WHO LOST THE PUBLIC! Why did Obama cave to Boehner? Maddow and Hayes didnt know: // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 2011
Katie Courics brilliant career: Yesterday, in the New York Times, Bill Carter gave us a look at the values found at the top of the upper-end press corps.
At the top of the Times front page, Carter reviewed Katie Courics brilliant career as anchor of the CBS Evening News. Couric has been a ratings disaster, Carter explained. But in fairness, she did achieve some journalistic success:
Sad. Carters idea of a victory involves an interview in which Couric was lied to by a guesta guest from the world of sports. (Couric played no role in the revelation that Rodriguez had lied.) Struck by this amazing success, Carter described more of Courics journalistic triumphs:
Couric won a series of insider industry prizes. For what? Carter didnt bother to say. Meanwhile, her alleged turnaround was cemented by an interview in which she asked a candidate what newspapers she reads. (For the record, Couric made groaning errors during that interview, letting Palin escape with scripted evasions about her stance on abortion rights.)
Finally, note the ludicrous way Carter describes Courics effect on the median age of her audience. This exercise in innumeracy appeared on page one of the Times:
Based on the things Hartman says, it seems clear that Couric lowered the median age by losing large numbers of older viewers, not by attracting younger viewers. Carter slid right past that fairly obvious fact.
Couric is paid $15 million per year, Carter said, more than the slackers Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer. But what did Couric produce for that scratch?
Carter, a man with low standards for big network stars, never quite bothers to say.
PART 2WHO LOST THE PUBLIC (permalink): Question:
If John Boeher is outstandingly bad at his job, what does that say about Barack Obama, who got his astral projections kicked in last Fridays budget settlement? (Many big liberals have advanced that view. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/11/11.)
What does it say about congressional Democrats? Last fall, they avoided passing a 2011 budget, creating the need for the tedious struggle which came to an end last week.
For ourselves, wed be less hard on Obama than many liberals have been. You see, we have a long historical perspectivea perspective which stretches all the way back to November 2010! Beyond that, weve heard that more elections will be held at some point in 2012. And not only thatweve looked at some of the recent polling, in which the public was saying, early last week, that Democrats werent cutting the budget enough.
Such perspectives have largely been AWOL as liberals have rent their garments about last weeks budget deal. On the One True Liberal Channel, Rachel Maddow seemed semi-clueless about these matters last night. Heres how she explained Obamas cave to the hapless Boehnerto a man who supposedly has the opposite of the Midas touch:
We agreethe deal was bad on the merits. We agreeit was grating to see Obama praising a bad budget deal. And Maddow is hardly alone in her perspective. Many other liberal pundits have construed the budget agreement the way she did.
But why did Democrats cave on the deal? How did we get from $32 billion in proposed cuts to $38 billionmore than they originally asked for? Note the way Maddow explains it. She imagines only one explanation, the explanation which is natural to a tribal true believer:
Our Glorious Leaders caved on the deal because they felt like they had to be the adults in the room. They felt they had to stop the Republicans from shutting the government down. In this way, Maddow pictures events in a way which pleases tribal vanity. In standard fashion, she excludes another possible motive:
Possible motive: Obama caved because polling showed that the public agreed with the need for larger cuts.
Was that part of the reason Obama caved, thereby getting his aspirin kicked by the hapless Boehner? We have no way of knowing. But this possibility never occurred to Maddow, who framed the rest of the discussion around the way she feeds her whiny dog, who represented Republican leaders. As usual, Maddow complained about the Beltway mediaand then, she introduced Chris Hayes, who instantly noted that he himself is part of that very same group. Well, you are Beltway in the sense that youre geographically located inside that freeway, Maddow brightly observed.
When it comes to domestic politics, Hayes is sharper than Maddow. In his first comment, he brought the publics views into the mix, while framing his remarks in a way which reinforced liberal vanity:
According to Hayes, the incompetent Boehner ate Obamas cake. But how in the world could that have happened? More to the point, how could something like that be explained on a program like Maddows?
The other side has more zealots, Hayes said, semantically putting Our Side in the right. (He also seemed to say that Republicans wanted a shutdown, failing to explain why they agreed not to have one.) But when he discussed what people wanted in the polling before this deal went through, he failed to mention an unfortunate facthe failed to mention the Gallup poll in which 47 percent of respondents said that Democrats werent offering big enough cuts. (Only 15 percent said that Dems should offer smaller cuts. To review Gallups poll, just click here.) But in that final highlighted passage, he took us to the heart of the current problem, without ever quite explaining what that problem is.
Alas! Lets explain what that highlighted passage might be taken to mean:
Heres what that highlighted passage might be taken to mean: Democratic voters approve of bad policypolicy that is bad on the merits. Independents approve the bad policy tooand Republican voters would only approve if the policy somehow got worse! Thats an argumentative reading of a poll whose questions were so imprecise that its hard to know just what its responses meant. (To review all poll questions, click this.) But public opinion is part of the field on which Obama and Dems are now competing. And lets be frank: From the progressive perspective, public opinion is very shaky on these issueshas been for a very long time.
According to Gallup, the public wanted Democrats to offer bigger cuts! And people, things can get worse. Earlier, Maddow showed results of a poll in which respondents disapproved the Republicans exact proposal to kill Medicare by turning it into a coupon system. But the public disapproved by an amazingly narrow margin, 44 to 50 percent.
Needless to say, Maddow thought those numbers were great. (Your ancestors have to have been very, very good people in their lifetimes for you, in your lifetime, to have earned the luck of being the political opponent of the Republicans this year.) We think those numbers are extremely troubling.
Can progressives compete on the current field? Heres what happened when Maddow imagined a bit more zealotry on our sidewhen she imagined fiery liberals rising to bully Obama:
Maddow imagined doing nothing to Medicare, though almost everyone seems to agree that Medicare is in fact the source of a large future problem. In his response, Hayes described an unfortunate fact: Within our American politics, there is a large, long-standing, aggressive drive in favor of bad policy views. There is a much weaker force pushing better ideas.
The right has been at this a very long time. The left? Nowhere near as much! Sorry, but the left and center-left have been doing as little as humanly possible for a great many years.
What will Obama say on Wednesday when he lays out his own budget plan? We have no idea, nor can we mind-read his motives. Hayes said he is terrified; we think he has every right. But please understand: Presumably, Obamas plan will have been shaped, in part, by his desire to get re-electedby his desire to get in line with a set of ideas the public will buy.
And by the way: If Obama doesnt get re-elected? After that, the deluge?
Presumably, Obama will try to keep his plan in line with ideas the public will find acceptable. But the publics views on these matters are very shakyhave been so for a very long time. The public has no earthly idea how the budget workshas no idea whose budget claims are true/bogus/false/just plain stupid. And the publics head is full of ideas which have been driven by disinformation campaigns of the past thirty yearsdisinformation campaigns your liberal leaders and liberal sectors have widely accepted.
Maddow cited other polling data in which the public rejects cuts to Medicare. But we the people are clueless on all such matters, much like Mark Twains ineffectual mob. The publics views can change overnight in response to bogus claimsand the publics views can change for the worse. This seems to have happened in the recent budget fight, if Gallups polls can be believed. (By April, more people thought the Dems should accept bigger cuts, even after two straight months in which the Dems gave ground.)
And so, we reach a basic question: Who lost the public? How have we reached the point where the public has no idea whats in the budgetwhere the public thinks all sorts of ludicrous things which derive from conservative disinformation campaigns? However we have reached this point, political possibilities are defined by the publics beliefsand the publics beliefs are quite shaky.
Well stop here, though more should be said. But at Rachels site, the headline for her segment with Hayes says it all: Obama tactics baffle, disappoint left. Could it be that we liberals are baffled because we dont understand American politics? Dont understand the publics outlook? Dont know, dont even want to know about the publics beliefs?
Tomorrow: Your leaders wont tell you the truth