Oct
01
2008

SoundBites

Associated With Whom?

“Obama Spares Details: Keeps Up Attacks.”

AP headline on Barack Obama’s acceptance speech (8/28/08)

“McCain Makes Bipartisan Pitch as Leader for All.”

AP headline on John McCain’s acceptance speech (9/5/08)

Having It Neither Way

The Washington Post (8/10/08) ran a story headlined, “Obama Tax Plan Would Balloon Deficit, Analysis Finds.” Actually, though, the analysis in question, by the Tax Policy Center (7/23/08), found that Obama’s proposals would bring in $80 billion more a year in taxes compared to current tax policies—that’s not exactly “ballooning” the deficit. However, if you instead base your comparison on the future changes that are currently written into tax law, Obama’s plan would indeed increase the deficit, by about $340 billion a year. That’s because Obama says he wants to renew some, but not all, of the Bush tax cuts that by current law will expire at the end of 2010. Should you use current tax rates or current tax law as the comparison? You can make a case either way, but the Post tries to have it both ways—describing the Democrats’ choices as “keep the tax cuts and run up the deficit, or keep the money and raise taxes.” Well, if current rates are the basis for comparison, then you’re not increasing the deficit by renewing the tax cuts, and if current law is the basis, then you’re not raising taxes by keeping tax law unchanged. In other words, the “wrenching choice that has bedeviled Democrats,” as the Post puts it, is entirely the paper’s own invention.

Unfit to Print

Under the headline “Too Fit to Be President?” Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Chozick (WSJ.com, 8/1/08) suggested that the 66 percent of the voting public who are overweight could make Barack Obama’s skinniness a “liability.” “Despite his visits to waffle houses, ice-cream parlors and greasy-spoon diners around the country, his slim physique just might have some Americans wondering whether he is truly like them,” Chozick wrote. The piece quoted just two people with reservations about Obama’s weight, one of whom named Obama being “too new” as her first concern. The other, saying “I won’t vote for any beanpole guy,” was described as “another Clinton supporter [who] wrote last week on a Yahoo politics message board.” Chozick didn’t tell readers that this comment was an anonymous response to a query the reporter posted herself, or that the only other response ridiculed her for asking the question (Sadly, No!, 8/1/08). The Journal (8/1/08) later said that the article “should have disclosed that the reporter used the bulletin board to elicit the comment,” but New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (8/3/08) had already used the “beanpole” comment as evidence that “some women aren’t warming” to Obama.

Catholic Bloc

John Broder’s New York Times article (8/6/08), “Obama’s View on Abortion May Divide Catholics,” warned the Democratic campaign against too firm a support for abortion rights: “Sixteen years ago, the Democratic Party refused to allow Robert P. Casey, Sr., then governor of Pennsylvania, to speak at its national convention because his anti-abortion views, stemming from his Roman Catholic faith, clashed with the party’s platform and powerful constituencies.” Broder claimed that “many Catholics, once a reliable Democratic voting bloc, never forgot what they considered a slight.” Actually, as blogger Brendan Nyhan (8/7/08) pointed out, Casey’s snub wasn’t due to his abortion views, but because—unlike other anti-abortion Democrats who did speak at the convention—he hadn’t endorsed the Democratic ticket. As Bill Clinton strategist James Carville told the New Republic (9/16/96), “You’d have to be idiotic to give a speaking role to a person who hadn’t even endorsed you.” As for “never” forgetting, the Times article’s accompanying chart showed that Clinton received about the same share of Catholic votes in ’92 as Democratic candidates like Dukakis in ’88, Mondale in ’84, Carter in ‘80 and McGovern in ’72—and he did substantially better among Catholics in ’96.

Water Wars

The New York Times’ Andrew Martin reported (8/10/08) on Israel’s water shortage, the result of a long drought and growing water consumption. The shortage has been hard on Israel’s agriculture sector, Martin wrote, saying farmers “may have a bigger long-term problem than rockets” fired at them by Palestinian militants. What Martin failed to mention is that, as the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has documented (7/1/08), Israel gets much of its water from the Palestinian territories it occupies on the West Bank, and it fails to distribute that water equitably, resulting in far more severe water shortages for Palestinians. According to B’Tselem, Palestinian water consumption in the West Bank now stands at about two-thirds of the WHO-recommended minimum amount, which would seem to be the bigger story here—and may have something to do with the rockets Martin described being lobbed across the border.

Impossible to Parody

“Obama bombarded by personal attacks. Are they legit? Ann Coulter comments.”

FoxNews.com blurb for the O'Reilly Factor (8/12/08)