From the Fox Nation, accessed March 10:
John Ward's Daily Caller piece about the Obama White House's "emphasis on words over images" contains an odd little passage:
There is also a strong preference in the Obama White House for words rather than images as a persuasive tool.
This attempt to "elevate the dialogue" is admirable in its intent to improve political discourse. But it will give fuel to critics who say Obama thinks he knows best and can win others over if he can just explain everything to them.
"It will give fuel to critics who say ..." is a nifty way for a reporter to criticize a political figure while pretending he isn't the one leveling the criticism. But Ward mentioned no such critics, or criticism, so all we have to go on is Ward's description. Is a president thinking he knows what he should do and that he is capable of convincing others a bad thing now? We'd rather have one who doesn't have any idea what to do, or who doesn't have confidence that he can convince people he's right? Really? No, of course not. Nobody actually thinks that.
What Ward really seems to be getting at is the right-wing (and media) meme that Obama is a smug know-it-all who looks down on people who don't agree with him. But keep in mind that this passage appears in the midst of an article suggesting Obama should talk less and show more pretty pictures. Now, as a matter of communications strategy, I suppose there's a valid argument there, though it isn't one that interests me. But as a matter of smugness ... well, what's more patronizing? The belief that you can win people over by explaining your position to them -- or the belief that you can win people over by showing them some pretty pictures?
Well, it's not like Michelle Malkin didn't try to warn him.
On his radio show yesterday, conservative blogger Malkin and Beck got into an extended tiff because Malkin didn't think it made sense for Beck to devote his entire Fox News show to his Eric Massa interview. It's true that Malkin based her case on political considerations. (i.e. Why give a Democrat that kind of attention?) But whatever her rationale, it turned out Malkin was giving Beck really good advice.
Of course, he ignored it. (Click on the audio here and listen to how Beck became increasingly annoyed when somebody like Malkin dared question his judgment.) Beck knew what he was doing, thank you very much. He'd personally talked to Massa on the phone, and devoting an hour of cable TV time to him was exactly the right thing to do.
Well, in one sense, Beck was right, because yesterday's colossal flop might just make television history. It might go down as one of the most pointlessly absurd -- and yes, truly unwatchable -- hours in cable news. Last night, the snickering had already reached epic levels. And with the can't-watch-TV performance, Beck most likely took the Massa issue off the table for Republicans, since the whole story now looks more like a comedy than an actual scandal.
And yes, Beck today is a national laughingstock. But honestly, is anyone surprised?
In my column this week, I noted this characteristic about today's unhinged, anti-Obama right wing, which Beck so perfectly personifies [emphasis added]:
Consumed with Obama Derangement Syndrome, 'wingers literally cannot help themselves. Just this weekend, one prominent, albeit unhinged, right-wing site branded Obama as "suicide-bomber-in-chief." They've removed all sensible filters, which means the crazy talk flows 24-7.
It's that complete lack of common sense that led Beck to think Massa would make for interesting TV for an hour. The odds that a 60-minute interview with a resigning congressman would make for great TV were never above 5 percent. And the odds that it wold be a catastrophic failure always hovered around 20 percent. But narcissist Beck, ignoring broadcasting common sense, plowed ahead anyway.
Question: Did anyone on Beck's staff try to talk him out of this daffy idea? Recall that recently Beck's senior producer, a longtime Fox News exec, was unceremoniously shown the door. And I know industry chatter was that Beck didn't want the guy around and that Beck doesn't think he needs somebody outside of his very tight clique overseeing his show.
Well, last night, Beck found out he was wrong. And Beck found out what happens when you program cable news without any commonsense filters. And last night, television viewers saw what happened when narcissism rules and there's no adult supervision on a cable news set.
Result: Glenn Beck becomes a national laughingstock.
UPDATED: From the sad-but-true category is the realization that Beck's Hindenburg performance last night will probably do more damage to his reputation, at least among Beltway scribes, than the endless falsehoods and vicious smears he's launched. Why? Because last night, Beck was guilty of the deadliest media sin of all: producing god-awful television.
In his March 8 Washington Post column, Marc Thiessen made a series of false and misleading attacks in an attempt to defend the witch hunt against Department of Justice lawyers who represented terror suspects in U.S. courts. One other argument Thiessen made also leaps out at me: Thiessen compares the DOJ lawyers who represented detainees to "mob lawyers." Thiessen wrote:
Would most Americans want to know if the Justice Department had hired a bunch of mob lawyers and put them in charge of mob cases? Or a group of drug cartel lawyers and put them in charge of drug cases? Would they want their elected representatives to find out who these lawyers were, which mob bosses and drug lords they had worked for, and what roles they were now playing at the Justice Department? Of course they would -- and rightly so.
Yet Attorney General Eric Holder hired former al-Qaeda lawyers to serve in the Justice Department and resisted providing Congress this basic information. In November, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Holder a letter requesting that he identify officials who represented terrorists or worked for organizations advocating on their behalf, the cases and projects they worked on before coming to the Justice Department, the cases and projects they've worked on since joining the administration, and a list of officials who have recused themselves because of prior work on behalf of terrorist detainees.
When someone uses the phrase "mob lawyers," what comes to mind? The first image that I thought of was that of Tom Hagen, the attorney (or consigliere) for the Corleone crime family in the Godfather saga. Hagen was intimately involved in the Corleones' crimes. It turns out that so-called "mob lawyers" have been convicted themselves for criminal activities. Of course, there is no evidence that the lawyers Thiessen is targeting have been involved in any criminal activity.
I don't mean to suggest that people accused of being involved in organized crime aren't entitled to an attorney. They are. And lawyers who have representing a person accused in an organized crime case should not be disqualified from joining the Department of Justice and being "put ... in charge of mob cases."
But Thiessen did not refer simply to "lawyers who represent defendants in organized crime cases"; he used the phrase "mob lawyers," with all the suggestion of criminality that that loaded term entails.
It also bears noting that The Washington Post itself has condemned the people involved in the attacks on the DOJ lawyers for acting as if those lawyers "had committed a crime:"
It is an effort to smear the Obama administration and the reputations of Justice Department lawyers who, before joining the administration, acted in the best traditions of this country by volunteering to take on the cases of suspected terrorists. They now find themselves the target of a video demanding that they be identified, as if they had committed a crime or needed to be exposed for subverting national security.
It is important to remember that no less an authority than the Supreme Court ruled that those held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, must be allowed to challenge their detentions in a U.S. court. It is exceedingly difficult to exercise that right meaningfully without the help of a lawyer. It is also worth remembering that the Bush administration wanted to try some Guantanamo detainees in military commissions -- a forum in which a defendant is guaranteed legal representation. Even so, it took courage for attorneys to stand up in the midst of understandable societal rage to protect the rights of those accused of terrorism. Advocates knew that ignorance and fear would too often cloud reason. They knew that this hysteria made their work on these cases all the more important. The video from Keep America Safe proves they were right.
Yesterday, Whitlock criticized MSNBC's David Shuster for asking whether the NRCC's reference to Charlie Rangel as a "Harlem Democrat" was "racially tinged." Whitlock cluelessly responded: "How is it inaccurate to refer to the Representative as a 'Harlem Democrat?' Harlem is in his district" -- ignoring the obvious question of whether the NRCC routinely refers to Members of Congress by naming a town or neighborhood in their district, or whether it reserves such treatment for towns and neighborhoods that they think can be used as pejoratives.
Well, it turns out the NRCC doesn't regularly refer to members of Congress that way. In fact, an NRCC release that referred to Rangel as a "Harlem Democrat" didn't use that construct when discussing another New York City congressman, Michael McMahon, who was labeled a "New York Congressman" rather than a "Staten Island Congressman."
So David Shuster defended himself, and now Scott Whitlock is back, making a fool of himself once again. Whitlock completely ignores Shuster's point that the NRCC doesn't routinely refer to members of Congress this way -- just pretends it never happened. That's a pretty good indication that Whitlock secretly knows his argument doesn't hold much water. Then, hilariously, Whitlock complains that Shuster didn't rebuke his MSNBC colleague for doing "the same thing" the NRCC did:
Shuster, however, was silent on the fact that MSNBC reporter Luke Russert basically did the same thing. Appearing on the March 3 edition of the Ed Show, he commented on Democrats who wanted to strip the controversial Rangel of his chairmanship.
Russert explained that these politicians are in "conservative districts, who really saw problems back home in their rural districts in the mountains being associated with a Harlem Democrat who writes the nation's tax laws who a lot of folks say is not paying their taxes." Does this mean that Luke Russert is using "racially tinged" language? Will Shuster call on his colleague to apologize?
What's hilarious about that? Well, Russert didn't do "the same thing" the NRCC did. The NRCC repeatedly drew attention to Rangel's ties to Harlem. Russert, on the other hand, reported that some members of congress in conservative districts fear "being associated with a Harlem Democrat." Russert's reporting suggests that, to some people "Harlem" is a pejorative. Russert's report, in other words, reinforces Shuster's point -- that the NRCC appears to be using "Harlem" because it believes the word has negative connotations, at least to some people.
Stop digging, Whitlock.
At least eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred for white people." Here are his February 5 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
Reporting that President Obama "is mounting a stinging, sustained broadside against health insurance rate increases," The Washington Post characterized the White House's message in response to reported double-digit health insurance rate increases as a "near-daily demonization of the insurance industry." But once you cut through the loaded words, the Post provided no indication that anything Obama has said in his "demonization" of insurers is incorrect or otherwise problematic:
The White House is mounting a stinging, sustained broadside against health insurance rate increases as President Obama and his aides enter what they hope will be the final stretch of a year-long political war over health-care reform.
Obama and his health secretary staged a two-pronged attack Monday in a stern letter to health insurance chief executives and a speech in which the president castigated insurance companies 22 times. "How much higher do premiums have to rise," he demanded, "before we do something about it?"
The near-daily demonization of the insurance industry is an attempt by the White House to play to Americans' anxieties about the health-care system -- and about the prospect of changing it.
The Los Angeles Times reported in February that Anthem Blue Cross planned to "dramatically raise rates for customers with individual policies" by as much as 39 percent. A February 11 New York Times article reported that White House officials were looking to illustrate the need for health care reform by pointing to excessive rate increases:
Anthem's rate increases, set to take effect March 1, have galvanized some Democrats in Washington, including President Obama, who say they provide an example of why Congress needs to break its political logjam and pass legislation to overhaul the health care system.
Indeed, the Post article itself noted that the administration's message regarding insurers was in response to double-digit rate increases:
By focusing on escalating insurance rates, especially for the sliver of the market in which people buy health coverage individually, the administration is emphasizing that costs will increase if Congress does not act.
"Part of the motivating factor here is letting members of Congress know there's a price to pay for failure," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Monday in an interview. "And for the public, it's important to remind them that there are premium increases of 40 percent for as far as you can see if nothing is done."
Emanuel's figure referred to a recent move by Anthem Blue Cross of California to raise premiums by 39 percent for people who buy individual policies.
As the White House has launched its last-minute public relations blitz, "there could have been no greater gift" than Anthem's proposed rate increase, said Drew E. Altman, president of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy and research organization. The Obama administration, Altman said, is "trying to connect better with average people" in terms more concrete than the president used earlier in the debate when he spoke about "bending the curve" of escalating health-care costs and curbing future budget deficits.
Left unanswered is how the administration is responsible for demonizing the insurance industry by highlighting the actual actions of the insurance industry.
Newsbusters' Scott Whitlock is really grasping at straws in an attempt to criticize an ABC report for failing to mention that some 9/11 Truthers are liberal.
Take, for example, the fact that Whitlock's headline undermines his central complaint: "ABC Leaves Ideology Out of Investigation Into 9/11 Truthers: 'They Come From All Over the Political Spectrum.'" Seems pretty obvious that if ABC noted the Truthers "come from all over the political spectrum," they didn't actually "leave ideology out" of their report, doesn't it?
Later in the post, Whitlock wrote "Now, Truthers don't reside only on the left, but why ignore the fact that many do?" What? Does Whitlock know what "ignore" means? If ABC -- by Whitlock's own admission -- acknowledged that Truthers "come from all over the political spectrum," they clearly didn't "ignore" the fact that some are liberals. (Whitlock also acknowledged that the ABC report indicated that "Former Obama environmental czar Van Jones forced out after signing an online petition for 9/11 truth that he later repudiated.")
So, if ABC didn't actually ignore the fact that some Truthers are liberals, what is Whitlock so upset about? Seems what really bothers him is that ABC didn't mention a 2007 Rasmussen poll of dubious merit:
However, according to a 2007 poll by Rasmussen, 35 percent of Democrats believed that President Bush knew about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in advance. Yet, Bury blandly explained, "They are an eclectic group with widely different agenda, including war protestors, first responders who feel neglected and families of some 9/11 victims."
Bury did highlight one attendee, Sander Hicks, noting, that he "want[s] treason charges brought against members of the Bush administration." However, there is no mention of the Rasmussen poll about Democrats. Now, Truthers don't reside only on the left, but why ignore the fact that many do?
Now, that Rasmussen poll isn't particularly significant, as the question asked was too broad to yield meaningful results -- as even conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg concedes. But what's really hilarious about Whitlock touting the poll is that it has barely been a month since he used it as an example of poll results that aren't credible. Here's Whitlock's February 2 post about an MSNBC report:
So, one poll, by a left-wing website (in conjunction with the firm Research 2000), is enough for MSNBC to assert that 58 percent of GOPers subscribe to a bizarre conspiracy? A Rasmussen poll from May of 2007 found that 61 percent of Democrats either believed that George Bush knew about the 9/11 terror attack in advance or aren't sure. Does that mean that "most Democrats" are Truthers?
See what Whitlock did there? He dismissed the validity of "one poll" finding he didn't like -- and, in an effort to demonstrate how crazy it would be to take it seriously, he compared it to the Rasmussen finding about Democrats and 9/11.
But now, just over a month after comparing a Research 2000 poll to the Rasmussen poll in order to discredit the Research 2000 poll, Whitlock is complaining that ABC didn't mention the Rasmussen poll.
So Scott Whitlock's view of the credibility of the Rasmussen finding is variable, dependent on who he wants to criticize and why.
Yesterday, we highlighted how WorldNetDaily financial columnist Porter Stansberry bragged that he's ready to flee the country at a moment's notice with most of his wealth to a locale "that doesn't have any ties to America." We did some looking into Stansberry's background and found a large sanction against him from the Securities & Exchange Commission.
In 2003, the SEC filed a complaint against Stansberry, his operation (then called Pirate Investor, now called Stansberry & Associates), and the company that owns Stansberry's operation, Agora Inc. The SEC argued that Stansberry's newsletters "contain nothing more than baseless speculation and outright lies," citing an example in which Stansberry promised investors they could double their "investment dollar in a single day" on one stock tip, which he would sell for $1,000. In fact, the stock went down nearly 15 percent on the day Stansberry promised investors they would double their money.
In 2007, the SEC ordered Stansberry and his company to pay $1.5 million in restitution and civil penalties, stating that, according to an August 10, 2007, Baltimore Sun article (retrieved from Nexis), Stansberry's company "acted in reckless disregard for regulations when it published Stansberry's unbelievable claims without a shred of confirmation." The parent company, Agora, was not held liable.
Stansberry appealed the fine and tried to press his case in public. Stansberry's lawyers, David Rivkin Jr. and Bruce Brown, penned a November 2008 Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that the SEC has no jurisdiction in the case because it didn't involve insider trading. The issue is regulation of "disinterested stock analysis," Rivkin and Brown wrote, and "the SEC has no more business penalizing a writer who simply covers the markets than the Food and Drug Administration has in regulating a cookbook publisher because an official questions the nutritional content in a meatloaf recipe."
In September 2009, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Stansberry's SEC sanction, stating that securities fraud is not protected speech and "[p]unishing fraud, whether it be common law fraud or securities fraud, simply does not violate the First Amendment."
Stansberry has popped up on occasion in more mainstream news outlets. Barron's touted him as "highly regarded" and "remarkably prescient" in July 2008; a February 2009 Associated Press article cited Stansberry, as did a separate February 2009 USA Today article.
None of these articles mentioned Stansberry's SEC fine. Unsurprisingly, WorldNetDaily hasn't either. Quite the contrary: When his column began in December 2009, WND claimed it was "introducing readers looking for sound, reality-based investment information to the respected financial research outfit Stansberry & Associates."
How does "sound, reality-based investment information" mesh with a $1.5 million SEC sanction for selling "unbelievable claims without a shred of confirmation" to investors? That's something WND (and Stansberry) should explain.
In its report today on the unfolding Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) saga, the Post leans heavily on how right-wing partisans are pushing the story. Apparently, that's what makes it especially newsworthy.
From the Post:
Conservatives have complained about other examples of what they see as illegitimate deal-making to secure votes: what they call the "Cornhusker Kickback" and the "Louisiana Purchase" in the Senate to line up Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), respectively, and Obama's appointment last week of a Utah professor -- the brother of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), an opponent of the health bill -- to the federal appeals bench.
The Post notes how conservatives are latching onto the Massa story because it fits into their pre-existing narrative about Democratic corruption in connection to health care reform. And then the Post dutifully recites the right-wing laundry list of alleged Democratic offenses.
What the Post never bothers to do though, is report on whether any of the conservative attacks are true.
Yes, for example, right-wing partisans last week accused the Obama White House of "bribery" and "selling" judgeships to get health care reform passed. But were the allegations credible? Because didn't even Republicans members of Congress step forward and declare that the judgeship allegation in connection to Rep. Matheson's brother was absurd?
On those points, the Post takes a pass.