• WSJ editorial pages advertises its ignorance, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Glenn Greenwald amplifies a point we noted yesterday about the almost comically hypocritical Journal attack on Obama for using a list of pre-selected reporters to call on during his Monday press conference, and suggesting Bush never would have pulled a stunt like that. (Hint: He did.)

    Write Greenwald:

    Deliberate deceit or complete editorial recklessness from The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page? And which is worse? Are there any limits at all to the factually false claims newspapers can spew without correction? We'll see. And of all the canards filling the overflowing canon of self-pitying right-wing grievances, the complaint that the Beltway media was unfairly and excessively critical of the Bush presidency has to be the single most laughable (as even Bush's own Press Secretary will tell you).

    It also highlight a point we made when we detailed the chronically un-serious work of Jonah Goldberg, a god-awful media critique. And the point was this: Conservative media criticism is, almost without exception, a complete joke because the writers have no use for facts or truth or common sense. It's just partisan clowning around, as the Journal editorial proved.

  • The Beltway press does not do public policy. Period.

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    That's been painfully obvious for years, and it was certainly highlighted during the general election. That's when when during the final months of the contest the mainstream press nearly uniformly walked away from even pretending to address the public policy issues featured in the campaign (i.e. the candidates' platform and agendas), and focused almost entirely on process and tactics.

    The press doesn't do public policy and, not surprisingly, it appears the press no longer even understands public policy. Today, it certainly does not understand, or pretend to address seriously, the topic of economics. Instead, much of the press has covered the unfolding economic debate as--you guessed it--process and tactics.

    That's why economists have been virtually banned from the airwaves in recent weeks, even as the country and Washington, D.C. grapple with pressing economic issues. Why on earth would the cable shows book professional experts on the issue at hand when they can book minority party Congressmen, right?

    Media Matters has a new study detailing the paucity of economists taking part in the televised 'debate' over economics in recent weeks. Just 5 percent of the TV guests have been economic pro's.

    As John Amato at Crooks and Liars notes:

    Only 5% of them were put on air. It's not that Americans are uninformed, but that our media fails to do their jobs and intentionally decides to keep them uninformed. They would rather have a recently defeated Lindsey Graham and John Boehner appear to whine and whine and whine about President Obama's stimulus package.

  • Newsweek surprised by lack of public cynicism over stimulus bill

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT


    Travels With Barack: The president hits the road to sell the stimulus package, and finds a surprisingly lack of cynicism along the way.

    Perhaps spending too much time inside the anti-stimulus Beltway press bubble, the Newsweek reporter expresses amazement:

    The president's town-hall audiences display a discernable lack of cynicism about politics, government and the capacity for D.C. to change under his stewardship. For years, polls have shown the deep disillusionment most Americans feel with the political process and with their representatives in D.C. But when Obama announced midway through Tuesday's Ft. Myers town-hall meeting that the Senate had voted to pass the stimulus package, the crowd cheered. And it wasn't just polite applause for the president's pet project. It was a loud, enthusiastic standing ovation for a piece of legislation. It's hard to recall the last time Congress, which has been haunted by dim approval ratings, received boisterous acclaim for passing a bill.

    Don't these town hall attendees watch cable TV? Don't they know it's just a wasteful spending bill?

  • Obama, the press and the "bipartisan" trap, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In the wake of the stimulus bill agreemenet in Congress, the New York Times leans heavily on the yes/but angle regarding what it means politicially for the new president [emphasis added]:

    It is a quick, sweet victory for the new president, and potentially a historic one. The question now is whether the $789 billion economic stimulus plan agreed to by Congressional leaders on Wednesday is the opening act for a more ambitious domestic agenda from President Obama or a harbinger of reduced expectations. Both the substance of his first big legislative accomplishment and the way he achieved it underscored the scale of the challenges facing the nation and how different a political climate this is from the early stages of recent administrations.

    As we recently noted, the way the Beltway press has traditionally judged a new president was, could he get his legislative initiatves passed? But with Obama, that's morphed into, can he get his initiatives passed in a certain way? i.e. Could he pass his plan and make Republicans happy. Because if Republicans are not happy with the stimulus plan, than Obama has failed. Again, this is a press standard that's been created for Obama, and Obama only.

    The Times stresses, "His inability to win over more than a handful of Republicans amounted to a loss of innocence...So this was hardly a moment for cigars."

    This was all telegraphed weeks ago. For instance, The Hill had already announced, "If the bill is approved by Congress with minimal GOP support, the partisan nature of how the legislation got to his desk will be a key storyline when Obama signs the measure."

    Who will determine that "key storyline"? The Beltway press corps, of course.

    UPDATE: Leave it to ABC's The Note to succinctly capture the prevailing Betlway inanities. In this case, the yes/but talking point:

    Few presidents have been able to claim a victory of this magnitude, in scope and sweep, this early in a presidency...But this is a victory that's stocked with the possibility of losses.

    Do you follow? By any historical marker the bill is a victory. But there's the possibility it might not be.

  • Fred Barnes' super-secret source on climate change revealed!

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Over at Grist, David Roberts takes TPM's bait revealing who The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes may be using as his super-secret climate change source.

    To bring you up to speed...TPM noted Monday afternoon:

    Check out this passage from Barnes' latest column for the Weekly Standard:

    "Democrats couldn't hide their self-consciousness about the excesses of their own bill. Supporters made few TV appearances to defend it and rarely talked about specific spending items. Obama sounded like Al Gore on global warming. The more the case for man-made warming falls apart, the more hysterical Gore gets about an imminent catastrophe. The more public support his bill loses, the more Obama embraces fear-mongering. (our itals.)"

    We hadn't heard anything lately about the case for man-made global warming falling apart. In fact, just the opposite. So we called Barnes and asked him what he was referring to.

    At first, he cited the fact that it's been cold lately. Perhaps sensing this was less than convincing, Barnes then asserted that there had been a "cooling spell" in recent years. "Haven't you noticed?" he asked.

    Asked for firmer evidence of such cooling, Barnes demurred, telling TPMmuckraker he was too busy to track it down.

    We pressed Barnes again: surely he could tell us where he had found this vital new information, which could upend the current debate over how to address global warming.

    In response, Barnes said only that he knew where he had found it, but would not tell us, apparently as a matter of principle. "I'm not going to do your research for you," he eventually said, before hurriedly ending the call.

    So, who is the super-secret-science-source behind Barnes' ridiculousness? Grist does an admirable job jumping down the rabbit hole:

    I'm seeing a lot of people passing around a link to this story on TPM, which mocks Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes for saying that the case for man-made warming is "falling apart" but refusing to divulge any of his sources for that seemingly significant piece of info.

    At first I just laughed about it, but it occurred to me later that maybe people really don't know the answer to this question -- maybe people really don't know where Barnes is getting his info. The answer is an open secret:

    Barnes gets his information on climate change the same place everyone in the right-wing media world gets it: from Marc Morano, the in-house blogger/agitator for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

    Morano's entire job is to aggregate every misleading factoid, every attack on climate science or scientists, every crank skeptical statement from anyone in the world and send it all out periodically in email blasts that get echoed throughout the right-wing blog world and eventually find their way into places like Fox News and the Weekly Standard. From there they go, via columnists like George Will and Charles Krauthammer, into mainstream outlets like Newsweek and the Washington Post.

    That's where Barnes gets it. That's where Glenn Beck gets it, and Lou Dobbs, and Will, and Krauthammer, and all the rest of them. This is something everyone involved in climate- or energy-related media knows.

    This should come as no surprise. Sen. Inhofe is a greatly respected, neutral arbiter when it comes to the science behind global climate change – if by respected you mean, the oil and gas industry, climate change deniers, and clueless conservative media hacks just love him.

  • So much for the bitter battle

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    CNN, along with much of the Beltway press, was busy yesterday hyping what might happen when Democrats in the House and Senate met to negotiate the final stimulus bill:

    Now that the Senate has passed its economic recovery package, it's time for the really hard part -- trying to reconcile the differences between House and Senate versions of the plan without losing the support needed to pass the final version in both chambers. Senate Democrats are downplaying talk of a contentious battle ahead.

    Well, so much for for bitter negotiations battle. Reminds me of how the press was hyping the "bruising" battle that was supposed to unfold around Eric Holder's AG confirmation hearing. That too, never materialized.

    The press sure likes to stress how badly things might get for Dems, no?

  • Women's Media Center demanding apology from O'Reilly

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    The Women's Media Center is demanding an apology from Fox News' Bill O'Reilly for mocking veteran White House reporter/columnist Helen Thomas as "old lady" and comparing her to "the Wicked Witch of the East":

    On last night's show (February 9th, 2009) O'Reilly compared Ms. Thomas to "the Wicked Witch of the East" along with disparaging remarks about her appearance and age. Guest Bernard Goldberg added his own insult, and even Alan Colmes, while attempting to defend her, seemed to be having too much fun. This kind of verbal degradation in the guise of humor is unacceptable, and as Media Matters has documented, it's part of an on-going pattern where he's targeted Thomas.

    It was an attack no woman deserves--including this accomplished, award winning journalist working in the White House press corps, where women are underrepresented. The Women's Media Center demonstrated in its Sexism Sells But We're Not Buying It viral campaign that sexist remarks went unchecked by networks during the primary season. Now, as then, the WMC demands accountability.

    An immediate public apology is required.

  • Don Luskin: Still wrong.

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Gavin at Sadly, No! mocks Don Luskin's foolishness over the past several months. Check it out. As Atrios puts it, Luskin is "wrong about everything."

    One of the Luskin columns Gavin links to was Luskin's arguement in August 2008 that the economy was not in a recession. Here's Luskin's explanation:

    [W]e are not in a recession.


    The word "recession" has a specific meaning to economists who study the business cycle. Whether we are in a recession or not is therefore an objective matter of science, not opinion.


    The official determination of recessions is made by a committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research. They have latitude to use their judgment in making the determination — it's not exactly a formula — but they are clear about what factors they consider, and how those factors have to behave to result in a determination.

    Note that Luskin writes that whether we are in a recession is "an objective matter of science, not opinion" -- then, just a few sentances later, writes that NBER has "latitude to use their judgment ... it's not exactly a formula."

    Anyway, that's not my point. That's just amusing.

    My point is this: Last August, Luskin argued that the US was not in a recession because, basically, NBER hadn't declared the economy to be in a recession. And yet, just a few years ago, Luskin took the opposite view -- and both times, Luskin's assertions just happened to make George W. Bush look good.

    See, one of the very first things Media Matters posted when we launched back in the Spring of 2004 was a report I wrote demonstrating that the news media (particularly Sean Hannity) kept insisting that Bush had "inherited a recession" from Bill Clinton, despite the fact that according to NBER, the recession in question didn't begin until March of 2001 -- after Bush took office.

    Well, Don Luskin didn't like that very much. He took to National Review's web page to declare "So far the work from Media Matters isn't very impressive." Luskin went on to explain:

    The first major article posted on the Media Matters website is an attempted exposé of the often-heard conservative claim that the last economic recession began during the Clinton administration — or, in other words, that it was already underway when George W. Bush took office in 2001.


    The claim that the last recession started under Clinton is absolutely true.

    Now, before we go any further, keep in mind what Luskin wrote last August, when he was desperate to argue that we weren't in a recession: "The official determination of recessions is made by a committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research." Those are Don Luskin's words in August of 2008. And here are Don Luskin's words back in May of 2004:

    The one and only piece of evidence offered by Media Matters that's to the contrary is that fact that the National Bureau of Economic Research set the beginning of the last recession at March 2001 — two months into the Bush administration. ... according to Media Matters, this single authority determines truth, and everyone else is a liar. The article declares that "if NBER says the recession began in March 2001, the recession began in March 2001."

    The reality is that NBER is just like any other group of economists, struggling with partial and imperfect information to characterize phenomena that don't have any hard-and-fast definitions.

    So, in 2004, Luskin argued that NBER should not be considered the final word on recessions. Interesting.

    But wait! There's more.

    Luskin went on to claim that NBER was "on the verge of changing the recession's start date" to sometime before Bush took office. To support his claim that a change would come any day, Luskin quoted a four-month-old Washington Post article in which NBER president Martin Feldstein -- a Bush campaign advisor -- claimed the March 2001 start date was too late. Luskin then chided us: "Media Matters chooses not to mention" that NBER was "on the verge" of changing the recession's start date.

    As I pointed out at the time, of course we didn't mention that. Why would we? NBER hadn't changed the date. Not to mention that there was a much more recent Washington Post article in which an NBER spokesperson quoted saying no such change was imminent.

    Anyway, that was nearly five years ago. And NBER -- which, according to Don Luskin, was "on the verge of changing the recession's start date" -- still says the recession begain March 2001.

    Whenever Luskin wants to retract his nonsensical criticisms of Media Matters, I'd be happy to post the retraction.

    Oh, and by the way: NBER says we've been in a recession since December 2007. In his August 2008 column, Luskin touted a formula that "shows with absolute clarity that we are not in a recession now. In fact, we're not even close."

    In short: Do not listen to Don Luskin.

  • WSJ editorial page advertises its ignorance

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Today, it's in the form of a brief editorial (no link found) headlined "Obama's Press List," which chastised Obama for referring to a list of reporters he was going to call on during his Monday press conference

    The President was running down a list of reporters pre-selected to ask questions. the White House had decided in advance who would be allowed to question the President and who was left out.

    We actually agree with the main point; that presidents ought not to use cheat sheets at press conferences for the simple task of calling on reporters. (It tends to cheapen the process.) But the Journal then immediately drove into a ditch when it claimed Obama's predecessor would have never done something like that:

    We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with pre-screening his interlocutors.

    Except, of course, when Bush did pre-screen his queries, like during his primetime news conference on the eve of war with Iraq in 2003. From Lapdogs [emphasis added]:

    At one point while making his way through the press questioners, Bush awkwardly referred to a list of reporters who he was instructed to call on. "This is scripted," he joked. The press laughed. But Bush meant it was scripted, literally. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer later admitted he compiled Bush's cheat sheet, which made sure he did not call on reporters from some prominent outlets like Time, Newsweek, USA Today, or The Washington Post.

  • Caught red-handed using GOP talking points, Fox caves with apology ... for typo

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Yesterday, Media Matters noted:

    In purporting to "take a look back" at how the economic recovery plan "grew, and grew, and grew," Fox News' Jon Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods -- all of which came directly from a Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release.

    My, how a day of criticism from media critics and progressive bloggers changes things – even at Fox News. Today, Scott offered... an apology of sorts (emphasis added):

    Yesterday on Happening Now we showed you how the stimulus bill has grown over time. Our story prompted by a news release from the Senate Republican Communication Center. There point that a $56 billion proposal in September has grown to $838 billion in five months. In compiling the story, our producers and researchers did what we always do -- we verified the accuracy of the material. But in double checking the newspaper quotes referenced in that news release we made the same mistake they did. We labeled a Wall Street Journal article as having run in 2009 when in fact it was 2008. That was our error, and we apologize.

    Of course, I'm kidding.

    See what Scott does there? He apologizes, not for passing along a one-sided argument made in a Senate Republican Communications Center's press release as Fox News' original reporting, but for reporting the typo.

    In his initial report, Scott didn't tell his audience that the citations in his report were based entirely on a press release from the Senate Republicans – a fact he glosses over in his half-hearted apology for the typo.

    I'd question Fox News' journalistic integrity; that is of course if they had any to question in the first place.