Discussing President Obama's Q and A at the GOP House Issues Conference, The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder stated on his Twitter feed:
As President, George W. Bush waged war on PBS. Kenneth Tomlinson, who Bush appointed to chair the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, launched a campaign to tilt PBS to the right, including an inept "study" that attempted to demonstrate PBS's alleged leftward tilt by labeling Republican Senator Charles Grassley a "liberal." And Bush wanted to slash funding for public broadcasting.
Now comes the announcement that PBS will air a new television series hosted by the Executive Director of the George W. Bush institute:
James K. Glassman, Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute, is the host of a a new half-hour television series on ideas and their consequences which will air on public television stations and non-commercial cable stations nationwide.
"Our goal with this program is to explore how new ideas, research and technologies affect our world with a balanced panel of the best thinkers we can find," says Glassman.
"For example," explains Glassman, in addition to the "twitter revolution" in Iran, "we've already taped programs that look at what the latest research on pay-for-performance for teachers might mean for public education. We're planning programs on global health, domestic economic policy, and the future of journalism, just to name a few of the topics we hope to address."
Glassman served in Bush's State Department, but he may be best-known as the author of Dow 36,000, a 1999 book that predicted the stock market, then at about 10,000, would reach 36,000 within three to five years. Three years later, the Dow was at 7,200.
I'm sure those who followed Glassman's 1999 guidance that "Stocks are in the midst of a one-time-only rise to much higher ground -- to the neighborhood of 36,000" can't wait to see what he as to say about "ideas and their consequences."
As an investigative journalist, my goal is to expose corruption and lack of concern for citizens by government and other institutions, as I did last year when our investigations revealed the massive corruption and fraud perpetrated by ACORN. For decades, investigative journalists have used a variety of tactics to try to dig out and reveal the truth.
I learned from a number of sources that many of Senator Landrieu's constituents were having trouble getting through to her office to tell her that they didn't want her taking millions of federal dollars in exchange for her vote on the healthcare bill. When asked about this, Senator Landrieu's explanation was that, "Our lines have been jammed for weeks." I decided to investigate why a representative of the people would be out of touch with her constituents for "weeks" because her phones were broken. In investigating this matter, we decided to visit Senator Landrieu's district office - the people's office - to ask the staff if their phones were working.
On reflection, I could have used a different approach to this investigation, particularly given the sensitivities that people understandably have about security in a federal building. The sole intent of our investigation was to determine whether or not Senator Landrieu was purposely trying to avoid constituents who were calling to register their views to her as their Senator. We video taped the entire visit, the government has those tapes, and I'm eager for them to be released because they refute the false claims being repeated by much of the mainstream media.
We really wish this wasn't a semi-occasional feature, because we generally admire their work. But from time to time the folks over at PolitiFact seem to have a hard time grasping simple facts. Last December they rushed to the defense of Karl Rove after he made a patently false claim about Obama's polling numbers. And this week PolitiFact botches the issue of whether Obama was accurate when he suggested in the SOTU that a recent SCOTUS ruling (i.e. United Citizen v. FEC) could open the doors to foreign campaign donations.
Here's what Obama said at the SOTU:
Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."
It was at that point, of course, that Justice Samuel Alito was seen reacting to Obama's comments just feet away and mouthing "Not true"; a rather remarkable breach of protocol for a Justice. Alito's claim was then seized upon by the right-wing Noise Machine which announced unequivocally that Obama had "lied" about the United Citizen case.
Which means yeah, it's pretty important to figure out if Obama was accurate about the recent SCOTUS ruling. PolitiFact claims Obama's comments during the SOTU were "barely true." But after reading the dubious analysis, its clear that what PolitiFact did was fact-check something Obama didn't say, which is never helpful.
Again, here's what Obama did say:
I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections.
But rather than dealing with that comment, which is based on what Obama thinks might be the ramifications from Citizens United, PolitiFact pretends Obama made some sort of sweeping, definitive legal claim.
Here's a key graph from PolitiFact. Just try to square the highlighted sections with the fact that it declared that Obama's SOTU comment was "barely true":
Indeed, the legal experts we spoke to after Obama's radio address said that the president was overstating the immediate impact of the opinion. They said Obama was correct that the ruling could open the door to foreign companies spending on American campaigns, given the general direction of the majority's opinion.
Huh? Legal experts confirmed that Obama's point was accurate and that foreign companies could start spending money on U.S. elections, but PolitiFact determined that Obama's point was "barely true?" That, of course, makes no sense.
Here's where PolitiFact claims Obama messed up:
But because the majority justices didn't actually strike down the existing barriers on foreign companies -- in fact, they explicitly wrote that it fell beyond the boundaries of their decision -- our experts agreed that Obama erred by suggesting that the issue is settled law. Until test cases proceed and further rulings are handed down, Obama's claim about foreign campaign spending is a reasonable interpretation, and nothing more.
Are you serious? The SCOTUS just issued a ruling. Obama expressed his concern -- his opinion -- that the ruling would open the door to foreign corporation campaign donations. But PolitiFact insisted Obama's claim was "barely true" because Obama suggested "the issue is settled law." Um, where exactly did Obama make that suggestion? Because he certainly didn't make that suggestion in the SOTU, which is what PolitiFact is supposed to be fact-checking.
In other words, PolitiFact is scolding Obama for something he didn't say.
And here's the part where PolitiFact quotes legal scholars -- scholars who do nothing to back up the "barely true" claim:
"Some people think that Kennedy's opinion in Citizens United logically leads there," said Robert Kelner, who chairs the election and political law practice group at the law firm Covington & Burling. "Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. We don't know for sure."
Brett Kappel, a political law specialist with the law firm Arent Fox, said the Citizens United opinion "certainly could be read as declaring this provision unconstitutional, so I'd have to say the president's interpretation is correct -- but we won't really know for sure until a court rules on the issue."
Are you following? Obama said he "believes" the ruling will allow foreign corporations to spend on U.S. elections. And guess what? So do lots of legal scholars. But because the one-week old case hasn't been tested in court and because it's not settled law, PolitiFact claims Obama oversold the point. (It's "barely true!") Even though, all Obama did was say what he "believes" might happen.
This is really just weak stuff for a fact-checking org.
UPDATED: From blogger and respected constitutional law attorney Glenn Greenwald:
While the factual claims Obama made about the ruling are subject to reasonable dispute, they're well within the realm of acceptable political rhetoric and are far from being "false" (e.g., though the ruling did not strike down the exact provision banning foreign corporations from electioneering speech, its rationale could plausibly lead to that; moreover, it's certainly fair to argue, as Obama did, that the Court majority tossed aside a century of judicial precedent).
Walsh's Missourinet bio reads as follows:
Steve Walsh come to the Missourinet from Columbus, Ohio, where he was working as a morning news anchor. Before that, Steve lived and worked in the Washington, D.C., area for eight years. His stops in the nation's capital included assignments at Mutual/NBC Radio and the now defunct Unistar Radio Network. He has also worked at radio stations and networks in Virginia, Maryland, New York State, and in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. Steve was born in Montreal, Canada, (yes, he speaks French fluently) and attended Concordia University in Montreal where he graduated with a degree in History and Political Science. He also attended Gallaudet University in Washington, where he studied American Sign Language. Steve loves sports and travel.
You can contact Missourinet by clicking here.
So the president's firm federal freeze covers every single dollar of discretionary spending -- except for all Medicare spending and except for all Medicaid spending and except for any and all national defense spending. Everything else is frozen. Like the streets of Wasilla, Alaska. Oh, no, one more. Also excluded from the freeze is all Social Security spending.
Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are not "discretionary spending."
Insert your own punchline relating to Malcolm's previous employment as a Bush press secretary.
And take a look at how Malcolm refers to the President:
Spending and also deficits have shot up as voter concerns in recent polls, even as the hallowed healthcare legislation went on life support. This is because the community organizer's claim that giving health insurance coverage to 30,000,000 more Americans would actually save money sounds about as likely as those late-night TV commercials promising an extra $20,000 a month with a simple 800-phone call.
Next he'll start snarking about Barack Obama's birth certificate. Oh, wait: Nevermind.
Earlier this week, I noted that a New York Times article about the prospects for health care reform misleadingly reported that the Democrats are trying to "advance the bill despite the loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate" -- a wording that suggests that Democrats lost their entire Senate majority, when in fact they have simply lost a supermajority required to break a filibuster. Sure, if you happen to know the significance of 60 votes in the Senate, you might realize the Times was simply lazy in its wording -- but how many people know that?
Now comes the latest Pew Research Center News IQ Quiz, which finds that only 26 percent of Americans know that 60 votes are required to break a filibuster in the Senate. Let's assume -- just for the hell of it -- that New York Times readers are three times as likely as the general public to know this. That seems wildly generous to me -- but even that generous assumption still leaves a quarter of Times readers unaware of the significance of 60 Senate votes. Many of those readers likely interpreted "loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate" to mean "loss of their majority" -- or were, at the very least, confused by the Times' language.
I know I'm obsessing over what may seem a minor point. But misleading and confusing reporting like this happens all the time, and is easily avoidable. And it highlights the fact that news organizations would serve their readers and viewers better if they made clearly informing them about things that matter a top priority -- and if they thought about their reporting in terms of some basic questions: What do people know? What do they need to know?
It's hard to read a typical news report about health care reform or proposals to stimulate the economy and conclude that the primary goal of the people who produced the report was clearly informing their readers about things they need to know. That may be the most staggering disconnect between what journalists should do and what they actually do.
Andrew Breitbart must be furious!
We already noted that Breitbart insisted his protégé James O'Keefe was never charged with trying to "bug" the senator's office, but the evil liberal media slanted the story that way. But oops, that's exactly what the right-wing site Pajamas Media reported; that O'Keefe has nabbed for trying to "bug" the office.
It turns out lots of conservatives outlets reported it that way:
-"Feds Cuff ACORN 'Pimp' in Attempt to Bug Sen. Landrieu's Phones" (NRO's The Corner)
-"James O'Keefe Arrested for Attempting to Bug Senator Mary Landrieu's Offices?" (Ace of Spades)
-"ACORN Sting Man James O'Keefe Arrested for Allegedly Trying to Bug Mary Landrieu's Office." (The Lonely Conservative)
-"James O'Keefe arrested for attempting to bug Mary Landrieu's office" (Another Black Conservative)
I assume Breitbart's Big Journalism is sending correction requests to the right-wing New York Post and National Review. (I'm trying not to laugh while I type this...) And when Breitbart refuses to demand a retraction from the NYPost, won't that tell you all you need to know about his real intent?
UPDATED: Is Big Journalism really the best site to be demanding retractions for factual errors? Isn't that like Mark McGwire suddenly advocating for a stricter steroids testing policy?
The following on-screen graphic aired on the January 29 edition of Fox & Friends during a discussion about how Obama's foreign policy compares to Carter's: