New York Times columnist Ross Douthat plays the tired "the left and right are equally crazy" card:
Paranoia is a bipartisan temptation. Amid last August's town hall frenzy, there was a stir over a poll showing that roughly a third of Republicans believed that Barack Obama had been born outside the United States. Liberals trumpeted the finding as proof of the Republican base's slide into madness. But conservatives had a rebuttal: As recently as 2007, they pointed out, polls showed that a third of Democrats believed George W. Bush knew about 9/11 in advance.
The Clinton-era conservatives who insisted that Vince Foster's suicide was really murder ceded the stage, in the Bush era, to left-wing cranks convinced that the British scientist David Kelly was bumped off by Iraq war hawks desperate to cover up their deception about weapons of mass destruction.
And the ideological fringes are forever blurring into one another: Pat Buchanan can sound a lot like Gore Vidal, "truthers" and "birthers" often share common fixations, and both the far left and far right seem equally inclined to circle around, eventually, to pointing fingers at the Jews.
Vince Foster conspiracists enjoyed widespread acceptance and promotion by leaders of the conservative movement, including Republican members of congress -- and by the news media. That's why there were half a dozen investigations into Foster's death, despite the fact that each unambiguously concluded he had killed himself -- you had Republican congressional leaders playing amateur detective, shooting up pumpkin patches in order to "prove" that Foster was murdered. And the Birthers' lunacy was taken quite seriously last year by, among others, members of congress and a CNN host who promoted their theories on a regular basis.
The Truthers have never enjoyed that level of respect and influence among progressive leaders, or among the media. So while it's true that you can find liberals who believe far-fetched things, they don't enjoy nearly as much influence as their conservative counterparts. That's a good thing. It would be even better if the media consistently made clear that one side is much more prone to taking their fringiest element seriously.
Bottom line: The Times got the story wrong, and public editor Clark Hoyt admits he was wrong to defend it earlier this year. And oh yeah, Times editors are "considering" publishing a correction.
Progress, I suppose. But I have to say this whole process has been rather torturous to watch as Hoyt originally dug in and refused to recommend that Times correct its faulty articles. This, after Hoyt conceded the Times got the pimp hoax story wrong.
For the record, if the complaints about a story like this had come from the Right, and not the Left, I don't think there's any chance it would've taken Hoyt well over a month to do the right thing. Keep in mind, it was Hoyt himself who scolded the daily last year for not reacting quickly enough to the all-important right-wing attack on ACORN.
But when it turns out the Times got a key piece of the story wrong (James O'Keefe did not enter the ACORN offices dressed as a pimp), the Times takes its own sweet time conceding its mistake and still, to this day, has not publically corrected its errors.
A couple of other irksome points about Hoyt effort today:
-The public editor reports that as part of his review of the story he recently interviewed Andrew Breirtbart to get to the bottom of the ACORN pimp hoax. My question is why bother? Breitbart spent nearly six months lying about the story. Why would Hoyt think it would be helpful to talk to an ACORN liar like Breitbart? Worse, Breitbart now claims he was duped by O'Keefe and that because of the way O'Keefe deceptively edited the ACORN videos, even Breirtbart was mislead and didn't know the activist was dressed in a dresse shirt and slacks inside the ACORN office. Again, why did Hoyt bother interviewing Breitbart about the pimp costume if he now claims he didn't even know the truth about the gotcha videos he relentlessly hyped?
-Rather defensively, Hoyt insists [emphasis added]:
Acorn's supporters appear to hope that the whole story will fall apart over the issue of what O'Keefe wore: if that was wrong, everything else must be wrong. The record does not support them.
So now Hoyt's in the mind-reading business? So now Hoyt can surmise what supporters "appear to hope" in regards to the ACORN pimp hoax story? This is some very weak tea, especially coming from a public editor who is supposed to deal with the facts, and who has already mucked up this pimp story. Save us your analysis about why you think people wrote about this story, and just cover the facts as you know them.
-In his column, Hoyt credits FAIR with bringing attention to the Times' questionable ACORN pimp hoax coverage and specifically the paper's earlier refusal to correct its obvious errors. I'm glad Hoyt tipped his hat to FAIR, which helped rally supporters to the cause and put pressure on Hoyt. But it's extraordinarily disingenuous for Hoyt to not name the blogger who put this story front-and-center this year: Brad Friedman at The Brad Blog. He was the one who first put the Times on notice and who was relentless in holding the newsapepr accountable. Hoyt though, makes no reference to him, and he also fails to credit Media Matters, which has been helping to drive the story.
Those omissions seem petty on the part of Hoyt.
UPDATED: In the newspaper's comment section, Times readers tee off on Hoyt over the paper's handling of the ACORN story.
The ongoing childish, and sloppy, attempt to boost the size of Tea Party rallies continued unabated this weekend, with right-wing bloggers once again just pulling numbers out of thin air. And of course, leading the pack was Gateway Pundit, last seen lying about the Tea Party crowds from last September.
This was Gateway Pundit's one-for-the-ages proclamation on Saturday:
It's almost difficult to put into words what a load of crock that number is, but please keep in mind that even right-wing organizers only claimed that 25,000 people showed up; an estimate that seemed quite generous. (i.e. 8-10,000 tops?) So what did Gateway Pundit do with the best-possible estimate? Quadruple it, of course.
One of the reasons I've been mercilessly mocking these fabricated crowd estimate over the last few months and callling bloggers out for their lies, is to highlight how this fact-free movement is championed by people who can't even tell the truth about rallies.
a new Gallup Poll finds, Obama's public approval rating has suddenly fallen to the worst level since he took office however many years ago that seems. He was right around 70% in January of 2009.
Today, Gallup reports, the ex-senator has plunged to a 46% approval rating.
How big of a fall did Obama suffer in the most recent Gallup three-day poll? That's right, his approval rating fell from 48 percent to 46 percent, which of course, falls within Gallup's margin of error.
So how did Malcolm spin the barely-there, 2-point decline? According to Malcolm, Obama's job approval has plunged. It plunged from 48 to 46 percent. It's part of a "dramatic poll drop."
UPDATED: Note the Malcolm headline:
New Gallup Poll finds Americans suddenly souring more on Obama; Now, why could that be?
This is almost too dumb for words. Obama's approval ratings has basically fallen within a three or four point range for the last seven months. But according to Malcolm, there's been a sudden move by the public.
Except that, of course, there hasn't been.
From Saturday's A1 process article [emphasis added]:
The deal-making appears to be at odds with a commitment from the White House to strip out provisions designed to benefit a particular state or special interest. The legislation has become controversial not only in the ways it would alter U.S. health care, but also because of public concern about the machinery employed to push it through the legislative process.
Is the public really concerned about the process by which Democrats are trying to pass health care reform? Certainly Fox News and the GOP Noise Machine are obsessed with the process and portray the rather typical horse trading as being unprecedented and borderline criminal. But is the public, as the Journal reports, also deeply concerned?
Unfortunately, the Journal never backs up the GOP talking point. The Journal never points to any polling data or quotes any voters to substantiate the claim. Apparently, if Republicans insist the public is angry about process, then that's good enough for Murdoch's newsroom.
UPDATED: I had to chuckle at the photos the Journal ran with the print article. One is of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), alongside Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI.), and the other is of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Yes, in an article about Democrats trying to pass health care reform, the Journal only ran photos of Republicans.
Equally important, however, is the Politico's effort to hype its short-lived story as some sort of bombshell that destroyed congressional Democrats' health care reform arguments.
Here's the original article's headline:
EXCLUSIVE -- Democrats plan doc fix after reform
And here is the beginning of the article, which asserted that statements in the memo "undercut" Democrats' "message that reform lowers the deficit" and repeated GOP claims that "Democrats were playing a shell game" by not including the "doc fix" in the cost of health care reform:
Democrats are planning to introduce legislation later this spring that would permanently repeal annual Medicare cuts to doctors, but are warning lawmakers not to talk about it for fear that it will complicate their push to pass comprehensive health reform. The plans undercut the party's message that reform lowers the deficit, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO.
Democrats removed the so-called doc fix from the reform legislation last year because its $371-billion price tag would have made it impossible for Democrats to claim that their bill reduces the deficit. Republicans have argued for months that by stripping the doc fix from the bill, Democrats were playing a shell game.
In an article tonight about the Politico retraction, Politico's Craig Gordon characterized the supposed "doc fix" revelation as "explosive," writing:
The memo's most explosive statement is that Democrats planned a so-called "doc fix" to Medicare reimbursement rates later this year, but don't want to talk about it ahead of Sunday's vote because it's going to cost billions.
But just 21 minutes later, Politico senior political writer Ben Smith seemed to contradict that. Smith wrote that he would be "surprised" if the memo turned about to be a "fabrication" because it "wasn't really all that explosive."
I'll repeat that: The memo Politico had earlier hyped as an "exclusive" that "undercut" a central Democratic health care argument "wasn't really all that explosive."
And Smith is right.
Even if the information in the memo is accurate, there is simply nothing dishonest or misleading about not including the "doc fix" in the health care reform bill or in estimates of health care reform's cost. As The Washington Post's Ezra Klein explains, it is an issue that predates the reform debate and that is likely going to have to be resolved whether on not the health care bill passes:
The short version: In 1997, Republicans passed the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate into law. The provision created a simple equation meant to hold down Medicare costs and cut doctor payments when they rose. But the provision was passed when Medicare's costs were uncommonly low. Suddenly, SGR was forcing huge cuts rather than the modest adjustments that had been intended. So legislators began voting to delay implementation rather than cut doctor payments.
The first delay was passed in 2003, under Republicans. Then again in 2005, also under Republicans. Then in 2006, under Republicans. Then in 2007 and 2008, under Democrats. For those keeping count at home, this is a policy in a Republican bill that Republicans delayed three times and Democrats delayed twice. What's needed is to reform the system so we stop delaying it. And we will need to do that -- and this is important -- whether or not health-care reform passes.
To put this slightly differently, imagine you're buying a new house. But your old house needs $20,000 in roof repairs. You will have to pay for those repairs whether you move or whether you stay, because you can't have your roof caving in come the next heavy rain. Are your roof repairs part of the cost of the new house? If you think so, then you agree with [Republican congressman Paul] Ryan. If not, then you don't. The SGR problem predates health-care reform and exists irrespective of health-care reform's fate. Attempts to lash the two together are nonsensical.
Though Politico has since removed an article reporting that a memo about health care it originally cited came from Democratic leaders, Fox Nation is still asserting as fact that the memo is from Democrats.
From the Fox Nation (accessed on March 19):
As we noted earlier, Politico replaced the article with the following statement:
An earlier post in this spot detailed what was purported by Republicans to be an internal Democratic memo regarding the upcoming health reform vote Sunday. Democratic leadership has challenged the authenticity of the memo. POLITICO has removed the memo and the details about it until we can absolutely verify the document's origin.
Fox News' Special Report also referenced the memo in an earlier report, citing no evidence of its authenticity.
The following text was displayed during the March 19 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
Earlier this week, we highlighted a Newsmax column by Richard Grenell, in which he ranted that a health care reform plan to permit coverage of dependents on their parents' insurance up to age 26 means those youths will be "enticed to continue slacking, without a job, well past college graduation," adding that "ski bums everywhere are cheering the news."
Imagine our surprise to learn that within a week, Grenell -- "spokesman for the last four U.S. Ambassadors to the United Nations: Zalmay Khalilzad, John Bolton, John Danforth and John Negroponte" -- had somehow graduated from Newsmax to CBS News.
Yes, CBSNews.com has published an "opinion" column by Grenell. He manages to avoid maligning slackers this time; rather, he accuses White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle of sending "annoying and partisan emails" to federal employees promoting health care reform. Grenell claims that some federal employees "feel threatened" by the emails and suggests there will be "retribution" if "the federal employee doesn't act in the way The White House is suggesting." Grenell goes on to ponder: "Has The White House requested that another federal agency monitor who is acting on behalf of Obama's health reform bill and who is not?"
Grenell's column is pure speculation -- he provides no evidence whatsoever that any retribution has or will taken place. He also doesn't provide any quotes -- even anonymous quotes -- from federal employees.
In fact, despite Grenell's claim that the emails are being sent "unsolicited" to federal employees, it appears they are sent out to everyone on the whitehouse.gov mailing list. Further, versions of them are also posted on the White House website. One email's request to "help raise awareness by sharing this email with your friends, family and online networks" is not specifically targeted at federal employees, as Grenell implies -- it's to everyone who got a copy. If Grenell was on the White House's email list, he would presumably have gotten the same message.
Grenell's complete lack of substance, of course, didn't keep Fox Nation from promoting his column at the top of its front page:
Who's Grenell's agent? We'd like to meet the guy who allowed Grenell to bust down the doors of CBS News with such empty speculation.