Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Media We Have.

Atrios on Silly Ezra
Being a conservative columnist for the NYT means you are, actually, entitled to your own facts.
If I didn't get independent confirmation of this, I honestly would have assumed the announcement was some elaborate practical joke. Alas, it's true.

Prominent conservative commentator and RedState.com editor Erick Erickson will join CNN as a political contributor, appearing primarily on CNN's new show John King, USAƂ¸ the network announced Tuesday.

Erickson, a self described "obsessive news junkie" who grew up in Dubai and rural Louisiana, will also provide perspective and commentary on other programs across the network. [...]

"Erick's a perfect fit for John King, USA, because not only is he an agenda-setter whose words are closely watched in Washington, but as a person who still lives in small-town America, Erick is in touch with the very people John hopes to reach," said Sam Feist, CNN political director and vice president of Washington-based programming. "With Erick's exceptional knowledge of politics, as well as his role as a conservative opinion leader, he will add an important voice to CNN's ideologically diverse group of political contributors."

This is easily the worst decision CNN has ever made. That the network probably reviewed Erickson's work before hiring him, and offered him a job anyway, suggests CNN's professional standards for what constitutes "an important voice" have all but disappeared.

The point here isn't that it's disappointing to see CNN hire yet another conservative voice, adding to its already-large stable of conservative voices. To be sure, it's frustrating, but it's nothing new.

The problem here is with Erickson himself.

For example, it wasn't long ago when Erickson explained his belief on why the left has a stronger online presence than the right. He attributed it to an asymmetry in free time, since conservatives "have families because we don't abort our kids, and we have jobs because we believe in capitalism."

This is the same Erickson who recently called retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter a "goat f--king child molester," referred to two sitting U.S. senators as "healthcare suicide bombers," praised protesters for "tell[ing] Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to send Obama to a death panel" (he later backpedaled on that one), and described President Obama's Nobel Prize as "an affirmative action quota."

And perhaps my personal favorite was the time, just last year, when Erickson was angry about new environmental regulations relating to dishwasher detergent. He told his readers, "At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?"

There was a point when major professional outlets would look at a voice like this as an "extremist," to be shut out of the mainstream of America's civil discourse. CNN, however, considers this record of radical rhetoric, and concludes it should pay him to offer on-air political commentary.

CNN will no doubt hear about blog posts like this one, and assume that liberals are angry because the network hired a right-wing blogger. But that's not it -- there are thoughtful, intelligent conservative bloggers in the country, who occasionally have insightful things to say. The problem here is that Erick Erickson isn't one of them.

This is a genuinely sad day for American journalism. CNN ought to be ashamed of itself.

John Cole: Smoking Grass

The Washington Post redefines “grass roots”:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, already one of Washington’s largest lobbying groups, is gearing up to play a major role in this year’s midterm elections on a scale to rival the nation’s two main political parties.

Modeled in part on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign juggernaut, the group has built a grass-roots operation known as “Friends of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.” It has a member list of 6 million names, aimed at lobbying on legislation and swaying voters to back preferred candidates, primarily Republicans, in crucial battleground areas, officials said.

With an overall budget of $200 million—twice what it spent in 2008—the group plans to target vulnerable Democrats in up to two dozen states with ads, get-out-the-vote operations and other grass-roots efforts.

Oddly enough, that sounds like a top-down organizational structure working with an existing budget, and not a grassroots organization at all!

JedL (Dkos): Actually, it really is unremarkable

Writing earlier today, Howard Kurtz argues that President Obama's interview tomorrow on Fox is a sign that the White House accepts Fox's argument that it is is a traditional news operation, at least by day.

This [the Fox interview] would be unremarkable -- the president is constantly on TV -- except for last year's White House campaign attacking Fox News as an arm of the Republican Party. Fox executives insisted there is an important distinction between its news operation and opinionated hosts such as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. In sitting down with Baier, Obama -- who cordially greeted Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes at a White House Christmas party -- seems to be accepting that distinction.

On the surface, that sounds reasonable, but let's get some context. Here's White House Communications Director Anita Dunn last October answering a question about whether President Obama would do interviews with Fox:

The answer is yes, obviously he’ll go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. And he has done that before. He will do it again. I can’t give you a date because, frankly, I can’t give you dates for anybody else right now.

But what I will say is that when he goes on FOX, he understands that he is not going on — it really is not a news network at this point. He’s going to debate the opposition. And that’s fine. He never minds doing that.

So either Obama thinks Fox has changed since October (unlikely) or he is simply sitting down with what he considers to be an unfriendly media outlet (far more likely). But he's definitely not implicitly accepting Fox's argument that they were right all along. And given that Dunn said Obama would go back on Fox (this will be the second time since October), this is certainly not remarkable.

Oh, and by the way, do you know whose question Dunn was answering?

That's right: it was Howard Kurtz's.

  • Howell Raines (WaPost) last week:
    One question has tugged at my professional conscience throughout the year-long congressional debate over health-care reform, and it has nothing to do with the public option, portability or medical malpractice. It is this: Why haven't America's old-school news organizations blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration -- a campaign without precedent in our modern political history?
Milbank: Dick Armey's 'tea party' history is a strange brew

Dick Armey is intellectually versatile: The former leader of House Republicans went from being a rainmaker for a Washington lobbying firm to being the unofficial leader of the anti-Washington "tea party" movement.

But his latest avocation, historian of early America, may be his most intriguing role yet. As head of FreedomWorks, the group that helps to fund and coordinate tea party activists, Armey went to the National Press Club on Monday afternoon in advance of Tuesday's tea party protest in Washington, to present some of his historical findings.

"Jamestown colony, when it was first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and dying in the snow," Armey reported in his luncheon address.

Who knew they had socialists in 1607?

But there was no time to dwell on Armey's fun fact; he had moved on to a new century.

"The small-government conservative movement, which includes people who call themselves the tea party patriots and so forth, is about the principles of liberty as embodied in the Constitution, the understanding of which is fleshed out if you read things like the Federalist Papers," Armey explained. The problem with Democrats and other "people here who do not cherish America the way we do," he explained, is "they did not read the Federalist Papers."

And this oversight makes the tea partiers mad. "Who the heck do these people think they are to try to sit in this town with their audacity and second-guess the greatest genius, most creative genius, in the history of the world?" Armey demanded.

A member of the audience passed a question to the moderator, who read it to Armey: How can the Federalist Papers be an inspiration for the tea party, when their principal author, Alexander Hamilton, "was widely regarded then and now as an advocate of a strong central government"?

Historian Armey was flummoxed by this new information. "Widely regarded by whom?" he challenged, suspiciously. "Today's modern ill-informed political science professors? . . . I just doubt that was the case in fact about Hamilton."

Alas, for Armey, it was the case. Hamilton favored a national bank, presidents and senators who served for life and state governors appointed by the president.

As a historian, Armey was all hat and no cattle. But at least he had a good hat -- a "downright stylish and manly" Stetson 200X beaver, which he donned for the audience. He also continued his practice of dropping the names of country-western songs, this time saying that Jesse Ventura makes him think of the song "My Heart Just Cannot Take Another You."

If there's a country tune that Washington would sing to Armey, it would probably be: "How Can I Miss You if You Won't Go Away?" For a guy who did his share of Washington- bashing while serving as House majority leader during the Clinton years, he did pretty well by Washington when he worked at the big lobbying firm DLA Piper. He quit that gig last year to return to full-time Washington-bashing with FreedomWorks.

Armey's two worlds came together nicely on Monday, when he was introduced by C. Boyden Gray, the Washington establishment lawyer who is a co-chairman of FreedomWorks. After listening to Armey's populist address, Gray went downstairs and got into his chauffeur-driven Lexus.

Armey spoke off the cuff, perhaps too much so. He asked if people "agree with, with uh, with uh, help me out, uh, the great prime minister, English prime minister -- Churchill." He required similar assistance identifying Rep. Ralph Hall of Texas ("uh, bless his heart, from Texas, great, wonderful, dean of the Texas delegation, no, no . . . it'll come to me tomorrow"). He also became muddled in metaphor as he likened members of Congress to lemmings: "Somebody's going to jump and holler 'fire,' and they're going to rush right off the cliff."

But the tea party leader regained his focus when he spoke of the wrongs of the Republican Party, which has been drinking "backslider's wine by the gallon," is "of course politically inept," is "trying to be like Democrats," and has "got to get off this goofiness."

A questioner asked if the GOP had forfeited its credibility on budget deficits. "Dang, yes they did," he replied, accusing his former colleagues of doing a "disservice to this country." By comparison, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got off relatively easy; she was described as "inept" but "not as mean as people think."

But what to make of the tea party patriots, of whom Armey is an unofficial leader? "These are not kooky birds," Armey posited. But minutes later, he allowed that some LaRouchies and other "fruitcakes" might be found at a tea party event. "When you have a big tent like this," he reasoned, "you have some kooky birds."

So fruitcakes and kooky birds are in. Alexander Hamilton is in. Just watch out for those socialists from Jamestown.

SusanG (Dkos): This is what access gets you

What's wrong with "objective" journalism today? Here's a clue, from AP, doing a story about the "deem and pass" process under consideration to pass the health care bill:

WASHINGTON --It is a brazen abuse of Congress' rules. Or a legitimate tactic used many times by both parties.

Five hundred words later, I promise you, the reader is no wiser as to whether it's an abuse of rules or a legitimate tactic used many times. One byline and three other people listed as contributing to this report, and no one bothers to tally up how many times it's been used (if at all), or whether both parties have used it. Just quotes from politicians and leadership on each side. A bit more:

Using rhetoric reminiscent of the tea party movement, the GOP says Democrats are flagrantly ignoring the will of the American people by trying to pass the legislation to reshape the U.S. health care system without a direct House vote on the bill approved by the Senate in December.

Democrats responded Tuesday that the moves they are contemplating have been used by both parties numerous times to pass legislation such as huge increases in the government's ability to borrow money, restrictions on immigrant workers and creation of a presidential line-item veto, which was later ruled unconstitutional.

And so on. Hundreds of words like that--one paragraph relaying what the Republicans are saying, the next what Democrats are saying. Alternating accusations, sans fact-checking, make up the entirety of the story.

Compare that to David Waldman's explanation of the parliamentary maneuver. Or, to be non-Daily Kos-centric, check in with Ezra Klein. Or Marc Ambinder. Or Harold Meyerson. Any one of these people alone are shedding infinitely more light on the subject than the AP report is.

Really, this is the worst sort of stenographic "he said"/"she said." If anyone can read that whole story and find one thing of value, one nugget of clarification or knowledge that it brings to the current debate, please post it in comments. Because from here, it looks like a waste of four "journalists" standing next to arguing speakers, fighting over who can hold the microphones closest to the mouths of power.

It'd be nice to think that somehow, there's more to this journalism thing than that. But the important thing, of course, is that these reporters could pick up the phone and get access for these oh-so-enlightening quotes. Hard to see how the republic could survive without it.

Sudbay: On the GOP's hypocrisy over process

Norm Ornstein, from the conservative American Enterprise Institute, destroys the GOP's latest round of lies over Congressional procedure:

In the last Congress that Republicans controlled, from 2005 to 2006, Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier used the self-executing rule more than 35 times, and was no stranger to the concept of “deem and pass.” That strategy, then decried by the House Democrats who are now using it, and now being called unconstitutional by WSJ editorialists, was defended by House Republicans in court (and upheld). Dreier used it for a $40 billion deficit reduction package so that his fellow GOPers could avoid an embarrassing vote on immigration. I don’t like self-executing rules by either party—I prefer the “regular order”—so I am not going to say this is a great idea by the Democrats. But even so—is there no shame anymore?
Of course, many in the traditional media (not just the GOP-owned media like FOX), buy the GOP's lies. Might be good if this Ornstein post got sent around MSNBC and CNN. They Republicans are hypocritically attacking over things they've done. Even Dana Bash should be able to grasp that.

No comments:

Post a Comment