Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sarah Palin: Obama's Credibility Gap

The Credibility Gap

While I don’t wish to speak too harshly about President Obama’s state of the union address, we live in challenging times that call for candor. I call them as I see them, and I hope my frank assessment will be taken as an honest effort to move this conversation forward.

Last night, the president spoke of the “credibility gap” between the public’s expectations of their leaders and what those leaders actually deliver. “Credibility gap” is a good way to describe the chasm between rhetoric and reality in the president’s address. The contradictions seemed endless.

He called for Democrats and Republicans to “work through our differences,” but last year he dismissed any notion of bipartisanship when he smugly told Republicans, “I won.”

He talked like a Washington “outsider,” but he runs Washington! He’s had everything any president could ask for – an overwhelming majority in Congress and a fawning press corps that feels tingles every time he speaks. There was nothing preventing him from pursuing “common sense” solutions all along. He didn’t pursue them because they weren’t his priorities, and he spent his speech blaming Republicans for the problems caused by his own policies.

He dared us to “let him know” if we have a better health care plan, but he refused to allow Republicans in on the negotiations or consider any ideas for real free market and patient-centered reforms. We’ve been “letting him know” our ideas for months from the town halls to the tea parties, but he isn’t interested in listening. Instead he keeps making the nonsensical claim that his massive trillion-dollar health care bill won’t increase the deficit.

Americans are suffering from job losses and lower wages, yet the president practically demanded applause when he mentioned tax cuts, as if allowing people to keep more of their own hard-earned money is an act of noblesse oblige. He claims that he cut taxes, but I must have missed that. I see his policies as paving the way for massive tax increases and inflation, which is the “hidden tax” that most hurts the poor and the elderly living on fixed incomes.

He condemned lobbyists, but his White House is filled with former lobbyists, and this has been a banner year for K Street with his stimulus bill, aka the Lobbyist’s Full Employment Act. He talked about a “deficit of trust” and the need to “do our work in the open,” but he chased away the C-SPAN cameras and cut deals with insurance industry lobbyists behind closed doors.

He spoke of doing what’s best for the next generation and not leaving our children with a “mountain of debt,” but under his watch this year, government spending is up by 22%, and his budget will triple our national debt.

He spoke of a spending freeze, but doesn’t he realize that each new program he’s proposing comes with a new price tag? A spending freeze is a nice idea, but it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem. We need a comprehensive examination of the role of government spending. The president’s deficit commission is little more than a bipartisan tax hike committee, lending political cover to raise taxes without seriously addressing the problem of spending.

He condemned bailouts, but he voted for them and then expanded and extended them. He praised the House’s financial reform bill, but where was Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in that bill? He still hasn’t told us when we’ll be getting out of the auto and the mortgage industries. He praised small businesses, but he’s spent the past year as a friend to big corporations and their lobbyists, who always find a way to make government regulations work in their favor at the expense of their mom & pop competitors.

He praised the effectiveness of his stimulus bill, but then he called for another one – this time cleverly renamed a “jobs bill.” The first stimulus was sold to us as a jobs bill that would keep unemployment under 8%. We now have double digit unemployment with no end in sight. Why should we trust this new “jobs bill”?

He talked about “making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development,” but apparently it’s still too tough for his Interior Secretary to move ahead with Virginia’s offshore oil and gas leases. If they’re dragging their feet on leases, how long will it take them to build “safe, clean nuclear power plants”? Meanwhile, he continued to emphasize “green jobs,” which require massive government subsidies for inefficient technologies that can’t survive on their own in the real world of the free market.

He spoke of supporting young girls in Afghanistan who want to go to school and young women in Iran who courageously protest in the streets, but where were his words of encouragement to the young girls of Afghanistan in his West Point speech? And where was his support for the young women of Iran when they were being gunned down in the streets of Tehran?

Despite speaking for over an hour, the president only spent 10% of his speech on foreign policy, and he left us with many unanswered questions. Does he still think trying the 9/11 terrorists in New York is a good idea? Does he still think closing Gitmo is a good idea? Does he still believe in Mirandizing terrorists after the Christmas bomber fiasco? Does he believe we’re in a war against terrorists, or does he think this is just a global crime spree? Does he understand that the first priority of our government is to keep our country safe?

In his address last night, the president once again revealed that there’s a fundamental disconnect between what the American people expect from their government, and what he wants to deliver. He’s still proposing failed top-down big government solutions to our problems. Instead of smaller, smarter government, he’s taken a government that was already too big and supersized it.

Real private sector jobs are created when taxes are low, investment is high, and people are free to go about their business without the heavy hand of government. The president thinks innovation comes from government subsidies. Common sense conservatives know innovation comes from unleashing the creative energy of American entrepreneurs.

Everything seems to be “unexpected” to this administration: unexpected job losses; unexpected housing numbers; unexpected political losses in Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Jersey. True leaders lead best when confronted with the unexpected. But instead of leading us, the president lectured us. He lectured Wall Street; he lectured Main Street; he lectured Congress; he even lectured our Supreme Court Justices.

He criticized politicians who “wage a perpetual campaign,” but he gave a campaign speech instead of a state of the union address. The campaign is over, and President Obama now has something that candidate Obama never had: an actual track record in office. We now can see the failed policies behind the flowery words. If Americans feel as cynical as the president suggests, perhaps it’s because the audacity of his recycled rhetoric no longer inspires hope.

Real leadership requires results. Real hope lies in the ingenuity, generosity, and boundless courage of the American people whose voices are still not being heard in Washington.

- Sarah Palin
This is first rate analysis and could be the basis of a great stump speech.

And then there's Palin's ability to encapsule an issue with a telling phrase: "Instead of smaller, smarter government, he’s taken a government that was already too big and supersized it." "Supersize" is not only apt but has all the bad echoes of the movie "Super Size Me".

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama's Trickle Down Economics Not Working

From President Obama's State of the Union address yesterday:
One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt. Experts from across the political spectrum warned that if we did not act, we might face a second depression. So we acted -- immediately and aggressively. And one year later, the worst of the storm has passed.
In part this is true (leaving aside that Bush's Iraq war was already a success). The stock market dropped a total of 4,400 points from mid-September 2008 to early March, 2009. About a third of the drop was after Barack Obama's inauguration.

The stock market has come back to a little less than 70% of what it was in early September, 2008. (10,100 today vs. 14,500 then) So, that part of the economy, though not great, is doing better.

But, stock market gains haven't "trickled down" to the workplace. Neither have the $787 billion in stimulus funds. The unemployment rate has gone from 6.2% in September, 2008, to 10% today. In fact unemployment gains have significantly beaten stock market gains and any other major economic indicator.

Unfortunately, as President Obama acknowledges, his unemployment, business and home value record is one in which "devastation remains":
"But the devastation remains. One in 10 Americans still cannot find work. Many businesses have shuttered. Home values have declined. Small towns and rural communities have been hit especially hard. For those who had already known poverty, life has become that much harder."
The "worst of the storm" hasn't passed. Besides unemployment, business and home value/mortgage problems, the nation's debt is significantly worse than when Obama took office.

When implementing the most important element of his economic plan Obama said that the $787 billion stimulus package should be judged first and foremost by the number of people working.
"'That's bottom-line number one, because if people are working, then they've got enough confidence to make purchases, to make investments,' Obama said last week before the bill's passage. 'Businesses start seeing that consumers are out there with a little more confidence, and they start making investments, which means they start hiring workers. So step number one, job creation.'"
[emphasis added]
Using his own measure, the Obama economics plan has failed badly. Obama "trickle down", government spending economics hasn't worked. It's time for the President to acknowledge that failure and change. One step in that direction would be to stop disbursing the unspent stimulus funds and use those funds either to cut taxes on businesses or pay off the stimulus share of the national debt.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Only 1/3rd of Americans Trust ABC, CBS, NBC News

Public Policy Polling finds that only 1/3rd of Americans trust the three major networks for news. Cable did better with CNN at almost 40% and Fox News having the confidence of almost half of Americans.

The trust factor:

Fox News - 49%
CNN - 39%
NBC News - 35%
CBS News - 32%
ABC News - 31%

Looks like Mark Steyn was right in saying that during the 2008 election the mainstream media were setting their own pants on fire with their biased news coverage.

And it's not just network news. It's all the traditional news sources--newspapers, news magazines even scholarly journals. They all seem to lean more to spin than accurate report.

Falling ad numbers are a financial disaster, but being trustworthy to only 1/3rd of the American public is the real disaster.

I currently use the major news outlets for easy to verify facts (e.g., the number of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan or Iraq in 2009). Not for analysis. I'm with the 2/3rds of Americans who find them untrustworthy on anything other than the most basic of facts. Watching network news is a massive waste of time. They are only useful as google sources for discrete facts easier to find than sifting through the various government, NGO, and institutional reports.

That is why even a savvy marketing change of venue to online, Blackberry, Twitter or whatever will not help them. They have to regain credibility in order to be other than a niche news opinion market (like Newsweek is aiming for).

I feel sorry for ABC, CBS, NBC and my local newspaper (which is trying to win us back by giving a free subscription). I think they haven't a clue about how they lost trust or how they can gain it back. They are so confident of their own opinions, they can't see the difference between covering the news as they see it and covering the news as something ever so much bigger than they themselves are, i.e., covering the news as a part of trying to understand Truth. Which is what is at the heart of fairness--trying to understand and accurately depict that which is different than you are.

What's truly amazing is that Fox News has the trust of almost half the American people. The dumped on source has become the trusted source. If pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18), humility comes before honor (Proverbs 15:33).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Palin Talks Common Sense to Obama

Mr. President: Please Try, "I'm Listening, People," Instead of "Listen Up, People!"
Today at 6:33pm

We’ve now seen three landslide Republican victories in three states that President Obama carried in 2008. From the tea parties to the town halls to the Massachusetts Miracle, Americans have tried to make their opposition to Washington’s big government agenda loud and clear. But the President has decided that this current discontent isn’t his fault, it’s ours. He seems to think we just don’t understand what’s going on because he hasn’t had the chance – in his 411 speeches and 158 interviews last year – to adequately explain his policies to us.

Instead of sensibly telling the American people, “I’m listening,” the president is saying, “Listen up, people!” This approach is precisely the reason people are upset with Washington. Americans understand the president’s policies. We just don’t agree with them. But the president has refused to shift focus and come around to the center from the far left. Instead he and his old campaign advisers are regrouping to put a new spin on the same old agenda for 2010.

Americans aren’t looking for more political strategists. We’re looking for real leadership that listens and delivers results. The president’s former campaign adviser is now calling on supporters to “get on the same page,” but what’s on that page? He claims that the president is “resolved” to “keep fighting for” his agenda, but we’ve already seen what that government-growth agenda involves, and frankly the hype doesn’t give us much hope. Real health care reform requires a free market approach; real job creation involves incentivizing, not punishing, the job-creators; reining in the “big banks” means ending bailouts; and stopping “the undue influence of lobbyists” means not cutting deals with them behind closed doors.

Instead of real leadership, though, we’ve had broken promises and backroom deals. One of the worst: candidate Obama promised to go through the federal budget “with a scalpel,” but President Obama spent four times more than his predecessor. Want more? Candidate Obama promised that lobbyists “won’t find a job in my White House,” but President Obama gave at least a dozen former lobbyists top administration jobs. Candidate Obama promised us that we could view his health care deliberations openly and honestly on C-SPAN, but President Obama cut deals behind closed doors with industry lobbyists. Candidate Obama promised us that we would have at least five days to read all major legislation, but President Obama rushed through bills before members of Congress could even read them.

Candidate Obama promised us that his economic stimulus package would be targeted and pork-free, but President Obama signed a stimulus bill loaded with pork and goodies for corporate cronies. Candidate Obama railed against Wall Street greed, but President Obama cozied up to bankers as he extended and expanded their bailouts. Candidate Obama promised us that for “Every dollar that I’ve proposed [in spending], I’ve proposed an additional cut so that it matches.” We’re still waiting to see how President Obama will cut spending to match the trillion he’s spent.

More than anything, Americans were promised jobs, but the president’s stimulus package has failed to stem our rising unemployment rate. Maybe it was unfair to expect that an administration with so little private sector experience would understand something about job creation. How many Obama Administration officials have ever had to make a payroll or craft a business plan in the private sector? How many have had to worry about not having the resources to invest and expand? The president’s big government policies have made hiring a new employee a difficult commitment for employers to make. Ask yourself if the Obama Administration has done anything to make it easier for employers to hire. Have they given us any reassurance that the president will keep taxes low and not impose expensive new regulations?

Candidate Obama over-promised; President Obama has under-delivered. We understand you, Mr. President. We’ve listened to you again and again. We ask that you now listen to the American people.

- Sarah Palin


For an academic, "learned class" conservative's similar take on these issues, see today's column by Victor Davis Hanson.

Bush Bashing Not Working for Obama

Today's Politico column by Jonathan Martin reviews the take of some Democrat analysts on why bashing President Bush isn't working as a political argument.

Despite the decades of success Democrats had in the 20th century of running against Herbert Hoover, the old strategy has bottomed out in less than a year in the 21st century.
Howard Wolfson, a senior official on Hillary Clinton’s campaign and veteran Democratic communications guru, noted that his party was able to run against Republican Herbert Hoover’s Depression-era presidency for 30 years.

“That doesn’t seem to be the case here,” he said.
Though running against Bush instead of the actual Republican candidate was successful in 2008, the 2009 and early 2010 elections haven't worked out.

Martin's Democratic analysts point to various factors. One of the most interesting is the democratization of news access and rising political literacy of the voters.
[Joel Benenson:]"'You’ve got a 24/7 news cycle, conflict- and entertainment-driven [content] substituting for political coverage on cable TV and a very different country geographically and technologically,' said the pollster. 'The president dominated the media more when Roosevelt took office than when Obama did. Now, any congressman can get on TV on the subject of the day.'"
[emphasis added]
Then there's the fact that the Democrats and the Obama administration have had control of Congress and the Presidency for more than a year.
"'This isn’t 2008, and to voters, you no longer represent a beacon of hope, change and a brighter day,' wrote Democratic consultants Kristian Denny Todd and Steve Jarding in Friday’s POLITICO, in a piece addressed to their party. 'Instead, 12 months into your ‘mandate to change,’ Americans see you as a card-carrying member of the arrogant political establishment that they increasingly believe is out of touch at best and self-serving at worst.'"
. . .
"'Obama has made so many moves and changes that it is hard to argue that all the Bush screw-ups are still the leading reason things aren’t better,' explained Democratic pollster Paul Maslin."
Not mentioned is the rising popularity of George Bush as Americans compare him with Barack Obama. Polling in December 2009 showed that while 50% (down from 63% a year ago) of voters preferred having Obama as president instead of Bush, 44% (up from 29% a year ago) would have liked a return to Bush. Not good news for the Bush bashing strategy.

Then there are policy and practical issues.

- Last month Bush's war in Iraq had zero U.S. casualties while Obama's war in Afghanistan is heating up with twice as many U.S. casualties in Afghanistan (312) than U.S. casualties in Iraq (150) in 2009.

- In the 7-1/2 years after 9/11 there were zero terrorist attacks carried out in the U.S. Less than a year after Obama took office there have been two (maybe three).

- Though the stock market is up from it's lowest rate under Bush (7,552 on 11/20/08 vs. 10,197 today), the unemployment rate has continued to worsen under Obama (Bush's 7.7% for January 2009 vs. Obama's 10% to date--increasing every month in 2009 except for November and December where it held at 10%). Interesting that both rates went up about the same: Dow Jones increased from 7.5 to 10.1 the unemployment rate went up from 7.7 to 10.0. Unfortunately, unemployment impacts people more than the Dow Jones average.

- Debt. Bush increased the national debt 4.5 trillion dollars in eight years (from 6 trillion to 10.5 trillon dollars). Obama has increased it another 1.5 trillion dollars in one year ( to 12 trillion dollars).

Though the media doesn't do a good job of making those comparisons, people figure out at least some of them on their own.

That's also what happened in the late 1970's. People figured out that the presidency under Jimmy Carter needed improvement. They got improvement both economically and in the Cold War with Ronald Reagan.

Interesting that the Carter name still holds negative political power today as Hoover's did in the 1930's and 40's. That's why the comparison of Obama as a possible Carter still has some teeth whereas the negative power of comparing any Republican candidate to Bush is fading rapidly.

H/T Jennifer Rubin

Sunday, January 24, 2010

When Headlines Meet

AP: White House advisers promise sharper focus on jobs
(Sunday, January 24, 2010, 2:40pm EST)

Reuters: Sam's Club cuts 11,200 jobs, 10 percent of workforce
(Sunday, January 24, 2010, 3:16pm EST)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Obama: Higher Education Costs Going Up Even Faster than Health Care Costs

President Obama said today* that higher education costs are rising even faster than health care costs.

I pointed this out as a lapse in good reporting by the Oregonian in its December story on Oregon's rising college debt. Never once did the Oregonian mention the huge rise in higher education costs as a major factor.

Its good to see President Obama is paying attention and trying to bend the cost curve down on bloated higher education. Higher education costs have increased 439% since the 1980's. That's an astronomical figure. More than 3 times the 147% growth in median family income during the same time period. Compare that with health care's 251% climb which is less than 2 times the median family income growth.

*Link to be added. The President's comments this morning at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio, have not yet been transcribed.

UPDATE: No transcript of the speech or question/answer section has yet been posted even though the White House blog stated yesterday afternoon, "We'll post the video and the full transcript shortly." I'll post a link when the White House carries through on its promise to post the full transcript.

UPDATE 2: The Washington Post has a transcript up. The relevant section:
[President Obama:]"Now, one thing I have to say, though. Even as we put more money into the Student Loan Program, we are also trying to reach out to university presidents and administrators to figure out how can we reduce the inflation in higher education -- because the fact is, is that the only thing that has gone up faster in cost than health care is -- guess what. Higher education. And the problem is, if we're not thinking about ways to curve the inflation, then even if we put more money in, what that money is buying becomes less and less. And so trying to find creative ways for universities to do more with less is going to be important.

"Now, in fairness to universities and colleges, part of the reason they've been having to jack up their costs is they used to get more support from the state. State budgets got into a hole, and then it became harder, and so they had to make it up on the tuition side. Nevertheless, what is also true, though, is just their general costs of operating have gone up in ways that I think we can improve. So we're going to be working on that as well."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Obama and Reagan: Similar Challenges, Divergent Policies, Similar Result?

Dan Baltz, in a long article in the Washington Post, explores the similar difficult political situation that faced President Ronald Reagan in 1980 and faces President Barack Obama today.

Baltz mentions Reagan's dropping poll numbers similar to Obama's.
"Reagan had dropping poll numbers as Obama now has.

"Around the White House these days, the president's advisers draw analogies with Reagan to paint a hopeful portrait of Obama's weakened standing. Reagan, they note, had approval ratings around 50 percent at the end of his first year in office and ended up winning a landslide reelection victory in 1984. What they don't say so vocally is that Reagan's approval dipped into the 40s in the fall of 1982, and that his party suffered substantial losses in Congress that November."
The key for Reagan was that his policies brought economic success.
"So what lies ahead? In February 1982, facing difficult economic conditions and controversy over his economic and budgetary initiatives, Reagan famously announced that he would "stay the course." His party suffered in that fall, but the economy recovered and so did he."
Does it work? That's the key question. Reagan's policies turned out to be the right ones to fix the difficult economic problems left by President Jimmy Carter's liberal policies.

Further, a comparison Balz does not make, Reagan's tough, blunt, clear foreign policy, resulted in the astonishing success of ending the four decades long Cold War without a shot being fired or a casualty on either side. The Cold War had bedeviled the 7 presidential administrations preceding Reagan's and resulted in 80,000 American dead and a quarter of a million American wounded in the "hot" Korean and Viet Nam wars that were part of the larger Cold War threat.

Reagan's legacy is massive in spanning both deep economic and deeper military perils. His conservative, common sense approach won the day in both arenas.

The question Balz raises is: Can continuation of President Obama's liberal approach win the day economically and reverse his political approval slide?

Put another way, can Obama's liberal policies which are opposite to the winning conservative policies of Reagan (cut taxes and reduce federal economic regulations and involvement) produce a similar economic growth result?

Balz never clearly addresses the issue of contradictory policies producing the same result. He seems to assume that economics is a mystery and anything can happen.

Common sense leans against opposite policies resulting in similar success. If Obama's liberal policies do work, it will be one for the history books and for logic.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tale of Two Portland Churches

The Portland Tribune has an article on two mainline churches in the Portland area.

One has attenders with an average age of 79. The other's average age is 40. Both are Presbyterian. One went from an attendance of 20 to 2,000. Both pastors point to theology as the difference.

Eastminster Presbyterian Church in the Gateway district in northeast Portland has mostly very senior attenders--average age 79. Pastor Ron Kincaid of Sunset Presbyterian Church in the Cedar Mill area took a "counterintuitive" step and
"began preaching a more orthodox Protestant message - the evangelical message that takes the Bible as the word of God, no if, ands or buts.

"Portland and Oregon may be among the least-churched cities and states in the country, but a liberal dogma doesn't necessarily work here, says Kincaid.

"'There's not too many churches that have a liberal theology that are growing,' Kincaid says.

"In fact, Sunset under Kincaid has switched its affiliation, from the mainline Presbyterian to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church."
Pastor Brian Heron of Eastminster agrees with Kinkaid even while preaching a more liberal message.
"A questioning theology is almost impossible for a mainstream church to practice here if it wants to grow, he says."
But, there's a price to pay in taking any firm stand:
"'If we became a church that said we’re going to ordain gays and lesbians, we would probably lose 20 percent of our church,' Heron says. 'And if we were to take a stand to not ordain gays and lesbians, we might lose 30 or 40 percent of our church.'

"As a result, Heron says, mainstream churches such as Eastminster, just hoping to stay together, have avoided many of the most controversial spiritual issues, and end up not being attractive to many new congregants at all."
Though admitting that lack of a clear message has hurt Eastminster, Pastor Heron thinks a clear conservative message will eventually fail in the Portland area:
"Kincaid's more orthodox theology has been successful in attracting new congregants who find comfort in an unambiguous dogma, Heron says, but it might not continue doing so, especially in liberal Portland. Eventually, he says, a conservative message runs out of potential congregants in liberal-dominated Portland.

"'To continue to say 'We’re the one way,’ leads to less tolerance, and fighting, and I just don’t see how historically that’s going to be able to last,' Heron says."
Taking an unpopular, but clear, stand on truth may not seem like a good organizational move, but if the power in a message depends on whether it comes from God or not, "potential congregants" isn't the key question.

A critical difference in the two churches seems to hinge on the view of whether the church is a divinely instituted body that needs to follow a singular message or more like other human organizations that need to take marketing into account.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wall Street Journal Takes Issue with Oregonian

A Wall Street Journal editorial on Measures 66 and 67 cites as relevant fact what Oregonian reporter Jeff Mapes calls "false" in his article "Ad Watch: Tax ad on state salaries is wrong; workers getting pay cut, not raises":
"The ad also says the taxes will help pay for $259 million to 'fund state employee salary increases.' The average viewer gets the impression that state employees are getting big raises in this budget.

"That’s false. State employees are actually taking a pay cut."
[emphasis added]
The Wall Street Journal sees the facts differently:
In the last budget, the Democratic controlled state legislature doled out a $259 million pay raise to the government work force, even as the state was facing a near $1 billion deficit. In the last three years, the state has added 25,000 new public employees while losing 40,000 private sector jobs. The union TV ads say the tax hikes are needed to preserve schools, roads and public services.
[emphasis added]
According to Mapes a spokesman for the ad:
". . . concedes that the Legislature did not give new salary increases in 2009. He says lawmakers should have rolled back the salary increases that went into effect in 2007 and 2008. He stands by the $259 million figure: 'We’re comfortable with the arithmetic.'"
Since the Wall Street Journal agrees with ad sponsors that the $259 million dollar increase figure is relevant, will Jeff Mapes rethink his comfort level with his own spin that "[s]tate employees are actually taking a pay cut"?

H/T Oregon Watchdog

Thursday, January 14, 2010

85% Think They Judge National Issues Better than the Average Reporter

More nails in the coffin reporters are constructing for themselves.

Rasmussen finds that likely voters don't think much of journalistic judgment:
"Eighty-five percent (85%) continue to have more confidence in their own judgment than that of the average reporter when it comes to the important issues affecting the nation, also unchanged from October. Only six percent (6%) trust the average reporter’s judgment more."
67% believe "the news media have too much power and influence over government decisions, up six points from October."

And "[o]nly 20% of all voters say most reporters try to offer unbiased coverage of a political campaign. Seventy-two percent (72%) say most reporters try to help the candidate they want to win."

Incompetence in evaluating issues, too big for their britches in influencing government decisions, and biased. It's a triple crown in losing influence and audience.

UPDATE: An almost immediate case in point is the Associated Press spin on the reporter pushed down by an aide of Massachusetts Democratic senatorial candidate Martha Coakley. AP headline: "Reporter stumbles chasing hopeful for Kennedy seat". AP text: "John McCormack of the Weekly Standard fell Tuesday night as he tried to speak with state Attorney General Martha Coakley." The AP reporter adds in the story text: "Coakley is shown ignoring McCormack."

But one of the photos clearly shows her paying attention to McCormack, and the photo caption says as much: "A supporter of U.S. Senate candidate Democrat Martha Coakley helps journalist John McCormack of The Weekly Standard as Coakley looks on as she was leaving a fundraiser in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)" [emphasis added]

As to McCormack merely falling, the Coakley aide, Michael Meehan, finally called the next day and apologized to McCormack. So much for AP fact checking or even looking at its own photographer's photo. When it comes to candidates, AP spins the story to help its favorite.

H/T Frank Ross at Big Journalism

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Palin on FOX--Brilliant Step

Remember all the opining about how Sarah Palin should use her time after resigning as governor to hide out and "bone up" on the issues?

Well, Palin has shown how smart she is and the lack of vision and imagination of many in the conservative pundit class who proffered their advice. They view education as mainly being done in a library. It's how they showed their smarts in college (though one doubts how much time they currently spend doing those term paper, thesis-like studies between TV, radio and print opining).

What Sarah Palin has done is to show that not only is she better at picking the tools to hone issue-related knowledge, but she knows how best to use even that process for personal and leadership growth.

Consider. As a FOX consultant she will be called upon to comment on a myriad of national and international issues that are happening in real time. For someone without political smarts that would be a mine field. But, as a way to showcase a fully developed political philosophy and insight into key issues of the day, it is an invaluable platform.

As a FOX consultant she will be asked her opinion on issues rather than grilled on her position on issues. In other words, the format is one in which respect for her expertise is a given, and content rather than gotcha will be paramount.

Also, this will be an invaluable opportunity for Palin to practice short answer, easy to understand comments. It's a very hard skill set for politicians who normally are pushed toward speechifying rather than answering by the very nature of running for political office. Even President Obama has difficulty with this which is why he uses so many "uhs" when responding to questions. As often as not he loses the listener in his long answers. He has not developed a smooth short answer style. (I counted four or five "ums" from Palin throughout the two segment interview, but nothing like the five "uhs" before Obama's third sentence in a 2008 CBS interview.)

As to the format itself, it plays on Sarah Palin's strengths. She's attractive and likable on camera as well as off. She has charisma. Getting off alone and reading as if she were preparing a doctoral dissertation would waste those amazing gifts.

Palin will have to study up on specifics of issues she will be commenting on, and her attractiveness, stage presence and charisma will draw people to listen to her explanation of key elements of current issues and how best to respond to them. It's win-win.

And it has the potential of showing her critics up as being not only biased but either intellectually dishonest or dense. Imagine David Brooks saying after a year of pretty insightful comments, that Palin is a joke and can't be taken seriously. Brooks will show himself as someone not to be taken seriously. (At which he is already doing a pretty good job due to his inane praise for an inept and tanking Barack Obama.)

Watching Palin's first commentary session on the O'Reilly Factor, she did a pretty good job of keeping her answers short with a clear point--especially as the interview progressed. And that's gold on television. Reagan knew that you always leave them wanting more.

Palin came across as not only very likable, but as someone comfortable in answering questions even those involving criticism of her personally. And she is eye candy. Watching her reminded me of the best of Barack Obama's primary and presidential campaign interviews when he came off as likable and not taking himself seriously despite the "messiah" rhetoric of the media and his supporters.

President Obama has lost that. He now scowls a lot and looks either distant or unhappy. The visuals of a happy, relaxed, non-self-absorbed Palin compared to the tense, defensive President can only do her good.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Oregonian/Mapes Misleading?

Jeff Mapes* wrote a recent "Ad Watch" front page story on the Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes ad "Doesn't Matter".

Mapes asserts:
"The ad also says the taxes will help pay for $259 million to “fund state employee salary increases.” The average viewer gets the impression that state employees are getting big raises in this budget.

That’s false. State employees are actually taking a pay cut.

Sponsors of the ad got the $259 million figure by adding the cost of raises given in the 2007-2009 budget and the amount that keeping salaries at that level would cost in 2009-11. Then they compared that total with the salary budget four years earlier — in 2005-07.

In fact, state employees will not receive any cost-of-living increases in the 2009-11 budget and they must take between 10 and 14 unpaid furlough days. The state also deferred step increases for one year. The net of those changes is a $27 million pay cut for state workers.
However, Mapes himself wrote a bit more than a year ago about big salary hikes included in the 2007-2009 budget.
"But what I didn't realize on Monday was that Kulongoski a year ago had agreed to abolish the lowest step and create a new one at the top, effective June 30, 2009. In effect, just about every state worker will qualify for a step increase in the next budget cycle (along with about two-thirds of managers, according to the Department of Administrative Services).

"Kulongoski agreed to the extra step increase to mollify rank-and-file workers after the governor handed out jumbo-sized raises - ranging from 11 percent to 24 percent - to managers and agency heads. The public employee unions had already agreed to a six percent raise for workers in the 2007-09 budget cycle, but the contracts hadn't yet been fully ratified when news broke of the management increases."
. . .
"To further complicate the picture, Kulongoski also proposes that state workers accept four eight unpaid days off over the next two years. That will save taxpayers about $35 million over the next two years (in the general fund), while the step increases will cost about $50 million."
[emphasis added]
Maybe Mapes' left hand doesn't remember what his right hand wrote?

Mapes also leaves out the big benefits payments that state employees receive (which will undoubtedly increase in 2010 and 2011) reported on by the Eugene Register-Guard in November.

To use Mapes' own formulation, what is the "impression" the "average" reader gets from this article? Mapes implies that Oregon state employee expenses have decreased $27 million from the 2007-2009 budget to the 2009-2011 budget. Is this true? Or does this just mean that the furlough days and deferred step increases total a $27 million cut, but don't mean a total $27 million cut in the state employees line item(s)?

Mapes gives us no hard figures to compare state employee compensation funding between the two budgets. Is he accurate but misleading?

Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes has an iron in the fire. Mapes isn't supposed to. By leaving out the global hard figures, not mentioning benefits increases or the big salary increases instituted in 2008 he leaves himself open to the assumption that he's trying to muddy the waters on state employee compensation rather than get to the truth. At the least this is another careless nail in the inaccurate and biased coffin the press is building for itself.
*Betsy Hammond is listed as co-author on the print version but not the online version of the article.

UPDATE: OregonGuy provided a valuable link in his comment. It turns out the State of Oregon has increased employee salary spending. According to State Representative Dennis Richardson:
". . . in the current 2009-11 Budget, Oregon State has expanded programs, added 1540 additional employees, increased spending by $4.7 Billion (9.3%), and increased long-term debt by $4 Billion. All of this spending in 2009 was on top of a 21% General Fund spending increase in 2007. In short, Government spending compounds and Oregon’s spending is unsustainable."
[emphasis added]
This is devastating to Mapes' argument and his credibility.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Obama Administration Reaction to the Panty Bomber

H/T Jennifer Rubin

Who Are You and What Have You Done with the Oregonian?

From Sunday's editorial: Wrong time, wrong tax hikes: Vote no on Measures 66, 67:
"Of all times, of all things, the Democrats in the Oregon Legislature chose now, in the throes of one of the worst recessions in history, to make business an enemy. They chose this moment to pit business against schools, the private sector against public unions, employers against the jobless.

"The two referrals on the Jan. 26 special election ballot -- Measure 66 and Measure 67 -- insist that Oregonians pick a side, to accept one lousy, harmful choice or the other. No, we won't do it. You shouldn't, either."
From today's editorial: Once upon a time there was Measure 66:
"We oppose both Measure 66 and its companion on the Jan. 26 ballot, Measure 67. But Measure 67, which would increase Oregon's comparatively low business taxes, at least is an honest attempt to bring some balance and stability, to Oregon's tax system even as it lashes suffering, profitless businesses with higher taxes.

"Measure 66 is none of those things. It takes one of the highest income tax rates in the nation and drives it still higher. It takes one of the most volatile sources of public finance and makes it ever shakier and vulnerable to collapse in hard times like these. It sends the absolutely wrong message to small-business owners, professionals and CEOs -- the very people we need to come to Oregon, stay in Oregon, and create more jobs and state revenue in Oregon."
Could the Oregonian be getting some sense? Maybe the disproportionate loss of jobs in the newspaper business has had the amazing effect of giving the Oregonian some economic sense.

The Wise Intellect; the Wise Politician

"Again, the climate at the top is essential in keeping us safe. If the commander in chief, through speeches and acts, treats the war on terror in terms of its superfluousness, its constitutional criminality, or past American culpability, rather than in terms of its essential role in keeping us all alive, then that message, in insidious ways, will filter down to various branches of the national-security community, whose members will begin to shift their attitudes and actions accordingly."
[emphasis added]
(Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, professor of classics and military history)

"Now [President Obama] must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor."
[emphasis added]
(Sarah Palin, former vice-presidential candidate and governor of Alaska)

Governor Palin said in a succinct phrase what Dr. Hanson said in equally clear, but more academic and intellectual, terms.

If David Brooks can't understand Sarah Palin's point, he will at least have an "educated class" translation available.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Steve Schmidt: Palin Helped the McCain Campaign

60 Minutes will broadcast an interview with Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, authors of Game Change, a new book about the 2008 presidential campaigns. One interesting note in the CBS report on the interview is that Steve Schmidt believes Palin was a plus for the McCain campaign.
Schmidt believes the Obama-Biden victory would have been even more lopsided without Palin on the Republican ticket.
This is a small positive note, but unexpected in view of the press meme of bad blood. Similarly, Palin's positive words* for Schmidt in Going Rogue went against the press declaration that Palin's book was about settling political scores.

*"I knew instantly that Schmidt was business-to-the-bone. I respect that in a person, as I'm not one for a lot of chitchat either, and we were very comfortable with each other right off the bat. As a public relations troubleshooter, Schmidt specialized in shaping public opinion. His peers later told me he has a laserlike ability to spot chinks in an opponent's armor. He is a guy who inspires loyalty: in spite of his steely exterior, people who work for him really want to please him."
(Going Rogue, pp. 212-213)

Vote No on 66 and 67

The legislature keeps spending recession or no. It's time to help them change their ways.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Palin: We Need "a Commander-in-Chief, not a Constitutional Law Professor"

Governor Sarah Palin makes the following points.

1. Terrorism is not a law enforcement issue. The law enforcement approach of the 1990's resulted in being unprepared for September 11, 2001.

2. Terrorism is not just "man caused disasters" due to poverty.
"Abdulmutallab was a child of privilege radicalized and trained by organized jihadists, not an 'isolated extremist' who traveled to a land of 'crushing poverty.' He is an enemy of the United States, not just another criminal defendant."
3. Treating terrorism as common crime results in a shut down of information. [A major purpose of reading defendants their Miranda rights is to warn them about the dangers of talking.]

4. It's doubtful that a suicide bomber will be swayed by a plea bargain deal. [A common criminal works for his own good so a plea bargain makes sense for him. A terrorist works for a cause. A plea deal does nothing to help his cause.]
"Reports indicate that Abdulmutallab stated there were many more like him in Yemen but that he stopped talking once he was read his Miranda rights. President Obama’s advisers lamely claim Abdulmutallab might be willing to agree to a plea bargain – pretty doubtful you can cut a deal with a suicide bomber."
5. It's bizarre for Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to claim "'there are no downsides or upsides' to treating terrorists as enemy combatants." It's absurd to say that getting information about the where, who, and how of terrorist training is unimportant. Miranda rights shut that information down.

6. Giving foreign-born terrorists civil and criminal protections afforded to U.S. citizens doesn't help to keep Americans safe. It can even allow terrorists to legally access classified information.

7. "[T]he real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor."

Here's Palin's full statement:
President Obama’s meeting with his top national security advisers does nothing to change the fact that his fundamental approach to terrorism is fatally flawed. We are at war with radical Islamic extremists and treating this threat as a law enforcement issue is dangerous for our nation’s security. That’s what happened in the 1990s and we saw the result on September 11, 2001. This is a war on terror not an “overseas contingency operation.” Acts of terrorism are just that, not “man caused disasters.” The system did not work. Abdulmutallab was a child of privilege radicalized and trained by organized jihadists, not an “isolated extremist” who traveled to a land of “crushing poverty.” He is an enemy of the United States, not just another criminal defendant.

It simply makes no sense to treat an al Qaeda-trained operative willing to die in the course of massacring hundreds of people as a common criminal. Reports indicate that Abdulmutallab stated there were many more like him in Yemen but that he stopped talking once he was read his Miranda rights. President Obama’s advisers lamely claim Abdulmutallab might be willing to agree to a plea bargain – pretty doubtful you can cut a deal with a suicide bomber. John Brennan, the President’s top counterterrorism adviser, bizarrely claimed “there are no downsides or upsides” to treating terrorists as enemy combatants. That is absurd. There is a very serious downside to treating them as criminals: terrorists invoke their “right” to remain silent and stop talking. Terrorists don’t tell us where they were trained, what they were trained in, who they were trained by, and who they were trained with. Giving foreign-born, foreign-trained terrorists the right to remain silent does nothing to keep Americans safe from terrorist threats. It only gives our enemies access to courtrooms where they can publicly grandstand, and to defense attorneys who can manipulate the legal process to gain access to classified information.

President Obama was right to change his policy and decide to send no more detainees to Yemen where they can be free to rejoin their war on America. Now he must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor.

- Sarah Palin