Extra! June 2013
Other People’s Polls
On NBC’s Meet the Press (3/31/13), guest host Chuck Todd declared, “We’ve seen the polling that support for stricter gun laws is slipping.” Citing a CBS poll (3/20–24/13), he added, “The polls are sort of speaking pretty loud here.” ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos (3/31/13) had the same take: “Look at the latest poll from CBS. Support for gun control in December of 2012, 57 percent for new gun-control laws, stricter gun-control laws, now down to 47 percent.”
Curiously, these hosts’ own networks had their own polls that they didn’t cite—because they didn’t back up their arguments. ABC’s poll (3/7– 10/13) found little change since immediately after Newtown. And NBC’s gun poll (2/21–24/13) showed support for stricter gun laws continuing to increase since the massacre. On specific proposed policy changes, like expanded background checks, the public remains overwhelmingly supportive.
What the polls are really saying is that if Congress doesn’t enact popular gun control measures, pundits shouldn’t blame the public.
Remembrance of Things Not Past
Under the headline “Remarks Stymie GOP’s Mission,” the Washington Post (3/30/13) reported on Rep. Don Young (R.-Alaska) referring to “wetbacks” in a radio interview, and to a Republican National Committee official posting about “filthy” homosexuality on Facebook. Post reporters Aaron Blake and Juliet Eilperin remarked, “For a Republican Party embarked on a mission of modernization, an ethnic slur uttered by a senior House Republican this week offered an unwelcome reminder of the past.” Which raises a question: Since these are currently serving officials, doesn’t that make these slurs a reminder of the party’s present?
Concealing a Spy Who Hid Torture
The New York Times (3/27/13) and Washington Post (3/26/13), among other outlets, withheld the name of a CIA official under consideration for the Agency’s third-highest ranking job: director of the National Clandestine Service. (She is currently the acting head of the NCS, which oversees covert operations.) Such high-ranking CIA officials are normally named in news reports, but in this case the CIA asked media not to—and, as usual (Extra!, 4/13), the media complied.
The CIA suggested disclosing her identity could jeopardize national security. But FireDogLake’s Kevin Gosztola (3/28/13) argued more plausibly that the Agency wanted to shield her from accountability over past involvement in the CIA’s interrogation and rendition programs, and in the destruction of videotapes of CIA torture sessions. The nominee was chief of staff to NCS chief Jose Rodriguez when the unit was brutally torturing prisoners like Abu Zubaydah. Rodriguez and the nominee ordered videotapes of these torture sessions destroyed—even though, as the Post reported, they had repeatedly been denied permission to erase this evidence of potentially criminal wrongdoing.
When a person connected to torture and its coverup is in charge of U.S. covert operations, doesn’t the public have a compelling interest in knowing who she is? The Times and Post apparently disagree.
Breaking with Bush—Eventually
On ABC’s This Week (4/28/13), the host introduced former Bush adviser and ABC regular Matthew Dowd this way:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Matthew Dowd, you worked for the president for several years. Broke over the Iraq War.
DOWD: Well, yeah, and I was there for the first five years of the administration, as you say, broke over the Iraq War.
The Iraq War started in 2003. Five years into the Bush administration would be 2006. That’s a long breakup. In the meantime, Dowd served as the chief strategist for George W. Bush’s successful 2004 campaign—perhaps to let him down easy.
In a 2007 New York Times interview (4/1/07), Dowd talked about what he would do after finally leaving the administration over the war that had started four years earlier:
I wouldn’t be surprised if I wasn’t walking around in Africa or South America doing something that was like mission work…. I do feel a calling of trying to re-establish a level of gentleness in the world.
In fact, he became a PR consultant and TV pundit. Close enough.
“People talk about transformational politicians,” wrote Washington Post columnist David Ignatius (4/10/13). “But watching Margaret Thatcher take down the British class system was an education in how it’s really done.” Under Thatcher, according to Ignatius, “the upper classes became porous” and “life became a Ralph Lauren ad” (whatever that means). Actually, though, class differences greatly widened under Thatcher: The standard measure of inequality, the Gini index, soared from .25 to .34 during her tenure (The Crises, 12/29/10), while poverty increased from 13.4 percent to 22.2 percent (Guardian, 4/8/13).
The New York Times’ John Burns (PBS NewsHour, 4/9/13) recalled: “The Britain I grew up in, in the wake of the Second World War, was a country which was in precipitous decline, which had entirely lost its national self-confidence. And Mrs. Thatcher put that right.” In the 11 years Thatcher was prime minister, Britain’s GDP grew by 28 percent. In the 11 years before that, it grew…29 percent.
PBS’s Debate: Is Cutting Social Security ‘Brave’ or ‘Gutsy’?
David Brooks, who represents the right on the PBS NewsHour (4/12/13), on Barack Obama’s plan to cut Social Security benefits:
I give him credit for some things. He did have some reasonably small Social Security reform, this thing called chained CPI, which is part a benefit cut, part a big tax increase. He does do some things which are brave. He does, I think, sort of move to the center.
Mark Shields, who stands in for the left:
I think what he did was gutsy; any time you make your own base that angry, as he obviously has done. Last fall, the Republican Senate leaders said about the chained CPI and the means-testing for wealthy Medicare recipients, that these are the kinds of things that would get Republicans interested in revenues. Well, President Obama is doing that…. So I think he gets credit and should get credit for doing something bold and difficult.