Continuing with the media's beloved yes/but angle regarding the pending passage of the Obama stimulus bill, and how yes it represents a victory, but there are oh so many troubling things to report, Politico focuses on negatives with article, "Early setbacks test Obama's cool."
Writes David Rodgers:
The $789 billion recovery package is a major accomplishment less than a month after his Inauguration. But it's smaller than Obama had hoped it would be just days ago...
Note the language. Obama just passed his centerpiece economic legislation less than one month after being inaugurated. A "major accomplishment"? Technically, that's true. But a more accurate description would have been "unprecedented" or "historic" or "unheard of" accomplish. When you consider it took then-new president Ronald Reagan until July to pass his economic legislation and Bill Clinton until August and George W. Bush until May, the fact that Obama was able to shepherd his through in a matter of weeks is an unprecedented, historic and unheard of accomplishment for any modern day president.
But you're not going to hear that kind of language, because the Beltway press is more interested in the "but" part of the yes/but angle.
WSJ headline today: "Merrill Gave $1 Million Each to 700 of Its Staff"
According to the newspaper:
Merrill Lynch & Co. "secretly" moved up the date it awarded bonuses for 2008 and richly rewarded its executives despite billions of dollars in losses, giving bonuses of $1 million or more apiece to nearly 700 employees, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said.
Sorta makes you wonder about that media microscope that was used late last year to scrutinize the pay of middle class autoworkers, doesn't it?
In the wake of Juan Williams' latest outburst on Fox News, NPR has asked him to stop identifying himself as an NPR contributor when he appears on Fox. NPR's Ombudsman concludes her assessment of the situation:
[I]n the end, NPR must decide -- as it apparently already has -- whether giving its listeners the benefit of Williams' voice is worth the cost of annoying some listeners for his work on Fox.
As a result of this latest flap, NPR's Vice President of News, Ellen Weiss, has asked Williams to ask that Fox remove his NPR identification whenever he is on O'Reilly.
Glenn Greenwald amplifies a point we noted yesterday about the almost comically hypocritical Journal attack on Obama for using a list of pre-selected reporters to call on during his Monday press conference, and suggesting Bush never would have pulled a stunt like that. (Hint: He did.)
Deliberate deceit or complete editorial recklessness from The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page? And which is worse? Are there any limits at all to the factually false claims newspapers can spew without correction? We'll see. And of all the canards filling the overflowing canon of self-pitying right-wing grievances, the complaint that the Beltway media was unfairly and excessively critical of the Bush presidency has to be the single most laughable (as even Bush's own Press Secretary will tell you).
It also highlight a point we made when we detailed the chronically un-serious work of Jonah Goldberg, a god-awful media critique. And the point was this: Conservative media criticism is, almost without exception, a complete joke because the writers have no use for facts or truth or common sense. It's just partisan clowning around, as the Journal editorial proved.
That's been painfully obvious for years, and it was certainly highlighted during the general election. That's when when during the final months of the contest the mainstream press nearly uniformly walked away from even pretending to address the public policy issues featured in the campaign (i.e. the candidates' platform and agendas), and focused almost entirely on process and tactics.
The press doesn't do public policy and, not surprisingly, it appears the press no longer even understands public policy. Today, it certainly does not understand, or pretend to address seriously, the topic of economics. Instead, much of the press has covered the unfolding economic debate as--you guessed it--process and tactics.
That's why economists have been virtually banned from the airwaves in recent weeks, even as the country and Washington, D.C. grapple with pressing economic issues. Why on earth would the cable shows book professional experts on the issue at hand when they can book minority party Congressmen, right?
Media Matters has a new study detailing the paucity of economists taking part in the televised 'debate' over economics in recent weeks. Just 5 percent of the TV guests have been economic pro's.
As John Amato at Crooks and Liars notes:
Only 5% of them were put on air. It's not that Americans are uninformed, but that our media fails to do their jobs and intentionally decides to keep them uninformed. They would rather have a recently defeated Lindsey Graham and John Boehner appear to whine and whine and whine about President Obama's stimulus package.
Travels With Barack: The president hits the road to sell the stimulus package, and finds a surprisingly lack of cynicism along the way.
Perhaps spending too much time inside the anti-stimulus Beltway press bubble, the Newsweek reporter expresses amazement:
The president's town-hall audiences display a discernable lack of cynicism about politics, government and the capacity for D.C. to change under his stewardship. For years, polls have shown the deep disillusionment most Americans feel with the political process and with their representatives in D.C. But when Obama announced midway through Tuesday's Ft. Myers town-hall meeting that the Senate had voted to pass the stimulus package, the crowd cheered. And it wasn't just polite applause for the president's pet project. It was a loud, enthusiastic standing ovation for a piece of legislation. It's hard to recall the last time Congress, which has been haunted by dim approval ratings, received boisterous acclaim for passing a bill.
Don't these town hall attendees watch cable TV? Don't they know it's just a wasteful spending bill?
In the wake of the stimulus bill agreemenet in Congress, the New York Times leans heavily on the yes/but angle regarding what it means politicially for the new president [emphasis added]:
It is a quick, sweet victory for the new president, and potentially a historic one. The question now is whether the $789 billion economic stimulus plan agreed to by Congressional leaders on Wednesday is the opening act for a more ambitious domestic agenda from President Obama or a harbinger of reduced expectations. Both the substance of his first big legislative accomplishment and the way he achieved it underscored the scale of the challenges facing the nation and how different a political climate this is from the early stages of recent administrations.
As we recently noted, the way the Beltway press has traditionally judged a new president was, could he get his legislative initiatves passed? But with Obama, that's morphed into, can he get his initiatives passed in a certain way? i.e. Could he pass his plan and make Republicans happy. Because if Republicans are not happy with the stimulus plan, than Obama has failed. Again, this is a press standard that's been created for Obama, and Obama only.
The Times stresses, "His inability to win over more than a handful of Republicans amounted to a loss of innocence...So this was hardly a moment for cigars."
This was all telegraphed weeks ago. For instance, The Hill had already announced, "If the bill is approved by Congress with minimal GOP support, the partisan nature of how the legislation got to his desk will be a key storyline when Obama signs the measure."
Who will determine that "key storyline"? The Beltway press corps, of course.
UPDATE: Leave it to ABC's The Note to succinctly capture the prevailing Betlway inanities. In this case, the yes/but talking point:
Few presidents have been able to claim a victory of this magnitude, in scope and sweep, this early in a presidency...But this is a victory that's stocked with the possibility of losses.
Do you follow? By any historical marker the bill is a victory. But there's the possibility it might not be.
Over at Grist, David Roberts takes TPM's bait revealing who The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes may be using as his super-secret climate change source.
To bring you up to speed...TPM noted Monday afternoon:
Check out this passage from Barnes' latest column for the Weekly Standard:
"Democrats couldn't hide their self-consciousness about the excesses of their own bill. Supporters made few TV appearances to defend it and rarely talked about specific spending items. Obama sounded like Al Gore on global warming. The more the case for man-made warming falls apart, the more hysterical Gore gets about an imminent catastrophe. The more public support his bill loses, the more Obama embraces fear-mongering. (our itals.)"
We hadn't heard anything lately about the case for man-made global warming falling apart. In fact, just the opposite. So we called Barnes and asked him what he was referring to.
At first, he cited the fact that it's been cold lately. Perhaps sensing this was less than convincing, Barnes then asserted that there had been a "cooling spell" in recent years. "Haven't you noticed?" he asked.
Asked for firmer evidence of such cooling, Barnes demurred, telling TPMmuckraker he was too busy to track it down.
We pressed Barnes again: surely he could tell us where he had found this vital new information, which could upend the current debate over how to address global warming.
In response, Barnes said only that he knew where he had found it, but would not tell us, apparently as a matter of principle. "I'm not going to do your research for you," he eventually said, before hurriedly ending the call.
So, who is the super-secret-science-source behind Barnes' ridiculousness? Grist does an admirable job jumping down the rabbit hole:
I'm seeing a lot of people passing around a link to this story on TPM, which mocks Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes for saying that the case for man-made warming is "falling apart" but refusing to divulge any of his sources for that seemingly significant piece of info.
At first I just laughed about it, but it occurred to me later that maybe people really don't know the answer to this question -- maybe people really don't know where Barnes is getting his info. The answer is an open secret:
Barnes gets his information on climate change the same place everyone in the right-wing media world gets it: from Marc Morano, the in-house blogger/agitator for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).
Morano's entire job is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts that get echoed throughout the right-wing blog world and eventually find their way into places like Fox News and the Weekly Standard. From there they go, via columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, into mainstream outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post.
That's where Barnes gets it. That's where Glenn Beck gets it, and Lou Dobbs, and Will, and Krauthammer, and all the rest of them. This is something everyone involved in climate- or energy-related media knows.
This should come as no surprise. Sen. Inhofe is a greatly respected, neutral arbiter when it comes to the science behind global climate change – if by respected you mean, the oil and gas industry, climate change deniers, and clueless conservative media hacks just love him.
CNN, along with much of the Beltway press, was busy yesterday hyping what might happen when Democrats in the House and Senate met to negotiate the final stimulus bill:
Now that the Senate has passed its economic recovery package, it's time for the really hard part -- trying to reconcile the differences between House and Senate versions of the plan without losing the support needed to pass the final version in both chambers. Senate Democrats are downplaying talk of a contentious battle ahead.
Well, so much for for bitter negotiations battle. Reminds me of how the press was hyping the "bruising" battle that was supposed to unfold around Eric Holder's AG confirmation hearing. That too, never materialized.
The press sure likes to stress how badly things might get for Dems, no?
The Women's Media Center is demanding an apology from Fox News' Bill O'Reilly for mocking veteran White House reporter/columnist Helen Thomas as "old lady" and comparing her to "the Wicked Witch of the East":
On last night's show (February 9th, 2009) O'Reilly compared Ms. Thomas to "the Wicked Witch of the East" along with disparaging remarks about her appearance and age. Guest Bernard Goldberg added his own insult, and even Alan Colmes, while attempting to defend her, seemed to be having too much fun. This kind of verbal degradation in the guise of humor is unacceptable, and as Media Matters has documented, it's part of an on-going pattern where he's targeted Thomas.
It was an attack no woman deserves--including this accomplished, award winning journalist working in the White House press corps, where women are underrepresented. The Women's Media Center demonstrated in its Sexism Sells But We're Not Buying It viral campaign that sexist remarks went unchecked by networks during the primary season. Now, as then, the WMC demands accountability.
An immediate public apology is required.