According to his Washington Post Writers Group bio, The Washington Journalism Review once named George Will "Best Writer, Any Subject." Seriously? We've documented Will's repeated false statements regarding global warming. We've even documented Will peddling misinformation about his beloved baseball. This Sunday brought another Will column in The Washington Post, which means more colossal twisting of the facts, this time about the causes of California's fiscal crisis.
Will asserted: "California, a laboratory of liberalism, is spiraling downward, driven by a huge budget deficit." He later catalogued the supposed problems with which liberalism has saddled California: "liberalism's redistributive itch" that created the current income tax structure, which causes people to flee from California and "intensifies the effects of business cycles on the state's revenue stream"; "liberalism's mania for micromanaging life with entangling regulations," which caused business to flee; "compassionate liberalism," which made California "an importer of Mexican poverty"; and "servile liberalism," which causes the state to be "run by and for unionized public employees."
That's a lot of name-calling, but shockingly little actual evidence that liberalism caused the problems California faces. So let's clear up a couple of facts for Will. First, about those taxes: California relies heavily on income taxes because of conservatives' actions. In 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, which enacted a conservative wish list on taxes. It required that all property taxes throughout the state be limited to one percent of property values; it limited yearly increases in property taxes due to rising home values; it required all state tax increases to be passed by a two-thirds majority. So, California's tax structure as well as its inability to raise enough revenue to cover its budget is the result of conservatives getting their way on taxes, not liberalism gone wild.
Another problem with Will's argument that California's problems can all be traced to liberalism: In the time period he is discussing, Republicans controlled the California governor's seat for most of the time. Will quotes statistics from two overlapping time periods: 1990-2007 and 1992-2006. During the 1990-2007 period, Republicans controlled the governorship for all but five years. Indeed, from 1983 to the present, Democrats only controlled the governorship from 1999-2003, when current Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) defeated Gray Davis in a recall election.
So, to sum up, Will is blaming liberalism for California's fiscal woes despite the fact that the state's tax structure is shaped by a system conservatives put in place and even though Republicans sat in the governor's chair for almost the whole time period Will is discussing.
From BigJournalism.com, accessed January 11:
Needless to say, this go-around was a little different. Now, producers were interrogating me over at the Fox New Headquarters and I was having my hair and makeup done by professionals. All while watching myself in leather top and giant hoop earrings on multiple television screens, and begging God that I could keep my cool on national television with Glenn Beck.
That was the beginning of a raucous adventure, a whirlwind of a week between Sept 10-16 that'd make any type-A curl up in a ball and beg for mercy, and might've led to my insanity had I allowed myself to get caught up in the chaos it caused. But I was so absorbed in the moment and focused on getting the ACORN videos, and the truth of our story, out to the public that nothing fazed me. Plus, all the new experiences and people were extremely intriguing and I wanted to be sure and soak it all in.
A part of me realized how monumental and life-changing the whole thing was. I mean not just any 20-year old girl runs in and out of FOX studios on a week long media blitz; has the New York Post showing up at her hotel for exclusive front page interviews; can't sleep because of the adrenaline rush that comes with being part of a breaking story that she once-upon-a-time dreamed up on a jog; or hardly communicates to her parents that she's doing all right because of the 24/7 flood of phone calls blowing up her phone. Also, not many young adults have had CNN or Joe Conason come after them, wishing their demise.
Just some more polling data to back up my claim over the weekend that the WSJ's Noonan has no basis to claim that Obama has taken a hit in the polls in the wake of the failed Christmas Day terror attack.
From CNN [emphasis added]:
In the wake of the Christmas day attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner, most Americans remain confident that the Obama administration can protect the country from terrorism, according to a new national poll.
Nearly two-thirds of people questioned in the poll say they have a moderate or great deal of confidence in the administration to protect the public from future terrorist attacks, up 2 points from August.
On January 1st, Politico ran an article by Ben Smith and Carl Lee headlined "Democrats' worst nightmare: Terrorism on their watch." The "nightmare" in question was not, as you might assume, hundreds or even thousands of dead Americans. No, the "nightmare" was the political fallout of such an event -- and Politico thought that nightmare came true with a Christmas Day attempt to down an airplane:
[T]he White House's response to last week's attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit could rank as one of the low points of the new president's first year. Over the course of five days, Obama's Obama' reaction ranged from low-keyed to reassuring to, finally, a vow to find out what went wrong. The episode was a baffling, unforced error in presidential symbolism, hardly a small part of the presidency, and the moment at which yet another of the old political maxims that Obama had sought to transcend - the Democrats' vulnerability on national security - reasserted itself.
It was the perfect Politico article: It focused on style over substance, it reflected the attacks Republicans like Dick Cheney were making on President Obama, and it forecast political struggles for Democrats based not on any actual data, but on outdated assumptions and stereotypes.
Smith and Lee asserted:
[Obama's] response failed to reckon with the intense public interest in a story of repeated government failures and a near-fatal attack.
the listlessness of an initial response remains a puzzle
Explanations of Obama's low-key reaction in the face of a terror attack include the characteristic caution of a president who resists jumping to conclusions and being pushed to action. They also include the White House's belief - disproven repeatedly in 2009 - that it can evade the clichéd rules of politics, which include a suspicion of Democratic leadership on national security. Only Sunday night, when criticism of the system "worked" comment was not going away, did White House aides realize their approach was not working and that they needed to shift course.
Again: the article included not a single poll result or other actual fact indicating the slightest public concern with Obama's handling of terrorism or national security. Not one. It was simply a regurgitation of GOP spin and conventional wisdom: President Obama's handling of national security must be a political weakness, because he is a Democrat.
And, if a new CNN poll is any indication, Politico's basic premise was wrong. Here's Greg Sargent:
Okay, some new polling from CNN just landed in the old in-box, and it appears to suggest that the public isn't buying claims that Obama's handling of the Christmas Day plot was too detached, cool, or weak:
As you know, a man has been charged with attempting to use an explosive device on Christmas Day to blow up a plane that was flying to Detroit. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama has responded to that incident?
No opinion 4%
I'm sure Politico will now run a piece acknowledging that they got it all wrong and apologizing for running such a piece without any actual facts or data to back it up. Yep, I'm sure that's coming any minute now.
From a January 11 report by the New York Times' Jim Rutenberg:
Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska has signed on as a contributor to the Fox News Channel.
The network confirmed that Ms. Palin will appear on the network's programming on a regular basis as part of a multi-year deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Ms. Palin will not have her own regular program, one person familiar with the deal said, though she will host an occasional series that will run on the network from time to time. This person would not elaborate, but the network does have a precedent for such a series. Oliver L. North is the host of an occasionally running documentary series on the military called "War Stories."
Many suspected that when Ms. Palin retired as the governor of Alaska last summer she was doing so to pursue some sort of career in television. The Fox News deal, however, would not seem to be all encompassing, and would appear to give her room for other pursuits, as well.
Not an auspicious beginning for Carlson's new right-wing news site. Here's a headline that was featured on the site this morning [emphasis added]:
Race comments by Senate majority leader shock Washington
Slight problem. The headline simply links to a perfunctory AP story about Reid; an AP story that never suggests his comments shocked Washington, or anybody else. Daily Caller just made that part up.
Ah, more "conservative journalism"?
Earlier this morning on MSNBC, Norah O'Donnell picked up the GOP spin about "double-standards," asking Rev. Al Sharpton what the reaction would be if a Republican had made the comments Sen. Harry Reid is reported to have made about Barack Obama being "light-skinned" and lacking a "Negro dialect."
But as The American Prospect's Adam Serwer pointed out this morning, while Reid's choice of words was unfortunate, the substance of Reid's purported comments was not particularly unusual:
The raw political calculation Reid made here was also one Americans of all races were making. I always knew that someday it would be embarrassing that the press spent 2007 and 2008 hosting panels of white people discussing the political implications of Obama's racial authenticity -- or lack thereof -- but I never imagined that we'd all decide to pretend it never happened.
Indeed, throughout 2007, the question of whether Obama was "black enough" -- or "too black" -- was a common one among the news media. If MSNBC is interested in the topic of double-standards, they should devote some air-time to examining what their own colleagues were saying at the time Reid purportedly made his comments. And they should devote a segment or two to the fact that MSNBC employs Pat Buchanan, and gave him a platform from which to marvel that Barack Obama is "not what you would expect from a black guy from the South Side of Chicago."
UPDATE: MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall is now discussing Reid's comments in the context of the broader conversation that was happening in the media in 2006/2007, for which she deserves credit.
What an awful piece of reporting from Mike Allen and Jake Sherman regarding the Harry Reid kerfuffle. Here's the hysterical, GOP-friendly headline [emphasis added]:
Democrats launch counterattack to save Harry Reid's career
So Reid's "career" is now teetering on the brink, and if Dems don't' scramble to "launch" a "counterattack" he's doomed. How does Politico know? Because the GOP says so!
As we noted yesterday, if you look at the facts on the ground inside the Beltway right now, the Reid story, at this moment, isn't going anywhere. Meaning, not one single prominent Democrat or African-American leader has come forward to fault Reid for the semi-controversial comments he made about Obama during the 2008 campaign; a campaign in which Reid supported the election of the country's first black president.
So my question to Politico is this: How is Reid's career in need of saving if nobody within the party is challenging it? Last time I checked Republicans were helpless in terms of forcing out Democratic leaders, which means the RNC and the GOP Noise Machine can yell and scream all they want and demand Reid stop down. But in terms of practical matters they don't have a say in Reid's standing among Democrats. Republicans are powerless.
But not inside the Politico newsroom, where the minority party is suddenly the the one that really matters.
UPDATED: Behold, as Politico offered up a laundry list of supposed Reid verbal faux pas over the years:
He called President George W. Bush a "loser," Justice Clarence Thomas "an embarrassment" and Bill Frist, his predecessor as majority leader, "amateurish." He referred to Alan Greenspan as a "hack." And he had to backtrack after saying the U.S. was "losing" the war in Iraq.
Boy, that Reid is just crazy.
Let's take a look at the Right's idea of media criticism, shall we? Here's Media Research Center Senior Fellow and Vice President for Research and Publications Brent Baker:
At the end of Sunday's This Week this morning, George Stephanopoulos announced it was his last broadcast as the host ... and an item in Sunday's Boston Herald revealed that ABC had to purchase a special chair for Stephanopoulos, in his new job as co-host of Good Morning America, so Robin Roberts would no longer "tower over" the "diminutive talking head."
The accompanying top screen shot is from December 14, Stephanopoulos's first day as the new permanent co-host and the image below is from this past Thursday's program. Judge for yourself, but Stephanopoulos is certainly lower in both.
Well, George Stephanopoulos is a media figure, and making fun of his height is criticism, so I guess this qualifies as "media criticism." Certainly more so than this entry from Baker's colleague Noel Sheppard yesterday: "Schwarzenegger On Ben Nelson's Kickback: 'It's Illegal to Buy Votes'"
Not surprising, but still unsettling.
In this case, the target is Mark Fiore, an online cartoonist for NPR who poked fun at the Tea Party movement. Apparently that's not allowed in RW America (free speech? what free speech?), so the RW PC police basically tagged Fiore as an enemy combatant, and naturally the death threats started to flow:
The death threats keep coming this fine morning. I guess the Tea Party crew is determined to have "death panels" one way or another.
To date, the failure to condemn the threat of physical attack on Fiore seems to be universal within the RW blogosphere, which isn't surprising since RW 'media critics' remain committed to little more than portraying journalists as evil and un-American. The dirty little secret has always been that RW press-haters don't want a better press corps. They want want a press corps that doesn't exist.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some RW bloggers, at least privately, approve of the death threats as a way to intimidate the free press.
For instance, thin-skinned, loud-mouthed press hater Andrew Breitbart tweeted that he'd condemn attacks on any writer. But of course, in the wake of the Fiore death threats Breitbart hasn't done that on his 'media criticism' site Big Journalism. What Breitbart routinely does though, is attack journalists as immoral, corrupt, and dangerous to democracy. But gee, why would any unhinged readers take those attacks literally and translate that hate speech into a call for physical action against journalists, right?
Breitbart tweeted that he'd condemn any RW death threats against the press: "Show me offenders, evidence & I'll condemn." But Fiore has already come forward and confirmed he's received scores of death threats, yet Breitbart remains silent. So is Breitbart calling Fiore a liar? Does Breitbart not believe that the "all capital letters" death threats have been sent to Fiore? Is that Breitbart's response, to claim the death threats don't exist? To attack Fiore once again; to blame the victim?
It's just yet more proof that right-wing 'media critics' really need get control of their hatred for journalists. And and at the bare minimum they need to loudly and clearly condemn RW death threats; death threats that the RW blogosphere helped spark in the first place.