Saturday, August 29, 2009

Politico Propaganda?

I admit it: The liberal media were never that powerful and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures ~ William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, according to Eric Alterman's book "What Liberal Media?" (p.2, pub 2003)

This post is in regards to the Yahoo News story I linked to in my previous post (if you haven't read it you may want to start there). That's how I got to the story, in any case, through Yahoo. The actual source of the article is "The Politico" (The source is disclosed near the bottom of the page and is also contained in the link).

Given the headline, "Wellstone effect for Kennedy?" I was not surprised when I read Politico's Wikipedia entry and saw: "Frederick J. Ryan Jr., former Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, and currently chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Foundation, is president and CEO of Politico".

Not surprised because that headline reminded me of the Robert Greenwald documentary "Outfoxed" where they pointed out how Fox News presents a lot of their smears in question form. That way they can defend their lies by saying, "hey, we're not lying, we're just conveying to you some questions that people are asking". Yea right. (But, you'll notice, I too used a question mark in the title of my posting. If it's good enough for Fox News and Politico, then it's good enough for me. I wonder if one of the reasons they use this tactic that it protects them from lawsuits?)

Also of note for anyone who followed the link I provided in my previous posting, the article on Yahoo is a condensed version. The full version on the Politico website gives the reader more asinine insights from the likes of Boss Limbaugh, The HSA Coalition (a lobbying group devoted to tax-free health savings accounts), and The "widely read" (according to the article) Libertarian blog Instapundit, who suggested, quoting an unndisclosed blogger, that Kennedy's death would trigger "a Wellstone memorial on steroids". (The President of The HSA Coalition, Dan Perrin, suggested that "...subjecting the country to a Sen. Wellstone-type funeral experience, would be using him like a cheap suit". How crass can you get?)

Fairly transparent stuff, but I guess that's the kind of deception that works with right-wingers (they who believe that Fox is "Fair and Balanced"!). Shame on "The Politico" and shame on "Ben Smith" (the article's author). Shame on Yahoo News as well, who should put more thought into where they buy their news (clicking on a "News" story and getting blatant propaganda may be off-putting for some). Yes, the opposing viewpoint is given (at the end of an article heavily promoting the Republican POV) - but it takes the form of a weak "rebuttal" provided by independent political consultant Bill Hillsman.

Considering the fact that he was the media director for Paul Wellstone's Senate campaign, you'd think you could have offered up a better defense (regarding what happened at the Wellstone memorial) than "That memorial really did turn into a cheerleading session to elect Walter Mondale" - although Politico no doubt extracted that one sentence from a much longer interview.

The article does close with a quote from Al Franken disputing the allegations Republicans made regarding the Wellstone memorial (the quote I used to open my previous article), but it's too little, too late. What we have here, IMO, is a political propaganda piece with the patina of serious journalism designed to plant the seed in the public's mind that when the Republicans start politicizing Senator Kennedy's Death - it's only going to be because the Democrats started politicizing his death first.

The Politico's political agenda is, IMO, quite clear. The title of the article contains the message they want to convey, which is all most people will remember (including a lot of people who never read the article but see the heading posted on Yahoo). The carpet-bomb smear campaign from the conservative media has begun.

I watched (parts) of the memorial last night. What I saw didn't seem politicized to me. A number of Republicans, including John McCain spoke. If any specifics regarding healthcare reform were mentioned I missed it. Mainly it was friends reminiscing interrupted by musical performances. (As a side note, something I found funny is that Wikipedia actually has a "redirect" that takes you to Rush Limbaugh's page if you type in "Boss Limbaugh".)

SWTD #16

Friday, August 28, 2009

Republicans Warn: We Will Politicize Senator Kennedy's Death

It was the Republicans that tried to cheapen Paul Wellstone's life by dishonoring his death. It was the right-wing media, not the friends and family who spoke at the memorial or the people who came to it, that seized an opportunity to use a tragedy for political gain ~ Senator Al Franken in his book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" (pub. 2003)

A news story sighted on the Yahoo home page today, with the decidedly not innocuous title "Wellstone effect for Kennedy?" states that "Key conservative voices have begun to charge in the day after Sen. Ted Kennedy's death that Democrats are inappropriately politicizing the senator's death, his memorial and his legacy".

What they are really warning us of is that we should expect false charges and feigned indignation from their side of the aisle in the coming weeks as Democrats continue to push healthcare reform.

They did the same thing in 2002 when Paul Wellstone (D-MN) tragically died, and it netted them a Senate seat. Why wouldn't they use the same vile underhanded tactics again?

Certainly no one should be surprised that the man is dead one day and they are laying the groundwork for the partisan attacks to come. The question is what can the Democrats do to head off this pre-announced smear campaign? It won't make a bit of difference whether or not Democrats decide to name the bill in honor of Senator Kennedy (as Senator Byrd has suggested).

And it won't matter whether or not we withdraw our calls for Governor Patrick to sign a bill changing state law so that an interim Senator can be appointed to fill the vacant MA seat (which would be a horrific tactical mistake). We must not give in. We must not back down. The Republicans will attack regardless.

I don't know what strategy can be used by the Democrats to deflect these charges - aside from simply calling them out on it - but Democratic strategists need to get proactive on this immediately. We can't let them get away with using Senator Kennedy's death to derail healthcare reform. They politicized Paul Wellstone's death and Minnesota was stuck with Norm Coleman for 6 years. How many more years will reform be delayed if the Democrats don't push back aggressively against Republican fabrications?

SWTD #15

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Will Senator Ted Kennedy's Dream Live On?

...This is the cause of my life - new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American - north, south, east, west, young, old - will have decent, quality healthcare as a fundamental right and not a privilege. We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes, we can, and finally, yes, we will ~ Senator Edward Kennedy (2/22/1932 - 8/25/2009) at the 2008 Democratic National Convention (8/25/2008).

Keith Olbermann and VT Senator Bernie Sanders discuss the recent passing of MA Senator Ted Kennedy and what it means for the prospect of healthcare reform - an excerpt from the August 26, 2009 broadcast of Countdown: (edited for brevity and clarity)

Keith: Senator Ted Kennedy first devoted himself to reforming healthcare when he discovered Boston public housing residents had to spend 5 hours getting to and waiting for emergency room care. That was in 1966. Two of his three children battled cancer. One, his son Edward Jr., lost a leg to it at the age of 12. In our first story tonight, the future of what Kennedy called the cause of his life - healthcare reform. The health of all Americans, especially those in need, preoccupied this Kennedy even before he entered the Senate.

Last month his committee passed his bill for reform, but Kennedy had been down this road before - lost the battle when the Clinton's tried in '94. Lost when he ran on it in 1980. Lost a battle with President Nixon over it. Last year he played kingmaker, anointing a new standard-bearer for the cause. And so it is reported that when this president has been asked why he pushes healthcare so hard, he responds, "I promised Teddy".

We're joined tonight by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Great, thanks for your time tonight Senator, and our condolences on the loss of your colleague.

Sen. Sanders: Thank you Keith.

Keith: Tell us about the bill that the Kennedy committee passed, and about his concept of healthcare reform and where it stands now in his absence.

Sen. Sanders: Well, as you know, Kennedy's passion was that every single American have healthcare as a right of citizenship. He understood that there was something lacking in our country today, when we remain the only nation in the industrialized world that does not provide healthcare to all people, and yet we end up spending twice as much as any other country.

Where we are right now is, uh, Senator Kennedy's committee, which was led by Chris Dodd in his absence, has passed a pretty strong health care bill which, among other things, has a strong public option, which would substantially increase the number of community health centers in America, so that all Americans, in fact, would have access to a doctor, to dental care, to low cost prescription drugs; a greater emphasis on disease prevention and on quality care, and of course access for all Americans.

That was passed by the Senate Health Committee. But, as you also know, the Senate Finance Committee seems to be going nowhere in a hurry.

My view - and I think a lot of other people in the Senate think "enough is enough" - lets take the Senate health committee bill, if no Republicans are prepared to support it - and I certainly hope that some of them will have a change of heart with Senator Kennedy's death - and go it alone. We have 60 votes within the Senate, and we can defeat a Republican filibuster. We negotiate with the House, and we finally pass healthcare reform that this country has been waiting for for decades.

Keith: To the point you just raised - Senator Kennedy wrote that, "incremental measures won't suffice anymore". Is there any chance that his passing will at least inspire wavering Democrats in the Senate, and the so called "blue dogs" in the House, to stand fast for the kind of reform he was dedicated to?

Sen. Sanders: Well, I certainly hope so. You know, with a Democratic President, with 60 votes in the senate, and a strong vote in the House, it really is embarrassing if the Democrats can't pass strong healthcare reform. And what my view has been from the very beginning, if for whatever reason in the Senate, there are some Senators who don't want to support a public option, don't want strong health care reform - that's fine. At least vote to stop the Republican filibusters, which over and over again are holding up any kind of progress. And if they choose, if the Democrats choose to vote, some of them, against final passage, that's fine - we will have 50 votes, in any case, to pass strong legislation.

Keith: I apologize if this last question seems at all indelicate, but Mr. Obama's reply, "I promised Teddy" - will the President be able to deliver on that promise, or are we just going to end up with some sort of obscene bill, that, even if it is named after Senator Kennedy, just funnels more money to the insurance companies.

Sen. Sanders: Well, I think that all of us - those of us in the Congress and the American people - have got to stand tall right now - we need strong a strong grass roots effort to put steel into the backs of many of the members of Congress to have the guts to stand up to the insurance companies, the drug companies and the people who make billions off of healthcare, and finally say that every person in this country is going to receive quality healthcare and, in the process, save billions of dollars. We can do it, if we have the courage, and now is the time.

My Commentary: I've heard Senator Sanders make the case that we have 60 Democratic votes, and that every Democrat should vote for cloture - and I've agreed with him every time I heard him advocate the Democrats go that route. This time he made the same argument, but without Senator Kennedy we no longer have 60 votes.

In regards to the possibility of appointing an interim Senator until a special election can be held in 5 months, Keith said, "there seems to be reactions from the Boston and other newspapers in MA that Governor Patrick is attending to this and seems to have the support of the state legislature".

Let's hope we can get someone in to fill Senator Kennedy's seat and restore the Democrats 60-seat filibuster proof majority as soon as possible. Or that, to honor Senator Kennedy, some Republicans agree to vote to end the filibuster.

My opinion is that the MA legislature should change the law to allow the Governor to appoint an interim Senator until a special election can be held. If not, it will be at least 145 days (according to current MA law) until another senator can be seated.

I wasn't aware of this provision in MA law before, but, after reading up on the matter, it appears to have been a very bad idea. The law was changed in 2004 to prevent then Governor Mitt Romney from selecting an interim Senator if John Kerry were elected president. If John Kerry had won (which he would have, if not for the Republican theft of Ohio), Governor Romney's selection would have only been temporary. Now this decision could have some serious implications. Certainly some will cry foul if the Democrats, who changed the law only 4 years ago, change it again to benefit themselves.

It may not be good form, but I think we need to do what is necessary to insure health care legislation is passed. The Governor says he will sign a bill. Republicans only hold 10 percent of the MA Congressional seats. A mistake was made, but that shouldn't mean we allow Republican obstructionism to prevail. People are getting sick of Republican obstructionism. According to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll 72 percent of the American people want a public option.

If the Democrats fail to give the American people the change they voted for when they elected Barack Obama there will be consequences in 2010. According to a July 15th Huffington Post article, it is the "blue dog" Democrats in the House that will most likely lose seats if healthcare insurance reform fails - whether "failure" means no bill or a obscene Republican-compromised bill that funnels more money to the insurance companies. That being the case, WHY are the "blue dogs" not on board?

SWTD #14