Posts Tagged ‘ democrats ’

A Tale of Two Pranks

When the news broke yesterday morning about an NPR fund-raiser being caught on tape saying bad things about Republicans and the Tea Party, I immediately thought about how just last month, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had also been caught on tape saying bad things about Democrats. Walker had also been caught on tape possibly indicating he had considered disrupting peaceful protests with “troublemakers” but had decided against it not because of any legal or ethical concerns, but because it might backfire politically. Walker also appeared to indicate he was open to accepting a free trip to California from someone claiming to be a political donor.

I was puzzled at the time by the lack of coverage of the Walker incident by journalists. The New York Times, for example, focused on the fact that Walker had been tricked by a liberal blogger, referring frequently to the incident as a “prank.” The Times consistently downplayed the substance of Walker’s taped comments, beginning with the first piece on the subject, “Walker Receives Prank Call From Koch Impersonator,” which appeared in the Caucus Blog of the Times. The headline makes Walker passive, a victim, the direct object of the subject in this passive voice construction, “Koch Impersonator.” Thus, the focus of the story is the impersonator and not Walker. In fairness, the blog piece included most of the important substance of the call, but the “troublemakers” comment is not mentioned until the eighth paragraph. The story later made it out of the blog and into the U.S. section of the Times web site, but only as part of a larger wrap-up of the political conflict in Wisconsin, “Standoffs, Protests, and a Prank Call.” As the headline indicates, the piece dealt with Walker’s comments last (in the 17th paragraph), and then in the context of the governor as the victim of a hoax. And that was pretty much it. The Times seemed to have decided that the fact that Walker’s comments shouldn’t be taken seriously, even though he is an elected official saying things privately at odds with his public statements, because a) he was duped by a prankster into making the comments, and/or b) because they were inconsequential. Fair enough.

So I figured that the coverage of NPR “fund-raising executive” Ronald Schiller’s comments to people posing as Muslim donors but actually confederates of “Republican provocateur” James O’Keefe, would portray Schiller as the victim of a “prank.” Oddly, this is not the case. Instead, the headline to the first piece in the Times was “NPR Official is Taped Criticizing Republicans” (the original headline has been replaced in the article itself, but if you look at the headline at the top of your browser, this original remains). The passive voice is there, but the NPR official is all alone. He is the sole actor, and the action is his criticism of Republicans. No prank mentioned. This could be an oversight of the headline writer, however, as indicated by the soon changed headline, which as of this writing reads, “Facing Lawmakers’ Fire, NPR Sees New Setback.” The new headline only reaffirms the Times’ take: how the information got out doesn’t matter, what matters is the substance. Schiller said something politically offensive, regardless of how or under what circumstances he said what he said. A closer read of the Times article makes the point clear, as the first sentence in the piece asserts that “NPR was forced into damage control mode on Tuesday after the release of a video that showed one of its fund-raising executives repeatedly criticizing Republicans and Tea Party supporters.”

Why the difference? The episodes are about as similar as you can get, except that the NPR “official” (can you be official when you’re a private employee?) was on his way out the door and was a fund-raiser, and Scott Walker is the governor of a state and is charged with enforcing the law. Is it because the Times is defensively self-censoring to somehow refute right-wing critics like Bill O’Reilly, who calls the Times “about as über left as you can get?” Or do Times editors really see a journalistic reason to treat these two incidents so differently? I can’t find one.



Barack Obama’s amazing victory proved so many blowhards wrong, it’s been fun just to sit back and watch the lies deflate: white people won’t vote for a black man–wrong!He can’t win“–wrong! What will be more interesting, and will take more time, is for us to cast off the last iteration of this hokum, generated in the desperate last days of the McCain campaign: that Obama will now join hands with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in a triumvirate of the Left. Gun sales shot up immediately following the election, fueled by dizzy nightmares of taxes rising for Joe Sixpack and jackbooted thugs from the ATF coming to pry guns from freedom lovers’ cold dead fingers. Cue New World Order and black helicopters.

Sorry to break it to the tighty whity Righties, but it ain’t going to happen. There are good reasons for this that have been laying there in plain view for any who wanted to look at Obama’s actual record and at his actual associates. First, Obama didn’t spend much time working with Reid, and even less with the Speaker of the House. He spent much more of his precious little time in the Senate with Dick Lugar working on their loose nukes legislation. Second, Obama has a fairly strong history of disappointing those who insist on painting him as a one-dimensional symbol, from the activists in Chicago to African-American members of the Harvard Law Review. In both cases, Obama acted instead like a real leader for all concerned rather than for a narrower constituency. Past behavior being the best indicator of future performance, some dreamy lefties have some downer days coming.

Finally, Obama didn’t come all this way–confounding the cynical establishment media and racking up the largest vote for a Democrat since the 1960s–just to lay down for a coequal branch of government. Presidents, Republican and Democrat, generally have found the Congress to be a foe more than a friend, regardless of which party was in charge. Which is why I can’t yet figure out why so many of the people–by my count, nearly half–in Obama’s transition brain trust, starting with Rahm Emanuel, are best known as Clinton Administration people. Perhaps they’re just unavoidable as the most seasoned Democrats around, but in looking at the lineup of advisers at Obama’s first press conference, I had more than a tinge of the cringe I felt when watching the ghosts of the 1990s looming onstage with Hillary Clinton during her Iowa caucus defeat. While many are smart, capable folks, what does it say that Obama is taking advice from one of the architects of the mortgage meltdown, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin? Is that all there is to Democratic Washington, no one to go to other than Larry Summers and Robert Reich again?

Of course, none of these people, other than Emanuel, have to actually get jobs in the new administration, and maybe serving in their current roles may help exclude them from contention more than it includes them. I’m just hoping that after the skill Obama showed in defeating the Clintons and besting Bill Clinton’s share of the electorate to put to rest the lame fiction that Clinton was our “first black president,” Obama won’t settle for Clinton II.