The national debate on the future of Social Security is surrounded by falsehoods and misconceptions regarding the program's finances and its relationship to the federal budget -- misconceptions that are repeatedly reinforced by major media outlets. In fact, as it's currently constructed, Social Security cannot add to the deficit in the long run, does not present a major threat to America's fiscal future, and is backed by some of the safest financial assets in the world.
We already noted how the Times, with its recent 6,000-word profile, continued with the Beltway media tradition of announcing that the "people" were fueling the amazing "ascent" of New Jersey's Republican Governor, Chris Christie, even though there's not much proof that that is the case. By contrast, there is plenty of proof that pundits are the one fueling the Christie hype, not "the people."
So yes, Christie continues to get fawning press coverage. And when a politician is singled out for fawning press coverage that means parts of the story that don't fit the approved media narrative (i.e. Christie is a plainspoken, can-do achiever) are conveniently left aside.
Specifically in terms of Christie, there are two telling, recent episodes that the Times' Matt Bai chose to ignore, apparently concluding the incidents reveal nothing about Christie's political nature.
But trust me, they do.
The first was Christie's infamous decision in late December to leave New Jersey for a family vacation even though forecasters had warned a blizzard was barreling towards the state, and even though Christie's No. 2 was already out of the state on vacation. Worse, in the wake of the epic storm, Christie refused to return home early from vacation to help the state deal with the historic blizzard that left portions of the state buried under 30 inches of snow and paralyzed for days. (The storm was so severe the Garden State had to appeal to FEMA for $53 million in disaster aid.)
Christie's astonishing blizzard blunder made headlines around the country. But in an article about how Christie's now dealing with statewide belt-tightening during a time of shared sacrifice, the Times saw no reason to make reference, not even once, to the time the governor famously chose to stay on vacation in sunny Florida while his state tried to dig out from a dangerous storm.
The second episode that the Times blacked out was even more inexcusable simply because so much of the Christie profile dealt with his stand-off with New Jersey state teachers. On that front, the Times' Bai was certain: "All that's clear is that Christie seems to be winning at every turn."
The governor is totally running circles around the hapless Jersey teachers in their battle over pay and benefits. (That's because Christie's such a great communicator, don't you know. The Times said so.)
So at every turn Christie is trumping the teachers. What the Times politely left out of that equation was the humiliating revelation last summer that thanks to Christie's blunder and his obsession with besting the teachers, the state lost out on $400 million in desperately needed federal aid to N.J. schools. In fact, Christie's own Education Commissioner publicly blamed Christie for the failure to land the federal money, insisting the governor put his political battle with the teacher union ahead of securing the federal funds.
But again, in an article about how Christie is "winning at every turn" in his battle with teachers, the Times forgot to include that story.
Behold your liberal media.
Correct, the answer is other pundits. (That's why it's called an echo chamber.)
We highlighted this a few days ago after NBC's David Gregory announced that so many "people" were responding positively to the "plain talk" of Chris Christie, New Jersey's Republican governor.
But were "people" doing that, or just pundits and a small group of conservative partisans? Mostly the latter two. But inside the Beltway, "people" is often synonymous with those two groups.
The latest to prove our point is Matt Bai writing yet another fawning mainstream media profile of Christie. (Because the first 12 or 13 weren't enough?) Note how Bai stresses the "people" and Christie:
There is, in fact, something astonishing about the ascent of Chris Christie, who is about as slick as sandpaper and who now admits that even he didn't think he would beat Jon Corzine, the Democrat he unseated in 2009. Some critics have posited that Christie's success in office represents merely the triumph of self-certainty over complexity, the yearning among voters for leaders who talk bluntly and with conviction. Yet it's hard to see Christie getting so much traction if he were out there castigating, say, immigrants or Wall Street bankers. What makes Christie compelling to so many people isn't simply plain talk or swagger, but also the fact that he has found the ideal adversary for this moment of economic vertigo.
See, Christie is compelling to "so many people," which explains his "astonishing" "ascent."
As we previously noted, Christie's approval rating at home pretty much mirror's Obama's at about 50 percent. You don't hear many pundits celebrating that number in terms of Obama, but for Christie the 50 percent mark apparently represents pure gold. (BTW, during Christie's "ascent," his approval rating has remained essentially unchanged since August.)
Secondly, the press keeps telling us that Christie's a shooting GOP star who could be a major player in the White House race next year. But not even GOP voters buy that line. And even if Christie were the GOP's nominee next year, he'd lose his home state of New Jersey to Obama by nearly 20 points, according to a recent poll.
But don't let any of that get in the way of the story the press wants to tell, and the story the Beltway press corps remains utterly committed to telling over and over and over again: First-term Gov. Christie is a superstar.
I have a feeling I'm gong to have to repeat this advice a lot this year, but here it goes (again): Before announcing that "people" are responding positively to Christie, pundits might want to first find out if that response extends beyond their professional class.
So far, there's not much proof that it does.
Times political writer Matt Bai, who claimed this week that Obama had missed an historic opportunity in 2009 when he failed to take advantage of a "teachable moment" regarding long-term economic investment, recently answered reader questions online.
One person ("Paul") asked Bai about the rather astonishing and unprecedented brand of obstructionism that Republicans have been practicing, to the point where the White House has found in virtually impossible to find Republican members of Congress willing to reach across the aisle on any issue. (Thereby hindering Obama's agenda.) The reader suggested that given the GOP's party line refusal to cooperate, shouldn't Obama have been more combative with his political enemies?
Here was Bai's response, which seemed to perfectly capture today's Beltway CW on the topic [emphasis added]:
Well, Paul, seems to me that beating up the opposition is probably a decent political strategy when they outnumber you. Blaming them for a lack of progress when you control every legislative body larger than the Peoria City Council just sounds like whining.
Blaming Republicans for their obstructionism "sounds like whining," according to Bai. And besides, Democrats control Congress and the White House so they should be able to get done whatever they want, the writer suggested.
Is Bai really claiming that because there are more Democratic members in the House and the Senate that Democrats have free reign to do whatever they want? Is Bai really claiming that Republicans in the minority (not to mention the GOP Noise Machine) have been powerless to foil Obama's agenda, that the only thing stopping him is his own lack of imagination, and Republicans have been mere bystanders since Inauguration Day?
Amazingly, I think that is what Bai's suggesting.
The writer clearly leaves the impression that if Obama had proposed "retooling the education system, installing universal broadband, upgrading rail lines and electrical grids," Republicans would have either A) supported him or B) been powerless to stop him.
I guess Bai's been watching a different game unfold for the last 20 months.
The New York Times' Matt Bai claimed that "whether you agree with him or not, there is a notable honesty to" Sen. John McCain's position on the war in Iraq. In fact, McCain has made numerous false or inconsistent assertions on Iraq.
In a New York Times Magazine article on a Republican resolution condemning MoveOn.org's ad criticizing Gen. David Petraeus, writer Matt Bai asserted that Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama "voted for a lighter Democratic version of the resolution, but Mrs. Clinton voted against the final Republican measure and Mr. Obama skipped the vote as a protest. You might say they voted for it before they voted against it." While Bai highlighted this purported inconsistency, he did not note that only two Republican senators voted for the "Democratic version of the resolution."