Steve Benen makes a good point about the ubiquity of Sen. John McCain on the Sunday morning talk shows this year. And the point is this: The guy lost in November, and since when does the Beltway press dote on losers?
Apparently there are new rules for McCain because the Arizona Republican's scheduled to appear on ABC's This Week. It will be his 11th Sunday morning talk show appearance in eight months, but Chris Cillizza at the WasPost still thinks the sit-down is a very big deal. He thinks it's "Must Watch TV."
But why? Set aside the fact that McCain recently lost in a electoral landslide last November. The hot issue on the table right now, of course, is health care. And as Benen points out, McCain is pretty much the definition of a non-player in the health care debate right now:
He's not a member of the Republican leadership, and he's not on the Senate Finance Committee. McCain hasn't unveiled any relevant or important pieces of legislation, and he's not being targeted as a possible swing vote on any major bills.
McCain is a spectator in the health care debate, plain and simple. But ABC News is eager to have him on to pontificate about legislation over which he has virtually no say, let alone control.
But back to the loser angle real quick. Again, after Sunday, McCain will have made eleven Sunday morning talk show appearances this year. Asks Benen, "Refresh my memory: was there this much interest in John Kerry's take on current events in 2005?
Answer: There was not. In 2005, between Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This week, Fox News Sunday and CNN's Late Edition (which has basically morphed into today's State of the Union), John Kerry made a total of three appearances on those program during the first eight months of 2005, according to a search of Nexis.
Or, to put it another way, after Kerry lost in November, the press walked away from him. After McCain lost in November, the press still crowds around him.
This recent Politifact item claimed it was "false" that there was overwhelming support for a public option in proposed health care reform.
Actually, Politifact found an NBC/WSJ poll which clearly supported that claim. Politifact found the NBC/WSJ poll which indicated 76 percent of Americans support a public option.
But there was a catch. The NBC poll was from June ("a long time ago") and therefore it didn't really count:
Since that poll was published, rowdy town hall meetings and a barrage of criticism have made Americans more skeptical of health care reform. The public option has become less popular as well; several surveys done since that first NBC/Wall Street Journal poll indicate declining support for a public plan.
Here's the wrinkle for Politifact. A new poll out this week by SurveyUSA, using the exact same question NBC/WSJ asked in June, found that 77 percent of Americans support a public option. Or, pretty much exactly what NBC found in June.
Time for a Politifact update?
From The Wall Street Journal's August 21 article, "AARP Takes Heat Over Health Stand":
WASHINGTON -- AARP thinks U.S. health care needs a sweeping overhaul. Problem is, a lot of its members don't agree.
That is putting the 40-million-strong organization of older Americans in a tight spot. It is fielding a flood of calls from worried seniors and battling rumors about President Barack Obama's health push, which it supports.
"They try not to enrage one group, while still being a player and pushing for progressive reforms," said Rick Mayes, a public-policy professor at the University of Richmond who once worked for AARP. "They're constantly trying to walk this tightrope."
Mr. Obama cites AARP's backing as an irrefutable seal of approval, saying the group is "on board because they know this is a good deal for our seniors." But in a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 46% of people over 65 were against the Obama health plan, with 28% favoring it.
AARP concedes that 60,000 members have resigned since July 1 over the health-care push. "This effort hasn't been easy," Chief Operating Officer Tom Nelson wrote in a memo to staff last week. "In fact, it's often rough emotionally when some people have been hostile."
We noticed this charade earlier this summer; a major news org released poll results that didn't match the Beltway press' preferred storyline about Obama's plunging approval ratings. We noticed how journalists then did their best to camouflage the results. Because c'mon, everybody knows today the White House has completely lost control of the health care debate this month. Everybody knows the public is turning on Obama as he approval rating flirts with 50 percent. That's the script.
But uh-oh, the new ABC/WP poll came up with a different results. What were staffers going to do if their poll didn't mirror what all the cool kids were writing? (Awkward!) How were they going to hold their head high and write a straight news lede about how Obama's strong poll numbers were holding steady this summer?!!
Easy. They simply spun the result and buried the lede.
Behold the wizardry of Dan Balz and Jon Cohen. They knew what to do with the embarrassing poll results:
Public confidence in President Obama's leadership has declined sharply over the summer, amid intensifying opposition to health-care reform that threatens to undercut his attempt to enact major changes to the system, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Smooth. The Post suddenly doesn't care about Obama's approval ratings. (So passé.) Nope. Instead, it's all about "leadership" and "faith," which meant Balz/Cohen could emphasize how Obama had slipped in that category.
Well, sorta [emphasis added]:
Among all Americans, 49 percent now express confidence that Obama will make the right decisions for the country, down from 60 percent at the 100-day mark in his presidency.
Extra smooth! Rather than inform readers whether people have lost confidence in Obama's leadership since July or June, Balz/Cohen reach all the way back to May to make his comparison. The duo used figures from Obama's traditional honeymoon period when new presidents enjoy artificially high ratings, to compare with how he's doing today.
As for Obama's strong 57 approval rating? The Post got to that in the seventh paragraph. But the fact that Obama's approval rating remains statistically unchanged since July? Amazingly, Balz/Cohen somehow forgot to report that fact.
Shocking, we know.
Hmm, maybe if Kenneth Gladney's attorney weren't so busy appearing on sympathetic media outlets telling tales about union "thugs" attacked Gladney outside a recent town hall forum, embarrassing mishaps like this wouldn't be producing so many chuckles .
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
A conservative African-American social networking group set out Monday morning to criticize the city's NAACP chapter for not supporting a black man who said he was beaten outside a forum on aging earlier this month.
But the effort was cut short when the head of the civil rights group showed up at the news conference and said that no one had asked the NAACP to investigate the claims.
"The St. Louis branch of the NAACP will and does accept and investigate all written complaints filed with us, regardless of the complainant's ideology," said Claude Brown Sr., president of the St. Louis City NAACP. "We regret that a group has decided to protest outside our office before contacting us or filing such a complaint."
The other day, we pointed out that a Western Journalism Center video claiming that Rachel Maddow's statement on "Meet the Press" that MoveOn.org never ran an ad comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler was a lie because the ad in question was not commissioned by MoveOn but, rather, a submission to a 2004 MoveOn contest that was taken down after controversy arose about it and never ran anywhere as a paid ad.
The WJC has now responded by calling us liars, accusing us of "splitting hairs" and asserting that it "never claimed the ad was run on commercial T.V. We consider posting the ad on its website to constitute 'running the ad.' "
So a submission to a contest that was (briefly) posted on a website is the exact same thing as buying airtime for it on commercial TV? Interesting redefinition of "running the ad."
That's not "splitting hairs" -- that's comparing apples and oranges.
Further, the WJC video remains a work of lying by omission: It presents the Bush-Hitler video but at no point does it explain that the ad was a contest submission, never ran as a paid ad, and that MoveOn itself said that "[w]e do not support the sentiment" in it. The WJC post accusing us of being liars doesn't mention that either.
The WJC should try telling the full truth instead of redefining words to fit previous lies.
The media continues to produce stunning bouts of false equivalencies while covering the wholly unprecedented mini-mob phenomena, as protesters storm town halls, turn them into free-for-alls and make sure public policy is not debated. As they hang politicians in effigy, swarm around their cars in the parking lot, issue death threats, and show up brandishing Nazi posters and loaded guns.
According to the WSJ's Jake Sherman, the right-wing is simply copying what liberals have done for years. (They always arrived at anti-war rallies armed, right?) Indeed, his article's headline says it all:
Conservatives Take a Page From Left's Online Playbook
There's nothing new in the ugly hatred and violence the mini-mobs have sparked, according to the Journal. It's just politics in America people. Both sides do it! (In fact, the Journal never even alludes to the mayhem unleashed by the right-wing in recent weeks.)
Sherman's false equivalency is doubly lame because he pretends that the conservative blogosphere has been a key player in whipping up the mini-mobs; that after trailing liberals for years, the mini-mob movement is the right-wing blogosphere's coming out party.
Except, of course, it's not.
As Peter Daou correctly pointed out at Huffington Post this week, the entire mini-mob crusade was built around the GOP's age-old media strategy--right-wing radio, Drudge and Fox News. i.e. It's 'Old Media.' In terms of new technology, the mini-mobs are very 1990's. And no matter how hard Sherman tried in his article to spin it differently, the conservative blogosphere has been a spectator in the mini-mob movement, not a leader.
UPDATED: The Journal held up Americans for Prosperity as an example of conservative "online activists" bubbling up from the grassroots. Really? the pro-tobacco industry Americans for Prosperity is grassroots?
I doubt it:
The AFP is the third largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family Foundations, behind the Cato Institute and the George Mason University Foundation...Koch Family Foundations is funded by Koch Industries. According to Forbes, Koch Industries is the second largest privately-held company, and the largest privately owned energy company, in the United States. Koch industries has made its money in the oil business, primarily oil refining. Presently, it holds stakes in pipelines, refineries, fertilizer, forest products, and chemical technology.
Ironic: In an article about how conservatives are (supposedly) building a grassroots movement online, the Journal couldn't even find an actual grassroots organization to profile.
As has been repeatedly noted here, despite Howard Kurtz's protestations to the contrary, the media's best efforts to report on the debate over health care reform have resulted in a public that believes any number of false claims opponents have made about the legislation. Perhaps the reason that has happened is because even though health care has been among the top issues under discussion since President Obama took office, prominent media figures remain woefully ignorant of its elementary details.
For example, Lou Dobbs seems to have a problem absorbing basic facts about health care:
DOBBS: Is universal health care, the so-called public option, or single-payer, which -- however you want to break it down…
Similarly, earlier this month, Chris Wallace stated:
WALLACE: Congressman Rangel, here's a top House Democrat saying the Republicans are right, that the public option is a stalking horse for a single-payer government takeover like we see in Britain or Canada.
Ok, full stop. Let's "break it down" in a way that doesn't involve journalists who should know better conflating a bunch of terms that mean different things: Universal health care is different from the public option, which is different from single payer. Britain and Canada have very, very different health care systems.
Universal health care refers to the goal -- not any specific policy proposal – to provide quality, accessible health care to everyone in the country. There are many different ways you can get there; we currently aren't following any of them.
The public option is a proposal included in the Senate health committee and House bills that would establish as one option among many a government-run health insurance plan. It would not be open to anyone who wishes to enroll in it, and those who are eligible would be able to choose it from a list of other, private options. CBO estimates that if the public option passes in the form envisioned by the House draft bill, only about 11 or 12 million people would be enrolled in it by 2019.
Single-payer is a health care model wherein a single source – usually the government – finances all or almost all health care expenditures; basically, everyone in the country has government-provided health insurance. You go to the doctor or the hospital, they treat you, the government pays. Our Medicare program is effectively a single-payer system for the elderly. Canada's health care system features single-payer insurance available to all citizens, with doctors working in public or private practices, but receiving payment for most treatments from the government. There is no proposal currently under serious discussion that would institute a nationwide single-payer system.
The United Kingdom has a single-provider health care model, wherein the government owns and operates the health care system, employing all doctors and other medical personnel through the National Health Service and paying them for all medical services. Our own VA is a single-provider system for veterans. There is no proposal currently under any level of discussion whatsoever that would institute a nationwide single-provider system.
Yes, this stuff is a little complicated – at least, it requires media figures to actually study the issue a bit and develop some understanding of the basic facts at hand. Then again, that's theoretically what they get paid for – to learn about the issues and educate their audience.
Or, you know, they could just keep talking about the politics of it all. That's worked out pretty well so far, right?