I've been arguing for months that the media should pin down members of congress on how they'll vote on health care reform. More specifically, how Senators will vote on cloture. That, after all, is what the media has said all along is the key vote. As I've explained, the media has failed in not making clear which members are and are not willing to filibuster reform -- and in doing so, they essentially enable Senators to anonymously kill reform in the equivalent of a smoke-filled back room.
Today, Politico does its job exactly wrong:
Several Democratic moderates told POLITICO that they most likely will be with their party on most procedural votes but could hold out on the last one - to end debate and cut off a filibuster - if they wanted to demand changes to the final product.
"Not vote for cloture? I wouldn't rule that possibility out - not at all," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with the Democrats.
Other than Lieberman, none of the "Democratic moderates" were named. So the effect of the Politico report is to help those "moderates" anonymously kill reform. The report advances the perception that a strong reform bill can't get cloture, which makes it less likely that such a bill ever comes to a vote, which means those "moderates" never have to reveal themselves.
This is the exact opposite of what journalism should be. Politico is working on behalf of elected officials rather than the public. They're helping politicians operate in secret, free from accountability. They're providing the smoke, and the back room.
Earlier, Eric took on that ridiculous second-degree guilt-by-association Politico foolishness -- the article that pretended it was newsworthy that of the $750,000,000 Barack Obama raised, $15,000 of it (0.002 percent) came from 6 of the 500 or so people who have signed a petition supporting Roman Polanski.
That's quite obviously not news.
What is news is that yesterday, 30 members of the United States Senate -- all Republicans, all men -- voted against an amendment that would prohibit defense contracts for companies that refuse to allow sexual assault victim a day in court:
Jamie Leigh Jones was a 20-year-old young woman working her fourth day on the job in Baghdad for contractor Halliburton/KBR in 2005, when she says she was drugged and gang-raped by seven U.S contractors and held captive by two KBR guards in a shipping container. But more than four years after the alleged crimes occurred, Jones is still waiting for her day in court because when she signed her employment contract, she lost her rights to a jury trial and, instead, was forced into having her claims decided through secret, binding arbitration.
Today, the Senate listened to her story before approving an amendment by a vote of 68-30 that would prohibit "the Defense Department from contracting with companies that require employees to resolve sexual assault allegations and other claims through arbitration."
That's news. That's 30 members of the United States Senate voting to keep women like Jamie Leigh Jones from being able to sue their employers when they've been raped or assaulted on the job.
But Politico won't tell you who those 30 Senators are. No, they're too busy scouring petitions to see if they can find a director who gave Barack Obama two grand and who doesn't think Roman Polanski should be jailed.
Hey, you have to have priorities.
On October 7, The Politico published an "Ideas" piece by Rep. John Linder (R-GA) that compared President Obama's administration to "Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy." From Linder's Politico piece:
Progressivism and its progeny all believed in the fairness and wisdom of decisions made by the state - often at the expense of the individual, who, it was believed, made selfish decisions. All demanded that the state have an increased role in raising children. Adolf Hitler scoffed at those who remained opposed to him, saying he already had control of their children.
All believed in the minimum wage, state control of private property for the public good, unionization and environmentalism. And they believed in eugenics to purify the gene pool.
It is now fair to wonder whether we are returning to a belief that only a powerful central government can fix all of our problems. Victor Davis Hanson wrote in the National Review that President Barack Obama is governing as though the United States were a university and he its president. Governing by czars fits that example. A diversity czar, environment czar, pay czar, science czar, manufacturing czar and, of course, health czar could deal with the "whole" of an issue rather than looking at it piece by piece. This is not unlike the women's studies, black studies, diversity studies, environmental studies and other obsequious studies in most academic settings.
And with the Obama administration, just as in Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy and Wilson's America, the leaders of major corporations are falling in line. Whether it is climate change, executive pay, automobile manufacturing or bank buying, CEOs step right up and wait for the tax benefits to surely follow their pandering. And the CEOs stood mute while bondholders saw their investments given to the unions.
The principal sin in politics is overreaching. Americans have in the past repeatedly voted for freedom and the supremacy of the individual over the state. It will happen again.
In my column last week, I wrote (again) about the need for reporters -- who have spent the whole year telling us that cloture is the health care vote that matters -- to start telling us how Senators will vote on cloture. I wrote that a major news organization like the Washington Post should simply contact every Senator's office and ask if they'll filibuster a health care reform bill that contains a strong public option.
During an online Q&A today, Washington Post reporter Paul Kane was asked which Senators would filibuster such a bill:
Helena, Montana: When Max Baucus said that he supported the public option but he didn't think there were 60 votes for it - who does he think will join the Republicans in filibustering it? Democratic members of his committee? Can Reid hold the caucus together for cloture, even if some will vote against the bill?
Paul Kane: This is the insider's insider's question right now, the one that not even my friends at Politico and my alma mater Roll Call are writing.
Will the Ben Nelson/Landrieu/Lieberman crowd vote 'no' on cloture (the filibuster vote)? Will they vote yes on cloture, then vote however they want on final passage?
Activists on both sides are exploring this issue, trust me. I think that's where this whole debate is headed.
My gut: I don't know the answer. Sorry, I don't.
So ... Maybe that's something the Washington Post should start working on?
(I assume Paul Kane isn't responsible for making such decisions about resource allocation, but maybe he should mention the idea to an editor?)
UPDATE: Later in the Q&A:
Ask the question, maybe?: Given how much reporters write about the need for 60 votes to break a filibuster, it's pretty stunning that you never get around to asking Senators whether they'll vote to sustain or end a filibuster. Isn't it long-past time for reporters to start asking Senators if they will filibuster the public option -- not just whether they support it, or think it has enough votes: Will they filibuster it? Has the Post reported on this and I've just missed it?
Paul Kane: Most folks like Nelson and company just dodge the question, when asked, telling us it's way too soon to deal with questions like that.
Which raises a rather obvious question: Why don't news organizations report that "folks like Nelson and company" refuse to say they'll filibuster? All year, they've been reporting that cloture is the vote that matters. And whenever "Nelson and company" make so much as a grunt indicating unhappiness with a public option, journalists rush to report it. So why won't they report the fact that when it comes to the vote that matters, "Nelson and company" are unwilling to commit to filibuster? That would certainly paint a less pessimistic picture of the prospects for health care reform.
Politico's Ben Smith debunks an American Spectator "report" that White House political director Patrick Gaspard held that same title in ACORN's New York office years ago. According to Smith, it "just isn't true."
But, Smith is quick to point out, "The Spectator piece is a model of the sort of guilt-by-association Google work in which partisans of both sides specialize."
Really? Seems to me the noteworthy thing about the Spectator isn't the "guilt-by-association," it's that the Spectator was wrong about the central fact of its "report." Do "both sides" really specialize in that? To the same degree? How about giving a comparable example?
But Smith doesn't bother. The Left and the Right are exactly the same. Isn't it obvious? Don't you remember all those false claims liberals made about George W. Bush being a murderer and a drug runner and a secret Kenyan? The false claims they made about Karl Rove working for Blackwater? No? You don't? Those things never happened? Well, anyway: the Left and Right are exactly the same.
... could a newspaper think it's reasonable to give a Republican strategist column-space to write that in order to be "centrist," the Democratic president should let the Republicans govern.
Check out this Politico column by self-described "partisan Republican" John Feehery:
How can he revive his presidency, promote his agenda and save his reputation? Act like the Republicans have already taken control of Congress.
Why should Obama wait for the inevitable election disaster that will come as a result of his sharp moves to the left? Why can't he start governing from the center now, by acting as if the Republicans already control Congress?
Here are some things he can insist on as he negotiates with Congress that will help him govern like a centrist:
Insist that Republicans provide half the votes for every piece of big legislation....the president can promise to veto every bill that doesn't have at least half of the Republicans voting for it.
Veto all tax increases. Republicans don't do tax increases, and that keeps them out of trouble. The president should just assume that if the Republicans were in charge, they wouldn't give you a tax increase to sign. Follow their lead.
Hilarious. A Republican strategist wants the Democratic President to let the Republicans -- who control nothing, who the public holds in contempt, whose ideas have been roundly rejected in consecutive elections -- call the shots. And Politico thinks that makes for a column worth printing.
Oh, by the way: How does this even make sense?:
Reid, whose own political fortunes are very dicey in his home state of Nevada because of his own perceived lurch to the left, has thrown his lot in with the liberals and similarly turned his back on the center.
Reid is in trouble because he is seen as having lurched to the left, so he's ... Lurching to the left? This isn't analysis, it's spin. And not even good spin. Self-discrediting spin.
Mike Allen on MSNBC, describing the circumstances of his interview with Sarah Palin:
"I somehow woke up to my phone, and it was one of her aides, who said "if we put Governor Palin on the phone, will you only ask her two questions?' And I said, 'Sure.' And so I was so sleepy that, after she answered the one about the divorce, I forgot what the other thing was that I was allowed to ask her, and she said 'Just go ahead, ask me anything you want.'"
Wait: Mike Allen not only agreed to ask only two questions -- he was only "allowed" to ask about certain topics?
Don't tell Dana Milbank.
From the August 4 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
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After repeatedly falsely asserting that House Democrats' health care reform bill makes end-of-life counseling for seniors "mandatory," Betsy McCaughey was forced to backtrack from her claim -- a claim PolitiFact.com called "a ridiculous falsehood." Confronted with accusations that she lied about the bill, she claimed, as she had done with a prior falsehood about another bill, that she was right about the effect (if not the literal wording) of the legislation.
Politico uncritically reported contradictory goals that "moderate" Democrats have regarding the House health care reform bill -- "angling for greater cost savings" while also opposing pegging payment rates to Medicare.
Mike Allen claimed that the budget deficit reaching $1 trillion "is an awesome issue for Republicans." However, as numerous economists have noted, Bush administration policies are responsible for a large portion of the deficit.
Yesterday, Politico published a special glossy magazine covering the "50 Politicos to Watch." In it, four journalists were highlighted for their reporting and commentary. Charles Krauthammer was among them.
Mr. Krauthammer is, of course, free to voice any political point of view he likes, and he should never draw criticism simply for his professed conservative beliefs. But like so many conservative critics, Krauthammer's work is characterized by sloppy thinking, factually-challenged analysis, and partisan hyperbolae that undermine his credibility as an analyst and pundit.
Despite his record, Politico described him as having "emerged as arguably the leader of the conservative media's opposition" to President Obama. Krauthammer was portrayed as providing "clear, concise criticism of left-wing orthodoxy" that "could make the Obama era his." The piece ended with glowing praise from David Brooks: "He's the most important conservative columnist right now."
The fact that Brooks is probably correct is an indication of the sorry state of conservative media, analysis, and commentary. Politico quoted Krauthammer as saying that he "doesn't want Obama to fail" – hence, supposedly drawing a contrast between him and conservative critics like Rush Limbaugh. But the truth is the opposite, as Krauthammer said himself on April 1: "It's a little early to declare a presidency failed – although I would like to do it."
The consequences of such a partisan world view are obvious for all to see. There is a reason why Krauthammer has expressed the belief that Fox News, a station that makes no commitment to fact-gathering or responsible reporting, is actually a noble venture, providing "the one, only, voice of opposition in the media." Indeed, much like Fox, Krauthammer has excelled in confidently providing irrational, baseless analysis. Consider the following brief review of some of his proclamations since President Obama was elected last November:
In his February 6 Washington Post column, Krauthammer asserted that the economic recovery legislation supported by Obama contains "hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus," echoing myths about the legislation contradicted by Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director Douglas Elmendorf.
On February 16, Krauthammer, again commenting on the stimulus bill, attacked it for a fictitious provision which would have built a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. "And that's the old politics that Obama campaigned against," he said. "This train is really an atrocity. It goes from Disneyland, as you said, to Vegas. It should be called the fantasy land express." The project in question was itself a fantasy.
On March 13, Krauthammer likened President Obama's reasoning on stem cell research to that which justified the work of Nazi researcher Josef Mengele and those who conducted the Tuskegee Experiment, during which a group of poor African-Americans with syphilis were deliberately denied treatment by government scientists so that the progression of their condition could be studied.
On April 3, Krauthammer expressed his belief that Europe has been "sucking on [America's] tit for 60 years." He also continued to advance the idea that President Obama was apologizing to Muslims and the world in general for America's actions, a gross distortion of his statements. "We're a country who went to war six times on behalf of Muslims in the last 20 years," he said, "and we're apologizing?"
On April 24, he referred to Hugo Chavez as "Obama's new pal."
On May 20, Krauthammer supported keeping Guantanamo Bay open, explaining his position thusly: "I know it's the romantic in me."
On May 26, Krauthammer took Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina woman" quote out of context, saying that it showed she is "a believer in the racial spoils system." That same day, he commented that empathy has no role in the justice system, as it represents "the overturning of the idea of...justice being about the content of a character." In doing so, he ignored the fact that George H.W. Bush praised the empathy of Clarence Thomas when nominating him.
The list goes on and on, but Krauthammer is only part of the problem. This isn't the first time Politico has gone out of its way to praise him uncritically. In May, the paper cited an October, 2006 article he had written for the National Review Online as a perfect example of the "clarity of his opposition to Obama." The Krauthammer piece boldly put forth a prediction regarding Obama's chances in the upcoming presidential race: "He should run in '08. He will lose in '08."
The real question, of course, is why someone with this kind of a record is still portrayed by the press as being worth listening to.
Many media figures have dubbed President Obama's health care reform proposal "ObamaCare," reinventing the terms "HillaryCare" and "ClintonCare" that were used by opponents of the Clintons' reform proposal. In doing so, these media are often seeking to frame the debate in negative terms.
Yes, as Politico's Michael Calderone points out, Huffington Post is asking readers to vote for their favorite White House correspondent:
Current nominees: Chuck Todd, Savannah Guthrie, John Yang, Suzanne Malveaux, Ed Henry, Bill Plante, Jake Tapper, Major Garrett and Wendell Goler.
Henry would like your vote. But some think there are some notable exemptions: Former White House press office staffer Pete Seat wants Chip Reid and Washington Times White House correspondent Christina Bellantoni thinks Mark Knoller was robbed.
From Politico's Michael Calderone (emphasis added):
While it's already been noted that CNN's prime-time audience has dropped sharply in recent months, less viewers are tuning in at 7 p.m., too. Compared with May 2008, The Observer reports that Lou Dobbs has dropped 29 percent in total viewers and 27 percent in the key 25-54 demo.
I wonder if there is a helpless scapegoat that Dobbs can blame for this. Hmmm, I just can't put my finger on it.