlestar Galactica.

While viewers of 24 might give artistic license to the plot details, they cannot help but note the frequent use of torture. As David Danzig, director of the Prime Time Torture Project for Human Rights First, said, “It’s unthinkable that Capt. Kirk would torture someone.” Discussion of the politics of 24 has increased since The New Yorker exposed the show’s creator, Joel Surnow, as a conservative:

Surnow’s rightward turn was encouraged by one of his best friends, Cyrus Nowrasteh, a hard-core conservative who, in 2006, wrote and produced “The Path to 9/11,” a controversial ABC miniseries that presented President Clinton as having largely ignored the threat posed by Al Qaeda. (The show was denounced as defamatory by Democrats and by members of the 9/11 Commission; their complaints led ABC to call the program a “dramatization,” not a “documentary.”) Surnow and Nowrasteh met in 1985, when they worked together on “The Equalizer.” Nowrasteh, the son of a deposed adviser to the Shah of Iran, grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where, like Surnow, he was alienated by the radicalism around him. He told me that he and Surnow, in addition to sharing an admiration for Reagan, found “L.A. a stultifying, stifling place because everyone thinks alike.” Nowrasteh said that he and Surnow regard “24” as a kind of wish fulfillment for America. “Every American wishes we had someone out there quietly taking care of business,” he said. “It’s a deep, dark ugly world out there. Maybe this is what Ollie North was trying to do. It would be nice to have a secret government that can get the answers and take care of business—even kill people. Jack Bauer fulfills that fantasy.”

In recent years, Surnow and Nowrasteh have participated in the Liberty Film Festival, a group dedicated to promoting conservatism through mass entertainment. Surnow told me that he would like to counter the prevailing image of Senator Joseph McCarthy as a demagogue and a liar. Surnow and his friend Ann Coulter—the conservative pundit, and author of the pro-McCarthy book “Treason”—talked about creating a conservative response to George Clooney’s recent film “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Surnow said, “I thought it would really provoke people to do a movie that depicted Joe McCarthy as an American hero or, maybe, someone with a good cause who maybe went too far.” He likened the Communist sympathizers of the nineteen-fifties to terrorists: “The State Department in the fifties was infiltrated by people who were like Al Qaeda.” But, he said, he shelved the project. “The blacklist is Hollywood’s orthodoxy,” he said. “It’s not a movie I could get done now.”

A year and a half ago, Surnow and Manny Coto, a “24” writer with similar political views, talked about starting a conservative television network. “There’s a gay network, a black network—there should be a conservative network,” Surnow told me. But as he and Coto explored the idea they realized that “we weren’t distribution guys—we were content guys.” Instead, the men developed “The Half Hour News Hour,” the conservative satire show. “ ‘The Daily Show’ tips left,” Surnow said. “So we thought, Let’s do one that tips right.” Jon Stewart’s program appears on Comedy Central, an entertainment channel. But, after Surnow got Rush Limbaugh to introduce him to Roger Ailes, Fox News agreed to air two episodes. The program, which will follow the fake-news format popularized by “Saturday Night Live,” will be written by conservative humorists, including Sandy Frank and Ned Rice. Surnow said of the show, “There are so many targets, from global warming to banning tag on the playground. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit.”

We’ve subsequently seen the failure in making a conservative version of The Daily Show. The effects of 24 in promoting conservative ideas have been mixed as other ideas have been brought into the show in order to attract a larger audience (previously discussed here). There has been considerable criticism of the unrealistic manner in which torture is portrayed. On 24 torture works within minutes to fit into the format of the show, while in reality it might take weeks to break a person, and even then it is questionable how reliable their information will be. On 24 torture is performed during ticking bomb scenarios in which it is hard to object to doing anything possible, but such scenarios do not represent the situation at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The situations on 24 also make viewers more accepting of torture as in many cases we have already seen evidence that the victim is hiding information which could lead to the deaths of a large number of people. In real life we do not have such confirmation of either the guilt of the victim or that they are hiding useful information. The producers have more recently announced plans to tone down the torture while denying this is in response to the objections raised.

SciFi Friday is a weekly feature of Liberal Values. This week’s edition is once again a featured post at Memeorandum.

Conason on Republican Dirty Tricks

Joe Conason wrote about the recent false claims that Barack Obama went to a madrassa as a child, noting the long tradition of such Republican slime:

Yet on the far right, poisonous propaganda can be concocted from the most innocent ingredients. That is precisely what the Unification Church’s Insight magazine proceeded to do on Jan. 19, with the eager assistance of Fox News Channel and right-wing Web sites such as Lucianne.com. Insight portrayed the Indonesian school as a “madrassa,” suggesting the Saudi-financed institutions that allegedly train Wahhabi terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere, indicated, to incite religious prejudice, that Obama had been “raised Muslim” — and then attributed these fabrications to political operatives in the Clinton camp.

These false claims lacked any sourcing, but that didn’t prevent the usual media miscreants from broadcasting them, from John Gibson on Fox’s “The Big Story” and Rush Limbaugh down to Melanie Morgan and her sidekick at San Francisco’s KSFO radio station. Just the usual modus operandi of the noise machine — except for that telltale twist of smearing Clinton with responsibility for the attack.

Where could they have gotten that brilliant idea?

Performing a dirty trick on one Democratic presidential candidate in a way that would reflect blame on another Democrat was the specialty of the Watergate crew led by Hunt, which back in the early ’70s included G. Gordon Liddy and Donald Segretti, as well as a host of lesser goons and spies such as the ingénue Lucianne Goldberg.

According to “Nightmare: Underside of Nixon Years,” the definitive book on the Watergate scandal, by the late, great journalist J. Anthony Lukas, Goldberg filed gossipy espionage reports from George McGovern’s press plane on “who was sleeping with whom, what the Secret Service men were doing with the stewardesses, who was smoking pot on the plane — that sort of thing.” Or so she told him.

Meanwhile, Segretti and company had been putting out nasty smear stories about certain Democratic candidates and attributing the smears to other Democrats, in order to divide the opposition and destroy Nixon’s potential competitors.

Conason ties in the dirty tricks of the Nixon era to those who do the same today:

It is worth pointing out that Goldberg is not the only contemporary propagandist whose sordid roots trace back to Tricky Dick. Fox News is the creature of Roger Ailes, the jolly face of the Nixon gang, and Gibson and all of the other spewing heads on that network are his minions and nothing more. The Rev. Sun Myung Moon was among the last and most bitter defenders of Nixon, whose brainwashed “Moonies,” just as obedient as any Fox anchor, stepped lively whenever they were ordered to demonstrate against impeachment on the steps of the Capitol.

Despite the right-wing regression to such ugly tactics against Clinton and Obama, there was a moment of hope as well. Rather than simply repeat the charges and rebuttals as if each bore equal weight, CNN sent an actual reporter to Obama’s old school, who demolished the tale — and at the same time, the news network emphasized that there was no evidence whatsoever linking Clinton to the attack. If such old-fashioned journalism is the template for campaign coverage this year and next, the dirty tricksters could soon face the unforgiving scrutiny they have always deserved.

If only the media had done their job better to immediately investigate the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars.

Roger Ailes Pretends That Fox News Employs Journalists

Roger Ailes calls Bill Clinton’s response to Chris Wallace’s questions “an assault on all journalists.”

If Bill Maher will allow me, New Rule: Only networks which practice real journalism can complain about an assault on journalists.