Editor's note: The following text is from a speech delivered by Democratic pollster and Fox News contributor Patrick Caddell on September 21. It was delivered at Accuracy in Media's Conference: Obamanation: A Day of Truth. The title of the speech was “The Audacity of Corruption.” For more on Accuracy in Media, click here.
I think we’re at the most dangerous time in our political history in terms of the balance of power in the role that the media plays in whether or not we maintain a free democracy or not. You know, when I first started in politics – and for a long time before that – everyone on both sides, Democrats and Republicans, despised the press commonly, because they were SOBs to everybody. Which is exactly what they should be. They were unrelenting. Whatever the biases were, they were essentially equal-opportunity people.
That changed in 1980.
There are a lot of reasons for it. It changed—an important point in the Dukakis-Bush election, when the press literally was trying to get Dukakis elected by ignoring what was happening in Massachusetts, with a candidate who was running on the platform of “He will do for America what he did for Massachusetts”—while they were on the verge of bankruptcy.
Also the change from evening news emphasis to morning news by the networks is another factor that’s been pointed out to me.
Most recently, what I call the nepotism that exists, where people get jobs—they’re married to people who are in the administration, or in politics, whatever.
But the overwhelming bias has become very real and very dangerous. We have a First Amendment for one reason. We have a First Amendment not because the Founding Fathers liked the press—they hated the press—but they believed, as [Thomas] Jefferson said, that in order to have a free country, in order to be a free people, we needed a free press. That was the job—so there was an implicit bargain in the First Amendment, the press being the only institution, at that time, which was in our process of which there was no checks and balances.
We designed a constitutional system with many checks and balances. The one that had no checks and balances was the press, and that was done under an implicit understanding that, somehow, the press would protect the people from the government and the power by telling—somehow allowing—people to have the truth. That is being abrogated as we speak, and has been for some time. It is now creating the danger that I spoke to.
This morning, just this morning, Gallup released their latest poll on the trust, how much trust [the American people have in the press] —when it comes to reporting the news accurately, fairly, and fully, and [the level of their distrust] it’s the highest in history. For the first time, 60 percent of the people said they had “Not very much” or “None at all.” Of course there was a partisan break: There were 40 percent who believed it did, Democrats, 58 percent believed that it was fair and accurate, Republicans were 26 percent, independents were 31 percent.
So there is this contempt for the media – or this belief—and there are many other polls that show it as well.
I want to just use a few examples, because I think we crossed the line the last few weeks that is terrifying.
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece which was called “The Audacity of Cronyism” in Breitbart, and my talk today is “The Audacity of Corruption.” What I pointed out was, that it was appalling that Valerie Jarrett had a Secret Service detail. A staff member in the White House who is a senior aide and has a full Secret Service detail, even while on vacation, and nobody in the press had asked why. That has become more poignant, as I said, last week, when we discovered that we had an American ambassador, on the anniversary of 9/11, who was without adequate security—while she still has a Secret Service detail assigned to her full-time, at a massive cost, and no one in the media has gone to ask why.
The same thing: I raised the question of David Plouffe. David Plouffe, who is the White House’s Senior Adviser—and was Obama’s campaign manager last time, he and [David] Axelrod sort of switched out, Axelrod going back to Chicago for the campaign—and just after it was announced that he was coming, an Iranian front group in Nigeria gave him $100,000 to give two speeches in Nigeria.
Now, let me tell you: There’s nobody that hands—no stranger gives you $100,000 and doesn’t expect something in return, unless you live in a world that I don’t. And no one has raised this in the mainstream media.
He was on with George Stephanopoulos, on ABC, a couple of weeks ago, and they were going through all these questions. No one asked him whatsoever about that. He was not inquired. George Stephanopoulos, a former adviser to Bill Clinton—who every morning, while Rahm Emmanuel was Chief of Staff, had his call with Rahm Emmanuel and James Carville, and the three of them have been doing it for years—and he is held out as a journalist. He has two platforms. I mean, he’s a political hack masquerading as a journalist. But when you don’t ask the questions you need to ask of someone like David Plouffe, who’s going in the White House—when we’re talking about Iran.
I just finished surveys, some of you may have seen, with John McLaughlin this week, with Secure America Now, and found out just how strongly Americans are concerned with Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, what’s happening in the Middle East, and cuts in defense spending.
This is not the place for that, but it strikes me as the American people identify, in the polling we’ve done over the last year, Iran as the single greatest danger to the United States. And here’s a man who’s being paid by an already named front group for that—for a terrorist regime, and is not asked about it, or queried about it!
The third thing I would say is that—then there’s of course [National Security Adviser] Tom Donilon, who I know very well from years back, who I caused a little bit of a stir over a few months ago when I said he was the “leaker-in-chief.”
I mean this ridiculous running around—“How did these secrets get out?”—when it is clear he has no credentials for foreign policy; who has been in the White House; who was a political operative for Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter, and others; who was known to have, in my opinion, to be just the most amoral person I know in politics; and who is using and orchestrating national security. In Mr. [David] Sanger’s book [Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power], as a reviewer at [The New York Times] said, “The hero of this book, and the clear source of it, is Tom Donilon”—but let me just make a point. Neither does—and I would say this to the Congressman—“You know, all the Republicans have to do”—you know, I talk often about the “Corrupt Party” and the “Stupid Party,” but the Stupid Party couldn’t be stupider when it comes to things like this. They could have called Tom Donilon and other people down to the Congress, put them under oath, and asked them if they had leaked.
Instead you have Eric Holder, who runs the most political Justice Department since John Mitchell—only in John Mitchell’s administration did we have Justice Departments that were so politicized and so corrupted by politics—and he appoints someone who gave two people to do a study on the leaks, sometime in the next century will come out, and one of them is a, was a contributor to Barack Obama when he was a state Senator. That’s a really unbiased source! And the press, of course, won’t look into this.
It will not ask the question. But the Republicans could have called them down. Yes, the president could have extended Executive Privilege, but let him say “I will not answer that question, sir” on the question of “Did you leak these secrets that Dianne Feinstein, the Chairman, the Democratic Chairman, of the Senate Intelligence Committee said were endangering national security and American lives?” As she said when she read Sanger’s book, “My God, every page I turn I learn something that I don’t know!” I mean, these are serious matters but in Washington they’re playful, and the press does not pursue any of them.
Peter Schweizer has done a study talking about corruption. Sixty percent or 80 percent—it’s closer to 80 percent I think, now—of the money given under the stimulus to green energy projects—the president and this administration’s great project—has gone to people who are either bundlers or major contributors to Barack Obama.
But nobody says a word.
Of course Republicans don’t raise it because in Washington, they simply want to do it when they get back in power. And, of course, the press doesn’t because they basically have taken themselves out of doing their job.
When we see what happened this week in Libya—and when I said I was more frightened than I’ve ever been, this is true, because I think it’s one thing that, as they did in 2008, when the mainstream press, the mainstream media and all the press, jumped on the Obama bandwagon and made it a moral commitment on their part to help him get elected in a way that has never happened, whatever the biases in the past.
To give you an example of the difference, I’ll just shortly tell you this: In 1980, when [Jimmy] Carter was running for reelection, the press—even though 80 percent of them, after the election, reporters said they voted for Carter over [Ronald] Reagan, or 70 percent of them, a very high percentage—they believed, so much, that the Carter campaign and the Carter White House had abused the Rose Garden against [Ted] Kennedy that they made a commitment, as they discussed, that they would not serve as the attack dogs on Reagan for the Carter White House because they thought it was unfair and they weren’t to be manipulated.
I totally disagree with their analysis, but that was when you actually had a press corps. Whatever their own personal feelings, they made judgments that were, “We’re not going to be manipulated.”
This press corps serves at the pleasure of this White House and president, led by people like Ezra Klein and JournoList, where they plot the stories together. The problem here is that no one will name names.
But I want to talk about this Libyan thing, because we crossed some lines here. It’s not about politics. First of all, we’ve had nine days of lies over what happened because they can’t dare say it’s a terrorist attack, and the press won’t push this. Yesterday there was not a single piece in The New York Times over the question of Libya.
Twenty American embassies, yesterday, were under attack. None of that is on the national news. None of it is being pressed in the papers.
If a president of either party—I don’t care whether it was Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton or George Bush or Ronald Reagan or George H. W. Bush—had a terrorist incident, and got on an airplane after saying something, and flown off to a fundraiser in Las Vegas, they would have been crucified! It would have been—it should have been the equivalent, for Barack Obama, of George Bush’s “flying over Katrina” moment. But nothing was said at all, and nothing will be said.
It is one thing to bias the news, or have a biased view. It is another thing to specifically decide that you will not tell the American people information they have a right to know, and I choose right now, openly, and this is—if I had more time I’d do all the names for it—but The New York Times, The Washington Post, or the most important papers that influence the networks, ABC, NBC, and, to a lesser extent—because CBS has actually been on this story, partly because the president of Libya appeared on [Bob Schieffer’s “Face the Nation”] and said, on Sunday, while [U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.] Susan Rice was out—the U.N. ambassador has no portfolio on this matter—lying, said of the secretary—you know why, notice the Secretary of State wasn’t out there doing this—was on national television, lying and promoting the White House line while the Libyan president, the very same moment, is saying “This is a premeditated attack.”
Nobody has asked that question. This morning—take a look at The New York Times this morning, it’s a minor reference. Oh, now we’ve decided that it was a terrorist incident. But this is—that would have changed, that should change the politics.
This is not without accomplices, because the incompetence of the [Mitt] Romney campaign, which I said a week ago is the—my God!—the worst campaign in my lifetime, and the Republican establishment in general’s inability to fight, has allowed these things to happen in part because they don’t do it. But I want to go through two other quick points.
[Mohamed] Morsi and Egypt: The President of Egypt, we find out now, that his whole agenda has been getting the “Blind Sheikh” [Omar Abdel-Rahman], who’s responsible for the bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993, out of jail. Prison. I’ve been told specifically, by a member of the intelligence community that the White House and State Department are negotiating that now.
They have now come out and denied it, but [Morsi] comes out, that they ordered—he’s the head of the Muslim Brotherhood! The American people know what they think of the Muslim Brotherhood: They are against them 11 to 1, all right? And he’s the president of the Muslim Brotherhood, giving $2 billion to the United States.
He tells them—we had advance warning because they had said they were gonna do this, attack our embassy. The president—after the incident, after 48 hours, Mr. Morsi does nothing and says nothing—picks up the phone, calls him, and demands that they call it off.
On Friday—last Friday, a week ago today—there was supposed to be a big demonstration. We thought that would be the big day—no, it disappeared, because Morsi called it off. But no press person has investigated this, just as no press person will go and ask the most obvious questions, when there are really good stories here, good media stories, and good news stories. They are in the tank and this is a frightening thing.
Another example has been the polling, which everyone wants to talk to me about. Look: There is no doubt that Romney is blowing an election he could not lose, and has done everything he can to lose it.
But the bias, the polling, it’s very complicated. Some of it is error, some of it is miscalculation, but some of it is deliberate, in my opinion—to pump up the numbers using the 2008 base to give a sense of momentum to the Obama campaign.
When I have polls that have the preference of Democrats over Republicans higher than it was in 2008, which was a peak Democratic year, I know I am dealing with a poll that shouldn’t be reported. And yet they are being done, and they are being done with that knowledge and with that basis for some people, and the answer, as I said, some of it is incompetence, some of it is they just don’t know, really know, how to handle it, and some of it is on purpose, and it’s purposeful.
But all of it is just to serve a basic point, just as JournoList was—Mr. Klein’s JournoList—but as I said there is no pushback.
We have a political campaign where, to put the best metaphor I can on it, where the referees on the field are sacking the quarterback of one team, tripping up their runners, throwing their bodies in front of blockers, and nobody says anything. The Republicans don’t.
The reason you will lose this battle is for one reason. Despite organizations like Accuracy In Media and others who are pointing this out, and the fact that 60 percent of the American people are in on the secret here—I mean, they’re no idiots—Republicans and those candidates who are not the candidates of the press refuse to call them out.
If I were the Romney campaign I would’ve been doing this for months! I’d have been looking at individual reporters! I would be telling the American people, “They’re not trying to stop me; they’re trying to stop you! And they are here to do this!” And I would have made the press themselves an issue because, until you do, what happens is, they are given the basic concession of authenticity and accuracy, or that they are credible, by not doing that.
Now too many reporters, too many political people in the Republican Party in this town, want to maintain their relationships with the press. This is how Sarah Palin got handed over to Katie Couric and to ABC before she was ready—because Steve Schmidt and others want to preserve their view, their relationships with the press.
You know, people have their own agendas, and often it’s not winning. But this not-pushing-back is a problem, and they don’t do it. And, you know what this is a different era: The old argument of “You don’t attack someone in the press”—or “You don’t get in a pissing match with someone who buys ink by the barrel”—doesn’t apply anymore. There are too many outlets, too many ways to do it, and the country doesn’t have the confidence in the press that they once had.
But all I want to conclude to this is that we face a fundamental danger here. The fundamental danger is this: I talked about the defense of the First Amendment. The press’s job is to stand in the ramparts and protect the liberty and freedom of all of us from a government and from organized governmental power. When they desert those ramparts and decide that they will now become active participants, that their job is not simply to tell you who you may vote for, and who you may not, but, worse—and this is the danger of the last two weeks—what truth that you may know, as an American, and what truth you are not allowed to know, they have, then, made themselves a fundamental threat to the democracy, and, in my opinion, made themselves the enemy of the American people.
And it is a threat to the very future of this country if we allow this stuff to go on. We have crossed a whole new and frightening slide on the slippery slope this last two weeks, and it needs to be talked about.
Delivered by Patrick Caddell on September 21 at Accuracy in Media's Conference --Obamanation: A Day of Truth.
Patrick Caddell is a Democratic pollster and Fox News contributor. He served as pollster for President Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, Joe Biden and others. He is a Fox News political analyst and co-host of "Political Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel.