In a move which appears conveniently timed to coincide with a wave of other arguably more damaging bad news for the administration, the Associated Press has reported that the Department of Justice informed the wire service on Friday that it had secretly obtained two months of reporters' and editors' telephone records.
In the words of AP's Mark Sherman, in coverage late this afternoon, "the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012." Sherman also notes that "more than 100 journalists work in the offices where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about government and other matters," and that those records "were presumably obtained from phone companies earlier this year" (i.e., after Obama was safely re-elected). More from Sherman's report, a comment from yours truly, and several comments by others who have read AP's coverage follow the jump (bolds are mine):
This afternoon The Hill's Alexander Bolton and Jonathan Easley opened their story "Reid guts Senate gun control bill," with the Nevada Democrat's admission that Sen. Dianne Feinstein's assault weapons ban has at most 40 votes, while 51 are needed for passage and 60 to end cloture. Democrats, you may recall, control 55 seats in the upper chamber of Congress, including the two held by left-leaning independents. This admission shows just how unwilling red-state Democrats are to sign on to an assault weapons ban, especially one that most certainly go down in flames in the Republican-controlled House.
But in reporting the same development, the AP's Alan Fram waited until the fifth paragraph to get to the cold, hard truth that Senate Democrats are gun-shy on pushing a new weapons ban:
For an ineffectual class warfare ploy to "work" politically, its ineffectuality must stay hidden to most. The Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, is doing its part to keep the utter immateriality of President Obama's Buffett Rule designed to go after certain high-income taxpayers hidden.
In the five relevant articles found in a search on the Omaha billionaire's last name at the wire service's national site at 10:30 a.m. ET, only one (the latest) mentions that it might raise $47 billion over 10 years, i.e., the paltry $5 billion per year cited at media outlets ranging from CNNMoney.com to Rush Limbaugh that the rule might raise. Beyond that, if the rule is couple with permanent Alternative Minimum Tax repeal, as is being proposed (HT American Thinker) by Congressional Democrats, the federal treasury will be out hundreds of billions of dollars. None of the AP reports mentions that. Brief excerpts from the five examples follow.
Early each month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issues its "Monthly Budget Review." Its purpose is to estimate and comment on the federal government's budget results for the previous month a few days before the Treasury reports its official results.
CBO's most recent review, issued on Friday (2-page PDF), estimates that Uncle Sam's outlays during April amounted to $330 billion. If that number holds up, or overstates actual results by less than $2.2 billion, it will mean for the first time ever that our government officially spent over $1 trillion in a three-month period (an estimated $330 billion in April plus a reported $672.2 billion in February and March combined). Regardless, February through April is certain to eclipse May-July 2009's previous official all-time high (after TARP-obfuscating accounting adjustments; go here for the detail) of $948.7 billion.
This certainty, the detail behind it, and the federal government's real long-term track record make mince meat of the following off-the-cuff assessment of why federal receipts and spending go up and down made Saturday by Alan Fram at the Associated Press:
A strong economy brings the government more revenue and lower spending. A weak economy in which the jobless and poor need more support does the opposite.
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.)
So what's more important: The fact that independents are as "upset" as Republicans, or that Americans' disapproval of how President Obama is handling the economy is at an all-time high?
Here's another priority-related question: Is it more important that "independents and Republicans were half as likely as Democrats to be inspired and less prone to be hopeful, excited and proud," or that Republicans are now more trusted than Democrats in handling the economy, representing a 10-point swing (from -5% to +5%) in just three months?
If you're the Associated Press's Alan Fram and Jennifer Agiesta reporting on your own poll -- an AP-GfK poll found in full at this link (click on "September 8th - September 13th 2010 - AP-GfK Poll Topline" when you get there) -- you would apparently say that the first alternatives in each question are more important, even though terms like "upset," hopeful," excited," and "proud" are subjective, and the items that trigger these emotions will vary widely among survey respondents.
Why, if I didn't know better (I think I do), I'd say that Agiesta and Fram filtered out the worst of the bad news for Democrats in favor of the touchy-feely stuff.
Memo to Alan Fram and Trevor Tompson of the Associated Press and two other writers who contributed to this report ("AP-GfK polls show Obama losing independents"): You should have taken the weekend off.
When I saw a shorter, earlier version of the referenced AP report this morning, it didn't mention when AP's polling arm AP-GfK Roper had done their work. When I went to the polling home page and found that the most recent entries were from June 9-14, I figured I'd come back later and give the group time to post fresh underlying details.
Little did I know that AP's gaggle of writers were treating the June 9-14 "Poll Politics Topline" as fresh. It gets worse. It turns out that Fram, Tompson et al wasted about 875 words on a report based on polling data that gave equal weights to results from mid-June, mid-May, and mid-April.
Considering the primary topic of discussion, independents' take on the Obama presidency and performance of Congress, this AP report is laughably irrelevant -- unless its primary purpose, especially given that earlier versions of the story didn't identify when the polling took place, was to present data designed to make readers and listeners think that things are better than they really are right now for Democrats heading into the midterm elections.
Liberals around the country are smiling today at an Associated Press poll and story circulating on the web claiming that conservatives read less than liberals, none more so than former Colorado Democratic congresswoman Pat Schroeder who despite being president of the American Association of Publishers decided she felt like insulting half of her potential reading audience by dusting off an old liberal refrain:
"The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes,' [...] It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes' on every page. [...] She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."
It's all too familiar and really kind of sad since this poll is hardly conclusive (more on that in a minute). For all their talk about being "regular people," the left sure loves calling their fellow citizens stupid and moronic. You'd think that after employing this method for so long—think Reagan-as-idiot-savant, rationalizing the radio failure of Mario Cuomo, Air America, etc.—that the left would realize their elitist and snobbish attitude and either drop it or drop the whole "party of the people" nonsense. After all, how can you be for the common man if you regard him as an ignorant dolt?