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.
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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.
The Washington Post uncritically reported RNC chairman Michael Steele's statement that "government -- federal, state or local -- has never created one job." In fact, about 15 percent of the labor force is employed by federal, state, or local government, and Steele himself has acknowledged that funds included in the recovery bill for school construction will create jobs "[f]or a short term, yes. It's a construction job."
In a fundraising email "[p]aid for by The National Republican Trust PAC," Dick Morris claimed that "the Democrats want to give almost $5 billion to groups like ACORN" in the recovery bill. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding; ACORN itself has said that it is ineligible for the funds and has no plans to apply for them.
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A Washington Times "analysis," promoted by the Drudge Report and ABCNews.com's The Note, quoted only Republicans to make the claim that President Obama's purported language of "doom" regarding the economy has been deemed "not presidential."
On its website and on Your World, Fox News has promoted the misrepresentation of a provision in the economic recovery bill to make false claims about restrictions on spending in the bill for religious activities in schools. In fact, the provision is nearly identical to provisions included in numerous other federal bills.
On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer adopted the often repeated Republican talking point that some government spending in the recovery package currently being debated in the Senate is not stimulus. In fact, while testifying about the bill, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf said that CBO and "most economists" believe that "all of the increase in government spending ... provides some stimulative effect."
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.
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