Apr 1 2014

Soundbites April 2014

Volume 27, Number 4

SoBitesbUSA Todays Cracked Crystal Ball

Under the headline “1,000 Days Out: Calmer Landscape for ’16 Race,” USA Today’s Susan Page (2/10/14) noted that “the last time there was an open race for the White House, in 2008…the economy was sinking into the worst crisis since the Great Depression.” Whereas today, “amid early jockeying for the 2016 election—precisely 1,000 days away as of Wednesday—presidential hopefuls face what is shaping up to be a very different landscape”:

The economy is recovering steadily, if slowly. Unemployment, while still troubling, is declining—to 6.6 percent last month, the lowest since October 2008. The budget deficit has dropped from its peak by nearly two-thirds despite the failure to reach a long-sought Grand Bargain.

Of course, a thousand days before the 2008 election, the economic crisis that started in 2007 hadn’t happened yet. Unemployment was at 4.7 percent. The Congressional Budget Office was projecting a 2006 deficit of $337 billion—less than a quarter of what it would be in three years. That the actual circumstances under which candidates ran for office in 2008 didn’t at all resemble the situation in early 2006 shows the futility of trying to pontificate about elections almost three years before they happen. But that isn’t going to stop the political press corps.

Bob Schieffer Is Tired of Your Fancy Talk

Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer (2/16/14) with a classic example of anti-populist populism:

You know, David, you went to Harvard, so you understand phrases like “income inequality” and things like that. I would kind of like to hear people talk about jobs…and things like that, though…. I think that’s a better way to go at it, myself, but….

(“David” is the New York Times’ David Sanger, who hadn’t said anything about income inequality—or anything else—at that point in the on-air conversation.)

Minimum Math: Triple = ‘Just as Many’

“If you want to make some new friends and just as many enemies,” wrote Time’s Eliza Gray (3/10/14), “here’s a helpful shortcut: take a position on raising the federal minimum wage.” Calling it “one of the most divisive issues in Washington,” Time contrasted liberals who want a wage hike “to address growing inequality” against conservatives who argue it would “destroy jobs.” Then, in an aside, the magazine noted that a minimum wage increase is something that “76 percent of Americans favor, according to Gallup.”

So according to the polling cited by Time, you’d make three times as many friends taking a pro-increase position as coming out against one. That’s a peculiar way to use “just as many.”

Future Asks: Why Didn’t You Drown Us Quicker?

Red indicates areas where future historians will not be living.

Red indicates areas where future historians will not be living.

On Meet the Press (2/2/14), host David Gregory and White House correspondent Chuck Todd puzzled over President Barack Obama’s failure to immediately endorse the climate-destroying Keystone XL pipeline. “I mean, I think the left can be upset with the president,” said Gregory. “But there’s a real opening to say to Republicans: ‘Hey, you say this is a priority? Well, I studied it, and I think it’s a priority, too. We’ll go ahead and do it.’… It could be a big moment for him.”

Todd worried about the president’s “big-picture legacy thing”:

The president was elected on…changing politics as we know it in this town…. He’s given up on trying to break the polarization addiction that this town has. Some will say he added to it. But he’s given that up. And, to me, that’s going to be something that I think historians are going to be writing down as the great disappointment of the Obama era.

It’s doubtful that historians living in an era when sea level is 40–70 feet higher than it is today (Phys.org, 3/19/12), and many coastal cities are entirely underwater, will be looking at Obama’s failure to make common cause with Republicans to accelerate the burning of fossil fuels as “the great disappointment of the Obama era.”

Scarborough Softballs the Boss

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Time Warner Cable CEO Robert Marcus

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Time Warner Cable CEO Robert Marcus

MSNBC had hardly any coverage of the proposed merger of its parent company Comcast with Time Warner Cable (see p. 11), but the February 13 edition of Morning Joe featured both sides: It had on the CEO of Comcast and the CEO of TWC. Co-host Joe Scarborough actually prefaced one question to Comcast’s Brian Roberts with, “It’ll sound like a softball question.” (And it did: “Comcast seems to be doing everything right over the past four or five years. What’s working for your company that’s not working for other companies?”)

Scarborough later observed, “Even if I weren’t working here…I would be saying, ‘It’s a pretty stunning story about just how successful Comcast is right now.’” Concurred MSNBC business pundit Donny Deutsch: “Everything they’ve done is right.” And they say it’s hard to get good help these days.

Strange Superpowers of French Presidents

“French presidents don’t so much govern as reign from the splendors of the Élysée Palace. They have powers most democratic leaders only dream of, able to deploy their military or command nuclear strikes without first consulting the national legislature.”

Time (2/17/14)

Good News! $8 Billion Less Food Aid

SoBitesa“Some relief for millions of American families facing a drastic cut in food stamps. After a two-year fight today, the Senate passed a farm bill which cuts $8 billion from the food stamp program. But that’s far less than the $40 billion Republicans wanted to cut.”

—Diane Sawyer (ABC World News, 2/4/14)

 Extra! April 2014