Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Navigating The Media Spin

Back in June a frustrated correspondent from the NY Times complained that there wasn’t enough news stories about the Iraq War…

“According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of the war in Iraq has been ‘massively scaled back this year’. Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq war coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The ‘CBS Evening News’ has devoted the fewest minutes to the war, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC’s ‘World News’ and 74 minutes on ‘NBC Nightly News’. (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)

CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.”

The real reason for the journalist panic rears its ugly head later in the article. Lara Logan, the chief foreign correspondent for CBS News, relates how she begged to embed with some Navy Seals only to have a CBS producer tell her that, “One guy in uniform looks like any other guy in a uniform”. But all is not lost. Don’t be alarmed by the prejudice against our troops that comes from a big shot at CBS. Its not just prejudice that distorts our media, its an agenda. As the article continues:

“In the follow-up phone interview, Ms. Logan said the producer no longer worked at CBS. And in both interviews, she emphasized that many journalists at CBS News are pushing for war coverage, specifically citing Jeff Fager, the executive producer of ‘60 Minutes’. CBS News won a Peabody Award last week for a ‘60 Minutes’ report about a Marine charged in the killings at Haditha.”

You may remember the headlines that this case made several years ago. Congressman John Murtha was infamous for making the false accusation that the marines involved in this incident, “murdered these Iraqis in cold blood”. Despite the fact that the marines were convicted in a ‘trial by media’ before the investigation was even completed, all of the defendants except for one have been cleared of all charges (the last defendant’s charges have been reduced and his trial has been postponed). So as the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq, Ms. Logan is excited about an executive producer like Jeff Fager who keeps alive the media’s hostile view towards U.S. troops. It’s no wonder why Ms. Logan bemoans the fact that the media hasn’t released enough pictures of dead American soldiers when she bizarrely ties that statement to her assertion that our soldiers are forgotten by the public. As if plastering pictures of dead American soldiers everywhere is something that our troops would benefit from, rather than benefit the “antiwar” lobby.

The McCain Doctrine & Republican Revolt

Now that the Surge has dramatically succeeded above expectations don’t expect the media to continue dubbing it, “The McCain Doctrine” or “McCain’s Plan”. Over a year ago the media advocated a meme that McCain was putting himself at risk for being such a staunch advocate of the Troop Surge. This came at a time when the Surge was controversial so there was some truth to this sort of analysis. However, to create a scenario of impending doom that supports this conclusion, the media misled the public about the level of Republican dissent against the war.

In July of 2007 the L.A. Times tried to paint McCain as being slowly isolated from even his fellow Republicans on the issue and that the Republican Party was looking to redefine itself away from President Bush’s Iraq policy:

“As President Bush struggles to maintain support in Congress for his Iraq ‘surge’ strategy, the three leading Republican presidential contenders have been quietly backing away from any commitment to continue the buildup.

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson have made it clear that their original support for the escalation does not mean they are signed on to keeping the current 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, even as they have laid out hawkish positions on other aspects of foreign policy.

Their recent moves underscore the president’s growing isolation on Iraq as the GOP begins searching for a post-Bush foreign policy. The shifts also distance the three top contenders from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the former front-runner who Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment to the troop escalation.”

Over a year later it is obvious that this article was pure partisan bullshit. All of these former candidates have faithfully supported the Surge and continue to support the President’s Iraq policy.

You don’t hear much about the alleged Republican Revolt anymore, but over a year ago it was a vital part of the Democratic Party’s strategy that was used to manipulate public opinion with an unbalanced viewpoint of what was really going on. After a suicidal ousting of Senator Joe Lieberman from the Democratic Party during the 2006 elections, an appearance of Democratic Party unity and Republican Party division was created by Democratic Party strategists and a compliant media.

In July 2007 the House passed the “Responsible” Redeployment from Iraq Act (HR 2956), which was designed to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq in less than a year. This legislation was proposed about a month after the Surge officially began. The Redeployment Act was a desperate attempt to destroy the Surge before it had a chance to run its course.

In many cases when anti-Iraq policy legislation is proposed, the Democratic Party has used a handful of sympathetic Republican Party politicians as sponsors or authors to create a false bipartisan appearance. The Redeployment Act had three Republicans who were promoted as cosponsors (out of 43 total cosponsors); Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. However, the voting record shows that only four Republicans voted in defiance of their party to pass this legislation. Unsophisticated observers might still feel that this justified the media’s assertion of a revolt within the Republican Party, but the media and general public missed the fact that 10 Democrats defied their own party by voting against the measure!

So despite all claims of a Republican Revolt, more than double the amount of Democrats revolted against their own party and the top “three” presidential candidates from the Republican Party have remained steadfast supporters of President Bush’s Iraq policy. As the minority in Congress, the Republican Party needed to remain loyal to Bush in order to beat back the many legislative attempts by the Democratic Party to reverse the Surge. While the Republicans brilliantly maintained party discipline amid an unpopular war, the Democrats were not as successful.

The hysterical chatter of a Washington Post columnist (Harold Meyerson), who called the GOP a bunch of “gutless wonders”, reveals that the Republican Revolt was just a creature of wishful thinking by partisan journalists and the Democratic Party. He displayed some extreme bitterness towards the few dissenting Republicans who supported the Democratic Party on this issue, but failed to change our Iraq policy. Its as if he wouldn’t be happy with them unless they became suicide bombers…

“They have seen the folly of our course in Iraq. The mission, they understand, cannot be accomplished. The Iraqi government, they discern, is hopelessly sectarian.

In wisdom, they are paragons. In action, they are nullities. Perhaps they are simply farsighted. They have seen the problem with Nouri al-Maliki’s administration in faraway Baghdad. They seem unable to see the problem with the Bush administration at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Lugars and the Warners seem to share with many of their Democratic colleagues a common assessment of our presence in Iraq: It has become an unfocused and costly occupation in a land beset by civil war. We should, in good order, pull back, leaving behind only what we need to deter jihadists who threaten us.”

This article is worth reading in its entirety in order to digest the full extent of the conformist, bullying tactics of those who were determined to defeat the Troop Surge. It is mind boggling to imagine that intelligent people once thought that the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. forces from Iraq would lead to conditions that could deter jihadists in that country. At the same time those who defended such a highly unpopular policy as the Surge were accused of being gutless. A year later it is now obvious that those whom Meyerson labeled as gutless were actually very brave to help enable the enormously successful Surge operation against all conventional wisdom and savage criticism.

Leadership & the Mortgage Crisis

If you want a great example of leadership then look no further than Senator John McCain’s stance on the Surge. It was pointed out that his enthusiastic support for this unpopular issue could have hurt his presidential campaign, but he took the risk because he felt that it was worth taking.

Both leading presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain support the recent $700 million dollar bailout package for the financial industry that passed last Friday. Yet McCain has taken a beating for temporarily suspending his campaign in order to get House Republicans to support the bill. Critics have labeled his effort as grandstanding, but just like the Surge it shows that McCain is willing to take risks that come at his own expense for the sake of the country.

As Obama takes a back seat on the issue and can only hope for change, he and his fellow Democratic Party partisans blame their Republican counterparts for the current financial crisis. At this point in the election the media’s collective memory only extends to whatever benefits Obama’s presidential campaign. Its up to bloggers to force the media to cover more than just the Democratic Party’s talking points.

Back in 1999 the NY Times wrote about the pressure that Fannie Mae was receiving from the Clinton Administration to take on more risky loans. It was an ominous sign of the negative influence that the Democratic Party was to play in this crisis:

“Fannie Mae, the nation’s biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits.”

Ironically, the Democratic Party has taken to blaming the crisis on the Republican Party’s support for deregulation, but the American people are not getting the whole story of what really happened. In 2003 the NY Times relates the following:

“The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.

Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.”

Guess who opposed President Bush’s attempt to enforce meaningful reform of the regulation of these GSEs?… Almost any blogger knows that the Democratic Party joined ranks to fight it. Get a load of this infuriating statement from Rep. Barney Frank, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee:

“These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”

Rep. Melvin L. Watt, a fellow Democrat, continued to display the same attitude of downplaying the risk of subprime lending that got us into this mess in the first place:

“I don’t see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing.”

Attempts to pass this legislation were thwarted along partisan lines as the Democratic Party solidly voted against any attempt to reform the regulation of the GSEs. However, the Republican Party continued to struggle with the obstructionist Democratic Party voting bloc. In May of 2006 John McCain addressed the Senate about a different regulatory reform bill:

“For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs--and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO's report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO’s report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.

I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.”

When the Obama campaign accuses McCain of being against regulation of the GSEs and that Obama warned about the potential problems of the financial crisis in 2007, you have to wonder how biased the media is in order to understate such an outrageous lie. The resistance of the Democratic Party to such regulation for years is lost in the memory hole. By 2007 it was obvious even to the staunchest supporter of risky loans like Barney “Not facing any kind of financial crisis” Frank that the Democratic Party could no longer deny that subprime lending had created a disastrous situation. On the other hand, McCain had cosponsored legislation going back to September 2003 calling for regulation of the GSEs.

Interesting enough, compiled a list of the top recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac campaign contributions over the last 19 years. Its no surprise that Democrats top the list; but as a freshman U.S. Senator, Barack Obama incredibly came in third place even though he’s only been in office for less than four years! As number three on the list he actually beat out Barney Frank who’s been in office for the entire 19 years that the survey covers. So if Obama was so concerned about the root causes of this crisis; why did he take so much money from these two GSEs in such a short period of time, even as the financial crisis unfolded into catastrophic proportions?

Almost all legislation attempting to reform the regulation of the GSEs was drafted, sponsored and voted for by Republicans. In addition, many Democrats are on record defending Fred and Fannie, going as far as denying that there was a problem with them.

H.R.1409: Secondary Mortgage Market Enterprises Regulatory Improvement Act - Apr 4, 2001

H.R.2575: Secondary Mortgage Market Enterprises Regulatory Improvement Act - Jun 24, 2003

Thank you to Rep. David Scott (D-GA), who was the only Democrat to cosponsor the bill out of 21 cosponsors. Unfortunately, this bill was not able to make it out for a vote.

H.R.2803: Housing Finance Regulatory Restructuring Act of 2003 - Jul 21, 2003

S.1508: Federal Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2003 - Jul 31, 2003

John McCain was a cosponsor of this bill.

S.190: Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005 - Jan 26, 2005

John McCain was a cosponsor of this bill.

H.R.1461: Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2005 - Apr 5, 2005

The bill made it out of the House, but the vote was more or less along party lines with the majority of Democrats voting against it. Thank you to the only two Democratic Representatives who cared enough to vote for the bill… Sam Farr (CA) and Gene Taylor (MS). 208 Republicans and only 2 Democrats voted Aye.

H.R.509: Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 1461) to reform the regulation of certain housing-related Government-sponsored enterprises, and for other purposes. - Oct 25, 2005

Passed by the House. 220 Republicans and 0 Democrats voted Aye.

Then after years of denials by the majority of the Democratic Party… all of a sudden in 2007 new reform legislation is introduced by Barney Frank, a politician who previously stated the following during a House Financial Services Committee hearing addressing regulatory reform in 2003:

“I worry, frankly, that there’s a tension here. The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios.”

Then look at this favorable exchange between Frank and executives from Fred and Fannie which transpired at another hearing. It is unbelievable the amount of deference that Frank shows them when he should be grilling them instead:

“Rep. Frank: Let me ask [George] Gould and [Franklin] Raines on behalf of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, do you feel that over the past years you have been substantially under-regulated?

Mr. Raines?

Mr. Raines: No, sir.

Rep. Frank: Mr. Gould?

Mr. Gould: No, sir. . . .

Rep. Frank: OK. Then I am not entirely sure why we are here… I believe there has been more alarm raised about potential unsafety and unsoundness than, in fact, exists.”

So this is the same politician who introduced the following bill:

H.R.1427: Federal Housing Finance Reform Act of 2007 - Mar 9, 2007

Many long-term Democratic deniers voted for this bill, allowing them to be so duplicitous that a year later they would claim to have warned the American people about the subprime crisis and that they are champions of regulatory reform of the GSEs. This is despite the fact that only a handful of Democrats were in favor of reform before this bill and the absolute majority of Republicans were in favor. The Democrats only jumped ship after it was no longer credible (even in a compliant media) to deny the problems with regulating the GSEs. Incredibly it is John McCain who is being painted as a flip flopper on this issue.

Besides Barney Frank, another Democrat who voted for the 2007 bill (H.R.1427) was Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). This “Johnny-come-lately” stated the following during the same hearing held by the House Financial Services Committee in 2003 that Barney Frank issued his bogus denials:

“…I am just pissed off at OFHEO [Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight] because if it wasn’t for you I don’t think that we would be here in the first place. And Freddie Mac, who on its own, you know, came out front and indicated it is wrong, and now the problem that we have and that we are faced with is maybe some individuals who wanted to do away with GSEs in the first place, you have given them an excuse to try to have this forum so that we can talk about it and maybe change the direction and the mission of what the GSEs had, which they have done a tremendous job…”

In addition to Frank and Meeks there were other “Johnny-come-latelies” who voted for this bill. Take Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr. (D-MO) for instance. At a 2004 hearing concerning allegations of accounting and management failures by Fannie Mae, he was adamant in his defense of FM:

“…I find this to be inconsistent and a rush to judgment. In informal conversations with the executives from Wall Street and individual large brokerage houses, I get the feeling that the markets are not worried about the safety and soundness of Fannie Mae, as OFHEO says that it is. But of course, the markets are not political…”

Clay’s best sound bite of the evening was when he declared, “this hearing is about the political lynching of Franklin Raines (the ex-Fannie Mae chief executive officer)”. Hmmm… Eventually Raines was forced to pay a settlement of $24.7 million in that accounting scandal. In addition, Fannie Mae paid a $400 million civil fine in a settlement with OFHEO and the Securities and Exchange Commission back in 2006. Clay’s accusations of political partisan politics were clearly acts of projection, as revealed by his hypocritical defense of a guilty party for political purposes.

Incredibly, the media reports that McCain is losing in the polls due to the financial meltdown caused by the mortgage crisis. Yet he has a record going back to 2003 of cosponsoring legislation to reform the regulation of the GSEs responsible for this mess. At the same time the Democratic Party has a solid record of opposing such efforts and in Obama’s short experience in the U.S. Senate he has taken an enormous amount of money from them.

Lacy Clay said that the allegations of misdeeds by the GSEs were politically motivated. This is how the Democratic Party’s attempt to cover up financial mismanagement by the GSEs led to unwarranted attacks on the Republicans who only wanted the truth. See the following quote from an article published back in 2004 when Fannie Mae’s CEO Franklin Raines was under fire. The author, Henry Blodget, is an Obama supporter who sometimes writes for and the Huffington Post. Check out how he twists and turns in order to protect Raines:

“…Maybe … or, maybe, more likely, he (Franklin Raines) is the same man of discipline, intelligence, honor, and integrity that a half-century of actions and words suggest. If so, we need another explanation for the Fannie proceedings and the assault on Raines.

The simplest, and most conspiratorial, is that the Fannie investigation represents a Republican payback for Enron and Halliburton. Conservatives are delighting in the gutting of Raines and Fannie Mae—a Democratic boss of a Democratic-leaning company. Former Fannie CEO James Johnson, who got some of the bonuses OFHEO criticized, has also been short listed as a possible Kerry treasury secretary. The accounting investigation, if nothing else, has probably made both Raines and Johnson untouchables to a Democratic president.

My fellow bloggers you have every reason to be angry with the media, but please keep in mind that they are eager to smear and misrepresent your voice. They are very protective towards Obama when it comes to what they can construe to be smears. However, they are quick to ignore the torrential amount of smears hurled at McCain and Palin. Obama has never suffered from an attack as vicious as Sarah Palin had to put up with. Nothing compares to accusations that she lied about giving birth to her last child Trig. The assertion that her husband had sex with her daughter and that Trig was born as a result of incest is the worst campaign smear that I have seen in a long time. Yet it is Obama who is continually painted as a victim.

The extent of the media memory hole is proof that a Representative Democracy is only as healthy as those who participate in it. So spread the word and keep our country strong!!!


heidianne jackson said...

this post is so well written. it took me nearly two hours to follow all of the research and verify, but it was worth every minute. glad i got here through nanc's place.

Freedomnow said...

I have come to learn that it is important to have backing data for as many facts as possible.

Putting everything in proper context is not that easy either.

Its nice to have someone appreciate the hardwork that I put into it.

Thanks so much Heidianne!!!

nanc said...

i appreciate hard work too!

you've been redecorating. again.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, FN. I didn't realize until now how long the Republicans had been obstructed in their effort to reform Fannie/ Freddie. We wouldn't be in this financial mess today were it not for Barney Frank and the House/ Senate Democrats.

Freedomnow said...

I should of included some of Maxine Waters comments and ACORN's longer history on the issue, but there's plenty of ammunition out there.

Dig in, there's plenty for everyone.

Hi Nanc!!! We do good work, eh?

nanc said...

it's hell being mean me!


Debbie said...

Excellent and detailed article. McCain was right about the surge, right about the mortgage situation, right about many things.

But he needs to be a better communicator and he needs to get serious about winning this election.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

nanc said...

i'm doing my part to keep democracy alive!

Z said...

you're the best, Freedom Now....good to see you writing and linking and researching/ we're lucky for it.

Freedomnow said...

Hey Z-Girl,

Its good to see you around. Thanks.

Debbie, All McCain needs is some meaningless slogans like "We are the ones that we have been waiting for" and he will be set!!!

Geez Nanc, You like taking the fight to the enemy, dontcha?

WomanHonorThyself said...

phenomenal overview as always it even remotely possible to negate media spin and lies?..I am not so sure!..blech!

Freedomnow said...

Hi Angel,

It appears that Obama and the Democratic Party is pushing the lie that the crisis is McCain's fault because he is a fan of deregulation.

While McCain is a staunch supporter of deregulation, that is not his stance on the GSEs.

As I have demonstrated McCain has cosponsored legislation since 2003 calling for more regulation on this issue.

Chalk up another leftwing smear.

Z said...

thanks for coming by, and thanks for 'helping' with my resident troll, Ducky.

Mouse said...