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  • The Hill portrays Obama as gaffe-prone, despite (sort of) admitting he isn't

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Here's the headline on an article in The Hill about purported Obama missteps: "Experts say Obama needs to watch the gaffes"

    And here's the 18th paragraph:

    The presidential experts don't believe that Obama has been more gaffe-prone than his predecessors. "Most presidents make rookie mistakes because everything they say is going to be newsworthy, and even prominent individuals get surprised by that," West said.

    In between, The Hill lists various supposed Obama "gaffes" going back two years. Included among them: "saying that bailed-out businesses shouldn't be going to Las Vegas." The Hill may consider that a "gaffe," but I suspect few Americans want companies that have been bailed out by the government using that tax money to head to Vegas.

    The Hill then inadvertently shows that Obama is being held to a higher standard than his Republican predecessors:

    Ironically, a tool that Obama keeps at the ready to avoid verbal missteps - the teleprompter - has quickly become a running gag, with a popular blog launched pretending to be the voice of Obama's omnipresent teleprompter. This might not play against a politician, except for the fact that Obama was praised as a great orator on the campaign trail by right and left.

    The fact that the same people who would mock Obama for verbal missteps mock him for taking unremarkable steps to avoid them isn't really "ironic" -- it's an indication that Obama is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. The Hill continues:

    Noting Reagan's reliance on note cards, [Lee] Edwards said the teleprompter was a new factor in presidential assessment. "It's just strange," he said. "We haven't been able to figure out why he's so dependent on it, because he's a really intelligent guy.

    So, Ronald Reagan relied on note cards, but it's supposed to be remarkable and inexplicable that Barack Obama uses a teleprompter? Huh? Do Lee Edwards and The Hill think there is some fundamental difference between note cards and a teleprompter?

    Finally, would it surprise you to learn that Edwards is the Heritage Foundation's "Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought," or that Heritage touts him as "the chief historian of the American conservative movement"?

  • Still waiting for the Rightroots movement, cont'd

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As long as self-appointed leaders like Andrew Breitbart are in charge of growing the conservative blogosphere, we think we'll be waiting a very long time before the Rightroots stops getting lapped by the liberal Netroots.

    Breitbart's latest excuse for why right-wing bloggers remain stuck in neutral is truly priceless. (Hint: somehow it's Media Matters' fault; we're "goons and liars.")

    And just some friendly advice, but political movements that get off the ground are rarely fueled by non-stop whining. But maybe Breitbart's pity party will prove to be the exception.

    UPDATE: And don't look now Andrew, but the conservative site Riehl Word View is calling your bluff:

    Give me a freaking break here, Breitbart. The Right on line doesn't need to be infiltrated. It has long been nurturing the seeds of its own destruction by elevating people who have already swallowed most of the little blue liberal pill of political correctness in a chase for prestige, or cash.

    The Left isn't the Right's worst enemy - the Right, more specifically, the sissies and the mostly pedestrian conservative mouthpieces waiting for their next big scoop via the RNC in our midst, are... The Right-side of the blogosphere is a snoozefest just waiting for Big Brother to pat them on the head, toss 'em a quarter and tuck them in.

    Ouch.

  • Slate botches Pew poll about newspapers

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    I'm not surprised, since, for some unknown reason, Pew Research itself seemed determined to botch the results of its own polling data. But now we have Slate pushing the false claim that most Americans wouldn't care if their local newspaper folded. It's part of a larger Slate contrarian piece (surprise!) about how newspapers aren't really that important to democracy.

    From Slate's Jack Shafer [emphasis added]:

    If you're a big proponent of democracy, you'll be interested to know that a majority of Americans don't care whether their local newspaper lives or dies. A Pew Research Center poll released earlier this month shows that fewer than half of Americans "say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community 'a lot.' " Hell, I'll bet that if you put the abolishment of newspapers on the ballot in a lot of cities, it just might pass.

    In terms of a majority not caring if their newspaper dies, that's just flat out wrong, and therefore kicks a significant leg out from the Slate argument. As we already noted in detail, what the Pew poll actually found was that a majority of Americans (58%) would care if their newspaper folded: 33% would miss it a "lot," and 25% would miss it "some." That's 58%. And among those polled who called themselves regular newspaper readers, a whopping 80% said they would miss their daily if it folded.

    Why are Slate and Pew so determined to misread, and mislead about, those results?

    As for Slate's larger point that newspapers aren't important to democracy, Pew found that an overwhelming majority of American rejected that claim: 74% say losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community. (81% among regular newspaper readers.)

    Personally, I just don't get this mini-push to claim that readers don't care about newspapers. But please, let's not use phony numbers to prop up the soggy claim.

  • The Red Scare Index: 46

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communistic, Marxism and Marxist.

    Here are the numbers for Friday, March 27, 2009:

    TOTAL: 46
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 25
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 18
    Marxism/Marxist: 3

    By Network:

    CNN: 3
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 1
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    CNN Headline News: 3
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 2
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    Fox News Channel: 27
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 15
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 12
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    Fox Business Network: 2
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 2
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    MSNBC: 10
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 4
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 3
    Marxism/Marxist: 3

    CNBC: 1
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 1
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 0
    Marxism/Marxist: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a TVeyes.com power search for these terms on these networks.

  • A fight Newsbusters probably shouldn't pick ...

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Newsbusters' Michael Bates is upset about a reader comment on a Washington Post blog:

    If the Washington Post doesn't moderate its blogs, it might want to give serious consideration to doing so. In this Golden Age of Obama, his backers obviously feel free to coarsely express their opinions no matter how despicable.

    In the comments section of his own post, Bates left no ambiguity about his position: "I believe The Washington Post should police its blogs, and that was the point of the post."

    So naturally I wondered how Bates polices reader comments on his blog posts.

    Here are some reader comments on Bates' February 22 post about a Chicago Sun-Times profile of Michelle Obama:

    Bates was an active participant in that comment thread. He even replied to the comment calling Michelle Obama a "hag" -- though he didn't object to the name-calling.

    Here's a comment from a Bates post about CNN's Campbell Brown:

    And here's how Bates - who is upset that Obama backers "coarsely express their opinion" -- policed that comment:

    Finally, here's a reader comment from a Bates post about pay inequality:

  • The NYT plays dumb about Glenn Beck

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    No surprise, since this is the Beltway press' standard operating procedure when covering leaders of the conservative media: categorically refusing to spell out to readers what they actually say that makes them so controversial. In its A1 Beck profile on Monday, the Times dutifully follows those guidelines while adding in the twist of not quoting a single liberal who's critical of Fox News' cuckoo, pseudo-End Times host.

    Here's how the Times politely dances around Beck's anti-government conspiratorial nuttiness, which has prompted even Fox anchors and conservative guests to mock him on the air. According to the paper, Beck offers up a "a mix of moral lessons, outrage and an apocalyptic view of the future" and "preaches against politicians, hosts regular segments titled 'Constitution Under Attack' and 'Economic Apocalypse,' and occasionally breaks into tears." Beck also "lingers over doomsday situations."

    Actually, to be accurate, the Times does directly quote Beck in terms of what he's said on the air recently:

    He says that America is "on the road to socialism" and that "God and religion are under attack in the U.S."

    And this:

    "The truth is — that you are the defender of liberty," he said. "It's not the government. It's not an army or anybody else. It's you. This is your country."

    That's pretty much it. That's the direct evidence the Times provides for readers to suggest Beck says controversial things on the air. Hmm, if only there were an online resource the Times could have turned to to find a complete catalog of Beck's hateful inanities broadcast in recent week and months. That way the Times could have provided readers with an actual flavor of Beck's program.

    BTW, according to the Times, Beck's a "populist" who represents an "alienated class of Americans." That's certainly one (disingenuous) way of putting it.

    For context, imagine if (in some parallel universe) a radical Lefty TV host had a cable show at the turn of the decade where he wallowed into all kinds of dark, anti-government conspiracies in the wake of 9/11. Do you think the Times in its profile would directly quote lots of a nutty things that host said, and that the Times would quote a conservative being critical of the nutty host?

    We do too.

    UPDATE: Blogger Will Bunch also has a few problems with the Times "airball."

  • WaPo reporter: "the real fiscal answer is ... slashing Medicare benefits"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    This is a couple days old, but Paul Kane's Washington Post online discussion last week is a near-perfect example of the tendency of many reporters to behave as though the Left and the Right are equally wrong and dishonest - and in the same ways - and only they, the noble reporters, standing squarely in the middle, tell The Truth. And of how that approach is itself an ideology, and one that often gets things very wrong.

    And, in the process, Kane proved the point of my most recent column: the media's approach to budgets is incredibly stupid.

    In Kane's very first answer, he addresses the growing national debt, and it doesn't take Madame Marie to predict his "solution":

    Kane: The real fiscal answer is entitlement reform -- that's code word, everyone, for slashing Medicare benefits and raising the retirement age/payout time for Social Security recipients. Those steps would save trillions of dollars over the years, but both parties are scared to death of infuriating seniors.

    Given the way the Establishment media covers the deficit, I'd be shocked if there was anyone reading who didn't see that one coming. The media believes in few things more strongly than the "need" to slash entitlement benefits in order to balance the budget. Of course, entitlement costs have skyrocketed because health care costs have skyrocketed, and we spend considerably more per person on health care than other nations, without providing better care. But somehow it never seems to occur to these reporters that rather than slashing entitlement benefits, we could reduce health care costs. Perhaps because recognizing that possibility would be agreeing with the liberals, which would eliminate the reporters' ability to portray themselves as the only sensible, non-ideological, fearless truth-tellers.

    Then there's this:

    Portland, Oregon: I'm a liberal Dem, and think I may be missing something. It seems to me that during the W years, we had massive increases in spending, and in the deficit, but that the message was diluted b/c of the way the war spending was handled (separate from the rest of the budget). The Republican hand-wringing over the Obama budget therefore strikes me as insincere. Isn't this really about spending money on infrastructure vs. spending on the military, not on spending vs. not spending?

    Paul Kane: No, sorry, Portland. You're wrong. I'm not putting blame on anyone, but everything's different now. Earlier this decade, the budget deficits were $300b-$400b, at its worst. Now, we're talking $1.8 trillion.

    Everything's different, everything.

    Well, Portland wasn't "wrong." Portland wasn't talking about the relative sizes of the current deficit and the deficit three years ago; Portland was making the point that the Republicans' complaints about deficits seem insincere given that they ran up deficits of their own. And those Republicans were attacking Obama last year, saying his policies would involve deficits - long before we were talking about $1.8 trillion deficits - so Portland would seem to have a pretty unassailable point.

    Then, this:

    The Deficit: One of the great tragedies of the $1.8 trillion deficit is that there is nothing to show for it. (Except Iraq, but no one wants to look at that). On the other hand what Obama seems to want do is invest. There is great value in borrowing for investment purposes. Check my (and imagine your) college educations. Obama is saying we are going to increase the deficit, but afterwards we will have a functional health-care system; a grid that can handle 21st century energy needs, an educational system that will help our kids compete on a level playing ground with the Chinese and Indians. Those types of things pay a return on investment!

    Paul Kane: The thing about liberals these days that is very striking about their fiscal thinking, is how similar it sounds to Reagan. Liberals believe in supply-side economics like Reagan did. Or something akin to it.

    Reagan argued that cutting taxes, thereby reducing revenue, would lead to -- presto -- more revenue, because things would get good again financially, leading to more people making more money and then -- presto -- more taxes flowing in.

    Liberals are currently arguing that increasing spending would lead to -- presto -- more revenue because the things they want to invest in would make things sound financially, leading to people making more money and then -- presto -- more tax revenue flowing in to pay for all these programs.

    Here, Kane is debating a strawman. His questioner plainly did not claim that "increasing spending would lead to - presto - more revenue." His questioner made the - again, seemingly unassailable - point that not all deficits are created alike; that you can have deficits for which you get nothing in return other than an unnecessary war, and you can have deficits for which you get universal health care in return. For example. The question was really not at all "similar" to Reagan, or to supply-side economics. It was simply a recognition of the fact that borrowing money to pay for college is quite different than borrowing money to buy lottery tickets.

    But, again, if Paul Kane agreed with that rather unassailable point, he would be agreeing with the liberals, and wouldn't be able to present himself as the only adult standing between two childish ideologies.

    Later, Kane speculates about recent presidents' success in keeping their promises:

    Kane: I wonder which one of the last 5 (Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter) was best at keeping promises. I tend to think Reagan, but have no real data point to support that. Again, not placing judgment on his promises and their value, I'll leave it up to the Doris Kearns/McCullough/historian crowd to evaluate whether it was a good or bad thing that Reagan kept his promises. But he's my guess for best promise keeper.

    Really? I'll leave the details to Will Bunch, if he wants to weigh in, but it seems to me that Reagan's central promises involved things like smaller government and fiscal responsibility - and that he did a spectacularly poor job of following through on either.

  • Krugman and Newsweek

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The Times' liberal columnist is on the cover this week, with a provocative story headlined: "OBAMA IS WRONG: The Loyal Opposition of Paul Krugman." It's about Krugman's criticism of Obama's economic policies made from the left.

    Writes Newsweek chief Jon Meacham:

    Every once a while, … a critic emerges who is more than a chatterer—a critic with credibility whose views seem more than a little plausible and who manages to rankle those in power in more than passing ways.

    Here's what we think is telling about the whole thing: During the Bush years, Krugman, from his same perch on the pages of Times' opinion pages, waged about as vocal a campaign as humanly possible to warn readers and the country about what he considered to be the perilous policy decisions the Bush administration was embracing, and what the disastrous results for America would be.

    Looking back on the Bush years, Krugman's track record was rather impeccable. But you'll note he didn't appear on the cover of Newsweek back then. (No "Bush is Wrong" cover lines.) And for years Krugman only occasionally appeared on the pundit talk shows. He wasn't referenced much inside The Village, either. Meaning, the Beltway press pros didn't seem to care what Krugman wrote about Bush and didn't think his writing--his opposition--needed to be examined closer. He was just a liberal critic, so who cared what he wrote about Bush. (That's my take on how much of the press viewed Krugman.)

    But now a Democrat is in the Oval Office, Krugman is still hitting the president from the left, and suddenly the Beltway press thinks Krugman's work is fascinating and newsworthy. Trust us, it is. (For years he's been our pick as the country's premier columnist.) We just think everyone would have been better off if the press had paid this much attention to Krugman's work between, say, 2002 and 2006.

  • Politico: Michelle Obama is too ambitious.

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico moves the inane doing-too-much storyline forward with an article about whether Michelle Obama is "spreading herself too thin."

    Under the header "Ambitious agenda for first lady," Politico begins:

    For the past month alone, here's Michelle Obama's itinerary:

    Travel to North Carolina to rally military families. Stand next to Hillary Clinton to encourage women to get politically active. Show up at a home-building site on the National Mall. Visit a D.C. school to talk up good grades. Cap it off by shoveling dirt for a "kitchen garden" at the White House.

    Wow, all that in the past month alone? That's more than an event per week!

    More Politico:

    Ironically, some are raising the same "too much, too fast?" question about Michelle that they're raising about her husband, the president.

    That isn't "ironic" at all, particularly when the "some" people are the same people. The fact that the news media is obsessed with whether Barack Obama is doing too much and with whether Michelle Obama is doing too much isn't an example of irony, it's an example of the media's slavish commitment to its storylines -- even if those storylines are nonsense.

    And, buried at the end of the Politico article, there is some evidence that is exactly what this is - nonsense:

    But she clearly is breaking through and connecting on some level - polls show her favorability ratings in the mid-60s.