Right-wing media are attacking President Obama for his criticism of the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC during the State of the Union, calling it "unprecedented" and accusing the president of "intimidation." In fact, Obama's comments were not "unprecedented"; Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have previously used the State of the Union to criticize judicial actions, including those of the Supreme Court.
No doubt attempting to fan the flames of an imagined Clinton-Obama feud, the top story currently on the Drudge report screams: "What is she up to? Hillary Skips State of Union."
Answer: Attending two important national security related meetings in London--a trip that was sanctioned by the President. The Washington Post reported on January 27:
Seems there's an important international meeting Wednesday in London on battling radicalization in Yemen, and then another, long-planned conference there Thursday on development and security in Afghanistan.
Once the Wednesday meeting was "locked in," we were told, the State Department and National Security Council staffs agreed that Clinton had to be in London. These are both big administration priorities. Key allies will be gathering there to discuss Yemen, an uber-concern of late, especially since the Christmas Day airplane bombing attempt.
And everyone who's anyone -- including maybe the neo-Soviets and the Chicoms and possibly even the Iranians -- will be there to talk about Afghanistan.
Clinton laid out the situation in a meeting last week with Obama, and he agreed that she should go.
Nonetheless, some on the right have taken Drudge's bait and run with speculation that there's a riff between Clinton and Obama and that Clinton may be angling for a run at the Presidency in 2012. Case in point, on Fox News' America's Newsroom, after positing that Clinton could be considering a 2012 run, co-host Martha MacCallum echoed Drudge in reporting, "People who follow politics closely ... think that might be a little odd that she wasn't at the State of the Union address. Next thing you know she's saying she doesn't necessarily serve two terms as Secretary of State, and they wonder if everything's OK between Hillary Clinton and the president." Despite later noting the purpose of Clinton's trip and acknowledging that it seemed like a "legitimate" reason for Clinton to miss the State of the Union, MacCallum went on to say "it does raise some questions about how she'll sort of game out the political scene" and pushed her guest, Douglas Schoen, to speculate if there was "anything that would make her change her mind about the possibility of running against him?"
Fox Nation has also taken the bait by asking, "What's Hillary Plotting" and linking to an article on Clinton's absence from the State of the Union address:
And, just in case it wasn't obvious what Drudge was trying to suggest in trumpeting that Clinton missed the State of the Union, Drudge is now linking to Peter Roff's U.S. News & World Report blog post, which asks the question: "A Hillary Clinton Primary Challenge to Obama in 2012?" From Drudge:
Responding to Barack Obama's criticism of the Citizens United Supreme Court case during his State of the Union speech, The Drudge Report ran with the sensationalist headline suggesting that Obama's remarks "condemn[ing]" the Supreme Court were "INTIMIDATION," linking to a video of the speech:
From Obama's 2010 State of the Union address:
And it's time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that's why I'm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.
But Obama's criticism of the Supreme Court was not unusual. Previous presidents have made similar comments about the judicial branch. Ronald Reagan effectively criticized the Supreme Court while he argued in favor of prayer in schools in his 1988 State of the Union:
And let me add here: So many of our greatest statesmen have reminded us that spiritual values alone are essential to our nation's health and vigor. The Congress opens its proceedings each day, as does the Supreme Court, with an acknowledgment of the Supreme Being. Yet we are denied the right to set aside in our schools a moment each day for those who wish to pray. I believe Congress should pass our school prayer amendment.
And in 2004, Bush decried "activist judges" who were "redefining marriage by court order":
Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our Nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.
The outcome of this debate is important, and so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God's sight.
In 1973, the Supreme Court decided that fetuses were not considered "persons" for purposes of the Constitution in Roe v. Wade. Discussing abortion, Reagan said in his 1984 State of the Union address:
And while I'm on this subject, each day your Members observe a 200-year-old tradition meant to signify America is one nation under God. I must ask: If you can begin your day with a member of the clergy standing right here leading you in prayer, then why can't freedom to acknowledge God be enjoyed again by children in every schoolroom across this land?
During our first 3 years, we have joined bipartisan efforts to restore protection of the law to unborn children. Now, I know this issue is very controversial. But unless and until it can be proven that an unborn child is not a living human being, can we justify assuming without proof that it isn't? No one has yet offered such proof; indeed, all the evidence is to the contrary. We should rise above bitterness and reproach, and if Americans could come together in a spirit of understanding and helping, then we could find positive solutions to the tragedy of abortion.
Again in 1986, Reagan said, "America will never be whole as long as the right to life granted by our Creator is denied to the unborn."
From DrudgeReport.com, accessed on January 7:
Yesterday, Eric Boehlert explained how a completely made-up claim that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) gave a floor speech on health care reform while drunk had bubbled up through the right-wing noise machine and was amplified by The Politico -- despite the fact that there was absolutely no evidence supporting the story.
Nothing in the video of Baucus suggested that he was drunk. As The Washington Independent's David Weigel wrote, "Baucus talks like this all the time. ... Baucus mumbles occasionally. OK, a lot. Accusing him of being drunk on the job, without evidence, is shameful, and I'm flabbergasted at the number of journalists who are doing it."
UPDATE: A spokesman for Baucus released the following statement: "When his friend of 30 years Ted Kennedy, with whom he had fought so hard to provide health care to children, was being used as a cheap foil to oppose health care reform, Senator Baucus gave a passionate defense. Unfortunately, those who want to kill any meaningful reform, turned it into an unfounded, untrue personal smear internet rumor. This is beyond the pale and this type of gutter politics has no place in the public sphere. It is this type of slander that makes Montanans, and Americans, disgusted with the politics as usual in Washington. And what is even more sad is that such a personal attack would be given any validity at all, let alone being elevated to the status of 'news'."
That should have put an end to the story. But not if you are Matt Drudge. Hours after Baucus' denial -- and days after it was clear the story was entirely baseless -- Drudge was still linking to the YouTube video of Baucus' speech and still featuring the following headline: "DRUNK WITH POWER? TOP DEM BAUCUS SLURS ON SENATE FLOOR..."
As MSNBC's David Shuster wrote on Twitter, Baucus "always speaks in a halting fashion. The wingnut claims are lies and disgusting smears. ... Baucus speech was at 430pm in the afternoon. He was incensed at [Sen. Roger] Wicker [R-MS]. He was emotional. To smear him, as drudge does, is repulsive."
Right-wing media have highlighted recent snowfall during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen, often suggesting that the winter storm is evidence that climate change is, in Rush Limbaugh's words, "a fraud." But climate scientists reject the notion that short-term changes in weather, let alone individual storms, bear any relevance to the global warming debate, and several major climate data centers have said that, thus far, 2009 is one of the warmest years on record.
The Drudge Report suggested that global warming is "junk science," by linking to a Washington Times editorial that falsely claims a series of emails that were reportedly stolen from the UK's Climate Research Unit [CRU] show that global warming is an "unproven theory." In fact, the validity of climate science is not hinged on the contents of these emails, some of which conservative media have taken out of context; reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading scientific body for assessing climate change research, are the product of thousands of scientists worldwide.
The Drudge Report and FoxNews.com have seized on a Washington Times article that falsely suggests the Obama administration excluded Republican lawmakers from its first state dinner on November 24, honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In fact, as the Times itself reported, Obama invited several Republicans, including the House and Senate Minority leaders, and some are declining to attend.
Right-wing media are up-in-arms about what they are falsely claiming is a "requirement for a monthly abortion fee" in the Senate health care reform bill.
In reality, there is no such "fee." Rather, the right is distorting a provision of the bill that requires insurance plans that offer abortion coverage to segregate their funds so that tax dollars aren't used to fund abortion coverage. And since the bill says that every state's health exchange must offer at least one plan that doesn't cover abortion (except in cases of rape, incest, or a danger to the mother's life), consumers won't be forced to fund abortions with their premiums either.
The misinformation food chain started when House GOP leader John Boehner's staff posted the following on his blog, under the headline, "Sen. Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee":
Just like the original 2,032-page, government-run health care plan from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) massive, 2,074-page bill would levy a new "abortion premium" fee on Americans in the government-run plan.
[A] monthly abortion premium will be charged of all enrollees in the government-run health plan. It's right there beginning on line 11, page 122, section 1303, under "Actuarial Value of Optional Service Coverage." The premium will be paid into a U.S. Treasury account - and these federal funds will be used to pay for the abortion services.
Section 1303(a)(2)(C) describes the process in which the Health Benefits Commissioner is to assess the monthly premiums that will be used to pay for elective abortions under the government-run health plan and for those who are given an affordability credit to purchase insurance coverage that includes abortion through the Exchange. The Commissioner must charge at a minimum $1 per enrollee per month.
Drudge quickly linked to Boehner's post and proclaimed, "Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee... ." By this afternoon, Rush Limbaugh was claiming that Boehner had "found" in the Senate bill a "requirement for a monthly abortion fee."
This is simply false.
"Monthly abortion fee" implies there is some sort of extra charge assessed to consumers in order to pay for abortions. But this isn't the case. Rather, the bill sets up requirements by which insurance plans segregate their funds so that federal dollars don't pay for abortion coverage.
Section 1303(a)(2)(B) requires insurers who cover any abortions that are not currently allowed to be paid for with federal funds to use money not provided by the federal government to "segregate an amount equal to the actuarial amounts determined under subparagraph (C) for all enrollees." This "segregated" money is what can be spent on abortion coverage.
Subparagraph (C) of Section 1303(a)(2) -- the subparagraph that Boehner and Limbaugh claim "describes the process in which the Health Benefits Commissioner is to assess the monthly premiums that will be used to pay for elective abortions" -- simply lays out a process by which insurers determine how much of their money to segregate in order to ensure that federal money doesn't pay for elective abortions.
If you choose to purchase a plan that covers abortion, it's completely expected that a portion of your premium pays for abortion coverage. Saying that this creates some sort of additional "abortion fee" is like saying that there's a "monthly heart attack fee" because the plan covers heart attacks.
Which brings us back to Limbaugh, who took the distortion a step further by claiming, "You will be required to pay a monthly abortion premium." Not just individuals who purchase an insurance plan that covers abortion, but apparently each and every "you" listening to Limbaugh's show.
In reality, you won't be required to pay a "monthly abortion premium," and you won't even be required to have your premiums help pay for abortion coverage. The bill requires that each exchange offer at least one insurance plan that doesn't cover abortions. If you purchase one of those plans, your premiums won't be used to cover abortion.
Right-wing blogs the Drudge Report and BigGovernment.com are promoting a London Telegraph article on an Australian scientist's arguments that carbon dioxide emissions are "not causing" the Earth to warm, that global warming is natural, and that it is not caused by human emissions. However, one of geologist Ian Plimer's central assertions in the article -- that volcanoes are the primary source for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere -- is false; moreover, Plimer's claims about global warming have been widely criticized and challenged by other experts.
Linking to a CBSNews.com story about a Justice Department subpoena of a news website's visitor lists, the Fox Nation featured the false headline, "Holder subpoenas Web site Visitor Lists," and other conservative media outlets and figures, including the Drudge Report, advanced similar claims that Attorney General Eric Holder was responsible for the subpoenas. However, Holder was not attorney general at the time the subpoena was issued by a Bush-appointed U.S. attorney; moreover, the story to which the Fox Nation and Drudge Report linked reported that a "Justice Department official" said that "the attorney general's office never saw" the subpoena, which was withdrawn in February.
Linking to a Politico article, the Drudge Report ran the misleading headline, "Attorney general will speak to controversial Muslim civil rights group," referring to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder is addressing a group named Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust, which lists as its "participating organizations" not only CAIR but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, several police groups, and the NAACP.
A Drudge-hyped article claimed that Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY), in his first day in office, broke four campaign promises at once by voting for the House health care bill. In fact, in accusing Owens of breaking campaign promises, the article misrepresented both Owens' campaign positions and provisions of the House's health care bill.
Matt Drudge and WorldNetDaily.com both falsely asserted that, in Drudge's words, the House health care reform bill states that people must "buy a $15,000 policy or go to jail." In fact, as stated by the Joint Committee on Taxation letter on which Drudge's and WND's claims are based, the bill does not impose criminal penalties on people merely for failing to purchase health insurance; rather, people who do not buy health insurance and also willfully refuse to pay the tax imposed on them for such actions can face civil or criminal penalties.