Quotes of the Day: Scandals and Wrong Reporting Not Impacting Obama Poll

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Our political Quote of the Day comes from Booman, of the must-read blog Booman Tribune, who notes that despite all of the controversy last week President Barack Obama hasn’t seen a drop in a big drop in his polling numbers — and in fact in one sees a slight increase. Booman’s headline asks if Obama is made of teflon and he writes:

If last week was the president’s worst week in office the polls show absolutely no indication of it. Perhaps that is because the president isn’t supposed to interfere in criminal investigations or direct the IRS’s decision-making process on tax-exempt applications. CNN seems somewhat baffled by the results of their polling, which join Gallup in showing a slight uptick in the president’s numbers. But it shouldn’t be that surprising. A majority of the people reelected the president and all they’ve seen since is stupid opposition and stupid reporting.

Stupid reporting?

Why, yes, you can make the case for that– but perhaps a bit more accurately it is almost negligent reporting. Booman is NOT just throwing the word around without some justification.

Every reporter at any level (and I was one overseas in India, Bangladesh and Spain in the mid to late 70s and then worked as a staff reporter on the Wichita Eagle-Beacon in Kansas and The San Diego Union, covering local stories and bigger ones such as Cubans in Arkansas, the Mexico City earthquake and Ronald Reagan’s immigration reform) KNOWS that sources often have ulterior motives if they leak information. Reporters know it, and handle it accordingly — as do their editors.

NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen has a MUST READ in FULL piece on his great media blog Press Think. It’s titled: ” Jon Karl got played by a confidential source and now ABC News has a big Benghazi problem,

Karl is the reporter who did the bombshell report on the the Benghazi emails which triggered one of threee crises to batter the Obama administration last week — emails that were later found to have been leaked to ABC by Congressional Republicans who didn’t leak the real info and in fact altered it to their political purposes (to get Obama). Here’s just a chunk of Rosen’s piece:

9. I had been following all this and last night I said on Twitter: “Jon Karl got played. But he refuses to admit it. Every ABC anchor who doesn’t ask him about it is complicit, too.” I was anticipating Karl’s appearance on ABC’s signature political program, This Week with George Stephanopoulos. He had appeared on May 12th, two days after his original report, to talk about Benghazi with guest host Martha Raddatz. There had been big news in the intervening week: the release of the original emails. I figured that ABC News would have him on again, if they believed so strongly in his original report. He is, after all, ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent; the story that dominated Washington all week was the re-emergence of a scandal narrative. A typical headline: Obama Pivots to Jobs Tour at End of Scandal Filled Week. (That’s from The Note, the politics blog at ABCNews.com, to which Karl is a major contributor.) Well, here’s the line-up for This Week with George Stephanopoulos. No Jon Karl. Instead, ABC News Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny.

10. When a confidential source burns a reporter, a reporter is within his rights to burn–that is, “out”–that source. But it almost never happens because reporters are concerned that potential sources will take it as a sign that the reporter cannot be trusted to keep their names secret. That’s bad enough. But this is worse. Karl had a chance to limit the damage to ABC News from his faulty reporting when he first responded to [CNN's] Jake Tapper’s report. He blew that. Inexplicably, an ABC News spokesperson then doubled down on Karl’s original reporting: strike two. They had a chance to recover by asking Karl to explain how he got misled on This Week. They blew that when they chickened out and asked Jeff Zeleny to appear instead.

Rosen believes more than ever networks need ombudsmen:

11. None of the major networks–ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN–has an ombudsman. This is mystifying to me. They don’t seem to realize that since the rise of the Internet, their reporting is called into question far more easily and far more effectively. This case was especially likely to blow-up in ABC’s face once Jake Tapper’s report appeared online. When one reporter pisses on another reporter’s scoop, the first reporter enters a danger zone. The overwhelming temptation is to defend the story and treat the critique of it by another reporter as professional jealousy. A wise editor would intervene. (Attention: Rick Klein.) That did not happen. When the newsroom hierarchy fails, as it did here, the ombudsman can step in and force an accounting. But there is no ombudsman at ABC. #

And his conclusion?

Jon Karl has dragged the entire news division at ABC (and now George Stephanopoulos) into his self-dug pit. He got played. His colleagues at other news organizations know it. His friends at the network, were they real friends, would try to talk him out of this disastrous state of denial.

So if it isn’t quite stupid reporting it was negligent, sloppy reporting — the kind of error that a reporter named Howard Schmidlap covering City Hall at the Everytown Daily News in Anystate, USA would find would mean talk from his supervisor and correction. It would not help Howard’s career and his supervisor would take extra care to scrutinize his future work.

This seems to work less with big media stars…but Rosen (as always) is right: a reporter and his employer can’t just hope to move on and hope nobody notices in these days of the Internet. There is an increasing awareness by serious mainstream and serious new media reporters that in the olden days the media was manipulated by sources and maybe used by sources but today some sources are trying to get the media to lie for them and become political appendages in a 24/7 polarized 21st century world.

This means more checking.

More work. To get it right, not fast and wrong.

UPDATE: Here’s more news on the polling:

A new poll shows that recent scandals haven’t hurt President Obama’s approval rating.

The poll, from CNN and ORC International, found that 53% of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing, while 45% disapproved. This number remains virtually unchanged from polls taken before the scandals hit.

The poll was taken on May 17th and 18th, and has a 3% margin of error.

A CNN poll taken in early April showed Obama’s approval rating to be 51%. According to a Gallup poll taken in early May, the president’s approval rating was 50%.

The CNN poll also found that 71% of Americans find the actions of the IRS employees who targeted Tea Party groups to be unacceptable. However, 6 in 10 respondents said they trusted the president’s statements on the issue.

  

20 Comments

  1. http://dyn.politico.com/polls/.....sTop10.cfm
    How well do you think the president has handled the recent spate of scandals so far? He’s doing a lousy job. 48%

    How closely are you following the controversies that have recently rocked the administration?
    Very closely. 41%
    Somewhat closely. 23%

  2. IMHO, the Reps should be focusing on Hillary more with the lead up to the Benghazi attack and with any other bits of minutiae like this one:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05......html?_r=0

    Obama is so 2008ish, why waste too much time and effort.

  3. Same poll

    How well do you think the president has handled the recent spate of scandals so far?

    He’s doing a great job/He’s doing OK: 50%

    How closely are you following the controversies that have recently rocked the administration?

    Somewhat closely/Not that closely/What Scandals? Controversies?:59%

    Do you think the IRS tea-party-targeting scandal is comparable to Watergate?

    No: 59%

    Do you think the Benghazi hearings will affect Hillary Clinton’s potential 2016 presidential prospects?

    No: 58%

  4. You gotta love the spin the right is trying to put on all of this… It seems to be twisting ‘them’ all up instead of their intended victims.

  5. Another question could have been: HOW is the president handling the demi-scandals? I would say, he is saying all the right things that sound nice and mean not so much (President Passerby as he was called on a recent thread). I really think he doesn’t know too much so he can’t really do much at this point except act outraged or say it is being investigated (like Benghazi, but I hope a little faster.

  6. Another question would be when are the House Republicans going to start to govern?

    Politico reported that about a third of the House committees (there are 21) are currently investigating the Obama administration. And the influential Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, wrote a letter to congressional Republicans Thursday urging them to focus on the Obama administration scandals and avoid policy issues that could distract from this singular focus.

  7. I hope they don’t follow O’s example on governing when, and if, they ever get the chance to go from legislating (or not)to governing. Meantime the Rep governors (60%)who do govern are reported to be doing fairly well.

    BTW, Showing pictures of Hillary at the Senate hearing won’t fix anything. :-)

  8. @Z
    Two of the best States are run by Democrats – Minnesota and

    Half of the bottom ten are Republican. New Jersey isn’t in the bottom five.
    Nevada Brian Sandoval (R)
    Arizona Jan Brewer (R)
    Michigan Rick Snyder (R)
    3 of 5 at the bottom have a Republican governor.
    5 of 10 at the bottom have a Republican governor.

    Your numbers and claims don’t add up…

  9. Hey, Steve, can I borrow your image for my next post, “GOP gyrates,warps, spins, twists, twirls and squirms”? :)

  10. And laughs their asses off at the Dems discomfiture.

  11. Sorry for the confusion. Z’s link is for WSJ24/7 2011 poll, not this years latest. The Blaze numbers reflect 2012, not 2011.

  12. Sorry about that Rudi.

  13. About CA being the worst, we just elected a Democrat as governor, and passed new laws, we no longer are running a deficit per projections for this year. The information posted on that listing of states is dated and skewed, at least for CA. I don’t think you get to stick the guy running the state this year with the deficit from last year.

    Also, the top states are all very small. North Dakota has less than 700k people and an oil boom. Lol, of course its doing well. Funny how smaller states have an easier time of it. Not that there isn’t widespread corruption in CA and huge wastes of money.

  14. The report lists various factors than can affect each state then continues:

    “Despite this, it is the responsibility of each state to deal with the resources at its disposal. Each government must anticipate economic shifts and diversify its industries and attract new business. A state should be able to raise enough revenue to ensure the safety of its citizens and minimize hardship without spending more than it can prudently afford. Some states have historically done this much better than others”

    The proper link to last fall’s report

    http://247wallst.com/2012/11/2.....of-all-50/

  15. For some perspective, I looked up the approval ratings of the last President to be granted a second term. Different organizations did the poll (Gallup rather than CNN), but it is interesting to note that this particular time – May of the first year of the second term – is the last time George W. Bush ever hit 50 percent approval.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/116.....-bush.aspx

    Things were, of course, quite different back then. We were up to our necks in Iraq, but the economy was whizzing along nicely. Headed for a cliff to be sure, but at that point all the American people knew is their house was a near inexhaustible source of money and if they didn’t own a house, they could get a loan for merely having a pulse. The stock market was riding high, and everyone’s 401k was nice and fat. Unemployment was historically low.

    There was little or no gridlock in DC. The GOP controlled both houses of Congress, and it would still be two years until George W. Bush found his long-lost veto pen. Gasoline was under three bucks a gallon, even in California. The only scandal of note was the ongoing Plame affair, but if I remember correctly, it wasn’t the top story on all the Sunday talk shows.

    Within a year, the President’s approval ratings would be in the 30s. By the end of his term, the 20s. Yet it wasn’t scandals that brought down George W. Bush. Republicans, take note as I repeat that with emphasis added: It wasn’t scandals that brought down George W. Bush.

    As a campaign adviser to another rather scandal-prone President once quipped, “it’s the economy, stupid.” That bit of political wisdom is 20 years old, and the GOP still hasn’t quite figured it out.

    They’re trying to gin up every little misstep by the Obama administration into a “scandal,” and hopefully one will justify talk of impeachment. But while they’re holding hearings and making a show of being summarily outraged, average Americans are noticing that things are getting slowly, slightly better.

    The recovery is anemic, but it is picking up a little steam. The housing market is slowly returning. The stock market is going gangbusters. Unemployment is still high, but people seem to have the sense that a recovery on that front is not far off.

    If things continue to get better, even at the present glacial rate, the Obama administration will in a year or two be impervious to all but an actual scandal. The Tea Party – victim of the IRS shenanigans – has had the wind taken out of their sails by a combination of the improving economy and the fact that their 2010 freshman class is perhaps even more inept than the elected officials they ousted.

    As I see it, the GOP has only a couple serious options moving forward. Playing scandal “gotcha” politics has not worked, so they’re left with:

    1. Hoping the economy collapses in the next year, or…

    2. Demonstrating an ability to actually govern.

  16. Oh, wow sounds like curtains for the Reps.

  17. @cjjack

    As I see it, the GOP has only a couple serious options moving forward. Playing scandal “gotcha” politics has not worked, so they’re left with:

    1. Hoping the economy collapses in the next year, or…

    2. Demonstrating an ability to actually govern.

    There is a third – hoping that the Democrats behave equally as foolish. I’m seeing a lot of dissatisfaction among the far left with Red-state Democrats like Baucua and Heitkamp, with MoveOn.org making some efforts to support more ideologically pure candidates. The upshot of this would be to give seats to GOP as the GOP gave seats away when they ran candidates like O’Donnell and Angle. Never underestimate the ability of Democrats and Republicans to shoot themselves in the foot.

  18. DaGoat, as usual, right to the point.

  19. Another question would be when are the House Republicans going to start to govern?

    An especially sad rhetorical question. Agreed cjjack, scandal politics isn’t a recipe for anything good – something the GOP has an impossible time figuring out.

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