Jonah Goldberg's recent Washington Post op-ed on five "cliches" that he imagines progressives employ misses badly on many scores, but none so wildly as when Goldberg turns his attention to the Constitution. As is his wont, Goldberg picks a fight with a straw man -- that progressives embrace a "living constitution" completely divorced from the document's text and history -- and suffers a technical knockout at the hands of even this feeble opponent.
Goldberg attempts to tar progressives with hypocrisy for basing their opposition to conservatives' post-9/11 overreaching on civil liberties on the text, history and principles of the Constitution. Even if conservatives were, as he breezily puts it, "stretching things," supposedly unprincipled progressives had no grounds for complaining. With this crude caricature, Goldberg gives away the game.
There is in fact a real debate about what the Constitution means and how to interpret it. On the one hand is what a leading scholar has called the "fundamentalist" view, held by many of Goldberg's fellow conservatives, that the Constitution should be "strictly construed" in a narrow manner that if applied in the past would have rejected much of the progress the nation has made toward justice. Under this view, the Constitution has nothing to say about segregated schools, bans on interracial marriage and blatant gender discrimination.
The opposing view, first and perhaps best expressed by Chief Justice John Marshall, himself a signer of the Constitution, is that the document's open-ended provisions (such as "due process" or "freedom of speech") should be read to give meaning to the principles they embody. In one of his most important opinions, he wrote that "we must never forget that it is a Constitution we are expounding."(emphasis in orginal) By this he meant that the Framers did not intend the Constitution to be so detailed as to spell out definitive answers in every possible situation, but rather to establish principles to be applied to address specific questions.
In this view, the Constitution's words, its history and the principles it embodies are all important in determining its meaning in particular cases. As Pamela Karlan, a leading progressive constitutional scholar has written:
[T]he Constitution has endured because judges, elected officials and citizens throughout our history have engaged in an ongoing process of interpretation. That interpretation reflects fidelity to our written Constitution. To be faithful to the Constitution is to interpret its words and to apply its principles in ways that sustain their vitality over time. Fidelity to the Constitution requires us to ask not how its text and principles would have been applied in 1789 or 1868, but rather how they should be applied today in light of the conditions and concerns of our society.
There is a real debate to be had about these competing constitutional visions. Unfortunately, Goldberg's game of "I know you are; now what am I?" contributes nothing of value to it.
Both mainstream and conservative media outlets have responded to the recent spike in gasoline prices by circulating talking points rooted in politics rather than facts. As a whole, these claims reflect the misconception, perpetuated by the news media, that changes in U.S. energy policy are a major driver of oil and gasoline prices.
Yesterday, Mark Hemingway of the Weekly Standard snapped a photo of the absurdly inflated price board at a gas station "within walking distance of the White House" and put it under the cheeky headline: "The Shocking Photo the Obama Administration Doesn't Want You to See!"
The gas station in question is the Watergate Exxon, one of DC's charming rip-offs that is infamous for its price gouging. It's a trap for unobservant tourists who don't realize that they can buy gas across the street for significantly less money.
Judging from the wry headline his Twitter feed, Hemingway was making an insidery joke for Beltway media types. Some on the right didn't get it.
Glenn Beck's news website, The Blaze, picked up Hemingway's post and republished the photo under the headline: "Inconvenient Photo Taken At Exxon Gas Station Just Outside White House." (The station actually is over a mile from the executive mansion.) As The Blaze put it: "The station is within walking distance of the White House and the listed price for its Supreme grade is frighteningly pushing $6."
Coincidentally, National Review's Jonah Goldberg has a column today on how gasoline prices are a "debacle" for the president, and accompanying the piece is a photo of an Exxon price board with the Watergate looming in the background.
Scary! But as The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins documented yesterday, the price of regular gas at the Sunoco just across the street from the Watergate Exxon was $4.10 -- the same as today's average price for the DC area. Which means the Watergate Exxon's prices are inflated about 32 percent over the average.
The lesson here: If you're buying gas or trying to get a sense of where gas prices stand, avoid both the Watergate Exxon and conservative blogs.
As automakers are starting to bring electric vehicle (EV) technology into the mainstream, conservative media outlets have repeatedly misled consumers about electric cars by trying to paint them as environmentally harmful and unsafe, among other false claims.
Right-wing media have attacked President Obama by seizing on his comment that America "had gotten a little soft." But Obama said that the United States is a "great country" and that he "wouldn't trade our position with any other country on Earth" because "[w]e still have the best universities, the best scientists, and best workers in the world. We still have the most dynamic economic system in the world."
A distinct mantra from far-right press critics in recent years has centered around the fantastic claim that not only do the media have a liberal bias, but that the corrupted press corps works in unison with the Obama White House at all times; that the press no longer functions independently but that its role is to protect Obama at all costs.
The result of the grand media conspiracy? The press has refused to ask Obama tough questions.
Not only has Fox News — the supposed mouthpiece of the GOP — put on a far, far, far better debate than CNN did (or MSNBC could), it has subjected the GOP contenders to tougher, rougher, questions than any debate I can remember. In fact, I don't think Obama ever received this kind of grilling as a candidate or as president.
Goldberg and Hannity don't think Obama has ever received a press grilling, even as a candidate in 2008. What do they think was missing from the questioning of Obama back then? Inquiries about Jeremiah Wright? William Ayers? Controversial comments that Obama had made on the campaign trail?
Well, a simple Google search produces this instant result, from a Howard Kurtz column in the Washington Post, April 18, 2008:
The ABC moderators found themselves under fire for focusing on campaign gaffes and training most of their ammunition on Obama.
In the first 40 minutes of Wednesday's two-hour Democratic debate, the moderators asked Obama about his remarks that small-town residents bitterly cling to guns and religion; the inflammatory sermons of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright ([George] Stephanopoulos follow-up: "Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?"); why Obama doesn't wear an American flag pin; and his relationship with William Ayers, a former Weather Underground radical who has acknowledged involvement in several bombings in the 1970s.
But right, Obama hasn't been grilled by the press.
Right-wing media have repeatedly claimed that President Obama had "no plan" about how to lower the nation's deficit and reach a compromise to resolve the default crisis. But Obama had reportedly agreed to specific reforms and spending cuts, including to entitlement programs, in talks with Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) before Boehner walked away from those negotiations.
From the June 1 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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From the May 23 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Following the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, elements of the conservative media have run with the conspiracy theory that Obama delayed releasing the document in order to play "rope-a-dope" with birthers or to distract from other issues. This comes as other right-wing media figures have hyped other conspiracy theories such as the claim that the birth certificate was Photoshopped.
Right-wing media responded to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate by attacking the president and claiming that certain questions surrounding the document remain unanswered. Below is a sampling of the early attacks by conservative media following the release of Obama's long-form birth certificate.
In an April 27 National Review Online blog post titled, "The New Burning Question," Jonah Goldberg wrote:
I haven't studied the just released PDF of Obama's birth certificate. But assuming there's nothing in there about a birthmark that resembles the numbers "666" or about how his father worked for the KGB and -- of course -- assuming that the font in question matches typewriters of the time (Let's get Dan Rather on that): I figure this puts the birther thing to bed once and for all. Good.
But it does raise the perplexing question: If this was possible all along, why did the WH take such sweet time releasing it? Could it be that this White House, continuing a tactic used by Democrats for years, actually liked being able to cast their opponents -- often through guilt by association -- as paranoid nuts? No, that couldn't possibly be it.
In honor of the one year anniversary of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Media Matters presents a timeline of one of the most disgraceful and pernicious myths about the law--death panels.
The right-wing media have decried the Obama administration's decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, claiming the move is unlawful and "a form of dictatorship." In fact, presidents from Thomas Jefferson to George W. Bush have opted against defending statutes they viewed as unconstitutional.
Following in the footsteps of Jonah Goldberg, Glenn Beck has repeatedly taken a quote from a 1923 New York Times article out of context and portrayed the newspaper as praising Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. In fact, the Times was quoting a magazine writer, and immediately following the portion of the quote Beck and Goldberg repeated, the writer called Mussolini "a danger to the peace of Europe."