Today, both take the temperature of the GOP and its political prospects, but come to very different conclusions. The WaPo report finds the party brimming with new (anti-Obama) life, and members generally thrilled with their performance in recent days:
After giving the package zero votes in the House, and with their counterparts in the Senate likely to provide in a crucial procedural vote today only the handful of votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement.
In general, it's a very rah-rah assessment with just a passing reference to the fact that yes, the Republicans' obstructionist strategy might carry with it a downside.
Over at Politico, it was a different story as told from inside the GOP, with two Republican pro's highlighting the mounting troubles the party faces. One was Jack Burkman is a GOP lobbyist and strategist, who wrote:
With no leadership and no discernible values, principles or direction, congressional Republicans seem all but certain to be steamrolled by President Barack Obama, whose early approval numbers top 75 percent...
Bleaker still is the reality that the party has a terrible dearth of virtually everything from presidential candidates to strategists. Mitt Romney is rich, Harvard-educated and handsome, but he will have enormous difficulty emerging as a charismatic GOP leader because of his lack of belief in, well, anything. Sarah Palin would make a smashing suit model.
At the grass-roots level, the party is no longer even producing good political strategists, something the GOP has excelled at for many years. Most top-gun operatives have become lobbyists, preferring the quick cash to the hard discipline and creativity required of campaign life. The problem is that, with Republicans shut out of power, there is no one left to lobby.
The other was a somewhat sarcastic open letter to Rush Limbaugh, written by John Feehery worked for the House Republican leadership from 1989 to 2005. He wrote:
[O]ur research shows that the American people actually want help with certain things (the failing education system, the high cost of health care, the sagging economy, etc.). Do you have any good ideas that you can share with us — ideas that will be seen as reasonable by the American people — that can serve as a viable alternative? Or is it your plan to simply oppose every idea that comes from the Obama administration?
It's telling that when Beltway reporters size up the GOP, they see signs of strength and resurgence. But when GOP insiders take a look, the view isn't so pretty.
Apparently. Because asking questions about the stimulus bill, King, perfectly echoing GOP talking points, wonders if a construction project one mayor is proposing (a community wave pool) will actually create jobs.
The only real question is how does hiring a construction firm to build a community pool not create jobs? Seriously, we'd love to hear King's explanation.
It's probably a good thing that cable news generally doesn't draw much of an audience from the 18- to 24-year-old demographic. Otherwise, history professors across the nation could very well be witnessing the undoing of their work to educate students about the dire economic climate the United States faced for much of the 1930s.
Those who have been watching cable news lately have undoubtedly noticed the litany of conservative media figures attempting to rewrite history by denigrating the tremendous successes of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal policies in what amounts to an orchestrated effort to derail the economic recovery plans of President Obama.
Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume recently called Roosevelt's policies "a jihad against private enterprise," just after claiming that "everybody agrees, I think, on both sides of the spectrum now, that the New Deal failed." That may be accurate if by "both sides of the spectrum" Hume is referring to the right and far-right over at Fox News.
Hume's own jihad against the facts, however, represents only a small portion of the historical misrepresentations passed off as reasoned debate about the New Deal.
Karl Frisch is a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog, research, and information center based in Washington, DC. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign-up to receive his columns by email.
A shorter version of this column first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.
Over the past few weeks, the news media has repeatedly portrayed President Obama and (especially) congressional Democrats as being insufficiently "bipartisan" and "centrist" in their approach to the stimulus package. These news reports often seem to suggest that bipartisanship is an end in and of itself, rather than a means to an end. Worse, as I explained in a recent column, they blamed the wrong party for the lack of bipartisan cooperation:
So, to sum up: The Democrats -- who won landslide electoral victories in both 2006 and 2008 and whose policy positions enjoy broad public support -- offered a bill that included a mix of tax cuts and spending, that removed provisions the Republicans didn't like. The Republicans, having lost badly in the past two elections and enjoying about as much popularity as a kick in the head, offered a bill that consisted solely of their own priority, tax cuts.
And yet the Mark Halperins of the world blast Obama and the Democrats for not compromising enough. Absolutely incredible.
Today, a new Gallup poll shows that not only were these news reports factually and logically flawed, they were - once again - painfully out of touch with the American people.
According to Gallup, 67 percent of Americans approve of President Obama's handling of the stimulus bill, while only 25 percent disapprove. And more American approve rather than disapprove of Congressional Democrats handling of the bill, though by a much smaller margin than Obama enjoys.
The Republicans, on the other hand, fare much worse. Only 31 percent of Americans approve of their handling of the stimulus, while 58 percent disapprove.
And this despite weeks of news reports that perversely suggest the Democrats have been insufficiently bipartisan, and that falsely suggest that that the GOP's tax cut proposals would be more stimulative than government spending on things like unemployment benefits and food stamps.
Just imagine what the poll numbers would be had the media coverage of the stimulus debate not been so skewed in the Republicans' favor.
Armstrong Williams' column in today's Washington Times features this passage:
For two consecutive election cycles, Republicans suffered humiliating losses because they couldn't grasp the weight of their corruptive ways and the bitterness it left with voters. Obama's team helped to blur that line last week, and today, the administration has lost the moral high ground.
"Moral high ground"? Armstrong Williams, you might recall, is most famous for taking secret payments from the government in exchange for using his platform as a "journalist" to promote government policies. The only thing Armstrong Williams knows about the "moral high ground" is that it's an awfully long way up.
I ask because it struck me as odd that Friday night, during his hour-long program that looked at the new president and his first weeks in office, Rose invited a partisan Republican-friendly columnist, David Brooks of the New York Times, to pontificate for the first 24 minutes of the show; to basically list all the mistakes Obama had made.
I can't find archives for the Charlie Rose shows that go back to 2001, but I'd sure be interested if three weeks into George W. Bush's first term, Rose handed over nearly 30 minutes to a liberal columnist and allowed him/her to details all the mistakes Bush had made during his first 20 days in office. My hunch is Rose did not because that would have been seen as an unfair way to treat a new Republican president. But with a Democrat in the White House, it seems perfectly natural for the Beltway media to hand over all kinds of air time to Republican to critique the White House, and do so without interruption.
Brook's message to viewers nationwide on Charlie Rose? The first weeks for Obama had been "not so great." The stimulus bill was "troubling." The bill was "so far to the left" that it "offended Republicans." Brooks was concerned "Barack Obama does not have a mantle of leadership" and blamed Obama for being "a lot more partisan in recent days." The columnist also claimed there was too much White House in-fighting among Obama's senior advisers.
The theme that Brooks hit over and over during his 24-minute interview was that Democrats, and Democrats alone, was responsible for the lack of bipartisan support for the stimulus bill because Democrats had crafted such an awful piece of legislation. And that of course Republicans would have supported Obama, if only Democrats had simply written a better bill.
Brooks lamented the fact that Obama hadn't used the stimulus bill to build bipartisan support for future legislative efforts. And that the White House blew it and Republicans were completely blameless for the lack of cooperation. (It's called the "bipartisan" trap.)
And note Charlie Rose did not interview anybody else during the program to provide any sort of counter balance to Brooks' skewed, GOP-friendly analysis. (The second segment featured D.C. journalists who said pretty much exactly what you'd expect them to about Obama and the stimulus bill.) My hunch is that Beltway elites see critiques like the one Brooks' offered (i.e. it's all the Dems' fault) as the unvarnished truth and so there's really no reason to include any other voices in the discussion.
Had a fascinating discussion about the Beltway press on Moyers' most recent PBS program. To watch it click here.
Well, what cannot be considered is that there could be anything radically wrong with Washington. That the entire institution could be broken. That there are new rules necessary. That idea, that the institutions of Washington have failed and need to be changed, doesn't really occur to the press, because they're one of those institutions.
Question: What's the easiest CW column to write this week?
Answer: How Obama 'lost control' of the stimulus bill message.
Question: What's the No. 1 rule when writing that CW column?
And, of course, if there's an easy, CW column to write, than MoDo's on the case. Right on cue, she typed up all the agreed upon Beltway memes about how the Obama White House had been "overwhelmed and slow to understand" it was losing the P.R. offensive.
And wouldn't you know it, she also completely ignored the role the press played in how the stimulus 'debate' unfolded over the last two weeks. For MoDo, the press played no role in the debate. None. The fact that during one week twice as many Republicans vs. Dems were invited onto cable TV to 'debate' the bill? That had nothing to do with the White House falling behind in its messaging. The fact that the media effortlessly regurgitated GOP talking points about the bill? Again, according to MoDo and Beltway elites, that had no impact on how the bill was perceived. It was all irrelevant.
Did the White House make missteps in publicly framing the stimulus bill. Some insiders there might concede they did. At the same time, the press has spent the last two weeks dramatically effecting the stimulus 'debate.' Why won't journalists acknowledge that? How can the media have no impact on a public policy debate?
UPDATE: Howard Kurtz, who hosts a news program about the media, adds to chorus of Beltway journalists who claim Republicans "did manage to take control of the [stimulus] debate," yet remains blissfully unaware of--or uninterested in--how the media may have created that GOP advantage.
Notice the interesting shift that took place in the Beltway reporting after word broke that a tentative deal was reached to pass his stimulus package. Now that the bill will likely pass the press has changed gears.
While acknowledging that yes, Obama's centerpiece initiative will become law, some in the press now stress it wont' pass the right way. Lots of Republicans aren't going to vote for it, therefore Obama has failed. It's a completely new standard the press is using to judge a new president. Nonetheless, the yes/but meme is everywhere. Like in this weekend's NYT [emphasis added] .
With the Senate on track to pass its version of the economic stimulus legislation, President Obama is widely expected to win final Congressional approval of the plan soon, and thus make good on an assortment of his campaign promises. But in the process, he is confronting the impediments to his most ambitious pledge: to end the capital's partisan warfare.
Obama has been president less than 21 days, but the Times is anxious to note that he's failed to end two decades worth of partisan sniping. In less than three weeks Obama has not completely transformed the Beltway culture. That's a fair standard to judge him by, right?
Also, did Obama really campaign on the promise that he alone would "end" partisan warfare. If the Times' Jackie Calmes can point to the campaign quotes Obama made, than I'll believe it. (And if he said he'd end partisan warfare in 21 days, I'll donate money to Calmes' favorite charity.) But I'm pretty sure Obama said the country needed to end partisan warfare, that it must be done, and that he'd do everything he could to end it. But that he, singled-handedly, would accomplish the goal? I must have missed those claims.
Also, note that the emphasis of the Times article was what the lack of bipartisan success said about Obama. How he would react, did it highlight deficiencies in his leadership, etc. As for Republicans and what the lack of bipartisanship meant, the Times, and the rest of the press, couldn't care less. The onus for cooperation is on Obama. Period.
It's called the bipartisan trap.