- The Washington Times - Monday, September 14, 2009

WOE IS US

“Press accuracy hits two decade low,” says a poll from the Pew Research Center released Monday. The findings are loaded with evidence of journalists behaving badly.

Just 29 percent of Americans say that news organizations get the facts straight; 63 percent say news stories are often inaccurate. Sixty percent say stories are politically biased, and 74 percent say news organizations play favorites; 44 percent say the news is “too critical” of America — the highest percentage since 1985, Pew found. But wait, wait - there’s more.

Half say the news has a liberal bias, 22 percent say it is conservative. Twenty-one percent think news organizations are willing to admit their mistakes, 70 percent say they “cover up” those content mishaps. About three-fourths of the respondents say the press is influenced by “powerful people and organizations,” while 20 percent say the press is “independent.”

Sixty-two percent say news organizations are fair to President Obama. The same percentage says that criticism of politicians is “worth it.” And at least the American public thinks the press walks the walk: 59 percent described the news media as “highly professional.” Go figure. The survey of 1,506 adults was conducted July 22-26.

BLAGOPALOOSA

President Obama, Michelle Obama and White House adviser Rahm Emanuel are on the wish list of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is hoping the trio will be subpoenaed to appear at a future trial. Mr. Blagojevich was indicted on more than a dozen counts, including charges of illegal kickbacks and a possible conspiracy to “sell” Mr. Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder after he was elected president.

“I’d love to have him as one of our star witnesses,” the former governor told the Fox News Channel.

“Michelle Obama could very well be a witness in this case because there are some relationships with Tony Rezko that she could probably shed some light on, which would put in context these false allegations in relation to me,” he continued

Fox News talk-show host Mike Huckabee asked whether he would subpoena Mr. Emanuel.

“Well, absolutely,” said the former governor, who is busy indeed this week, promoting his new book “The Governor” on 14 TV talk shows.

FIBS FOR FUNDS

Are Democrats using Rep. Joe Wilson’s “you lie” moment to make money? Well, duh. The party hopes to make $3 million by Sept. 30, and is capitalizing on the South Carolina Republican’s refusal to make another apology for his two-word commentary.

“Heck, if crazy were a pre-existing condition, the GOP wouldn’t be able to get insurance,” says Democratic strategist James Carville in a campaign outreach message.

“But did President Obama stoop to their level? Of course not. He stood before Congress and told the American people why his health care plan is the change we need. He hit a home run. But while a home run can get you the momentum, it doesn’t always win you the game. For Democrats running for Senate in 2010, this speech was a beginning, not an end,” Mr. Carville observes.

FROM THE SANDBOX

CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, once a candidate for surgeon general, has no regrets about turning down the appointment earlier this year.

“Oh, I think about it sometimes. But I have no regrets. I wanted to see my kids more, and keep being a neurosurgeon,” Dr. Gupta tells Inside the Beltway.

But the Atlanta physician is nowhere near the verdant Georgia countryside at the moment. While pundits cluck over health care reform, Dr. Gupta is in Forward Operating Base Dwyer in Afghani-stan’s Helmand province, reporting on the experiences of 87 sailors and Marines of the Shock Trauma Platoon and Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suite. This theater of war is located in what the locals call the “desert of death,” and the platoon lives, works and operates out of four tents.

“They’re heroes. The would never call themselves heroes. Ever. They truly risk their lives to save someone else. I can go operate on someone, but there’s no chance I am going to die doing it,” Dr. Gupta says.

“There’s no question that press coverage of Afghanistan has gone way down. People don’t know what’s happening over here. But medical realities and medical miracles are universal, and when I start worrying about my own safety, I remember one thing. This is a story that needs to be told.”

YIELD THE SHIELD

Close, but no cigar. The federal shield law to protect journalists who choose not to reveal their confidential sources made its way onto the Senate Judiciary Committee radar on Thursday - but proved a cliffhanger. The committee will take up the Free Flow of Information Act in about 72 hours.

The press is keenly interested in the outcome. More than 70 news organizations - including The Washington Times, the New York Times and National Public Radio - have issued a joint statement urging lawmakers to vote “aye” when the time comes. Things look pretty promising.

“After years of debate and countless cases of reporters being held in contempt, fined and even jailed for honoring their professional commitment not to publicly reveal their source, the time has come to enact a balanced federal shield law. I hope the committee will complete its consideration of this important legislation,” says committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

Statements, squawks, suggestions to jharper @washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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