In the entire history of American journalism, there is probably not a single writer with a more horrible record of reporting on weapons of mass destruction than Judith Miller. So of course FoxNews.com's story about a report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction which graded the government on its handling of WMD proliferation features the byline of... Judith Miller.
Why might a news outlet think twice about letting Miller write any kind of story, let alone one involving WMD? During her time at the NY Times Miller repeatedly "reported" misinformation about Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities; those stories became evidence that could be cited by Bush administration officials to push their case for the invasion of Iraq. In other words, Miller's work was a vital part of the pro-war echo chamber. The NY Times later had to go to the unusual step of writing an editor's note about the shoddy quality of Miller's WMD work, as Slate's Eric Umansky noted (emphasis mine):
After taking its very sweet time, a NYT editor's note acknowledges that some of its WMD reporting was overly credulous and is no longer, em, operative. While archly noting that most of the coverage was an "accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time," the Times acknowledges, "We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged--or failed to emerge."
Not that anyone in particular is at fault: "Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated." Which is true; editors at the Times weren't skeptical enough and didn't give sufficient play to countervailing evidence. But just because many were at fault doesn't mean one wasn't particularly so. Of the 12 flawed stories the Times cites, Judith Miller wrote or co-wrote of 10 of them.
This is perhaps not the person you want to put on the WMD beat, to say the least. Or any beat, for that matter.
Former White House adviser Van Jones and former White House communications director Anita Dunn have been out of the administration and out of the news for months. But that hasn't stopped Glenn Beck from attacking them night after night over the past couple of weeks.
Glenn Beck is a man promising education but peddling ignorance. It's a characteristic of most accomplished propagandists, whose offerings of "truth" are ugly distortions and lies barely covered by a thin veneer of fact. Beck, however, has grown aggressively mendacious in defense of his anti-intellectual and counterfactual retellings of history.
On his show last night, Beck attacked the Politico for quoting a slew of actual historians dismissing Beck's documentary, "Revolutionary Holocaust," and its attempts to link the progressive movement to the worst communist atrocities of the 20th century as inaccurate, ahistorical, and "a complete lie." Beck defended himself by attacking the "eggheads" and attempting to explain why he was right to tie progressives to genocide:
BECK: Now, obviously, a point can be made that totalitarianism starts with the government inserting itself into more and more aspects of our lives, right? But the underlying point here I made in the documentary -- and please, try to keep up, Alan, in our alternative universe -- the right is continually associated with Nazis. That seems perfectly fine with all the egg-heads in this country. Unfortunately, that is the lie that we are exposing. And it's, by the way, again, not the Democrats. It's the progressives on the lefts -- on the left. They have been excusing and defending brutal dictators from the beginning. The reason the progressive movement went underground in the first place was all of their failed policies that America has rejected back in the turn of the last century.
And then also, they also had a problem. They kept supporting all these evil dictators around the world. Progressives -- like we showed you on Friday -- George Bernard Shaw couldn't hide his admiration for the dictators. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, IRISH PLAYWRIGHT: Now Signor Mussolini cannot take it off. He is condemned although he is a most amiable man. He is condemned to go through life with that terrible and imposing expression which really does a great deal of injustice to his kindly nature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: To his kindly -- he is talking about Mussolini. Shaw gave us a great insight into what the progressives do. He talked about Mussolini's scary look. Right before that part, he said, you know, Mussolini looks like this, a little scary. And can look like that, too, but I can look happy, too. But Mussolini is condemned to always look like that.
He wanted America to know that he could look scary, but he really wasn't. After it became abundantly apparent to the world, the sheer evil that these people were supporting, progressives realized -- as George Bernard Shaw demonstrated on camera -- that they had to change the scary face. Not the policies, the scary face.
There are a couple of things to address here:
"The reason the progressive movement went underground in the first place was all of their failed policies that America has rejected back in the turn of the last century." This is comically false. Rather than going "underground," the progressive movement was ascendant at the turn of the 20th century. The first three presidents elected in the 20th century -- Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson -- were all, to varying degrees, reformers who enacted progressive policies at the national level (Taft being the least ambitious of the three, Roosevelt the most). The progressive movement reached its zenith in 1912 when Roosevelt reemerged on the political scene as the firebrand head of the Progressive Party and finished second in that year's election with 88 electoral votes and 27 percent of the popular vote, the best showing ever by a third party in an American presidential election.
"They kept supporting all these evil dictators around the world. Progressives -- like we showed you on Friday -- George Bernard Shaw couldn't hide his admiration for the dictators." George Bernard Shaw was an author, playwright, polemicist, and eugenics-supporting lunatic. He was also an avowed socialist, which, despite Beck's insistence to the contrary, is not the same as a progressive. The American progressive movement actually presented itself as an alternative to socialism. As University of Kansas professor of politics Sidney Milkis wrote:
The Progressive Party's millennial celebration of direct rule of the people was not reactionary, as [socialist leader Eugene] Debs and other social democrats alleged. Yet it beheld a program of reform that sought to preserve the dignity of the democratic individual. Emphasizing the candidate instead of the party, the Progressives deflected attention from class conflict. Seeking to build a welfare state that was sustained by public opinion rather than through a social democratic party, it emphasized individual political action. [Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party, and the Transformation of American Democracy, University of Kansas Press, 2009. Page 24]
Needless to say, Shaw's views were not representative of the progressive movement.
Then Beck really went off the rails:
BECK: Last week on radio, we were talking about the Beatles song, "Revolution." I really listened to the words of this and I got to tell you something, the Beatles spells it -- they spell it all out. And it's all about understanding how progressives have been operating.
BECK: The Beatles knew. They knew, opening and defending Mao, or attacking the Constitution would be suicidal. You can't change it. You can't have a revolution. But you can make the Constitution evolve. You can make it a -- what is it progressives said around the turn of the century -- a living document! Evolution. Evolution, not revolution -- slowly, step-by-step.
Beck was serious. He was, in all earnestness, using a rock song as evidence of the perfidy of the American progressive movement. This isn't just wrong, it's a deliberate and malicious thumb to the eye of serious scholars of history. He's telling his audience not just that the people who actually know what they're talking about are wrong, he's telling them they'll be better informed if they listen to the freaking White Album.
The mag's Jonathan Martin claims that after election losses in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey, it's clear the Democrats need a new strategy because its "Bush-bashing" has gone "bust."
But that strikes me as odd. I paid very close attention to the N.J. governor's race last November, in which Republican Chris Christie won vs. Jon Corzine, and I heard roughly zero "Bush-bashing" in that entire campaign. (Martin claims there was a single line from a single Corzine add that mentioned Bush by name.)
Same with Mass., I followed that race pretty closely and also never got the sense that Democrat Martha Coakley was building her bid around a "Bush-bashing" strategy.
Politico's proof? Martin notes that Coakley ran an ad "connecting" Brown to Bush. Well yeah, but "connecting" doesn't = Bush-bashing. In fact, here's the Coakley ad that connected Brown to Bush, and yes that single fleeting image was the extent of the Bush appearance.
It seems pretty obvious that spot was a Brown-bashing ad, not a Bush-bashing one.
Politico announces that Bush-bashing has gone bust and Democratic candidates need to move on. Weird part is, they already have.
Last week, I preemptively noted that conservatives thinking about using the shuttering of Air America to argue that there is no market for liberal media should keep two things in mind: That they cannot simultaneously argue that the establishment media is liberal and that there is no market for liberal media, and that conservative news outlets like Fox News and the Washington Times benefited from massive subsidies from their right-wing billionaire owners.
Over at Big Journalism (last seen accidentally attacking its sibling site, Big Government), Billy Hallowell calls my post "vapid," while demonstrating an unwillingness or inability to understand the written word. I'll get to that in a second.
First, Hallowell insists that CBS and the New York Times are in fact "biased" in favor of liberals:
First and foremost, research backs up the notion that outlets like CBS News and the New York Times are biased ...
Hallowell links no such "research," so here's some he should read over: New York Times | CBS. Then he should consider the Times' disparate treatment of Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000, and the paper's role in the rush to war in Iraq -- among many, many other shortcomings. And CBS ... Well, CBS anchor Bob Schieffer is a longtime friend of Bush's -- Schieffer's brother was a Bush business partner, later given an ambassadorship by Bush -- who has regularly opined in favor of Bush and harshly condemned Democrats. Again: among many, many other examples.
...but even if there were no scholarship to corroborate this notion, Foser's argument makes little sense. Most conservatives aren't claiming that liberal media outlets can't succeed (though the left has had a tough time pushing unabashedly liberal outlets to the top); they're making the case that liberal radio, absent public monies, cannot stand on its own. Those are two very different ideals.
OK ... but I was addressing the first of those "two very different ideals." So I'm not really sure what Hallowell thinks he's proving by saying my post doesn't apply to people it wasn't addressed to.
Additionally, Foser's statement that The Washington Times has lost money for decades is a silly corroborative comment. Tell me Mr. Foser, how many newspapers are posting record profits these days?
Got that? It's no big deal that The Washington Times has always lost money because other newspapers are currently losing money. Hallowell doesn't know the difference between a newspaper whose massive losses have been subsidized for every minute of its existence and newspapers that are currently facing financial difficulties as the entire industry undergoes massive transformation. And he thinks my post was "vapid"!
There's a bunch of other nonsense in there, in which Hallowell argues with things he imagines I wrote. For example, Hallowell is just furious at my non-existent statement that Rupert Murdoch's payments to cable carriers were a "moral problem." I wrote nothing of the kind -- I didn't criticize the payments on any grounds, moral or otherwise -- and can only conclude that Billy Hallowell either can't read or enjoys lying. Either way, it seems best to leave it at that.
I noted yesterday that, having relentlessly touted (supposedly) favorable Sarah Palin poll numbers -- and having distorted them to make them appear more favorable -- Los Angeles Times reporter Andrew Malcolm has been ignoring poll results that are quite unfavorable for the former half-term governor of Alaska:
What do you call someone who regularly touts poll numbers that make a political figure look good, distorts those poll numbers to make the political figure look even better, and completely ignores poll numbers that make that political figure look bad? Oh, yeah: Andrew Malcolm (R-CA).
Well, now Malcolm -- a former Bush press secretary -- has responded to me: "well i sure hope so. about time. Who said anything about impartial on a blog? thanks for the link!-A"
So, Malcolm's response to evidence that he's blatantly shilling for Sarah Palin -- distorting poll numbers in her favor when possible, and ignoring them when it isn't -- is "Who said anything about impartial." Good to know.
This morning, Fox & Friends reported that Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, responded to President Obama's call for a three-year freeze on non-national security discretionary spending by stating, "Given Washington Democrats' unprecedented spending binge, this is like announcing you're going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest."
Dana Milbank wants a debt commission, but doesn't expect to get one:
The debt commission is expected to be voted down Tuesday morning, as foes on the far left and the far right unite to form a status quo supermajority.
I'm not sure I've ever seen a columnist suggest that a "supermajority" holds extremist political positions, but I suppose it's possible, as long as you view "far left" and "far right" as absolute descriptions of positions on a theoretical political spectrum, rather than descriptions of distances from the mainstream.
So who is the "far left" in Dana Milbank's world? Take a look:
On the left, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, MoveOn.org and other groups redoubled their opposition, even as President Obama gave the commission his last-minute endorsement on Saturday.
I guess someone's been watching Fox News.
You might assume the New York Times -- perhaps the world's most prestigious newspaper -- is capable of producing a news report that would clearly explain the health care reform situation. If today's effort by David Herszenhorn, Robert Pear, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg is any indication, you'd be wrong. The article confuses as much as it clarifies, gives undue weight to Republican attacks, and fails to properly explain the hypocrisy of those attacks.
In the lede, the Times reports that Democrats are trying to "advance the bill despite the loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate." That phrasing could lead many readers to conclude that Democrats no longer hold a majority in the Senate, rather than that they have simply lost their supermajority. In order to understand that the Times' phrasing does not mean "loss of their majority," readers have to be aware of the significance of 60 votes. (Think about it: Would a newspaper ever report that a party that went from 54 to 53 Senate seats "lost its 54 seat majority"? No; anyone reading "lost its 54 seat majority" would understand that to mean "lost its majority.")
I know, I know. Some of you probably think everybody knows you need 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, so everyone will understand that this simply means Democrats have simply lost their supermajority. Oh yeah? Take a look at this (via Atrios):
That's the front page of a Philadelphia newspaper. If the professional journalists who produced that paper think Democrats have lost their majority, are you still sure New York Times readers will understand that "loss of their 60-vote majority" does not mean "loss of their majority"? All of them?
In paragraph two, the Times reports:
The maneuver, known as budget reconciliation, could allow President Obama and his party to muscle the legislation through Congress with a simple majority vote in the Senate. But it carries numerous risks, including the possibility of a political backlash against what Republicans would be sure to cast as parliamentary trickery.
OK. Several problems here.
First, this phrasing suggests the entire health care reform package would be passed via reconciliation, which is false. Readers don't learn until four paragraphs later that reconciliation would simply be used to amend some provisions of the health care bill that has already passed the Senate.
Second, "muscle the legislation through Congress with a simple majority" describes majority rule as some sort of strong-arm tactic.
Third, "parliamentary trickery" is a completely bogus description of reconciliation. There's no "trickery" about it whatsoever. If the Times wanted to preview Republican attacks in a straightforward way, they could have cast the use of reconciliation as "unusual" rather than "trickery." More to the point: Those Republican complaints will ring hollow, given that the GOP has used reconciliation to pass legislation when it controlled the Senate. Thirteen paragraphs later the Times article finally gets around to noting in passing that Republicans "occasionally used the tactic when they were in the majority." That's woefully inadequate, as it fails to make clear the GOP used the tactic to pass hugely significant and contentious measures like budget-busting tax cuts and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
But even that weak indication that the GOP criticisms are hypocritical came after the Times passed along another Republican attack:
Republicans, however, have made clear that they will portray Mr. Obama and Democrats as trying to use a hardball tactic to win passage of the health care legislation.
"Less than a week after the Massachusetts special election, the Obama administration is vowing to 'stay the course' and double down on the same costly, job-killing policies that are leaving America's middle-class families and small businesses high and dry," said the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio.
Though the Times quoted Boehner criticizing the substance of health care reform, it omitted any quote or paraphrase of any Democrat or other reform advocate praising reform, or criticizing Republican obstruction.
Two paragraphs later, the Times reported:
In the meantime, aides have been trying to devise a process by which the Senate could make changes to its health bill on a reconciliation measure even before the House voted on the Senate-passed health bill. Some lawmakers said House Democrats might have to vote first.
The Times did not indicate whether "some lawmakers" said that because there are procedural reasons why the House has to go first, or because there are political reasons why they want the House to go first. The Times reporters give no indication that they realize there is a pretty big difference between those things.
If this is the best the Times can do, it's no wonder the public has had such a poor understanding of health care reform.