How Republicans Get Away With It

Liberal media bias? My donkey there is.

Even when talking TV heads take a break from the Herman Cain nonsense long enough to talk about the dysfunction in Washington, they still manage to get it all wrong and mislead the American people in the process.

A discussion on Morning Joe Friday morning—all too typical of how cable news is interpreting current events—about the failure of the Democrats latest attempt to get Senate Republicans to help with the economic recovery had me fuming and illustrated just what is wrong with American journalism—a strong right-of-center bias—and also demonstrated how Republicans have been able to literally get away with serial governmental nonfeasance.

The discussion involved former radical conservative congressman (essentially his own description) Joe Scarborough (it’s his show, of course, on that “liberal” network MSNBC), along with his sidekick, the occasional Democrat and former journalist Mika Brzezinski, and frequent guests, Time magazine’s senior political analyst Mark Halperin (who once called President Obama a “dick” on the show) and Mike Barnicle (an “award winning” columnist who resigned from the Boston Globe amid charges of fabricating a column and plagiarizing George Carlin).

The conversation essentially began with Brzezinski reading an excerpt from a fantastic column by Paul Krugman and then an editorial from the New York Times, “Putting Millionaires Before Jobs“:

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, bitterly accused Democrats of designing their infrastructure bill to fail by paying for it with a millionaire’s tax, as if his party’s intransigence was so indomitable that daring to challenge it is somehow underhanded.

The only good news is that the Democrats aren’t going to stop. There are many more jobs bills to come, including extension of unemployment insurance and the payroll-tax cut. If Republicans are so proud of blocking all progress, they will have to keep doing it over and over again, testing the patience of American voters.

The conversation soon headed off to crazytown when Scarborough noted all the wonderful things that Paul Ryan and the Republicans in the House have done to try to create jobs (don’t laugh, he was serious), involving “15 jobs bills” that were sent to the Senate where Democrats let them die. Let’s pick it up from there:

SCARBOROUGH: I gotta say by the time the election comes along Republicans are gonna be in pretty damn good shape, when it comes to obstructionism. Because they’re doing something and the Democrats are killing it. Now you’ve got the President finally trying to do something on jobs and the Republicans are killing it. It’s a wash.

HALPERIN: Well, there’s no question Republicans don’t get a fair shake in the media in general on those two points and they have a point on both of them. But those aren’t views that can get a majority in this country…if people want to spend the next year posturing, they can, but it’s not the right thing for the country, and the President needs to convince Republicans and his own party that we don’t have a year to waste.  Unfortunately, right now that’s the trajectory we’re still on.

SCARBOROUGH: And, Mike, that’s where we are. The Republicans are passing their bills, which the Democrats are killing. Democrats want to pass bills that the Republicans want to kill. This is the time that Tip O’Neill would put his arm around Ronald Reagan and they’d sit down in the White house and they would actually work for what’s best for America.

BARNICLE: Exactly. But I mean this last line of the Times editorial [reading]: “The Republicans, if they’re so proud of blocking all progress, have to keep doing it over and over again, testing the patience of American voters.”  People on the Times editorial board ought to take a walk around the building that they’re housed in. Most Americans, I venture to think, think what’s happening in Washington is a virtual clown show—both sides.

SCARBOROUGH: Both sides!

BRZEZINSKI: Polls show it for sure.

First, let us understand that Scarborough, who was part of that extremist class of Republicans that first took over the House in 1994, is, only in the context of current crazy conservative politics, sounding quite reasonable: sit down and make a deal he says to both sides—even though “both” sides are not guilty of not wanting to make a deal. (The legislation offered by the Democrats is essentially already bipartisan in nature.)

Second, let us understand that Mark Halperin has a history of selling Republicanism to the public (see, for instance, here and here).  Besides calling the President names, his most recent badge of honor is a puff piece he did for Time on Rick Perry, introducing him to the world. Even given his obsession with bending over for Republicans, for Halperin to say that they “don’t get a fair shake in the media in general” on the jobs issue sent my piss meter spiking once again.  Was he trying to be funny?

Throughout the episodic budget battles over the past two years, continuing into the current fights over how to help the economy create jobs, Republicans have enjoyed universal media equality with Democrats, in terms of having pure motivations and in terms of culpability for failure.  “Both sides” are morally and ideologically pure and “both sides” are equally guilty of not compromising. 

That bulldook analysis is how the mainstream, Beltway media often presents the political and economic news to Americans, even forgetting the one-sided coverage on Fox “News.”  Halperin says,

the President needs to convince Republicans and his own party that we don’t have a year to waste.  

As if Democrats have been committing mutiny against the President’s proposals and are equally to blame for nothing getting done! It’s a preposterous lie and Halperin knows it, but he has some kind of unhealthy need to appear “balanced,” when there is no balance to the matter. 

The last vote on the infrastructure-jobs bill that “failed” in the Senate (even though it got a majority of votes) received all but one of the Democrats’ votes, and every single Republican senator voted against the damn thing.  So how is it that President Obama should be convincing “his own party that we don’t have a year to waste“?

Mark Halperin is a paid analyst, for both Time and MSNBC.  For God’s sake, the man gets paid, handsomely, for this stuff!

It’s sickening is what it is. I believe I could go to a Joplin Walmart and randomly pick out a patron from the produce section who could, while testing the tomatoes, present a more accurate picture of events in Washington than Halperin’s.

And then we have journalist-columnist Mike Barnicle, who plays the “everyman” on Morning Joe. His toilet-paper-thin analysis of most issues belongs on Fox and Friends, not on a show that tries at times to have a serious discussion of current events.  Barnicle says “both sides” are clowns, “both sides” are thus guilty, “both sides” are thus the problem.

That’s like saying the cops and robbers are both to blame for the increase in crime.  It’s preposterous and it would be hilariously preposterous, if there weren’t so much at stake.

Again: There is no damned overall liberal bias in the press. Friday’s segment and others like it on Morning Joe and elsewhere on “liberal” MSNBC prove it. Would to God there was such a bias. 

Loud-mouthed conservatives like Rush Limbaugh and the Fox stable of reactionary blabberbots have been so successful in convincing mainstream journalists that there is a bias against conservative ideas, that those mainstream journalists take the easy road out and present a distorted version of events, a fuzzy and vague picture of what is really going on in America, a picture in which both parties are to blame for the dysfunction.

What is really going on is that Republicans are sabotaging Barack Obama’s presidency and they don’t give a damn if millions of Americans suffer another year or two until the job is done. 

And even if journalists rightfully refuse to call it “sabotage,” they ought to at least forego reporting as news the “both sides are guilty” lie.

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  1. A lie repeated often enough….


    • Unfortunately, Americans are susceptible to the right-wing lie machine. Think about how many folks still believe Obama is a Muslim or foreigner or is a socialist; how many believe that global warming isn’t happening; how many believe in Obamacare’s “death panels”; how many believe that evolution is false; how many believe that Obama has raised their taxes; how many believe that tax cuts will increase employment; and so on.

      Much of this stuff has been pushed by Fox or other right-wing outlets with, unfortunately, not much of a counter-response from mainstream media, which try to be “fair” by saying things like this (which I made up in this case):

      Scientists say the earth is billions of years old but some conservative Republicans say there are reputable scientists who believe that the earth is in fact only thousands of years old.

      It’s the same way with the need for an economic stimulus. Most mainstream economists recognize the need for some kind of temporary government spending to fill in the economy’s demand gap but you wouldn’t know that by listening to mainstream news. It is a they-said, they-said matter.

      Just like the idea that the original Obama stimulus “failed,” which almost no mainstream economist contends. Only a few right-wing economists on the payroll of right-wing think tanks or who have an ideological ax to grind say that it failed (along with a ton of Fox “analysts”). But they are presented as though they represented mainstream opinion.

      The problem is that conservatives often seem to have their own set of facts and journalists often play along with them.



  2. Troy

     /  November 6, 2011

    Joe has infiltrated the only true mouthpiece of the American people (MSNBC). He should be on Fox. He is one of their guys! And of course all of his sidekicks should go with him. They can’t see the trees for “their forrests” et., Rush, Sean, Bortz, Beck, etc…………


    • Troy,

      The problem is not so much Joe—as long as everyone understands where he is coming from—the problem is with the guests. His usual regular guests are not tried-and-true Democrats or liberals, but folks who suck up to him and endure his long and dominating rants without much of a push-back. There are times where he won’t let anyone get a word in until he has had his say.

      Occasionally he does have on some left-of-center types, but most of them—but not all of them—are reluctant to cross him. I have seen an alleged liberal, Carl Bernstein, basically melt under Joe’s mild rebuke. Mika shrinks for most of the show and Barnicle is intellectually out of his depth. Willie is, well, Willie. He’s not going to bite the mouth that feeds him.

      I first started watching the show because it is the best alternative to the rest of morning programming. However, CNN is going to soon offer next year a new morning show featuring the intelligent and serious Soledad O’Brien. It’s supposed to be smart talk about politics, etc., but we shall see.

      The IQ-sapping Fox and Friends still averages a million viewers (forever frozen in ignorance) each morning, followed by Morning Joe with about half as many. CNN’s “American Morning” has only about 300,000, which is why the network is changing horses.


  3. ansonburlingame

     /  November 6, 2011

    To all,

    I assume this blog and comments thereto will be over just how biased is the media, right or left. Is that an argument that is possible to win, I wonder.

    I occassionally watch MSNBC in the evening. I see left wing views espoused and defended therein and usually guests that support those views. I watch FOX in the evening, sometimes, as well. I see right wing views and guests supporting such as well.

    Other than “popularity” or viewership, those two are a wash as far as I can tell. Thought admittedly FOX is on the top of the mountain in ratings or popularity, for sure. O’Reilly, like him or not has been there for a very long time and Greta seems to dominate the 9 PM segment (Central time) as well.

    Limbaugh and the majority of talk radio are, well……. I have no idea why that is the case? There is no one from the left that can challenge Limbaugh in radio popularity. Again, I don’t know why, do you.

    I do not consider the Washington Post very “biased”. The NYT is another matter at least to me. Call them a wash of sorts.

    The real issue as I hear it is “mainstream” TV “news” at 6:30 PM on ABC, NBC and CBS. Frankly, I stopped watching any of those programs long ago, like may five years ago. I “read” to “get the news” each day and go to TV to find the “spin” on such, from both sides.

    Now please consider this. Duane supports the left and frequently shows clips from MSNBC to support his views. He sometimes shows clips from FOX to “prove” how crazy, in his view, the right might be. But I have yet to see him “clip” an MSNBC evening show supporting the right or same from Fox that has a liberal slant to it.

    Like Duane, I am no expert on politics. What I write are basically my views based on experience, etc. If I “linked” FOX to prove a point I would get laughed out of town by liberals. Yet Duane seems to believe his links to St. Rachel are somehow hard, cold TRUTH that all should believe or at least support.

    Spin it left, spin it right, it makes no difference to me. I will make up my own mind, opine as I see fit and of course then vote as well in such regards.

    But as just an example of REAL media biase of the worst sort, to me, a real SCARE tactic for a “story”. I do know a thing our two about nuclear reactor operations and radiological safety, 33 years worth of experience. What I saw all over all TV was pure crap in terms of danger to America and even in most cases to Japan.

    By and large that was a massive problem but well handled by Japanese authorities and the Japanese people as well. But all we heard about for days was MELTDOWN, EXPLOSIONS, ETC. all in bold headlines and supported by some “physician concerned about something”. There is biase right in your face, in my view.



    • Anson,

      You wrote:

      Duane supports the left and frequently shows clips from MSNBC to support his views. He sometimes shows clips from FOX to “prove” how crazy, in his view, the right might be. But I have yet to see him “clip” an MSNBC evening show supporting the right or same from Fox that has a liberal slant to it.

      This entire piece was how a show on MSNBC, which you consider liberal, supports the right’s view of things. How could you miss something so obvious? I suppose I could have clipped the video instead of using the written words, but I prefer the written words for what I was attempting to do.

      As for my links to St. Rachel, you can judge for yourself just how hard and cold the truth therein is. You can also, if you care to, check her research and determine for yourself if she speaks with a forked tongue instead of simply dismissing what she says because you think it slanted.

      Sure, she has a liberal bias, which she admits, but does Bill O’Reilly or Greta admit to a right-wing bias? O’Reilly constantly tells us he is being fair and balanced, which is distantly like Charles Manson perhaps claiming he is just a music critic (the Beatles were sending him messages about the racial apocalypse to come). While O’Reilly hasn’t killed anybody obviously, the point is that he interprets events in a very biased manner, which happens to serve his own interests. He should at least admit to it. I have often checked out things he asserts to see if they are true (like his continuing phony claim about the $16 pastry, for instance).

      And to the extent that the media got facts wrong about the Japanese problem with its reactors (which I don’t necessarily concede to the extent you claim), that has nothing to do with ideological bias, but with ignorance. I have the same reaction when I read stories about the Postal Service or about labor disputes. I don’t blame bias for the misreporting, but laziness or lack of time or just plain ignorance of how those things work.



    • Anson,
      By coincidence, research for an article I’m working on dovetailed with your question pertaining to Rush Limbaugh’s popularity and why there is no liberal equivalent. Clear Channel, the parent company owning Premier Radio Networks, has through the years become the dominant player in broadband and tele-communications, owning some 1,200 radio stations in over 250 markets nationwide. Because of changes in laws governing mass media ownership (primarily the 1996 Telecommunications Act that deregulated the industry) Clear Channel began conglomerating their holdings to such an extent that they have amassed a virtual monopoly.

      The upshot is that radio stations owned by Clear Channel broadcast product supplied by their subsidiary, Premier Radio Network. Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio is a pre-programmed format that is very cost effective (especially since smaller markets receive the show for free) and user friendly in regards to in-station labor. Limbaugh is not broadcast from 600 radio stations because of his enormous popular appeal, but due to the fact that it’s good for Clear Channel’s bottom line.

      Regarding Limbaugh’s audience, the listeners are self-identified conservative white males over 50 with median incomes of around $50,000. Although Limbaugh still has his Dittohead fan base, recent Arbitron ratings reveal there is trouble in paradise for El Rushbo and the talk radio genre in general. Considering that talk radio is popular with an aging demographic subset, the Grim Reaper poses a real threat to the brand’s ongoing ability to turn a profit. This is also a problem for Fox News, where the age demographic is even starker: Viewers watching Bill O’Reilly have a median age of 71.

      Limbaugh has tried through the years to breakout of his radio niche. Attempts to cultivate a television audience failed and his brief appearance as an ESPN commentator ended in swift dismissal. In other words, Limbaugh appeals to a limited audience but has an extensive platform thanks to Clear Channel’s vast radio station holdings.


      • John,

        I like what I read here. The geezers who watch or listen to that stuff will eventually “assume room temperature,” to quote an old Limbaugh phrase.

        The problem, as I see it, is that you and I will likely crash with them and not be able to enjoy Limbaugh-free radio.

        Damn the bad luck. On the other hand, we are all going to end up in Hawaii, no? Or maybe we’ll end up just looking like Hawaiians, which really isn’t quite the same, is it?



  4. ansonburlingame

     /  November 7, 2011

    First Duane,

    If you read my comment, carefully, I limited my accusation of MSNBC “biase” to “evening shows”. I did that on purpose because those are the only MSNBC shows that I watch. So to me St Rachel, O’Donnel, etc. are “left leaning” (or worse) shows with which I have direct observation to make up my own mind how they tend.

    Now John,

    Interesting insight and for sure ALL ratings wind up being all about money. No one pays to advertise on shows that “no one” watches.

    I don’t disagree either over the age of listeners or watchers for Limbaugh or O’Reilly. I suspect there are gender and racial distinguishers in that regard as well. As to whether those rating are going up or going down, I have no idea. I just know that both Limbaugh and O”Reilly have been “around” for a long time and “somebody” is making big money from those shows.

    However to discount either Limbaugh or O’Reilly, or St Rachel for that matter, based on “they are ONLY watched by…..?” seems rather lame to me. That is like saying “90% of blacks “always” vote Dem” and therefore……?

    I don’t particularly like the solidarity of the “black vote” and you guys may not like the same from at least “Limbaugh” listeners as well. But our separate concerns, denigration or whatever for such “blocs” still begs the question of why such “blocs” exist today despite our “information age”.



    • Anson,

      Perhaps I missed your point because I frequently use clips from the morning show, Morning Joe, and often excerpt from the transcript or make my own. The truth is that I am often tempted to post several segments from the evening shows on MSNBC because I want my readers who don’t happen to see them to be able to get the information compacted in those short segments. Information is power, you now. But I, being a fan of the written word, limit those clips most of the time, but I’m rethinking it.



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