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  • New York Times asks Obama: "Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the transcript of the Times White House reporters' March 6 interview with Obama:

    Q. The first six weeks have given people a glimpse of your spending priorities. Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?

    A. You know, let's take a look at the budget - the answer would be no.

    Q. Is there anything wrong with saying yes?

    A. Let's just take a look at what we've done. We've essentially said that, number one, we're going to reduce non-defense discretionary spending to the lowest levels in decades. So that part of the budget that doesn't include entitlements and doesn't include defense - that we have the most control over - we're actually setting on a downward trajectory in terms of percentage of G.D.P. So we're making more tough choices in terms of eliminating programs and cutting back on spending than any administration has done in a very long time. We're making some very tough choices.

    What we have done is in a couple of critical areas that we have put off action for a very long time, decided that now is the time to ask. One is on health care. As you heard in the health care summit yesterday, there is uniform belief that the status quo is broken and if we don't do anything, we will be in a much worse place, both fiscally as well as in terms of what's happening to families and businesses than if we did something.

    The second area is on energy, which we've been talking about for decades. Now, in each of those cases, what we've said is, on our watch, we're going to solve problems that have weakened this economy for a generation. And it's going to be hard and it's going to require some costs. But if you look on the revenue side what we're proposing, what we're looking at is essentially to go back to the tax rates that existed during the 1990s when, as I recall, rich people were doing very well. In fact everybody was doing very well. We have proposed a cap and trade system, which could create some additional costs, but the vast majority of that we want to give back in the form of tax breaks to the 95 percent of working families.

    So if you look at our budget, what you have is a very disciplined, fiscally responsible budget, along with an effort to deal with some very serious problems that have been put off for a very long time. And that I think is exactly what I proposed during the campaign. We are following through on every commitment that we've made, and that's what I think is ultimately going to get our economy back on track.

    [...]

    Q. Is there one word name for your philosophy? If you're not a socialist, are you a liberal? Are you progressive? One word?

    A. No, I'm not going to engage in that.

    [...]

    At 2:30 p.m., President Obama called The New York Times, saying he wanted to clarify a point from the interview. Here is a transcript of that brief call:

    President Obama: Just one thing I was thinking about as I was getting on the copter. It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question. I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn't under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn't on my watch. And it wasn't on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement - the prescription drug plan without a source of funding. And so I think it's important just to note when you start hearing folks through these words around that we've actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word socialist around can't say the same.

    Q. So who's watch are we talking about here?

    A. Well, I just think it's clear by the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system. And the thing I constantly try to emphasize to people if that coming in, the market was doing fine, nobody would be happier than me to stay out of it. I have more than enough to do without having to worry the financial system. The fact that we've had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk taking has precipitated a crisis.

    I think that covers it.

  • The AP can't be bothered with polling

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From a particularly dreadful Saturday dispatch:

    Every day, the economy is becoming more and more an Obama economy.

    As we noted the other day, the latest NBC/WSJ poll found that a strong majority of Americans (66 percent) won't begin to assign to Obama responsibility for the performance of the economy until 2010, and 43 percent won't do so until 2011.

    But news outlets like the AP don't care what Americans think. They're assigning Obama responsibility for the economy today because, c'mon, he's already been president for like 50 days, right?

  • The WashPost still needs to clean up its Limbaugh ratings mess

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Yesterday I raised doubts about the claim in a Howard Kurtz article that Limbaugh's ratings have "nearly doubled" since January. The Post offered no hard evidence to back that up. And as I noted, even Limbaugh himself suggested he has no idea what his ratings are since he first announced in late January that he wanted Obama to fail.

    Today, the Post's Paul Farhi writes more about Limbaugh's ratings in an article that only raises more doubts about Kurtz's claim that the talker's numbers have increased two-fold since January.

    Specifically, I noted that it's basically impossible for reporters to get solid information about nationwide ratings for syndicated talk show hosts since those numbers are not released publicly.

    Farhi confirms my point:

    Arbitron, the radio industry's dominant audience-measurement company, has never publicly released a national estimate for Limbaugh, and it says, in effect, that the job is too complicated, expensive and time-consuming to bother with..."There is no economic motivation for any objective third party to do that kind of analysis," says Thom Mocarsky, an Arbitron spokesman.

    I also pointed out that even within the world of syndicated talk radio, there aren't any internal, nationwide numbers about Limbaugh's most recent ratings. Meaning, not even Limbaugh's syndicator, Premier Radio, knows if his ratings have doubled since January.

    Again, Farhi confirms my point:

    What's more, Premiere's figure is based on data from the first three months of 2008, a virtual lifetime ago in the fast-moving radio business.

    Bottom line: If the Post has any tangible proof to back up its Friday claim that Limbaugh's ratings have nearly doubled since January, it ought to print it.

    UPDATE: In his Friday piece, Kurtz quoted Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine, who suggested Limbaugh's ratings had doubled recently. In today's Post article, here's how Harrison explains coming to that conclusion:

    "It's what we're hearing, based on the e-mails, the calls, all the buzz this controversy is generating. We put a little bit of our interpretation on it, added it all up, and that puts you in the ballpark."

    That's the information the Post used to announced that Limbaugh's ratings had doubled? Please.

  • WSJ reporters play dumb about Rush Limbaugh

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Nothing shocking here, since the Beltway press has been committed for years to not highlighting, or even mentioning, the hate speech that anchors the turbo talker's program. Today's Journal just happens to feature a particularly illuminating case.

    "The GOP's Limbaugh Dilemma," reads the Saturday headline to the article written by Naftali Bendavid and Greg Hitt.

    Here's the lead [emphasis added]:

    Rush Limbaugh is right where he wants to be and right where the White House wants him: in the news. But Republicans have more mixed feelings about the controversial talk radio host's recent elevation.

    I emphasized "controversial" because it was the only adjective in the entire article that describes Limbaugh's rhetoric. And no, the article does not bother to include a single quote from Limbaugh's program to illustrate why Limbaugh is considered to be controversial, or why some Republicans object to him becoming the face of the GOP.

    The fact that Limbaugh just yesterday made light of Sen. Ted Kennedy's life-threatening illness? The fact that Limbaugh recently tagged some journalists as being butt boys for Obama? The fact that Limbaugh claimed Americans were being told to bend over and grab their ankles because Obama's father was black?

    At the Journal, that's all been tossed down the memory hole in order to pretend that Limbaugh is simply "controversial."

  • Financial reporting in a vacuum

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    In an effort to tag the current economic crisis on the new president, more and more business news outlets are pretending there was no unfolding financial crisis before Obama's Inauguration Day, and that the Dow for some unexplainable reason has suddenly gone south with his arrival in the White House. Mouthing the anti-Democratic complaints from the Street, the business press pretends our economic woes started January 21.

    For instance, Bloomberg News aggressively plays dumb with its Eric Martin's article, "'Obama Bear Market' Punishes Investors as Dow Slumps." The entire article is built around the premise that the stock markets are tanking under Obama and that he's to blame. Nowhere in the article is there the slightest hint on context--none--regarding the fact that Obama, you know, inherited an economic crisis from a Republican administration.

    Over on the WSJ's editorial page, Michael Boskin, a Stanford Prof, does the same thing as he dissects the Obama budget. Headline: "Obama's Radicalism Is Killing the Dow." (Subtle, right?)

    Boskin goes on and on about how much he hates Obama's spending plans and taxation and costly health care initiatives. What's pretty much ignored? The fact that the budget is, in part, in response to an unfolding global economic crisis that Obama inherited. For some reason, Boskin left that pertinent fact out.

    In the wake of the unfolding economic collapse, lots of people have pointed the finger at the business press, suggesting for years they failed the see the current troubles forming; that they played dumb. Well, it turns out some portions of the business press aren't done playing dumb.

  • Have Rush Limbaugh's ratings really "doubled," as the WashPost claims?

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Here's what Howard Kurtz writes today:

    By one measure, Rush Limbaugh is a clear winner this week: His ratings have nearly doubled since his feud with the White House burst into the media limelight.

    Wow, Limbaugh's ratings are up almost 100 percent since January; since Limbaugh first announced he hoped Obama failed.

    I don't buy it.

    And please note that the Post provides no facts to back up the assertion; no ratings numbers. No nothing to substantiate the claim. How does the Post know Limbaugh's nationwide ratings have "doubled" in the last month? Readers have no idea.

    I'm especially curious how the Post knows so much about Limbaugh's ratings success because even people in the world of syndicated radio don't know since they don't have comprehensive rating numbers for February yet. And in terms of truly national rating numbers (as opposed to just the top markets), that information is only gathered quarterly, I believe. Meaning, it would be impossible to tell if Limbaugh's up nearly 100 percent nationwide since January.

    Also keep in mind that when the ratings numbers are collected, they're not made public. The only way reporters can get ratings information for syndicated talkers is if their syndication companies want to release it. (Or via advertiser.) In other words, the only way we'd know if Limbaugh's ratings have "doubled" would be if Limbaugh's company said so.

    Seems to me if Kurtz at the Post is going to stroke Limbaugh in print and make the sweeping claim that Limbaugh's ratings have "doubled" nationwide, the newspaper ought to back that claim up with independently verifiable information.

    UPDATE: It appears that not even Limbaugh knows if his ratings have doubled. Today, Byron York at the Washington Examiner asked the turbo talker about his ratings. This was Limbaugh's response, in full:

    The latest numbers I have are for January, well before this kerfuffle began, and they are through the roof -- six shares in NY, for example. There are daily ratings taken now in about the top 15 markets but I have not seen them yet. All I can tell you is that as of January, we booked 80 percent of all our 2008 revenue and we'll be over 2008 by the end of this month.

    Limbaugh himself hasn't even seen ratings more recent than January. Yet the Post claims Limbaugh's ratings have nearly doubled since January. What does the Post know that Rush does not?

  • WaPo reporter criticizes use of "loaded" phrase "class warfare"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post reporter Perry Bacon:

    I really don't have time to track everything said on CNN and every other network, read every publication that does national news and still report news on my own, so I don't know if "class warfare" is being used every 10 seconds on tv. I suspect not, as it's a loaded term.

    Bacon is right; "class warfare" is a loaded (and selectively applied) term. But whether he has noticed or not, the phrase has made its way into quite a few news reports -- and not just those on cable news and in the Politico.

    For example, here's a recent Washington Post headline: "Mortgage-Aid Tiff May Portend a New Wave of Class War." That article hyped "the potential for a new wave of class warfare as the president unveils economic plans that reward some people, often at the expense of others."

    Another example: on Sunday, the Post will run a column by Jackson Diehl, deputy editor of the paper's editorial board. In the column, which is already available online, Diehl argues that Obama's policies "allow" Republicans to call them "class warfare":

    "If anything, Obama has raised the stakes by proposing no funding source other than higher taxes on wealthy Americans, allowing Republicans to raise the cries of 'socialism' and 'class warfare.'"

    Then there are the reports that attribute the phrase to Republicans, but don't bother challenging it. Like this, this, and this, all easily found on the Washington Post's web page.

    Point being: Bacon is right that reporters shouldn't use the term "class warfare" -- but they're doing it, even if he hasn't noticed.

  • Greenwald, Goodman win independent media award

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Park Center for Independent Media, run by FAIR founder Jeff Cohen, is honoring Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman:

    The Park Center for Independent Media (PCIM) at Ithaca College has announced that its first annual Izzy Award for special achievement in independent media will be shared this year by two pillars of independent journalism: blogger Glenn Greenwald and "Democracy Now!" host/executive producer Amy Goodman.

    ...

    The Izzy Award is named after the legendary dissident journalist Isidor Feinstein "Izzy" Stone, who launched his muckraking newsletter "I.F. Stone's Weekly" in 1953 during the height of the McCarthy witch hunts. Stone, who died in 1989, exposed government deceit and corruption while championing civil liberties, racial justice and international diplomacy.

    Citing their "pathbreaking journalistic courage and persistence in confronting conventional wisdom, official deception and controversial issues," the judges chose the two winners because "the intrepid spirit of Izzy Stone is alive and thriving in the tireless daily efforts of Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald."

    More here.

  • CNBC makes us laugh

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Wednesday's online headline from CNBC's incessant Street cheerleader, Larry Kudlow:

    "Recovery Indicators Are Being Ignored"

    This afternoon's headline from WSJ.com:

    "Recession Job Losses Top Four Million"

    The Journal lead:

    The U.S. economy continues to hemorrhage jobs at monthly rates not seen in six decades, a government report showed, signaling that there's still no end in sight to the severe recession that has already cost the U.S. over four million jobs.

    But yes, by all means listen to Kudlow.

  • It must be embarrassing to work for the WSJ

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Specifically, for the team of top notch reporters who are trying to cover the most complex and challenging economic story of our lifetime. And by most accounts they're doing a good job staying on top of the constantly changing crisis.

    The embarrassing part is when they open up the opinion pages of their own newspaper and see the editorials about the economy that read like they were penned by pledging members of the Young Republicans club.

    Like the Journal's attempt to blame Obama for the downturn in the stock market. Only a fool would make that case. (i.e. Slumping housing prices in December and January were Obama's fault? Okay.....) But that's what the Journal proudly did this week:

    As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9034 on January 2, its highest level since the autumn panic. Yesterday the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama's policies have become part of the economy's problem.

    Over at NPR, Dick Meyer makes what should be this glaringly obvious point:

    The idea of blaming one person for the downfall of the economy with a gross domestic product of about $14 trillion, powered by 300 million people and engaged in complex global commerce is nuts — whether that person is Bush, Obama, Alan Greenspan, Bernard Madoff, Osama bin Laden or the editors of opinions at The Wall Street Journal.

    And if the Journal wants to toss around numbers to play the stock market blame game, Meyer notes [emphasis added]:

    The rather more substantial fall came when the Dow was hovering around 14,000 in October 2007 and then tanked to 7552 on Nov. 20, 2008? That would mean, using the nastiest numbers, that the Dow fell about 46.5 percent on President Bush's watch. So far during the Obama administration, the Dow has dropped 15 percent.