• WaPo's Bacon: Universal health care is a "tired" idea

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Perry Bacon:

    If you watch the Sunday shows, the Obama people are no longer arguing the GOP has "no ideas." Now it's they have "no ideas" or "the same old tired ideas." I don't know what's more tired, Republicans calling for tax cuts or Democras for expensive health health care programs, and I suspect voters just want something to help them get through this recession, whether the idea is tired or not.

    Well, let's see ... we've implemented the GOP's tax cut proposals - many, many times - with somewhat limited success. We haven't tried universal health care. So it should be pretty obvious which is the "more tired" idea, shouldn't it?

  • Define "elite" and "pro-gay," please

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, responding to Steve Schmidt's call for the GOP to drop its opposition to gay rights:

    AMBINDER: I know that there are many Republicans who support gay rights, and that most members of the Republican elite are pro-gay, and that the business wing of the party could care less about the issue. ... But I also know that the possibility that the Republican coalition will find some way to organize itself without social conservatives is a ways of a way off. Schmidt's concerns may be valid, but urging the GOP top adopt a tolerance platform WITHOUT figuring out how to declamp itself from the social conservative hook -- that's not terribly realistic. That's why so many Republican strategists, even as they're sympathetic to gay rights (and virtually ALL of them are), don't advise their clients to so much as acknowledge the dignity of gay people."

    According to Marc Ambinder, "virtually ALL" Republican strategists are "sympathetic to gay rights," and "most members" of the Republican "elite" are actually "pro-gay." And yet they don't advise their clients to even "acknowledge the dignity of gay people." And they participate in campaigns that do pretty much the opposite of acknowledging the dignity of gay people.

    It seems to me that some definitions are in order here. Who exactly are the "elite" Ambinder is talking about? Elected officials? Donors? Consultants and campaign workers? And what does Marc Ambinder think it means to be "pro-gay"? Based on the context, it seems he thinks it means "privately feeling badly about publicly participating in the denigration of and denial of rights for gay people." That doesn't seem very "pro-gay," though, and Ambinder should explain and defend his use of that phrasing.

    See, at some point in the not-so-distant future, the GOP is going to start claiming it likes gay people just fine, and all that discrimination stuff was a loooong time ago. It is going to try to whitewash its history of anti-gay policies and rhetoric. We've seen this happen with other demographic groups the Republicans no longer finds political advantage in explicitly attacking. Few people want to be seen as the last bigot standing in the schoolhouse door.

    Reporters like Marc Ambinder shouldn't be in the business of helping that whitewashing along. They shouldn't do people the favor of insisting that they are "pro-gay" when they are actually participating in anti-gay campaigns and using anti-gay rhetoric. Not only does that help people avoid accountability for their positions, it delays progress. If silently feeling bad about denouncing gay marriage is accepted by the media as "pro-gay" behavior, gay people are going to have to wait a little longer for their legal rights than they otherwise would.

  • The Red Scare Index: 306 (Last Week)

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for last week, April 13-17, 2009:

    TOTAL: 306
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 139
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 104
    Marxism/Marxist: 1
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 62

    By Network:

    CNN: 43
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 6
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 27
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 6

    CNN Headline News: 22
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 19
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    Fox News Channel: 103
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 50
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 35
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 18

    Fox Business Network: 69
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 33
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 3
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 33

    MSNBC: 58
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 42
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 13
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 11
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    CNBC: 15
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 7
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 7
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    The above numbers are the result of a power search for these terms on these networks.

  • The White House press corps is the problem

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Writing in the WashPost, Ana Marie Cox suggests the White House press beat oughta be ditched, or at least drastically reconfigured by news orgs, because WH reporters rarely break news. Instead, they sit around and wait to repeat doled out WH info.

    Facing a paucity of real news, reporters turn to trivia, claims Cox:

    Here are some stories that reporters working the White House beat have produced in the past few months: Pocket squares are back! The president is popular in Europe. Vegetable garden! Joe Biden occasionally says things he probably regrets. Puppy!

    But then Cox, anxious to not offend her fellow Villagers, goes astray [continuing directly]:

    It's not that the reporters covering the president are bad at their jobs. Most are experienced journalists at the top of their game.

    That circle doesn't square. If WH reporters are wasting their time writing too much about nonsense like pocket squares and puppies and wardrobes and on and on, than they are, by definition, bad at their job. So why won't Cox say so?

    Cox also ignores the fact that this never-ending trivial pursuit by the press under Obama is an entirely new, and completely voluntary, phenomena. i.e. WH reporters have routinely been locked out of juicy stories for decades, yet managed to not embarrass themselves the way they do today.

    WH journalists are most definitely not at the "top of their game." And that's the real problem with beat.

  • NYT forgets to back up its A1 critique of Obama

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Here's the (print edition) headline:

    Major plans, softer stands: Obama is accepting Washington reality

    It's all about how Obama has a habit of capitulating on his agenda; how the White House backs down from confrontation and plays it safe.

    Write Jackie Calmes and David Herszenhorn [emphasis added]:

    President Obama is well known for bold proposals that have raised expectations, but his administration has shown a tendency for compromise and caution, and even a willingness to capitulate on some early initiatives. It was inevitable that Mr. Obama's lofty pledge to change the ways of Washington would crash into the realities of governing, including lawmakers anxious to protect their constituents and an army of special-interest lobbyists.

    I always get suspicious when I see journalists criticizing Obama for saying he claimed as a candidate that he was going to completely reinvent Washington, because honestly I don't remember those radical promises from the campaign trail. (I remember a more general theme of change.) And wouldn't you know it, the Times doesn't bother to provide any actual evidence about how Obama, as a candidate, made sweeping claims about altering government; claims that today have been abandoned.

    In fact, the article's examples of Obama backing down on issues seem rather trivial vs. bold. For instance, the Times notes up high in the piece:

    Congressional Democrats effectively killed his proposal to slash farm subsidies by nearly $1 billion a year, and forced him to retreat partially on a plan to require private insurers to pick up more of veterans' health costs. They also got him to shelve the idea of a commission to buttress Social Security's finances.

    I'm sorry, but the idea that Obama ran for president on the idea that he was going to cut farm subsidies or adjust veterans' health costs doesn't ring true. Instead, those seem like examples of everyday D.C. give-and take.

    And then the Times claimed this:

    And Thursday, Mr. Obama suggested that he would not fight in Congress to renew an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. It was the latest example of the pragmatic approach he adopted after winning the presidency by promising to challenge entrenched interests and put the public good ahead of political expedience.

    Again, as a candidate did Obama ever announce he'd renew an assault weapons ban? If so, the Times doesn't provide the evidence. And if Obama did not campaign on that issue, how is that an example of him caving in once he became elected?

  • Howard Kurtz complains newspapers didn't cover April 15 "tea parties" until April 15

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Ugh. Appearing on NPR to discuss the "tea parties," and too often soft-pedaling Fox News' role (i.e. no mention of the 100-plus "tea party" promos FNC aired), Kurtz suggested that newspapers didn't take the anti-Obama events seriously enough. Kurtz told NPR:

    I think the nation's top newspapers, which finally got around to covering them on April 15th, kind of had their heads in the sand, as well.

    This reminds us of Neil Cavuto's rhetoric last week when he pre-emptively criticized the "tea party" coverage days before it happened. Here, Kurtz tsk-tsks that newspapers didn't report on the events until they actually happened.

  • Right-wing blog calls out WSJ's Al Franken editorial

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    You know WSJ editorial writers have lost all credibility when a right-wing partisan blog like Power Line calls them out for faulty writing/logic. The topic of the Journal editorial today is Norm Coleman's never-ending election appeal in Minnesota. There are all kinds of irregularities. Justice has been denied. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

    Yet even Power Line concludes the Journal has no idea what it's talking about [emphasis added]:

    The Journal doesn't show much familiarity with the facts related to the implications of wrongoing [sic] in their two editorials on the Minnesota recount. In particular, today's editorial shows no evidence of familiarity with (i.e., of its author having read) the three-judge election contest panel decision in favor of Franken. The decision bears reading by anyone seriously interested in the facts of the case. I am sorry to say that reading the decision persuades me that the Journal's encouragement of Senator Coleman's pursuit of an appeal is misguided because he has no chance of winning such an appeal.

    We give Power Line credit for standing up for the facts in Minnesota. We just think it's funny Power Line pretends it's a big deal that a Journal editorial shows not familiarity with the facts.

  • Spinonymous sourcing from Politico

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    As noted by Greg Sargent and others, the Politico, in its write-up of President Obama's decision to release the CIA torture memos, granted anonymity to a "top official" from the Bush administration defending the interrogation procedures as "techniques that work" and attacking Obama for inflicting "grave damage to our national security." Sargent corresponded with Politico's Mike Allen, asking why he allowed this official to defend his boss and take pot shots at the new guy while hiding behind the shield of anonymity. Allen said the situation is "not ideal, but better than making readers wonder what the official Bush view is."

    But how could it be the "official Bush view" anyway if it's being provided anonymously? Moreover, can readers really "wonder what the official Bush view is," given that Bush himself has made clear where he stands on the use of these interrogation methods? Dick Cheney, for his part, has not held back in saying that Obama's national security decisions have made the country less safe.

    Put simply, why grant anonymity to a Bush official to (a) repeat Bush's defense of his policies and (b) criticize Obama, as Cheney has done? Shouldn't readers be given full information to be able to evaluate the speaker's credibility and possible personal stake in the issue and maybe for other reporters to follow up by actually challenging the speaker on his or her assertions?