Jamison hit the Los Angeles Times earlier today for regurgitating GOP spin about how the party is going to hang Pelosi around the necks of Democrats and recapture Congress. The spin is dubious since the GOP has tried that in recent election cycles and failed. So why does the press think it's a big deal heading into 2010?
Here's the funny part, though. Today's Wall Street Journal published the exact same article. No joke.
Pelosi Key to GOP 2010 Playbook
So not only do Beltway reporters dutifully repeat GOP spin, but they do it on the very same day. What are the odds?
It was always absurd that Ronald Reagan, whose political project led to the end of the gulag and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and who gambled his personal standing in the world for a system that would protect the common man from annihilation in a nuclear missile attack, could not win it. But nobody wept over it, and for one reason: because everyone, every sentient adult who cared to know about such things, knew that the Nobel Peace Prize is, when awarded to a political figure, a great and prestigious award given by liberals to liberals. NCNA--no conservatives need apply.
From an October 10 post on BigGovernment.com:
Here's the headline on a blog post by Los Angeles Times reporter Johanna Newman: "Secret Republican weapon for 2010 -- attack Pelosi."
Now, you're probably thinking to yourself "What's so secret about that? Republicans have been running against Nancy Pelosi for years."
And sure, enough, Newman acknowledges:
Republicans have used this playbook before, without success, running against Pelosi in 2006 and 2008.
The Republicans have been running the playbook all year.
So, basically, it isn't "secret," it isn't new, and it hasn't been effective in the past. So why does Newman hype it as though it's news? Because:
Republicans are salivating over Pelosi's low ratings, Obama's slipping popularity and a stubborn recession, convinced the mid-term elections give the anti-Pelosi campaign new promise.
Except, of course, that Pelosi's "low ratings" aren't really any worse now than they were when Republicans tried to use this same "secret" playbook in 2008. (The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds slightly more people have positive feelings towards Pelosi now than right before the 2008 elections, and slightly more have negative feelings toward her, while slightly fewer have neutral feelings or are unsure.)
Oh, and except that "Obama's slipping popularity" still leaves him with about a 15-point net positive rating.
But other than that, Newman's analysis is spot-on.
During an online Q&A today, Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon gave a pretty good demonstration of how the media does a lousy job of holding politicians accountable.
Bacon was first asked why, after "The Republicans, media talking heads, and some conservative Democrats, have focused intensely on the cost of health care (to taxpayers and to the deficit)" CBO estimates that show a public health insurance option would "save the country money" have been all but ignored. The questioner also asked whether the dynamic in which politicians who oppose a public option claim to be concerned about costs shows that they're really just "bought and paid for by the insurance industry."
In response, Bacon essentially denied the politicians in question have talked about costs. Here's his whole answer:
Perry Bacon Jr.: I think people have reported on the public option saving money. I think conservative Democrats and Republicans have said they don't want such as an intervention of the government into the health care system, an argument more about philosophy than about cost saving.
Now, anybody who has paid the slightest bit of attention has heard countless "conservative Democrats and Republicans" invoking costs and deficits as reasons for being skeptical about a public health insurance option. In early July, for example, members of the self-described "fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition" sent House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer a letter about health care reform. Their very first demand? That reform contain "deficit neutrality."
Here's another example: "Lincoln: Public Option Too Expensive" -- that's the headline on an article about conservative Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln. The article quotes Lincoln declaring: "I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can't afford that."
That's pretty explicit. And, with no real effort at all, you could easily find many more examples of conservative Democrats and Republicans -- not to mention media figures -- saying similar things.
But Perry Bacon pretends that never happened; that those politicians opposed a public option because of "philosophy" rather than making arguments about "cost saving." In doing so, he lets them off the hook for making giving factually incorrect reasons for opposing a public plan.
This is not exactly an arcane concept. It's been obvious for months. Paul Krugman spelled it out in July, and even then it was already understood by many who had been paying attention. Here's Krugman in July:
So what are the objections of the Blue Dogs?
Well, they talk a lot about fiscal responsibility, which basically boils down to worrying about the cost of those subsidies. ... even as they complain about the plan's cost, the Blue Dogs are making demands that would greatly increase that cost.
There has been a lot of publicity about Blue Dog opposition to the public option, and rightly so: a plan without a public option to hold down insurance premiums would cost taxpayers more than a plan with such an option.
Anyway, another reader called Bacon on this:
What's that "philosophy," Perry: They're fiscal conservatives only until it's a -government- plan that saves the most of their constituents' tax money over the long haul? They want things to be revenue neutral, until it means their insurance-industry backers have to make changes and act competitively in a free market with a private option? What kind of twisted "philosophy" is that?
Perry Bacon Jr.: Not sure what to say about to you public option advocates, who have frustated with the Blue Dogs and other Dem opponents of the public option for months. I feel like these arguments have been aired for months, and the conservative Democrats simply feel they can't back the public option for political reasons.
Again, Bacon refuses to acknowledge the obvious: that one of the primary reasons given for opposing a public option is simply false -- and he appears exasperated with readers who ask him about that obvious truth. Note, however, that he shifts his explanation for the conservatives' opposition to a public option -- it's no longer about "philosophy"; now it's "for political reasons."
That, too, lets them off the hook. Polling has shown that a public option is popular in the home states of people like Sen. Lincoln. So what are the "political reasons"? Maybe it has something to do with the campaign contributions from the insurance industry Bacon was asked about, and ignored?
Instead of doing his job -- holding politicians accountable for their statements and assessing whether those statements square with reality -- Bacon just keeps ignoring the obvious and inventing excuses for them.
The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly "reports" on the insurance industry's assault on health care reform:
After months of collaboration on President Obama's attempt to overhaul the nation's health-care system, the insurance industry plans to strike out against the effort on Monday with a report warning that the typical family premium in 2019 could cost $4,000 more than projected.
Industry officials said they intend to circulate the report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers on Capitol Hill and promote it in new advertisements. That could complicate Democratic hopes for action on the legislation this week.
Though open to dispute, the analysis is certain to raise questions about whether Obama can deliver on his twin promises of extending coverage to millions of uninsured Americans while also curbing skyrocketing health-care costs.
Connolly then quoted from the report, and quoted an insurance industry spokeswoman. Eventually, near the end of the article, Connolly finally got around to including some disagreements with the study's conclusions. But she didn't make any attempt to answer for readers a rather basic question: Is the insurance industry study correct?
Nor did she spend any time at all putting PricewaterhouseCoopers' involvement in context. It seems like they're a neutral, credible source, right? But as the Washington Post's Ezra Klein explains elsewhere, the firm's track record isn't particularly good:
The report was farmed out to the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has something of a history with this sort of thing: In the early-'90s, the tobacco industry commissioned PWC to estimate the economic devastation that would result from a tax on tobacco. The report was later analyzed by the Arthur Andersen Economic Consulting group, which concluded that "the cumulative effect of PW's methods ... is to produce patently unreliable results." It's perhaps no surprise that the patently unreliable results were all in the tobacco industry's favor.
That seems like some useful context that could have helped Connolly's readers, doesn't it? Klein goes on to point out glaring flaws in the insurance industry study -- flaws that are nowhere to be found in Connolly's article. Instead, Connolly leads with the alarming conclusion that the "typical family" could pay $4,000 more for health care -- and makes no attempt to assess the validity of that claim. She doesn't even explain what "typical family" means.
Could someone explain to me why Connolly's write-up is on the front page of the Washington Post, and Klein's is on a blog on the Post's web page?
UPDATE: TNR's Jonathan Cohn posted at 10:56 last night an assessment of the study that noted it makes a series of "strange assumptions" that calls its conclusions into question. Like this one, which Cohn quotes directly: "We have estimated the potential impact of the tax on premiums. Although we expect employers to respond to the tax by restructuring their benefits to avoid it, we demonstrate the impact assuming it is applied."
So the insurance industry study is based on assumptions it believes are false. That's a pretty damning piece of information, isn't it? Jonathan Cohn posted it online last night -- but Ceci Connolly couldn't be bothered to include it in her write-up of the insurance industry's attack for today's Washington Post.
Howard Kurtz today:
Yet while the Letterman saga has unleashed a tsunami of coverage, serious allegations involving Sen. John Ensign have barely produced a trickle.
Was Ensign, whose parents just happened to give $96,000 to Cynthia Hampton and her family, trying to buy the couple's silence? Despite such troubling questions, the Ensign controversy barely exists on television -- although CNN's Dana Bash did manage to stake him out for a quick interview in which the senator said he'd violated no ethical rules and has no plans to resign.
The Ensign story is complicated and not very visual. Letterman is far more famous. So the comic is turned into media fodder and the officeholder largely stays under the radar.
Left unmentioned in Howard Kurtz's half-hearted attempt to explain why David Lettermen has gotten so much more media attention than John Ensign: Howard Kurtz's own obsession with the Letterman story. Marcy Wheeler documented that obsession last Tuesday, and it has continued to this day.
So, Kurtz himself has been obsessed with Letterman -- and has fanned the flames of the Letterman story as much as anyone. And now he purports to analyze why the media -- as if he isn't part of it -- has paid so much attention to Letterman, without ever once mentioning his own role or motivations.
Instead, he offers up the absolutely inane explanation that the Ensign story hasn't gotten more attention because it's too complicated. Really? We're supposed to believe the media can't figure out how to report that a Senator had an affair with one of his staffers -- who happened to be married to another of his staffers -- then tried to buy the couples' silence by giving them $96,000 from his parents and getting the husband a new job?
Seems like something they could figure out how to cover if they put their minds to it.
Right-wingers are being encouraged to descend upon "liberal" media outlets in their hometowns on October 17, and protest all the unfair coverage. It's part of Operation: Can You Hear us Now, and it's a continuation of the Tea Party and heath care mini-mob madness, as activists follow the lead of their "American heroes" Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
Reading about the plans, this part made me chuckle [emphasis added]:
Be peaceful, respectful, but let them HEAR you and SEE you. Remember, they are hard of hearing and their eyesight isn't what it used to be the last 8 years prior. They accidentally missed 2 million people protesting in D.C. in one of the biggest protests in US History.
Maybe we cannot repeat an assembly of 2 million mad-as-hell taxpaying patriots in one place, but surely those who longed to go and couldn't would love to be a part of Operation "Can You Hear Us Now?"
Boy, irony doesn't get much thicker than this, does it? Right-wingers are going to protest "liberal" media outlets for being unfair and unprofessional. For being blind to the truth! And how do `wingers know the news orgs aren't fair? Because they "missed" the anti-Obama rally where "2 million" people were protesting in D.C.
Laugh along as I highlight the press didn't miss that story...because 2 million people never showed up in D.C. According to best official counts, there were actually 1.9 million fewer people than that; about 70,000. But choosing to inhabit their own parallel universe, tea bag protesters continue to cling to the fabricated 2 million number to show how the other guys aren't playing fair.
Honestly, I don't think `wingers hate the press just because it's supposedly so "liberal." They hate the press because journalists won't accept the concocted version of reality that conservatives are constructing for themselves under Obama.
UPDATED: You know trouble is brewing when protest organizers have to urge activists not to show up with posters that feature a "racial epithet."