Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 10, 2008

THE INEVITABLE PUSH.... It's only been 24 hours, and it's pretty obvious that reports like this one, from the AP's Liz Sidoti, are going to quickly become mind-numbing.

President-elect Barack Obama hasn't even stepped into office and already a scandal is threatening to dog him.

Obama isn't accused of anything. But the fact that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat, has been charged with trying to sell Obama's now-vacant Senate post gives political opponents an opening to try to link him to the scandal.

There's just no reason for reporting like this. Is Obama connected to Blagojevich's scandal? No, but the scandal is "threatening to dog him." Has Obama done anything wrong? No, but Republicans are going to "try to link him to the scandal."

Well, yes, of course they are. That's what political opponents do. We're supposed to have an independent, professional press that helps the public cut through the nonsense and explain why baseless attacks are wrong. Instead, we get an "analysis" piece like this one.

Jamison Foser noted:

Republicans can try to link him to the scandal. Have they succeeded? Are there actual substantive connections between Obama and the wrongdoing? Because if there aren't, that's the story: Republicans smearing Obama by falsely suggesting he is tied to the wrongdoing.

Alas, Sidoti and the AP don't see it that way. Her report says there are "signs the continuing investigation could still involve Obama." That would be interesting, if it were true, but Sidoti pointed to no evidence to support the assertion.

She added that "more details on the case could be forthcoming." How insightful.

The scandal isn't dogging Obama, but the AP believes it's threatening to dog him. Hmm. All we know at this point is that Obama didn't play along with Blagojevich's tactics, Obama didn't help Blagojevich, Blagojevich was livid with Obama's lack of cooperation, and federal investigators haven't implicated Obama with this mess in any way.

And yet, here's the Associated Press, telling a national audience that this story may mean trouble for Obama. It's wildly irresponsible.

Steve Benen 10:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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Comments

Who owns AP? Who is behind it? Who are the leading managers?

The history of this sort of nonsense makes me wonder. The AP is such an anonymous organization, especially given its power.

Posted by: JohnN on December 10, 2008 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think the DFH bloggers can kill the traditional media fast enough. Maybe Sam Zell should buy the AP next.

Posted by: dr2chase on December 10, 2008 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

I really am sad for our country and for Obama.

This is the last thing he needs. But he's a toughie and I'm sure well prepared to weather this one out. His team will have their strategy and their statements if lies and rumors start to get out of hand.

Posted by: dramaqueens on December 10, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Over the past decade the AP has become a Republican front organization, sort of like Fox News except Fox is up front about its bias. The AP pretends to be something it isn't.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 10, 2008 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

This is the same set of people whose lack of professional integrity has been instrumental in trading substance for access to those in positions of power for the last eight years.

Most of them have forgotten what journalism standards are, and the rest have known only this kind of reporting in their short careers.


Posted by: jcricket on December 10, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

federal investigators haven't implicated Obama with this mess in any way.

In fact, Fitzgerald said,


"I'm not going to speak for what the President elect was aware of," he said. "We make no allegations that he's aware of anything and that's as simply as I can put it."

In other words, it's not merely that Fitzgerald hasn't said he has something on Obama. He's said he has nothing on him. I gthink that's an important distinction.

Posted by: Steve M. on December 10, 2008 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

I think Olberman talked about this last night with Alter. Question: Can this blow back on Obama? A: Yes, but probably won't and shouldn't.

Its ugly, its really awful, but ultimately, there's no indication that Obama ever talked to future prisoner number #200849834. Personally, I think this is consistent with what we know about Obama's belief in separation of powers, federalism, etc. It was the Gov's call alone and Obama stayed out his hair (sorry, couldn't resist...).

But, this whole Chicago culture of corporation can blow back on Obama. Its Rezko, and the time in state senate and all those connections that while not anything criminal, are connections that look like he's thick with thieves. Guilt by association while never fair alters perception, and perception has a nasty way of becoming the new reality.

Don't get me wrong, I think its bogus, but it would have been better if this was Texas we were talking about.

Posted by: do on December 10, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Sidoti
Doughnuts
Tire swing

Even though that campaign is over, she is still fighting the good fight. And will for as long as she has a paying job in journalism, MSM or otherwise.

Posted by: Henry on December 10, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Blagojevich is on tape complaining that Obama wouldn't play ball. Obama's support was critical to passing the ethics bill that ended up catching Blago (viz. Balloon Juice). How does this "scandal" not make him look better?

Posted by: David on December 10, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

Just now Nora O'Donnell asked Michael Isikoff (their new Obama expert) whether he could be drawn into the Glago scandal. Izzy pointed out that there certainly seems to have been some conversations between Obama staffers and Blago, and that some of those conversations would be on tape. Of course, he doesn't mention that Obama's supposed favorite was Jarrett, and that Blago was pissed he couldn't get anything in return for her. Isikoff also points out that prosecutors are "unhappy" with the level of cooperation from Rezko, so certainly Obama needs to worry about that. The witch hunt has formally begun.

Posted by: Danp on December 10, 2008 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

There is speculation the governor himself will attempt to rope Obama into this--and I've no doubt he will try, given how angry he sounded on those tapes--all marked by delusions of grandeur.

So sadly, it will no doubt get ugly. Demoralizing for all of us.

I wonder how they are going to pick the new Senate seat now?

Posted by: dramaqueens on December 10, 2008 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

i started noticing that the AP was no longer the king james version of reality around 9/11 -- reliable folk said, read bbc, read the afp...

then, several years ago, The Pickler showed up. The ultimate sign that the Associated Press is a corrupt propaganda machine.

and so, once again, i light candles to ol' uncle jacques (ellul).

i'm pretty sure it is all over, with regard to reality -- or, check that, the presumption of reality.

nuttin' but bozos on this bus... each and everyone, tiny tim.

Posted by: neill on December 10, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Yep, the witch hunt has begun. But you know what? I don't want to hear this "There's an investigation that is ongoing" crap, not out of a guy who has made transparency his claim to fame.

I want him to get up there, lay out who talked to whom and what was said or not said, and put it all in the public eye. After eight years of hearing, "We're not going to comment on an ongoing investigation," as an all-purpose shield hiding a vast array of corruption, I'm looking for something a little less lawyerly and a little more straightforward out of our guy.

Posted by: scarpy on December 10, 2008 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Didn't Blagojevich call Obama a "motherf**ker" and said that Obama should "F**k off" because he didn't like what Obama was doing? Sounds like they really like each other.

Posted by: Reverend J on December 10, 2008 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

This will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The media asks whether this matter will continue to dog Obama. Of course it will, because the media will continue to dog Obama about it regardless of his lack of involvement, egged on by right wing partisans who have an interest in blowing this up.

Posted by: bucky on December 10, 2008 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

This is nothing. Wait til they start reporting on the questions about whether Obama killed Vince Foster...

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on December 10, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

Why isn't the "press" asking anything about Richie Daley and the Chicago machine?

He probably isn't involved, BUT, this IS an Illinois scandal, not a Washington one. I have no idea if it's a "conspiracy" or just bad reporting, but certainly a powerful pol much closer in proximity to Blago (who really is a jerk) would/should be questioned about his relationship with Blago.

I assume Fitzgerald has looked into any connections of Blago and Daley, just as he has with Blago and Obama, and not found any thing wrong.

This Obama/Blago "tainting" is just another product of the need to fill the voracious 24/7 news cycle.

Posted by: phoebes in santa fe on December 10, 2008 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "We're supposed to have an independent, professional press that helps the public cut through the nonsense and explain why baseless attacks are wrong."

Only clueless "sensible liberal" bloggers "suppose" that we have such a thing as "an independent, professional press".

Of course we have no such thing.

What we have is a handful of giant corporations that own and control virtually all of America's mass media, from which most Americans get most of their information, and those corporations use that mass media to propagandize the American people in furtherance of their corporate agenda -- namely, the ruthless and rapacious class warfare of America's Ultra-Rich Ruling Class, Inc. against everyone else.

Of course the corporate mass media will use the Blagojevich scandal to attack and undermine Obama.

Of course the corporate mass media will do everything it possibly can, at every turn, to weaken public support for Obama.

Why? Because he's a Democratic president who might raise their taxes a teeny tiny bit, or even worse, might roll back the Cheney-Bush policies of radical deregulation of media ownership, which would slow the giant media corporations' drive to gobble up the last remaining independent TV and radio stations and networks in America.

Anyone who imagines that AP or the rest of the corporate media constitutes anything remotely resembling "an independent, professional press" -- rather than a virulent totalitarian corporate propaganda machine -- is an idiot.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on December 10, 2008 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

They dream at night of Jeff Gerth's Pulitzer, fiven for ginning up Whitewater out of whole cloth.

It's a legend in the business.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on December 10, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

The thing that just utterly pisses me off is that while our government is giving away this country's future with a so-called bailout (sometimes it looks more like another form of a land grab) with very little in return (including oversight), while the present administration continues to try and damage the world's future, and more and more people and families falling off the rader into financial ruin, we have people, supposedly responsible individuals with a calling of higher ideals but actually acting more like shills with their own greed, still playing politics as if it's some kind of game without real dire consequences for many, if not most, beyond just more profits for the insatiably greedy morally bankrupt individuals and entities who believe in their entitlement to run roughshod over anyone less powerful then themselves.

Sidoti and Blagojevich and a whole host of others - all cut from the same cloth, the only difference is to what degree.

Posted by: ej on December 10, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

In a story about Fox News reporters not being called on at Obama press conferences I was surprised to see Liz Sidoti's name on the list of reporters who have been called on after her very biased reporting during the campaign. I see she is continuing the tradition after the election. I think it is time the Obama team placed her on the "do not call list" along with Fox.

It will be nice if CNN actually does create a wire service that competes with the AP, maybe then the AP will be forced to hire professional journalists.

Posted by: yamevoy on December 10, 2008 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

It's not just AP. Yesterday, Mara Liasson on NPR compared this to Whitewater, in the process of saying that this was 'nothing like' Whitewater, though she was clearly trying to get us to see it in terms of scandals brought into the White House from the new President's previous career.

You gotta hand it to her. It takes some chutzpah to gin up a controversy based upon connecting it to a previous ginned up conspiracy.

Posted by: biggerbox on December 10, 2008 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Only clueless "sensible liberal" bloggers "suppose" that we have such a thing as "an independent, professional press".

Of course we have no such thing.

He didn't say we have an independent, professional press; he said we're supposed to have one, and he's right. In theory, a democracy should thrive when it has an adversarial press to keep politicians honest.

The problem is that our current MSM has an adversarial relationship with the truth.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on December 10, 2008 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't Ron "McCain Tapped Me For A Job" Fournier still running the political wing at AP?

Posted by: gradysu on December 10, 2008 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

This just in from AP.

Mrs. O'Leary DID NOT own that cow - Belonged to recent immigrants from Kenya.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 10, 2008 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

It's wildly irresponsible.

It's the Associated Press. It's what they do.

Posted by: Golan on December 10, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

All we know at this point is that Obama didn't play along with Blagojevich's tactics, Obama didn't help Blagojevich, Blagojevich was livid with Obama's lack of cooperation, and federal investigators haven't implicated Obama with this mess in any way.

I'll go further than that -- Fitzgerald explicitly denied any implication of Obama in the scandal.

Once again the so-called "liberal media" publishes a Republican-inspired hit piece with little regard to its illogic, thin sourcing or lack of factual basis. Color me shocked and amazed (not).

Posted by: Gregory on December 10, 2008 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist (10:57) gets it right, although I don't know why there should be any anger left. The AP is "owned" through subscription by the owners of the nation's newspapers, radio and TV stations, who are nearly uniformly rightwing capitalist (as opposed to religious nutball right). I've been following the AP at an increasing distance for over forty years and it's never been credible, just one reason I no longer subscribe to a newspaper. The story of American newspapers always was that you had to "read between the lines" to get the real story. Thanks to people like Steve (are you getting some exercise? I worry) we no longer have to do that. So the papers are going down the tubes, and it's too bad. They should have been better; they should be getting better now in response to the challenge, instead of reinforcing the definition of insanity. Here's to better and more responsible online journalism.

Posted by: ericfree on December 10, 2008 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

I heard a rumor just recently that Liz Sidoti may be through possibilities not forthcoming having an affair with Rupert Murdoch. I wonder if she cares to respond? No truth to that? Then all I have to remember is Liz Sidoti, the naughty thing, and Rupert Murdoch and I can be on my way!

The rumor notwithstanding, Ms. Sidoti, you're a real hack wannabe journalist if you use such shoddy straws when you build your straw stories! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 10, 2008 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Same shit with their lastest meme... OOHH liberals are very unhappy with Obama . WTF no one asked me . I am one happy camper

Posted by: John R on December 10, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

We're supposed to have an independent, professional press that helps the public cut through the nonsense and explain why baseless attacks are wrong.

As frustrating as it is, freedom of the press in theory covers propaganda. As long as "clueless sensible liberal" bloggers can counter claims of "clueless, unconscionable conservative" bloggers and "feckless, sensationalist, corporate" media the public interest is served.


Posted by: John Henry on December 10, 2008 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Look for the following phrase to appear near the end of every piece on how this story relates to Obama:

"Troubling questions remain."

Posted by: Rob Mac on December 10, 2008 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Liz Sidoti, no explanation necessary.

Posted by: grinning cat on December 10, 2008 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't Fournier still the polical editor for AP? That would explain this slant.

Posted by: john on December 10, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Completely off thread, but, I noticed Congressional leaders have caved into Shrub on the Auto Bailout Plan. Shrub has re-written the bill. Only 40 some more days for Pelosi and Reid to roll over and play dead. Perhaps on January 20, someone will remind them of what happened last November.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 10, 2008 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

I love the idea (and believe it's true) that this story is necessary for the media to fill the 24 hour news cycle. Yep, there aint much happening in the world right now, we gotta fill up time with some kind of story considering the lack of hard news the media can report on during this time of peace and prosperity.

When does Kenn Starr come out of retirement?

I hope I live longer than Maura Liason so that I can celebrate her death which can't come soon enough.

btw/ Juan Williams had quite a lenghty report last weekend on the unhapiness of liberals with Obama's transition and cabinet positions.

I caught a journalist recently who worked at NPR in the 80s talking about how different it was then and that the priority was serious journalism and now it's infotainment/snark.

Posted by: grinning cat on December 10, 2008 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

biggerbox @ 11:11AM -- I have been painfully disappointed by NPR's coverage over the last year. For the first time in years, I did not donate to my local station. Too much of the sort of postulating out of thin air that you note, and too little pushing back by the "journalists" on outrageous statements by interviewees. Thank heavens for the blogosphere. If Political Animal/TPM/HuffPost/DailyDish/RBC held a pledge drive, I'd give.


Posted by: RR on December 10, 2008 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Liz Sidoti -- Hey, is it cheap and unfair to notice that if you take her last name and rearrange the letters a little bit you get a word that describes her and the others who write this kind of dreck?

Posted by: Greg Worley on December 10, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Something MAY Happen.


It's a lot cheaper to write these stories than about things that DID happen.

You don't have to leave the office, look anything up, call anyone, provide sources.

Look for a juicy bump in AP's profit margin as they've dumped the unnecessary expense of research.

Will the subscribers notice?


Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on December 10, 2008 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Troubling questions remain."

Yes, indeed. If Obama truly was born in Hawaii as he claims, the attack on Pearl Harbor is another scandal that he'll have to contend with as well.

Posted by: AJB on December 10, 2008 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

We're supposed to have an independent, professional press that helps the public

LOL

Which parallel universe are you living in ?

Posted by: Neo on December 10, 2008 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

The latest just in: AP appears to be going bankrupt. Evidence shows they're cutting back on the quality of their reporters and this clearly indicates they're running out of money. More evidence to come.

Damn Liberal press!

Posted by: MarkH on December 10, 2008 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, but Axlerod already implicated Obama by saying two weeks ago that Obama had discussed his senate replacement with Blago. I don't believe Axlerod misspoke. Listen to how he said it. That was not a clumsy statement, it was confident disclosure. As much as this will get pushed under the carpet, there appears to be culpability. Either Axlerod is a liar, or Obama truly did talk with him. I cannot belive it was a misspoken statement.

Posted by: Russ on December 10, 2008 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Even if Obama is guilty of no wrongdoing --and I am not suggesting he is guilty-- the fact that this scandal emanates from his state, his governor, and pertains to his seat means he is going to play a role in the unfolding scandal. His name is going to come up. Get used to it and stop whining, especially you Media Matters scumbags.

Posted by: Syntacticus on December 10, 2008 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

Well Russ, if there was contact between Obama's team and Toupe-boy, I presume the feds have it on tape.

Shorter Syntacticus: "This is all we got and we are gonna beat this dead horse until the whip breaks. We got nuthin' to lose and you can't stop us. Meh. Oh! And George Soros is the devil."

Posted by: Blue Girl on December 10, 2008 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

. Get used to it and stop whining, especially you Media Matters scumbags.

Are you kidding? Media Matters is a professional and fastidious fact-checking organization that is pretty hard to criticize considering that it carefully sources its analysis while using videotape to report its stories.

Now, the xenophobic mouthbreathers over at Free Republic? Not so much.

Posted by: trex on December 10, 2008 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Or have we all forgotten Obama's gains from the MSM's biased role in the presidential election?

It's difficult to forget something that never happened WILLIAM AYERS PALLIN' AROUND WITH TERRORISTS SECRET MUSLIM ACORN ACORN ACORN.

Meanwhile, John McCain referred to reporters as his "base" and had them over for family barbecues when he wasn't eating lunch with them daily and coyloy being referred to as their "boyfriend" by female reporters.

Talk about your whining, get a fucking grip.

Posted by: trex on December 10, 2008 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Meet Syntacticus! The Daily Show finds this douchebag mock-worthy, and you will too!

Posted by: Blue Girl on December 10, 2008 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

[Trolling comments have been unpublished and the comments are off on this thread. When we get to accusations of raping infants and cannibalism, it's time to shut off the thread. Stay classy, matt.]

Posted by: matt on December 10, 2008 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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