Because the one described in this week's mag doesn't sound familiar to me.
Here's the subhead to the Anna Quindlen cover story [emphasis added]:
Assessing a young presidency. Barack Obama campaigned as a populist firebrand but governs like a cerebral consensus builder. The founding fathers wouldn't have it any other way.
In Quindlen's defense, she never claims in her piece that Obama "campaigned as a populist firebrand." In fact, the phrase "populist" never appears in the article. Newsweek editors appear to have simply made that up, since the notion that the centrist Obama campaigned as a "populist firebrand" last year is rather absurd. (In the last century, has a "populist firebrand" ever been elected President of the United States?)
Instead, Newsweek editors did their best to rewrite history in an effort to tag Obama as a flip-flopper; as a candidate who campaigned one way and governed another
Quindlen, however, is responsible for this passage, regarding Obama's slow-moving approach to repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays:
This is one where the president does not have to convince the posturing right wing of Congress, the one that invented the spurious notion of death panels in the health-care debate. Transformation is within his grasp, in a pen, a signature, an executive order.
The larger theme of Quindlen's piece is that Obama has not been assertively progressive enough while in office, and that's certainly a fair point to make. But in a classic case of playing down the GOP Noise Machine, does Quindlen really think that if Obama tomorrow repealed "don't ask, don't tell," the "right wing of Congress," and the right wing of the U.S. media would simply accept the action and move on? That repealing "don't ask, don't tell" wouldn't ignite a massive political firestorm, and that within minutes the mainstream Beltway press (including Quindlen's Newsweek colleagues) would be echoing the right-wing attacks on Obama from Fox News and talk radio?
I'm not suggesting just because the right wing would raise holy hell, that the Obama White House should not do x, y, or z. But it seems naive of Quindlen to pretend that all Obama has to do sign an executive order and poof! "don't ask, don't tell" would be gone and the "right wing" reaction would be muted and contained.
Beltway pundits are definitely not happy that Democrats seem to be leaning (slightly) left on health care reform. Reading and listening to the WashPost's Dana Milbank, ABC's The Note, and Time's Mark Halperin today, all three highlight the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday embraced the push for a public option of sorts (encouraged by liberal activists and politicians), and all three are deeply, deeply troubled by the development.
The faux hand-wringing goes back to the bipartisan trap the press set for the Democratic administration last winter. The ground rules were simple: In order to achieve all-mighty bipartisanship, which Village dwellers worship more than anything (unless there's a Republican in the White House), Obama had to secure Republican votes. Conversely, in order to achieve all-might bipartisanship, Republicans didn't have to do anything. In fact they could uniformly oppose White House initiatives and the press would still blame Obama for not building bipartisan consensus.
Now fast-forward to today's health care debate, and specifically the Democrats apparent decision to try to pass landmark legislation without the help of Republican senators. Voilà! The bi-partisan trap is back.
Matt Gertz already detailed the problems with Milbank's health care column in the Post. And on MSNBC this morning, Time's Mark Halperin spoke for many D.C. elites when he said Democrats, "made a mistake not making it bipartisan."
And from The Note [emphasis added]:
Nearly a year after the American people voted to kill it, partisanship not only still lives -- it thrives, and it may never have been healthier than at this moment.
The White House hesitancy to go this route on health care had everything to do with the desire to keep Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, on board. Now that she's gone, this becomes a purely partisan exercise: Every one of those 60 votes in the Senate will have to be Democratic votes, and you can pretty much forget about 61 or 62.
The Note makes it quite clear who is not to blame for the lack of bipartisan cooperation--Republicans, even though yes, it's possible every one of them might vote against health care reform. Only in the Bizarro World of Beltway media could the Republican's uniform refusal to cross party isles be seen as a Democratic failure in terms of achieving bipartisanship.
In fact, The Note announces the Republican's decision to remain purely partisan represents a strategic victory for them:
And, if GOP calculations are even close to correct, and Democrats will fully own something the public doesn't really want, this is a major win for the right as well.
To recap, the Beltway press corps claims bipartisanship is the key to life happiness. But when Republicans refuse to engage in any bipartisanship cooperation, it's not their fault. Instead, the onus on achieving bipartisanship (i.e. two parties working together) rests entirely with Democrats.
And specifically today, the Village claims it's liberals who are to blame for flaming partisan wars on health care. Apparently liberals should have dropped their push for a public option because it ran counter to Republican beliefs.
Good to know.
BTW, public support for public option is now hitting a new high. But don't tell Milbank, Halperin or The Note.
David Waters, who writes the "Under God" blog for the Washington Post's "On Faith" site, attacks Rep. Patrick Kennedy for having the audacity to argue that church leaders should support health care reform.
The backstory, in a nutshell: some Catholic bishops support universal health care, but say they'll oppose health insurance reform legislation that doesn't bar any government funds from being used to pay for abortions. Kennedy has criticized that as "an absolute red herring and I don't think that it does anything but to fan the flames of dissent and discord and I don't think it's productive at all" and said "If the church is pro-life, then they ought to be for health care reform because it's going to provide health care that are going to keep people alive."
In response, Waters writes:
Kennedy's comments do seem to ignore some crucial facts: Most importantly -- as Georgetown/On Faith blogger Thomas J. Reese points out -- U.S. Catholic bishops for decades have been at the forefront of the campaign for health-care reform. "The bishops are appalled that more than 46 million people do not have health insurance," Reese wrote.
Well, no. Kennedy's comments don't "ignore" the "crucial fact" that the bishops say they are appalled at the number of people without health insurance. Kennedy's comments are in response to the bishops prioritization of abortion over health care. People may agree with the bishops on that prioritization, but Waters is wrong to claim that Kennedy is "ignor[ing] some crucial facts." In fact, Waters is missing the nature of the disagreement between Kennedy and the bishops, which is not about whether it is appalling that people lack health insurance, but about whether the bishops should oppose legislation that would insure them because it doesn't ban federal funds from indirectly paying for abortions.
Now, keep in mind, the question at hand isn't whether abortion should be legal -- that has literally nothing to do with the current debate. Nothing in the health care bill would have any effect on that.
The question, then, is whether to sacrifice what Waters describes as "a basic human right" that "Catholic bishops have spoken out consistently and courageously for" -- universal health care -- so as to avoid the possibility that public funds indirectly pay for abortions that are, regardless, quite legal.
Waters is so intent on siding with the Catholic Bishops and against Kennedy -- and on defending the Bishops for being "consistent" -- that he misses the real question. It isn't whether the Bishops have long held the same position -- that's a standard that could be used to defend any number of unfortunate policy positions. It's whether it is wise to sacrifice what you believe is a "basic human right" for the sake of what is essentially an accounting issue. It's a question about the choices the bishops make when two long-stated priorities are in apparent tension.
At one point, Waters does acknowledge the question of priorities, but he treats it as a side issue:
You can argue about whether Catholic bishops are putting too much emphasis on abortion in this case -- especially given the Administration's assurances that laws prohibiting federal funding of abortions will remain in place. No doubt some bishops have politicized the issue of abortion to the point of becoming partisan shills. But as a group, Catholic bishops have spoken out consistently and courageously for universal health care -- especially on behalf of the poor -- as a basic human right.
The question of whether the bishops are putting too much emphasis on abortion in this case isn't, as Waters portrays it, a side question. It's the whole issue. Waters is essentially arguing that we should ignore the question of what the bishops actually do to bring about universal health care and how they prioritize health care, because they've spoken "courageously" in favor of the concept of universal health care. He has it exactly backwards. (Waters, of course, does not explain what is "courageous" about speaking in favor of health care. The answer, particularly when you aren't willing to make any difficult choices in order to make universal health care more likely, is "nothing.")
And, by the way, that's true no matter where you come down on the question of priorities. Let's say you think it's more important for the church to take the symbolic stand against abortion than to help insure the "basic human right" of universal health care. Now: if the bishops supported health care reform legislation that explicitly expanded abortion rights, would your position be "oh, well, the bishops have spoken out consistently and courageously against abortion, and that's what's important"? Of course not.
The whole question is about prioritization. That much is clear, no matter what you think the priority should be. And it's clear that's what Kennedy is talking about. Waters, however, seems to think how you prioritize goals and values isn't important, as long as you pay lip service to both of them. In Waters' approach a politician who says he supports universal health care but votes against it because he doesn't like government should be given credit for supporting universal health care. It just doesn't make any sense.
US News & World Report's Washington Whispers blog has obtained a copy of The Persecution of Sarah Palin: How the Elite Media Tried to Bring Down a Rising Star, Weekly Standard staff writer Matthew Continetti's sob-story book on how the press was so incredibly mean to Palin. If you like really dumb arguments, this is apparently the book for you. From WW's post (emphasis added):
Liberal-leaning feminists, especially comic Tina Fey, the 30 Rock star who portrayed Palin on Saturday Night Live, were jealous of Palin. "Palin's sudden global fame rankled those feminists whose own path to glory had been difficult. To them, Palin was less a female success story than she was the beneficiary of male chauvinism," writes Continetti. He holds out Fey and her TV character for special criticism. "It was telling that Fey should be the actress who impersonated Palin. The two women may look like each other, but they could not be more dissimilar. Each exemplifies a different category of feminism. Palin comes from the I-can-do-it-all school. She is professionally successful, has been married for more than 20 years, and has a large and (from all outward appearances) happy family. And while Fey is also pretty, married, and has a daughter, the characters she portrays in films like Mean Girls and Baby Mama, and in television shows like 30 Rock, are hard-pressed eggheads who give up personal fulfillment-e.g., marriage and motherhood-in the pursuit of professional success," he writes. "On 30 Rock, Fey, who is also the show's chief writer and executive producer, plays Liz Lemon, a television comedy writer modeled on herself. Liz Lemon is smart, funny, and at the top of her field. But she fails elsewhere. None of her relationships with men works out. She wants desperately to raise a child but can find neither the time nor the means to marry or adopt. Lemon makes you laugh, for sure. But you also would be hard pressed to name a more unhappy person on American TV."
If you followed that, Continetti claims that Fey and Palin "could not be more dissimilar." Why? Well, Palin "is professionally successful, has been married for more than 20 years, and has a large and (from all outward appearances) happy family." On the other hand, Fey... well... is also apparently married with a daughter, but the CHARACTERS SHE PLAYS are not. In short, his evidence that Fey and Palin "could not be more dissimilar" is that Palin and LIZ LEMON are different. And that proves that Fey is the type of feminist purportedly out to get Palin because Fey is "rankled" that her own "path to glory" was more difficult.
In other news, Barack Obama and Will Smith could not be more dissimilar because Obama has yet to blow up an alien mothership.
More nonsense from the British press, although this is a narrative the Beltway Village is also fond of.
Breathless headline? Check:
Barack Obama sees worst poll rating drop in 50 years
Breathless lede? Check [emphasis added]:
Gallup recorded an average daily approval rating of 53 per cent for Mr Obama for the third quarter of the year, a sharp drop from the 62 per cent he recorded from April. His current approval rating – hovering just above the level that would make re-election an uphill struggle – is close to the bottom for newly-elected president. Mr Obama entered the White House with a soaring 78 per cent approval rating.
Complete absence of context? Check.
Not that anyone cares, but in October 1981, Ronald Reagan's job approval rating stood at almost the exact same point as Obama's today. And this was after Reagan enjoyed a huge spike in popularity following an assassin's attempt on the president's life.
In fact, in May of 1981, Reagan's job approval rating stood at very robust 68 percent. Then by October, it was down to 55 percent, according to Gallup. Obama? In May his job approval rating stood at a very robust 66 percent, now it's around 53 percent.
In other words, Obama is on the exact job approval path as Ronald Reagan, whom most Republicans and journalists claim to be among the most successful, and popular, presidents of the last half-century. The only twist is that for Obama, this is all very bad news. The press harps on the dip in Obama's job approval rating since the spring, but remains silent on the fact that Reagan's polling looked exactly the same.
And yes, there's a deep irony in watching former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan take shots at Obama's "falling poll numbers," while remaining mum about the fact that Obama's poll numbers precisely mirror the ones her GOP hero posted.
Under the header "What if George W. Bush had done that?" Politico's Josh Gerstein indulges the right-wing persecution complex by arguing Barack Obama is benefitting from friendlier media coverage than his predecessor got.
Are you kidding me?
George W. Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq, so he made up some phony reasons for it. And the media, rather than scrutinizing his case for war, helped him along. That was a damn war. That alone pretty much ends the discussion. (Gerstein gives Iraq a passing mention in paragraph 16.)
But lets take a closer look at Gerstein's silliness.
He opens with mention of Obama making a "four-hour stop in New Orleans, on his way to a $3 million fundraiser." Apparently, Gerstein wants us to think that seeming indifference towards, and botched handling of, a deadly natural disaster while it is still unfolding is no worse than stopping at the site of the disaster for four hours ... four years later.
Another: "Doing more fundraisers than the last president. More golf, too."
Bush spent 487 days at Camp David, and 490 days at his ranch in Crawford -- where, among other things, he neglected to read a certain Presidential Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to attack Inside the U.S." A month later, Bin Laden did. I trust Gerstein will let us know when Obama blows off a similar memo during a golf outting.
And quickly add, with a hint of jealousy: How does Obama get away with it?
"We have a joke about it. We're going to start a website: IfBushHadDoneThat.com," former Bush counselor Ed Gillespie said. "The watchdogs are curled up around his feet, sleeping soundly. ... There are countless examples: some silly, some serious."
George W. Bush's predecessor was hounded for years over a land deal in which he lost money, and impeached -- due in no small part to media hyperventilation -- because he lied about an affair. Bush lied about a war and the press helped him do it.
For a reporter to pretend that George W. Bush has gotten tougher treatment from the press than other presidents is laugh-out-loud absurd.
Media observers note that the president often gets kid-glove treatment from the press, fellow Democrats and, particularly, interest groups on the left - Bush's loudest critics, Obama's biggest backers.
There's only one word for that: Stupid.
Seriously, it's a newsworthy phenomenon that Democrats and liberal interest groups were harder on Bush than they have been on Obama? Uh, Josh? What about Republicans and conservative interest groups? Have they, by chance, been tougher on Obama than they were on Bush?
(The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder, by the way, has argued "the left has held Barack Obama's feet to the fire way more than the right ever did to George W, Bush." That concept is missing from Gerstein's little essay.)
Don't they have editors at Politico?
Only Dana Milbank could write an entire column about the "proposal" Harry Reid laid out at yesterday's press conference without explaining what Reid actually proposed: That the health reform bill he is sending to the CBO will include a public option giving the states the choice to opt-out. Since that policy detail pretty much undermines his entire column, it's not surprising that he left it out. After all, Milbank's columns are about the story, not the facts. Here are a few bits of "color" Milbank includes from the press conference instead of mentioning, you know, what Reid actually proposed:
"Do you feel 100 percent sure right now that you have the 60 votes?" CNN's Dana Bash inquired. Reid looked down at the lectern. He looked up at the ceiling. He chuckled. He put his palms together as if in prayer. Then he spoke.
Instead of answering, Reid, with a Zen expression, looked to the back of the room to solicit a question from somebody else.
By this time, Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, had one foot on the podium, as if he were ready to rush the stage and whisk his boss to safety.
More than 50 reporters jammed the Senate TV studio for the afternoon announcement. Photographers crawled on the floor, looking for a good angle. Reid's arrival was unusually punctual, and the usually free-form leader read from a typewritten speech.
Manley had heard enough. "Thank you!" he called out, lending a shoulder to his boss to help him off the stage.
So, basically the gist of Milbank's column is that in making his announcement (the one Milbank never gets around to explaining), Reid bowed before the "formidable power of liberal interest groups." In Milbank's world, Reid knows that he doesn't have 60 votes for the public option, but doesn't think he can win re-election without progressive support, so he caved to them in order to "keep his hero status on the left."
Here's another explanation: The Senate Finance Committee passed a bill with no public option. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee passed a bill with a public option. Reid's proposal is a compromise between the two. The "liberal interest groups" whose "formidable power" Reid trembles before originally wanted single-payer health care, then compromised to a strong public option pegged to Medicare rates, which is a long way from the "level-playing field" opt-out public option Reid proposed.
And, of course, there's the fact that a strong public option would lower health care costs and thus be good public policy. I mention that last point because Milbank grants anonymity to "Democratic aides" who say that Reid's proposal "had less to do with health-care policy than with Nevada politics," but provides no analysis whatsoever of the proposal's possible merits or flaws. I wonder if those aides are connected to the "half a dozen moderates" Milbank says Reid "shift the public pressure" to from himself? I guess we'll never know.
The following images are posted in FoxNews.com's slideshow of "[s]ometimes funny, sometimes serious" images "of President Obama and the health care debate":
FoxNews.com states of its slideshow:
Today's topic -- images on the Web of President Obama and the health care debate. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious these images say it with pictures instead of words. Want to be a part of 'Photo Op'? Send us your photo op-ed to email@example.com. None of the images shown here were created by Fox News.
Don't these tsk-tsking media elite columns pretty much write themselves at this point? (No wonder they're so popular!) Proving it's never to late to say exactly what everyone else has already said, Meacham does just that. And yes, it reads like a parody, and yes Meacham never even hints that Fox News ought to change its behavior or be held responsible for the wildly irresponsible programming it sponsors.
For elites like Meacham, this "debate" is all about the White House.
Laugh along as you read Meacham's description of Fox News:
Still, to many liberals, Murdoch and Ailes are the scary Wild Things of the last decade or so in American politics, the men on whom many of the evils of the world can be blamed. For these progressive true believers, the White House's recent attack on the channel as a partisan machine is a welcome signal of a feisty, fighting Obama administration.
That's it for the whole column. Can Meacham play any more dumb about the "talented and influential" Roger Ailes? I suspect not. Does Fox news constantly air falsehoods under the guise of journalism? Did it recently lead a homophobic smear campaigns against administration official? Does it traffic in violent, insurgency rhetoric. Does it act as a propaganda arm of the RNC?
Newsweek readers have no idea because Meacham doesn't devote one sentence to actually describing that Fox News' programming looks like. (Does the Newsweek editor actually watch Fox News? I suspect not.) Meacham couldn't care less about the White House allegation that Fox News isn't legitimate and Meacham never gives it a second thought. The column, like every other MSM column on this topic, isn't about Fox News. It's never about Fox News or its constant crimes against journalism.
Instead, it's about the White House. And tactics. And politics. And process. (Meacham claims to know the real motive for the White House's attacks on Fox News.)
The Nation's Eric Alterman got it dead right last week when he wrote:
It's a sad symbol of the state of contemporary American journalism that the White House communications office is doing more to maintain the honor of the profession than are many journalists.
The White House is trying to spark a debate about journalism in this country; it's trying to shine a light on the Fox News. But status qua-loving media elites like Meacham don't want anything to do with that debate.
From William Kristol's October 27 Washington Post column:
Obviously, many Republicans and conservatives -- and lots of moderates and independents -- will be grateful to Mitch McConnell if he can stop ObamaCare, and to Jon Kyl if he can induce the president to embrace a stronger foreign policy. But it's unlikely that the minority party in Congress will be the source of bold new conservative leadership over the next three years. Even if Republicans pick up the House in 2010, the party's big ideas and themes for the 2012 presidential race will probably not emanate from Capitol Hill.
The center of gravity, I suspect, will instead lie with individuals such as Palin and Huckabee and Gingrich, media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, and activists at town halls and tea parties. Some will lament this -- but over the past year, as those voices have dominated, conservatism has done pretty well in the body politic, and Republicans have narrowed the gap with Democrats in test ballots