You might think it's impossible to out-do Politico when it comes to granting political operatives anonymity so those operatives can lob partisan attacks at the other team that they'd be unwilling to put their name behind. (Here's a recent example.)
But it turns out Politico is a bunch of amateurs compared to Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller, which has decided to cut out the middle man entirely. Rather than typing up some GOP operative's (anonymous) attack on the Democrats, then dashing off a few paragraphs as filler, Daily Caller took a much more efficient approach: It ran a column equating Eric Massa And Mark Foley -- a column written by someone identified only as "Mr. GOP, a former House leadership staffer, [who] is writing under an assumed name to protect his identity."
Aside from the obvious absurdity of granting a political operative an anonymous column to hype a scandal in the other party, you have to love the circularity of the Daily Caller's explanation for why "Mr. GOP" wanted that anonymity. He's "writing under an assumed name to protect his identity"? Gee, you don't say? Why else would someone write under an assumed name? The real question isn't why "Mr. GOP" wanted to "protect his identity" -- it's why The Daily Caller wanted to.
From Jim Wallis March 12 post on the bog God's Politics:
Since I challenged your saying that "social justice" was a code word for Communism and Nazism, and your calling on Christians to leave their churches if their pastors preach social justice, you have begun to modify what you are saying - and I appreciate that. You said social justice was a "perversion of the gospel" and I countered that to assert that instead, it is at the heart of the gospel and part of the core meaning of biblical faith. And the church authorities you wanted Christians to turn their pastors in to would all agree that social, economic, and racial justice are all integral to the message of Jesus.
But now you've moved from labeling social justice as Communist or Fascist to saying it only means "big government" and that it violates the separation of church and state. Then you said that some Christians mean Marxism by that term, but some do not. Then you said that if social justice means "empowering" people to act individually that might be okay. Well, that's progress, but there's still some needed conversation here. Christians can have different views of the role of government but still agree that social justice is crucial. Very few who believe that are "Marxists." And while we all preach empowerment to live out the gospel, we don't think the meaning of social justice should be reduced to just private charity. Biblical justice also involves changing structures, institutions, systems, and policies; as well as changing hearts to be more generous. So there is still a lot to talk about here.
Now that you're willing to admit that social justice is more than just a code word, we have a wonderful opportunity for the two of us to sit down together and have an open and public discussion on what social justice really means and how Christians are called to engage in the struggle for justice.
From Family Research Council's March 12 "Washington Update" e-mail newsletter:
It's good to see a media insider of Howell Raines' stature not only call out Fox News for "conduct[ing] a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration" but rebuke the rest of the media for being too timid to say what needs to be said about Fox:
Why has our profession, through its general silence -- or only spasmodic protest -- helped Fox legitimize a style of journalism that is dishonest in its intellectual process, untrustworthy in its conclusions and biased in its gestalt?
Alas, the situation is worse than Raines imagines. True, the "respectable" media has helped legitimize Fox through tepid at best efforts to challenge Fox's misdeeds. But they've gone further than remaining silent in the face of a massive journalistic fraud: They've actively enhanced Fox's reach and reputation by scurrying to repeat the dubious claims the cable channel promotes -- and by apologizing for not doing so sooner.
It would be bad enough if serious reporters simply averted their eyes, afraid to challenge Fox, as Raines says. But, as I detailed in my column yesterday, top editors at the New York Times and the Washington Post actually say they need to give more credence to the unjournalism that comes from Fox and similar "news" outlets.
Sadly, we're well past the point where legitimate news outlets aide Fox News merely through their silence -- at this point, they aide Fox News much more directly than that.
PS to our conservative friends: I know what you're thinking: Howell Raines! He's just biased against Fox -- a former New York Times editor can't be trusted to give conservatives a fair shake! Well, before you embarrass yourself painting Raines as a partisan warrior, you might want to acquaint yourself with the Times' editorial page's treatment of Bill Clinton while Raines was in charge of the department.
Conservative commentators don't let facts get in the way of a jab at openly gay Democratic lawmaker Barney Frank.
On yesterday's edition of Fox Business Network's America's Nightly Scoreboard, guest host Tobin Smith discussed a 402-1 vote in favor of a motion to refer a resolution calling for an investigation of former Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) to the House ethics committee. Fox News contributor Monica Crowley said of the vote: "I want to know who the one member of Congress was that voted against" this. Smith replied, "I'm thinking Barney Frank, but maybe that's just me." Crowley responded, "Good one, Toby, good one."
Haha, get it? After you've picked yourself off the floor from laughing, here's an actual fact no one would know after watching Scoreboard: Barney Frank voted aye. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D - PA) was the sole no vote, telling the Atlantic that "it was another distraction from the major issues of the day."
Two of Fox News' favorite Democrats published an op-ed in today's Washington Post which purported to warn of the frightening horrors that await Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections if they pass health care reform. What they gave us, however, was an embarrassing display of half-baked analysis that encapsulates so much of what is wrong with the "debate" over health care reform in our media.
Here's the central point of their column:
First, the battle for public opinion has been lost. Comprehensive health care has been lost. If it fails, as appears possible, Democrats will face the brunt of the electorate's reaction. If it passes, however, Democrats will face a far greater calamitous reaction at the polls. Wishing, praying or pretending will not change these outcomes.
While polling numbers for the health care reform bill are certainly not strong as Democrats might hope, as Jon Chait points out in response to Caddell and Schoen, support for the bill has been trending upward. But that's beside the point.
What makes this op-ed so dishonest is that Caddell and Schoen spend the entire column expressing their concern over polling about health care reform without once suggesting that polling numbers may be so low because conservatives (and even self-identified Democrats like Schoen) have spent the last year lying - repeatedly, unabashedly, and without consequence - about health care reform.
Here's Caddell and Schoen discussing the specifics of a recent Rasmussen poll:
Many more Americans believe the legislation will worsen their health care, cost them more personally and add significantly to the national deficit. Never in our experience as pollsters can we recall such self-deluding misconstruction of survey data.
This might have been a good opportunity to correct the record and inform The Washington Post's readers that no, for the vast majority of people, health care reform won't increase the cost of their premiums. Additionally, according to the CBO, the Senate Bill will actually decrease the national deficit by $118 billion dollars. Though judging from their column, I wouldn't be surprised if Schoen and Caddell agree with Limbaugh that the CBO is "lying."
The fact that most Americans "believe" the legislation will worsen their health care could be attributed to the fact that they have been lied to about reform - but Caddell and Schoen never even consider that possibility. And they outright reject the idea that if the Dems pass reform support for the bill may increase when people realize President Obama isn't going to euthanize their grandmother:
The notion that once enactment is forced, the public will suddenly embrace health-care reform could not be further from the truth -- and is likely to become a rallying cry for disaffected Republicans, independents and, yes, Democrats.
Don't go looking for their evidence for this claim - they don't even bother trying to provide any.
Then there's their section on reconciliation:
Now, we vigorously opposed Republican efforts in the Bush administration to employ the "nuclear option" in judicial confirmations. We are similarly concerned by Democrats' efforts to manipulate passage of a health-care bill.
For the millionth time, reconciliation is not the nuclear option. Anyone arguing that it is either has an awful memory or is being deliberately dishonest in order to obscure serious debate about health care reform. Either way, they probably shouldn't be publishing op-eds in The Washington Post on health care reform.
I do, however, agree with one point made in the column:
Health care is no longer a debate about the merits of specific initiatives.
This is true - thanks in part to people like Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen.
Caddell and Schoen's advice for Democrats is so good, even the GOP is eagerly promoting it. And, as we know, they always have Dems' best interests in mind.
From the Fox Nation, accessed on March 12:
Fox Nation includes the following of Slaughter:
Conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin called for the expulsion of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., after she reportedly explored the option of passing Obamacare whereby the House wouldn't have to directly vote on the actual Senate health care bill. "An utter violation of the United States Constitution," Levin proclaimed.
Newsbusters' Tom Blumer demonstrates once again the idiocy upon which the Right's media criticism is based.
Blumer is upset that an Associated Press article about a former Detroit city councilwoman's bribery sentencing didn't mention in the headline that the councilwoman is married to Democratic Congressman John Conyers. Blumer thinks this reflects a pro-Democrat double-standard because a separate AP article about a former aide to Republican Congressman Chris Shays pleading guilty did mention Shays in the headline.
Now, on its face, Blumer's complaint probably seems like small potatoes -- but that can be forgiven. Sometimes small transgressions can be representative of greater trends. No, the problem with Blumer's complaint isn't that it doesn't identify a problem of sufficient magnitude. The problem with Blumer's complaint is that it's really, really stupid.
See, Monica Conyers is a public figure in her own right, and she was sentenced for crimes she committed as a Detroit city councilwoman -- crimes that had nothing to do with her husband. That's why the AP's headline identified her as "Ex-Detroit councilwoman": because she was convicted of taking bribes in her capacity as a councilwoman. That isn't terribly complicated, is it?
Meanwhile, the former Shays aide is ... just a former Shays aide. He isn't a public official in his own right; his significance stems directly from his relationship to Shays. And -- now, pay attention, this part is important -- he is pleading guilty to crimes he committed in his capacity as Shays' campaign manager, including embezzling funds from the campaign. I assume it is quite obvious to everyone other than Tom Blumer why Shays' name would appear in the headline.
Basically, Blumer's complaint boils down to this: The Associated Press handled different situations differently. Bias!
Why haven't America's old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration -- a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?
Watching the elite Beltway press actually rally around Fox News last year after the White House called it out as an illegitimate outlet for real news was one of the saddest journalism spectacles in recent memory. Recall that during the Bush years, the GOP White House often cooked up allegations and lashed out at prominent (i.e. genuine) news organizations, such as NBC and the New York Times, and I don't recall anybody rallying around them.
But when a Democratic administration called out Fox News for what it really is, a GOP propaganda tool (i.e. the Opposition Party), the same D.C. press corps played defense for Murdoch's dishonest empire and actually demanded Dems back off.
As Raines notes in his column, and as Media Matters has been documenting for a very long time, today's Obama-era Fox News has shredded any semblance of professional, modern day American journalism. It long ago cut the chord with that tradition.
And yet last fall, the tsk-tsking chattering class agreed that it was the White House that was way out of line when it fact-checked Fox News.
Raines asks all the right questions, and his essay is dead-on in every way, except one. When it comes to answering the essay's central question (why won't journalists label Fox News for what it really is), I think Raines pulls his punches. His conclusion is that in this age of mass news media layoffs, journalists don't tell the truth about Fox News because they might have to work for Murdoch one day [emphasis added]:
He and his video ferrets have intimidated center-right and center-left journalists into suppressing conclusions -- whether on health-care reform or other issues -- they once would have stated as demonstrably proven by their reporting. I try not to believe that this kid-gloves handling amounts to self-censorship, but it's hard to ignore the evidence. News Corp., with 64,000 employees worldwide, receives the tender treatment accorded a future employer.
I don't believe that for a second. Well, that might account for a fraction of the playing dumb that routinely goes on regarding Fox News.
But I think the huge majority of it is explained quite simply: fear or the 'liberal media bias' charge. Conservatives have been pounding the press for more than four decades about their alleged bias and the Beltway press corps has developed rabbit ears when it comes to the allegation. And frankly, there's plenty of evidence that jouranlists are terrified of the charge and nervous about what can happen to their careers if that tag sticks.
So what's an easy way to prove you're not liberal? (Aside from becoming lapdogs during the Bush years.) You pretend Fox News is legit. You pretend that sure, Ailes has some opinion guys on at night, but there's a clear dividing line between the news and opinion. You pretend that Fox News is just the mirror opposite of MSNBC.
Basically, you sign off on a charade that, as Raines points out, any newsroom pro can see is a complete joke.
The whole thing was embarrassing to watch, and the cone of silence that Raines highlights continues to be a stain on the industry. I'm glad Raines, the former Times editors, is coming forward. It would be even better if more high-profile, working members of today's press corps did the same.