From the November 16 edition of Fox News Channel's Special Report with Brett Baier:
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Writing opinion pieces for Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal must be the easiest assignment in journalism, mostly because it appears that editors make no requirements that conservative writers back up their claims. Better yet for scribes, they allow writers to make claims that are not only profoundly false, but provably false.
The latest example of his lazy trend comes courtesy of Fred Barnes today, who insists it's not the economy that voters are most upset about.
Barnes [emphasis added]:
A funny thing happened on the way to the midterm election. The economy was in bad shape, with high unemployment, slow growth and a lingering housing crisis. Yet it wasn't the paramount issue in the campaign.
Of course, virtually all the polling data published to date makes clear that Barnes has it exactly backwards and that concerns over the economy have been far and away the number one issue among voters.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates that the economy remains, by far, the top issue on the minds of Americans. Fifty-two percent of people questioned say the economy's the most important issue facing the country.
Does anyone in America, besides Fred Barnes, think the economy hasn't been the top issues on the minds of Americans this elections season? Apparently the only other people who believe that are the ones who publish the WSJ's opinion page.
Barnes goes on to stress how it was health care reform, not the economy, that doomed Democrats and is driving voters away this election season.
Again, polling results completely undermine Barnes' claim:
According to a recent monthly Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, healthcare reform isn't drawing voters to the upcoming November Congressional elections.
Voters asked to name the most important issue contributing to how they will vote listed the economy first, followed by dissatisfaction with government. Healthcare reform came in third.
Specifically, the top two issues are the economy (surprise!) and dissatisfaction with the government and were selected as priorities among 45 percent of voters. Just 13 percent picked health care reform.
But shhh, don't tell Barnes and the team at the WSJ.
Conservative media have falsely suggested that Germany's fiscal austerity policies spurred that country's recent economic growth, at times arguing that the United States should therefore have cut spending instead of borrowing to stimulate the economy. In fact, Germany -- which launched stimulus spending and increased the deficit in response to the recession -- has not yet implemented its planned cuts, and economists say Germany's recent improvement is largely due to conditions favorable to its export-based economy.
Media conservatives, led by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, are comparing a Florida church's plans to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks to plans to build an Islamic community center in Manhattan.
From the September 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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In June, Fox News figures downplayed job growth numbers by pointing out that many of the jobs created were temporary census positions. Now, those same Fox figures are hyping net job losses over the summer while ignoring that the losses are largely explained by the conclusion of those same temporary census positions.
During the run-up to the Iraq war, some of the worst purveyors of misinformation about Iraq had a home at Fox News, and their ranks have swelled considerably since then. Media Matters takes a look at the track record of wrong predictions and shoddy analysis about the war in Iraq by many of Fox News' contributors and analysts.
From the August 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Conservative media have long made a habit of bogus stock market analysis that furthers the right-wing agenda rather than shedding light on the business world, crediting right-wing figures and causes for gains, and blaming progressives for market declines, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
We pointed out back in April that Fred Barnes was one of many, many Fox News figures who have engaged in activism for Republican candidates or causes. Specifically, we noted that Barnes had keynoted fundraisers for Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and for the Palm Beach County Republican Party.
Today, Salon.com's Joe Conason reports that Premiere Speakers Bureau, the firm that books Barnes' speaking engagements, was paid $5,500 the month before Barnes' Palm Beach appearance. He also reports on payments to Premiere for two other Barnes appearances at GOP fundraisers:
Now, however, there is further evidence that Barnes not only routinely helped Republicans raise money as a banquet speaker, but accepted tens of thousands of dollars from party organizations as well:
- In February 2006, Barnes was paid $10,000 plus travel expenses by Oregon's Lane County Republican Central Committee to deliver the keynote address at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. (Thanks to Carla Axtman for research assistance.) These payments, recorded in filingswith the Oregon secretary of state, were evidently made through the Premier Speakers Bureau of Franklin, Tenn., which represents other Fox personalities including Sean Hannity, Dick Morris and Mike Huckabee. Barnes is no longer listed on the Premier website, but the company did not respond to phone or e-mail inquiries about its relationship with him.
- In February 2007, Barnes spoke at the annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinnerheld by the Republican Party of Fort Bend County, Texas -- home of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who purchased a ticket to the event. The party organization's filing with the Texas Ethics Commission shows two payments of $5,000 each on April 26, 2007, to Premiere Speakers Bureau (with the notation "LRD 2007 Speaker - Fred Barnes") and travel expenses of $1,823. Photos of a smiling Barnes with various local dignitaries at the event, which netted a reported $70,000 for the party, can be viewed here.
- In early March 2008, Barnes served as the keynote speaker for the Republican Party of Palm Beach County at its annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Whether he received the customary $10,000 is not clear because the party's filing with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections show only a single payment of $5,500 to Premiere Speakers Bureau on Feb. 18. The committee reported net $120,000 in net proceeds from the event.
On Fox News' Special Report, Carl Cameron and Fred Barnes promoted the myths that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan "bann[ed]" military recruiting at Harvard Law School, and that Kagan's opposition to the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy contradicts her being "tremendously supportive of the military."
Media conservatives are rushing to BP's defense, attacking the Obama administration for "demonizing" the company after the Gulf oil spill.
Conservative media figures have attacked President Obama's moratorium on new offshore drilling in the aftermath of the BP oil spill. However, the oil spill response plans for all five major oil companies drilling in the Gulf were written by the same consulting firm, and oil executives have admitted aspects of their plans are "an embarrassment."
From the June 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Time's Joe Klein does a commendable job pointing out some of the flaws in Fred Barnes' Wall Street Journal column yesterday. Alas, Barnes' foolishness proved too much for one person to catalogue, so some loose ends remain.
Barnes central premise is that President Obama wants, or should want, Republicans to gain control of Congress, because that will make it easier to cut spending and thus waltz to re-election.
That's silly because, as Klein notes, "The Republicans have shown no--I mean, zero--interest in cutting the budget in the past. They didn't do it under Reagan; they didn't do it under Bush Junior. Quite the opposite, they exploded the budget deficit with wars and tax cuts." Klein also points out that Barnes' focus on domestic discretionary spending is "chump change" in the context of what Barnes describes as a "debt crisis."
But there's another fundamental flaw with Barnes' argument: His repeated suggestion that trimming domestic spending would pave the way for Obama's reelection:
If Mr. Obama wants to avert a fiscal crisis and win re-election in 2012, he needs House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be removed from her powerful post. A GOP takeover may be the only way.
Over the past 50 years, it should be no surprise which president has the best record for holding down discretionary spending. It was President Reagan. But who was second best? President Clinton, a Democrat. His record of frugality was better than Presidents Nixon, Ford and both Bushes. Mr. Clinton couldn't have done it if Republicans hadn't won the House and Senate in the 1994 election. They insisted on substantial cuts, he went along and then whistled his way to an easy re-election in 1996.
Mr. Obama's re-election to a second term is heavily dependent on his ability to deal effectively with the fiscal mess.
Incredibly, Barnes never once makes any mention of the economy's effect on Obama's reelection prospects, or the effect it had on Clinton's in 1996. Didn't mention unemployment, either. In Barnes' telling, the nation's fiscal condition is key to a president's re-election and cutting spending is the way to win. But in actual electoral history, voters' finances are more important than the government's finances. Clinton's 1996 victory, for example, came after the unemployment rate, which ranged from 6.5 to 7.3 percent for his first year in office, had fallen to the mid-5s for two full years.
Having ignored the fact that voters tend to vote based on their financial condition, not the government's, Barnes apparently felt free to ignore the effect his proposed spending cuts would have on the economy. Just completely ignored it. (Number of mentions of the words "jobs," "employment," "unemployment" in Barnes column: 0.) Given the tendency of economists to argue that cutting government spending is not exactly the best way to kick-start the economy, Barnes' advice would seem to make for bad policy as well as bad politics.
(One last problem with Barnes' contention that a GOP takeover of Congress would be good for Obama: Republicans are already clamoring for investigations of complete non-scandals, and the last time we had a Republican Congress and a Democrat in the White House, the GOP handed out subpoenas like they were lollipops, even going so far as to investigate the White House cat. Arguing that a GOP congress would be good for Obama without noting the likelihood of frivolous, partisan investigations is like arguing that BP has been good for the Gulf of Mexico without noting all that oil in the water.)
UPDATE: Brendan Nyhan drops some science on Barnes.