Mar
28
2012

Tom Friedman Likes Countries to Our Left– So Advocates Moving Ours Rightward

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is doing what he does best–traveling the world. In today's column (3/28/12) he finds that other countries' political systems– Australia and New Zealand–are well to the left of our own: In New Zealand and Australia, you could almost fit their entire political spectrum–from conservatives to liberals–inside the U.S. Democratic Party. And somehow both countries manage to confront big issues head on: a carbon tax and cap and trade. They have single-payer healthcare, income support for the poor, and so on. So what's the lesson for American politics? The same as always, according to Friedman. […]

Jan
12
2012

When the Campaign Moves Back to the 'Center'

The presidential campaign is breaking down along familiar ideological lines, according to New York Times reporter John Harwood (1/12/12): American voters loathe both major symbols of the forces squeezing their pocketbooks and life savings. President Obama will seek re-election vowing to rein in one of them: Wall Street. Mitt Romney will focus on the other: Washington. There are some complications (Republicans attacking Mitt Romney's "vulture" capitalism for starters), but Harwood assures readers that soon enough the candidates will be back to the sensible middle. But what's the center? Romney's right-wing rhetoric about Obama's fondness for Big Government and European socialism […]

Oct
11
2011

David Brooks Gets Occupy Wall Street and Al-Qaeda in Same Sentence

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote a tedious column today (10/11/11) about how the real radicals are the centrists, not the Wall Street occupiers. (Read Dean Baker to see what Brooks is getting wrong.) But this jumped out at me: A third believe the U.S. is no better than Al-Qaeda, according to a New York magazine survey. How would someone "survey" a leaderless, ever-shifting mass of protesters? I am not sure, and it's not really what New York did. They asked a series of questions–some of them obviously cheeky–to 100 activists at Liberty Plaza. As you can see: Rank […]

Oct
05
2011

Tom Friedman's Chris Christie Crush Crumbles

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie isn't running for president after all. This is bad news for the journalists who seemed so eager to promote his candidacy, but also for establishment pundits like New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who thought a Christie/Obama contest would have been a victory for…. wait for it… centrism! He writes today (10/5/11): Had Christie–a moderate on gun control, climate change and immigration who has also backed Simpson/Bowles–run and won significant support, he would have forced Obama back to the center. Then, instead of a race between the Democratic left and the Republican right–in which […]

Jul
25
2011

Obama's Right-Wing Plan to Win the Center

Forget about "winning the future"–Barack Obama wants to win the center. That's what the Washington Post is telling readers (7/25/11): Obama 'Big Deal' on Debt a Gamble to Win the Center Advisers think securing his plan would ensure general-election victory The Post's Zachary A. Goldfarb (who can't be held responsible for the headline) explained that Obama was making Republicans an offer they couldn't refuse. In exchange for trillions of dollars in cuts, including to Medicare and Social Security, Republicans would have to agree to a fraction of that in increased tax revenue. He added: Obama's political advisers have long believed […]

Apr
11
2011

NYT 'Obama to the Center' Headline Apparently Serious

This New York Times piece by Jeff Zeleny on the budget deal was actually headlined: President Adopts a Measured Course to Recapture the Middle Zeleny explained: President Obama opened the week by calling on Democrats to embrace his re-election campaign. He closed it by praising Republicans for forging a compromise to cut spending this year and avert a government shutdown. The juxtaposition made clearer than ever the more centrist governing style Mr. Obama has adopted since his party's big losses in November and his recapture-the-middle strategy for winning a second term. If "centrism" is defined as mostly cedingthe budget argument […]

Mar
18
2011

Time: Obama Too Far Left?

This is an ad for some sort of Time magazine web feature, grabbed today from the magazine's homepage: Time is a little late to the table; this has been the media line since shortly after Obama was elected (FAIR Action Alert, 2/3/09) and has been going strong ever since (Extra!, 1/11).

Feb
07
2011

Politico and Centrist Media Bias (22 Years Late)

One of the supposed attractions of the news site Politico is that every so often they give you a peek behind the media curtain, trying to explain how Beltway journalism works. So they don't just obsessively cover Sarah Palin–they explain why they obsessively cover Sarah Palin: "For the media, Palin is great at the box office." John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei offer a similar piece (2/7/11) that takes aim at thesupposed turnabout in Barack Obama's political fortunes after the midterm election. Part of the answer is thatthe White House is doing things they know the media will cheeron asa […]

Jan
11
2011

NYT: Clintonian Centrism a 'Strategic Masterstroke'

A New York Times profile (1/8/11) of author/economist Robert Reich was headlined "Obama the Centrist Irks a Liberal Lion." It's hard not to see where reporter Michael Powell comes down in the debate over Democrats moving to the right: Mr. Reich sees a parallel with his former boss, Mr. Clinton, and draws no comfort from the comparison. Confronted with a muscular Republican majority in the House in 1994, Mr. Clinton mastered triangulation, which is to say he sailed into a sea neither Republican nor Democratic. It was a strategic masterstroke, but he threw overboard some liberal founding stones. It's hard […]

Jan
07
2011

Center Moves to the Center, Courting the Middle

Obama's selection of conservative Democrat William Daley as his new chief of staff didn't surprise anyone.So reporters were left to explain the political shift behind the move. Some saw little movement at all, since Daley's political views would seem more or less in line with his predecessor Rahm Emanuel. The Washington Post (1/7/11)offered this somewhat confused explanation: His moderate views and Wall Street credentials make him an unexpected choice for a president who has railed against corporate irresponsibility and tried, with limited success, to appease restive liberals who think he has not been tough enough on bankers. Actually, the opposite […]

Dec
17
2010

Mark Halperin's Puppy-Killing Definition of Centrism

Mark Halperin (cc photo: David Shankbone)

Time's Mark Halperin (12/27/10) joins his punditry colleagues in cheering Barack Obama's wealthy-friendly tax plan as a great way for the president to end a rough year: But by ending the year with a bipartisan-compromise tax deal, Obama showed he is capable of delivering the kind of change that was supposed to be the hallmark of his administration. Indeed– I bet a lot of people watching Obama during the 2008 campaign were thinking, "I hope he doesn't mean it when he says he'll get rid of those tax breaks for the wealthy." More Halperinian analysis: To avoid seeing the economy […]

Nov
12
2010

Hey, NYT: What Exactly Is 'Centrism'?

Reporting on the proposal from debt commission chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, a New York Times article (11/11/10) by Jackie Calmes framed the discussion this way: Mr. Obama created the commission last February in the hope it would provide political cover for bold action against deficits in 2011. His stance now, in the wake of his party's drubbing, will go a long way toward telling whether he tacks to the political center–by embracing such proposals–or shifts to the left and leaves them on a shelf. The duo's proposal is a remarkably regressive plan to cut Social Security benefits and […]

May
20
2009

Media Cheer Obama Moves Toward Bush's 'Center'

Salon's Glenn Greenwald (5/19/09, ad-viewing required) "gives the lie to the collective national claim that we learned our lesson and are now regretful about the Bush/Cheney approach to terrorism": Republicans are right about the fact that while it was Bush officials who led the way in implementing these radical and lawless policies, most of the country's institutions–particularly the Democratic Party leadership and the media–acquiesced to it, endorsed it, and enabled it. And they still do. Nothing has produced as much media praise for Obama as his embrace of what [the New Republic's Jack] Goldsmith calls the "essential elements" of "the […]