It was complicated and dull, yes -- much like the year-long effort at health-care reform that finally passed the Senate on Christmas Eve. I would credit the media with a valiant attempt to explain and examine this legislative morass, even to the point of declaring that the high-decibel charges about death panels were bogus.
Ohmygod! The media "even" went so far as to tell readers that right-wing claims about "death panels" that they were hyping weren't true? Well, then, let's give them a medal!
This is the state of modern political journalism: The nation's most prominent media critic thinks that when reporters note the falsity of "high-decibel charges" they report, they deserve praise for their extraordinary work.
Howard Kurtz wraps up the Aughts:
[L]et's examine what Time, in one of a spate of similar pieces, calls the "Decade from Hell." The media scorecard wasn't all bad. ... Newspapers exposed George W. Bush's domestic surveillance program ...
Kurtz's inclusion of coverage of the domestic spying program among the highlights of the media's performance over the past decade is a pretty good sign of just how awful coverage of the Bush administration was.
And when the Times finally did run the story, newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post didn't exactly go all-out to follow up on the scandal, giving it far less attention than they had given comparatively unimportant things like Whitewater and President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
And that's one of Kurtz's examples of the media doing a good job.
In case you missed it because of the holiday, you really should read the Christmas Eve take-down that the Los Angeles Times' Christopher Knight delivered, as he thoroughly dismantled Breitbart's recent inanity about a White House tree ornament.
From Knight: [emphasis added]:
On Tuesday, Andrew Breitbart's Big Government blog got its knickers in a twist over one of the Obama White House's myriad Christmas trees...The blaring "EXCLUSIVE" led with a blurry photo of a decoupage Christmas ornament adorned with the face of Chinese Communist dictator, Mao Zedong.
"Of course, Mao has his place in the White House," Big Government wailed about the [Great Christmas Ornament Scandal], taking the Obama-as-socialist meme out for a yuletide spin.
Except, it wasn't exactly Mao. It was Andy Warhol's "Mao."
The image is one of a very large series of silkscreen paintings and prints the late Pop artist made of Mao. Warhol's parody transformed the leader of the world's most populous nation into a vapid superstar -- the most famous of the famous. The portrait photo from Mao's Little Red Book is tarted up with lipstick, eye-shadow and other Marilyn Monroe-style flourishes.
The precise source of the Warhol ornament is not known. But Warhol's Maos are in art museum collections from coast to coast, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago (whose painting most resembles the ornament image) and both the County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum has several.
Oh, and at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, the National Gallery of Art has 21 different versions of Warhol's "Mao." Twenty-one. Wait until Big Government bloggers find out about the Communist takeover of the National Gallery.
A random White House Christmas tree ornament, of unknown origin, featured a world famous image of Mao as interpreted by Andy Warhol. But because Breitbart and his bloggers are so clueless about pop culture and art (they seem to have no idea what Warhol's "Mao" is), they wrote up a blog post in which they proudly advertised their ignorance. Again.
Behold "conservative journalism."
UPDATED: Read Breitbart's incoherent response to Knight, here.
UPDATED: More Breitbart incoherency, also in response to Knight. Gee, think the LA Times hit a nerve when it pointed out that Breitbart and his crew seem to have no understanding of pop culture?
UPDATED: Breitbart earns bonus points for hypocrisy while swinging wildly in his Knight rebuttal. Breitbart claims the LA Times is losing so many subscribers because it's so darn liberal:
And that in its grand transparency multiplied across a newsroom is why you and yours are in perilous financial straits. Every lost subscriber has a poignant straw that broke the camel's back story on how their local paper went too far to the left too shamelessly.
The punchline? Breitbart's a columnist for the Washington Times, the right-wing daily that has so few readers that it's basically in the process of going out of business. Breitbart writes for a money-losing, and thoroughly failed daily newspaper that has hemorrhaged more money (in its blind partisan pursuit) than perhaps any other daily in the history of American publishing.
Yet he lectures an LA Times journalist about "lost subscribers"? Thanks for the laugh.
UPDATED: Wrote Andrew Sullivan re: the latest right-wing car wreck:
Andrew Breitbart's Big Government site does an expose on commie, homo, trannie themes buried in three White House Christmas tree ornaments. It's like McCarthyism revisited as farce.
UPDATED: In response to this critique, Breitbart posted even more senseless ramblings. Maybe he's still smarting from the collapse of the ACORN story. (Or the Gladney story. Or the they're-praying-to-Obama story....)
UPDATED: Or maybe Breitbart just hates the Christmas season.
As in [emphasis added]:
Congress may be gone for several weeks enjoying a winter holiday, but Republicans have vowed to keep up the pressure on Democrats who succeeded in getting their Senate health insurance overhaul bill passed before Christmas -- if just barely.
Final U.S. Senate vote for passage of health care reform: 60-39.
UPDATED: Some readers have suggested that the "just barely" above refers to Democrats getting health care legislation passed before Christmas, and not to the margin of the vote. And I think that's a fair point. But I continue to be struck by how so many journalists describe the final health care vote as being so suspenseful, "bitter" and "bruising".
But was it? Every GOP member of the senate opposed the bill and in the end 39 voted against it. i.e. Health care passed with what was approaching a 2/3 majority vote. That doesn't seem so "bruising" to me. Although I assume the GOP is happy the press describes it that way.
Due to the holidays, posting will be light for the next week and a half. Thank you for a great 2009 -- we'll see you next year. Happy Holidays.
The Post's Broder writes today that he's in awe of the health care reform legislation now being passed in Congress--and then spends most of his column condemning how the legislation is being passed. Indeed, Broder devotes just a few sentences to kinda/sorta explain to readers what's actually in the bill, and the rest of his (latest) Harry Reid-hating column explaining why the process was all wrong.
Broder concedes that with its historic passage, "the shame of this affluent society tolerating the denial of health care to its citizens will be largely lifted." But that's not what Broder's really passionate about. What he's really passionate about is the process. And according to Broder, and lots of other pundits, the Democratically-controlled process was all wrong.
Earlier this year when the Beltway chattering class attacked the process by which the Obama White House got its stimulus package passed, I noted this:
Traditionally, the standard the press used for judging a new president was: Could he get his initiatives passed? With Obama though, that's morphed into, can he get his initiatives passed in a certain way?
Broder's in "awe" that health care reform legislation is heading to the White House. So, of course, Broder writes an entire column hating on the process by which it was achieved.
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 of white people." Here are his December 23 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
Fox News spent a good portion of today running wild with the GOP talking point that the Congressional Budget Office undermined its December 19 and 20 estimates that the Senate's health care reform bill would reduce deficits by $132 billion during the first 10 years, with continued deficit reductions in the ensuing decades.
For example, FoxNews.com advanced the Republican spin under the headline, "Senators cite new budget letter to argue health care bill will hike deficit."
Problem for Fox News: The Congressional Budget Office actually reaffirmed its support for its estimate. Sen. Max Baucus noted on the Senate floor that day that he had received an email from CBO standing behind the earlier figure and explicitly stating that the memo pushed by Republicans and Fox News did not alter the earlier estimate:
BAUCUS: CBO says, CBO and the staff at the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that the legislation would reduce the federal budget deficit by $132 billion during the ensuing period. Next, CBO expects the legislation will reduce federal budget deficits during the decade beyond 2019 relative to those projected under current law with a total effect during that decade in a broad range of one-quarter percent and one-half percent of GDP. Of course, we know that's about $650 billion to $1.3 trillion. That's CBO. Today.
From the front page of FoxNews.com at 7:04 pm ET:
Boy, David Weigel at the Washington Independent really nails this one, as he details the on-going absurdity of the media's decision to take seriously Palin's Facebook postings (which she may or may not even write herself), and to cover them as news. To not only cover them as news, but to allow Palin to also stiff journalists with her on-going refusal to submit herself to a single question from an actual political reporter.
Instead, Palin (or somebody working for Palin), posts something on Facebook, all Wizard of Oz-like, and the Beltway press dutifully types it up as news. Because hey, that's how the political press always treats losing VP candidates, right?
You have to give Palin credit (I guess), since she's managed to create a whole new media space for herself which allows her to stay in the news without ever have to answer a single reporter's question. Of course, I'm guessing if she were a prominent Democrat and uniformly stiffed the Beltway press corps like that, she'd get hammered. (How dare she?!) But instead, reporters dutifully pass along Palin's online postings and news and pretend it's not unusual that a high-profile Republican refuses to speak with reporters.
The media's indulgence of Palin's strategy — which often results in pure stenography of press releases that may or may not have been written by her — is ridiculous, bordering on pathetic.