Nope and Noper: House Repubs, Senate Repubs

Nope and Noper: House Repubs, Senate Repubs
 —Haley Barbour: Dems “trying to ram health care down our throats”

Not much heat or light from the Sunday talk shows today, with prominent Republicans understandably subdued after the president’s very persuasive appearance at the GOP retreat in Baltimore Friday. Video links of Obama’s speech and Q&A with GOP House members are posted here among other places. The exchanges went heavily in Obama’s favor.

It’s a good thing the Internet makes some of the Obama-GOP Q&A available, often via YouTube, because very little of the true flavor of the event came through reporting or commentary on this morning’s talk programs. No surprise there. When I clicked on the TV, I had two questions for myself (“Self . . .“). One was whether any of the prominent journalists who monopolize the Sunday morning airwaves would do justice to the president’s command of issues in that conference of House Republicans. The other was whether the bizarre incident when far-right favorite James O’Keefe entered one of La. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s offices with some of his post-frat brethren, costumed as telephone repairmen, would be mentioned. Predictably, the answer to both questions is no.

One of the biggest weapons in the corporate media arsenal against participatory democracy is simply to flatten. We are seeing it now. The words “bipartisan” and “bipartisanship” are all over the place in big media outlets–and btw I do not recall seeing that emphasis in the media during the Bush years. The effect of calling for “bipartisanship” without context, of course, is to conceal any qualitative difference between policies on one side and policies on the other.

Calling for ‘bipartisanship’ without context in political commentary is also false political reporting. There was never any hope for Republican bipartisanship with Obama, and to pretend otherwise is journalistic fraud. An easy example is the proposal to set up a federal commission on the budget deficit. Previously, Republicans called for such a commission, co-sponsored legislation to bring it about, and vilified the White House and congressional Democrats for not setting one up. Now that President Obama urges a deficit commission, Republicans are opposing it–even Repubs who were previously co-sponsors. This is simply Lucy and the football. There is no hope for genuinely bipartisan action with people like Mitch McConnell or John Boehner. To pretend that there is, that somehow the president simply hurt GOP feelings so much, that they had held their little tiny pink hands out to shake and he just ran over them with his bike, when they were doing all they could to rein in insurance company abuses, to extend unemployment benefits, to impose transparency and fairness on the banks and the financial sector, etc., is fraudulent.

The word “bipartisanship,” in this kind of journalistic flattening meant to imply that both major parties are equally at fault, that the picture is somehow ‘fifty-fifty’–‘a plague on both their houses’ is another favorite flattening metaphor–simply hammers the administration and the Dems, any time they move in the public interest.

The word “jobs” is being used the same way. Like a nonexistent ‘bipartisanship,’ seizing on ‘jobs’ to create an illusory hope or demand that the White House magically create them is simply a weapon to use against the Democrats and against Obama. Haley Barbour’s appearance today on Face the Nation was a perfect example. Barbour’s GOP talking point is that the White House concentrated on health care instead of concentrating on “jobs.” Barbour put it unfortunately, claiming in a Freudian slip that the White House was “trying to ram health care down our throats.”

A couple of obvious points here: One, a lot of people, in fact the overwhelming majority, would prefer to get “health care” when needed. Two, the GOP does not exactly have a track record of supporting jobs programs. Since at least the Great Depression, Republicans have responded to jobs programs by screaming either ‘Communism’ or ‘higher taxes,’ and they’re doing the same thing today.

Btw Barbour did not mention the word “insurance,” as in the phrase “health insurance reforms.” And that’s in spite of the fact that Barbour should know something about insurance abuses, having lost a house in Hurricane Katrina.

Barbour and the rest of the top-dollar GOP, of course, are sticking to the talking point that the way to create ‘jobs’ is ‘cutting taxes.’ For them, also of course, that means cutting taxes for the rich. If they were halfway sincere about budget deficits, they would favor raising taxes on the rich, and on corporations that ship U.S. jobs overseas, but that’s a different branch of the topic.

That one, Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm handled well. Also on Face the Nation, Granholm may have fallen into the ‘jobs’ trap, but at least she salvaged something by opposing ‘jobs’ to ‘the deficit.’ Granholm pointed out accurately that most ‘angry’ voters are much more concerned about unemployment than about the budget deficit.

Any halfway smart Democrat ought to learn from the vocabulary not being used by the GOP. What are they not talking about–McConnell, Boehner, Barbour, McCain and the rest? –They are not talking about insurance abuses. They are not talking about the cost of the Iraq war in regard to budget deficits. They are not talking about contractor rip-offs. They are not mentioning, publicly, that their presidential candidate supported the Wall Street bailout.

In spite of occasional nods to ‘infrastructure,’ they are not mentioning rape crisis centers being
cut, or libraries being closed, let alone teachers and police losing jobs. They are certainly not mentioning thousands of police, firefighters, teachers and others able to stay on the job via state funding through the stimulus program. They also have little to say about foreclosures, or about long hospital stays that drive people bankrupt–they tend not to mention bankruptcies much, either–or about domestic violence. It looks as though they are even going to oppose Obama’s excellent plan to fund student loans directly without having the taxpayers subsidize middleman private lenders imposing loan-shark interest rates. They didn’t mention that one, either.

These omissions map perfectly on to the omissions by large media outlets.

By the same token, predictably there was no mention today about James O’Keefe and his team–the young guys who, if you recall, almost gained access to the telephone-wiring closet in one of Landrieu’s offices under false pretenses (they were turned away by a suspicious employee at the last minute) and are now claiming that they were only there to videotape.

Stan Dai

More on that tomorrow. Suffice it to say for now that some media outlets would be almost as embarrassed as the GOP, by reminders of past Nixonian and Rovian collegiate-style dirty tricks in politics. The pattern would be familiar to any citizen with some civic literacy, but civic literacy is not a desideratum in all political circles, or in all media circles.

On a brighter note–CNN continues its excellent coverage of the disaster in Haiti. Things may be looking up, with tons of food on the way to the suffering people there.

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