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TomCADem's Journal
TomCADem's Journal
October 1, 2013

Salon - "Bogus 'he said-she said' reporting led to the shutdown " - Great Story

WaPo's false equivalence editorial that blame the shutdown on both Democrats, as well as Republicans, for refusing to compromise is indicative of the failure of the media to inform the public of the extreme and dangerous efforts by Republicans to risk destabilizing our country in an effort to ram their agenda down the throat of the rest of the public. However, Republicans could not do it alone. The media gives them cover and a free pass by repeatedly insisting that both parties are responsible for a shutdown arising from Republicans' refusal to fund the government at funding levels that they themselves just approved a few months ago.


Beltway reporters who see their professed neutrality as a higher ground bear an enormous amount of responsibility for encouraging this perversion of democratic governance. With a few notable exceptions, the media have framed what Jonathan Chait called “a kind of quasi-impeachment” in typical he said-she said fashion, obscuring the fact that the basic norms that govern Congress have been thrown out the window by a small cabal of tea party-endorsed legislators from overwhelmingly Republican districts. The media treat unprecedented legislative extortion as typical partisan negotiations, and in doing so they normalize it.

But it’s not normal. Republicans are demanding that Democrats unwind their signature achievement – a piece of legislation that took 18 months to pass, survived a Supreme Court challenge and a presidential election – in exchange for a stopgap budget resolution. On Saturday, they tacked on a provision that would limit access to contraceptives.

* * *
Yet you wouldn’t fully appreciate the audacity of this tactic by reading standard Beltway coverage. As Brian Beutler notes in Salon, Time Magazine reporter Zeke Miller calls this “negotiating technique… is by no means novel. Hostage taking — by promising harm if you do not get your way — has long been a standard way of doing business in Washington.” James Fallows, decrying what he calls a “failure of journalism,” flagged the headline, “Parties Digging in Their Heels as Hourglass Empties.” (The Courier-Post, a Gannett paper, similarly went with, “Lawmakers dig in their heels; government shutdown nearer.”) And Politico’s Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan described the ransom note as simply a set of “demands for reform.” All of this coverage reeks of false equivalency, implying yet again that “both sides do it.”
* * *
The reason all of this is important is simple: A faction within one of our parties has rejected the basic structure of our democratic system – the separation of powers. The only thing that will break the fever that grips them – the only thing that can break the fever – is intense public backlash, and not just from Democratic partisans, but also from the majority of Republicans who don’t identify with the tea party movement and oppose these antics. By muddying the waters of what’s really going on here with their perpetual false equivalence, the Beltway media is making that reckoning unlikely to occur.
October 1, 2013

The Nation - "Media Coverage of Shutdown Threat: A Journalistic ‘Disgrace’"

Here is a nice piece by the Nation highlighting how the corporate media's ongoing practice of false equivalence as journalism helps enable the right wing extremists who now run the Republican party:


Probably the smartest thing I read all weekend on the pending government shutdown, and the debt ceiling crisis, came from James Fallows. And, courtesy of the often laughable (and dangerous) Washington Post editorial section, we get yet another example in this parade of disgrace this morning.

At his Atlantic blog, Fallow slammed media for once again practicing “false equivalence,” but does provide links to a few folks who have gotten it right (see below). Read the whole thing as he traces a historic fiasco we haven’t seen in decades, maybe over a century

* * *
Today the Post published this editorial drivel:

Ultimately, the grown-ups in the room will have to do their jobs, which in a democracy with divided government means compromising for the common good. That means Mr. Boehner, his counterpart in the Senate, Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), minority leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the president. Both sides are inordinately concerned with making sure that, if catastrophe comes, the other side takes the political hit. In truth, none of their reputations stands to benefit. Of course, we get ths kind of “analysis” from Politico all the time
September 30, 2013

New Poll: Only One-Third of Americans Support Repealing, Defunding, or Delaying Obamacare

Source: Forbes

Polls consistently show that Americans aren’t happy with Obamacare. They think the law will make health care more expensive, and decrease its quality. But a new survey of 1,976 registered voters finds that only 33 percent believe that the health law should be repealed, delayed, or defunded. 29 percent believe that “Congress should make changes to improve the law,” 26 percent believe that “Congress should let the law take effect” and see what happens, and 12 percent believe that the law should be expanded. The bottom line? Voters are skeptical that Obamacare will live up to Democrats’ hype. But they also believe that it should be given a chance to succeed.

The new poll was conducted by the Morning Consult, a healthcare media company founded by Michael Ramlet. Ramlet, in evaluating the results of his survey, finds that voters are “unmoved by three months of the defund argument,” and that a majority would “blame congressional Republicans a lot for a government shutdown.”

Voters would blame “Republicans in Congress if the current budget dispute leads to a government shutdown starting October 1.” 51 percent would blame them “a lot,” 21 percent “some,” and 17 percent “a little.” Only 12 percent would assign no blame to Republicans. But voters would also blame President Obama for a shutdown, albeit by slimmer margins: 41 percent “a lot,” 15 percent “some,” and 18 percent “a little.” Fomr Congressional Democrats, the numbers were 36 percent “a lot,” 24 percent “some,” and 23 percent “a little.”

Voters believe, by a margin of 66-33, that the 2012 election “represented a referendum on moving forward with implementation of the 2010 health care law.” 24 percent strongly agreed with that sentence; 42 percent somewhat did; 17 percent somewhat disagreed; and 16 percent strongly disagreed.

Read more: http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2013/09/30/new-poll-only-one-third-of-americans-support-repealing-defunding-or-delaying-obamacare/

I think the most surprising aspect of this story is that it appears on Forbes, which has been spewing anti-ACA bullshit from the get-go.
September 30, 2013

House Republicans Credit Ted Cruz As Government Shutdown Looms

Source: Huffington Post

During the meeting, GOP leaders announced plans to advance a bill that would keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30 in exchange for a one-year delay of Obamacare and repeal of its medical device tax. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declared the proposal dead on arrival a couple hours later.

But conservatives were jubilant as they left the meeting, and they identified Cruz as the force that pushed a reluctant GOP leadership to the brink.

"I think Ted Cruz did a huge service to the nation and to the cause of Republicanism," Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) told The Huffington Post.

"He played an excellent role," said Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). "I think what he's done is strengthened our hand. He's made the case that we need to act and act decisively, and so I think we have a lot to credit him for."

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/29/ted-cruz-house-republicans_n_4014071.html

Well, why don't we just drop the charade of a Republican establishment that is somehow more "moderate."
September 30, 2013

The Alantic - "Why This Is Not Just 'Washington Breakdown."

Here is a nice story that pushes against the typical main stream media meme of blaming both parties for failing to compromise and placing the blame squarely on crazies in the Republican party.


In essence, the hard-line faction of the House GOP is demanding the following, as recent NYT, WSJ, and WaPo articles, apart from today's, have made clear:

EITHER the Administration must undo the main legislative accomplishment of the president's time in office, which he passed despite filibuster resistance four years ago and which the Supreme Court has since held constitutional;
OR ELSE all other business of the government will be halted, and the full faith and credit of the United States will be called into question, with unknown but likely bad world-financial consequences.

This is not what either John Boehner or Mitch McConnell says he stands for. I have no doubt that Obama could ultimately strike some compromise with even McConnell's filibuster-happy Senate Republicans and any kind of normal Republican majority in the House. In the end Democrats would complain that Obama had caved, Republicans would complain about Beltway insiderism, but some deal would result.

Yet enough of today's absolutist House members think in exactly these Either/Or terms that normal compromise is simply impossible. Compromise itself is as much their stated enemy as is Obamacare. If you're urging a search for "common ground," please tell me where you see any in this case. I argued recently that the closest parallels in our history were to the John C. Calhoun era before the Civil War. If you think that's unfair, please tell me another case in which a dissatisfied minority threatened to shut down the entire government, and if necessary renege on the national debt, unless a sitting President agrees to reverse his hardest-won policy accomplishment.
September 29, 2013

Clinton says Obama needs to call the GOP's 'bluff'

Source: CNN

Washington (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton, who sat in the Oval Office during the last government shutdown, supports President Barack Obama's refusal to negotiate with congressional Republicans and argues he should call their "bluff" as the government nears a possible shutdown and default.

"He could stop it, but the price of - the current price of stopping it is higher than the price of letting the Republicans do it and taking their medicine," he said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Clinton went on to say that House Republicans, having realized they have little chance of pushing through legislative items their party wants, have dug in and scrapped any plans of negotiating. "Give us what we want or we're going to shut the government down," Clinton said, describing how he sees the GOP strategy.

"I think under those circumstances, the president has to take the position he's taken," he continued. "Which is 'You - not me - you voted to spend this money.' … You can't negotiate over that. And I think he's right not to."

Read more: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/29/clinton-says-obama-needs-to-call-the-gops-bluff/?hpt=hp_t1

It is also helpful that Bill Clinton points out that even under his watch, Republicans never tried to use the threat of default at leverage.
September 29, 2013

"A Government Shutdown And Debt Ceiling Guide For Journalists Who Don't Want To Be Complete Idiot"

The Sunday news shows are replete with examples of journalists trying to push a false equivalence narrative suggesting that Democrats are equally at fault for a shut down and that Republicans are doing Democrats a favor by considering an increase in the debt ceiling or funding the federal government. This is not gridlock. This is GOP nihilism at its worse.


The only thing I'd add to this is that anyone who suggests in the future that raising the debt ceiling constitutes a "concession" to Democrats is also committing malpractice.

Among the many examples Fallows cites of journalists employing these best practices is the Sept. 27 edition of the Diane Rehm show, in which "panelists Ruth Marcus, Janet Hook, and Todd Purdum all said with a bluntness unusual for a D.C.-based talk show that we are witnessing the effects not of gridlock but of one party's internal crisis." Check it out here.

Naturally, this is a 100 percent accurate take on the matter. This is the GOP's intra-party crisis, not a congressional one. Democrats don't receive any benefit from avoiding a shutdown or a default. Nor do they impose anything on the GOP by calling for a government that continues to run, or a global economy that continues to exist. Republicans are free to stage debates, make arguments, attempt to pass laws, try to strike bargains, and seek redress in the normal cycle of campaigns and elections. At the moment, their party is having a difficult time deciding if it wants to stick with traditional American governance, or swap it out for a series of violent threats on the nation's economic security.

This should be a really easy story to get right.
September 28, 2013

NY Times - "House Leaves U.S. on Brink of Shutdown"


WASHINGTON — The federal government on Saturday barreled toward its first shutdown in 17 years after House Republicans, choosing a hard line, demanded a one-year delay of President Obama’s health care law and the repeal of a tax to pay for the law before approving any funds to keep the government running.

Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Saturday unified and confident that they had the votes to delay the health care law and eliminate a tax on medical devices that partly pays for it. But before the House had even voted, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said that when the Senate reconvened on Monday it would strip out both provisions.

The House’s action all but assured that large parts of the government would be shuttered as of 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday. More than 800,000 federal workers deemed nonessential faced furloughs; millions more could be working without paychecks.

A separate House Republican bill would also ensure that military personnel continued to be paid in the event of a government shutdown, an acknowledgment that a shutdown was likely. The health law delay and the troop funding bill were set for House passage Saturday.
September 28, 2013

The Atlantic - "Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead"

Nice discussion of how the mainstream corporate media is enabling Republicans by once again portraying Democrats and Republicans as being equally inflexible and resistant to compromise.


As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a "standoff," a "showdown," a "failure of leadership," a sign of "partisan gridlock," or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism*** and an inability to see or describe what is going on. For instance: the "dig in their heels" headline you see below, which is from a proprietary newsletter I read this morning, and about which I am leaving off the identifying details.

This isn't "gridlock." It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us -- and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

* * *
** The debt-ceiling vote, of course, is not about future spending decisions. It is about whether to cover expenditures the Congress has already authorized. There is no sane reason for subjecting this to a repeated vote. And there is no precedent for serious threats not to honor federal debt -- as opposed to symbolic anti-Administration protest votes, which both parties have cast over the years. Nor for demanding the reversal of major legislation as a condition for routine government operations.

*** For examples of coverage that plainly states what is going on, here is a small sampling: Greg Sargent, Derek Thompson, John Gilmour (on why Ronald Reagan believed in compromise), Jonathan Rauch, Brian Beutler, Jonathan Chait, Andrew Sullivan (also here), Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, Dan Froomkin. On today's Diane Rehm show News Roundup, panelists Ruth Marcus, Janet Hook, and Todd Purdum all said with a bluntness unusual for a D.C.-based talk show that we are witnessing the effects not of gridlock but of one party's internal crisis.

September 28, 2013

Republican hard-liners block strategy to avoid federal government shutdown

Source: Washington Post

Washington stumbled toward a shutdown as the Republican Party’s rebellious right wing on Thursday blocked a strategy by House Speaker John A. Boehner for navigating a series of deadlines to keep the government funded and avoid a first-ever default.

Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team revealed the first step of that plan to rank-and-file lawmakers early Thursday, urging conservatives to shift their ­assault on President Obama’s health-care law to the coming fight over the federal debt limit.

That would allow lawmakers in the meantime to try to reach an agreement on a plan to fund federal agencies into the new fiscal year, which begins Tuesday, and avoid a shutdown.

But about two dozen hard-liners rejected that approach, saying they will not talk about the debt limit until the battle over government funding is resolved.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/republican-hard-liners-block-strategy-to-avoid-federal-government-shutdown/2013/09/26/ae905f9e-26e4-11e3-b75d-5b7f66349852_story.html

Unfortunately, the corporate media is working overtime in trying to set up a false equivalency between Republicans and Democrats as Republicans threaten to trash the economy unless they get their wish list. Rarely is mention made of prior compromises made by Democrats. Instead, the corporate media lets Republicans push the idea that Democrats are being unreasonable it not yielding to their extortionate demands.

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