It's becoming increasingly likely that the cadre of crack "bias" sleuths over at NewsBusters don't even read their own blog. I'm not sure how else to explain this latest bit of staggering hypocrisy.
Two days ago, NewsBuster Matthew Balan lashed out at Baltimore Sun television critic David Zurawik, complaining that Zurawik "didn't even wait a full 24 hours after Robert Novak's death to launch a stinging criticism of the former Crossfire host on the newspaper's website on Tuesday." Balan wrote: "Even the liberal CNN, who, as Zurawik noted, chose to not renew Novak's contract, paid tribute to the veteran columnist. That might give you a hint as to how much class, or lack thereof, the TV critic has."
OK, so Mr. Zurawik demonstrated a lack of "class" by criticizing Novak less than 24 hours after the storied political columnist passed away. When I read this, I found myself a little confused, given that when Chicago author and broadcaster Studs Terkel passed away on October 31, 2008, Mr. Balan's fellow NewsBuster Michael M. Bates couldn't wait 24 hours before posting a screed attacking Terkel as "a guy who wouldn't say whether he was a Communist and, apparently, a guy who -- charitably -- exaggerated a great deal."
But I decided to give NewsBusters a break, thinking that perhaps their "24 hour" standard for decency had evolved after Terkel passed away. But checking the website again this morning, I found that NewsBuster Tim Graham had posted an entry attacking 60 Minutes creator Don Hewitt -- who passed away yesterday -- as "a pioneer in hard-hitting liberal attack journalism" who kowtowed to "favored Democrats."
And this was after another NewsBuster, Brent Baker, heaped praise on Hewitt for once "reprimanding" Dan Rather.
So do they read their own blog? Who knows... What is certain is that they've piled hypocrisy on top of internal contradictions in pursuit of a confused product that, by their own standard, lacks "class."
The Globe headline reads:
Democrats renew threat to go it alone
There's quite a bit of buzz today that Democrats might go it alone on a health care overhaul, giving up on a bipartisan bill because of Republican intransigence and unwillingness to compromise.
How is that a "threat"? Aren't Democrats simply acknowledging the facts on the ground, which seem to indicate that Republicans, once again, might uniformly oppose Obama's legislation? How are Democrats threatening to go it alone if it's Republicans who won't join in? To me, threatening to go it alone suggest Democrats don't want Republican support; that they're rejecting it and telling the GOP to get lost.
A better headline:
Democrats acknowledge they may have to go it alone
Ugh, the press is now circling back to the hackneyed RNC talking point about how Obama's not bipartisan. We went through this last winter when the Beltway press crew concocted the completely unique premise that only Democrats were to blame for the lack of bipartisan cooperation. Ironic, no? The definition of bipartisanship is the two political parties working together. But for Obama the press rules have changed. If Republicans uniformly fail to support him, then it's Obama's fault.
The Journal's Jonathan Weisman has an article today that's even worse, because aside from conveniently ignoring new polling data that undercut his premise, and propping up the it's-all-Obama's-fault meme, Weisman spins the tale by claiming as fact that as a candidate last year the Democrat "campaigned last year on a pledge to end the angry partisanship in Washington." And that Obama "said he would end" "partisan bickering."
Really? I paid pretty close attention to that campaign and I don't recall Obama every saying flatly that he'd end partisanship in Washington, as Weisman now claims the president did; that Obama guaranteed it. What I remember is Obama pledging to try to end partisanship; a pledge that virtually every major candidate has made for the last several decades. I remember Obama saying he'd make an honest effort to reach out across the isle, which he has done.
But Obama claiming, as fact, that he'd quickly, and irrevocably, change the entrenched culture of Washington, D.C.? I don't remember that claim. And guess what? Weisman doesn't even try to back that up with a 2008 Obama quote to prove the candidate made that boast. My hunch is that if Obama criss-crossed the country announcing he'd end partisan bickering, period, than Weisman could easily find quotes to include. But Weisman did not, and I suspect he can't.
Instead, journalists now prefer to rewrite history. It it sounds better today to suggest Obama made that audacious campaign claim and that he's failed. It also sound better to blame Obama only for the lack of political cooperation, so that's what Weisman does; he never even mentions in his article the fact that the GOP has openly adopted a political strategy of opposing whatever Obama is for. In an article about bipartisanship, what the Republicans do is irrelevant.
Meanwhile, how big of a mess was Weisman's article? Consider the fact that he ignored brand new polling which completely undercuts his claim about Obama being blamed for the missing D.C. cooperation. The latest Pew Research poll finds that just 17 percent of Americans blame Obama for that, compared to a plurality of 29 percent who blame Republicans.
For some reason, that polling data was left out of the Journal article.
From Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason's August 20 "analysis" titled: "Obama's deficit woes linger despite rosier estimate":
A stabilizing U.S. financial sector may have freed the White House to trim its 2009 budget deficit projection but the still-record-breaking figure will not make it easier to sell healthcare reform.
President Barack Obama's administration will lower its budget deficit forecast next week for the current fiscal year to $1.58 trillion from $1.84 trillion after removing $250 billion set aside for bank bailouts, officials said.
The decision shows the administration has enough confidence in the financial sector's strength to forego an option to ask the U.S. Congress for further rescue funds.
But the lower figure's release, which comes at a convenient time for Obama as he tries to overcome critics' concerns about a nearly $1 trillion overhaul of the healthcare system, does not change a key problem: it is still in the trillions of dollars.
"The size of the deficit remains large and most Americans will see it that way," said Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton University.
"In this case, the devil is not in the details but rather it is in the trillion dollar figure."
In May, the White House pushed up its budget deficit estimates for the fiscal year ending September 30 to $1.84 trillion -- representing a huge 12.9 percent of gross domestic product.
The latest number, which represents 11.2 percent of GDP, still marks the highest deficit as a percentage of GDP since 1945.
Obama, a Democrat, has pledged to halve the deficit by the end of his four-year term and is eager to remind constituents that he inherited a $1.3 trillion budget hole from his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Audiences at town hall-style meetings often boo when Obama emphasizes that fact and critics have gained traction by arguing that expensive plans to revamp healthcare, improve education and alter U.S. energy usage do not mix well with budget shortfalls.
From G. Gordon Liddy's Twitter account:
Here's Chris Matthews, purported political expert, offering his take on the prospects for health care reform:
The way I see it, he's [President Obama] got three ways to go at this point.
One: They can challenge the Senate rules and ram through a bill with just 50 votes with the help of the Vice President to break the tie. That's what today's lede in the New York Times suggested they're threatening to do. [Matthews later made clear he was referring to using the reconciliation process]
Number Two: They can go for a moderate bill, politically sellable to a few Republicans and get the 60 Senate votes needed for regular passage.
Three: They can go back and build a dramatic rock-'em-sock-'em liberal bill, stand ready to take the loss and blame Republicans for the failure.
Matthews is forgetting something: 60 votes are not needed for "regular passage." Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture, at which point 50 votes (plus Biden) are all that is required for passage.
What this means is that a health care bill with a public plan could pass if some of the conservative Senators who have made noises about opposing such a plan prove unwilling to filibuster the bill, even if they don't plan on voting for it. Joe Lieberman, for example.
The obvious meaning of this is that when a Joe Lieberman or a Ben Nelson expresses skepticism about the public plan, reporters should ask them if they will filibuster it, or allow it to come to a vote. But that rarely happens. Instead, reporters let those Senators off the hook, allowing them to get away without taking a strong stand.
Which, of course, is exactly what some of them want: to avoid taking a stand. Joe Lieberman may not want to vote for a public plan -- but he probably doesn't want to tell Connecticut voters he'll filibuster, either. He's probably hoping he never has to; that his statements of opposition will ensure it never comes to a vote. That's a perfectly valid, if not terribly brave, approach for him to take. But there is absolutely no reason reporters should play along with it. It's their job to press politicians to take a stand, not help them avoid doing so.
Following Media Matters' item, NBC's Tom Costello corrects his report on the tax proposals in the House health care reform bill.
From Costello's August 19 post on NBC's The Daily Nightly blog:
On NBC Nightly News Tuesday, we tried to provide answers on how much the Health Care Reform proposal in the House would mean to American taxpayers. In short, how much will taxes go up?
As it stands, a House proposal would tax family incomes over $350,000 at one percent, with a maximum of $1,500 in additional tax. Family incomes over $500,000 would be taxed at 1.5 percent, up to $9,000. And family incomes over $1 million would be taxed at 5.4 percent, or $9,000+.
The tax rate climbs if certain savings are not realized.
The math is easy enough, but a simple mistake cascaded into a series of errors on our broadcast.
We applied the tax hike numbers to the entire income, rather than income over a certain threshold.
No political bias, just a simple, silly mistake. My mistake!
We'll set the record straight on NBC Nightly News tonight, as Lester Holt sits in.
If you were to take Fox News host Andrew Napolitano's word for it, Rep. Barney Frank was just being rude to his constitutents when he had a heated exchange with a voter last night.
But if you were to look beyond the edited moment presented by Fox and Napolitano, you would learn something else:
"On what planet do you spend most of your time?" Frank retorted when a woman in the crowd compared President Obama's push for health-care reform to the policies of Nazi Germany while holding up a pamphlet depicting the president with a Hitler mustache, a LaRouche anti-Obama health reform campaign image.
"This policy is actually already on its way out. It already has been defeated by LaRouche. My question to you is, why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?" the woman had asked.
"You stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis," Frank, who is Jewish, blasted back.
"Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table," he continued. "... I have no interest in doing it."
Oh, so the woman held up a sign of President Obama with a Hitler mustache then asked Rep. Frank why he supported Nazi policies. I can't imagine why Rep. Frank might be upset about that. For the record, here's the exchange you wouldn't have seen if you were watching Napolitano's presentation on Fox:
Yesterday, a variety of progressives -- from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Health Care for America Now to this blog -- criticized NBC and the Wall Street Journal for a change in the wording of their poll questions about the public plan for health care reform.
As I explained last night, the NBC/WSJ poll dropped the word "choice," and shifted the focus of the question from the impact a public plan would have on consumers to the impact it would have on insurance companies.
NBC's Chuck Todd claimed that the word "choice" made the original question "biased," but didn't explain how.
Feeling the heat, NBC released a statement last night from the pollsters who conduct their poll. But that statement did not explain what was wrong with the original wording, or address the change in focus of the question.
Now NBC says its next poll will include both wordings:
NBC's White House correspondent Chuck Todd told the Huffington Post on Wednesday afternoon that pollsters Bill McInturf and Peter Hart will ask respondents two questions regarding the public plan for their September study.
Todd's decision to put both questions in the mix also should placate a host of progressive health care proponents who were critical of the NBC pollsters.
On Wednesday, Todd defended the decision to drop "choice" from the survey, calling the word a "trigger" that sent a certain "message" to respondents. And while he argued that the revised way of asking the question was "very neutral" he admitted that the idea of putting both options side by side was "something we wanted to test."
So far as I've seen, neither Todd nor the pollsters nor anybody else connected with the poll has yet explained how describing a plan that gives people a choice as giving people a "choice" is "biased" -- or why the new wording was better.
Given the decision to reinstate the choice wording, it seems safe to assume we'll never see such an explanation.
Tom DeLay on Hardball: "I would like the president to produce his birth certificate."