Last night, while in bed, I watched The Last Word (it was that or more Rocky & Bullwinkle that I’ve already seen). And as I was falling asleep, Ari Melber said something that shook me. In general, I don’t follow Melber, but I have to admit, he’s a pretty smart guy. You can take that to mean that he is literally “a pretty smart guy” or you can be more cynical and just assume, “He must agree with Frank about something.” I like to think it is both.
Lawrence O’Donnell was talking about the Sequester and how the two sides couldn’t agree on anything. Melber noted that the Republicans are in a bit of a spot, because they aren’t really for what they claim to be. This is well put:
If you talk to Democrats and you say, “Hey that idea about getting more people including poor kids into school? Let’s do it!” The Democrats go, “Great! Let’s do it, because we want the kids to go to school! That’s actually, literally what we want!”
When you talk to Republicans and say, “We want to cut these programs down and cut the military down!” they can’t deal with it. Not only because it’s not a good way to run the government and they know that, but because they know that their own districts—you go South, these districts don’t want to see this many military bases closed. That’s why we have the whole BRAC program because neither party’s ever wanted to do those kinds of cuts and that’s the real problem that goes to the substance of it. They may want to shrink government a little bit here and there but they can’t really get behind a full cut like the Sequester offers.
That’s exactly it. Democrats want to spend money on programs because they actually believe in those programs. But what do the Republicans believe in? Mostly nothing. And that begs an important question: why are they in politics. I think a lot of it is just that Republicans get into politics for reasons that Kathleen O’Brien Wilhelm exemplifies: they are angry about a lot of things that just aren’t so. But once they get to the point of being in office, they understand that all their anger was misplaced. What to do? Well, they are members of the Republican Party, so do whatever it is for. And that’s how we get the power for power’s sake Republicans. We sure aren’t getting them as a result of their love for Edmund Burke.
John Avlon made a great catch over at The Daily Beast, The PowerPoint That Proves It’s Not Obama’s Sequester After All. And then he went all wrong, but first let’s discuss what he got right. This has been driving me crazy the last week or so. All the Republicans have grabbed on to this talking point and they aren’t letting go of, “The Sequester was all Obama’s idea!” Yet again we have an example of the Republican Party en masse acting like a bunch of first graders.
Avlon goes on to provide a slide from a John Boehner presentation that completely lays out how the Sequester will work. “Sets up a new sequestration process to cut spending across-the-board—and ensure that any debt limit increase is met with greater spending cuts—IF Joint Committee fails to achieve at least $1.2T in deficit reduction.” Boehner, of course, has countered that this doesn’t make it his plan; he was just reporting what the president was forcing him to do. It’s all a bunch of garbage. If the Republicans had not held the country hostage via the Debt Ceiling there would have been no Sequester. Regardless, everyone voted for it, so it is everyone’s decision. Claiming that Obama made them do it is ridiculous on its face; Boehner got 98% of what he wanted but Obama made him?
All of this is fine, but then Avlon dives head first into some good old fashioned false equivalence:
Today we see some of the same hyperpartisan fantasies dominating the debate, the idea that waiting just one more election will allow one party to impose its will and avoid any concessions that could anger the base. So Republicans say the problem is only spending—but then in the next breath decry the deep defense cuts that are scheduled to make up half the sequester and pass a bill that would simply exempt their given interests from pain. Liberal Democrats attack the Bowles-Simpson commission, which offered new details on Tuesday as an alternative to sequestration, as a capitulation to Republican priorities and imagine they will retake the House in 2014.
Like a junkie begging for just one more fix before they get straight, these politicos keep begging for one more election before they face facts. Math isn’t partisan. Our current levels of debt are unsustainable. They can’t be solved by simply cutting or taxing our way out of the hole.
This is Very Serious Villager crap. Yeah, Bowles-Simpson offered an alternative to sequestration: one that was heavily tilted toward the Republicans. But it’s just “Liberal Democrats” who were against that. And that means both sides are equally at fault! The left flank of the Democratic Party is as unreasonable as the entire Republican Party. See: they’re both equally wrong!
And then we get this nonsensical Joe Scarborough line about the unsustainable debt. Then he adds that we can’t just cut or tax our way out of said mythical hole. The fact that this is the Obama administration’s position doesn’t change the fact that both sides do it!
After all of this, I see now why Avlon made such a big deal of correcting the Republican line about Obama being solely responsible for the Sequester: it can’t be just Obama; it always has to be half and half, regardless of the facts. And that means that sometimes idiot Villagers are right. But they don’t stay that way for long.
There are two problems here. First, this isn’t exactly Watergate Cover-Up investigative journalism. Paul Farhi explains how Corn got the story. He “spent about four weeks coaxing the person who had surreptitiously shot the footage to hand over the full, undoctored video.” So the guy who made the tape, gave parts of it to Corn. Over the course of four weeks, Corn got him to trust enough to hand over the whole thing. Oh my God: give that man a prize!
The second problem is the more serious. There is no way that the 47% story lost Romney the election. Stories like it gain traction because they are not shocking. People already knew that Romney held these kinds of beliefs. The story was just a handy example of it. And as we know with all the examples of Al Gore’s dishonesty: if the facts don’t fit the narrative, the media will manufacture the facts. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war!
I don’t mind David Corn getting an award. He seems to be a good journalist with some significant and important stories (like breaking the news that Valerie Plame was a covert agent and so it was wrong for the Bush administration to leak her name to reporters). But in the 47% story, he didn’t do all that much journalism. What’s more, although the story was popular, it wasn’t important. But I guess that kind of sums up modern American journalism.
Sure, you’ve heard that “Friends of Hamas” doesn’t exist and so Chuck Hagel didn’t give them a paid speech. But what about the “Junior League of Hezbollah”?! Huh? The word is that a reporter asked if Chuck Hagel gave a speech to that group. And that’s about as solid a bit of evidence as you can get. It has even been suggested that Chuck Hagel may weigh the same as a duck. Burn the witch!
Dan Friedman has a hilarious and horrifying story to tell. Two weeks ago, he was looking into aligations that Chuck Hagel had given speeches to controversial groups. He contacted a Republican congressional aide via email and asked him if they had any, you know, knowledge of groups that Hagel had spoken to. Then he facetiously asked if he knew that Hagel had given speeches to, “Junior League of Hezbollah, in France? What about Friends of Hamas?” If Friedman had wanted to be obvious, he would have written, “The White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan? How about the American Nazi Party?” What a mistake! He should have known that conservatives don’t understand humor!
The very next day, Ben Shapiro wrote, “Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed one of the reasons that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called ‘Friends of Hamas.'” This spread like wildfire on a global changed Southern California. And it is obvious why: conservatives really believe that anyone they are instructed to hate must be in league with terrorists who want to destroy everything that is good about America.
It’s an interesting story. Look, I don’t consider myself a journalist; I’m just a ranter. But I know my MO: if I got that information, the first thing I would have done is google “Friends of Hamas.” I would have found no evidence that the group existed. That’s what I always do just because I’m interested. (Also: I try not to look like a total idiot.) David Weigel did the same thing. He said that it took him all of 20 minutes to prove that the group didn’t exist.
This ought to make Ben Shapiro embarrassed, but of course, it doesn’t. He justifies his reporting by saying that he wrote the piece so that it was technically true. (There is not even an update or correction on the page!) But that doesn’t mean much. Nor does it justify all the other sources that picked up the story. This is just partisan yellow journalism. And there is no equivalent on the left. Just check out The Socialist Worker; it provides consistent quality journalism. Yes, it has an ax to grind. No, it isn’t a rumor mill for the Democratic Party. Like I say more and more: how do smart conservatives deal with the humiliation of watching their comrades act like this? Those big paychecks must help.