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Media Coverage of Shutdown Threat: A Journalistic ‘Disgrace’ | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

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Media Coverage of Shutdown Threat: A Journalistic ‘Disgrace’


(AP/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

Probably the smartest thing I read all weekend on the pending government shutdown, and the debt ceiling crisis, came from James Fallows. And, courtesy of the often laughable (and dangerous) Washington Post editorial section, we get yet another example in this parade of disgrace this morning.

At his Atlantic blog, Fallow slammed media for once again practicing “false equivalence,” but does provide links to a few folks who have gotten it right (see below). Read the whole thing as he traces a historic fiasco we haven’t seen in decades, maybe over a century. Here’s an excerpt:

As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on….This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us—and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too…

In case the point is not clear yet: there is no post-Civil War precedent for what the House GOP is doing now. It is radical, and dangerous for the economy and our process of government, and its departure from past political disagreements can’t be buffed away or ignored. If someone can think of a precedent after the era of John C. Calhoun, let me know.

Today the Post published this editorial drivel:

Ultimately, the grown-ups in the room will have to do their jobs, which in a democracy with divided government means compromising for the common good. That means Mr. Boehner, his counterpart in the Senate, Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), minority leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the president. Both sides are inordinately concerned with making sure that, if catastrophe comes, the other side takes the political hit. In truth, none of their reputations stands to benefit.

Of course, we get ths kind of “analysis” from Politico all the time, but thankfully here’s Roger Simon, today under the title (with a Beatles reference?), “The Frauds on the Hill Target Obama”:

And since when did the extremists in Congress care about the will of the people? Is it the will of the people that government be closed, salaries stopped, services suspended?

Slyness and game-playing rule the day. Having lost the vote on Obamacare, the extremists and those who fear them will vote to cut off the funding of government unless Obamacare is suspended. And then they will try to force the United States to default on its debt.

Not because they wish to do the will of the people, but because they wish to thwart the will of the people.

And when, in those rare moments, they decide to earn their salaries of $174,000 per year (plus expenses, plus perks, plus pensions) and actually pass a bill, what do they do? The week before last, the House voted to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years.

It voted to deny people food.

And stop for presses for this:

At 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, POLITICO congressional reporter Ginger Gibson tweeted: “I’m not over exaggerating when I say I can smell the booze wafting from members as they walk off the floor.”

What is the old joke? “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.”

Some of our lawmakers appear to be having both.

Dave Weigel of Slate just posted an excellent debunking of GOP claims that the Dems have been just as bad in the past in holding debt ceiling increases hostage.   For updates on the shutdown see my daily blog Pressing Issues.

And here are those valuable links courtesy of Fallows:

For examples of coverage that plainly states what is going on, here is a small sampling: Greg Sargent, Derek Thompson, John Gilmour (on why Ronald Reagan believed in compromise), Jonathan Rauch, Brian Beutler, Jonathan Chait, Andrew Sullivan (also here), Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas, Dan Froomkin. On today’s Diane Rehm show News Roundup, panelists Ruth Marcus, Janet Hook, and Todd Purdum all said with a bluntness unusual for a D.C.-based talk show that we are witnessing the effects not of gridlock but of one party’s internal crisis.

Read John Nichols on the looming government shutdown and DC statehood.

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