MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell: "I daresay that if there had been three or four IRS audits of the Clintons' tax returns or all of the Bill Clinton money raising, maybe she still wouldn't be secretary of state."
It's tempting to see this is nothing more than an obnoxious and baseless suggestion that the Clintons are crooked. But it's more than that: it's a stunningly clueless statement, because we would surely know already if the Clintons had failed to pay their taxes.
See, the Clintons have released their tax returns to the public. It was kind of a big deal, with the media -- Andrea Mitchell included -- endlessly clamoring for the returns (and showing no comparable interest in John McCain's.) A big enough deal that it's incomprehensible that a national political reporter like Andrea Mitchell wouldn't know that the Clintons released the returns.
(Thanks to S.P. for the tip.)
There are a couple layers of uncomfortable irony here.
The first is that Kurtz writes about the media for a living, but last Friday in making a claim about Rush Limbaugh's ratings, Kurtz seemed to indicate that he didn't understand how radio ratings work. (The next day, his colleague Paul Farhi set the record straight in the Post.)
Secondly, Kurtz works as a media critic, yet seems incapable of admitting when he makes errors in judgment. We're not sure which sin is worse. But both are unpleasant to watch.
The blogosphere picked up a point where you stated that Rush's ratings had "doubled" since January, based on a claim by Michael Harrison at Talkers Magazine.
Considering that he's a radio insider with the highly subjective "Talkers Heavy Hundred" list, which ranks radio personalities without any hard survey data to back it up, isn't citing him as the (apparent only) source of the "doubled" claim questionable?
Howard Kurtz: Harrison's estimate to me -- and I provided the figures -- was based on research by his outfit. He may be off somewhat on the numbers -- as a followup piece indicated, it is difficult to measure Rush's audience across 600 stations -- but I don't believe he is wrong that Limbaugh enjoyed a huge spike in listeners during a week when the Rush vs. White House story line all but dominated the news.
According to Kurtz, he simply quoted "research" in his article and he doesn't believe that research "is wrong," therefore he's in the clear. What Kurtz leaves out is that not even the person Kurtz quoted thought his ratings estimate for Limbaugh constituted "research." It was more like a guess. (i.e. "thumbnail estimates.")
Yet Kurtz took that guesswork and announced in the first sentence of his article that Limbaugh's ratings had "nearly doubled," a claim that not even the self-promoting Limbaugh would sign off on.
Question: Does the Post need a media critic to critique its own media critic?
Politico's Glenn Thrush touts a Center for Responsive Politics report that "the main Democratic sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act ... both collected over $1.7 million in union contributions over the last two decades."
But Thrush left this out, from the same CRP report:
Business PACs not only gave nearly five times more in campaign contributions than labor PACs did in the last election cycle ($365.1 million versus $77.9 million, including contributions to leadership PACs) they are backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $144.4 million on lobbying efforts in the 2007-2008 election cycle, or more than $400,000 for every day Congress was in session. By contrast, the entire labor sector spent less than $84 million on lobbying efforts during those two years.
Which raises an obvious question: How much money have those members of Congress who oppose the Employee Free Choice Act taken from big business? Any news report that focuses only on campaign contributions from labor to EFCA supporters while ignoring contributions from business to EFCA opponents is fundamentally flawed.
It is worth noting that Thrush did provide one important piece of context too often missing from news reports on campaign contributions: Thrush noted the percentage of the sponsors' total fundraising that the union contributions represented. That should be a standard part of any news report about political fundraising. The reason should be obvious - a candidate who raises a total of $1 million, $90,000 of it from tobacco companies is in a far different situation from one who raises the same amount from tobacco companies, but a total of $20 million.
It seems one can't turn on cable news these days without hearing the terms Communist, Socialist or Marxist thrown around. Day and night, conservatives in the media have attempted to link President Obama and progressives to these terms. Keep in mind, the right has been doing this with progressive health care reform (the "socialized medicine" smear) for more than 75 years.
Beginning today, County Fair will bring you the daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communistic, Marxism and Marxist.
Here are the numbers for yesterday, Tuesday, March 10, 2009:
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 20
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 15
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 1
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
CNN Headline News: 2
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 2
Fox News Channel: 24
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 11
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 9
Fox Business Network: 4
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 4
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 4
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 0
Communism, Communist, Communistic: 2
The above numbers are the result of a TVeyes.com power search for these terms on these networks.
Over at The Fox Forum, Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard defends Rush Limbaugh's statement that he hopes Barack Obama fails.
Big deal, right? Conservatives have been defending such sentiments for weeks. Ah, but how many have done so by defending the patriotism of those who attempt to secede from their nation? Here's Sheppard's innovative argument:
Is it really wrong or even unpatriotic to want the president and/or his policies to fail? Hasn't this likely been the case in this country since its very birth?
It is an indisputable, historical fact that many Colonists did not support independence from England, and were hoping with all their heart and all their soul that President George Washington would fail.
Less than a century later, likely half the nation hoped President Abraham Lincoln didn't succeed in defeating the Confederacy.
One has to assume Tom DeLay was thinking of people like Noel Sheppard and his Media Research Center colleagues when he recently said the conservative movement lacks organizations that can "match Media Matters."
(Thanks to S.M. for the tip.)
And it's just as dumb today as it was in February of 2007. That's when frustrated Republicans, aided by the press, completely manufactured the claim that the new Speaker of the House was going all diva on the Pentagon and demanding use of huge military planes to fly her and her pals around the country.
Now Judicial Watch has dragged the lifeless controversy back into the public view, releasing all kinds of supposedly important emails between the Speaker's office and the Pentagon regarding air travel. (Fox News, for one, took the bait. I know, right?) Accompanying the release are lots of breathless quotes and allegations from Judicial Watch people who waste their time on stories like this:
The documents, obtained by Judicial Watch through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), include internal DOD email correspondence detailing attempts by DOD staff to accommodate Pelosi's numerous requests for military escorts and military aircraft as well as the speaker's last minute cancellations and changes.
If you can uncover the news is that nugget, please email CF via the tips, because it escapes me why this is considered newsworthy given the fact that after 9/11, the White House urged the Speaker of the House to fly in military planes and soon the DOD was handling those travel plans. Apparently the legal eagles at Judicial Watch have confirmed that fact, eight years later.
Please note that Judicial Watch concludes its press release by claiming:
Speaker Pelosi came under fire in 2007 for requesting a 42-seat Air Force carrier to ferry the Speaker and her staff back and forth between San Francisco, CA and Washington, DC. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was allowed access to a 12-seat commuter jet for security reasons after the events of 9/11.
Which is fitting. Because if you're going to build a controversy around a lie, you may as well end with one: Pelosi didn't make that request. It was the House of Representatives' Republican-appointed Sergeant at Arms, Bill Livingood, who did, and he did it for security reasons.
We told you this story is just as dumb today as it was in 2007.
UPDATE: It gets even more lame because it turns out not even Livingood requested "a 42-seat Air Force carrier" for Pelosi. Who requested that specific plane? Nobody. The request was never made. Livingood simply asked for a military plan that could fly to California non-stop. Judicial Watch, Republicans and the press made up the rest.
As Eric noted, Howard Fineman doesn't bother quoting or paraphrasing anyone in "The Establishment" in his column about the Establishment turning on Barack Obama. That's because Fineman, though he tries to pretend otherwise, is a member of that establishment. He doesn't need to quote it, he is it.
So let's look at the complaints the Establishment has with Barack Obama, according to Establishment spokesman Howard Fineman:
By recent standards—and that includes Bill Clinton as well as George Bush—Obama for the most part is seeking to govern from the left, looking to solidify and rely on his own party more than woo Republicans. And yet he is by temperament judicious, even judicial. He'd have made a fine judge. But we don't need a judge. We need a blunt-spoken coach.
Yes, that's right. Barack Obama is too judicious; what we need is a "blunt-spoken leader." Didn't we just have one of those? How did that work out?
The president gave up the moral high ground on spending not so much with the "stim" but with the $400 billion supplemental spending bill, larded as it was with 9,000 earmarks.
First, those earmarks amounted to about two percent of the bill, so it's pretty dishonest to say it was "larded" with "9,000 earmarks." Second, Fineman doesn't bother to tell us why a single one of those earmarks was a poor use of money.
Then Fineman says the Establishment is unhappy that Obama has not called for sacrifice:
The failure to call for genuine sacrifice on the part of all Americans, despite the rhetorical claim that everyone would have to "give up" something.
Obama has, of course, called for the very wealthiest of Americans -- those making more than $200,000 -- to make some sacrifices, in the form of higher taxes. So what Howard Fineman and the Establishment -- many of whom make more than $200,000 -- really mean when they complain that Obama isn't calling for sacrifice is that he isn't calling for sacrifice from the working class. If only Obama would demand higher taxes from laid-off autoworkers and middle managers and single mothers working two jobs, Howard Fineman and the Establishment would be euphoric.
Another Fineman/Establishment complaint:
A willingness to give too much leeway to Congress to handle crucial details, from the stim to the vague promise to "reform" medical care without stating what costs could be cut.
This from the same Establishment that has long contended that an unwillingness to allow Congress to handle the details of health care reform is what undid Bill and Hillary Clinton's efforts in the 1990s.
A seeming reluctance to seek punishing prosecutions of the malefactors of the last 15 years—and even considering a plea bargain for Bernie Madoff, the poster thief who stole from charities and Nobel laureates and all the grandparents of Boca. Yes, prosecutors are in charge, but the president is entitled—some would say required—to demand harsh justice.
This from the same Establishment that has spent the past three years insisting that Bush administration malefactors not be subjected to "punishing prosecutions" or "harsh justice."
Obama is no socialist, but critics argue that now is not the time for costly, upfront spending on social engineering in health care, energy or education.
And others think that's easy for the Establishment to say -- the Establishment already has health care and education, and can afford energy. Not to mention that many consider fixing those things essential to fixing the economy, so now is precisely the time for them.
Fineman's eagerness to speak on behalf of the Establishment is, indeed, creepy. What he says is even worse.
Fortunately, there is no reason to put any stock in Fineman's warnings of peril for Obama. After all, this is the same Howard Fineman who wrote a late-2005 column arguing that Democrats had good reason to be "gloomy" about their political prospects, in part because they supposedly lacked "star power." Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and somewhere north of 50 new members of Congress would probably disagree with that assessment ...
Boy, this Newsweek headline speaks volumes, no? [emphasis added]
"A Turning Tide? Obama still has the approval of the people, but the establishment is beginning to mumble that the president may not have what it takes."
Isn't it sort of creepy the way Beltway journalists, such as Howard Fineman, now comfortably advertise their disdain for the gullible "people," while sucking up to the establishment as all-knowing sages?
And BTW, Fineman doesn't actually bother quoting anybody from "the establishment" in his piece. The essay is entirely his opinion. In other words, Fineman has no proof of what "the establishment" thinks or if it's collectively turning on Obama. But because Fineman has doubts, he assumes all the other important people do, too.
Gee, nothing self-aggrandizing about that, right?
In an "analysis" piece, the wire service is quite concerned that the White House is trying to do too much. These two paragraphs are particularly painful:
Last week the White House spent some time accusing conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh of being leader of the Republican Party.
But Obama, together with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, White House economic guru Lawrence Summers and others have so far failed to explain how they plan to rescue American banks, some of which are teetering on the brink of collapse.
Love the "but," don't you? Like there's even the slightest connection between the two topics. "The White House" spent how long commenting on Rush Limbaugh last week? Maybe four minutes, tops. Yet Reuters suggests the administration was so busy talking about Limbaugh it didn't have time to fix the U.S.'s faltering banking system. I'm guessing there are other more complex (i.e. intelligent) reasons that albatross hasn't been lifted yet, having nothing to do with Limbaugh.
The other dud in the piece, headlined "Vaunted Obama message machine is off-key," was when Reuters claimed Obama had "struggled" with his communications. But yes, Reuters noted the new president is enjoying sky high approval ratings:
Obama is benefiting from high popular support. Polls give him a 60 percent approval rating and experts say voters seem willing to give him time to get his sea legs.
So according to Reuters, Obama's messaging is way off, yet he's immensely popular. We're guessing the Bush White House wishes it had had that kind of message problem.
UPDATE: ABC's Jake Tapper dutifully echoes the walk-chew-gum meme put forward by the GOP. Writes Tapper:
But while the administration says the issues Obama faces, particularly the economy, need swift action, his critics warn he may be doing too much too soon.
"His critics"? Two Republican senators. Because for the Beltway press, any GOP critique of Obama constitutes news and must be documented. Period.
UPDATE: ABC's The Note actually uses the hackneyed phrase "walk and chew gum," here.