I thought we might have moved beyond this point, but, as my colleague Jamison Foser points out, one can never underestimate the Washington Post's propensity for inanity.
One of the stupider campaign '08 narratives originated when then-candidate Barack Obama, making the point that increased produce prices at supermarkets didn't translate to higher prices for growers, asked a group of Iowa farmers if they had been to Whole Foods to "see what they charge for arugula," adding: "I mean, they're charging a lot of money for this stuff." Following the Republicans' lead, media outlets seized on arugula as a symbol of Obama's aloofness and detachment from the common man, who had never heard of this exotic leaf. Absent from the gleeful mockery and concerned hand-wringing over Obama's supposed predilection for the peppery-tasting salad green was the fact that arugula, in addition to being grown and sold in Iowa, is proudly served at appropriately non-elitist eateries like the Olive Garden.
And, of course, the election results proved the "out-of-touch Obama" narrative to be bogus -- exit polling found that 57 percent of voters thought Obama was "in touch with people like you."
But now, well over a year later, the Washington Post is bringing back the "elitist" Obama narrative, and once again propping up arugula as a mascot of the president's alleged aloofness:
But during his campaign for the presidency, Obama bungled some of his early attempts to connect with blue-collar workers, complaining about the price of arugula at Whole Foods and visiting a bowling alley only to roll an embarrassing score of 37. Some political rivals continue to disparage him as an elitist. Even his aides have sometimes worried that his intellect can be mistaken for condescension and that his composure can seem like detachment.
And as Greg Sargent points out, the Post diagnosis of Obama's "disconnected" nature runs contrary to their own polling, which finds that 57 percent of respondents believe Obama "understands the problems of people like you."
Articles like this help to convey just how intractable certain narratives become among Beltway journalists, particularly narratives that impart the dreaded "elitist" label to Democrats, despite their shaky (or nonexistent) factual basis. That's why now, after many years, you still hear DC journalists joking about Al Gore the pedant and Michael Dukakis' Belgian endive. So don't be surprised if in 2024 you hear journalists warning the Democratic presidential nominee that he needs to avoid looking like an elitist like Barack Obama with his arugula.
CNN.com has an article with the helpful-sounding headline "Things you should know about budget." But rather than clearly and directly explaining budget basics to CNN readers, the article drives home the fact that the news media fails badly at informing and educating the public.
Keep in mind: this is not a "political analysis" piece, or an article focused on the reception the budget is getting among lawmakers. The whole purpose of this article is ostensibly to give readers the information they need to assess the budget.
So, how does the article fail? Well, for one thing, it makes no effort to indicate how the $3.8 trillion budget breaks down. What portion of that is devoted to defense, to Medicare, to education, etc? CNN doesn't tell us. Take, for example, the article's treatment of the Defense budget:
To pay for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama is seeking $33 billion in supplemental funds for this budget year and $159.3 billion for next year's. Funding for military families would increase 3 percent to $8.8 billion. The president would appropriate in advance $50.6 billion for veterans' medical care.
Notice what's missing? That's right -- there's no indication of what total defense spending is.
CNN does, however, point to several drop-in-the-bucket items, such as "End grants to manufacturers of worsted wool. Annual savings: $5 million" and "Terminate Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, aimed at fostering "new discoveries in all fields of endeavor for the benefit of mankind." Savings in 2010: $1 million."
The cumulative effect should be obvious: Readers are given a warped picture of the relative amount of spending on defense and things like worsted wool grants.
But that's not nearly as bad as CNN's treatment of taxes. Here's CNN's handling of tax-cuts for wage-earners:
Still a little extra in your paycheck
The Making Work Pay tax breaks would be extended for a year. These were part of last year's stimulus and resulted in slightly higher paychecks for 110 million families, the White House said.
Wow. No mention of the extension of the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans. That's weird. But that oversight is made worse by what comes a little later:
The president's budget would reduce the nation's debt by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Obama would let the Bush tax cuts expire for high-income families, impose a "financial crisis responsibility fee" on large banks and end fossil-fuel tax subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies. Discretionary spending that is not defense-related would get a three-year cap, saving $250 billion over the next 10 years. Read more
Well, what does "high-income families" mean? CNN doesn't say -- and that's a big, big problem, because time and time again, studies have shown that more Americans think they are "rich" or "wealthy" or "high-income" than actually are. In other words, a lot of people who read this article will falsely think Obama is letting their tax cuts expire. (The proposal would only affect individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making more than $250,000 a year -- about 2 percent of American households.)
Maybe you're wondering if CNN made this clear in that "Read more" link. Even if they did, that wouldn't be adequate -- but they didn't. The link takes you to an article that explains:
Let 2001-2003 tax cuts expire for high-income households: The Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire by 2011. As it has promised all along, the Obama administration would like to keep those tax cuts in place for everyone except the highest-income households.
It estimates nearly $700 billion will be raised over 10 years by letting the cuts expire for the wealthiest Americans.
"High-income households" ... "highest-income households" ... "wealthiest Americans": those are all vague and misleading phrases -- but that's all CNN gives us. It's almost like CNN is deliberately obscuring the fact that only people making more than $200,000 and families making $250,000 will be affected.
Taking to his personal blog today, Walsh announced that his employment had "come to an end" because of the controversy surrounding his offensive Tweet (emphasis added):
For almost a decade I had the pleasure of serving as a political reporter and news anchor covering stories in Jefferson City and beyond. But that "assignment" as we call it in the radio business has come to an end.
Truth be told, it didn't come as a surprise as I had been told that a cascade of complaints regarding something I had tweeted on my personal Twitter account had led to some difficult moments for folks at my company. My news director went so far as to tell me, on Friday, that there was a good chance I might have to go. And it came to pass.
Yup, it was a joke. But the left wing blogosphere got hold of it and went nuts. It was an attempt at humor, but clearly I had struck a nerve - causing considerable angst among the folks at Fired Up! Missouri here in the Show-Me State and Media Matters on the national level. I forgot a cardinal rule - never poke fun at someone's religion. My humor led to a backlash from those for whom global warming - or climate change as it is called when the weather turns cold - is a sacred religious belief. The furor has yet to die down.
So, the bottom line here is that I am out of work. It's interesting that I poke fun at the religion of global warming the same week MSNBC's Chris Matthews says of President Obama following the State of the Union Address, "I forgot he was black tonight." And Matthews is still rolling along. Very interesting, indeed!
I want it made clear I hold no animosity toward my former employer and the employees. In fact, I regret having put the company in this position. I will miss the place after almost a decade. But I have made friends, through the job, who will remain friends for a lifetime. Jobs come and go but friends are to be treasured.
National Review editor Rich Lowry claims it was liberals who said President Clinton's first-term approach to economic and budgetary woes wouldn't work:
Obama is not the first president to take office amid a deteriorating budgetary picture. So did Bill Clinton in 1992. He responded by jettisoning the $200 billion "investment" program he promised in the campaign and adopting a deficit-reduction program in its stead. He caterwauled privately about losing his political soul, and his left-wing supporters predicted economic gloom. A decade of rollicking good times ensued.
I can understand why Lowry wants to hug Bill Clinton's economic policies -- they helped slash the deficit and create an economic boom, while conservative presidents have run up massive deficits. But if Lowry wants us to believe that liberals were the ones who opposed Clinton's successful economic policies, maybe he can explain why Clinton's 1993 budget passed without a single Republican vote?
The reason, of course, is that conservatives (wrongly) predicted that Clinton's policies would result in "economic gloom."
Kasich didn't keep his word; he is currently running for governor of Ohio as a Republican.
Of course, Republican members of Congress weren't the only conservatives predicting "economic gloom" as a result of Clinton's stewardship of the economy. It was also conservative media like ... National Review.
On September 18, 1993, National Journal described two prominent conservative magazines' coverage of Clinton's economic policies:
The cover of a package of National Review articles sent free to new subscribers is headlined "Is America Heading for a Clinton Economic Apocalypse?" An illustration features a quartet of hooded horse riders: Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton in the middle, flanked by Vice President Albert Gore Jr. and budget director Leon E. Panetta. Both the Review and the Spectator preach a free-market gospel of the timeless virtues of low tax rates and minimal bureauracy. Contrary views aren't brooked; the Spectator's September issue set the tone with a "Dead Wrong" editorial by Tyrell that began and ended with the argument that "everything" Clinton believes about the economy "is wrong."
And in August of 1993, William F. Buckley wrote in a column in the Miami Herald:
Economist Stephen Moore brings a different perspective to the question. He writes (in National Review): "In voting on Bill Clinton's economic plan, Democrats must choose whether to torpedo the Clinton presidency or the U.S. economy. It is generally assumed that they will dutifully opt for the latter."
And now, National Review editor Rich Lowry writes -- under the headline "The Budget Poseur" -- that it was the liberals who predicted that Clinton's economic policies wouldn't work.
A major wire story detailing large tax increases on the middle class during an election year would seem to be big news. Yet scarcely an eye was batted when this story disappeared. The administration can ill afford to be seen as raising taxes on the middle class during a recession when the President's Congressional majority is already imperilled. Reuters should be made to explain why this story disappeared.
If The NewsBusters had done a bit of research before they published this sorrowfully wrong blog post, they would have found an explanation (though maybe not the one they're looking for), posted by Reuters yesterday afternoon:
The story "is wrong." Don't believe Reuters? Take it from the American Enterprise Institute, an organization dedicated to "strengthening free enterprise" and described by NewsBusters itself as "conservative." AEI spoke out against "appalling inaccuracies" in the Reuters article, the first of which Lanza repeated in his blog post, calling the claim "fair enough" and "big news." From AEI's post:
-The article asserted that the Obama budget would allow the 10 percent, 25 percent, and 28 percent brackets to expire, boosting those rates to 15, 28, and 31 percent, respectively. In reality, the budget would permanently extend the lower rates.
-The article asserted that the Obama budget would raise the dividend tax rate to 39.6 percent. In reality, the budget would raise the rate only to 20 percent.
-The article asserted that the Obama budget would allow taxpayers' option to deduct state and local sales taxes to expire. In reality, the budget would extend that option through 2011.
Or try the Tax Foundation, an anti-tax think tank that NewsBusters has cited as recently as yesterday, which stated that Reuters' characterization of the Bush tax cuts under Obama's budget is "evidence of intentional deceit or terrible reporting," and that "[t]he reporter also seems to not fully understand the alternative minimum tax."
The Media Research Center created NewsBusters "to provide immediate exposure of liberal media bias, insightful analysis, constructive criticism and timely corrections to news media reporting." Far from being timely, insightful and constructive, Lanza's reproduction of Reuters' days-old, retracted false claim that Obama plans to raise all income tax rates and his slow, misguided demand for an "explanation" for the retraction would be as embarrassing as the Reuters article itself ... if anyone expected more from NewsBusters.
One of my favorite parts of James O'Keefe's underwhelming performance on Sean Hannity's show this week (and let's face it, if a conservative activist can't score points on Hannity's program, something's wrong), was when the host gently pressed O'Keefe about the wisdom of trying to infiltrate a U.S. senator's office.
O'Keefe's response was priceless:
Ah, the "people's office." In other words, security, schma-curity. The U.S. federal government, according to O'Keefe's take on things, should apparenlty have an open door policy when it comes to citizens stopping by unannounced for visits. In fact, it should have an open door policy for twentysomething pranksters who dress up as telephone repairmen. Or pizza delivery guys, or whatever.
Listening to O'Keefe try to spin his way out the fact that he enetered a federal building under false pretenses, the activist announced that there should be no restrictions when it comes to offices of senators, because we, the tax payers, pay their salary. As I noted last week, my guess is that sudden right-wing disdain for security woud evaporate if a a bunch of Arab-Americans got dressed up and filmed their undercover visit to the "people's office."
But let's stick with O'Keefe's unique claim that because federeal buildings and offices are the property of tax payers, than that means there should be an open door policy to wandering inside. Well, why stop at hometown offices of senators and Congressmen? I assume O'Keefe now wants all Capitol Hill offices to do away with security, right? And of course, the court houses too. I mean we pay the salaries of our judges. So why can't anybody just stroll right in?
And naturally, that clearly means the White House should tear down the gates around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., rigth? In fact, let's lay off the entire Secret Service staff becuase, let's face it, all they really do is keep "the people" from getting to see the president; from wandering into the Oval Office. Or as O'Keefe would put it, "the people's office."
From a February 2 post by Seven Days' (Vt.) Shay Totten:
A conservative talk show host's suggestion that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was drunk while delivering a Senate floor speech last week is quickly being passed around on right-wing blogs and media outlets.
Mark Levin, a conservative yakker based out of New York City, made the unsubstantiated claims on his Friday program. His proof? That Leahy appeared to be slurring his speech.
Maybe we're just accustomed to Leahy's affectation, but he doesn't sound like anything more than perhaps a wee bit exhausted. He may have stayed up late after the State of the Union address the night before -- who knows?
Leahy spokesman David Carle called Levin's implication is "as ridiculous as it is patently false."
"So in a situation like this, their MO is to level false charges at whim. It's a tactic they've been using more and more to poison rational debate," said Carle. "They're like the schoolyard bullies who gang up to smear and smack down anyone who dares to disagree with them or to stand up to them."
Media Matters for America has been tracking the trend of right-wing talkers making unsubstantiated claims of Democratic senators being drunk while giving speeches.
Red State's Erick Erickson has uncovered what he thinks is a shocking admission in President Obama's 2011 budget: that "the White House is now admitting" that funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are being distributed over the course of two years. Erickson has also determined their purpose. From Red State:
Washington was "unwilling to solve" the problems because 2009 was not an election year and 2010 is. The President of the United States refused to help get unemployment down in 2009 by design so he could get credit in the 2010 election year instead.
You can't blame Erickson for jumping to this conclusion. Who wouldn't accuse the President of prolonging economic hardships in order to rig elections when no other justifiable reason has been presented?
Except Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag discussed exactly this last July:
In designing the Recovery Act, we also recognized that the economic situation we inherited was so severe that we needed to assure producers and consumers that aggregate demand would be boosted not just for a few months, but for a sustained period. That is why we envisioned a Recovery Act that would ramp up rapidly in 2009, have its peak impact in 2010, and lay the groundwork for further growth thereafter.
And in January 2009, the Congressional Budget Office illustrated the fact that the stimulus money was designed to be distributed over two years:
Combining the spending and revenue effects of H.R. 1, CBO estimates that enacting the bill would increase federal budget deficits by $169 billion over the remaining months of fiscal year 2009, by $356 billion in 2010, by $174 billion in 2011, and by $816 billion over the 2009-2019 period.
CBO and JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] estimate that enacting H.R. 1 would increase budget deficits by $526 billion over the 2009-2010 period (about 19 months) and by a total of $816 billion over the 2009-2019 period.
And, as Vice President Joe Biden wrote in a July, 2009 New York Times op-ed:
The care with which we are carrying out the provisions of the Recovery Act has led some people to ask whether we are moving too slowly. But the act was intended to provide steady support for our economy over an extended period - not a jolt that would last only a few months. Instead of quick-hit rebates, we are giving Americans a tax cut in each paycheck. Instead of pumping out all the state aid immediately, we are spreading it over the two years that it will be needed. Road projects, energy projects and construction projects are being started as soon as they pass review, contracts are competitively bid and reporting systems are in place.
Last week I wrote about the hypocrisy on display by CBS when it agreed to air an anti-choice ad from the right-wing Focus on the Family during this year's Super Bowl after rejecting an ad from the United Church of Christ intended for the 2004 Super Bowl that advocated the inclusion of LGBT people and others.
Well, CBS has doubled down on the hypocrisy rejecting a gay-themed ad that was intended to run during this weekend's big game.
It gets worse.
According to a report in The Daily Beast, CBS worked for months with Focus on the Family developing the anti-choice ad's script featuring college football star Tim Tebow which the network ultimately approved (surprise, surprise):
The major broadcast networks have avoided political advocacy ads for years, so CBS's decision to air the Tebow ad caught abortion rights advocates off guard. But Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian group founded by Dr. James Dobson, says that it has actually been working closely with CBS executives for months on the ad's script.
"There were discussions about the specific wording of the spot," said Gary Schneeberger, spokesperson for Focus on the Family. "And we came to a compromise. To an agreement." Schneeberger declined to comment on exactly how CBS changed the ad's message.
CBS has said that in the last year, in an acknowledgment of "industry norms," it loosened previous restrictions on advocacy advertisements, accepting ads that pushed for health reform and environmental activism.