Harry Reid Nears Majority Support in Nevada Senate Race Against Sharron Angle

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) got some good news last week when a Mason-Dixon poll showed the incumbent with a 7 point lead over challenger Sharron Angle. Even so, Reid only managed 44% support in that poll (to Angle’s 37%), and has consistently languished in the low 40s since his campaign began. A new poll (from Public Policy Polling), however, has Reid at 48% to Angle’s 46%. While that lead is much narrower, Reid’s proximity to the 50% mark is an excellent sign for his re-election prospects.

As pollster Dean Debnam notes, Reid is not out of the woods yet. Such a narrow lead raises the importance of turnout, and Sharron Angle’s Tea Party base is nothing if not energized. However, Debnam’s automated poll didn’t allow a choice for “other,” which accounted for 9 points in the Mason-Dixon poll. If you include Nevada’s “none of the above” line, Reid’s lead begins to look somewhat more secure.

More importantly, though, Reid is very close to achieving majority support in Nevada (and this poll was taken before Angle’s most recent media mishap), which is usually the floor for a successful incumbent, but which has eluded Reid for many months. It will be interesting to see if Angle’s flight from reporters, coupled with Reid’s speech at Netroots Nation this weekend, can push him over the 50% line in the next poll.

If it does, that could be the crucial tipping point for Reid, and could also take some of the wind out of the Tea Party’s sails. The Tea Party, led by Sarah Palin, has expended a lot of energy going after Reid, but it appears as though they’ve only made him more attractive by comparison.

Chris Matthews: Harry Reid Not Trashing Angle Because She’s A Woman?

I thought I’d misheard this yesterday, but no, that’s actually what Chris Matthews said in the midst of a roundtable discussion yesterday morning over whether the Tea Partiers had made campaigning easier for the Dems.

Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was speculating that “the Tea Party has given Democrats some unexpected help. In some cases Democrats won’t talk much about what they have accomplished, they’ll talk about how crazy the opposition is.” A dubious strategy since it inevitably begs the larger question: if your opponent is crazy why are they doing so well in the polls?

Responded Chris Matthews: “Harry Reid out in Nevada is not trashing his opponent, maybe because it’s a woman candidate, but he’s getting everyone else to do it because she’s such a fringe candidate.”

That fringe candidate, by the way, has been giving the Senate Majority leader a run for his money. Regardless, I cant’ decide whether Matthews is merely declaring the obvious here — criticizing Sarah Palin was a big concern ahead of the Biden-Palin debate in 2008 — or merely revealing his own bias. I’m inclined to think the former, Matthews doesn’t have a history of shying away from harsh statements on women candidates. Watch below.

Jersey Shore’s Snooki: Mentioned On Sunday Show, Profiled In New York Times

Jake Tapper’s run as guest anchor of ABC’s This Week came to a close Sunday, with a lively panel and an exclusive interview with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

And while the discussion was wide-ranging, Tapper also asked about Jersey Shore as Snooki was featured in the New York Times.

Tapper asked whether the hugely popular MTV reality show was good or bad for New Jersey. “Negative for New Jersey,” said Christie, bluntly. “I mean, because what it does is takes a bunch of New Yorkers, most of the people on Jersey Shore, are New Yorkers…drops them at the Jersey Shore, and tries to make Americans feel like this is New Jersey. I can tell people, they want to know what New Jersey really is? I welcome them to come to New Jersey anytime.”

So while the Governor may not be a fan of the pouf – and the stereotypes that can come with it – the New York Times Sunday Style section is. Tapper referenced the Snooki profile by Cathy Horyn, which also includes this great line from her father: “She don’t sing. She don’t dance. I don’t want to say she don’t have talent…”

After spending time with Snooki and her father, Horyn concludes “Snooki is much more interesting as a character than she is in any other context.” Also:

This still doesn’t address Snooki’s strange appeal. And part of the problem is that she can’t explain it herself. She simply isn’t capable of serious introspection. She told me she has read only two books in her life, “Twilight” and “Dear John.” When we were in the kitchen at her dad’s house, I asked Snooki if she were inspired by any movie actresses. (I have this funny theory that she’s a little like Elizabeth Taylor, but more about that in a moment.)

“Movies?” she said thickly. “I really liked Brittany Murphy. Yeah. I looked up to her. She had a dorky personality, like me. It was sad that she died.”

This seems somewhat critical of Snooks, but the entire profile is actually a fair look at a phenomenon Horyn and others struggle to understand while remaining fascinated by. Others that don’t include Chris Christie apparently.

Here’s the This Week exchange:

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One More Look At How Fox News Covered The Shirley Sherrod Story

Since we broke down how Fox News’ coverage could not have possibly led to Shirley Sherrod’s forced resignation, the story of FNC’s coverage has remained a hot topic on cable news. Dan Abrams and Rick Sanchez debated it, Howard Dean and Chris Wallace got into it and this weekend’s Fox News Watch took on the issue (video below).

Let’s take one more look at exactly how FNC covered the story – as well as the rest of cable news.

“The whole thing is a cautionary tale about believing what you see on the internet,” said host Jon Scott today, summing up the beliefs of those on the panel but also the beliefs of many over the last week. But although it can be universally agreed that Andrew Breitbart is at fault for, knowingly or not, pushing an enormously out-of-context video clip, some want to put Fox News on the same level as Breitbart and BigGovernment.com. It began with the updated statement from the NAACP – the one after they condemned Sherrod the night before. In it, NAACP President Ben Jealous said the organization was “snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart.” Both – Fox News, and Breitbart.

But as we’ve laid out here, there are misconceptions about the way FNC covered the story. The truth is, Shirley Sherrod wasn’t mentioned on air until 8:49pmET (according to TV Eyes), during a pre-taped Bill O’Reilly show. It is the fact that it was recorded earlier that makes the timeline more complicated, but what we do know is by the time O’Reilly made it to the air she had already resigned. In fact, before the show was even taped, around 5pmET, she had already resigned (although it hadn’t been made public yet).

But O’Reilly called for her resignation at the time, which led to his apology (and new attack) the next night. The person at Fox News who can be legitimately criticized for jumping to conclusions is O’Reilly. The resignation was mentioned in the 9pmET and 10pmET hours as well. Again, though, clearly it was the fear of FNC’s coverage and not FNC’s actual coverage that forced the USDA, and Obama administration, to act as quickly as it did.

The rest of cable news is in largely the same boat as Fox News. The clip aired on CNN Monday night too – in a report on Anderson Cooper 360 by Joe Johns. In it, Johns described the clip as a “YouTube video” (and no mention of the source), and said it showed Sherrod talking about how she “withheld help to a white farmer.” All three cable news networks covered the story on their morning shows without any mention of Sherrod disputing the context. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, guest Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg said, “How about if Shirley and Mark Williams, the tea party guy, are locked in a room together as their punishment” – a reference to the legitimately-ousted conservative.

And by 9amET Tuesday, all three cable news networks – CNN, Fox News and MSNBC – were reporting the story in full context. They were all showing the clip (many times), but also all pointing out that Sherrod was speaking out against it. CNN was helped by having Sherrod on-air during American Morning.

Whether it was luck or by-design, the Obama administration enormously overreacted to a clip put out by Breitbart. On Fox News Watch, Kirsten Powers took him on strongly. “There’s something really twisted and sick about that,” she said. “Now he says he didn’t know that, but I say who gave him this video, they need to come forward and say why they set up this woman in this malicious, nasty accusation.”

The knocks on Fox, though, are misplaced. Have they driven the Black Panther story to potentially race-baiting extremes? You could make a case for that. But although it would be convenient to say Fox News’ relentless coverage of this internet video led to Shirley Sherrod’s unfair ouster, it’s just not true.

Here’s Fox News Watch today:

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Biggest Leak In US Military History: WikiLeaks Posts Thousands Of Classified Docs On Afghan War

Early Sunday, in what is being called “one of the biggest leaks in US military history,” the whistleblower site WikiLeaks posted tens of thousands of classified “military field reports” about the Afghan war. According to the New York Times, the Times, the Guardian, and the German newspaper Der Spiegel were “given access to the voluminous records several weeks ago on the condition that they not report on the material before Sunday.”

Based on that access and reporting, which WikiLeaks was not involved in, the New York Times has published a series of articles today which are too lengthy to go through here in detail but, broadly speaking, conclude that the Afghan war is not going as well as official reports might lead the public to believe. You can read a rundown of what they reveal here.

Perhaps equally as interesting is how the Times decided what to report on from the thousands of classified documents they were given access to. The paper explains its thinking in a note to readers.

Deciding whether to publish secret information is always difficult, and after weighing the risks and public interest, we sometimes chose not to publish. But there are times when the information is of significant public interest, and this is one of those times. The documents illuminate the extraordinary difficulty of what the United States and its allies have undertaken in a way that other accounts have not.

Most of the incident reports are marked “secret,” a relatively low level of classification. The Times has taken care not to publish information that would harm national security interests. The Times and the other news organizations agreed at the outset that we would not disclose — either in our articles or any of our online supplementary material — anything that was likely to put lives at risk or jeopardize military or antiterrorist operations.

You can read the Guardian’s report on the leaks here.

Update: The White House is not happy about this. At all. From Mike Allen.

White House National Security Adviser James Jones issued a statement that begins: “The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.

“Wikileaks made no effort to contact us about these documents – the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted. These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people.

The statement says nothing about the three newspapers that reported extensively on the leaks. However, in their note to readers the NYT does say that “to establish confidence in the information, The Times checked a number of the reports against incidents that had been publicly reported or witnessed by our own journalists. Government officials did not dispute that the information was authentic” suggesting that the government was at least aware these docs were out there and being examined.

Update #2: Michael Calderone confirms the administration was indeed aware the NYT had the documents. New York Times Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet tells Calderone: “I did in fact go the White House and lay out for them what we had…We did it to give them the opportunity to comment and react. They did. They also praised us for the way we handled it, for giving them a chance to discuss it, and for handling the information with care. And for being responsible.”

BP’s Tony Hayward Stepping Down

Tony Hayward officially has his life back. Rumors were circulating this week that the BP head everyone loved to hate might be stepping down and turns out they were true. From the New York Times:

Tony Hayward, the embattled chief executive of BP, has agreed to step down and be replaced by Robert Dudley, the company’s most senior American executive who is now in charge of BP’s operations in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a person close to the company’s board.

The world won’t have Tony Hayward to kick around anymore. Watch Fox News’ report below.

Anita Dunn On MTP Demonstrates Perfectly The White House’s Faulty Thinking Towards The Press

A short, interesting exchange on Meet the Press today that I think goes a long way in explaining how the administration found itself playing a starring role in the Shirley Sherrod fiasco this week. Listen to how former White House communications director Anita Dunn, former White House communications director and the person who last fall was charged with “leading the Administration’s effort to block officials, including Obama, from appearing on the network,” explain how the administration got into this mess. Here is her exchange with the New York Times’ David Brooks:

MR. BROOKS: So we were trained in a certain way. A different sort of media, squabble culture, has come up on the left and the right, which, which decides their–they build audience by destroying other people. They don’t know anything about policy, they don’t care about government, they just want that squabble.

MR. BROOKS: And my rule is–I mean, for somebody, what Anita was doing…stay away from the squabble culture. Don’t get in there. And that’s true for us, and I would say that’s true…

MS. DUNN: OK. Well, let me just say something really quickly. That is easier said than done when the White House press secretary walks into the room and the only question people want to ask is, “How are you going to react? What are you going to do? What are you going to do? What are you going to do?”

MR. GREGORY: Right. Rick…

MS. DUNN: And you have a false, a false fact, an edited speech, as, as E.J. says, that was designed to create this outcome that becomes “the news of the day,” OK?

MR. BROOKS: Well, then play by different rules. Maybe before firing somebody, call them up and talk to them.

Emphasis mine, because when the White House Press Sec. walks into a room what exactly does he expect to be asked? If this is the mind set the White House has constructed for itself regarding the press not only does this whole week make more sense — they apparently felt having a definitive answer to the reaction question was more important than whether their answer was right — it means they have actually bought into the cable culture. And that is perhaps as or more worrisome than anything else that has happened this week, because you cannot run a country based on a highspeed, attention-deficit, traffic-oriented, newscycle. We are apparently learning this the hard way. A side note: it’s frustrating to see David Gregory keep trying to cut away here. Watch below.