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Jamison Foser

Author ››› Jamison Foser
  • "Civility" Is Becoming The New "Hypocrisy"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    For years, political reporters have twisted and stretched the definition of the word hypocrisy to make it fit whatever story they wanted to write, until the word became all but meaningless. "Hypocrisy" was such a tempting peg for a story, reporters stopped caring whether it actually fit the situation in question. (See in particular the bizarre tendency of the media to portray a rich man who cares about the poor as a hypocrite.) There's a danger of the same thing happening to the word civility.

    For example, under the headline "So much for civility …," Politico's Jonathan Allen writes of last night's State of the Union: "The civility show didn't last long in Congress. Actually, it never really started." Allen then proceeds to list several statements by members of Congress, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with "civility."

    This, for example, is not an example of incivility, though Politico portrays it as such:

    Within minutes of Obama's conclusion that the state of the union is "strong," Republican lawmakers blasted out press releases taking him to task for wanting to spend more on what he termed "investments."

    Nor is this:

    "House Republicans' answer to our nation's fiscal challenges is Draconian budget cuts on the backs of middle class families," New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said. "It is increasingly clear that the Republican way to reduce spending is to eliminate support for middle class families and seniors while protecting spending on special interests."

    But those are the kinds of things Politico points to as evidence of a lack of civility: Broad expressions of disagreement over policy.

    It is not uncivil for Republicans to say they think the President wants to spend too much. it is not uncivil for Democrats to say they think Republicans want to cut too much. And when you pretend that these things constitute a breech of civility, you devalue that criticism. You let people who really are uncivil -- say, those who talk of beating elected officials to a "bloody pulp" -- off the hook. Like the boy who cried wolf, you undermine legitimate concerns. And, at the same time, you stigmatize simple expressions of policy disagreement.

  • CNNMoney Touts Ryan's Roadmap, Forgets To Tell Readers Where It Leads

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    CNNMoney gets in on the "Paul Ryan puff piece" trend:

    Ryan, a longtime member of the House Budget Committee, which he now heads, is steeped in the math of deficits and debt and has crafted his own fiscal overhaul plan.

    That plan -- the "Roadmap for America's Future" -- proposes sweeping changes to Social Security, Medicare and the tax code that would be a significant departure from the status quo, and mainline Republican thinking.

    Yes, yes. Paul Ryan has sterling fiscal credentials -- never mind his career-long support for deficit-inducing wars and tax cuts and the like. CNNMoney sure didn't mention it. But what's worse is that CNNMoney refers to Ryan's "fiscal overhaul plan" without telling us how that plan would affect the nation's fiscal situation. The whole article is about how Ryan is going to attack the Obama administration's "handling of the economy and budget," and it mentions Ryan's budget plan without ever telling us what that plan would do. So what would it do? It would take 50 years to balance the budget. And that's the optimistic assessment, based on the dubious assumption that Ryan's deep tax cuts don't reduce revenue.

    Yes, Paul Ryan has "his own fiscal overhaul plan." So what? Buying a whole bunch of Powerball tickets is a "plan," after all. The question is what the plan will do, and what the likely results are. News organizations should be sure to answer those questions, not just fall all over themselves in a rush to assert Ryan's fiscal bona fides.

    Finally, the CNNMoney article is part of a special package on "America's Debt Crisis." I can find no such package devoted to "America's jobs crisis." CNNMoney might want to re-think those priorities. Not just because jobs are the more urgent concern to most Americans, but because focusing on debt rather than jobs and economic growth may be counterproductive even if your primary concern is the debt.

  • Washington Post Should Correct Falsehood In Sessions Op-Ed

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Yesterday's Washington Post contained an op-ed by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions in which made several dubious claims, most notably that he and his fellow Republicans -- who have supported costly wars and massive tax cuts -- are serious about deficit reduction. Dubious claims, even those undermined by the writer's own recent history, are commonly accepted as the price of granting op-ed space to politicians. Explicit falsehoods, however, cannot be justified on such grounds, and the Washington Post should promptly correct this one:

    As we enter the annual budget season, Washington will need to consider the kind of change this country has not accomplished since 1997 - when a strong Republican Congress passed a budget that converted soaring deficits into surpluses.

    Prior to the passage of the budget in question, deficits were not "soaring." They were decreasing, due in part to Bill Clinton's 1993 budget, passed in Congress without a single Republican vote. Here's a chart, based on Congressional Budget Office data:

    As you can see, deficits were clearly not "soaring" in 1997. They were declining rapidly, which is the opposite of "soaring." The Washington Post owes its readers a correction.

  • CNN's Erickson Stands By Statement That "Mass Bloodshed" Will Be Necessary If Roe V. Wade Isn't Overturned

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    CNN's Erick Erickson responds to criticism of a Red State post declaring that "mass bloodshed" may be necessary if Roe isn't overturned:

    First, I'd like to point out that I did not, contrary to the claims, write the post. However, I do stand by it.

    Second, the accusation of the left is that both I and this site are calling for armed rebellion due to the persistent legal killing of children in this country. They are both lying and ignorant of history.

    Erickson then spends a dozen paragraphs not addressing the key wording in the original post. Here it is again:

    Here at RedState, we too have drawn a line. We will not endorse any candidate who will not reject the judicial usurpation of Roe v. Wade and affirm that the unborn are no less entitled to a right to live simply because of their size or their physical location. Those who wish to write on the front page of RedState must make the same pledge. The reason for this is simple: once before, our nation was forced to repudiate the Supreme Court with mass bloodshed. We remain steadfast in our belief that this will not be necessary again, but only if those committed to justice do not waiver or compromise, and send a clear and unmistakable signal to their elected officials of what must be necessary to earn our support. [Emphasis added]

    Erickson responds to criticism of that paragraph by insisting that Red State condemns violence:

    We at RedState are mindful that there are those so frustrated with this country allowing the lawful killing of children that those people are perfectly willing to take a life to preserve a life.

    We not only do not condone that, but we condemn it.

    But the paragraph in question said that mass bloodshed will be necessary if "those committed to justice" fail to "send a clear and unmistakable signal to their elected officials of what must be necessary to earn our support."

    It didn't say mass bloodshed will unfortunately but inevitably occur if those conditions are not met. It said mass bloodshed will be necessary.

    In responding to criticism of the post, Erickson addressed that wording only by saying it "sound[s] like a caveat, but it is not a caveat to any of us here." Whatever that means. He did, however, say he stands by the post, so … here we are: Erick Erickson thinks "mass bloodshed" will be necessary if anti-abortion activists fail to convey to their elected officials the importance of overturning Roe v. Wade. Not just inevitable: "Necessary."

    And tonight, CNN will feature him as a contributor to its State of the Union coverage.

  • WaPo Manufactures Consensus In Favor Of Cuts To Social Security, Medicare

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    The Washington Post tells readers that there's a consensus among budget experts in favor of cuts to Social Security and Medicare:

    Many Democrats and Republicans say they are open to major changes to Social Security and Medicare, possibly including raising the retirement age and limiting Medicare benefits to those who need them most.

    While spending on the recession - including the bank bailouts and economic stimulus package - fueled voter anger during the 2010 campaign season, budget analysts across the political spectrum agree that popular Medicare and Social Security programs will have to be overhauled to truly cure the nation's ills.

    That isn't true, as Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research notes:

    For example, a book that was co-authored by Peter Orszag, who had been President Obama's director of the Office of Managament and Budget, and Peter Diamong, a Nobel Laureatte and Obama nominee to Fed, suggests relatively modest changes to Social Security. In fact, virtually all budget analysts across the political spectrum agree that the shortfall in the Social Security program is relatively minor.

    Indeed, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security would be fine for the next 75 years if we simply removed the cap on income subjected to payroll taxes. No "overhaul" or increase in the retirement age or benefit cuts necessary.

    As for Medicare, "budget analysts" like Gene Sperling (currently the head of the National Economic Council) have argued that "the per-person costs of Medicare are rising because health-care costs for our entire society are rising … the most effective way to control the spiraling costs of Medicare and Medicaid is not taking a meat-axe to these programs, but finding ways to lower health-care cost inflation." Baker has repeatedly argued that Medicare would be easily affordable and "we would be facing huge long-run budget surpluses, not deficits" if per-person health care costs were brought in line with those in other countries.

    In pretending that there is unanimity among budget analysts about the need to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits, the Post tells us more about its own blind spots than about the budget.

  • CNN's King Again Ignores Erickson's History Of Inflammatory Rhetoric

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Back on January 11, CNN's John King hosted CNN contributor Erick Erickson for a discussion of inflammatory rhetoric. King didn't mention Erickson's history of violent rhetoric -- which includes talking about beating elected officials to a "bloody pulp" and pulling a shotgun on government workers -- even as Erickson criticized liberals' rhetoric. Even worse, King quested his Democratic guest about Erickson's criticism of liberals while ignoring Erickson's own rhetoric.

    Last Thursday, King again ignored Erickson's pattern of violent comments during a conversation about controversial rhetoric. After playing a clip of Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen accusing Republicans of "a big lie just like Goebbels" and another clip of Cohen responding to criticism of the comment, King asked Erickson if Cohen's response was sufficient:

    KING: Mr. Erickson is speaking for the right. It wasn't quite an apology, but does Mr. Cohen's statement today satisfy you?

    Later, King prompted Erickson to declare Cohen's statement over the line:

    KING: Nazi -- Nazi seems a little beyond the line --


    ERICKSON: It absolutely is beyond the pale, but I don't think we should be shocked that this is continuing. It's not going to change.

    Now, it's absolutely incredible that John King would invite Erick Erickson to denounce a Democrat's "beyond the line" rhetoric without mentioning that Erickson himself has crossed a line or two by talking about beating elected officials to a bloody pulp. What's even more incredible is that during the segment, King accused Democrats of hypocrisy for not criticizing Cohen after calling for civility:

    KING: Now we would like to bring you tonight the outrage of all the senior Democrats who said that what Congressman Cohen said violated their call for more civility. We can't bring it to you because none of them said anything publicly and they might maybe should be asked about that…

    And maybe CNN's John King should ask CNN's Erick Erickson about his pattern of violent rhetoric, including his statement over the weekend that "mass bloodshed" may be necessary if Roe v. Wade isn't overturned, rather than simply encouraging Erickson to attack progressives for their rhetoric. While chiding Democrats for hypocrisy, King is encouraging his CNN colleague to engage in it -- and helping him hide his hypocrisy.

  • CNN's Erick Erickson Suggests "Mass Bloodshed" May Be Necessary If Roe Isn't Overturned

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    CNN's Erick Erickson is also Editor-in-Chief and "Dear Leader" of the conservative blog Red State, so this charming passage posted by "The Directors" is presumably his doing:

    Here at RedState, we too have drawn a line. We will not endorse any candidate who will not reject the judicial usurpation of Roe v. Wade and affirm that the unborn are no less entitled to a right to live simply because of their size or their physical location. Those who wish to write on the front page of RedState must make the same pledge. The reason for this is simple: once before, our nation was forced to repudiate the Supreme Court with mass bloodshed. We remain steadfast in our belief that this will not be necessary again, but only if those committed to justice do not waiver or compromise, and send a clear and unmistakable signal to their elected officials of what must be necessary to earn our support.

    That "only if" construct means that -- according to Erick Erickson's Red State -- "mass bloodshed" will be "necessary" if elected officials don't overturn Roe v. Wade. Again: Red State doesn't say "mass bloodshed" may occur if elected officials don't do what is "necessary to earn our support" -- it says such bloodshed will be "necessary." Erickson and his Red State colleagues didn't indicate how much time elected officials have to earn their support before mass bloodshed becomes necessary.

    This certainly is not the first time CNN's Erick Erickson has used violent rhetoric in discussing elected officials. This kind of talk must have some fans at CNN, though: Erickson has been chosen to provide "insight and analysis" for CNN's State of the Union coverage.

  • How Many Lies Of The Year Will The Washington Post Inflict Upon Readers?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    We've already seen numerous examples of the Washington Post printing the false "death panel" claim about health care reform without noting its falsity. The "death panels" lie, as you may remember, was so pernicious PolitiFact named it "Lie of the Year" for 2009. Unfortunately, that didn't stop the Post from frequently repeating the claim that health care reform would result in "death panels" -- and didn't inspire the Post to ensure that it always corrected the falsehood.

    PolitiFact's 2010 "Lie of the Year" was the claim that health care reform constitutes a government takeover of heath care. The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler notes: "This snappy talking point is used by Republicans repeatedly to bash Obama's crowing [sic] legislative achievement, but it is simply not true. In fact, labeled this claim the 2010 'lie of the year,' but that has not stopped lawmakers from making this claim."

    Nor has it stopped Washington Post bloggers from making this claim. Here's Jay Sekulow, the Post's Religious Right Now blogger:

    ObamaCare is bad for the economy. The federal government is taking control of what some have estimated to account for as much as 1/6 of the economy while simultaneously creating yet another entitlement program doomed to failure.

    The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler rightly criticizes politicians for telling the "Lie of the Year." It would be nice if the Post would hold its own personnel to the same standard.

  • Politico's SOTU Priorities

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Politico previews the State of the Union:

    When President Barack Obama steps into the House chamber Tuesday to deliver his second State of the Union address, ambience will trump substance.

    In his speech, the president will talk about jobs, the deficit and the future of the nation's troubled economy, but most of the attention is going to be on the theatrics in the room.

    What does "the attention" even mean? Whose attention? As measured how? Politico doesn't say. I suspect most of the country -- if not most of the reporters at Politico -- will pay more attention to the president's comments about jobs and the economy than to who John Thune is sitting with.

    A new CBS News/New York Times poll on national priorities finds that 43 percent of Americans think Congress's top priority should be job creation -- more than twice as many as named any other issue, and more than three times the 14 percent who named the deficit the top issue. That's consistent with other polling conducted over the past year, and a reminder that the public cares about jobs, even if the Beltway media seems to prefer to focus on anything else.

  • Michael Reagan Uses Fuzzy Math To Insist: "Ronald Reagan Was A Far Better Friend To Black Americans Than Barack Obama"

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Referring to Toni Morrison's famous description of Bill Clinton as America's "first black President," Michael Reagan writes:

    I could make an even stronger case for my father, Ronald Reagan, as "our first black president" — but I won't make that claim. I don't want to diminish the justifiable pride African-Americans take in having a president who is genetically and culturally black. Our first black president is Barack Obama.

    But the past two years have made one thing clear: Ronald Reagan was a far better friend to black Americans than Barack Obama has been.

    Wow, that's quite a sensational claim! Let's see what Reagan bases it on:

    Just compare the Reagan and Obama records. Under Obama, black unemployment rose from 12.6 percent in January 2009 to 16.0 percent today. This means that black unemployment has increased by more than one-fourth since Obama took office.

    And the Reagan record? African-American columnist Joseph Perkins has studied the effects of Reaganomics on black America. He found that, after the Reagan tax cuts gained traction, African-American unemployment fell from 19.5 percent in 1983 to 11.4 percent in 1989.

    This is one of those "is he stupid or does he think we are?" moments. Reagan compares Obama's first two years to Ronald Reagan's third through eighth -- and explains that he used years 3-8 of his father's record to capture the purported effects of his tax cuts. The president's son either doesn't notice or thinks his readers won't notice that he he's comparing apples with saplings.

    So what happens if we compare apples to apples by looking at the first two years of data for both presidents? When Ronald Reagan took office in January 1981, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate among African Americans was 14.6 percent. In December 1982, it was 20.9 -- 43 percent higher. When Barack Obama took office in January 2009, seasonally adjusted unemployment was at 12.7 percent. In December 2010, it was 15.8 -- 24 percent higher.

    So, if you compare equivalent portions of their presidencies -- which is really the only honest way to go about things -- Michael Reagan's lead piece of evidence for his provocative claim that his father was a "far better friend to black Americans" than Obama completely disintegrates.