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  • Howard Kurtz plays dumb about Rush Limbaugh

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Big shock, we know. But today Kurtz transcribes GOP talking points that the White House under no circumstances is allowed to mention Rush Limbaugh's name and that by answering reporters' questions about Limbaugh, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is "going after private citizens." Because apparently the First Amendment no longer applies to the White House.

    Whatever.

    But here's where Kurtz plays dumb, as he puffs up Limbaugh:

    For nearly two decades, the radio host has masterfully inserted himself into political disputes by pushing the usual boundaries. In last year's Democratic primaries, he tried to derail Obama with what he dubbed Operation Chaos, urging his followers to cross over and vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    See, Limbaugh's a master. Except when he's not. Like, oh, I don't know, 12 months ago when he launched a jihad against John McCain, announcing that under no circumstances was he to become the nominee of the Republican Party.

    And what did Republican voters nationwide do in response? They promptly ignored Limbaugh's rantings and handed McCain an easy nomination victory.

    Yep, that Rush is a real master.

    UPDATE: More of the right-wing nonsense (courtesy of Fox News) that Rush Limbaugh should be "free to speak his mind," but that's it's basically illegal for the White House to respond.

    Wingnuttery, indeed.

  • Jim Cramer's ballooning ego now approaching the size of Rush Limbaugh's

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    We knew Cramer lived to hear himself talk, but this is getting ridiculous. Borrowing a page from Limbaugh, Cramer has penned a tedious open letter to the White House where he, in part, fantasizes that he's on the Obama Enemies List. Why? Because Cramer's name was brought up by a reporter at a White House press briefing this week.

    That apparently signaled to Cramer that he needed to write more about himself under the guise of writing about the administration and the stock market.

    -Number of times Cramer refers to "Obama" in open letter to White House: 9.

    -Number of times Cramer refers to himself in open letter to White House: 43.

    It reminds me of a passage from the recent Esquire profile of Cramer:

    Because the only subject more fascinating to Jim Cramer than the stock market is, naturally, Jim Cramer.

  • The Journal Register Co. continues to shred journalism

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The hapless, and now worthless, newspaper chain which is in the process of going belly-up, really ought to serve as a case study some day regarding what went terribly wrong with the American newspaper industry. And how, during the last couple decades, greedy outsiders without the slightest commitment to journalism or communities, were able to drag some worthy newspapers into the abyss.

    At the top of that list is the mid-sized Journal Register Co., which, I'm guessing, will soon shutter its 'flagship' daily, the New Haven Register in Connecticut, in part because the Journal Register Co. doesn't have the slightest idea of how to operate a newspaper, let alone turn a profit.

    The destruction that the Journal Register has done to the Register, and to Connecticut journalism in general, over the years is almost beyond description. The company took a community-minded newspaper that enjoyed a monopoly and beefy subscribers rates, and gutted the operation through mindless cost cutting, and that was during the economic boom times.

    Anyway, here's the latest:

    The Connecticut attorney general's office objected Wednesday to a plan by Journal Register Co. to pay its top executives up to $1.7 million in bonuses even as the newspaper publisher seeks Chapter 11 protection from creditors.

    What are the bonuses for? For gutting the company's newspapers, of course:

    The bonus plan would apply to 31 "key employees" who could receive an average of $15,700 each if 450 positions are cut by March 31, according to the company's motion for "incentive pay" filed with the court. Further bonuses totaling about $1.2 million would be available if the employees met other goals including eliminating publications and reaching certain financial targets.

  • Life inside The Village

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This sentence, typed up by Howard Kurtz at the WashPost, offers a nice window into the world of the corporate Beltway press and just how skewed its view of politics is. The context was Kurtz thought it was a huge deal that CNBC's Jim Cramer went running off at the mouth again and criticized Obama's budget as "radical."

    Wrote Kurtz [emphasis added]:

    The reason this is noteworthy is that Cramer is a liberal Democrat who, for example, strongly backed his former Goldman Sachs colleague Jon Corzine for New Jersey governor.

    Got that? Because professional Wall Street cheerleader Jim Cramer has backed his friend and former Goldman Sachs CEO, that makes Cramer a liberal Democrat.

    Only in The Village.

    BTW, liberal Democrats don't talk like this.

  • Network newscasts last night all ignored WSJ's scoop about monstrous Merrill Lynch pay bonuses

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Not a word Wednesday night from ABC, CBS or NBC about the Journal's big A1 story yesterday:

    As bad as 2008 was for Merrill Lynch & Co., it was very good for Andrea Orcel, the firm's top investment banker. Although Merrill's net loss ballooned to $27.6 billion last year, Mr. Orcel, 45 years old, was paid $33.8 million in cash and stock, just shy of his pay in 2007.

    The networks have all recently reported on the pay of middle class autoworkers while the Big Three looked for a government bailout. But the nets didn't care about the fact that Merrill Lynch, which has benefited from taxpayer support (indirectly via TARP funds), lost $27 billion last year yet nearly 150 employees were paid more than $3 million. Or that:

    Thomas Montag, the head of global sales and trading at Merrill, made $39.4 million in 2008, even though his first day on the job was in August.

    Nope, nothing to see here, folks.

  • MSNBC stumbles onto the truth

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From its First Thoughts [emphasis added]:

    To paraphrase Dickens, the last six weeks have been the best of times for Obama and the Democrats, and the worst of times for the Republicans. Just consider the latest findings from our NBC/WSJ poll: Obama's favorability rating is at 68% (an all-time high in our survey), 67% say they feel more hopeful about his leadership, 60% approve of his job in the White House, and 49% have a positive view of the Democratic Party (which is also near a high). On the other hand, just 26% view the GOP positively (an all-time low in the poll), respondents blame Bush and congressional Republicans for most of the partisanship in DC, 56% think the GOP's opposition to Obama is based on politics, and Republicans lose by nearly 30 percentage points on the question about which party would do a better job of leading the country out of recession.

    All's I can say is thank God for polling. Because if the surveys didn't exist we'd still have a press corps focusing on the Republicans' "win" over Obama's stimulus package. (Why? Because Republicans always outmaneuver Democrats.) A win that, according to the American people and not the surgically disconnected Beltway press corps, was actually a colossal failure.

    For those with short-term memory woes, let's recap how, just a few weeks ago, the press was tipping its cap to the GOP and its genius stimulus strategy of going all in against Obama and slapping the president's hand of bipartisanship.

    *Politico's Jeanne Cummings warned Obama was "losing [the] stimulus message war."

    *The Los Angeles Times, Peter Wallsten asserted that "[a] surprisingly unified GOP has taken control of the debate" about the stimulus plan.

    *The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman and Naftali Bendavid referenced in a February 6 article "Republicans' remarkable success during the past two weeks ... shaping a public image of the bill as pork-laden and ineffective."

    *Newsweek senior editor Michael Hirsh wrote that that Obama "has allowed the GOP to turn the haggling over the stimulus package into a decidedly stale, Republican-style debate over pork, waste and overspending." Hirsh continued: "Team Obama and his party are losing the debate" about the stimulus plan.

    *On MSNBC's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Newsweek senior White House correspondent Richard Wolffe claimed the Democrats' "messaging has not worked." Wolffe also stated of the administration: "What they haven't done is say, hey, it's not just about spending. It's about mitigating, softening the blow of this recession for regular, working Americans. That's the bit they've failed on. They've let it be hijacked by all this extraneous spending programs."

    *On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, congressional correspondent Jessica Yellin asserted that "official Washington has decided Obama is losing the PR war on the stimulus."

    To repeat: the Republicans' public approval ratings are now at an all-time low. The press never saw that coming.

  • Rush Limbaugh's crowded debate schedule

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The AM talker's jump-the-shark moment from yesterday's show, where Limbaugh suggested Obama appear on his radio show for a debate (no deluded sense of self-grandeur there, right?), comes against the backdrop of Limbaugh refusing a previous public debate.

    As Jason Linkins notes at HuffPost:

    Perhaps he has forgotten, but Limbaugh already has a standing challenge from CNN's banisher of "bias" and "bull" Campbell Brown, to appear on the air and debate their chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, who Limbaugh had previously maligned. Oh, and here's some trash talk from a Democratic party operative, who writes, "Just saying...if you cant stand up to Campbell, you shouldn't be calling Rahm effeminate and calling out the President."

  • Time continues with its Limbaugh-issued talking points

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    First we had Time's Michael Scherer with his the-Democrats-made-Rush-do-it nonsense (click here for a chuckle), and now Times' David Von Drehle tops that with his painfully dumb take on the Limbaugh story.

    Headline:

    Criticizing Rush Limbaugh: Over the Line?

    That's right, Rush is now the victim.

    Read, if you must:

    Sooner or later, most presidential administrations make some version of the Sun King's mistake. "L'etat c'est moi," Louis XIV of France is said to have declared - "I am the state." To criticize the man becomes downright unpatriotic. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs crept up to that line - even put his toe over - as he tried to capitalize on the anti-Obama declarations of talk-show behemoth Rush Limbaugh.

    Got that? Reporters asked Gibbs about Limbaugh. Gibbs answered, and now Gibbs is at fault because, according to Von Drehle, the arrogant White House is trying to silence dissent.

    Von Drehle, completely making stuff up, claims the White House has dubbed criticism "unpatriotic."

  • NYT's Tierney awakens from his slumber to question use of science in the Obama administration

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN DELICATH

    In yet another example of what County Fair's own Eric Boehlert described as the press awakening from its slumber "just in time to aggressively press the new Democratic administration," the NYT's controversial science reporter John Tierney --American Progress' Joe Romm called him "easily the worst science writer at any major media outlet in the country"-- has written a column and two blog posts in the last couple of weeks fretting about the kind of advice President Obama might receive from some of his science advisors, most specifically John Holdren (Obama's pick for Science Advisor) and Steven Chu (Obama's Secretary of Energy). If you find it odd that a journalist who did little to no reporting on the widespread and well documented distortion of science and the scientific process during the George W. Bush administration would suddenly find it important to write about the politicization of science in Washington, you are not alone.

    After his January 23 column, "Politics in the Guise of Pure Science," Tierney noted that he was asked by critics "[w]hy start worrying now about scientists pushing a political agenda" and isn't it disingenuous "to worry about the politicization of science now instead of during the Bush administration?" In his own defense he writes: "I agree that there were lots of attempts to use science for political ends during the Bush years. I wrote about some of the questionable claims by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the White House drug czar's office." So, while the Bush administration was busy placing unqualified political appointees in scientific positions, muzzling agency scientists, ignoring scientific findings when making federal health and environmental rules, manipulating the scientific advisory system in favor of ideology and industry, and editing reports in way that distorted scientific data, Tierney wrote about some "questionable claims" by the DEA and White House drug czar. Got it.

    And just why is Tierney now concerned about "honest science"? Have Holdren or Chu been accused or found guilty of distorting scientific evidence or manipulating the scientific process for political purposes? No, Tierney is "concern[ed] about some of the debating tactics used by Dr. Holdren and his allies" early in Holdren's career, back in the 70s and 80s. Tierney's also concerned that Holdren, as Tierney sees it, has a "tendency to conflate the science of climate change with prescriptions to cut greenhouse emissions." According to Tierney, "There are other ways to cope, and there's no 'scientific consensus' on which path looks best." Of course, Joe Romm -- an actual scientist, as opposed someone like Tierney, who "always wanted to be a scientist but went into journalism because its peer-review process was a great deal easier to sneak through,"-- has noted that the idea that climate change science does not suggest the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions is just absurd.

    As for Chu, Tierney cites one comment that Chu made in an interview with the Los Angeles times where he suggested that the effects of climate change could reduce the snow pack in the mountains of California to such an extent that there could be "no more agriculture in California," making it difficult to "keep their cities going." While Chu's comment may strike some as going beyond what the available science would allow us to predict with any degree of certainty, Tierney failed to mention that Chu reportedly was describing a worst case scenario or that the LAT reported that "[a] pair of recent studies raise similar warnings." Moreover, Chu's singular comment hardly provides evidence that we should be worried about whether Chu and other advisors give Obama "realistic plans for dealing with global warming and other threats." But it's good to see that Tierney has his watchful eye on the use of science in Washington, this time around.