Monday, February 8, 2010

Your "liberal media" at work.

Atrios: Outrage
This is a fairly common thing. Conservatives often misconstrue (or misrepresent, the stupid or lying debate never goes away) derision with outrage.

Most of the time we're just laughing at you.
Mark Kleiman raises a good question, which I was curious about, too.

I don't watch the Sunday talk shows. But did anyone ask anyone about the Shelby Shakedown?

It was a pretty big political development last week -- there's no recent precedent for a senator placing a hold on 70 presidential nominees, holding them hostage until the senator is paid off in pork. The White House raised a fuss about Sen. Richard Shelby's (R-Ala.) scheme, and the Senate Majority Leader raised a fuss, so maybe the Sunday shows would devote at least some time to the subject?

I checked the transcripts, and found:

* NBC's "Meet the Press" ignored the story.

* CBS's "Face the Nation" ignored the story.

* ABC's "This Week" ignored the story.

* "Fox News Sunday" ignored the story.

CNN's "State of the Union," to its credit, was the only Sunday show to mention the story at all, though host Candy Crowley described the controversy as "a little arcane." The discussion lasted about a minute, and concluded with CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, telling viewers:

"I think, politically, the reason why you heard Robert Gibbs go crazy at -- at the White House on Friday, because this is like political manna from heaven for -- for them, you know, of course they say they would rather have their nominees, but because the point that they have been trying to make, the point that the president has been trying to make since Scott Brown was elected is, wait a minute, Washington is frozen because all of a sudden we need 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, you know, never mind the fact that Democrats did the exact same thing when -- when Republicans were in the White House."

Bash's claim is false, and she should know better. Democrats didn't do "the exact same thing" -- not only did Dems filibuster far less often than Republicans, but at no time during the Bush/Cheney era did a Democratic senator put a blanket hold on all administration nominees, holding them hostage until the senator was paid off in earmarks. The media's reflexive "both sides do it" is a real problem for American journalism, and does a disservice to the electorate.

Nevertheless, to Mark's question, there are five Sunday public affairs shows, and four blew off the controversy altogether. The fifth mentioned it, but suggested to viewers that the story isn't especially important.

Your "liberal media" at work.

Sully: A US Soldier Waterboards His Own Child

The British Daily Mail - a populist right-wing paper - reports:

A soldier waterboarded his four-year-old daughter because she was unable to recite her alphabet. Joshua Tabor admitted to police he had used the CIA torture technique because he was so angry. As his daughter 'squirmed' to get away, Tabor said he submerged her face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline. Tabor, 27, who had won custody of his daughter only four weeks earlier, admitted choosing the punishment because the girl was terrified of water...

[T]he terrified girl was found hiding in a closet, with bruising on her back and scratch marks on her neck and throat. Asked how she got the bruises, the girl is said to have replied: 'Daddy did it.'

Horrifying. No doubt Marc Thiessen will object that since she wasn't strapped to an actual board and only dunked three or four times, rather than 183, and her father wasn't in the CIA, she wasn't really "waterboarded" as the professionals do it. But do you notice how a foreign newspaper uses plain English to describe torturing victims by use of near-drowning: the "CIA torture technique."

No US paper has yet to report the story. Why am I not surprised?


Richard Clarke, the chief counterterrorism adviser on the U.S. National Security Council for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, makes note today of what Republicans are doing to the public discourse related to national security.

Recent months have seen the party out of power picking fights over the conduct of our efforts against Al Qaeda, often with total disregard to the facts and frequently blowing issues totally out of proportion, while ignoring the more important challenges we face in defeating terrorists. [...]

It has been hard to escape the conclusion that the goal of these critics is to discredit the President's handling of terrorism for political advantage, whether or not the administration is actually doing a good job. Indeed, they seem to be posturing themselves simply so that if there is a successful terrorist attack on America, they can say "I told you Obama doesn't know how to fight Al Qaeda."

Clarke added that the Republican/Fox News attack dogs don't "bother to learn the facts" and are "wrong morally to attempt to make political gain on the damage inflicted by terrorism." If an attack occurs, "let us hope the American people will reject any attempt to make it a partisan issue. It is not conduct worthy of real patriots."

This is certainly true, and it's also been a political dynamic playing out for over a year.

Just 48 hours after President Obama's inauguration, Marc Thiessen, George W. Bush's former chief speechwriter, argued, "If Obama weakens any of the defenses Bush put in place and terrorists strike our country again, Americans will hold Obama responsible -- and the Democratic Party could find itself unelectable for a generation." Jason Zengerle noted at the time, "You almost get the sense guys like Thiessen are hoping for an attack so that they can blame Obama when it happens."

That was 13 months ago, and it's only gotten worse. In May, after a loathsome speech by Dick Cheney, Jeffrey Toobin explained:

Even worse than Cheney's distortions was the political agenda behind them. The speech was, as politicians say, a marker -- a warning to the new Administration.... Cheney's all but explicit message was that the blame for any new attack against American people or interests would be laid not on the terrorists, or on the worldwide climate of anti-Americanism created by the Bush-Cheney Administration, but on Barack Obama.

For many months after the 9/11 attacks, Democrats refrained from engaging in the blame game with the Bush Administration. Cheney's speech makes it clear that, should terrorists strike again, Republicans may not respond in kind.

This generally goes unsaid, but it's a key aspect of the Republican crusade -- if something horrible happens, we're not supposed to blame the team that left a mess for Obama to clean up, we're supposed to blame Obama himself. If only the president kept torturing people like Cheney wanted, we'd all remain safe indefinitely.

Should tragedy strike, a few too many on the right will want to tear this country apart, and they've been laying the groundwork for quite a while.

Booman: Obama's Big Meeting

I can't say that I know where this is going, but its got the wingnuts in a tizzy, so it has that going for it. Obama is going to hold a bipartisan, bicameral health care meeting at Blair House on February 25th. It's supposed to last half the day and be broadcast on CSPAN. Here is how Obama explained it to Katie Couric:

“I want to come back [after the Presidents Day congressional recess] and have a large meeting — Republicans and Democrats — to go through, systematically, all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward,” Obama said in an interview with Katie Couric during CBS’s Super Bowl pre-game show Sunday.

Obama said he wants to “look at the Republican ideas that are out there.”

“If we can go, step by step, through a series of these issues and arrive at some agreements, then, procedurally, there’s no reason why we can’t do it a lot faster the process took last year,” he said.

That basically tracks what he said at the DNC.

“Let's just go through these bills — their ideas, our ideas — let's walk through them in a methodical way so that the American people can see and compare what makes the most sense,” Obama said.

Here's why this is important. Listen to what Minority Leader John Boehner has to say:

"Obviously, I am pleased that the White House finally seems interested in a real, bipartisan conversation on health care,” said House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Oh.) in a statement Sunday. He added: “The problem with the Democrats' health care bills is not that the American people don't understand them; the American people do understand them, and they don't like them.”

Actually, Boehner is dead wrong. The American people have been subjected to an unrelenting misinformation campaign without a fair referee.. Almost everything the Republicans say about the health care bills is wrong, and the rest is distorted. Making the Republicans sit down in a room with independent budget experts and health care experts and accept the facts that they've been lying and that they have no alternative plan, and doing it on television in order to keep a campaign pledge to negotiate on CSPAN? Well, for those who watch it (hopefully, it will be broadcast on cable news as well) it will probably be a slaughter in the president's favor, which is why this strange little man has the following advice for the Republicans:

Republicans would be crazy to rise to this bait. A big photo-op for Obama with zero chance for any meaningful changes to a bill that steals liberty from American citizens. Kill the bill(s) and start over from scratch.

Do not walk into this, Republicans. Standing strong against this abomination has worked so far and the American public is grateful. (Need proof? Look to Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey.)

You really do not want to follow George Armstrong Obama to the place he is leading his cavalry. This is really shaping up to be a throw the bums out election.

Bad time to join the bums.

You can see the concern. Supposedly, this is a terrible idea on Obama's part (an auto-de-fe, he calls it). But then he warns the Republicans not to let the president get a giant photo op where he'll make no concessions. The bottom line? The Republicans thought they had this health care bill whipped when they won the Massachusetts election and now they're getting nervous that the president is going to pull some kind of stunt at the last minute and save the day for the Democrats. Well, I hope so, too, but I don't write confusing posts about Little Big Horn and inviting the Republicans to join in the slaughter.

Now, as far as I am concerned, the virtue of this plan is that it will do a lot to expose the Republicans for what they are. But it won't convince any of them to vote for any health care bill of any kind. As far as I'm concerned, Rep. Joseph Cao and Sen. Olympia Snowe were the only Republican members of Congress who ever considered voting for a health bill, and Snowe's probably out of reach now. The problem is still Democrats who are looking at bleak re-elect numbers. They're spineless and stupid, and some are just corporate shills. So, this meeting has to address that problem more than it has to do anything else. I like the idea, even if the Republicans thinks discussing health care on teevee is a way to bore us to death.

Sully: The President Makes His Move

Obama is going to hold a health care summit with the GOP. Cohn's reaction:

Republicans have been complaining that Democrats locked them out of the process. And large swaths of the public seem to agree, even though the argument seems plainly untrue, given the exhaustive efforts Obama and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus made to accommodate Republicans. The public forum will give the GOP one more, high-profile opportunity to air their views--and, no less important, it will give the public a chance to see which approach to health care they really prefer.

My only complaint about it: Democratic leaders will apparently be joining Obama and the Republicans at the public forum. To be perfectly honest, I think Obama can make the case for Democratic reforms on his own. Then again, if there's going to be a truly open discussion, I suppose both parties have to be present.

I agree with Jon. Keep the Dems out of it. Just looking at them makes me ill. And call these GOP phonies' bluff. GOP leader Palin's only solutions to soaring healthcare costs and 40 million uninsured and millions more denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions on Saturday night were: being able to purchase insurance across state lines and tort reform. That's it. Seriously, that's it.

Sargent's thoughts here. Ezra's here.

Greg Sargent: Cantor: Only Route To Bipartisan Cooperation Is If Dems Fully Embrace GOP Plan

Eric Cantor’s office responds to Obama’s announcement of a bipartisan summit on health care with the most explicit and direct assertion I’ve seen yet that the only way Dems can win bipartisan cooperation is to fully embrace the GOP health care plan and nothing more:

After going it alone on health care reform for nearly a year, President Obama has decided he wants to bring Republicans into the conversation. Here’s the problem: unless the President and Speaker Pelosi are willing to scrap their government take over and hit the reset button, there’s not much to talk about.

Republicans believe the status quo is unacceptable, but so is any health reform package that spends money we don’t have or raises taxes on small businesses and working families in a recession. To that point, House Republicans have offered the only plan , that will lower health care costs, which is what the President said was the goal at the start of this debate.

I’m not sure if it could be made any more explicit than that.

Obviously the political goal of this summit is to draw more public attention to the fact on display here: The Republican definition of compromise on health care is that Dems embrace their plan, and nothing more. But here’s the thing: The public already knows this.

Multiple polls have shown that majorities think the GOP is more interested in obstructing than in engaging constructively with the majority. And yet, paradoxically, multiple polls also show that majorities want Dems to keep trying to find common ground with Republicans rather than pass their own plan.

As I’ve noted here before, this is largely because Dems haven’t convinced the public that compromising with the GOP would have actual policy consequences that people might not like — that compromise will of necessity produce a bill that the public wants less than the one Dems would produce alone. The question is whether the summit can shift this dynamic.

John Cole: The Joke’s On You

The Founding Bloggers:

Founding Bloggers can confirm that we too captured an image of the writing on Governor Palin’s hand. The notes appear to be very innocuous.

On the other hand, the outrage on the left is being completely misunderstood by the right.

Who is outraged? We’re all hysterical. This is funny stuff. I think it is awesome that the lead wingnut in the country is such a dim bulb that she has to have “budget tax cuts” on her hand to remind her what she stands for. Put it this way, since this is Black History Month, this is akin to seeing “civil rights” written on MLK’s hand.

No one is outraged by Palin- we’re laughing at her and we are laughing at her supporters.

Booman: Tea Party Cat Fight

I knew I should have gone to that damn Teabagging Convention. Just standing around in the halls talking to those nutters would have been high comic relief. I could have even called myself a journalist and compared notes. But, seriously, it's belly-achingly funny to picture Andrew Breitbert and WorldNetDaily Editor-in-Chief Joseph Farah having a public argument about who is and isn't a real journalist. It's also hilarious that the subject of contention was whether the Obama birth certificate issue is divisive to the nascent Tea Bagging Party. And the guy arguing that Birtherism is dumb is the guy who brought you the ACORN-steals-elections nonsense.

Hey, their bullshit is effective in its own way. But to argue that any of it is true, or journalism? Yeah, it makes me giggle.

By the way, how'd Palin do? I was too busy watching real hypnomedia. That shit is hilarious. And I say that as a non-Guido Jersey Boy.

What do you want? It's a snow-day.

Sully: The Tea Partiers: Fraudulent Fiscal Conservatives

Jonathan H. Kupitsky attended the tea party convention:

I think the one thing that really did surprise me was the high level of explicitly Christian social conservatism on display here. One of the “breakout sessions” featured a speech from Pastor Rick Scarborough — who is most famous for trying to get America’s preachers more politicized. (“I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat. I’m a Christocrat.”)

After his speech, a middle-aged female delegate with a twang stood up and said, during the Q&A, “All the media types are asking us why we’re here. Here’s what I say. We’re all here for a little R&R — revival and revolt. If you’re not a Christian, and a person of faith, you just can’t understand what we’re doing!!” She got a standing ovation.

I think the MSM is missing the real focus of this movement. We keep describing the tea-partiers as fiscal conservatives. But this is patently untrue on its face. They have no plans to cut serious spending whatsoever. They love their Medicare, as they screamed at us last August. Do you remember them revolting against Bush's unfunded, Medicare prescription drug bill, the worst act of fiscal vandalism since the Iraq war? They want much more defense spending. And does anyone think they would ever touch social security? Tell me of one speech this weekend in which any serious spending cuts were actually proposed.

On healthcare costs, any attempt to restrain the massive fiscal burden of the care of people in their last days and hours of their lives - by entirely voluntary attempts to get them to prepare powers of attorney in advance - will be described as death-panels. This new form of Christianity - unlike the vast tradition stretching back to the Middle Ages - believes that even those in a vegetative state should be kept on feeding tubes for ever.

Everything they stand for is about more spending, not less. Remember that none of these people were up in arms when an evangelical president was adding trillions of debt, with not even a gesture at funding any of it. And they want to cut taxes as well.

So why are they really there?

They want their country back. That's what they tell us. I watched a CNN segment where one woman explicitly described Obama as Satan's agent. And the biggest applause of the Palin speech was her reference to children with special needs, her brilliant way of telling the base that she is a real pro-lifer and not a fake one. That's why she hauls little Trig everywhere she goes. He's a pro-life prop. A special needs child would be kept at home, cared for intently, and out of the limelight.

This is about Christianism, permanent war against Islam, rounding up illegals (did you hear Tancredo?) and a culture war against the cities and "unreal Americans". Unreal means not Christianist.

Know fear.

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