The editors of the New York Times have, as is their wont, again tasked Arts & Leisure reporter Alessandra Stanley to write about President Obama. She’s not very good at it, though, and has been eviscerated by bloggers (myself included) during her last two major endeavors to covering something that she simply does not have the aptitude to grasp: American politics.
The subject of Stanley’s assault was President Obama and his appearance on five Sunday news programs. Obama’s pitch was on health care, but Stanley’s primary area of coverage was the White House’s decision to not appear on Fox News. This bothered Stanley to no end and apparently, to her, signified that Obama had lost all control of his health care message and was blowing up in anger at Fox News. Where this is borne out by the President’s words on Sunday is never made clear, due entirely to the fact that Stanley is once again making shit up.
I don’t have much desire to go through and rebut the absurdity of all of Stanley’s piece. Doing so would likely require a five page long blog post. But to get a sense of how Stanley went after Obama, this paragraph is instructive. Prior to delving into her expose on the slight to Fox News, Stanley writes:
In each conversation, Mr. Obama proved what most people already know: he is a deft and appealing speaker who can stay on message. But there was nothing in those stagy interviews that shed light on whether his message would take hold.
On “stagy interviews”: Stanley believes that since all were conducted in the same room (which is normal) and all were on the same subject, healthcare, viz. Obama’s largest policy initiative, that they interviews were staged. This is what the President does and frankly, it’s no different than the work of the original Full Ginsburg.
But more importantly, how in the world would the subject of any interview be able to reveal during the course of the interview the impact of their message on public opinion? Stanley is effectively complaining that Obama failed to predict specifically how public polling would shift as a result of his Sunday health care push while he was talking. To Stanley this is a shortcoming of Obama’s that fundamentally undercut the success of his media outreach. To the rest of the world, Obama merely obeyed the laws of space and time.
When Stanley turns her focus on the real story of Sunday — Obama’s choice to appear on Univision and not Fox News — she really turns on her charm. While recognizing that Fox News is a partisan Republican outlet (she calls it “the one outlet guaranteed to find fault”), she still insights that Obama was fundamentally flawed to not visit with them.
And that made his star turn look less like a media blitz than Medici vengeance — Fox did not broadcast Mr. Obama’s health care speech to Congress on Sept. 9, so Mr. Obama did not speak to “Fox News Sunday.”
I’m not quite sure what to do with the comparison between going on five but not a sixth Sunday talk shows and the sacking of Florence by an army that then uses mass murder as means of controlling the conquered city. Stanley has reached a level of absurdity so great that it resists mockery. It stands on its own in its idiocy; merely recognizing what is being said is sufficient for rejecting her assertion.
In the subsequent paragraph, Stanley returns to an authorial style she is much more familiar with: fiction.
That omission was not as tactical as it was telling: a rare sign of frustration, and payback, by a White House that prides itself on diplomacy and an even keel. Mr. Obama sought on Sunday to bring a little order and civility to a debate that grows ever more heated and shrill. But by boycotting, the White House seemed to be getting caught up in the kind of hostilities that increasingly divide Fox News Channel from its rivals.
Stanley doesn’t do it explicitly, but I can only assume that she thinks that had Obama appeared on Fox, they would have treated him hostilely and brought up such subjects as ACORN, racism, and the NEA. This would have lead to Obama responding in a less than civil manner — though we’ve never seen the President do such a thing — and as a result, the “order” of the debate would have been diminished. But Stanley does an interesting thing: she claims the White House is guilty of exactly the same outcome by avoiding such a fight! Heads she wins, tails Obama loses!
It’s deeply disturbing that the editors of the Times have repeatedly chosen to rely on a reporter who has no knowledge or aptitude for political reporting to be a source of front-page content. There’s more to deal with in Stanley’s trite piece of speculative process reporting and I’m sure others will deal with it in greater deal. In the mean time, I think a Shorter summation of Stanley’s work is in order to save her from further Fisking on this blog.
Shorter Alessandra Stanley:
According to my friends at Fox News, Obama’s five show Sunday blitz was all about exacting revenge on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Just to get a better sense of the depth and breadth of the record of bad Alessandra Stanley pieces, both Gawker and NYTPicker have unique tags for documenting her errors and frequent corrections.