Lost amid the controversy over the Washington Post turning its news pages over to billionaire Pete Peterson's anti-government crusade is a fairly basic question: Do Peterson and his allies have a track record of being right? The guy didn't just appear out of nowhere; he's been trying to influence public policy for decades. Shouldn't newspapers give some consideration to his track record?
Here's a starting point: In 1993, Peterson opposed health care reform, saying we couldn't afford it. How did that turn out? Does Peterson stand by that statement? If so, what evidence does he have that health care costs would have risen more quickly over the past 16 years had the Clintons' reform efforts succeeded?
Perhaps aware of Peterson's dubious pronouncements, Fiscal Times Washington editor Eric Pianin claims Peterson and his foundation have no editorial input:
Eric Pianin, a former Post editor and budget reporter who is Washington editor of The Fiscal Times, said that Peterson and his Peter G. Peterson Foundation have no editorial input. "This is strictly a journalistic venture," Pianin said. "We're not advocates. I wouldn't be involved in it if it was otherwise. But Pete Peterson thinks it's important enough that journalists pursue these areas that he's helping to fund it."
That's nice spin, but it's obviously nonsense. If Peterson is funding journalists' pursuit of "these areas," he is -- by definition -- choosing what they cover. And what the media covers is often as important as how it is covered. It doesn't matter that Peterson doesn't stand over anyone's shoulder telling them where to put commas and who to quote; the fact is that he is causing additional media focus on the deficit, which causes people to think it is an urgent problem -- at a time when many economists think excessive worry about deficits could exacerbate economic difficulties.
UPDATE: Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli told Politico the Post has "quality control" over the Fiscal Times pieces it runs. Looks like his story checks out:
Consistent with Mr. Peterson's longstanding objective, the article the Post published is rife with factual errors, important omissions and significant distortions, which lead the reader to see a fast-tracked commission as sound policy and without opposition – indeed, virtually inevitable.
Not surprisingly, the GOP's favorite pollster Scott Rasmussen showed up on The O'Reilly Factor last night (it's his base), where he continued to misrepresent one of his wildly misleading polls. But hey other than that, he's a great pollster.
As we keep detailing, Rasmussen's recent polling questions about whether investigations surrounding terror arrests in the U.S. should be handled by the military as a terror act, or civilian authorities as a criminal act makes no sense. Zero. None. Why? Because it's not an either/or choice. i.e. Acts of terror are criminal acts. Also, "civilian authorities" (read: FBI, DOJ) have been handling terrorist investigations for generations, and certainly handled them after 9/11.
In other words, civilian authorities launch terrorist investigations all the time, so why does Rasmussen pretend that only "military authorities" do that? (And if Rasmussen was trying to determine if American thought the Christmas Day bomber suspect should be tried in a military tribunal, than Rasmussen should have asked that. He did not.)
Behold Rasmussen on O'Reilly last night:
The number who want this guy treated by the military is higher than the number we found for the Fort Hood shootings a little while ago. Why? Well, there now have been two events. Overall, the American people are coming to believe that our system has shift shifted too far in the direction of protecting individual rights at the expense of national security. And the numbers are pretty dramatic. They'd been moving a lot in the last few months.
So based on a poorly worded and deeply misleading poll question, Rasmussen is able to divine all kinds of insights regarding how Americans now think our legal system leans too far towards "protecting individual rights at the expense of national security"?
No wonder he's the GOP's favorite pollster.
UPDATED: Loved this comment from Rasmussen on Fox News last night, as he defended his firm's work:
We had a great cycle for the presidential year.
Flashback: In very late October of 2008, on the eve of Obama's electoral rout, Rasmussen had Sen. John McCain closing the gap to just three points. One week later, McCain lost by more than twice that.
UPDATED: Rasmussen is out with yet more great-news-for-GOP poll results. How does he do it?
Matthew Yglesias makes fun of Mark Halperin's complaints that Barack Obama hasn't succeeded in "Wooing Official Washington":
If a failure to woo "official Washington" is one of the major failings of an administration, then I'd say the administration is doing pretty well. Especially because if you read the item, it's clear that by "official Washington" Halperin means something like "my friends" rather than anything actually "official"
The people I know who work in the administration, though by no means "top aides," generally seem quite busy. They're trying to govern the country under difficult circumstances! And I think the public will generally sleep easily knowing that more time is being put into policies aimed at improving people's lives than on hankering for the "establishment seal of approval."
Yglesias is right on the merits, of course. But we shouldn't simply ignore Halperin's hurt feelings; this is the kind of idiocy that contributed to the elite media's hatred of the Clintons:
Actually, it could be said that Sally Quinn has been floundering around for the last couple of decades, when she failed first as a journalist, then as a novelist, before emerging as a hostess in a Washington society that even she admits is in its death throes. Which brings us to a central question: Who appointed Quinn as the mouthpiece for the permanent Washington establishment, if there is such an animal? A peek into Quinn's motives reveals a hidden political agenda and the venom of a hostess scorned, and ultimately, an aging semi-journalist propped up by a cadre of media buddies, carping at the Clintons because they wouldn't kiss her ring.
According to society sources, Sally invited Hillary to a luncheon when the Clintons came to town in 1993. Sally stocked her guest list with her best buddies and prepared to usher the first lady into the capital's social whirl. Apparently, Hillary didn't accept. Miffed, Sally wrote a catty piece in the Post about Mrs. Clinton. Hillary made sure that Quinn rarely made it into the White House dinners or social events.
In return, Sally started talking trash about Hillary to her buddies, and her animus became a staple of the social scene. "There's just something about her that pisses people off," Quinn is quoted as saying in a New Yorker article about Hillary.
Oh, and just this morning the Washington Post ran a column by that same Sally Quinn. She has had enough, and demands the resignation of the White House social secretary. Then again, Quinn just knew all along Desiree Rogers wasn't right for the job:
White House social secretary Desirée Rogers came under fire after the Salahi scandal erupted. From the start, Rogers was an unlikely choice for social secretary. She was not of Washington, considered by many too high-powered for the job and more interested in being a public figure (and thus upstaging the first lady) than in doing the gritty, behind-the-scenes work inherent in that position.
Always a few days late to the party, the Fox & Friends brigade took some time out of their busy morning to attack President Obama for his "detached," "tepid" response to the Christmas day attempted bombing of a Northwest airline flight. "It took him three days" to respond, co-host Steve Doocy sniffed, while Brian Kilmeade reported that he didn't think "anyone was going to get fired" because of the incident.
The right has been complaining about Obama's response pretty much since the incident took place, as Huffington Post's Sam Stein pointed out on December 29, 2009. But, as Stein noted, Bush waited six days to respond to a shoe-bomber Richard Reid's very similar attempted bombing of a passenger plane, with no complaint from the right. In fact, it seems that the Obama administration's initial response and the Bush initial administration's response to similar attempted terror attacks, were, well, very similar. Both administration's monitored "the situation," and once enough facts were known to reply, the President responded. The only difference is that Obama responded publically sooner.
This, of course, is no matter to Republicans, including former Bush administration officials who were actually in office when the Reid incident occurred, and their cohorts in the media.
As for Fox & Friends' feigned concern over whether "heads" were going to "roll," because of the attempted attack (like, oh say, Director of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano's), no Bush administration heads seem to have rolled because of Reid's attempted attack. In fact, no heads rolled after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, where over 3,000 people were killed. Indeed, in 2004, Bush awarded former CIA director George Tenet, who was the CIA director during both the September 11 attacks and Reid's attempted attack, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The FBI Director at the time, Robert Mueller, is still FBI Director today. Then-Attorney General John Aschroft remained on the job, as did Condoleezza Rice, who was at the time, Bush's National Security advisor. Of course, Rice was later promoted to Secretary of State. I don't recall the right-wing media calling for any of their heads back in 2001.
Compare that silence to the hand-wringing and chest thumping reverberating from right-wing media figures and Republican politicians today, with their relentless, politically motivated assaults on everyone from Napolitano, to Attorney General Eric Holder, to Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan. Oh how their principles change when there's a Democrat in charge.
It's your laugh-or-cry moment from the right-wing blogosphere, this time courtesy of Gateway Pundit who's been working closely alongside Andrew Breitbart for the last month in their failed effort to get a single serious news outlet to pay attention to their oddly explicit, gay-baiting campaign against Kevin Jennings.
But, as Gateway Pundit recently crowed, the story's finally showing signs of life. In Bulgaria. And no, this is not a joke:
The US media would rather see children put at risk and handed fisting packs than report on this story because it may embarrass their failed superhero. They would rather protect the radical president than protect America's children. It shows you how corrupt the mainstream media has become in this country.
But the Bulgarian media is covering it. Bulgarian writer Ivan Stamenov is reporting on the Jennings' scandal today...
The US state-run media may be hiding from the Jennings' scandal. Maybe they even think teaching fisting is appropriate for 7th graders? Whatever the reason, even Bulgarian reporters are brave enough to report on this abuse of children.
For the better part of a year we've heard the far-right Fox News family telling anyone who would listen that their opposition to President Obama and progressives in Congress was all about liberty... and freedom... and the founding fathers... and mom's apple pie. You get the picture.
Apparently those freedoms... those liberties aren't meant for Muslim men.
As Media Matters noted yesterday:
In the wake of the Christmas Day attempt to detonate a bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight, numerous Fox News hosts, contributors, and guests have called for profiling of Muslims by airport security personnel. But several national security experts have termed such policies ineffective, with Bush administration secretary of homeland security Michael Chertoff stating that "relying on preconceptions or stereotypes is actually kind of misleading and, arguably, dangerous."
It's nice to know that the Fox News gang is so quick to throw an entire group of people under the Tea Party Express (i.e. bus).
You'd think they have no principles at all.
From The Fox Nation:
Eighty 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 of white people." Here are his January 4 sponsors, in the order they appeared
Recently, Andrew Breitbart Twittered a $1,000 bet challenging Media Matters and senior fellow Eric Boehlert for proof that Bertha E. Lewis -- whose name recently appeared on a White House guest list -- was not ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis. Breitbart's challenge followed his begrudging semi-correction acknowledging that a White House official reportedly told Politico's Ben Smith that it was, in fact, a different Bertha Lewis.
The basis of Breitbart's steadfast defense of his thoroughly debunked "scoop" appears to be that, but for the word of the White House, there is no evidence to suggest it was not the Bertha Lewis visiting the White House. (As Media Matters' Matt Gertz noted, more than 1,000 individuals with that name appear in a whitepages.com search, and to reiterate, it strains the imagination to see why it would be troubling for the CEO of ACORN to meet with White House officials.)
What Breitbart ignores in his embarrassing effort to salvage the story is -- as Ben Smith explained in initially debunking Breitbart's breaking news -- the women do not, in fact, share the same name:
One clue: The ACORN official's middle initial, according to her New York voter registration record on Nexis, is "M." An ACORN spokesman says her middle name is "Mae."