Dec
01
2011

SoundBites

October 2011

Don’t Cry for Me, S&P 500

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (8/9/11) recalled a story about President Franklin D. Roosevelt crying when he was told about children in migrant worker camps who lacked Christmas toys. Cohen wondered, “Can anyone imagine Barack Obama doing anything similar?”

The answer—at least my answer—is no. And this is quite amazing when you think about it. FDR was a Hudson River squire—down to his cigarette holder and cape. Nonetheless, he could connect to the less fortunate. Obama, in contrast, was raised in the great American muddle, not rich and not poor. Yet when the stock market fell more than 500 points last week and the image that night was of the president whooping it up at his birthday party, the juxtaposition—just bad timing, of course—seemed appropriate. He does not seem to care.

FDR cried when he heard about children living in poverty. Obama didn’t even cry when the Dow lost 500 points.

Hard-Line Democratic Compromisers

The Los Angeles Times (8/15/11), reporting on the formation of a bipartisan congressional “supercommittee” to come up with a deficit reduction plan, complained that “neither political party has shown interest in compromising. Republicans have refused to discuss new taxes, and Democrats will not consider major changes to Medicare or Social Security unless more revenue is part of the deal.” In other words, the Democrats refuse to compromise because they insist that any compromise involve a compromise.

‘Leeches on Society’

When radio hosts Tavis Smiley and Cornel West appeared on CNN’s American Morning (8/8/11) to call attention to the problem of poverty, host Carol Costello led off with a retort from a viewer: “She says welfare in theory was a good thing, but it’s become a way of life for generations. The poor actually have it better than the middle class.”

That curious claim set the tone for the interview, with Costello challenging West by citing discredited studies from the right-wing Heritage Foundation (Extra!, 1-2/99; Center for American Progress, 8/5/11): “They say the poor in America today are unlike the poor in America years ago. In fact, most of the poor in America live in a decent house. They have TVs. They have microwave ovens and they even have a refrigerator. What are they complaining about?” Costello even interrupted West to falsely claim that “the poor don’t pay any” taxes.

After the interview ended, Costello remarked to a co-host: “Frankly, I think to an extent the poor have been demonized because many people in America think they’re leeches on society. They’re just, you know, sucking everything out of us.” From her interview, one can only assume that Costello is one of those who see the poor as leeches sucking everything out of us, what with their refrigerators and all.

‘Deadliest Day’

When a helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan on August 6, killing 38 fighters, including 30 from the United States, NBC’s David Gregory (Meet the Press, 8/7/11) declared, “This was the single deadliest day of the war.” Similar claims were made on CBS (Morning News, 8/8/11) and ABC (World News Saturday, 8/6/11), and by print outlets like the AP (8/9/11) and the Chicago Tribune (8/7/11).

It was, in fact, the deadliest day of the war for U.S. troops, but the deadliest day of the war for human beings was May 3, 2009, when the U.S. military attacked the village of Granai, killing 140 people, 93 of them children, according to an Afghan government investigation (Reuters, 5/16/09). (The U.S. government says it does not know how many people it killed that day.) Other deadlier days in Afghanistan include July 6, 2008, when a U.S. bombing killed 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, attending a wedding in Nangarhar province (Guardian, 7/11/08); August 22, 2008, when a U.S. airstrike killed at least 90 civilians, including 60 children, in the village of Azizabad (UN News Centre, 8/26/08); and July 23, 2010, when the U.S. killed 39 civilians in the village of Sangin (RTTNews, 8/5/10).

To be sure, many U.S. news reports remembered to add “for Americans” to their descriptions of August 6 as the “deadliest day.” But there’s little evidence that anyone in U.S. media remembers the village of Granai.

Readers’ Rep vs. Readers

Washington Post ombud Patrick Pexton (7/31/11) weighed in on complaints the paper had received about its Right Turn blogger Jennifer Rubin, whose post on the Norway massacre (7/22/11) confidently asserted: “In all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra.... As the attack in Oslo reminds us, there are plenty of Al-Qaeda allies still operating.” Of course, the mass killing was actually carried out by a right-wing Christian inspired by Islamophobic blogs (Extra!, 9/11).

Pexton’s column warned of “a blogosphere given to vitriol and hasty judgments,” suggesting that those who indulge in such should consider the consequences of their attacks—but, amazingly, he was talking about Rubin’s critics, not the columnist herself.

As for why Rubin didn’t change her post as soon as the attacker was identified, Pexton explained that as an observant Jew, she doesn’t work on the Sabbath; he doesn’t say how that explained the column she wrote when she did return (7/23/11), the one that said, “There are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans, and we should keep our eye on the systemic and far more potent threats that stem from an ideological war with the West.” Pexton did say he had had a chat with Rubin and personally determined “she is not an ogre or a racist,” and, anyway, regular readers understand that “this is what she does and who she is.” Which is precisely the problem.

Blowing Off Global Warming

In case you were hoping that Hurricane Irene, the latest of 2011’s weather disasters, might spark a

discussion of global climate change and its impact on extreme weather (Extra!, 8/11), here’s the complete discussion of the topic on ABC’s This Week (8/30/11):

RON BROWNSTEIN, National Journal: Do we want to get into a global warming and a hurricanes discussion?

DONNA BRAZILE, Democratic strategist: No.

BROWNSTEIN: I mean, I don’t know if we want to open that door.