The Washington Post's opinion pages keep getting worse, every day. Today, the Post handed over a valuable chunk of opinion real estate to Sen. Orrin Hatch, who the Post allowed to make several misleading claims about reconciliation -- some of which were in conflict with the Post's own reporting.
Broadly, Hatch's op-ed is fundamentally misleading in that it repeatedly conflates passing health care reform via reconciliation with passing tweaks to health care reform via reconciliation. The former is not under discussion; indeed, the Senate has already passed health care reform. As the Post's own Ezra Klein explained yesterday, "Democrats are not proposing to create the health-care reform bill in reconciliation. Rather, they're using the process for a much more limited purpose: passing the 11 pages of modifications that President Obama proposed to reconcile the House and Senate bills with each other."
Still, Post op-ed editors allowed Hatch to suggest that reconciliation is being considered as a means of passing the entire reform package. Hatch writes:
Some of my colleagues, and others, have wrongly argued that using reconciliation to change only parts of this enormously unpopular bill would not be an abuse of the process. But if the only way to pass this $2.5 trillion bill is through reconciliation, then this continues to be an abuse that stifles dissent and badly undermines our constitutional checks and balances.
Of course, reconciliation isn't the only way to pass the bill, because the Senate has already passed the bill. Reconciliation is begin considered as a means of amending the bill. (That $2.5 trillion figure, by the way, is much larger than the CBO's estimate, but the Post didn't make Hatch explain where it came from.)
Worse, the Post allowed Hatch to misleadingly suggest that Sen. Kent Conrad shares his opposition to using reconciliation:
This use of reconciliation to jam through this legislation, against the will of the American people, would be unprecedented in scope. And the havoc wrought would threaten our system of checks and balances, corrode the legislative process, degrade our system of government and damage the prospects of bipartisanship.
Less than a year ago, the longest-serving member of the Senate, West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, said, "I was one of the authors of the legislation that created the budget 'reconciliation' process in 1974, and I am certain that putting health-care reform . . . legislation on a freight train through Congress is an outrage that must be resisted." Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, also a Democrat, said last March, "I don't believe reconciliation was ever intended for the purpose of writing this kind of substantive reform legislation." They are both right.
But Conrad was "speaking generally of the idea of moving major legislative priorities under reconciliation," according to the New York Times article in which that quote originally appeared. He wasn't speaking in opposition to using reconciliation to tweak legislation that has already passed, which is the current debate. (Note, again, that the Post allows Hatch to refer to "the use of reconciliation to jam through this legislation," which falsely suggests the entire reform package would be passed via reconciliation.) In fact, Conrad said just yesterday that reconciliation can be used for such fixes:
But Conrad patiently explained that the media interpretation of his comments is wrong. He was merely saying reconciliation would not be used to pass a comprehensive bill, and would only be used to pass the sidecar fix, which he said is workable, depending on what's in it.
"Reporters don't seem to be able to get this straight," Conrad said, hitting the "misreporting" he said is widespread. "Comprehensive health care reform will not work through reconciliation. But if the House passes the Senate bill, and wants certain things improved on, like affordability, the Medicaid provisions, how much of Medicaid expenses are paid for by the Federal government, that is something that could be done through reconciliation."
Surely the Post knows about that; Conrad said it to a Post reporter.
The Post also allowed Hatch to assert "Reconciliation was designed to balance the federal budget. Both parties have used the process, but only when the bills in question stuck close to dealing with the budget. In instances in which other substantive legislation was included, the legislation had significant bipartisan support."
But just yesterday, the Post's Greg Sargent detailed several reconciliation votes cast by Republicans during the Bush presidency, including:
McConnell, Hatch, NRSC chief John Cornyn and 21 other current GOP Senators voted for the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, which accelerated the Bush tax cuts and added new ones. This passed by a simple majority via reconciliation - 50-50 in the Senate with Dick Cheney casting the tiebreaking vote.
That wasn't an attempt to "balance the federal budget," and that wasn't something that passed with "significant bipartisan support." So not only was Hatch's suggestion that reconciliation has only been used to to pass measures "to balance the federal budget" or those with "significant bipartisan support" false, he himself has supported reconciliation in situations that met neither of those conditions. Yet the Post let him mislead their readers.
If 2009 was the year of the ACORN scandal, then 2010 is shaping up as the year it all comes apart.
And yes, I think the stress is getting to right-wing activist, and ACORN crusader, Andrew Breitbart whose undercover crew not only faces mounting legal battles surrounding their possibly illegal sting, but is now forced to stand by and watch the entire ACORN attack crumble in plain sight.
And that raises an interesting question: If you're a one-hit wonder, like Breitbart is with ACORN, what happens when your one hit turns out to be not such a wonder?
This news from yesterday afternoon must have gone over like a lead zeppelin inside Big Government offices:
Brooklyn prosecutors on Monday cleared ACORN of criminal wrongdoing after a four-month probe that began when undercover conservative activists filmed workers giving what appeared to be illegal advice on how to hide money.
The money quote on why no charges were filed after investigators looked at Breitbart's ACORN sting videos:
"They edited the tape to meet their agenda," said the source.
Gee, you think there's any connection between that and why Breitbart refuses to release all the unedited ACORN tapes? And BTW, for a such supposedly massive criminal enterprise, ACORN sure has a knack for avoiding prosecution. (Must be a conspiracy, right Andrew?)
UPDATED: Did I mention Breitbart seems to be cracking under the scrutiny?
After deciding that AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka is "ruining the economy," Fox & Friends displayed the following on-screen graphics:
From the March 2 Politico article, titled, "Fox platform gives Kasich a boost":
John Kasich, who served nine terms in the House before becoming a Fox News host, is now testing whether the revolving door between politics and the media works in both directions.
It clearly goes one way, with many former elected officials having followed a path into cable news. Recently ousted New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine is now reportedly in talks with CNBC, while former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has become an MSNBC regular. And Fox now has a trio of prominent former Republican officials: Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.
It's quite possible that one of those three could run for president in 2012. But in the meantime, it is Kasich, host of "Heartland With John Kasich" from 2001 to 2007 and guest host on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor," who is running against Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio and finding that the old ties to Fox can be very handy.
Since first talking publicly about running for governor in February 2008, Kasich has made more than 25 appearances on Fox News, five of them since formally announcing his candidacy last June. O'Reilly has introduced him as "John Kasich, our man in Ohio," while Fox's Sean Hannity talks up the "future governor of the great state of Ohio." Gingrich spoke favorably of Kasich as a candidate while appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor," the night before Ohio newspapers reported that Kasich was filing papers to raise money.
But it remains to be seen how his national cable news presence plays out locally. Former Fox News analyst Angela McGlowan, now running for Congress in Mississippi, recently told POLITICO that her on-air time could be an asset in the primary. "It helps me with the conservative base," said McGlowan. "But being associated with Fox News will not win me the election."
In addition to actively using social networking, Kasich has courted the Republican base beyond "Hannity": He recently made a minute-long video for RedState that addressed readers of the influential conservative blog.
Sean Hannity's Möbius strip of Obama's "radical associations" just came all the way around tonight when he wondered why nobody asked Obama during the presidential campaign if he spent time with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Here's Hannity on March 1, 2010 [emphasis added]:
HANNITY: I never got a question answered during the campaign about whether or not in Chicago we know that the president hung out with radicals... No one ever asked if he hung out with Louis Farrakhan. Is that a fair question?
Sean, there was at least one person during the campaign asking if Obama hung out with Louis Farrakhan: You.
In early 2008, when the Democratic primary was in full swing, Hannity twice suggested that Obama might have been "associated" with Farrakhan. In both instances, Hannity ignored that Obama had responded to Farrakhan's endorsement by him by condemning the minister. In a speech, Obama pointed out he had been "a consistent denunciator" of Farrakhan, in a separate statement, he said that he "strongly condemn[ed] the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan."
A few months later, on the April 18, 2008, edition of his now-defunct Fox News show Hannity's America, Hannity again approached the issue of Obama's supposed associations with Farrakhan. Hannity did a segment on Obama's attendance at the 1995 Million Man March in Washington, DC, which was organized by Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. Obama had commented on his experience at the rally in a 1995 Chicago Reader article, and Hannity ran "shocking" excerpts on his show of what Obama said, such as this:
HANNITY: But Obama's reaction to the march gets even more shocking. He is quoted as saying, quote: "Cursing out white folks is not going to get the job done. Anti-Semitic and anti-Asian statements are not going to lift us up. We've got some hard nuts-and-bolts organizing and planning to do. We've got communities to build."
That sounds like Obama was actually repudiating Farrakhan's message. Shocking, indeed.
Meanwhile, Fox News contributor Bob Beckel was as unconcerned about the Farrakhan nonissue in 2008 as he was earlier this evening. Here's Beckel's indifference in 2008:
HANNITY: How about fundamental fairness? Would it matter to you, Bob Beckel, if, in fact -- because the church that Barack Obama goes to honored the Minister Louis Farrakhan. Honored him.
BECKEL: I don't care what it did.
HANNITY: A man that refers to the white man as the skunk of the planet Earth and Judaism is a gutter religion. Should that -- should he be asked about that?
BECKEL: Who cares? [Hannity & Colmes, 2/25/2008]
And from tonight:
HANNITY: No one ever asked if he hung out with Louis Farrakhan. Is that a fair question?
BECKEL: Let's not forget, [Obama] also hung out with Che Guevera, and with Castro, and with Mao just before he died. A bunch of them.
HANNITY: Wait, Wright went to -- with Farrakhan to Libya to meet the dictator Gadhafi. [...] Well they were friends and this was at a time when America was at the height of its hostilities with Libya.
BECKEL: What's the point?
HANNITY: Well, Farrakhan is back in the news. [Hannity, 3/1/2010]
Nobody mocks Hannity right to his face quite like Bob Beckel.
Ronald Kessler, Newsmax's chief Washington correspondent, is nothing if not a committed conservative (perhaps a little too committed, if Kessler's creepy fixation on Mitt Romney's wife is any indication). So it's not surprising that one of his favorite sources is American Conservative Union president David Keene. Kessler has repeatedly provided Keene a platform for his views.
It's a relationship that recently paid off for Kessler. At February's Conservative Political Action Conference -- operated by Keene's ACU -- Kessler received the inaugural Robert Novak Journalist of the Year Award. The award, which was voted on by the 96 co-sponsors of CPAC, was presented by Keene himself. During his acceptance speech, Kessler asserted that Fox News "really is fair and balanced," which also shows just how committed a conservative he is.
Kessler reciprocated by penning a pair of fawning articles about CPAC. This was followed up by a March 1 article in which Kessler provided Keene with a platform yet again, this time to rebut complaints that CPAC isn't conservative enough, as allegedly evidenced by allowing the gay group GOProud to participate. "Keene sees the divergent views as being emblematic of the conservative movement and a sign of its health," Kessler wrote. He didn't mention, however, that he had just received an award from CPAC.
Kessler goes on to note that Keene "becomes president of the National Rifle Association in May of next year, in addition to heading the ACU." Look for Kessler to write a lot more about guns in the near future.
Tonight, in the latest in Fox News' long line of witch hunts on Obama administration officials, Bill O'Reilly came after Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Division:
O'REILLY: Check two. Washington Times reporting that Attorney General Eric Holder has on his staff nine lawyers who have legal connections to captured terrorists. The latest guy is Tony West, who worked on American Taliban John Walker Lindh's case. West was reportedly OK'd by President Obama.
Couple of problems here. First of all, assistant attorney general is a Senate-confirmed position. West wasn't just "OK'd by President Obama" -- he got the thumbs-up from 82 senators, including 28 Republicans. Only four GOP senators opposed his confirmation.
I'm also not sure where O'Reilly is getting his claim that West is "the latest" DOJ staffer who has "legal connections to captured terrorists" -- West's representation of Lindh is probably his best-known work, and was prominently mentioned in the ledes of several articles reporting on his nomination.
Here's the first sentence of the January 25, 2009, San Francisco Chronicle article reporting on West's nomination:
Tony West, a high-powered San Francisco lawyer whose clients have ranged from corporate giants to "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, has been nominated by President Obama as an assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's Civil Division.
And the first two sentences of the write-up that ran in the San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, and Contra Costa Times (accessed from Nexis):
President Obama on Thursday nominated Oakland attorney Tony West, a former federal prosecutor and prolific Obama campaign fundraiser, to head the U.S. Department of Justice's civil division.
West, 43, is a litigation partner at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, representing people and companies in civil and criminal matters since 2001; perhaps his highest-profile case there has been helping to defend "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh.
And it's not like the Senate missed out on this salient detail because they weren't reading the West Coast papers. Here's an excerpt from Sen. James Inhofe's (R-OK) floor speech the day of the vote on West's candidacy:
I'd also like to speak for a moment on a couple of the nominees that we'll be voting on this evening. Tony West, the nominee for Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, served as co-counsel for John Walker Lindh. As you all know, Lindh joined the Taliban and fought against our very own American soldiers in the liberation of Afghanistan. Lindh is a traitor and terrorist, but after a plea deal that Mr. West helped obtain, he is only serving 20 years in prison.
And the Democrats weren't exactly hiding West's representation of Lindh. From Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy's (D-VT) opening comments at the committee's hearing on West's candidacy:
The President has nominated Tony West, a former Federal and state prosecutor, to head the Civil Division at the Justice Department. The former chairman of the California Republican Party, George Sundheim, writes that Mr. West is admired by "both sides of the aisle" for his "integrity, honesty and decency," and that there is no one "more qualified to assume a position of leadership in the Department of Justice." The Federal prosecutors who worked across the table from Mr. West during the high-profile prosecution of John Walker Lindh witnessed Mr. West's "extraordinary professionalism," and "smart advocacy . . . executed with the highest degree of integrity." I believe he will be an outstanding leader for the Civil Division.
Continuing his apparent effort to replay the same four or five Van Jones clips ad infinitum, Glenn Beck punctuated his afternoon rambling today by demanding to know why the none of the reporters who have been interviewing Van Jones on his "rehab tour" have been "asking Van Jones if he's still a communist. Nobody will ask him if he rejected communism and rejected Marxism, if he now believes in the free market system."
Let me save those reporters the trouble of responding to Beck's demands. The reason why nobody asks Van Jones if he's "still a communist" is because it's common knowledge that he no longer holds the same communist ideals he once did.
PolitiFact examined this question way back in September, after Beck had been beating the "Van Jones is an avowed communist" drum for weeks. They wrote that the problem with Beck's cry is that the same article which Beck and others have cited to call Jones a communist -- a Nov. 2, 2005 East Bay Express profile of Jones -- also makes it pretty clear that he no longer holds those views.
Even before [STORM, a "socialist collective" Jones helped form] disbanded in 2002, the Express article says, "Jones began transforming his politics and work..."
According to the article, "He took an objective look at the movement's effectiveness and decided that the changes he was seeking were actually getting farther away. Not only did the left need to be more unified, he decided, it might also benefit from a fundamental shift in tactics. 'I realized that there are a lot of people who are capitalists - shudder, shudder - who are really committed to fairly significant change in the economy, and were having bigger impacts than me and a lot of my friends with our protest signs,' he said."
In recent years, Jones established himself as a leading, charismatic cheerleader for transitioning the American economy to green jobs.
The PolitiFact article went on to quote from Jones' book, The Green Collar Economy, and noted that it "doesn't sound Marxist to us." PolitiFact concluded:
Beck would have been on solid ground if he said Jones used to be a communist. Jones has been up front about that.
But Beck has repeatedly said Jones is a communist. Present tense. Although we could not find a comment in which Jones explicitly said why he is no longer one, we found ample evidence that he now believes capitalism is the best force for the social change he is seeking. So there's truth to Beck's claim in that Jones was a communist, but it's apparent he isn't any longer, as Beck suggests. So we find the claim Barely True.
Nearly six months later, and we've lowered any expectations that Beck would ever note this distinction.
At least 80 advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people." Here are his February 26 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
*Allergan, Inc was previously erroneously identified as a parent company of Hydroxatone, LLC. Media Matters regrets the error.