Politico warns TV news viewers to take political analysis in the Age of Obama with a five-pound bag of Morton’s Salt. Barack Obama’s right-hand man, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, holds daily conference calls with three prominent analysts who appear regularly as independent voices in the media’s political coverage. The “17-year-long conference call” provides Obama an excellent opportunity for message control:
Under other circumstances, the morning calls between Emanuel, [James] Carville, [George] Stephanopoulos and [Paul] Begala — pollster Stan Greenberg is another frequent member of the core group, a kind of “fifth Beatle” — might be a Society of Has-Beens, reliving ancient glories from the Little Rock “War Room.”
It was Emanuel’s ascension into Barack Obama’s inner circle — even as Carville and Begala remained closely linked with the defeated Clinton political machine — that saved the group from irrelevance.
The calls “are about what’s happening, what the implications are of what’s happening and what’s going on,” said Emanuel.
For the record, James Carville appears regularly on CNN’s Situation Room. Paul Begala also appears regularly on CNN. George Stephanopoulos has his own ABC show on politics, This Week. To my knowledge, none of them have disclosed this daily tête à tête with the Obama administration senior leadership.
Andrew Malcolm of the LA Times says this is more than old friends reliving glory days:
Many political operatives of both parties participate in such daily or weekly calls to ensure they’re all on the same talking points page and to exchange gossip and tips and anticipate what the opposition is going to say that day.
What’s different in the revelation about this group, however, is that one of them (Emanuel) is a key operative in the current administration with a huge political stake in getting its message out its way, and the other three can go on TV as alleged observers and pass along the talking point line that best benefits their pal Rahm. All free, until now, of any apparent conflict or caveats.
Something to keep in mind the next time you watch George “reporting” on ABC or Carville and Begala “commenting” on CNN or somewhere.
Last April, the Left went nuts when the New York Times reported that the Pentagon had provided briefings for military analysts in the American media for six years without any disclosure from the analysts themselves. Critics claimed that the Bush administration had engaged in a propaganda effort to skew coverage of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to generate support for both. The actual coverage from the media made that claim rather laughable, but the Pentagon suspended the briefings once they were made public.
In that case, though, the briefings got conducted by military experts, not political hacks. The Emanuel conference calls look far more egregious than the military briefings. It looks like a deliberate propaganda campaign, especially since none of the three have bothered to mention their cozy relationship with Obama’s right hand man. Viewers should know that these three commentators check in daily at the White House to see what the story of the day might — or should — be.