What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 13, 2009

Jack Kelly Sunday

Jack Kelly does his usual song and dance with this week's column.

Ok, let's jump right into it. He begins:
I'm sure a 6-year-old with a crayon could do something not unlike that," snarked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Tuesday.

The object of Mr. Gibbs' scorn was Gallup's tracking poll for the day before, which showed only 47 percent of respondents approve of the job President Barack Obama is doing, with 46 percent disapproving.

Perhaps Mr. Gibbs' skin was thin because this was the lowest ranking for a president at this point in his presidency since Gallup began conducting presidential approval polls in 1938.
Right there, there's a spin. Here's Gallup's press release regarding the poll Jack mentions. And right in the middle of the release we can read this:
Thus far in December, Obama has averaged 50% job approval. That is similar to the December averages for Ronald Reagan (49%) and Bill Clinton (53%), who also took office when the economy was struggling. All other recent presidents elected to their first terms had approval averages of 57% or above in their first December in office.
But didn't Jack say that Obama's numbers were the lowest? Oh that's right, he's talking daily tracking poll and I am talking monthly average. But that shouldn't matter and you'll see in the next section why.

Here we go. Here's what Jack writes:
Meanwhile, a CNN/Opinion Research Poll also released Monday indicated 46 percent of respondents have a favorable impression of Sarah Palin, while 46 percent have an unfavorable one.

The polls were not quite the same. Gallup asked people what they thought of the job Mr. Obama was doing, not whether or not they liked him.

Even with that caveat, though, the convergence between Mr. Obama and Ms. Palin is remarkable. There is no statistical difference between the one and the other.
And so while the polls are "not quite the same" (in fact they're two different polls taken by two different firms asking two different questions of two different groups of people) Jack says there's no statistical difference between one and the other.

So I think I can call Jack out on his spin about Obama's poll numbers. Fact, is, Obama's numbers aren't all that different from (two-term) presidents Reagan and Clinton. By the way according to Gallup, (one-term) president Jimmy Carter was sitting at 57% at this point in 1977 and (one-term) president George H. W. Bush was sitting way up at 71%. And we all know how well their second terms went.

So this data is important, why?

Jack then compares Obama and Palin press coverage:
The turnabout in fortunes is all the more remarkable because no political figure in recent history has been subject to such vilification from our news media as Sarah Palin. No malicious rumor was too preposterous to report. No accomplishment was important enough to mention.

Meanwhile, no presidential candidate or president has received more favorable press coverage than Barack Obama.
What Palin accomplishments? She quit her job to...I'm not really sure to do what. So let's just take a look at what happens next. Here's Jack:
President Barack Obama has enjoyed substantially more positive media coverage than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush during their first months in the White House," concluded a Pew Research study last May. Forty-two percent of stories in major newspapers and television news programs about Mr. Obama were favorable, compared to 22 percent for Mr. Bush and 27 percent for Mr. Clinton.
Note those two tiny words: last May. Here's Pew's reporting about the first 100 days of the Obama administration. Of course Jack leaves a few things out:
Several factors may be at play in the favorable tone Obama has received during these first months. One element is the pace and sweep of Obama's activities. Bush and Clinton both started their presidencies pursuing policy agendas much more of their own making than Obama has. But the data suggest the current president has managed the media narrative anyway by responding to the economic crisis with so many new proposals and doing so many events that it has been hard for both his critics and the media to keep up.

Another factor may be the media reflecting, and in turn, influencing public opinion. According to Pew Research surveys, President Obama is more popular at this point in his presidency than were either Bush or Clinton. Past studies have shown a recurring pattern of press coverage tending to follow favorability ratings
So Pew states that favorable press coverage tends to follow higher favorability ratings. Anyone remember the election of '92? Clinton started out with only 43% of the popular vote (though he won the electoral college handily). And 2000? We don't really need to restate Bush's loss of the popular vote and the Supreme shenanigans that got him his job, do we?

Gee, I wonder why they weren't as popular as Obama.

But let's look at Jack's next rhetorical flourish. He's looking to present Palin as more popular than Obama with this:
"The very fact she was willing to take the chance of appearing in a room full of her most disdainful critics is testimony to her courage," wrote Dan Thomasson of Scripps Howard. "She came away with at least a consensus of grudging admiration."

"Her appearance produced the extraordinary scene of inside-the-Beltway cynics and their significant others asking for autographs," Mr. Thomasson noted.
Wanna know how Thomasson's piece begins? Like this:
Sarah Palin may not be your huckleberry when it comes to the presidency, but she came to Washington the other night and proved she has more political sex appeal than anyone on the scene with the exception of Barack Obama.

This is what Jack does. He spins just enough on just enough "facts" to weave a tapestry of misleads and misinformation that almost outside of the bounds of reality.

It's almost as if he writes for the Tribune Review editorial board.

1 comment:

The Open Mind Bookstore said...

Thank you. Jack Kelly drives me up a wall. My hats off to you.