Monthly Archives: February 2010

Decide First, Research Later

The Democrats legal infrastructure must be congenitally flawed.  Everyone thought Indiana Democrats and Evan Bayh were so smart to time his announcement so that only the party apparatchik could coalesce quickly around the Democratic nominee.  Not so fast.

Parker had hoped to call a meeting of the Democratic Party’s state central committee’s 32 voting members as early as next week. But after party attorneys researched state law, they discovered they could not fill the ballot vacancy until after the primary.

Only after they decide on a strategy do the Dems research to see if it’s legal.

Punditry=Over Analysis

Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman provides context to Obama’s declining popularity, currently around 50 percent, depending on the poll.  He’s simply following the usual path of a new president’s first year.  In fact, the Dallas Morning News headline outs it this way:  “Just Like Reagan.”  Mr. Greed-Is-Good, however, rebounded to win 49 states in the next next election.  George W. Bush was on his way to suffering the same fate in his first year, but for 9/11, which despite it being his administration that let its guard down and cost the lives of 3,000 people, that helped his popularity soared.

Chapman cites research by Stanford University professor Douglas Rivers.

Though Obama rated the lowest of recent presidents at the end of his first year, Rivers says the pattern "is pretty much in line with what you would expect." What we see is "more a continuing trend than an Obama phenomenon."

That’s not to say Obama has made no mistakes. Every president bungles some things, and every president pays a price.

His fiscal policy and health care plan, in particular, have spawned public resentment. On the other hand, his grades on gay rights and immigration have actually improved — possibly because he has done less than expected on either. There is no real evidence to suggest that the public finds Obama far more fallible or detestable than they usually find presidents at this stage.

On health care reform, it’s not clear what he could have done differently to appease a notoriously demanding citizenry. Surveys indicate people think that if his plan passes, they will get "worse care at a higher cost," says Rivers. What do they expect if his plan doesn’t pass? "They’ll get worse care at a higher cost."

I wish I could say Americans’ suspicion of health care reform shows a sensible appreciation of the limits of government power and responsibility. But I suspect the real problem is they fear it will not guarantee them everything they want at someone else’s expense. Rivers notes that when you ask people about specific components of the plan, they turn out to be "fairly popular."

If Americans distrust the government, they also take a dim view of the private sector, or parts of it. "Anything negative for insurance companies is popular," says Rivers. Most people blame insurers for rising health care expenditures, even though insurance companies are one of the few constituencies with a powerful interest in reducing outlays.

This is not the contradiction it may appear. People don’t mind when national health care costs rise. They do mind when their personal health care costs rise. When that happens, they blame health insurers. They may also blame the president.

But most important is Chapman’s observation of politicians and the media, pointing out how frustrating it is to see the amount of newsprint dedicated to the daily politics of reform and the insipid observations of the pundit class.

American politicians and commentators are generally not afflicted by a deep knowledge or appreciation of history. If they were, they would not waste their time laboring to explain something that requires little explanation. They could simply state the obvious — new presidents invariably lose public esteem in the first year of their terms — and go on to try to explicate something truly mysterious, like Lady Gaga.

And later,

It’s a mistake to think every political trend has deep meaning.

George Will Slams Media

While Will’s column is more about the futility of populism, his last graph puts a knife in today’s journalists.

Political nature abhors a vacuum, which is what often exists for a year or two in a party after it loses a presidential election. But today’s saturation journalism, mesmerized by presidential politics and ravenous for material, requires a steady stream of political novelties. In that role, Palin is united with the media in a relationship of mutual loathing. This is not her fault. But neither is it her validation.

In fact, it is to MSM’s advantage to make Palin credible as she is a ratings draw.  So they will not ignore her; they will give her attention that any other female politician who deserted her constituents would not get, especially if they weren’t as attractive physically as she is.

No Such Thing as Objective News Reporting?

I know nothing about either of these journals, the online “Creative Loafing” or the Atlanta Progressive News. But here’s an odd interpretation of reportingAPN fired a reporter because he tried to report “objectively,” at least that’s what his former employer said. 

He held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News. It just wasn’t the right fit.

…We believe there is no such thing as objective news. Typically, mainstream media presents itself as objective but is actually skewed towards promoting the corporate agenda of the ultra-wealthy.

APN, on the other hand, does not pretend to be objective. We believe that our news coverage is fair and that our progressive principles are fair. We aim when possible to give voice to all sides, but aim to provide something different than what is already provided by corporate sources.”

APN’s statement is interesting and not without some merit.  In most stories, there are a lot of facts you could include but can’t because of space.  What you include and exclude therefore means a story is not all-encompassing.  But does that mean there is no objectivity?  Reporting has become stenography at many mainstream media organizations.  They report both sides of an issue, even if one side is so far out of the mainstream as to be inconsequential, at least from a scientific standpoint.  Climate change, for example. The overwhelming number of climatologists believe the earth is warming due to man’s emissions.  But because the doubters cry loud enough and accuse the MSM of bias, The climate change deniers gets reported as if there is serious doubt.  Also, blatantly hypocritical positions are ignored; for example, the Congressional Republicans’ stance toward stimulus funding.  Rachel Maddow, on the MSNBC (mostly) liberal network, is one of the few journalists reporting the hypocrisy.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Hypocrisy would seem to be something voters would want to know about.  It’s objective—and important–information.  APN, it being a progressive newspaper, might report this hypocrisy, but would ignoring Democratic hypocrisy be objective?  Hardly.

News You Can Refuse

It still doesn’t look like internet users are willing to pay for new content sites, at least according to the headline on this S.F. Chronicle story.  But dig deeper and there appears some hope for rags considering charging for content.

The New York Times and other news outlets have said they will start charging for online access to news stories. But Nielsen said only 34 percent of newspaper readers and 39 percent of magazine readers would consider paying for online content, and that percentage drops to 31 percent for users of online-only news sites.

If about a third of your online readers are willing to pay something, even if only pennies per story, you would think newspapers could make the model work.

Obama’s Budget

Here’s a pretty cool chart showing how Obama’s FY2011 budget compares to the current budget.  Some of the biggest cuts include:

Grants to states for Medicaid – 11%

Public health and social services – 80%

Education for the disadvantaged – 32%

Trade adjustment assistance, training – 60%

Veterans benefits – 13%

State & Local law enforcement assistance – 15%

Child & family support programs –25%

Disaster relief – 62%

‘Open, Honest’ Debate

From today’s Post story about the administration new communications strategy I was struck by this quote…

One thing for sure that people want is for us to have honest, open debate," said senior adviser David Axelrod.

..mostly because it echoed something I wrote in a letter to my local state representatives after many of my neighbors went apoplectic about the lack of snow removal around here after last week’s big storms.

I urge you to have honest and frank discussions with your constituents about how your vision for our communities informs your decisions, the cost of services and how the tax structure can be used to address our needs.

I’d like to see just one Democrat have the guts to have an honest discussion with folks about what a new tax structure could mean for our standard of living.  The party is petrified of the subject.

The full letter is here.

Obama’s New Communication Strategy

The Post says the administration has a new communications strategy.

First, they said, is a return to the disciplined messaging that was a hallmark of the 2008 campaign…

Second, White House advisers promise a quicker, more aggressive response to GOP attacks on the president and his policies….

A third change is a return to the backdrops for Obama that aides considered so effective during the presidential bid….

Finally, aides said it was recognized inside the West Wing that Obama has strayed from his most successful message of the campaign: that he would be a change agent in Washington.

Which means the administration has abandoned its original strategy, which was to be slow, passive, boring and an agent of the status quo.  Gee, I’m sure glad the administration has re-thought that plan.

Demand Question Time

A bi-partisan group has started a campaign to make the president’s unscripted conversation with Republican legislators last week in Baltimore a regular thing.  It’s not a bad idea, though I fear it will become one if it becomes a regular thing.  Both sides will try to game it and therefore de-nude it of any value, though I have confidence that Republicans will figure out a way to do that better than Democrats will.  Though the president seems to have gained the upper hand at the session, GOPers will not continue to do it if they feel they’re losing the PR battle, especially if the Administration thinks they don’t have to prepare for it.  If it continues, you can be sure that Republicans will look to ask questions that are designed more to embarrass the president than to discuss ideas.

The site is slow at the time of this posting.  I had a hard time getting to the petition, and once I signed it I got an internal error.  Let’s hope it’s because many people are trying to sign the petition.

Dems: What? Plan the Message!?

Presidential advisor David Axelrod tells Mike Allen of Politico that the give and take between the President and GOP lawmakers last week was not scripted from the President’s point of view.

“There was not one minute of prep here — I guarantee it. He left here for Baltimore on the helicopter, and we didn’t have any discussion about Q & A. It was thoroughly spontaneous, at least from our end.”

Gee, I’d been shocked if Democrats ever gave a thought to message prep.  I guess they think they’re smart enough to wing it.  You think?  No, I don’t either.