In the final days before the midterm elections, following a very familiar pattern, conservative media have yet again turned to hyping baseless and misleading claims of voter fraud.
Earlier, we detailed how Glenn Beck credited conservative billionaire Charles Koch for information he used to attack Al Gore -- but not that he received that information at a secret strategy meeting the previous weekend hosted by Koch and his brother, David. But Beck is not the only media figure taking their cues from the Kochs at that meeting.
Also on the guest list (obtained by Think Progress) of conservative activists at the Kochs' June gathering -- at which strategies for the 2010 midterm elections were plotted -- were two Washington Examiner writers, senior political analyst Michael Barone and senior political columnist Tim Carney. That's a hefty representation for such a lower profile newspaper (The Wall Street Journal, by comparison, had only one representative, Steve Moore.) Their attendance presumably had approval from the top; after all, Examiner owner Philip Anschutz was there as well, as were executives from Anschutz's oil interests, according to Think Progress.
Interestingly, Carney recently penned a defense of the Kochs. In a September 1 column, Carney wrote that the Kochs and "any of us advocating a free market are trying to make the world a better place -- not just for business, but for the poor."
Carney disclosed that, in addition to Charles Koch introducing his speech at a "fancy dinner," "The Koch-created Institute for Humane Studies has, over the past two years, paid me on a few occasions to speak to various audiences (and also to mentor interns). The Koch-funded Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute have also hosted book talks for me." But Carney didn't disclose his attendance at the secret Koch confab two months earlier.
Washington Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott writes in an October 12 blog post: "Nobody knows with certainty how many illegal votes were cast in the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, but odds are the total was in the millions, thanks to systematic vote fraud campaigns by leftist groups such as ACORN and mis-guided laws that allow individuals to register and vote on the same day."
Tapscott, however, offers no evidence of "systematic vote fraud" that resulted in "illegal votes" numbering "in the millions" -- perhaps because it didn't happen. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2008, election experts say that voter registration issues that had been associated with ACORN rarely result in fraudulent votes being cast because false and duplicate registrations are typically weeded out. The Chronicle goes on to state that "it's virtually impossible to pull off large-scale voter fraud without being discovered."
Tapscott's reference to ACORN is nothing more than yet another invocation of a right-wing bogeyman that has become so played out that it was getting tossed around indiscriminately; The Wall Street Journal's John Fund, for instance, insisted that one purported case involved people who allegedly "associated in the past with Acorn" that "may have" been involved in "advising" people "on how to perform" voter fraud, citing unnamed "local politicos." Scaremongering aside, Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall has pointed out that any actual vote fraud cases allegedly involving ACORN have been isolated.
Tapscott's baseless claim came in service to promoting Pajamas Media's "Voter Fraud Watch." He touted how one prominent name linked to Pajamas Media's project is "J. Christian Adams, the courageous former Justice Department attorney who blew the whistle on the Obama administration's craven cave-in to Political Correctness and left-wing ideology in the New Black Panthers Case."
The supposed "legal expertise" Adams intends to provide to "Voter Fraud Watch" doesn't exactly enhance the credibility of Pajamas Media's little project.
From the October 5 edition of the Washington Examiner:
Slate's David Weigel catches Michael Barone "phoning it in":
I'm not even sure that Michael Barone woke up before writing this one about "the Democratic party shrinking back to its bicoastal base."
Now we see Barack Obama campaigning at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, in Dane County where he won 73 percent of the vote in 2008, chiding students for their apparent apathy. Sen. Russ Feingold, who lives in Middleton, four miles away, was unable to make it -- and it's not the first Obama event in Wisconsin he's skipped.
Actually, Feingold did make it to the rally, announcing his intentions in a Tuesday afternoon tweet and giving a brief speech from the stage. I noticed the mistake in the free print edition of the paper, but it's still online.
Barone's column contains another flaw that suggests it was thrown together with no more than eight minutes of thought: a reliance on the tired old gimmick of pretending that the GOP's edge in "land mass represented" is meaningful.
Here's an exercise for some evening when you're curious about big nationwide trends in this year's elections.
Get an outline map showing the 50 states and take a look at the latest poll averages in pollster.com in each race for senator and governor. Color in the percentage (rounded off; no need for tenths) by which either the Republican or Democratic candidate is leading (I use blue for Republicans, red for Democrats) in each state.
The results are revealing, even breathtaking.
The map of the Senate races shows Republicans leading over almost all the landmass of America.
I imagine most readers stopped right there. I mean, who hasn't read this exact column a couple hundred times over the past decade? (I guess Barone thinks he's keeping things fresh by switching around the now-standard blue/red indicators. Bold!) Is there anyone who still believes -- actually believes, not just pretends to believe -- that maps that give parties credit for landmass represented are anything other than wildly misleading?
Several paragraphs later, Barone admits this, sort of:
Now, the geography can be a little misleading. The Democrats' Northeast and Pacific Coast bases are heavily populated, and the states where they're leading in Senate races cast 136 electoral votes in 2008. But the states where Republicans are leading cast 274 electoral votes.
A little misleading? No: It can be completely misleading. You know what else is misleading? Using electoral votes as a proxy for population. And Barone is wrong about the electoral vote totals, anyway: States in which Republicans are leading cast 257 electoral votes in 2008, not 274. By using electoral votes, a misleading proxy for population, then inexplicably awarding the GOP a bonus of 17 electoral votes, Barone makes it look like the Republicans have a 2-1 advantage.
If, on the other hand, you look at each state's population, you find that Republicans lead in states containing a total of about 144 million people, and Democrats in states with a total of about 82 million people. That's still a sizable gap, but considerably smaller than a 2-1 margin. (And then there's the fact, not acknowledged by Barone or included in his calculations, that there are two Senate races in New York, both of which Democrats are leading. Include both races, and the gap shrinks to 144-101.)
Long story short: Beware the columnist who misleads you in his disclaimer acknowledging that he misled you earlier.
In a September 7 editorial, The Washington Examiner falsely claimed that President Obama "supports letting the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 expire as scheduled on Jan. 1, 2011."
In fact, as Media Matters has noted, according to Obama's FY 2011 budget proposal, "the President supports allowing [the Bush] tax cuts that affect families earning more than $250,000 a year to expire." The budget also noted that such an action "will have no effect on the 98% of all household who make less than $250,000." Further, The Boston Globe reported on April 10 that "Obama wants to extend Bush's tax cuts, except for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making $250,000."
Thomas Sowell spent 2009 fear-mongering about health care reform. Though he failed to stop reform from becoming law in early 2010, Sowell is trying his hand at fear-mongering, again, but this time, warning that "if Obamacare doesn't get repealed before it takes full effect in 2014...It is not a pretty picture."
In an August 25 Washington Examiner editorial, titled "Obamacare's facts and fables are chilling," Sowell painted the "not pretty" -- and untrue -- picture of "Obamacare":
We have to go back to square one and the simplest common sense in order to get some rational idea of what government-run medical care means. In particular, we need to examine the claim that the government can "bring down the cost of medical care."
It is cheaper to remain sick than to get medical treatment. What is cheapest of all is to die instead of getting life-saving medications and treatment, which can be very expensive.
First, under the health care reform law, we do not have government run health care. In fact, as early as 2009, Politifact labeled this claim "false," noting that:
[W]e've also found nothing in the [health care reform] proposals so far that would force people off their current coverage into a government-run plan, if they prefer and can pay for private coverage.
Also in that paragraph, Sowell attacks the claim that health care reform will "bring down the cost of medical care." However, if he had read the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) report that was released in April of this year, Sowell would know that increases in national health expenditures are largest in 2016 and "gradually decline thereafter."
Further, Sowell insinuated that under health care reform, health care decisions will be "out of your hands":
Despite these facts, most of us tend to take a somewhat more parochial view of the situation when it is we ourselves who are sick or who face a potentially fatal illness. But what if that decision is taken out of your hands under Obamacare and is being made for you by a bureaucrat in Washington?
We won't know what that leads to until the time comes. As Nancy Pelosi said, we will find out what is in the bill after it has passed.
Of course, Politifact has long-since debunked the claim that bureaucrats will be responsible for making health care decisions for Americans, rating that claim a pants on fire lie.
But Sowell obviously isn't reading CMS reports or Politifact. He is getting his health care information from a much more credible source -- Sally Pipes, who has written a book called "The Truth About Obamacare." It's not certain how Ms. Pipes' "BA with honors in economics" whose think tank, Pacific Research Institute, caters to special interest organizations like Phillip Morris and Exxon, qualifies her to speak, or write a book, on health care policy.
What is certain, however, is that these "Obamacare" "fables" are getting old.
Right-wing media have responded to President Obama's comments that he "believe[s] that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country" by falsely claiming that opponents of the proposed Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan have not talked about restricting Muslims' religious freedom. In fact, opponents have advocated using government intervention to restrict construction of the center or have asserted that the planners don't have a right to build it at the proposed location.
Right-wing media have claimed that Sen. Jacob Howard, the author of the 14th Amendment's Citizenship Clause, said that it would not apply to the children of "foreigners." However, scholars dispute this interpretation of Howard's remarks; and the Supreme Court noted in 1898 that the white children of European foreigners "have always been considered and treated as citizens."
A Washington Examiner editorial falsely claimed that President Obama is "determin[ed]" to "raise everybody's taxes by allowing the Bush [tax] cuts ... to expire" and advanced the falsehood that the stimulus bill "failed to create jobs." In fact, Obama has proposed rolling back the Bush tax cuts only on American families making more than $250,000 a year, and many analysts agree that stimulus spending significantly raised employment over what would have happened without it.
Earlier today, I pointed out that conservative media figures have recently been ramping up discussion of possible civil war and armed revolt. Conservative blogger Bob "Confederate Yankee" Owens, who was recently hired by the Washington Examiner, stated that nations that have supposedly collapsed as far as ours have the need to either "reform or replace their governments," and "reform increasingly seems to be a fleeting option." Perhaps to prove my point, Owens now says Media Matters should "feel threatened" by him, and even suggests that violence will be necessary.
In a new post titled "Closer to Midnight", Owens responds to my earlier post by writing: "They portray it as a threat when 'Conservative media figures openly discuss armed revolution.' I hope they do feel threatened." He adds that our "feigned ignorance" and "mockery" in the face of "peaceable protests" means that "perhaps it will take a serious review of our capacity for violence to get them to realize we shall not surrender our individual liberties to their lust for power."
We have moved "closer to midnight" not because of any singular act , but because of inertia of a political class that does not respect or enforce the laws, or this nation's sovereignty. We have diametrically opposed views of how our nation can and should be run, and it appears that there is very little room left for negotiation.
Propagandists for the elitists at Media Matters seem troubled by A Nation on the Edge of Revolt. They portray it as a threat when "Conservative media figures openly discuss armed revolution."
I hope they do feel threatened. Attempts at peaceable protests have been met at turns by feigned ignorance, then mockery, then attacks on the character and motives of those would not sit quietly by. Perhaps it will take a serious review of our capacity for violence to get them to realize we shall not surrender our individual liberties to their lust for power.
I have not yet been swayed to the point of view that an armed conflict is inevitable, TN_NamVolunteer. But we are close enough that one would be wise to prepare for a possible conflict, just as one would prepare for any coming storm.
I wonder what the Washington Examiner's policy is for employees who openly speculate on the need for politically motivated violence.
Conservative media outlets have launched another bogus smear on Shirley Sherrod, attacking her participation in a lawsuit charging the U.S. Department of Agriculture with discrimination against African American farmers. In fact, congressional Republicans and a federal judge agree that the USDA discriminated against African American farmers.
During a recent interview on Al Jazeera, NASA administrator Charles Bolden discussed President Obama's efforts to improve Muslim outreach and said that Obama "wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering." Bolden said that this wasn't "a diplomatic anything. What it is is that [Obama is] trying to expand our outreach, so that we can get more people to contribute to the things that we do." Bolden then discussed examples of other countries' valuable contributions to the International Space Station and added: "So it is a matter of trying to reach out to get the best of all worlds, if you will. And there is much to be gained from drawing the contributions that are possible from Muslim nations."
Of course, since an Obama official made completely noncontroversial comments about reaching out to the Muslim world in order to gain contributions to the fields of science and technology, the right-wing media freaked out.
In a June 24 editorial, the Washington Examiner used a federal judge's grant of an injunction halting President Obama's deep-water drilling moratorium to predictably, hyperbolically and falsely attack the president.
The editorial board stated that they found it "disturbing" that "Obama is forging ahead with the very policy" that Judge Martin Feldman "just ruled unconstitutional," using that claim to support their conclusion that for Obama and his "cronies," "the will of the people and the letter of the laws is at most an obstacle on the road to 'change we can believe in'." They even went so far as to suggest that Obama's presidency is somehow against the intent of founding father Alexander Hamilton. From the editorial:
Even more disturbing is Obama's response to [federal Judge Martin] Feldman, which was to promise both an appeal in court and issuance of a new drilling moratorium from Interior. In other words, Obama is forging ahead with the very policy the judge just ruled unconstitutional. And the chief executive is challenging the thousands of Gulf Coast oil industry employees to try and stop him in the appeals court.
Years ago, Alexander Hamilton told the New York convention considering adoption of the Constitution that "here, sir, the people govern." We wonder what he would say today after witnessing Obama in action.
Harsh criticism to be sure. The only problem is, it's not true. Obama can't possibly be "forging ahead with the very policy that the judge just ruled unconstitutional," because Judge Feldman didn't find the moratorium unconstitutional.
Media are criticizing President Obama's address on the Gulf oil spill as lacking specifics. MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski described such criticism as "drivel" and argued that they would criticize his speech no matter what he says; indeed after past speeches and press conferences, the media attacked him for being too professorial, lecturing, boring, or arrogant.