“By Keeping Republicans Together,” John Boehner Did “The Country A Favor,” So Says Mark Halperin and Andrea Mitchell

I thought I was hallucinating. But I played it back on my DVR and it was all too real.

Wanna know why Republicans believe they can take the country to the brink of catastrophe and not pay a price for doing so? Because Beltway journalists like Mark Halperin and Andrea Mitchell will, without laughing, have this exchange on national television, on “liberal” MSNBC:

HALPERIN: The second guessing about Republicans, not just strategy but tactics throughout the last several weeks, are really gonna be extraordinary. There’s gonna be a lot of questioning about how to go forward. It’s gonna be interesting. I think Speaker Boehner has handled this in a way where he can put this on the floor, get a lot of Democratic votes. My hunch is that there are a lot of Republican votes in the Senate, which we expect. We could get a lot of Republican votes in the House and questions about his speakership, questions about his own leadership, I think may be put off.

And I think this agreement is not bad in the sense that it gives both sides a chance to try to deal with some of these bigger entitlement issues and tax issues over the next few weeks and averts the crisis. And John Boehner may have done himself and the country a favor by keeping Republicans together long enough to say, we tried a lot of different things; we made some mistakes. This is the best we can get at this point to avoid what he has said all along and believed all along was essential, which was to avoid a default by the federal government.

MITCHELL: Fair points all.

Anyone who has watched this debacle knows one thing for certain. John Boehner hasn’t handled this in any way that deserves one jot or tittle of praise. That he gets it from two Beltway reporters tells us so much about why right-wing zealots believe in their bones that they can hold the country hostage and get away with it.

It Wasn’t Just A Joke

Mark Halperin is Time magazine’s senior political analyst and also a regular “contributor” on MSNBC. His job at the “liberal” network, as far as I can tell, is to tell liberals things they could hear on, say, Fox.

Today was no different. He told Andrea Mitchell:

I think Mitt Romney was making a joke. We’ve seen, particularly when he’s in Michigan, when he jokes about the heights of trees—and the left is gonna say I’m making a huge excuse for him.

Well, at least he got that last part right. And for her part, Andrea Mitchell, interviewing Jen Psaki, Obama’s traveling press secretary, compared the Romney birther appeal to President Obama’s real joke about Romney strapping his dog to the top of his car for a 12-hour ride:

He made a joke about Seamus the dog the other day…that was another ad-lib kind of thing…

Yeah, I suppose you can compare a joke about a dog crapping on himself in a crate on top of Mittens’ car to, uh, the black President of the United States not being a proper American. I can see the similarity there, can’t you?

Look, the truth is that Romney, after jumping on the Throw Todd Akin From The Train bandwagon this week, has to show the many crackpots in the GOP some love.

Their feelings have been hurt and there’s nothing like a racist joke to raise their spirits.

About the Romney birth certificate reference, king of the crackpots, Rush Limbaugh, initially said, “Right on! Right on!” and then later got a little more nuanced:

As you can imagine, the media is in a tizzy. The media is in a tizzy…Romney gets up to the microphone. It’s his turn to speak, and he test-drives that line about nobody’s ever had to ask to see his birth certificate…I’m going to tell you what. You know, I’m gonna make a prediction for you. It’s going to be fascinating to watch. The Obama-bashing at the Republican convention is going to be delicious. It’s going to be five-star-restaurant type stuff. I mean, you’re going to love it. You are going to eat it up, all the Obama-bashing. And I’ll bet you what’s happening right now is the networks are trying to figure out how they can avoid airing any of it.

So, to Limbaugh, Mr. I Hope He Fails, what Romney did was no joke, but a test-drive of “all the Obama-bashing” that will go on at the Republican convention.

You’re going to love it. You are going to eat it up,” said the beefy, bigoted broadcaster.

And that, my friends, is why what Romney did was not merely a joke.

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.

What Wimpy Journalism Looks Like

On Morning Joe this morning, Mark Halperin was a guest blabber.

Halperin, who serves as a senior political analyst for Time magazine and as an MSNBC contributor, said this about President Obama and his recent moves on jobs and the deficit:

He’s still going to have to find a way to get John Boehner to do business with him to get anything done.

After I coughed up my breakfast burrito over that one, I heard Halperin offer up the idea that Republican talk about wanting to work with the President to get things done is “somewhat disingenuous.”

Somewhat disingenuous?  Somewhat?  That’s like saying Charles Manson is somewhat psychopathic or that Newt Gingrich is somewhat chubby.

Nothing could be more obvious—except in the commentary of TV journalists like Mark Halperin, who hyperextend their journalistic spines trying to appear fair and balanced—than the fact that Republicans don’t want to work with President Obama. They have even had the rocks to say so. Out loud.  Where even Mark Halperin could hear them. 

Yet, Republicans are only “somewhat disingenuous.” Such is the state of much TV journalism these days.

And that is just one of ten thousand examples of this kind of journalistic malpractice.  On Sunday, the venerable Meet the Press, now fronted by the unvenerable David Gregory, featured an appearance by Mitch McConnell, who famously said last October:

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

McConnell is no less committed to that plan this year, and the David Gregorys of the media world help him in his efforts with interviews like the one on Sunday, which began with this question to McConnell:

GREGORY: Let me start with you and ask you whether this presidential plan on a millionaire’s tax rate is something that you could support?

Now, before we get to McConnell’s response, let’s first think about the question.  David Gregory knows very well that McConnell will never in a quadrillion years support Obama’s plan.  He knows that because McConnell has said so, repeatedly.  So, why even ask him this question?  Oh, you might say, this crafty journalist is just laying the ground work for some real journalism to come later.  Let’s see:

McConnell: Well, you know we had that vote, David, a couple of years ago, when the Democrats basically owned the Congress.  They had overwhelming control of the Senate and the House, and it was defeated then. So, I would simply go back to what the president said last December in signing a two-year extension of the current tax rates: it’s a bad thing to do in the middle of an economic downturn. And of course the economy, some would argue, is even worse now than it was when the president signed the extension of the current tax rates back in December. I think what he said then still applies now.

Mitch McConnell is a skillful politician. This wasn’t his first Meet the Press rodeo. He’s ridden a lot of bulls through the years and Gregory is one he could ride all day, while sipping a Mint Julep and thumbing through a copy of The Prince.  Notice how the Minority Leader pivoted from Gregory’s question to asserting that Obama is contradicting himself?  Wow, that’s nice form. 

And it’s really easy for McConnell because he doesn’t have to worry much about having to defend what he did. Gregory’s follow-up question ignored what McConnell actually asserted and went on to ask him an obviously prepared second question:

GREGORY: What’s unfair, though, about making richer Americans pay the same tax rate that middle-income Americans do?

Now, even though McConnell didn’t mention anything about fairness, Gregory ask him about it. Any other time that would be a good question—but not as a follow-up to what McConnell asserted previously.  This would have been a great time for Gregory to nail McConnell on his party’s recalcitrance and its stonewalling.  Remember what he asserted:

1. That Democrats had previously voted on Obama’s tax idea and rejected it.  Gregory could have asked, “Okay, Senator, when did Democrats vote down a tax on the rich?  What are you talking about? Democrats were too chicken to vote on a millionaires’ tax.”

2. That Democrats “basically owned Congress” and that they had “overwhelming control of the Senate and the House.”  Gregory could have said, “Okay, Senator McConnell, you know that Democrats didn’t have the 60 votes needed to break your party’s constant filibusters in the Senate.  And even with the two independents—one a reliable Democratic vote and one not—Democrats only had those potential filibuster-breaking 60 votes for a very short time in July and September of 2009. How can you say Democrats had “overwhelming control” of the Senate when you know they didn’t?

3. President Obama essentially sided with Republicans about raising taxes being “bad” for the economy.  Gregory could have mentioned that Obama only caved in on the tax issue last December because Republicans had a gun to the head of the unemployed and the economy.  Or, perhaps more journalistically, he could have asked a question this way:  “Now, Senator, do you really think Mr. Obama agrees with your economic policy, and, if so, why do so many in your party call him a socialist?”

Pursuing any or all of those lines of questioning would have been the thing to do, it seems to me.  But then I’m not a big-time, wealthy TV news man, who has been seen defending the worst of conservatives.

As for Gregory’s real follow-up question about the tax fairness issue, McConnell proceeded to insult Warren Buffet, lie about the potential effect on small businesses, and assert that there was “bipartisan opposition” to Obama’s tax policy already.

And what did Gregory do?  Like he always does, he moved on.

Where is Tim Russert when you need him?

Onward Christian Governor

Mark Halperin, who plays a journalist on TV and off, got a scoop when he interviewed Christian zealot and Texas governor and now GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry.

Now, I don’t know if Halperin’s attendance at Rick Perry’s prayer event in Houston had anything to do with getting the scoop, or whether Governor Perry just couldn’t resist being a part of perhaps the worst example of journalism in the history of pen and paper.

But whatever it was, Time magazine will not win any Pulitzer’s for hard-hitting news reporting this year.

The only softball question left out of the sycophantic interview was,

If you were a Texas tree, what kind of Texas tree would you be?

It really was that bad, and it not only exposed Mark Halperin as a powder-puff interviewer, it exposed him as a Pillsbury Doughboy class of powder-puff interviewer.

In any case, there was something in the interview that confirmed what we already knew about Rick Perry and confirmed just why he should scare the bejesus out of everyone this side of Pat Robertson, himself once a God-told-me-to-run presidential candidate:

HALPERIN: Does any aspect of running for President intimidate you?

PERRY: No.

HALPERIN: Does any aspect of it excite you or enthuse you?

PERRY: Yeah, I’m kind of getting to the all-in point and the idea that, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I mean, this is starting to get to that comfort level and I’ve got the calmness in my heart. I think that was a bit of a hurdle initially but I’m very calm in my heart that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

Anyone who has spent five minutes with a zealous evangelical knows what the phrases, “this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” and, “calmness in my heart,” mean.  Those are definite claims that the Almighty has endorsed Rick Perry for president because the Almighty has a special job for Rick Perry to do.

All of which seems to confirm what Forrest Wilder, writing for the Texas Observer, suggested, as the header and subheader of his frightening article summarized it:

That little-known movement is called the New Apostolic Reformation, members of which were prominently involved in Perry’s August 6 event in Houston that drew a reported 30,000 folks, including Mark Halperin.

Here’s how Wilder described the movement:

If they simply professed unusual beliefs, movement leaders wouldn’t be remarkable. But what makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government. The new prophets and apostles believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take “dominion” over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the “Seven Mountains” of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world. They believe they’re intended to lord over it all. As a first step, they’re leading an “army of God” to commandeer civilian government.

In Rick Perry, they may have found their vessel. And the interest appears to be mutual.

Look, I don’t think Rick Perry can become president of the United States, but the idea that he is being taken seriously by lots of Republicans and lots of journalists is, well, terrifying.

And instead of asking him about this stuff, Mark Halperin—fresh off his MSNBC suspension for calling President Obama a Dick Cheney without the Cheney—asked Governor Perry this faith-question:

HALPERIN: How does your faith inform your interest in being in public office?

PERRY: Yeah, no different than it would a doctor or a lawyer or anyone else who does their job and that is a faithful individual. You know, my faith sustains me. I’m quite comfortable with my faith, but it is very much a foundation of my life and has been since my mid-20s.

Apparently, Halperin is comfortable with Perry’s faith, too, since he asked no follow-up questions about those strange folks in the New Apostolic Reformation movement.

Remarks And Asides

Still good news for President Obama in the latest of four CBS News/New York Times polls done since April of 2009 on the question of:

Most to Blame for the Condition of the Economy  

                    Now         3/2010                7/2009       4/2009

Bush                26%           28                             30             33

Wall Street     25               22                             29             21

Congress        11                10                             12             11

Obama              8                 7                                4               2

All                     7                 7                                6               7

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In Minnesota, the Democratic Governor, Mark Dayton, and GOP legislators are locked in a battle over how to close the state’s $5 billion budget deficit—with progressive tax hikes or with even more big budget cuts—eerily calling to mind our larger national issue.

And as the case with our national deficit, much of it is due to a former Republican executive, in this case Tim Pawlenty.  Rather than seek another term as the state’s governor and help fix the problems he left, Pawlenty, no doubt in a spasm of selfless patriotism, is seeking to bring his governing wisdom and fiscal responsibility to Washington, where, God knows, we don’t have enough Republican experts on how to ruin the economy and undermine government.

The deadline to avoid a government shutdown in Minnesota is midnight.  Tick, tock.

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President Obama continues to suffer indignity after indignity at the hands of either right-wingers—Glenn Beck  calling him a racist who hates white folks and Joe Wilson shouting “You lie!” at him during an address to Congress—or comedians—Jon Stewart addressing him as “dude” on The Daily Show—or journalists, like this morning when a big-time editor of Time magazine, Mark Halperin, called Obama a, uh, “dick” on Morning Joe.

MSNBC suspended Halperin, who is a regular on Joe Scarborough’s program and an analyst for the network.  And Halperin  apologized.

I was watching the event and I must say that I was personally offended by the fact that it was part of his wrongheaded “analysis” of yesterday’s press conference.  Halperin, who is paid handsomely to offer insightful critiques of such things, was dead wrong about Obama’s performance. 

The Time editor thought the President should not have been so rough on those mistreated Republicans and should have tried to understand John Boehner’s inability to get the votes to pass a budget deal that included tax increases and not have acted so, well, so dick-like by insisting that at least some (but not nearly enough) reality be part of the debate.

Halperin’s stunningly bad analysis was at least as offensive as the D word. 

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And speaking of dicks and MSNBC, what’s up with former MSNBC star Keith Olbermann?  First he leaves MSNBC and begins another version of “Countdown” on Al Gore’s Current TV network, competing with Lawrence O’Donnell, who occupies Olbermann’s old spot on MSNBC with a show called The Last Word.

By the way, O’Donnell’s program is in many ways better than Olbermann’s original show.  O’Donnell is able to get opposition political guests on, which makes for entertaining television, and his “Rewrite” segment is often the best single segment on any cable news show.  And O’Donnell has worked in Congress, six years as an aid and senior advisor to Daniel Patrick Moynihan and a couple of years as the staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, maybe the most powerful committee in Congress.

In any case, Olbermann first tried to run his new show a little past the hour so as to cut into his former colleague Rachel Maddow’s show, but was duly criticized by his “fans,” and then apologized and pulled back to ending on the hour.  Then on Tuesday Olbermann tweeted (God, I hate that word and that method of communication) the latest ratings for O’Donnell, which dropped 12% in correlation with the debut of Olbermann’s new show (whose viewership is less than half of O’Donnell’s).

Jeeze, I used to like Olbermann, but this kind of behavior is so petty and so unnecessary.  With all the right-wing nuttery out there, one would think Olbermann would spend every single minute of his time taking care of that business rather than trying to embarrass fellow liberals.

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Finally, Glenn Beck’s last show is tonight, in case you want to find out how the world ends.  After many episodes of leading us to believe that our demise is near, surely tonight we will have the demented denouement.

Prediction: There will be plenty of references to his “new” gig away from Fox, just in case Obama doesn’t destroy the country anytime soon.

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