By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
January-B AIM Report
As we move down the presidential primary path, most of the media attention is rightly focused on who the Republicans will pick to be their nominee. With Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum each having won a single state primary or caucus in January heading into the Florida primary, it is looking like this race could extend for months before finally settling on a candidate. It might not get resolved until the Republican convention in late August in Tampa Bay, Florida. The script has changed so many times already that no one can comfortably predict what will happen, and when this will become a contest between Republicans and Democrats—as opposed to among Republicans—over their competing visions for the future of this country.
But it is highly questionable if this November’s election is really going to come down to a simple matter of competing visions. There are numerous other factors—and potential factors—already at work, with still others being planned that could play a major role in the outcome of the election.
It is becoming increasingly clear that President Barack Obama’s estimated billion-dollar campaign machine is planning a multi-front battle plan to win re-election. To a certain extent that is the reality of political contests today. However, evidence is mounting that this election will be like none before it, both in terms of the role of the media and the specter of legal and political maneuvering being undertaken to help ensure victory for Obama.
With the RealClearPolitics average of polls showing that 65% of likely U.S. voters say the country is on the wrong track, the Republican nominee, whoever that turns out to be, should be able to defeat Obama. The unemployment rate and the massive deficits normally would be enough to ensure that. But the question this year is whether or not Obama can convince enough voters that a) the mess he inherited was worse than everyone thought, but at least we’re moving in the right direction; b) his vision is kinder, more fair, and ultimately better for the country than whomever the Republicans run against him; and c) if the Republicans hadn’t obstructed him at every turn, we would be much farther along.
For many reasons, those are all tough sells. But Team Obama is not taking any chances, and they are attempting to create enough havoc and diversions that they can win the election, regardless of the state of the economy, the overwhelming sentiment to repeal ObamaCare, and the widely held belief that Obama prefers to ignore Congress, and the Constitution, and run the country through a series of unaccountable “czars,” bureaucratic regulations and executive orders.
A recent attempt to end-run Congress and the Constitution was the recess appointments of Richard Cordray to head up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a creation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and three members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), at a time when the Senate was not actually in recess. When President Obama announced the appointments, he said that he refused “to take no for an answer.” He said that when Congress doesn’t act, he has an obligation to do so. Actually, the system of keeping the Senate in pro forma sessions so that the president cannot make such appointments was established by Sen. Reid during the Bush administration, which honored the arrangement.
The legitimacy of the NLRB appointments is headed to the courts where it will ultimately be decided in a case brought by the National Federation of Independent Business. Republicans in Congress appear unwilling or unable to reverse the appointments on their own.
In the coming months, AIM will be looking at a number of these factors that could influence the outcome of the election. For example, there is a movement called the National Popular Vote bill, which has some bipartisan support, and which, according to its website, “would guarantee a majority of the Electoral College to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia;” a possible Donald Trump run as an independent with a large bankroll; the successor groups to ACORN, the criminal enterprise that has repeatedly engaged in voter registration fraud; the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has already previewed its intent to disrupt the electoral process; vote fraud in many different forms, from dead people voting to voter suppression to outright ballot stuffing and cash for votes. And don’t rule out an October Surprise.
But in this report I will focus on the role the media will likely play, and another factor with potentially great significance that could match the impact of the media and should really be keeping Republicans up at night. It is a scheme, maybe a scam, called Americans Elect.
The Role of the Media
One of the more telling remarks of the last decade was by Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, who said on the show Inside Washington during the 2004 election that he thought the media wanted John Kerry to win the presidency, and the way they were going to portray Kerry and his running mate John Edwards was “going to be worth maybe 15 points” in their run against then-incumbent President George W. Bush. Thomas later walked it back, saying that it was probably more like five points than 15. Of course there’s no way to know for sure, but he was probably closer the first time. This time the number for Obama is likely to be even greater.
The apparent desire by an overwhelming majority in the mainstream media to see a president reelected has never been as obvious as it is today. Yes, there are places where people can get other points of view, but if you’re looking at the mainstream media—CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, The New York Times and The Washington Post—there is undoubtedly a powerful bias favoring President Obama. Most people would acknowledge that Fox is an exception to this rule, but aside from Fox, there is a concerted, if not collusive, effort to belittle, ridicule and divide Republicans and conservatives, while the passion, sympathy and support for Obama is apparent in nearly every story.
Perhaps most offensive is the constant use of the race card by the leftist media to demean conservatives in general, such as the Tea Party activists, but even more so the Republican presidential candidates. It is a regular refrain by the hosts on MSNBC, particularly Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz and Martin Bashir, to call, or imply, that these people are racists.
Recent examples include an article by Michael Tomasky, a Newsweek/Daily Beast special correspondent, titled “Newt’s Racist Surge May Sink Romney in South Carolina.” Lee Siegel, in an op-ed in The New York Times titled, “What’s Race Got to Do With It?” wrote that “Mitt Romney is ahead because he is the whitest white man to run for president in years.” Siegel added that Romney “knows that he offers to these people the white solution to the problem of a black president.” Siegel said that he “I am sure that Mr. Romney is not a racist,” yet everything else in the column suggests that in fact he does believe that Romney is a racist. He writes, “I am also sure that, for the many Americans who find the thought of a black president unbearable, he is an ideal candidate.” This is despicable and scurrilous journalism.
Joan Walsh of Salon.com said this about Newt Gingrich: “Newt is the face of the politics of resentment and racism and angry white male rage.” What are these charges based on? They claim to hear “code words” and “dog whistles” that they interpret as racist, and have no qualms about making these vicious attacks. These examples just barely scratch the surface.
And what about coverage of the Obama Administration scandals? Much of the media have barely taken note of Operation Fast & Furious and Solyndra, the green energy loan scandal, and refuse to acknowledge that they should be viewed as scandals. CBS News deserves credit for their coverage of these stories, and ABC did a decent job on Solyndra. Patrick Pexton, the ombudsman of The Washington Post, has called Solyndra both a scandal and a fiasco. But those characterizations haven’t made it into any news stories.
These exceptions notwithstanding, Obama has largely been given a pass on his end runs around the Constitution, and Congress. He blames the Republican-led House of Representatives as being obstructionist, while in fact it is the Democrat-led Senate that hasn’t passed a budget since April of 2009, and has failed to take up more than a dozen jobs bills passed by the House. When David Gregory, host of NBC’s Meet the Press had a chance to question Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the show on January 15, he sheepishly brought it up, saying that the Senate Democrats hadn’t put together a budget in “a year,” when in fact at that point it was a week short of 1,000 days, or almost three years. Reid blamed it on Republican obstructionism, and that was that. No follow up.
President Obama submitted a 2011 budget that was defeated 97-0 in the Senate. But who wants to bring that up? Joe Scarborough brought it up on his MSNBC morning show, however, with Senate Whip Dick Durbin, who said that he couldn’t defend not having passed a budget in all that time.
The left-wing media bias is a given. The news media are and will remain in the tank for Obama, as they almost always are for Democrats. And yes, Fox News leans right, but clearly offers far more diversity of opinion than MSNBC, which serves as a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party. In 2008 the bosses at MSNBC realized that having left-wing commentators Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as anchors of the network’s election coverage was absurd, and removed them in favor of David Gregory. But so far this year they apparently haven’t felt the need to make that change, and have been covering the GOP primaries with their prime time gang of lefties—Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O’Donnell, Al Sharpton and Rachel Maddow.
It’s clear that the full-court press to reelect Obama is in full swing. And that is just the news media. In the entertainment media the bias is perhaps even greater. There is even less of an attempt to pretend otherwise. Shows like “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Daily Show,” “The View” and “Real Time with Bill Maher” regularly come to Obama’s defense while ridiculing and criticizing Republicans and conservatives. And dramas like “The Good Wife,” and for many years the whole “Law and Order” series, put forth storylines and cultural references that make their liberal bias crystal clear. A movie is being made by Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow about the killing of Osama bin Laden that was originally slated for release just before the election. It has now been moved to a December release, however, after an investigation opened up by both the CIA and Defense Department as to whether or not the Obama administration had released classified information to help in the making of the film, obviously expecting a very favorable portrayal in return.
Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been the beneficiaries of some recent free publicity, courtesy of a couple of TV networks. There was Barbara Walters’ hour-long special at the White House just before Christmas, and an NBC special honoring actress and comedian Betty White on her 90th birthday, during which Obama jokingly asked to see her “long form birth certificate.” Mrs. Obama was on the cover that week of More magazine, and appeared on the popular Disney Channel show for kids, “iCarly.”
Jonathan Tobin, the senior online editor of Commentary magazine, summarized the significance of the First Lady’s media appearances: “Michelle Obama has taken advantage of a welcome mat that was never rolled out for her predecessor [Laura Bush]…There will be those who grouse that her ability to pop up in these settings is an attempt to send a not-so-subtle subliminal message to parents to vote for her husband. They’re not entirely wrong, and one might think producers would regard it as prudent to stay away from the White House during an election year.”
“Nevertheless,” added Tobin, “this stunt is one more reminder to Republicans that their task this year is not as easy as some of them might think. President Obama not only has all the natural advantages that accrue to any incumbent, he can also count on a largely sympathetic mainstream media and the adoration of the arbiters of most of our popular culture. The Camelot treatment by these powerful influences on society gives Obama a leg up on the GOP. This stacked deck is one more obstacle that Republicans will have to overcome if they hope to defeat Obama in November.”
The cumulative effect of the news and entertainment media is immeasurable, but the pervasiveness and reality of the pro-Obama leanings are unmistakable.
On the face of it, Americans Elect (AE) is a plan to nominate a third party ticket that will consist of a presidential and vice presidential candidate from two different political parties. The idea is that the current paradigm isn’t working, and we need a workable, compromise ticket. But when you peel back the surface, it appears that Americans Elect is really a front group to help Barack Obama get re-elected.
Ruth Marcus, in a column for The Washington Post, wrote, “The organization was launched with more than $5 million in seed money from investment banker Peter Ackerman, whose son Elliott, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, is one of the main people running it.”
What she fails to point out is that Peter Ackerman was a major backer of Obama in 2008. Marcus said “there is a troubling irony in the notion that the only way to repair our flawed democracy involves secret money. There also arises a serious question as to whether an organization whose stated aim is to participate in the presidential election—and has qualified as a political party on state ballots—can claim it is a nonprofit organization not required to disclose donors.”
Americans Elect recently captured its biggest prize, gaining ballot access for the state of California. So far AE has qualified for the ballot in 13 states and collected signatures in the 17 others. “With a war chest of $22 million so far,” said Marcus, “the group aims to leapfrog the logistical and ideological barriers that limit voters’ choices and drive candidates to extremes.”
In early January an article on the website American Thinker reflected my suspicions about AE. The article, “Americans Elect: Obama’s Third-Party Tar Pit,” by attorney and columnist Jared E. Peterson, raised some relevant questions.
“Why does this group really exist? Why is Peter Ackermann, a Wall Street exec who was a big Obama supporter in 2008, now back a political party to go up against Obama? The obvious answer is to help reelect him.”
As Peterson points out, AE is “a party with no public program, platform, or publicly stated philosophy, and no public donor list—all of which might help interested parties evaluate it—nor does it have a candidate or candidates, or even public criteria for selecting candidates.”
The CEO is Kahlil Byrd, formerly a communications director to Massachusetts’ Democrat Governor Deval Patrick, an ally of President Obama.
“After qualifying for the ballot in all 50 states,” said Peterson, “Americans Elect will seek a candidate who will be tasked with grabbing a large portion of the independent, unaffiliated American middle and soft center-right, thereby tossing an otherwise lost cause to Obama. It is that simple. For at least the last century, third-party candidates…have always hurt the right more than the left, because a larger percentage of the left’s voters are joined at the hip with titanium screws to the Democratic Party.”
The model is 1992, when Bill Clinton won the White House with only 43% of the popular vote, followed by George H.W. Bush with 37.5% and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot with 19%.
In the next AIM Report, we’ll look at more factors that could determine the outcome of this year’s presidential election.
Dear Fellow Media Watchdogs:
One of the great unknowns about this presidential race is whether or not it is in the best interest of the Republicans to have the contest extended all the way to this summer, or would it be to their advantage to end it sooner. There are pluses and minuses on both sides.
If it is extended, that means that there are more debates, more interviews with candidates and their surrogates, all of which means that the liberal media would have less control over what is said on the air, particularly about President Obama and his record. In 2008, the lengthy, drawn out battle with Hillary Clinton proved helpful to Barack Obama. It gave him a chance to hone his debating skills, and it forced the national Democratic Party and both Obama’s and Hillary’s campaigns to organize more and work hard in nearly every state. The downside was that there was a lot of bad blood between the two that required patching up. But in their case, the media were eager to downplay the antagonism.
Would it be better for the GOP to choose a candidate early, and get the losing candidates united behind the party’s presumptive nominee, bruised feelings and all? There would already be many harsh, accusatory sound bites left behind to be picked like ripe fruit by the Obama campaign? The problem then for the GOP would be that the narrative falls back into the waiting arms of the media until the Republican convention in Tampa Bay, Florida, in late August.
Conservatives understand how that would work out. Instead of staying neutral and allowing hurt feelings within the party to heal, the media would continue “protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans,” as Newt Gingrich argued during the South Carolina debate just before the primary. He was criticizing John King of CNN for opening the debate with a question about his ex-wife’s accusations regarding his extramarital affair and how he dealt with it.
While the media would be able to reclaim the narrative about the GOP, they could be counted on to continue whitewashing Obama’s record and ignoring his administration’s scandals, like Solyndra and Operation Fast & Furious. You won’t see endless sound bites of Obama’s many gaffes and misstatements, talking about having visited “57 states,” or about “Navy Corpsmen” or references to “my Muslim faith,” as Obama said during an interview with George Stephanopoulos before being corrected to say “my Christian faith.” The Republicans understand the double standard they are up against, but can they do anything about it?•
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at [email protected].