Whenever a Democratic Senator runs for president, National Journal comes along with a deeply flawed scheme purporting to rank members of congress. In both 2004 and 2008, National Journal just happened to announce that a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination was the "most liberal" member of the Senate. In order to call Barack Obama the "most liberal" in 2008, National Journal changed the system they had previously used. Nothing suspicious there!
Worse, National Journal's PR operation then sent out promotional materials hyping the findings by touting the impact the 2004 rankings had on that year's presidential campaign -- conveniently ignoring the fact that, according to National Journal itself, the system used to declare John Kerry the "most liberal" Senator in 2004 was flawed.
And it's pretty obvious what happens next: Republicans start shouting the results from the rooftops, and the media eat it up with a spoon.
The important thing to know about the National Journal ratings -- the only important thing to know about them -- is that they are pretty much worthless. A 2007 vote in favor of implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, for example, was counted as a "liberal" vote. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute -- certainly nobody's idea of a liberal -- called NJ's ranking "pretty ridiculous."
National Journal's just-released new rankings should remove any lingering suspicion that they might have some validity. That's because the magazine has concluded that Dennis Kucinich is the 160th most liberal member of the House of Representatives. 160! Kucinich's rating is presumably a result of votes he cast against legislation that he didn't think was liberal enough -- among NJ's "key votes" is the passage of the House health care bill, which Kucinich voted against.
So, basically: National Journal vote ratings should not be taken seriously. Unless you think Dennis Kucinich is really the 160 most liberal member of Congress and that opposing legislation from the left makes you less liberal and that implementing the 9/11 Commission's recommendations makes you liberal.
If media absolutely must refer to ideological rankings of members of Congress*, they would do well to take a look at the rank ordering done by political scientists Jeff Lewis & Keith Poole. Unlike National Journal, they don't cherry-pick a handful of votes; they looked at 694 votes for their current House rankings. And they conclude that Kucinich had the 7th most liberal voting record in 2009.
That seems a bit more reasonable than National Journal's rankings, doesn't it?
* Which, weirdly, they only seem to want to do when discussing Democrats. Maybe because if they actually looked at reasonable ranking systems, they wouldn't be able to call Lindsey Graham a "moderate."
CPAC Shills for Islamic Terrorists
The key culprit? Grover Norquist! The arch-conservative activist has "troubling ties to Islamic supremacists and jihadists" and has been "on the jihad payroll." (He also has a Palestinian wife, Geller stresses.)
Where else but Front Page would you find that kind of scoop?
And keep in mind this was in a news article. Yet more proof that Rupert Murdoch is slowing turning the Journal's once-sterling newsroom into Fox News Lite.
Picking up the right-wing blogosphere trend, which was to mock personal anecdotes told at yesterday's health care forum (shared mostly by Democrats), here's the straight-down-the-middle WSJ news headline:
Talks Suffer An Outbreak of Anecdotes
Gee, nothing loaded in that language, right?
Check out the lede [emphasis added]:
Thursday's health-care summit revealed a new malady: call it anecdote-itis.
Squeezed around a square table at Blair House, President Barack Obama and about 40 members of Congress scratched around for stories that would score political points.
And here's a nice tough, as the news article openly mocks the president:
The president, playing the part of Patient Zero, sparked the epidemic, recounting the time his daughter Malia was rushed to the ER with asthma after coming into the kitchen and telling her father, "I can't breathe, Daddy."
UPDATED: There's something deeply revealing, I think, by the media's tendency to mock yesterday's anecdotes, which of course were personal illustrations about people suffering serious health problems, and their struggle to deal with today's health care system.
In a sense, the so-called health care debate that's taken place over the last year or so should have always focused on those sorts of illustrative stories, but the press never really went there. The political press never had any interest in humanizing the story. The Beltway press much preferred to make health care reform a process story. (Who's got the votes? What's the latest polling data.)
So I guess it shouldn't be surprising that when some Democrats tried to use anecdotes to shed some light on health care reform, one media reaction was to mock the move.
One of the lingering questions about Andrew Breitbart's dishonest attempt to help spread the falsehood that James O'Keefe was dressed as a pimp inside the ACORN offices, is was Breitbart himself duped by the masquerade?
Did he, in fact, not know that O'Keefe wasn't dressed as a pimp while meeting with ACORN workers? Instead, was Breitbart mislead by his protégé's undercover videos and only found out the truth much later? And is that why Breitbart's so reluctant to come clean about the hoax, because he'd have to admit that even he got duped, and that as the editor of the site that published the ACORN videos, even he didn't know the truth about their contents?
Any such an admission by Breitbart would be devastating. Because remember that for months he personally vouched for the videos. He's claimed that he's told "the truth" every step of the way about the ACORN clips. But what if we find out that Breitbart himself didn't actually know what was on the tapes. What if we find out that Breitbart, like everyone else, got fooled by the ACORN pimp hoax and mistakenly assumed, after watching O'Keefe's deceptively edited clips, that O'Keefe strolled into ACORN offices wearing the outlandish pimp outfit.
If we find out Breitbart himself was duped by the ACORN clips -- if he, as the chief promoter, didn't even know the truth about the contents -- then I think we can close the books on the whole ACORN video caper, as well as Breitbart's credibility.
UPDATED: The exit question: If Breitbart was fooled by O'Keefe, did he ever get an apology?
From Gerson's February 26 Washington Post column headlined "TR: The conservatives' new demon":
So Glenn Beck, speaking recently at the Conservative Political Action Conference, identified a great enemy of human freedom as . . . Teddy Roosevelt. Beck highlighted this damning Roosevelt quote: "We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used."
Ah, you don't discern the scandal in this statement? Look closer. "This is not our Founders' idea of America," explained Beck. "And this is the cancer that's eating at America. It is big government -- it's a socialist utopia." Evidently, real conservatives defend wealth that is dishonorably gained and then wasted.
The problem with America, apparently, is not just the Great Society or even the New Deal; it is the Square Deal. Or maybe Beck is just being too timid. Real, hairy-chested libertarians pin the blame on Abraham Lincoln, who centralized federal power at the expense of the states to pursue an unnecessary war -- a view that Ron Paul, the winner of the CPAC presidential straw poll, has endorsed.
Lincoln doesn't need defenders against accusations of tyranny -- the mere charge is enough to diagnose some sad ideological disorder. But the Rough Rider also does not deserve such roughing up.
TR picked a number of fights with conservative Republicans, fight-picking being his favorite sport. But Roosevelt hated socialism. "It would spell sheer destruction," he said.
After stating that "few today would wish to return to 19th-century labor, health and antitrust standards," Gerson added:
All those few, however, seemed to be in attendance at CPAC, determined to sharpen an ideological debate. In the name of constitutional purity, they propose a great undoing. Not just the undoing of Obamaism. Undo Medicare and Social Security. Undo the expansive American global commitments that proceeded from World War II and the Cold War. Undo progressive-era economic regulations. Undo the executive power grab that preserved the union. Undo it all -- until America is left with a government appropriate to an isolated, 18th-century farming republic.
This is a proposal for time travel, not a policy agenda. The federal government could not shed these accumulated responsibilities without massive suffering and global instability -- a decidedly radical, unconservative approach to governing.
From an editorial in the February 26 edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Canadians who are not independently wealthy still struggle to raise the cash to avail themselves of superior medical care "south of the border" whenever they consider the problem serious enough. Why is that, if the Canadian system is so good that we should emulate it, as Barack Obama insists?
Medical innovation continues in the United States because it's profitable. Medical innovation has stagnated in Canada because it's not, and because the best doctors and researchers have fled to countries where they can still make money at their trade -- most notably, the United States.
If the United States adopts a Canadian-style, rationed, inferior medical system in which more people die while waiting in line, where will Americans go in pursuit of better care? Where will Canadians go? And won't that lead to precisely the "two-tiered" system -- better care for those with enough money to hop a plane -- that Democrats claim to oppose?
Or will they just refuse to let us leave?
Did you know that Republicans made a good-faith effort to find agreement on health care over the past year, but they were met by Democratic intransigence and pledge-breaking? It must be true; the Washington Post's Shailagh Murray and Anne Kornblut say so:
During Thursday's session, both sides expressed regret about the way the debate has unfolded. What started nearly a year ago as a good-faith effort to find broad agreement quickly devolved into a partisan grudge match, marred by favors to secure votes and deals cut by the White House and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill with special-interest groups. As several Republicans noted, most key decisions were reached behind closed doors, a breach of Obama's campaign pledge to make health-care negotiations transparent.
"Both of us during the campaign promised change in Washington," Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, said to Obama. "In fact, eight times you said that negotiations on health-care reform would be conducted with the C-SPAN cameras. I'm glad more than a year later that they are here."
No mention anywhere in the article of the Republican ideas that have been incorporated into reform legislation -- and certainly no mention of the fact that despite the incorporation of those ideas, no Republican has supported health care reform, or even indicated what it would take to win his or her vote. And no evidence that Republicans approached anything in "good faith."
"Fatal Attraction," the Washington version is playing on a television near you as Obama's bipartisan summit on healthcare approaches. Like a possessed, rejected maniac the president refuses to allow the idea of a massive restructuring of our healthcare system to fade.
You're just not that into his healthcare bill? Too bad. He won't be ignored.
Obama is hoping that by rebranding and reworking the old, rejected versions of the House and Senate bill into an even scarier narrative coupled with a televised meeting, the pressure will be so intense that he can kidnap the handful of Republican votes he needs to catapult this monstrosity over the finish line.
To get our attention, Democrats attempted legislative suicide. After laying low, they're back again, and like any prey dealing with a psycho, Republicans are nervous.
They understand that this is a carefully calculated public relations gimmick designed to force their hand. They know that if they don't show up, the images of empty chairs across the table from their caucus will be used, repeatedly, to paint them as unwilling to govern and to target them in campaign ads as obstructionists. Forget alerting the wife, the White House is going to out your bad behavior on C-SPAN. In other words: this is blackmail, Beltway style.
Like any concerned observer frightened for my friend's life, as well as my own, I urged Republicans to set some terms and not accept the invitation to the president's gathering unless he agreed to start over. Apparently, Mr. Obama was in favor of a second chance for the relationship and demonstrated his willingness by crafting a more expensive and politically explosive version of the first health care bill -- just on his own terms (so much for bipartisanship).
With each passing week that the president ignores jobs, choosing to focus on his obsession and an unprecedented legislative trick to stalk the public into a submitting to a relationship they don't want, the more he looks like a lunatic who has escaped the asylum, just waiting to surprise you outside your window, in the rain on your fire escape until you relent.
What has become evident to everyone except the Democratic leadership is that the American majority has no interest in a relationship so dysfunctional, so unstable, so completely unhealthy.
Obama has stumbled many times trying to get his way. Act Two of heath care reform might be his biggest mistake on the issue yet. In an effort to hit a button to reset the process, he might have hit the one that just blew it up. Like any good horror film, the element that's most despised just won't die. Let's hope we can finish health care off before anyone gets hurt.
Earlier this week, Media Matters' Christine Schwen detailed the virulent Muslim-bashing at CPAC's "Jihad: The Political Third Rail" event, co-hosted by Pamela Geller and featuring one speaker's assertion that "[r]ape is also a part of" Muslims' efforts to convert non-Muslims in Europe and that and that "[d]emocracy is being deliberately removed" from the European Union by "incorporating Muslim countries of North Africa and the Middle East in the European Union." (Not to mention Geller's own charming description of Umar Abdulmutallab as "the Christmas balls bomber.")
It's worth mentioning that Geller has been a columnist at Newsmax for the past several months, where she regularly spewed her anti-Muslim and anti-Obama venom. Newsmax, you may recall, has had some issues in recent months with columnists going a bit over the top -- advocating a military coup against Obama, calling for a allegedly figurative "tenting" of the White House to kill the "varmints" inside, etc. -- prompting some hasty column deletions.
We were going to ask if Geller's CPAC hate-fest was acceptable to Newsmax, but it seems that question has already been answered. The latest Geller column in the Newsmax archive is from February 10 -- which means it removed a February 16 column in which Geller smeared Obama as a "weakling," "jihad-enabling," and, finally, "President L-dopa" because "Obama is to American people what L-Dopa was to Oliver Sacks' patients." (Here's the Newsmax column in Google cache, and here's a version of it at Big Government, which apparently has no problem with Geller's vicious insults.)
Anyone familiar with Geller's long record of inflammatory comments could have seen this outcome as inevitable. The question is why Newsmax believed that such hatred deserved to be enshrined in a column on its website in the first place.
From Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce's website: