Jeanne Cummings at Politico pretty much writes the exact same piece as Hirsh and Dionne. (Ah, CW....) The White House is losing the media war surrounding the stimulous package, and (surprise!) the media have played no role in that development.
Before Hirsh or Dionne or Cummings or the rest of the media elites write again about the White House losing the media war, they ought to go read John Amato [emphasis added]:
Obama was elected to bring change to the economy, not to debate the merits of tax cuts all over again. We had that discussion for 18 months and Obama won. Tax cuts lost. Why is the media ignoring that fact? John McCain ran on tax cuts to save us and he lost. Now he's telling his supporters that he's going to vote NO on the stimulus plan and wants them to sign a petition. You lost the election badly. Democrats have solid majorities everywhere you look, but not when it comes to the media that is supposed to inform us and not play "spin wars' with the country.
CNN's Lou Dobbs repeated the Republican talking point that the House-passed recovery bill "call[s] for more than $4 billion ... for something called 'neighborhood stabilization activities,' " adding, "That means funding for low-income advocacy groups such as ACORN." In fact, the recovery 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.
You don't have to spend much time reading the nonsensical ramblings of the Media Research Center/Newsbusters crew before you start wondering how on earth anyone could ever take them seriously.
Take a look at some of their recent complaints.
Let's start with Newsbusters' Tom Blumer, who just flat-out made a fool of himself yesterday. Blumer was all up in arms about an Associated Press analysis by Charles Babington. According to Blumer, Babington failed to describe Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's tax problems. Blumer points to Babington's "fifth and worst paragraph, which is all you'll need to know how bad it is," which read:
An old story, with new actors, played out Tuesday: A new president's team imperfectly vetted top nominees. The nominees, it turns out, had not paid taxes for household help or other services when they were private citizens. The news media and political adversaries bored in. And rather than spend more valuable time and political capital defending the appointees, the administration dropped them and moved on. [emphasis Blumer's]
Of that paragraph, Blumer wrote: "This is beyond risible. Babington knows full well that Tim Geithner's and Tom Daschle's tax problems went way, way beyond "household help or other services. Geithner's nanny tax problems were relatively small, and had long since been addressed. The real biggie was his failure to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on his 2001-2004 income earned when he was at the International Monetary Fund."
But - and this is kind of important - the paragraph in question didn't have anything to do with Tim Geithner. It was about Daschle and Nancy Killefer. There are a couple of things that give that fact away: The reference at the beginning of the paragraph to a story that "played out Tuesday" and the bit at the end about the administration dropping the nominees. Geithner's tax trouble played out long ago and, of course, he was not "dropped." Blumer apparently didn't read either the beginning or the end of the paragraph - either that, or he just has no idea what he's talking about.
To Blumer's broader "point" that Babington supposedly downplayed Daschle & Geithner's tax problems: Babington noted that Geithner "had been required to pay $34,000 in overdue income taxes" and Daschle "belatedly paid $128,203 in taxes and $11,964 in interest."
Wow, Babington really covered up for them, didn't he?
Finally, Blumer portrayed Babington's piece as part of the "Beltway victimization theme" the media is supposedly pushing to absolve the Obama administration of responsibility for the tax stories. But Babington - in that "fifth and worst" paragraph Blumer so badly misread - wrote that Obama's "team imperfectly vetted top nominees." Later, he wrote that Obama "may be more ordinary than some admirers would like to admit."
Needless to say, Blumer didn't say a word about the actual problem with Babington's "analysis" - his unsubstantiated claim that Obama is "seen by some as arrogant."
Also Wednesday, MRC's Scott Whitlock claimed that ABC's George Stephanopoulos was guilty of "Democratic Spin." The "spin" Whitlock was complaining about consisted of Stephanopoulos saying that the Daschle nomination had threatened to hurt Obama's "reformist image." Somehow I doubt that came from White House talking points. Moments later, Stephanopoulos said Obama is "going to have to agree to some changes" to the stimulus package to accommodate Republicans. Again: probably not what most people would consider "Democratic spin."
One more from Wednesday: MRC Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham quoted from a column by the Washington Post's Kathleen Parker: "Almost half of us (42 percent) have tried marijuana at least once." In response, Graham thundered: "Can't Parker do math? If 58 percent of Americans haven't gotten "sweetly baked in hay," why do pot proponents always pretend that practically everyone has used, and practically every cop or judge is a hypocrite?"
Well ... can't Graham read? Parker wrote "almost half" - and gave the percentage. Graham even quoted that line. Nowhere in her column did Parker claim or imply that a "practically everyone" has used marijuana. Indeed, she supplied the statistic Graham used.
I mean, this is just crazy. Parker said fewer than half of Americans have used marijuana - and Graham is apoplectic that she failed to point out that a majority haven't used the drug. What?
On Tuesday, MRC News Analyst Kyle Drennen complained "CBS Pundit Defends Daschle But Slammed Tom Delay." The "CBS Pundit" in question was actually a guest, but we'll give Drennen a pass on that one. The real problem is that the guest, Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, didn't defend Daschle. Here's what Drennen thinks is a "defense" of Daschle:
"What Tom Daschle does is the more sophisticated kind of lobbying we have in Washington, where he's a consultant. And he talks to people about the strategy for getting a piece of legislation passed...Maybe the truth of the matter is, you need some of those Washington insiders in order to make your new government work. But then let's say that." [emphasis Drennen's]
That isn't a defense. If anything, it's a criticism. The first part of the quote followed CBS reporter Bill Plante noting that Daschle isn't technically a lobbyist. So, Sloan was arguing that though Daschle isn't technically a lobbyist, he still does "the more sophisticated kind of lobbying." That quote plainly isn't a defense of Daschle.
Had Drennen read that morning's New York Times (or glanced at CREW's web page), he would have seen Sloan quoted as saying some pretty critical things about the Obama administration's follow-through on his campaign statements about reform.
Finally, Drennen doubled down on his inane and false complaint that Sloan was defending Daschle by attempting to contrast it with comments she made about Tom DeLay in 2005. But Daschle and DeLay aren't quite the same situation: Tom DeLay was under criminal indictment at the time. Of course Sloan's comments about DeLay were more harsh.
Also on Tuesday, Newsbusters associate editor Noel Sheppard quoted Obama saying of his relationship with Fox News "I think it's fair to say that I don't always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that's part of how democracy is supposed to work. You know, we're not supposed to all be in lock step here" - and somehow concluded from that that "everybody other than Fox IS in lock step as far as Obama is concerned." Ah, ok, Noel. But that isn't what Obama said - and it doesn't follow logically from what he said.
I used to think the defining quality of the folks at the Media Research Center is their dishonesty. After all, this is an organization whose founder, Brent Bozell, complained in 1998 that the media wasn't covering the Lewinsky story enough - on a day when there were 500 news reports about Bill Clinton and Lewinsky. But I'm beginning to think their dishonesty may be a close second to the fact that they just aren't very bright.
In his Wall Street Journal op-ed, Karl Rove wrote of the House-passed economic recovery bill: "And it should not shock Americans that Democratic appropriators would funnel tax dollars to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now." In fact, the recovery 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.
CNN's Lou Dobbs declared that, in recent comments about the state of the economy, President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been "fear-mongering" and "blatantly using the politics of fear to push for even more so-called stimulus measures." But Dobbs has repeatedly engaged in "fear-mongering" of his own, including stirring up baseless fears that the economic recovery bill would provide money for undocumented immigrants and ACORN -- two frequent scapegoats of Dobbs, Republicans, and conservative media figures.
While criticizing President Obama for saying that the economy is currently doing poorly, Steve Doocy purported to contrast what Obama has said with FDR's famous statement that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." In fact, in the very speech in which Roosevelt made that remark, he said of the economy at the time, "Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income." Roosevelt later added: "Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment."
Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade falsely claimed that during a congressional subcommittee hearing, Rep. Gary Ackerman was "going off at" whistleblower Harry Markopolos. In fact, the video of Ackerman Fox & Friends showed contradicted Kilmeade's claim, as acting SEC general counsel Andrew Vollmer was shown on-screen responding to Ackerman's comments.
In 1993, I did a pretty shabby job of covering Bill Clinton's economic plan. It was, in sum, a very good plan--it worked wonders for the economy--but I focused on the mishaps. (Clinton, for example, pulled the rug out from under House Democrats by offering a carbon tax, which they voted for...and then the President removed it from the bill.) Clinton couldn't get any Republican votes for the package. A disaster! He had trouble getting Democratic votes for it; he had to beg Bob Kerrey for his vote to get it through the Senate. His presidency was in ruins! He had lost all credibility! (Actually, those of us who had focused on some big ugly trees rather than the blooming forest were the ones who had lost credibility.) It pains me to watch normally reasonable colleagues overreacting to Obama's situation now--which is far less dire than Clinton's was. Some form of stimulus will pass. If it doesn't revive the economy, then more stimulus will be passed. Obama's maintaining the proper balance of reaching out to Republicans, making some compromises, but staying firm on the need for a bill that includes public works as well as tax cuts. A Republican Senator, a vocal opponent of the bill, told me the other day: "The guy has really impressed us. We may not vote for the bill, and he may have to learn that you have to give us more than he wants to give us to make us happy, but he's made a really strong start that will work to his benefit down the road."
We mentioned earlier how Newsweek's Michael Hirsh wrote a piece explaining all about how the White House is losing the P.R. war over the stimulus bill. But how amazingly, at least according to Hirsh, the media has played no role in that setback for Obama.
Right on cue, Dionne chimes in today in the WaPo with pretty much the same argument. "Obama Losing the Media War," read the headline to Dionne's column in my local newspaper. (That's the beauty of a CW; everybody inside the Beltway agrees on what to write.)
Just like Hirsh, Dionne laments how "Republicans have succeeded in defining" the stimulus 'debate.' Just like Hirsh, Dionne offers up some remedies. And just like Hirsh, Dionne doesn't think the press has played any role in tilting the stimulus 'debate' in the GOP's favor.
At the risk of repeating ourselves, we'd note Dionne completely ignores the statistics released last which which showed there were twice as many Republicans invited onto cable TV to 'debate' the bill, as compared to Democrats. He completely ignores the fact that journalists reporting on the stimulus bill continue to tirelessly misinform the public about its content. And how journalists have all but ingested GOP talking points about the bill and practically spit them out as easily as taking a breathe.
Dionne says the White House is losing the P.R. war on the stimulus bill. And Dionne may be right. But according to Dionne, the press has played no role in the White House setback. None.
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It's always rather comical to read political analysis produced by the press and how, almost without exception, the person writing the piece completely ignores whatever role the press has played in shaping the political landscape being dissected.
Newsweek's Michael Hirsh offers up just the latest exaple with his piece, which plugs into the sky-is-falling CW that's been entrenched inside the Beltway for the last 48 hours. It's headlined, "Losing Control: Obama needs to reassert command of the agenda in Washington,"
Like most of the stimulus analysis today, what's actually in the bill and what it might accomplish is mostly ignored by Hirsh, who's more focused on the politics and the optics: Who should be saying this and how that looks. In other words, it's process over substance. But that's hardly new or surprising. It's what the Beltway press corps now does for a living and what it considers to be the greatest issue facing the country. (The press effectively gave up on covering public policy years ago.)
The other entirely predictable part is when claiming Obama has lost ground on the stimulus bill and is losing the public debate--that "the public isn't hearing" important information--Hirsh completely ignores any role the mainstream media have played in that debate. Hersh completely ignores the statistics released last which which showed there were twice as many Republicans invited onto cable TV to 'debate' the bill, as compared to Democrats. He completely ignores the fact that journalists reporting on the stimulus bill continue to tirelessly misinform the public about its content. And how journalists have all but ingested GOP talking points about the bill and practically spit them out as easily as taking a breathe.
Hirsh says the White House is losing the P.R. war on the stimulus bill. And Hersh may be right. But according to Hirsh, the press has played no role in the White House setback. None.
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