Fox News is pushing fatally flawed analogies to defend Mitt Romney from criticism over his jobs record at Bain Capital, pointing to the Obama administration's green energy loans and the successful rescue of the U.S. auto industry. These comparisons crumble under scrutiny, as leveraged buyouts are different from providing bankruptcy financing or loans.
The publication last week of an excerpt from a forthcoming Barack Obama biography sparked an especially frenzied response from conservative bloggers who view the president's distant personal past with an unhealthy fascination.
The book's new revelation about the identity of a girlfriend Obama had soon after he graduated college nearly 30 years ago, along with the other biographical nuggets, were deemed to be crucial pieces of information that had gone missing during the 2008 campaign season. Washington Examiner columnist Byron York bemoaned the fact that the Vanity Fair excerpt revealed "a portrait of Obama that might have enriched the voters' understanding of him in the 2008 campaign."
Indeed, for conservatives, previously unearthed details about Obama post-college girlfriend represented the latest piece of evidence that reporters hadn't done enough digging during the previous campaign. That they never grilled the candidate; that they ignored the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story! (Fact: They covered it. Exhaustively.)
But this time around, it's going to be different. Obama's (supposedly mysterious) life story is going to be fleshed out during the 2012 campaign.
Under the headline, "Re-Vetting Wars: Obama's Girlfriends Speak," American Thinker blogger Thomas Lifson noted "One of the foremost concerns of the Obama re-election effort is the promised re-vetting of Obama, playing off the widespread perception that the media utterly failed to investigate the reality beneath the highly manufactured identity peddled in 2008."
That vow to "vet" the president has become a mantra this year. Addressing CPAC this winter, Andrew Breitbart declared "[T]his election we're going to vet him," and specifically promised to "vet" Obama's "college days." (Days after Breitbart died in March, his site unveiled the "college days" vetting he had promised; it did not go well for Team Breitbart.)
That same month, Sean Hannity announced it was clear that Obama's "friends" in the press made sure "that his past remains un-vetted," while Hannity's angry guest Michelle Malkin reported it was time to "vet the prez."
The vetting obsession however, doesn't spring from a natural affinity for fact checking. Instead, it's used to bolster the broader conservative argument that the real reason Obama won an electoral landslide victory in 2008 was because the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is. And, by extension, if Obama wins re-election in November, the only reason will be because for his four years in office, the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is.
The conspiracy theory serves as a convenient catchall excuse for why Obama succeeds electorally despite the conservative press' depiction of him as a monster determined to destroy the American economy and ruin our way of life. That's all accurate, the bloggers insists. It's just that the liberal media hasn't properly conveyed all the crucial information to voters.
Media conservatives are pushing the narrative that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's attacks against President Obama over the economy will be effective because Obama favored health care reform rather than focusing on "fixing the economy." However, this narrative falters when confronted with the facts, including that Obama pushed through the first of many economic initiatives a month after he was elected -- more than a year before health care reform became law.
During last night's Fox News debate, moderator Byron York questioned Rep. Michele Bachmann about her 2006 remark that her "husband said you should study for a degree in tax law. You said you hated the idea. And then you explained, 'But the Lord said, 'Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.'" York asked Bachmann, "As president, would you be submissive to your husband?" The question received loud boos from the audience, and was the subject of attention in write-ups of the debate.
York defended the question on Fox & Friends this morning, saying: "This is a serious and legitimate question about something she has said and believe me, if she progresses very far in the campaign process, she would have been asked this question. And I personally thought she handled it very well. She handled it much more human -- it was like a very human moment for her."
Appearing on The Mike Gallagher Show, fellow moderator Chris Wallace also defended York's question, saying, that "in these days of women's liberation ... it is worthy of note." Wallace added that "sometimes a difficult or, you know, a somewhat touchy question gets a really good answer and I give him props for that." From the show:
WALLACE: The fact is, she had said this. It seemed, in these days of women's liberation, for her to say 'I didn't want to be a tax lawyer but the Bible says to submit, and so I submitted,' it is -- it is worthy of note. It is something that -- and I think people -- and let's face it, she gave a great answer.
GALLAGHER: Oh, it sure was.
WALLACE: And it gave you a real insight into who she was --
GALLAGHER: I think I'm just really hypersensitive about the way these strong, conservative women just get vilified by everybody.
WALLACE: I think he was trying to elicit information and he did elicit information. And I -- look, we're in a tough spot here. They're running for president, we're not running for anything except trying to do our job. And our job is -- as opposed to most of the time, when we ask questions and it's often, you know, not on camera, and not live. The newsgathering process is happening here like the sausage making for everybody to see. But sometimes a difficult or, you know, a somewhat touchy question gets a really good answer and I give him props for that.
Wallace concluded by joking, "I must also say, that after my own problems with Newt Gingrich, the fact that the crowd was booing Byron was really quite wonderful. I was very happy it wasn't me."
In honor of the one year anniversary of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Media Matters presents a timeline of one of the most disgraceful and pernicious myths about the law--death panels.
Oh, boy. Here comes another conservative columnist peddling revisionist history about the 1995/96 government shutdown in an attempt to convince Republicans to again shut down the government.
A few weeks ago, I noted that columnist Tony Blankley, who served as press secretary to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich during the shutdown, was wrong to claim that "the issue of deficit spending and public debt was of much less concern to the public than it is now."
Now here's Byron York:
Even if the 1995 shutdown hurt the GOP -- and there's no doubt the party suffered wounds inflicted not only by Clinton but also by themselves -- today's voters are in a different mood. "We have fiscal crises at the federal, state and local levels, and voters understand that," says Bill Paxon, a former Republican lawmaker and veteran of the shutdown. "Back in '95, we were whistling into the wind -- we were trying to preach fiscal discipline when voters were saying, 'Hey, there's not a problem.'"
And here's reality:
Then, as now, reporting suggested the public cared deeply about fiscal discipline. (And then, as now, there's every reason to think the public cares more about other things, like jobs and Social Security and Medicare.)
More from York:
Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner have learned from their mistakes. "Our goal is to cut spending and reduce the size of government, not to shut it down," Boehner said recently -- a statement he has repeated many times. Contrast that to 1995, when, Paxon recalls, "We said we wanted to shut down the government, that it was a good thing, that it would get people's attention, that it would advance our cause."
Contrary to Paxon's suggestion that in 1995, Republicans were publicly saying they wanted to shut down the government, Republicans at the time tried to blame Bill Clinton for the shutdown. One such Republican was (wait for it …) Bill Paxon:
"Rep. Bill Paxon, R-Amherst, said: 'We are making a down payment on a balanced budget, and it is unfortunate that the president is willing to shut down government to prevent us from balancing the budget.'" [Buffalo News, November 15, 1995]
"Paxon said the vote put retirement funds at risk to 'aid and abet President Clinton's shutdown of the federal government.'" [Bismarck Tribune, November 19, 1995]
In his Washington Examiner column today, Byron York takes a swing at press coverage of the Pentagon's service member survey regarding Don't Ask Don't Tell. York makes much of the fact that among troops with combat experience, larger percentages of service members predict a "negative effect." From York's column:
Press coverage of the new Pentagon Don't Ask Don't Tell report suggests that large majorities of U.S. servicemen and women wouldn't mind the repeal of the military's current policy on gays. Don't believe it. What the report actually shows is that the military is deeply divided over the policy, both between the service branches and especially between those who have served in combat and those who haven't. Did you know that 59 percent of Marines who have served in combat say repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell would have a negative effect? And that 45 percent of Army respondents who have been in combat say the same thing? That is significant, not marginal, opposition.
True, among service members with deployment experience and those in combats arms units, larger percentages of those surveyed predict negative results. However, an overwhelming majority (84 percent) of Marines in combat arms units who have had actual experience working in a unit with a service member believed to be gay said that the unit's "ability to work together" was either "very good," "good," or "neither good nor poor." That number is even higher (89 percent) among Army combat arms units and higher still (92 percent) among the services at large. From page 6 of the report, emphasis added:
Given that we are in a time of war, the combat arms communities across all Services required special focus and analysis. Though the survey results demonstrate a solid majority of the overall U.S. military who predict mixed, positive or no effect in the event of repeal, these percentages are lower, and the percentage of those who predict negative effects are higher, in combat arms units. For example, in response to question 68a, while the percentage of the overall U.S. military that predicts negative or very negative effects on their unit's ability to "work together to get the job done" is 30%, the percentage is 43% for the Marine Corps, 48% within Army combat arms units, and 58% within Marine combat arms units.
However, while a higher percentage of Service members in warfighting units predict negative effects of repeal, the percentage distinctions between warfighting units and the entire military are almost non-existent when asked about the actual experience of serving in a unit with someone believed to be gay. For example, when those in the overall military were asked about the experience of working with someone they believed to be gay or lesbian, 92% stated that their unit's "ability to work together," was "very good, "good" or "neither good nor poor." Meanwhile, in response to the same question, the percentage is 89% for those in Army combat arms units and 84% for those in Marine combat arms units--all very high percentages. Anecdotally, we heard much the same. As one special operations force warfighter told us, "We have a gay guy [in the unit]. He's big, he's mean, and he kills lots of bad guys. No one cared that he was gay."
However much the conservative media would like to preserve the myths about DADT, the fact is that countries that have repealed gay bans follow a familiar pattern. Surveys of troops often suggested widespread resistance to policy change, but repeal did not undermine unit cohesion, effectiveness, or recruitment and retention.
Fox News has forwarded Sheriff Joe Arpaio's claim that he is cooperating with a Department of Justice investigation into charges of racial profiling, and that the investigation is politically motivated. However, Arpaio's own lawyer has reportedly acknowledged that they have not fully cooperated, and the inquiry began during the Bush administration.
During a recent interview on Al Jazeera, NASA administrator Charles Bolden discussed President Obama's efforts to improve Muslim outreach and said that Obama "wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering." Bolden said that this wasn't "a diplomatic anything. What it is is that [Obama is] trying to expand our outreach, so that we can get more people to contribute to the things that we do." Bolden then discussed examples of other countries' valuable contributions to the International Space Station and added: "So it is a matter of trying to reach out to get the best of all worlds, if you will. And there is much to be gained from drawing the contributions that are possible from Muslim nations."
Of course, since an Obama official made completely noncontroversial comments about reaching out to the Muslim world in order to gain contributions to the fields of science and technology, the right-wing media freaked out.
From the Washington Examiner, published on June 22:
The former military man is under no illusions about the general nature of relations between the military and the civilian leadership. "I don't consider this an anomaly," he says. "You can find examples of this going back to the founding of the republic. Nevertheless, it is very disturbing that he would have such disdain for the civilian leadership."
Obama is in a bind with McChrystal. There's no doubt Obama would be fully justified in firing his top general. But at the same time Obama has committed himself to a rigid timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Changing commanders could complicate that enormously. Right now, because of his own policy decisions, the president has no good choice.
From the June 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Byron York promoted claims made against Elena Kagan in a 1999 report issued by a House Resources Committee task force composed of two discredited Republican members. However, the task force was criticized by Democrats for "failing to meet even minimum standards of objectivity," and even Ed Whelan has said the allegations are "highly speculative."
Conservative media have claimed that Arizona's new immigration law only allows law enforcement to question a person's immigration status if they are suspected of an unrelated offense. But in a statement given to Media Matters for America, a research analyst for the Arizona House Republican majority disputes these claims.
Fox News' Dana Perino and Byron York of The Washington Examiner channeled Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) criticism of Democrats for reportedly planning to pursue immigration reform legislation before a climate change bill. But last month, Graham himself reportedly called for President Obama to "step it up" on immigration reform efforts.
Right-wing media are falsely claiming that, in recent interviews and speeches, former President Bill Clinton compared the tea party movement to the domestic terrorists who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing. In fact, Clinton did no such thing; rather, he stressed the importance of citizens' ability to criticize the government, and in drawing "parallels" to the rhetoric leading to the bombing and the rhetoric today, he specifically limited his criticism to those currently advocating or encouraging violence.