Goldberg book examines media's 'romance' with Obama
Q&A: Liberals in love
Award-winning network TV reporter Bernard Goldberg first hit paydirt in the book world with “Bias,” his 2001 best-seller exposing how the news we saw was distorted by the liberal bias of the journalists he worked with during his long career with CBS News. Several media books later, Goldberg is back with “A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media.” The Regnery Publishing book, which goes on sale Monday, indicts mainstream print and electronic journalists not for having liberal biases, which are a given, but for becoming open and unapologetic activists for Obama.
Q: What’s your 60-second synopsis of your book?
A: This is not a book about the same old media bias. This time journalists cross a very bright line. This time they stopped being witnesses to history and they were intent on helping to shape history. They moved from media bias to media activism. In my whole life I have never seen the media get on board for one candidate the way they did this time around and — this is very important — they did it without even a hint of embarrassment.
It isn’t just conservatives that feel this way. Lots of people feel the media was in the tank for Barack Obama. They were because he was young, because he was cool, because he was black and because he was liberal. There’s no way in the world we would have seen this kind of slobbering if we would had just inaugurated the first black president who was conservative and Republican.
Q: You’re not talking about opinion writers and pundits, you’re talking about news coverage?
A: I’m talking about two things. In terms of news coverage, forget about what I say. There are polls conducted by nonpartisan groups that said the media was way, way more positive in its Obama coverage than its McCain coverage. In other words, everybody has seen what I’ve seen. I’m not the only one. The media who were on Obama’s team, they didn’t just put a thumb on the scale; this time they sat on the scale.
But we’re talking about lots of supposedly hard-news reporters, but even in opinion — and this is an important point that I’m glad you brought up — I think opinion has to be relatively intelligent. I mean, Chris Matthews saying he had “a thrill running up his leg” when he heard Barack Obama speak. And Matthews said “You’re not an American if you don’t cry when you hear Obama speak.”
This isn’t political commentary. This is a man crush. This is embarrassing. He is by far the most embarrassing commentator on television. I want to make it clear — commentators are allowed to comment. I get that. But the commentary has to have a semblance of intelligence to it, and Chris Matthews has become the single biggest embarrassment in all of the media in terms of this campaign coverage.
Q: So is he the most egregious example?
A: Let me give you two. Chris Matthews is the most egregious example of media slobbering I have ever seen. … Chris Matthews is an embarrassment of the first order. But I’ll tell you something else — and this is the single most embarrassing sentence I have ever seen in the Washington Post. This is a story on Christmas morning, Page 1, Washington Post, about Barack Obama’s exercise regimen. I’m going to read you the line and I don’t blame you if you think I am making it up. I swear to God I’m not: “The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weight-lifting sessions each week and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games.”
Let me tell you something. If there has been a more embarrassing sentence ever published in the Washington Post, please, somebody tell me what it is. You’d read something like this in a romance novel with Fabio on the cover. This is the kind of slobbering I’m talking about. This is not the same old, same old. They jumped the shark this time. They really took sides and they didn’t care who knew it. That’s different from anything that happened in the past.
Q: You already knew the way the media tilts, so were you just waiting for this to happen, or did it shock even you?
Q: That’s a very interesting question. It’s the latter. I figured it was going to be the same old thing. Of course they were going to root for the Democrat. They always root for the Democrat, the more liberal the better. That I expected. And believe me, I wasn’t going to sit down and write a book about that. But the more I looked at it, the more I watched, I said, “I can’t actually be seeing what I am seeing. I can’t believe I’m reading what I’m reading.” What pushed me over the edge in terms of wanting to write a book about it was the incredible lack of concern for what anybody thought. Even Howard Kurtz in today’s Washington Post said it’s not just conservatives who think the media rolled over for Barack Obama — and they better change.
Q: Hillary Clinton has to be pretty annoyed at the media.
A: She’s the biggest single loser in all of this. If the media had done its job early on, Hillary Clinton would have been the nominee for president of the United States and probably elected president of the United States.
Q: What are you trying to prove and who are you trying to persuade with this book?
A: Because I am a journalist, I want to document things that I think are important. And since the only group mentioned in the Constitution with constitutional protections that is a real business is the press, the media, I think they are worth taking a look at. It’s not what I am trying to prove; it’s that as a reporter, as a journalist, I like to write about things that I think are important. And I think how the media behaves in a free society is very important. It’s not enough to simply have a free press; you have to have a fair press. That’s what I am trying to document.
The second part of the question is, “Who am I trying to persuade?” I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I reach out to liberals in my books. They criticize not liberals but they criticize liberal biases or liberal insanity or liberals going too far, or whatever. I would love for liberals to also read this book, in addition to conservatives, and say, “Hey, he’s making a good point.” But the fact is, too many liberals, while they acknowledge the bias of the media — and they do — they don’t care. I can’t deal with that. If they are willing to accept corruption because the corruption helped their guy get elected, that’s on them, not me.
Q: What you said is absolutely true — I’ve seen it: even if journalists recognize it, they don’t care.
A: They don’t care because the press is also liberal like they are. But what they don’t understand — because they haven’t even thought about this for a second — is that the only institution in America that has constitutional protections is the media; but that is for only one reason — to keep an eye on a very powerful government. Well, if nobody trusts the media anymore — and one poll indicated that 90 percent of Republicans thought that the press wanted Obama to win and 62 percent of Democrats and independents thought the very same thing — what’s going to happen when they sound a real alarm for a real crisisâ¢ … That’s the danger that these idiots put us into this time around, with what went way beyond bias and was actually media activism. … We’re not going to listen to them when they bark the next time. They’re the watchdogsâ¢ When the watchdogs bark, nobody’s going to be paying attention.
Q: Which media institution — print or electronic — should be most ashamed of its coverage?
A: Oh that’s easy. Thank you. That’s a softball. MSNBC. Not even close.
Q: And we all know where Chris Matthews works, right?
A: (Laughs) That’s right. By the way, I was asked by Bill O’Reilly a week ago, “Do you think it’s a mental disease or do you think it’s business?” — He was actually talking about the general Bush-hating. I immediately said “It’s a mental disorder, because don’t underestimate the power of insanity. ‘Bush-derangement syndrome’ is for real.” But in the case of MSNBC, it’s also business. They have made a conscious business decision to corrupt an entire news organization in order to jump on a liberal bandwagon. That’s a journalistic sin. That’s not just the old bias. That’s a kind of corruption that runs very deep and is hurting the NBC news brand.
Q: A defender of MSNBC might say, “Well, they are just trying to be the liberal version of Fox News.”
A: I have heard that, but it’s not true and I’ll tell you why. If you turn on Fox — and I recommend this to my liberal friends — pick a day in the future — next Sunday, it doesn’t matter — and listen as long as you can. You will hear liberal opinion throughout the day. They have liberals and conservatives on all day long. Even the most conservative show on Fox, Sean Hannity’s show, has liberals on all the time. Listen to Keith Olbermann, and you will never hear a conservative voice — ever. So MSNBC is trying to be a magnet for the Bush-hating left, and in a very, very, very small way it is doing that. But it doesn’t even pretend to present a balanced view. Its opinion shows don’t have to, I grant you that. But Fox’s opinion shows do; MSNBC’s don’t.
Q: Not counting Fox, were there any honorable exceptions among what we call the liberal mainstream media that did not swoon over Obama?
A: I’ll give you a couple from MSNBC, interestingly, to show that I am trying to be fair. Chuck Todd — the political director for NBC who was on MSNBC every day during the campaignâ¢ I thought he was fair. I thought he was reasonable. The morning show on MSNBC — “Morning Joe”â¢ There are more liberals on it than conservatives, that’s for sure. Most of the people who were on there during the campaign wanted Barack Obama to win, but Joe Scarborough injects a little diversity of opinion.
Q: Pat Buchanan was always there, too.
A: Buchanan is one of those conservatives who hates Republicans, in my view. He’s a safe Republican. He’s been rejected by the voters three times. He’s no fan of Republicans. He’s safe. I can name a whole bunch of conservatives that would make MSNBC much more interesting, but I’m not in the habit of wasting my breath.
Q: Have you seen any improvement in the coverage of Obama since you finished your book?
A: Absolutely not. If anything, the slobbering has continued. The question when I finished writing my book was, “Will the slobbering continue?” I thought it would. It has. And the best example of the worst kind of slobbering is that line in The Washington Post that said “The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals …” And this was after he got elected. So the slobbering continues. And by the way, I don’t see an end in sight.
Q: Who can we trust to provide us with fair and balanced reporting on the Obama era before us?
A: I know everyone has jobs, everyone is busy. But I think the best thing you could do is read as many sources as you can. If you are going to read a liberal newspaper like the New York Times, check out the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal. If you are going to watch MSNBC, please, do yourself a favor — watch Fox. And not because Fox is conservative while MSNBC is liberal. But while Fox has a conservative tilt, it presents both points of view all day long. So I would suggest that you watch or read as much as you can and don’t get stuck in a niche where you are only reading one thing with one point of view because then you’ll never know what’s going on in the world.
Book review: Men, women and war
By Donald Collins
“Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World,” by Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden (Benbella Books, Dallas).
You may not be surprised to be told that it is primarily male humans who bring us war. But perhaps you are unaware or unmindful of the driving force behind male tendencies to make war since the dawn of human history — the sex drive.
As Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden remind us in “Sex and War,” for much of human history the most successful and dominant males went to war, took the spoils and — exhibiting classic Darwinian behavior — raped and impregnated women, thereby benefitting future generations with their genes. You know, Genghis Khan, etc.
Potts explains how crowding and the loss of food supplies leads to wars that are often entered into with enthusiasm by young males who, motivated by patriotism or seeking escape from unemployment or boredom, bond with their mates in tight groups and find excitement or even joy in battle.
The power of group loyalty and, yes, the reported joy of killing put male behavior into sharp focus vs. that of females.
A benign manifestation of aggressive male behavior or team aggression can be observed at NFL games, both on the field and in the stands. A more dangerous manifestation can be observed among terrorists, who are clearly imbued — and motivated — by stories of heroic group male behavior.
Potts — British-born, Cambridge-educated and now Bixby Professor at UC Berkeley — is an obstetrician and research biologist who has always understood the urgency of dealing with our now overpopulated planet. And as I read this highly readable must read, it became obvious to me that the recent attacks by Israelis in Gaza, now temporarily stopped while Hamas rearms, are partially the result of Palestinian control of women who get little family planning and typically have six children.
As “Sex and War” points out, “Arab society is sexually chaste and few young men have sexual outlets prior to marriage but lack the financial independence to marry. Given the large pool of young men, the lack of opportunities, the sexual frustration and the inevitable resentment toward a dominant out group, it is hard to imagine a more perfectly conceived breeding ground for team aggression, in this case taking the form of terrorism.”
Solutionâ¢ First understand the problem; then take the actions suggested.
The authors point to one logical way of cutting terrorism and the risk of wars and heading down “a path to a safer world.” What is thatâ¢ By aggressively lowering birth rates through planned parenting, birth control and, yes, abortion.
The deep biological nature of human evolution will not be altered easily.
The world remains dominated by male leaders who all too often feel so bloody good about solutions that seem to require bloodletting. One could point to our Iraq invasion and countless prior sorties into battle that could have been avoided by less testosterone-dominated negotiations.
Perhaps as the number of nations armed with nuclear weapons grows, as it surely will, major powers may be more globally fixated on planetary survival by means proposed by the authors. But then again, perhaps not. And of course people who purport to bring us absolute security have in history often lead us to absolute tyranny.
In 1999, Potts co-authored “Ever Since Adam and Eve: The Evolution of Human Sexuality.” In my review for Amazon.com, I wrote that “the main evolutionary drive for humans and mammals generally has been and is SEX, for the key to our existence is the need to produce the BEST next generation.”
Now, in a dangerous age where planetary destruction looms in multiple forms both nuclear and environmental, we had better very soon find a new modus vivendi, one that will provide a workable form of making love, not war. It’s called “women’s empowerment” worldwide and it includes readily available, safe and economical birth-control options.
LDonald Collins, a former Greensburger, is a freelance writer living in Washington.
Book review: Outside insights
By Thomas Sowell
“Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown and Co.)
“Outliers” are not politicians who lie even more than other politicians. It is a term used by statisticians to describe some data that are far away from the average — data on seven-foot women or freezing temperatures in Los Angeles, for example.
“Outliers” is also the title of a very insightful and very readable study by best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell of the factors behind people who have had spectacular achievements in fields ranging from hockey to computers.
One of the first groups of outliers studied are top-level Canadian hockey players, a wholly disproportionate number of whom were born in the first three months of the year. Moreover, the same pattern was found among top Czech hockey players.
The key factor turned out to be a fixed date — Jan. 1 in both countries — for selecting young boys to be placed on special hockey teams that were the elite of their age groups.
Players born in January were the most overrepresented among the top hockey players in both countries. As young boys, they would have just missed the selection cutoff for that year and would have had another year to grow before the next selection date.
Obviously a boy born the day after the selection date would be virtually a year older when the next selection date came around, compared with a boy born the day before the selection date, even though they were both officially the “same” age, competing for places on the same elite hockey teams.
That kind of difference in age — at a very young age — was a big advantage, in terms of size and physical maturity, among boys in a very physical sport. Being tracked into elite hockey teams, early on, allowed that initial advantage to be parlayed into an ever larger advantage of experience and training with elite teams over the years. (Sidney Crosby, born on Aug. 8, 1987, and Evgeni Malkin, born on July 31, 1986, apparently didn’t need the advantage of an early birthdate.)
Many other “outliers” in achievement in many other fields likewise came from special backgrounds or special circumstances. These people have been in areas ranging from computers to corporations to residents of one Pennsylvania town with unusually low rates of heart disease, despite having residents whose diets are laden with fat and sugar, who do little exercise and who tend to be obese.
The theme running through this book is that spectacular individual achievements — outliers — are not simply a matter of personal merit but come out of a background of special circumstances that enable outstanding individual ability to lead to performances far beyond the norm.
Examples from radically different settings, ranging from the rice paddies of China to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, show the same principle at work among wholly different people in wholly different times and places.
This book is an outstanding achievement in itself, and its readability, insights and imagination make it one of the best books of 2008 or any other year.
It is not easy, however, to share the author’s belief that social policies can spread the advantages of some to the population at large. It seems even less likely that empowering politicians to do so will make things better overall than they are in the very imperfect world we currently live in.
Indeed, politicians and bureaucrats have done much that has had the net effect of spreading attitudes that undermine the prospects of using currently available opportunities. If enough people read and ponder the implications of “Outliers,” perhaps that can help begin the much needed process of turning around current counterproductive attitudes toward education and toward life.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
Old best-sellers: 1959
Fifty years ago, the top 10 best-selling fiction books of the year included such still-familiar titles as Leon Uris’ “Exodus,” Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago” and Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita.” Other iconic novels included Richard Condon’s political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate,” sci-fi master Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” and William S. Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch,” which Time magazine says was one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. The top 10 nonfiction best-sellers of ’59, as compiled by Publishers Weekly, are not nearly as impressive or enduring.
1. “‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty,” Pat Boone
2. “Folk Medicine,” D.C. Jarvis
3. “For 2 cents Plain,” Harry Golden
4. “The Status Seekers,” Vance Packard
5. “Act One,” Moss Hart
6. “Charley Weaver’s Letters from Mamma,” Cliff Arquette
7. “The Elements of Style,” William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
8. “The General Foods Kitchens Cookbook”
9. “Only in America,” Harry Golden
10. “Mine Enemy Grows Older,” Alexander King