One of the Luskin columns Gavin links to was Luskin's arguement in August 2008 that the economy was not in a recession. Here's Luskin's explanation:
[W]e are not in a recession.
The word "recession" has a specific meaning to economists who study the business cycle. Whether we are in a recession or not is therefore an objective matter of science, not opinion.
The official determination of recessions is made by a committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research. They have latitude to use their judgment in making the determination — it's not exactly a formula — but they are clear about what factors they consider, and how those factors have to behave to result in a determination.
Note that Luskin writes that whether we are in a recession is "an objective matter of science, not opinion" -- then, just a few sentances later, writes that NBER has "latitude to use their judgment ... it's not exactly a formula."
Anyway, that's not my point. That's just amusing.
My point is this: Last August, Luskin argued that the US was not in a recession because, basically, NBER hadn't declared the economy to be in a recession. And yet, just a few years ago, Luskin took the opposite view -- and both times, Luskin's assertions just happened to make George W. Bush look good.
See, one of the very first things Media Matters posted when we launched back in the Spring of 2004 was a report I wrote demonstrating that the news media (particularly Sean Hannity) kept insisting that Bush had "inherited a recession" from Bill Clinton, despite the fact that according to NBER, the recession in question didn't begin until March of 2001 -- after Bush took office.
Well, Don Luskin didn't like that very much. He took to National Review's web page to declare "So far the work from Media Matters isn't very impressive." Luskin went on to explain:
The first major article posted on the Media Matters website is an attempted exposé of the often-heard conservative claim that the last economic recession began during the Clinton administration — or, in other words, that it was already underway when George W. Bush took office in 2001.
The claim that the last recession started under Clinton is absolutely true.
Now, before we go any further, keep in mind what Luskin wrote last August, when he was desperate to argue that we weren't in a recession: "The official determination of recessions is made by a committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research." Those are Don Luskin's words in August of 2008. And here are Don Luskin's words back in May of 2004:
The one and only piece of evidence offered by Media Matters that's to the contrary is that fact that the National Bureau of Economic Research set the beginning of the last recession at March 2001 — two months into the Bush administration. ... according to Media Matters, this single authority determines truth, and everyone else is a liar. The article declares that "if NBER says the recession began in March 2001, the recession began in March 2001."
The reality is that NBER is just like any other group of economists, struggling with partial and imperfect information to characterize phenomena that don't have any hard-and-fast definitions.
So, in 2004, Luskin argued that NBER should not be considered the final word on recessions. Interesting.
But wait! There's more.
Luskin went on to claim that NBER was "on the verge of changing the recession's start date" to sometime before Bush took office. To support his claim that a change would come any day, Luskin quoted a four-month-old Washington Post article in which NBER president Martin Feldstein -- a Bush campaign advisor -- claimed the March 2001 start date was too late. Luskin then chided us: "Media Matters chooses not to mention" that NBER was "on the verge" of changing the recession's start date.
As I pointed out at the time, of course we didn't mention that. Why would we? NBER hadn't changed the date. Not to mention that there was a much more recent Washington Post article in which an NBER spokesperson quoted saying no such change was imminent.
Anyway, that was nearly five years ago. And NBER -- which, according to Don Luskin, was "on the verge of changing the recession's start date" -- still says the recession begain March 2001.
Whenever Luskin wants to retract his nonsensical criticisms of Media Matters, I'd be happy to post the retraction.
Oh, and by the way: NBER says we've been in a recession since December 2007. In his August 2008 column, Luskin touted a formula that "shows with absolute clarity that we are not in a recession now. In fact, we're not even close."
In short: Do not listen to Don Luskin.
Today, it's in the form of a brief editorial (no link found) headlined "Obama's Press List," which chastised Obama for referring to a list of reporters he was going to call on during his Monday press conference
The President was running down a list of reporters pre-selected to ask questions. the White House had decided in advance who would be allowed to question the President and who was left out.
We actually agree with the main point; that presidents ought not to use cheat sheets at press conferences for the simple task of calling on reporters. (It tends to cheapen the process.) But the Journal then immediately drove into a ditch when it claimed Obama's predecessor would have never done something like that:
We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with pre-screening his interlocutors.
Except, of course, when Bush did pre-screen his queries, like during his primetime news conference on the eve of war with Iraq in 2003. From Lapdogs [emphasis added]:
At one point while making his way through the press questioners, Bush awkwardly referred to a list of reporters who he was instructed to call on. "This is scripted," he joked. The press laughed. But Bush meant it was scripted, literally. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer later admitted he compiled Bush's cheat sheet, which made sure he did not call on reporters from some prominent outlets like Time, Newsweek, USA Today, or The Washington Post.
Yesterday, Media Matters noted:
In purporting to "take a look back" at how the economic recovery plan "grew, and grew, and grew," Fox News' Jon Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods -- all of which came directly from a Senate Republican Communications Center press release. A Fox News on-screen graphic even reproduced a typo contained in the Republican press release.
My, how a day of criticism from media critics and progressive bloggers changes things – even at Fox News. Today, Scott offered... an apology of sorts (emphasis added):
Yesterday on Happening Now we showed you how the stimulus bill has grown over time. Our story prompted by a news release from the Senate Republican Communication Center. There point that a $56 billion proposal in September has grown to $838 billion in five months. In compiling the story, our producers and researchers did what we always do -- we verified the accuracy of the material. But in double checking the newspaper quotes referenced in that news release we made the same mistake they did. We labeled a Wall Street Journal article as having run in 2009 when in fact it was 2008. That was our error, and we apologize.
Of course, I'm kidding.
See what Scott does there? He apologizes, not for passing along a one-sided argument made in a Senate Republican Communications Center's press release as Fox News' original reporting, but for reporting the typo.
In his initial report, Scott didn't tell his audience that the citations in his report were based entirely on a press release from the Senate Republicans – a fact he glosses over in his half-hearted apology for the typo.
I'd question Fox News' journalistic integrity; that is of course if they had any to question in the first place.
Today's Examiner features an op-ed by Richard Berman titled "Employee Free Choice Act may backfire on unions." At the bottom of the column, the Examiner identifies Berman:
Richard Berman is executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a non-profit 501(c3) union watchdog organization. Learn more at www.unionfacts.com.
Now, you might think from that identification, and the column headline, that Richard Berman's opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act is motivated by a desire to look out for the well-being of the nation's labor unions.
In fact, Berman is an anti-union activist and lobbyist who does the bidding of big business via front groups he creates with warm-and-fuzzy sounding names like "The Center for Consumer Freedom" and "The Employee Freedom Action Committee."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has much more about Berman on their Berman Exposed web page, including this summary:
Richard Berman has been a regular front man for business and industry in campaigns against consumer safety and environmental groups. Through his public affairs firm, Berman and Company, Berman has fought unions, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PETA and other watchdog groups in their efforts to raise awareness about obesity, the minimum wage, the dangers of smoking, mad cow disease, drunk driving, and other causes. Berman runs at least 15 industry-funded front groups and projects, such as the Center for Union Facts and holds 16 "positions" in those organizations.
Each year, Berman, using his front groups to spread misinformation, spends millions of dollars distracting the public with misleading ads.
Rachel Sklar offered up an interesting take on the comparison, in the wake of Tapper's "pissing" match last with WH flak Robert Gibbs. (Tapper pretty much lectured Gibbs following a rather mundane exchange between the two. Y'know, just like reporters used to lecture Ari Fleischer back in February 2001.....)
According to Sklar, the much-discussed scuffle caused quite a tizzy inside the press room.
Tapper won that point—we've seen just how pertinent it is to Cabinet nominees that they pay their taxes—but with it came something else: the title of Briefing Room Badass.
And then came the inevitable comparison with NBC's David Gregory. Reported Sklar:
No less than three separate Washington political reporters spontaneously compared him to Gregory, who made his name being a thorn in the side of various White House press secretaries.
Interesting point. But here's where the lack of context comes in within the WH press room. The Tapper/Gibbs exchange took place during the third week of the Obama administration. David Gregory however, did not make a name for himself as a thorn in the side of the Bush White House until like four years after Bush was sworn into office.
Interesting, right? The WH press corps is all atwitter just days into the Democratic term over who's going to be the official press room "Badass" during the Democratic administration. But that's something nobody in the same press room even thought about becoming until 50 months into Bush's tenure.
No double standard there, right?
In fact, get this. During the first 100 days of the Bush White House back in 2001, Gregory, rather than being a pitbull, was honored by the right-wing Media Research Center as the Best White House Correspondent for Gregory's pro-Bush coverage.
In the Financial Times, columnist Martin Wolf, addressing Obama's handling of the unfolding financial crisis, writes:
Has Barack Obama's presidency already failed? In normal times, this would be a ludicrous question. But these are not normal times.
I had to chuckle. Wolf prefaced his comments by ackowleding it normally would be "ludicrous" for a pundit just weeks into a new president's term to declare it a failure. Sheer madness.
What Wolf should have suggested was that it would be ludicrous for a pundit just weeks into a new Republican president's term to declare it a failure. Because that truly is crazy talk. Nobody in the press would ever air such an insulting claim. But when it comes to declaring Democratic presidents to be complete failures just weeks into their tenure, that's old habit by now.
See, members of the press did the same thing back in 1993, the last time a new Democratic president arrived in the White House. As I noted in a November column:
On January 31, 1993, 12 days after Clinton had been sworn into office, Sam Donaldson appeared on ABC and made this jarring announcement: "Last week, we could talk about, 'Is the honeymoon over?' This week, we can talk about, 'Is the presidency over?' " (At the time, Clinton's approval rating hovered around 65 percent.)
I'm chuckling again reading about Clinton's 65 percent approval rating at the time of the media's failed presidency meme: Isn't that the exact same approval rating Obamaacknowledging enjoys today?
Get a load of these "some say" and "most Republicans oppose" questions:
"Some people say that the nearly one trillion dollars in debt and subsequent interest incurred by the stimulus bill during an economic downturn will make the recovery hard to achieve. Do you agree or disagree?"
"Some Republicans say the Obama stimulus package spends too much and stimulates too little. Do you agree or disagree?"
"Most Republicans oppose the currently proposed stimulus bill supported by President Obama because they say there is too much money being spent for non-stimulus items. Do you agree or disagree that too much money is being spent on items that won't improve the economy?"
How loopy is the poll, done in conjunction with something called ATI-News? It doesn't even register the response among Democrats. It only measure answers from Republicans and Independents. (At least, that's what the press release does.)
Naturally right-wingers are pushing the "Zogby poll," but if a single news organization runs with this data it will be a disgrace.
UPDATE: As we learn from the ConWebBlog:
ATI News is merely an aggregator of other news websites and generates no original content, and O'Leary is author of the WorldNetDaily-published Obama-bashing speculative fantasy "The Audacity of Deceit." So O'Leary clearly has a biased agenda to push, as if the Zogby poll he commissioned wasn't evenough proof of that.
Actual question from Politico's Patrick Gavin to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: "Do you think you look pretty in pink?"
If chiding the White House press secretary for wearing a pink tie seems like the kind of behavior you would expect from an insecure 13 year old rather than a prominent national news organization, you haven't been paying attention. This is just the latest in a long pattern of media figures attempting to feminize promintent male Democrats -- from jokes about John Kerry getting manicures to calling John Edwards the "Breck Girl" to Maureen Dowd's comparison of Barack Obama to Scarlett O'Hara.
We noted this earlier; this media meme about how Obama shouldn't be saying all these bad things about the economy. And that he's trying to scare people into supporting his stimulus bill. We also detailed how Americans, according to the polling data, have pretty much been freaked out of their minds about the economy for months, and long before Obama began talking about passing legislation.
At FDL, they caught the fact that the AP's Jennifer Loven played that same card during Obama's primetime presser [emphasis added]:
Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier today in Indiana, you said something striking. You said that this nation could end up in a crisis without action that we would be unable to reverse. Can you talk about what you know or what you're hearing that would lead you to say that our recession might be permanent when others in our history have not? And do you think that you risk losing some credibility or even talking down the economy by using dire language like that?
Ugh. What had Obama been hearing that led him to use "dire language" about the country's economic crisis? Honestly, if Loven doesn't know, she shouldn't be asking questions at the WH.
"There has to be news at a place called Fox News," he says, and he's not the only one. It's the mantra of the network, the fallback equation that — until the recent entrance of Glenn Beck, anyway — has enabled its employees to distinguish between the programming that takes place between nine in the morning and eight at night, which is called News, and the programming that takes over thereafter, which is called Opinion. "I think we do a pretty good job of labeling it for the viewer," Shep says.
Again: that's the Standard Fox Line. O'Reilly and Hannity may be ideologues, but during the day, Fox is straight news. Fair and balanced.
That has always been an absurd claim, of course. But today, it's particularly funny. See, on today's edition of Fox's Happening Now, one of those supposedly unbiased daytime news programs, Fox tried to pass off a Republican press release as its own reporting. As Media Matters demonstrated, the Fox "reporting" copied the GOP press release word for word -- right down to a typo.
So, what was that you were saying, Shep?