Today's honors go to U.S. News' Bonnie Erbe, as she pontificates lamely about this week's manufactured Beltway embarrassment. Shorthand: Obama doesn't like women!
President Obama drew heat last week for a story that surfaced outing his private White House male-only b-ball games. The story was that even though two female members of his cabinet were members of their college basketball teams, they were excluded, as were all women, from this most private of male-only clubs. The story became a metaphor for how the president views women generally and threatened to reveal some inconvenient truths about the man.
Now we see reports that gender-insensitivity charges have resonated with the Obama White House. According to Politics Daily, the president dragged chief domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes to the golf course on Sunday, and she became the first female to join his golf foursome since he took office. The event produced a photo op of global proportions.
Got that? Obama "excluded" women from a White House pick-up basketball game. When that became a thing, when it was magically transformed by shallow pundits into "metaphor for how the president views women generally," Obama then invited a White House female adviser to play golf.
Problem addressed and a wrong belatedly corrected, right? No! According to Erbe, Obama didn't invite a female colleague to play golf, he dragged her out in public for a "photo op." She was his "faux" golf partner. (What does that even mean??)
Told you it would make your head hurt.
UPDATED: How many times, as president, did George W. Bush play golf with women? Erbe has no idea.
UPDATED: Who's the one "uncomfortable" with women? That's the claim Erbe keeps making in her errant attempt at analysis. But I'm wondering if she's the one with the problem. Note this hateful passage as Erbe mocks Michelle Obama as "his clearly career-oriented mate who has been toned down and remorphed into a Stepford Wife."
UPDATED: No joke, Erbe repeatedly compares Obama to Jesse Helms in her painful piece of hackery.
Earlier today, I noted that lousy media coverage of health care reform has played a significant role in the public's confusion about the issue. Like clockwork, MSNBC's Contessa Brewer just demonstrated how that works in an interview with Republican Senator Judd Gregg, in which Gregg offered up a barrage of misleading claims and outright falsehoods -- none of which were directly challenged by Brewer.
Gregg began by claiming "I think most people understand that a government-forced insurance plan, or government takeover of insurance is basically going to be bad for them because it's going to put a bureaucrat between them and their doctor. People want to be able to choose their doctor, they want to be able to choose their health plan, they don't want to have government running health care."
Now, basically none of that is true.
The public option is not a "government-forced insurance plan" -- it's optional. It's right there in the name: "The public option."
It's not "government takeover of insurance" -- private insurance companies will still exist, and most people will still use them.
People will be able to choose their doctor, to choose their health plan. Government won't be running health insurance, much less "running health care."
But Brewer didn't call Gregg on any of that. Nor did she ask Gregg to explain why it's worse to have a government "bureaucrat" between you and your doctor than to have a profit-driven insurance company bureaucrat between you and your doctor.
In his next comment, Gregg claimed his opposition to a public option "isn't about protecting insurance companies, it's about giving individuals the capacity to make choices, and choose the doctors they want, choose the health care systems they want."
Brewer didn't call Gregg on the seeming inconsistency of saying he's trying to give people the ability to choose the health care system they want by refusing to give them the ability to choose a public health insurance option.
Instead, Brewer asked Gregg a nice, friendly softball: "If people are frustrated with what they are hearing right now in terms of this legislation, what can they do?"
In response to that, Gregg implied that the Reid bill will not be scored by CBO before it comes to the floor. In fact, it's being scored by CBO right now. Brewer, of course, didn't mention that -- nor did she mention that previous versions of the public option scored by CBO have been cost-effective.
Gregg went on to again characterize public option as "a national--takeover of the system by the government ... putting the government between you and your doctor." No pushback from Brewer.
Then Gregg claimed Canada proves a public option will reduce the quality of care. No pushback from Brewer; no mention of the efficacy of public health care systems in other nations.
Then Gregg suggested the government cannot possibly "get health care right" -- to which Brewer seemed to agree, rather than asking Gregg if he thinks the government should get out of the business of Medicare and providing veterans health care, too.
Finally, Gregg insisted a public option would add to the deficit. To that, Brewer responded "I hear your skepticism." She did not point out that CBO scoring of other versions of health care reform including a public option find that this is not true.
Ever wonder how so many right-wing books become "bestsellers"? This may help explain it:
Normally you have to wait until the public displays pretty strong disinterest in a book before you can pick up the hardcover for $4.97. But thanks to Richard Scaife's right-wing Newsmax.com, you can get Sarah Palin's book for that low price -- and it hasn't even been released yet.
Just keep this in mind if the media starts breathlessly reporting Palin's strong sales numbers.
The web headline of a New York Times article published last night screams "Democrats Divided Over Reid Proposal for Public Option." I suppose that headline was slapped on solely because the Beltway press loves to claim that the party is split at the drop of a hat, because the article doesn't get close to supporting it.
There are 58 Democrats senators, and two independents that caucus with them. One of the independents, Joe Lieberman, has said he would not support Reid's health care bill unless Reid's opt-out public option is removed. The Times also lists five Senate Democrats who "have not committed to supporting the bill," one of whom, Evan Bayh, the article reports "welcomed Mr. Reid's proposal for an opt-out mechanism, but wanted to see a cost analysis of the bill."
The paper lists no Democratic senators - zero - who say they will oppose the bill at any stage because of the public option. It lists no Democratic senators offering criticism of the public option provision. In fact, the article lists no Democratic senators who say they will oppose the bill at any stage for any reason.
And yet, the Times' headline is that "Democrats are Divided Over Reid Proposal for Public Option." Apparently, all it took to divide the Democrats is opposition from someone who isn't a member of the party.
I'm still trying to figure out what conservatives expect from Larry David. The star of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm is about as liberal as you can get, doesn't hide his disdain for conservatives and Republicans, and routinely mocks Christians, Jews, and organized religion in general. On the show he has eaten Jesus and Mary and gotten into a fistfight with Joseph, interrupted a Christian Science prayer circle with his Hava Nagila ringtone, exhumed his mother's body because she was put in the wrong section of a Jewish cemetery, and pretended to speak Hebrew in order to ingratiate himself to an orthodox Jew. Most recently, he accidentally urinated on a picture of Jesus, prompting its owners to believe that the picture had miraculously started crying.
This latest bit of blasphemy has sent NewsBusters into fits of outrage, calling the scene "disgraceful," and reprinting an angry statement from Catholic League president Bill Donohue, as well as an e-mail from a BigHollywood.com reader who wrote that "the hypocrisy is that Mr. David would never exhibit such gross contempt for any other religion, especially Islam." That, of course, is not true - Larry once attempted to set his blind friend up with an ugly Muslim woman whose unsightly features were hidden by her burqa.
But there's a larger point to be made. In the past, NewsBusters has stood behind mockery of religious figures as expressions of free speech. When a Swedish paper printed cartoons depicting Mohammed's head on a dog's body, NewsBusters attacked the "manufactured outrage in the Islamic world" and praised the paper for writing "an excellent editorial defending free speech, especially the freedom to parody." They later returned to the issue, writing: "Islamic radicals continue to spread irrational hate against the Swedish Mohammed dog sketches."
Is NewsBusters' outrage at Larry David any more legitimate? Does he not enjoy the same right to parody?
When you defend mockery of one religious figure as free speech and then roundly condemn mockery of another, that's not outrage, that's hypocritical bigotry.
Conservative blogger JammieWearingFool, 2008 Weblog Award Winner for "Best Big Blog," today confirms that at least one-third of his name is accurate.
In a post titled "Was Alan Grayson Really a Mental Patient?" he excerpts at length and links to a post titled "Congressman Grayson Briefly Spent Time in Mental Hospital in 1980s" at the blog Right Handed Pitcher. The post alleges that Grayson "spent four days in the Psychiatric Institute of Washington," and that he "was extremely combative with fellow employees, including slapping a female intern in the face."
While JammieWearingFool is careful to add a question mark to his headline and couch his post in wishy-washy language like "take it for what it's worth," this is yet another case of conservative bloggers proving they lack even basic fact-checking skills.
While there are several things that probably should have given JammieWearingFool pause before he forwarded this story, one stands out above the others. The byline on The Right Handed Pitcher post is Matthew Avitabile. You may remember Matthew Avitabile from last Friday, when a hoax post about Obama's thesis with Avitabile's byline was picked up by Michael Ledeen, then Limbaugh, Dobbs, et. al. Back in January, Avitabile also fooled gullible conservatives with a bogus story about an Obama military oath. While I suppose it is unreasonable to expect every conservative blogger to keep up with the embarrassing failures of their compatriots on the right -- it's a lot to keep track of -- perhaps the "Satire" tag at the bottom of the Right Handed Pitcher post might have been a good tipoff.
We can probably look forward to another game of conservative telephone, where everyone cites each other making outrageous claims without anyone doing basic fact-checking.
The conservative media: where no story is too flimsy to run with.
MSNBC's Nancy Snyderman and Savannah Guthrie just discussed health care polling:
Snyderman: I must say I have looked at these numbers since last night and into this morning. I think they are all over the place. Which, to me underscores the confusion about what's what.
Gutherie: Yeah, you know, I had the exact same reaction. Kind of, "What?!?" You really see Americans all over the map. On the one hand, support for the public option growing. On the other hand, when you ask if they like the president's plan, which he has said he supports a public option, the majority don't like it.
So what you really take away from all of these conflicting and self-contradictory numbers is, there's a failure of message here. Either Americans don't understand what it is, whether or not to oppose it or favor it, because you see them thinking that it's going to make costs go up, but then some people think it should pass. It's really hard to look at these numbers and come up with a consistent philosophy as to how Americans feel about health care reform. And if that is the case so far into this debate, one really wonders where the messaging is, and where the failure is.
Where to start?
Is Savannah Guthrie really surprised that American public opinion is not monolithic?
Are MSNBC reporters really just realizing that polling on health care reform yields contradictory results?
Guthrie thinks disjointed poll results "so far into this debate" shows a "failure of message" on the part of reform advocates. Does she really not understand that a "debate" involves two sides, and that the two sides have been saying contradictory things, and that if the public has trouble sorting out what's true, that means the media has done a lousy job of making clear which claims are true and which are false?
Guthrie never so much as hints at the possibility that maybe the media haven't done a good job of explaining health care reform. The lack of self-awareness is stunning.
Politico's Manu Raju and Glenn Thrush join the lengthy list of reporters who have quoted Joe Lieberman's stated reasons for opposing health care reform that includes a public option without noting that those reasons appear to be, as TNR's Jonathan Chait put it, "babbling nonsense."
Raju and Thrush quoted Lieberman arguing: "To put this government-created insurance company on top of everything else is just asking for trouble for the taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt. ... I don't think we need it now."
But they didn't mention that, as Media Matters noted yesterday, "while Reid has yet to release details of the compromise Senate legislation, every other proposed bill with a public option so far has required the costs of the public plan to be covered by the premiums of those who enroll in it."
Later, the Politico reporters wrote that among Democrats "there is much lingering ill will over Lieberman's perceived lack of loyalty."
In the past three years, Lieberman has run against the Democratic nominee for his seat, endorsed the Republican presidential candidate, attacked Barack Obama during a speech at the Republican National Convention, and campaigned for Republican Senate candidates. When President Obama and the Senate Democratic caucus let him keep his committee chairmanship anyway, he repaid their kindness by announcing his intention to join Republicans in filibustering health care reform.
What does he have to do to get Politico to drop the "perceived"?
I know, right?
Nonetheless, the GOP-friendly newspaper today treats the mundane revelation as a very, very big deal. In fact, the Times even created a interactive page ("Bowling for Dollars at the White House") where you can view key "documents" and view a "timeline" to the non-existent story.
In particular, the posted "documents" lack any "wow" factor, since they're essentially external, boilerplate outreach letters by the DNC asking for money, while the touted timeline includes dates when Obama has played golf with donors. (Zzzz.)
All in all, a rather sleepy scoop from the Moonie daily.
UPDATED: Surprise! The RNC uses the Times' rickety reporting to call for a Congressional investigation into the White House. (Good luck with that.) See how the conservative food chain works? But the Times is a completely independent news operation, right?
Because this headline makes no sense, based on the facts contained in the article.
Jarrett makes, retracts charge Fox is biased
I'll just say right now, good luck finding White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett's so-called retraction, because it does not exist. Period. She never retracted her claim that Fox News is "biased." CNN.com just made that part up.
More awful journalism? Try this [emphasis added]:
The White House carefully continued its assault on Fox News Tuesday, as a senior White House adviser told CNN's Campbell Brown that the network was "of course" biased against the Obama administration, but immediately backtracked slightly.
And gee, how exactly did Jarrett play her role in the White House's masterfully, or "carefully," executed "assault" on Fox News? She answered a question posed by a journalist.
What will that calculating WH think of next?