The folks at Gallup are starting to annoy me.
Last week, they trumpeted the fact that Obama, according to their polling results, had fallen to his "lowest" point in his presidency. Gallup made a very big deal about the finding and glossed over the fact that Obama's new bench mark was exactly one point below his previous low.
Yes, one point. That was the news hook. (And yes, that one point clearly fell within Gallup's margin of error.) So how does Gallup describe its latest finding regarding the passage of health care reform?
Behold [emphasis added]:
By Slim Margin, Americans Support Healthcare Bill's Passage.
And what, exactly, constitutes that "slim margin" in today's deeply polarized political world? Two points? Four points? Try nine (i.e. 49 - 40%)
So when Obama's approval rating inched down from 47 to 46%, it was a very big deal, according to Gallup. But when a sudden and large gap opens up in terms of how American view health care reform, that's simply a "slim margin."
Good to know.
Just about every time I include David Frum's views on anything related to Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh, I hear about it from fellow his fellow conservatives in comments and emails. Frum, they'll say, doesn't speak for them.
Frum, the former Bush speechwriter, has strong views on the future of the Republican Party, and is respected by some leading figures on the right, as Daniel Libit wrote last September in POLITICO. But he's got a lot of right-wing foes, too, especially in the talk radio world.
And it seems he also has a critic in Tunku Varadarajan, a former Wall Street Journal editorial board member and now a writer at the Daily Beast. For Varadarajan, Frum is representative of a certain speecies of conservative that one may find in cities connected by the Acela.
David is a man I've known professionally for almost a decade, and with whom my social interaction has always been very genial. He is a good and energetic man, and has, in the years since he left service at the White House, dedicated himself to being what I call a "polite-company conservative" (or PCC), much like David Brooks and Sam Tanenhaus at the New York Times (where the precocious Ross Douthat is shaping up to be a baby version of the species). A PCC is a conservative who yearns for the goodwill of the liberal elite in the media and in the Beltway-who wishes, always, to have their ear, to be at their dinner parties, to be comforted by a sense that their liberal interlocutors believe that they are not like other conservatives, with their intolerance and boorishness, their shrillness and their talk radio. The PCC, in fact, distinguishes himself from other conservatives not so much ideologically-though there is an element of that-as aesthetically.
So, Varadarajan thinks Frum, Brooks and Tanenhaus are "polite-company conservatives." Read his description of that term one more time: "[A] conservative who yearns for the goodwill of the liberal elite in the media and in the Beltway-who wishes, always, to have their ear, to be at their dinner parties, to be comforted by a sense that their liberal interlocutors believe that they are not like other conservatives, with their intolerance and boorishness, their shrillness and their talk radio."
Implied in the very term "polite-company conservative" is the notion that because of their behavior and ability to mince words or hold back, such people are welcome with open arms by the media elite, i.e. they are acceptable in polite company. They get column space, marquee television time, and invitations to fancy parties etc. In other words, they are accepted... a form of validation bestowed by our media.
This is, of course, ridiculous. The idea that the Frums of this world have done anything to become "polite-company conservatives" is a load of crap. If anything, they represent the rare exception of thoughtful media conservatives who largely refrain from nastiness and bomb-throwing.
It would be far more accurate - if speaking from the mentality of our media - to term people like Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and other similar conservative media stars as "polite-company conservatives." After all, they can say anything -- no matter how offensive or wrong -- and it doesn't seem to keep them off of tony programs like the Today Show, The View, Good Morning America or the major broadcast and cable news networks. In other words, they can do or say anything and still be accepted in "polite-company."
I guess you could call it the media's golden rule when it comes to punditry: Conservatives are mainstream no matter how right-wing, bigoted or otherwise untruthful their views, while progressives can't stray too far from the center or else they risk being considered illegitimate and not part of polite company.
Need more evidence?
I'm sure Ann Coulter has a new book on the horizon (doesn't she always?) and we all know her history. If you think that history will keep her from making the rounds on the cable and broadcast news chat shows, think again. It never has before.
When was the last time that someone as liberal and mean-spirited as Ann Coulter is conservative and mean-spirited got even a minute of time in front of the camera?
Then again, I struggle to even think of a liberal example that fits the Coulter-mold.
Here's Laura Bush's former flak, days before the health care vote [emphasis added]:
A Pollster.com average of polls showed 48% in opposition and 44% in support, which forced the president's pollster to make the strange argument that even though most don't now like the plan, they will come to after it passes in a congressional vote, likely late this week.
Last week, Malcolm sneered at the "strange" idea that voters would have a higher opinion of health care reform after it passed Congress. Fat chance, the deeply knowledgeable pundit implied.
From USA Today:
More Americans now favor than oppose the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds — a notable turnaround from surveys before the vote that showed a plurality against the legislation.
Glenn Beck wants you to think that he is on your side. His attacks on progressivism and the policies it produces are based on the idea that he is fighting on behalf of the average American and against the faceless government bureaucrats who threaten their liberty and livelihood. To bolster this idea, he presents his ideas as mainstream. He advocates for what the majority of the country theoretically believes in -- a no-longer silent majority that is finally standing up at tea parties across the nation against a relentless liberal assault.
But the truth is something different. Beck routinely advocates for positions that would be widely unpopular with a clear majority of the country -- and envisions a nation few would support -- if his designs were fully understood.
Monday provided a case-in-point. On the day after the House passed the health care reform legislation signed into law today by President Obama, Beck played a clip of Obama noting that "the naysayers said that Social Security would lead to socialism. But the men and women of Congress stood fast and created that program that lifted millions out of poverty."
"Ain't it great?" Beck said facetiously. "And it's working out so well."
Later on in the broadcast, he chided the idea that the legislation was historic. "They say this bill is historic...But you know other days that were historic?" After showing images of some of history's greatest disasters, including Neville Chamberlain meeting with Hitler and the collapsed World Trade Centers on 9/11, he showed a picture of the Hindenburg burning, adding, "This is the picture of Medicare and Medicaid."
One could say that Beck was simply voicing concern about the stability of the programs. But that's doubtful, considering his past. On January 27, Beck unambiguously said the following about the core programs of the New Deal (emphasis added):
BECK: Now, do I think the Constitution -- yes. Do you think programs like social security and Medicare represent socialism and should have never been created in the first place? Oh, Gosh, Democrats, this is a scary question. Another trap. You know what? It's only scary if you don't know who you are or what you believe in.
I'm an American. I read. I believe in the Constitution. And, of course, Social Security and Medicare represent socialism and should have never been created. Since FDR and his progressive buddies started social security, not our Founding Fathers, that should be fairly obvious to people.
In October of 2005, a Harris Interactive poll found that 96% per adults "strongly" or "somewhat" favored Medicare, while 91% supported Medicaid. A 2007 study conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that 86% of Medicare Advantage recipients, 84% of regular Medicare recipients, and 79% of Medicaid subscribers were happy or extremely happy with the benefits they were getting. Similarly, a Bloomberg poll taken in 2009 found that 79% of respondents had a favorable view of Medicare.
And what about Social Security? A study done this past February by the National Academy of Social Insurance found that 88% of respondents felt that Social Security "is more important than ever." Back in 2005, a CBS/New York Times poll found that 80% of Americans believed that it should "be the government's responsibility to provide a decent standard of living for the elderly." No wonder that in those days, George W. Bush's plan to privatize the benefit plan was unpopular around the country, leading to its eventual abandonment.
On Monday, a significant portion of Glenn Beck's audience was 55 and older Undoubtedly, many of the 2.4 million individuals who watched him were recipients of the very programs he once again attacked -- programs Beck argues are both unsustainable and unconstitutional.
The question goes to them: do they want to live in Glenn Beck's America?
From Marc Thiessen's book: Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack:
Obama claims that by eliminating enhanced interrogations and closing Guantanamo, he is actually making America safer. In his view, both the CIA program and Guantanamo have driven the Muslim street into the enemy's camp and helped al Qaeda recruit new terrorists. As Obama put it in his speech at the National Archives, enhanced interrogation techniques "served as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us." Moreover, he said, "There is no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is American's strongest currency in the world ... [I]nstead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause."
This is demonstrably false. First, the terrorists were successfully recruiting suicide operatives long before the CIA interrogation program existed or there were any terrorists held at Guantanamo. There was no Guantanamo and no CIA interrogation program when terrorists first tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993. There was no Guantanamo and no CIA interrogation program when they blew up our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. There was no Guantanamo and no CIA interrogation program when they attacked the USS Cole. And there was no Guantanamo and no CIA interrogation program on September 11, 2001. The terrorists found other excuses to recruit the operatives for these attacks. Evil always finds an excuse.
In the movie Batman: The Dark Knight, whenever the Joker is about to kill one of his victims, he points to the scars that form his hideous smile and tells the story of how he got his disfiguring wounds. Each time it is a different story. The first time he says they were carved into his face by an abusive father. The next time, he claims he did it to himself after criminals disfigured his wife. But when he says to Batman, "Do you know how I got these scars?" Batman says, "No, but I know how you got these," and pushes him off the side of a building. Batman is not interested in the villain's made-up excuses. We shouldn't be, either. [Pages 369-70]
In the pages of this morning's Washington Times you will find an op-ed by Monica Crowley, the former Nixon aide turned McLaughlin Group participant, which neatly embodies the hysterical and immature right-wing reaction to the passage of the health care bill.
Crowley's complaint about the new law is that it undoes American exceptionalism and completely nullifies all those things that have made America great. She lays out her case thusly:
We have been the "shining city on a hill" that achieved superpower pre-eminence in a very short period of time because we were unique: The American people had a fierce passion for liberty, and our political system - based on limited government and individual freedom - was great because it was good. It allowed us to thrive, prosper and set ourselves apart from every run-of-the-mill nation.
What the Democrats did last weekend was not just pass a horrendously expensive, corrupt and destructive health care bill.
They took a big chunk out of our exceptionalism.
They are turning us rather quickly into France. Or Great Britain. Or any other Western European nation that was once great but no longer enjoys that status.
Where to begin...
Let's start with this bit of circular logic: "[O]ur political system ... was great because it was good." I'm not sure why this sentence needed to be written or how it got past the editors. No food critic could hope to get away with: "The crab bisque was delicious because it was tasty."
While we're on the topic of logic, let's move on to the implication of Crowley's argument that America was "exceptional" prior to the passage of the health care bill, but now is no longer. If one were to believe that, then one would have to assume, according to Crowley's logic, that unaffordable insurance premiums and the denial of health coverage to millions of Americans were essential to the "exceptional" character of the nation and contributed to the thriving prosperity that set us apart from "run-of-the-mill nations."
And then there's the unceremonious designation of France and Great Britain as "once great but no longer." She doesn't really explain why these countries -- which enjoy extraordinary levels of political, cultural, economic, and military power -- no longer qualify as "great," but the implication is that they've committed the sin of not being America. Crowley also seems to suggest that the new health care law is similar to the French and British health care systems, even though both those countries offer state-sponsored universal health coverage, something the recently passed law doesn't come close to doing.
What it comes down to is that Crowley's idea of American exceptionalism, in addition to being laughably childish, is also wildly cynical. The "great" America, in her view, is one in which her citizens endure high medical costs, bankruptcies, and crippling illnesses, all for the sake of not appearing "French."
Unhinged right-wingers are screaming mad about the reports over the weekend that Tea Party protesters in Washington, D.C. used racial and anti-gay epithets to denounce Democratic members of Congress before they voted to pass health care reform.
Or more specifically, "MEDIA FRAUD."
Why? Because videos from the rally that didn't contain any audible slurs have been posted online, so boggers have declared the insults were never hurled. (They proved a negative!) And of course, bloggers are blaming the press for perpetuating a "fraud"; for spreading the "horrible story."
But uh-oh, look at who else was busy over the weekend spreading the "fraud': Rep. John Boehner, Rep. Eric Cantor and RNC chairman Michael Steele.
Here's what GOP leader Boehner had to say about the reported use of racial and anti-gay slurs [emphasis added]:
Well, listen. There were some isolated incidents on the Hill yesterday that were reprehensible and should not have happened.
RNC chief Steele:
it's not a danger to be associated with the tea party movement. It is--it's certainly not a reflection of the movement or the Republican Party when you have some idiots out there saying very stupid things.
And Rep. Eric Cantor:
Nobody condones that at all. There were 30,000 people here in Washington yesterday. And, yes, there were some very awful things said.
Oops, all three went on national TV and seemed to confirm "awful" and "stupid" "incidents" that occurred at the Tea Party protest.
So yes, Boehner, Steele and Cantor were in on the "fraud." When will right-wing blogs start denouncing the three for the shameless way they smeared conservative activists?
From a March 21 post on Tea Party Express co-chair and spokesman Mark Williams' blog:
From Marc Thiessen's book: Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack:
I asked Cheney about the state of morale at the CIA. He says: "We live out there in McLean, [VA], about half a mile from the agency, so when I go into Starbucks to get a cup of coffee I always run into the agency personnel. And my experience has been they all come up and thank me for what we're doing." He says, "People out there are asked all the time to take risks. I had one of them tell me the other day, 'Look, we don't mind taking risks. That's our business, that's our line of work, we recognize that we have to do that. What we don't recognize and cannot tolerate is when we have to worry about what our own government is going to do to us if we carry out our orders. And if we're instructed to go out and undertake a difficult and dangerous mission, and succeed, that five or ten years later a new administration can come in and decide that we broke the law and that we deserve to be prosecuted for carrying out orders.' That's the kind of thing that will take a bold, dynamic, think-outside-the-box intelligence agency, and turn it into a bureaucracy where everybody is trying to cover their ass." [Pages 361-62]
That's right. As related by Thiessen, Cheney appears to be validating his views on national security through compliments he hears at his local Starbucks.
Seems like a rather glaring oversight. In fact, the word "Republican" is never even mentioned.
Instead of noting that the 14 states that have indicated that will challenge the legality of health care reform are all red states, and that 13 of the 14 state attorney generals involved are Republican, ABC News depicts the partisan legal move as being distinctly non-partisan.
From ABC News:
The ink on President Obama's signature was barely dry when attorneys general in 14 states filed papers in federal court today challenging the constitutionality of the newly signed health care bill.
"We are convinced that this legislation is fundamentally flawed as a matter of constitutional law, that it exceeds the scope of proper constitutional authority of the federal government and tramples upon the rights and prerogatives of states and their citizens," David Rivkin, Jr., an attorney representing 13 of the states, told ABC News.
The challenges to the legislation focus on the mandate that requires an individual to buy health insurance. The states are also worried about the extent to which the statute imposes a financial burden -- in resources and personnel -- on them.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is leading the attack for 13 of the states and filed papers in the Northern District of Florida shortly after noon today.
See, states are simply concerned about the constitutionality of the new legislation. The fact that 92 percent of the state attorney generals who indicate they'll be involved in the lawsuits are Republican is of no interest to ABC, which fails to mention that salient fact.
UPDATED: Note this passage [emphasis added]:
"We simply cannot afford the things that are in this bill that we're mandated to do," McCollum, who is running for governor of Florida, said at a press conference this afternoon. "It's not realistic. It's not hype, it's just very, very wrong."
Gee, no politics in play here, right? ABC doesn't think so and doesn't even inform readers on which ticket McCollum, a former partisan GOP member of Congress, is running for the governor spot.