Obama is...rebooting his operation to what he knows best: wizard of all things to all people and master of warm healing. He is acting as a multi-hued, but blank, canvas upon which a swath of Americans can project its diverse hopes and dreams. President Barack Tabla Rasa.
President Barack Obama is “a pragmatic centrist,” Norah O’Donnell, NBC News reporter/MSNBC chief Washington correspondent, insisted Friday night on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, though not even Maher bought the claim Obama is a centrist. O’Donnell noted “they're trying to make inroads” into the business community with outreach to it as evidenced by hiring Bill Daley and speaking to the Chamber of Commerce, but she contended “other than that tonal switch, he's still the same centrist he’s always been.”
Maher countered: “But he's not really. If you woke him up in the middle of the night, of if you gave him sodium pentothal, I think he’s a centrist the way he’s a Christian – not really.” O’Donnell pleaded: “Don't you think it's a pragmatist?” To which, Maher recognized: “Yes, that’s different, he’s pretending to be a centrist.”
ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday night devoted more than half of their evening newscasts to the turmoil in Egypt, but while CBS and NBC squeezed in brief mentions of how a federal judge agreed with 26 states that the entire ObamaCare law is unconstitutional, ABC’s World News didn’t utter a syllable about the major setback for the Obama administration. Anchor Diane Sawyer, however, made room for a full story on an impending snowstorm and four minutes for a new series, “Families on the Brink: What to Do About Mom and Dad?”
While CBS anchor Harry Smith provided a short summary of the development, the CBS Evening News allocated four times more time to new USDA dietary guidelines which call for less consumption of salt. Smith tried to downplay the significance of the ruling:
In picking Mark Whitaker, Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News, as its new Executive Vice President and Managing Editor (TVNewser post), CNN has selected someone with a liberal outlook who presumes not raising taxes can be blamed for an increase in the deficit.
On election night last year, Whitaker channeled a liberal argument in favor of hiking taxes, declaring during live NBC News coverage: “The fact is right now the Republican numbers do not add up” since House Republicans want to roll back “spending to 2008 levels, which gets you about a $100 billion, but extending all the tax cuts. And the Congressional Budget Office has said that ends up adding $270 billion, at least, to the deficit.”
ABC’s Christiane Amanpour hailed President Obama’s State of the Union address as “very Reaganesque,” but in October, holding herself up as some kind of protector of Reagan’s legacy, she discovered “a long and venerable tradition of conservatism in this country” exemplified by Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley and “all of that sort of intellectual conservatism,” yet now, she feigned distress, “people are looking at the Tea Party and saying this is not conservatism as we knew it but it's extreme.”
Asked for her “take” on Obama’s address, Amanpour trumpeted his “Sputnik moment” as “remarkable,” heralding Tuesday night on ABC:
Two signs Sunday morning of how the Washington press corps are dismissive, disdainful and befuddled by the Tea Party.
On This Week, Christiane Amanpour fretted that though the New York Times has discredited the Tea Party’s rationale (“a new report today in the New York Times, they say that in fact TARP will cost maybe $28 billion to the taxpayer, instead of the $700 billion”), she told Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas “you yourself have been facing, even though you’re a reliable conservative, Tea Party competition in Texas. Are they outflanking you?” Amanpour empathized that Tea Party activists “said that you personally signify everything that the Tea Party is fighting.” A flummoxed Amanpour wondered: “What on earth do they mean by that?”
Over on CBS's Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer, echoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, asked Senator John McCain about a Senate vote to repeal ObamaCare: “Do you think...that that's a waste of time, that the time in the Senate could be better spent working on something that has a chance of passing?”
In the guise of a status report on ObamaCare, Katie Couric on Thursday night derided Republican efforts to repeal it just as it’s “starting to kick in.” She pleaded for viewers to give it a chance as she rationalized “the law is vulnerable because of the complex way it tries to fold 30 million uninsured people into the system,” fretting “damage could be inflicted by choking off funding for programs that support the law, but a greater threat is the legal storm that's brewing.”
“The health care law may not be popular, but many of the provisions now in effect are,” ABC’s Jonathan Karl asserted in his Thursday night look at the House vote to repeal ObamaCare as he highlighted one beneficiary of it without a balancing opponent or list of detrimental provisions: “To Kris Cambra, whose four-year-old son has a heart condition, the law is a life changer, and repeal would be a disaster.”
Karl touted: “Already, seniors are getting more money to pay for their prescription drugs. Children can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26. And children with pre-existing conditions can't be denied coverage.”
On the NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams proposed the vote matched the public perception of Republicans as more inflexible than President Obama: “And just today, kind of as we speak, the Republicans in the House pretty much straight up and down party line vote to repeal ObamaCare, knowing it's dead on arrival in the Senate where the Democrats run things.”
“The country is pretty unified behind the idea that President Obama found the right words, the right tone at the right time,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos announced Monday night in touting how a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found “78 percent approve of how he handled” the Tucson shooting, in contrast to Sarah Palin, “not so much, only 30 percent approve of her response.”
When Stephanopoulos noted “the support for stricter gun control has dropped over the last few years,” anchor Diane Sawyer expressed astonishment: “Stricter has dropped?” Instead of detailing that trend, Stephanopoulos concentrated on some specific policies with overwhelming support.
The ABC duo ignored how their poll advanced a false media narrative in asking: “As you may know, a gunman shot a U.S. Congress member and 18 other people in Arizona late last week. Is it your impression that the political discourse in this country did or did not contribute to this incident?” [PDF rundown of the poll]
Picking up on “a family feud” fueled by a decision by ABC News to promote Ron Reagan Jr’s new book in which he insists his father displayed symptoms of Alzheimer’s while in his first presidential term, ABC anchor David Muir, who failed to identify Ron Jr. as a liberal, reported “Ron's conservative half-brother Michael Reagan is blasting him.”
Muir highlighted Michael’s devastating tweet: “My brother was an embarrassment to his father when he was alive and today he became an embarrassment to his mother.” After citing another tweet in which Michael charged “my brother seems to want to sell out his father to sell books,” Muir tried to attribute Michael’s disgust to a rivalry: “Michael Reagan, now angry with his brother, also has a book out this week.”
Two particularly peculiar bits of reasoning Friday night from Bill Maher on the season premiere of his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, starting with his bizarre explanation for why Jared Lee Loughner was able to commit mass murder. After panelist Chrystia Freeland, global editor-at-large for Thomson Reuters, trumped how her native Canada has “universal health care,” Maher jumped in to assert:
Because we don't have government health care, that's one reason why a crazy person gets a gun because, you know what, it’s hard for a crazy person to get a job, so therefore it’s hard for them to get heath care in a country that doesn’t have government- (Audio: MP3 clip)
The conversation moved on and Maher never offered any further explanation, if there could even have been any which made any sense.
Sarah Palin’s use in a video commentary of the “blood libel” phrase, against those exploiting the Tucson shooting in order to discredit her, inflamed television journalists with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell ridiculously highlighting on Wednesday’s Nightly News how “more than 375,000 people have expressed their views in an online poll on MSNBC.com” and “nearly 59 percent do not agree with Palin.” As if MSNBC.com attracts any kind of representative audience.
On the CBS Evening News, Chip Reid maintained: “She ignited a new controversy by using the term ‘blood libel,’ which refers to false allegations from the Middle Ages that Jews murdered Christian children to use their blood in religious ceremonies.” Claire Shipman, on ABC’s World News, relayed how “she uses a phrase many view as particularly incendiary, ‘blood libel.’”
Mitchell asserted “Palin’s response is now setting off more controversy” as evidenced by how “the Internet was immediately on fire over two words in her speech, ‘blood libel,’ a central myth of anti-Semitism” which “is offensive say critics.”
There’s no evidence political vitriol of any kind drove Jared Loughner’s murderous rampage, ABC, CBS and NBC all acknowledged, but that didn’t deter them on Monday night from taking up the left-wing line holding conservatives culpable as NBC, incredibly, managed to castigate Sarah Palin and go back more than five years to find an incendiary quote from Glenn Beck – but couldn’t find anything over the line from its own Keith Olbermann or Ed Schultz.
“It was, by all accounts, a lone and very disturbed man who shot that gun on Saturday,” ABC’s Diane Sawyer noted, “but nonetheless, as we all know, a lot of people began asking questions for different reasons. Is this a moment we can talk about what is civility and respect in America?” From Tucson, on CBS Katie Couric set up a story: “We may never know for sure what drove Jared Loughner to open fire here last Saturday, but some, on both ends of the political spectrum, say the vitriolic rhetoric we hear every day was a factor.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams intoned: “Has political speech in this country become too charged, too toxic, and did it play a role in this tragedy?” Reporter Andrea Mitchell contended any link to the shooting is irrelevant: “Whether or not there is any connection between Saturday's shooting and angry rhetoric, it has certainly reignited the debate over political speech between right and left.”
Talk about incendiary and toxic talk. In Friday’s Washington Post, business section columnist Steven Pearlstein proclaimed that “what's particularly noteworthy about” congressional Republican “fixation with ‘job killing’” Democratic policies, such as Obamacare, “is that it stands in such contrast to the complete lack of concern about policies that kill people rather than jobs.”
Pearlstein, a former reporter who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, charged: “Repealing health-care reform, for instance, would inevitably lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths each year because of an inability to get medical care.”
“The shooter’s motivation is still unknown,” Katie Couric announced as she anchored Saturday’s CBS Evening News, but that didn’t deter CBS, nor CNN, NBC and ABC on Saturday night and into Sunday morning from forwarding attempts to blame Sarah Palin and, by implication, the Tea Party, for the Tucson shooting.
“Giffords was one of 20 Democrats whose districts were lit up in cross hairs on a Sarah Palin campaign Web site last spring,” CBS’s Nancy Cordes declared in referring to a political map, adding that “Giffords and many others complained that someone unstable might act on that imagery.” Hours later on CNN, Jessica Yellin noted “we don't know the motive” before she proceeded to raise how “on Twitter and Facebook, there is a lot of talk, in particular, about Sarah Palin.” On Sunday’s Today, leading into a clip about Palin, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell asserted: “Giffords, a conservative Democrat, was concerned about heated campaign rhetoric from the Tea Party.”
ABC connected Palin to the Wild West, as David Wright reported on This Week:
Congresswoman Gabby Giffords liked to joke that her district includes Tombstone and the OK Corral. Until yesterday morning, most people here would have said that rogue gunslingers were part of the distant past. On election night in November, 18 of the politicians in the crosshairs of Sarah Palin's political action committee lost, but not Gabby Giffords.
Audio:MP3 clip, matches 2:45 video below compilation of six soundbites.
Brian Williams on Friday night highlighted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s insistence “the Tea Party was born because of the economy” and it “will disappear as soon as the economy gets better,” a forecast Williams characterized as a “bold prediction.”
Williams set up the clip, from a pre-recorded interview for Sunday’s Meet the Press, by relaying how Reid “told David Gregory the Tea Party contingent swept into power in this last election may indeed have a short shelf life.”
In an “exclusive” interview with new House Speaker John Boehner for Thursday’s NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams told Boehner the promised vote to repeal ObamaCare has “been called a stunt,” pressed him to justify repealing it given many would not call it “the best health care delivery system in the world because they, by the millions, weren't getting it” and demanded to know “where are you getting the notion...the American people want it repealed” given polling was “very evenly split on that?”
Then he held Boehner responsible for a “birther” woman in the gallery who shouted out “except Obama” as a Congressman on the floor was reading aloud the part of the Constitution requiring the President to be a “natural born citizen”:
I'm curious as to how much responsibility you feel -- specifically, because of something that happened this morning. During the reading of the Constitution, Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey was reading a portion of the document interrupted by someone who heckled from within the chamber. It was to express doubt over the President's American citizenship.
ABC’s Diane Sawyer hit a group of incoming freshmen House and Senate members about presumed Tea Party hypocrisy in accepting farm subsidies and not refusing to accept federal employee health care while CBS’s Katie Couric, with three House members, despaired over the “danger” that budget cuts might “be too deep?” Forwarding liberal talking points, in the pre-recorded segment aired on Wednesday’s World News, Sawyer relayed:
The Democrats have a challenge for the Republicans, saying, if you're going to cut spending, go ahead and start close to home. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler of Missouri got more than $750,000 in taxpayer subsidies for her farm. Are you ready to vote against all farm subsidies?
Sawyer continued: “And on the promise to repeal health care reform, Democrats ask: Will they be giving up their new taxpayer-subsidized insurance? Only two of them said they would.”
On the CBS Evening News, Couric noted “Republicans say high on their priority list is deficit reduction, starting with major cuts in domestic spending this year. Fiscally conservative freshmen say everything’s fair game.” She then fretted: “But is there danger in your view, Congressman West, that the ax will be too sharp, that the cuts will be too deep?”
Republicans say they will follow “the people's priorities” when they gain power on Capitol Hill next month. Yet when it came to tax cuts for the wealthy and other top issues that dominated the just concluded lame-duck Congress, the GOP either defied what most Americans want or followed their will only after grudging, drawn-out battles.
The duo’s first piece of evidence:
Congress' approval of a compromise between President Barack Obama and congressional GOP leaders renewing expiring tax cuts for everyone, despite broad public opposition to including people earning over $250,000. An Associated Press-CNBC Poll in late November found only 34 percent wanted taxes reduced for the richest Americans.
In fact, there was never any proposal on the table to “reduce” income taxes for any income class of Americans, just a continuation of the current rates. If the rates were not maintained, Americans would have faced a steep income tax hike as of January 1. (Yes, the wealthy, like everyone else with a job, will pay a little less in FICA, but that was not the subject of the AP-CNBC poll question.)
“This is such a weak field,” Fox News analyst Juan Williams, recently ousted from NPR for not fully toting the far-left line, declared during a Fox News Sunday discussion of potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, prompting an appalled Bill Kristol to mock: “Yeah, President Obama had done so much when he ran for President. I mean, all of these guys are better qualified than Barack Obama.”
Williams got in the last words of the December 26 segment, using them to deride Sarah Palin compared to Barack Obama:
There is nobody out there except for Sarah Palin who could absolutely dominate the stage and she can't stand on the intellectual stage with Obama.
That caused oohs from the panel and led host Chris Wallace to suggest “there’ll be a lump of coal” in Williams’ stocking. (Audio: MP3 clip)
FNC’s Bret Baier ended his Tuesday night “Grapevine” segment by highlighting NewsBusters’ Monday morning post which has generated quite a buzz on a lot of blog sites, “Nina Totenberg: ‘I Was At – Forgive the Expression – a Christmas Party...’” In Wednesday’s Washington Post, however, The Reliable Source column insisted “her critics got it completely wrong” since “she was, she says, defending Christmas.” As for bloggers who pounced on her, the NPR reporter said “these folks need a life -- and perhaps a touch of the Christmas spirit, as well.”
Baier noted that “NPR's Nina Totenberg is getting a bah humbug from some for something she said on a Washington political program.” Viewers then saw part of a clip of Totenberg posted by NB:
These agencies, including the Defense Department, don't know how much money they've got and for what. And I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and people actually were really worried about this.
Baier then read from the NB post:
NewsBusters' Brent Baker wrote Totenberg was, quote, “seemingly embarrassed to invoke any religious terminology for Christmas. She didn't say what she'd prefer for parties this time of the year to be named. ‘Winter solstice party'? Just plain old ‘holiday party'? Or a ‘seasonal gathering'?”
“There weren’t a lot of hard questions in this news conference,” FNC’s Bret Baier observed on Special Report in the understatement of the night. Indeed, in the first question posed at the late Wednesday afternoon session, Caren Bohan of Reuters reflected the collective glow of the White House press corp basking in Barack Obama’s glory:
You racked up a lot of wins in the last few weeks that a lot of people thought would be difficult to come by. Are you ready to call yourself the “comeback kid”?
(Katie Couric gushed on the CBS Evening News over how “the President isn’t calling himself the ‘comeback kid,’ but some other folks are.” A pleased George Stephanopoulos teased ABC’s World News by yearning for more Obama success in 2011: “The President takes a victory lap. How the Christmas season became what he called a ‘season of progress.’ Will it continue in the new year?”)
At the 4:15 PM EST press conference carried by the broadcast networks, ABC’s Jake Tapper Tapper offered his “congratulations” on the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell as he hit Obama from the left on whether it “is it intellectually consistent to say that gay and lesbians should be able to fight and die for this country, but they should not be able to marry the people they love?” Audio compilation: (MP3 clip)
“I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party,” NPR reporter Nina Totenberg interjected on Inside Washington in the weekend’s oddest cautionary separation from a common description for a common event, seemingly embarrassed to invoke any religious terminology for Christmas. She didn’t say what she’d prefer for parties this time of the year to be named. “Winter solstice party”? Just plain old “holiday party”? Or a “seasonal gathering”?
Totenberg’s bashfulness came as she explained how the failure of Congress to pass an annual budget has left federal workers in limbo:
Well, these agencies, including the Defense Department, don't know how much money they've got and for what. And I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and people actually were really worried about this.
So, what did Totenberg mean by “forgive the expression”? Watch and judge for yourself. (Audio: MP3 clip)
Nearly 80 percent of the $858 billion “cost” of the compromise tax bill signed Friday by President Barack Obama is, per a Congressional Research Service estimate, from the $675 billion over the next ten years the government would have received if income tax rates were raised, a perspective widely adopted by network reporters and hosts who assumed just keeping rates at their current levels should be counted as a “cost” to the national debt and annual deficits.
“The $858 billion price tag for this bill will be added to the already $14 trillion national debt,” ABC’s Jake Tapper concluded Friday night, “meaning we, our children and our children's children will likely be on the hook for the law that was passed today.”
The Sunday interview shows echoed Tapper’s spin. On CBS’s Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer lamented how the tax bill “is going to just add to the deficit.” David Gregory, interviewing Vice President Biden on Meet the Press, bemoaned how the tax compromise will “add a trillion dollars to the deficit.” Later in the program, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough also exaggerated the $858 billion to $1 trillion as he declared: “It straps us with another trillion dollars worth of debt.”
Searching for an upside to the WikiLeaks release of secret documents, Late Show host David Letterman on Wednesday night pointed to how such disclosures could have possibly prevented the 9/11 attacks since former President George Bush had disregarded “for months and months and months” the warning “that bin Laden and al-Qaeda were interested in hijacking planes and flying them into buildings,” but not even Rachel Maddow, his far-left guest from MSNBC, bought his spin. Letterman contended:
There is the viewpoint if WikiLeaks had been in business prior to the attack of 9/11 and we knew that George Bush had looked at a document suggesting that bin Laden and al-Qaeda were interested in hijacking planes and flying them into buildings – which largely went disregarded for months and months and months until long after the attack. If we had known that, via something like WikiLeaks, we perhaps could have acted a little more alertly.
In fact, the Presidential Daily Brief to which Letterman referred, the one titled “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US,” was presented to Bush on August 6, barely five weeks before 9/11, not “months and months and months” in advance.
At the Reagan Museum and Library in Ventura County, California, former First Lady Nancy Reagan on Monday unveiled a new Ronald Reagan postage stamp which is to be released in February to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth, “The Reagan Centennial.”
Of the broadcast network evening newscasts, only NBC, which has a deal to host a Republican presidential debate through MSNBC at the library, made note of the occasion. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams briefly announced on his December 13 newscast:
Nancy Reagan on hand today at the unveiling of the stamp that will mark the centennial anniversary of her husband's birth. The Ronald Reagan stamp goes on sale February 10th, just days after what would have been the former President's 100th birthday.
Matching the distortion documented in a MRC study posted Tuesday, though under the Obama-congressional GOP compromise income tax rates will remain unchanged for all, fill-in CBS Evening News anchor Jeff Glor introduced a story by characterizing a “battle over tax cuts” and how at a White House news conference President Obama “said agreeing to cuts for high-income earners was the only way to get middle-class cuts.” Except neither group is getting any income tax “cut” and the agreement simply forestalls a hefty tax hike.
Over on ABC, World News anchor Diane Sawyer’s tease presumed “tax cuts” were under consideration when the alternative to the deal to extend them was not a cut but a tax rate increase: “Talking tough. President Obama tackles his Democratic critics and says Republicans held the middle class tax cuts hostage.”
Brian Williams adopted a liberal framework as he opened Monday's NBC Nightly News by declaring “it’s a fair question to ask and for a while now Americans have been wondering how lawmakers in Washington could possibly extend tax breaks for wealthy Americans while allowing benefits for jobless Americans to be cut off.”
Then, after Chuck Todd outlined the Obama-GOP compromise to maintain income taxes at their current rates for two years while extending unemployment benefits and implementing a temporary reduction in the payroll tax, Williams fretted the deal contradicts how “the fight has been over anything in government that isn't paid for,” yet, as Todd despaired in filling in Williams’ regret, “none of this is paid for. In terms of lost revenue for the government next year, it's $450 billion.”
On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Republican Senate whip Jon Kyl kept correcting host Bob Schieffer about how extending tax “rates,” not “cuts,” is what is being debated, leading Schieffer to conceded “I gotcha” and even prompted Schieffer to let Kyl fill in for him the correct term. Schieffer: “Are the votes there now in the Senate, in your opinion, to extend these tax ah-“ Kyl: “Rates.”
Schieffer had asked: “Is the Senate going to get down to business and resolve this whole business of the tax cuts?” Kyl chastised: “Nobody is talking about tax cuts. We're talking about extending the rates that have been in existence for the last decade.” Nonetheless, Schieffer stuck with his terminology: “Why is it so important to Republicans to extend the tax cuts for the upper-income people?”
Democratic Senate whip Dick Durbin matched Schieffer’s framing: “I'm not voting for any permanent tax cut for the people of the highest income categories” and Kyl felt compelled to again correct Schieffer and Durbin: “First of all we're not talking about tax cuts.” Schieffer interjected “I gotcha” as Kyl continued: “We're talking about extending, for another period of time, the rates that have been in existence for the last decade.”