It just keeps getting worse: Good God.
We had planned to wait at least until Friday to revisit Rachel Maddows attempts to critique the Beltway press. Trust ustheres a different topic we would have liked to limn in this space today.
Sometimes, though, the work is so bad that it simply cant be overlooked. This was Maddow, just last night, going after that Beltway press coverage:
MADDOW (4/5/11): In all of the Beltway press coverage of this potential budget showdown in D.C. now, you read over and over and over again about how desperate both sides are to avoid a government shutdown. Right? In the Washington Post, quote, "Republicans and Democrats are eager to avoid a shutdown." At Slate.com today, quote, "No government shutdown. Why Republicans and Democrats will work to avoid the crisis."
This is the Beltway frame for whats going on in the government shutdown fight right now. And it sort of sounds right. Until you notice that Republicans dont seem that eager to be avoiding this shutdown.
Maddow went on to claim that Republicans actually want a shutdown, despite what the Beltway press has said in all its coverage, over and over and over.
As we continue, try to recall that this was broadcast by Our Own Rhodes Scholar.
In one way, the Daily Howler was getting results in the passage weve posted. Incredible! Maddow named two major news organs, including the Washington Post. (To watch the full segment, click here.)
Of course, its hard to prove, from just two quotes, that the entire Beltway press has been pushing one framework over and over and over again. But this is the first time weve ever seen Maddow name a news org as big as the Post in her unfolding critiques of the Beltway press. And sure enough! The statement she quoted, from yesterdays front-page report, is hard to defend as basic journalism. How does reporter Paul Kane know that "Republicans and Democrats are eager to avoid a shutdown? What does he even mean by that statement? Are all Reps and Dems so inclined?
That claim is found deep in that front-page report, but it strikes us as weak journalism. But consider Maddows second example of the press corps hapless, party-line efforts. At Slate.com today, she saidand then she read the quote: "No government shutdown. Why Republicans and Democrats will work to avoid the crisis.
Truly, this is just sad.
We could find no such statement or headline at Slate, so we decided to use the link from the Maddow Show blog (click here). It took us to this analysis piece by John Dickersona piece which ran on February 25, just before the two parties did find a way to avoid an impending shutdown.
Six weeks ago, Dickerson wrote an analysis piece, predicting that the two parties would avoid an impending shutdown. His prediction turned out to be right. Last night, Maddow quoted what Dickerson wrote, while saying it had been written yesterday.
She used it as proof of the way the Beltway press cant figure out whats happening right before them.
Weve never seen the likes of Maddow; her staff may be even worse. She delivered her claim with tremendous assurance, as she persistently does.
Can we say it again? Dickersons prediction turned out to be right! Last night, Maddow used his prediction as proof that the Beltway press is just so pathetically wrong. In our experience, this is fairly typical of the way this show employs facts.
By the way: The shutdown in question was averted on March 1. That morning, before the deal was struck, the Washington Post ran this front-page report. Republican freshmen might queer the whole thing, the big Beltway newspaper said.
Youre right! This plainly wasnt the uniform party line Maddow described last nightas she told us, with massive assurance, something howlingly wrong.
Yes, this was only one inane claim. But it was such a wondrously perfect false claim that weve passed it along.
By the way, speaking of Schumer: Maddows long-winded partisan screed to the side, we have wondered, on several recent occasions, whether some big Democrats may be trying to bring on a shutdown. Have you ever wondered that?
We have. Just saying! Unlike Maddow, we of course cant be sure.
KLEIN IN LOVE (permalink): Within the realm ruled by Hard Pundit Law, everyone seems to know that attention must be paidthat plaudits must be advanced.
Yesterday, as the lunch hour neared, Ezra Klein posted the first of several statements vouching for Paul Ryans wonderful character. Somehow, career liberal pundits seem to know that they are required to do this:
KLEIN (4/5/11, 11:45 AM): That Ryans shown political courage by proposing difficult and even dangerous policy ideas cant be denied. But political courage in service of bad ideas is no virtue. His budget concentrates its sacrifices among the poor and vulnerable and largely exempts defense spending and high-income taxpayers.
Has Ryan shown political courage? Perhaps referring to unpublished laws, Klein said this cant be denied. But why does it take political courage for a major Republican politician to offer a plan which concentrates its sacrifices among the poor and vulnerable and largely exempts high-income taxpayers? Whatever one may think of that plan, why does it take political courage?
Because of such proposals, Ryan has become the darling of ruling elites. He will remain so for life. Lets assume that Kleins assessment of his proposal is accurate: Why would a proposal like that require political courage?
Is Ezra obeying an unpublished law, a law understood through the guild? About six hours later, as dinner approached, he posted on Ryan again. In this post, Klein was critical of the courageous man, though in a highly limited way. And not before offering the requisite statements about Ryans various virtues:
KLEIN (4/5/11, 5:52 PM): Ryan is the kind of politician I fundamentally like. Hes smart, policy-oriented and willing to take political risksbut only, it turns out, of a certain kind. His budget puts Republicans at risk by yoking them to a plan to privatize Medicare, slash Medicaid and cut taxes on the wealthy. Which is to say, it puts Republicans at risk by pulling them very far to the right. But there are no risks of apostasy here. Nothing like Obama pushing Democrats on an individual mandate he had once opposed and a slew of cuts and reforms to Medicare. Nothing like George H. W. Bush agreeing to raise taxes as part of a budget deal. Nothing that might anger people to his right, as opposed to those to his left.
Ezra went on to allege that Ryan has painted the GOP into a partisan box. But along the way, he fawned again. Since I dont like most of Ryans proposed reform, perhaps I should be happy about that. But Im not, he lamented. Its disappointing to see so much political talent lashed to Grover Norquists policy agenda.
Lets see. Ryan is courageous, smart and policy-oriented. Hes the kind of politician Klein fundamentally likesand he seems to be brimming with talent. It may seem strange to see a young career liberal gushing this way about someone who wants to go after the poor and the vulnerable, while serving the wealthybut in this case, the vouching was stranger than that. You see, around tea time, Ezra had offered another post about Ryan. It had started like this:
KLEIN (4/5/11, 4:17 PM): Paul Ryans funny numbers
Jon Bernstein is right to warn that the numbers in Paul Ryans budget look a little funny. For one thing, hes assuming repealing the Affordable Care Act will save $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office says keeping Affordable Care Act saves more than $200 billion over the same period. When asked to explain the discrepancy, Ryan said he was using CBOs numbers, which is clearly untrue. So something is wrong there.
Id be very skeptical of some of the more outlandish numbers Ryan released alongside his report, Ezra said as he ended this post. An hour later, he was saying that Ryan is the kind of pol he fundamentally likes. So smart! So policy-oriented!
Lets be excessively fair. Yesterday, Klein authored six posts about Ryans proposal. In only two of these posts did he gush about Ryans admirable characteristicsabout his courage, his smarts, his political talent, his focus on policy. In the other four posts, Klein wrote dispassionate analysesor he cited Ryans apparent dishonesty, without making any attempt to tie this to a larger assessment of Ryans character. Is it possible that Ryan is heartless, cruel, dishonest, a nut? Those kinds of conclusions were never broached. Go aheadchuckle mordantly at this, the conclusion of an early-afternoon post:
KLEIN (4/5/11, 12:44 PM): So Id be a lot more sympathetic to what Paul Ryan is proposing if he wanted to build on the Affordable Care Act. But what he actually wants to do is repeal the Affordable Care Act, slash Medicaid and privatize Medicare. Theres no vision of a working health-care system in that proposal. It wouldnt just leave more people uninsured than the Affordable Care Act does, but due to the Medicaid cutbacks, itd probably leave more Americans uninsured than the status quo does, too. Thats not only morally unacceptable, but itll impede our efforts to bring down health-care costs systemwide. Remember that controlling health-care costs is, in the end, either about treating sick people or keeping people from getting sick. Thats why the Affordable Care Act focused so heavily on delivery-system reform. Ryan just yanks health-care insurance away from various groups of people, pockets the savings and calls it a day. Thats not good enough.
Ryan wants to slash Medicaid and privatize Medicare, in a way which would probably leave more Americans uninsured than is the case at present. Ryans proposal just yanks health-care insurance away from various groups of people and pockets the savings. At one point, Klein says this proposals probable outcomes is morally unacceptable. But he never states a negative conclusion about Ryan himself.
Would Ryan yank health-care insurance away from various groups and pocket the savings? Thats not good enough, Ezra says.
What is the nature of Paul Ryans character? For ourselves, we simply dont know. Ryan strikes us as a bit of a nut; beyond that, we think his (repeated) claim that Democrats will have to lie or demagogue to oppose his plan is an ugly, unacceptable statement. (It lies outside the traditional norms of Washington political combat.) But we dont really know what Ryan is likewe dont know what he truly thinks and believes. People believe all sorts of things. Its easy to damn the other side, but it also tends to be fairly stupid.
As a general matter, debate works better when people rein in the impulse to characterize the souls of those on the other side. But in this case, we see a vastly stranger impulsean impulse in which career liberals like Klein seem to feel obliged to vouch for the character of those on the other side! As we mentioned yesterday, many of these same career liberals played a different game in an earlier period, when the accepted norm required pundits to build a negative moral framework around discussions of Clinton, then Gore. In fairness, Klein wasnt part of that effort, for reasons of youth.
We return to this theme today because the conduct is just so odd. According to Klein, Ryan wants to take from the poor and vulnerableand he wants to exempt millionaires. He wants to slash Medicaid; his proposal would leave even more people uninsured than we have at present. His proposal is driven by funny numbers, some of which are simply outlandish.
But so what? Ryan is full of courage. Ryan is the kind of pol Ezra fundamentally likes.
We have no earthly idea why Ezra Klein said these peculiar things. But the vouching for Ryan has been quite general in the past few days. This vouching will seem especially odd to those who can recall the way major Democrats, like Gore, had their character savaged, for years, often by the very same liberals who thunder at you on the TV today. Wed be better off if theyd swore off their novelized character tales altogether. But its hard to deny that these novelized tales seem to favor pols like Ryan, even among many liberals.
For years, weve tried to help you see the way career liberals have sold your interests. But in the past week, weve been especially struck by the lack of an overriding liberal perspective or world view.
The famous Ken Burns Civil War film has been re-airing on PBS. As weve watched it, weve thought of the punishing patterns built into our American historyand weve thought about the way lazy, overpaid, store-bought career liberals have sold your interests away over the past twenty years.
Ryans proposal emerges from a plain worldviewa worldview which has been aggressively advanced in the past thirty years. What competing worldview has come from our side?
More on this problem tomorrow.