• Howard Kurtz finds tax increases on wealthy "onerous" -- so how "affluent" is he?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    I've criticized Howard Kurtz a lot in this space, and in my columns, but he sometimes does good work. For example, Kurtz occasionally makes the valuable point that the increasing affluence of high-profile reporters sometimes affects their coverage of political issues. Here he is during yesterday's online discussion:

    As journalists have become more affluent -- a trend to which I don't necessarily object -- they are more likely to hobnob with the big shots, send their kids to the same private schools, and hang out at the same parties. This undoubtedly affects their view of the world and the people they cover.

    We need only remember Charlie Gibson's embarrassing performance during the Democratic presidential primary debates last year to conclude that Kurtz is on to something here.

    Now, with that in mind, let's look again at today's edition of Kurtz's "Media Notes" column, shall we? Kurtz:

    And even though the administration has done a good job in, at the very least, neutralizing opposition from doctors and hospitals, it's still asking members of Congress to impose substantial pain, which politicians hate to do.

    The trillion or so dollars to cover a major chunk of the uninsured has to come from somewhere. Some would be squeezed through lower Medicare and Medicaid payments from docs, hospitals and drugmakers, and they have political clout. The rest would either be drained by a surtax on the wealthy or taxing the most generous employer-provided benefits -- both of which are making many Democrats nervous.



    [TNR's Jonathan] Cohn may underestimate the difficulty of raising taxes on the affluent, especially since the added sting of losing their Bush tax cuts could push the top rate to an onerous 47 percent.

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, Kurtz's use of the word "onerous" certainly seems to tip his hand.

    Now, given that Howard Kurtz says that journalists' affluence "undoubtedly affects their view of the world," and given that Howard Kurtz opines that potential tax increases on the wealthy would be "onerous," and given that Kurtz is one of the Washington Post's star reporters and hosts a CNN television show, it's impossible not to wonder just how affluent Kurtz is, isn't it? Perhaps Kurtz should disclose that information the next time he decides to criticize tax policy -- or at least keep his own statements about journalists' financial situations influencing their reporting in mind before he so opines.

  • Isn't Howard Kurtz supposed to be a media critic?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz devoted the bulk of his "media notes" column today not to assessing the news media, but to amplifying GOP-friendly health care storylines. Kurtz:

    Add to that the controversy over Obama's preferred "public option," which can easily be caricatured as government-run health care, and a general unease about rising federal spending, and you've got a prescription for gridlock.

    If a public option like the one Obama and other politicians are talking about "can easily be caricatured as government-run health care," it's only because reporters don't make clear that such a caricature is very, very false, and that the people pushing such a caricature of being very, very dishonest. Kind of like Howard Kurtz just failed to make that clear.


    The sense that Obama is on the defensive was deepened by the WP/ABC poll finding that "since April, approval of Obama's handling of health care has dropped from 57 percent to 49 percent, with disapproval rising from 29 percent to 44 percent. Obama still maintains a large advantage over congressional Republicans in terms of public trust on the issue, even as the GOP has closed the gap." His overall approval rating, though, is still a healthy 59 percent.

    Shouldn't that have deepened the sense that the Republicans are "on the defensive"? Or does the "large advantage" Obama maintains over them somehow give the GOP an edge? If so, it would be super if Kurtz would explain how. Is this something like judo, where the Republicans are able to use Obama's strength against him? Or is it just that reporters like Howard Kurtz interpret polls in extraordinary illogical ways? My money is on that last one.


    Cohn may underestimate the difficulty of raising taxes on the affluent, especially since the added sting of losing their Bush tax cuts could push the top rate to an onerous 47 percent.

    "Onerous"? Well, I guess we know where Kurtz stands on tax policy. Maybe some day the Post will offer readers a media critic who doesn't share and echo the Republicans' view on key public policy issues, just for some balance. Maybe one who even critiques the media.

  • Rich Noyes can't be this dumb, can he?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Newsbusters' Rich Noyes is irritated that ABC, CBS, and NBC all decided not to devote their news broadcasts to coverage of the 40th anniversary of Sen. Edward Kennedy's car accident at Chappaquiddick.

    I know, I know -- you think I'm making this up. The conservative media critique can't possibly boil down to whining that news broadcasts fail to "report" on the anniversary of Chappaquiddick. But it does:

    While the big liberal media usually find it hard to skip any news related to the Kennedy family, ABC, CBS and NBC breathed not a word about Saturday's 40th anniversary of Chappaquiddick.


    The Saturday and Sunday New York Times and Washington Post also had nothing about Chappaquiddick.

    Wow, conservative-style media criticism is easy! Let's give it a try: Other "anniversaries" the "big liberal media" doesn't report on: the "anniversary" of the time Newt Gingrich dumped his wife in her hospital room so he could marry his mistress and the "anniversary" of Pat Buchanan's memo in support of segregation. Bias!

  • Noel Sheppard can't be this dumb, can he?

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard:

    In another example of Barack Obama's appeal diminishing with the public, the White House was forced to reschedule Wednesday's press conference to 8PM from 9PM as NBC didn't want its summer hit "America's Got Talent" to be pre-empted.

    Do you think Sheppard really doesn't understand that NBC sells ads during "America's Got Talent," but not during presidential press conferences? Do you think he really doesn't understand that this isn't an "example of Barack Obama's appeal diminishing with the public," but rather an example of NBC preferring to make a bunch of money rather than not make any money?

  • Dethroned Miss California Carrie Prejean lands right-wing book deal

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Dethroned Miss California USA Carrie Prejean has landed herself a book deal with Regnery Publishing, the notorious right-wing publishing house.

    I'm sure Prejean, the darling de jour among Christian conservatives and the right-wing press, will feel right at home with Regnery. After all, Regnery is a major hub in the right-wing noise machine that's been whitewashing her stance on "opposite marriage" for months.

    Not familiar with Regnery? Here's some history from The American Prospect:

    Welcome to the world of Regnery Publishing--lifestyle press for conservatives, preferred printer of presidential hopefuls, and venerable publisher of books for the culture wars. Call it--gracelessly but more accurately--a medium-sized, loosely linked network of conservative types, with few degrees of separation and similar political aims. Just don't call it a conspiracy.

    Regnery Publishing's right-leaning corporate philosophy actually goes back to 1947, when the late Henry Regnery, Sr., set out to publish "good books," as he wrote in the company's first catalogue, "wherever we find them." Works by Regnery's friends among the nascent conservative intelligentsia soon followed, including Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind, William F. Buckley, Jr.'s God and Man at Yale, Whittaker Chambers's Witness, and Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative. Henry Regnery's son, Alfred Regnery, who took over in 1986 and moved the company to Washington, D.C., has likewise been both a friend to and publisher of conservative authors. After stints in law school (where he roomed with American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene) and as college director of Young Americans for Freedom, Alfred Regnery was appointed head of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by Ronald Reagan in 1983. While there, as reported by Murray Waas in The New Republic, he helped run Edwin Meese's ill-fated President's Commission on Pornography; disbursed generous grants to Jerry Falwell's Liberty College, Meese pal George Nicholson, and professional antifeminist Phyllis Schlafly; authored, with then-Assistant Secretary of Education Gary Bauer, a much-ridiculed report called "Chaos in the Public Schools"; and in general cultivated an updated version of his father's network of friends.


    Since 1996, Regnery has published no less than eight presidential exposés: Roger Morris's Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America, Bill Gertz's Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security, Edward Timperlake and William C. Triplett's Year of the Rat: How Bill Clinton Compromised U.S. Security for Chinese Cash, Ann Coulter's High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard's The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories, Gary Aldrich's Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House, and R. Emmett Tyrrell's The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton: A Political Docu-Drama and Boy Clinton: The Political Biography. To date, five of these books have made various best-seller lists.


    Thus constructed, Regnery's Clinton books run from the racy to the absurd. Tyrrell's Boy Clinton follows the future president from alleged cocaine benders with Little Rock entrepreneur Dan Lasater to his sojourn with communists in Prague during the late 1960s. ("Inquiries I had made about his trip to Moscow turned up little that was new," Tyrrell writes breathlessly. "People were still wondering where he had gotten sufficient funding for such a trip. Some still suspected a KGB front. Others suggested the CIA.") Coulter, although her tone is even more vicious than Evans-Pritchard's ("We have a national debate about whether he 'did it,' even though all sentient people know he did," she writes. "[O]therwise there would only be debates about whether to impeach or assassinate."), relies mostly on the standard litany: Whitewater, Foster's "mysterious" death, Filegate, and Clinton's Paula Jones deposition. It is Evans-Pritchard who proposes what is easily the most tangled web of Clintonian malfeasance, touching not only on the usual stuff--booze, women, land deals--but also on the Oklahoma City bombing, which he argues was actually an FBI sting gone wrong and one of many Justice Department operations by which Bill Clinton has sought to turn America into a police state.

    The most infamous of the Regnery titles is undoubtedly Gary Aldrich's Unlimited Access, which included such "revelations" as lesbian encounters in the White House's basement showers, Hillary Clinton ordering miniature crack pipes to hang on the White House Christmas tree, and the claim--backed by anonymous sources--that Clinton made frequent trips to the nearby Marriott to shack up with a mistress "who may be a celebrity." That last bit helped catapult Unlimited Access to the top of The New York Times's best-seller list, though Aldrich soon revealed to The New Yorker's Jane Mayer that the Marriott story was "not quite solid" and, indeed, was "hypothetical." But according to Aldrich, it was Regnery editor Richard Vigilante who had moved the Marriott bit out of the epilogue (where it had been presented as a "mock investigation") and into the middle of the book (where it was presented as an actual occurrence). Vigilante, Aldrich told Mayer, threatened not to publish the book if Aldrich didn't agree to the changes.

    In fact, the defects of Unlimited Access--a reliance on loose or anonymous sourcing; the blending of fact, fiction, and fantasy; the influence of Regnery's anti-Clinton esprit de corps--can be found, to varying degrees, in nearly all of Regnery's Clinton books. The drug-smuggling charges in Tyrrell's and Evans-Pritchard's books, for instance, were first aired in the pages of the Scaife-funded American Spectator, the hysterically conservative magazine of which Tyrrell is editor, founder, and chief polemicist. "The Arkansas Drug Shuttle," published in the Spectator in 1995, was a fanciful tale of cocaine smuggling, the CIA, and black cargo jets told to Tyrrell by former Arkansas state trooper L.D. Brown--who happened to be on the Spectator's payroll at the time. Indeed, Tyrrell's dispatches stirred considerable controversy among the magazine's own staff. "Even within the Spectator, people had problems with the [drug-smuggling] stories," says David Brock, the Spectator's star investigative reporter at the time. "People didn't feel that they met the standards of the Spectator." Senior editor Christopher Caldwell jumped ship for The Weekly Standard, and when longtime Spectator publisher Ronald Burr tried to order an independent audit, Tyrrell fired him. "I can't really comment on the Spectator," says Alfred Regnery, who stands by all his company's Clinton books. "But a book publisher doesn't have the same obligations as a magazine. We cross-examine the authors to some extent, but publishers do not have the wherewithal to check every single fact."

    Yet Regnery Publishing seems not just to encourage conspiracy theorizing from its authors, but to demand it. In 1997 Alfred Regnery approached veteran crime reporter Dan Moldea about writing a book on the Vince Foster case. Regnery, says Moldea, hoped that his contacts within the law-enforcement community would shed new light on the case. But Moldea came to the same conclusions as all the official inquiries did. "There were some mistakes, some omissions," says Moldea. "But this was a dead-bang, bona fide suicide." When Moldea turned in A Washington Tragedy: How the Death of Vincent Foster Ignited a Political Firestorm, the editors at Regnery "were less than thrilled. There were some real battles that went on between us, between me and the staff," he says. "Things were being cut out of the book that I was really upset about, like this section on Scaife. It got so bad that I was almost hoping that they would reject the book, because I knew that they were just going to seal it and it would never see the light of day."


    What is clear, however, is that Regnery's conspiracy theorizing has benefited greatly from Eagle Publishing's web of media enterprises. Sometimes the synergies are transparent, as when Human Events published a list of the "10 Best Conservative Books of 1998," five of which were Regnery titles. Sometimes they're more subtle--not to say conspiratorial. Human Events editor Terrence Jeffrey had ample time, for instance, to convince Buchanan to switch to Regnery during the 1996 presidential race, when he served as Buchanan's campaign manager. (Jeffrey also failed to disclose his relationship with Buchanan when he penned a lengthy, front-page defense of A Republic, Not An Empire in the September 17 issue of Human Events). When Human Events excerpted the "Cox Report" in its June 4 issue, the weekly's lead feature was none other than Caspar Weinberger's introduction to Regnery's edition of the "Cox Report." Regnery's "Cox Report", in turn, was published the same month that Bill Gertz's Betrayal hit the stands (and just a few months before Regnery put out a second Timperlake and Triplett book, Red Dragon Rising: Communist China's Military Threat to America). Similarly, after Aldrich's Unlimited Access was published in June 1996, Human Events ran a five-page excerpt of the book in its July 5 issue--followed, in subsequent issues, by eight more articles defending or discussing the book. Tyrrell's Boy Clinton was also excerpted that year, while the Schweizers' Disney: The Mouse Betrayed was excerpted last spring. Like all Regnery titles, each was heavily hyped by the Conservative Book Club.

    Certainly such coordination would not have required many phone calls; Human Events, Regnery, and the Conservative Book Club all share the same Washington, D.C., address. "There's no contract that exists that says we have to carry 'x' number of Regnery titles each year," says Brin Lewis, who doubles as vice president of Eagle Publishing and president of Eagle's book club division, which owns the Conservative Book Club. "But we carry a lot of them."

    Normally, implausible exposés are relegated to remainder bins and the back pages of The National Enquirer. But partly thanks to Eagle's pipeline to the conservative elite, and partly thanks to a powerful direct mail operation that doubles as a de facto Eagle publicity machine, the likes of Aldrich's miniature crack pipes make it into broader forums like The Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal--and from there out into the political ether. Allegations of Clinton-related drug smuggling at Arkansas' Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport, for instance, filtered up from the Spectator and Regnery's Clinton books to The Washington Times and The Wall Street Journal--the latter running favorable reviews of the books as well as numerous editorials about the Mena "scandal"--which led to further recycling by The Washington Post and dozens of other newspapers in 1996 and 1997. Indeed, as recently as last March, a Wall Street Journal editorial writer used the Juanita Broadrick controversy as occasion to flog, yet again, the Mena connection. Such ludicrous charges might easily be dismissed as rant. Yet in the past three years, Republicans in Congress have opened not one, but two official inquiries into the matter--one under the auspices of the House Banking committee and one by the CIA Inspector General's office.

  • David Gergen, please define "crumble"

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Appearing on CNN last night, Gergen announced that support for Obama's health care reform was beginning to "crumble" among voters.

    This perfectly fits the CW of the Beltway press corps, which is in full Chicken Little mode regarding health care legislation--the sky is falling and Obama's entire agenda is in trouble!

    CNN's Candy Crowley yesterday:

    Presidents don't work this hard with things are going well, they work this hard when something is in jeopardy, especially when that something is one of the crown jewels of your campaign.

    At least Crowley's hand-wringing had to do with the legislative process. (Read Nate Silver to understand why even that media meme seems overblown.) But it's telling that Gergen, among others, moved on to claim that the public no longer backs health care reform; that support is beginning to "crumble."

    It's telling because it's not true. According to all the recent polling data I've seen, a clear majority of Americans support the type of health care reform Obama and Democrats are pushing for. Public support is not crumbling, it's actually holding strong. But that's not a story the David Gergens of the world want to tell. And that's precisely why they ignore all those polling results when they're released.

    The Beltway is only interested in the process story behind the push for health care reform, not the substance.

    UPDATED: Writes Wonkette:

    Nobody Wants Health Care Reform Except Voters, And Who Cares About Them?

  • The Red Scare Index: 45

    Blog ››› ››› KARL FRISCH

    Here is today's daily Red Scare Index -- our search of CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, MSNBC and CNBC for uses of the following terms: Socialism, Socialist, Socialists, Socialistic, Communism, Communist, Communists, Communistic, Marxism, Marxist, Marxists, Marxistic, Fascism, Fascist, Fascists and Fascistic.

    Here are the numbers for yesterday, Thursday, July 20, 2009:

    TOTAL: 45
    Socialism, Socialist, Socialistic: 39
    Communism, Communist, Communistic: 4
    Marxism/Marxist: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 2

    By Network:

    CNN: 7
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 5
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    CNN Headline News: 4
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 4
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    Fox News Channel: 14
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 14
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 1

    Fox Business Network: 6
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 6
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 0
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    MSNBC: 12
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 10
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 2
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    CNBC: 1
    Socialism, Socialist/s, Socialistic: 0
    Communism, Communist/s, Communistic: 1
    Marxism, Marxist/s: 0
    Fascism, Fascist/s, Fascistic: 0

    The above numbers are the result of a power search for these terms on these networks.

  • UPDATED: Gateway Pundit is too dumb for words

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Turns out the deep thinkers at RedState and Hot Air's Green Room also thought the wasteful federal government had spent more than $1 million on two pounds of ham.


    Here's how a Hot Air writer eventually explained the blogopshere boner:

    Apparently the ham contract didn't pay for two pounds of ham, but 760,000 pounds of it. Where "two pounds" comes from is anybody's guess, but that incident paired with all of the other ones raise some real questions about management and usefulness of the Administration's multi-million dollar watchdog website. Not that anyone should be surprised.

    The Hot Air post originally informed reader that the gov't spent more than $1 million to purchase two pounds of ham. Turns out, the gov't purchased 380 tons of ham* for that price. Rather than owning up, Hot Air claimed the whole story raised all kinds of questions about "management."

    You can say that again.

    *Corrected my math.

  • 40th Anniversary of Moon Landing: First Steps In Long March Towards Socialism?

    Blog ››› ››› JOHN V. SANTORE

    You can imagine the lede: "Today marks 40 years since the humankind first set foot on the moon, one of the most dramatic examples to date of just how badly the federal government mismanages everything it touches."

    Of course, nobody would dream of reporting that story. Instead, the Apollo Project, which culminated in the 1969 moon landing, is universally viewed as having been one of the most significant and successful ventures our nation has ever undertaken. It was also initiated at the behest of President John F. Kennedy, and was the work of a federal agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). And it was extremely expensive, costing more than $150 billion dollars when adjusted for inflation, and employed "400,000 Americans and required the support of over 20,000 industrial firms and universities."

    Today, Fox News headlined its moon landing coverage by declaring 1969 to have been "The Year that Changed America." And yet, at the same time, the conservative media is doing whatever it can to destroy the very notion that the federal government should play a role in reforming the American healthcare system – or a role in anything else, for that matter. Our government, we are told, is corrupt, wasteful, and incompetent. Government bureaucrats can't do anything right. And the sums of money they want to spend are unjustifiable, dooming us to suffer under a perpetual mountain of debt.

    So, it begs the question: when will Fox News declare the Apollo Project to have been a pork barrel-ridden boondoggle? When will Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon be seen not as a symbol of our country's ability to overcome all odds, but instead as the first steps on our long march towards dreaded socialism?

    Here's a better question: when will the right-wing media admit that some of our greatest national achievements have been made possible by dedicated men and women working with and for our government?