Dana Milbank wants a debt commission, but doesn't expect to get one:
The debt commission is expected to be voted down Tuesday morning, as foes on the far left and the far right unite to form a status quo supermajority.
I'm not sure I've ever seen a columnist suggest that a "supermajority" holds extremist political positions, but I suppose it's possible, as long as you view "far left" and "far right" as absolute descriptions of positions on a theoretical political spectrum, rather than descriptions of distances from the mainstream.
So who is the "far left" in Dana Milbank's world? Take a look:
On the left, the AFL-CIO, the NAACP, MoveOn.org and other groups redoubled their opposition, even as President Obama gave the commission his last-minute endorsement on Saturday.
I guess someone's been watching Fox News.
You might assume the New York Times -- perhaps the world's most prestigious newspaper -- is capable of producing a news report that would clearly explain the health care reform situation. If today's effort by David Herszenhorn, Robert Pear, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg is any indication, you'd be wrong. The article confuses as much as it clarifies, gives undue weight to Republican attacks, and fails to properly explain the hypocrisy of those attacks.
In the lede, the Times reports that Democrats are trying to "advance the bill despite the loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate." That phrasing could lead many readers to conclude that Democrats no longer hold a majority in the Senate, rather than that they have simply lost their supermajority. In order to understand that the Times' phrasing does not mean "loss of their majority," readers have to be aware of the significance of 60 votes. (Think about it: Would a newspaper ever report that a party that went from 54 to 53 Senate seats "lost its 54 seat majority"? No; anyone reading "lost its 54 seat majority" would understand that to mean "lost its majority.")
I know, I know. Some of you probably think everybody knows you need 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, so everyone will understand that this simply means Democrats have simply lost their supermajority. Oh yeah? Take a look at this (via Atrios):
That's the front page of a Philadelphia newspaper. If the professional journalists who produced that paper think Democrats have lost their majority, are you still sure New York Times readers will understand that "loss of their 60-vote majority" does not mean "loss of their majority"? All of them?
In paragraph two, the Times reports:
The maneuver, known as budget reconciliation, could allow President Obama and his party to muscle the legislation through Congress with a simple majority vote in the Senate. But it carries numerous risks, including the possibility of a political backlash against what Republicans would be sure to cast as parliamentary trickery.
OK. Several problems here.
First, this phrasing suggests the entire health care reform package would be passed via reconciliation, which is false. Readers don't learn until four paragraphs later that reconciliation would simply be used to amend some provisions of the health care bill that has already passed the Senate.
Second, "muscle the legislation through Congress with a simple majority" describes majority rule as some sort of strong-arm tactic.
Third, "parliamentary trickery" is a completely bogus description of reconciliation. There's no "trickery" about it whatsoever. If the Times wanted to preview Republican attacks in a straightforward way, they could have cast the use of reconciliation as "unusual" rather than "trickery." More to the point: Those Republican complaints will ring hollow, given that the GOP has used reconciliation to pass legislation when it controlled the Senate. Thirteen paragraphs later the Times article finally gets around to noting in passing that Republicans "occasionally used the tactic when they were in the majority." That's woefully inadequate, as it fails to make clear the GOP used the tactic to pass hugely significant and contentious measures like budget-busting tax cuts and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
But even that weak indication that the GOP criticisms are hypocritical came after the Times passed along another Republican attack:
Republicans, however, have made clear that they will portray Mr. Obama and Democrats as trying to use a hardball tactic to win passage of the health care legislation.
"Less than a week after the Massachusetts special election, the Obama administration is vowing to 'stay the course' and double down on the same costly, job-killing policies that are leaving America's middle-class families and small businesses high and dry," said the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio.
Though the Times quoted Boehner criticizing the substance of health care reform, it omitted any quote or paraphrase of any Democrat or other reform advocate praising reform, or criticizing Republican obstruction.
Two paragraphs later, the Times reported:
In the meantime, aides have been trying to devise a process by which the Senate could make changes to its health bill on a reconciliation measure even before the House voted on the Senate-passed health bill. Some lawmakers said House Democrats might have to vote first.
The Times did not indicate whether "some lawmakers" said that because there are procedural reasons why the House has to go first, or because there are political reasons why they want the House to go first. The Times reporters give no indication that they realize there is a pretty big difference between those things.
If this is the best the Times can do, it's no wonder the public has had such a poor understanding of health care reform.
There are many things wrong with Ben McGrath's Tea Party valentine in this week's New Yorker, which goes out of its way to whitewash the divisiveness and hate that fuels much of the movement. (Instead, "Inclusiveness was the point" of the movement, McGrath stresses.)
But this part is really inexcusable, as the New Yorker plays dumb about the crowd estimates for last September's rally in Washington, D.C. [emphasis added]:
Politics is ultimately a numbers game, and the natural excitement surrounding 9.12 drove crowd estimates upward, from an early lowball figure of sixty thousand, reported by ABC News, into the hundreds of thousands and across the million mark, eventually nearing two million--an upper limit of some significance, because 1.8 million was the figure commonly reported in mainstream or "state-run" media outlets as the attendance at President Obama's Inauguration. "There are more of us than there are of them, and we know the truth," one of the Kentucky organizers, who had carpooled to D.C. with a couple of co-workers from an auto-parts warehouse, told me. The fact that the mainstream media generally declined to acknowledge the parallel, regarding the marchers as a loud and motley long tail of disaffection, and not a silent majority, only hardened their resolve.
Are you kidding me? According to the New Yorker, the "mainstream media" declined to acknowledge that 1.8 million people showed up at the Tea Party rally? Might that be because 1.8 million people didn't show up and that number was pure fantasy, whipped up by the likes of Michelle Malkin and Glenn Beck. Or, to put it another way, the press didn't report the 1.8 million number because it was off the mark by 1.7 million.
Faced with one of the Tea Party's truly monumental falsehoods (1.8 million marched on Washington!), the New Yorker, rather that highlighting the fictional streak that runs through the movement, instead treats the 1.8 million number as legit and seems to scold the "mainstream media" for not reporting the number. A number the Tea Party folks made up, which the New Yorker never makes clear.
UPDATED: Notice how ABC News reported the "lowball" figure of 60,000, according to the magazine. But that makes no sense because that 60,000 crowd estimate came from Washington, D.C.'s fire department. Meaning, it wasn't a "lowball" estimate. It was the official estimate. The other, larger numbers were simply fabricated.
The New Yorker leaves that part out, though.
In a January 25, 2010 New York Times article, Kate Zernike writes:
A Tea Party convention billed as the coming together of the grass-roots groups that began sprouting up around the country a year ago is unraveling as sponsors and participants pull out to protest its expense and express concerns about "profiteering."
The convention's difficulties highlight the fractiousness of the Tea Party groups, and the considerable suspicions among their members of anything that suggests the establishment.
The convention, to be held in Nashville in early February, made a splash by attracting big-name politicians. (Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech.) But some groups have criticized the cost -- $549 per ticket and a $9.95 fee, plus hotel and airfare -- as out of reach for the average tea partier. And they have balked at Ms. Palin's speaking fee, which news reports have put at $100,000, a figure that organizers will not confirm or deny.
The article also quotes Philip Glass, national director of the National Precinct Alliance, on his concerns regarding the Tea Party Nation. The National Precinct Alliance, described on its website as "a constitutionally conservative organization," has reportedly withdrawn from the Tea Party convention:
"We are very concerned about the appearance of T.P.N. profiteering and exploitation of the grass-roots movement," [Philip Glass] said in a statement. "We were under the impression that T.P.N. was a nonprofit organization like N.P.A., interested only in uniting and educating Tea Party activists on how to make a real difference in the political arena."
In a Politico article headlined "History according to Glenn Beck," reporter Michael Calderone asked history professors what they thought of Beck's documentary on "the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Ernesto 'Che' Guevara - 'the true unseen history of Marxism, progressivism and communism; as Beck described it."
In the article, Clemson professor Steven Marks called Beck's assertions "a complete lie":
Clemson University professor Steven Marks, author of "How Russia Shaped the Modern World," said that while Beck doesn't explicitly tie the left-wing totalitarian regimes of the past to contemporary liberals, that's what "he's hinting at here."
"No one in their right mind is going to defend Stalin or Mao or Che Guevara," Marks said. "The implication is that this is what's going to happen if Democrats get their way. This is just a complete lie."
Boston College professor Alan Wolfe said Beck "lives in a complete alternative universe":
Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Life at Boston College, said that the film not only isn't accurate, but that Beck "lives in a complete alternative universe."
As an example, he said, Beck mentions how the Nazis supported programs like universal health care as evidence that their ideology may have more to do with the left than the totalitarian right.
Nazi Germany was "not evil because of their economic program," said Wolfe, which he noted included a few programs designed to promote public health.
"It was evil," he said, " because it aimed at the extermination of European Jewry."
From the polling firm comes this headline today:
Obama's Approval Most Polarized for First-Year President
It turns out Democrats really like Obama, Republicans really don't, and there's a 65-point gap between the two, which is the largest Gallup has ever recorded during the first year.
What's more telling, though, is that from Gallup's polling data in recent years, we learn that Republican voters basically don't like new Democratic presidents. Period. By comparison, though, Democratic voters often give new Republican presidents the benefit of the doubt in their first year.
So, while it's technically accurate to say Obama is the most polarizing first-year president, it's also accurate to say that partisan Republicans voters have, once again, almost instantly rejected a new Democratic president.
Should the December attempt to blow up an airliner as it was landing in Detroit be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act or by civilian authorities as a criminal act?
The Chronicle noted:
As Eric Boehlert of Media Matters observed when Rasmussen asked the same question about the Fort Hood shootings, it's a misleading proposal, based on false assumptions, since terrorism is a criminal activity and is investigated by civilian authorities all the time.
The newspaper then pressed pollster Scott Rasmussen on the issue. Note his complete lack of response to my specific critique about his illogical polling question [emphasis added]:
Rasmussen's general response to such concerns was simple: "For the most part, it's just people don't like a particular question, they get upset about it, and more generally they either don't pay attention to the details or they are just don't like the message that comes out of it."
Not a reassuring sign when Rasmussen won't even try to defend the often God-awful polling question his team concocts.
Howard Kurtz suggests Fox's "news programming" is balanced and the Washington Post's editorial page is liberal:
Knoxville, Tenn.: Why do so many media outlets, when mentioning "Fox News", say "which some say has conservative views"? This seems to be the equivalent of saying "The Washington Post, which some say is a newspaper..."
Why is the rest of the press corp afraid to call a spade a spade, particularly when (as in this case) it is so virulently blatant?
Howard Kurtz: Because some say a distinction must be made between Fox's opinion shows (O'Reilly, Beck, Hannity) and its news programming. Just as you have to make a distinction between The Post's news pages and its left-leaning editorial page.
This reveals more about Kurtz's own leanings than those of Fox News and the Washington Post's editorial pages.
First, no such distinction "must be made" between Fox's opinion shows and its news programming other opinion shows:
And there's plenty more where that came from.
As for the Washington Post: Does this sound like a "left-leaning editorial page"?
Powell's U.N. address occurred on February 5, 2003. A look at the editorials and columns that appeared in the next day's edition of The Washington Post makes clear how quickly the media ran to Powell's side.
The Post itself led things off with an editorial headlined -- what else? -- "Irrefutable" that declared, "AFTER SECRETARY OF STATE Colin L. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council yesterday, it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. ... Mr. Powell's evidence ... was overwhelming."
The Post's columnists took it from there. Four Washington Post columnists wrote on February 6 about Powell's presentation the day before. All four were positively glowing...
More examples of the Post's editorial and op-ed pages not leaning to the left:
Then there's this: "On Social Security: The Washington Post Gets It." That's a column praising the Post's editorials defending George W. Bush's efforts to privatize Social Security. The author? Jack Kemp. The column appears on the web site of Freedom Works, a right wing group led by former House GOP leader Dick Armey.
"Left-leaning": yeah, right.