Remember back in September 2008 when candidate Obama used a common idiom to assert that his then-opponent Sen. McCain couldn't credibly claim to be "about change"? Obama said:
Let's just list this for a second. John McCain says he's about change, too. Except -- and so I guess his whole angle is, "Watch out, George Bush, except for economic policy, health-care policy, tax policy, education policy, foreign policy, and Karl Rove-style politics. We're really gonna shake things up in Washington." That's not change. That's just calling some -- the same thing, something different. But you know, you can -- you know, you can put lipstick on a pig; it's still a pig.
How could we forget? These comments sparked one of the most embarrassing media spectacles of the presidential campaign, as pundits and journalists, conservative and otherwise, speculated that Obama was taking a shot at Sarah Palin since around the same time, she referred to herself as a pit bull wearing lipstick, nevermind that he was talking about policy and didn't mention Palin in his preceding remarks. A New York Post headline declared, "Holy Sow! Obama Takes a Pig and a Poke at Palin."
Although some reasonable media figures recognized that the "lipstick on a pig" phrase has a long, long history in political rhetoric, that both Obama and McCain had previously used the phrase during the campaign, and that this story was a stunning waste of time and resources, the whole ordeal was an unpleasant reminder that the media has ... a problem.
So we'd expect that media figures wouldn't be eager to revisit that unfortunate incident. But seventeen months later, in an article about Robert Gibbs mocking Sarah Palin in a press briefing yesterday, New York Post writer Jennifer Fermino chose to write:
Team Obama has let loose at the Alaska ex-governor before. While campaigning in 2008, Barack Obama said, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig" -- which many took as a reference to Palin's famous line, "What's the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick."
What in 2008 was a baseless media freak-out directed by McCain campaign spin is now simply what happened according to the New York Post.
From Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich's twitter feed:
From TPM Media:
For those like me who are snowed-in on the Atlantic coast, I present some Wednesday mid-morning fun:
The WashPost's Chris Cillizza recently toasted Sarah Palin's ability to speak in soundbites, and noted that successful presidents in the past, such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, were able to chisel their political philosphies into pithy phrases. It's all true, and there's no denying that soundbites are part of modern day American politics.
And yes, Cillizza stresses that Palin has a gift for the craft. She's "mastered the art":
Palin grasps that concept intuitively and has spent much of the past year -- via Facebook -- dropping all sorts of soundbite hits on an Obama Administration that has repeatedly tried to explain their own policy proposals with a nuance and subtlety lost on many Americans.
But then Cillizza (to his credit) notes that Palin isn't actually that popular. (Her polling numbers continue to be a disaster.) So doesn't that pretty much kick the legs out of his argument that Palin's scoring points via soundbites? Meaning, if the soundbite strategy actually worked, wouldn't Palin be popular and respected? But she's not, which suggests her soundbite strategy is a failure.
So why is Cillizza toasting it as being "extremely effective"?
UPDATED: Cillizza's opening leaves me scratching my head:
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as mastered the art of the political soundbite and has used it to devastating -- and some would say irresponsible -- effect since emerging on the political scene in the fall of 2008.
But what has Palin done "since emerging on the political scene in the fall of 2008"? She was part of a GOP ticket that lost in an electoral landslide. She walked away from her job as governor, and is now viewed by most Americans as being wholly unqualified to lead the nation.
Bu other than that, I suppose her soundbite strategy has worked wonders.
Or, welcome to the 'Global Warming Games'!
I've been having fun recently mocking the normally weather-obsessed Matt Drudge, as well as the rest of the right-wing media, for having refused to acknowledge the big pre-Winter Olympics story out of Vancouver: The Canadian outpost has a shortage of snow thanks to an historic January heat wave [emphasis added]:
it comes as little surprise that this January will go down as the warmest in Vancouver history. The 44.8-degree 31-day average easily eclipsed the previous mark of 43.3, set in 2006. Since record-keeping began in 1937, the January average had been 37.9.
But of course, that's bad news for Drudge and his anti-reason friends at Fox, because this winter's meme has been that, OMG, it's been snowing a lot (in some place) in January and February, which means (duh!) global warming, or climate change, must be bunk, right? Because if it's snowing today, that means the atmosphere won't warm decades from now, right? (Makes perfect sense.)
So naturally, Drudge and Fox News mostly ignore the Vancouver heat wave story. (It does not exist!) But if you had to select the Vancouver Winter Olympics headlines that Drudge will never, ever link to, here they are:
UPDATED: I'll even throw in a Media Matters trucker hat as a prize if Drudge gets up the nerve to acknowledge today, amidst right-wing blizzard giggles, the biggest story of the Olympics so far -- the Canadian winter heat wave!!
UPDATED: Good for Drudge! He recently did acknowledge the Vancouver-has-no snow story. (That only took weeks of prodding from Media Matters.) But now, will he link to any articles that specifically connect the snow-less Olympics to climate change? And what about Fox News?
UPDATED: Another key headline from today that the GOP Noise Machine must absolutely ignore:
Apparently, neither does O'Reilly. Tonight, his show promises us a special report on "sexy snow angels," which apparently consists of "sultry skiers" and "steamy snowboarders," aka female Olympic athletes, who posed in, you guessed it, bikinis for Sports Illustrated. Take a look:
Flashback to 2007: Laura Ingraham was a guest on O'Reilly, and she really took O'Reilly and Fox News to task for its penchant of gratuitously airing video of half-naked women. Ingraham rightly argued: "I don't know if there's a rampant midlife crisis going on on this network among the male anchors, but I can tell you that my female listeners are saying ... what is the purpose? ... You can talk about cultural issues and cultural debates without running the constant loop of this video." The segment concluded with O'Reilly vowing, "No more bikinis! They're over," and promising to "[n]ever again" air images of, in Ingraham's words, women with "hands over the boobs."
Not surprisingly, this was a promise O'Reilly had absolutely no intention of keeping.
From the Fox Nation:
From a February 9 post on The Hill's Twitter Room blog:
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Tuesday used the D.C. snowstorm to make a political jab, saying that it provides evidence for global warming skeptics.
The conservative senator took to Twitter on Tuesday amid reports that the area is due to receive another 10 to 20 inches of snow this week:
It's going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries "uncle"
Some conservatives have echoed DeMint's sentiments that the snowstorm should poke holes in evidence backing global warming.
DeMint took direct aim at the former vice president, who is one of the foremost proponents of government action to counter global warming.
Reports of more snow caused the House of Representatives to call off the rest of its votes scheduled for this week. The Washington, D.C. area was blanketed with about two feet of snow last week, causing the Senate to adjourn earlier than expected on Thursday.
The South Carolina senator was not the first Republican to use the snowstorm to make a political point. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas) said that absence of votes in the House is a plus for taxpayers.
In order to attack progressive income tax rates, Glenn Beck tried his darndest to educate his followers about the Laffer curve, arguing that higher tax rates necessarily lead to reduced revenues:
BECK: It's called the Laffer curve. The higher the income tax, the less you pay.
He even attempted to illustrate what the Laffer curve would look like graphically:
The curve Beck drew would illustrate a relationship where, as tax rates increased, revenue would also increase approaching an undefined level represented by the Y axis. But since that graphic would completely undermine Beck's words, I'll assume he inverted the variables on either the X or the Y axis in order to show an inverse relationship between tax rates and revenue. But the logical outcome of that relationship would be that maximum revenue is obtained when income is taxed at a rate of zero percent.
The Laffer curve takes its name from economist Arthur Laffer, who reportedly illustrated the relationship between tax rates and revenue on a napkin:
Time's Justin Fox reported:
It's a saga that began in a bar near the White House on a December afternoon in 1974. Huddled at a meeting arranged by Wall Street Journal editorial writer Jude Wanniski were [Dick] Cheney, then the deputy chief of staff to Republican President Gerald Ford, and Laffer, who was teaching at the University of Chicago's business school after a stint in the Nixon White House. In trying to explain to Cheney why a tax hike mooted by the President might not be such a great idea, Laffer drew a chart on a napkin that showed government revenues increasing as the tax rate moved up from 0% but then turning around and heading back toward zero as it neared 100%.
So Laffer's original curve showed revenues increasing along with tax rates up to a certain point of maximum revenue, not -- as Beck indicated -- a more unidirectional relationship. A traditional representation of the Laffer curve is not the curve Beck drew, but rather a parabola:
It should be noted that economists have criticized references to the Laffer curve as a justification for reducing income tax rates in the United States. In Peddling Prosperity: Economic Sense and Nonsense in an Age of Diminished Expectations, Paul Krugman wrote, "Nobody questions that something like the Laffer curve exists; but even the supply-siders are skeptical about whether the U.S. economy is really in the 'backward-sloping' section."
At this point, I guess we have surpassed the information-maximizing point on the Glenn Beck show.
On his Fox News show, Glenn Beck stated, "I read a lot." That may be, but if his interpretation of a recent New York Times editorial is any indication, his reading comprehension leaves a bit to be desired.
Launching an attack on progressive income tax rates, Beck claimed, "The New York Times is doing their best to cover the spending tracks left by President Obama." Beck explained:
BECK: The Times claims that the deficit is a result of cutting taxes on the wealthy. And they offer this stern warning to us little people: "The last thing that government should do is slash spending." Wow. I wish I wasn't such a little person and I could understand that. History tells us taxing the rich and slashing government spending are both progressive lies. But you have to know history. You know, a lot of people will say, "That Glenn Beck, he's just a big, dumb dummy." Well, maybe I am. You can disagree with me all you want. But I read a lot. I read a lot of in-depth history.
The article, Beck said, could win "the gold medal in mental gymnastics" since the Times "will bend, twist, and contort all of the facts into a pretty, little, grimy, little ball of blame-Bush."
The thing is, I also read that New York Times editorial. Even the parts Beck omitted to fit into a pretty little ball:
The deficit numbers -- a projected $1.3 trillion in fiscal 2011 alone -- are breathtaking. What is even more breathtaking is the Republicans' cynical refusal to acknowledge that the country would never have gotten into so deep a hole if President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress had not spent years slashing taxes -- mainly on the wealthy -- and spending with far too little restraint. Unfortunately, the problem does not stop there.
See, the Times did not claim that "the deficit is a result of cutting taxes on the wealthy," as Beck claimed. The editorial stated that a combination of cutting taxes largely on wealthy taxpayers and reckless spending under Republican economic stewardship facilitated the current fiscal situation.
Further, when Beck said he couldn't understand the Times' warning that "[t]he last thing government should do is slash spending," this likely was due to his omission of the comments immediately preceding those he quoted:
At a time of high unemployment and fragile growth, the last thing the government should do is to slash spending. That will only drive the economy into deeper trouble.
As it turns out, in reading, context matters.