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The Politico's Roger Simon claims that in order to gin up support for the stimulus bill Obama has to try to scare Americans straight [emphasis added]:
He must simultaneously petrify people and also restore their confidence. He must scare us to death and calm our fears. He must convince the nation that the times are so dire we must carry out his bold plans immediately, and then he must persuade us to be patient and give his plans time to work.
This echoes the right-wing media chatter about how Obama is supposedly fear-mongering the issue of the economy; how he's spooking out Americans who, apparently, would otherwise be unconcerned about the state of the country's finances.
Not quite. Last month--and before Obama started allegedly fear-mongering the issue--pollsters with the Diegeo/Hotline survey asked voters:
Which of the following would you say best describes the current economic situation in the United States? The biggest economic crisis the U.S. has faced in your lifetime. A crisis, but not the worst in your lifetime. A major problem, but not a crisis. OR, Not a major problem.
An astonishing 60 percent of voters said the current situation represented the worst financial crisis the country had faced in their lifetime. Just 18 percent thought it was not a problem.
There's no proof Obama has to "scare" anybody.
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According to the Associated Press, the stimulus bill being passed by Congress contains "pork" because it might pay for a highway construction project in Indiana, which in turn might remind people of the Bridge To Nowhere. And that means Obama's a hypocrite because he's trying to have it "both ways." Boy, nothing like laying on the GOP talking points, eh?
From the AP's Calvin Woodward's latest misadventure in journalism:
President Barack Obama had it both ways Monday when he promoted his stimulus plan in Indiana. He bragged about getting Congress to produce a package with no pork, yet boasted it will do good things for a Hoosier highway and a downtown overpass, just the kind of local projects lawmakers lard into big spending bills.
But does Woodward have the slightest idea--proof--whether the vaguely referenced highway construction in Indiana would be some sort of wasteful boondoggle? No. Does the AP know if th project would be unneeded? No. Does Woodward know if the highway's a pet project of a local politician? No, he does not. But it sounds like it might be, so he used it to claim Obama's not being truthful about the stimulus bill.
Can the media's economic 'debate' get any dumber?
From Goldberg's February 9 syndicated column:
The stimulus bill has failed. Barack Obama has failed. The Trojan Horse of Hope and Change crashed into the guardrail of reality, revealing an army of ideologues and activists inside.
Now, before I continue, let me say that Barack Obama will still be popular, he will still get things done and he will declare victory after signing a stimulus bill.
But Obama's moment is gone, and politics is about nothing if not moments.
The stimulus bill was a bridge too far, an overplayed hand, 10 pounds of manure in a 5-pound bag. The legislation's primary duty was never to stimulate the economy, but to stimulate the growth of government.
There was just too much muchness in the bill. Voters are souring on it. Republicans finally discovered testicular fortitude - and they seem to like it.
There is still probably bipartisan support for a stimulus bill, but only for a measure intended to stimulate our market-based economy rather than one that hastens its Swedenization.
The perfect storm of liberalism has dissipated to scattered showers.
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In a Washington Post column, Warren Brown claimed that "there has been no gasoline saved in response to ... the various iterations of federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy [CAFE] rules." However, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report stated: "According to estimates by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and other experts we consulted, the CAFE program has helped save billions of barrels of oil and could continue to do so in the future."
Several news outlets have uncritically quoted Republican senators criticizing the economic recovery plan supported by Senate Democrats as not being "timely, targeted and temporary" but did not point out that those Republicans voted in support of a proposed amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) that would replace the stimulus bill entirely with permanent tax cuts, some of which DeMint referred to as "broad based."
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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.