Here's what I think happened.
Maybe about a week or so ago, someone at the Media Research Center heard the news that Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava had dropped out of the NY-23 congressional race, and started thinking. "What if super-conservative, teabagger-approved candidate Doug Hoffman wins?" this staffer mused (in paraphrase) as he or she saw media figures claim that Republicans were committing political suicide by purging their ranks of moderates. Then that person came up with a great idea - catalogue instances of media figures saying NY-23 will be a disaster for the GOP, and if Hoffman wins, republish those quotes in order to embarrass those silly members of the liberal media.
Truth be told, it's not a bad idea. But here's the hitch - it would only work if Hoffman won. And, of course, Hoffman lost the traditionally Republican district to the Democrat, Bill Owens.
Well, the MRC apparently wasn't ready to give up on the idea and refused to let Hoffman's defeat get in their way. As such, they announced today "The 'Dewey Defeats Truman Awards' for the Most Incompetent Political Reporting of This Year's Election." Highlighting quotes from Mike Allen, Katie Couric, the New York Times, and Ron Brownstein that criticized the GOP for expelling moderates like Scozzafava in favor of orthodox conservatives like Hoffman, the MRC offered the following explanation as to why these media types were wrong:
Last night's election results were an unequivocal testament to the strength of the conservative movement. In New York's 23rd, the GOP lost because it committed political suicide by drafting a candidate to the left even of the Democrat, and a complete political unknown came within a whisker of winning on the Conservative Party line. In New Jersey, a moderate Republican barely defeated a liberal incumbent Democrat with an approval rating under 40%. But in Virginia, a state captured by the Democrats last year, and where an unabashed, uncompromising, conservative GOP ticket ran this year, it won a massive landslide.
So here's the situation as it stands: Allen, Couric, Brownstein, and the Times counseled the GOP that ditching moderates in favor of hard-line conservatives won't work; the hard-line conservative who supplanted the moderate Republican in NY-23 lost the race; and even though that proved Allen, Couric, Brownstein, and the Times to be exactly right in their analyses, the MRC nonetheless lambasted them for "incompetent political reporting."
A quick tip for my friends at the MRC - sometimes even the best ideas end up on the cutting room floor.
Because right now, the smear effort, launched by Big Hollywood, doesn't seem to be going anywhere. And the hysterical claims being made about children being brainwashed because they sing songs in school honoring the president of the United States (how dare they?) certainly doesn't mirror the manufactured controversy the GOP Noise Machine was able to kick up in back September.
It's true that the Drudge Report has hyped the latest Big Hollywood report, which touts how the site "uncovered" videos of students singing Obama songs. Where, exactly, did the Big Hollywood sleuths "uncover" the clips? On that super-secret site, YouTube, of course.
But I think the only way this thing generates even respectable attention is if Fox News goes all in. So far though, even FNC seems reluctant to tout the idiocy. Gee, wonder why.
From Big Hollywood:
Young captive minds, easily influenced, eager for direction, enlisted into a cult of personality focused on an individual who, other than being the first black president, has yet to accomplish anything of significance.
Question for Big Hollywood: Why do you hate American school children?
UPDATED: Here's a sample of the "creepy" and "troubling" song lyrics being mocked by conservatives today:
Barack Obama is our new President
Barack Obama is the leader of our land
On November 4, 2008
All the Americans voted
In each and every state
Barack Obama is our new President
Barack Obama is the leader of our land
UPDATED: Big Hollywood claims the 11 clips it found of school kids represents an "epidemic" of...patriotism? I'm still not actually sure what crime is being committed here is, but Big Hollywood claims it's everywhere.
Anyone want to take a guess in terms of how many public schools there are in America, in order to put those 11 clips in context? Anyone, Bueller?
So much for the epidemic.
I have frequently noted that, in addition to the three hours a day in which MSNBC is hosted by a former Republican congressman, the cable channel's daytime news reporters often adopt conservative framing. Here's an example, from anchor Contessa Brewer's introduction of a segment about Maine's repeal of a law allowing same-sex marriage:
Contessa Brewer: "And today you can add Maine to a long line of states, about 30 so far, where voters have chosen to define marriage traditionally: The union between one man and one woman."
"Define marriage traditionally" is straight out of the anti-gay movement's talking points. They work the phrase (and variations of it) into everything they say about the subject.
And it isn't accurate or neutral language.
It is telling that the construction "Define marriage traditionally" is a relatively new one. If you go back a decade, you'll be hard-pressed to find many uses of it (or variations of it) in the media. A Nexis search for "marriage w/5 tradition! w/5 defin!" returns only 317 hits from prior to the past 10 years.
No, the phrase is new -- cooked-up by anti-gay activists, because they know "deny gay couples the right to marry" doesn't poll as well. So why is an MSNBC anchor adopting it?
It's not like it's accurate. It wasn't too long ago, after all, when laws in America defined marriage as the union of one white man and one white woman, or of one black man and one black woman. That was the "traditional" definition of marriage in America, until people saw the light. Now they want you to believe marriage has always been defined the same way, so they can claim tradition is on their side. It isn't true -- but MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer parrots their rhetoric
If Brewer had introduced the segment by saying that Maine voted to "discriminate against gays," you can be sure the Right would be apoplectic -- and other reporters would point to it as evidence that MSNBC is a left-wing channel.
But that isn't what happened. What actually happened was that Brewer adopted anti-gay talking points as though they were neutral descriptions.
And Howard Kurtz, Campbell Brown, Ruth Marcus, David Zurawick and the rest of the "MSNBC-is-the-liberal-Fox" crowd won't say a word about it.
Here's MSNBC's Chris Matthews last night, talking about the claims that New Jersey governor John Corzine's campaign emphasized the weight of his Republican opponent:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, you're out there campaigning like mad for Chris Christie. What do you make of the fat charge?
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Oh, it's ridiculous. And it's a -- it's a diversionary tactic to try to get people not to look at Corzine's record. And I think it's pretty clear, pretty apparent.
MATTHEWS: Well, let's take a look at it, because I have never seen anything this lowbrow, but here it is. I enjoy these, because it shows how stinky-poo politics can get.
And here are several examples of Matthews talking about Al Gore over the years:
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me go to John for an always interesting analysis by John Heilemann. John, Al Gore, he appears to us so irregularly. We notice how he gains weight, loses weight, has a beard. He ought to stick around more frequently so people don't notice these things. He's a big guy. He's back. And he's not really a politician, I wouldn't say. Is he a plus? [6/17/08]
MATTHEWS: Express your -- Mike Allen, express your thoughts more clearly. Three questions. Will he jump in this fall? Will she -- will he be ready to jump if in if there's something going wrong with the Clintons by next November? Or will he hold his fire, lose some weight and go back in 2012? [10/12/07]
MATTHEWS: I hear he's made a commitment to a friend for a crash course to lose 40 pounds right away. [4/8/07]
MATTHEWS: And Patrick, before, when we were in the green room a while ago and you were saying that you think he's lost some weight. I know this is so cosmetic, but people are watching the weight here. [3/25/07]
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We're joined now by Eugene Robinson of "The Washington Post" and Michael Feldman, a former adviser to Al Gore. By the way, is Al Gore sharpening up his political blade now? He's up there on the Hill. Is he going to lose some weight and make his move, or...
MICHAEL FELDMAN, FORMER GORE ADVISER: You're obsessed with his weight, Chris!
MATTHEWS: Because he weighs -- he's Raymond Burr! [3/22/07]
MATTHEWS: Well, you haven't gotten fat like a lot of ex-politicians. I'll give you that. I saw Gore the other night. I couldn't believe it. I thought I was seeing the Hindenburg coming by. And there you are; you're looking great. [11/7/06]
HOWARD FINEMAN: Al Gore is so invisible that a large foot is not required to obscure him. OK? I mean, I was just told today that he's having Camp Al down in Tennessee in a couple of weeks.
Mr. FINEMAN: Twenty-five young activists are going to come down to lectured in political activism by Al Gore and...
MATTHEWS: I mean, do you know what this reminds me of? In the back of The New York Times magazine when they have camp for the fat kids. Please send your fat kid to this camp.
Mr. FINEMAN: And instructions in Palm Pilot use. No, but...
MATTHEWS: You know, Chester will come back 20 pounds lighter in the Happy Camp. [8/1/01]
MATTHEWS: When is he allowed to show some cuff, or when is he--first of all, he has to lose about 40 pounds. That'll be the first sign he's running. We all agree on that, right? The minute he loses weight, somebody will say, 'Have you seen the trim, new Al Gore?' That'll be the first sign. You'll probably do that, Julia. You'll--Lawrence, he loses weight. How soon can he lose weight and run? [6/25/01]
And a bonus: Chris Matthews interviewing Al Sharpton:
MATTHEWS: Reverend Sharpton, sir, thanks for joining us. First of all, a human interest question: How many pounds did you lose? [9/6/01]
The AP on Tuesday:
To be sure, it's easy to overanalyze the results of such a small number of elections in a few places. The results will only offer hints about the national political landscape and clues to the public's attitudes. And the races certainly won't predict what will happen in the.
The AP on Wednesday:
To be sure, each race was as much about local issues as about firing warning shots at the politically powerful. But taken together, the results of the 2009 off-year elections could imperil Obama's ambitious legislative agenda and point to a challenging environment in midterm elections next year.
Washington Post reporter Michael Fletcher, in an online Q&A:
non-election question: Given Liz Cheney's sudden prominence (man, nepotism in DC never ceases to amaze me), I'm curious as to why none of you reporters are asking her questions re: her recent comments about Obama's trip to Dover. She said that Bush routinely made the same trip and didn't "stage photo ops." A) she flat out lied - Bush never went to Dover, B) he couldn't have had photos taken because of the Pentagon policy at the time and C) Mission Accomplished, anybody? Ultimate photo op. What gives? Or is being related to Dick sufficient to protect her from questioned?
Michael A. Fletcher: If we begin questioning Liz Cheney that way, then we would have to do the same with conservative (and liberal) commentators who make all kinds of charges every day. It is their way of making a (great) living. Some comments, I like to think, sink under their own weight.
So a Washington Post reporter says the media doesn't question Liz Cheney about her lies because if they did so, they would have to do the same with other commentators.
What's missing? Any explanation of why that would be a bad thing.
In case you missed it the other day, on his Fox News program Glenn Beck linked health care reform to 9-11, likening legislation designed to better the lives of Americans to a fuel-laden passenger jet striking the World Trade Center, and casting himself, as the leader of his 9-12 cult, as the only person standing in the way of disaster.
It's the type of deluded and offensive narcissism that we've come to expect from Beck, and normally I wouldn't have given it a whole lot of thought afterwards, but something else caught my ear in the middle of Beck's rant as he tried to cast himself as some sort of latter-day Cassandra whose prophetic warnings about bin Laden fell on deaf ears: "In the 1990s, I was on the radio warning people about Osama bin Laden, not because I was some super-smart genius. I just listened to the man's words. I really believed him. But that wasn't the top of the priority list in America -- no, no, no. We were dealing with the fat interns and the definition of is, and I like the rest of America went back to sleep on the terrorist threat."
It just so happens that Glenn Beck has on his website a section called "Classic Beck," which contains selected audio recordings of Beck's radio programs going back several years. One of those recordings is from August 22, 1998, and is described as follows: "Glenn debuts on the WABC in New York City. Glenn discusses the recent U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan and if the American people are ready for the upcoming War on Terrorism." And it just so happens that near the beginning of this recording, Beck comments on Osama bin Laden:
BECK: Now, another newspaper in Pakistan says that it received a statement for the--from the spokesperson for Azma bin Ladin [sic]. Is that is name? Bin Ladin? Bin Ladeen? Bin jelly bean, green bean, Mr. Clean? I love him. He's hot. He says he's ready for war with the U.S. Oh yes? Thank you Mr. Baked Bean.
A respected newspaper quotes the statement as follows: "The war has just started, and Americans should wait for the answer." Now, Mr. Ozma Dig-my-scene, I don't even know what the question was! Was the question "is my turban on too tight?" Yes! I think it is. The blood's not pumping around the whole brain. Loosen the turban, Mr. Clean, dig my scene. Oh yes, let's look at the latrine.
Does this sound like Beck was "warning" about bin Laden and taking his words seriously? Now, consider the time period - it's late August 1998, just a few weeks after the Al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and President Clinton just launched cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation. If there was ever a time in the '90s when terrorism was the focus of America's attention, this was it. And Glenn Beck, debuting on WABC, used that time to make silly jokes about bin Laden's name and dismiss his threats as a symptom of an overly tight turban.
But the Glenn Beck of August 1998 doesn't jibe with the Glenn Beck of 2009, who desperately wants to be taken seriously as the last remaining bulwark against the rising tide of socialism or fascism or statism or whatever. So Beck simply rewrote his own history. Ironically, it was the actual historical records that Beck maintains on his own website that undermined his attempt at revisionism.
From Zachary Roth's November 4 TPMMuckraker post:
Newsweek magazine is teaming up with an oil-industry lobbying group to host an invitation-only event on climate-change and energy issues for lawmakers, just as the Senate gets set to take up legislation on the subject.
The panel discussion, entitled "Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?", will feature Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, and, as moderator, Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman, according to an email invitation sent by a Newsweek business staffer and obtained by TPMmuckraker.
Roth also posted the complete email from Newsweek's External Relations Manager Jennifer Slattery:
From: Jennifer Slattery To: Sent: Mon Nov 02 18:36:27 2009 Subject: V.I.P. Invitation / Newsweek Executive Forum - Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?
The editors of Newsweek cordially invite you to attend Newsweek's Executive Forum entitled, Climate and Energy Policy: Moving? This Capitol Hill policy forum is scheduled on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at XXX in the XXX in the United States Capitol.
There will be an informal reception immediately following the discussion.
The panel discussion will be moderated Howard Fineman, Newsweek National-Affairs Columnist and Senior Washington Correspondent with special guest panelist Jack Gerard, President & Chief Executive Officer of American Petroleum Institute (API). Newsweek is also honored to have forum invitations currently pending confirmation with notable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
These additional program announcements will be made in the coming days and you will be apprised of these updates.
Newsweek is pleased to be co-hosting this panel discussion with API. To R.S.V.P. please click the below link and register for the event.
Please don't hesitate to let us know if you need additional information or have further questions.
We look forward to hosting you on Tuesday, December 1 and value your continued interest in energy issues of importance.
Manager, Newsweek External Relations
It seems whenever Democrats win an election, the media rushes to insist that they did it by running to the middle and not being "traditional Democrats." Just this week, Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon reminded us, "The candidates Democrats recruited in 2006 and 2008 are pro-life and pro-gun." (In fact, very few were pro-life.)
Some creative conservative media figures even insisted that Barack Obama won election in 2008 by running as a "Reaganite" and "fiscal conservative."
So I turned on my television a few hours ago, fully to hear cable news talkers saying that yes, Republicans won last night, but they did so by running to the center and downplaying traditional Republican positions. After all, just yesterday, Washington Post reporter Ben Pershing said during an online Q&A:
If there is a national lesson from today, it's that Republicans all over the country will be looking to replicate McDonnell's model -- play up jobs and economic issues, and play down social issues (with the general audience, at least. You can still let conservative activists know you're on their side.)
Indeed, during the campaign, McDonnell distanced himself from his own previous anti-gay writings. And in the NY-23 congressional election, Republicans rallied 'round the most conservative candidate they could find (even abandoning their own nominee in the process) and promptly lost the seat for the first time in about 150 years.
But, oddly, I haven't seen anyone -- not even on the supposedly-liberal MSNBC -- saying that last night proves that Republicans need to moderate themselves if they're going to win. Weird.
Liz Sidoti's AP article today is just ridiculous. "GOP sweep: Big governor victories in Virginia, NJ" reads the headline. Sweep? Just for a second, let's exclude the congressional race in New York - which the article itself hardly mentions - and focus on just the governor races in Virginia and New Jersey. It seems a little absurd to call two races a sweep. Why don't we just call one race a sweep as well?
Independents who swept Barack Obama to a historic 2008 victory broke big for Republicans on Tuesday as the GOPwrested political control from Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey, a troubling sign for the president and his party heading into an importantmidterm election year.
(Sidoti ignores that, as Bob Somerby notes, in every "off-off" election since 1977, Virginians have elected a governor from the "out" party-from the party which isn't controlling the White House.)
But what about that 23rd Congressional race in New York? Considering it was probably just as newsworthy - if not more - than the two gubernatorial races, how could Sidoti not mention it in the lede? Instead, she buries it in the fourth graf - below a paragraph on Maine voters rejecting same-sex marriage. After all, Bill Owens is the first Democrat to hold the seat in more than a century. And as TPMDC's Brian Beutler wrote this morning, Owens' and Democrat John Garamendi's election to California's 10th seat "will have immediate ramifications for health care reform," since the newly elected representatives, unlike the governors, actually get to cast a vote on the health reform bill.
(As for the Maine paragraph, it would have been a good spot for Sidoti to mention that Maine voters overwhelmingly approved a measure allowing for dispensaries to supply medical marijuana and rejected a measure that would have limited state and local government spending by holding it to the rate of inflation plus population growth. Those definitely were not GOP victories.)
But let's look closely at Sidoti's fourth graf in which she mentions Owens' victory:
And Democrat Bill Owens captured a GOP-held vacant 23rd Congressional District seat in New York in a race that highlighted fissures in the Republican Party and illustrated hurdles the GOP could face in capitalizing on any voter discontent with Obama and Democrats next fall.
So Sidoti leads by calling two GOP gubernatorial victories (one of which was predicted and the other of which was close) a "troubling sign" for President Obama and the Democrats but downplays a congressional election that "highlighted fissures in the Republican Party"?
Is Sidoti aware how much of the conservative media threw their hat behind Doug Hoffman - whose name she doesn't even mention? And how about noting that the GOP spent nearly a million dollars funding its establishment candidate only for her to drop out two days before the election.
Talk about burying the lede...
Oh and it's not until the 18th graf that Sidoti writes: "Tuesday's impact on Obama's popularity and on the 2010 elections could easily be overstated. Voters are often focused on local issues and local personalities."