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By Clay Waters | April 11, 2011 | 2:40 PM EDT

New York Times budget reporter Jackie Calmes’s lead story Monday showcased Obama as (finally) coming off the sidelines to engage in the debate over the future of U.S. finances with a Wednesday speech: “Obama To Call For Broad Plan To Rescue Debt – A Challenge To G.O.P. – Proposal Said to Include Some Tax Increases and Military Cuts.”

Examine Calmes’s word choice: While she portrays Republican plans as involving a “shrinking of Medicare and Medicaid,” Obama “envisions a more comprehensive plan” that includes finding “savings in Medicare and Medicaid,” as if Obama was making a painless offer. Which phrase is more palatable to undecided voters nervous over the impact of budget cuts?

By Ken Shepherd | April 11, 2011 | 2:31 PM EDT

If Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite actually believed in Hell, she'd probably preach that Tea Partiers were headed there unless they repented and backed higher taxes and more government spending.

The liberal seminary professor and Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" contributor last Wednesday lashed out at the "fundamentalism" of Tea Party calls for fiscal restraint, insisting that conservative takes on the federal budget were un-Christian, "tribal" and racist in nature:

By Clay Waters | April 11, 2011 | 1:37 PM EDT

Obama the centrist? That’s the takeaway from New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny’s Sunday “news analysis,” “President Adopts a Measured Course to Recapture the Middle.” The original online headline was even more misleading: “President Obama Adopts Centrist Approach.”

President Obama opened the week by calling on Democrats to embrace his re-election campaign. He closed it by praising Republicans for forging a compromise to cut spending this year and avert a government shutdown.

The juxtaposition made clearer than ever the more centrist governing style Mr. Obama has adopted since his party’s big losses in November and his recapture-the-middle strategy for winning a second term.

Actually, Zeleny has considered Obama centrist, or at least a “pragmatist,” from his first year in office, well before the 2010 election. Here's Zeleny on Obama the pragmatist in December 2009: “He delivered a mix of realism and idealism....he continued a pattern evident throughout his public career of favoring pragmatism over absolutes.”

By Kyle Drennen | April 11, 2011 | 12:50 PM EDT

Appearing on Monday's "Today" to discuss the debate over reducing the nation's debt, CNBC host Erin Burnett declared to co-host Matt Lauer: "The problem is our revenue, what the government takes in, in taxes. What you pay every month out of your paycheck is way smaller, in fact, it's only somewhere around $2 trillion a year."

After Lauer asked about the relationship between government spending and the debt, Burnett acknowledged: "They are related, but really, to tackle this issue, we do have to tackle entitlements. When you look at Medicare and Social Security, it's 40% of our budget." However, she quickly denounced Republican attempts to use a raise in the debt ceiling to cut such spending: "Those are the questions we have to answer, but not through playing chicken on the debt ceiling."

By Scott Whitlock | April 11, 2011 | 12:49 PM EDT

Both NBC and CBS on Monday highlighted footage of Barack Obama at the Lincoln memorial on Saturday as they portrayed a President ready to cut the deficit. In the wake of an averted government shutdown, NBC's Chuck Todd on Today enthused, "Barely pausing to consider the $38.5 billion in budget cuts he and congressional leaders had just agreed to...Mr. Obama is already looking forward" with plans to lower the debt.

Today then featured footage of the President at the Lincoln Memorial from the weekend. On CBS's Early Show, Nancy Cordes narrated, "The President bounded up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial this weekend, trying to put the best face possible on a spending deal he had admitted was not to his liking."       

By Clay Waters | April 11, 2011 | 12:17 PM EDT

Republican “Dweebs”? So much for the new tone. Jonathan Chait, a sarcastic and partisan writer (and admitted Bush-hater) for the liberal New Republic magazine, has the first story in the latest edition of the New York Times’s Sunday magazine: “The G.O.P.’s Dukakis Problem -- Why Republicans will nominate a dweeb to run against Obama in 2012.”

Coming from a writer for a magazine that pitches itself as liberalism for grownups, Chait’s argument is surprisingly unsophisticated and conspiratorial. Yet it was apparently pleasing enough to lead off this Sunday's edition of the newly revamped Times magazine.

The Republican Party’s presidential-nominating process has always been run by elites. Oh, the voters have their brief moments of triumph, hoisting up an unelectable right-winger (i.e., Pat Buchanan) or an uncontrollable moderate (John McCain, the circa-2000 version). But the establishment always wins. Meeting in their K Street offices and communicating through organs like George Will’s column and National Review, the main financers and organizers settle upon a useful frontman, a reliable vessel for the party’s agenda who -- and this is the crucial part -- is blessed with the requisite political talent. Democrats have been known to mess that last part up and nominate a dweeb, but Republicans have generally understood that an agenda tilted toward the desires of the powerful requires a skilled frontman who can pitch Middle America. Favorite character types include jocks, movie stars, folksy Texans and war heroes.

By Clay Waters | April 11, 2011 | 11:38 AM EDT

In New York Times-land, only Republicans can be ideologically motivated politicians. Michael Shear, chief writer for the paper’s political blog “The Caucus,” showed stark labeling disparity in two separate stories on the budget compromise averting a government shutdown, one focused on Democrats, the other on Republicans.

His Saturday morning post focused on Democratic disappointment about the budget deal: “Some Democrats Complain About Budget Compromise.” Yet of the six Democrats quoted (including President Obama) only one was ideologically labeled: “Representative George Miller of California, a veteran liberal member of Congress.” Neither labor secretary Robert Reich and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were called liberal.

In contrast, Shear’s pre-agreement Friday afternoon post, “Conservatives Urge Boehner to Cut a Budget Deal and Move On,” was full of ideological labels. Of the five Republicans Shear quoted, three were called “conservative” and two were called moderate, and the story opened with overuse of the C-word.

For days, the assumption has been that Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio was dug into his hardened position on behalf of the conservatives in his House caucus and from socially conservative voices in the Republican Party.

By Matt Hadro | April 11, 2011 | 11:33 AM EDT

Emphasizing that all but one of the top 30 income earners in the United States are white males, Mika Brzezinski clamored that it is time for the wealthy to pay their fair share and help solve the budget crisis on Monday's "Morning Joe."

Co-host Joe Scarborough and liberal New York Times columnist Charles Blow were in the midst of a debate about cutting entitlement spending when Mika chimed in. After Scarborough argued that making cuts to middle-class entitlements is necessary for the country's fiscal health, Brzezinski quipped that the rich should be contributing more to solve the budget deficit.

By Ken Shepherd | April 11, 2011 | 11:02 AM EDT

On Friday afternoon, Time magazine religion reporter Amy Sullivan briefly blogged her complaint about what she sees as hypocrisy from conservatives who oppose federal monies for Planned Parenthood but support federal support for faith-based initiatives.

"Money is Fungible," blared her April 8 Swampland headline. Well, "[o]bviously," she agreed, then carped that:

By Matthew Philbin | April 11, 2011 | 10:55 AM EDT

MSNBC’s new slogan may be “Lean Forward,” but the brazenly left-wing cable network does a lot of looking back – to the 1860s.

April 12, 2011, will mark the 150th anniversary of the bombardment of Ft. Sumter in South Carolina – the beginning of the American Civil War. As Americans observe this milestone, they’ll hear a lot of words they only vaguely remember from U.S. History class – terms like “secession,” “states rights,” “nullification,” “contraband,” or “Dred Scott.”

Not MSNBC viewers. To them the language of the Civil War is remarkably familiar, since the network’s liberal hosts and guests never miss an opportunity to associate today’s conservative movement with the Confederacy, secession, slavery and racism.

By Tim Graham | April 11, 2011 | 10:32 AM EDT

The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that one Chicago public school -- the Little Village Academy -- has banned bag protect the kids from their own "unhealthful" food choices:

Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.

"Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school," Carmona said. "It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception."

By Noel Sheppard | April 11, 2011 | 10:31 AM EDT

On the same day a new poll found only 37 percent of liberals strongly approve of Barack Obama's performance as president, the New York Times's Paul Krugman bashed America's chief executive for being missing in action.

"What have they done with President Obama?" asked the Nobel Laureate. "Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular":

By NB Staff | April 11, 2011 | 9:29 AM EDT

Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, both of Politico, wrote Sunday that Speaker John Boehner's line to his conservative critics should be: "You are winning, and winning decisively. So stop your whining." While the victors of some specific political battles of late may be in dispute, they write, "the broader trajectory of politics, stretching back to the spring of 2009, is not. The Republican — and, yes, the tea party — agenda is not only ascendant, it’s driving the debate over reshaping government at every level." Check out a larger experpt below the break, and give us your thoughts in the comments.

By Brent Baker | April 11, 2011 | 9:15 AM EDT

A round-up from over the weekend of journalists denouncing Republican Congressman Paul Ryan for not including a big tax hike in his deficit-reduction plan and discrediting the Tea Party’s pressure on House Speaker John Boehner as a “far right” impediment to good government.

“He doesn't deal with the revenue side at all,” despaired Newsweek veteran Evan Thomas on Inside Washington, arguing: “We cannot survive on 18, his goal is to do 18 percent of GDP as revenue. That's not enough. We're going to have to raise some taxes...”

On HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday night, Katty Kay, anchor of BBC’s World News America, echoed, “He does nothing on the revenue side,” fretting: “There is this allergy, amongst Republicans, about saying ‘you know what, we actually do have to deal with taxes too.’”

Juan Williams charged “the rich get off like scoundrels,” complaining on Fox News Sunday that Ryan is “not doing anything in terms of raising taxes.” Williams also worried: “John Boehner now has the Tea Party wrapped around his neck like an albatross.”

By Brad Wilmouth | April 11, 2011 | 8:17 AM EDT

 Appearing on Sunday’s Good Morning America on ABC, This Week host Christiane Amanpour suggested that Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s perceived victory in recent budget negotiations with President Obama could be harmful in the long run as it will "give Republicans a lot more wind in their sail" and make it more difficult for both sides to compromise on the larger portions of the budget.

Co-anchor Bianna Golodryga set up the line of thinking as she posed the question: "Since both sides avoided the backlash that would have come with the government shut down that could have potentially taught them a lesson, is there risk that they'll overplay their hand on obviously this much more controversial debate over the debt limit now heightened?"

Amanpour passed on the view by some that the recent budget deal would hinder the negotiation of future agreements: "And some people are saying that with the victory, because many people are saying that this government shutdown deal was a victory for, by and large, Speaker Boehner, that that might give the Republicans a lot more wind in their sail at a time when analysts say that it really needs bipartisan work to get some of these huge, big issues sorted out."