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Campaign Coverage: Fair or Fouled Up?

The Post succeeded brilliantly this morning in charging up the partisans from both major political parties. Michael D. Shear and Dan Balz write that there is a lack of evidence to support a McCain campaign assertion in an incessantly running TV ad that Barack Obama canceled a visit to a military hospital in Germany because he could not take reporters with him. Obviously part of the Post's devious plan to support Obama, as a number of our Readers Who Comment point out, or a severely under-reported and inaccurate account, according to others.

However, columnist Dana Milbank, who rarely writes without tongue firmly in cheek, called Obama the Democratic Party's presumptuous nominee under a headline that said "President Obama Continues Hectic Victory Tour." This is not seen as helpful to the Obama campaign, as a number of our Readers Who Comment point out, but cheered by others as being spot-on.

We have an example of what we in the trade call accountability reporting on the one hand and a column by a gifted satirist. Taken together, they shed considerable light on the state of the presidential campaign. They also shed considerable light on the way parts of the world are viewing MSM (mainstream media) journalism these days: if you like the article, it's great work; if you don't it's an unfair partisan attack.

We'll start with the comments on the Shear-Balz article.

bfjackjernigan wrote, "McCain, like his party and its enablers, are truely desperate. They can't fight using facts nor intellectually based positions so they just use the Joseph Goebbels manual as their guide and manufacture attack propaganda: "Tell a big lie enough and it becomes truth"..."

But bklynny offered that "...This is another example of the media creating a story (the false story of Obama snubbing the troops) rather than reporting on campaign issues, such as the economy and job losses and gas prices and the war..."

Carlos2000 said, "This is not news. This is an op-ed piece that looks and reads like a denial produced by the Obama campaign. It's like a press-release/denial hiding under the guise of reporting. The Post is back to it's old tricks. I wonder which candidate they will endorse for president!..."

0nl00k3r asked, "Lacks evidence? What kind of headline is that? The headline should read McCain promotes spurious allegations OR McCain lies for political advantage OR McCain joins in standard GOP smear tactics. Tell it like it is..."

Honest_Abe said, "A bit late for the truth to come out. The damage has been done but Obama will overcome. Lies and misinformation didn't work during the primaries."

MyOhMy charged that, "Here comes the Washington Post to Barack's rescue!!!! Is McCain really questioning his patriotism or is he questioning his decision in this instance? Very poor one-sided writing in this piece."

willandjansdad1 suggested that "I don't think John McCain is a "fear and smear" Republican...He doesn't look comfortable doing it, but the GOP handlers got the presidency twice using those methods and now it's all they know."

gardedgarton said, "...I can not believe the Washington Post has used this much space to refute something so minor and so obviously spinned. Clearly no media bias here."

And rpatoh wrote, "We're still waitng for a plausible reason of why Obama didn't visit the hospital, and we are also now waiting for an explanation of Obama's several differing excuses."

Now to the comments on Milbank's Washington Sketch column.

nativewashingtoian said, "Wow Dana, you almost sound bitter..."

KC11 wrote, "WashPo's answer to Maureen Dowd. Tres clever. Change your column name to Washington Sketchy."

chainking asked, "Who's being presumptuous? How about you, Mr. Milbank. Just because Senator Obama does not fill you in on every detail of his daily schedule does not give you the right to lambast him in the press. At least he doesn't smooze you in the Straight BS Express, like McCain does..."

lladnars said, "So what this boils down to is Obama is doing things and not telling the press. All the rest is just snark."

Natacuy wrote, "Ah, yes... "presumptuous" is the new "uppity"."

newfl said, "I am just curious. If he was white, would his confidence be seen as arrogance as the article describes. John McCain has met with the same leaders abroad. Does Obama's fault lie in the fact that he has met with more leaders and has greater oratorical skills than than McCain. I Just wonder."

scientist1 wrote, "Imagine how people would criticize Obama if he weren't acting presidential."

damollo0 warned, "Watch out Milbank!!! Much more of this kind of rubbish and you could become responsible for another four years of GOP chaos!"

good_neighbor said, "...Presidential candidates make it their job to proclaim their dazzling, exceptional greatness to anyone who will listen. Can you name one party nominee who wasn't at least a little full of himself? I can't..."

hquain suggested that "If Milbank and his headline writer want to work for the McCain campaign, shouldn't they quit their WaPo jobs?"

And we'll close with expatriot, who wrote, "Call it what it is: the faux presidency. And what is it again that comes before the fall?"

By Doug Feaver  |  July 30, 2008; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  McCain , Obama , Presidential Politics  
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sometimes, when readers on both sides think you are doing a bad job, it means you are doing a bad job, not that you are 'fair'.

Posted by: jrcjr | August 9, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: 3ydetmyewr | August 8, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: ibueamckud | August 7, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Once again, Milbank has misquoted and misrepresented the truth, and the Post smugly says "well, if both sides are upset with us, we must be doing something right." Yeah, and if Hitler and the Jews are upset with the holocaust coverage, you must be doing something right...what a copout answer.

Just as with Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004 the "liberal" media are carrying Karl Rove talking points. When Milbank shamelessly misquotes Obama (the only evidence he offers of Obama speaking "presumptuosly) and now the Note slavishly repeats, it reminds me of what Mark Twain said. A lie can travel half way around the world before the truth has got its pants on...

Here is an excellent and complete dissection of Milbank's journalistic dishonesty and dereliction. Don't hold your breath waiting for the Post to correct the record.

Posted by: Michael Z | July 31, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

A recent study confirmed that Obama has been getting much more press coverage than McCain recently...but also, that he's been getting much more *negative* coverage than McCain.

Nothing new there - McCain remains a press favorite and the fact that his campaign and/or his desire to become president have had him galloping swiftly away from the famous maverick image has been conspicuously absent from the MSP, as have his frequent, rather startling lapses of knowledge in the specific areas of his so-called expertise.

Posted by: ncm1 | July 31, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

An "assertion" that "lacks evidence" is a LIE. A presidential candidate who bases his campaign on baldfaced LIEs like this latest ad is a LIAR. Why is the Washington Post and the rest of the mainstream media INCAPABLE of fact checking this crap before they just paint their front pages with it? "Journalism" in 2008 has degenerated to "reporting" on internet rumors and Lexis/Nexis search results.
No wonder newspapers are dying.

Posted by: ScottPruden | July 31, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Here is the way I see it:

Bush Admin has screwed any chances of ANy Repub getting the Presidency. McCain could hand us all $10K and we still wont vote for him. We have had the maverick or lone cowboy image shoved down our throats as well as other countries. If Americans and other countries are not as warm, it cant be all of us. Its BUSH/CHANEY and company.

There have also been many questionable actions by Channey and Bush that makes most of us pretty darn sure that they have altered truths, made emails disappear and have strong-armed who they want as their players despite their experience and abilities.

Look at all the people that have bailed on Bush? We are not blind. We are not deaf. We are, however, SICK of THIS!

Enter Obama...

Obama is anything and everything Bush/Chaney Club is not. That alone will have him walking on water.

People say he has no experience. You know what I say to that? What has EXPERIENCE given us these last 8-16 years. I will tell you:

Everything made in China, Indonesia, and wherever else you can get someone to make something for $.20 an hour! Thanks to NAFTA we are America Made in China!

While we have 99.9% of our food and products from China and despite China poisoning our children's toys, our pets food, the administration dances with the China. Dont get me started on China's behavior over the Olympics!

Experience has gotten 75% of the government contracted out to Bush pals costing teh taxpayers almost DOUBLE what it would cost a govt worker.

Experience has tailspun the economy

Experience has gotten us $4 a gallon. Twice the price in 3 yrs.

Experience has provided richer opportunities to every oil exec, mortgage institution, govt contractors because Bush thinks that we should run govt like a corporation. Well..corporations go belly up and so is the govt

Now..all that being said..OBAMA can call him self or better yet I will call him the PRESUMPTIOUS PRESIDENT because he is everything these bearded stuffed overly greedy rich politicians are not.

Stick that in your ear!

Posted by: Lisa Looooo | July 31, 2008 5:19 AM | Report abuse

The media keep asking, "Why hasn't Obama been able to get over 50% in the polls?

The major reason is because the media talk non-stop about non-issues. They repeat smear and false statements, but rarely spend any time informing viewers that previous information was wrong.

Despite the claims that the media is in love with Obama, several recent studies by independent sources found, Obama receives far more negative coverage. Obama supporters have been reporting the unfair coverage for a long time.

An article about Obama's visit to the red area of Missouri shows that the rumors are still believed. Many people that live in rural areas can only get AM radio, which is the home of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

"But random interviews in downtown Rolla found a wide range of opinions of Obama -- and some erroneous beliefs.

Chuck Mayes, 28, a construction worker from nearby Belle, Mo., said he was ardently against the election of Obama.

"Everyone I've talked to doesn't want him in there," Mayes said, referring to the presidency.

"The first reason is his name," Mayes continued. "Second, he wasn't born here," referring to the United States.

When told that Obama was born in Hawaii and was indeed an American citizen, as required by the U.S. Constitution, Mayes expressed surprise: "I didn't know that."

Across the street, retired Highway Patrolman Tony Viessman said he wasn't surprised to hear that false information about Obama continues to circulate.

"If he was a white man, he'd be elected tomorrow," said Viessman, 74, who was holding up one end of a large banner that declared, "Rednecks for Obama."

Posted by: Jake | July 31, 2008 4:32 AM | Report abuse

Re: the Milbank article:

I find it interesting that among the comments Doug selected, he didn't choose any that criticized Milbank for centering his claim around a hearsay statement that was taken completely out of context. A NUMBER of people who were present at the House Democrat meeting came out publicly to say that the implication Milbank drew from the partial "quote" was not only wrong, it was the complete opposite of what Obama was really saying. But rather than issue a clarification (or place in a prominent location the report which offered the other side of the story), this newspaper inexplicably decided to continue featuring a column whose primary, and most controversial point was a complete and utter falsehood.

Honestly, I have no problem with people criticizing Obama. It's not like he's perfect. I do, however, have a problem with people lodging critiques that are not only unfair, but are demonstrably untrue. The fact that neither Milbank nor The Washington Post has gone out of its way to correct this monumental mischaracterization is disappointing in the extreme. Forget accusations about partisanship; what ever happened to ethics in journalism?

If this paper refuses to own its mistake, I hope the cable news anchors skewer you. It will be well-deserved.

Posted by: Bluenote123 | July 31, 2008 12:25 AM | Report abuse

1. The article about Obama/wounded soldiers: stating fact. Obama never intended to take press with him. That is no more opinion than that the United States came into being in 1975.

2. The article by Milbanks? Pure conjecture. Even the quote he had Obama was saying was incorrect. Obama had said similar, not word for word, but in a way that meant something completely obvious.

There is no comparison here. The few commenters on the first who argued that the Post was making stuff up are so into their own beliefs that they refuse to pay attention to facts. The few commenters on the second who argued that the Post WASN'T making stuff up are so into their own beliefs that they refuse to pay attention to facts. The end.

Posted by: Katie | July 30, 2008 6:32 PM | Report abuse

This is front page news - come on!

Posted by: dave s | July 30, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

It's true. Barack Obama is getting all the air time - every pearl that drops from his lips, every action, everything he does is analyzed, criticized and dissected ad infinitum while John McCain just misspeaks, flip-flops (in some cases, flip-flop-flips), and makes gaff after gaff. If Obama was making half the mistakes McCain is, it would be all over the news. The way the MSM thinks it is being fair and balanced is to give Obama attention, just negative attention. I'm dying for some real reporting. I'd love to hear about what is really going on in our government. When news became entertainment, we all started living in the movie "Truman."

Posted by: webgoddess | July 30, 2008 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Come on people...Does anyone hear Democrat or Republican but into Doug's statement about accountability of the media?? Accountability, responsibility, truth, fair reporting. Does this sound like the media?? They have played us, all of us. Moving bias, hatred, discord back and forth like a flag.

Seeing how much influence they can have over people. It's much like the old radio show that broadcast "War of the Worlds." People believe only to find it a lie. There is no truth left in media, just self-serving bottom feeders.

Posted by: dragonfly777 | July 30, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

John McCain is clearly getting a free pass from the lazy mainstream media. They are running like celebrity hounds after Obama and bypassing any examination of policy.

This is the same media that accepts the Bush restrictions on video of funerals at Arlington, etc. Rather they protest, they line up for their dog biscuits day after day.

The work that made the Watergate story just isn't possible today. It would be too much work for today's media.

John McCain's skirting of campaign finance laws he sponsored, his role in the Keating 5 scandal, his claims of being a maverick while bringing in Karl Rove and the Rove team to smear and lie without conscience .... that would be too much work for today's press and media to report on.

Posted by: somerseten | July 30, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Yes I read the article, I have one question of a oxymoronic nature.

If the Pentagon statement is true, that it would appear like a campaign, and is forbidden. Then WHY did The Pentagon release the tape of Obama playing basketball to the McCain people?

This requires closer examination by the press!

Is the Military which is forbidden to get involved in politics running amok in many

I have tried to get information on Iraq from independent sources like MSN. All I get is what the Pentagon reports, I can not get any information on Iraq from Iraqis, all of it is what the Pentagon wants you to know and what it doesn't!

Posted by: Daniel S. Dupree | July 30, 2008 10:36 AM | Report abuse

Maybe your column like many of the others seen in the last few day is also just a hack who get space on the internet/WaPo.

Posted by: jerry rubin | July 30, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

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