The Morning Conference Call

Thursday's Editorial   —   Posted on March 12, 2009

(by Lance Fairchok, AmericanThinker.com) – Every morning, a group of old friends have a nice chat.  ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, CNN’s James Carville, CNN commentator Paul Begala, and Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel have a wide ranging conference call, usually starting just before dawn.  Democrat Pollster Stan Greenberg is a frequent participant. They examine current events and how they fit into the new administrations policies. They determine how to best get their message to the public. …

When they next appear on various programs as interviewers or interviewees, their comments do not conflict with each other. They have coordinated the broad themes and the topics, and after that early morning phone call they coordinate with their personal networks and associates, influencing and coaxing the comment and reportage on specific issues nationwide.

In January Politico had a puff piece on this relationship entitled; ‘Power, politics, gossip on daily call’ filled with happy quotes from the gang about the long running friendship, painting it as a sort of good buddy telephone tradition.

“And in any given news cycle, it is quite likely that Washington’s prevailing political and media interpretation — at least on the Democratic side — is being hatched on these calls. The process happens not by design but as the byproduct of pre-dawn badinage — a smart-set take on the world that gets amplified by the prominent platforms all of them hold and by the dozens of later calls and lunches and rants that they will carry on with others throughout the day. “

From an information consumer’s standpoint it is disturbing that several main networks are so tuned into White House message shaping. How can the citizen expect accurate analysis and reportage when the “journalists” that present it are so tied into the party in power? Obviously they cannot, as we have so clearly seen in the blatant bias and advocacy of last year’s campaign media coverage. The “prevailing political and media interpretation” is a nice way to say “political message.”

What this gang of good-buddies is doing is shaping the information environment, a standard Democrat practice. In the military this is called information warfare. It happens at every level in the Democrat party, from congress to cabinet offices to strategists and talking heads. Compare the messages from different networks and Democrat personalities on any given day; they are very, very close. Key phrases, easily remembered and suitable for limited time slots are identifiable. Remember “Bush lied, people died?” Now we have “Rush runs the Republican Party.” It’s a coordinated message.

Sympathetic editorials and commentary soon follow, putting a clear message into the public psyche. …

When asked by Kerry Picket, of Newsbusters, if he had conference calls as reported by Politico, Mr. Stephanopoulos flatly denied it. Perhaps the cozy media-talking head-administration relationship was attracting too much attention.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There are no strategy sessions at the White House. None at all. Never had one. Not once.

PICKET: So you haven’t called up Mr. Emanuel or Mr. Begala?

STEPHANOPOULOS: No conference calls never–not once…ever.

But Stephanopoulos is quoted in the Politico article, saying: “We are all good friends,” he said. “We just like talking to each other, and I learn a lot from it … and that’s why we have been doing it for so long.” Perhaps the question from Kerry Picket was unclear. Or perhaps, as is most likely the case, the good-buddies have decided to deny it for purely pragmatic political reasons, knowing it will blow over. Can’t have citizens see how they are manipulated by their betters.

Obama successfully disguised his socialist agenda from millions of Americans. The good-buddies were central to that win; shaping and communicating the messages that the campaign needed inserted into the national view. We are all seeing the disastrous results of that deceit. Barely two months into his Presidency, Obama is wreaking havoc, crippling the nation, oblivious to consequences and monumentally arrogant, believing the timbre of his voice and the manipulation of the media will win public confidence until the socialist utopia he believe in comes to fruition. Who knows how bad it will be in a year, let alone four?

The good-buddies will be in the middle of it, spinning the loss of freedoms, increased taxes, and massive spending as good for the country. They will choose distractors to keep voter attention off the real problems and issues. Their media fraternity will help them.

But every so often, without meaning to, the left lets slip a glimpse of who they really are.

“Still, the line between journalism and politics is not always bright. Begala said he often can’t remember the originator of any particular insight: “We talk so much – was this my idea that James changed, or was this George’s observation that Rahm tweaked?”

Al Hunt, the Washington bureau chief for Bloomberg News, said he talks with Carville almost every day — one of a roster of Washington reporters in that category. There is no parallel, he said, to a group of friends who has remained so central to the daily shaping of Washington conversation as these Clinton-era comrades.”

Comrades indeed.

This article was first posted at AmericanThinker.com on March 7, 2009.   Reprinted here March 12, 2009 for educational purposes only.

Questions

NOTE:  Rahm Emanuel was a U.S. Congressman from 2002 until President Obama appointed him White House Chief of Staff when he took office. 
George Stephanopoulos started as a political analyst with ABC News in 1997 (after serving in the Clinton White House until 1996). In 2005, ABC News officially named him “Chief Washington Correspondent.”

1. Why do you think ABC newsman George Stephanopoulos denied participating in conference calls with the President’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel?

2. Under “Background” below, read “The role of the White House Chief of Staff ” What responsibility does the White House Chief of Staff have to suspend his daily conference calls with his good friends if they are members of the media?

3. Under “Background” below, read “The role of the media” and the information under “The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics.” What responsibility do members of the media have to suspend their daily conference calls with their good friend while he is the White House Chief of Staff?

4. Read the following “Reader Comments” that were posted in reaction to the article. With which do you agree/disagree? Explain your answers.

  • “I was a reporter thirty years ago. … I would never have considered close friendships with my news sources. Friendly relations, of course. All the better to get the story and because some of them were nice people whom I genuinely liked. But there always had to be a line of professional detachment. Some newspapers in those days moved reporters around from one beat to another to prevent them from getting too chummy with their sources. It was about credibility and public trust in what our jobs were. And that’s why people are abandoning newspapers and television news today.”
  • In response to the reader comment above:
    “You say: ‘I would never have considered close friendships with my news sources.’
    What would you do if it happened that someone with whom you had a close friendship became a news topic or news source? What then?”
  • “It has been obvious for years if not decades that there has been this type of message coordination. Before cable when CBS, NBC, and ABC dominated the evening news, I was always struck by how similar their daily stories were, often using the same terminology. After it has been going on for so long and become such integral part of their daily routine, I can see how they might have momentarily let down their guard in revealing that it does indeed exist, until they suddenly realized that it might not look so good.”
  • “The only saving grace is that these bozos are preaching to the choir. Most sane people realize these networks and these “talking heads” have been, are, and will always be in the tank for Democrats. So, no big shock here.”
  • “But apart from all that, the media is objective right?”

5. Discuss this article and your answers to the questions with a parent. How do your answers compare?


Background

The role of the White House Chief of Staff: (from wikipedia.org)

  • The White House Chief of Staff is the highest ranking member of the Executive Office of the President of the United States and a senior aide to the President. The office-holder has been dubbed “The Second-Most Powerful Man in Washington” due to the nature of the job.
  • The chief of staff has been responsible for overseeing the actions of the White House staff, managing the president’s schedule, and deciding who is allowed to meet with the president. Because of these duties, the Chief of Staff has at various times been dubbed “The Gatekeeper” and “The Co-President.”

The role of the media is to:

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states the following under the section “Act Independently”:

–Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

–Journalists should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary
    employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
  • Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.

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