New York Times columnist David Brooks made the unconvincing case that President Obama has faced so much partisan gridlock because he "offered a conventional Democratic agenda." In reality, Obama has often offered compromise proposals, but his would-be negotiating partners vowed on the day the president took office to ruthlessly oppose Obama's agenda.
Brooks wrote that a truly effective president must be a "craftsman" who gets legislation passed through compromise:
[T]he craftsman has to understand that stylistic pragmatism has to be accompanied by substance pragmatism. Barack Obama really wanted to move beyond stale battle lines. But he offered a conventional Democratic agenda. If you want to break the partisan stagnation, you have to come up with an unexpected policy agenda that will scramble the categories. You have to mix proposals from columns A and B.
In fact, Obama has repeatedly offered compromise proposals. For instance:
But Republicans have engaged in what congressional experts say are historic levels of obstruction. And Republicans' own statements show that this obstruction is no accident.
As reporter Robert Draper has detailed, on the very day of Obama's inauguration, Republican leaders held a secret meeting to work out how best to block Obama's agenda. Part of the plan involved showing "united and unyielding opposition to the president's economic policies." Also in 2009, Republican Senator Jim DeMint (SC) encouraged supporters to oppose efforts to reform health care in order to make health care reform Obama's "Waterloo."
Furthermore, in 2010, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the "single most important thing" Republicans want to achieve "is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
It is only by ignoring all of this evidence that Brooks could conclude that Obama would have been more effective if only he had compromised a little more.
From the September 23 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
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A study published by scholars at Vanderbilt University titled "The National News Media's Effect on Congress: How the Spread of Fox News Affected Elites in Congress" found that between its incorporation in 1996 through 2000, Fox News exerted a "modest effect on elected officials' positions," which became "slightly more conservative."
The study concluded:
[W]e find no evidence that Fox News increased the probability that an incumbent would be replaced by a more conservative representative, but we do find consistent evidence that elected officials become slightly more conservative once Fox News enters their district. Moreover, the effect is largest among Democrats located to the left of Fox News in the ideological spectrum.
Dana Perino misinformed viewers of Fox's The Five while trying to whitewash the record of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on reproductive rights. Perino criticized co-host Bob Beckel for tying Ryan to Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) through their mutual support of a bill that would limit reproductive rights in cases involving rape. But Ryan's views are more closely tied to Akin than Perino would like to admit.
Akin generated a firestorm by responding to a question about why he supports a ban on abortions even in cases of rape by stating that conception resulting from "legitimate rape" is very rare.
And Ryan and Akin both support bans on abortion with no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape. Both Ryan and Akin also co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which as originally conceived, limited the circumstances for which federal funding for abortion have traditionally been available.
Longstanding provisions of federal law have allowed federal funding for abortion in circumstances in which a pregnancy threatened to endanger the life of the pregnant woman or resulted from rape or incest. In its original form, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act rewrote these provisions so that federal funding for abortions would only be available in cases of "forcible rape," incest involving a minor, and situations in which the pregnant woman's life is in danger from a physical illness.
Furthermore, when trying to explain what he meant by "legitimate rape," Akin has said that he actually meant to say "forcible rape," the very term that was originally included in the No Taxpayer for Abortion Act.
Perino's attempt to downplay Ryan's position on abortion is part of a conservative media pattern. Fox and others in the conservative media have attempted to downplay or distort the GOP's radical stance on women's health issues. Indeed, earlier on the same show, when Beckel tried to make the same point, he was scolded by his co-hosts, who insisted that they should "focus on the issues at hand."
Right-wing media figures have downplayed and dismissed Republican Congressman Todd Akin's controversial remarks on rape and abortion, calling them "dumb" and a distraction. But Akin's rhetoric is reflected in actual policies pushed by conservatives.
From the June 20 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the June 14 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight:
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Congressional experts Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman J. Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute appeared on MSNBC's Up w/ Chris Hayes this morning to detail the Republican Party's "all-out war" against President Obama. They explained how the GOP has "been aggressively oppositional in every respect" and how it has succeeded in using parliamentary tools "to deny the majority an opportunity to act."
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele objected, arguing that President Obama and the Democratic Party deserve just as much blame for the current political gridlock as Republicans.
This notion that it's Obama and the Democrats who refuse to compromise on policy issues is absurd, but it is an oft-repeated claim that media outlets and conservatives fling out to deflect from, and obscure, Republican obstructionism. Indeed, as Ornstein and Mann pointed out, the fault lies entirely with the Republicans.
From the June 3 edition of MSNBC's Up W/ Chris Hayes:
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Bill O'Reilly attacked a bipartisan group of 168 members of Congress for voting against a bill that criminalizes certain abortions under the guise of preventing sex-selective abortions. In particular, O'Reilly singled out Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), mocking a clip of her saying, "We're going back to the days of coat hangers. That's what they want to do. They want to criminalize doctors because what that says is, how do you know that a doctor is engaged in helping a woman abort because of the particular gender of the fetus?"
But Jackson Lee is correct.
As Jackson Lee noted, if passed, the bill would make it a felony for doctors to perform certain abortions. Opponents of the bill point out that the legislation could lead to racial profiling, would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, authorizes the government, spouses, and other family members to get court injunctions to stop abortions, has serious constitutional problems, and, according to experts, would not actually be effective at stopping sex-selective abortions.
Moreover, Jackson Lee is correct that the ultimate goal of legislation such as this is to "go back to the days of coat hangers."
Indeed, one of the bill's proponents has made it quite clear that the "ultimate end" of the legislation is to prevent all abortions. According to House Judiciary Committee members who voted against the bill:
[S]ome proponents of this legislation have publicly admitted that it is intended to undermine, and ultimately overturn, the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. For example, Steven Mosher, who testified at the Constitution Subcommittee hearing on this legislation, has written:
I propose that we -- the pro-life movement -- adopt as our next goal the banning of sex- and race-selective abortion. By formally protecting all female fetuses from abortion on ground of their sex, we would plant in the law the proposition that the developing child is a being whose claims on us should not depend on their sex.
Of course, this suggestion is not original with me. It was originally made by the redoubtable Hadley Arkes, who wrote in the pages of First Things in 1994 that ''we seek simply to preserve the life of the child who survives the abortion. From that modest beginning, we might go on to restrict abortions after the point of ''viability,'' or we could ban those abortions ordered up simply because the child happens to be a female. We could move in this way, in a train of moderate steps, each one commanding a consensus in the public, and each one tending, intelligibly, to the ultimate end, which is to protect the child from its earliest moments.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly advocated for a bill that undermines women's health and reproductive rights under the guise of preventing sex-selective abortions, threatening to shame the bill's opponents as "in sync" with China's one-child policy. However, the bill in question has been criticized by doctors, civil rights and women's groups as unconstitutional, an invasion of the doctor-patient relationship, and ineffective in preventing sex-selective abortions.
Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, two well-respected, centrist congressional experts, will make their first Sunday talk show appearance on the June 3 edition of MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes after being largely ignored by the media following their recent conclusion that Republicans are responsible for the current "dysfunctional" Congress.
On today's edition of his show, Hayes announced that Mann and Ornstein would make their "long-awaited, controversial first appearance on a national Sunday news program" to discuss their Washington Post op-ed and new book detailing the causes of political gridlock in Washington.
As The Washington Post's Greg Sargent and others have noted, Mann and Ornstein have been shut out of the Sunday morning talk shows since their April 29 op-ed. Moreover, as Media Matters' has reported, the top five national newspapers failed to mention Mann and Ornstein's recent observations about the dysfunction in Congress even though they regularly quoted the pair in past news articles.
Media Matters also found that in the months following the publication of Mann and Ornstein's 2006 book, The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (which was critical of both Democrats and Republicans), the two frequently appeared and were quoted on cable news shows, suggesting that the media is now giving Republicans a pass to avoid appearing biased.
The Daily Caller recently reported that "$3.1 billion in DOE loan guarantees" to First Solar "created mostly overseas jobs." In fact, the chairman of First Solar testified before Congress that "all the jobs directly created with the loan guarantees" are American.
The Daily Caller embedded video of his testimony in its report, but apparently didn't watch it all the way through. Neither did right-wing news aggregator Weasel Zippers, which ran with a similarly misleading headline.
In a House Oversight Committee hearing, Chairman Darrell Issa attempted to make hay of the fact that First Solar, which is based in Arizona and employs thousands in the U.S., also has solar projects and employees overseas. But Michael Ahearn, the chairman of First Solar, clarified that the loan guarantees only support projects in the U.S.:
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): OK, so jobs created with loan guarantees, stimulus, and others, basically not American.
MICHAEL AHEARN, FIRST SOLAR: No, no, all those jobs are American and all the jobs directly created with the loan guarantee.
Appearing on Fox News today, Fox News contributor Christopher Hahn called out conservative talking points by pointing out that Senate Republicans constantly resort to filibusters to block bills that have the support of a majority of senators.
As we've pointed out, the conservative media have been hiding Republican obstructionism in order to label Democratic senators as "lazy" and "do-nothing." But Republicans have repeatedly resorted to filibusters to block legislation -- such as bills to ensure that the richest Americans pay their fair share in taxes -- that would otherwise have passed the Senate. Republicans are on a pace to filibuster more often than Democrats did when they were in the minority.
Today, Republican strategist Chip Saltsman, a regular Fox guest, claimed that the Republican House is passing bills but the Democratic Senate is not. In response, Hahn pointed out that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that his most important goal was "to make sure that President Obama was a one-term president." Hahn added that McConnell has tried to do that by "block[ing] everything, using the filibuster more than any time in the history of this country."
The conservative hosts of Fox News' The Five acted horrified at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's statement that she wants to "amend the Constitution" to reverse the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, a decision that Pelosi said "flies in the face of our founders' vision." The Fox hosts acted as if this was a radical idea, but Fox hosts and congressional Republicans have repeatedly proposed amending the Constitution.