Talk about a can't-lose situation.
The GOP Noise Machine dedicated its entire being to defeating health care reform, and had recently been gloating about how it had killed the initiative. But Democrats seemed to defy the political odds and got the votes for passage, and now Time crowns the right-wing media as the big winners?!
Whether the bill is hated, hailed or forgotten by the general electorate come November, whether it's repealed or becomes an institution, its passage means a big win for the media wing (as opposed to the holding-office-and-running-things wing) of the conservative movement and the Republican party. The audience will be angrier, the following will be more passionate, the images and analogies will be darker (I'm guessing this will be a memorable Glenn Beck show tonight) and the ratings will go up, up, up.
Washington Post media critic thinks complaints about health care coverage are a "bum rap" because if people "bothered to look," they could find "endless reams of data and analysis."
But for someone who thinks the media did a good job of covering health care reform, Kurtz sure stipulates to a lot of failings:
As time went on, though, journalists became consumed by political process and Beltway politics, to the point that the substance of health-care reform was overwhelmed
Journalists struggled to say exactly what was in health-care reform because as Obama allowed congressional leaders to take the lead, there were multiple versions floating around the Hill at any one time.
When the polls turned against the president's push, journalists did what they usually do in campaigns: beat up on those whose numbers are sagging. Stories shifted from preexisting conditions and individual mandates to whether Obama had staked his presidency on an overly ambitious scheme that Congress was unlikely to accept (and, inevitably, how much was Emanuel's fault). From there it was a short jog to the rise of political polarization, the death of bipartisanship and the erosion of Obama's influence -- legitimate undertakings that again shoved the health-care arguments to the back of the bus.
Too many stories quoted dueling experts without making a concerted, serious effort to sort out the facts. ... It was sooo much easier to write another story about the latest Tiger mistress to go public.
The press did a good job of highlighting backroom deals -- the Cornhusker Kickback, the Louisiana Purchase -- that polluted the process. But the larger narrative came to resemble a long-running soap opera in which the plot made sense only if you had been following all the previous twists and turns.
In the end, the subject may simply have been too dense for the media to fully digest. If you're a high-information person who routinely plows through 2,000-word newspaper articles, you had a reasonably good grasp of the arguments. For a busy electrician who plugs in and out of the news, the jousting and the jargon may have seemed bewildering.
But, remember: the media did a good job covering health care, according to Kurtz. To say otherwise is a "bum rap." Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations!
Note, by the way, that Kurtz pretends the media's focus on politics and process was a recent development that was inevitable once reform reached the legislative endgame:
As time went on, though, journalists became consumed by political process and Beltway politics, to the point that the substance of health-care reform was overwhelmed. Here the plea is guilty-with-an-explanation: The battle came down to whether the Senate could adopt changes by majority vote (reconciliation) and, until late Saturday, whether the House could approve the Senate measure without a recorded vote (deem and pass). With the bill's fate hanging by these procedural threads, there was no way to avoid making that the overriding story.
In reality, focus on politics and process drowned out serious policy analysis long ago. Last August, Washington Post Ombudsman reviewed "roughly 80 A-section stories on health-care reform since July 1" and found "all but about a dozen focused on political maneuvering or protests." Alexander also noted "The Pew Foundation's Project for Excellence in Journalism had a similar finding. Its recent month-long review of Post front pages found 72 percent of health-care stories were about politics, process or protests."
From a March 22 Gateway Pundit post:
You know the one. It's where the Beltway press blames Democrats, and Democrats alone, for the failure to achieve bipartisan cooperation. This, despite the fact that the definition of bipartisan is the act of two parties working together:
From today's Times article, which examines the political consequences of the weekend health care vote:
But there is no doubt that in the course of this debate, Mr. Obama has lost something — and lost it for good. Gone is the promise on which he rode to victory less than a year and a half ago — the promise of a "postpartisan" Washington in which rationality and calm discourse replaced partisan bickering.
See, Obama lost the promise of a "postpartisan" Washington. The fact that Republicans have adopted an unprecedented, obstructionist political strategy doesn't matter. It's Obama who lost.
Also, please note how the Times claims that while running for president Obama promised a "postpartisan" Washington. Of course, that's no accurate. What Obama pledged while running for president, as has virtually every major party candidate for the last half-century, is he pledged he'd try to change the Beltway environment to the point where both parties would work together and see past their partisan differences.
But in the media's preferred telling, Obama promised he'd end partisan warfare. Period. And because he hasn't changed the behavior of Republicans, that means Obama has "lost."
Did I mention this is a trap?
From Owen's March 21 Confederate Yankee blog post:
I proudly stand by that comment.
According to Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi (who just so happened to be the Democrat speaking when I wrote that tweet, but was assuredly not the first), it is my obligation to pay for your "right." I will be forced to pay for coverage, whether I want it or not. I will be forced to pay for the coverage of others, whether I want it or not.
I stand by my comment that the Democrats who crammed this unwarranted bill down the throats of the American people who clearly and overwhelmingly opposed it deserve to be drawn and quartered.
As Wikipedia notes, having someone "laboring against that person's will to benefit another, under some form of coercion" is the very definition of involuntary servitude... slavery. We are Americans, and will be slaves to no man, no Congress, and no President.
It's been fun to watch the conservative blogosphere react to the ugly racism and homophobia that came to define this weekend's Tea Party protest against health care reform. In between protestations that no conservative could ever be so crude as to attack someone based on race or sexuality (demonstrating a lack of self-awareness usually observed in cuttlefish), they shrugged off the vituperative language as insignificant and demanded apologies from the Congressmen who were the targets of the attacks.
NewsBusters, however, sees it a different way. Tim Graham, complaining this morning about Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank's account of the Tea Party protest, argued that the haphazard fusillade of insults the Tea Partiers directed at members of Congress was actually part of a "debate":
Milbank began the article by saying the road to reform "has been long and gruesome," making it clear which half was gruesome. Democrats, by comparison, were the saintly victims of rhetorical assault:
Democrats, to show they wouldn't be intimidated, had staged a march to the Capitol from their office buildings, covering the ground where on Saturday African American Democrats were called racial epithets and spat on by protesters. Pelosi, carrying the speaker's gavel, linked arms with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was harassed Saturday but is no stranger to abuse from his years in the civil rights movement.
Police ringed Lewis, Pelosi and other Democrats while the conservative activists formed a gantlet and shouted insults: "You communists! You socialists! You hate America!"
It's always odd to see journalists, who you might think would enjoy debate, being so upset that anyone would stand in the way of Saint Barack.
Perhaps it's not entirely unreasonable for Graham to think that screaming "Communist!" at someone as they walk by constitutes a "debate." Just last night in the House, where debate occurs as a matter of course, an as-yet-unidentified House Republican screamed "baby killer" as Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) made his statement in favor of the health care bill.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more foolish I feel. Here I've wasted all this time and effort typing out this rebuttal to Graham when all I needed to do was write "Idiot!" and throw in a hyperlink.
From a March 22 Washington Examiner editorial:
Well, they finally did it. Despite more than a year of steadily rising public opposition, manifested in opinion polls and in protest rallies across the country, President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally rammed through Obamacare late Sunday when House Democrats gave the bill their imprimatur.
The House vote isn't the end of the national debate on this issue, however, as the Senate still must accept the House changes in the Senate Obamacare bill. Senate Republicans argue that the House reconciliation bill that makes significant changes in the Senate bill violates the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, maintaining that it should be ruled out of order by the Senate parliamentarian for consideration in the upper chamber. That in turn would mean the only bill the president could legally sign would be the original Senate bill, with its massive funding of abortion and the infamous deals used to buy senators' votes, including the Cornhusker Kickback. At that point, a constitutional crisis of historic magnitude seems inevitable.
A fast-track challenge to Obamacare's constitutionality will likely reach the Supreme Court in coming months. The justices will have multiple issues to consider, including the unprecedented federal mandate that all individuals buy approved health insurance, the undeniable inequity of the many corrupt bargains used to buy votes for the measure, and the banana republic parliamentary tactics used by the Democratic congressional leadership. Whatever the high court's decision, it won't be nearly as unpleasant as the verdict many Democrats will hear from their constituents in November.
I'm sure Laura Bush's former flak will want to type something up immediately and let all his readers know that Obama's approval rating jumped to 50 percent at Gallup on Sunday. That's up from 46 percent from just three days earlier and one of the biggest overnight increases that Gallup has measured in many months. (Obama's 'disapproval' number tumbled at the same time.)
After all, it was Malcolm who claimed that Obama's rating had "suddenly" "plunged" to 46 percent. Even though yes, that "plunge" was from 48 percent. i.e. A two point collapse. So OMG, now that Obama jumped four points, what adjective will Malcolm use to describe the surge? 'Exploded'? 'Sky rocketed'?
The sad truth is that most likely Malcolm won't write anything at all because in his role as a purely partisan mouthpiece, Malcolm only likes to write when Obama's ratings inch downward. And when they do, Malcolm makes stuff up and pretends they've "plunged."
And in his most recent blog post, Malcolm was quite clear why Obama's ratings were down: Because American's hate the president's health care reform plan. Really? Then why, on the eve of the historic passage, did Obama's approval jump four points? I'd sure love to read Malcolm's insights on that topic.
Of course, Malcolm hasn't been alone among Beltway pundits obsessed with echoing the GOP's bogus talking point about Obama's "falling poll numbers." As I noted last week, his approval ratings have pretty much remained unchanged since last September. But the press prefers to tell a different tale.
The sudden burst at Gallup with be interesting to watch. If Obama does see strong, across-the-board improvement at the polls in the wake of the health care passage, will the press finally start telling the truth about this issue?
From Glenn Beck's Twitter feed:
From the Washington Times' March 21 editorial, headlined "Democrats' death by suicide":
The government takeover of health care will go down in history as the worst piece of legislation to emerge from a Congress held in general disdain by the American people. The only bipartisanship on the health bill was in the opposition.
Usually autopsies are reserved for after the patient has died, but in this case it is useful to get ahead of the matter. The malformed health legislation is not the only reason Democrats are facing political extinction in November, but it is one of the most dramatic. The legislative process in this country has never been so unseemly. Arm twisting, backroom deals, special privileges and potentially criminal "government jobs for votes" agreements became a normal way of doing business. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fixated on the mantra that the Democrats' health plan is "historic," but so was the Black Plague.
Democrats are in much worse shape than in 1994 when they lost power, and the opposition is far more energized. Once voters have a chance to tell the most irresponsible government in American history that enough is enough, the Democrats' brief reign will expire, and be deemed death by suicide.