In emails that were made public by Gawker, Mr. Ambinder agreed (“got it,” he wrote of the instructions from Philippe Reines of Mrs. Clinton’s staff) and received his advance copy. The practice rightly was termed “corrupt” by Erik Wemple of The Washington Post, though he gave Mr. Ambinder credit for “appropriate contrition.” (The Atlantic has appended an editor’s note to the article.)
Yeah, well The Atlantic appended this weasle-worded note to the original article:
Editor’s note: On February 9, 2016, Gawker called the reporting of this post into question. It is The Atlantic’s policy never to cede to sources editorial control of the content of our stories.
That’s a pretty thin defense, wouldn’t you say? Does it really apologize? Does it admit that what Gawker reports is accurate?
Laughing At Your Airs
The New York Times reporter who covered the exact same speech also used the word, “muscular” but pinky swears he didn’t sell his soul, just that he was unoriginal:
A New York Times reporter, Mark Landler, whose article on the speech also used the word “muscular” and also mentioned the delegation, told me in the strongest terms on Wednesday that he had not made any sort of similar arrangement and would not do so. “That would be a very serious breach of journalistic ethics,” Mr. Landler told me by phone.
Earlier, in an email, he wrote: “No, I would NEVER cut a deal like that. My use of the word muscular may have reflected a lack of originality, but it did not reflect collusion
Gawker has more details of the transaction:
Hillary Clinton’s supporters often argue that mainstream political reporters are incapable of covering her positively—or even fairly. While it may be true that the political press doesn’t always write exactly what Clinton would like, emails recently obtained by Gawker offer a case study in how her prodigious and sophisticated press operation manipulates reporters into amplifying her desired message—in this case, down to the very word that The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder used to describe an important policy speech.
The emails in question, which were exchanged by Ambinder, then serving as The Atlantic’s politics editor, and Philippe Reines, Clinton’s notoriously combative spokesman and consigliere, turned up thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request we filed in 2012 (and which we are currently suing the State Department over). The same request previously revealed that Politico’s chief White House correspondent, Mike Allen, promised to deliver positive coverage of Chelsea Clinton, and, in a separate exchange, permitted Reines to ghost-write an item about the State Department for Politico’s Playbook newsletter. Ambinder’s emails with Reines demonstrate the same kind of transactional reporting, albeit to a much more legible degree: In them, you can see Reines “blackmailing” Ambinder into describing a Clinton speech as “muscular” in exchange for early access to the transcript. In other words, Ambinder outsourced his editorial judgment about the speech to a member of Clinton’s own staff.
and while I never did fulfill my desire to scarf down a bag of Cheetos and/or a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos, I did decide that maybe I should challenge myself to write ten blog posts. In the dark ages, before Twitter and Facebook, before the corporate media began to emulate the blog model, et al, I did post a hell of a lot more content here. Ten posts was not a particular daily metric I tried to achieve, I was happy with five posts, but ten happened every once and a while. Now, to be honest, I’m not a long-winded person, so it isn’t like I typically write five hundred or a thousand words of my own per post, I’m more of a blogger of the Kottke school, pointing you to read something interesting somewhere else, while liberally quoting from the original source.
I did other things yesterday too, but I didn’t post my tenth post until 7:30 PM. If blogging was a job, each day of work would typically be a long day.
Pippen Peruses the Newspaper
According to Erica Berger, insisting upon ten posts a day means more click-bait articles, more shallow articles, less actual journalism will be practiced.
Every journalism student knows they are supposed to shine a spotlight on the issues that matter. It’s a sad truth that some of our greatest reporters have had to bail out in search of a saner or more impactful job. But it’s hard to do that when your boss wants you to churn out 10 posts a day. And when journalists are expected to maintain an active social-media presence and share their thoughts on every fresh twist in the 24-hour news cycle, it’s difficult to find the time to identify the stories that truly need telling.
Sometimes I forget that the Chicago Tribune is a Republican-friendly newspaper. On many topics, they are decent source of non-biased news, but every so often, the visage slips. Last Friday, the print edition of the Chicago Tribune had this inflammatory headline:
“Democrats up class war ante”
The online version available today has slightly toned down the headline, but not much
Illinois Democrats went all-in Thursday with their election-year class warfare theme as Speaker Michael Madigan pitched the idea of asking voters to raise taxes on millionaires, Senate President John Cullerton advanced a minimum-wage increase and Gov. Pat Quinn compared wealthy opponent Bruce Rauner to TV villain Mr. Burns.
Either way, calling Democratic Party initiatives to reduce income inequality, slightly, as class warfare is offensive, and straight out of Frank Luntz’s dictionary. Circa 2008, Frank Luntz started labeling every economic-related Democratic Party position “class warfare” whether or not it actually applies.1 Raising the tax on millionaires isn’t going to bankrupt the millionaires. Increasing the minimum wage isn’t going to force Bruce Rauner to sell off one of his many, many mansions. No Democratic politician is calling for the guillotine to be rolled out, though plenty of us peons chuckle at the idea.
As Senator Bernie Sanders has been saying for many years, the real class warfare is being waged ruthlessly by the 1% on the rest of us. Focusing on tax breaks for corporations, flat tax proposals, allowing someone like Mitt Romney (or Bruce Rauner) to pay tiny amounts of income tax; these are tools of the rich, these are actual battles of class warfare. Cutting food stamps is class warfare, cutting education assistance is class warfare, cutting Social Security is class warfare, eliminating the minimum wage is class warfare, you could make a big, long list.
“What kind of nation are we when we give tax breaks to millionaires but we can’t take care of the elderly and the children?” Sen. Bernie Sanders asked on Monday. He was reacting to a new report that more than 18 percent of Americans last year struggled to afford food. Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are calling for deeper and deeper cuts in food stamps, a program that provides help mostly to children and seniors. We are living in “a very ugly moment,” the senator told the Rev. Al Sharpton.
Later Sen. Sanders ripped Republicans for claiming that the problem is that children get too much help from the federal government, “These are the same people who want to eliminate the estate tax, which applies to only the top three tenths of one percent of all Americans, which is the richest of the rich, then they are going after kids. The politics of this, Al, is what they are trying to do is deflect attention away from income and wealth inequality. Attention away from the fact that the rich are doing extraordinarily well, and tell their supporters that the real problem in America is that children are getting too much help from the federal government, and that’s the kind of mentality that we have got to fight back against.”
(click here to continue reading Paul Ryan Quivers as Bernie Sanders Outs the Dirty Secret Behind His Poverty Propaganda.)
Of course it buys happiness
Speaking of wealthy class warriors, check out this list (from the Tribune, in fact) of some of the properties that the Republican candidate for Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, owns
There’s the 6,870-square-foot Rauner mansion on a half-acre lot in Winnetka; two units, including a penthouse, in a luxury high-rise overlooking Millennium Park; a waterfront villa in the Florida Keys with a 72-foot-long pool; ranches in Montana and Wyoming; and a condo in an upscale Utah ski resort.
Most carry price tags well into the seven figures. But topping the list is a penthouse in a landmark co-op building along New York’s Central Park, which property records show Rauner bought in 2005 for $10 million.
Rauner has amassed a larger stable of high-end residences than Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee whose plentiful and opulent homes lent ammunition to foes who portrayed him as an out-of-touch elitist.
Rauner dismisses any such comparison to Romney…
Rauner said he likes recreational properties where he can practice land or water conservation. He often buys and pastes parcels together in areas he thinks are beautiful to “have an investment that appreciates over a 20- to 30-year period.”
That includes his property in Wyoming, he said, where he grows barley, alfalfa and winter wheat.
When he takes his family West, they most often go to his New Moon Ranch in Livingston, Mont., near Yellowstone National Park. It sits on hundreds of acres of grazing and cropland and includes a nearly 6,000-square-foot home, according to property records. It has five bedrooms and four baths and is currently valued by the Park County, Mont., assessor at $2.2 million.
In the winter, Rauner and his wife, Diana, have their pick of both hot and cold weather getaways. For snow sports they have a condominium in the luxury Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, east of Salt Lake City, purchased in 2003 and currently valued by the assessor there at $1.75 million.
The Rauners also own an oceanfront home in Key Largo, Fla., currently worth almost $7 million, according to property records there. It has a private boat dock, four bedrooms, four baths, 5,370 square feet of ground-floor living space and a patio nearly half that size.
The Rauners also have a New York penthouse on Central Park in a century-old Beaux Arts style building known as The Prasada. They paid $10 million for it eight years ago. A billionaire neighbor recently put the adjoining penthouse up for sale and is asking $48 million, according to realty postings.
In Illinois, Rauner holds title to three homes in Cook County, including two condominium units on East Randolph Street. Records show Rauner paid more than $1.2 million for the smaller unit in late 2008, where one of his daughters now lives.
The Rauners bought the penthouse unit a couple of months earlier, in August 2008, for $4 million, according to county records. …
The Rauners still own their Winnetka house and consider it their primary residence. Its current market value is estimated at $3.3 million by the Cook County assessor’s office.
Statisticians dismiss the practice of using personal stories to argue about an objective reality as “anecdata”, but it might be more accurate to call the “Obamacare horror stories” that have taken over social media “urban legends”. There are urban legends about a lot of things – from spiders in hairdos to red velvet cake. Some are funny, some feature a satisfying come-uppance, but folklorists agree that the stickiest of them, the ones that last for generations and resist debunking are the ones that live off ignorance and feed off fear. As one researcher put it: It’s a lack of information coupled with these fears that tends to give rise to new legends. When demand exceeds supply, people will fill in the gaps with their own information … they’ll just make it up.
I can’t think of a better description of the conservative media ecosystem at the moment.
The failure of the exchanges created an information vacuum as far as Obamacare successes went; in rushed the individual stories of those who claimed to have been hurt by the changes to the market. It didn’t matter that these stories are, even without enrollment numbers from the exchanges, demonstrably unrepresentative! Only a fraction of Americans, 5%, even have the kind of policies that could have been cancelled – these were the people who could claim to have been “lied to”… or worse. Their stories became part of an Obamacare horror story canon.
Turns out in nearly every case, the reported facts were erroneous, or there were significant details left out. I’m sure you are as surprised as I am that there is gambling in this casino…1
and the really scary part of this story is how quickly these fake stories spread, even on the so-called corporate media. For instance, CBS, Yahoo, and Mediate all reported on Ashley Dionne’s complaint without fact-checking it.
There is the one about Ashley Dionne, who claimed that Obamacare “raped” her generation:
I have asthma, ulcers, and mild cerebral palsy. Obamacare takes my monthly rate from $75 a month for full coverage on my “Young Adult Plan” to $319 a month. After $6,000 in deductibles, of course.
It turned out that her own Tumblr post contained evidence that she would be eligible for a low-cost, “silver” plan for $22.17 per month, with out-of-pocket spending capped at $2,250. (Also, with her medical conditions, it’s hard to believe that she ever found a company to cover her pre-ACA.)
The truth of the matter is that Bob Woodward has been a Republican partisan for many, many years, and only fools or the misinformed thought otherwise. Someone long ago called him a Stenographer To Power, and that epithet has stuck in my mind whenever I hear Woodward talk, or get tricked into reading some blather he’s written. Remember when Woodward said: “They trashed the place, and it wasn’t their place.”
A few articles I’ve read about Bob Woodward this week:
“Woodward at war,” was the headline Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei attached to their February 27 article playing up Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s claim that a senior White House official had threatened him over email regarding Woodward’s reporting on the origins of the budget sequestration. The Politico report on Woodward’s “major-league brushback” caught fire in the press and prompted allegations of White House intimidation. However, the email chain — which Politico published the following morning — shows that the claims of threats and intimidation by the White House are, at best, wildly overblown, and that Politico helped hype a bogus allegation by Woodward absent the full context.
The original February 27 Politico piece featured a short clip of Allen and VandeHei’s “hourlong interview” with Woodward “around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets.” In that clip, Woodward reads from an email he received from a top White House official, later revealed to be economic advisor Gene Sperling. As Woodward puts it, Sperling did “something that I think it is important for people to understand. He says, you know, ‘I think you will regret staking out that claim,'” referring to Woodward’s assertion that the president was “moving the goal posts” in negotiations to avert sequestration.
During the Clinton years, “liberal” Woodward often took direct aim at the Democratic president, as well as Vice President Al Gore, labeling him ‘Solicitor-in-Chief,’ a move which conservatives cheered. Years later, when news broke that newly elected president Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State, Woodward lamented that “She never goes away, she and her husband.”
At the same time Woodward was being granted extraordinary access to the Bush White House and to Bush himself in order to write his war-themed books, Woodward helped delay the Plame whodunit. He did it by failing, for two years, to reveal that a senior Bush administration official had told him that former ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife, Plame, worked at the CIA.
Worse, prior to his shocking revelation, Woodward had made the media rounds minimizing the scandal as “laughable,” “an accident,” “nothing to it” and denigrating Fitzgerald as “disgraceful” and “junkyard dog,” never once noting mentioning he’d been on the receiving end of a leak about Plame.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface. But read the rest if you have the inclination.
Thank You For Voting
and a wee bit of sequester history from Ezra Klein
I don’t agree with my colleague Bob Woodward, who says the Obama administration is “moving the goalposts” when they insist on a sequester replacement that includes revenues. I remember talking to both members of the Obama administration and the Republican leadership in 2011, and everyone was perfectly clear that Democrats were going to pursue tax increases in any sequester replacement, and Republicans were going to oppose tax increases in any sequester replacement. What no one knew was who would win.
The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would…change. There were two candidates to drive that change.
The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.
The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.
Alex Parene gets to the meat of the Woodward-Gate: Woodward seems to think that if the President does something, it isn’t illegal. Quite a change from 1972, no?
Speaking of kinds of madness, Woodward’s actual position here is insane. As Dave Weigel points out, “some budget document” is a law, passed by Congress and signed by the president. Woodward is saying, why won’t the president just ignore the law, because he is the commander in chief, and laws should not apply to him. That is a really interesting perspective, from a man who is famous for his reporting on the extralegal activities of a guy who is considered a very bad president!
Also, that George W. Bush analogy is amazing. It would have been a good thing for him to invade and occupy Iraq without congressional approval? Say what you will about George W. Bush, at least he was really, really devoted to invading Iraq. (And yes the Reagan line, lol.)
There is nothing less important about “the sequester” than the question of whose idea it originally was. So, naturally, that is the question that much of the political press is obsessed with, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Republicans have been making the slightly incoherent argument that a) the sequester, which is a bad thing, is entirely Obama’s fault, b) Obama is exaggerating how bad the sequester will be, and c) the sequester, which is Obama’s fault, is preferable to not having the sequester. Woodward has lately been fixated on Obama’s responsibility for the idea of the sequester, but at this point, the important question is who will be responsible if it actually happens. On that question, Woodward, and others, have taken the position that it will be Obama’s fault because he has failed to “show leadership.” But laws come from Congress. The president signs or vetoes them. Republicans in the House are unwilling and unable to repeal the law Congress passed creating the sequester. All Obama can do is ask them to pass such a law, and to make the case to the public that they should pass such a law. And Obama has been doing those things, a lot.
Woodward’s second point — “moving the goalposts” — has been torn to shreds like a hunk of meat tossed into the lion cage. Brian Beutler points out that the law didn’t call for spending cuts to be put into place, it called for “deficit reduction.” David Corn adds that Boehner himself conceded the possibility, however remote, that sequestration could be replaced with some mix of higher revenue and lower spending. Dave Weigel points out that Woodward’s own book says the same thing. There’s nothing left at all to the point Woodward is trying to argue here.
To understand where Woodward is coming from, you need to recall his book on the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations. That book was notable because it concluded that Obama was responsible for blowing up the big deal to reduce the deficit by spooking John Boehner and mishandling the negotiations. Woodward’s interpretive line here runs in contrast to every other account of the episode, which shows Obama was always ready to offer highly generous terms to Boehner, but Boehner simply concluded his party’s base, represented by Eric Cantor, would not accept higher revenue in any form.
What Woodward is saying here is that the failure to strike a deal is Obama’s fault by definition. There is no set of imaginable facts that would cause Woodward to conclude that Congress bears responsibility for an agreement. It’s a truly bizarre way of thinking, but also a common one, combining elements of BipartisanThink and the Cult of the Presidency. Fellow venerable reporter Ron Fournier has been insisting that Obama ought to somehow mind-control Republicans into accepting higher revenue. “His aides and allies will ask, ‘Exactly what can he do to get the GOP to deal?,’” writes Fournier, “That is a question best put to the president, a skilled and well-meaning leader elected to answer the toughest questions.”
Hypnosis! Jedi mind tricks! Whatever! Fournier’s job is to demand that Obama do something that flies in the face of everything we know about the ideological makeup of the Republican Party and the nature of free will, not to explain how it could happen. David Gregory, among others, heartily endorses Fournier’s argument.
Woodward’s strange way of understanding this issue survives because it is something that he and certain people need to believe, for professional and ideological reasons.
To reconcile Woodward’s journalistic reputation with the weird pettiness of his current role, one has to grasp the distinction between his abilities as a reporter and his abilities as an analyst. Woodward was, and remains, an elite gatherer of facts. But anybody who has seen him commit acts of political commentary on television has witnessed a painful spectacle. As an analyst, Woodward is a particular kind of awful — a Georgetown Wise Man reliably and almost invariably mouthing the conventional wisdom of the Washington Establishment.
His more recent books often compile interesting facts, but how Woodward chooses to package those facts has come to represent a barometric measure of a figure’s standing within the establishment. His 1994 account of Bill Clinton’s major budget bill, which in retrospect was a major success, told a story of chaos and indecision. He wrote a fulsome love letter to Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” at the peak of the Fed chairman’s almost comic prestige. In 2003, when George W. Bush was still a decisive and indispensable war leader, Woodward wrote a heroic treatment of the Iraq War. After Bush’s reputation had collapsed, Woodward packaged essentially the same facts into a devastating indictment.
Woodward’s book on the 2011 debt negotiations was notable for arguing that Obama scotched a potential deficit deal. The central argument has since been debunked by no less a figure than Eric Cantor, who admitted to Ryan Lizza that he killed the deal.
The real rap on Woodward isn’t that he makes things up. It’s that he takes what powerful people tell him at face value; that his accounts are shaped by who coöperates with him and who doesn’t; and that they lack context, critical awareness, and, ultimately, historic meaning. In a 1996 essay for the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion wrote that “measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent” from Woodward’s post-Watergate books, which are notable mainly for “a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.”
Woodward’s 2000 book on Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” which was clearly based on extensive access to the Fed chairman, is a good example of what Didion was talking about. As an inside account of what Greenspan said and did and thought, it was a useful primer, and, as with all of Woodward’s books, it included some arresting, if largely irrelevant, narrative details, such as one in which the great man, disturbed by his wife, Andrea Mitchell’s, desire for a canine companion, asks one of his colleagues, the chairman of the Philadelphia Fed, “Well, how do you tell your wife you don’t want a dog?” But as a guide to the impact of Greenspan’s policies, or the real significance of his rise to a godlike status, “Maestro” wasn’t much help at all. Less than a year after it was published, the stock-market bubble that Greenspan had helped to inflate burst, and the country was plunged into a recession.
So in other words, Obama said in November 2011 exactly what he said for the next year, and exactly what he is saying today! Those goal posts are now looking more and more stationary, aren’t they? The notion that the supercommittee was the only place where revenues could be discussed is so wrong that it really makes me wonder how intelligent Bob Woodward is. It was understood in November 2011 that Congress still had 13 months to come up with something until the January 2013 deadline. And Obama has wanted revenues that entire time. Sheesh.
Investigative journalist Bob Woodward announced Thursday that he’s received credible information from an anonymous source confirming that Woodward hasn’t been a relevant force in American journalism in 40 years. “Though I cannot divulge his name, I can tell you that he’s an extremely reliable, high-level government source, and thus far everything he’s told me about how I’m no longer a salient or even particularly respected journalistic figure completely checks out,” Woodward told reporters, describing a late-night parking garage rendezvous in which the Washington Post editor was purportedly told to “follow the writing.” “My source assured me that once I read my careless reporting on the Iraq war, my exaggerated interviews, and my exploitative and inaccurate account of the recent sequestration situation, it would be abundantly clear that my influence in the field has substantially waned since Watergate. And he’s right. It’s all true.” Woodward then accidentally revealed that his source’s name was White House Communications Director Daniel Pfeiffer, which prompted the journalist to murmur, “Goddamnit, Bob, you’ve really lost it,” under his breath.
in most places for most of history, publicly available statements have been either made or vetted by the ruling class, with the right of reply rendered impractical or illegal or both. Expansion of public speech, for both participants and topics, is generally won only after considerable struggle, and of course any such victory pollutes the sense of what constitutes truth from the previous era, a story that runs from Martin Luther through Ida Tarbell to Mario Silva, the drag queens outside Stonewall, and Julian Assange.
There’s no way to get Cronkite-like consensus without someone like Cronkite, and there’s no way to get someone like Cronkite in a world with an Internet; there will be no more men like him, because there will be no more jobs like his. To assume that this situation can be reversed, and everyone else will voluntarily sign on to the beliefs of some culturally dominant group, is a fantasy. To assume that they should, or at least that they should hold their tongue …
Paul Krugman is not fooled by Paul Ryan, nor Willard’s cynical choice in selecting Ryan as VP candidate…
The trouble, of course, is that it’s really really hard to find any actual conservative politicians who deserve that praise. Ryan, with his flaky numbers (and actually very hard-line stance on social issues), certainly doesn’t. But a large part of the commentariat decided early on that they were going to cast Ryan in the role of Serious Honest Conservative, and have been very unwilling to reconsider that casting call in the light of evidence.
So that’s the constituency Romney is targeting: not a large segment of the electorate, but a few hundred at most editors, reporters, programmers, and pundits. His hope is that Ryan’s unjustified reputation for honest wonkery will transfer to the ticket as a whole.
So, a memo to the news media: you have now become players in this campaign, not just reporters. Mitt Romney isn’t seeking a debate on the issues; on the contrary, he’s betting that your gullibility and vanity will let him avoid a debate on the issues, including the issue of his own fitness for the presidency. I guess we’ll see if it works.
I guess we will. Early returns show mixed results: there are plenty of soft, substance-less pieces on Ryan, but there are plenty of discussions of Ryan’s plan to shred the safety net, privatize Social Security and demolish Medicare as well.
Everybody Is Going to Make It This Time
Kos has more in this vein:
Yet rather than earn him some breathing room in the campaign and a nice honeymoon, the reception has been cold at best. Sure, there’s been a smattering of puff pieces about Ryan’s body fat composition, but the coverage has been more focused on the facts that Romney has moved to the Right rather than the center, that he had to pacify an increasingly hostile base, that Ryan endangers GOP advantages with seniors, that his presence on the ticket is a nightmare for downballot Republicans, and that his budget gives Democrats a treasure trove of material with which to attack.
Indeed, in the last several days, half the questions Romney has gotten have been along the lines of, “Where, exactly, do you disagree with the Ryan budget?”
Romney is on the breaking point. He’s already had to cancel campaign appearances (though not fundraisers!) because of exhaustion. He’s used to being surrounded by yes-men who tell him he’s wonderful. Now that Obama fellow (and even critics on his own side) has the temerity to talk about him!
Romney whines: The president’s campaign has put out a campaign that’s talking about me and attacking me. I think it’s just demeaning to the nature of the process, particularly when we face the kinds of challenges we face.
It’s so demeaning to elections to have candidates talk about each other! Of course, it wasn’t demeaning when Romney accused Obama of not being American. That part was as perfectly all right as was insulting the British prime minister, the cookies at a campaign stop, and the ponchos worn by NASCAR fans. That’s just Mitt being Mitt (IOW, a dick). But to have other people talk about you? That can’t stand!
even Jacob Weisberg apologized for his initial praise, admitting that
I reacted too quickly and didn’t sort out just how laughable Ryan’s long-term spending projections were. His plan projects an absurd future, according to the Congressional Budget Office, in which all discretionary spending, now around 12 percent of GDP, shrinks to 3 percent of GDP by 2050. Defense spending alone was 4.7 percent of GDP in 2009. With numbers like that, Ryan is more an anarchist-libertarian than honest conservative.
Look, Ryan hasn’t “crunched the numbers”; he has just scribbled some stuff down, without checking at all to see if it makes sense. He asserts that he can cut taxes without net loss of revenue by closing unspecified loopholes; he asserts that he can cut discretionary spending to levels not seen since Calvin Coolidge, without saying how; he asserts that he can convert Medicare to a voucher system, with much lower spending than now projected, without even a hint of how this is supposed to work. This is just a fantasy, not a serious policy proposal.
So why does Saletan believe otherwise? Has he crunched the numbers himself? Of course not. What he’s doing – and what the whole Beltway media crowd has done – is to slot Ryan into a role someone is supposed to be playing in their political play, that of the thoughtful, serious conservative wonk. In reality, Ryan is nothing like that; he’s a hard-core conservative, with a voting record as far right as Michelle Bachman’s, who has shown no competence at all on the numbers thing.
What Ryan is good at is exploiting the willful gullibility of the Beltway media, using a soft-focus style to play into their desire to have a conservative wonk they can say nice things about. And apparently the trick still works.
Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute say what most of us outside the Beltway bubble have believed for years: namely that the problems with our current legislative morass in Washinton isn’t a bipartisan problem, but rather the fault of the GOP.
Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. Of course, it’s not unusual for some renegade lawmaker from either side of the aisle to say something outrageous. What made West’s comment — right out of the McCarthyite playbook of the 1950s — so striking was the almost complete lack of condemnation from Republican congressional leaders or other major party figures, including the remaining presidential candidates.
It’s not that the GOP leadership agrees with West; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.
We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.
The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.
“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.
It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.
Also not surprisingly, the Washington media is not that interested in discussing the topic. Liberal media, ha. Republican sycophants is more of an apt description.
Greg Sargent reports:
Last month, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein published an Op ed and a book making the extremely controversial argument that both parties aren’t equally to blame for what ails Washington. They argued that the GOP — by allowing extremists to roam free and by wielding the filibuster to achieve government dysfunction as a political end in itself — were demonstrably more culpable for creating what is approaching a crisis of governance.
It turns out neither man has been invited on to the Sunday shows even once to discuss this thesis. As Bob Somerby and Kevin Drum note, these are among the most quoted people in Washington — yet suddenly this latest topic is too hot for the talkers, or not deemed relevant at all.
I ran this thesis by Ornstein himself, and he confirmed that the book’s publicity people had tried to get the authors booked on the Sunday shows, with no success.
“Not a single one of the Sunday shows has indicated an interest, and I do find it curious,” Ornstein told me, adding that the Op ed had well over 200,000 Facebook recommends and has been viral for weeks. “This is a level of attention for a book that we haven’t received before. You would think it would attract some attention from the Sunday shows.’
Ornstein also noted another interesting point. Their thesis takes on the media for falling into a false equivalence mindset and maintaining the pretense that both sides are equally to blame. Yet despite the frequent self-obsession of the media, even that angle has failed to generate any interest. What’s more, some reporters have privately indicated their frustration with their editorial overlords’ apparent deafness to this idea.
A casual reader taking in my account and the New York Times’ account of yesterday’s big FDA antibiotics announcement might have thought we were reacting to different events. Here’s the Times lead:
Farmers and ranchers will for the first time need a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics in farm animals, in hopes that more judicious use of the drugs will reduce the tens of thousands of human deaths that result each year from the drugs’ overuse.
In the Times’ reading, the FDA placed significant restrictions on antibiotics use. My take was more critical: “The plan contains a bull-size loophole—and is purely voluntary, to boot.”
What gives? In short, the Times delivered a skim-level, FDA-friendly account of the new plan. Let’s start with the loophole. Here’s the Times:
Michael Taylor, the F.D.A.’s deputy commissioner for food, predicted that the new restrictions would save lives because farmers would have to convince a veterinarian that their animals were either sick or at risk of getting a specific illness. [Emphasis added.]
The bolded part is the key. As I reported yesterday, the FDA plan intends to phase out the use of antibiotics as growth promoters, but allows them to continue to be used to “prevent” disease. That’s a major loophole—it means that farmers can continue stuffing animals together in filthy conditions and dosing them with antibiotics to keep them alive. Margaret Mellon, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a longtime watchdog of the meat industry’s antibiotic-gorging ways, put it like this in a Wednesday press release:
The outlined process appears to give the companies the opportunity to relabel drugs currently slated for growth promotion for disease prevention instead. Such relabeling could allow them to sell the exact same drugs in the very same amounts
FDA to Establish Voluntary, Largely Secret Program to Reduce Antibiotic Overuse in Agriculture Statement by Margaret Mellon, Senior Scientist
WASHINGTON (April 11, 2012)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today released three documents that constitute its long-awaited response to the problem of antibiotic overuse in agriculture. There is wide recognition among scientists that such antibiotic use is driving up the rate of antibiotic-resistant diseases, which are becoming increasingly severe and more costly to treat. While the documents establish a new, completely voluntary approach to reducing antibiotic use in agriculture, the Union of Concerned Scientists cautioned that the program’s shortfalls are likely to imperil its success.
Below is a statement by Margaret Mellon, senior scientist at UCS.
“The approach announced represents a bold, well-intentioned attempt by the FDA to persuade an entire industry to voluntarily abandon claims that allow them to sell a large number of lucrative products. The agency should be congratulated for finally taking action on a serious and long-neglected public health issue, but we’re deeply skeptical that the approach will work.
“We have no reason to believe that the veterinary pharmaceutical industry—which, to date, has rarely even acknowledged that antibiotic resistance is a serious public health issue—will cooperate with the agency on a plan that could reduce its profits.
“The outlined process appears to give the companies the opportunity to relabel drugs currently slated for growth promotion for disease prevention instead. Such relabeling could allow them to sell the exact same drugs in the very same amounts. The process also allows companies to avoid risk assessments for new drug approvals.
“Unfortunately, the process will also be secret. Companies will have three months to submit voluntary plans and three years to implement them. During this entire time, the public will be kept in the dark. It could be three to four years before anyone knows how well the program is working.
“Ultimately, if antibiotic use is reduced only marginally or not at all much time and taxpayer dollars will have been wasted.
“The agency doesn’t need to embark on this novel but very risky experiment in relying on companies to police their own products. It has – and should have relied upon – its authority under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to cancel unsafe uses of drugs.”
The headline on New York Times media critic David Carr’s column on media coverage of Trayvon Martin is only five words, “A Shooting, and Instant Polarization,” but it really contains two arguments, neither of which bear up to facts. The first is “Instant” (we’ll get to the “Polarization” in a moment). Here we find a familiar lament about the Web: it works too fast. The media, now working on Internet-speed, reaches conclusions before there is complete information. “That the public is rendering its verdict immediately and firmly may be routine,” Carr writes, “but it’s been staggering to see it simmer and boil over in our hyperdivided media environment where nonstop coverage on the Web and cable television creates a rush to judgment every day.” Whatever you think about the coverage over the Martin shooting, that hasn’t been the case. Martin died 36 days ago. It took weeks for the national media to notice. And in the intervening days, the media actually did the sort of things that most media critics often call for: They did their jobs as newsgatherers, establishing facts and building a public record. There is still, of course, plenty about the case that is unknown, but the outrage was a reaction to reported facts — particularly those gathered by local Florida media like the Orlando Sentinel.
Contrary to Carr’s thesis, whatever one thinks about the state of the coverage, the Martin case is if anything an aberration from our ADD-driven media environment. Carr’s colleague Brian Stelter offered a prebuttal of sorts last Monday, in his piece, “In Slain Teenager’s Case, a Long Route to National Attention,” in which he tackled the question of why “it took several weeks before the rest of the country found out” that so many people were upset by the Martin shooting.
Need proof? Here’s a timeline of the media coverage of the story:
While everyone was on vacation, or thinking about vacation, the FCC quietly (re)proposed some anti-consumer changes to local media rules that will reduce the diversity of news for most of the country. Fox News already got a special exception in New York City, now the FCC wants this model to expand elsewhere. The corporate lackeys at the FCC tried this once before, in 2007, remember?
The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to relax a longstanding rule that limits the ability of companies to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same local market.
The proposal, which was challenged in court the last time it came up, was the most contentious piece of an updating of the nation’s media ownership rules. Congress requires the F.C.C. to review the rules every four years.
Public interest groups and a departing member of the commission, Michael J. Copps, expressed concerns that the newspaper-broadcast rule change could cause more consolidation in the media industry, in which round after round of stations have been sold to bigger companies.
“In the vast majority of cases, I do not believe that newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership advances the public interest,” Mr. Copps, a Democrat, said in a statement. “It means fewer voices in the community, less localism in the industry and steep transactional costs that all too often lead to down-sized or shuttered newsrooms and fired journalists. Our media, and our public policy, need to head in a different direction.”
The proposed rules would keep in place the loosening of the ban on cross-ownership proposed by former Chairman Kevin Martin, allowing companies to own both a newspaper and TV station in the top 20 markets. The proposal would essentially codify newspaper-TV combos held by companies such as Tribune and News Corp. The FCC is proposing no change to the current TV duopoly rules, which permit companies to own only two stations in a market as long as both stations are among the top four, or the radio ownership rules.
Public interest groups, which have challenged loosening the ban on cross ownership in court came out swinging. “It appears that the FCC is proposing to adopt the same loophole-ridden scheme that the Bush Administration FCC had tried to push through. The public understands that excessive concentration of media ownership is bad for democracy, so we expect to convince the FCC to take a stronger position in the end,” said Andy Schwartzman, svp, Media Access Project.
Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:
“The FCC must be having a Yogi Berra moment, because it’s déjà vu all over again on the failed policies of the previous administration. Those policies were resoundingly rejected by the public, Congress and the courts. The FCC should focus on remedying the mistakes of past administrations — not repeating them.
“This action not only flies in the face of promises made by the president on the campaign trail but will also make it much harder for local and diverse owners to secure a piece of the public airwaves. Instead, the already dwindling number of smaller and independent media owners will be swallowed up by the same media giants that have crushed local journalism, killed local radio and left us with the same cookie-cutter content from coast to coast.
“Especially appalling is the FCC’s failure — once again — to meaningfully address the issue of ownership diversity. A federal court has twice rebuked the FCC for failing to consider rules that would increase ownership opportunities for women and people of color, yet today’s item punts on the issue yet again. The evidence shows that media consolidation hinders opportunities for women and people of color to create and sustain broadcast businesses. If the FCC is serious about addressing the diversity problem, it needs to tighten its rules, not relax them.
“However, we do commend the FCC for raising the important issue of covert consolidation. The FCC must address the proliferation of secret deals to combine local newsroom operations in violation of the agency’s rules. Some broadcasters now control two, three or even four stations in one market, giving a handful of companies extraordinary influence over local debates, issues and news. Now is the time for the FCC to close the legal loopholes and rein in these so-called shared services agreements. Otherwise broadcasters will continue to undermine competition, destroy news diversity and cut jobs in local communities.
“Fortunately, the rules proposed today are not final. The FCC can still reverse course, reject the disastrous approach of its predecessors and refocus on policies that will benefit the public instead of just boosting the bottom line of a few giant media conglomerates.”
Television stations make a ton of money, and if this change goes through, in five years, most cities in America will have just one newspaper that parrots the corporate behemoth that owns it. Sort of like what already exists, but with fewer parent companies, and thus less diversity of opinion. And then in twenty more years, the corporate media giants will merge, and most people will get all of their news from Rupert Murdoch’s cloned head…
Why is Pat Buchanan paid to spout his nonsensical opinions on television? Makes no sense that even in these politically correct times such an unmitigated racist is afforded a national platform. But he is.
If you go to Pat Buchanan’s website, you will come to an introductory page that says in big letters, ‘right from the beginning.” Of course, this has a double meaning, indicating a position on the right of the political spectrum, but also right in the sense of correct, or opposed to “wrong.” Taken together, the words indicate that the “right” is the “right” position, and that therefore, Pat Buchanan is right and has been right all along (something Mitt Romney, perhaps, cannot say).
Pat Buchanan, who believes minorities have inferior genes, and that women are “less equipped psychologically” to succeed in the workplace, has always been an outspoken and polarizing figure.
Dahlia Lithwick is right, Occupy Wall Street has nothing to do with the professional pundit class. Thankfully, because too often those self-satisfied mandarins are part of the nation’s problem. Fox News is the worst, but they are not alone. Do you think a news organization mostly owned by a defense contractor1 is going to fully report on challenges to the status quo? Or a news organization2 that has Frank Carlucci of the Carlyle Group on its Board of Directors?
I confess to being driven insane this past month by the spectacle of television pundits professing to be baffled by the meaning of Occupy Wall Street. Good grief. Isn’t the ability to read still a job requirement for a career in journalism? And as last week’s inane “What Do They Want?” meme morphs into this week’s craven “They Want Your Stuff” meme, I feel it’s time to explain something: Occupy Wall Street may not have laid out all of its demands in a perfectly cogent one-sentence bumper sticker for you, Mr. Pundit, but it knows precisely what it doesn’t want. It doesn’t want you.
What the movement clearly doesn’t want is to have to explain itself through corporate television. To which I answer, Hallelujah. You can’t talk down to a movement that won’t talk back to you.
Occupy Wall Street is not a movement without a message. It’s a movement that has wisely shunned the one-note, pre-chewed, simple-minded messaging required for cable television as it now exists. It’s a movement that feels no need to explain anything to the powers that be, although it is deftly changing the way we explain ourselves to one another.
Think, for just a moment, about the irony. We are the most media-saturated 24-hour-cable-soaked culture in the world, and yet around the country, on Facebook and at protests, people are holding up cardboard signs, the way protesters in ancient Sumeria might have done when demonstrating against a rise in the price of figs. And why is that? Because they very wisely don’t trust television cameras and microphones to get it right anymore. Because a media constructed around the illusion of false equivalencies, screaming pundits, and manufactured crises fails to capture who we are and what we value.
PBS should be ashamed, siding with the Fox News Tea Party Republicans instead their long-time employee, Bill Moyers. Bill Moyers has more credibility in his shoelace than any corporate putz working for PBS.
Bill Moyers says he is returning to public television in January, but he won’t be found on the PBS lineup. His new hourlong weekly show, called “Moyers & Company,” will focus on one-on-one interviews with people not often heard on television, “thinkers who can help us understand the chaos of this time,” Mr. Moyers said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to be concerned with the state of democracy and the state of affairs, but we will leave the daily and weekly story to others and try to do the back story.”
Earlier this year, Mr. Moyers, who retired from PBS in April 2010, said he had received $2 million in financing from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for the new show, but PBS had told him it couldn’t find an appropriate time slot.
Wishful thinking re: the News Corporation scandal – that corporate media will crumble into smaller, diverse parts. That ship has already sailed, as the phrase goes.
In the United States, politicians have called for investigations into whether News Corporation entities hacked into the phones of Americans, including the victims of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is now investigating; on Tuesday, Mr. Murdoch said that he was aware of no evidence that any 9/11 American victims had been affected.
But media reform groups like Free Press, which advocates for more diversity in media ownership, say their interest extends far beyond any single investigation.
“I think this is the moment to contend with the serious damage the Murdoch empire has done to our media system over the past few decades,” Craig Aaron, the head of that group, said last week.
The 2004 book “The New Media Monopoly” by Ben H. Bagdikian found that more than half of the radio and television stations, daily newspapers, magazines, publishers and movie studios in the United States were owned by five companies. In January, in the most recent case of consolidation, the government approved a bid by Comcast to take control of NBC Universal.
Proponents of media mergers say such combinations improve consumer access to news, information and entertainment. They say the Internet has fostered competition, creating new choices for consumers.
Groups like Free Press say the opposite — that such combinations reduce the country’s journalistic corps and decrease the diversity of voices in print and on the air. Mr. Aaron said he sensed that most Americans were aware of big media brands like Fox and NBC but unaware that their owners also controlled dozens of other brands. Media companies present an obstacle to awareness: “Most media outlets don’t like to cover themselves.”
But “when people find out just how much those companies own, they are worried about it and want to know more,” he said, adding that the who-owns-what chart was the most popular feature on the Free Press Web site.
The New York Times Co. owns more than 50 websites, including: www.about.com, NYTimes.com, global.nytimes.com, Boston.com, www.telegram.com, www.timesdaily.com, www.gadsdentimes.com, www.gainesvillesun.com, www.hendersonvillenews.com, www.houmatoday.com, www.theledger.com, www.the-dispatch.com, www.star-banner.com, www.arguscourier.com, www.pressdemocrat.com, www.busjrnl.com, www.heraldtribune.com, www.groupstate.com, www.dailycomet.com, www.tuscaloosanews.com, www.starnewsonline.com, times.discovery.com, www.nytsyn.com/nytsyn.html, www.nytimesdigest.com, Calorie-Count.com, UCompareHealthCare.com, ConsumerSearch.com and www.blssi.com.
20 Newspapers: The New York Times; International Herald Tribune; The Boston Globe; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota, FL; The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, CA; The Ledger, Lakeland, FL; Star-News, Wilmington, NC; Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, SC; Star-Banner, Ocala, FL; The Gainesville Sun, Gainesville, FL; The Tuscaloosa News, Tuscaloosa, AL; The Gadsden Times, Gadsden, AL; Times-News, Hendersonville, NC; The Courier, Houma, LA; The Dispatch, Lexington, NC; Petaluma Argus-Courier, Petaluma, CA; North Bay Business Journal, North San Francisco Bay Area, Calif; The Winter Haven News Chief, Winter Haven, FL; Worchester Telegram & Gazette, Daily Comet, Thibodaux, LA.