Before he was promoted to his current role as chief executive officer of News Corp., Robert Thomson used his position at The Wall Street Journal to hobble the paper's reporting of the parent company's phone hacking scandal, according to a new book.
Before the Supreme Court even heard oral arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, potentially the nation's next major civil rights decision, The Wall Street Journal was already spreading misinformation about the case and the issues at stake.
In an October 14 editorial, The Wall Street Journal mislabeled the affirmative action ban challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, miscounted the number of justices that will decide Schuette (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself, having previously worked on the case), and mistakenly conflated a political restructuring case with a different strand of affirmative action cases:
Does it violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on racial discrimination for a state to ban racial discrimination? Most Americans would think not, but that's essentially the bizarre question before the Supreme Court on Tuesday as it considers a legal challenge to a 2006 Michigan referendum.
In Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, the plaintiffs claim that Michigan violated the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause when 58% of Michigan voters supported Proposition 2 [sic], which amended the state constitution to prohibit discriminating by race in education, government contracts or hiring.
The Coalition for Affirmative Action argued that Prop 2 disproportionately burdened minorities in education. Their odd logic is that while advocates of, say, alumni legacy preferences would only need to lobby a school's admissions officials, advocates of race preferences under Prop 2 would have to amend the state constitution. So not discriminating by race discriminates by race -- got it?
It's only fair that the Supreme Court fix this legal mess that it did so much to create. Michigan's 2006 referendum was a response to the High Court's misguided 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger that allowed schools to consider race as a factor in admissions for the purpose of diversity. Proposition 2 [sic] was the political response from a citizenry that still reveres the principle of color-blind opportunity.
The Schuette case ought to be an easy call for the Justices, and the ruling should be 9-0. Given the fraught politics of race, even on the High Court, it may end up being 5-4. But the failure to overturn the Sixth Circuit would enshrine in the law the concept that American voters can't choose to outlaw discrimination on the basis of race. Lincoln and Frederick Douglass would turn in their graves, if they didn't leap right out of them.
What the WSJ calls the "odd logic" of the plaintiffs isn't odd at all. The legal argument of the ACLU/NAACP (joined by multiple legal scholars, including Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe and University of California Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky) is, in fact, solidly in line with Supreme Court precedent. The WSJ has assumed that, because Schuette is tangentially related to affirmative action, it must be an opportunity for the justices to revisit the holding in Grutter -- but the cases just aren't the same.
News coverage of the government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling crisis has prompted widespread criticism about how Beltway journalists unnecessarily include Democrats when assigning blame for a shutdown strategy that has been methodically plotted by extremist Republicans for months; a strategy built around making unprecedented demands on the president in exchange for Republican votes for a policy they say they already support.
Eager to maintain a political symmetry in which both sides are responsible for sparking conflict, the press effectively gives Republicans a pass for adopting truly outside-the-norm behavior, such as when senators suggest the United States defaulting on its debt is not cause for concern.
But both-sides-to-blame reporting is really just the public symptom of a larger media malady; the refusal to acknowledge the proud extremism of today's Republican Party. Both-sides-to-blame analysis is a fallback position. It's a soft landing spot for journalists who aren't confident enough to accurately report what's unfolding politically.
The signs of radical change are everywhere inside the Republican Party. The change is being driven by a group of hardcore members and their attempt to grind Obama's presidency, and the federal government, to a halt by refusing to not only compromise with Democrats, but refusing to even speak to them about the federal budget. They include members with an almost evangelical fervor for defaulting on the debt ceiling and who describe it as their defining "Braveheart" moment; their chance to do something "big." They're extremists trying to make governing impossible via procedural sabotage.
Yet many reporters and pundits remain blind to the obvious GOP transformation, or are too timid to spell out the details for news consumers.
As irresponsible Republicans in the House detonate one blockbuster crisis after another, it's becoming clear that the press doesn't know how to deal with this; that it doesn't have the right tools for the job. Most journalists have never seen anything quite like the purposeful dysfunction and chaos that Republicans have plotted, and therefore remain timid and unsure about acknowledging what's really happening.
So instead of clarity, we get the endless regurgitation about how the nation's capital has been paralyzed by a "partisan logjam" (Wall Street Journal), and suffering from "an inability to come together" (NPR contributor Cokie Roberts). See? Both sides are to blame.
Right-wing media figures have repeatedly criticized Obama administration officials for claiming that the U.S. will default if the debt ceiling is not raised by October 17, instead claiming the U.S. could prioritize payments to bondholders as a way to avoid default. But economists note that the threat of default is real and that the prioritization alternative proposed by Republicans is not a long-term solution.
On October 15, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case that challenges a 2006 ballot initiative in Michigan that amended the state's constitution to prevent state universities from using race or sex as one of many equal factors in admissions. Although proponents of what was formerly known as Proposal 2 say this resulting affirmative action ban is consistent with the law, it appears to be specifically prohibited by the "political restructuring" doctrine of the Supreme Court.
The Wall Street Journal misleadingly praised the government shutdown, suggesting it could help the economy. In fact, the shutdown has already cost the economy billions and is predicted to harm economic growth even further.
A Wall Street Journal article promoted false Republican claims which disputed the devastating effects failure to raise the debt ceiling on October 17 would have on the U.S. economy, despite recent Journal reporting which admitted default could have "cataclysmic" consequences.
In an October 9 article headlined "Obama's Default Scenario Derided," the Journal noted that according to President Obama, "if Congress doesn't raise the country's debt ceiling soon, an economic crisis with skyrocketing interest rates and a crashing stock market could follow," as the U.S. would default on its pre-existing debts -- an understanding of the manufactured impending fiscal crisis which is supported by economists and the Treasury Department.
But rather than confirm this factual assertion, the Journal instead provided a platform for Republicans who baselessly "say they don't believe" default will lead to devastating negative effects and have even "questioned what the word 'default' really means." The Journal hyped Republican claims that the White House could choose to prioritize which payments to make once the deadline hits, and claimed these misleading remarks had credence because the U.S. has never defaulted before, making the potential crisis "unchartered waters."
In reality, the Treasury Department does not have the legal authority to prioritize payments if the debt ceiling is not raised, and economists agree that congressional failure to raise the debt limit could be catastrophic, setting in motion a financial crisis in the United States and around the globe.
The "debt ceiling" was officially breached on May 17 of this year. Since that date, the Treasury has implemented "extraordinary measures" to avoid defaulting on American sovereign debt obligations by shifting funds from various accounts. The New York Times reported that these measures will be exhausted by October 17:
Economists of all political persuasions have warned that a failure to raise the debt ceiling by the Treasury's deadline of Oct. 17 could be catastrophic. The world economy's faith in the safety of Treasury debt would be shaken for years. Interest rates could shoot up, and stock prices worldwide would most likely plummet.
The Journal itself has previously reported the devastating consequences the prospect of default is already having on the worldwide economy. On October 8, the Journal reported that short-term U.S. debt prices had fallen "amid rising investor concern about the prospect of a government-debt default, sending the yield on one-month U.S. Treasury bills to its highest level since the financial crisis." The same day, the Journal reported that China had warned the U.S. of default's "global ramifications," and that banks in the United Kingdom have begun "stockpiling cash" and preparing for "cataclysmic" consequences.
Domestically, money for government employees, the military, Social Security, Medicare, food safety inspections, and more could cease or be delayed, and CNN business correspondent Alison Kosik reported that "if a default happens, there's one analyst who says that the S&P 500 could drop 45 percent."
Furthermore, the claim that the administration could choose to prioritize some payments over others in order to avoid default is false. Tony Fratto, a former Treasury Department assistant secretary and senior George W. Bush White House staffer called payment prioritization "fanciful," and Treasury Department Inspector General Eric M. Thorson reported to Congress that the Treasury had no means or capacity to prioritize certain payments over others. Slate economics blogger Matt Yglesias explained that Treasury has "no more legal authority to prioritize payments than they do to borrow extra money."
Despite admitting that Republicans played a major role in forcing the government shutdown, the right-wing media have adopted GOP messaging portraying President Obama and Democrats as unwilling to resolve the crisis.
In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
Fox News hyped a misleading Wall Street Journal article that claimed young adults will face higher insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without disclosing that only a small portion of the health care market would be affected
A September 25 article in The Wall Street Journal claimed that "for some buyers, prices will rise from today's less-comprehensive policies," and went on to say that "For consumers used to skimpier plans--or young, healthy people who previously enjoyed attractive rates--that could mean significantly higher premiums." Fox News host Neil Cavuto hyped the article during an appearance on America's Newsroom, claiming, "premiums are going up, they're going up markedly...for young people in particular, the means by which we pay for all of this, their premiums are going up smartly":
Both the Journal and Fox's segment ignored that the potential premium increase is for a very small subset of the insurance market. The Center for American Progress estimated that "only about 3 percent" of young adults have the potential to see premium increases, which makes up about half of one percent of all Americans:
The Wall Street Journal promoted Republican revisionist history portraying previous debt ceiling negotiations as bipartisan, ignoring the Republican obstructionism that led to the 2011 debt ceiling crisis.
If Congress is unable to raise the U.S. debt ceiling -- which allows Congress to pay for past spending -- much of the government will shut down by October 1, and by mid-October, the Treasury Department will lose the ability to pay its debts, thereby hurting the economy. Divisions among House Republicans have stalled efforts to pass the necessary legislation, with many insisting on significant cuts to government spending and delaying President Obama's health care law.
On September 12, the Journal reported Speaker of the House John Boehner's response to the administration's refusal to negotiate on these "nonstarter" proposals, claiming it was a departure from "decades" of previous negotiations that found "bipartisan solutions":
Congress faces a deadline in mid-October to pass legislation that would raise the debt limit. Mr. Obama has said he would refuse to negotiate with Republicans on terms for raising the borrowing limit and that Congress must allow the Treasury to pay for spending already approved by lawmakers.
But Mr. Boehner (R., Ohio) told reporters Thursday that stance was a departure from numerous precedents, in which the White House and Congress agreed to budget changes in exchange for a debt-limit increase.
"For decades, the White House, the Congress have used the debt limit to find bipartisan solutions on the deficit and the debt," Mr. Boehner said, alluding to deficit-reduction deals passed under former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, among others. "So, President Obama is going to have to deal with this, as well."
The Journal failed to note that Boehner's rosy painting of history hid the unprecedented crisis of August 2011 caused by Republican obstructionism. Raising the debt ceiling had been a routine procedure until then, when Republicans held the economy hostage by threatening not to support any increase without equal amounts of spending cuts. Economists at the time cautioned that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be catastrophic for the U.S. and world economies, and a June 2011 letter to congressional leaders signed by 235 prominent economists warned:
Failure to increase the debt limit sufficiently to accommodate existing U.S. laws and obligations also could undermine trust in the full faith and credit of the United States government, with potentially grave long-term consequences. This loss of trust could translate into higher interest rates not only for the federal government, but also for U.S. businesses and consumers, causing all to pay higher prices for credit. Economic growth and jobs would suffer as a result.
Obama ultimately signed a bill that averted the crisis, ending the "bitter partisan stalemate that had threatened to plunge the nation into default and destabilize the world economy."
The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens used the possibility of military intervention in Syria to rewrite the history of the Iraq war, falsely claiming the Bush administration's case against Iraq was supported by solid evidence.
Stephens, the Journal's foreign-affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor for international opinion pages, criticized the Obama administration's case for intervention in Syria by comparing it to Bush's decision to invade Iraq, which he claimed was made based on "highly detailed" intelligence revealing weapons of mass destruction. Stephens claimed the "testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix" supported the Bush administration's case for war, and accusations that the Bush administration lied were "libel" and "cheap slander":
Then there's the intel. In London the other day, Mr. Kerry invited the public to examine the administration's evidence of Assad's use of chemical weapons, posted on whitehouse.gov. The "dossier" consists of a 1,455-word document heavy on blanket assertions such as "we assess with high confidence" and "we have a body of information," and "we have identified one hundred videos."
By contrast, the Bush administration made a highly detailed case on Iraqi WMD, including show-and-tells by Colin Powell at the Security Council. It also relied on the testimony of U.N. inspectors like Hans Blix, who reported in January 2003 that "there are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared," that his inspectors had found "indications that the [nerve agent VX] was weaponized," and that Iraq had "circumvented the restrictions" on the import of missile parts.
The case the Bush administration assembled on Iraqi WMD was far stronger than what the Obama administration has offered on Syria. And while I have few doubts that the case against Assad is solid, it shouldn't shock Democrats that the White House's "trust us" approach isn't winning converts. When you've spent years peddling the libel that the Bush administration lied about Iraq, don't be shocked when your goose gets cooked in the same foul sauce.
So what should President Obama say when he addresses the country Tuesday night? He could start by apologizing to President Bush for years of cheap slander. He won't.
But Hans Blix told CNN in 2004 that the Bush administration "chose to ignore" his team's concerns about the lack of solid evidence in favor of war, and that prior to the invasion the evidence of WMDs in Iraq was revealed to be "shaky":
"I think it's clear that in March, when the invasion took place, the evidence that had been brought forward was rapidly falling apart," Hans Blix, who oversaw the agency's investigation into whether Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, said on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."
Blix described the evidence Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the U.N. Security Council in February 2003 as "shaky," and said he related his opinion to U.S. officials, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
"I think they chose to ignore us," Blix said.
Furthermore, an investigation into the lead up to the Iraq war found that statements President Bush made about Iraq misled the American people and Congress by inaccurately depicting the available intelligence. The 2008 Senate Intelligence Committee's report found that "policymakers' statements" in particular misrepresented the nature of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda, and that Bush's allegations "that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership" were "not substantiated by the intelligence." The report also found that statements by Bush and Vice President Cheney indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give WMDs to terrorists for use against the U.S. "were contradicted by available intelligence information."
While there are serious questions about the wisdom of using military force in Syria, any debate must include the facts -- not the Journal's fanciful rewriting of history.
Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal is using the victory of conservative Tony Abbott in Australia's recent race for prime minister as a cautionary tale, warning American politicians to "beware the faddish politics of climate change." The warning, issued by an editorial board with a long history of misinforming the public on climate policy, comes on the heels of accusations that Abbott's victory was influenced by severe attacks on his opponent lobbed in the pages of Murdoch's Australian press empire.
Over the weekend, Australians elected Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott -- a man who has been compared to former American President George W. Bush -- to serve as the nation's 28th prime minister. Among other initiatives, Abbott intends to dismantle the country's fight against climate change, arguing that the science behind the phenomenon is "absolute crap."
In an editorial September 9, The Wall Street Journal attributed former PM Kevin Rudd's loss, and the overall defeat of the center-left Labor Party, to the party's push for a tax on carbon emissions and other "anticarbon policies." The Journal argued that Abbott successfully made the carbon tax a "political liability," and the editorial board used the opportunity to warn Republicans in the United States against going along with attempts to curb carbon emissions:
A carbon tax is one of those ideas that economists love to propose but that turn out to be lousy politics. If Republicans want to toy with the idea, they had better be prepared to eliminate the income or payroll tax along with it. Otherwise voters will figure out that the politicians are merely looking for one more way to tap into their incomes, in this case by raising their electricity and other energy bills.
Despite The Wall Street Journal's claim, voters were probably not sending a message about carbon policy. Only 37 percent of Australians support eliminating the carbon tax and replacing it with the policies of Abbott and the Coalition. The tax didn't even break voters' top three concerns, with those spots going to concerns about the economy, asylum seekers, and health care. In fact, most Australians think the country's climate policies should remain the same or stronger.
Instead, voter antipathy toward the center-left government may be rooted in an aversion to political hypocrisy and broken promises. Leaders of the Labor Party, including former PM Julia Gillard, previously promised there would be no carbon tax, then flipped on the issue and instated one any way. A reporter for The Guardian's Australian edition noted that the Labor Party was thrown out of power because for voters, it "became an issue of her [former PM's] credibility really rather than carbon pricing." The Journal did not see fit to include this important context in its editorial.
A Wall Street Journal editorial pushed the myth that a Department of Justice lawsuit against credit rating agency Standard & Poor's (S&P) is retaliation for the company downgrading the U.S.'s credit rating, failing to note experts' explanations that the suit is likely a test case that may be used to bolster future action against other credit rating agencies and that the suit predates S&P's downgrade.
As the anniversary of the attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya approaches, the conservative media seems to be salivating over the release of Under Fire, the new book by former diplomatic security agent Fred Burton and journalist Samuel M. Katz that details the assault, minute-by-minute. It's the latest salvo in conservatives' year-long campaign to politicize and demagogue the tragedy. But conservatives may want to read the book first. The authors discredit the narratives conservative media figures have perpetuated about the attack in order to criticize the Obama administration, most notably the claims that there could have been a larger and faster military response or that resources were intentionally withheld from those under fire in Libya.
The lack of a timely military response was never an issue of lack of resolve or determination to help Americans in danger, Burton and Katz write. It all came down to logistics:
There was never a question concerning U.S. resolve or the overall capabilities of the U.S. military to respond to Benghazi. There was, however, nothing immediate about an immediate response. There were logistics and host-nation approvals to consider. An immediate response was hampered by the equation of geography and logistics.
The authors go into great detail describing the various factors that prevented additional military response teams from arriving in Benghazi in time, and in the process completely dismantle the notion that available military assets could have made a difference but were held back for political reasons.
On page 138, Burton and Katz discuss the availability and response time of the Marine Corps' Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST), which was ordered by the Pentagon to get to Libya "as fast as you can":
"The FAST unit closer to Benghazi was FAST Company Europe, which reported to the Marine Corps Security Force Regiment, II Marine Expeditionary Force. Based at the Naval Station Rota, Spain, FAST Company Europe was no stranger to crisis and response work in the Mediterranean. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered that appropriate forces respond. A task order flowed from the Pentagon to NAVSTA Rota, Spain: "Lean forward and get there as fast as you can." The marines mustered into their transport aircraft on the tarmac in their combat fatigues and full battle kit. However, logistical challenges such as airspace and overflight clearances are not easily sorted out, especially involving a nation like Libya. Sending armed U.S. Marines into a sovereign nation became a complex foreign policy decision with multiple moving pieces between Libyan Foreign Ministry, the Pentagon, and the State Department. The marines waited on the tarmac for their orders. The FAST platoon wouldn't make it to Libya, to augment security at the embassy in Tripoli, until the next evening.