Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Our Media: Fingers in the Wind

Greg Sargent summarizes the post-Sunday political landscape nicely:

The conventional wisdom inside the Beltway, which had for so long held that Dems were courting political disaster if they passed reform, has suddenly swung violently in the other direction -- another reminder that when you win, people view you as, well, a winner.

And this is what many proponents of health care reform have been suggesting for months -- give success a chance, and the political winds can turn in the other direction.

Mike Allen, who does as much as anyone in the media to reflect (and help shape) the conventional wisdom, suggests today that a historic victory on health care reform may make Scott Brown's victory in January "look like a speed bump." At least for now, Allen noted, "Rather than dragging down Dems, President Obama's health plan could turn out to be a net positive for the midterms by goosing his base, re-engaging new Obama voters, giving his party something clear to promote, and providing a blunt instrument for whacking [Republicans]. Obama's triumph has put Republicans back on the defensive, and even some of them are wondering if they peaked eight months too soon."

Also today, we're seeing stories about Democratic hopes for the midterms rebounding, and Republicans facing risks as a result of their health care tactics.

These, obviously, are the kind of news stories Democrats were counting on.

It's worth remembering, it's far too soon to understand the political implications of this new milestone. Indeed, the work on health care isn't even completely done quite yet. Predicting public attitudes over the next eight days and/or eight months is challenging, to put it mildly.

But as we've been saying all along, Democrats needed to not only deliver on their top domestic policy priority, but they also needed to give themselves a fighting chance. As the shifting political winds indicate, it's easier to build on a victory than on failure.

DougJ: Exponential complexity

One of the great tragedies of the health care bill was that it was passed on Sunday night rather than a Monday, which meant that Bobo had twenty-our hours to sober up before writing his column Tuesday. So what we get is less emo screed and more the smooth sounds of the Snooze Hour:

Nobody knows how this bill will work out. It is an undertaking exponentially more complex than the Iraq war, for example.

What the fuck does that even mean? Does it mean we’ll be sending troops into health care clinics to avoid civil war in five years?

Update. Martin nails it:

It’s more complex only if you don’t think of Iraqis as people.

C&L: Fox News Splits Screen, Shows Teabagger Protests During Stupak Presser

(Hackery begins around the 3:47 mark)

As the right went apoplectic in anticipation of the health care reform vote, Fox News did their level best to muddy the waters in their coverage from Washington on Sunday. The desperation is reaching such heights, I'm almost embarrassed for them...almost.

Many thanks for the video and more from News Hounds:

Fox News didn’t just insert video of health care protesters to take away from the moment of Rep. Bart Stupak’s press conference announcing that he had reached a deal with the Obama administration and, as a result, would be supporting the health care reform bill that was now all but certain to pass. Fox also added audio to make it sound as though the protesters were part of the event, threatening to drown him out.

Jared Bernstein: Questions 2: Repeal
Two or three people asked some variation on whether the Republicans will really run on a demand to repeal the bill.

Well, as I've said, the main thing to expect is that Republicans will campaign against the health care system. As they did with the economy from January 20, 2009 on, they will attribute every insurance premium hike, every medical error and every bureaucratic nightmare with insurance forms to the new law, beginning as soon after passage as they can. Really -- someone gets a cough, and Fox News will run an hour-long special about how Obamacare caused it, complete with Beck's sobbing analysis of how the Progressives caused the Great Influenza and Sarah Palin's cutesy gibes at the liberalmedia for ignoring this critical story and picking on her (kids, wardrobe, diction, whatever).

Will they explicitly call for repeal? My guess is will feel heavy pressure (self-inflicted or otherwise) to follow whatever Rush & Co. say, and there's certainly competition among the talk show hosts to be the most rejectionist at all. And in a campaign context, it's even easier to call for repeal, followed by passing simple common sense steps to eliminate pre-existing conditions, etc. than it was in a legislative context; there's no threat of them having to submit an actual proposal, or having it scored by CBO. Certainly, Republican activists and primary voters believe that the new law is incredibly unpopular (and will probably continue to believe that regardless of polling), and so they will not believe that a "repeal" position is dangerous in a general election. So, all in all, I do think the odds are good that many GOP candidates will run on repeal in 2010, and probably in the 2012 presidential nomination process as well.

The centerpiece, however, is going to be attacks on the health care system.

mistermix: Hackfest

The DC press corps’ candle in the wind, Mark Halperin, bows in the direction of perceived power :

The President, however, may be indifferent to the acrid fussing of his Republican foes. He will be able to bask once again in the glow of positive press coverage (accented by a momentous signing ceremony), which will focus on four areas helpful to the Democrats’ prospects in November: the masterful display of White House patience and competence that got the job done; the elements of the legislation that are in fact consistently popular with large numbers of Americans, such as its insurance company crackdowns; the return of the meme that Republicans are the party of “no”; and the accompanying rising poll numbers for the administration and the new law.

This is a guy who turned in columns titled Obama is Making the Same Mistakes as Bush and Can Obama Fend Off Failure Attacks in the last few weeks, not to mention What Obama Can Learn from Reagan.

Yglesias: Famous Last Words

Fred Barnes, January 20:

Oh, yes. The health care bill, ObamaCare, is dead with not the slightest prospect of resurrection. Brown ran to be the 41st vote for filibuster and now he is just that. Democrats have talked up clever strategies to pass the bill in the Senate despite Brown, but they won’t fly.

As someone who makes a lot of bad predictions, I’m going to offer everyone advice that you want to try to make sure your predictions aren’t totally categorical. ObamaCare looks dead, for example. Heck, if you’re feeling super-confident, just go ahead and say ObamaCare is dead. But you never need to go all in with things like “not the slightest prospect of resurrection.” There’s always a slight prospect of anything. Heck, there’s even an outside chance that John Roberts will decide to revive old-school right-wing 10th Amendment fundamentalism and throw the whole bill out.

mistermix: Drama Round-Up


What I hope is that the Democrats take a beating at the ballot box and rethink their contempt for those mouth-breathing illiterates in the electorate.


So, I guess this is a great day for patriotism, or centrism, or capitalism, or corporatism, or fascism, or socialism, or Marxism, or fanaticism, or fatalism, or perhaps listening to the self-congratulating just jism. So congrats to viscous substances everywhere.

In any case, I’m sure that now nothing bad will ever happen to anyone again for all time.

The Hill:

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) explained that “this is too big. We believe that this is the beginning of the end of America” [...]

The first sign of the end-times Campbell forecasts is Dana Milbank turning in a decent column documenting the spitting, name-calling and drunken yelling of the last couple of days.

(I know John already linked to that McMegan column, but I think everyone wants to cut out a copy and save it in your wallet for times you’re feeling down.)

Newsweek's Howard Fineman:

The Republican Party: They'll gain seats in the midterms for sure, but not necessarily as many as they are assuming. For one, the world is not going to end if and when the bill becomes law. In fact, nothing much at all will happen. That will be a relief to many, and no grist for the GOP. The Dems will have something to run on. and the Democrats president will look like a winner.

Yglesias: The Changing Tide

Last watching CNN, we got a little flavor of why having a health reform bill signed into law is going to help improve the political position of reformers. By the late afternoon, it was clear that reform was going to pass. Consequently, the political story was getting a bit boring. And yet, there was important health care news! So CNN did something a bit crazy, and wound up giving a decent amount of camera time to Sanjay Gupta to answer questions about the actual content of the bill rather than the political games around the bill.

The coverage that resulted wasn’t glowing. Indeed, Gupta and David Gergen teamed up to give credence to a GOP talking point about the “doc fix” issue that I would deem both dishonest and nonsensical. That said, coverage of the actual content of the bill is by necessity more favorable to the bill than the hokum that’s dominated the conversation thus far. After all, most of what people have been talking about is either straight-up lies—death panels—or hystical mewling about the death of freedom and the gulag. Any time you have medical doctors on television talking about new insurance rules, or newspaper writers drawing up charts showing what kinds of people will be impacted in which ways, you’re into the universe of sober-minded discussion of an importance series of tweaks to people’s existing care, and the expenditure of a bunch of money to make insurance affordable to those who don’t have it.

Now realistically, the evidence suggests that once misconceptions get into people’s heads they’re hard to dislodge. So I wouldn’t count on enormous changes in public opinion ensuring from this shift in coverage. But it’s bound to help at the margin.

Waldman (Dkos): FLASHBACK: Chris Matthews gets reconciliation ass-backward (but stays on TV)

Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 10:50:19 AM PDT

This is the single most arrogant imposition of what turned out to be almost 100% incorrect Beltway Conventional Wisdom I have ever witnessed.

Anybody can make a mistake. Certainly any pundit who tries to predict the political future will make dozens on any given day.

But to sit there and harangue a Member of Congress and all but call him crazy for laying out for you the actual game plan that turned out to hold the key to the passage of an historic piece of legislation? And to do so as a former Congressional staffer supposedly "in the know" about these things?

Americans watching the health care debate were confused for weeks on end about reconciliation, and they looked to insiders like Chris Matthews to explain it to them, with the help of guests who could provide the inside story.

Here, Matthews had the inside story handed to him on a silver platter, weeks before the rest of the traditional media were able to pick up on it (though weeks after those crazy netroots types had it), and not only does he drop it, he kicks Congressman Alan Grayson in the teeth for trying to serve it up to him.

And tonight and every night for the foreseeable future, he will continue to tell America what to think about the machinations of Congress.

Just watch the video below. Pick over the transcript. Look at the incredible arrogance with which someone who's supposedly one of America's leading experts in these matters dismisses a gift-wrapped scoop on the future of health care in the United States of America.

This is what NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen means when he talks about the "Church of the Savvy." Matthews values sounding like he's savvy about procedure much, much more than he values reporting on what's actually happening. Grayson in this segment is giving him inside scoop on what the Democratic leadership is discussing with the rank-and-file membership about the future of health care, and Matthews is having none of it, because he prefers to paint a picture of himself as someone too savvy to be taken in by anyone he deems to be less knowledgeable than himself.

It's was obvious at the time, but it's really almost physically nauseating to watch with the benefit of hindsight. America's level of civic engagement and understanding is one hell of a lot poorer for having been exposed to this execrable piece of analysis. He certainly owes Grayson an apology, but there's no making up for the damage he did to Americans who just wanted to know what was going to happen with health care.


I'm sure Matthews will be more than willing to chuckle at himself good-naturedly now. But now is too late. Matthews reinforced the teabagger's stalking horse argument about the process, and though we now have a bill ready to be signed and a reconciliation bill in progress, opponents wave around the bloody shirt of some supposed procedural impropriety, and point to "evidence" like that provided by Matthews in January.

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