Recent media reports on President Obama's judicial nominations misleadingly suggest that his confirmation record is now better than that of his predecessor George W. Bush, but rampant GOP obstructionism is still contributing to an alarming amount of "judicial emergencies" across the country.
National Review Online and the right-wing Heritage Foundation recently used Obama's overall total as well as his 2014 first quarter judicial confirmation numbers to claim that the president "outpaces" his Republican predecessor, at a rate that will eventually "steamroll" the total number of Bush appointments to the federal bench.
Unfortunately, this misinformation appears to have been spurred by recent media stories that reported raw confirmation numbers, without sufficient context. For example, according to Politico, Obama is now "outpacing George W. Bush on judges," because he has succeeded in getting 237 judges confirmed, while 234 judges were confirmed "by this point in [Bush's] presidency." This total number of seated judges is what right-wing media choose to focus on in their extrapolation of Obama's ultimate record, while ignoring the president's actual seating rate (confirmations in light of total vacancies). When the number of vacancies Obama has to deal with in comparison to Bush is added to an examination of their respective records, it is evident that the president still has a long road ahead to leave office with a rate similar to his predecessor, especially in the face of Republicans' unprecedented obstructionism.
Even though the total number of Obama's confirmations has exceeded Bush's, Obama has more vacancies to fill and has to appoint more nominees than his predecessor. According to the Alliance for Justice, "Only 79% of Obama's nominees have been confirmed compared to 89% at this same point for Bush; likewise, Obama has filled only 73% of the total judicial vacancies up to this point in his presidency, while Bush had filled about 82%." As a result, says AFJ, "Bush fared significantly better in getting his nominees confirmed" than Obama has so far.
This has real-world consequences by delaying and denying justice across the country.
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson has a history of illegal behavior and controversial comments -- facts that were left out of mainstream print reporting on GOP candidates trying to win his favor last week.
The Republican Jewish Coalition met March 27-29 in Las Vegas, and the event was dubbed the "Adelson Primary" as GOP presidential hopefuls used the meeting to fawn over magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a casino and resort operating firm, who reportedly spent nearly $150 million attempting to buy the 2012 election with donations to a super PAC aligned with Mitt Romney and other outside groups (including Karl Rove's American Crossroads). Before switching allegiance to Romney, Adelson had donated millions to Newt Gingrich. He has also given generously in the past to super PACs associated with a variety of Republican politicians, including Scott Walker, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, and Eric Cantor.
Hoping to benefit from Adelson's largesse, potential 2016 Republican candidates including Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush gathered at Adelson's casino to "kiss the ring."
While Republicans' efforts to court Adelson made big news in print media over the past week, none of the articles mentioning Adelson in The New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, or The Wall Street Journal mentioned that he has come under investigation for illegal business practices, including bribery, or his history of extreme remarks.
As Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) woos young voters ahead of an expected 2016 presidential bid, it's become conventional wisdom among many Beltway pundits that Paul could broaden the GOP's appeal with his ostensibly tolerant views on social issues - never mind that that this narrative is completely divorced from Paul's traditional conservative positions on such topics.
Paul's effort to win over Millennials and other constituencies historically suspicious of the GOP came to the fore with his March 19 speech at the University of California, Berkeley, where Paul condemned government surveillance programs as a threat to privacy.
The chattering class proclaimed that the speech was emblematic of Paul's appeal as an unconventional, "intriguing" Republican. And despite Paul's conservative stances on issues like marriage equality, reproductive choice, and creationism, many media outlets have also pointed to Paul as the kind of candidate who could help move the GOP away from its hardline social positions. It's a narrative that even some of Paul's conservative critics have come to accept, as Charles Krauthammer showed when he called Paul "very much a liberal on social issues."
A look at media coverage of Paul helps explain where Krauthammer got that notion.
The Heritage Foundation recently published a faulty report on the economic effects of the EPA's forthcoming carbon pollution regulations, and its findings have been repeated uncritically in conservative media despite the foundation's fossil fuel funding and the report's "deeply problematic" analysis.
The Heritage Foundation released their new report, titled "EPA's Climate Regulations Will Harm American Manufacturing," just as House Republicans have been ramping up their latest effort to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) carbon pollution regulations. On March 6, the House passed a bill that would heavily weaken the Clean Air Act and would "seriously cripple the Obama Administration's ongoing drive to curb dangerous carbon pollution," according to Dan Lashof of the NRDC (the bill is not expected to pass the Senate). This is part of the GOP's effort to curb what they call President Obama's "war on coal," a slogan the Heritage Foundation repeats in their report.
Many of the criticisms of the EPA's carbon pollution rules are misleading, but perhaps none are more so than those from the Heritage Foundation, an organization whose studies have previously been criticized by even the conservative American Enterprise Institute and libertarian Cato Institute. This time the organization released a report on the EPA with findings even more dire than its prematurely released data: that carbon regulations will reduce income, kill nearly 600,000 jobs including 336,000 manufacturing jobs in 2023 alone, cut a family of four's income by $1,200 a year, and cost the U.S. economy a total of $2.23 trillion. Their claims were repeated uncritically in the Daily Caller, FoxNews.com, and Politico's Morning Energy. But the entire report is "radically problematic" and has a "tenuous connection with reality," according to policy expert Michael Livermore in a phone call with Media Matters -- and here's why:
The benefits of clean air standards have been shown time and time again to significantly outweigh the costs. In fact, the Clean Air Act has already saved $22 trillion in healthcare costs, according to a cost-benefit analysis from the EPA.
And health experts agree. According to a press release from the American Lung Association (ALA), the carbon regulations would help prevent "more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030," due to lower levels of the particulate-forming pollution that comes from burning coal:
"Roughly half of the population in the United States currently lives in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution that is linked to serious illnesses, including asthma attacks, lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes and even death. Children are particularly susceptible to the health effects of air pollution because their lungs are still developing. Carbon pollution that fuels climate change will make it harder to achieve healthy air for all.
"Researchers have estimated that safeguards enacted now to reduce greenhouse gases - including carbon pollution from all sources in the U.S. - would prevent more than 16,000 premature deaths by 2030. The lives would be saved as a result of reductions in the ozone, and particulate-forming pollution that is also reduced as carbon is reduced. Cleaning up carbon pollution from power plants is essential to saving those lives.
It seems the Heritage Foundation does not believe there will be any benefits to clean air, as they do not include any benefits in their analysis of the carbon pollution regulations.
Michael Livermore, Senior Advisor at New York University's Institute for Policy Integrity, explained in a phone call that "even as a cost prediction, [the report is] very inaccurate because it doesn't paint a complete picture about how the economy is going to respond." He expanded (edited lightly for clarity):
One reason it overstates the cost is because it doesn't account for productivity gains that are associated with clean air benefits [...] They're only looking at ways in which productivity might be reduced because of energy prices but they're not looking at ways in which productivity can be increased because people are healthier and live longer.
In addition to that, they're not accounting for -- as far as I can tell -- the various ways that in a dynamic economy, labor markets and technology will adapt to the agency's greenhouse gas regulations.
They assume that any transitions that occur within the energy sector will propagate out to other sectors of the economy and basically act like a shock that's going to reduce employment everywhere. And again, that's not really accurate, that's not how labor markets work, they're holding things constant like macroeconomic policy and the business cycle, all of which are other compounds that are going to affect the employment rate. So their model has a very tenuous connection to reality in terms of anything that's going to happen that they're predicting, with any degree of accuracy in terms of employment.
And in fact, other models which are more empirically grounded find that when you impose regulatory requirements on firms they're just as likely to hire more workers as they are to lay workers off -- and these are in the most highly regulated industries -- because you have to hire workers to comply with environmental statutes. So for example, yes, it might be the case that some coal miners might need to be laid off and need to transition to other forms of employment, but there's also going to be work building new gas fired power plants and energy efficiency retrofits.
So those two countervailing effects, for the most part, most serious economists will argue that our best estimate of the net effect is zero. That any of the employment effects are going to wash out. Because we don't know if there's going to be negative employment effects, but if there are, they're usually going to be associated with countervailing employment effects that are positive. And there's macroeconomic policy like interest rates, like government spending, like taxation, like trade, all of which are going to affect the employment rate far, far more than anything that's going to happen at the regulatory level.
In January 2014, Resources for the Future (RFF), a nonprofit that conducts independent research on environment and energy issues, published a report on the costs of carbon regulations under the EPA's Clean Air Act. They found, contrary to the Heritage Foundation, that the carbon standards will result in "very small changes in average electricity prices" as a likely outcome, and predicted "positive and large" net benefits in every scenario.
The Clean Air Task Force -- a public health and environment advocacy group comprised of engineers, scientists, and specialists -- similarly found in a February 2014 study conducted by The NorthBridge Group that a "highly cost-effective approach" to carbon regulations under the Clean Air Act is feasible:
Simply by setting performance standards that result in displacing electricity generated by high emission rate coal-fired power plants with generation from existing currently underutilized, efficient natural-gas power plants, the U.S. can realize significant, near- term reductions in carbon pollution at a minimal cost.
The analysis predicts that the CATF proposal will:
- Decrease by 2020 of 27%, or 636 million metric tons of CO2, from 2005 levels;
- Avoid 2,000 premature deaths and 15,000 asthma attacks annually as a result of the annual reductions of over 400,000 tons in sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions in 2020;
- Result in monetized health and climate benefits of $34 billion, which is over three times the cost of compliance;
- increase in average nationwide retail electric rates by only 2% in 2020 which, based on Energy Information Administration forecasts, should result in no net increase in monthly electric bills.
Finally, the Natural Resources Defense Council crafted a proposal to support the EPA's goal of reducing carbon emissions, resulting in net benefits that outweigh the costs "as much as 15 times."
Media are distorting Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state by fixating on her attempt to reset the U.S. relationship with Russian in order to make Russia's invasion of Crimea a political issue in the 2016 presidential election. But Clinton has long maintained that Russian President Vladimir Putin is untrustworthy and helped negotiate Russian cooperation on Iran sanctions and use of Russian airspace for the war in Afghanistan.
Now that the Republican Party has settled on a set of principles to guide its action on immigration reform, media outlets have turned to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) as a credible source on immigration reform, validating his arguments that reform will slow U.S. economic recovery and further depress Americans' wages. These talking points, however, have been repeatedly discredited as experts agree that immigration reform would have a positive impact on the economy and Americans' wages.
As The Washington Post reported, Republican leaders released a list of "principles" on immigration reform, declaring that "there would be 'no special path' to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but that, in general, they should be allowed to 'live legally and without fear' in the United States if they meet a list of tough requirements and rules." The statement concluded that "none of this can happen before specific enforcement triggers have been implemented to fulfill our promise to the American people that from here on, our immigration laws will indeed be enforced."
In reporting on the debate, media are validating Sessions' bogus economic arguments against reform. Discussing the issue on Fox News, for example, contributor Tucker Carlson highlighted Sessions' arguments, saying that Sessions is "no liberal and is not either some kind of fiery demagogue populist" and that "he's making an intellectual case against more immigration in a down economy."
CBS News similarly highlighted an "analysis" by Sessions, reporting that it "said increasing the number of immigrants would hurt an already weak economy, lower wages and increase unemployment. He cited White House adviser Gene Sperling's comment earlier this month that the economy has three people looking for every job opening." The article continued:
He said the House Republican leaders' plan that's taking shape would grant work permits almost immediately to those here illegally, giving them a chance to compete with unemployed Americans for any job. He said it would lead to a surge in the future flow of unskilled workers and would provide amnesty to a larger number of immigrants in the country illegally, giving them a chance to apply for citizenship through green cards.
Politico also quoted Sessions' criticism that the GOP proposal "provides the initial grant of amnesty before enforcement; it would surge the already unprecedented level of legal lesser-skilled immigration to the U.S. that is reducing wages and increasing unemployment; and it would offer eventual citizenship to a large number of illegal immigrants and visa overstays."
In fact, Sessions' arguments are actually repackaged talking points from anti-immigrant groups and, as the libertarian Cato Institute noted, "are based on misinterpretations of government reports, cherry-picked findings by organizations that engage in statistical chicanery, or just flat-out incorrect." Cato, which released a point-by-point rebuttal of many of Sessions' claims, added that his assertions "do not advance a logical argument against immigration."
Politico turned to the American Enterprise's Institute's Danielle Pletka, a former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) with a history of smearing Democratic appointees, as one of the "smart foreign policy thinkers in both parties" cited to judge Hillary Clinton's diplomatic legacy as Secretary of State.
Politico Magazine's December 8 profile, which is now making the rounds of the pundit class, claimed that Republicans can easily dismiss Clinton's foreign policy achievements -- and question her viability as a candidate for President -- by following Pletka's lead and attempting to smear her with the deaths of four Americans during the 2012 attacks in Benghazi:
What does that Republican take look like? For sure, there will be a focus on Benghazi, where the GOP has questioned whether Clinton and other administration officials were activist enough--and truthful enough--about responding to the attack in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, that led to the deaths of the U.S. ambassador and three other American personnel; a case summed up by the American Enterprise's Institute's Danielle Pletka as "unwillingness to take risks, unwillingness to lead, willingness to stab a lot of people in the back. And dead people." Pletka's broader view of Clinton's record is a harsher version of what I hear from many Democrats: "the Washington consensus," Pletka says, "is that she was enormously ineffective ... [though] no one was quite sure whether she was ineffective because she wanted to avoid controversy or because she wasn't trusted by the president to do anything."
Pletka has a long history as an ideological partisan dating back to her time as an aide to Helms' Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1992 to 2001. Despite his history of racism and extreme conservatism, Pletka defended his "conviction" and "old fashioned" values following his death in 2008.
As vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, Pletka is a top advocate for neoconservative policies. She has backed military strikes in Iran while dismissing the news that the U.S. reached a historic deal with Iran over their nuclear program in exchange for reducing the sanctions. Military experts have warned that such an action could have dire consequences. Pletka has also defended torture, saying that while she's "not a big fan," she still thinks it's necessary in wartime.
Pletka was also part of the conservative campaign to smear Chuck Hagel as an anti-Semite prior to his nomination as Secretary of Defense, despite the fact that Hagel's positions were mainstream and in no way anti-Israel. Pletka devoted a USA Today opinion piece and an AEI blog headlined "Chuck Hagel, anti-Semite?" to the subject and concluded that while she couldn't tell one way or the other, there were still "reasonable questions" to be asked about Hagel's "view of the Jews."
Pletka's baseless insinuation that Benghazi somehow undermined Hillary Clinton's work as Secretary of State builds on a year-long campaign by conservative activists and politicians to try to use the tragic attacks to disqualify her from a future presidential run. Such attacks are based on a multitude of myths and falsehoods.
Pletka's criticism as channeled by Politico that Clinton had few accomplishments as Secretary also ignores a significant portion of Clinton's work at State -- including opening up Myanmar by becoming the first secretary of state in 50 years to make an official visit to the nation; negotiating a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in late 2012, which many credit for averting an all-out war; building an international consensus to remove Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi from power; and tightening sanctions to the highest level ever on Iran.
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Although all of President Obama's qualified nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are currently at risk of being refused an up-or-down vote by unprecedented Republican obstructionism, right-wing media have targeted Georgetown law professor Cornelia "Nina" Pillard in particular with misguided smears.
There's a growing movement of journalists and pundits who are rooting for the Republican-led impasse over government funding to result in a shutdown of government services. "I'm rooting for a shutdown and you should be too," writes Joshua Green in the Boston Globe. "Shut down the government!" cheers Todd Purdum in Politico. It's not that these writers are actually keen on causing economic disruption: they see it as the only recourse available to correcting the Republican political nihilism that keeps bringing us to the brink of crisis.
It's hard to begrudge them for what seems so cavalier a position -- we may have reached the point of political toxicity that drastic measures of this sort are the only remaining curatives. What is bothersome is the habit of conservative pundits who enable this political dynamic by recognizing the role people like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) are playing in it, but brushing that aside and praising Cruz for exploiting it to achieve mundane, short-term political goals.
After Cruz's 21-hour non-filibuster in support of defunding Obamacare, there was widespread agreement on the left and (much of) the right that Cruz had done little beyond raising his own profile and raising the likelihood that the government would have to shut down.
Writing in Politico, National Review's Rich Lowry marveled at Cruz's speech: "After talking the talk, Ted Cruz wins." Lowry knows that Cruz's policy goals are unattainable ("farfetched to the point of absurdity") and that his politics are causing chaos in Congress at a time when it really needs to get work done, but he views that as secondary to Cruz's accomplishment of riling up conservative base voters:
The Cruz eye-rollers had plenty of occasions to roll their eyes -- perhaps no senator has caused so many colleagues to mutter under their breaths in his first eight months in the world's greatest deliberative body -- but the conservative grass roots stood up and cheered. They are desperate for gumption and imagination and, above all, fight, and Cruz delivered all three during his long, bleary-eyed hours holding forth on C-SPAN2.
We're on the precipice of shutdown because the Republicans can't get their act together, and Cruz's tactics are causing further disarray, and Cruz gets a cookie for making a small slice of the American electorate feel good about themselves?
On Wednesday, the State Department Office of the Inspector General (IG) issued the results of its investigation of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board that was chaired by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, as well as the State Department's implementation of its recommendations. The first finding of the report states [emphasis added]:
The Accountability Review Board process operates as intended--independently and without bias--to identify vulnerabilities in the Department of State's security programs.
After being given advance copies of a Republican report attacking the credibility of the Benghazi review that was released on September 16, publications rushed to inform their readers of its flawed findings. There is no similar urgency on the part of the media to cover this new report which should lay to rest the notion that the Accountability Review Board was anything but an independent investigation into the tragedy that occurred in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
National Review editor Rich Lowry launched a deceptive attack on Hillary Clinton for speaking out against voter ID laws that suppress minority voting by pushing falsehoods on the legislation and ignoring the hundreds of thousands of citizens a new voter ID law in North Carolina will reportedly disenfranchise.
On August 12, the governor of North Carolina signed into law a controversial voting bill that "overhauls the state's election laws" by requiring government-issued photo IDs when voting, reducing the early voting period by one week, and ending same-day registration. A majority of North Carolinians do not support the legislation, which is expected to reduce minority turnout.
In a Politico opinion piece, Lowry criticized comments Clinton made at the American Bar Association in which she noted that the Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act would lead to disenfranchisement, particularly of minority voters, all in the name of the "phantom epidemic of voter ID fraud." Lowry claimed that Clinton was using the issue to play the "race card" in an attempt to "fire up minority voters by stirring fears of fire hoses and police dogs," and pushed a number of falsehoods related to the new North Carolina legislation to falsely claim it was simply part of "the American mainstream" and "a victimless crime."
Lowry's arguments -- which rely heavily on the discredited research of right-wing voter ID activist Hans von Spakovsky, who has been exposed as resorting to shady tactics like scrubbing his fingerprints off the web and "fudging questions of authorship" in his quest to limit voter participation -- include the claim that North Carolina is simply becoming "one of at least 30 states to adopt a voter ID law" and is therefore "common-sense." In fact, only four states besides North Carolina enforce the "strict photo ID" requirement the state passed, which means a voter cannot cast any ballot without first presenting an ID. In other states, if a voter does not have an ID, they have other options for casting a regular ballot, such as establishing their identity with a paycheck or signature match. The majority of states either have no voter ID law or no photo requirement.
The Brennan Center For Justice noted that strict photo ID laws such as North Carolina's "[offer] no real solution" to the little voter fraud states might experience, such as the two cases of alleged voter impersonation that have been referred by the North Carolina State Board of Elections since 2004:
[A] strict photo ID requirement cannot address problems related to long lines, inaccurate voter registration lists, or voter malfeasance like double voting, felon voting, or vote buying. The only type of voter malfeasance that photo ID can address is voter impersonation. A photo ID requirement is the worst kind of electoral policy solution -- it creates an illusion of security while offering no real solution to any identified problem with election administration, while simultaneously creating real consequences for many legal and qualified voters.
Lowry also pushed the idea that a 2008 Supreme Court decision meant the "constitutionality of voter ID isn't in doubt." But according to the Brennan Center, "it is a mistake to presume that the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in Crawford v. Marion County means that all strict voter ID laws would be constitutional in all circumstances," and North Carolina's law will have to be reviewed to ensure it doesn't overburden voters before its constitutionality can be determined. Justin Levitt, previously of the Brennan Center, also disputed claims similar to Lowry's that voter ID doesn't suppress voters because states with voter ID laws had high turnout in some races by noting the comparison was a "correlation-causation fallacy, and anybody who's had statistics for a week can talk to you about it."
But Lowry's disregard for the facts distracts from the real issue: that these laws disenfranchise American citizens. North Carolina's voter ID legislation alone could disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of registered voters. As The Nation's Ari Berman reported, 316,000 registered voters in North Carolina don't have the required state-issued ID, and over 100,000 of those individuals are African-American. Furthermore, CBS News reported that 70 percent of African-Americans in North Carolina voted early in 2012, which will now be available on 10 days instead of 17 thanks to this new law.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Coalition for Social Justice have filed suit against the North Carolina law, saying that eliminating several early voting days, same-day registration, and "out-of-precinct" voting will "unduly burden the right to vote and discriminate against African-American voters" in violation of the Constitution. The ACLU explained that early voting particularly helps low-income workers who are more likely to have hourly-wage jobs or childcare concerns that limit their ability to get to the polls on Election Day, and because African-Americans experience higher rates of poverty in North Carolina, "a reduction in early voting opportunities will disproportionately impact voters of color."
Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project, noted that when Florida enacted similar laws before the 2012 election, hundreds of thousands of voters were unable to vote due to long lines, burdens which "fell disproportionately on African-American voters." A study by the Orlando Sentinel found that at least 201,000 Floridians were deterred from voting because of hours-long lines at polling stations.
Media reporting on the verdict that George Zimmerman is not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin suggested a misleading distinction between the defense attorneys' supposed use of "conventional" self-defense principles and Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law (also known as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will"), ignoring the fact that the sole justifiable homicide law in Florida incorporates "Stand Your Ground."
Unless there is a dramatic change of course, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid is likely to move forward today with the "nuclear option," changing the rules of the Senate to permit the approval of Executive Branch appointments by a simple majority vote.
After four and a half years of unprecedented obstruction -- encouraged by an incentive structure in which the media has rewarded Republicans for helping to stall the workings of our federal government -- this turn might have been inevitable.
Formally, even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell articulated the principle that these appointments, except in rare circumstances, should be confirmed without delay. The Kentucky Republican has previously said that for "over 200 years," the president's selections were given "up-or-down votes" regardless of "who the president is, no matter who's in control of the Senate," adding, "That's the way we need to operate."
During the presidencies of Harry Truman through George W. Bush, executive appointments faced cloture in the Senate on only 20 occasions. During the Obama administration, the Senate has been forced to take 16 such cloture votes, unduly holding up nominations.
By blocking nominees to run vital federal agencies, Republicans not only disrupt the careers of these public servants, but they interfere with the president's ability to effectively govern. Very often, though, that is their goal. Sen. Lindsey Graham once issued a press release declaring that an "inoperable" National Labor Relations Board "could be considered progress." Indeed, the Republican filibuster of NLRB nominees has meant the lack of a quorum, eliminating the board's ability to enforce labor standards.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano summed up this strategy on the July 11 edition of Fox's Special Report, telling host Bret Baier: "From my worldview, it means fewer nominees, fewer laws passed, and that's a good thing."
So far in 2013, the conservative media have cheered on the obstruction, or attempted obstruction, of numerous Obama nominees including Tom Perez at the Department of Labor, Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency, and Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon.
The rewards and punishments for Republican senators are clear: Toe the conservative media's line and gain access to a base willing to provide funding and on the ground support for your campaigns; stray and you just might end up with a primary opponent, dooming your chances at re-election.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson made this transaction clear, writing on his RedState website to demand that the GOP filibuster Hagel and accusing Republicans John McCain and Lindsay Graham of "going wobbly," asking his readers to "Call your Senator. Tell him or her to join the Republicans in their filibuster of Chuck Hagel."
Fox's Sean Hannity described a first vote that temporarily blocked Hagel's nomination as "the first time a filibuster of a cabinet nominee has been used, and needless to say, this marks a major win for the GOP."
And while a partisan media rewards those disrupting the system with adulation, non-ideological publications do their best to put a pox on both houses in their reporting.
During Hagel's confirmation fight, Politico suggested even bringing the former senator up for a vote "could damage the [Armed Services] committee's longtime bipartisan spirit." Hagel was eventually confirmed with 58 votes.
Others have simply ignored Republican intransigence to blame the president for not magically forcing a change in the opposition party.
The rare exception this brand of reporting include Michael Grunwald at Time magazine, who has extensively reported on GOP attempts to disrupt the Obama administration; Greg Sargent of The Washington Post; and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, whose Washington Post op-ed "Let's just say it: The Republicans are the problem" and related book It's Even Worse Than It Looks squarely place the blame where it belongs. But most of the media seemed uninterested in Ornstein and Mann's thesis.
With the conservative media cheerleading for obstruction and the nonpartisan media adamantly refusing to place any accountability on the responsible parties, Republican senators are being rewarded for obstruction and punished for constructive engagement.
This perverse incentive structure leaves Harry Reid no choice other than to try and change the Senate's rules.
Media outlets are pushing the conservative narrative that the Obama administration will "bypass Congress" with a new plan to reduce carbon emissions while ignoring key context: the 2007 Supreme Court decision that explicitly gave the executive branch the power to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act and the endangerment finding that made the EPA "statutorily obligated" to do so.
President Obama announced the details of his new plan to deal with the challenge of climate change in a June 25 speech at Georgetown University. Details of the White House plan, which will extend regulation on carbon emissions to existing power plants, were released on the morning of June 25.
Advance coverage of Obama's climate speech and plan by Fox News, Politico, The Associated Press, NBC News, and The Hill echoes past criticism from conservative media of Obama's efforts to combat climate change by focusing on the fact that the efforts do not need to be approved by Congress.
On the June 25 edition of Fox & Friends First, business analyst Diane Macedo concluded her report on the climate policies that Obama is likely to announce by noting that "none of these steps require congressional approval," and that Obama is "seek[ing] ways to work around [Congress]."
Politico reported on June 21 that the president was "preparing to bypass Congress on climate change." An NBCNews.com headline described the president's intent to "sidestep Congress with new initiatives to reduce carbon emissions." And The Hill stated that the administration would "curb emissions using executive powers that sidestep Congress" and the plan was "designed to get around Congress."
However, not one of these outlets explained that the Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government already has the authority to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. Right-wing media outlets similarly excluded this critical context when they hyperbolically accused the administration of breaking the law by proposing carbon regulations that did not require congressional approval. In June 2012, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer said that earlier EPA regulations on carbon emissions were "outright lawlessness." A March Wall Street Journal editorial also claimed that Obama's efforts to regulate carbon make him similar to a dictator.
Mainstream media outlets are blindly repeating the claim by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) that she supported expanded background checks by voting for Republican legislation that would actually have weakened the background check system.
On April 17, Ayotte voted against the Manchin-Toomey amendment, a legislative proposal to expand background checks to sales at gun shows and over the Internet, facing political backlash as a result. Ayotte, however, co-sponsored and voted in favor of a replacement bill offered by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that purported to improve the background check system by increasing the number of mental health records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
In fact, the Grassley-Cruz proposal would weaken the gun background check system by changing the way mental health records are reported, potentially invalidating mental health records that are currently in the system. Specifically, Section 103 would change current law by only creating a disqualifying background check record if an individual is designated as dangerously mentally ill by a court or other adjudicative body. Under present law, adjudications by all lawful authorities create a record that prohibits an individual from buying a firearm.
To the contrary, Manchin-Toomey would have increased the number of mental health records in NICS by offering states financial incentives and disincentives to include missing records in the system, in addition to expanding background checks