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On Matters of October Surprises and Media Malpractice

roger-aronoff-smalla.jpgOctober 21, 2008
By Roger Aronoff

With just two weeks to go before choosing the next president, the election cycle is producing some strange and troubling October surprises, and the media are absent on several significant stories. But what is no surprise is that the mainstream media are doing their best to ignore these stories when they are damaging to Democratic candidate Barack Obama, or dispose of them by using charges of racism, mean-spiritedness, or desperation, when in fact, they deserve-even demand close scrutiny.

During the 2004 campaign, Newsweek editor-at-large (then assistant managing editor) Evan Thomas said that the media were worth about 15 points for John Kerry in his race for president against George Bush. When later given a chance to walk back that comment-a comment which was truly embarrassing to the liberal media that tries to maintain deniability on that issue-Thomas said, okay, maybe just five points. He added, "absolutely," when asked by Howard Kurtz if he believed that most reporters wanted John Kerry to win. The point was made, not that this hadn't been known for decades. But what would Thomas say about this year? Between voter fraud efforts and the proclivities of the media, a 15-point advantage for Obama sounds like a reasonable estimate. That's a lot for McCain to overcome.

However, an outstanding body of work has emerged in the blogosphere, on conservative websites, and occasionally in the mainstream media. It will be to the lasting shame of the mainstream media if they don't give a fair, unbiased examination of some of these issues in time to give voters an informed assessment before the November 4 election arrives.

So in regard to October surprises, and just your basic everyday liberal media bias, here is, in part, where we stand:  

Polls

Polls are such an insidious part of election coverage. Rather than focusing on the issues, or matters of character and integrity, so much time is given to examining the ever changing numbers that are treated as if they actually reflect the truth and are somehow scientifically based. There are many examples of polling being so far off base when the vote tallies come in that it is almost fraudulent to spend so much time on them. After Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the caucuses, for example, he was a big favorite to win . RealClearPolitics had Obama ahead by an average of 8.3 percent among the polls it includes, with a range of Obama up by 5 all the way to up by 13. When the votes were counted, Hillary won by 2.6 percent, a difference of 11 points from the RCP average, and more than 15 points from the C-SPAN/Zogby poll.

The polls are often fraudulent and biased, with a clear agenda to help create a sense of inevitability for an Obama victory, and a sense of despair on the McCain side. And they can become self-fulfilling. For example, Newsbusters did an analysis of a couple of Associated Press polls, one taken right after the Republican convention, and one a few weeks later. If you study them, you will see that the second poll, in which Obama appears to have regained a lead that he temporarily lost-a lead that went from a five point McCain lead to a seven point Obama lead in about three weeks-the sampling was completely different. There was a significant enough increase in Democrats being polled, and fewer Republicans, to explain the difference on that basis alone. But certainly it doesn't get reported this way. John Zogby of the Zogby Poll said two weeks ago that the race was a statistical dead heat and could break either way. That barely got reported. Today the poll numbers are generally much better for Obama, but how much that reflects reality, versus the hype and the bias, is unknowable.

In addition, there is an excellent article on AmericanThinker.com by attorney Steve Warshawsky. He argues that "There are three basic reasons to be skeptical about the validity and accuracy of polls:  First, there is the well-known problem of bias that results from how polls are worded.  Second, the raw data for the polls almost always is ‘adjusted' by the pollsters to give more weight to the Democratic responses. And third, the results of the polls almost always are within the reported ‘margin of error.'" 

Racism?

One problem with all this is that with the polls showing Obama ahead, the risk is that a defeat of Obama could result in riots and violence. The belief is being fostered and reinforced that the only ways Obama can lose are if the election is stolen from him, if racism prevails or the so-called Bradley effect, in which people who tell pollsters they plan to vote for Obama really won't because of his race when they cast their ballots.

James Carville, a close ally and frequent guest on CNN, certainly hinted at this scenario. On CNN, following the second presidential debate, Carville said, "Now let me be clear here, if Obama goes in this race with a 5- point lead and losing this election, the consequences are-bull, man. I mean I don't think that's going to happen, but I think, David [Gergen], it's a point to bring up. But you stop and contemplate this country if Obama goes in and he has a consistent five point lead and loses the election, it would be very, very, very dramatic out there."

Civil Rights icon Rep. John Lewis, (D-GA) stoked the fire with his outrageous comment comparing McCain to George Wallace and raising, in that context, the murder of four black kids.

"What I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history," Lewis stated at an event put on by Politico.com. "Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse."

Added Lewis: "George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in , ."

Thomas Sowell, a columnist who happens to be black, and, heaven forbid, conservative, also tackled this issue: "It is Barack Obama and his supporters who have hyped race, after his large lead in the polls began to shrink or evaporate, as more of the facts about his checkered career came out.

"Almost any criticism of Obama has been equated with racism, even if there is no connection that can be seen under a microscope.

"Barack Obama himself started this trend when he warned that his opponents were going to try to scare the public with various charges, including a statement, ‘And did I say he was black?'

"McCain said no such thing. Palin said no such thing. But those who support Obama-and this includes much of the media-are acting as if they just know that this is the underlying message."

The basis of the charge is mainly that by citing Obama's ties to an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers, somehow there is a "tinge of racism" attached. And that people at rallies have said some pretty nasty things, which certainly has happened on both sides. But Obama's relationships with Ayers, along with Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko should be fair game, and the mainstream media should be doing a much better job than it is in telling these stories.

Charles Krauthammer dealt with this matter in a recent column: "But should you bring up Barack Obama's real associations-20 years with Jeremiah Wright, working on two foundations and distributing money with William Ayers, citing the raving Michael Pfleger as one who helps him keep his moral compass (Chicago Sun-Times, April 2004) and the long-standing relationship with the left-wing vote-fraud specialist ACORN-you have crossed the line into illegitimate guilt by association. Moreover, it is tinged with racism."

Added Krauthammer: "What makes the charges against McCain especially revolting is that he has been scrupulous in eschewing the race card. He has gone far beyond what is right and necessary, refusing even to make an issue of Obama's deep, self-declared connection with the race-baiting Rev. Wright."

The charges of racism as the main factor if Obama loses is a particularly offensive tactic, sort of a preemptive strike. Is that why John Kerry lost in 2004?

The Factor

It is an open secret, despite the protestations, that the do not want Obama to win. But without all of their half-hearted endorsements, the theory goes, Hillary cannot step back in for the 2012 or 2016 Democratic nomination. She must play the part of the good party loyalist. ABC's Nightline on October 20 featured the first joint interview with Hillary and Obama together, and Cynthia McFadden reported that it appeared to her that the earlier tension between the two had ended.

But it is such an open secret that it drew howls of laughter, including from Hillary, when John McCain pointed it out at the Alfred E. Smith dinner in last week. He referred to her as one of the only people there pulling for him. After all, as the see it, Obama took what was rightly her time and place to be president; and his campaign, as Bill Clinton claimed, used the race card against him, and damaged his relations with the black community.

Maureen Dowd, the smart-alecky and bellwether liberal columnist for the New York Times, wrote a column just prior to the Democratic convention in August in which she argued that the "made Barry's [Barack's] convention all about them-their dissatisfaction and revisionism and barely disguised desire to see him fail. Whatever insincere words of support the muster, their primal scream gets louder: He can't win! He can't close the deal! We told you so!"

Added Dowd: "The way the see it, there's nothing wrong with a couple making plans for their future, is there? That's the American way and, as their pal Mark Penn pointed out, they have American roots while Obama "is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values."

Perhaps they eventually struck a deal, in which Obama pledged some of his leftover funds to help retire her campaign debt. After all, he took in a reported $150 million in September alone. He easily could have committed the $23 million she's been looking for to make her whole. But her involvement in Obama's campaign, including some 50 appearances, is part quid pro quo, and mostly about maintaining viability while hoping Obama loses.

After all, her supporters are still staying away from Obama in droves. According to this AP-Yahoo poll from last month, only 58% of those who supported Hillary in the primaries are supporting Obama-and that number hadn't changed from when she first conceded back in June. With some 40% of nearly half of all Democrats who voted in the primaries "Just Saying No Deal" to switching their allegiance, Obama could have big problems making up that support. Yes, the polls show otherwise, while Obama's team is planning a victory party in on election night and presumably measuring the drapes. I can see the headlines now: Dewey Defeats Truman. But he, and we, will still have to wait till November 4 or thereabout, to find out the results.

Could the be orchestrating one of the biggest October surprises of them all? A story that has been simmering in the blogosphere for months has finally gotten onto at least a couple of news sites. That would be the story of whether or not Obama is legally qualified to be president. The questions involve the truth of where he was born and the status of his citizenship. Several months ago, when this first came up, something was posted on the far-left Daily Kos website that was said to be Obama's birth certificate, proving he was born in as he has long claimed. The Obama campaign ran the same image on its site. The item attempted to put the controversy to rest. We at looked at it at the time, and didn't feel there was enough to go on to run with the story. Factcheck.org took a look, said they received the actual document and were satisfied that there was no problem. WorldNetDaily confirmed that, in large part based on the Factcheck.org claims, and discussed a lawsuit that had been filed seeking to get to the bottom of this. 

The lawsuit was by a attorney, Philip Berg, who is the former deputy attorney general of , and a former Democratic Party official there as well. He was also a strong Hillary supporter in the primaries. And to further establish his leftist credentials, he has filed a suit on behalf of the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement. In the Obama matter, he filed suit demanding that Obama release the official documents. Berg also questions whether even if Obama was born in as he claims, instead of as Berg suspects, there still might be a problem. When Obama's mother remarried an Indonesian and moved there, according to Berg, she would have had to accept Indonesian citizenship for her and Barack, so he could attend school there, and there are questions as to whether or not he returned to the with his citizenship intact. What makes this story compelling and finally got us to decide to write about it is that a Federal Judge, R. Barclay Surrick, appointed by then-President Bill Clinton in 2000, has ordered Obama to produce the documents. So far the Obama team has pushed to dismiss the case, or at least delay it. Now there is a story on the local Fox affiliate in , , where Berg is originally from. It says that Berg questions the veracity of Factcheck.org's findings, because it is "a project of the ...," the same "group where Obama sat on the board a number of years dispersing funds," said Berg, "so I would think there's a little conflict of interest there." [Ayers was actually part of a different Annenberg-funded organization]

There is a youtube video interview with Berg that has been watched about a million times, so the fact that this story is out there cannot be denied. The question is, will it be resolved in any way before the November 4 election, and the bigger question: will anyone in the mainstream media even report on this story, and investigate who, if anyone, is behind Berg on this matter, much less the validity of his claims. The most detailed and up-to-date source I have found on this is the blog of Jeff Schreiber, a law student who has thoroughly been following the story.

Where is Obama getting his money?

Another story that demands more attention is a huge potential fundraising scandal. No, not Al Gore shaking down Buddhist monks. As Ken Timmerman has documented, nearly half of the $400 plus millions that Obama has raised is not transparent, while all of John McCain's donations, of whatever size, are. The law says that donations under $200 don't have to be identified, unless cumulatively, from the same person, they exceed the legal limit of $2,300 for the primaries and $2,300 for the general. It has come to light that this process has been sorely abused, and that a number of illegal foreign donations have made their way into the Obama campaign. In some cases, when caught, they returned money, as in the matter of $33,000 returned to residents of . To explain how they could have done this in the first place, the campaign claimed that they mistook the GA in the address to be , yet they actually shipped Obama tee-shirts to where the money originated, , the area between and controlled by the terrorist organization Hamas.

Now, in another article, Timmerman persuasively makes the case that Obama has taken in millions of dollars from overseas sources. Donations from citizens of foreign countries are not legal. According to Timmerman, "more than 37,000 Obama donations appear to be conversions of foreign currency." Timmerman's latest analysis does not include the $150 million Obama has raked in during September, but according to his findings, potential foreign currency donations could range anywhere from $12.8 million to a stunning $63 million in all. This cries out for an investigation.

This is just a taste of stories that the media are failing to investigate sufficiently and report on. In a follow-up piece, I will address other such stories, including ACORN and voter fraud, Bill Ayers, Fannie and Freddie, and the Fairness Doctrine.

            Roger Aronoff is a media analyst with Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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