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,
During an online discussion today, Washington Post reporter Alex MacGillis was asked about the media's focus on President Obama's proposed tax increases for the very few Americans who make more than $200,000 a year rather than the proposed tax cuts for the rest of the country:
90 percent vs. 2 percent?: Barack Obama has proposed a budget that, among other things, would reduce taxes on more than 9 out of 10 Americans and increase taxes on around the wealthiest 2 percent of the population (actually, just letting Bush's tax cuts expire on schedule). Flipping through the Sunday talk shows, it's striking to see how uniformly wealthy media celebrities think it makes sense to characterize this is a "tax increase" or "raising taxes" and to leap immediately to a discussion of what the impact of these "higher taxes" will be. I think that the 95 percent of people whose taxes are set to go down might be more interested in learning about the impact of lower taxes, don't you, Alec?
Alec MacGillis: You definitely have a point on this one. The TV talk of 'raising taxes' does often leave out the broader context, and Republicans have done their best to frame the debate this way as well. Also left unmentioned often is that the higher rates for the rich will not kick in until 2011. We'll see if the White House decides it needs to do more to push back on this, to make clear again just who would be hurt and helped, because the fact is that polls are showing that taxing the rich right now is a much more popular proposition than it has been in years past.
Ah, but it isn't just "The TV talk of 'raising taxes.'" Alex MacGillis' own newspaper, the Washington Post, has done as much as any other news organization to drive the obsessive focus on the few Americans who will pay more taxes rather than the many who will pay less, as I explained in my column on Friday:
By my count, at least 484 of the article's 1,284 words were about the tax increases in Obama's proposal. Among those 484 words was this quote from House GOP leader John Boehner: "The era of big government is back, and Democrats are asking you to pay for it." That simply isn't true, unless you make more than $200,000 a year -- though the Post simply presented Boehner's claim without rebuttal.
And how did the Post address the tax cuts in Obama's plan? The article devoted just 39 words to them. Among other omissions, the Post completely ignored the fact that the plan makes permanent the Bush tax cuts for the vast majority of Americans.
And by the following Monday, tax cuts had disappeared entirely from the Post's reporting. Under the headline "Aides Defend President's Budget; White House and Fiscal Conservatives Set for Showdown," the Post reported Obama's budget would be "raising taxes on top income earners and oil and gas companies" and again quoted a Republican criticizing the tax increases. But there wasn't so much as a hint that most Americans would see their tax bills go down.