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Print view: Chris Christie is our most popular pol! It started at TPM
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IT STARTED AT TPM! Chris Christie is our most popular pol! It started at TPM: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, MARCH 8, 2011

How Fox Nation 2 evolves/O’Donnell helps make things clear: Lawrence O’Donnell delivered “the last word” last night—the last word on our reports from last week.

Before we look at what he said, let’s consider two other quick topics.

George Will’s historic column: On yesterday’s Hardball, Chris Matthews largely got it right about George Will’s 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 Will’s renunciation of Huckabee/Gingrich; he didn’t focus quite sharply enough on Will’s broader attack. Will’s column renounced the whole culture of birtherism, a sickness liberals have struggled to defeat for two solid years. Because of Will’s stature as a conservative, this “historic” column should be useful in taking this sickness down.

Unless you were watching last Friday’s Maddow show, in which case Will’s column represented a chance to simper, clown and play around about an embarrassing word.

John Boehner’s performance as Speaker: John Boehner “is a shrewd dude,” E. J. Dionne wrote in yesterday’s Post. “Democrats who underestimate him will be playing into his hands.”

Is Dionne right? We’re 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 good—and they’ve been utterly silly, like so many of her attempts at domestic political analysis.

Good God, you hear crap on that program!

That said, let’s return to Lawrence O’Donnell, who shows us how the liberal world is getting transformed into Fox Nation 2.

Last night, O’Donnell spoke with two state senators from Wisconsin. This included Scott Fitzgerald, the state senate’s Republican leader. Late in the segment, O’Donnell went back to an inaccurate story—an inaccurate standard tale his boss has hotly renounced:

O’DONNELL (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?

O’DONNELL: To Michael Moore’s point—to Michael Moore’s point, his point being, America’s 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, you’ve already passed.

Good grief! O’Donnell returned to a bungled tale—a tale his boss has renounced. (To watch this segment, click here.)

This bungled tale was widely voiced at the start of this budget fight—until Politifact and others debunked it. According to this bungled tale, Wisconsin had a budget surplus when Governor Walker took office—but Walker passed three corporate tax cuts which created the current shortfall. But as Politifact (and others) showed, Wisconsin didn’t have a surplus when Walker took office—and Walker’s tax cuts don’t 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, O’Donnell’s 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 Politifact’s 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 greatness—although 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! O’Donnell flat-out restated it.

What O’Donnell 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 tales—and everybody keeps repeating them, even after they’ve 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 shortfall—although that isn’t true. We hear that Walker should raise taxes on the rich, like Governor Quinn did in Illinois—although Illinois taxes the rich at 5 percent, and Wisconsin’s 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 too—though Maddow still hasn’t corrected herself. And you know how she loves self-correction!

Last night, O’Donnell returned to a bungled report—a 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 America’s 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 site—a site which has been steadily dumbed down by its founder, Josh Marshall. Is Chris Christie this nation’s most popular pol? Here’s what TPM’s front-page headline pack said:

TPM FRONT-PAGE HEADLINE (3/7/11):
TOO HOT TO HANDLE?
Poll: Chris Christie
America’s ‘Hottest’ Politician

Say what? Normally, we don’t click on TPM’s tabloidized headline packs; we’ve 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 TPM’s bungled report.

Jon Terbush wrote the TPM piece. As he started, here’s 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 politician—even 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. Christie’s 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 Obama’s, Terbush said, referring to the New Jersey blowhard’s “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 he’s the most popular politician in America right now.” So the Daily Beast reported, citing the Terbush report.

That was ginormous rubbish, of course—prime bungle-filled balderdash. But the rubbish enhanced Christie’s national cred—and it started at TPM.

Is Christie the nation’s most popular pol? Actually, no—he is not. Initially, we read the Daily Beast report because its headline seemed so unlikely. And because we aren’t the world’s biggest rubes, we incomparably spotted the problem.

Here’s what happened:

The problem started with Quinnipiac, which explained its survey very poorly. (To read Quinnipiac’s 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 Obama’s rating.

But uh-oh! Another fact was highly relevant—a fact Terbush didn’t mention. Fifty-five percent of the sample said they didn’t 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 didn’t put flashing red lights around it. Nor did it explain why this fact is so important in interpreting a survey like this. (Quinnipiac’s press release is an incompetent mess.)

Gack! According to this survey, 55 percent of the nation’s 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 here’s today’s philosophical question: In such a circumstance, can a politician really be called the nation’s “most popular pol?” Is such a figure really “making Americans feel all warm and fuzzy?”

We would say the answer is no—but let’s 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, he’s 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 America’s hottest pol? That’s what the TPM headline said—and the Daily Beast took the good news and spread it all around. Before we try to understand why TPM would bungle like this, let’s note that a few mainstream organs bungled even worse.

At The Hill, this hapless post appeared. It stressed the fact that Christie’s 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 lord—that’s 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. That’s because more than half of all respondents gave him no rating at all!

That said, let’s return to our basic question: Why did this bungled report emerge from one of our “liberal” sites? The Daily Beast ran a Christie-enhancing post—but it started at TPM.

Why did that happen?

Let’s start with a point we’ve mentioned before: Terbush is quite new to this business. He may end up as the world’s greatest scribe. But here’s 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 there’s anything wrong with it!) Today, he’s bungling reports at TPM—reports which go to a wider audience, enhancing Chris Christie’s cred.

Terbush may end up as the world’s 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 here’s 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 isn’t our nation’s most popular pol; most people don’t even know who he is. But this is how moguls and cable stars get rich—while liberals get dumbed to the ground.