Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, ever the astute observer of modern liberalism, is lashing out at the left for its reaction to the passing of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Identifying what she claims are the "ten liberal rules for deceased conservative giants," Rubin's indictment lacks coherence, and actually ends up impugning conservatives -- including herself.
Breaking down just a few of these rules shows how far off-base her criticisms are.
Rubin Rule #1: "The only good conservative is a dead one, primarily because they can be used to diminish contemporary conservatives. ('Unlike Reagan, that miserable X never...' is the surefire argument for leftists who never had a nice word to say about Ronald Reagan while he was alive.)"
Trying to diminish a current politician by comparing them unfavorably to a celebrated past politician isn't a "liberal" trick. It's "politics." One can hardly switch on cable news without hearing some wistful pundit damn the current lack of bipartisanship by bringing up Ronald Reagan's and Tip O'Neill's famously chummy relationship. (Looking at you, Morning Joe.)
The past politician doesn't even have to be dead! During the 2012 campaign conservatives tried to attack Barack Obama leading up to the Democratic National Convention by unfavorably comparing him to Bill Clinton.
On a personal level, Clinton was a deal-maker, a compromiser, a welfare reform signer, a budget balancer and never, ever remote or haughty. To the contrary, he perfected the affectation that he was one of us. Clinton is the un-Obama, the guy who worked with a Republican Congress and didn't alienate or demonize business. The Republicans are going to be in hog heaven splicing Clinton's language and accomplishments together with Obama's language and record.
Who wrote that? Jennifer Rubin. Clinton, being alive, was able to put to rest any talk of tension between himself and Obama when he spoke at the convention, at which point Rubin went back to calling Clinton a liar and a braggart.
The Washington Post quoted the research director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) arguing that immigrants are a drain on public services without noting that the center's analysis on the issue has been criticized as flawed. A study by the libertarian Cato Institute found that immigrants are actually less likely to rely on public benefits than native-born Americans.
In an article examining the effect immigrants have on Social Security, the Post noted that many undocumented immigrants file tax returns and thus pay into the Social Security trust fund, even though they may never be able to access it themselves because they are legally unable to do so. As a counterpoint, the article then included the views of CIS' Steven Camarota:
But Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports limits on immigration, said that America's immigrants are not young or fecund enough to shore up the system.
"If the immigrants all came at 20 and had seven or eight kids, you would see more of a difference," he said. The average immigrant arrives at age 30, and immigrant women have, on average, 2.1 children, according to the Pew Research Center.
Camarota added that immigrants tend to be poorer than native-born Americans and are therefore more reliant on a wide range of public services. "If you bring in a lot of immigrants who are paying into Social Security but then need all these other social programs -- well, then you're not helping the situation."
Analysts on both sides agree that increasing the number of highly skilled immigrants would shore up the system more than the Social Security Administration report accounts for, since high-skilled immigrants pay more taxes and spend more than low-skilled ones.
However, in a study released in February, the Cato Institute found that immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to use public services:
[L]ow-income non-citizen immigrants, including adults and children, are generally less likely to receive public benefits than those who are native-born. Moreover, when non-citizen immigrants receive benefits, the value of benefits they receive is usually lower than the value of benefits received by those born in the United States. The combination of lower average utilization and smaller average benefits indicates that the overall cost of public benefits is substantially less for low-income non-citizen immigrants than for comparable native-born adults and children.
Cato also noted that while immigrants' earnings tend to be lower than Americans' when beginning their careers, that changes over time as they invest more in education and training: "[W]hile immigrants begin with lower earnings, their incomes improve as they remain in the United States for longer periods. As immigrants remain longer in the United States, their English proficiency and other job skills improve, which heightens their earning potential."
The Washington Post wrote editorials mentioning policies that would cut Social Security benefits more than editorials mentioning Social Security revenue increases by nearly six to one, according to a Nexis search of Post editorials since late 2010. This analysis was performed as Social Security becomes a major topic in the upcoming budget negotiations.
Responding to a barrage of criticism he received for a factually inaccurate and flawed column he wrote this month about the sequestration battle, New York Times columnist Bill Keller wrote a follow-up blog post to detail how critics had hounded him online, especially via Twitter.
Denouncing the social media tool's tendency to produce what he called mean and shallow commentary, Keller lamented Twitter's suddenly pervasive power. "It is always on, and it gets inside your head," he wrote, adding, "there is no escape." Indeed, within days of writing his column, Keller felt compelled to pen a lengthy piece about his Twitter encounter.
The columnist painted an unpleasant picture of being hounded and "bull[ied]" on Twitter for merely expressing "an unpopular view." But as the tenth anniversary of the United States-led invasion of Iraq approaches, I couldn't help thinking back to when columnists like Keller, and newspapers like the New York Times, where Keller became executive editor in July 2003, helped cheer the nation to war. To date, that conflict has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 U.S. service members and contractors and more than 130,000 Iraqi citizens, and is projected to cost the U.S. Treasury more than two trillion dollars. (The Times' public editor later called the paper's prewar coverage "flawed journalism.")
Thinking about the historic failure of the Times and others in the media a decade ago, I couldn't help wish that Twitter had been around during the winter of 2002-2003 to provide a forum for critics to badger writers like Keller and the legion of Beltway media insiders who abdicated their role as journalists and fell in line behind the Bush White House's march to war. I wouldn't have cared that recipients might have been insulted by the Twitter critiques or seen them as mean and shallow, the way Keller does today. Sorry, but the stakes in 2003 were too high to worry about bruised feelings.
Looking back, I wish Keller and other pro-war columnists had been "bullied" (rhetorically) as they got almost everything wrong about the pending war. I think the revolutionary peer connection tool would have been invaluable in shaming journalists into doing their jobs when so many failed to. (Keller later admitted the invasion was a "monumental blunder.")
Twitter could have helped puncture the Beltway media bubble by providing news consumers with direct access to confront journalists during the run-up to the war. And the pass-around nature of Twitter could have rescued forgotten or buried news stories and commentaries that ran against the let's-go-to-war narrative that engulfed so much of the mainstream press.
Considering the central role the lapdog media played in helping to sell President Bush's pre-emptive invasion, I wonder if Twitter could have stopped the Iraq War.
Since the summer of 2010, the right-wing media has been obsessively promoting the absurd non-scandal involving the New Black Panther Party, in which the Obama Justice Department was alleged to have dropped voter intimidation charges against the fringe group owing to racial and political solidarity. One of the primary movers of this farce has been Jennifer Rubin, who authored one of the first reports on the story for The Weekly Standard and continued to write at length about DOJ's alleged perfidy at her Washington Post blog.
This month, the Justice Department's inspector general released the results of their investigation into the New Black Panthers affair and confirmed what everyone already knew to be true: the allegations against DOJ were bunk. Rubin is excitedly waving this report around, claiming it reflects poorly on President Obama's reported Labor Secretary nominee, and determinedly ignoring the parts that show pretty much every word she wrote about the New Black Panther story was rooted in falsehood.
Since the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its report, Rubin has written two Washington Post blog posts touting its findings to attack Perez. In a March 12 post, she wrote: "I won't revisit all the behavior of the Obama Justice Department but a nearly-300 page report has been released by the administration's own inspector general. The IG went out of the way to be even-handed, even when there was substantial evidence of politicization." The next day, she briefly referenced the OIG report's findings on the New Black Panther case, writing:
The IG declined to find a racial or political motive for dismissing the New Black Panther case but found actions surrounding that action "risked undermining confidence in the non-ideological enforcement of the voting rights laws." In other words, it sure looked partisan.
Rubin's twisted construction of the IG "declin[ing] to find a racial or political motive" is fairly comical, given how invested Rubin was in the existence of those motives. Again, she was one of the main drivers of this story. She wrote a lengthy Weekly Standard article in June 2010 (before J. Christian Adams resigned from DOJ claiming racially charged "corruption" in the case, which blew up the story) alleging that the "Obama Justice Department went to bat for the New Black Panther party -- and then covered it up." As the story slowly fell to pieces, Rubin held firm, insisting the critics were wrong. "The issue is whether a meritorious claim of voter intimidation was dismissed under pressure from left-leaning civil rights groups," she wrote in January 2011, "and whether there is reason to believe there is a sentiment against a color-blind application of civil rights laws."
The Washington Post's editorial board has adopted the right-wing fixation on the interruption of White House tours while ignoring cuts to critical services in both of its sequester-related editorials since cuts took effect on March 1. The first lauded the decrease in federal support for remote, small-town airports while the second decried the halted tours on Pennsylvania Avenue -- odd priorities for outrage given the devastating effects sequester cuts are having on basic government services like paving roads and caring for seniors, the unemployed, and schoolchildren.
In its most recent editorial, the Post described the cancellation of White House tours as "bureaucratic hostage-taking," and opined that the media backlash against the Obama administration was "proper comeuppance":
The popular tours have been suspended indefinitely as part of the response to the so-called sequester that went into effect March 1, mandating across-the-board spending cuts of $85 billion. The decision - coming just as Washington readies for the busy part of its tourist season, when cherry blossoms bloom and school groups on spring break descend on the nation's capital - prompted an immediate outcry.
Administration officials, The Post's David Nakamura reported, said the decision was made by the Secret Service, which estimated that ending the tours would save $74,000 in weekly overtime costs. Why overtime is needed for the self-guided tours that are plotted out with plenty of advance notice is anybody's guess. But even accepting the explanation by a Secret Service spokesman that the decision involved a broader reassignment of officers to minimize furloughs, is the $2 million that's estimated to be saved through September really worth the price of shutting Americans out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.?
The Post's criticism ignores the plethora of budget cuts to critical government services that have taken effect since March 1. While the paper's news coverage has reflected the harm these cuts have on the country's most vulnerable populations, the editorial board has turned a blind eye to them.
The Post isn't the only media outlet focusing on White House tours in the wake of sequestration. As ThinkProgress pointed out, major cable news networks like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC have mentioned the tour cancellations 33 times as often as other effects.
Meanwhile, regional newspapers have picked up on some of these real sequester impacts overlooked by many national media outlets: cuts like reductions in military tuition assistance, decreased funding for volunteer programs like VISTA and Americorps, and slashes in healthcare spending.
Local officials from across the country are in the Post's backyard this week, lobbying Congress to pay attention to the devastation being wrought on municipal governments' ability to provide basic services like paving sidewalks, mitigating damage from natural disasters, and providing school lunches to students.
When will the Post's editorial pages accurately reflect the effects of the sequester storm?
George Will is under fire for distorting the history of Watergate from an expert source -- Richard Ben-Veniste, chief of the Watergate task force.
Will, in a March 6 column, deceptively portrayed Robert Bork as a hero who protected the Watergate prosecution, but his defense of Bork rests on omitting critical details -- including the fact that Bork actually moved to abolish the task force that was looking into the scandal.
In his ode to Bork, Will pointed to Bork's role in firing Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor, arguing:
On an October Saturday, when Nixon ordered Richardson to fire Archibald Cox, the Watergate special prosecutor, Richardson and his deputy resigned, urging Bork to execute Nixon's lawful order, which he did. By the two resignations, Bork became acting attorney general, in which capacity he protected the ongoing investigation of Nixon.
In reality, as Ben-Veniste noted in refuting Will's campaign to make Bork a Watergate hero, Bork quickly began undermining the investigation:
Indeed, far from championing an independent investigation that would allow recourse to the judicial process, Bork signed an order on Oct. 23, 1973 -- three days after firing Cox -- abolishing the Office of the Watergate Special Prosecution Force. Bork's support for Nixon's position, if successful, would have kept secret the most devastating evidence against Nixon and his closest associates. It was only after the firestorm of public revulsion following the Saturday Night Massacre that Nixon backed down -- producing seven subpoenaed tapes (less 18½ minutes of deliberately erased conversation on one of them) -- and acceded to the demand to appoint a new special prosecutor to replace Archibald Cox.
The Washington Post's new reader representative, Doug Feaver, made clear when he was offered the position that he did not want it to be full time.
And it appears he is getting his wish, according to Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, who said Feaver, a former Post editor who has been retired since 2006, will likely spend just two or three days a week on the job and have no set weekly column.
Feaver replaces Patrick Pexton, who as Post ombudsman was hired on a two-year contract that allowed complete independence. The Post has had such an ombudsman for more than 40 years.
"Doug will be part time and we've agreed that he'll kind of feel his way and figure out after some time how part time," Hiatt said Thursday, just hours after announcing Feaver had taken the job. "Right now, I'm sort of assuming it's two or three days a week. I've said to him 'If you find out it needs to be more, we're open to that, or if you find eventually we only need one person, I'm open to that,' I have huge confidence in Doug so I am kind of leaving it to him to figure out what's the best way to make the job work."
Hiatt announced on Thursday that Feaver would be hired as a part-time employee and work with Alison Coglianese, a full-time staffer who had served as assistant to the Post ombudsman for years.
Hiatt says that concerns that a reader representative employed by the Post will have less independence than the paper's traditional ombudsman are misplaced.
"While it's true Doug doesn't have the two-year contract that we traditionally gave ombudsman, to me that's not the main difference," Hiatt said. "Nobody who knows him will doubt that he will be totally independent in his judgment and that he will hold us all properly accountable."
Feaver said he happened to get the job somewhat by accident, explaining that he was visiting Hiatt on another subject a week ago and Hiatt asked him about the position.
"I was in to see Fred on an entirely unrelated matter and he said 'what would you think about this?' and I said 'that could be very interesting.' So that's how the conversation started," Feaver, 73, said. "We were just talking, within the past week. I told him when we started talking I wasn't the least bit interested in a full-time job."
Asked why, Feaver added: "I've been retired, officially retired for the last several years and it was very nice to be asked to come back and do something. But it wasn't going to get into another one of these 60-hour week situations that I did for a long time."
Feaver worked at the Post from 1969 to 2006, serving in jobs that included reporting and editing for the Metro, Business and National staffs, as well as executive editor of washingtonpost.com.
The Washington Post cited an unreliable Fox News poll to claim that public support for the Keystone XL pipeline "has reached a new high," uncritically repeating the falsehood that the pipeline would lower gasoline prices.
In a survey conducted in late February, Fox News asked respondents whether they support Keystone XL, stating:
Supporters of the pipeline say it would bring needed oil to the U.S., lowering gasoline costs and creating jobs. Opponents of the pipeline have environmental concerns, including the risk of a spill, and also say the pipeline would increase American dependence on oil.
In fact, many supporters of the project -- including the economist hired by TransCanada to assess its economic benefits -- have admitted that the pipeline would have no meaningful impact on gasoline prices. Energy experts across the political spectrum agree that because oil prices are set on the world market, the impact of the pipeline would be "miniscule," and that the best way to reduce our vulnerability to gas price spikes is to decrease our dependence on oil.
Even the Washington Post's own fact-checker has said it is "a step too far" to assert that Keystone XL would impact gas prices.
But that didn't stop the Post from promoting the poll results and uncritically repeating Fox's claims about the benefits of the pipeline:
[P]roponents say the project would create thousands of jobs and lower gasoline prices in the United States.
Reading what has now become a cavalcade of Beltway pundits, led by New York Times writers, denouncing President Obama for failing to avoid the drastic budget sequestration, and berating him for not "leading" by getting Republicans to abandon their chronic intransigence, I keep thinking back to the earliest days of Obama's presidency when the press concocted new rules regarding bipartisanship.
Specifically, I recall a question NBC's Chuck Todd asked at a February 2009 press briefing as the president's emergency stimulus bill was being crafted in Congress. With the country still reeling from the 2008 financial collapse, and the economy in desperate need of an immediate stimulus shot in the arm, Todd asked if Obama would consider vetoing his own party's stimulus bill if it passed Congress without Republican support.
Todd wanted to know if Obama would hold off implementing urgent stimulus spending in order to a pass different piece of legislation, one that more Republicans liked and would vote for, because that way it would be considered more bipartisan.
I mention that curious Todd query because only when you understand the warped prism through which so much of the Washington D.C. press corps now views the issue of bipartisanship does the current blame-Obama punditry regarding sequestration begins to make sense, even remotely.
And remember, most of the pundits currently taking misguided aim at Obama on sequestration are part of the supposedly "liberal media" cabal, the one that conservatives insist protect Obama at any cost.
The Washington Post will be eliminating its independent ombudsman position and replacing it with an employee for the newspaper, the paper's publisher Katharine Weymouth said in a March 1 statement posted on the Post website.
Weymouth also stated that the new "reader representative" will not write a weekly column in the paper's print edition, but instead "will write online and/or in the newspaper from time to time to address reader concerns, with responses from editors, reporters or business executives as appropriate."
Post officials had previously said they were contemplating such a move when the two-year term of ombudsman Patrick Pexton ended today. Several former Post ombudsmen told Media Matters at the time that such a move would be a mistake, stressing the paper's decades-long history of having independent writers on set terms reviewing reader complaints about its content.
Andy Alexander, who held the job before Pexton, told us last month that eliminating the independent ombudsman would be a "terrible loss for Post readers."
"It makes sense to continue to use new platforms to converse with readers," he said. "But there is a huge difference between an ombudsman who merely reflects what readers are saying, as opposed to an ombudsman who has the independence and authority to ask uncomfortable questions of reporters and editors and then publicly hold the newsroom to account."
Media ignored economists in their reports leading up to the initiation of the economically damaging across-the-board spending cuts commonly known as sequestration.
If Congress fails to act by midnight, across-the-board spending cuts of up to $85 billion in 2013 alone will take effect. While sequestration is inherently an economic issue, media are ignoring the last chance to have economists weigh in on the consequences.
Media Matters reviewed news coverage leading up to the sequestration deadline, specifically the February 28 evening news broadcasts; March 1 reports from The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times; and the March 1 morning news programs on the major cable and broadcast networks. We found that economists have been almost completely shut out. Of 122 total guests and quoted figures appearing in a total of 43 articles or television segments, one lone economist was mentioned, Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner in a report from the Journal.
First lady Michelle Obama has responded to conservative criticism over her Academy Awards appearance, saying it was "absolutely not surprising" that her participation in the ceremony set off a national conversation.
On February 24, Obama made a surprise appearance via satellite at the 85th Academy Awards where she helped announce the Best Picture Oscar winner. Academy officials invited the first lady to take part in the presentation.
Following the first lady's appearance, right-wing media falsely suggested that her participation was unprecedented, ignoring that former presidents and former first lady Laura Bush had previously participated in the ceremony. Right-wing media also smeared Obama, calling her appearance "obscene" and claiming she made the ceremony about her.
Obama responded to that criticism on Thursday, saying it was "absolutely not surprising." From the Associated Press:
Michelle Obama says it was "absolutely not surprising" to her that her satellite appearance at the Academy Awards ceremony provoked a national conversation about whether it was appropriate, after some conservative critics accused her of selfishly crashing the event in an attempt to upstage it.
She attributed the chatter to a culture shift that has spawned legions of bloggers, tweeters and others who talk about anything and everything all the time.
"Shoot, my bangs set off a national conversation. My shoes can set off a national conversation. That's just sort of where we are. We've got a lot of talking going on," the first lady said only somewhat jokingly Thursday before an appearance in Chicago, her hometown. "It's like everybody's kitchen-table conversation is now accessible to everybody else so there's a national conversation about anything."
Veteran White House correspondents and political scribes dispute claims that a White House aide threatened Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward in a recent email exchange, calling that characterization "overblown."
A media firestorm has followed last night's Politico report that Woodward had received a "veiled threat" from White House economic adviser Gene Sperling for the journalist's reporting on the pending spending cuts known as the sequester, based on a snippet of a Sperling email Woodward provided the paper. The full context of Sperling's comment, released by Politico the next day, made it clear to even conservative observers that no threat had been intended.
"It doesn't seem threatening to me at all, it seems to me based on the email exchange that I read, that it was not threatening, it came at the tail end of a very friendly message, it seemed like it was saying 'you are making a mistake,'" said Bill Plante, CBS News White House correspondent and former president of the White House Correspondents Association. "It does not seem to me to be a threat of any kind in the sense that retaliation is promised."
In the email exchange about the sequestration issue, which followed an angry phone exchange for which Sperling apologized, the aide indicated to Woodward that if he reported the president had been "moving the goal post" related to revenue in the negotiations, Woodward would "regret staking out that claim."
In an interview posted Wednesday night, Woodward characterized the exchange as a threat, according to Politico:
Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. " 'You'll regret.' Come on," he said. "I think if Obama himself saw the way they're dealing with some of this, he would say, 'Whoa, we don't tell any reporter 'you're going to regret challenging us.'"
But the full context of the emails, released by Politico the next day, casts doubt on the claim that Woodward had been threatened. In the email, Sperling had stated, "I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying that [President Obama] asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim." Woodward replied to that email in part, "I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening."
"Woodward at war," was the headline Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei attached to their February 27 article playing up Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward's claim that a senior White House official had threatened him over email regarding Woodward's reporting on the origins of the budget sequestration. The Politico report on Woodward's "major-league brushback" caught fire in the press and prompted allegations of White House intimidation. However, the email chain -- which Politico published the following morning -- shows that the claims of threats and intimidation by the White House are, at best, wildly overblown, and that Politico helped hype a bogus allegation by Woodward absent the full context.
The original February 27 Politico piece featured a short clip of Allen and VandeHei's "hourlong interview" with Woodward "around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington's powerful have spilled their secrets." In that clip, Woodward reads from an email he received from a top White House official, later revealed to be economic advisor Gene Sperling. As Woodward puts it, Sperling did "something that I think it is important for people to understand. He says, you know, 'I think you will regret staking out that claim,'" referring to Woodward's assertion that the president was "moving the goal posts" in negotiations to avert sequestration.
Allen and VandeHei wrote:
Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. " 'You'll regret.' Come on," he said. "I think if Obama himself saw the way they're dealing with some of this, he would say, 'Whoa, we don't tell any reporter 'you're going to regret challenging us.'"
"They have to be willing to live in the world where they're challenged," Woodward continued in his calm, instantly recognizable voice. "I've tangled with lots of these people. But suppose there's a young reporter who's only had a couple of years -- or 10 years' -- experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, 'You're going to regret this.' You know, tremble, tremble. I don't think it's the way to operate."
It's not clear whether Allen or VandeHei had access to Woodward's full email exchange with Woodward -- as they put it, Woodward "[dug] into one of his famous folders" to read the offending excerpts to them, meaning that at the very least they had the opportunity to demand to see more from that exchange before publishing Woodward's claims. From all appearances, though, Allen and VandeHei's initial reporting on the email exchange was based solely on what Woodward told them about it. Their "exclusive" follow-up article on the email exchange indicates as much: "POLITICO's 'Behind the Curtain' column last night quoted Bob Woodward as saying that a senior White House official has told him in an email he would 'regret' questioning White House statements on the origins of sequestration."