Barack Obama’s strategy going into the scheduled sequestration was to hit the panic button, over and over again, putting the very Obama-friendly media into a heavy rotation of disaster metaphors.
“Hours, now, until massive government cuts go into effect that could impact every American. Jobs vaporizing, flights delayed, even criminals walking free,” warned ABC morning anchor Josh Elliott. On screen were the words “BUDGET ARMAGEDDON.”
Liberal PBS host Tavis Smiley recently became the latest media member to refer to the $85 billion sequester as “austerity.” On his self-titled show Tuesday night, the taxpayer-subsidized Smiley got all frowny while discussing the American economy with former FDIC chairwoman Sheila Bair:
"Since you raised the issue, let me ask how it is, in your mind at least, the notion of austerity, and whatever people in Washington don’t want to call it, that’s exactly what this is. Sequestration’s a big, fancy word. This is austerity masking as a conversation about deficit reduction as far as I’m concerned." [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
President Obama's sequester-related press briefing on March 1 contained the usual fibs. Examples include but are certainly not limited to the following: "We've already cut $2.5 trillion in our deficit," when the entire amount involved is something which might happen in the future; his claim that his State of the Union laundry list "is the agenda that the American people voted for," when many of the items involved were never mentioned during the 2012 campaign; and that the sequester is "happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made," despite the fact that his advisers with his personal approval originated the idea in 2011 and the reality that he was under no compulsion when he signed the bill setting it in place last week.
Since then, while the establishment press has largely ignored it, the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler has twice honed in on a relatively small but clearly refutable statement Obama uttered that day: "Starting tomorrow, everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol ... they're going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they've got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real." No it's not.
Are bitter conservatives "clinging" to spending cuts? That's the tone of New York Times political editor Richard Stevenson's front-page "Political Memo" Monday, "G.O.P. Clings to One Thing It Agrees On: Spending Cuts," which contained a whopping 13 "conservative" labels (and a couple of "liberals" as well).
Conservative governors are signing on to provisions of what they once derisively dismissed as Obamacare. Prominent Senate Republicans are taking positions on immigration that would have gotten the party’s presidential candidates hooted off the debate stage during last year’s primaries.
In an interview with left-wing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie used dire language to describe the current budget sequester: "It was supposed to be something that forced both sides to the table, mutually assured destruction. Cuts that were so bad they would never go into effect. Here we are in the sequester era. How does this end?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Maddow responded by turning up the hype even further: "In Prohibition, the government came up with the brilliant idea that to stop people from drinking, they would put poison in industrial alcohol....what they did was poison a lot of people. This [sequester] is the same kind of thing." Guthrie seized on the comparison: "And part of the effect though is this poison, to borrow your metaphor, it's not a poison that kills you overnight. Apparently it's a slow, rolling poison."
As NewsBusters reported earlier, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough had quite a heated discussion about the budget, debt, and the economy on PBS's Charlie Rose Monday evening.
Near its conclusion, Scarborough actually scolded Krugman for pompously behaving like a sighing Al Gore (video follows with transcript and commentary):
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough had an at times heated discussion about budget deficits, debt, and the economy on PBS's Charlie Rose Monday evening.
At one point Krugman got so rattled by the facts that he actually said Scarborough quoting what he had said in the past was making an ad hominem attack against him (video follows with transcript and commentary):
According to the first paragraph of Alicia's Caldwell's report today at the Associated Press, aka the Adminstration's Press, Homeland Security Secretary Janey Napolitano told attendees at a Politico breakfast this morning (Politico's coverage is here) that, in Caldwell's words, "U.S. airports, including Los Angeles International and O'Hare International in Chicago, are already experiencing delays as a result of automatic federal spending cuts." Additionally, again in Caldwell's words, "she expects a cascading effect during the week, with wait times expected to double in worst cases."
Well, either someone forgot to tell airport spokesperson and the travel industry to fall in line, or said officials are refusing, according to follow-up stories at the Politico and the UK Telegraph. Notably, the AP had no such follow-up story at its national site as of 10 p.m. ET tonight, but did have a story by Pauline Jelinek ("HOW BUDGET CUTS COULD AFFECT YOU") published at the about the same time as the two follow-ups just noted dutifully echoing Napolitano's talking points. Excerpts from both follow-up stories are after the jump.
CNN's Dana Bash fact-checked President Obama's falsehood about the sequester on Friday, but the major networks didn't exactly follow CNN's lead in reporting the distortion that Capitol Hill janitors and police would receive a pay cut because of the sequester.
In his Friday press conference, Obama claimed, "They're going to have less pay, the [Capitol Hill] janitors, the security guards. They just got a pay cut." Shortly after that, CNN's Bash obtained from the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms that the workers would not receive a pay cut, just a limit on overtime pay. NBC ignored the distortion on its weekend newscasts, while CBS and ABC reported it one time each.
I have long contended that public policy issues are as complicated as they appear because the giants of Capitol Hill like it that way, particularly the giants of the left. Bills can be written more simply. Decisions can be phrased with a certain lucidity. Yet, if they were, the electorate would mull them over and, after a cup of coffee, make a decision on them. As things stand today, with talk of budget imbalance and of esoteric matters such as "sequestration," voters scratch their heads, blink their eyes and walk away. Who gives a hoot? It is time for my morning nap, perhaps, two naps.
This is another anti-democratic way that Washington politicians have bootlegged our legislative process. Make policy so confusing to normal people that they will take little or no interest in it. It is all a game reserved exclusively for the political class. Al Gore in his new book, prosaically titled "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change," bangs on about the power of lobbyists and giant corporations in shaping legislation — do you know anyone who sits on more corporate boards than Gore? Has he considered the unwieldy nature of the legislation in the first place? Debt piled atop debt that even Warren Buffett cannot conceptualize. Sequestration, indeed — why not segregation or constipation? It is a geek to me.
The perils and victims of the round of the mandatory federal spending cuts known as sequestration led the New York Times' weekend coverage, with the 2.4% cut in annual federal spending that went into effect starting Friday labeled "austerity" and ushered in with headlines warning that "Poor May Be Hit Particularly Hard." Also: those who still approve of Congress tend to be "Obama haters," according to a news story.
"The Obama administration couldn’t have made its cheerleaders at ABC, CBS, and NBC look any more foolish," NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell noted earlier today in reaction to a new study by the Media Research Center's (MRC) Geoff Dickens showing that 66 percent of the broadcast network news coverage of the budget sequestration that took effect on Friday advanced Obama White House talking points but failed to include any rebuttals from skeptics.
"Thanks to the bogus sequestration panic pushed by the administration and the liberal media, the American people recognize that the networks are nothing more than an adjunct of the Obama White House press office," the MRC founder added in a March 4 statement. “Like squawking parrots, ABC, CBS, and NBC mindlessly repeated the administration’s phony, over-hyped doomsday talking points during the two weeks leading up to sequestration. That a full two thirds of their stories didn’t include a shred of skepticism is an abomination." Below are just some of the most outlandish claims made on the networks:
**UPDATE** Earlier version of blog incorrectly stated that Ron Fournier had deleted tweets in question when in fact they are still on his account.
It appears as though the days of civility and integrity in journalism are long gone. On March 1, National Journal’s Ron Fournier, formerly the Washington bureau chief at the Associated Press, took to Twitter to express his dissatisfaction with government sequestration, suggesting that President Obama:
Can handle Bin laden, not Boehner? He may be POTUS, but Obama incapable of “a Jedi mind meld.”
Fournier continued his violent rhetoric in a follow-up tweet, suggesting that, “Bin Laden didn’t compromise. Handled him pretty well.”
What's the point of the Washington Post retaining a conservative blogger when the paper's editors will opt to highlight her posts critiquing other conservatives rather than printing ones critical of the president and his lapdog lackeys in the press? Once again the Washington Post's op-ed page editors chose to excerpt a Jennifer Rubin blog post critical of conservatives rather than one tough on Barack Obama and the liberal media.
In her 8-paragraph March 4 item headlined "Talking truth to CPAC" -- condensed from a 14-paragraph blog post by the same title published online on March 3-- Rubin criticized the conservative gathering as "creatures of the 1980s, when our problems, our country and the world were different." "Younger conservatives have to take the movement into their own hands, refurbish it, revitalize it, cast off what is not relevant and persuade others to join the movement," if American political conservatism is to survive, Rubin concluded. Yet an hour earlier on Sunday, Rubin had published to the Post website a 15-paragraph item headlined, "Will anyone police this White House?" wherein the conservative blogger argued that (emphasis mine):
CNN's Howard Kurtz mocked the media – including his own network – on Sunday's Reliable Sources for uncritically channeling government hysteria over the sequester cuts.
"[I]f the press had put in, let's say, 10 percent of the effort that was devoted to investigating, I don't know, Beyonce's lip syncing into the actual measurable effects of these budget cuts, I think we would have seen a somewhat different picture," quipped Kurtz. [Video below. Audio here.]
In an interview with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on Monday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer couldn't understand why the American people didn't buy into the White House and media hype about how devastating the budget sequester would be: "The cuts went into effect Friday night, although they roll out over a long period of time. And yet, I'm surprised there hasn't been more outrage on the part of the general public." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Lauer offered possible explanations: "Do you think that's because people are simply numb to this by now, the dysfunction of Washington, or do you think there's a little case of crying wolf here and they don't believe how severe the impact's going to be?" Bush replied: "Well, there was a lot of crying wolf." Lauer quickly tried to spread the blame to Republicans: "On both sides?" Bush promptly dismissed that notion: "No. I think the President kind of led the charge to say that widows and orphans were going to be out on the street."
“Deadline day. Hours, now, until massive government cuts go into effect that could impact every American. Jobs vaporizing. Flights delayed. Even criminals walking free.” That’s the call to panic with which ABC’s Josh Elliot greeted viewers on the March 1 Good Morning America. Elliot’s frenzied tone, on the day sequestration was going into effect, was typical of the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) network coverage of Washington’s most recent fiscal debate.
MRC analysts reviewed all of the 88 sequestration stories, from when coverage began on February 14 through March 1 when the “cuts” took effect, and found 58 (66 percent) of them advanced the most horrific Obama administration talking points. Another 10 offered the same scary forecasts but at least included the skeptical view that the sequestration reductions weren’t that big and their effects were being overhyped. (Videos after the jump)
For conservatives, it's been truly delicious the past few weeks watching previously devote Obamaites break ranks with their colleagues to finally tell the world that the emperor has no clothes.
A fine example Monday was the perilously liberal economist and media darling Jeffrey Sachs who published an article at the Huffington Post with the headline "How Obama's Politics Led to Sequestration":
On Thursday, the government reported that the economy didn't contract by a tiny annualized 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 as originally reported. Instead, the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by an equally tiny 0.1 percent. Expectations had been that the revision would go positive by an annualized 0.5 percent.
According to Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, "the only impediment" to the economy resuming annualized growth of 2 percent or so (which is actually unimpressive in historical context) "may be the across-the-board government spending cuts that kick in Friday - especially if those cuts remain in place for months." In Crutsinger's world, the payroll tax increase which kicked in on January 1, gas prices which have risen nationally to about $3.70 per gallon from $3.25 in the past 45 days, and troubling January and early-February sales results at Wal-Mart don't matter. There's also an obvious problem seen in his third and fourth paragraphs (bolds are mine):
Chris Matthews asked a question Sunday that should truly offend people on both sides of the aisle.
During the syndicated program bearing his name, Matthews asked his panel, "Has President Obama put himself at political risk if the big cuts do not wreak havoc?" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Did you know that the mortgage interest deduction was a major contributor to families' distressed circumstances leading to the housing bubble? Or that George W. Bush's (really modest) tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, not the Internet bubble of the late-1990s led the nation from fiscal surplus to deficits?
The reason you don't "know" these things is that they're not true. But the Associated Press's Tom Raum thinks they are, and said so as if they are indisputable facts in an AP analysis piece (or at least I hope it was meant to be that) yesterday. In over 850 words, he also failed to note, while barely acknowleding their existence, that Republicans in the House already acquiesced to $620 billion in tax increases in return for a "whopping" $15 billion in spending cuts during the fiscal cliff deal at the end of last year. Excerpts from Raum's risible writeup follow the jump.
“Do you all feel that your party is somehow being held hostage?” Bob Schieffer asked Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, presumably referring to those opposed to raising taxes. Touting President Obama as the reasonable one who “has talked about kind of a ‘common sense caucus,’” within the same long-winded question on Face the Nation, Schieffer repeated his accusation: “Are people on the extreme ends of your party holding the rest of you hostage here?”
Not ten minutes later, however, with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, Schieffer not only failed to characterize Obama as an obstinate extremist for demanding another tax hike two months after Republicans acceded to one, but he suddenly decided: “I think we are beyond arguing about who’s fault it is on how we got here.”
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) this week made another in a series of absurd comments actually claiming that 170 million people would lose their jobs if the budget sequester was enacted.
NBC Tonight Show host Jay Leno actually began his show with Waters’ claim Friday saying that it explains "why we’re in this situation in the first place" (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary):
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer on Friday perfectly encapsulated the hysteria the White House is trying to gin up regarding budget sequestration.
Appearing on PBS's Inside Washington, Krauthammer spoke of Biblical plagues that re-appeared Friday telling host Gordon Peterson, "We have sequestered against the Lord, Gordo, and his wrath is great" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
On CNN’s Situation Room today, anchor Wolf Blitzer spoke of the 1995-1996 Federal government shutdown:
BLITZER: Yes, I would be shocked if there were a government shutdown. The Republicans lived through that back in the '90s and it didn't exactly work out well for them. I would be shocked if they went down that road and the president went down that road right now. I'm sure they will work that out.
So how bad was the political fallout for Republicans? That year the GOP nominated the uninspiring Sen. Bob Dole as their presidential nominee. Despite such a lackluster top of the ticket, House losses were only in the single digits. As former Speaker Newt Gingrich has noted “it was the first time in 68 years that Republicans were reelected to a House majority - and the first time that had ever happened with a Democrat winning the presidency.” On the Senate side, the GOP picked up two seats.