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FAIR AND HAPLESS! NBC’s comely Campbell Brown tried to critique the Bush tax plan:


THAT BRACING BREEZE: We’ve received e-mails from major eggheads applauding Gerald Bracey’s op-ed in the Post (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/29/03). A North Carolina teacher applauds us as well, and so we turn to him first: “I appreciate your journalistic integrity in that you wonder aloud as to whether Bracey has his story straight. He does. Berliner and Biddle’s Manufactured Crisis is the book you want to check out to look at the statistical BS behind A Nation at Risk and all the other ‘the public schools suck’ blatherings.” And a perfesser person writes from Rutgers. “Thank you for the piece on Jerry Bracey,” she writes. “His comments are dead on, and he’s methodologically very sound.” Readers, you should examine Bracey’s column—and you should also read yesterday’s HOWLER. We Americans need a clearer picture of where the real problems lie in our schools. Last Friday, a bracing breeze blew through that old blather. We suggest that you gulp its clean air

AND THEN, THERE’S THIS SMOG AND POLLUTION: Others are paid to churn smog and pollution. Try to believe that this half-witted item appeared in yesterday’s Washington Times. Greg Pierce typed it up for his daily “Inside Politics” column:

Blame Clinton

“Last month Sen. John Kerry accused President Bush of having ‘botched the diplomacy’ in the run-up to Iraqi liberation,” James Taranto writes in his Best of the Web Today column at

“Maybe the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way served in Vietnam, should be running against Bill Clinton. London’s Guardian reports that ‘Tony Blair took repeated secret advice from…Clinton on how to unlock the diplomatic impasse between Europe and the U.S. in the buildup to the war on Iraq.’”

Try to believe that Taranto wrote it! (And try to believe that Pierce excerpted the piece, except to hold it up to mockery!) According to Taranto, Kerry is a “haughty, French-looking Democrat!” Amaingly, we live in a time when major interests pay the Tarantos large sums to peddle such tripe. And wh*res like Taranto will chase down that dough every time. It’s breath-taking to see the damage they do to the functioning of our troubled democracy. But this has been going on for years, with “good guy” pundits—themselves quite well-paid—too timid and bought-off stir up a fuss. By the way—what can go through the minds of “conservatives” who are handed such absolute nonsense? Just how stupid do you have to be to sit still for such romper-room panders?

IN THE SOUP: Campbell Brown wanted to be fair-and-balanced. Here’s the way Tom Brokaw introduced her report on last evening Nightly News:

BROKAW: The arguments for and against more tax cuts have become shrill on both sides. A reality check now from NBC’s Campbell Brown who tries to stop just some of the spin.
No matter what the particular case might be, networks always love to pretend that both sides are trying to fool you. And, of course, their beleaguered correspond will try to stop just some of the spin. Brown began with a –semi-sensible claim about an ancient Bush spin-point:
BROWN: It’s a case the president has made repeatedly, that under his plan 92 million Americans would receive an average tax cut of $1,083…Technically true. But not typical. Because to get to that number, the Bush administration took the average of all taxpayers, including the very richest Americans…In fact, more than half of taxpayers will get $500 or less under the president’s plan, and about 28 percent will get less than $100.
Of course, this point is so old that it ought to be drawing a pension, but at least the point is well made. On the other hand, how “repeatedly” has Bush been making this “case?” The last time we can find Bush citing that much-criticized $1083 figure is all the way back on February 25. When he discussed his tax plan in the Rose garden on April 15, he said that 92 million would benefit—but he mentioned no amount. Is there any chance that Bush has dropped this misleading claim, and the slumbering Brown hasn’t noticed? Of course, Brown is totally behind the curve with her numbers, which are drawn from Bush's original, full-scale tax cut. The House and the Senate agree it won't happen. Brown doesn't seem to have heard.

At any rate, look what happened when Brown decided to provide some much-needed balance. “Democrats opposed to the tax cut are promoting their own myths,” the scribe said: BROWN: Democrats’ biggest complaint: The tax cut will benefit the richest Americans and starve programs for the poor…The truth: Although rich Americans will get a bigger cut because they pay more taxes, they will still continue to pay a greater percentage in taxes overall, money Republicans argue they will funnel back into the economy. Opponents also claim cutting the dividend tax will only benefit a few stockholders. The truth: 35 million households received taxable dividend income in 2000, hardly a few, and almost half are elderly Americans. In her balancing act, Brown takes a Democratic claim (the tax cut will benefit the richest Americans) and plays it off against “the truth.” But “the truth” in no way contradicts the Democrats’ claim; the tax cut will benefit the richest Americans whether they pay the most taxes or not. What “myth” has Brown debunked here? Meanwhile, in Brown’s statement of “the truth,” she literally includes something that “Republicans argue.” That isn’t “the truth” she’s presenting. Duh! It’s a claim!

Final question: Has someone actually said that “cutting the dividend tax will only benefit a few stockholders?” That would be a strange statement to make. But who has actually said it? Meanwhile, cutting the dividend tax may indeed benefit 35 million households—but as was the case with Brown’s previous argument, most of those people will get very little. According to the Chicago Tribune, for example, “Nearly half of the [dividend] benefit would go to Americans 65 and older. Average tax cut would be $936 for those tax-payers.” But as before, that “average” will be heavily skewed by the large benefits that go to high earners. The very point which Brown asserts in Part A she forgets when she tries to be “balanced.”

There are many points worth discussing about Bush’s proposals. But Brown doesn’t seem to know what they are. She manages to be unfair to both Bush and to Democrats in her short piece, a new approach to the “fair/balanced” concept. Meanwhile, Brown’s whole report was 400 words long; it was the only report she had aired in a week. The Tarantos insult our intelligence outright. But slumbering sweetly as they doze through life, the Campbell Browns—and of course, the Tom Brokaws—don’t seem to be too far behind. Luckily, Tom and Campbell are both good-looking—and neither one looks vaguely French.

MORE SIGNS OF THE TIMES: No one assaults our intelligence like the cable “news” nets, and Dan Kennedy’s Tuesday piece about MSNBC really is a bit of must reading. But why should anyone be surprised by what is happening at MS? When they hired Michael Savage, they put a fool on the air. But all through Campaign 2000, we asked why this net didn’t fire Chris Matthews. Matthews dissembled and faked his way through that election, misleading his viewers again and again. But MSNBC wants those pseudo-con viewers, and Matthews was willing to play a key role. Remember: This is product marketing, pure and simple—it has nothing to do with journalism. MSNBC wants those pseudo-con viewers, and is willing to do what it takes.