President Barack Obama used effusive praise and gentle humor in an attempt to smooth over his recently strained relationship with members of the “mainstream media” during the 128th annual Gridiron Club Dinner on Saturday evening in Washington, D.C.
“I am grateful for all the journalists who do one of the toughest jobs there is with integrity and insight and dedication -- and a sense of purpose -- that goes beyond a business model or a news cycle,” the Democratic White House occupant told approximately 650 invitation-only members of the press during the function at which TV coverage was not allowed.
President Obama handily defeated congressional Republicans in the political fight over his health care law. But the law will now face a much tougher opponent — the creativity of Americans determined to gain more control over their own health care decisions. The end result will be a system much different than the president hopes for — and his opponents fear.
To understand why, consider how the nation's 50 million 401(k) retirement accounts came into existence. It was not what Congress intended when it passed the Tax Revenue Act of 1978. Congressional summaries of the legislation listed dozens of its "major provisions" without mentioning what would become its most lasting legacy. At the time, even reducing the top tax rate from 48 percent to 46 percent was considered more important.
Editors for CNN's breaking news emails delivered subscribers a 50-word alert on how "[a] state judge invalidated a New York City law banning certain venues from selling sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces."[Update: By contrast, Fox News's email breaking news alert simply reads, "State judge halts New York City's ban on large sugary drinks, calling the ban 'arbitrary and capricious'" | see screen grabs below page break]
But rather than couch the stay on the new regulation as a victory of individual liberty, the editors described the ruling as "a setback for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has backed several laws aimed at improving the health of New Yorkers."
I was flipping channels on Wednesday night when I came across a pledge campaign on D.C. PBS station WHUT (Howard University Television). Travel-show host Rick Steves was doing the usual spiel about how PBS is a “national treasure” that assumes we’re intelligent people.
But then came the usual hustle: Steves said PBS “is a TV station that treats us not like consumers, but like neighbors.” Then for the next five minutes, Steves undermined that by describing all the goodies you could get if you pledged $60 or $160, like DVDs of every travel show Rick Steves has ever made.
"As we talk about history, today marks the 6-year anniversary that Scooter Libby was convicted of lying and obstructing in the leak investigation which led to your cover as a covert CIA operative being blown," MSNBC's Thomas Roberts noted at the close of his March 6 MSNBC Live interview with Valerie Plame. "We're getting word now that he has had his voting rights restored," the MSNBC anchor added. "How do you feel, as you look back, hindsight being 20/20, about what that moment in time did to your life, where you are today?"
Plame answered that she and her husband Joe Wilson "worked really hard to rebuild our lives" and that they "wish that there had been further repercussions," because, "The whole episode is just a small example of a larger pattern of behavior that we saw under the Bush administration." But alas, speaking of history, this short exchange was a bit misleading for viewers as it was Colin Powell confidante Richard Armitage who had leaked Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak, albeit inadvertently. From CNN.com on September 8, 2006:
As the viewers of America continue to tune out his program in droves, CNN host Piers Morgan can at least take solace from the knowing that fellow anti-gun zealot Dianne Feinstein thinks he's a swell guy for being so shamelessly biased.
Honestly, though, that's not much of a consolation considering that the very edition of Morgan's show on which Feinstein gave him the compliment turned out being one of Morgan's lowest-rated episodes ever, drawing only 87,000 viewers in the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic that advertisers crave.
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.
An article in Monday’s U.S. News & World Report by Ken Walsh, a veteran journalist who covered five presidencies, notes a growing “unhealthy antagonism … between the West Wing and the mainstream media.” If the assessment is accurate, it could mean that the press, after four years of mindless obeisance to this administration, is finally ready to provide frank coverage, warts and all.
The sea change, if one is in the cards, started with the now-infamous brouhaha involving another old hand, Bob Woodward, and White House economic adviser Gene Sperling. Since Woodward publicly asserted that he was threatened by the administration, a number of White House correspondents have come forward to affirm that the press has long been expected to show deference and go with the administration-provided narrative or keep quiet.
"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:
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):
David Axelrod has written Gene Sperling off as a political lightweight lacking the tonnage to have intimidated Bob Woodward in their dust-up over the sequester.
Appearing on today's Morning Joe, Axelrod sarcastically asked "what is Gene Sperling going to do to Bob Woodward? Bob Woodward, who faced down H.R. Haldeman as a young man, feels intimidated by Gene Sperling?" You really have to hear the sneer in Axelrod's voice as he pronounces the name "Gene Sperling" to appreciate just how far under the bus Axelrod was willing to throw a fellow member of Team Obama. View the video after the jump.
How do you go from being a gutsy hero of the MSM to a wuss in one minute? Take on a Democrat president instead of a Republican. Using her most sarcastic scared-little-child voice, on today's Morning Joe Mika Brzezinski mocked Bob Woodward for saying the White House threatened him over his reporting on the sequester.
Mocked Mika: "is he really afraid of a little aide who said that to him? Really?" View the video after the jump.
The Morning Joe panel was tough today on the Obama White House for threatening Bob Woodward by telling him he would "regret" his reporting that it was the Obama administration that had devised the sequester, In the course of the opening segment, various panel members described the Obama White House response as "mickey mouse," "pathetic" and "childish."
But at the same time, a theme emerged that there was nothing unusual about a White House trying to intimidate reporters. Mark Halperin said "the Bush White House regularly would engage in the same kind of tactics." And Joe Scarborough and Andrea Mitchell shared stories of having been threatened by the Bush and Reagan White Houses, respectively. Andrea named names. Scarborough did not. H/t readers Ray R. and cobokat. View the video after the jump.
Senior Editorial Writer of the Washington Examiner Sean Higgins published an informative column Tuesday night giving some background for a case that appeared before the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning. Shelby County, Ala. v. Eric Holder has liberals in a panic apparently, because of its challenge to a key portion of the Voting Rights Act that requires many states and some counties to get "pre-clearance" for voting law changes by a federal court. Curiously enough, major media outlets have neglected to mention the context and true history behind the law in question.
Ironically, the Voting Rights Act has completely changed the political landscape of the South ever since it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965, and in ways that have poorly served African-American voters specifically and the Democratic Party generally. Higgins explained:
President Obama told a meeting of the National Governors Association: "At some point, we've got to do some governing. And certainly, what we can't do is keep careening from manufactured crisis to manufactured crisis." Really?
Yes, really. He added, referring to the sequestration: "These cuts do not have to happen. Congress can turn them off anytime with just a little bit of compromise."
On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell stayed true to form in conducting a tag team-style, confrontational interview of a conservative/Republican, this time House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The anchors pressed Rep. Rodgers about a recent Pew Research/Washington Post poll that, in their words, indicates "the public is going to blame Republicans" for the sequester.
At one point in the segment, Rose wouldn't let the Washington representative complete an answer, interrupting her twice in the course of just 20 seconds. On the second occasion, he raised the poll, which found that 45 percent point the finger at congressional Republicans for the impending across-the-board spending cuts:
Despite these inconvenient truths, however, MSNBC's Toure believes that voter ID laws are, you guessed it, a racially-charged conspiracy by conservative Republicans, particularly in the South, to disenfranchise blacks. Toure laid out his case in a closing commentary on the Monday, February 25 edition of MSNBC's The Cycle. The transcript of Toure's closing commentary follows:
Call her MoveOn.Mika . . . Bob Woodward has demonstrated that President Obama was not telling the truth during the third presidential debate when he flatly stated that "the sequester is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed.” In fact, it was two Obama aides who devised the plan, and Obama himself who approved it.
But when Joe Scarborough wanted to get those facts on the record this morning, Mika Brzezinski repeatedly declared that discussing Obama's failure to tell the truth was "silly." Things got heated between the co-hosts at one point as Mika cut Joe off, saying "I need to talk." And trying to end the uncomfortable discussion, Mika actually announced "I'm moving on." View the video after the jump.
"They're dumb and they're lazy, they're also dishonest." That's how NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell assessed the liberal media's parroting of President Obama's sky-is-falling predictions regarding the pending federal sequester, which, of course, the media are largely failing to remind folks was the president's idea.
The $85 billion in cuts amounts to a mere "two percent of the budget," Bozell noted, but in reality, "it's more like $22 billion," in discretionary cuts, which is about 0.25 percent of the budget. "This is just typical fearmongering" from the left, the Media Research Center founder told the audience of the February 22 Hannity. Also discussed on Friday's "Media Mash" was MSNBC's Chuck Todd dismissing the "mythology of the liberal media." [video follows page break]
As press secretary to President Obama, Robert Gibbs was often in the obfuscation business. Now that he's been freed from that role and become a news analyst—albeit at MSNBC—Gibbs has become considerably more candid. Readers will recall, for example, that he described Chuck Hagel as "unimpressive and unprepared" at his Senate confirmation hearing.
Today, Gibbs took that frankness a significant step further. On Up With Chris Hayes, Gibbs stated that as press secretary, he had been ordered not to acknowledge the existence of the drone program. View the video after the jump.
In response to Politico’s “Puppet Master” take on Obama and his stiff-arming of the White House press corps, former White House reporter Matthew Cooper penned a piece for The Atlantic titled “Is Obama Too Mean to the Media, or Are Reporters Just Whiny? It’s mostly the latter.”
Cooper quoted from the Politico piece, that “Obama is a master at limiting, shaping and manipulating media coverage of himself and his White House.” He asked: “Is this an affront to the First Amendment or whining? I lean towards the latter.” But wait, there's more:
The media don't care about the fact the the sequester was President Obama's idea in the first place, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell noted on the February 20 edition of CNBC's Kudlow Report. What's more, the media certainly don't care that the sequester will impose a mere two percent reduction in federal spending, hardly a "meat cleaver" approach to reducing spending.
The media are "beyond redemption" on the issue, so it's up to the Republican Party to directly make their case to the American people, the Media Research Center founder insisted during a panel segment with liberal economist Jared Bernstein and conservative former New York congresswoman Nan Hayworth (R). "What the Republican Party should be saying to Mr. and Mrs. America is this is an out-of-control government and they can't even cut two percent without claiming that the world is going to come to an end.... This should be a no-brainer." [To watch the full segment, click play on the video embedded below the page break]
I am indebted to Amity Shlaes for gently correcting a joke of mine that dates back to July 8, 1972. On that date in the New York Times, I joshed that President Calvin Coolidge "probably spent more time napping than any president in the nation's history" and therefore was a successful president. My joke was a play on an earlier joke by H. L. Mencken, and now Shlaes has corrected both of us. She has written a very impressive biography titled simply "Coolidge," wherein she never mentions Cal's naps but rather what made him the most successful president of the 1920s. He reversed the economic insolvency of President Woodrow Wilson, and set the economy on the road to growth, a road made rocky by Cal's successor, President Herbert Hoover, and rockier still by Hoover's successor, Franklin Roosevelt.
Though one would not know it today, Coolidge was the most successful president of the 1920s. Vice President Coolidge came to the presidency on the death of President Warren G. Harding in August 1923 and won the presidency outright in 1924 with 54 percent of the vote over the Democrat, John W. Davis, who had 28.8 percent of the vote, and the Progressive, Robert M. La Follette, who won just 16.6 percent of the vote. Moreover, Coolidge had won every race he ever contested from his first run for city councilman in 1898 to the governorship of Massachusetts in 1918, usually by astoundingly large margins. His combination of civility, effectiveness, standing by the law and, as president, tax cuts, budget balancing, and growth, was wildly popular with American voters, as was his singular asset, taciturnity.
In a February 20 column which lamented as a tragedy the mess that former Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.) got himself into by improperly using campaign resources for extravagant personal expenses, Washington Post personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary scolded her readers to "think about the mess you might have made of your finances or the financial follies of people you know" before "pass[ing] judgment on the Jacksons."
In a column in which she never mentioned Jackson's party affiliation, Singletary suggested that the Illinois Democrat procured luxury items including a $43,350-gold-plated Rolex watch because he and his wife Sandi were "eager to impress their more wealthy colleagues or the people who run with them in their circle of power and privilege," but she added that it was "[n]ot an excuse, just an observation."
Twenty minutes into her February 20 Jansing & Co. program, MSNBC anchor Chris Jansing noted that former Illinois Democrat Jesse Jackson was entering a federal courtroom later that hour to plead guilty to campaign finance violations. Only Jansing left out the part about Jackson being a Democrat.
What's more, while Jansing noted that Jackson's wife Sandi was answering charges of filing false tax returns, she failed to note that Sandi Jackson, also a Democrat, resigned her seat as Chicago city alderman in January.
Ten years ago, then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) held together a Democratic filibuster of President Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Tom Curry of NBCNews.com notes that Republicans tried to end debate and proceed to an up-or-down vote seven times before eventually giving up. Frustrated with Daschle's obstructionism, President Bush called for filibuster reform, which Daschle dismissed out of hand, insisting,"The Senate is always going to be the Senate."
Fast forward to February 19, 2013. Appearing on MSNBC's The Cycle in part to promote his new book about the U.S. Senate, co-host Krystal Ball dutifully read back to Daschle a line from his new tome about the filibuster being abused. At no point, however, did Ball or anyone else on the panel, including token conservative S.E. Cupp, point out the Center for American Progress fellow’s hypocrisy.
For all the whining that the White House press corps has been doing of late about its inability to "cover" the president while he was on yet another vacation, you might think that these long-suffering reporters could come up with a real question once they did get a chance to talk to him.
And they certainly would, if the president were a Republican. But since he's the leftist Democrat that almost all of them worship, no one was feeling up to committing some actual journalism once President Obama returned to the White House last night. Instead, they decided, in unison, to ask about whether or not he was able to defeat golf star Tiger Woods when the two hit the links in Hawaii:
Chuck Todd can't imagine what could ever have given conservative politicians the idea that the MSM is unfriendly to them. C'mon Chuck: we know you're a NewsBusters reader. Every day here, we document the liberal media's hostility to conservatives.
On today's Morning Joe, NBC political director Todd repeatedly spoke of a supposed "mythology" among conservative politicians and their staffs that the "big, bad non-conservative media" is "out to get conservatives." That in turn explains why, according to Todd, conservative officials are reluctant to appear on non-Fox shows. View the video after the jump.