On Matters of October Surprises and Media Malpractice

October 27, 2008

With less than 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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

Could the Clintons 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 Hawaii 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 AIM 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 Philadelphia attorney, Philip Berg, who is the former deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania, 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 Hawaii as he claims, instead of Kenya 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 U.S. 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 Toledo, Ohio, where Berg is originally from. It says that Berg questions the veracity of Factcheck.org's findings, because it is "a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center...," 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]

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.

Copyright ©2008 Roger Aronoff

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and a member of the Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi. He can be contacted at roger.aronoff@aim.org.