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Friday, October 28, 2016

With many Americans alternately bored and infuriated by the latest made-for-TV fiscal melodrama in Washington, something highly unusual happened. A prominent, name-brand pundit published a column about the “sequestration” battle that was not merely smug, lazy and condescending, but factually false.

So what else is new, right?

What’s newsworthy is that when somebody he couldn’t ignore called him out, the columnist was forced to publicly eat his words. Newsworthy for two reasons: first, because regardless of what they claim about their strict code of professional ethics, Washington political journalists normally cover for each other like cops and Roman Catholic clerics.

It’s been going on for a generation, and worsening as TV stardom and the lecture circuit have made celebrity pundits wealthy.

Second, because of what David Brooks’ blunder says about the “fever swamp of the center,” as New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait calls it: a mindset reflecting the desperate pretense that “both sides” are equally responsible for Washington’s endless budgetary crises, and all that’s necessary to resolve them is a mature spirit of compromise.

And maybe too what the whole charade says about the audience for such piffle: an American public that’s better informed about Tom Brady’s new contract and Kim Kardashian’s cup size than the national budget deficit.

How New York Times editors waved David Brooks’ column into print is a mystery. One had the impression things had improved there since the heyday of Jeff Gerth and Judith Miller—whose inept reporting helped bring us the Whitewater hoax and the Iraq War, respectively.

“The DC Dubstep,” Brooks called the column; the joke being that budget sequestration gave Democrats and Republicans alike a chance to do “the dance moves they enjoy the most.”

“Under the Permanent Campaign Shimmy,” Brooks wrote, “the president identifies a problem. Then he declines to come up with a proposal to address the problem. Then he comes up with a vague-but-politically-convenient concept that doesn’t address the problem (let’s raise taxes on the rich). Then he goes around the country blasting the opposition….The president hasn’t actually come up with a proposal to avert sequestration, let alone one that is politically plausible.”

Ha, ha, ha! See, Obama’s failure to lead then encourages Republicans to do the “Suicide Stage Dive,” working themselves “into a frenzy of self-admiration,” and leaping “into what they imagine is [sic] the loving arms of their adoring fans” only to “land with a thud on the floor.”

Probably a sober-sided fellow like Brooks shouldn’t attempt satire, which requires a subversive imagination. Also a regular on PBS and NPR, he plays a non-carnivorous Republican—conservative, yes, but not somebody who’s going to carry an AR-15 to a Washington cocktail party.

But the problem with Brooks’ column is more basic. Because love it or hate it, the White House long ago presented a detailed plan for averting sequestration. President Obama has been flying around the country talking it up every day. You can read it here.

Kevin Drum neatly summarized the contents: “specific cuts to entitlements, including the adoption of chained CPI for Social Security and $400 billion in various cuts to healthcare spending, along with further cuts to mandatory programs as well as to both defense and domestic discretionary programs. Altogether, it clocks in at $1.1 trillion in spending cuts and $700 billion in revenue increases, mostly gained from limiting tax deductions for high-end earners.”

In short, you can call the White House plan anything you like. But you can’t call it non-existent. The entire premise of Brooks’ column was false; the political equivalent of criticizing Bill Belichick’s poor coaching in the 2013 Super Bowl. (His team didn’t get there.) A sportswriter would be laughed out of the press room; maybe out of journalism.

But hey, it’s only national politics, and only the New York Times.

Enter Ezra Klein, the Washington Post’s ubiquitous blogger. An ambitious lad of 28, Klein had the temerity to pick up the phone. Apparently, the youngster didn’t understand that these things simply aren’t done. His column, he informed Brooks, was rubbish. Would he like to talk about it?

To his credit, Brooks did, but not before adding an online postscript to his column explaining that he’d “written in a mood of justified frustration over …fiscal idiocy,” and “should have acknowledged the balanced and tough-minded elements in the president’s approach.”

A transcript of Brooks’ deeply embarrassing conversation with his younger rival was posted online. Give him this much: Brooks definitely faced the music. So frank an admission of error rarely appears in the high-dollar press.

And what about you, dear reader?

Recently Bloomberg News published a poll. Asked if the nation’s budget deficit was growing or shrinking, only 6% answered correctly: it’s going down. This year’s projected deficit is $600 billion smaller than when President Obama took office.

If you didn’t know that, maybe you’re also part of the problem.

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • nobsartist

    I equate political writers with weathermen. Rarely correct, they merely present an opinion based on facts that have simply not been interpreted correctly or based on “guessing”. Plus, I find that the longer you are in the business of “guessing”, the worse your “correct” average gets.

  • Our media is neither liberal not conservative, their goal is making money and they will not stop at anything to achieve that goal. If they believe the political pendulim has shifted and people are more conservative they feed them what they want to hear, the same happens when they believe our ideological convictions have moved to the left. Some focus on specific constituencies, including those in the fringes, to capture specific market share.
    There is nothing that resembles objective journalism anymore. CNN fired Rick Sanchez, and now Soledad O’Brien, for saying things that, they believe, may offend some viewers. For a conglomerate focused on ratings and selling advertising, the truth is nothing more than a minor irritant to be treated accordingly.

    • lana ward

      Did you write that with a straight face?? The media is ALL liberal except for Fox, and Fox even has liberals on all the time to give their point of view. Fair and balanced- no other media can claim that.

      • I guess that’s why two very conservative operations own around 80% of the news media in America- Rupert Murdock and Clear Channel – you get more delusional and mornonic by the comment.

        • lana ward

          Fox ratings are higher than all other “news” channels combined!!! They must be doing something right!!

          • one more lie you have to live with.

          • lana ward

            Check it out coward, it’s the truth!

      • irishtap

        I used to watch FOX religiously, I heard commentators (conservative) say things I knew to be false so I began to fact check. Turns out these people were spewing as many lies via misrepresentations and partial context in a week, as Rush Limbaugh puts out in a year. Not that Rush wasn’t trying of course.
        FOX “News” is the brain child of Roger Ailes, an old political henchman of Richard Nixon. It was designed to cycle right wing talking points to the masses and help deliver us to the anti government, republican bullshit we live with today. Fair and balanced?! Keep enjoying that ‘kool aid’ lana.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    Today’s US Media is far too exploitative. It believes all Americans to be stupid and ignorant. The manufacture of biased spin is enough to make most Americans catatonic. Once upon a time in the US media, there wasn’t a Rupert Murdoch insisting the only news that can be printed be according to HIS ultra conservative ideology.

    How on earth do they call it news when a filter has to be used just to sift the facts from outright lies? The whole purpose of a free press was to print news. Period. Not to inject ideology into every article written. Today’s journalists are less about journalism than they are about marching to their biased ideologue Editor-in-Chief’s demands to print according to HIS rules. How can that be considered news?

    • lana ward

      You are stupid. You believed them and voted for Omuslim

      • nobsartist

        I hate to break the news to you lana but the consensus here is that you are by far, the dumbest.

        plus, you voted for the awol coke head that lied us into 2 wars, is the only ex-president ever convicted of war crimes and bankrupted our country, twice.

        I just wanted to ask you, when are those oil prices going to be “stabilized” like the awol coke head promised they would be after we invaded iraq?

        • lana ward

          You voted for Soros who helped the Arabs buy the election

        • lana ward

          You voted for Soros who helped the Arabs buy the election!!

  • elw

    I have stopped watching cable and other news media. Most of the moderators are reading from scripts researched and written by someone else. They are chosen for their looks and nothing more and could not argue any case they put forward if their life depended on it. The few exceptions to the rule get fired. The bitter truth is there is very little value left in media news and they do not need 24/7 to report it.

  • At least David Brooks admitted that he was off the mark.

    You certainly can’t expect the weirdos in the House Of Representatives to do anything so absurd.

    GOOD LORD!!!! Admit a mistake?


    • According to George Bush jr. he didn’t make one mistake in his disasterous 8 years in office!!

  • lana ward

    They got what they wanted. Lied and got all of you fools to vote for Omuslim. Suckers!!!

    • Aren’t you past curfew time from The Athens Lunatic Asylum???

  • Congressman Ellison sent a pie to Sean Insanity’s face, a truth pie. Ellison was on point that Insanity was promoting yellow journalism and stood his ground on that. He wiped Insanity’s clock and made him look like the Republican/Tea Bag porn star that he is. We need more Democrats to stand up for their president and the American people like that. Insanity thought he had picked a Yellow Dog Democrat to interview and got a smack down!

  • charleo1

    I like Ezra Klein. We all sort of put together in our minds what we believe is most probably
    going on in regards to the economy, or any number of issues we deem of import. We start
    building that scenario in our heads, fairly quickly. Filling in the blanks with other bits of
    information we have glommed onto previously, that may, or may not be true, entirely true.
    Or maybe, just a piece of junk we heard, liked it, and use it every chance we get, to support our
    little theory, that by now, we have become quite fond of. So fond, in fact, we can hardly wait
    to present our, deeply insightful, and stunningly brilliant conclusions to the world!
    I usually start with my wife. Who usually responds in the same way. “That’s good Dear!”
    “Now close the computer, and get busy on the yard before the city writes us a citation.”
    I explain all this, because I believe, like me, a lot of people do this. Finding our opinions,
    before we find the truth. I like Ezra Klein, because, like with Mr. Brooks, he doesn’t always
    allow me to keep my misinformed, sometimes half baked, decidedly left leaning, presuppositions.
    I don’t find myself agreeing with every single thing he says. He makes one think. And that’s a rarity
    in cable news. Because, if we find we are in agreement with every single thing that comes out
    of the host’s mouth, which I often do, with Chris Matthews, or Rachel Maddow. And I enjoy
    their shows very much. However, if I’m honest, I would have to admit, I’m being a lot more
    entertained, than informed. And that’s their job, to entertain. My job, is the lawn.

  • lana ward

    You’re a liar. I watch Fox only and they always tell the truth!! The only thing that pisses me off is some of the big mouth, lying dems they have on that won’t ever shut their flaps!!!