Elections

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  • Daily Caller sets new standard for "he said/she said" journalism

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    The Daily Caller today takes a shot at breast cancer awareness group Susan G. Komen for the Cure, publishing a hit piece taking the organization to task for providing funds to Planned Parenthood. The article attempts to concoct an accusation of hypocrisy by saying that "some groups allege" that abortion can cause breast cancer:

    The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation is a breast cancer awareness powerhouse. As its influence has grown, so too have the number of its critics, who, while appreciative of the group's good works, cringe at the fact that some of the donations to Komen end up in the coffers of abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

    In addition to the debate over the propriety of allocating money to Planned Parenthood, some groups allege that studies prove abortions and certain oral contraceptives can cause breast cancer -- while organizations such as Komen deny such links.

    First of all, as the article itself points out, Komen has said that it rigorously audits the funds in question to ensure they are used "for screening, treatment or education of breast cancer only." Indeed, according to Planned Parenthood, 3 percent of its health care services spending goes to abortion services, while 17 percent goes to cancer screening and prevention.

    More importantly, the Daily Caller's presentation of the question of whether abortion causes cancer as a "he said/she said" matter for debate is pathetic and irresponsible.

    Here's who thinks abortion causes cancer: the anti-abortion Religious Right and the Limbaugh brothers.

    Here's who doesn't: the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

    At the Daily Caller, that's two sides of an even argument. In the real world, it's ideologues with no idea what they're talking about versus actual experts.

  • Chamber "speak[s] through Fox News" -- its donor's subsidiary -- to respond to administration

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    This afternoon, Fox News hosted Bruce Josten, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's executive vice president of government affairs, who lashed out at the Obama administration for its recent criticism of the chamber. Subjected to a flurry of softball questions from anchor Megyn Kelly, Josten said the administration was "acting out of desperation" and "seems to have gone from a campaign of hope and change to fear and smear." Watch:

    Josten seems pretty sure of himself -- as well he should be. He's giving an interview on the one network where he knows his attacks will not be challenged.

    How could the chamber be sure they would have a friendly venue on Fox to discuss allegations about the donors funding their attack ads? Because Fox's parent company is one of those donors! Yup, News Corp. gave $1 million to the chamber this summer.

    Somehow, Megyn Kelly forgot to mention that donation during her six-minute interview with one of its top executives.

    This whole situation is an ethics nightmare. But as usual, Fox couldn't care less.

  • The most overrated polling data in politics

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    I've long argued that the media tends to make too much of polling that consistently shows many more Americans self-identify as conservative than as liberal. News reports often portray that data as evidence that America is a conservative nation, use it to justify assumptions about which policies (and politicians) will be popular, and to assert that Republicans -- but not Democrats -- can enjoy electoral success by appealing to their "base."

    It seems obvious that the public's ideological self-identification cannot carry all that weight. Otherwise, how would you explain (for example) the fact that Democrats have won the popular vote in four of the past five presidential elections? How would you reconcile the preference for the "conservative" label with a general preference for liberal policies?

    The significance of the public's preference for a given label is limited by the clarity of that label. A poll asking whether people are Yankees fans or Red Sox fans will yield pretty reliable results: There isn't much danger that different respondents will have significantly differing interpretations of those two choices. That isn't the case with "liberal" and "conservative," which are relatively abstract labels with imprecise meanings that are rarely articulated for a mass audience, and which simply don't mean much to most people.

    The fact that more voters self-identify as "conservative" than "liberal" doesn't tell us nothing. It's reasonable to conclude, for example, that "liberal" may be a more effective insult than "conservative," and "conservative" a more effective validator than "liberal." But it doesn't tell us much at all about whether voters really are much more likely to be conservative, or to favor conservative policies and candidates. It doesn't tell us nearly as much as many journalists and pundits think it does.

    The Washington Post's Ezra Klein makes a similar point today, based on a paper (pdf) by political scientists Christopher Ellis and James Stimson. Ellis and Stimson note:

    [T]he preference for the 'liberal' label over the 'conservative' one has been steadily declining since at least the 1970's, even while preferences for 'liberal' public policy—not to mention 'liberal' political candidates—have vacillated, but have not trended downward, during this time period."

    As Klein points out, shortly before the 1936 election, in which Franklin Roosevelt won a landslide re-election and Democrats won almost 80 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives a Gallup poll found most Americans self-identified as "conservative." Here's Klein:

    So on the eve of an overwhelming victory for liberalism -- a victory not just at the polls, but in policy -- the country still called itself conservative. In the decades after that, the country would call itself more conservative, but it would become more liberal. It would elect politicians to oversee the vast expansion of Social Security, and the passage of the civil rights bills, Medicare and Medicaid, welfare, the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It would march toward equality for both African Americans and women, and, it seems, for gays. It would even come to see conservatives defend both Medicare and Social Security as their own.

  • Examiner's Tapscott baselessly asserts "systemic vote fraud" in 2008

    Blog ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

    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."

    This would be the same the right-wing activist J. Christian Adams whose allegations regarding DOJ and the New Black Panthers case have been repeatedly discredited.

    The supposed "legal expertise" Adams intends to provide to "Voter Fraud Watch" doesn't exactly enhance the credibility of Pajamas Media's little project.

  • Fox has Kirkpatrick in its crosshairs

    Blog ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    Fox News today has repeatedly aired a report by correspondent William LaJeunesse which was nothing more than a misleading attack on Ann Kirkpatrick, a member of Congress from Arizona's 1stcongressional district. Kirkpatrick is a first-term congresswoman who doesn't seem to have a lot of national recognition, but nevertheless, LaJeunesse ran an almost five minute segment attacking her for running for reelection as a fiscal conservative, a stance that he seemed to feel was unjustified.

    LaJeunesse launched into a misleading hit piece on Kirkpatrick for claims she has made during her campaign, specifically that she ran against auto and wall street bailouts, and defied Democratic leadership in her opposition to TARP. Since Kirkpatrick was not in office when TARP was passed, she bases her opposition to the Wall Street bailouts on a January 2009 House resolution "dissapprov[ing] the obligation of any amount exceeding" the amount of money originally described in TARP. Her statement that she voted in opposition to auto bailouts is based on two votes against the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save Act, also known as the cash-for-clunkers program. As a candidate, Kirkpatrick expressed opposition to TARP, saying that it "unfairly helped Wall Street over families." Nevertheless, LaJeunesse portrayed her as deceptive and misleading. Watch: