Congressional experts Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman J. Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute appeared on MSNBC's Up w/ Chris Hayes this morning to detail the Republican Party's "all-out war" against President Obama. They explained how the GOP has "been aggressively oppositional in every respect" and how it has succeeded in using parliamentary tools "to deny the majority an opportunity to act."
Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele objected, arguing that President Obama and the Democratic Party deserve just as much blame for the current political gridlock as Republicans.
This notion that it's Obama and the Democrats who refuse to compromise on policy issues is absurd, but it is an oft-repeated claim that media outlets and conservatives fling out to deflect from, and obscure, Republican obstructionism. Indeed, as Ornstein and Mann pointed out, the fault lies entirely with the Republicans.
From the June 3 edition of MSNBC's Up W/ Chris Hayes:
Loading the player ...
Bill O'Reilly attacked a bipartisan group of 168 members of Congress for voting against a bill that criminalizes certain abortions under the guise of preventing sex-selective abortions. In particular, O'Reilly singled out Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), mocking a clip of her saying, "We're going back to the days of coat hangers. That's what they want to do. They want to criminalize doctors because what that says is, how do you know that a doctor is engaged in helping a woman abort because of the particular gender of the fetus?"
But Jackson Lee is correct.
As Jackson Lee noted, if passed, the bill would make it a felony for doctors to perform certain abortions. Opponents of the bill point out that the legislation could lead to racial profiling, would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, authorizes the government, spouses, and other family members to get court injunctions to stop abortions, has serious constitutional problems, and, according to experts, would not actually be effective at stopping sex-selective abortions.
Moreover, Jackson Lee is correct that the ultimate goal of legislation such as this is to "go back to the days of coat hangers."
Indeed, one of the bill's proponents has made it quite clear that the "ultimate end" of the legislation is to prevent all abortions. According to House Judiciary Committee members who voted against the bill:
[S]ome proponents of this legislation have publicly admitted that it is intended to undermine, and ultimately overturn, the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. For example, Steven Mosher, who testified at the Constitution Subcommittee hearing on this legislation, has written:
I propose that we -- the pro-life movement -- adopt as our next goal the banning of sex- and race-selective abortion. By formally protecting all female fetuses from abortion on ground of their sex, we would plant in the law the proposition that the developing child is a being whose claims on us should not depend on their sex.
Of course, this suggestion is not original with me. It was originally made by the redoubtable Hadley Arkes, who wrote in the pages of First Things in 1994 that ''we seek simply to preserve the life of the child who survives the abortion. From that modest beginning, we might go on to restrict abortions after the point of ''viability,'' or we could ban those abortions ordered up simply because the child happens to be a female. We could move in this way, in a train of moderate steps, each one commanding a consensus in the public, and each one tending, intelligibly, to the ultimate end, which is to protect the child from its earliest moments.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly advocated for a bill that undermines women's health and reproductive rights under the guise of preventing sex-selective abortions, threatening to shame the bill's opponents as "in sync" with China's one-child policy. However, the bill in question has been criticized by doctors, civil rights and women's groups as unconstitutional, an invasion of the doctor-patient relationship, and ineffective in preventing sex-selective abortions.
Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, two well-respected, centrist congressional experts, will make their first Sunday talk show appearance on the June 3 edition of MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes after being largely ignored by the media following their recent conclusion that Republicans are responsible for the current "dysfunctional" Congress.
On today's edition of his show, Hayes announced that Mann and Ornstein would make their "long-awaited, controversial first appearance on a national Sunday news program" to discuss their Washington Post op-ed and new book detailing the causes of political gridlock in Washington.
As The Washington Post's Greg Sargent and others have noted, Mann and Ornstein have been shut out of the Sunday morning talk shows since their April 29 op-ed. Moreover, as Media Matters' has reported, the top five national newspapers failed to mention Mann and Ornstein's recent observations about the dysfunction in Congress even though they regularly quoted the pair in past news articles.
Media Matters also found that in the months following the publication of Mann and Ornstein's 2006 book, The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (which was critical of both Democrats and Republicans), the two frequently appeared and were quoted on cable news shows, suggesting that the media is now giving Republicans a pass to avoid appearing biased.
The Daily Caller recently reported that "$3.1 billion in DOE loan guarantees" to First Solar "created mostly overseas jobs." In fact, the chairman of First Solar testified before Congress that "all the jobs directly created with the loan guarantees" are American.
The Daily Caller embedded video of his testimony in its report, but apparently didn't watch it all the way through. Neither did right-wing news aggregator Weasel Zippers, which ran with a similarly misleading headline.
In a House Oversight Committee hearing, Chairman Darrell Issa attempted to make hay of the fact that First Solar, which is based in Arizona and employs thousands in the U.S., also has solar projects and employees overseas. But Michael Ahearn, the chairman of First Solar, clarified that the loan guarantees only support projects in the U.S.:
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): OK, so jobs created with loan guarantees, stimulus, and others, basically not American.
MICHAEL AHEARN, FIRST SOLAR: No, no, all those jobs are American and all the jobs directly created with the loan guarantee.
Appearing on Fox News today, Fox News contributor Christopher Hahn called out conservative talking points by pointing out that Senate Republicans constantly resort to filibusters to block bills that have the support of a majority of senators.
As we've pointed out, the conservative media have been hiding Republican obstructionism in order to label Democratic senators as "lazy" and "do-nothing." But Republicans have repeatedly resorted to filibusters to block legislation -- such as bills to ensure that the richest Americans pay their fair share in taxes -- that would otherwise have passed the Senate. Republicans are on a pace to filibuster more often than Democrats did when they were in the minority.
Today, Republican strategist Chip Saltsman, a regular Fox guest, claimed that the Republican House is passing bills but the Democratic Senate is not. In response, Hahn pointed out that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that his most important goal was "to make sure that President Obama was a one-term president." Hahn added that McConnell has tried to do that by "block[ing] everything, using the filibuster more than any time in the history of this country."
The conservative hosts of Fox News' The Five acted horrified at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's statement that she wants to "amend the Constitution" to reverse the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, a decision that Pelosi said "flies in the face of our founders' vision." The Fox hosts acted as if this was a radical idea, but Fox hosts and congressional Republicans have repeatedly proposed amending the Constitution.
Following a lengthy investigation, the national Oil Spill Commission concluded in January 2011 that "the root causes" of the BP disaster were "systematic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur." This week the same panel of experts found that Congress "has yet to enact any legislation responding to the explosion and spill." Rather than implement the panel's recommendations, the House has actually "passed several bills" with provisions that "run contrary to what the Commission concluded was essential for safe, prudent, responsible development of offshore oil resources," said the commissioners.
So far ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and Fox News have ignored the panel's assessment report, issued just days before the second anniversary of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan was the exception, running a segment on the panel's findings and the ongoing impacts of the spill.
Today, Fox News host and senior vice president of business news Neil Cavuto tried yet again to suggest that it was actually Democrats at fault for the recession. During a rambling, three-minute monologue on his daily Fox News' show Your World, Cavuto conceded that President Obama did "inherit a mess" when he entered office. But he then added: "[A] Democratic Congress for most of that time before had a hand in that mess, and a Congress by the way of which one Senator Obama was part."
Watch Cavuto's rant (which includes a bizarre reference to former President John F. Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs):
To be charitable, Cavuto doesn't know what he's talking about.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, the organization that declares when U.S. recessions begin and end, said that the recession began in December 2007. Democrats regained the majority in Congress in January 2007, meaning that Democrats had been in control for less than 12 months before the recession began. By contrast, Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for more than a decade before that, from January 1995 through January 2007 (except for a brief period from June 2001 - January 2003 when Democrats controlled the Senate by one vote while the Republicans retained control of the House).
Moreover, Bush had, of course, been president for nearly seven years leading up to the recession.
So much for Cavuto's claim that "for most of that time before" the recession, a "Democratic Congress" bore responsibility for creating a bad economy.
But have no fear. I'm sure Fox will come up with a new way to blame Democrats for the recession again tomorrow.
From the January 22 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
Loading the player ...
From the January 12 edition of Fox News' The Five:
Loading the player ...
From the January 11 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
Loading the player ...
In a post on its Beltway Confidential blog today, The Washington Examiner falsely claimed that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz "blame[d] Tea Party for Tucson shooting":
Right-wing blogs have begun to spread the Examiner's false characterization of her comments.
Wasserman Schultz made the remarks in question at a breakfast in New Hampshire this morning, where she was asked about civility in politics. While she mentioned the Tea Party in the context of civility, it's simply not true that she "blame[d]" the Tea Party for last January's shooting in Tucson, Arizona, which killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Here is the question to Wasserman Schultz and the beginning of her response (full transcript below the jump):
AUDIENCE MEMBER: The American people are losing faith in Congress. [inaudible] because of the lack of civility. What do you think can be done to bring that faith back and then we can start thinking that they're doing their job instead of just fighting with each other?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, as someone who spent 19 years as a member of a legislative body, I really agree with you, that we need to make sure that we tone things down, particularly in light of the Tucson tragedy from a year ago where my very good friend, Gabby Giffords, who is doing really well by the way, and I know everybody is so thrilled, as I am, to hear that, making tremendous progress.
But the discourse in America, the discourse in Congress in particular, to answer your question, very specifically, has really changed.
And I'll tell you, I hesitate to place blame, but I have noticed it take a very precipitous turn towards edginess and a lack of civility with the growth of the Tea Party movement.
After the 2010 elections, when you had the Tea Party elect a whole lot of their supporters to the United States House of Representatives and you had town hall meetings that they tried to take over and you saw some of their conduct at those town hall meetings, you know, in the time that I've been in my state legislature and in Congress, I've never seen a time that was more divisive or where discourse was less civil.
It shouldn't be surprising that Wasserman Schultz would think of her friend Giffords in response to such a question -- there was a national debate about incendiary rhetoric afterward.
Wasserman Schultz said that "we need to make sure that we tone things down, particularly in light of the Tucson tragedy," and then, after saying, "to answer your question," went on to say that the Tea Party is responsible in part for a decrease in civility. That is in no way the same as saying that the Tea Party is to blame for the shootings.
UPDATE: On the January 11 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume said: "It's been widely reported that she is blaming the tea party for the Gabby Giffords shooting. When you hear what she says in full context, I don't think it's fair. I don't think that's what she was doing."
On the December 6 edition of Fox News' The Five, in the course of defending their former colleague Newt Gingrich against criticism over his past ethics violation, the co-hosts revived several smears against House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), such as the claims that Pelosi falsely accused the CIA of lying to her and engaged in insider trading.