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In the wake of the stimulus bill agreemenet in Congress, the New York Times leans heavily on the yes/but angle regarding what it means politicially for the new president [emphasis added]:
It is a quick, sweet victory for the new president, and potentially a historic one. The question now is whether the $789 billion economic stimulus plan agreed to by Congressional leaders on Wednesday is the opening act for a more ambitious domestic agenda from President Obama or a harbinger of reduced expectations. Both the substance of his first big legislative accomplishment and the way he achieved it underscored the scale of the challenges facing the nation and how different a political climate this is from the early stages of recent administrations.
As we recently noted, the way the Beltway press has traditionally judged a new president was, could he get his legislative initiatves passed? But with Obama, that's morphed into, can he get his initiatives passed in a certain way? i.e. Could he pass his plan and make Republicans happy. Because if Republicans are not happy with the stimulus plan, than Obama has failed. Again, this is a press standard that's been created for Obama, and Obama only.
The Times stresses, "His inability to win over more than a handful of Republicans amounted to a loss of innocence...So this was hardly a moment for cigars."
This was all telegraphed weeks ago. For instance, The Hill had already announced, "If the bill is approved by Congress with minimal GOP support, the partisan nature of how the legislation got to his desk will be a key storyline when Obama signs the measure."
Who will determine that "key storyline"? The Beltway press corps, of course.
UPDATE: Leave it to ABC's The Note to succinctly capture the prevailing Betlway inanities. In this case, the yes/but talking point:
Few presidents have been able to claim a victory of this magnitude, in scope and sweep, this early in a presidency...But this is a victory that's stocked with the possibility of losses.
Do you follow? By any historical marker the bill is a victory. But there's the possibility it might not be.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank, "who was supposed to be in charge of oversight, running the House Finance Committee, he didn't do his job because he was ideologically blinded. He wanted to give mortgages to everybody." In fact, Frank has advocated for policies that emphasize low-income home rentals as opposed to homeownership.
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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.
NBC News' John Yang baselessly suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is rushing an agreement on the economic recovery bill because she "has a congressional delegation trip to Italy scheduled to leave on Friday, and of course, the speaker's maiden name is D'Alesandro, and she would dearly love not to miss that trip." In fact, Pelosi has said, "If we don't have [a bill] by the time of the Presidents recess, there will be no recess."
Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that a homeless woman at President Obama's Fort Myers town hall event asked Obama for a "car" and "a new kitchen." In fact, Henrietta Hughes was simply saying that she needs housing. She stated: "[W]e need something more than a vehicle and parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help."
Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have repeatedly claimed that President Reagan's tax cuts were responsible for ending the recession in the early 1980s, suggesting that tax cuts, and not government spending, would be the best solution to the end the current recession. However, several economists have stated that while fiscal policy had some impact during that period, "[l]ower interest rates after mid-1982 permitted the recovery to begin," according to a 1983 CBO report. By contrast, a reduction in the federal funds interest rate is not available to the Federal Reserve today because the current rate is essentially zero.
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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.
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During appearances on Lou Dobbs Tonight and Glenn Beck, Dobbs and Beck allowed Betsy McCaughey to advance the false claim that provisions in the economic recovery act would permit the government to control health care. In fact, the provisions she cited address establishing an electronic records system in part for the purpose of "reduc[ing] health care costs resulting from inefficiency, medical errors, inappropriate care, duplicative care, and incomplete information." It does not say that the federal government will determine what constitutes "unnecessary care."
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