Yesterday, I detailed the right-wing media's efforts to manufacture new, baseless claims that the Obama administration was using nefarious, corrupt practices to pass health care reform. But it's a new day, and health care reform is still moving forward. So obviously the right is trying to concoct a new, fact-free claim in the same vein.
Today it's Michelle Malkin, responding to Rep. Dennis Kucinich's (D-OH) announcement that he will vote for health care reform legislation by polling her readers on what Kucinich "g[o]t in return for his vote." Malkin's entirely baseless attack comes under the oh-so-classy headline, "The Krazy Kucinich Kickback Contest":
Krazy Denny Kucinich (D-Outer Space) basked in the spotlight this morning upon announcing his switch from "no" to "yes" on Demcare. He still doesn't think it goes far enough and says he didn't like the process, but he's signing on, anyway. Selling out his progressive principles is worth the 15 minutes of fame.
Plus, ooh, la, lah, President Obama showered with him attention. Kucinich revealed that he met four times(!) with the cajoler-in-chief - the last time on Air Force One.
Contest time: What else did Congress's favorite UFO/alien-spotter get in return for his vote?
If you're following along, Malkin has NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER that anything shady happened. But she is nonetheless POSITIVE that a "Kickback" was involved. She doesn't know what that "Kickback" entailed - in fact, she's openly polling her readers, trolling for whatever conspiracy theory best strikes her fancy - but she KNOWS one must have been involved.
The idea that Kucinich thought the issue over and decided that passing the bill that exists is better than passing nothing isn't considered for a second. Because if something good happens to Obama, in Malkinworld, corruption must have been involved.
Attacking House Democrats over efforts to finalize passage of health care reform legislation, Glenn Beck offered flawed analysis that completely misconstrued the legislative process. Beck claimed that Democratic leaders were unable to enact reform through the budget reconciliation process and were turning instead to a House rule sometimes called "deem and pass." But Beck completely missed the point: the deem and pass procedure reportedly under consideration would be used as part of the reconciliation process, not as an alternative.
From Beck's radio show:
BECK: Remember: First, they wanted to do it by the -- the right way. First, Barack Obama says, "You know, there's no way you can do this with 51 votes, because you won't be able to rule like that. You won't be able to rule like that. You won't be able to govern like that. So we can't do it with 51 votes." Well, they couldn't do it with 60. Now, they're just trying to do it with 51 votes. They couldn't get 51 votes. So then they decide, "Well, we'll just do reconciliation. We'll just pass it by the House." Well, no, no. Then that wouldn't work. So then what? So then they go from reconciliation to deem and pass, the Slaughter rule.
Beck's claim that reconciliation means "[w]e'll just pass it by the House" is absurd. The budget reconciliation process requires majorities in both chambers of Congress to pass specific legislation. The House Committee on Rules explains the House's role in the process:
The Budget Act specifies that Congressional Action on reconciliation legislation should be completed by June 15. It provides specific expedited procedures and restrictions for floor consideration of reconciliation measures, to ensure timely completion. In the House, reconciliation legislation is normally brought from the Budget Committee to the Rules Committee, which grants a special rule governing floor consideration of the measure.
It is that rulemaking process that permits House leaders to invoke the deem and pass rule, formally known as a self-executing rule. A 2006 CRS report explained that the self-executing rule "means that when the House adopts a rule it also simultaneously agrees to dispose of a separate matter, which is specified in the rule itself." CRS continued:
For instance, self-executing rules may stipulate that a discrete policy proposal is deemed to have passed the House and been incorporated in the bill to be taken up. The effect: neither in the House nor in the Committee of the Whole will lawmakers have an opportunity to amend or to vote separately on the "self-executed" provision. It was automatically agreed to when the House passed the rule.
Now, in the case of efforts to finalize passage of health care reform legislation -- which has passed both the House and Senate -- House leaders reportedly are considering invoking the self-executing rule as part of the reconciliation process. Not as an alternative to it. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein explains:
They only vote on the reconciliation package. But their vote on the reconciliation package functions as a vote on the Senate bill. The difference is semantic, but the bottom line is this: When the House votes on the reconciliation fixes, the Senate bill is passed, even if the Senate hasn't voted on the reconciliation fixes, and even though the House never specifically voted on the Senate bill.
See? Call it "deem and pass" or the "Slaughter solution" -- for that matter, call it the "Gingrich solution" to commemorate record use of the rule under Newt's leadership -- but regardless, it would function as an element of the reconciliation process.
Perhaps it's time to give up on trying to reconcile the internal logic of Beck's attacks.
LA Times blogger Andrew Malcolm (R-CA) snarks about Obama administration transparency, employing some statistical slight-of-hand in the process. Malcolm writes:
The White House Democratic administration of Barack Obama, who denounced his presidential predecessor George W. Bush as the most secretive in history, is now denying more Freedom of Information Act requests than the Republican did.
An Associated Press examination of 17 major agencies' handling of FOIA requests found denials 466,872 times, an increase of nearly 50% from the 2008 fiscal year under Bush.
First of all, according to the AP, there have not been 466,872 denials. There have been 466, 872 citations of FOIA exemptions -- a significant difference because, as AP notes, "Agencies often cite more than one exemption when withholding part or all of the material sought in an open-records request."
Now, notice that "part or all of" bit. Contrary to Malcolm's implication, there have not been 466,872 blanket rejections of FOIA requests. Nor have there been 466,872 citations of FOIA exemptions for the purpose of rejecting an entire FOIA request. There have been 466,872 citations of exemptions for the purposes of denying part or all of a request. Indeed, there has been a decrease in the number of FOIA requests denied in their entirety:
They denied FOIA requests in their entirety based on exemptions 20,005 times last fiscal year, compared with 21,057 times the previous year.
Malcolm didn't include those numbers, so reading his post, you'd think there has been a 50 percent increase in blanket rejections. That isn't true -- there's been a decrease. Granted, the real numbers still don't look great from a transparency standpoint. But Malcolm is playing fast and loose with the facts and making things appear worse than they are.
Los Angeles Times reporter Johanna Neuman misremembers President Clinton's 1993 budget:
Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky came to Congress on President Clinton's coattails.
Then she became the margin of victory for Clinton's 1993 budget, which actually eliminated the deficit for the first time in decades by raising federal taxes on the middle class.
Well, no. That's not how the 1993 budget got rid of the deficit (actually, it's probably more accurate to say it reduced the deficit; the budget wasn't balanced until 1997.) The middle class saw very little in the way of tax increases due to the '93 budget. Here's an explanation from Citizens for Tax Justice:
It raised income tax rates at the very top of the income scale, adding new brackets of 36 percent and 39.6 percent above the then top rate of 31 percent. It eliminated the $125,000 earnings cap on the Medicare-financing portion of payroll taxes and included some modest corporate tax reforms. The bill also expanded the earned-income tax credit for lower-income working families. In addition, about four million better-off seniors were required have to pay taxes on a higher portion of their Social Security benefits.
For most families, the only tax increase in the bill was the 4.3-cent-a-gallon boost in the gasoline tax. That may have been politically ill-advised, but it raised middle-income families' taxes by an average of only about $40 a year.
More from CTJ:
[T]he 1993 tax changes were very progressive, concentrating mainly on taking back a portion the supply-side tax cuts that had gone to the very rich. In fact, except for a 4.3 cent increase in the gasoline tax, most families didn't pay a penny more in federal taxes as a result of the 1993 act. The boost in the top personal income tax rate affected only the best-off one percent of all families, and the expanded taxation of Social Security benefits hit only 3% of all families (also generally better-off ones).
Overall, only 4.2% of all families saw an increase in their personal income taxes as a result of the 1993 tax act. In contrast, 14.9% of all families got an income tax cut, due to the expanded earned-income tax credit for working families. In other words, Clinton's 1993 tax act cut income taxes for far more families than it raised them.
And a Brookings paper by Jeffrey Frankel and Peter Orszag:
[T]he 1993 package included significant spending reductions and tax increases. But it concentrated the tax increases on upper-income taxpayers, while substantially expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, Head Start, and other government programs aimed at lower earners.
I could go on like this all day, but the bottom line is that claiming the 1993 budget reduced the deficit "by raising federal taxes on the middle class" is the kind of blatantly false assertion that has no place in a political ad, much less in a news report.
Ironically, Neuman brought up the 1993 budget vote in order to draw a parallel to the political peril supposedly facing Democrats who vote for health care reform. But the peril, if it exists, is that the media will mindlessly amplify bogus Republican attacks, just like they did with the '93 budget -- and just like Neuman did in her post.
This is what happens when you make poor hiring choices -- you force your employers to defend the mistakes, which only makes more people look bad. Yesterday, it was CNN's Ed Henry's turn.
For those Tweeting CNN shouldn't have hired @ewerickson as a contributor, seriously do you think a network should NOT have diverse voices
Not to put to put too fine a point on it, but this is just painfully dumb. Henry actually claimed that liberals were upset because they don't want CNN to hire any conservatives; that CNN hired somebody who they will disagree with politically? This is pointless because basically nobody on the Left was making that argument. In fact, they were explicitly saying it was fine for CNN to hire conservatives.
But at least we know Ed Henry can build straw men.
But then it got worse with this tweet:
@buffalo_girl who is the equivalent to Eric Erickson on the left appearing on CNN? Have you seen Begala, Carville ...
Yep, Henry used the "e" word" (equivalent) when discussing Erickson alongside Paul Begala and James Carville. Apparently In Henry's eyes, Erickson and Begala/Carville are the same. And this is where CNN, by making a foolish hiring decision, begins to lose even more credibility; by having staffers like Henry run around and suggest a right-wing hate blogger is just like top-notch Democratic thinkers.
Keep in mind that Begala/Carville, by getting Bill Clinton elected, helped resurrect the Democratic Party, and then counseled a sitting president. Erickson, by comparison, is a city councilman who writes hate dispatches on his blog, like when he denounced a retiring Supreme Court Justice as a "goat fucking child molester."
But in the eyes of Henry, or at least according to his corporate spin, Begala and Carville are just like Erickson. They're equals.
Politico hypes a classic dog-bites-man story:
Wait: Republicans are attacking Nancy Pelosi? You don't say.
This passage is typical of the article:
Still, GOP challengers are convinced the anti-Pelosi campaign is a winner given the strong opinions that many voters hold about her leadership.
I know I'm repeating myself here, but: No. GOP challengers say they are convinced the campaign is a winner. What else would you expect them to say? "Yeah, we don't know if this will work, but we figure it's worth a shot"? Come on.
Incredibly, Politico never got around to mentioning that Republicans announce a plan to run against Democrats by attacking Nancy Pelosi every few months -- and every time congressional elections role around, it doesn't' work.
If you're going to call yourself "Politico," shouldn't you have some ability to put political strategy in context?
From the March 16 edition of Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard:
During an online Q&A yesterday, Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi discussed Fox News at length, responding to Howell Raines' recent criticism of the media's approach to Fox. Farhi's comments demonstrate a lack of understanding of how bad -- and influential -- Fox really is.
Is Raines exaggerating Fox News' clout and impact on the long and complex health-care debate? No question that FNC is the preferred choice of cable news junkies. But on a given day it reaches, what, five or six or seven million people? Given that ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, a thousand daily newspapers and a million billion websites reach many, many millions more, isn't he exaggerating Fox News' influence?
Farhi makes a mistake in assuming that Fox's "influence" is limited to the "five or six or seven million people" who watch. In reality, Fox influences "ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, a thousand daily newspapers and a million billion websites," too -- and, thus, influences their audience as well as its own. Farhi needn't take my word for that; he can stroll down the hall and chat with the Post managing editors and Ombudsman who have instructed the Post to be quicker to amplify the stories peddled by conservative media.
Is Raines using too broad a brush? Is there no distinction between the reporting that FNC does and the overtly partisan advocacy of Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly? If so, isn't that like saying the Op-Ed page of the New York Times is the same as its news pages?
This again? As Media Matters has frequently documented, the notion that, aside from Fox's evening partisans, the cable channel consists of straight news reporting, is a myth eagerly promoted by Fox and credulously repeated by journalists who should know better. Notice, by the way, that Farhi doesn't name one such source of "the reporting that FNC does" that is neutral and fair.
A little later in the Q&A, a reader called Farhi on this myth, noting that Jon Stewart had demonstrated the similarities between Fox's "reporting" and its "opinion" shows. In response, Farhi wrote: "The show Stewart picked on was the newish afternoon hour hosted by Megyn(?) Kelly. Pretty clear from the clips played on 'The Daily Show' that Ms. Kelly has a way to go before being touted as 'objective.'"
And a little bit after that, another reader noted that "Fox and Friends" isn't exactly fair and balanced, either, to which Farhi responded: "I wrote a story about 'Fox & Friends' some years ago. It was at the time when the hosts were cheerleading us into the Iraq war. And I use 'cheerleading' in the most objective way possible--it was practically a pep rally. I asked them about this in reporting a story; they didn't see a problem with it."
Farhi never did get around to identifying what part of Fox is the equivalent of the New York Times' news pages. Maybe it's from 4:42-4:53 pm on alternate Tuesdays?
Raines doesn't seem to have a problem with MSNBC's partisanship on this issue. I'm not even suggesting there's an equivalence (because I don't know how to measure such a thing), but MSNBC's commentariat seems to have staked an ideological niche opposite Fox's.
So, Farhi recognizes that MSNBC and FOX are not equivalent, but expects Raines to express outrage about both of them? That makes absolutely no sense, and is the kind of illogical, lazy thinking that enhances FOX's influence and tilts public discourse to the right.
Hard to imagine that anyone watching any of Fox's opinion shows--its most popular programs, by far, by the way--would be shocked to encounter a conservative opinion. Screaming "partisan!" at Beck, Hannity, et al, can only be answered by saying, "Yeah. So?"
From The Fox Nation, accessed on March 17:
In accusing Media Matters of "wet[ting] itself," Fox Nation links to a Politico article with the headline, "Media Matters unloads on CNN hire."
As I note in my column this week, there's nothing to support the beloved Beltway CW that, in terms of job approval rating, Obama's presidency is on the steep decline and that it's all slipping away. Reporters and pundits love repeating the hollow charge, even though there's no proof to back it up.
Don't believe me? Take a look at Obama's awful, "falling" poll numbers, via Gallup since late summer:
That's correct. According to Gallup, Obama has dropped exactly two percentage points in nearly seven months.
Read more on the media mythology, here.