Drudge-hyped Wash. Times "analysis" cited only Republicans to declare Obama's " 'Doom' talk scored as 'not Presidential' "


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."

In a February 9 Washington Times "analysis" titled, " 'Doom' talk scored as 'not Presidential' " -- promoted by the Drudge Report and ABCNews.com's The Note -- senior White House correspondent Joseph Curl quoted only Republican pollster Frank Luntz and Republican strategist Brad Blakeman to support the headline's assertion that President Obama's purported language of "doom" has been deemed "not presidential." Curl also asserted that Obama "has sought to terrify Americans into supporting" the economic recovery bill and uncritically quoted Blakeman's claim that "[w]hen [Obama] goes to 'DefCon 5' on the economy and says that we're on the brink of catastrophe, it's absolutely insane." But Curl ignored reports that many economists agree that substantial fiscal stimulus is urgently needed given the current economic conditions, and that time is of the essence.

For instance, in a February 8 article, The Washington Post reported, "While economists remain divided on the role of government generally, an overwhelming number from both parties are saying that a government stimulus package -- even a flawed one -- is urgently needed to help prevent a steeper slide in the economy." The Post continued:

Many economists say the precise size and shape of the package developing in Congress matter less than the timing, and that any delay is damaging.

"Most of the things in the package, the big dollar amounts, are things that are pretty quick stimulus and need to be done," said Alice Rivlin, who was former president Bill Clinton's budget director and who criticized aspects of the proposed stimulus in congressional testimony two weeks ago. "Is it a perfect package? Of course not. But we're past that. Let's just do it."

Economists who initially rejected the need for fiscal stimulus have warmed to the idea, too. Several months ago, Alan Viard, a Bush administration economist now at the American Enterprise Institute, thought the right size for a government spending bill was "probably zero." He favored reliance on the Federal Reserve to slash interest rates and existing unemployment benefits to bolster the jobless.

Now Viard shares the view that a stimulus package is needed, although he would prefer one limited primarily to tax cuts and direct benefits for victims of the recession, such as increased unemployment benefits.

"Things have gotten so bad so quickly," Viard said. "We have now lost 3.6 million jobs, a stunning loss. But what's more horrifying is that half that loss has occurred in the last three months. This is a severe recession. There's no doubt about it."


In Hawaii on Friday, San Francisco Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen added her voice to the supporters of quick action on a stimulus measure.

"In ordinary circumstances, there are good reasons why monetary, rather than fiscal, policy should be used to stabilize the economy," she said, citing lags in adopting and implementing government spending programs. "The result is that fiscal stimulus sometimes kicks in only after the need has passed. However, the current situation is extraordinary, making the case for fiscal action very strong."

Yellen said, "There is -- and there should be -- vigorous debate about the form it should take and about the likely effectiveness of particular fiscal strategies. However, it is critical that decisions on these matters be made on a timely basis so that the economy's downward spiral is not allowed to deepen."

From Curl's February 9 Washington Times "analysis":

From crisis to catastrophe. Off a cliff. Dark, darker, darkest. Mortal danger of absolute collapse. Armageddon.

President Obama and top Democrats on Capitol Hill are deploying these and other stark predictions of doom and gloom to push through their economic-stimulus package. In terms not heard in Washington since the late 1970s under President Jimmy Carter's watch, the new president has sought to terrify Americans into supporting the $800 billion-plus bailout bill.

While President Bush was accused shortly after taking office in 2001 of "talking down the economy" - and for saying the economy was "slowing down" - Mr. Obama is using ever-heightening hyperbole to hammer home his message. But the strategy brings great risk for the "Yes, We Can" man, who just three weeks ago told America in his inaugural address that despite "a sapping of confidence across our land," his election meant Americans had "chosen hope over fear."

"Mr. Hope has to be careful not to become Dr. Doom," said Frank Luntz, a political consultant and author of the book "Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear."

"The danger for him is using the Jimmy Carter malaise rhetoric, particularly for Mr. Obama, who was elected because people thought he was the solution. There's only so much negativity they will tolerate from him before they will feel betrayed," Mr. Luntz said.

Brad Blakeman, a senior aide to Mr. Bush from 2001 to 2004, said the new president's language is immature.

"It's not presidential. An American leader needs to be hopeful and optimistic - and truthful. Everything he says is parsed; everything he says is searched for deep meaning. When he goes to 'DefCon 5' on the economy and says that we're on the brink of catastrophe, it's absolutely insane."

Posted In
Economy, Government, The Presidency & White House
The Washington Times
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