How Fox Nation 2 evolves/ODonnell helps make things clear: Lawrence ODonnell delivered the last word last nightthe last word on our reports from last week.
Before we look at what he said, lets consider two other quick topics.
George Wills historic column: On yesterdays Hardball, Chris Matthews largely got it right about George Wills new column. He repeatedly called the column historic, comparing it to the way William F. Buckley renounced anti-Semitism in the 1950s. For ourselves, we think Matthews focused a bit too much on Wills renunciation of Huckabee/Gingrich; he didnt focus quite sharply enough on Wills broader attack. Wills column renounced the whole culture of birtherism, a sickness liberals have struggled to defeat for two solid years. Because of Wills stature as a conservative, this historic column should be useful in taking this sickness down.
Unless you were watching last Fridays Maddow show, in which case Wills column represented a chance to simper, clown and play around about an embarrassing word.
John Boehners performance as Speaker: John Boehner is a shrewd dude, E. J. Dionne wrote in yesterdays Post. Democrats who underestimate him will be playing into his hands.
Is Dionne right? Were not sure. But as anyone could plainly see, Dionne was taking a nasty shot at Rachel Maddow, who has authored a series of silly reports about how bad Boehner is at his job. Her silly reports have made liberals feel goodand theyve been utterly silly, like so many of her attempts at domestic political analysis.
Good God, you hear crap on that program!
That said, lets return to Lawrence ODonnell, who shows us how the liberal world is getting transformed into Fox Nation 2.
Last night, ODonnell spoke with two state senators from Wisconsin. This included Scott Fitzgerald, the state senates Republican leader. Late in the segment, ODonnell went back to an inaccurate storyan inaccurate standard tale his boss has hotly renounced:
ODONNELL (3/7/11): Senator Fitzgerald, Wisconsin was not broke until you pushed through some corporate tax cuts that created the, the financial picture you have now.
FITZGERALD: Whaaat? Where did you come up with that, Lawrence?
ODONNELL: To Michael Moores pointto Michael Moores point, his point being, Americas not broke if you if you, if you simply use a reasonable revenue collection system, a reasonable tax system, America would not be broke, Wisconsin would not be broke, without these corporate tax giveaways that, for example, youve already passed.
Good grief! ODonnell returned to a bungled talea tale his boss has renounced. (To watch this segment, click here.)
This bungled tale was widely voiced at the start of this budget fightuntil Politifact and others debunked it. According to this bungled tale, Wisconsin had a budget surplus when Governor Walker took officebut Walker passed three corporate tax cuts which created the current shortfall. But as Politifact (and others) showed, Wisconsin didnt have a surplus when Walker took officeand Walkers tax cuts dont take effect until the next fiscal year. They played no role in creating the current shortfall. Beyond that, they represent only about three percent of the shortfall in the next budget cycle.
Two weeks ago, ODonnells boss renounced this bungled tale in two e-mails to Politifact. Indignantly, Bill Wolff insisted that Maddow had never said any such thing. (More egregious, however, is Politifacts false assertion that our report blamed Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-led legislature for the current budget shortfall.) Maddow then trashed Politifact for having misunderstood her transparent greatnessalthough she avoided discussing the various weird and inaccurate things she had quite plainly said.
Writing on behalf of Maddow, Wolff renounced this bungled tale. But so what? Last Friday, Maddow drifted back to this story, rather plainly evoking it (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 3/7/11). And then, last night, nirvana! At last! ODonnell flat-out restated it.
What ODonnell said is false. And it has been renounced, in writing, by his putative boss.
Guess what, liberals? This is precisely the way Fox News has always worked! At Fox, viewers get handed inaccurate talesand everybody keeps repeating them, even after theyve been debunked! Viewers also get to hear silly analyses about how bad ranking Democrats are.
But so what? At MSNBC, we liberals now get to hear lots of crap too! We hear that Walker created the shortfallalthough that isnt true. We hear that Walker should raise taxes on the rich, like Governor Quinn did in Illinoisalthough Illinois taxes the rich at 5 percent, and Wisconsins marginal rate in almost three points higher. Until recently, we were told that Walker excused the police and fire unions from his ban on collective bargaining because they supported him in the election. This report was basically bogus toothough Maddow still hasnt corrected herself. And you know how she loves self-correction!
Last night, ODonnell returned to a bungled reporta report his boss has hotly denounced. This is very much the way Fox New has always done it.
Fox News has been an ungodly mess. But so what? At the One True Liberal Channel, we liberals finally have the chance to enjoy a big mess too!
IT STARTED AT TPM (permalink): How inept is Americas new liberal press? Just consider the tale which emerged yesterday at the dumbed-down site, TPM.
Yesterday afternoon, the analysts groaned when they limned a headline at that tabloidized sitea site which has been steadily dumbed down by its founder, Josh Marshall. Is Chris Christie this nations most popular pol? Heres what TPMs front-page headline pack said:
TPM FRONT-PAGE HEADLINE (3/7/11):
TOO HOT TO HANDLE?
Poll: Chris Christie
Americas Hottest Politician
Say what? Normally, we dont click on TPMs tabloidized headline packs; weve been burned too many times in the past. But we had been led to this new mess by a link from the Daily Beast. By the time we viewed that front-page spread, we had already read TPMs bungled report.
Jon Terbush wrote the TPM piece. As he started, heres what he said about our hottest pol:
TERBUSH (3/7/11): Poll: Chris Christie America's 'Hottest' Politician
For all his tough talk and firm governing, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is apparently making Americans feel all warm and fuzzy.
In a new Quinnipiac poll out Monday morning, registered voters nationwide gave Christie the highest average favorable marks of any current politicianeven placing him above President Obama. Yet while that says something positive about Christie himself, it does not bode so well for the Republican Party in general. That result, combined with the comparatively weak showing by the presumed candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, underscores the absence of an enthusing, true Republican front runner heading into 2012.
The poll asked respondents to rate, on a scale of 1-100, how favorably they viewed a number of political figures on a "national thermometer."
Christie posted the top marks of active politicians with an average rating of 57, slightly better than Obama's 56.5. First Lady Michelle Obama topped the list overall at 60.1, followed by former President Bill Clinton at 59.2.
Despite his apparent national popularity, Christie has repeatedly said he won't make a play for the presidency in 2012.
In his second paragraph, Terbush threw some comfort food to the herd. Christies high rating does not bode so well for the Republican Party in general, he reassuringly said. Still, Terbush said that Christie is apparently making Americans feel all warm and fuzzy. His rating was even higher than Obamas, Terbush said, referring to the New Jersey blowhards apparent national popularity.
Terbush seemed to cover his keister with disclaimers like apparent/apparently. But so what? His gullible, heavily bungled report was quickly grabbed by the Daily Beast, which pimped the good news all around.
Chris Christie Deemed Most Popular Pol, screamed the headline at the Beast. A new Quinnipiac poll says hes the most popular politician in America right now. So the Daily Beast reported, citing the Terbush report.
That was ginormous rubbish, of courseprime bungle-filled balderdash. But the rubbish enhanced Christies national credand it started at TPM.
Is Christie the nations most popular pol? Actually, nohe is not. Initially, we read the Daily Beast report because its headline seemed so unlikely. And because we arent the worlds biggest rubes, we incomparably spotted the problem.
Heres what happened:
The problem started with Quinnipiac, which explained its survey very poorly. (To read Quinnipiacs press release, just click here.) Quinnipiac had asked a fairly standard type of question; it had asked a national sample of voters to rate leaders from 0 to 100 degrees on a feeling thermometer, with the highest numbers reflecting the warmest feelings. Christie emerged with an average rating of 57 degrees, slightly above Obamas rating.
But uh-oh! Another fact was highly relevanta fact Terbush didnt mention. Fifty-five percent of the sample said they didnt know enough about Christie to give him a rating at all! (By way of contrast, everyone stated a view on Obama.) In its release, Quinnipiac mentioned this fact, but it didnt put flashing red lights around it. Nor did it explain why this fact is so important in interpreting a survey like this. (Quinnipiacs press release is an incompetent mess.)
Gack! According to this survey, 55 percent of the nations voters have no opinion of Christie! His warmth rating represents the average rating from the 45 percent of people who may even know who he is. So heres todays philosophical question: In such a circumstance, can a politician really be called the nations most popular pol? Is such a figure really making Americans feel all warm and fuzzy?
We would say the answer is nobut lets leave semantic pensees to the side. Anyone with an ounce of sense would understand the following: When you report the ratings from such a survey, you have to stress the fact that someone like Christie is unknown to more than half the respondents! A sensible liberal might also note this: At this time, Republicans are more aware of Christie than anyone else. In the conservative press, hes a conquering hero; he is mentioned less often in liberal and mainstream organs. This would tend to tilt his rating in a warmer direction.
(According to the Quinnipiac data, 60 percent of Democrats stated no view about Christie, versus 47 percent of Republicans.)
Is Christie Americas hottest pol? Thats what the TPM headline saidand the Daily Beast took the good news and spread it all around. Before we try to understand why TPM would bungle like this, lets note that a few mainstream organs bungled even worse.
At The Hill, this hapless post appeared. It stressed the fact that Christies rating came from ALL respondents (including Democrats and independents). But it never mentioned the fact that 55 percent of respondents had no view of Christie at all.
At Bloomberg News, Terrence Dopp stressed the gender gap, offering this bungled note: While 35 percent of women in the poll gave Obama a temperature rating between 81 degrees and 100 degrees, the warmest, only 7 percent felt that way about [Christie].
Good lordthats a 5-to-1 ratio! But uh-oh! Dopp failed to note that only eleven percent of all respondents gave Christie such a high rating. Thats because more than half of all respondents gave him no rating at all!
That said, lets return to our basic question: Why did this bungled report emerge from one of our liberal sites? The Daily Beast ran a Christie-enhancing postbut it started at TPM.
Why did that happen?
Lets start with a point weve mentioned before: Terbush is quite new to this business. He may end up as the worlds greatest scribe. But heres his TPM bio:
TPM BIOGRAPHY: Jon graduated from Emerson College in 2009 with a BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, and a minor in journalism. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Emerson's humor publication, Hyena Magazine, where he, in successive years, received college funding to ridicule the college and write immature jokes about Paul Revere.
Before joining TPM, Jon wrote for newspapers in Connecticut and his beloved former home, Boston. He lives in Brooklyn and puts cayenne pepper on everything he cooks.
As recently as 2009, he was writing immature jokes about Paul Revere. (Not that theres anything wrong with it!) Today, hes bungling reports at TPMreports which go to a wider audience, enhancing Chris Christies cred.
Terbush may end up as the worlds greatest scribe; we like his fighting spirit. But moguls save money by hiring such kids. In recent years, Josh has dumbed his site way down. But heres the good news: By hiring kids straight from the Hyena, he puts extra bucks in his pants.
Like so many liberal orgs, TPM has become dumber, more tabloid. Josh has also dumbed himself down. (His work was once outstanding.) Beyond that, you get handed bungled crap each night on liberal cable.
In this case, the bungle went the wrong way. No, Virginia: Chris Christie isnt our nations most popular pol; most people dont even know who he is. But this is how moguls and cable stars get richwhile liberals get dumbed to the ground.