Milwaukee County Labor Council AFL-CIO

October 26, 2014

In The News

Examples of shallow abound in media coverage

By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Press
Posted January 28, 2013


Everyone knows that about FOX News but it is true most of the time on the other cable and regular networks, whose perfectly groomed anchors tend to repeat the same surface information 24/7 without deepening the initial take or delving into the story. Headlines never tell us the real news, but now they seem louder, worse and dominant.

Too much establishment print echoes that tactic. The Internet’s main news whoopee outlets require drilling around and through into hidden crevices or else succumb to familiar facile volume and video.

Such criticism extends to all sides of the political spectrum.

For instance, regardless of politics, if you just followed the talking heads you might think Obama’s recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board and to head the new consumer protection agency were actual unconstitutional novelties – unique on right wing outlets to push the fear about a radical Socialist multiracial gun hater winning the White House again and unique on the left as another example of the stupidity of liberals outmaneuvered by conservative conspirators.

Unless you look at how a dozen presidents before him in both parties did much the same.

And how this decision by a three judge panel (appointed by Republican presidents to a US appeals court) has been rebuked by the Department of Justice and by many legal scholars and still could go to the full appeals court or to the US Supreme Court.

Where it could also be upheld.

Because this whole dance is about interpreting the word “the” in the US Constitution – the sort of angels on the head of a pin that Justice Scalia has built an entire career out of. It also finally makes sense out of Bill Clinton’s lame “it depends on what the meaning of is is.” More and more whatever your overriding ideology we are less concerned in our legal system about justice and more engaged by semantics.

The judges interpreted “the recess” to mean only the prolonged pause between two-year sessions of Congress and that “recess” could only be for continuity in office openings that fell during that one recess with a “the.” Older rulings have disagreed.

In this case it is the progressives who are outraged since a year’s worth of NLRB decisions – some vehemently opposed by big business that felt reined in and deserved to be – may be set aside for a do-over. Worse, the labor board is denied a quorum to act on anything until Obama renews regular appointments. (The consumer protection agency is actually in better shape.)

But here’s what the media didn’t report, except a few analytical pieces around the edges. The GOP in the Senate led by Mitch McConnell has continuously created long vacations for members by keeping someone around to every few days wave a gavel for a pretend session. The judges interpreted this as a long drink at the water cooler, but everyone knows it was deliberate delay of low-level appointments the minority didn’t agree with. An exasperated Obama called them on the game, more selectively than past presidents who used these so-called “intrasession” recall appointments even more frequently.

While the new filibuster changes just voted for the Senate in 2013 did not employ the 51 vote option that most progressives wanted, it deliberately addressed these tactics of arbitrarily delaying or ignoring judicial and sub-Cabinet nominations. That should help.

Majority leader Harry Reid, also little reported, clearly decided that a partisan bomb thrown at the old filibuster (since only Democrats would vote for it) was almost as petty as the partisan blockade the GOP has been using an unprecedented 391 times. Personally, I think Reid is wrong to trust these people now promising to be more thoughtful and orderly. But to say he caved is to misread his concern.

If you want a bit of history, Republicans as well as Democrats have benefited over the decades from this presidential authority to deal with a lazy or obdurate Congress. By my quick count, 12 other presidents made nearly 300 (!) intrasession recess appointments that ordinarily require consent of the Senate.

Turning to more familiar political headlines that mislead the casual, no question that the Republican Party in some quarters has been going to the public confessional and promising a more reasonable social identity. But the media hasn’t been very good about separating public relations artifice from actual changes, so it’s been delighted to crow over a “new” Republican Party not ruled by Rush or the Donald.

A case in point is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal who made headlines openly telling a major GOP gathering “to stop being the stupid party.” What a seeming breath of fresh air – until you examine Jindal’s record in Louisiana, with the weakest gun laws in the nation and one of the highest gun violence rates. Jindal, a science major himself, actually pushes funding voucher schools that teach creationism! If stupid is as stupid does, Bobby, stop being a poster child for stupid.

More pleasing to virtually all of us was New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, blasting the NRA for picking on children of elected officials, defending working closely with Obama on hurricane relief, acknowledging climate change and the good that government can do. This simple move to common sense, this full-throated defense of how governors should automatically behave stood out only because of the extremist blather endured for two years from his wing of the party. But that was enough to turn Christie into a media hero in a blue state where he needs Democratic voters to win another term Nov. 5 of this year.

Well, bravo for being a basic American citizen. And kudos for blunt speaking. Of course, New Jersey under his watch is almost as in bad economic shape as Wisconsin, long before Hurricane Sandy. His policies on education and local cooperation are under ferocious attack. He has turned down federal largesse for transportation in a state reliant on consumers seeking better mass transit at better rates – rates he has raised for highways and trains. This media darling may be too strong to beat but the locals are more agitated than the national media at how he, too, is living proof that right-wing interpretation of austerity is a loser.

From Scott Walker and Paul Ryan in Wisconsin to Christie in New Jersey and Kentucky’s McConnell – all, you’ll note, facing election within two years -- today’s GOP is making noises of compromise and conciliation that simply fall apart on the close inspection the media seldom delivers.

A lot of Americans would like to believe they are truly remorseful and conciliatory. Harry Reid certainly did, which is part of my problem. I have colleagues on the liberal side and colleagues on the union side, where 30% of the members are actually Republicans and where all want businesses to succeed in creating jobs, who would like to believe that the engage-able conservatives of old are coming back, that the GOP is standing up to the extremists.

Until you look at the bills they still quietly push or allow their cohorts to push.

Their behavior today conjures up a 2006 YouTube memory when the US president was particularly clumsy. “Fool me once,” said George Bush, stumbling over the familiar one-two adage and ending lamely with “You can’t get fooled again.”

His moment of ineptitude replicates today’s conservative party. They are less fumbly and a bit glibber. But they are feinting and stumbling toward a middle they don’t believe in, trying to disguise their continuous outrageous excesses of positions with a reasonable manner and less incendiary language.

But they haven’t changed positions. They still push an ugly agenda. You can’t get fooled again.

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