Monday, February 07, 2005

TV Talking Heads Buy GOP Spin That Bush Address Was First To Be Booed

The Republicans were in uproar. How dare those Democrats say "No," when President Bush used scare tactics and artificial statistics during his State of the Union address to tout Social Security privatization?

According to, several television hosts bought the GOP spin that such dissent was "unprecedented." Too bad none of them bothered to do a simple Lexis/Nexis search to confirm that spin point before they repeated it on the air.


Let's dissect these on-air personalities into two groups:

THE KNOW-NOTHINGS (they speak without having the facts, and then never bother to check to see if they were right or wrong):

Ted Koppel, ABC: "They did something that, apparently, no one at this table has ever heard before."

John Roberts, CBS: "I've never heard the minority party shout at the president during the State of the Union address."

John Gibson, Fox News: "That isn't very common for state of the union speeches, is it?"

In fact, Republicans heckled former President Clinton's 1993 address when he cited Congressional Budget Office statistics about the deficit -- a point raised by CNN host (and Democratic advisor) Paul Begala, but not found on any other network.

According to easily accessible media reports at the time:

"At one point, Republicans even booed. About 20 of them left as Clinton went on and on for an hour and 20 minutes." [Associated Press, 1/24/95]

"Only once did they unmistakably and collectively show their disapproval -- when Clinton spoke disparagingly of a GOP-sponsored constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Many Republicans hissed and some booed." [Los Angeles Times, 2/5/97]

"Clinton's proposal to expand Medicare to allow Americans as young as 55 to buy into the system drew shouts of "no" and some boos from Republicans during his speech." [Chicago Tribune, 1/28/98]


THE KNOW-BETTERS (they were there, but why let the facts get in the way?)

Joe Scarborough, MSNBC (former Florida Republican Congressman, in attendance for the 1995, 1997 and 1998 Clinton addresses): "Republicans were on the floor saying, 'you know, we never once did that to Clinton.'"

Bob Barr, CNN (former Georgia Republican Congressman, in attendance for the 1995, 1997 and 1998 Clinton addresses): "It will be a very difficult battle as we saw by the unprecedented and, I think, highly improper virtual booing of the president."


Let's give Koppel, Roberts and Gibson the benefit of the doubt. Maybe their researchers had the night off? Maybe each is on an hourly Lexis/Nexis plan, and their respective networks vetoed paying the extra charges.

But Scarborough and Barr certainly would have remembered the various times the Republicans booed Clinton. It's not far-fetched to think that Scarborough and Barr assisted with the cat-calls.

So if you run MSNBC or CNN, what do you do? Do you suspend your analyst -- or even put him on a paid vacation -- so that he learns that lying is not tolerated? Do you apologize to your viewers -- the television equivalent of a newspaper correction?

Or do you look the other way, because you know your network is getting pummelled in the ratings by Fox News, and you'd rather appease your conservative viewership than do the right thing?

It's a tough choice, but readers of this blog can probably answer for themselves what MSNBC and CNN did.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo for bringing this issue to the forefront. That's all I've been hearing in the media of late is this uproar of how the Democrates booed Bush over his social security proposal. I was even mislead to believe that this was an unusual circumstance. It is refreshing that David can remind us of the Republicans hissing at Clinton over his deficit projections.
On a similar topic, the media is making a lot of noise of late over the shocking Gull of the Democrates in voting against Bush's cabinet appointments, Rice, Gonzales, etc. This action leads to political suicide for the Dems, the headlines are screaming.
I wonder whether, as the case with the booing of the speech, whether the media may be failing to account for similar actions of Republicans in voting against Democratic appointments in the past. Maybe someone reading the blog may know?

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is entirely fair to point out that Rep. Barr and Rep. Scarborough SHOULD have known that Republicans participated in similar activities in the past.

However, it is patently unfair to suggest that they probably assisted in that behavior. That is bush league kind of stuff. If they assisted, say so. If you do not know, it is journalism no better than the National Enquirer.

Since you love to take notice of the "unbalanced" panels on Hardball, I am certain that last night's panel really made you mad. We have Matthews (D), Krugman (really big D), Milbank (D), and Fund (R). Having three liberals on a panel versus one conservative seems almost unfair, until you watch Fund skewer them all.

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think JABBS' point was that if Barr and Scarborough were there at the time, and their party began a chorus of boos, almost certainly they booed, too. Given that Barr and Scarborough were dishonest about the booing taking place, I doubt either will ever admit their participation.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think JABBS' point was that if Barr and Scarborough were there at the time, and their party began a chorus of boos, almost certainly they booed, too. Given that Barr and Scarborough were dishonest about the booing taking place, I doubt either will ever admit their participation.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul Krugman is sickening, like a left sean hannity. cant even look at him. saw the hardballand was actually thinking about this blog and what it would say. it clearly leaned left last night. whatever.

as far as the speech, i remember thinking throughout the clinton era that the republicans came across as angry old men and that there behavior was an embarrassment. I now feel the same way about the democrats. I am so disgusted with the democratic party, of which i have been a life long member, that the republicans actually sometimes look better to me. while it is absurd how the media jumped on teh dems for the speech outburst, it doesnt make it any more appropriate that they did that.

what has happened to the democratic party. they just seem in such disarray, not knowing what to do next. cant understand it. they dont even make coherent arguments for positions anymore, resorting to trying to bring down the current administration instead. They come across as minor league to the republican major league. And I fully admit the republicans are full of crap half the time---they are just a better run organization. I wish the democrats would get their act together.

It is sad. Now after Bush puts forth his "budget", i am sure the dems will not offer rational reasonable alternatives.....instead, they will send out their idiot talking heads to yell how Bush is lying, trying to bring down america, blah blah. Even if true, it is more and more the boy who cried wolf. They will spend all their energy pointing out where the president is wrong and virtually no time offering alternatives. Forget that and rationally offer some ideas. Sad.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's fire every so called journalist who has ever lied, as you define it. Would enable far better programming choices, more shows like 24, CSI....

While we are at it, lets also get rid of all politicians who have ever lied. This would clear Wash DC out and bring down real estate prices.

Then move on to corporate america.....hmmm. At some point, this country would look very empty with lots of free land.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take it, Mr. Sarcasm above, that you have no problem with Barr and Scarborough lying to you?

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dissent is not un-American. If the Democrats believe that the president was lying to the American people about Social Security -- and the GAO report backs up that claim -- then how else can they let the American people know?

Bush lies to 60 million viewers, and then that lie gets repeated over and over by conservative pundits. Would you prefer the Democrats try to fight those battles one at a time for the next several years? At least now, the American people know the Democrats disagree with the president on this central piece of his economic agenda.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would point out that in order to claim that Scarborough and Barr lied, you would need to show that they knew it happened, which I suspect they knew, and also that they participated in the booing. Simply claiming that they lied is insufficient to prove that they have lied.

Watched the same Harball as referenced above. It is noticeable, and not at all surprising, that jabbs had no problem with the composition of the panel last night, since it leaned his way. Balance is only a virtue when the balance is off towards jabbs point of view.

Here is what is wrong with politics today, in a nutshell. It was wrong when the Republicans hissed at Clinton. It was wrong when the Democrats booed President Bush. However, neither side is willing to admit that, and they continue to perpetuate the idea that politics is this petty partisan system. How about some real men taking on some real issues, and offering substantive proposals? Only one side is doing so today.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't speak for JABBS, but I do remember seeing a mediamatters article that said that Hardball had 19 panels out of its last 26 that swung right.

And, let's not forget, this blog is designed to point out flaws in conservative spin. There are other blogs that are designed to point out flaws in liberal spin.

Let's not blame JABBS for something that he never claimed to be.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who calls Bush's social security numbers "artificial" isn't living in the real world and has let the Democrats' spin corode what any citizen with a fair mind can easily comprehend: SS will go bankrupt in 25 years and the current rate of return the program provides is a joke to anyone with slightest inclining of finance.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris Matthews is not a liberal!

Conservatives keep saying it, but that doesn't make it true. Matthews regularly repeats GOP spin points and structures most of his panels with a rightward tilt -- 6 of 7 analysts were conservative in Hardball's post-State of the Union coverage, for example.

What Matthews did 25 years ago really doesn't matter now.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, to use Media Matters as an arbiter of who is liberal or conservative is about as rational as the other side using Michael Savage as a similar arbiter. Secondly, had Chris Matthews been the Chief of Staff to some arch-conservative partisan Republican, you can damn well be assure that would be mentioned in every intro he got, and would quite frankly, absolutely define who he was. Is it too much to ask that the other side just use a touch of intellectual honesty in that Matthews is a Democrat and a liberal, but just may not push his agenda as much as some of you would like?

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

someone above makes the idiotic point that by dissenting on SS, now the world knows the dems disagree with Bush....holy cow. Like the world doesnt get it that the dems disagree with EVERYTHING Bush says, even those things he hasnt even said yet. That, my friends, is the dems problem. I have heard dems bash Bush on SS (and I personally think Bushs plan is absurd as proposed). However, I have heard a million variants as to what should or should not be done. What is the dem position here. Saying Bush is wrong is not a position. It is pathetic and childish. And, if they keep on this track, Bush will railroad through so much junk since there is no true opposition. Bushs well articulated bullshit easily persuades more than democratic silence or gibberish. That is the problem.

Dissent is totally american. BUt it must be accompanied by well reasoned alternatives. SOmeone who identifies a problem and develops a solution is often successful. Those who stop at complaining about the problem are whiners and get nowhere.

Come on dems-step up to the plate!

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the Democrats support is honestly dealing with the problem. The GAO has reported that the system will be fine until 2052 -- not "bankrupt" "flat-bust" or "broke," as the president suggests.

Beyond that date, the system would pay out 70-75% of benefits based on money it received from taxpayers -- providing a higher amount of benefits to retirees in 2053 than retirees today.

And remember, the GAO is non-partisan. Although Tim Russert and Chris Matthews and the like generally present this as the "Democrats' opinion," it's actually non-partisan.

How do you have a honest debate about Social Security? You consider all alternatives -- not just the one questionable alternative presented by our fact-challenged president.

What are some alternatives?

-- Raising the ceiling on income subject to payroll taxes, which is now about $90,000 a year. The idea appeals to some politicians -- including senators like Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), because only about 6 percent of Americans earn more than $90,000 a year. Imposing Social Security taxes on incomes of up to $200,000 would come close to eliminating the entire [$3.7 trillion] deficit.

-- In their book "Social Security: The Phony Crisis," authors Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot discuss raising the rate of the payroll tax, a hike “which would still leave future generations with an after-tax wage far higher than that of today’s employees.”

-- A plan by economists Peter Diamond and Peter Orszag features a mix of tax increases and benefit cuts, which would make the system more progressive and put it on a sustainable footing even beyond the traditional 75-year horizon.

All of these should be considered by the American people. But the media, controlled by the Bush agenda and the pervasive GOP pundit machine, only will discuss privatization. Why? Because the president is convinced that is the only way to go, and he isn't interested in a debate.

2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. And i thought i heard most everyone say that Bush will listen to any ideas other than raising the tax. Personally I believe raising the limit to 200k is ridiculous and completely unfairly taxes the middle class in the northeastern urban type areas--what is middle class there is upper class elsewhere. Adding a 6%+ tax to that group in the NY area would significantly hurt the economy.

Making this tax progressive should be considered--either by limiting who gets the benefit based on need or starting the tax at a high level (people who earn a 500k or more pay it on everything in excess of that, for example)----but it would have to be on very high income earners only. this would hurt the rich and significantly help the lower and middle class. but it is robin hood at its best and likely will never pass.

Privatization should be considered as well as it has its merits. Problem it seems to me is that it costs a fortune to implement and this probably is not the right time.

To sit still and do nothing--as i have heard some people suggest--is plain stupid. And the same goes for medicare, even more so as it actually is a crisis.

And lets discuss AMT as this also is killing the upper middle class---maybe if you get rid of this unfair tax, you can adjust the SS rate.

There are so many difficult issues here----seems to me that yes, Bush has an agenda to dismantle SS, but he gets credit for even touching this topic as most politicians wont. Let's see if the dems and republicans can work together or whether it will be politics as usual and nothing will get done.

And let's be clear. It is not a current crisis. Medicare is more of one. But it is a problem and you just cannot wait 20 years to start discussing how to fix it. I do not believe under the current system, i will see much from SS.....fix it.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If those are actually viable options (raise taxes, raise taxes, cut benefits, raise taxes and cut benefits) then the Democrats should trot out their plan. However, they know that they are just demagoguing an issue, therefore, have no real desire to achieve any type of long term solution.

I am 35. My daughter is 3. If you use the year 2052 (I though it was actually 2042) I will be well into my Social Security years when my benefits are cut. It was said that the benefits at 70% will be higher than they are today, but I suppose that whoever wrote that conveniently ignored cost of living, inflation, etc ... explain that 30% cut to somebody that paid into the system all of their life. My daughter would be 50, in the prime of her earning years, and without a fix, it is entirely reasonable to assume that she would not receive benefits by the time her social security years roll around.

It may not be an immediate crisis, but I for one, believe President Clinton when he said it was a crisis. It is only going to get more expensive and more difficult the longer this issue is not addressed.

5:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other than cost of transition, what do you see as the primary reasons to dismiss elective private accounts.

I do not like the Bush scare tactics suggesting the world is falling apart. the word bankrupt is being debated all the time and i laugh. it doesnt apply to the government who prints the money the way in which it does otherwise. whether or not the money is there on any given sunday is irrelevant. it all comes down to where revenue will come from. and how much is needed. that is all any tax really is. we all need to take a deep breath, forget the rhetoric, and look to the issues at hand. we are in a deficit, we need revenue which can come from an economy that grows and/or from increased taxation. And those two things do not work in concert....they are often opposing forces. All a balancing act. SS is part of that. That money will have to come from somewhere--call it what you want but money is fungible.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, if you roll back a portion of Bush's tax cuts for the richest 1%, or his immense tax breaks for corporations, you'd have more than enough moeny to fund SS.

The question is really twofold:

1) Is this a crisis? Will the system go bankrupt? The GAO says no. Bush says yes.

2) What is the answer? Is privatization the only course that should be considered? Bush says yes. Others say no.

But for the conservatives among us, ask yourself this:

If Bush's $15 trillion privatization plan is so great for our society, why does he have to use scare tactics -- telling people the system will be "bankrupt" or "flat-bust" by 2042, when the GAO says that's simply not true?
Why can't he simply tell the truth about the program's future -- as best we know it now, from a non-partisan agency -- and open an honest discussion about how we might want to proceed?

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

again you are phrasing the issue in terms of the rhetoric.

the issue is: is there a problem? answer yes (and who cares who said it). ok, then, what are the ways in which to fix the problem.

and Bush has not said the only alternative is privatization. yes he wants it but at least says he is open to other suggestions. so let the dems make some. ....they do not want to because any suggestion is a political hot potato----reason why noone wants to touch this issue in the past. the dems just want to use this as a way to attack Bush. If Bush dropped the issue, the dems would pretend the issue doesnt exist. All politics on both sides. Pathetic. What gets lost is that there is a true issue to deal with.

As far as how to define bankrupt and what year it happens--get over it. Noone knows for sure. But there is a problem - lets deal with it.

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but you're wrong. The system is not going "bankrupt" or "flat-bust." The GAO said as much. If you can't handle that basic fact, then how can you argue anything.

The Democrats have made suggestions. One suggestion -- study the issue, compare and contrast the alternatives, and then proceed accordingly.

The Bush alternative is "my way or the highway." The Bush alternative is "we will move forward now, facts be damned." The Bush alternative is "this is the only way we should proceed."

If Bush really believed that other alternatives to privatization should be considered, why hasn't he said that? Why has he only touted one idea -- going back to when he was candidate Bush in 1999?

And again, if this idea is so sound, why does he have to use, as JABBS says, "artificial" numbers in order to defend it? Don't you see a nasty trend with this administration of using scare tactics to try to rally the public -- if their ideas were so sound, why can't they let the facts speak for themselves?

I know I'd be much more likely to support Bush -- on Social Security, Iraq, Homeland Security, environmental policies -- if there wasn't this constant dual reality problem. The Bush administration says one thing, and then a non-partisan agency like the GAO, or a respected figure in a given field, like Robert Kennedy Jr. with environmental policies, says something completely different, which statistics or other evidence as support.

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do realize that Bush's massive privatization plan will bring a large cut in benefits, right? It's not like privatization means gumdrops and fairy-tale princesses for retirees.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I believe that the best way to "save" the system is to not address the funding problems in any way, except to raise payroll taxes. Let's be honest about our position here. We have a political dog in the fight, and we cannot allow BushCo to co-opt one of our traditionally strongest issues. Sure, there are a lot of warts on Bush's supposed plans, but the fact remains that we must absolutely defend the positions of FDR, the foundation of how our party views itself. If we cave on this issue, what do we have left? This is our Waterloo ...

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do I get the feeling that the above poster is determined to make fun of every debate, because as a conservative, he's only interested in being told that he is right.

C'mon, George Jr. Be serious or get lost.

2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reuters today discussed AARP's plan to strengthen Social Security by raising the payroll tax cap to $140,000, which they say would reduce the long-term shortfall by 43%. They also support having the SSA invest part of the Trust Fund in what I take to be an index fund, which they say would handle another 15%.

It's another plan worth discussing, if anyone in Washington can see anything with that giant elephant in the room.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Raise taxes ! Raise taxes ! There is no crisis, so long as a Republican is trying to address SS.

I assume that if you plan on raising the ceiling to $140,000 or so, you also plan on increasing the maximum monthly benefit, otherwise, this will just turn into another bastardized version of our tax code, where the most wealthly pay the bulk of the taxes.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

making fun of the rhetoric and how much energy is spent on semantics.

No I dont like Bushs style.

But noone is honest here. The dems wont budge on this issue since as was said above, it is a waterloo. they wont move on principle. Fine, but lets be real about it.

The republicans clearly dont like SS and want to change it. that is bushs agenda, no question. Fine, but that doesnt mean he willget his way.

Again, the real question is not about bankruptcy (such a ridiculous concept as it applies here) or the definition of crisis etc.....or scare tactics (which Bush does use and which i dont like). The issue is THE ISSUE. There is a shortfall coming down the pike and the sooner alternatives are looked at to fix it, the better. Thats it--that is the entire issue.

Now it is a complicated fix no question. I personally do not like the concept of raising the limit or the tax because we are already heavily taxed here, especially in certain states. But it is one possibility.

7:10 PM  

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