In his weekend defense of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Post's Dana Milbank seemed to go out of his way to not explain why so many Democrats were angry, or "felt betrayed" by the Connecticut senator for his last-minute announcement last week that he would not vote for the proposed health care reform legislation unless key changes were made. (They eventually were.)
Milbank cheered the fact that the "iconoclastic" Lieberman had again angered his former Democratic colleagues as well as their supporters, and Milbank claimed it was Lieberman's critics who were in the wrong. i.e. Joe was just being Joe. It was the liberals who'd changed. It was liberals who were trying to enforce a litmus test on Lieberman.
But note the only passage where Milbank even tries to explain, or put into context, why emotions ran so high last week when Lieberman so publicly, and suddenly, balked at the health care bill [emphasis added]:
And his explanations of why he is undermining the Democrats' health-care legislation aren't exactly cogent.
How were Lieberman's explanations not cogent? Milbank never says. What did Lieberman do to undermine the Democrats' legislation last week? Milbank remains mum, but spends lots of time blaming liberals for over-reacting to Lieberman's maneuvers.
The truth is that Lieberman last week suddenly balked at the inclusion of a Medicare expansion program known as Medicate buy-in, which would allow people under the age of 65 to purchase Medicare coverage. Lieberman promoted the idea when he was VP candidate in 2000. He promoted the idea as a 2006 candidate for senator. And he promoted the idea three months ago. (See below.)
Then last week Lieberman announced he wouldn't vote for health care reform unless the Medicare buy-in was removed. That's why Democrats and liberals were livid. But Milbank, like so many in the press, made sure to leave all that information out.
UPDATED: This Milbank passage is also wildly misleading:
Lieberman probably is still angry about being beaten by Connecticut businessman Ned Lamont and forced to run as an independent while his Democratic colleagues -- including Barack Obama -- campaigned for his opponent.
The truth is Obama supported Lieberman in his primary battle against liberal candidate Lamont, and Obama caught holy hell from liberal bloggers for doing so in 2006. The only time Obama "campaigned" for Lieberman's opponent was after Lieberman lost in the primary and then faced Lamont in the Connecticut general election, and after Lieberman quit the Democratic Party to run as an Independent.
Why any of Lieberman's former Democratic colleagues would have supported him in 2006 after he quit the Democratic Party, Milbank never really explains.
On Friday, the Washington Post finally ran an op-ed in response to former half-term governor of Alaska Sarah Palin's recent falsehood-filled global warming column.
In defending the paper's decision to run Palin's op-ed, Post editor Op-Ed editor Autumn Brewington told Editor & Publisher that the Post had received an offer from a professor who wanted to write a response to Palin. But Brewington seemed to be dismissive of the offer: "It is always interesting to see who reaches out to us."
Brewington didn't name the professor, so we can't be sure if she was referring to Michael Mann. In any case, the Post didn't run Mann's column until after running a response from Sarah Palin to Post columnist Eugene Robinson's criticism of her.
I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the Post runs a response from Palin to Mann, and then, eventually, simply starts running daily transcripts of everything Palin said the day before.
On today's Reliable Sources, Ceci Connolly demonstrated the fundamentally warped way the Beltway media approaches policy debates:
CONNOLLY: It's interesting though because, on substance, most smart people in Washington knew the United States Senate was never going to vote for a public option. So, for the liberals to suddenly say, gosh, Joe Lieberman killed it at the last minute, just not true.
This doesn't make much sense. First of all, Connolly is saying people shouldn't blame Lieberman for killing the public option because the public option was always going to be killed. That's pretty mind-blowing in its circularity. She's essentially saying "Joe Lieberman was never going to support the public option, so you shouldn't blame Joe Lieberman for not supporting the public option."
But there's a deeper problem here, and it's contained in Connolly's assertion that "most smart people in Washington knew the United States Senate was never going to vote for a public option."
This is a particularly irritating example of the "smart people say" tic that has become so common among political reporters in recent years. At its most harmless, it's pointless source-stroking. At worst, its an insidious means of restricting debate and shutting off any challenge to conventional wisdom.
See, when a beltway reporter like Ceci Connolly attribute a sentiment to "smart people in Washington," what that means is "me and the people I agree with." (Which, in turn, often means "me and the people I associate with.") After all, how often do you see someone use the "smart people say" construct to introduce an idea they disagree with? So the way you get described as "smart" by the punditocracy is to say things the punditocracy agrees with, leading to a homogenization of the public discourse.
Take Connolly's example: "smart people in Washington" always "knew" the public option wouldn't pass, so journalists covered it accordingly. Then -- surprise! -- the public option was stripped out. And "smart" Washington journalist Ceci Connolly says "We knew it all along" -- never pausing to consider that, had her reporting on the health care debate not been so lousy, this might not have happened.
Mightn't things have gone differently if health care reporting had made clear that the public option reduced the deficit? If every time a politician -- say, Joe Lieberman -- was quoted suggesting it was too expensive, the media made clear he wasn't telling the truth? Just to pick one example? Oh, but why would they bother doing that -- they and all the "smart people" they talked to just knew the public option wouldn't pass.
The reality is that "smart people in Washington" are wrong all the time. And when they turn out to be right, it's often simply because they all behave as though they're right and, to borrow a phrase made famous by a Bush aide in another context, "create their own reality." Just take a look at this post by my colleague Brian Frederick, in which several "smart" journalists who have been around Congress for decades demonstrate that they have absolutely no idea what they're talking about when they pontificate about Senate procedure.
When you see a journalist like Ceci Connolly invoke the certitude of "smart people" rather than facts and logic and reason, just stop listening. Immediately.
UPDATE: From a new Jay Rosen post about what he calls the "Church of the Savvy" that has come to define political journalism:
The savvy do know how things work inside the game of politics, and it is this knowledge they try to wield in argument.... instead of argument.
Now in order for this belief system to operate effectively, it has to continually position the journalist and his or her observations not as right where others are wrong, or virtuous where others are corrupt, or visionary where others are short-sghted, but as practical, hardheaded, unsentimental, and shrewd where others are didactic, ideological, and dreamy. This is part of what's so insidious about press savviness: it tries to hog realism to itself.
From a December 20 post by Gateway Pundit titled, "DC cop brings gun to snowball fight (video)":
Barack Obama gave his marching orders this year:
Obama: "They Bring a Knife...We Bring a Gun"
Obama to His Followers: "Get in Their Faces!"
Obama on ACORN Mobs: "I don't want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry! I'm angry!"
Obama To His Mercenary Army: "Hit Back Twice As Hard"
It looks like some people took him seriously.
A DC cop pulled a gun at a snowball fight in Washington DC yesterday.
If you've read this far, you are no doubt desperate to know the crucial role that Obama's vital team partner and loyal sidekick Vice President Joe Biden is playing in this historic legislative maneuvering over healthcare. After all, he was a senator when Obama was in elementary school.
Well, actually Biden's not doing much, it seems. And he doesn't have anything to say about the healthcare storm.
Washington activities are so important and so urgent that JB is silent (lest he screw it up with something spontaneous?).
According to his official White House weekend schedule, Biden's taking another entire weekend off to catch up on whatever he catches up on up in Delaware
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If the U.S. Congress fails to agree on a healthcare bill soon, the opportunity for a sweeping overhaul of the $2.5 trillion system will be lost for a generation, Vice President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday.
Biden was speaking just hours before Democratic lawmakers were to meet at the White House with President Barack Obama, who is pressing them to reach agreement and pass a bill on his signature domestic policy issue.
Biden said if the bill did not pass in this Congress "it is going to be kicked back for a generation."
He also said he expected independent Senator Joe Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats and is a key vote on the healthcare overhaul, would vote in favor of the final bill.
Lieberman has threatened to join Republicans in opposing the bill, complicating Democratic efforts to gather the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican opposition.
"I think Joe's judgment is wrong in this," Biden said in an interview on MSNBC. "I'm confident Joe is going to see the light, I'm confident he is going to vote for a final bill, but there is an awful lot of gamesmanship going on right now."
As if the media's attention paid Barack Obama's recent greeting of the Japanese Emperor Akihito with a bow wasn't stupid enough, here comes LA Times blogger/former Laura Bush press secretary Andrew Malcolm to dumb things down even further:
What makes this one especially dumb? Obama wasn't bowing in the photo Malcolm was referring to. He was leaning forward while speaking, just like roughly everybody does every day.
Which Malcolm turns into this: "Obama leaning way over to stress his point isn't technically a bow..."
Like the difference between a bow and leaning forward in your seat while talking is a technicality.
From Ponte's December 18 Newsmax column:
Like Tiger Woods, President Barack Obama arrived Friday for the finale of the Copenhagen climate gathering eager to give cold cash to get hot love.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday rolled out a carpet of greenbacks for Mr. Obama's beatification. She told delegates that the United States was prepared to join with other rich nations to provide $100 billion every year in what amounts to reparations to poor countries to atone for our purported damage to Earth's climate.
She left it to President Obama on Friday to announce how much American taxpayers shall pay. Typically the U.S. ponies up at least one-third of such pledges.
The right-wing noise machine is sure that a snowstorm in December is proof of something, they're just split on what exactly.
Newt Gingrich became the latest to play the ridiculous "it's snowing so global warming must be a hoax" card. Gingrich took to Twitter - where he's been schooled before - on Saturday morning to share a few thoughts about the storm:
newtgingrich As callista and i watched what dc weather says will be 12 to 22 inches of snow i wondered if God was sending a message about copenhagen
newtgingrich After the expanding revelations of dishonesty in climategate having a massive snow storm as obama promises our money to the world is ironic
newtgingrich There is something jimmy carter like about weather service upgrading frrom winter storm to blizzard as global warming conference wants US $
Of course as Media Matters has pointed out ad infinitum, individual storms have nothing to do with human-caused climate change.
With all these added complications, don't be surprised to hear a new Republican talking point: Even Mother Nature hates health care reform.
RedState editor Erick Erickson responded:
I hate to correct him, but actually the talking point is that God hates the Democrats' health care deform. With funding death panels and abortions, of course the Almighty would send a snow storm or, in Brian's words, a snowpocalypse to shut down Washington.
Oh, and kudos to Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council for organizing the "pray-in." Looks to be working.
So does that mean DC residents should blame God or the Family Research Council for shutting down the city?
Poor Peggy Noonan, she's fretting about how our TV and media-based culture has become so course, so vulgar. And yes, she's pretty sure who's to blame: liberals.
"Truly, 2009 was a bad year for public behavior," writes Noonan in her WSJ column as she bemoans the way East Coaster behaved so badly in public this year. "Yes or no: Have we become a more vulgar country? Are we coarser than, say, 50 years ago?" Noonan asks.
And no, the name "Glenn Beck" does not appear anywhere in Noonan's column.
Hypocrite. Because did civility-obsessed Noonan dedicate one column this year to denouncing the name-calling sewer that Fox News has become? Did she ever call out Rush Limbaugh for the incessant hate that anchors his show? Did Noonan ever take issue with AM talker Michael Savage for the way he rallies his listeners around the idea that Obama is "raping America" with Nazi-like policies? Did she demand that Glenn Beck retract his claims that Obama is a racist, communist, fascist, and socialist?
Not that I ever saw she didn't.
In fact, last summer when the GOP mini-mobs were storming public forums, marching around with Swastika signs, brandishing loaded weapons, and hanging politicians in effigy, Noonan played dumb. Noonan whitewashed the unprecedented embrace of violent rhetoric and announced the mini-mob members were simply "concerned" citizens. That the mayhem was just "democracy's great barbaric yawp."
And yet by year's end, the previously silent Noonan is bemoaning how liberals have acted poorly in public this year. Gimme a break Peggy. If you don't have the courage to take issue with your political pals in the face of their, at times, barbaric behavior, than you have no standing to lecture the left.