Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama Talking Points Memo

Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler has written at length about the misleading commentary authored or endorsed by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. If you search Somerby's archive, you can find examples of Josh's lackluster performances and blatant wankery over the years. Also, check this archive at TalkLeft, where Armando (Big Tent Democrat), an Obama supporter, demonstrates how to blog fairly about both Clinton and Obama.

Two recent examples via Somerby's passing observation yesterday, when taken together, document TPM's favoritism of Obama and bias toward Clinton deceitfully honed. A caveat: Josh can endorse whomever he wants. What is problematic is how he presents his "reporting" as factually correct, when actually he distorts information to fit his point of view. Such misleading tactics one would expect from the sleazy wingnutosphere. Evidently, the liberal blogosphere has its own share of propagandists.

Monday, Josh tasked the notoriously fallacious Bill Kristol for citing Newsmax in his column that stated Obama had attended Rev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial service:

Bill Kristol forgets that fact-checking is important, even in a hit piece.

Later on Monday, Greg Sargent posted an update to the story:

In his latest column, Bill Kristol falsely claimed -- based on reporting by Newsmax, of all things -- that Obama had attended Trinity Church last July 22nd, when Wright blamed blamed [sic] the “arrogance” of the “United States of White America” for much global suffering.

The Obama campaign responded with an aggressive fact-check last night, saying that, no, in fact Obama was not at the service.

Somerby recalled that last month on the morning of February 25, Marshall used an unsubstantiated allegation from right-wing Matt Drudge as a source to smear the Clinton campaign as if fact-checking isn't important for him, but it is for Bill Kristol. Interesting double standard, no?

He just couldn't help himself in citing the spurious Mr. Drudge. The story was too juicy to hold up, insinuating that the Clinton camp was out to get Obama, reinforcing errant gossip that Barack might be a Muslim. He didn't "want to take Drudge as a fact witness for anything." But, waah! Waah! He just had to do it. Who or what made him post a Matt Drudge allegation?

Why it was those darn Clintons running "a terribly inept" campaign and the pressure of inquiring readers who were to blame. Not Josh. Heaven forbid.

He "pushed and pushed"--Bless his heart!--to get what he needed, a Clinton campaign response before he posted the specious Drudge allegation. When the Clinton camp didn't meet his idea of what he "knows" campaigns should say to unequivocally deny an allegation, to disavow that they had anything to do with the Obama dressed in Muslim garb photo, Josh plunged ahead to spread a Matt Drudge "hit piece" as if he was a victim of circumstance.

Of course, none of TPM's readers have any idea how Josh phrased his inquiry to the Clinton campaign before he posted, That Drudge Headline, because he didn't tell them. He didn't publish his line of questioning for transparency's sake--we're to trust his unfailing integrity--because he knows his readers don't come to TPM "to get insights into our editorial process." Odd, that he mentioned that last point.

Without verifying sources for hard evidence, he linked to the Greg Sargent's 9:50 AM posting of the Obama campaign's "David Plouffe condemning the Hillary campaign and saying it's part of a 'disturbing pattern' from Camp Hillary." Yet, no high-level Obama staffers offered "any evidence or info as to what happened beyond what appeared on Drudge."

Later on February 25 at 2:36 PM, Greg Sargent posted:

On a conference call with reporters just now, Hillary spokesperson Howard Wolfson strongly denied any official campaign role in pushing the photo of Obama in a turban and Somali garb.

Drudge reported this morning that Clinton staffers had "circulated" the photo. He didn't say who circulated it, what level of Clinton staffer had circulated it, or to whom it had been circulated. Drudge is the sole source for this email's existence. Nonetheless, the media has been all over the story today.

Josh couldn't wait to post a Matt Drudge "hit piece" on Clinton but what did Josh say in his afternoon follow-up to his rancid "reporting"?

On a conference call, Howard Wolfson just made pretty much the kind of 'loosely categorical' statement about the Obama picture that I said in the post below that we were surprised not to have heard. Here's our report on the conference call.

Not a hint of how Wolfson "strongly denied any official campaign role"--the type of explanation Josh expected for a campaign to provide when he "pushed and pushed"--and he described the denial as "loosely categorical." He merely offered a link to "our report on the conference call" without correcting his original erroneous "report."

Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler is right:

Incredibly, Marshall eventually linked to Sargent’s story—while pretending that Wolfson’s statement didn’t go beyond what had already been said. Not being stable-boys ourselves, we won’t bother to scoop Josh’s piles; you can limn his posts for yourself. But go ahead: Read his original post, then his update, then read his link to Sargent’s report. There’s nothing new here, the moo-cow said, as he linked to a report which opened like this:

“On a conference call with reporters just now, Hillary spokesperson Howard Wolfson strongly denied any official campaign role in pushing the photo of Obama in a turban and Somali garb.”

If you didn’t click on Josh’s link, you wouldn’t know how absurd his characterization was. But certain types have long played this game. The assumption: You rubes won’t bother to click on that link! Therefore, you won’t see that what has been said is pure, Grade A, moo-cow nonsense.

Fact-checking is important for Bill Kristol, "even in a hit piece." The right-wing, fact-challenged Newsmax isn't a reliable news source as Media Matters have repeatedly documented. The same is true about Matt Drudge.

But it's OK if you're Josh Marshall to use Clinton-hating, right-wing Drudge as a source without checking facts. Josh called his post "reporting." That's a quaint term for sophistry.

When the dubious wingnut Bill Kristol doesn't get his facts straight, using a proven unreliable source, Josh and Greg pounced on the "hit piece." Why? Kristol had linked Obama with the Rev. Wright controversy. Damage control had flung into full throttle.

Does Josh commit to the same level of diligence when the Democratic candidate is Hillary? No. Not as "a generally subtle, practitioner of Clinton Derangement Syndrome." He's been silent on the sexist crap. And that leaves plenty of doubt about his objectivity when his misleading spin and the "slide-toward-propaganda" thoroughly undermines and discredits "Josh Marshall’s once-superlative work."

Tell me why I ought to ever consider TPM a credible blog on news stories in the future?

Shilling for Obama must pay well. Isn't it time for a name change? Obama Talking Points Memo sounds about right.