Two extraordinary killing sprees were in the news this week, one in Alabama and one in Germany. But when covering the U.S. massacre, the press won't mention gun control. Literally. A search of Nexis uncovered almost no references to "gun control" in any print or television reports about the Alabama shooting rampage, which was powered by military-style assault weapons, and which left 11 people dead.
To highlight the allergic reaction the U.S. press has to even mentioning gun control in the wake of increasingly frequent killing sprees, read the leads to recent WSJ articles about the Alabama massacre and the one at a Germany school.
Here [emphasis added]:
A shooting rampage that began in a southern German school on Wednesday and left 16 dead is likely to stoke fresh debate in Europe about gun control and public security.
A 28-year-old man, who lived with his mother and whose father said was never in trouble, wrote a hate list and set out on a killing spree that in two hours claimed 11 lives, including his mother's and grandmother's, as well as his own.
Of course the shooting rampage in Germany is bound to spark "fresh debate" about gun control. (It only makes sense, right?) But in America? Fat chance. In part, because the media -- bullied by the NRA, I think -- have become allergic to the topic.
The news is that Obama may be skipping this year's Gridiron Dinner. That's where president traditionally yuks it up with elite journalists at their annual dinner. Obama would be the first president since Grover Cleveland to not attend the dinner in his first year in office.
This is not going to go well with the Establishment. And you'll remember Newsweek's Fineman this week was already lamenting how the Beltway Establishment is having doubts about Obama. Not the public, mind you. They're giving Obama sky-high approval ratings. But the Establishment isn't so sure.
And for Fineman, that was very, very big news.
Approval ratings for the Democratically-controlled Congress just jumped again, hitting a four-year high.
So who's the only person Politico's Glenn Thrush quotes in his item? A "Senate GOP aide" who delivers a "skeptical take on the numbers," of course.
Not one, but two pieces in today's WSJ claim that Obama's not really that popular and that everyone should disregard his poll numbers that indicate he's, y'know, popular.
It's almost as if the Beltway press doesn't want Obama to score high approval ratings. After years of predicting Bush's ratings rebound was just around the corner (no, really), the press, less than two months into Obama's term, seems anxious to note that the new president's bound to become less popular.
In his Journal column today, ("Risks Lurk in Obama's Poll Ratings") Gerald Seib tries to explain why Obama's very strong poll numbers aren't that great, while stressing what could go wrong for the administration and what could go right for the GOP.
Question: What's the point of this exercise? Could Obama's approval ratings go down? Yes. Could they go up? Yes. So why the emphasis on the negative? In March of 2001, I don't remember pundits rushing to warn the American people that new-president Bush wasn't really as popular as his polling numbers indicated. So why the rush with Obama?
What's striking is how Seib's yeah-but angle runs completely counter to the how the Journal itself reported its latest Obama polling results last week [emphasis added]:
President Barack Obama enjoys widespread backing from a frightened American public for his ambitious, front-loaded agenda, a new poll indicates. He is more popular than ever, Americans are hopeful about his leadership, and opposition Republicans are getting drubbed in public opinion, the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll suggests.
Our favorite line from Seib's column:
All told, the findings suggest the Obama forces hardly have reason to panic.
According to the Journal's own polling data, Obama is "more popular than ever," but Seib reassures the White House there's no reason to panic.
Can you say "disconnect"?
Meanwhile, Douglas Schoen and the GOP's favorite pollster Scott Rasmussen try even harder on the Journal's op-ed page to knock down Obama's approval ratings. The two seem almost oddly offended that anybody would suggest Obama is popular or admired right now.
And the duo didn't help their cause by ending the column this way:
We face the possibility of substantial gridlock along with an absolute absence of public confidence that could come to mirror the lack of confidence in the American economy that the Dow and the S&P are currently showing.
Last time I checked, the Dow was up nearly 600 points in the last week.
UPDATE: Andy McCarthy flashes that fact-free analysis that makes NRO's The Corner such a consistently comical read. According to McCarthy, Obama's now "cratering."
For McCarthy's benefit, I'll simply repeat what last week's WSJ/NBC poll found:
[Obama] is more popular than ever, Americans are hopeful about his leadership, and opposition Republicans are getting drubbed in public opinion.
Or this polling write-up last week from MSNBC.com:
Obama's favorability rating is at an all-time high. Two-thirds feel hopeful about his leadership and six in 10 approve of the job he's doing in the White House.
I'm guessing Republicans wish that just once during his final four years in office, Bush could have "cratered" the way Obama is today.
From Charles Krauthammer's March 13 Washington Post column, titled "Obama's 'Science' Fiction":
I am not religious. I do not believe that personhood is conferred upon conception. But I also do not believe that a human embryo is the moral equivalent of a hangnail and deserves no more respect than an appendix. Moreover, given the protean power of embryonic manipulation, the temptation it presents to science and the well-recorded human propensity for evil even in the pursuit of good, lines must be drawn. I suggested the bright line prohibiting the deliberate creation of human embryos solely for the instrumental purpose of research -- a clear violation of the categorical imperative not to make a human life (even if only a potential human life) a means rather than an end.
On this, Obama has nothing to say. He leaves it entirely to the scientists. This is more than moral abdication. It is acquiescence to the mystique of "science" and its inherent moral benevolence. How anyone as sophisticated as Obama can believe this within living memory of Mengele and Tuskegee and the fake (and coercive) South Korean stem cell research is hard to fathom.
From Cal Thomas' March 13 Washington Times column, titled "Journey to Destruction":
What will constrain science? The president says it will be up to the National Institutes of Health to come up with "guidelines" for the use of embryonic stem cells. He specifically came out against creating embryos for the purpose of human cloning. But the question is this, if there are to be no moral, ethical or religious restraints on the initial experiments, why should anyone expect them to be invoked later? One can only be a virgin once. After a moral or ethical line has been erased, it is nearly impossible to redraw it.
At the extreme, unrestrained science has the capacity to produce a Josef Mengele. The Third Reich "scientist" and doctor was given the green light to do whatever he wished with Jews, twins, the physically deformed, the mentally challenged - all in the name of "science" and progress. We are repulsed by the horrors he created in his "scientific" laboratory, to which many of the German people turned a blind eye, mostly because they had been conditioned to do so by nonstop propaganda, which convinced them that some lives were less valuable than others.
We have been warned by history, in novels like Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and on TV news, of what can happen when government operates outside a moral code established to protect us from its penchant to be excessive. Unfortunately, government in recent years has sometimes engaged in a type of moral freelancing, embracing a mushy morality in order to serve purposes that are sometimes immoral.
Removing restraints on stem cell research is another step on a journey leading us to a distant somewhere. Does anyone know the destination? Do enough people care that it might just be leading us not only to the destruction of more pre-born human life, but also ultimately to our own end?
Just imagine if Rick Santelli had appeared on The Daily Show!
You'll recall, CNBC's pundit was booked to do the Jon Stewart's show following Santelli's misinformed rant about "loser" home owners. At the last minute, CNBC flacks pulled the plug on that idea, which I think saved the biz channel profound humiliation.
Who didn't see that coming?
James Humes writes in a March 11 Newsmax column regarding a bust of Winston Churchill loaned to the U.S. government by Great Britain that was returned to the British Embassy after President Obama took office:
That offensive act without explanation gave substance to the reported story that when President Obama walked into the Oval Office for the first time and saw the Churchill piece, he said, "Get that goddam thing out of here."
Humes doesn't say where that quote of Obama was supposedly "reported"; searches of Google and Nexis turn up no evidence of it. A Google search for the phrase "Get that goddam thing out of here" yields exactly two results: Humes' own article, and a Time magazine article - from 1946.
As if citing an apparently nonexistent quote wasn't enough, Humes also accuses Obama of exacting tribal revenge: "Perhaps Obama, who grew up in Kenya, took umbrage at Prime Minister Churchill's actions in 1953 of wiping out the Mau-Mau, the Kenyan terrorists who made a specialty of slitting throats of sleeping white and Black Kenyans."
For the record, Barack Obama did not grow up in Kenya -- unless by "Kenya," Humes means "Hawaii."
Adam Green over at Huffington Post has some thoughts on Erin Burnett's appearance today on MSNBC's Morning Joe which Media Matters highlighted this earlier morning and he's calling on folks to email the CNBC host with their thoughts on "what we think her role as a CNBC Wall Street reporter should be." Green's entire post is well worth a read but here is the pertinent portion:
This morning, on Morning Joe, for no apparent reason, [Burnett] blurted out, "I'm going to throw this out there, it's just a question..." and then went on a long rant about "the whole question about unemployment benefits themselves." As in, should they even exist?
After all, she pointed out, they don't have them in China (the epitome of a pro-worker country). She asked, "Does that encourage people in places like China to go get jobs more quickly rather than waiting to exhaust their unemployment benefits?"
A commentator who happened to be on the set with Scarborough helpfully pointed out, "Erin, if you met some people who are out of work right now, I don't think they'd be telling you that they're not working because they're waiting for unemployment benefits to run out."
Burnett agreed, "No doubt." But then said, "We get a lot of emails where people say, maybe they do wait a little bit." She added that she has no opinion on it, but people are talking about it so "it's fair to bring up."
Obviously, Burnett appreciates viewer email so much that she's willing to repeat even the most uninformed ones on air. For all my critique of Burnett, her openness to emails from the public is commendable.
So, let's email her some feedback on what we think her role as a CNBC Wall Street reporter should be: SquawkOnTheStreet@cnbc.com
If you have a minute, follow Green's lead and send Burnett your thoughts.
Buried deep down in a recent Politico article about budget wrangling, was this passage, which attempted to put the current omnibus bill in context [emphasis added]:
The situation is very similar to early 2003, when Republicans and the Bush administration pushed through a nearly $400 billion package after the budget process had collapsed amid partisan fighting the prior year. Filling almost 1,160 pages, that measure was even more complex, including Medicare and farm-disaster spending as well as appropriations. But it moved through the Senate in about six days, and after a quick conference with the House it was signed by Bush.
Looking back, the 2003 debate was much more substantive and focused on major accounts within the bill, rather than on the spending earmarks. By comparison, the current measure devotes substantially less money to earmarks, but that issue has come to dominate the politics so much that it has dwarfed most other issues in the six days of debate.
For some reason this spending bill was dominated by the issue of earmarks--it "dwarfed most other issues"-- as compared to Bush's 2003 spending bill. Politico got that point right. But it played dumb about the role the press played in making that a fact. It played dumb about the fact that earmarks dominated the debate because the GOP wanted them to, and the press eagerly complied.
Generally speaking, political writers don't think so much of political scientists, either, mostly because anyone who has ever actually worked in or covered politics can tell you that, whatever else it may be, a science isn't one of them. Politics is, after all, the business of humans attempting to triumph over their own disorder, insecurity, competitiveness, arrogance, and infidelity; make all the equations you want, but a lot of politics is simply tactile and visual, rather than empirical. My dinnertime conversation with three Iowans may not add up to a reliable portrait of the national consensus, but it's often more illuminating than the dissertations of academics whose idea of seeing America is a trip to the local Bed, Bath & Beyond.
This is odd, to say the least. Bai is essentially arguing on behalf of the very approach he mocks.
In terms of a reporter's ability to paint a "portrait of the national consensus," a dinnertime conversation with three Iowans is pretty much the same thing as thinking you can see America via a trip to the local Bed, Bath & Beyond.
The problem with extrapolating what you see on a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond into an assertion about broader public opinion is that it mistakes anecdote for data. A dinnertime conversation with three Iowans has the same problem. And Matt Bai knows this; just a few paragraphs earlier, he wrote:
Academics who study politics often consider those of us who write about the field to be superficial, simple-minded and-the greatest indictment of all- unscientific . We interview three people in an Iowa diner and act as if we have penetrated the very soul of America. (Such allegations are, sadly, true enough.)
The founder of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, is a law school graduate who lives in Berkeley; the lead blogger on FireDogLake, Jane Hamsher, used to be the Hollywood producer of such family films as "Natural Born Killers"; Chris Bowers, the signature voice of Open Left, is (or at least was when I first met him) a graduate student in sociology. To suggest that the voices of 100 or so prominent bloggers of similar pedigree represent some new, more inclusive voice of the American everyman-which is what the bloggers themselves like to profess-is just fantasy.
Well, ok. But Bai just gone done arguing that his dinnertime conversations with three Iowans are illuminating. The views of "three Iowans" are illuminating, but those of three bloggers are not? (By the way, note the loaded descriptions of those three: Bai could just as easily have described Markos as a veteran of the U.S. Army or as a small business owner who grew up in El Salvador. But that would have undermined his point pretty badly.)
So Matt Bai seems to be arguing that looking at a narrow and small slice of the populace in order to draw broader conclusions is invalid - unless Matt Bai is the person doing the looking.