Here's a question for you: Suppose there's a guy that insults your co-workers on a regular basis. He makes fun of their looks. He gives them insulting and sexist nicknames. And suppose one day you have, say, a company picnic or event. Do you invite that guy -- who doesn't even work with you -- to give a speech?
If you're the House Republicans, the answer is an enthusiastic, 'Yes!' At the Capitol today, House Republicans rallied against health care - and featured radio host Mark Levin. What has Levin said about the Republicans' colleagues in the House and Senate?
And it's not just sexist attacks on women serving in the House and Senate:
Levin, by the way, stands by and is proud of his attacks. Indeed, he regularly repeats many of them.
(Levin, standing at a healthcare.gop.gov podium, with House Minority Leader John Boehner listening)
Again, it isn't like Mark Levin rushed the stage and grabbed a microphone. "The great one," as Levin fans such as Rep. Michele Bachmann call him, was an invited guest.
Levin's incendiary attacks aren't a secret. While we know Republican members and their staff aren't quite tech-savvy, the invention called Google has been around for a while. Meanwhile, some prominent Republicans - not in the House GOP caucus, apparently - have been raising concerns about Levin.
And there's the big question: Given the knowledge of Levin's constant sexist attacks against House and Senate members, why did Congressional Republicans roll out the red carpet for Levin?
I'm curious because Politico states the number as fact without providing additional information:
The crowd grew to about 10,000 by noon – a significant gathering for a weekday but far less than the 9/12 protests earlier this fall.
Politico's Jonathan Martin clearly seemed impressed that 10,000 people showed up to protest health care reform. But did 10,000 people actually show up? And more importantly, where did that number come from? As we've seen in the recent past, crowd estimates for political rallies can take on a greater significance, and therefore journalists need to be as precise as possible when reporting on the figures. Instead, Politico simply announced 10,000 protesters had rallied without explaining where that figure came from.
By contrast, here's how MSNBC's First Read reported on the rally:
NBC's Luke Russert, reporting from the West Front of the Capitol, passes along this photo of a cartoon Pelosi with the words "UNAMERICAN MCCARTHYITE" scrawled across. The crowd, per Russert, is so far about 3,000 to 3,500, according to Capitol Police estimates...
*** UPDATE *** Three Capitol Hill police officers all guessed that the crowd numbered at about 4,000.
NBC, relying on estimates from local police, put the crowd number at 4,000. So what source did Politico rely on when it arrived at the much larger 10,000 figure?
Curious minds want to know.
Really? 4,000 people, the size of a crowd at a minor league baseball game, now qualifies as "MASSIVE"?
Here's another example of Fox News revealing there's little difference between the language it uses and "Republican activists." Discussing Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) Fox News-fueled Capitol Hill protest, reporter James Rosen said:
ROSEN: ... as we keep one eye on this raucous so-called House Call that the Republican activists and conservatives are paying on the west front steps of the Capitol to protest what they call, PelosiCare.
Well that's true. As Rosen said, Republican activists and conservatives certainly do use that phrase. And who else? Fox News.
Plus, here's Fox News' William Kristol: "If you like the government's swine flu program, you'll love PelosiCare."
And Fox Business' John Stossel: "Assuming PelosiCare is something like care in Canada, you see what happened there - people did start to rebel. Even the doctors started saying, we have to have some private outlet." [Fox Business' America's Nightly Scoreboard, 11/2/09]
Fox News and "Republican activists" - inseparable?
Center for American Progress' Matthew Yglesias brings us these images, originally taken by his colleague Lee Fang at this afternoon's anti-health care rally on Capitol Hill:
That's the caption "National Socialist Health Care, Dachau, Germany - 1945" over the piled corpses of Holocaust victims.
Fox News figures have spent the last few days aggressively promoting this rally. One of their hosts, Glenn Beck, has spent the last six months joining other media conservatives in comparing every aspect of President Obama's program -- including his health reform plan -- to that of the Nazis.
Fox News owns this sign.
And the guy teaches law. It's so embarrassing.
In today's WSJ, Reynolds, part of the right-wing blogosphere which cheered press-bashing for eight years during the Bush years, is suddenly very, very concerned that the White House has critiqued Fox News and called it out as being not a legitimate news outlet. Suddenly Reynolds is terrified by the fact that White House officials have publicly expressed an opinion about Fox News.
Playing dumb, Reynolds pretends the White House is trying to "dictate" what's news. But that's standard practice by now. That's been the clichéd talking point for weeks. On that front, Reynold is merely saying whatever everyone else has already said. (Congratulations!)
To actually prove his point about how terribly dangerous it is for White House aides to have an opinion about the press, Reynolds points to a controversy unfolding in Chicago [emphasis added]:
For the past several months, students at The Innocence Project, a program at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, have come under fire from Cook County, Ill. Prosecutors aren't happy with their habit of turning up evidence demonstrating that defendants have been wrongly convicted. They've allegedly exposed the wrongful conviction of Anthony McKinney, a Chicago man jailed for 31 years on a false confession.
Discomfited prosecutors have responded by subpoenaing everything related to the students' investigation about the McKinney case: notes, interview records and even classroom grades. According to the prosecutors, the students aren't journalists, but an "investigative agency." This is a distinction that has legal bite because journalists' notes are protected under an Illinois journalist shield law.
Wow, that is troubling. Students at a journalism program are uncovering important information and local law enforcement are hitting them with subpoenas.
But how is that apparent over-reach connected to the Obama administration? What on earth does that have to do with White House officials expressing an opinion about Fox News? Behold as the law professor plays dumb on an epic scale:
But they [prosecutors] may be excused for thinking that attacks on media critics are, in today's political era, business as usual. Indeed, they need look no farther than the White House, whose occupant has sometimes styled himself the nation's chief media critic. It is, after all, the Obama administration that declared that its critics at Fox News Channel are not real journalists, and that Fox is not a "legitimate news organization."
Got that? The administration has expressed an opinion about Fox News, and that's just like Chicago prosecutors issuing subpoenas and demanding journalism students turn over their notes and interview records. But how? Because the administration actually has a super-secret plan to criminalize journalism.
So dumb it hurts.
Fox News' hosts have been aggressively promoting today's anti-health care reform rally at Capitol Hill, so it's no surprise that they jumped to provide live coverage as soon as it started. Unfortunately, this left them with three minutes with their camera pointed at the rally's invocation, followed by hundreds of Republican representatives reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Perhaps aware that members of Congress praying and reciting the Pledge doesn't meet even Fox's standard for news, the network immediately cut away... to live coverage of a press conference about a rescued Florida baby. Is it possible that even Fox is getting embarrassed by this protest?
Meanwhile, MSNBC decided they wanted to cover the rally, going live just in time to show actor Jon Voight go after Obama's "connection to ACORN." Because Jon Voight hating Democrats is apparently news to someone. Minutes later, anchor Jeff Rosen aired a clip of Michelle Bachmann attacking the House Democrats' bill, then asked Republican Rep. Cynthia Loomis whether she agreed that the bill comes close to socialism. Loomis' response? "Don't take it from us, take it from The Wall Street Journal." This is degenerating into farce extremely quickly.
And why are Beck and BigGovernment, as well as the rest of the right-wing brigade, now clearly suggesting that Missouri law enforcement officials are covering up a crime? The fact-free crowd is impugning the integrity of Missouri prosecutors because they have the nerve to not go along with the right-wing fantasy that SEIU "thugs" savagely beat a man (nearly to death, according to some breathless reports) outside of a health care town hall forum in August. And yes, Andrew Breitbart claimed the thugs were sent directly from the White House.
That's a pretty serious accusation to make against the defenders of the law. So on what basis do Beck and BigGovernment make the claim? What facts do they present to suggest that Missouri law enforcement is covering up a crime? Um, did I mention it's Glenn Beck and BigGovernment?
Answer: Zero facts.
The right-wing's beloved tale of Kenneth Gladney has been dubious from the get-go. (See here, here, here, here, and here.) But now that it's been nearly three months and no formal charges have been filed in a case that was supposed to be an open-and-shut case of a brutal beating (it was caught on tape!), Beck and company have fallen back to their predictable Plan B: conspiracy theory!! i.e. The cops are in on it, too!!
"Why haven't charges been filed?" Beck demanded this week. "I would like to know what game is being played."
Specifically, the far-right, anti-law enforcement crowd suggests that because Buffy Wicks was part of Barack Obama's campaign in Missouri, and because Buffy Wicks now works in the White House, and because Buffy Wicks is kinda/sorta associated with the NEA, and because the Obama Missouri campaign once had a press conference where law enforcement officials were supposedly in attendance (Beck's still searching for the tape), that means Missouri law enforcement is now covering up the Gladney beating as a favor to Buffy Wicks. (Talk about a Superwoman!)
Conspiracy stenographer Matthew Vadum types up the nonsense for David Horowitz's Newsreal.
For the record, I have no idea if any charges will ever be filed. It's completely possible law enforcement authorities will ignore Gladney's rather odd tale for the simple reason that no provable crime was committed. But even if charges are filed some day, that means SEIU defendants will, of course, have a chance to clear their names, regardless of how Glenn Beck and BigGovernment wished our justice system worked.
What I do know is that the right-wing's selfish, and often comical, attempt to turn Kenneth Gladney into a political martyr continues to be a sad spectacle to watch.
Since Tuesday's elections, media figures have increasingly suggested that the President and Congress should set aside things like health care and energy reform in order to focus on the economy. As MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan put it yesterday: "Jobs are job one." Earlier today, another MSNBC anchor said "The debate is whether they should focus more on job creation instead of ambitious items on the President's agenda." Other examples abound.
But this doesn't really make much sense when you think about it. "The economy" isn't some narrow, discrete thing like turning off a kitchen faucet. It's more like building a house -- there are a lot of things that go into it; far more than just twisting a knob.
One of the big things that goes into the economy is ... Health care. Not only is health care spending a massive part of the economy, but inadequate access to health care has all kinds of ripple effects. A low-income worker who doesn't have health insurance gets sick, loses wages (no sick days, either) and eventually loses a job. That isn't just a public health issue, it's an economic issue; a jobs issue. (Earlier this year, for example, the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated that "genuine health care reform" would save or create 500,000 jobs a year in the "short and medium run.") Likewise, energy policy has huge economic implications.
Saying that politicians should stop worrying about energy and health care and focus on the economy is like saying a homebuilder should stop screwing around with walls and build the damn house already: It isn't going to be much of a house without walls.
It's one thing to say elected officials should spend their time trying to address jobs and the economy rather than guns and abortion and gay marriage. Whether or not you agree with the prioritization, or agree that is necessary to choose, those are basically different things. But health care and the economy are fundamentally intertwined in a way that guns and the economy are not; it makes much less sense to say "forget about health care and focus on the economy."
So here's a challenge to journalists and pundits who insist the White House and Congress should forget about health care and energy to focus on the economy and jobs: Spell out what that means. What do you suggest they do to address the economy and jobs that doesn't involve health care or energy policy? Why will it be more effective? Or do you just expect them to pass some magical bill decreeing that the economy must be robust, as though it is a faucet to be effortlessly turned on and off?
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted to renew the government's $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers. Fox News' America's Newsroom - mind you, one of the channel's very serious and straight news programs - bashed the program by claiming it's so inefficient, even liberals oppose it:
STU VARNEY: Question, is it effective, and at what price? I'm going to quote for you the Brookings Institution study. Now, Brookings is left of center, they would normally be in favor of this kind of government program. They found that if you look at the houses which were really sold because of this home buyer credit, it cost $43,000 per home. Repeat, $43,000 per home.
So in other words, your typical liberal policy wonk.
Now, you can certainly argue for and against the tax credit. (For what it's worth, the Senate voted to renew the program 98-0 - something left unmentioned by Varney.) But remember how Varney presented his criticism of the program: 'Hey viewer, I have ammunition against this big government program and it's even more powerful because it's from the liberals!'
*Brookings has been ideologically described in a variety of ways - liberal, centrist, conservative - by news outlets. Indeed, Fox News' Shepard Smith has called Brookings "conservative leaning" (Studio B, 6/1/09). The L.A. Times wrote in response to the diverse ways it describes Brookings, "we should probably not be labeling" Brookings.
From Redstate.com managing editor Erick Erickson's Twitter feed: