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.
The online discussions Washington Post reporters participate in daily are becoming a frequent source of media criticism. Last week, Perry Bacon criticized the use of the "loaded" phrase "class warfare." Yesterday, Alec MacGinnis agreed that media reports about Obama "raising taxes" leave out important context (namely, that he's cutting taxes for the overwhelming majority of Americans.) And today, Ben Pershing says that the media focuses far too much on earmarks, which constitute a "small sliver" of government spending:
Earmarks, Smermarks!: The "earmarks" account for less than 2 percent of the bill. Chump Change. Come on guys! Keep your eye on the ball!
Ben Pershing: Earmarks definitely do get a disproportionately large amount of press coverage, given the relatively small sliver of federal spending they represent. I bet if you asked the average voter how much of federal spending is earmarked, they would guess a number a lot higher than it actually is. Which I suppose is the fault of us in the political press for doing a poor job explaining.
Maybe I should switch jobs with Howard Kurtz.
Can we just take a moment to decry the most annoying media trend of the year--the whining loudmouth. CNBC employs two of the biggest offenders; Cramer and Rick Santelli. The third Mouseketeer, of course, is Rush Limbaugh. All three loudmouths uncorked nutty, anti-Obama rants in recent weeks.
Then when reporters raised question during White House press briefings and got responses from Robert Gibbs, the loud mouths turned and whined about the nasty White House was going after them, targeting them, putting them on (non-existent) enemies lists. Good God, if you're going to making a living as a loudmouth making stuff up on national television, at least man up and take the gentle push back with some dignity.
Santelli's bed-wetting act about the White House was targeting him was especially lame. And now we get Cramer, when not penning tedious and narcissistic open letters to the White House, going on Today and whining about how the White House is after a "little guy" like Cramer because all he did was point out that the Dow averages "are down a lot" since Obama's inauguration.
That's the other thing; while he's whining like a little school kid, Cramer won't even be honest about what nutty, fact-free things he said in the past. Did Cramer simply go on TV and point out the Dow is "down a lot"? Of course not. Because if he did nobody at the White House would care.
What Cramer said, but won't man up to on Today, is that the Dow's are down a lot because of Obama; because the new communist-like president was destroying American wealth on an historic scale. Really? The Dow has lost approximately 1,500 points since Inauguration Day. But between May 2008 and January 21, 2009, while Bush was president, the Dow lost 4,800 points. But we don't remember Cramer calling the Republican president a communist or bemoaning the wealth destruction his administration had unleashed.
Our advice for Cramer: Stop making stuff up, and enough with the petulant whining.
Specifically, that he's about to become a lobbyist, which would therefore take him out of the running for any position within the Obama administration, since it has ethical guidelines against bringing in (most) lobbyists aboard.
The HuffPost's Sam Stein notes the misinformation began with sloppy reporting by the WashPost Al Kamen, who didn't try to confirm his report that Dean would be lobbying for the D.C. firm McKenna, Long & Aldridge. Kamen's claim was then picked up and amplified by USA Today.
As Dean's spokesman told Stein:
"[Washington Post reporter Al] Kamen got it wrong this morning," said Karen Finney, a spokesman for Dean. "He wrote that without talking to me or Dean. As you know, Dean is an Independent Consultant for the firm and not a registered lobbyist."
Note that the Post's Dean report was built around the flimsy phrase "sounds as though," and USA Today's was built around the equally flimsy "seems." (i.e. This seems to be the official end to Howard Dean's stated hopes of joining the Obama administration.")
President Obama today signed a document countermanding some documents signed by his predecessor and saying he won't sign so many other documents like that called signing documents.
Bill Clinton actually used signing documents way more than George W. Bush. But No. 42 is a Democrat and his wife currently works for Obama. So No. 44 is on a big tear right now to distance himself instead from No. 43, the Republican, who's back in Texas and doesn't care but just hearing his name trashed makes Democrats feel good.
Oh, really? That's why people have focused on Bush's signing statements? Or could it be that Bush's signing statements have been substantively different from Clinton's? Here's what a September 2007 Congressional Research Service report has to say:
At first glance, it does not appear that President Bush has departed significantly from prior practice in the signing statement context, having issued 152 signing statements as compared to 381 during the Clinton Administration. However, the qualitative difference in the Bush II approach becomes apparent when considering the number of individual challenges or objections to statutory provisions that are contained in these statements. Of President Bush's 152 signing statements, 118 (78%) contain some type of constitutional challenge or objection, as compared to 70 (18%) during the Clinton Administration.37 Even more significant, however, is the fact that these 118 signing statements are typified by multiple constitutional and statutory objections, containing challenges to more than 1,000 distinct provisions of law.38
UPDATE: Steve Benen adds:
Did Clinton use signing statements "way more than George W. Bush"? It's a highly misleading claim, based on a count of the individual documents, instead of the number of provisions to which the signing statements have been applied. In reality, Bush "broke all records" while abusing this presidential tool, "using signing statements to challenge about 1,200 sections of bills over his eight years in office, about twice the number challenged by all previous presidents combined."
Commenting on the deep economic crisis the U.S. is facing, Watson writes [emphasis added]:
Beyond a banking fix or a housing plan, our floundering $12 trillion economy needs a fundamental reset of the public commentator class...This new class of public commentators will be distinguished not by their ability to describe the depths of our pain, but by their capacity for offering clear, compelling, credible visions of how individuals, companies, governments, and groups can move beyond it,