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AP Redefines Opinion as "Analysis"

March 23, 2009

If Politico has emerged as the ESPN of politics, covering the game but not the content of government, the Associated Press in recent weeks has delivered another media innovation. Time and again, the AP has delivered opinion pieces to its readers using the headline, "Analysis." But if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, some of the output of the AP smells like something else altogether.
Chief among the op-ed writers masquerading as journalists is Liz Sidoti. Sidoti, who famously presented candidate John McCain with a box of donuts during an AP campaign forum last year, proclaimed Saturday that "Barack Obama's optimistic campaign rhetoric has crashed headlong into the stark reality of governing." In a 1000 word screed titled, "Analysis: Obama Rhetoric, Reality Clash," she warning that "people could perceive him as a say-one-thing-do-another politician," Sidoti took the President to task:

"In office two months, he has backpedaled on an array of issues, gingerly shifting positions as circumstances dictate while ducking for political cover to avoid undercutting his credibility and authority. That's happened on the Iraq troop withdrawal timeline, on lobbyists in his administration and on money for lawmakers' pet projects."

Two weeks earlier, Sidoti offered another of her so-called analyses. In a March 8 piece titled, "Analysis: Obama Embracing Crisis as Opportunity," Sidoti suggested President Obama was capitalizing on "the worst economic conditions in a generation as an opportunity to advance an audacious agenda that, if successful, could reshape the country for decades to come," while insisting "he could fall victim to grandiose plans and too-high expectations if he doesn't deliver." And while looking at presidents past ("rightly or wrongly, he's often compared with Democrat Franklin Roosevelt"), Sidoti offered Ronald Reagan as a role model for Obama:

"In the 1980s, Republican Ronald Reagan led a country faced with sky-high inflation and a growing Soviet threat. He used the public's anxieties about the Cold War and the economy to win support for an expanded military even as he limited the size of government, instituted across-the-board tax cuts and promoted supply-side economics."

Of course, President Reagan did not "limit the size of government." Far from it. Reagan's combination of increased spending and dangerously irresponsible tax cuts produced the massive budget deficits that are his true legacy. As it turns out, the national debt tripled under Reagan, only to double again under George W. Bush.
That omission is explained by another Sidoti encyclical two weeks earlier. Sparing readers the "Analysis" prefix this time, Sidoti described the strategy of Congressional Republicans in response to the $787 billion Obama economic recovery program:

"GOP Tries to Restore Image of Fiscal Discipline: Return to tax-cut roots driving unity in a party that now lacks power."

Sadly, Liz Sidoti is far from alone among the pundits posing as reporters. On March 18, just days before the House GOP split evenly on the AIG bonus tax bill, David Espo penned "Analysis: White House, Dems Backpedaling on AIG." Without noting that the Republican leadership had consistently opposed limits on executive compensation, Espo described the AIG imbroglio as "politically providential" for the GOP:

Republicans, struggling to regain their political footing, are content to let Democrats try to dig their way out of this mess on their own...
"It's shocking that they would -- the administration would come to us now and act surprised about these contracts," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate GOP leader. "This administration could have and should have ... prevented this from happening. They had a lot of leverage two weeks ago."

Just days earlier, Tom Raum in a March 7 article titled, "Analysis: Obama's Ambitious Plans Raise Questions," regurgitated the emerging Republican "Obama bear market" talking point:

And while his personal popularity remains high, some economists and lawmakers are beginning to question whether Obama's agenda of increased government activism is helping, or hurting, by sowing uncertainty among businesses, investors and consumers that could prolong the recession.
Although the administration likes to say it "inherited" the recession and trillion-dollar deficits, the economic wreckage has worsened on Obama's still-young watch.
Every day, the economy is becoming more and more an Obama economy.

Then there's Ron Fournier, the AP's Washington bureau chief. As it turns out, Fournier had been in discussions in October 2006 to join the campaign of Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Then in July 2008, Americans learned of Fournier's affection for Karl Rove as revealed in email messages such as "keep up the good fight" he had sent to Bush's Brain. Of course, none of that proved a barrier to Fournier's August 29, 2008 column mocking Barack Obama's choice of "ultimate insider" Joe Biden as his VP. In "Analysis: Biden Pick Shows Lack of Confidence," Fournier wrote:

In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness - inexperience in office and on foreign policy - rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions...
The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn't beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack. The Biden selection is the next logistical step in an Obama campaign that has become more negative - a strategic decision that may be necessary but threatens to run counter to his image.

Last year, Newsweek recounted a barbeque at John McCain's Arizona ranch held to court the press in an exercise it deemed "feeding his base." Noting the article's opening that "there are worse ways to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon than swinging lazily back and forth on a tire swing strung up under a massive sycamore," TPM's Josh Marshall coined "tire swinging" as a metaphor for fawning coverage by reporters in the thrall of their friends and ideological soulmates in politics.
At the AP, it's called "analysis."

One comment on “AP Redefines Opinion as "Analysis"”

  1. Actually, and it says so in the linked-to posting, the term was coined by semi-anonymous reader TPM reader ‘TP’. But JM did popularize it and I use it. 🙂


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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