• It's that last 1.9 percent that matters ...

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Over the weekend, CNN's John King described the omnibus spending bill as "packed with thousands of earmarks" and "full of-maybe 8,000, 9,000 of these so-called earmarks." At The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby explains it just isn't so:

    According to King, the "huge" spending bill was "packed with" earmarks. (Was "full" or earmarks.) Semantic question: Can a bill really be "packed with" X when X comprises less than 1.9 percent of the bill? CNN viewers didn't have to ask—they weren't given the overall numbers.

  • New York Times plays dumb about Jim Cramer

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    The daily has a big piece on CNBC today, looking at the criticism it's been under in recent days for its previous Wall Street cheerleading, and the way its anchors and pundits have morphed into political talking heads as they unload on the Obama administration.

    The Times though, plays dumb in the article about CNBC loud mouth Jim Cramer. Here's how the Times describes his recent behavior:

    In recent weeks some have perceived the network to be leading the campaign against President Obama's economic agenda. Mr. Cramer, who calls himself a lifelong Democrat, said last week that the administration's agenda was "destroying the life savings of millions of Americans."

    Gee, that doesn't sound so bad, right? In fact, it hardly seems newsworthy. Of course, what the Times politely ignores (no need to embarrass Cramer, after all) is the fact that in recent weeks Cramer has become completely unhinged and has:

    repeatedly characterized President Obama and congressional Democrats as Russian communists intent on "rampant wealth destruction," claiming Obama is "taking cues from Lenin" and using terms such as "Bolshevik," "Marx," "comrades," "Soviet," "Winter Palace," and "Politburo" in reference to Democrats.

    The Times interviewed Cramer for the article but apparently didn't ask why he was calling the new president a communist. Isn't that pretty much the definition of playing dumb?

  • Irony alert: CNBC doesn't want to be blamed for the Dow's dip

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    This is rich.

    CNBC talkers have no problem blaming Obama for the Dow's recent decline, conveniently ignoring months worth of disastrous economic news, over which the new president has had no control. But defensive CNBC anchors and personalities think it's unfair to blame them.

    From the NYT article today on CNBC, here's the relevant passage:

    When the CNBC anchor Erin Burnett appeared on "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO on Friday, Mr. Maher raised a similar issue. "This is the channel that Wall Street watches all day," Mr. Maher said. "I think this is more than a channel; I think it affects what happens on Wall Street. Why didn't anybody there predict what was going to happen?"

    Ms. Burnett said that the dot-com bubble was predicted, too. "It's easy to say 'a bubble.' You don't know when it's going to burst," she said, adding that the questions of timing and magnitude were missed by many financial experts. Separately, in a telephone interview Friday, the "Squawk Box" co-host Joe Kernen said of the market turmoil, "Ask yourself whether you really think it's CNBC that caused it, or was it the housing bubble that caused it? I think we know what caused it."

    See, CNBC didn't cause the market turmoil, it's the fault of the housing bubble. Except, of course when it's not and CNBC's talkers blame Obama.

  • World Net Daily columnist compares Obama to spousal abuser, while calling abused women "dunderhead[s]"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From Prelutsky's March 4 World Net Daily column:

    Judging by the early days of his administration, I have had to re-evaluate him. He's even worse than I feared. It's been one disaster after another. His appointments have been a series of embarrassments. His hard sell of the Pelosi-Reid trillion dollar earmark makes him look like the worst sort of fear monger. And, considering the fact that he was sold to us as eloquent and a fellow who could think on his feet, his use of a teleprompter at his press conference reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, the con man behind the curtain. I guess you can take the man out of Chicago, but you can't take Chicago out of the man.

    Frankly, I don't know why anybody continues to hold Obama in high esteem. Maybe it's like those women who marry charming fellows only to discover after the vows have been exchanged that he's an abuser. In spite of the black eyes and split lips, the ladies are just too embarrassed to call the cops and have their friends and relatives discover what a dunderhead they've been.

    A tip from reader A.B. helped to contribute to this clip. Thanks and keep them coming.

  • Americans want more stimulus spending, but the press doesn't care

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    As Media Matters recently noted, the idea that Obama's proposed stimulus package might be too small to effectively turn around the economy has been literally ignored by the network news shows over the last month. That, despite the fact lots of prominent economists have argued the government ought to be spending more money to jump-start the economy.

    Instead, wed to GOP talking points which claim the stimulus package is too big and too costly, the press has paid very little no attention to the economists' argument.

    Well, it turns out Americans also agree with the economists and think the federal government needs to spend more money.

    From the recent Newsweek poll [emphasis added]:

    Which ONE of the following three statements best describes your opinion of the 800 billion dollar stimulus package recently signed into law by the President...

    15[%]: It's the right amount of government spending to help turn the economy around.

    40[%]: It's a good start, but more spending will be needed for it to be effective.

    37[%]: It won't work and government should NOT be spending money for economic.

    Forty percent of Americans think the government needs to spend more stimulus money. But you wont' hear that discussed or covered by the media, which seem content to present just one side--the GOP side--of the stimulus 'debate.'

  • New York Times asks Obama: "Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the transcript of the Times White House reporters' March 6 interview with Obama:

    Q. The first six weeks have given people a glimpse of your spending priorities. Are you a socialist as some people have suggested?

    A. You know, let's take a look at the budget - the answer would be no.

    Q. Is there anything wrong with saying yes?

    A. Let's just take a look at what we've done. We've essentially said that, number one, we're going to reduce non-defense discretionary spending to the lowest levels in decades. So that part of the budget that doesn't include entitlements and doesn't include defense - that we have the most control over - we're actually setting on a downward trajectory in terms of percentage of G.D.P. So we're making more tough choices in terms of eliminating programs and cutting back on spending than any administration has done in a very long time. We're making some very tough choices.

    What we have done is in a couple of critical areas that we have put off action for a very long time, decided that now is the time to ask. One is on health care. As you heard in the health care summit yesterday, there is uniform belief that the status quo is broken and if we don't do anything, we will be in a much worse place, both fiscally as well as in terms of what's happening to families and businesses than if we did something.

    The second area is on energy, which we've been talking about for decades. Now, in each of those cases, what we've said is, on our watch, we're going to solve problems that have weakened this economy for a generation. And it's going to be hard and it's going to require some costs. But if you look on the revenue side what we're proposing, what we're looking at is essentially to go back to the tax rates that existed during the 1990s when, as I recall, rich people were doing very well. In fact everybody was doing very well. We have proposed a cap and trade system, which could create some additional costs, but the vast majority of that we want to give back in the form of tax breaks to the 95 percent of working families.

    So if you look at our budget, what you have is a very disciplined, fiscally responsible budget, along with an effort to deal with some very serious problems that have been put off for a very long time. And that I think is exactly what I proposed during the campaign. We are following through on every commitment that we've made, and that's what I think is ultimately going to get our economy back on track.


    Q. Is there one word name for your philosophy? If you're not a socialist, are you a liberal? Are you progressive? One word?

    A. No, I'm not going to engage in that.


    At 2:30 p.m., President Obama called The New York Times, saying he wanted to clarify a point from the interview. Here is a transcript of that brief call:

    President Obama: Just one thing I was thinking about as I was getting on the copter. It was hard for me to believe that you were entirely serious about that socialist question. I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn't under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn't on my watch. And it wasn't on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement - the prescription drug plan without a source of funding. And so I think it's important just to note when you start hearing folks through these words around that we've actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word socialist around can't say the same.

    Q. So who's watch are we talking about here?

    A. Well, I just think it's clear by the time we got here, there already had been an enormous infusion of taxpayer money into the financial system. And the thing I constantly try to emphasize to people if that coming in, the market was doing fine, nobody would be happier than me to stay out of it. I have more than enough to do without having to worry the financial system. The fact that we've had to take these extraordinary measures and intervene is not an indication of my ideological preference, but an indication of the degree to which lax regulation and extravagant risk taking has precipitated a crisis.

    I think that covers it.

  • The AP can't be bothered with polling

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    From a particularly dreadful Saturday dispatch:

    Every day, the economy is becoming more and more an Obama economy.

    As we noted the other day, the latest NBC/WSJ poll found that a strong majority of Americans (66 percent) won't begin to assign to Obama responsibility for the performance of the economy until 2010, and 43 percent won't do so until 2011.

    But news outlets like the AP don't care what Americans think. They're assigning Obama responsibility for the economy today because, c'mon, he's already been president for like 50 days, right?

  • The WashPost still needs to clean up its Limbaugh ratings mess

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Yesterday I raised doubts about the claim in a Howard Kurtz article that Limbaugh's ratings have "nearly doubled" since January. The Post offered no hard evidence to back that up. And as I noted, even Limbaugh himself suggested he has no idea what his ratings are since he first announced in late January that he wanted Obama to fail.

    Today, the Post's Paul Farhi writes more about Limbaugh's ratings in an article that only raises more doubts about Kurtz's claim that the talker's numbers have increased two-fold since January.

    Specifically, I noted that it's basically impossible for reporters to get solid information about nationwide ratings for syndicated talk show hosts since those numbers are not released publicly.

    Farhi confirms my point:

    Arbitron, the radio industry's dominant audience-measurement company, has never publicly released a national estimate for Limbaugh, and it says, in effect, that the job is too complicated, expensive and time-consuming to bother with..."There is no economic motivation for any objective third party to do that kind of analysis," says Thom Mocarsky, an Arbitron spokesman.

    I also pointed out that even within the world of syndicated talk radio, there aren't any internal, nationwide numbers about Limbaugh's most recent ratings. Meaning, not even Limbaugh's syndicator, Premier Radio, knows if his ratings have doubled since January.

    Again, Farhi confirms my point:

    What's more, Premiere's figure is based on data from the first three months of 2008, a virtual lifetime ago in the fast-moving radio business.

    Bottom line: If the Post has any tangible proof to back up its Friday claim that Limbaugh's ratings have nearly doubled since January, it ought to print it.

    UPDATE: In his Friday piece, Kurtz quoted Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers magazine, who suggested Limbaugh's ratings had doubled recently. In today's Post article, here's how Harrison explains coming to that conclusion:

    "It's what we're hearing, based on the e-mails, the calls, all the buzz this controversy is generating. We put a little bit of our interpretation on it, added it all up, and that puts you in the ballpark."

    That's the information the Post used to announced that Limbaugh's ratings had doubled? Please.

  • WSJ reporters play dumb about Rush Limbaugh

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Nothing shocking here, since the Beltway press has been committed for years to not highlighting, or even mentioning, the hate speech that anchors the turbo talker's program. Today's Journal just happens to feature a particularly illuminating case.

    "The GOP's Limbaugh Dilemma," reads the Saturday headline to the article written by Naftali Bendavid and Greg Hitt.

    Here's the lead [emphasis added]:

    Rush Limbaugh is right where he wants to be and right where the White House wants him: in the news. But Republicans have more mixed feelings about the controversial talk radio host's recent elevation.

    I emphasized "controversial" because it was the only adjective in the entire article that describes Limbaugh's rhetoric. And no, the article does not bother to include a single quote from Limbaugh's program to illustrate why Limbaugh is considered to be controversial, or why some Republicans object to him becoming the face of the GOP.

    The fact that Limbaugh just yesterday made light of Sen. Ted Kennedy's life-threatening illness? The fact that Limbaugh recently tagged some journalists as being butt boys for Obama? The fact that Limbaugh claimed Americans were being told to bend over and grab their ankles because Obama's father was black?

    At the Journal, that's all been tossed down the memory hole in order to pretend that Limbaugh is simply "controversial."