The punditocracy has gotten nearly everything wrong in this election cycle. Its presumed wisdom about Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is no exception. Here’s my top 10 things the media got wrong (I’m sure I’ve missed a few):
The Denver Post’s editorial on Mitt Romney’s selection of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., as his running mate calls Ryan “a radical choice” and his budget proposal “a one-sided, ideological proposal.”
Then again, four years (and $5 trillion in debt) ago, this line adorned The Denver Post endorsement of then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama for president: “He’s the right man to lead America back to prosperity.”
But don’t take our word for it that Ryan is the real deal. Listen to Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff for Pres. Clinton, and the Democratic co-chair of President Obama’s eponymous Simpson-Bowles Commission, appointed to develop a long-term deficit reduction plan. Ryan was a member of the bi-partisan commission.
Bowles [see video here] spoke at the University of North Carolina in September of 2011, where he had previously served as president…
“Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? We should get him to come to the University. I’m telling you, this guy is amazing. I always thought I was O.K. with arithmetic; this guy can run circles around me. And he is honest, he is straightforward, he is sincere. The budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan: it is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget. It cuts the budget deficit, just like we did, by $4 trillion.”
“The President came out with his own plan. And the President, as you remember, came out with a budget, and I don’t think anybody took that budget very seriously. The Senate voted against it 97-0. He therefore, after a lot of pressure from folks like me, he came out with a new budget framework. In that new budget framework, he cut the budget deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years, and to be candid, this $4 trillion cut is very heavily back-end loaded, so if you look at it on a 10-year basis, and compare apples-to-apple, it really was about a $2.5 trillion cut.”
It should be remembered that Pres. Obama listened politely to his deficit commission, which proposed both spending cuts and tax increases, dismissed them, and then ignored their work. He then presented, as Bowles notes, a budget that received exactly zero votes from members of either party. The Senate has, in contravention of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, failed to pass a budget for over three years.
In the full audio of his remarks, Bowles does characterize as a “pretty radical change” Ryan’s proposal to, as reported by the Charlotte News & Observer, “make Medicare a defined contribution plan, instead of a defined benefit plan.”
Since “radical” is also a word The Denver Post emphasizes in its evaluation of Ryan and his proposed entitlement reforms, let’s take a look under the hood.
Medicare, funded primarily by payroll taxes, “provides health coverage for 47.5 million people” and spent $516 billion in 2010, according to Medicare.gov.
Depending on how he numbers are run, Medicare may go broke sometime between 2016 and 2024, as described in this column by Avik Roy of Forbes.
While Ryan’s original proposal did indeed privatize the entire program, the current proposal, developed in cooperation with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., uses premium support. Traditional Medicare would be an option permanently, and the premium would be keyed to the second-lowest bid, assuring program members of at least two options that would cost them nothing additional. Such bipartisan flexibility should be cause for praise.
In addition, Medicare would remain as is for those older than 55, which Ryan repeats at every opportunity, but which is conveniently ignored and demagogued by the likes of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Here’s CNN’s Wolf Blitzer exposing it this week.
Democratic reform, meanwhile, fails “to offer any specifics or any vision – meaning that even under favorable circumstances, the best grade one can offer for the President’s Medicare ‘plan’ is an Incomplete,” writes U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in his recent analysis.
And listen to former Pres. Bill Clinton, immediately after the Democrats won a special Congressional election in upstate New York in 2011 by campaigning heavily against Ryan’s original proposal.
“I’m glad we won this race in New York,” Clinton said to Ryan. “But I hope the Democrats don’t use this as an excuse to do nothing on Medicare.”
It was the same concern that led Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Clinton, to call the Wyden-Ryan approach, “worth a serious look.”
The Denver Post may want to bash Ryan’s budget proposal and proposed entitlement reforms, but the Nov. 6 election will be a stark contrast of his brand of leadership – contrasted with the Democrats’ simultaneous denial of mathematical reality and abdication of leadership.
The death of Charley Martin, a fixture on Denver morning radio from the ’70s to the ’90s, was deemed important enough by Denver Post editors to put on Page 1 today. But in writing the story, Joanne Ostrow didn’t see fit to mention the cause of death.
It’s true this isn’t always done in obituaries, but Ostrow gave two broad hints that make it pretty clear Martin drank himself to death. The story mentions that “Martin’s liver failed in June,” and it quotes a fellow broadcaster as saying, “That was probably the downside of what happened to him… the fun got in the way.”
These clues, and the fact that Martin died at a relatively young 67 (say I at age 68), suggest that cirrhosis of the liver brought on by alcoholism may have been what killed him. To be clear, I have absolutely no knowledge about the man’s life or ways, I’m just another curious DP reader. Maybe I’m all wet on this.
But wouldn’t good journalism call for Ostrow to connect the dots and telling us whether Martin was known to have an alcohol problem? Or is she more of a TV-radio industry cheerleader than a journalist?
On Friday morning, July 21 Brian Ross of ABC News speculated on live TV that James Holmes, the previous night’s accused killer in Aurora, Colo., was a member of the Tea Party. A few hours later, Ross posted a short apology online; Holmes had no Tea Party connection.
Ross’s unfounded speculation wasn’t unusual (although the speed of his apology was). This was merely the latest case of media commentators jumping to the conclusion that violent attrocities should be attributed to members of the political right. Let’s look back at how often the media has falsely invoked Tea Partiers and other “right-wing nut jobs” in the past few years.
* September 2009: The discovery of hanged census-taker Bill Sparkman in rural Kentucky fueled media speculation that he’d been killed by anti-government Tea Partiers. In fact, he’d killed himself and staged his corpse to look like a homicide so his family could collect on life insurance.
* February 2010: Joe Stack flew his small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. The media immediately suggested that the anti-tax rhetoric of the Tea Party led to the attack. In fact, Stack’s suicide note quoted the Communist Manifesto.
* That same month, a professor at the University of Alabama, Amy Bishop, shot and killed three colleagues at a faculty meeting. The gun-loving Tea Party came under immediate suspicion. But Bishop was a lifelong Democrat and Obama donor.
* March 2010: John Patrick Bedell shot two Pentagon security officers at close range. The media went wild with speculation that a right-wing extremist had reached the end of his rope. Bedell turned out to be a registered Democrat and 9/11 Truther.
* May 2010: New York authorities disarmed a massive car bomb in Times Square. Mayor Bloomberg immediately speculated that the bomber was someone upset about the president’s new health-care law. The media trumpeted the idea that crazed conservatives had (again, they implied) turned to violence. In fact, the perp was Faisal Shahzad, an Islamic extremist.
* August 2010: Amidst the debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, Michael Enright stabbed a Muslim cab driver in the neck. It was immediately dubbed an “anti-Muslim stabbing,” with “rising Islamophobia” on the political right to blame. In fact, Enright, a left-leaning art student, had worked with a firm that produced a pro-mosque statement.
* September 2010: James Lee, 43, took three hostages at the Discovery Channel’s headquarters in Maryland. The media speculation was unstoppable: Lee was surely a “climate-change denier” who’d resorted to violence. Oops: He was an environmentalist who viewed humans as parasites on the Earth.
* January 2011: Jared Lee Loughner went on a rampage in Tucson, Ariz. Again the media knew just who to blame: the Tea Party and its extremist rhetoric. In fact, Loughner was mostly apolitical — a conspiracy theorist who, to date, has been judged too mentally incompetent to stand trial.
The media’s habitual blaming of the political right is endemic and incurable. Media figures sincerely believe the right wing is violent, so naturally assume that violent people must be right-wing. This won’t be the last time they make that mistake.
Author Gabriel Malor is a lawyer and blogger in Washington, DC.
Since big media get our brickbats for reporting irresponsibly, when coverage is notably responsible they deserve a bouquet. What a pleasant surprise to see the Sunday Denver Post on May 20, a week after Mother’s Day, veer off its customary secularist-feminist line with a pair of long, well-balanced, fair-minded, and indeed almost favorable articles by Electa Draper about Catholics and contraception.
I could quibble (as a Protestant, not a Catholic, by the way) with parts of both pieces – such as the scare quotes around “religious freedom” in an early graf of the first piece, and the misleading reference to “godliness” in the headline of the second one, whose text emphasized not the rhythm method’s spiritual advantages but its practicality.
But overall this big Sunday package represented solid, straight-shooting journalism that was all the more commendable since it cut against the grain of Post editors’ well-known viewpoint. To those editors, and to Electra Draper, kudos this once from Tammy.
You don’t have to care about where President Obama was born (and I don’t, it’s utterly moot) to find it newsworthy that he and his sponsors and handlers are and long have been (newest dateline, 1991) willing to endlessly, shamelessly reinvent and embellish and erase and manufacture and manipulate and falsify the Barack persona, to suit whatever their purposes for seduction and advantage happen to be at the time.
Twenty-one years ago, we now learn, they were rolling out the “counterfeit Kenyan,” as James Taranto of WSJ calls him in a perceptive piece that credits the Hawaiian birth and likens the young Obama’s exotic-ethnicity claim to Elizabeth Warren’s embarrassment over her fractional (or faux) Cherokee ancestry. This originated with a Breitbart scoop reported by Drudge.
Where the shape-shifting scam has NOT been reported – surprise – is by any of the big media, not even Fox, in over 48 hours since the story broke on Thursday afternoon. Uncertainty about Obama’s origins has become such a taboo subject that polite journalism won’t touch it, even when his own people’s claims (there’s also a video of Michelle calling Kenya her husband’s “homeland”) turn out to be one source of that uncertainty.
No matter what, the display of bad form is imputed not to the tricksters-at-first but to the uncouth inquirers who object to the trick and exclaim “What the?”
As the kid on the playground explained after the teacher broke up a fight: “It all started when he hit me back.”
The same crazy-making incuriosity by major media, with a blatant double standard in Obama’s favor, is on display in recent stories sanctimoniously throwing the race flag on Romney supporters who want voters to consider why Barack went along for decades with a pastor like Jeremiah Wright who again and again DID throw the race flag.
But did the teenage Mitt Romney haze a schoolmate on one occasion? Now that’s worth 10,000 words in the Washington Post. Whereas the teenage Barry Soetero’s drug use and self-admitted bullying wouldn’t be of interest to “our readers,” don’t you know?
Newspapers are free to take sides, always have been. But what happened to the journalistic convention of separating the editorial page from the news columns, and flagging on the latter any departure from just-the-facts as “analysis” or “opinion”?
The Denver Post front page story today (print edition) on refusal of state House leaders to take up the gay civil unions bill had a snarky headline condemning the measure’s “uncivil end.” Readers were provided no evidence of Speaker Frank McNulty and Majority Leader Amy Stephens, acting for the GOP majority, behaving or speaking uncivilly, however.
But in the opening grafs of the piece by Lynn Bartels, we learned first that someone screamed from the gallery at Speaker Frank McNulty, “I hope you (expletive) die,” then that social conservatives were “enraged” by Republican members having voted for the bill in committee.
So the Post reporter’s allegation of rage was lodged against opponents of civil unions, even though the only example of actual rage originated with proponents. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Interesting that neither the headline alleging incivility, nor the “hope you die” outburst from a pro-gay onlooker (and staunch opponent of hate, you can be sure) appeared in the web version of Lynn Bartels’ story as of 1pm this afternoon.
Interesting, too, that Bartels was named No. 5 among Colorado’s 10 most influential women in a Denver Post straw poll last Sunday. Is it a good thing for what used to be called a journalistic drudge, a mere ink-stained wretch, to have, or be perceived to have, or imagine herself to have, that much power? Not by what a lot of us used to think were the standards of disinterest and public trust that a major metropolitan daily paper should uphold under the First Amendment.
Major print and broadcast outlets in Colorado allegedly feature a lot more commentators who tout the Republican party (me included) than those who tout the Democratic party. So says local media critic Jason Salzman of BigMedia.com in a recent Huffpo article, “GOP Partisans Overwhelm Democrats in Denver Media.”
Salzman compiled the tally according to which voices explicitly identify as R or D, not according to who is ideologically conservative or libertarian or right on the one hand, versus who is liberal or progressive or left (as he himself admits to being) on the other.
After listing those of us who unapologetically back the GOP, and (accurately) finding no one on the explicitly Democrat side, he concludes: “there is obviously a partisan commentator gap out there,” adding “Democrats are needed at the Post for basic fairness.”
What accounts for the oddity? My comment to Jason about all this, cited at the end of his story, isn’t just an interesting wrinkle – IMHO it conclusively explains the whole asymmetry he’s alarmed about. Namely, Dems in politics and their allies in the media are seldom willing to identify in a partisan way; they like to position themselves as above all that, just out there for the common good.
Partisan thinking is a tawdry thing Republicans do, don’t you see? Sensible, compassionate, public-spirited people (the identity in which liberals blandly cloak themselves) are above all that.
As in the old vaudeville joke about the fellow caught in Farmer Brown’s henhouse, Dem partisans in the media lamely cluck “Nobody here but us chickens,” instead of fessing up. Wildly implausible, yet they get away with it.
Everybody knows we tend to see what we’re looking for, play up the evidence that matches our expectations and discount the contrary evidence. So does that trope color conservatives’ (or liberals’) perception of media bias? Curtis Hubbard, Denver Post editorial page editor, thinks so – and I agree up to a point. See his column linked below.
When all is said and done, however, data from Tim Groseclose in his book Left Turn, and from a number of other studies, identify an unmistakable leftward tilt in America’s major media outlets.
Disclosure: My conservative-minded columns in the Sunday Denver Post once a month would be part of the statistical mix Hubbard writes about; indeed he is the editor with whom my topics must be pre-cleared and through whom my copy must be approved for publication. We get along fine, by the way.
Kudos to Ivan Moreno, Denver based reporter for Associated Press, on correctly identifying the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute as “left-leaning” in his story on this year’s state aid to schools and the endless demand of teacher unions & liberals for more, more, more dollars to mediocre classrooms. http://www.denverpost.com/commented/ci_20344400?source=commented-
News21 & Centennial Institute present: . "INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM AND YOUR FREEDOM" . September 17, 7pm at CCU Beckman Center . With Hannah Giles of the American Phoenix Foundation . Her undercover work at age 20 brought down ACORN .
. No Charge, But Reservations Are Required . RSVP to Centennial@ccu.edu or 303.963.3424