Thursday, November 5, 2009

Our Failed MSM and the Chicken-Centra-Dems

Word for the Day (h/t BobK): nihilarian 

Media Matters: Chris Matthews' big, fat hypocrisy
Here's MSNBC's Chris Matthews last night, talking about the claims that New Jersey governor John Corzine's campaign emphasized the weight of his Republican opponent:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, you're out there campaigning like mad for Chris Christie. What do you make of the fat charge?
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Oh, it's ridiculous. And it's a -- it's a diversionary tactic to try to get people not to look at Corzine's record. And I think it's pretty clear, pretty apparent.
MATTHEWS: Well, let's take a look at it, because I have never seen anything this lowbrow, but here it is. I enjoy these, because it shows how stinky-poo politics can get.
And here are several examples of Matthews talking about Al Gore over the years:
MATTHEWS: Yes. Let me go to John for an always interesting analysis by John Heilemann. John, Al Gore, he appears to us so irregularly. We notice how he gains weight, loses weight, has a beard. He ought to stick around more frequently so people don't notice these things. He's a big guy. He's back. And he's not really a politician, I wouldn't say. Is he a plus? [6/17/08]
MATTHEWS: Express your -- Mike Allen, express your thoughts more clearly. Three questions. Will he jump in this fall? Will she -- will he be ready to jump if in if there's something going wrong with the Clintons by next November? Or will he hold his fire, lose some weight and go back in 2012? [10/12/07]
MATTHEWS: I hear he's made a commitment to a friend for a crash course to lose 40 pounds right away. [4/8/07]
MATTHEWS: And Patrick, before, when we were in the green room a while ago and you were saying that you think he's lost some weight. I know this is so cosmetic, but people are watching the weight here. [3/25/07]
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We're joined now by Eugene Robinson of "The Washington Post" and Michael Feldman, a former adviser to Al Gore. By the way, is Al Gore sharpening up his political blade now? He's up there on the Hill. Is he going to lose some weight and make his move, or...
MICHAEL FELDMAN, FORMER GORE ADVISER: You're obsessed with his weight, Chris!
MATTHEWS: Because he weighs -- he's Raymond Burr! [3/22/07]
MATTHEWS: Well, you haven't gotten fat like a lot of ex-politicians. I'll give you that. I saw Gore the other night. I couldn't believe it. I thought I was seeing the Hindenburg coming by. And there you are; you're looking great. [11/7/06]
HOWARD FINEMAN: Al Gore is so invisible that a large foot is not required to obscure him. OK? I mean, I was just told today that he's having Camp Al down in Tennessee in a couple of weeks.
Mr. FINEMAN: Twenty-five young activists are going to come down to lectured in political activism by Al Gore and...
MATTHEWS: I mean, do you know what this reminds me of? In the back of The New York Times magazine when they have camp for the fat kids. Please send your fat kid to this camp.
Mr. FINEMAN: And instructions in Palm Pilot use. No, but...
MATTHEWS: You know, Chester will come back 20 pounds lighter in the Happy Camp. [8/1/01]
MATTHEWS: When is he allowed to show some cuff, or when is he--first of all, he has to lose about 40 pounds. That'll be the first sign he's running. We all agree on that, right? The minute he loses weight, somebody will say, 'Have you seen the trim, new Al Gore?' That'll be the first sign. You'll probably do that, Julia. You'll--Lawrence, he loses weight. How soon can he lose weight and run? [6/25/01]
And a bonus: Chris Matthews interviewing Al Sharpton:
MATTHEWS: Reverend Sharpton, sir, thanks for joining us. First of all, a human interest question: How many pounds did you lose? [9/6/01]
In Tuesday's congressional races, voters sent two more House Democrats to Congress, expanding an already-large Democratic majority on the Hill. In 2008, the electorate made a House Democratic majority bigger, and in 2009, Dems went five for five in special elections, making that majority bigger still.
And looking over today's headlines, the moral of the story is that congressional Democrats should be panicked about recent events.
McClatchy reports "already-skittish moderate Democrats" now have "fresh reasons ... to worry." The Washington Post reports that Democrats are "nervous" and "moderate and conservative Democrats took a clear signal from Tuesday's voting, warning that the results prove that independent voters are wary of Obama's far-reaching proposals and mounting spending, as well as the growing federal debt." Politico reports that Democratic incumbents "from red states and Republican-leaning districts" are "worried." The LA Times reports that Dems on the Hill are "anxious," and will now resist the White House's ambitious policy agenda.
Because nothing impresses voters more than timid lawmakers who aren't building a record of accomplishments.
Now, it's possible that some of this is just media hype -- the "resurgent Republican" meme seems to have been decided on well in advance of the actual election results -- but all of these articles included plenty of quotes from hand-wringing Democratic lawmakers, some named and some anonymous, nearly all of whom seem to be looking for an excuse not to do any heavy lifting.
The New York Times' report struck a slightly different tone.
Blaming election setbacks on a drop in voter enthusiasm, Congressional Democrats said Wednesday that losses in governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey -- and a striking House win in New York -- should give new urgency to their legislative agenda, including a sweeping health care overhaul.
As they assessed the results, Democratic lawmakers and party strategists said their judgment was that voters remained very uneasy about the economy and did not see Democrats producing on the health, energy and national security changes they promised when voters swept them to power only a year ago.
"Most of us ran on that," said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia and president of the party's freshman class. "We must deliver. I need to give Democrats something to be excited about."
Every one of the articles this morning highlighted the motivated, active Republican base. And yet, most of the panicky center-right Dems who want to slam on the brakes seemed to have no interest at all in generating any excitement within the Democratic base.
This doesn't seem especially complicated. Voters handed Democrats a huge majority, not to sit on their hands, but to deliver on their agenda. A year from now, lawmakers will have to tell their constituents something about how (and whether) they took advantage of the opportunity. Do any of these vulnerable incumbents seriously think they're better off with a depressed, unmotivated base and a short list of legislative accomplishments? Dems fared well in 2008 when young, minority, urban, and suburban Democrats and independents turned out in droves. Does the party think they'll thrive if these folks stay home?
If Dems had lost the special elections, the weak knees would be easier to understand. But this year, given a choice, voters sent more Democrats to the Hill, giving the party a better chance at passing its agenda.
Sargent: New Meme: Dems Are More Divided Than Republicans!
Republicans are circulating this quote from Mike Allen all over the place today, and it has the makings of a new meme:
NYT fronts story on GOP divisions, misses biggest story in politics: Democrats are the ones more divided now because of red-state fears that independents are taking flight.
Seems like a stretch to say that GOP division isn’t a big story, and trying to measure which party is more divided seems like a fool’s errand. That said, there is something to what Allen says, in this sense: Dem division is far more relevant than GOP division is, in terms of the impact it will have on Obama’s agenda, which is what matters right now.
It’s worth noting the motives of each party in painting the other as suffering greater turmoil and division. Dems are highlighting GOP divisions for purposes of national messaging. They want to permanently brand the GOP as hostage to extremists, keeping public confidence in the GOP low enough to limit Dem losses in 2010. The Dems’ focus on GOP division and extremism also seems designed to distract from their own internal tensions.
By contrast, the GOP efforts to highlight Dem division and the exodus of independents, while focused on 2010, is also about slowing down the Obama/Dem legislative agenda. The idea is to spook moderate Dems into dragging their feet even more on health care and cap and trade, in hopes that Dems will appear ineffective and unable to lead.
While health care looks very likely to pass this year, it’s not out of the question that Dem division will hamper significant parts of Obama’s agenda. Which is to say that Dem division is what matters in the real world right now. In the near term, GOP division — while real and perhaps a serious problem going into 2010 — is basically a sideshow.
Yglesias: What Does a Focus on Jobs Mean?
Alexander Bolton runs down the desire of center-right Democrats in the House and Senate to defer action on the progressive agenda:
In the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, they don’t want to be forced to vote on climate change, immigration reform and gays in the military, which they say should be set aside so Congress can focus on jobs and the economy.
“It’s hard; the most important issue in front of us is the economy right now, and that’s where most of us really want to stay focused, the economy and jobs, that’s what our constituency is concerned about,” said Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), who is facing a tough race next year in Arkansas.
I’m more sympathetic to this idea than is Steve Benen. Realistically, the viability of progressive governance is going to be determined by the state of the economy in 2010 and 2012. But where my sympathy vanishes is with the fact that the very same people who are so eager to throw Obama’s agenda overboard in order to focus on jobs and the economy don’t seem to have any actual ideas for boosting the labor market.
Instead you get Bob Etheridge: “Three things ought to be the top priority: jobs, jobs and jobs.”
And Blanche Lincoln:
“That’s an awful lot to bite off and chew for right now,” said Lincoln, who described herself as “not in a hurry” to tackle climate change, an issue she has some jurisdiction over as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
And Evan Bayh:
Sen. Evan Bayh (D), who is running for reelection in conservative-leaning Indiana, said “jobs should be our top priority and we shouldn’t do anything that detracts from that,” echoing a sentiment of many colleagues in similar positions.
And John Tanner:
If it was up to me, I would figure out how to handle the war and fix the economy,” said Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.), a senior centrist Democrat who has found himself in the crosshairs of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has recruited a promising GOP challenger.
This is pathetic. Setting aside elements of the progressive wish list in order to focus on improving the labor market is a reasonable idea. But this crowd doesn’t have any actual ideas for doing that. It seems to me that there’s good reason to think that resolving uncertainty about the future direction of American energy policy and immigration policy would, in fact, help spur economic growth. But I’d also be amendable to having congress take up additional stimulus legislation as a way to spur economic growth. Or maybe they could do tax reform. But as best one can tell Tanner & Bayh & Lincoln don’t want to do any of those things or anything else. It’s sad.

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