Glenn Beck cited a litany of cases as examples of how "choice architects have changed your life" through supposedly excessive regulation. But Beck misleadingly or falsely described the nature of many of the examples he cited.
After Politico reported that Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate for Senate running against Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, had written an opinion piece for his college newspaper titled "Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist," right-wing media figures jumped on the story to attack Coons. What they failed to mention was that the title was a play off what Coons called a joke that his friends* made; the right wing gleefully and ludicrously declared that Coons had called himself a Marxist.
The article behind the controversy is an opinion piece that Coons wrote over 20 years ago, which Politico first covered in May this year. In the May 23, 1985, article for his college newspaper, The Amherst Student, Coons wrote (PDF):
I spent the spring of my junior year in Africa on the St. Lawrence Kenya Study Program. Going to Kenya was one of the few real decisions I have made; my friends, family, and professors all advised against it, but I went anyway. My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe the strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear-thinking Americans and sends back bearded Marxists.
The point that others ignore is that I was ready to change. Experiences at Amherst my first two years made me skeptical and uncomfortable with Republicanism, enough so that I wanted to see the Third World for myself to get some perspective on my beliefs.
When I returned last summer, I traveled all over the East Coast and saw in many ways a different America. Upon arriving at Amherst this fall, I felt like a freshman at an unfamiliar school all over again. Many of the questions raised by my experiences of the last year remain unanswered. I have spent my senior year reexamining my ideas and have returned to loving America, but in the way of one who has realized its faults and failures and still believes in its promise. The greatest value of Amherst for me, then, has been the role it played in allowing me to question, and to think. I had to see the slums of Nairobi before the slums of New York meant anything at all, but without the experiences of Amherst, I never would have seen either.
Coons never called himself a Marxist, and Politico never claimed that he did; the title is a play off of what Coons said was a joke by his friends.*
Once again, the right-wing media has found a way to criticize basically anything Obama does or says. This time, they're attacking Obama for omitting the words "the Creator" when quoting from the Declaration of Independence. You see, to them, this is just further evidence that Obama is a godless, heathen, secret Muslim, anti-colonial Kenyan...or whatever.
On September 15 at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's Annual Awards Gala, President Barack Obama said:
So let me close by saying this. Long before America was even an idea, this land of plenty was home to many peoples. To British and French, to Dutch and Spanish, to Mexican -- to countless Indian tribes. We all shared the same land. We didn't always get along. But over the centuries, what eventually bound us together -- what made us all Americans -- was not a matter of blood, it wasn't a matter of birth. It was faith and fidelity to the shared values that we all hold so dear. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights: life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That's what makes us unique. That's what makes us strong. The ability to recognize our common humanity; to remember that in this country, equality and opportunity are not just words on a piece of paper, they're not just words in the mouths of politicians -- they are promises to be kept. And that is our calling now -- to keep those promises for the next generation. No matter which way the political winds shift, I will stand with you for that better future. And if you stand with me, and if we remember that fundamental truth -- that divided we fall, but united we are strong, and out of many, we are one -- then you and I will finish what we have started. We will make sure that America forever remains an idea and a place that's big enough and bold enough and brave enough to accommodate the dreams of all our children and all our people for years to come. Si, se puede. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
Conservative media figures are attacking Michelle Obama over her efforts to encourage healthy eating and reduce childhood obesity, baselessly claiming that Americans "will be reported" or be "jail[ed]" for eating french fries.
Guest hosting for Glenn Beck, Fox News' Andrew Napolitano highlighted what he called Beck's work uncovering the "revisionist history" of progressives. In attacking Franklin D. Roosevelt, Napolitano used Beck's tactic of ripping quotes out of context, revising comments made by FDR to accuse him of calling the constitution "a horse-and-buggy document." In fact, in making those comments, Roosevelt was criticizing the Supreme Court of 1930s as out of touch with the realities of the 20th century, not criticizing our founding document.
On the September 8 edition of Glenn Beck, Napolitano claimed, "Roosevelt openly mocked the Constitution by calling it a horse-and-buggy document."
In fact, Roosevelt was not mocking the Constitution; he was urging the Supreme Court, which had struck down extremely popular reforms, such as a minimum wage, to interpret the Constitution "in the light of present-day civilization." In explaining that the court should "view the interstate commerce clause in the light of present-day civilization," FDR stated that "the country was in the horse-and-buggy age when that clause was written," going on to explain, "[s]ince that time, because of the improvements in transportation, because of the fact that, as we know, what happens in one State has a good deal of influence on the people in another State, we have developed an entirely different philosophy." So, he said, "the hope has been that we could, through a period of years, interpret the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution in the light of these new things that have come to the country."
Clearly, Roosevelt was not "mocking the Constitution," but explaining that the Constitution should be interpreted in light of advancements in transportation from the horse and buggy to an era in which interstate commerce was increasingly common -- and therefore it was not unreasonable for the federal government to set minimum wage laws and ban child labor. As historian Jeff Shesol wrote in his 2010 book Supreme Power, the "horse-and-buggy" comment has been "almost invariably presented" "[o]ut of context," and Roosevelt's complaint "was not with the Constitution, but with a Court that read the Constitution as a set of limitations. He did not see any inherent, unavoidable conflict between the New Deal and the Constitution; he never had." Apparently, it is now acceptable to even take quotes by revered historical figures out of context.
Even more context would reveal that Roosevelt famously faced the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" on the court, who claimed that the Constitution forbade banning child labor, setting a minimum wage, and limiting work hours. As Andrew Lynch wrote in a review of Jeff Shesol's Supreme Power for the Irish newspaper The Sunday Business Post:
Led by a bloc of elderly conservative justices dubbed the 'Four Horsemen', the judges reached their zenith on Black Monday in May 1935 when they repudiated laws on minimum wages, maximum hours and workers' rights.
Mike Norman elaborated on the courts decisions in an op-ed for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
In 1905, the court struck down a New York law that said bakeries couldn't work their employees more than 60 hours a week or more than 10 hours a day.
The court said the law was "an unreasonable, unnecessary and arbitrary interference with the right and liberty" of individuals to buy and sell labor. During the same period, the court also invalidated minimum wage and child labor laws as infringements on economic liberty.
In striking down these laws, the court prevented FDR from making these desperately needed reforms. FDR spoke out against these court decisions -- not against the Constitution. If Napolitano wants to go after FDR -- a man who historians have consistently ranked as one of the greatest presidents in American history -- he should at least have the respect to quote a man who can no longer speak for himself in context.
Fox News figures have attacked labor unions in the days leading up to Labor Day, a national holiday originally created to honor the victories of the labor movement and the achievements of American workers.
Fox News' Eric Bolling repeated the discredited claim that the stimulus has "done nothing to help the economy." In fact, economists agree that GDP and employment levels are significantly higher than they would have been without the stimulus.
Fox & Friends distorted data to deceptively compare the cost of the Iraq war and the cost of the stimulus bill, citing outdated stimulus estimates and pretending that the U.S. will not spend any additional money related to the Iraq war after 2010.
After Fox & Friend Brian Kilmeade said he was "stunned" that Obama said the Iraq war contributed to deficits, Fox & Friend Gretchen Carlson said, "Look at the difference in the spending between Iraq, a $709 billion, versus the stimulus of $862 billion." While Carlson spoke Fox & Friends showed graphically the "difference in the spending":
Carlson promised: "You're not going to see this graph too many other places today. Trust me."
Carlson is likely right, but not for the reasons she thinks.
Fox News' Dave Briggs attacked the Department of Justice for asking election officials in Ohio to print ballots in Spanish, which he claimed would not be "a proper use of funds." But the Justice Department reportedly says the ballots are needed to obey federal law, which prohibits making a person educated in a Spanish-language school in Puerto Rico understand English in order to vote.
Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett falsely claimed U.S. gross domestic product "contracted over the last three quarters" to suggest that the stimulus failed. In fact, GDP has increased for four consecutive quarters, and economists agree that GDP and employment levels are higher than they would have been without the stimulus.