Want to see a neat trick?
As we've documented extensively over the past year, conservatives have waged an ongoing campaign to re-brand the process of reconciliation as the "nuclear option." Feel free to read any of the hundred or so examples from our archives to get the full story, but to put it briefly: this is outrageously dishonest. The "nuclear option" was a term coined by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) in reference to his proposed change to Senate rules that would have banned use of the filibuster for judicial nominations.
Reconciliation, on the other hand, requires no change to Senate rules since it has been used repeatedly over the years to pass major legislation - notably to pass major pieces of health care reform legislation. Republicans themselves weren't quite so uncomfortable with the supposedly "dirty" process when they used it to pass President Bush's tax cuts. Multiple times.
To a cynic, the reason for this re-branding might have appeared to be that conservatives were concerned that Democrats would use reconciliation to pass portions of health care reform. And lo and behold, with reports surfacing in the past few days that Democrats are again considering using reconciliation for health care reform (which, as NPR noted today, is consistent with the long history of the use of reconciliation in health care bills,) conservatives are redoubling their efforts.
Here's how the trick works:
Today, conservative media are furiously promoting a video posted at Breitbart TV, titled:"Obama & Dems in 2005: 51 Vote 'Nuclear Option' Is 'Arrogant' Power Grab Against the Founder's Intent." You can probably guess where this is going.
In a jaw-dropping display of audacity, the video runs several examples of Democrats railing against the "nuclear option" in 2005. The video attempts to juxtapose this with their current support for reconciliation to show their supposed hypocrisy.
This is absurd.
The Democrats in the video are railing against the "nuclear option" as defined by Lott, not the new definition conservatives have decided to bestow upon the phrase. On his radio show, Beck called the video "laughable" and "unbelievable." I agree with those characterizations, but for slightly different reasons.
To prove a point, I propose we change the definition of "deficits" to mean "freedom," then put together a reel of conservatives attacking "freedom."
It would be about as honest.
I feel comfortable handing out the award for "Worst Talking Point of the Decade (So Far)" to the emerging consensus among conservative media figures that President Obama is somehow at fault for reacting quickly to news of the Haiti catastrophe, while waiting a few days to make public comments about the failed bombing attempt on Christmas.
Limbaugh got the ball rolling on Wednesday, sounding incredulous about the fact that Obama waited a few days to address the failed attack while responding to the Haiti news in less than 24 hours. Later that day, Fox Nation echoed his attack with the headline "Pres. Obama Reacts to Haiti Earthquake Faster Than Christmas Bomber." Not content to let Fox and Limbaugh monopolize the insanity, Glenn Beck got into the action on his radio show today, saying that "Obama is dividing the country" by reacting "so rapidly on Haiti." This is certainly true - the country is divided on this. On the one hand, we have rational, thinking humans, and on the other we have Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox Nation. On what planet are these events comparable?
Tens of thousands of people are dead and a country is in shambles, but to Limbaugh, Beck, and Fox Nation, this is on par with a man failing to detonate a bomb on an airplane, killing no one. I'm not trying to minimize the failed attack, but to elevate it to the level of this catastrophe is self-evidently ludicrous.
This is indicative of an emerging trend we've seen this week, where the chief concern among sections of the conservative media has been to use this week's events to score cheap political points against President Obama. (For a perfect example of this, see Fox Nation's headline this morning "Obama Moves to Grant Amnesty to Haitian Illegal Aliens.")
And setting aside the absurd comparison for a moment, this latest inanity from the conservative noise machine has the added bonus of lacking any historical context. As we've pointed out, George W. Bush waited six days to publicly address the shoe bomber incident in 2001.
Discussing Fox News' decision to all-but ignore the tragedy in Haiti on its top-rated programs, Jamison Foser wrote in his column that "I don't even want to think about the bizarre claims Glenn Beck would come up with." Well, these are the results, and they aren't pretty.
On Monday, during a falsehood-laden defense of his Misinformer of the Year Award, Glenn Beck made a big show of the amount of research both he and his staff does while assembling his program. I'm not sure if we were supposed to be impressed by the stacks of paper, but regardless of the quantity of research his staff does, the quality certainly seems to be lacking (side note: his staff could save a good bit of time and paper if they didn't print every article.)
For example, last night, leading into a typically reasonable discussion of how the progressive movement is more akin to early Italian Fascism than the Founding Fathers, Glenn Beck rehashed a smear of Sen. Al Franken that was thoroughly debunked back in December.
As Senior Editor Brian Frederick pointed out while demolishing the phony talking point, this story doesn't hold water for several reasons. First, Sen. John McCain's supposed anger at the exchange is undermined by his blatant hypocrisy. In 2002, McCain objected to then-Sen. Mark Dayton's request for more time during the Iraq War debate. Second, Franken was acting on a request from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to adhere strictly to time constraints. Third, the same exact thing happened earlier the same day when Sen. Mark Begich objected to Sen. John Cornyn's request for more time.
In fairness to "some of the biggest minds in America," it was tough for me to dig up these facts. If you google "Franken Lieberman exchange," two of our items and Brian Frederick's blog post are buried...as the first search result.
I'm honestly curious how something like this ends up on the air. Did his research staff just not bother to research the exchange before airing it? Did they find the numerous articles debunking the bogus story and decide to run the smear anyway? Were they too busy printing articles to read them?
These are not rhetorical questions. If Beck wants to answer any of them, he knows how to reach us.
Beck misrepresented the same exchange on his radio show on Wednesday to label progressivism "evil." Perhaps it was unfair of me to place all of the blame on his television research team. Apparently Beck and his radio crew can't be bothered with facts, either. (H/T Z.P.)
As we've been documenting, the conservative outrage du jour stems from Weekly Standard writer Michael Goldfarb's so-called scoop that the White House is threatening to close Nebraska's Offutt Air Force in an attempt to force Sen. Nelson to vote for the current version of the Senate health care bill. As usual, this latest blockbuster story doesn't pass the smell test.
On the one hand, we have the two parties involved in the story on the record vehemently denying it. On the other, we have Michael Goldfarb saying we should "believe" his story due to his purported "perfect track record." Rock-solid reporting by the conservative media, as usual.
Posting the most recent statement from the White House on the dubious rumor, Fox News contributing editor Mike Emanuel writes:
Some blogs have been posting rumors about Democratic Senator Ben Nelson from Nebraska and that his vote on the health care bill could threaten Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base.
Statement from WH Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer: "This rumor is absolutely false, as the people spreading it well know. This is nothing but a cynical, crass political game that is designed to maintain the status quo. Let's be clear: the people spreading these falsehoods think nothing is wrong with a system under which families and businesses continue to bear the brunt of skyrocketing costs, insurance companies are allowed to discriminate and drop at will, and thousands of Americans lose their coverage every single day."
While it is certainly true that "some blogs" ran with the story, Emanuel conveniently ignores his own network's role in promoting it. Here's Fox News' website Fox Nation:
Another outlet that picked it up was Glenn Beck's cutting edge video blog that airs every night on Fox News from 5-6:
"Some blogs" can be pretty irresponsible.
Yesterday, The Washington Post published a falsehood-laden op-ed on climate change from noted climatologist...Alaska Governor...uh, social network celebrity Sarah Palin. In an interview with Editor and Publisher's Joe Strupp, op-ed editor Autumn Brewington explained how Palin's piece came to appear in the paper, and defended the decision to run it:
She said the newspaper received an e-mail from Palin Tuesday asking to write about the issue and it decided it should run Wednesday, before President Barack Obama was to head to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
"If we were going to use it, we had to use it immediately," Brewington said. "It was a quicker turnaround than is often the case. But we made the decision based on news."
Brewington did not regret giving Palin space, noting, "She is someone who stirs discussion and we are in the business of putting out opinion. She reached out to us."
A few things come to mind in response to this. Considering Palin's history of falsehoods, rushing her piece through the editorial process was probably not the best idea. As Media Matters research director Jeremy Schulman pointed out on Wednesday, not only were Palin's falsehoods contradicted by scientists and temperature data, but also by the Washington Post's own reporting.
Also, the idea that Palin's thoughts are worth publishing for no other reason than she "stirs discussion" suggests that The Washington Post is more interested in getting attention than informing its readers. Does Palin have an open invitation to write ill-informed pieces on newsworthy issues just because she "stirs discussion?" How about a piece about Barack Obama's birth certificate? Actually, I don't think I want to know the answer to that.
Yesterday, under the headline "Hard Questions," Josh Marshall framed the recent "Climategate" kerfuffle perfectly:
Who to believe on climate change mystery: scientists or conservative pundits? Any thoughts?
WaPo answers: That depends - how many clickthroughs will these "scientists" get us?
Today on Lou Dobbs' radio show, Newsbusters' Candance Moore echoed Glenn Beck's up-is-down conspiracy theory that the Obama administration's support for net neutrality amounts to a plot to "control the internet."
As we've pointed out before, this is patently absurd.
[N]et neutrality -- which was the law of the land from the creation of the Internet until 2005, and which ensured that Internet Service Providers were not able to control content -- has been cited by numerous Internet pioneers as the guiding principle in Internet development and innovation.
To recap: Beck and Moore's logic pretzel transforms legislation that prevents ISPs from exerting any control over content into a plot to control content. Aside from being a laughable attempt to smear any and all Obama administration initiatives, Moore just indicated that her boss supports a nefarious plot to "control the internet."
Newsbusters is the blog of Media Research Center, which was started by Brent Bozell. One of the most prominent advocates of net neutrality is Save the Internet, a group of oranizations "working together to urge Congress to preserve Net Neutrality." Charter members include Free Press, the Christian Coalition, and the Parents Television Council. The founder of the Parents Television Council? Brent Bozell.
Sometimes they make it too easy for us. I wonder if they'll discuss this at the next staff meeting.
Conservative blogger JammieWearingFool, 2008 Weblog Award Winner for "Best Big Blog," today confirms that at least one-third of his name is accurate.
In a post titled "Was Alan Grayson Really a Mental Patient?" he excerpts at length and links to a post titled "Congressman Grayson Briefly Spent Time in Mental Hospital in 1980s" at the blog Right Handed Pitcher. The post alleges that Grayson "spent four days in the Psychiatric Institute of Washington," and that he "was extremely combative with fellow employees, including slapping a female intern in the face."
While JammieWearingFool is careful to add a question mark to his headline and couch his post in wishy-washy language like "take it for what it's worth," this is yet another case of conservative bloggers proving they lack even basic fact-checking skills.
While there are several things that probably should have given JammieWearingFool pause before he forwarded this story, one stands out above the others. The byline on The Right Handed Pitcher post is Matthew Avitabile. You may remember Matthew Avitabile from last Friday, when a hoax post about Obama's thesis with Avitabile's byline was picked up by Michael Ledeen, then Limbaugh, Dobbs, et. al. Back in January, Avitabile also fooled gullible conservatives with a bogus story about an Obama military oath. While I suppose it is unreasonable to expect every conservative blogger to keep up with the embarrassing failures of their compatriots on the right -- it's a lot to keep track of -- perhaps the "Satire" tag at the bottom of the Right Handed Pitcher post might have been a good tipoff.
We can probably look forward to another game of conservative telephone, where everyone cites each other making outrageous claims without anyone doing basic fact-checking.
The conservative media: where no story is too flimsy to run with.
NewsBusters' Ken Shepherd sneaks in right before the deadline with the runaway winner for "Worst Example of Purported Liberal Media Bias of the Week." His latest blockbuster scoop is headlined: MSNBC Promo Narrator Also Does Work for Pro-ObamaCare Group. Take it away, Ken:
But it's not just the on-camera talent that has all the fun cheerleading liberal policies. It seems a promotional ad narrator for MSNBC also does voiceover work for a pro-ObamaCare group, Health Care for America Now (HCAN).
I noticed the HCAN ad at 11:20 a.m. EDT today and worked up a mashup featuring excerpts of the HCAN ad and a promo for tonight's MSNBC programming.
You can watch for yourself, but a quick note for Shepherd: when your video hinges on the premise of people being disturbed by a narrator saying things like "What's MSNBC talking about tonight?" and "MSNBC: The Place for Politics," you probably don't have much of an argument. Though in Shepherd's defense, I could definitely detect the narrator subliminally encouraging a public option in the way he pronounced "tonight."
Helpfully, Shepherd does most of the work demolishing the entire point of his post with his final paragraph:
NBC Universal's Alana Russo informed NewsBusters via e-mail that MSNBC's announcers are freelancers, "not in-house staff employees." Asked if there were any "contractual limitations" barring those freelancers from "doing political ads while under contract with MSNBC," Russo answered that "[t]hey do not have exclusive contracts with MSNBC."
I have spent the better part of an hour trying to determine how Shepherd thought this was worth posting after receiving a perfectly reasonable response from MSNBC. The narrator is a freelancer. Let's hope Shepherd doesn't hear the same narrator in a promo for Dan Brown's latest DC-based thriller -- he'll be connecting those dots for weeks.
Here at County Fair, we have made it a bit of a cottage industry mocking the blog commonly seen as our counterpart on the right, and with good reason. By comparison, let's have a look at what an actual conflict of interest surrounding health care reform coverage at a major news outlet looks like, courtesy of fellow County Fair blogger Matt Gertz:
Media Matters for America has obtained evidence that CNN contributor Alex Castellanos' political consulting firm, National Media, is the ad buyer for the insurance industry group America's Health Insurance Plan's (AHIP) new ad blitz attacking Democratic health reform plans. CNN has a responsibility to insure that Castellanos' obvious conflict of interest does not tarnish their future coverage of the health care debate.
One of these things is not like the other.
This is incredibly stupid, which gives it a pretty good chance of catching on with the conservative media and blogosphere.
Fox Nation is currently featuring this on its home page:
Everyone hates the DMV, and people will be livid that they have to go there for health insurance. Here's Terry Jeffrey at the headlined CNSNews.com article with the stunning revelation:
Page 19 of the committee's "plain English" text says: "The Secretary and/or states would do the following: ... Enable customers to enroll in health care plans in local hospitals, schools, Departments of Motor Vehicles, local Social Security offices, and other offices designated by the state."
Sound the alarm! The bill will actually "enable customers to enroll in health care plans" at a wide variety of places, including the DMV. Oh, wait, that doesn't sound controversial at all. Can you enroll in health insurance at the DMV under the Baucus bill? Apparently. Will you, as the headline suggests? That seems to be up to you. The headline also absurdly suggests that the DMV may suddenly function as a treatment center if the Baucus bill passes. No, the DMV won't suddenly be performing surgeries on the hoods of cars; they'll simply be providing people with the forms necessary to enroll in health care plans (as they do with voter registrations)
Jeffrey continues with his blockbuster find:
This is the bill's most revelatory passage because it sublimely symbolizes the bill's true aim: a government takeover of the health care system.
Cue scary music. Apparently this passage "sublimely symbolizes the bill's true aim," but I think Jeffrey and Fox Nation have inadvertently "sublimely symbolized" the true aim of the bill's opponents: trying, desperately, (per Frank Luntz's lead) to recast the bill as a "government takeover," despite all the evidence to the contrary. Sometimes I marvel at the right's straw-grasping abilities. To recap, according to CNSNews.com and Fox Nation, a clause enabling people to enroll in health care plans at their DMV (in addition to local schools, hospitals, Social Security offices, and other designated offices) somehow becomes: You Will Get Your Health Insurance At The DMV - Literally. How bereft of substantive health care criticism does the conservative media have to be for this "revelatory passage" to be worthy of prominent placement on Fox Nation?
Maybe I'm misreading Jeffrey's post, and this is just some biting satire about the lengths health care reform opponents will go to fearmonger and foster confusion about various proposals. Jeffrey:
This is no joke.
Fox Nation has a thought-provoking question for their readers:
That is a good question. I've got a quick follow-up question of my own: Does Fox Nation not understand the difference between someone who writes a program and someone who uses it, or are they just making things up again?
Fox Nation is clearly implying that an Obama supporter authored this poll. But, as they are wont to do, they helpfully link to an article that completely undercuts that suggestion:
Jesse Farmer, of Bumbalabs in Palo Alto, Calif., has given permission for Facebook to reveal that he was the developer, but, significantly, not the author behind the poll that nauseated many Monday.
Whoops. The article goes on to point out that Farmer is an Obama supporter. However, as Farmer further explained in a diary posted on Daily Kos yesterday, he had nothing to do with authoring the poll itself and removed it as soon as it was brought to his attention:
Polls are created by other Facebook users, not me, anyone affiliated with me, or Facebook.
Thousands of polls are created daily, sometimes as many as 10,000. Each poll has as many as 2MM votes and 200k comments. Of those thousands of polls, most are gibberish and a few are offensive, libelous, or otherwise beyond the pale.
The poll was created Sunday evening and I deleted it first thing Monday morning.
Just to run through this again quickly: Jesse Farmer develops an application that allows Facebook users to create their own polls. The application becomes very popular, leading to thousands of polls created daily. Someone uses the application to create an incendiary, outrageous poll about President Obama. Fox Nation blames Jesse Farmer for posting the poll.
If Fox Nation is suggesting Farmer is at fault because he should have checked each of the several thousand polls first, I would just like to point out that Fox Nation would have had to read only the one article they link to in order to realize it disproves their headline.
I guess "Why Would An Obama Supporter Develop A Program That Someone Could Eventually Use To Post A Crazy Poll About Obama?" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.