The stupidity of cable news

Is there a better example of the stupidity of cable news than the “black Santa” episode? Frank Rich cites this example in his article about the decline of FOX News.

There ain’t no sanity clause,” Chico Marx told Groucho. There is also no Santa Claus. And there was no sanity in the Santa fracas that became an embarrassing liberal-media fixation just before Christmas. For those who missed it, what happened was this: A Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly, came upon a tongue-in-cheek blog post at Slate in which a black writer, Aisha Harris, proposed that Santa be recast as a penguin for the sake of racial inclusiveness. After tossing this scrap of red meat to her all-white panel of prime-time guests, Kelly reassured any “kids watching” (this was nearing 10 p.m.) that “Santa just is white.” (For good measure, she added, “Jesus was a white man, too.”) Soon and sure enough, Kelly’s sound bites were being masticated in op-ed pieces, online, and especially on cable, where a passing wisecrack best left to the satirical stylings of Stewart and Colbert became a call to arms. At CNN, one anchor brought on Santas of four races to debunk Kelly. BuzzFeed reported that MSNBC ­programs hopped on the story fourteen times in a single week.

Of course what Kelly said was dumb. But the reaction was even dumber. Every year, Fox News whips up some phantom “war on Christmas” plotted by what the network’s blowhard-in-chief Bill O’Reilly calls “secular progressives.” This seasonal stunt has long been old news, yet many in the liberal media still can’t resist the bait. You had to feel for the NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, who was drafted into filing a Kelly-Santa story on the Today show for no ­discernible reason other than that she is not white.

When this supposed “national firestorm” (as Al Sharpton inflated it on his MSNBC show) finally died down, only two things had been accomplished beyond the waste of everyone’s time.

FOX is and always has been a propaganda machine. MSNBC saw a business opportunity in going hard left and thus has become a mess. CNN has sucked for years, and adding an entertainment executive like Jess Zucker can only lead to more mediocity. Where’s Will McAvoy when we need him . . .

  

Joe Scarborough and the Iraq War

Joe Scarborough just wrote a column for Politico in which he discusses the Iraq War. As he acknowledges in the article, he was a supporter.

Like 75 percent of Americans and most of Congress, I supported the war with Iraq. Much of that support was the result of selected intelligence from the Bush administration. The White House suffered a systemic breakdown, with a vice president and secretary of defense more focused on justifying a war than showing the type of caution our troops deserve before being sent to fight in a foreign land.

George W. Bush was also guilty of gross negligence, in part, by failing to reach out to the two greatest living experts on warfare in the Persian Gulf. Eight years later, it is still hard to believe that the commander in chief refused to seek the advice of his father or his secretary of state, who had run a searingly efficient military campaign a little more than a decade earlier — in the same region, against the same dictator. But as Bush told Bob Woodward, there was no reason to ask Colin Powell’s advice because he knew the general opposed the invasion. Bush 43 also told Woodward that there was no need to seek out Bush 41’s wisdom since he had his “Heavenly Father” to consult.

George W. Bush’s decision to remain isolated and willfully ignorant of these great leaders’ insights led to a disastrous war that could have been avoided. Instead, the invasion of Iraq was launched on March 19, 2003. And despite what media outlets and Democratic politicians would like you to believe, the war began with greater bipartisan support than the 1991 Gulf War.

I guess it’s nice to hear Scarborough acknowledge that he supported this fiasco, but this statement is somewhat misleading. Notice how he mentions that 75% of Americans supported the war. If you didn’t know Scarborough’s past, you might assume he was just one of many Americans who went along with the President. But he was much more than that, as he had his own cable show on MSNBC at the time, Scarborough Country, and he used that platform to become one of the loudest cheerleaders for the war. And, he enthusiastically mocked people who were against it. Joe Scarborough contributed to a climate that made it more difficult for rational voices who opposed the war and questioned the Bush/Cheney/Rove propaganda machine on WMD. He didn’t just go along; he helped lead the parade.

It was obvious to some of us that Bush was cherry-picking the intelligence. If you dug a little, there were journalists who were questioning the intelligence, but most people on network television and in the newsroom of The New York Times were either too stupid o

  

Debt limit negotiations continue

Speaker of House the John Boehner, R-OH, backed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA (L) and Republican Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, discusses the Republican plan called “Cut, Cap and Balance” to avoid default which would occur if the debt limit ceiling is reached on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on July 19, 2011. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg

Yesterday we saw a flurry of activity and plenty of consternation as the media and politicians tried to figure out what was going on behind closed doors. TPM has a very helpful account of what happened yesterday, and this passage sticks out:

Democrats favored one proposal: if Congress failed to pass tax reform by date-certain, then the top-bracket Bush tax cuts would expire — a hefty stick that would encourage Republicans to cut a deal. Boehner never agreed to that — and now that the grand bargain has been revived, Democrats are worried that Obama has abandoned that trigger, and perhaps his insistence on a trigger of any kind.

Multiple reports surfaced late Thursday that a trade-off might be in the works: Republicans would agree to the tax trigger if Obama and Dems would agree to nix the health care law’s individual mandate — an unpopular, but crucial component of the reforms Obama signed last year. This is precisely the sort of swap House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has argued for recently.

Referring to negotiations with Democrats, Cantor last week told reporters, “Every time the discussion started about, well, Republicans need to raise taxes, I would proffer back, then you put ObamaCare repeal on the table.”

By multiple accounts, Democrats left Thursday’s White House meeting unhappy.

I like this potential deal for many reasons. First, decoupling the Bush tax cuts so that those for the wealthy would expire is a big deal and would be a huge win for Obama and the Democrats. It would be a serious concession from the GOP, and I have no problem with the idea that this happens in the future if it’s locked in. The statement from Grover Norquist yesterday about the Bush tax cuts is a huge tell that the GOP is seriously considering this.

On the individual mandate, this has been the single most unpopular provision of health care reform. If this could be replaced by some kind of annual open enrollment period with penalties for people who don’t buy insurance so they can’t game the system, then this would be acceptable from a policy point of view. It would also be a significant positive from a political point of view, as it would remove the most controversial issue surrounding health care reform and dilute it as a political issue.

The Democrats were quiet last night, which tells me they aren’t out there trying to kill this potential deal, even if they aren’t thrilled about it. I just saw Claire McCaskill just said on MSNBC that she was open to it. Also, as pointed out in the article, Boehner can’t get behind it until the Cut, Cap and Balance bill gets killed in the Senate, so this won’t move in public until after today’s vote.

I will be stunned if a grand bargain actually happens, but if it does it will be a huge victory for President Obama, John Boehner and the country.

  

Hysterical Headlines – Mark Halprin suspended by MSNBC

MSNBC just suspended Mark Halprin for saying President Obama was acting like a “dick” today on the air. He was dumb for saying it, but he was trying to make a point about Obama’s tone, and naturally everyone is treating this like it’s a HUGE news story. It’s not. It’s just the kind of “shiny object” that gives the talking heads and bloggers something to talk about for a day.

Of course this is news, but does the Huffington Post really need this blaring headline with the “breaking” flash images on both sides? Good grief . . .

The funny thing is that Halprin is a pretty good commentator who is very honest about his opinions, often taking shots at both sides, so he often comes across as a dick himself. I think the whole episode is kind of funny.

  

Dylan Ratigan is a douchebag

I stopped watching MSNBC in the mornings because Dylan Ratigan is incredibly annoying. He has some good points at times, but he’s only interested in repeating his own opinion . . . over and over again.

Here’s a clip of Ratigan at his worst with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Even Chris Matthews rarely gets this annoying.

If he wanted a real discussion, he could have gotten an answer. Insurance stock went up after the public option was dropped for very obvious reasons – yes, the public option would have resulted in real competition. Fine. End of story. That does not mean, however, that the bill is a “giveway” to the insurance companies as he implied, because as the Congresswoman tried to explain, the bill does include robust regulation of the insurance companies.

Is this perfect? Of course not. Would a public option be better? Of course. But Ratigan just wanted to yell and scream about his simple point that the insurance companies are now better off than if the public option had stayed in the bill.

Of course, a child could probably figure that out as well, but Ratigan thought he was making a big point, so he acted like an ass.

  

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