MSNBC's First Read:
John McCain has conducted yet another interview in which he argues that Obama has failed to live up to his promise of bipartisanship. You've got to give McCain credit; the guy knows how to continue to grab headlines. During the Bush years, he was the go-to Republican for Democrats who were looking to prove they could work with a Republican and find middle ground. Now, he's serving as the one-man judge and jury on whether something's bipartisan or not, despite running a hyper-partisan presidential campaign (remember that fellow Bill Ayers?). It's going to make the Obama White House crazy, but McCain's got enough of a following to pull this off for a few months.
MSNBC didn't mention this, but McCain's claim to be "judge and jury" on Obama's bipartisanship is particularly weak, given that a key message of McCain's presidential campaign was that Obama was insufficiently bipartisan -- an argument that last year's election results suggest the public just didn't buy.
That aside, it's clear that MSNBC recognizes that McCain is an imperfect messenger here, given the "hyper-partisan presidential campaign" he ran against Obama. Yet MSNBC doesn't seem to realize that the only reason McCain is able to "grab headlines" is that news organizations like MSNBC give him headlines.
If McCain's complaints don't have merit -- and MSNBC seems to suggest they don't -- but they get coverage anyway, that says something about the news media. So when MSNBC says "McCain's got enough of a following to pull this off," it's clear who that "following" consists of: The news media, including MSNBC.
It's likely to get suspect results. I'm just sayin'.
Here's the latest regarding a new Rasmussen poll that shows a drop in support for the Fairness Doctrine, which, if you listen to over-excited right-wing talkers and scribblers, represents the most pressing concern facing the nation today.
Problem is, we're not sure Rasmussen understands what the Fairness Doctrine was, or what it did.
According to Rasmussen [emphasis added]:
Only 26% of voters believe conservatives have an unfair advantage in the media, the argument several senior congressional Democrats use in pushing for the restoration of the Fairness Doctrine. Sixty-four percent (64%) disagree.
Most (52%) liberals say conservatives have an unfair advantage, while 79% of conservatives and 64% of moderates disagree.
Even a majority of Democratic voters (53%) say that conservatives do not have an unfair advantage in the media.
Seventy-four percent (74%) of voters overall say it is possible for just about any political view to be heard in today's media with the Internet, cable networks, satellite radio, newspapers, radio and TV available. Just 19% disagree.
It's sort of odd that Rasmussen asked people lots questions about whether conservatives enjoy "an unfair advantage in the media," and if people wanted to, they could find any political view if they searched the media landscape, including "Internet, cable networks, satellite radio, newspapers, radio and TV."
It's odd because those points have virtually nothing to do with the old Fairness Doctrine, which hasn't been the law of the land for more than two decades. Even when it was the law, the Fairness Doctrine did not deal with the Internet (obviously), or cable networks, satellite radio or newspapers. It only had to do with radio and TV (i.e. the public airwaves.) So why would Rasmussen be asking Fairness Doctrine questions and polling people about political views on media outlets completely unaffected by the Doctrine? Seems odd to me.
What also seemed odd was demanding to know if conservatives enjoy "an unfair advantage in the media." Again, the Fairness Doctrine did not apply to "the media." It only applied to radio and network TV. So why didn't Rasmussen ask that question? (Possible sample question: According to a 2007 study, 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming in America is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive. Do you think conservatives enjoy an unfair advantage on talk radio?)
Meanwhile, Rasmussen's press release announced [emphasis added]:
Just 38% of U.S. voters think that the government should require all radio stations to offer equal amounts of conservative and liberal political commentary. Forty-seven percent (47%) oppose government-imposed political balance on radio stations, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.
Again, that's not what the Fairness Doctrine did. Seems that if Rasmussen is going to poll about the long-gone Fairness Doctrine, than Rasmussen ought to, y'know, figure out what the statute actually said.
I'm just sayin'.
Headline from ABC News [emphasis added]:
More Billions for GM, Chrysler? Auto Beggars to D.C.
We're having trouble remembering headlines that have depicted Wall Street bankers as "beggars" when they lobbied from government bailout help. Then again, in recent months the press has been pretty open about its contempt for middle class autoworkers.
From CNN.com, a headline that defines the current dog-bites-man mindset inside the Beltway when it comes to partisan Republicans criticizing the new president. (i.e. It's not utterly predictable, it's big news):
"GOP senators say Obama off to bad start"
From its editorial today, which lectures Obama about his learning curve [emphasis added]:
The narrow and rushed passage of his stimulus package underscored the difficulty of living up to his grand promises of transparency; the campaign trail talk about not cutting deals behind closed doors yielded to the demands of the moment.
The final vote for passage of Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill in the Senate was 60-38, and in the House, 246-183. But boy, votes don't get much more "narrow" than that, do they?
And I realize context has been banned within the Beltway when reporting on Obama's legislative 'struggles,' but if anyone's interested, back in 2001 when president Bush passed his $1.35 trillion tax cuts, the final vote in the Senate was 62-38, and in the House, 240-154.
I'm not even gonna check Nexis before I say that the first person to find a May, 2001, Washington Post reference to the "narrow" passage of Bush's tax plan, I'll send them a Media Matters rectangle magnet.
If the Fairness Doctrine didn't exist, I don't think anyone on the left could ever concoct a scheme that would so effectively drive conservatives in the press to such degrees of distraction. (They're trying to hush Rush!!) Has a political movement ever spent more time issuing dark warnings and assembling its troops for a piece of legislation that hasn't been on the books in two decades and isn't even being publicly debated?
Not that I'm complaining. It spectacle provides endless entertainment.
The latest three-alarm fire on the right stems from the fact David Axelrod didn't give a Fairness Doctrine answer that right-wing bloggers liked. (There's a shock, right?) Worse, Democrats are allegedly "brainstorming" with progressives regarding FCC initiatives. How dare they!! You'd think Dems had won an election, or something.
Newsbusters associate editor Noel Sheppard is unhappy with Media Matters work debunking Betsy McCaughey's latests health care falsehoods. Here's Sheppard:
[T]he leftwing shills at Media Matters for America ... began publishing -- and, of course, disseminating -- defamatory articles about McCaughey and all those having the nerve to quote her here, here, here, and here. Yes, four defamatory pieces about McCaughey in three days. I guess this is what America can count on from this George Soros-funded propaganda machine anytime anyone has the nerve to criticize an Obama-supported bill.
That's all Sheppard said about us. He refers to our items as "defamatory" twice in two sentences, but doesn't offer so much as a hint at what we might have gotten wrong. It doesn't seem to have even crossed his mind that it might matter whether what we wrote was true or not. (It was.) It's like he chose the word "defamatory" simply because he had heard it on TV once, and it sounded bad.
Indeed, in his entire post, there isn't a single effort to determine or demonstrate who is right: McCaughey or the numerous people who have pointed out her falsehoods.
Instead, he just calls Keith Olbermann names ("disgraceful") and asserts defamation without bothering to make a case. The closest he comes is linking to McCaughey's resume, as though that ends the discussion. I would imagine that even Noel Sheppard can figure out that having an impressive resume doesn't mean you're right. If he thinks real hard, he might even be able to think of someone with such a resume whose claims he would not assume to be true.
Given that Sheppard is associate editor of the conservative movement's preeminent media criticism organization, you'd think he would understand that pointing out factual errors and distortions in news reports isn't "defamatory."
Then again, Newsbusters seems to spend as much of their time making factual errors and distortions as they do correcting them.
Does any opinion outlet create, and then successfully demolish, more flimsy straw men than the diligent writers at the WSJ? It's hard to imagine because it's almost if WSJ Op-ed editors require their conservatives opinionists construct lazy, intellectually dishonest arguments.
The latest to comply was Bradley Schiller, an econ prof at the University of Nevada, Reno, who dutifully echoed the GOP talking points from last week that Obama was fear mongering the stimulus bill and trying to scare Americans about the state of the economy. We quickly dispatched with that nonsense here. (Hint: Americans were scared out of the bejesus before Obama ever starting lobbying for his stimulus plan.)
But what was so comical about Schiller's effort was his embarrassing use of the straw man in the process. Basically, Schiller wrote an entire column berating Obama for comparing the state of our current economy to the Great Depression. Slight problem: Obama never did that.
Here's Schiller [emphasis added]:
As [Obama] tells it, today's economy is the worst since the Great Depression. Without his Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he says, the economy will fall back into that abyss and may never recover.
Rule No. 1 of a lazy writer: He tells you what so-and-so said, but doesn't' show you. So here, readers had to take Schiller's word for it that Obama claimed "today's economy" is the worst since the Great Depression. Normally, if a writer builds an entire column around what somebody said, the writer, y'know, actually quotes that somebody. But not Schiller.
Has Obama ever claimed that today's economy is the worst since the Great Depression? Readers have no idea, because Schiller can't be bothered with quoting the president.
Schiller then continued and propped up the straw man:
This fear mongering may be good politics, but it is bad history and bad economics. It is bad history because our current economic woes don't come close to those of the 1930s.
Ugh. Schiller then went on for multiple paragraphs, quoting all kinds of statistics, to prove that there's no way "our current economic woes" are as bad as the Great Depression. Thanks for the lesson professor. Thanks to Schiller's deep research we all now know today's unemployment numbers are not as bad as the Great Depression, even though Obama never claimed the numbers were analogous. In fact, no sane person would make that comparison because nobody thinks we're currently--as of this moment--suffering through the second Great Depression. But Schiller pretended that's what Obama suggested.
Hey, no wonder straw men are so easy to knock down!
For the record, here's what Obama said (and what Schiller wouldn't tell readers):
"We are going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."
Note a couple things. Obama did not suggest, as Schiller falsely claimed at the outset of his column, that "today's economy" is just as bad as the Great Depression. Obama said we were experiencing the "worst economic crisis" since the Great Depression. Words have meaning, and an econ prof ought to be able to differentiate between the "today's economy" and an "economic crisis." Either that, or Schiller played dumb really hard.
Second, note the "since" that Obama used. He claimed today's economic crisis represents the worst since the Great Depression. But in his column, Schiller quoted all kinds of stats to prove today's woes don't compare to the Great Depression. But Obama never compared it to the Great Depression. He said it's the worst since.
Does Schiller honestly not realize that by claiming today's economy crisis is the worst since the Great Depression, that Obama was not claiming today's economy is just as bad as the Great Depression. Or was Schiller aggressively playing dumb. Again?
We've got a hunch.
Imagine how much more illuminating the 'debate' over the stimulus package would be if the press ever bothered to put the partisan sniping in context. Here's one example.
The press today continues to focus on the GOP doomsday scenarios about what Obama's economic initiative will mean to America and how it's going to gut the economy. How it will put America on the road to "financial disaster," as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) declared last weekend. And of course, his dire rhetoric generated headlines. ("We're taking an enormous risk -- an enormous risk -- with other people's money," added Sen. Mitch McConnell this week.)
The press takes these swipes very seriously, in part because the press always treats GOP rhetoric about the economy and finances seriously. Why? Because Republicans know economics. Everybody inside the Beltway understands that CW.
Just like the GOP knew economics back in 1993 when the new Democratic president Bill Clinton struggled to get his centerpiece economic legislation passed. Back then the GOP was sure the bill was a recipe for disaster. At the time Newt Gingrich announced "The tax increase will kill jobs and lead to a recession, and the recession will force people off of work and onto unemployment and will actually increase the deficit." He was positive a recession would ruin America's economy within the "next year," or even "over the next 60 days."
And Newt wasn't alone. The whole GOP crew was in Chicken Little mode and the press back then, just like today, made sure to record and amplify every dire warning: "A recipe for economic disaster," warned Phil Crane of Illinois. "It is going to lead to a Clintastrophy, an economic Clintastrophy," added Indiana's Dan Burton.
That rhetoric, which clearly failed to foresee the 1990's decade worth of prosperity under Clinton, is eerily similar to the GOP rhetoric today. But the press can't, or doesn't want to, note the connection. Instead, the media opt for context-free coverage of the stimulus 'debate.'
You know the drill: When covering partisan dust-ups inside the Beltway, reporters today scurry around to get comments from as many Republicans as possible, but couldn't care less what Democrats think. It's astonishing how open journalists have become in producing such blatantly one-sided political reporting.
Here's the Politico's latest entry in the Republican-only genre.