A Wall Street Journal column used the recently released film depicting the Benghazi attacks to revive old myths about the attacks while claiming that the movie "ought to" threaten Hillary Clinton's presidential run.
Earlier this month, Michael Bay released his latest movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Before it hit theaters, conservative media used the film to recycle debunked myths about the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks, including that officials issued a "stand down order" and that no military assistance was sent to Benghazi during the attacks. Right-wing media also hyped the possibility that the movie could "pose a threat to" Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and could raise questions about the attacks that eight congressional probes previously failed to answer. Fox's Megyn Kelly claimed the film "reintroduces Benghazi as a potential campaign issue that cannot be helpful to Mrs. Clinton." Another Fox host argued that "if anyone sees this movie ... and then goes on to vote for Hillary Clinton, they're a criminal."
In his January 20 column for the Journal, Daniel Henninger asserted, "'13 Hours' is a graphic, reasonably accurate depiction" of the attacks and "makes the memory of the government's tall tale, which it insisted on repeating for more than a week, hard to stomach." That "tale," the claim goes, involves "the Obama administration's YouTube coverup, the story--or 'talking points'--about how an obscure anti-Islamic video made in California caused Benghazi to happen." Henninger also twisted facts to place blame on Hillary Clinton, writing, "There ought to be a political reckoning over this" for Clinton, who "was complicit in a White House concoction she knew the night of the attack was untrue."
The myths pushed by the conservative media chorus about the film have been repeatedly debunked. According to former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, the "stand down order" right-wing media claim occurred on the night of the attacks never happened. Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense during the Bush and Obama administrations, explained military aid was deployed, but was unable to reach Benghazi before the attacks concluded, and called out conservative media's "cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces." Henninger's assertion that the Obama administration attempted to "coverup" the story behind the attacks by blaming a YouTube video has been debunked by Senate Select Committee reviews and the by attackers themselves. The "talking points" Henninger mentioned were edited to avoid revealing what the administration knew to the terrorists groups responsible for the attacks.
As The Washington Post's Erik Wemple explained, conservative media are "promoting the Bay movie for its potential to revive Benghazi as a problem for Clinton" and in doing so, "acting as an advocacy organization." And Media Matters' David Brock wrote "there's no scandal" in the film or the events it depicts, "only a partisan witch hunt."
The final installment of the U.N.'s top climate report, which calls for prompt, extensive action to avoid calamitous impacts from climate change, garnered relatively little attention from the major print, cable and broadcast media outlets compared to the first installment. However, coverage of the third report rightfully gave far less space to those who cast doubt on the science.
Side-by-side comparisons are often the most unflattering. Just ask Daniel Henninger.
One of the unusual features of the current Ukraine crisis is that on many levels it represents a replay of the armed struggle that erupted in August 2008, when, set against the backdrop of simmering tensions, Russia invaded its sovereign neighbor Georgia. Then as today, the international community condemned the action. And then as today, America's president faced somewhat limited options in terms of how to respond.
The déjà vu aspect provides an opportunity to look back and see which partisan pundits have remained consistent in their analysis of the similar international conflicts, and which have drastically altered course simply because there's a Democrat in the White House this time.
For example, former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen used his Washington Post column to mock President Obama for taking a weekend vacation nine days after Russian troops gained control of Crimea. But Thieseen forgot to that while he was working in the White House, his then-boss left for a twelve-day summer vacation just one week after Russia invaded Georgia. (Bush logged his 950th day away from the White House during that Texas retreat.)
And Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer has been relentlessly critical of the White House's inaction. In 2008 however, the pundit seemed non-plussed: "Well, obviously it's beyond our control. The Russians are advancing. There is nothing that will stop them."
But I'm not sure any pundit has flip-flopped as hard as Wall Street Journal Deputy Editorial Page Director Daniel Henninger. The columnist hasn't reversed course in terms of condemning Russia's aggression. There, he's consistent. (Isn't everybody?) But he has done a complete 180 in terms of who's at fault for the invasion. Today, Henninger singles out one man: President Barack Obama.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is the Cabinet official responsible for implementing the Affordable Care Act. That she would testify before Congress about the problems with the law's implementation makes all the sense in the world, given that it is her responsibility. In certain corners of the conservative media, however, Sebelius' October 30 testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was an act of political cowardice by President Obama, who, by sending Sebelius before Congress, was using her as a "human shield."
Here's the lede to Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger's October 31 column:
A reader remarked last week that Barack Obama is running out of human shields. With the father of ObamaCare unavailable to explain the greatest fiasco of his presidency to Congress, the American people had to settle Wednesday for his surrogate, Kathleen Sebelius.
And here's Fox News pundit Andrea Tantaros on the October 30 edition of The Five:
Right-wing media are ignoring the dangers of underinsurance in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement that new insurance plans offer at least a minimum level of coverage, including ten "essential health benefits."
Research has shown that medical costs contribute to a high percentage of bankruptcies filed in the U.S, and a 2007 study from Harvard University found that more than three-quarters of people with medical debt had health insurance. Beginning January 1, 2014, the ACA will begin to tamp down on the type of "swiss cheese" coverage that can leave consumers facing catastrophic health costs by requiring that all health plans on the new health care exchanges cover ten "essential health benefits" that will provide consumers with a basic level of coverage for things like hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health services, and preventative care.
Right-wing media are attacking this shift toward providing an improved health insurance product and insisting that insufficient insurance is not a problem. An October 30 Wall Street Journal editorial blasted the change as "command-and-control regulation" and said "Democrats are openly instructing adults that they don't know what's best for their own good." In his own October 30 column, the Journal's deputy editorial page editor, Daniel Henninger, wrote called the push for increased consumer protection "progressive coercion," emblematic of "politics by cramdown."
During the October 31 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business host Stuart Varney obscured the dangers of "cut-rate" insurance plans to characterize the administration's claim that the insufficient levels of coverage in some existing plans led insurers to tell policyholders that they had to change their coverage as "flat-out outrageous" -- even though a study published in Health Affairs found that, in 2010, more than half of Americans who purchased their own insurance had plans that fell short of ACA standards. Later in the show, Doocy and Fox Business host John Stossel bashed the health care law's requirements for new insurance policies:
DOOCY: Now we're going to have to buy insurance that is up to the government's standard even though maybe we would rather just save money.
STOSSEL: We chose those policies and yet the president says you didn't choose well, I need to choose for you.
These attacks all ignore the consequences of being underinsured, which carry many of the same risks as having no insurance at all. According to Kaiser Health News, some uninsured people "avoid going to the doctor or getting prescriptions filled because they can't afford it," and noted that others "end up with medical debt and other severe financial problems." The April Commonwealth Fund study found that half of the underinsured "said they had not received needed care because of cost" and explained that 55 percent of underinsured Americans "reported medical bill problems are accrued medical debt" -- more than twice the rate of those with adequate insurance coverage.
Huffington Post health care reporter Jeffrey Young defined the underinsured as those with health insurance plans that "offered too little coverage and exposed them to high out-of-pocket costs." He highlighted an April study by the Commonwealth Fund that found 30 million people, or 16 percent of the U.S. population were underinsured in 2012. The study also found that lower-income Americans were underinsured at higher rates. The Commonwealth Fund study also stated that 85 percent of those who were underinsured could be eligible for coverage under the ACA's Medicaid expansion or qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance plans on the exchanges, which have a certain standard of coverage, and so "[m]ore people insured and better-quality coverage will likely lead to less medical cost-fueled debt and fewer cost-related access problems."
According to a September 2011 study by the Commonwealth Fund, once fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act could reduce the number of underinsured adults by 70 percent.
From the December 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the July 5 edition of Fox News' America Live:
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From the July 2 edition of Fox News' Journal Editorial Report:
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From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
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In an April 21 column, The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger wrote that President Obama is "sounding more like Travis Bickle ('You talkin' to me?') than the president of the United States." He further wrote that "Obama.2011" has been "testy, petulant, impatient, arrogant and increasingly a divider."
From Henninger' column:
If it is true, as Michelle Obama said in February, that her husband isn't smoking anymore, maybe he'd better start mellowing out with the cigs again before it costs him the presidency.
The Barack Obama we've been seeing lately is a different personality than the one that made a miracle run to the White House in 2008.
Obama.2008 was engaging, patient, open, optimistic and a self-identified conciliator.
Obama.2011 has been something else -- testy, petulant, impatient, arrogant and increasingly a divider.
This Monday, after wrapping up a White House interview with a Dallas TV reporter, the station reported that Mr. Obama said: "Let me finish my answers the next time we do an interview, alright?"
This self-referencing, snappish tone tracks with the president's "open mic" comments last week at a Chicago fund-raiser. Dismissing the GOP as "nickel and diming" him on budget negotiations, he asked, "You think we're stupid?" White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president wasn't embarrassed. But he should be. Not because his comments were caught, but because suddenly he's sounding more like Travis Bickle ("You talkin' to me?") than the president of the United States.
The Obama migration from the high road to the low road is evident even in nonpolitical settings. Here he is last weekend talking about the White House phone system: "You know the Oval Office always thought I was going to have like real cool phones and stuff. I'm like 'come on guys, I'm the president of the United States.' Where's the fancy buttons and stuff, and the big screen comes up? It doesn't happen."
I'm like? Real cool phones and stuff? Would Franklin Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy ever have affected whatever their generational equivalent was of "Where's the fancy buttons and stuff?"
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger suggests that voters are deeply upset by public spending.
This volcano of public spending and its smothering ash, by governments at every level, is what has upset people living in America's towns and villages. It's too much. It has depressed people.
As blogger Ben Somberg has documented, while there is evidence from polling data that spending is of some concern to voters, other issues, such as the general state of the economy and job growth, are of higher priority and there is no evidence that the issue evokes the intense widespread feelings that Henninger claims.
Henninger also misleads about the quantity of additional federal spending which has happened during the Obama administration, suggesting that the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has already resulted in $1 trillion in expenditures.
The February 2009 eruption of Mount Obama, called "The Stimulus" by the Keynesian volcanists, sent some $862 billion cascading across the American landmass. Then came a $1 trillion eruption, which an ecstatic Democratic tribe chanted would provide "health care for all." The volcano's eruptions spread far and eventually covered the fertile fields of the entire nation.
In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (.pdf) projects that significant federal expenditure increases due to the law, though less than the $1 trillion claimed by Henninger, do not begin until 2014, when the major insurance coverage and subsidy provisions begin. The vast majority of additional spending is not projected to happen until the latter half of the decade. In addition, while the law does lead to projected increases in federal spending, the CBO also projects that overall the law will lead to a reduction in the federal deficit.
From the May 29 edition of Fox News' Journal Editorial Report:
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Many media figures have dubbed President Obama's health care reform proposal "ObamaCare," reinventing the terms "HillaryCare" and "ClintonCare" that were used by opponents of the Clintons' reform proposal. In doing so, these media are often seeking to frame the debate in negative terms.
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Dan Henninger said of Cindy McCain's refusal to release her tax returns: "I think it's a fairly marginal issue." But in a July 2004 editorial, the Journal asserted that it was "past time" for Sen. John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, to release her tax returns, stating, "Their assets should be disclosed to the voters so that they can assess whether there are any potential conflicts of interest."
On Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report, Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger discussed the announcement that American and Japanese research teams discovered, in the words of the senior American scientist, a "new way to trick skin cells into acting like embryos" by "reprogram[ming] skin cells into multipurpose stem cells without harming embryos." Henninger said: "Basically, the controversy is over. And I think, in retrospect, we should say something on behalf of, say, [President] George Bush, who vetoed that stem-cell bill." However, the senior American scientist wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the new developments "[f]ar from vindicat[e]" the Bush administration's policy "of withholding federal funds from many of those working to develop potentially lifesaving embryonic stem cells."