Carol E. Lee

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  • Politico's SOTU Priorities

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico previews the State of the Union:

    When President Barack Obama steps into the House chamber Tuesday to deliver his second State of the Union address, ambience will trump substance.

    In his speech, the president will talk about jobs, the deficit and the future of the nation's troubled economy, but most of the attention is going to be on the theatrics in the room.

    What does "the attention" even mean? Whose attention? As measured how? Politico doesn't say. I suspect most of the country -- if not most of the reporters at Politico -- will pay more attention to the president's comments about jobs and the economy than to who John Thune is sitting with.

    A new CBS News/New York Times poll on national priorities finds that 43 percent of Americans think Congress's top priority should be job creation -- more than twice as many as named any other issue, and more than three times the 14 percent who named the deficit the top issue. That's consistent with other polling conducted over the past year, and a reminder that the public cares about jobs, even if the Beltway media seems to prefer to focus on anything else.

  • Politico's worst nightmare: actual facts undermine their pro-GOP assumptions

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    On January 1st, Politico ran an article by Ben Smith and Carl Lee headlined "Democrats' worst nightmare: Terrorism on their watch." The "nightmare" in question was not, as you might assume, hundreds or even thousands of dead Americans. No, the "nightmare" was the political fallout of such an event -- and Politico thought that nightmare came true with a Christmas Day attempt to down an airplane:

    [T]he White House's response to last week's attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit could rank as one of the low points of the new president's first year. Over the course of five days, Obama's Obama' reaction ranged from low-keyed to reassuring to, finally, a vow to find out what went wrong. The episode was a baffling, unforced error in presidential symbolism, hardly a small part of the presidency, and the moment at which yet another of the old political maxims that Obama had sought to transcend - the Democrats' vulnerability on national security - reasserted itself.

    It was the perfect Politico article: It focused on style over substance, it reflected the attacks Republicans like Dick Cheney were making on President Obama, and it forecast political struggles for Democrats based not on any actual data, but on outdated assumptions and stereotypes.

    Smith and Lee asserted:

    [Obama's] response failed to reckon with the intense public interest in a story of repeated government failures and a near-fatal attack.

    ...

    the listlessness of an initial response remains a puzzle

    ...

    Explanations of Obama's low-key reaction in the face of a terror attack include the characteristic caution of a president who resists jumping to conclusions and being pushed to action. They also include the White House's belief - disproven repeatedly in 2009 - that it can evade the clichéd rules of politics, which include a suspicion of Democratic leadership on national security. Only Sunday night, when criticism of the system "worked" comment was not going away, did White House aides realize their approach was not working and that they needed to shift course.

    Again: the article included not a single poll result or other actual fact indicating the slightest public concern with Obama's handling of terrorism or national security. Not one. It was simply a regurgitation of GOP spin and conventional wisdom: President Obama's handling of national security must be a political weakness, because he is a Democrat.

    And, if a new CNN poll is any indication, Politico's basic premise was wrong. Here's Greg Sargent:

    Okay, some new polling from CNN just landed in the old in-box, and it appears to suggest that the public isn't buying claims that Obama's handling of the Christmas Day plot was too detached, cool, or weak:

    As you know, a man has been charged with attempting to use an explosive device on Christmas Day to blow up a plane that was flying to Detroit. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama has responded to that incident?


    Approve 57%
    Disapprove 39%
    No opinion 4%

    I'm sure Politico will now run a piece acknowledging that they got it all wrong and apologizing for running such a piece without any actual facts or data to back it up. Yep, I'm sure that's coming any minute now.