The National Rifle Association has long pushed the suggestion that their electoral efforts were responsible for both George W. Bush's victory in 2000 and Republicans winning control of Congress in 1994. As evidenced by NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre's recent speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, it's a key talking point cited as evidence that the NRA will be able to defeat President Obama in this year's presidential election as well as a cautionary tale for progressives not to push for gun violence prevention legislation.
Recently the narrative of the NRA's massive electoral power has extended beyond the usual gun lobby sounding boards. A recent article by UCLA constitutional law professor Adam Winkler in The Daily Beast that argued that the NRA's electoral strength would doom Obama should he propose even modest proposals and suggested the 1994 midterms elections were evidence that talking about gun violence prevention "will hurt Democrats all the way down the ballot."
A December Bloomberg News report chronicling the NRA's massive fundraising apparatus similarly noted the belief that the NRA hurt Al Gore in 2000. The narrative was also reflected in a report by Reuters that reported that passing gun violence prevention measures, such as the 1994 assault weapons ban, leads to "sharp backlashes" from voters.
However, a detailed new analysis suggests that the NRA's past electoral impact is massively overblown.
The most recent installment of a Think Progress series examining the electoral strength of the NRA by American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (who previously worked for Media Matters) debunks the long running narrative that the NRA had a huge impact on the 1994 and 2000 elections, calling this a "mistaken reading of history." According to Waldman, "what the NRA claims credit for usually turns out upon closer examination to be nothing more than elections in which Republicans do well," while when Democrats win, as they did in 2006 and 2008, "the NRA is quiet."
Late last week, Fox morning man Steve Doocy hosted yet another segment where the Fox News wake-up team bashed teachers and expressed complete amazement that some of them earn high five-figure salaries.
Doocy turned his attention to a long-running contract dispute playing out in the suburban Philadelphia school district of Neshaminy, where teachers have been working without a contract since 2008. In this "terrible economy," Doocy couldn't believe overpaid teachers there aren't willing to drastically restructure their "rich deal" contract. After all, they work for the public! (Fox, in general, hates public school teachers.)
In terms of the numbers, Doocy, welcoming Neshaminy School Board president Ritchie Webb, told viewers teachers there earn $90,000, on average. Yet the Philadelphia Inquirer this year reported that for Neshaminy teachers, "Even after two years of a wage freeze, last fall their average salary of $77,165 was 15th highest in the state." (Webb today told me the $90,000 figure represents the median average for salaries, and the lower figure was based on the mean, and was "probably the fairest one to use.")
But more importantly, Doocy's overall message was unmistakable. Greedy teachers are taking advantage of taxpayers who simply cannot afford to pay inflated public employee salaries. Fox News has been hammering that anti-union message all year, that overpaid teachers are living a cushy life and doing it on the backs of struggling taxpayers.
Now note which story Doocy and friends did not address late last week. It was a report from The Daily Beast about how Fox News' Sixth Avenue headquarters in New York City receives free, 24-hour-a-day police protection, paid for by taxpayers; protection that likely costs the police department $500,000 annually in man hours.
The Daily Beast also reported none of the other network and cable news outlets that have headquarters in New York (ABC, CBS, CNN, or NBC), receive the same free protection, in the form of constant foot patrols outside the media headquarters or police cars stationed out front. Those news organizations pay their own security costs. It's only Fox News, which rails against the cost of public employee salaries, that receives NYPD protection at no cost.
So Fox News, which generated $1.5 billion in revenues last year, is getting free protection from the NYPD, while taxpayers foot the bill. But greedy school teachers in Pennsylvania are the real villains here?
That seems to be the case that Mark McKinnon makes in The Daily Beast today. The former Bush advisor insists the "mainlining media" relentlessly portray Michele Bachmann in an unflattering light:
Conservative women in politics run a punishing gauntlet. They endure psychological evaluations and near-gynecological exams their male and liberal counterparts do not.
McKinnon makes passing reference to just two media put-downs of Bachmann. The first is that she's been derided as a "delusional, paranoid zealot." McKinnon cites no source for the quote and Google and Nexis searches for that phrase come up empty, but I'm guessing he's referring to a recent, unflattering piece in Rolling Stone by columnist Matt Taibbi.
McKinnon's second example? Fox News' Chris Wallace, who over the weekend asked Bachmann if she's a "flake." (He quickly apologized.) That's right, Fox News is one of the two examples McKinnon offers as proof that the "mainstream press" is treating Bachmann and "conservative women in politics" very, very badly.
Does that mean that Wallace is now part of the despised liberal media?
CORRECTION: The Daily Beast poll did in fact compare Obama approval rating results from before and after the news of Osama bin Laden's death was announced. And the Daily Beast poll broke out those results separately. The premise of my post is therefore incorrect. I regret the error.
The Daily Beast is claiming that the president received no Osama bin Laden-related bounce in its new poll.
Here's the Daily Beast's summary [emphasis added]:
So readers assume that like the Washington Post, which turned around a new poll on Monday to gage public reaction to the bin Laden news, so too did the Daily Beast.
How much overall boost did President Obama get from the capture of Osama Bin Laden? None, according to an exclusive Newsweek / Daily Beast poll encompassing 1,200 American adults, conducted in the two days immediately before the president's Sunday announcement about the terrorist leader, and then the two days immediately after.
That doesn't make much sense. How could a poll partially conducted two days before the bin Laden announcement calculate how Americans felt about Obama in light of the news from Pakistan? (Time travel?)
Claiming that the president's post-bin Laden job approval rating has not changed, the Daily Beast relies on a poll in which half of the respondents were contacted before news of bin Laden's death was announced.
That seems quite odd.
When Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon discussed with The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz the leaked emails obtained by Media Matters in which Sammon sought to slant the network's coverage of health care reform to the right, he tipped his hand revealing his ultimate intention despite his protestations of journalistic integrity. Kurtz reported (emphasis added):
Sammon said in an interview that the term "public option" "is a vague, bland, undescriptive phrase," and that after all, "who would be against a public park?" The phrase "government-run plan," he said, is "a more neutral term," and was used just last week by a New York Times columnist.
"I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not. It's simply an accurate, fair, objective term."
As New York Magazine's Chris Rovzar wrote (emphasis added):
Sammon himself phrased the Fox attitude well when he spoke with Howard Kurtz about the memo: "Who would be against a 'public' park?" Indeed — who would? And why would you want them to be, again?
The Daily Beast published an article, titled "Al Gore's Weird Silence," which falsely claimed that Gore has only made one public statement on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, Gore has made numerous public statements about the spill.
Daily Beast reporter Dayo Olopade writes that Al Gore's "only public statement has come in a short article for The New Republic's website comparing the oil gusher to CO2 emissions" and that Gore "has been largely silent during the worst environmental catastrophe in memory."
However, the article itself provides a quote from a Gore spokesman challenging the claim that Gore has only spoken once about the oil spill:
Kalee Kreider, a spokesperson for Gore's office in Nashville, said in a statement: "Former Vice President Gore has addressed the crisis in the Gulf in a major speech, an essay in The New Republic and through numerous postings on his Twitter and personal online journal on algore.com. He also works closely on the climate crisis, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and the oil spill through the philanthropy that he chairs, the Alliance for Climate Protection, based in Washington, DC."
It turns out that Gore's spokesperson is correct and Olopade's claim is meritless. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Gore addressed the oil spill in his commencement speech at the University of Tennessee. Gore's New Republic piece [subscription required] -- which Olopade describes as "short" -- is a 2000+ word essay dealing with the spill. He has repeatedly written about the spill on Twitter and on AlGore.com. KBSW also reported that he discussed the spill during the Panetta lecture series in California -- a video of which is embedded in Olopade's piece.
Various media figures have likened Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan to Harriet Miers, President Bush's failed nominee. However, legal experts -- including conservatives -- have rejected the comparison. Moreover, media conservatives previously smeared Sonia Sotomayor as "Obama's Harriet Miers."
The Daily Beast has unveiled its list of "The Left's Top 25 Journalists" -- with Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt coming in at number 5, despite the fact that "many on the left would question Hiatt's presence on this list" because "his near-neocon position on foreign policy enrages the left-wing blogosphere."
Seriously? The fifth-most influential liberal journalist in America is a neocon? Who came up with this list, Dick Cheney?
No, actually, it was Tunku Varadarajan, formerly op-ed editor for the Wall Street Journal (whose opinion pages are notoriously conservative) and currently a fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institution, where the fellows program is generously funded by Richard Mellon Scaife.
I know what you're thinking: If The Daily Beast turned to a Scaife-funded right-winger to pen its list of "The Left's Top 25 Journalists," it probably used a Soros-backed liberal to assess journalism's leading conservatives, right? Nope, that was Varadarajan, too.
Varadarajan also wrote Forbes magazine's recent list of "The 25 Most Influential Liberals In The U.S. Media." Fred Hiatt came in at number 3 on that list, with Clinton-hating, liberal-bashing Chris Matthews at number 12.
Meghan McCain writes about the sexist double-standards women in politics face:
The brutal criticism of Sarah Palin-which will only increase when her memoir comes out-is yet another example of the double standard and cruel treatment of women in politics. Sarah has been attacked for everything from her hair to her clothes to the number of children she gave birth to. Maureen Dowd even nicknamed her "Caribou Barbie." I can't even begin to think of what that kind of judgment-criticizing parts of your life that have nothing to do with what you stand for or want to accomplish politically-feels like.
Now, I'm not about to deny that women in politics often face double-standards and outright misogyny in the way the media treats them. They do, as I have often written. And that's something that should be addressed more frequently, so I'm glad McCain has done so.
But Maureen Dowd calling Sarah Palin "Caribou Barbie" isn't an example of a double-standard in which Dowd only makes such comments about women, it's an example of Dowd being a nasty and utterly pointless columnist who relentlessly mocks politicians -- male and female -- she dislikes, often focusing on their personal appearance or what she claims is their deviation from gender norms.
Dowd has called Barack Obama a "debutante" and a "pretty boy" and "effete" and compared him to Scarlett O'Hara. She repeatedly referred to John Edwards as "The Breck Girl" and a "Material Boy" and "Secretary of Hairdressing," and at least once dedicated an entire column to an Edwards hair cut. Dowd mocked Edwards for visiting "the Pink Sapphire spa in Manchester, which offers services for men that include the 'Touch of Youth' facial, as well as trips 'into the intriguing world of makeup.'" (Dowd remained silent about John McCain's own foray into the "intriguing world of makeup" at the Pink Sapphire.) And Dowd famously wrote that Al Gore was "so feminized ... he's practically lactating." (See, Gore wore a brown suit, and ... uh ... Well, actually, that was about it.)
Of course, all of these insults from Dowd are fundamentally sexist in nature. She belittles male politicians she doesn't like by, basically, calling them women. The obvious underlying assumption is that being feminine is a bad thing. So even when she obsesses over a male politician's personal characteristics, she often does so in a way that indirectly insults women.
But Dowd's reference to Sarah Palin as "Caribou Barbie" isn't an example of her singling out women for criticism over "parts of [their] life that have nothing to do with what [they] stand for or want to accomplish politically." It's an example of her behaving like a mean-spirited seventh-grader with little of substance to say.
And it's a reminder that it actually understates the misogyny in Dowd's columns to suggest that she critiques the physical appearance of only women in politics.
MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski falsely claimed that "the average Big Three automaker union worker's compensation is $73/hour -- two and a half times the average for the taxpayer being asked to bail them out." In fact, the $73 figure includes not only future retirement benefits for current workers, but also benefits paid to current retirees, according to GM.