I have frequently noted that, in addition to the three hours a day in which MSNBC is hosted by a former Republican congressman, the cable channel's daytime news reporters often adopt conservative framing. Here's an example, from anchor Contessa Brewer's introduction of a segment about Maine's repeal of a law allowing same-sex marriage:
Contessa Brewer: "And today you can add Maine to a long line of states, about 30 so far, where voters have chosen to define marriage traditionally: The union between one man and one woman."
"Define marriage traditionally" is straight out of the anti-gay movement's talking points. They work the phrase (and variations of it) into everything they say about the subject.
And it isn't accurate or neutral language.
It is telling that the construction "Define marriage traditionally" is a relatively new one. If you go back a decade, you'll be hard-pressed to find many uses of it (or variations of it) in the media. A Nexis search for "marriage w/5 tradition! w/5 defin!" returns only 317 hits from prior to the past 10 years.
No, the phrase is new -- cooked-up by anti-gay activists, because they know "deny gay couples the right to marry" doesn't poll as well. So why is an MSNBC anchor adopting it?
It's not like it's accurate. It wasn't too long ago, after all, when laws in America defined marriage as the union of one white man and one white woman, or of one black man and one black woman. That was the "traditional" definition of marriage in America, until people saw the light. Now they want you to believe marriage has always been defined the same way, so they can claim tradition is on their side. It isn't true -- but MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer parrots their rhetoric
If Brewer had introduced the segment by saying that Maine voted to "discriminate against gays," you can be sure the Right would be apoplectic -- and other reporters would point to it as evidence that MSNBC is a left-wing channel.
But that isn't what happened. What actually happened was that Brewer adopted anti-gay talking points as though they were neutral descriptions.
And Howard Kurtz, Campbell Brown, Ruth Marcus, David Zurawick and the rest of the "MSNBC-is-the-liberal-Fox" crowd won't say a word about it.
Here's MSNBC's Chris Matthews last night, talking about the claims that New Jersey governor John Corzine's campaign emphasized the weight of his Republican opponent:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, you're out there campaigning like mad for Chris Christie. What do you make of the fat charge?
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Oh, it's ridiculous. And it's a -- it's a diversionary tactic to try to get people not to look at Corzine's record. And I think it's pretty clear, pretty apparent.
MATTHEWS: Well, let's take a look at it, because I have never seen anything this lowbrow, but here it is. I enjoy these, because it shows how stinky-poo politics can get.
And here are several examples of Matthews talking about Al Gore over the years:
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me go to John for an always interesting analysis by John Heilemann. John, Al Gore, he appears to us so irregularly. We notice how he gains weight, loses weight, has a beard. He ought to stick around more frequently so people don't notice these things. He's a big guy. He's back. And he's not really a politician, I wouldn't say. Is he a plus? [6/17/08]
MATTHEWS: Express your -- Mike Allen, express your thoughts more clearly. Three questions. Will he jump in this fall? Will she -- will he be ready to jump if in if there's something going wrong with the Clintons by next November? Or will he hold his fire, lose some weight and go back in 2012? [10/12/07]
MATTHEWS: I hear he's made a commitment to a friend for a crash course to lose 40 pounds right away. [4/8/07]
MATTHEWS: And Patrick, before, when we were in the green room a while ago and you were saying that you think he's lost some weight. I know this is so cosmetic, but people are watching the weight here. [3/25/07]
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We're joined now by Eugene Robinson of "The Washington Post" and Michael Feldman, a former adviser to Al Gore. By the way, is Al Gore sharpening up his political blade now? He's up there on the Hill. Is he going to lose some weight and make his move, or...
MICHAEL FELDMAN, FORMER GORE ADVISER: You're obsessed with his weight, Chris!
MATTHEWS: Because he weighs -- he's Raymond Burr! [3/22/07]
MATTHEWS: Well, you haven't gotten fat like a lot of ex-politicians. I'll give you that. I saw Gore the other night. I couldn't believe it. I thought I was seeing the Hindenburg coming by. And there you are; you're looking great. [11/7/06]
HOWARD FINEMAN: Al Gore is so invisible that a large foot is not required to obscure him. OK? I mean, I was just told today that he's having Camp Al down in Tennessee in a couple of weeks.
Mr. FINEMAN: Twenty-five young activists are going to come down to lectured in political activism by Al Gore and...
MATTHEWS: I mean, do you know what this reminds me of? In the back of The New York Times magazine when they have camp for the fat kids. Please send your fat kid to this camp.
Mr. FINEMAN: And instructions in Palm Pilot use. No, but...
MATTHEWS: You know, Chester will come back 20 pounds lighter in the Happy Camp. [8/1/01]
MATTHEWS: When is he allowed to show some cuff, or when is he--first of all, he has to lose about 40 pounds. That'll be the first sign he's running. We all agree on that, right? The minute he loses weight, somebody will say, 'Have you seen the trim, new Al Gore?' That'll be the first sign. You'll probably do that, Julia. You'll--Lawrence, he loses weight. How soon can he lose weight and run? [6/25/01]
And a bonus: Chris Matthews interviewing Al Sharpton:
MATTHEWS: Reverend Sharpton, sir, thanks for joining us. First of all, a human interest question: How many pounds did you lose? [9/6/01]
The AP on Tuesday:
To be sure, it's easy to overanalyze the results of such a small number of elections in a few places. The results will only offer hints about the national political landscape and clues to the public's attitudes. And the races certainly won't predict what will happen in the.
The AP on Wednesday:
To be sure, each race was as much about local issues as about firing warning shots at the politically powerful. But taken together, the results of the 2009 off-year elections could imperil Obama's ambitious legislative agenda and point to a challenging environment in midterm elections next year.
Washington Post reporter Michael Fletcher, in an online Q&A:
non-election question: Given Liz Cheney's sudden prominence (man, nepotism in DC never ceases to amaze me), I'm curious as to why none of you reporters are asking her questions re: her recent comments about Obama's trip to Dover. She said that Bush routinely made the same trip and didn't "stage photo ops." A) she flat out lied - Bush never went to Dover, B) he couldn't have had photos taken because of the Pentagon policy at the time and C) Mission Accomplished, anybody? Ultimate photo op. What gives? Or is being related to Dick sufficient to protect her from questioned?
Michael A. Fletcher: If we begin questioning Liz Cheney that way, then we would have to do the same with conservative (and liberal) commentators who make all kinds of charges every day. It is their way of making a (great) living. Some comments, I like to think, sink under their own weight.
So a Washington Post reporter says the media doesn't question Liz Cheney about her lies because if they did so, they would have to do the same with other commentators.
What's missing? Any explanation of why that would be a bad thing.
In case you missed it the other day, on his Fox News program Glenn Beck linked health care reform to 9-11, likening legislation designed to better the lives of Americans to a fuel-laden passenger jet striking the World Trade Center, and casting himself, as the leader of his 9-12 cult, as the only person standing in the way of disaster.
It's the type of deluded and offensive narcissism that we've come to expect from Beck, and normally I wouldn't have given it a whole lot of thought afterwards, but something else caught my ear in the middle of Beck's rant as he tried to cast himself as some sort of latter-day Cassandra whose prophetic warnings about bin Laden fell on deaf ears: "In the 1990s, I was on the radio warning people about Osama bin Laden, not because I was some super-smart genius. I just listened to the man's words. I really believed him. But that wasn't the top of the priority list in America -- no, no, no. We were dealing with the fat interns and the definition of is, and I like the rest of America went back to sleep on the terrorist threat."
It just so happens that Glenn Beck has on his website a section called "Classic Beck," which contains selected audio recordings of Beck's radio programs going back several years. One of those recordings is from August 22, 1998, and is described as follows: "Glenn debuts on the WABC in New York City. Glenn discusses the recent U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan and if the American people are ready for the upcoming War on Terrorism." And it just so happens that near the beginning of this recording, Beck comments on Osama bin Laden:
BECK: Now, another newspaper in Pakistan says that it received a statement for the--from the spokesperson for Azma bin Ladin [sic]. Is that is name? Bin Ladin? Bin Ladeen? Bin jelly bean, green bean, Mr. Clean? I love him. He's hot. He says he's ready for war with the U.S. Oh yes? Thank you Mr. Baked Bean.
A respected newspaper quotes the statement as follows: "The war has just started, and Americans should wait for the answer." Now, Mr. Ozma Dig-my-scene, I don't even know what the question was! Was the question "is my turban on too tight?" Yes! I think it is. The blood's not pumping around the whole brain. Loosen the turban, Mr. Clean, dig my scene. Oh yes, let's look at the latrine.
Does this sound like Beck was "warning" about bin Laden and taking his words seriously? Now, consider the time period - it's late August 1998, just a few weeks after the Al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and President Clinton just launched cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation. If there was ever a time in the '90s when terrorism was the focus of America's attention, this was it. And Glenn Beck, debuting on WABC, used that time to make silly jokes about bin Laden's name and dismiss his threats as a symptom of an overly tight turban.
But the Glenn Beck of August 1998 doesn't jibe with the Glenn Beck of 2009, who desperately wants to be taken seriously as the last remaining bulwark against the rising tide of socialism or fascism or statism or whatever. So Beck simply rewrote his own history. Ironically, it was the actual historical records that Beck maintains on his own website that undermined his attempt at revisionism.
From Zachary Roth's November 4 TPMMuckraker post:
Newsweek magazine is teaming up with an oil-industry lobbying group to host an invitation-only event on climate-change and energy issues for lawmakers, just as the Senate gets set to take up legislation on the subject.
The panel discussion, entitled "Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?", will feature Jack Gerard, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, and, as moderator, Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman, according to an email invitation sent by a Newsweek business staffer and obtained by TPMmuckraker.
Roth also posted the complete email from Newsweek's External Relations Manager Jennifer Slattery:
From: Jennifer Slattery To: Sent: Mon Nov 02 18:36:27 2009 Subject: V.I.P. Invitation / Newsweek Executive Forum - Climate and Energy Policy: Moving?
The editors of Newsweek cordially invite you to attend Newsweek's Executive Forum entitled, Climate and Energy Policy: Moving? This Capitol Hill policy forum is scheduled on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at XXX in the XXX in the United States Capitol.
There will be an informal reception immediately following the discussion.
The panel discussion will be moderated Howard Fineman, Newsweek National-Affairs Columnist and Senior Washington Correspondent with special guest panelist Jack Gerard, President & Chief Executive Officer of American Petroleum Institute (API). Newsweek is also honored to have forum invitations currently pending confirmation with notable members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.
These additional program announcements will be made in the coming days and you will be apprised of these updates.
Newsweek is pleased to be co-hosting this panel discussion with API. To R.S.V.P. please click the below link and register for the event.
Please don't hesitate to let us know if you need additional information or have further questions.
We look forward to hosting you on Tuesday, December 1 and value your continued interest in energy issues of importance.
Manager, Newsweek External Relations
It seems whenever Democrats win an election, the media rushes to insist that they did it by running to the middle and not being "traditional Democrats." Just this week, Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon reminded us, "The candidates Democrats recruited in 2006 and 2008 are pro-life and pro-gun." (In fact, very few were pro-life.)
Some creative conservative media figures even insisted that Barack Obama won election in 2008 by running as a "Reaganite" and "fiscal conservative."
So I turned on my television a few hours ago, fully to hear cable news talkers saying that yes, Republicans won last night, but they did so by running to the center and downplaying traditional Republican positions. After all, just yesterday, Washington Post reporter Ben Pershing said during an online Q&A:
If there is a national lesson from today, it's that Republicans all over the country will be looking to replicate McDonnell's model -- play up jobs and economic issues, and play down social issues (with the general audience, at least. You can still let conservative activists know you're on their side.)
Indeed, during the campaign, McDonnell distanced himself from his own previous anti-gay writings. And in the NY-23 congressional election, Republicans rallied 'round the most conservative candidate they could find (even abandoning their own nominee in the process) and promptly lost the seat for the first time in about 150 years.
But, oddly, I haven't seen anyone -- not even on the supposedly-liberal MSNBC -- saying that last night proves that Republicans need to moderate themselves if they're going to win. Weird.
Liz Sidoti's AP article today is just ridiculous. "GOP sweep: Big governor victories in Virginia, NJ" reads the headline. Sweep? Just for a second, let's exclude the congressional race in New York - which the article itself hardly mentions - and focus on just the governor races in Virginia and New Jersey. It seems a little absurd to call two races a sweep. Why don't we just call one race a sweep as well?
Independents who swept Barack Obama to a historic 2008 victory broke big for Republicans on Tuesday as the GOPwrested political control from Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey, a troubling sign for the president and his party heading into an importantmidterm election year.
(Sidoti ignores that, as Bob Somerby notes, in every "off-off" election since 1977, Virginians have elected a governor from the "out" party-from the party which isn't controlling the White House.)
But what about that 23rd Congressional race in New York? Considering it was probably just as newsworthy - if not more - than the two gubernatorial races, how could Sidoti not mention it in the lede? Instead, she buries it in the fourth graf - below a paragraph on Maine voters rejecting same-sex marriage. After all, Bill Owens is the first Democrat to hold the seat in more than a century. And as TPMDC's Brian Beutler wrote this morning, Owens' and Democrat John Garamendi's election to California's 10th seat "will have immediate ramifications for health care reform," since the newly elected representatives, unlike the governors, actually get to cast a vote on the health reform bill.
(As for the Maine paragraph, it would have been a good spot for Sidoti to mention that Maine voters overwhelmingly approved a measure allowing for dispensaries to supply medical marijuana and rejected a measure that would have limited state and local government spending by holding it to the rate of inflation plus population growth. Those definitely were not GOP victories.)
But let's look closely at Sidoti's fourth graf in which she mentions Owens' victory:
And Democrat Bill Owens captured a GOP-held vacant 23rd Congressional District seat in New York in a race that highlighted fissures in the Republican Party and illustrated hurdles the GOP could face in capitalizing on any voter discontent with Obama and Democrats next fall.
So Sidoti leads by calling two GOP gubernatorial victories (one of which was predicted and the other of which was close) a "troubling sign" for President Obama and the Democrats but downplays a congressional election that "highlighted fissures in the Republican Party"?
Is Sidoti aware how much of the conservative media threw their hat behind Doug Hoffman - whose name she doesn't even mention? And how about noting that the GOP spent nearly a million dollars funding its establishment candidate only for her to drop out two days before the election.
Talk about burying the lede...
Oh and it's not until the 18th graf that Sidoti writes: "Tuesday's impact on Obama's popularity and on the 2010 elections could easily be overstated. Voters are often focused on local issues and local personalities."
Congratulations Erick Erickson! Not only did your tireless blogosphere effort to elect a tea bag conservative turn N.Y.-23 blue for the first time in nearly 150 years, but you also managed to make a laughing stock out of your site, RedState, (again...) by hyping the comical tale about a conservative supporter who supposedly had his tires "slashed" in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Go here to read the breathless report (complete with photos!) and know that the local police dismissed the claim as nonsense. i.e. The guy ran over a bottle, which damaged his truck tire. A Plattsburgh police captain is on the record saying nobody go their tires slashed. But keep in mind, in the right-wing blogosphere, if a conservative supporter gets a flat tire on Election Day, it's a conspiracy of enormous proportions. (Can Andrew Breitbart please determine if the WH "orchestrated" the automotive violence?)
Note to the RNC: it's right-wing media players like Erick Erickson who claim they're taking the reigns of the conservative movement in America.
Good luck with that.
UPDATED: It only gets better. After conservative Doug Hoffman conceded to Democrat Bill Owens (and yes, N.Y. 23 has not sent a Dem to Congress in nearly 150 years), Erickson declared the night a huge victory for...conservatives! I guess that means Dems were the big winners in N.J. and VA., right Erick?
UPDATED: And just FYI, this is what RedState helped accomplish last night [emphasis added]:
New York now has only two Republican representatives in its 29-seat Congressional delegation.
UPDATED: Michelle Malkin agrees. By losing to a Democrat in a district that hadn't sent a Democrat to Congress since the Civil War, Doug Hoffman was the big winner last night. His loss represented "a victory for conservatives."
Question: How many "victories" like the one last night can the RNC take?
Washington Post reporter Dan Balz on last night's elections:
The most significant change came among independent voters, who solidly backed Democrats in 2006 and 2008 but moved decisively to the Republicans on Tuesday, according to exit polls. In Virginia, independents strongly supported Republican Robert F. McDonnell in his victory over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, while in New Jersey, they supported Republican Chris Christie in his win over Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine.
For months, polls have shown that independents were increasingly disaffected with some of Obama's domestic policies. They have expressed reservations about the president's health-care efforts and have shown concerns about the growth in government spending and the federal deficit under his leadership.
Tuesday's elections provided the first tangible evidence that Republicans can win their support with the right kind of candidates and the right messages. That is an ominous development for Democrats if it continues unabated into next year.
Ten paragraphs later:
[David] Axelrod warned against extrapolating into the future the shift among independents. He said he believed that many people who called themselves Republicans in the past now call themselves independents but are still voting for Republican candidates. "I don't think they portend long-term trends," he said.
Gee, wouldn't it have been nice if Balz gave readers some indication of whether Axelrod is right that "many people who called themselves Republicans in the past now call themselves independents"?
I mean, that would certainly have some impact on the significance of Balz assertions about independents becoming "increasingly disaffected with some of Obama's domestic policies," wouldn't it? It could even mean that "independents" aren't "increasingly disaffected," but rather that people who are disaffected are increasingly calling themselves independents rather than Republicans. Those two things are very, very different.
And, indeed, various polls this year have shown the percentage of the public that self-identifies as Republican is at or near an all-time low, which lends some support to Axelrod's claim.
This is exactly the kind of question Dan Balz is supposed to resolve, isn't it? His article is billed as "analysis," after all. Wouldn't it be great if he provided some?