From the May 31 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, based on a series of dubious factual errors, is now offering a flawed comparison between the Watergate scandal and the Obama administration's response to the September terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.
There's no small irony to Woodward injecting himself into what has become a scandal driven by deceptively edited emails passed off to reporters, given the recent attention he received after using a similar method to support his ridiculous accusation that a White House aide threatened him.
In his latest attempt to jump into the debate on the side of the right wing, Woodward demonstrates a striking lack of familiarity with the basic facts of what happened.
Here's what Woodward said during his May 17 appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, and what's wrong with those statements.
WOODWARD: You were talking earlier about kind of dismissing the Benghazi issue as one that's just political and the president recently said it's a sideshow. But if you read through all these e-mails, you see that everyone in the government is saying, "Oh, let's not tell the public that terrorists were involved, people connected to al Qaeda. Let's not tell the public that there were warnings."
If Woodward actually did read through all the recently-released emails from intelligence officials and other administration aides discussing the assembly of the much-ballyhooed talking points used in the wake of the attacks, he seems to have missed a few things. Administration officials suggested removing references to the al Qaeda ties of attackers because they were worried about tainting the investigation of the perpetrators, as David Petraeus, who was CIA director at the time of the attacks, later testified. Meanwhile, CIA Deputy Director Mike Morell reportedly advocated for removing references to general CIA warnings about potential attacks -- there had been no specific threat warning for that day. As CBS News pointed out on May 16, the CIA signed off on all changes, and there is "no evidence" that the White House "orchestrated" the changes.
WOODWARD: I hate to show, that this is one of the documents with the editing that one of the people in the State Department said, 'Oh, let's not let these things out.'
Woodward appears to be holding this document, in which hand-written edits were made removing several paragraphs of the talking points during the "deputies meeting" of the National Security Council. But that editing was reportedly performed by the CIA's Morell, not anyone from the State Department. Morell reportedly approved the document for distribution.
From the April 18 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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MSNBC's Morning Joe selectively edited comments Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gave in 2002 to assert that she was "beating the drums of war" in the run up to the Iraq war, but the highlighted comments come from a speech in which Pelosi urged Congress to vote against authorizing the use of force in Iraq.
During Morning Joe's coverage of the 10-year anniversary of the Iraq war, co-host Mika Brzezinski introduced a prepared video montage on how "it was a lot easier for some members of Congress to support the conflict before they were against it." Co-host Joe Scarborough provided the voice-over in the video, and claimed it showed how "the very same people who spent years beating up George Bush were the very ones beating the drum for Iraq's regime change and Saddam Hussein's ouster."
The video juxtaposes comments made by members of Congress purportedly "beating the drum for Iraq's regime change," against later comments by the same members of Congress criticizing President Bush over the war. One of the voices Scarborough highlights is Pelosi, shown in the video saying:
I applaud the President on focusing on this issue and on taking the lead to disarm Saddam Hussein.
But contrary to what Morning Joe implied, these comments come from a floor speech Pelosi gave in 2002 opposing the Iraq war, arguing that it would weaken the country by diverting resources from the war on terror (portion MSNBC aired in bold):
I come to this debate, Mr. Speaker, at the end of 10 years of service on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was one of my top priorities. I applaud the President's focusing on this issue, and on taking the lead to disarm Saddam Hussein.
It is from the perspective of 10 years on the Intelligence Committee that I rise in opposition to this resolution on national security grounds. The clear and present danger that our country faces is terrorism. I say flat out that unilateral use of force without first exhausting every diplomatic remedy and other remedies and making a case to the American people will be harmful to our war on terrorism.
Pelosi concluded her speech by urging her House colleagues to vote "No" on the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, as she did.
UPDATE: On the March 20th edition of Morning Joe, the hosts issued a correction and apologized for the mistake, showing the clip of Rep. Pelosi in full context and acknowledging her opposition to authorizing the use of force in Iraq in 2002.
Media ignored economists in their reports leading up to the initiation of the economically damaging across-the-board spending cuts commonly known as sequestration.
If Congress fails to act by midnight, across-the-board spending cuts of up to $85 billion in 2013 alone will take effect. While sequestration is inherently an economic issue, media are ignoring the last chance to have economists weigh in on the consequences.
Media Matters reviewed news coverage leading up to the sequestration deadline, specifically the February 28 evening news broadcasts; March 1 reports from The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times; and the March 1 morning news programs on the major cable and broadcast networks. We found that economists have been almost completely shut out. Of 122 total guests and quoted figures appearing in a total of 43 articles or television segments, one lone economist was mentioned, Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner in a report from the Journal.
Right-wing pundits frequently use former President Ronald Reagan's name to apply a stamp of approval on anything or anyone they deem symbolic of the ideal conservative -- even when Reagan's actual record on issues ranging from taxes to the deficit deviated far from the ideological standards of today's conservative movement.
Republican darling du jour Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) is the latest to receive the Reagan badge. Ahead of his delivery of the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address, Karl Rove said Monday that "in Rubio, the Republicans have got probably one of their best communicators since Ronald Reagan." On MSNBC's Morning Joe, The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis called Rubio "Reaganesque." And in November 2012, pundit Cal Thomas published a column on Townhall.com titled, "Marco Rubio: A Hispanic Reagan?"
Rubio is just the latest in a long line of Republican politicians to receive the ubiquitous accolade:
Mitt Romney: Fox News figures repeatedly linked former presidential candidate Romney to the Gipper during both opinion and news shows in the months leading up to the 2012 election. Bill O'Reilly said that Romney "is going to mirror the ghost of Ronald Reagan," while political correspondent Carl Cameron said Romney, on his bus tour, spent a lot of time "sort of echoing Ronald Reagan."
Rep. Paul Ryan (WI): Fox News figures from K.T. MacFarland to Megyn Kelly compared Ryan to Reagan as part of their cheerleading for Ryan after he was chosen as Romney's vice presidential candidate.
Gov. Chris Christie (NJ): Fox Nation highlighted a column by the director of the American Enterprise Institute with the headline, "Christie's Starting to Look Like Reagan."
Sarah Palin: A post on Breitbart's BigJournalism.com said that Palin "carries the torch of liberty and American exceptionalism in the palm of her lovely hand" before calling her the "surviving embodiment of the spirit of 1776 and the Reagan reformation."
Gov. Scott Walker (WI): On Sean Hannity's Fox show, conservative radio host Mike Gallagher called Walker "the Ronald Reagan of our time."
Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA): Karl Rove, on Hannity's show, called Virginia governor Bob McDonnell "a Reaganite conservative."
Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA): In February 2008, Rush Limbaugh called Jindal "the next Ronald Reagan."
Right-wing media figures have splashed the "Reagan" label about so freely that they're in danger of rendering the compliment meaningless.
On MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough continued to harp on Medicare and deficit spending as a pressing economic problem and twice claimed that "liberals are denying math" to avoid tackling the issue. However, economists widely disagree with that assessment, suggesting that it is Scarborough, not liberals, who has a weak understanding of math.
On the February 12 edition of Morning Joe, Scarborough, who has previously hit Paul Krugman on his view of long-term debt and attempted to discredit the Nobel Prize winning economist for defending Medicare, claimed that "liberals should want to reform middle class entitlements" so as to not "steal from welfare programs...for the poorest Americans."
Scarborough's attempt to paint Medicare as one of America's most pressing issues completely misses the point behind its current problems. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich points out that Medicare, rather than being the "problem," is actually to solution to the real issue -- rising health care costs. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, even goes as far as to say that Medicare is "by far the most efficient part of the national healthcare system."
Indeed, evidence suggests that Medicare provides a more economically viable delivery system for healthcare. According to both the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute, Medicare is better than the private sector at controlling costs, and projections of future cost growth in public health care programs are lower than those for private sector.
Furthermore, many economists, including Reich and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, note that Medicare can use its bargaining leverage to negotiate prices of medical procedures and prescription drugs. In fact, according to economist Jared Bernstein, provisions in the Affordable Care Act -- many of which have not yet been implemented -- will help control costs of healthcare, brightening the prospects for sustainable Medicare.
In addition to being wrong on Medicare, Scarborough claimed that those who disagree with him on today's deficits amount to just a few "bloggers eating Cheetos," implying that the majority opinion is on his side and that "the American people know" he's right about spending.
Scarborough displayed the same willful ignorance of economic discourse in his January Politico op-ed, "Paul Krugman vs. the world." Economists like Mark Thoma, Brad DeLong, Jared Bernstein, Dean Baker, Henry Aaron, Alan Blinder and Larry Summers agree that deficits are not worthy of concern, so long as economic output lags behind its potential, as do former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett and John Makin of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal lists a few others.
The simplest math is this: at least 15 experts, including 13 economists, a congressman, and a Reagan budget adviser, reject Scarborough's argument.
The Congressional Budget Office's new baseline projections back Krugman as well: The CBO found that the sharp rise in debt-to-GDP that Scarborough laments has stopped, and that the ratio of public debt to economic output will hold at or near its current level for the next decade. Further, the report notes a trillion-dollar gap between actual and potential economic output. The CBO doesn't explicitly state policy recommendations, but Rex Nutting of the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch noted that the report amounts to a call for four more years of high deficits.
This wealth of professional economists and empirical facts may explain an apparent shift in Scarborough's argument from the February 12 segment, in which he said even Krugman's supporters "agree with me that deficits aren't the problem, the long-term debt is the problem." If Scarborough believes that deficits aren't a problem, then what does he think he and the entire mainstream of the economics profession are arguing about? Throughout the recent weeks' debate, Scarborough has attacked deficits, and conflated them with the long-term debt. He blamed "a Keynesian spending spree" for slowed economic growth in late 2012, and bragged in Politico of his sterling deficit-hawk track record dating back to 1994.
It is true that the economists making the textbook argument for running deficits today also note that deficits will need to be controlled in the medium-near future. Jared Bernstein refers to this conceptual balance as being a CDSH: a cyclical dove and a structural hawk. Is Scarborough now looking to join that club, by declaring support for near-term deficits coupled with restraint in the middle distance? If so, Krugman, and his fellow "math-challenged" supporters, would be justified in declaring victory.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough blamed "a Keynesian spending spree" for the contraction in GDP at the end of 2012, while holding evidence that the opposite is true in his hands. Scarborough's claims fit into his ongoing effort to deny and marginalize demand-side economic policies which continue to enjoy broad support from trained economists.
During a discussion of the 2012 fourth quarter GDP report on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Scarborough implied that the 0.1 percent drop in output was due to government spending since the recession. From Morning Joe:
Scarborough's claim is contradicted by the Wall Street Journal article he held up during the segment, which states that "government spending, which has been a drag on growth for more than two years, declined for the ninth time in 10 quarters." The article's subhead - "GDP Shrinks 0.1% on Government Cuts, but Consumer, Business Spending Offer Hope" - also splashed across the screen moments before Scarborough made his argument.
The Wall Street Journal's reporting is in line with the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis report. The BEA calculates the component parts of the GDP figure for each quarter. This most recent report is notable not because the government spending component of GDP continues to be negative due to shrinking direct spending into the economy, but because, for the first time in the recovery, the government component of GDP was so negative that it overwhelmed the positivity in other components.
Washington Post policy blogger Ezra Klein lays out this chart:
From the January 30 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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Media outlets have focused heavily on the topics of deficits and debt, while largely ignoring economic growth during their coverage of the debt ceiling debate. However, experts agree that the need for growth is more pressing than problems of debt, and that growth itself can be a deficit reduction tactic.
A Media Matters study of television coverage over the past three weeks found that while pundits and guests focused heavily on discussing the debt ceiling, the topic of economic growth was sorely lacking. Of the total 273 segments analyzed, only 33 mentioned economic growth.
Instead of touching upon economic growth, Media Matters found that guests and hosts spent most of their discussions focusing on other issues, such as the role of entitlement spending and political leverage in negotiations between parties.
While the debt ceiling issue is certainly important - and failing to raise it would have a negative impact on the overall economy - many economists have eschewed the focus on debt, arguing instead that economic growth should be the primary concern.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has long argued that the media and political focus on debt is misguided, and that recent increases in debt were necessary to prevent the economy from entering another recession. Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, further argues that the focus on deficits and debt distracts policymakers from the very real problem of sustained high unemployment and a weak economy.
In fact, Krugman echoed Bernstein's point on the January 28 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
Right-wing media figures opposed to the Pentagon permitting women to serve in combat roles attacked the decision by pointing to sex-segregated sports teams. But military research has shown that women are capable of serving in combat, and the decision has the support of major political and military figures.
Media coverage of the debt ceiling frequently claims that raising the limit without simultaneous spending cuts would give President Obama a "blank check," repeating a pattern of promoting this false narrative -- or failing to correct it -- that occurred during the unprecedented brinkmanship of 2011. The phrase implies that the debt ceiling governs additional spending desired by the White House, when in fact it is a restriction on the executive branch's ability to borrow money to pay for spending measures already enacted by Congress.
From the January 16 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough strongly criticized a recent National Rifle Association advertisement that politicized the security of President Obama's children.
The NRA ad called Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for allowing for his children to be guarded by armed Secret Service agents while not immediately endorsing the NRA's call for armed guards in every school.
Scarborough, who as a Congressman was a strong supporter of the NRA, responded to the ad, asking "what's wrong with these people?" He continued, pointing out that once Obama decided to run for president, his children "have targets on their backs." Scarborough also said that the NRA is now a "fringe organization with millions of mainstream members." He concluded by saying the ad was "frightening and over the line."
From the January 14 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
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