Top 5 Dying Facts That Endanger Obama’s Reelection

A brilliant and widely circulated Chicago Tribune obituary claims that Facts has died. If you haven’t read the whole thing, here is a flavor:

Through the 19th and 20th centuries, Facts reached adulthood as the world underwent a shift toward proving things true through the principles of physics and mathematical modeling. There was respect for scientists as arbiters of the truth, and Facts itself reached the peak of its power.

But those halcyon days would not last. People unable to understand how science works began to question Facts. And at the same time there was a rise in political partisanship and a growth in the number of media outlets that would disseminate information, rarely relying on feedback from Facts.

… Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion.

Services are alleged to be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that mourners make a donation to their favorite super PAC.

I’m a starry eyed optimist, so I choose to think Facts is still on life support hoping for a miracle recovery. But if the President and his team can’t successfully breathe life back into five key Facts that are currently on life support, it’s difficult to see how he can win in November.

Fact #1: Obama opted for a private health insurance reform model developed by Mitt Romney and other conservatives, rather than an insurance plan run by government.

Fact on life support.
• Fact on Life Support: Only 25% of people who took the Kaiser health reform quiz understood that Obama’s health reforms will not “create a new government run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans.”

• Implications of Death: GOP parrot trainer Frank Luntz has commanded his cockatiels to repeat the phrase “government takeover of health care” for a very sound political reason, because market research shows that is a compelling reason for moderate swing voters to oppose health care reform. The more swing voters believe that falsehood, the less they like Obamacare and Obama.

Fact on life support.
Fact #2: Bush policies and the economic downturn under Bush were the most powerful causes of the ballooning national debt, and Romney wants to extend those Bush policies.

• Fact on Life Support: Out of twelve issues, there is only one issue where voters say Romney would do a better job than Obama – handling the deficit. Voters currently believe Bush disciple Romney is the best person to tackle the debt that Bush policies largely created.

• Implications of Death: The size of the debt is especially concerning to moderate swing voters, so getting blamed for causing that problem badly hurts the President’s prospects of wooing that key constituency.

Fact #3: Obama’s stimulus package of tax cuts and investments helped ease the pain and damage done by the Great Recession.

Fact on life support.
• Fact on Life Support: Over half of independents (56%) believe the stimulus didn’t make any difference.

• Implications of Death: The central issue of the campaign is the economy, stupid. If swing voters don’t believe Obama was effective on the issue that concerns them the most, look out.

Fact #4: In terms of private sector job creation, things have gotten significantly better during Obama’s time in office than they were under Bush and the the Bush policies Romney proposes to resurrect.

Fact on life support.
• Fact on Life Support: Three-fourths (75%) of independents believe that the economy has gotten worse or stayed the same, and 77% of independents believe the economy is still in recession.

• Implications of Death: Even if most voters blame Bush for the economic meltdown, as most still do, according to polls, it’s difficult to see how swing voters who believe that things are still headed in the wrong direction will vote to rehire the incumbent President.

Fact #5: In the Obama years, taxes for the middle class were near historic lows.

Fact on life support.
• Fact on Life Support: Eighty-five percent of independent voters incorrectly believe taxes on the middle class either increased or have not changed.

• Implications of Death: Independent swing voters vote their pocketbooks, and oppose paying more in taxes. If they perceive that they were paying high taxes in the middle of a recession, the Democrat in charge will get the lion’s share of the blame, because Democrats are usually presumed to be advocating for higher taxes.

Of course, there are many other falsehoods hurting Obama. Little things like he is a foreigner, Muslim, socialist designing death panels to kill off your loved ones.

But in a year when the economy is the top issue, and with the health reform bill about to get hot again after the Supreme Court rules, these are the five dying Facts that are hurting Obama the most with swing voters. Team Obama needs to resuscitate good old Fact, or Obama’s political career will perish with him.

– Loveland

AWOL George W. and Rove’s Mastery of the Press.

Before it fades away again, and likely for good this time, it is worth remembering the brilliant exercise of the dark arts of political deflection we witnessed in the 2004 George W. Bush AWOL from the Alabama Air National Guard story. The diabolical beauty of that episode urps and oozes in what was — highly likely —  a thoroughly composed strategy to A: Get CBS to bite on a unverifiable document and B: Turning the great moo-ing mass of the media away from The Story — Bush’s flagrant disregard for the sweetheart, jet-jockey duty his daddy cooked up for him in peaceful Alabama — at a peak of the Vietnam War, and concentrate instead on the less directly partisan and more celebrity-driven tale of CBS and Dan Rather’s poor judgment and fall from grace.

The whole tale was re-visited last week thanks to a 10,000 word article in Texas Monthly (still a standard-bearer for quality journalism, among a sea of numbingly inane competitors). Author Joe Hagan doesn’t “solve” the question of where the so-called Killian letter came from, the document conservative bloggers seized upon as bogus — within minutes — of its appearance on “60 Minutes II”. For this conservatives have sniffed at the whole piece as “nothing new”. Which is in effect saying, “It’s as damning as it always was.”

But while Rather looks no better in the context of doing due diligence on that one piece of (Xeroxed) paper, Hagan’s story adds significant depth and context to the vast amount of political energy the Bushies expended dealing with the AWOL story as it re-erupted periodically over the years. Point being: The Killian Letter, supposedly handed to an oddball at a Houston cattle show who then turned it over to Rather’s producer, who had been hounding the oddball for years, may be funky, but its funkiness hardly torpedoed the rest of the story, which a Boston Globe reporter had previously nailed, and USA Today was about to jump on when CBS’s story went to air in September of ’04.

What Hagan lays out is a story of how well the Bushies, Karl Rove in particular, understand the news instincts, fears and herd mentality of the American media. If you ignored the story in ’04 … well hell, you’re not even reading this … but if details have gotten foggy, Hagan’s timeline reminds you of the highly suspicious, instantaneous reaction that exploded across the conservative blogosphere, as I say, within minutes of the CBS broadcast. (One blogger filed … while the piece was still on the air). It also reminds you that Rove’s right-hand man, Dan Bartlett, had an e-mail blast pre-loaded to go out to not just one or two reliable conservative reporters who might quarrel with the piece, but to 500 reporters and bloggers (including Minnesota’s Power Line boys), copying the funky document, and eviscerating the Rather story for dealing in fraudulent paperwork … hardly the sort attention-getting “defensive” strike a White House  dares unless it is … absolutely certain … the paperwork in question is a fraud.

The implication? At the very least Rove and Bartlett were completely confident that the Killian Letter was bogus. At the very most, they created The Killian Letter, knowing full well that a CBS/Dan Rather/liberal bias/shoddy journalism scandal would send the press herd stampeding off in another direction, happily abandoning the 30 year-old Bush AWOL story, which the press was already taking fire for hyping “in the middle of an election campaign”.

It was never the not-exactly revelatory thunderstrike that rich kids got safe, cushy war-time assignments while the less privileged were dying in the swamps of Vietnam. At the time the context was that the Bushies were simultaneously selling a wholly fabricated set of lies about John Kerry’s Vietnam service — for which he volunteered and served, and during which he took more serious fire than a bar fight for making a pass at another drunk’s girlfriend.

The Kerry Swift Boat story had legs in part because the mainstream press took a deeper interest in how Kerry would defend himself against outrageous lies than who was spreading them. With the Bush AWOL story, the press, as Rove almost certainly predicted, would not be able to resist swinging the interrogation lights around on CBS and Rather’s blunder. Furthermore, with the scent of seared “liberal bias” in the air very few editors (and owners) anywhere had the stomach to continue pressing a story — the AWOL one — that many “low information” readers/viewers/voters thought was both totally inaccurate (not just the letter in question) and, after 30 years, meaningless.

It was, as I say, a strategy of obsidian brilliance, totally in keeping with Rovian politics and their masterful understanding of the mind of mainstream corporate journalism.

And now, I expect it is a story submerging for good.

Real Journalism Done Right

ImageNo matter what your feelings about WalMart, you have to give props to the New York Times for its impressive reporting on the alleged use of bribes in Mexico and the company’s efforts to sweep the investigation of the matter under the rug.  This kind of piece reminds us why we need good journalists in order to be a good democracy and it reminds us what the Times is capable of when it puts its mind to it.

Highly recommended.

– Austin

We Are Such Chumps for the NFL.

I have some sympathy for Jim Souhan, the Star Tribune sports columnist who so royally stepped in it last week. If you read the Strib — go ahead, rip away — you know that Souhan tore a GOP Rep. by the name of Dean Urdahl a new one for lacking the brains to NOT ask Vikings management why state taxpayers should build a stadium for a billionaire owner. Souhan descended on Urdahl like a starved turkey vulture on a fresh pork chop, basically calling him every name short of a toe-sucking pedophile … without checking the transcript enough to note that Urdahl’s question was couched as “a question a I hear a lot … ” and he ended up voting for the stadium in that particular committee.

So … Souhan spent the rest of his week taking shots from David Brauer, Urdahl in the Strib and the usual newspaper-hating trolls.

But amid an outbreak of the brain-eating contagion known as journalistic group think, what’s a poor sports guy supposed to do? Souhan is a team guy covering team sports for Team Strib, and Team Strib has not been shy about presenting a $973 million taxpayer-financed Vikings stadium as an unalloyed good/benefit/life-affirming necessity for the community of Minnesota. I’ll assume Souhan actually believes what he wrote. But he’s in a job where I very seriously doubt he or anyone of his stature with the paper could get anything skeptical much less negative about the stadium published.

The paper’s beat reporters, Mike Kaszuba in particular, have done a respectable job covering the shifting tides of fate, but the Op-Ed page and Sid and everyone else attached to sports long ago slashed their palms, grasped hands and chanted a blood oath to see only upside to giving the Vikings and the NFL … essentially the same deal the league slapped down in front of our elected leaders months ago. Oh, ten or twenty million has shifted here and there, but fundamentally we’re still talking the largest public subsidy for a private business in the state’s history … and we’re not talking taxpayer cash for a world-class lab to cure cancer … we’re talking about a football stadium/TV studio controlled by one of the wealthiest entertainment monopolies on the planet.

Mainstream news organizations still have this quaint and kinda cute ‘Marcus Welby-ish’ idea that they have an obligation to lead their community through life’s difficult decisions. Not all the time, mind you. There are exceptions.

If it means looking too close at what a noted arts philanthropist has done with his stock options, or how his gargantuan health insurance organization has sucked hundreds of millions of dollars of sheer profit out of a bloated and thoroughly gamed medical industry that kind of discomfiting tale can be told by The Wall Street Journal. Likewise, a warm and nurturing hometown media player wants to lay back on the appalling rhetorical dishonesty of its highest profile politician as she makes a fool of herself running for president. Ditto connecting the dots between the most fervid of the anti-government crowd and the constant government assistance they require to keep the electricity on and their TVs tuned to FoxNews.

Those kinds of things are messy and rancorous and make for unpleasant cocktail party interactions.

But … a gorgeous stadium … a technological marvel … a visual icon … for Our Team? You can’t be pro-active enough!

Let me be blunt. The Strib’s behavior in regards to its drumbeat boosterism for the NFL’s stadium package has been disgraceful, if only for how much they and by extension we look like a bunch of chumps. (Local TV is of course worse. But why would you expect otherwise? The various stations really should dress their anchors in culottes, tight sweaters — the women and men both — and have them shake pom-poms from the news set, for the non-existent level of skepticism they’ve applied to their “coverage”).

What appalls me most is that no one in Minnesota — politicians or mainstream press — seems to have seriously applied even minimal bargaining pressure on the NFL. To hell with the Wilfs, the other 31 owners are the people we’re really dealing with here. There was a time when big city newspaper columnists, sports and otherwise, could be counted on to be skeptical and intensely curmudgeonly about any slick suit who jetted in from the coast making artfully veiled threats about “lists of potential buyers”. Not so anymore. Certainly not in this case anyway. Those writers who aren’t sitting out the fight — over the largest taxpayer subsidy in state history — are all for it, as it was presented to us by the NFL.

Ask yourself, given the bargaining skills evident in this stadium scheme, would you have the Mayor, the Governor or Ted Mondale negotiate a trade for a used Hyundai for you? The concept of leverage is apparently a foreign language to them. And their embarrassing obeisance to NFL royalty should be tailor made for constant, hilarious public mockery.

Reading through reams and reams of stadium coverage and punditry for The Glean over at MinnPost, I was struck last week by a story at Forbes (radical, anti-capitalist, hippie rag) reminding its readers that despite the NFL’s protestations to the contrary, expansion is an option the league at the very least wants to protect, and an expansion fee of upwards of a billion dollars would be a lot … a lot … tastier split among the NFL’s 32 owners than the $200 million relocation fee they might … might … squeeze out of whoever buys the Vikings from Zygi Wilf and “asks” to move them to L.A.

Moreover, if I’m AEG tycoon Phil Anschutz in Los Angeles, and I’m watching the drama in Minnesota, I’m thinking to myself, “The NFL has no choice but to play tough in Minnesota. The league knows it is courting serious financial pain if it doesn’t slap down and snuff out the precedent of using its own money to build stadiums in medium markets. They have no choice but to move the Vikings rather than add more league money to that deal. Well shit, I’m a fool if I don’t play that to my advantage. When a guy has to do something, has no other viable choice, that’s when the worm turns in your favor. I’ll make ’em sweat that relocation fee down to a hell of a lot less than $200 million … just so they can show Minnesota and everyone else who rules this island.”

But instead of anything from our principal leaders or press suggesting we play tougher with the NFL, we get the lamest rationale of all — and this time I’m not talking about how with the Vikings goes our “major league status”. No. The lamest of all is the scary story about how five years after the Vikings leave we’ll pay half again as much or more to build a stadium for an expansion team.

Really? How opaque is the bubble you’re living in if you can even imagine his state will pop for vastly more taxpayer money to lure back an entertainment option 98% of the fans only watch on TV?

Ensuring The House Prayer Never Again Offends Rep. Franson

Minnesota State Representative Mary Franson (R- Alexandria) – she who compares providing Food Stamps to low income children with feeding wild animals – is once again speaking out. But this time, I agree with her, kinda sorta.

Franson and I both find prayers in the House chamber to be offensive. The agreement ends there.

Franson has long felt that Earth Day is a Pagan holiday, which offends her Christian faith. Therefore, she was not thrilled to hear Minnesota House Chaplain Grady St. Dennis mentioning Earth Day and the BP oil spill in the prayer that recently opened House proceedings. As the Star Tribune reported, Representative Franson Tweeteth that St. Dennis’s prayer:

“may as well been dedicated to “Mother Earth”, coincidence? I think not. 2nd offensive prayer in a month.”

The prayer Franson finds offensive, I find inspired. And I can guarantee we’re never going to convince each other.

Such disagreement is the rule, not the exception. Minnesotans don’t agree on who God is, what He wants us to do, and what He thinks about the issues. It’s not just that Christians, non-Christians, doubters and non-believers don’t agree. Christians and Christians don’t agree. People sitting in the same aisle of the same church don’t even agree.

And resolving this disagreement about God is not what the Minnesota House does. It’s not their job.

So why have an official daily House prayer? Why bring any kind of religion into the chamber — Mary Franson’s brand of Christianity, John Marty’s brand of Christianity, Keith Ellison’s Islam, Frank Hornstein’s Judaism, Pete Stark’s Atheism or anyone else’s spiritual viewpoint?

Just leave it out. Let people say a silent prayer to themselves, if they so choose. But keep all officially sponsored, publicly expressed religious pronouncements out of the legislative chambers.

I presume that official government-sponsored and -organized prayer in the legislative chambers must have been determined to be legally permissible. But that doesn’t make it advisable. Heaven knows, the Legislature has enough difficult issues to resolve without adding unresolvable theological questions to their “to do” list.

This is the only way I can guarantee that Mary Franson and I won’t be offended again by what we hear in the daily House of Representatives prayer. If she and her colleagues aren’t willing to separate the work of religious institutions from the work of our democracy, I guarantee both of us will be offended on a regular basis.

– Loveland

“Rosengate” The Latest News Media Overreaction

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how badly the mainstream media and punditry class had miscalculated the public reaction to the Obamacare contraceptives policy. You’ll recall that the national news media originally declared that President Obama was getting slaughtered due to the “controversy” and “firestorm” he had caused by proposing to provide contraception to women.

Then polls showed that the issue had actually helped expand a gender gap in favor of Obama.

A few days ago, a similar cycle started again, although this one didn’t even have anything to do with Obama or an Obama policy. It all started with lefty pundit Hilary Rosen’s comment that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life, forgetting three important words “outside the home.”

Reporters and pundits immediately became aroused. Forget that Rosen isn’t Obama. Forget that Rosen doesn’t speak for Obama, or work for him. Forget that most people know what Rosen presumably meant – that millionaire stay-at-home moms don’t have much in common with non-millionaire working moms — and that is an absolutely fair and relevant point. Once again, the national news media and pundits declared that Obama had a huge political problem on his hands that was crippling him with lovers of motherhood everywhere.

U.S. News blared the headline “Damage Already Done By Rosen’s Ann Romney Comment,” relying on conservative pundit Frank Luntz, who assured us:

“What she said is an insult to millions of American women,” Luntz told me, adding that even though Rosen apologized, the damage had already been done because many stay-at-home moms were offended.

CBS News went with the headline “Hilary Rosen flap a ‘win in every regard’ for GOP, says Nicole Wallace.” It quotes the giddy conservative pundit explaining:

“Ann Romney was able to connect in an instant to every woman in the country, with every woman in the country” by defending her decision to raise five boys.”

Talking Points Memo (TPM) even broke out The Suffix of Political Death, “-gate.” I kid you not, they went with “Rosengate” in their headline.

Holy Cuban plumbers, a “-gate!?” Because a supportive pundit mangled her soundbite?

Despite all that hyperventilating about Rosen’s comments and the dire consequences they supposedly had for Obama, today we’re starting to see some polling on the issue. From the Examiner:

A new Reuters poll out Tuesday shows Obama with a comfortable 14-point lead on Mitt Romney among women likely to vote in November’s general election, 51-to-37 percent. That split is more or less the same as a similar poll taken back in March that showed Obama with a 54-38 advantage.

A CNN poll out Monday offered similar numbers. The survey gave the president a 52-to-43 percent lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters, and also gave Obama a 16-point lead over Romney among women, 55-to-39 percent, almost as good as last month’s 18 points.

Another interesting development in the survey: “Despite Republicans’ efforts to portray themselves as the party of the family, Obama even had a big edge on family values among women, with 51 percent picking him as better on that issue compared with 36 percent for Romney.”

In fact, the poll found women rating Obama stronger on all issues, including the economy, jobs, health care and foreign policy.

So, after all of that talking head drama, apparently what we actually have is Nobodygivesashitgate.

– Loveland

America’s National Pity Party

It’s that time of the year again. The April tax deadline, when Americans come together as one to feel sorry for ourselves about the outrageous tax burden heaped upon us. Ooooh, the agony!

Fueled by corporate-funded anti-tax groups and a malleable news media, the news is once again awash with stories about Americans suffering under heavy and rapidly increasing taxes.

Paying taxes is no one’s joy, but the collective wailing and gnashing is embarassingly out of proportion to reality. I hate to break up the pity party, but our taxes are much lower than Germany, Great Britain, Canada, Japan, France and Ireland. Our taxes are significantly lower than the average for industrialized nations.

Sorry Tea Partiers, Wall Streeters, One Percenters, talk radio callers, and news anchor wise crackers, but relative to the rest of the developed world, you aren’t oppressed. The fact is, almost all of the planet’s citizens who are enjoying a comparable quality-of-life bear more of a tax burden than Americans do.

Take a look at reality, nicely aggregated by the Center for American Progress:

• Our tax revenue is at its lowest level since 1950.
• Today’s top tax rates are historically low.
• Taxes on investments are historically low.
• The tax on large estates has virtually disappeared.
• The wealthy and super wealthy’s tax rates have plunged.
• U.S. corporations are taxed at lower levels than their foreign rivals.

As I’ve written before, the April tax deadline is our day to pay-it-forward in patriotic thanks to past American taxpayers who kindly paid to lift our ancestors into the middle class, and paid for our education, roads, national security, Internet, police, fire, parents’ health coverage and retirement income and many other things.

But if you can’t find it in your heart to be grateful for all that past generations of Americans have done for you, your country and your loved ones, be at least be a tiny bit realistic about what is being asked of you.

President Kennedy challenged us to “ask what you can do for your country.” Right now, Americans are being asked to do damn little. So could we hold the whining down just a little?

– Loveland