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Archive for June 20th, 2009

The Stephen Colbert ThreatDown

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:43 am by HL

The Stephen Colbert ThreatDown


Stephen Colbert walks us through the list of new threats we should be aware of. America, look out for tropical Uighurs, gay animals and Donald H. Crosby. Check out this clip from Thursday night’s “Colbert Report.


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Huff TV: Arianna On CNN, Discusses America’s Response To Iran

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

Huff TV: Arianna On CNN, Discusses America’s Response To Iran
Arianna appeared on CNN’s “Situation Room” along with Tony Blankely to discuss the U.S.’s response to the ongoing situation in Iran….

Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points [82] — Is Obama The Only Person Who Remembers What America Did In Iran In 1953?
Welcome back to your weekly Friday Talking Points roundup. This week will be a bit unusual, as instead of the normal list of talking points…

Jerry Weissman: Spin vs. Topspin
While spinning can escalate to distortion or even to outright deception, topspin is the direct approach you can use to get the advantage.

Jamison Foser: Since when is a 63 percent approval rating a bad thing?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:41 am by HL

Jamison Foser: Since when is a 63 percent approval rating a bad thing?

It’s generally accepted that the news media obsess over horse-race political coverage at the expense of serious examinations of important issues. Media critics on the left, right, and in the middle tend to agree that there is too much focus on polling and not enough on policy, while many reporters seem proud of their focus on the game rather than the stakes. (Politico is, after all, called “Politico,” not “Policy-o,” and features blogs “on Politics,” “on Hill intrigue,” “on Gossip,” and “on Campaigns” — but not “on Policy.” ABC News’ senior White House correspondent calls his blog “Political Punch.” And so on.)

The media’s obsessive focus on politics does not, however, mean their political assessments are of a high quality. Remember David Broder’s prediction that Hurricane Katrina would spark a recovery in George W. Bush’s political standing? Or Matt Lauer’s suggestion that Bush’s poor approval ratings were a political blessing for the GOP? Chuck Todd’s statement that if Democrats won control of Congress in November of 2006, Bush’s approval rating would be above 50 by the following July? Katie Couric’s suggestion that the Bush White House was “breathing a sigh of relief” in response to a poll in which Bush had an all-time low approval rating? Howard Fineman’s late-2005 argument that Democrats, not Republicans, had reason to be gloomy about their electoral prospects? Calling the media’s coverage of politics and policy “horse-race journalism” is an insult to horse-race journalism — the Daily Racing Form isn’t in the habit of advising readers to bet on the filly with the broken leg.

Not only does the media’s keen interest in politics frequently fail to result in politically astute observations, there is also considerable evidence that they tend to overrate the Republicans’ political skills — and the public’s predisposition to prefer the GOP.

And that explains the media’s reaction to this week’s polling data.

Multiple polls out this week found that somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 percent of the American people favor the inclusion of a public plan in health care reform. And polls showed that the Republican Party is less popular than ever. And the Republicans in Washington generally oppose a public plan. And the GOP got its butt kicked in last year’s election, in which health care reform was a major issue. And polls show the public trusts Republicans in Congress less than anyone else — even insurance companies — when it comes to health care.

Put all of that together and you would think the media would have been full of reports and analysis about how the Republicans were in danger of fading into oblivion if they continue to stand in the way of a public health care option, right?

Just imagine how the media would treat the Democrats if they were opposing a GOP proposal — say, invading a country that didn’t attack us — at a time when that proposal had the support of 80 percent of the public and had been a key issue in the most recent campaign, in which the Republicans had won control of the White House and sizable majorities in Congress.

But the GOP’s historic unpopularity largely escaped the media’s attention. The public’s support for a public plan didn’t get as much attention as you would think, either, given that health care is currently the public policy debate in Washington. And the idea that the already-unpopular Republican Party is in danger of consigning itself to minority status for the next generation if it continues to block a health care policy proposal that enjoys overwhelming public support? Nowhere to be found.

Instead, we kept hearing what an awful week it was for President Obama.

Take, for example, Howard Kurtz’s column today, headlined “Obama’s Rough Patch”:

His numbers are dropping. Public doubts are rising. He’s mired in Washington gridlock. Lots of people are mad at him.


With the president’s poll numbers dropping to either 63 percent (NYT/CBS) or 56 (NBC/WSJ), the pundits are racing to proclaim his honeymoon over.

Yes, you read that right: Obama’s approval rating is at 63 percent, and “the pundits” say this constitutes a “rough patch.” When the last president skipped town, tail between his legs, he was lucky if he could get to 63 percent by adding two consecutive approval ratings together. And we’re supposed to believe that Obama’s 63 is some sort of danger sign? Right.

A common theme this week — and one that has been bubbling up for months — is that Obama is more popular than his policy positions. This is almost always portrayed as a negative by the media, though they rarely bother to explain why it is a threat to Obama’s agenda rather than an opportunity. In any case, given that the Republican Party and its policy positions are both extremely unpopular, it seems the media’s assessment of political peril is a bit off target. But as these headlines compiled by Think Progress show, reporters rushed to hype Obama’s poll peril:

“Sticker Shock — Obama still popular; his policies, not so much” [ABC’s The Note]

“Polls find rising concern with Obama on key issues” [Reuters]

“Obama’s popularity: Problems testing it” [Chicago Tribune’s The Swamp]

“Polls Show Declining Support For Obama Decisions” [U.S. News & World Report’s Political Bulletin]

“Is ‘Smooth Sailing’ Over for Obama?” [Washington Post]

The Los Angeles Times‘ Andrew Malcolm epitomized the media’s rush to portray the week’s polls as bad news for the Democrats. Here’s Malcolm:

According to the new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 56% of Americans still approve of the president, though that’s down from 61%.

But 58% say they think the Democratic president and Democrat-controlled Congress should really focus on holding the deficit down, even if that means economic recovery will take a little longer. Alarmed at the scale of spending was one description.

It isn’t at all clear what that last line even means. “One description” by whom? What is clear is that Malcolm made it up; the poll to which he is referring doesn’t say anything about anyone being “alarmed.”

Malcolm, continuing directly:

That ain’t gonna happen on Capitol Hill after Democrats endured two Republican presidential terms in the political wilderness. So watch the trend in this key question in future polls.

The last time Democrats won the White House after two (actually, three) Republican presidential terms, they turned record deficits into surpluses — which the Republicans promptly turned right back into deficits upon regaining the presidency. This would probably be a good time to mention that Malcolm worked for those Republicans, serving as press secretary to Laura Bush. As a general rule, journalists who worked for the Bushes probably shouldn’t snark about Democrats‘ purported inability to hold the deficit down.

More Malcolm:

And as the months roll by, the results, added together, indicate the clock is running out on Obama’s ability to blame the last administration for all ills; the sense of his ownership of the nation’s problems appears to be growing in the American mind.

Now, Malcolm presented a hodge-podge of polling results, which he cherry-picked across multiple polls to find data that looked bad for Democrats. But he didn’t include anything in that grab bag of poll numbers that even remotely addressed whether or not “the clock is running out on Obama’s ability to blame the last administration.”

Maybe that’s because this week’s polling data shows quite the opposite; the very polls Malcolm cited disprove his assertion. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 72 percent of Americans think Obama inherited the “current economic conditions,” while only 14 percent think conditions are a result of his policies. Malcolm cited the poll — but kept quiet about that result.

And what of the Republicans? The only specific poll number Malcolm mentioned for the GOP is former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 26 percent approval rating, which, by the way, Malcolm spun as a positive.

The Republican Party is more unpopular than it has ever been. And it is a sustained unpopularity. According to the New York Times/CBS poll, the last time even 40 percent of America viewed the GOP favorably was in 2006; the last time 45 percent did so was in January of 2005. And the health care reform the GOP opposes has the support of 80 percent of Americans.

That’s the polling information the media should be focusing on. Instead, they struggle and strain to find bad news for Obama. He’s down to 63 percent approval! He’s more popular than his policies! (Except, of course, the public plan.)

Any day now, Matt Lauer will come along to tell us that it is a politically savvy move for the wildly unpopular Republican Party to stand in the way of the wildly popular public plan.

Is Ensign Walking Back Extortion Claim?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:40 am by HL

Is Ensign Walking Back Extortion Claim?
Did John Ensign’s camp try to spin the announcement of his affair by smearing his girlfriend’s husband? And is it now trying to walk that back? Let us explain:…

Husband Of Ensign’s Girlfriend To Fox’s Kelly: Help Me Expose Senator’s “Relentless Pursuit Of My Wife”
OK, now the Ensign story is really getting good. Yesterday we wrote about how Team Ensign is now saying that they went public about the affair because Doug Hampton, the husband of Ensign’s girlfriend, was threatening to go to a…

Grassley Still Not Happy With White House Explanation For IG Firing
OK, it sounds like Chuck Grassley isn’t satisfied with the White House’s explanation for why it fired the AmeriCorps inspector general. White House ethics lawyer Norm Eisen met personally with the Iowa GOP senator and his staff yesterday morning, to…

Murdoch’s Propaganda World

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:37 am by HL

Murdoch’s Propaganda World
For a complete list of Murdoch’s extensive News Corporation holdings, read the Columbia Journalism Review, ‘Who Owns What? here. Also read: News Corp. Suffers Staggering $6.4 Billion Loss Ryan Nakashima, Huffington Post, Feb. 5, 2009.

Taking Down the Corporate Food System Is Simple

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:36 am by HL

Taking Down the Corporate Food System Is Simple
The new book Food Inc. explains the most realistic and effective approach to transforming a system that is slowly but surely killing us.

Iran’s Leader Calls Election Over, Warns of ‘Bloodshed and Chaos’ if Protests Continue
Iran's Supreme Leader declares the presidential race over. But for reformists braced for more confrontations, there's no backing down.

9 Conservative Myths About Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism
This is terrorism we're dealing with. We can't afford to let ourselves be distracted by spin. It's time to set the record straight with the facts.

Hey New York, Michael Bloomerg Is Not Your Daddy
Once-feisty New Yorkers have gone soft, trusting in a powerful daddy to take care of the city. It's not going to work.

I Would Likely Be Dead by Now if it Wasn’t for One Thing … Health Insurance
My own medical emergencies have made me more conscious of the scandal in our country when it comes to health care.

Hey Lindsay Lohan! Did You Hear About the Major Victory for Thousands of Stop-Lossed Troops?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

Hey Lindsay Lohan! Did You Hear About the Major Victory for Thousands of Stop-Lossed Troops?
This week, we’ve seen John and Kate inch closer to divorce, the President stand trial in the court of public opinion for fly-homicide, and another Washington elite publicize infidelity via press release. Somewhere in-between these trivial water-cooler discussions, reality sunk…

Memo to the President: What You Must Do To Save Universal Health Care
Mr. President:Momentum for universal health care is slowing dramatically on Capitol Hill. Moderates are worried, Republicans are digging in, and the medical-industrial complex is firing up its lobbying and propaganda machine.But, as you know, the worst news came days ago…

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Presidents And The Middle East
The last word on why President Obama can do what none since Eisenhower could–or would….

ThinkFast: June 19, 2009

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

ThinkFast: June 19, 2009
“In his first public response to days of protests, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sternly warned opponents [today] to stay off the streets and denied opposition claims that last week’s disputed election was rigged, praising the ballot as an ‘epic moment that became a historic moment.’” “The Islamic republic state would not cheat and […]


“In his first public response to days of protests, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sternly warned opponents [today] to stay off the streets and denied opposition claims that last week’s disputed election was rigged, praising the ballot as an ‘epic moment that became a historic moment.’” “The Islamic republic state would not cheat and would not betray the vote of the people,” he said.

Google announced that it would add Farsi, or “Persian,” to its Google Translate service. “The company said it hoped the service, which it rushed because of the turmoil in Iran, would be used by people inside and outside of that country to communicate and stay abreast of events.” The service is available here.

Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser last night, President Obama addressed critics of his health care reform proposal. “I sincerely hope that there are members of both parties who will participate in reform,” Obama said, “But for those who simply criticize without offering new ideas of their own, I have to ask — what’s your answer?

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein reports that the latest outline of the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform proposal does not mention a public plan option “anywhere in the document.” Klein calls the proposal “comprehensive incrementalism” that is neither “radical” nor “root-and-branch reform.” The Wonk Room’s Igor Volsky calls it a “nothing burger proposal.”

Sen. John Ensign helped his mistress’s husband get two jobs during the time the rising Republican senator acknowledges carrying on an extramarital affair, an Ensign spokesman said Thursday.” Ensign also gave his mistress, Cindy Hampton, a pay raise in both of the two positions in which she worked for Ensign. Additionally, the NRSC “made twice-monthly payments, generally $500 apiece, to Brandon Hampton,” Hampton’s son.

At a hearing yesterday, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan “sharply questioned an assertion by the Obama administration” that former Vice President Cheney’s “statements to a special prosecutor about the Valerie Plame case must be kept secret, partly so they do not become fodder for Cheney’s political enemies or late-night commentary on ‘The Daily Show.’”

According to Army statistics and interviews, “the rate of Army soldiers enrolled in treatment programs for alcohol dependency or abuse has nearly doubled since 2003 — a sign of the growing stress of repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Soldiers diagnosed “with alcoholism or alcohol abuse, such as binge drinking, increased from 6.1 per 1,000 soldiers in 2003 to an estimated 11.4 as of March 31.”

The Supreme Court said in a ruling released yesterday that prisoners “do not have a constitutional right to DNA testing after their conviction.” The five conservative justices wrote that they believed guaranteeing such tests would overthrow “the established system of criminal justice.”

Yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. “The Senate’s apology follows a similar apology passed last year by the House. One key difference is that the Senate version explicitly deals with the long-simmering issue of whether slavery descendants are entitled to reparations, saying that the resolution cannot be used in support of claims for restitution.”

And finally: Whatever you do, don’t call Rep. Jim McDermott’s (D-WA) scheduler, Elizabeth Becton, “Liz.” An executive assistant at McBee Strategic recently learned this lesson the hard way, e-mailing her and addressing her with the nickname accidentally. The result was an exchange of 19 e-mails, with Becton angrily telling the apologetic assistant, “I think it’s rude when people don’t even ask permission and take all sorts of liberties with your name.”

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Steele?s health plan: ?Do the deal. It?s not that complicated.? ?Hello?! Am I missing something here??
While hosting Bill Bennett’s radio show this morning, RNC Chairman Michael Steele fearmongered about a government-run “health police” that would force Americans to get their annual physicals. The way to solve the health care crisis, Steele said in another portion of the show, is “not that complicated”: All we have to do is “figure out […]

steele-dogWhile hosting Bill Bennett’s radio show this morning, RNC Chairman Michael Steele fearmongered about a government-run “health police” that would force Americans to get their annual physicals. The way to solve the health care crisis, Steele said in another portion of the show, is “not that complicated”: All we have to do is “figure out who” doesn’t have access to health care, “and give them access!”

STEELE: So if it’s a cost problem, it’s easy: Get the people in a room who have the most and the most direct impact on cost, and do the deal. Do the deal. It’s not that complicated.

If it’s an access question, people don’t have access to health care, then figure out who they are, and give them access! Hello?! Am I missing something here? If my friend Trevor has access to health care, and I don’t, why do I need to overhaul the entire system so I can get access he already has? why don’t you just focus on me and get me access?

Listen to it:

Who knew that, despite the years of delay and debate, all the president has to do is “do the deal” and “give [everyone] access!” Steele’s right — it’s not complicated! Steele should be supporting a public plan, which is the best path to ensuring increased access to health care for all.

Husband of Ex-Mistress Sought Cash, Ensign Says

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

Husband of Ex-Mistress Sought Cash, Ensign Says
Three days after confessing an extramarital affair with a campaign aide, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) yesterday accused his former mistress’s husband of trying to extract a financial payout from the Nevada Republican.

Under Agreement, Medicare Would Pay Less for Drugs
Drug manufacturers have tentatively agreed to provide as much as $80 billion worth of discounts on medicines purchased for government programs such as Medicare, providing a bit of cash for President Obama’s expensive and ambitious attempt to give health coverage to every American.

Prosecutor Says Sen. Burris Will Not Face Perjury Charge
Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) will not be charged with perjury for statements he made about the circumstances of his appointment earlier this year to replace President Obama in the Senate.

House Panel Approves Bill Expanding Oversight of NSA
The House intelligence committee late Thursday approved measures to strengthen oversight of the National Security Agency and the overall intelligence community, including by making the jobs of NSA director and general counsel subject to Senate confirmation.

Good & Bad in Obama’s Financial Reform

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2009 4:30 am by HL

Good & Bad in Obama’s Financial Reform
Paul Krugman, New York Times

Ensign Causes Trouble for GOP
Terence Samuel, The American Prospect

Bailout Fallout: Obama’s GM Deal Hurts
Nicole Gelinas, New York Post

Obama Shows Naivete on Iran
Rich Lowry, National Review

Business Will Pay for Government Health Care
Kimberley Strassel, WSJ