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Two quick thoughts on this. First, I'm a little surprised by these results. Not only have conservative Republicans been dominating the discourse, but the critics' talking points have been largely internalized by journalists covering the debate. There's at least some data suggesting Americans actually want less stimulus in the stimulus bill. It's at least possible, then, that the Gallup results are an outlier. (It's also possible that the numbers are connected to Obama's personal popularity -- Rasmussen doesn't include the president's name in its stimulus polling, while Gallup did.)
Second, Gallup noted "the degree to which Obama appears to be maintaining the upper hand over his opponents." If only that were true. Given what we've seen of late, there's no reason to believe Republicans' conduct is in any way connected to the demands of voters. The president would have the upper hand if the minority party were swayed by public opinion, but at least for now, the GOP is more interested in standing on the party's "core principles" than anything else.
From Truth Dig:
...watching TV news may actually shrink your brain. Well, that's not fair, but it certainly won't teach you much about stimulating the economy. That's because the personalities that populate the airwaves—and not just Fox News—are given license to repeat untruths over and over again.
That's what blogger Bob Cesca wonders, noting that's it's become clear Republicans, with the help of Matt Drudge, seem to be purposely conflating Obama's stimulus bill with the separate, pending attempt to bailout out struggling banks.
Recently, there's been pundit chatter about how some Americans are inadvertently confusing the two (very different) government plans. It now appears as if the Republicans will be seizing upon this confusion in order to further diminish public support for the recovery bill.
News Hounds takes apart Ann Coulter's recent appearance on Fox News' Hannity:
It seems that on FOX News, the only credentials a guest needs are a willingness to viciously malign Democrats. How else to explain the appearance of Ann "Boombox" Coulter on last night's (2/6/09) Hannity as an expert to discuss the Senate's compromise on the stimulus plan?
…Coulter, who has no discernible expertise in economics, provided just the kind of thoughtful and insightful analysis of the stimulus plan you'd expect from her.
First, she declared the three Republican Senators (Snowe, Collins and Specter) who are supporting the Democratic plan, "literally, a couple of the stupidest, most traitorous Republicans."
Then Coulter displayed her money mojo. "The government doesn't do anything," Coulter said. "It doesn't make money."
Next, Coulter revealed her grasp of international economics – by repeating a false conservative talking point: "Japan tried it and if the Japanese can't pull it off..." She switched gears to add this patriotic thought, "As Charles Murray has pointed out, they DO have higher IQ's. If they can't pull off this kind of spending your way into an economic recovery, then we certainly can't."
ConWebWatch and News Hounds pick up on WorldNetDaily and Fox News promoting the misguided notion that the President's recovery bill would prohibit religious activity in schools accepting Federal funds.
A Feb. 6 WorldNetDaily article by Bob Unruh uncritically repeats claims by Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice that a clause in a provision in the stimulus bill that bans federal funding of construction of school facilities whose primary purpose is religious is an "attempt to censor religious speech and worship on school campuses across the nation." Unruh makes no apparent attempt to seek out a response to Sekulow and Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, whom Unruh also quotes opining on the issue.
Too bad, because Sekulow and DeMint appear to be lying.
From News Hounds:
There is a saying that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" and "Grapevine" is a stunning example of that aphorism; as it offers short sound-bites on information that is presented as Fox "fact" without analysis or rebuttal.
The February 4th article began with a sentence sure to get the pitchfork gang salivating: "Democrats in Congress have declared war on prayer, say conservative groups who object to a provision in the stimulus bill that was passed by the House of Representatives last week. The provision bans money designated for school renovation from being spent on facilities that allow "religious worship." It has ignited a fury among critics who say it violates the First Amendment and is an attempt to prevent religious practice in schools." Naturally, the head of the religious right Liberty Counsel, Matthew Staver, was quoted at length. The article provided a brief rebuttal (Barry Lynn From Americans United for Separation of Church and State and a sentence summing up the ACLU position) but bookended the article with more commentary (whining) from "The Traditional Values Coalition." The religious right had already set in motion their pre-emptive strike against the evil Democrats – see People for the American Way's "The 'Big Lie' Strategy: Religious Right Stokes False Fears of Religious Persecution" which details how the religious right "ratcheted up the rhetoric" of a "phony crisis" in advance of Republican Senator Jim DeMint's amendment to strip church/state protections from the bill and how they spun the resulting defeat of the amendment. The Fox News article was part of a culture war skirmish which even included Fox fave Michelle Malkin who indignantly stated, on her blog, that the defeat of the DeMint amendment was another reason not to support the stimulus package.
I guess the religious right and Republican Senator Jim DeMint don't have a problem with "bearing false witness" because their attempts to galvanize the base by demonizing Democrats are a bold, fresh pile of steaming crap.
Today, both take the temperature of the GOP and its political prospects, but come to very different conclusions. The WaPo report finds the party brimming with new (anti-Obama) life, and members generally thrilled with their performance in recent days:
After giving the package zero votes in the House, and with their counterparts in the Senate likely to provide in a crucial procedural vote today only the handful of votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement.
In general, it's a very rah-rah assessment with just a passing reference to the fact that yes, the Republicans' obstructionist strategy might carry with it a downside.
Over at Politico, it was a different story as told from inside the GOP, with two Republican pro's highlighting the mounting troubles the party faces. One was Jack Burkman is a GOP lobbyist and strategist, who wrote:
With no leadership and no discernible values, principles or direction, congressional Republicans seem all but certain to be steamrolled by President Barack Obama, whose early approval numbers top 75 percent...
Bleaker still is the reality that the party has a terrible dearth of virtually everything from presidential candidates to strategists. Mitt Romney is rich, Harvard-educated and handsome, but he will have enormous difficulty emerging as a charismatic GOP leader because of his lack of belief in, well, anything. Sarah Palin would make a smashing suit model.
At the grass-roots level, the party is no longer even producing good political strategists, something the GOP has excelled at for many years. Most top-gun operatives have become lobbyists, preferring the quick cash to the hard discipline and creativity required of campaign life. The problem is that, with Republicans shut out of power, there is no one left to lobby.
The other was a somewhat sarcastic open letter to Rush Limbaugh, written by John Feehery worked for the House Republican leadership from 1989 to 2005. He wrote:
[O]ur research shows that the American people actually want help with certain things (the failing education system, the high cost of health care, the sagging economy, etc.). Do you have any good ideas that you can share with us — ideas that will be seen as reasonable by the American people — that can serve as a viable alternative? Or is it your plan to simply oppose every idea that comes from the Obama administration?
It's telling that when Beltway reporters size up the GOP, they see signs of strength and resurgence. But when GOP insiders take a look, the view isn't so pretty.
Apparently. Because asking questions about the stimulus bill, King, perfectly echoing GOP talking points, wonders if a construction project one mayor is proposing (a community wave pool) will actually create jobs.
The only real question is how does hiring a construction firm to build a community pool not create jobs? Seriously, we'd love to hear King's explanation.
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It's probably a good thing that cable news generally doesn't draw much of an audience from the 18- to 24-year-old demographic. Otherwise, history professors across the nation could very well be witnessing the undoing of their work to educate students about the dire economic climate the United States faced for much of the 1930s.
Those who have been watching cable news lately have undoubtedly noticed the litany of conservative media figures attempting to rewrite history by denigrating the tremendous successes of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal policies in what amounts to an orchestrated effort to derail the economic recovery plans of President Obama.
Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume recently called Roosevelt's policies "a jihad against private enterprise," just after claiming that "everybody agrees, I think, on both sides of the spectrum now, that the New Deal failed." That may be accurate if by "both sides of the spectrum" Hume is referring to the right and far-right over at Fox News.
Hume's own jihad against the facts, however, represents only a small portion of the historical misrepresentations passed off as reasoned debate about the New Deal.
Karl Frisch is a Senior Fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog, research, and information center based in Washington, DC. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign-up to receive his columns by email.
A shorter version of this column first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News.
Over the past few weeks, the news media has repeatedly portrayed President Obama and (especially) congressional Democrats as being insufficiently "bipartisan" and "centrist" in their approach to the stimulus package. These news reports often seem to suggest that bipartisanship is an end in and of itself, rather than a means to an end. Worse, as I explained in a recent column, they blamed the wrong party for the lack of bipartisan cooperation:
So, to sum up: The Democrats -- who won landslide electoral victories in both 2006 and 2008 and whose policy positions enjoy broad public support -- offered a bill that included a mix of tax cuts and spending, that removed provisions the Republicans didn't like. The Republicans, having lost badly in the past two elections and enjoying about as much popularity as a kick in the head, offered a bill that consisted solely of their own priority, tax cuts.
And yet the Mark Halperins of the world blast Obama and the Democrats for not compromising enough. Absolutely incredible.
Today, a new Gallup poll shows that not only were these news reports factually and logically flawed, they were - once again - painfully out of touch with the American people.
According to Gallup, 67 percent of Americans approve of President Obama's handling of the stimulus bill, while only 25 percent disapprove. And more American approve rather than disapprove of Congressional Democrats handling of the bill, though by a much smaller margin than Obama enjoys.
The Republicans, on the other hand, fare much worse. Only 31 percent of Americans approve of their handling of the stimulus, while 58 percent disapprove.
And this despite weeks of news reports that perversely suggest the Democrats have been insufficiently bipartisan, and that falsely suggest that that the GOP's tax cut proposals would be more stimulative than government spending on things like unemployment benefits and food stamps.
Just imagine what the poll numbers would be had the media coverage of the stimulus debate not been so skewed in the Republicans' favor.
The Washington Post uncritically reported RNC chairman Michael Steele's statement that "government -- federal, state or local -- has never created one job." In fact, about 15 percent of the labor force is employed by federal, state, or local government, and Steele himself has acknowledged that funds included in the recovery bill for school construction will create jobs "[f]or a short term, yes. It's a construction job."
In a fundraising email "[p]aid for by The National Republican Trust PAC," Dick Morris claimed that "the Democrats want to give almost $5 billion to groups like ACORN" in the recovery bill. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding; ACORN itself has said that it is ineligible for the funds and has no plans to apply for them.
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A Washington Times "analysis," promoted by the Drudge Report and ABCNews.com's The Note, quoted only Republicans to make the claim that President Obama's purported language of "doom" regarding the economy has been deemed "not presidential."
On its website and on Your World, Fox News has promoted the misrepresentation of a provision in the economic recovery bill to make false claims about restrictions on spending in the bill for religious activities in schools. In fact, the provision is nearly identical to provisions included in numerous other federal bills.