In his February 2 Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto celebrated a Florida judge's recent ruling against the health care reform law and credited his fellow News Corp. employee Sarah Palin with helping undermine support for reform efforts by coining the phrase "death panel."
Taranto then launched a weak defense of Palin's "death panel" lie and attacked PolitiFact for naming "death panels" its 2009 Lie of the Year.
You see, according to Taranto, Palin was "not lying" because she put "death panel" in quotes, which "indicate[s] that she was using it figuratively." In fact, Taranto argues, PolitiFact "was more vulnerable to the charge of lying than Palin was, for its highly literal, out-of-context interpretation of her words was at best extremely tendentious." Here's Taranto's defense:
In truth, PolitiFact was more vulnerable to the charge of lying than Palin was, for its highly literal, out-of-context interpretation of her words was at best extremely tendentious.
Palin put the term "death panel" in quotes to indicate that she was using it figuratively. She was not lying but doing just the opposite: conveying a fundamental truth about ObamaCare. Proponents were describing it as a sort of fiscal perpetual-motion machine: We're going to give free insurance to tens of millions of people and reduce the deficit! As a matter of simple arithmetic, the only way to do that is by drastically curtailing medical benefits.
"Health care by definition involves life and death decisions," Palin wrote. ObamaCare necessarily expands the power of federal bureaucrats to make such decisions, and it creates enormous fiscal pressures to err on the side of death. Whether it establishes literal panels for that purpose is a hair-splitting quibble. By naming this "lie of the year," PolitiFact showed itself to be less seeker of truth than servant of power.
But Taranto's argument that Palin merely used the "death panel" phrase figuratively to make a point about cost issues regarding Democrats' health reform plans is simply not true.
From the January 27 edition edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Former Bush speechwriter and current Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson plays fast and loose with the facts:
The primary economic debate between now and the election will concern the tax reductions of 2001 and 2003 -- President Bush's economic stimulus -- which are due to expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress acts. Obama has proposed to eliminate the portion of that stimulus that goes to wealthier taxpayers.
Set aside Gerson's description of tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 a year as "stimulus"; that's garden-variety spin. Focus instead on the shell game Gerson plays. First Gerson rightly notes that Bush's tax cuts are "due to expire" under current law. Then he claims Obama has "proposed to eliminate" a portion of them. Well, no. Obama has talked about not extending them. One needn't propose their elimination; that's set to occur under the current law -- the one signed by Bush himself.
Democrats might break a Senate filibuster by persuading some Republicans to support an extension of Bush's tax cuts for the middle class but not the wealthy. Momentum, however, runs in the other direction. Republicans are unlikely to give the president a legislative victory immediately before the midterms, particularly one that increases taxes.
Again: That isn't honest. Such a package would not "increase taxes" on the wealthy. It would allow them to increase in accordance with current policy, as signed into law by President Bush.
Obama's tax increase on the rich would be used to reduce the deficit, resulting in a net contraction of economic activity. Tax increases to pay for past spending do not stimulate the economy.
There's no such thing as "Obama's tax increase on the rich." You can give Gerson credit for persistence if you like, but regardless of how often he blames Barack Obama for policy signed into law by George W. Bush, it simply isn't true. The Washington Post is allowing Gerson to lie to its readers. That's sad, but not surprising.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto tells the truth about the Bush tax cuts:
Don't call it "extending the Bush tax cuts." Call it "repealing the Bush tax increase." This would be entirely accurate: Taxes are going up pursuant to legislation enacted by a Republican Congress and signed by Bush.
You know things have gotten bad when a conservative columnist for a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper is more likely to tell the truth about the Bush tax cuts than a Washington Post columnist.
I don't really understand James Taranto, and his response to my blog post on his claim that Democrats invent Republican racism to trick African-Americans into voting for them hasn't done much to ameliorate that situation.
To recap -- Taranto postulated the following theory on racial politics: "To keep blacks voting Democratic, it is necessary for the party and its supporters to keep alive the idea that racism is prevalent in America and to portray the Republican Party ... as racist." I argued that this theory is actually quite insulting to black voters, since it implies that they are not capable of recognizing real racism and presupposes that black voters are motivated primarily by racial sentiments. Here's what I wrote, word for word:
First and foremost, it's remarkably insulting. The implication of Taranto's theory is that African-Americans aren't sophisticated or observant or intelligent enough to know real racism when they see it, and are thus continuously duped en masse into voting for Democrats. It couldn't be the case that black voters actually care about issues and have real reasons for voting Democratic, they're just puppets who are motivated by racial sentiments that Democrats prey upon. Taranto and his pals at Fox & Friends might think they're attacking the Democrats, but they're actually demeaning black voters.
Taranto, in his response, seized on this paragraph -- actually, one sentence in this paragraph -- to call me a "racist":
This morning the hosts of Fox & Friends took some time to investigate whether "Democrats have used as a tool, racism," taking off on Wall Street Journal editorialist James Taranto's argument from yesterday that to "keep blacks voting Democratic, it is necessary for the party and its supporters to keep alive the idea that racism is prevalent in America and to portray the Republican Party ... as racist."
They were impressed with Taranto's "provocative presentation" on The O'Reilly Factor last night, during which he argued that Democrats use accusations of racism to, in Bill O'Reilly's words, "keep African Americans in the fold," and that the urgency with which they do so has only increased with the election of President Obama because "it's much harder to say that America is a racist country now that we've elected a black man president." As Taranto put it, it makes it "all the more necessary to keep alive this idea that the Republican Party is a racist party." Steve Doocy felt Taranto made a "great case" on this: "The fact that we have elected a black, African-American guy as president of the United States proves that we are not a racist nation."
So this is what constitutes a discussion of race on Fox News? There are several problems here, so let's unpack them, one at a time.
From the April 20 edition of Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor:
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In the January 17 Wall Street Journal, James Taranto -- a member of the paper's conservative editorial board and fellow News Corp. employee with a history of advancing conservative misinformation -- penned a profile of Glenn Beck, which, among other things, completely ignored Beck's history of misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric. Additionally, Taranto wrote that Beck "reported on major news stories" like Van Jones without noting that Beck smeared Jones with the false claim that he was a convicted felon and repeated Beck's denial that he is a "crazy showman that's doing anything for money," while ignoring Beck's frequent promotion of gold to his viewers, without disclosing his financial interest in gold investment firms.
From the December 16 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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University of Chicago political science professor Charles Lipson and The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, each of whom has previously pushed conservative talking points, have recently suggested that Attorney General Eric Holder should appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate ACORN in the wake of the recently released videos exposing improper behavior at several ACORN offices. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, meanwhile, have suggested that an investigation of ACORN by the Justice Department will not be valid because of the group's ties to Democrats and the Obama administration.
Discussing reports that President-elect Barack Obama is considering naming Sen. Hillary Clinton secretary of state, several media figures have responded with smears, including speculation that Clinton would pursue her own agenda as secretary of state and not Obama's, references to Clinton as Obama's "enem[y]," and speculation that Obama is considering the nomination because if Clinton remains in the Senate, she poses a threat of challenging him for the Democratic nomination in 2012 and can "mak[e] trouble" for him in the Senate.
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto wrote that remarks Sen Barack Obama made at the UNITY '08 Convention "seem[ed] to be something of an endorsement of the idea of 'reparations for slavery,' which is usually taken to mean cash payments." However, when specifically asked at the convention whether he supported "offering reparations to various groups," Obama replied that "the best reparations we can provide are good schools in the inner city and jobs for people who are unemployed."
OpinionJournal.com editor James Taranto claimed that "[e]ight years ago," then-presidential candidate George W. Bush "understood that he was not running against Bill Clinton and for the most part ignored him." In fact, Bush repeatedly attacked the Clinton administration throughout 1999.
Following the midterm elections, prominent Republicans and conservative media figures, as well as The Washington Post, dismissed suggestions that the results represented a referendum on Iraq by noting that Connecticut voters re-elected Sen. Joe Lieberman, despite his support for the war. But these attempts to cast Lieberman's victory as a counter to claims that the outcome of the elections was a repudiation of Bush's Iraq policy overlook Lieberman's efforts in the weeks leading up to the election to portray himself as a critic of the war.