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“Children Are Off Limits”: If Ted Cruz Is Going To Use His Daughters As Props, He Should Be Mocked For It

Ted Cruz, a leading presidential candidate, released a new Christmas-themed ad — a lighthearted riff on familiar themes, in which he tweaked words from a well-known holiday story to fit his campaign platform. He appeared as himself, alongside his wife and his two young daughters, who dutifully recited lines that had been scripted to further their father’s agenda.

What’s a satirist to do?

Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Ann Telnaes decided not to focus on the candidate’s message, but the manner in which it was pitched — namely, the fact that Cruz used his children as mouthpieces for his campaign.

There wasn’t any mistaking her intent, either. The headline for the cartoon, which featured Cruz’s daughters as monkeys on a leash being controlled by a Santa-clad Cruz turning an organ grinder, laid it out: “Ted Cruz Uses His Kids As Political Props.” And she explained her feelings further, in a tweet:

Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad- don’t start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well. https://t.co/7hafBacOiK

— Ann Telnaes (@AnnTelnaes) December 22, 2015

She also made her case in a note that ran alongside the cartoon in the Washington Post:

“[T]here is an unspoken rule in editorial cartooning that a politician’s children are off-limits. … But when a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father’s dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game.”

Yet the cartoon was pulled.

The editor who pulled it, Fred Hiatt, said he didn’t agree with Telnaes and hadn’t viewed the cartoon before it was posted. Hiatt echoed Telnaes’s original disclaimer, saying in the editor’s note that has supplanted the cartoon on the Post’s site: “It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it.” However, he said that he did not agree with her that an exception to that practice was warranted in the case of Cruz and his daughters.

Jeff Danziger, a political cartoonist and acquaintance of Telnaes, sided with her. “I think she’s right,” Danziger said in an email. “If [Cruz] uses his daughters to get votes, he’s the one putting them on the stage.” (Danziger’s work appears in The National Memo.)

So assuming Cruz’s actions were deserving of editorial comment in cartoon form, would there have been a more appropriate way to go about it? Perhaps the problem was a lack of context. Readers didn’t necessarily need to be familiar with the ad that Telnaes was referencing, which had been released three days earlier, on Dec. 19, although of course that would have helped.

It’s possible there was a broader satirical target than simply Cruz and his daughters. After all, candidates’ family members have often appeared in campaign materials: Whether it’s pictures of Hillary Clinton holding her infant granddaughter, Charlotte, or the McCain, Palin, and Romney progenitors gamely posing for group photos, children and families humanize the candidates and drive home campaign messages by putting a memorable face on abstract talking points about “safety,” “family,” and “the future.”

But the degree to which Cruz has been using his children – and his dad, and his mom, and his aunt – is worth noting. Buzzfeed recently unearthed footage posted by Cruz’s campaign for Senate that was culled from 16-hour videos of him interacting with his family, but it’s clear from the videos that these aren’t surreptitiously filmed get-togethers or spontaneous hangouts. They play eerily as though Cruz had sat down with his mom and dad, prompting them to sing the praises of their wonderfully competent son.

Does anyone really think Telnaes was attacking Cruz’s children, rather than Cruz himself?

The cartoon’s depiction of the girls as monkeys was clearly an attempt to draw them in a stock role as a beggar’s pawns; it seems highly disingenuous to advance the argument that Telnaes was in any way criticizing the girls’ looks or character, which would, of course, be an ugly and reprehensible thing to do.

Telnaes criticized their father for using them in such a grossly crass way, trying to score political points by playing cute. And now, ironically — since the cartoon caricatured Cruz as a panhandler — by pulling the ad, the Washington Post has given the Texas senator a whole new excuse to ask for more money and more ammunition to use in his screeds about how the “mainstream,” “liberal” media treats him unfairly. Cruz is still grinding that organ, and getting his daughters to dance.

 

By: Stephanie Schwartz, The National Memo, December 23, 2015

December 26, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Children, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The National Bitch Hunt Is Definitely On”: Why Hillary Clinton Drives Her Enemies Crazy

Same as it ever was. Once again, according to pundits on the influential Washington, D.C. cocktail party circuit, Hillary Clinton is in deep trouble. The National Bitch Hunt is definitely on. Surely you didn’t think we could have a female presidential candidate without one?

Rolling down the highway, listening to Diane Rehm’s NPR talk show last week, I wondered if I hadn’t driven into some kind of weird political time warp.

In a sense, I had.

“Someone said the other day that Washington may now have reached the state-of-the-art point of having a cover-up without a crime,” pronounced the Washington Post. By failing to come clean, Hillary had managed “to make it appear as if the Clintons had something to hide.”

“These clumsy efforts at suppression are feckless and self-defeating,” thundered the New York Times. Hillary’s actions, the newspaper continued, “are swiftly draining away public trust in [her] integrity.”

OK, I’m teasing. Both editorials appeared over 21 years ago, in January 1994. They expressed outrage at Hillary Clinton’s decision to turn over Whitewater documents to federal investigators rather than to the press, which had conjured a make-believe scandal out of bogus reporting of a kind that’s since grown too familiar in American journalism.  (Interested readers are referred to Joe Conason’s and my e-book The Hunting of Hillary, available from The National Memo.)

However, by failing to roll over and bare her throat, Hillary Clinton only “continued to contribute to the perception that she has something to hide.”

Another joke. That last quote was actually The Atlantic’s Molly Ball on the Diane Rehm program just last Friday. It’s the same old song, except that Ball was complaining about Hillary’s turning her email server over to investigators looking into a dispute between the State Department and the CIA about which documents should have been classified, and when.

She should have turned the gadget over six months ago, Ball opined.

Ah, but to whom? There wasn’t a State Department vs. CIA dispute back then.

No cage filled with parrots could have recited the list of familiar anti-Hillary talking points more efficiently than Rehm’s guests.

The email flap, opined the Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “creates and feeds into this narrative about the Clintons and Mrs. Clinton that the rules are different for them, that she’s not one of us.”

Most Americans, she added indignantly, “don’t have access to a private email server.”

Actually, most Americans don’t know what a server is, or why the hardware is supposed to matter. Then, too, most Americans have never been Secretary of State, aren’t married to a former president, and don’t enjoy Secret Service protection at home.

Stolberg saw a perception problem too. Nobody was rude enough to ask her about the perception caused by the Times’ public editor’s conclusion that her own newspaper appeared to have an axe to grind against the Clintons after it falsely reported that the emails were the object of a criminal investigation.

They are not.

Stolberg also complained that both Clintons “play by a separate set of rules, [and] that the normal standards don’t apply.”

Which normal standards? According to, yes, the New York Times:  “When [Clinton] took office in 2009…the State Department allowed the use of home computers as long as they were secure…There appears to have been no prohibition on the exclusive use of a private server; it does not appear to be an option anyone had thought about.”

So why are we talking about this at all? No Secretary of State previous to Clinton had a government email account.

Bottom line: when they start talking about narratives and perceptions, these would-be insiders, they’re talking about themselves.

But leave it to the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, who’s written about little else lately, to sum it all up with classic wifebeater logic. Hillary’s emails, he told NPR’s audience, “remind [voters] of the things they don’t like, the secretiveness, the paranoia, the sort of distrust….And then I also think it just feeds the perception that she is a candidate of the past. Do you really want to go back to this? Yes, the Clintons bring many good things. But they also bring this sort of baggage, this stuff that always follows them.”

See, if Hillary would just quit fighting for herself and her issues, they could quit ganging up on the bitch. Meanwhile, this has to be at least the fourth time the same crowd has predicted her imminent demise, if not indictment and conviction. All based upon partisan leaks (this Trey Gowdy joker is nothing compared to Kenneth Starr’s leak-o-matic prosecutors) and upon presumed evidence in documents nobody’s yet seen.

From the Rose Law Firm billing records to Benghazi, it’s the same old story. Because when the evidence finally emerges, it turns out that Hillary has been diligently coloring inside the lines all along.

And that’s because she’s smarter and tougher than her enemies — the very qualities that drive them crazy.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, August 19, 2015

August 20, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Emails, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pushing False Equivalencies”: The Consequences Of Misguided Assumptions

I’m beginning to think an infectious disease is spreading in the nation’s capital. Symptoms include memory loss (forgetting everything Republicans have done in recent years), blurred vision (an inability to see obvious GOP ploys), and an uncontrollable urge to blame “both sides” for everything, even when it doesn’t make any sense.

The disease has already affected pundits like Bob Woodward, Ron Fournier, David Brooks, nearly everyone on the network Sunday shows, and today reaches the editorial board of the Washington Post. Indeed, the Post‘s editors seem to have come down with an especially acute case today, as evidenced this bang-your-head-against-your-desk editorial on the sequester, which cavalierly ignores the paper’s own reporting, and demands that President Obama “lead” by somehow getting congressional Republicans to be more responsible.

You can almost feel James Fallows’ frustration.

In short the facts before us are: an Administration that has gone some distance toward “the center”; a Republican opposition many of whose members still hold the absolutist position that taxes cannot go up at all; a hidden-from-no-one opposition strategy that embraces crises, shutdowns, and sequesters rather than wanting to avert them. […]

That’s the landscape. And what is the Post’s editorial conclusion? You guessed it! The President is to blame, for not “leading” the way to a compromise.

The infectious disease — I’ll assume Fallows was inoculated and therefore immune to its effects — is leading to some kind of bizarre madness in Washington, which is getting worse. It doesn’t matter that President Obama is ready to compromise; it doesn’t matter that Republicans refuse to compromise; and it doesn’t matter that the deficit is already shrinking and that both sides have already approved $2.5 trillion in debt reduction.

What matters, victims of this disease keep telling the rest of us, is that President Obama is obligated to “lead.” Lead where? They don’t know. Lead to what? They don’t know that, either. What would leadership look like, exactly? Apparently, Obama is supposed to use Jedi mind tricks that will make people in the other party — the party that has nothing but contempt and disgust for his presidency — do what he wants them to do.

And if the president doesn’t do this, Obama is, by definition, responsible for Republicans’ opposition to a bipartisan agreement.

This is more than crazy. The media establishment’s incompetence is having a direct role in contributing to a broken and unconstructive process.

Greg Sargent gets this exactly right:

The argument now is basically that the president is the father who must make his problem children behave. Only this is worse than just a dodge. Lots and lots of people are going to get hurt by the sequester. Anyone who helps deflect blame from Republicans — in the full knowledge that they are the primary obstacle to the compromise we need to prevent serious damage from being done to the country — is unwittingly helping to enable their intransigence.

This will no doubt give headaches to those who’ve already contracted the infectious disease, but Greg is right — by blaming Obama for Republicans’ intransigence, the D.C. establishment is encouraging the gridlock they claim to find offensive.

As Jamison Foser recently asked, “When Party A is intransigent but Party B gets blamed for it, what is the likely effect on Party A’s intransigence?” Or as Michael Grunwald added today, “If you were a GOP leader, and every time you were intransigent the Beltway blamed Obama’s failure to lead, would you be less intransigent?”

Pundits obsessed with pushing false equivalencies and needlessly blaming “both sides” are convinced they’re part of the solution. They’re actually part of the problem.

Let’s not forget this thesis from Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein — who’ve helped offer a cure to this infectious disease — published nearly a year ago, long before the current mess.

We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

Our advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

The first step towards recovery from the disease has nothing to do with party or ideology; it has to do with reality and Civics 101. The media establishment is, as a consequence of this disease, forced to shout “Lead!” uncontrollably, they can at least direct it to those in a position of authority in the party that refuses to compromise, refuses to consider concessions, and refuses to consider governing outside a series of extortion strategies.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 26, 2013

February 27, 2013 Posted by | Journalists, Media | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Justifying Cuts: A Well-Used But Misleading Medicaid Statistic

“Cash-strapped states are also feeling the burden of the Medicaid
entitlement. The program consumes nearly 22 percent of states’ budgets today, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.”

— Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), June 23, 2011, at a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee

“Medicaid is the lion’s share of that spending burden as it now consumes about 22 percent of state budgets now and will consume $4.6 trillion of Washington’s budget over the next ten years.”

— Former Kentucky governor Ernest Lee Fletcher (R), June 23, 2011, at the same hearing

“Across the country, governors are concerned about the burgeoning cost of Medicaid, which in fiscal 2010 consumed nearly 22 percent of state budgets, according the National Association of State Budget Officers. That’s larger than what states spent on K-12 public schools.”

Washington Post front page article, June 14, 2011

When a statistic is universally tossed around as a certified fact, it’s time to get suspicious.

Such is the case with this oft-cited statistic that 22 percent of state budgets is being gobbled up by Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health coverage for the poor and the disabled. Medicaid supposedly is even dwarfing what is spent on educating children and teenagers.

But note the phrase “state-federal.” There’s billions of dollars in federal money involved, and the “22-percent” statistic obscures that fact. Let’s dig a little deeper into the numbers.

The Facts

Medicaid was a central part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” initiative in the mid-1960s. Each state administers its own Medicaid program, but with federal oversight, federal requirements—and plenty of federal dollars. On average, the federal government provides 57 percent of Medicaid funds.

Initially, Medicaid was focused low-income Americans, but elderly nursing home care has also become a big part of it. The new health care law would also greatly expand eligibility to people up to 133 percent of the official poverty line.

There’s no question that the recession has put pressure on Medicaid spending, as more people lost jobs or income and so became eligible for coverage. The new requirements of the health care law also will boost Medicaid spending.

The assertion that Medicaid is 22 percent of state spending, and thus now exceeds education spending, comes from an annual survey of the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). But if you dig into the report — if you just go to page
one — you will see that this number includes the federal contribution, in what
is known as “total funds.”

If you want to see what states themselves are spending on Medicaid —“general funds” — you have to use another set of statistics.

As NASBO says on page one, “For estimated fiscal 2010, components of general fund spending are elementary and secondary education, 35.7 percent; Medicaid, 15.4 percent; higher education, 12.1 percent; corrections, 7.2 percent; public assistance, 1.9 percent; transportation, 0.8 percent; and all other expenditures, 27.0 percent.”

In other words, without the federal dollars included, Medicaid falls to second place, far behind education. It turns out that on average, states spend 15.4 percent of their funds on Medicaid — not 22 percent.

Brian Sigritz, NASBO’s director of state fiscal studies, said, “You are correct that there are several different ways of looking at Medicaid spending that you can use. If you consider just general funds, K-12 easily remains the largest component of general fund spending, as it historically has been.”

Indeed, when you look at NASBO’s historical data (table three of this report), it becomes clear that Medicaid spending, as a proportion of general funds, has remained relatively consistent since 1995 — about 15 percent — in contrast to the popular image of being a drain on state budgets.

Sigritz said that the two figures provide a different picture of state spending. “General funds gives you a sense of spending deriving from state revenue, while total funds gives you a sense of total state expenditures,” he said.  “Typically when you discuss overall state budgets you examine the various funding sources that go into them including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds.”

The Office of the Actuary for Medicare and Medicaid makes this distinction. The 2010 Actuarial Report for Medicaid notes the broad figure, but then takes pains to add: “This amount, however, includes all Federal contributions to State Medicaid spending, as well as spending from State general revenue funds and other State funds (which for Medicaid consists of provider taxes, fees, donations, assessments, and local funds).” The report concludes: “When only State general revenues are considered, however, Medicaid spending constitutes an estimated 16.2 percent of expenditures in 2009, placing it well behind education.”

Antonia Ferrier, a spokeswoman for Hatch, defended the 22-percent figure, noting its wide use. “It is part of their budgets, and there are many different streams of funding that fund those state budgets (including federal funding, taxes, etc.) that fund their many programs,” she said.

But Colleen Chapman, a spokeswoman for the Georgetown University Center for
Children and Families
, a policy and research center, said, “In the current budget debate, the data are being misused to argue that the Medicaid program in states is out of control and needs to be cut dramatically, when in fact, Medicaid is still much less of state spending than education and has not grown, as a portion of state budgets, in any way close to the mammoth way that others argue it has.”

The Pinocchio Test

We will label this with one of our rarely used categories: TRUE BUT FALSE.
(We still need to get an appropriate icon for this one — suggestions are welcome.)

Yes, the 22-percent figure is a valid number. But it is being used in an inappropriate way, and therefore is misleading. Hatch and Fletcher are only the latest in a long line of public figures — and news outlets — who have seized onto this number without apparently realizing that it is the wrong statistic to use. If people want to understand the impact the Medicaid is having on state budgets, politicians should begin to use the 15-percent figure — or at the least offer a caveat to the 22-percent number. Otherwise, there might be some Pinocchios in their future.

 

By: Glenn Kessler, The Fact Checker, The Washington Post, July 5, 2011

July 5, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Deficits, Economy, Education, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Medicaid, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Security Hysteria Rebutted, Yet again

The WaPo editorial board apparently despises old people as much as Alan Simpson, given what they’re willing to put on their op-ed pages. Unfortunately, though, Charles Krauthammer doesn’t disintegrate into quite the degree of gibberish as Simpson, though he’s a liar. He particularly attacks OMB director Jacob Lew, and Lew’s assertion that Social Security is solvent until 2037 and doesn’t add to the deficit. Krauthammer’s argument: the Treasury bonds Social Security funds are invested in are “worthless” and Lew’s arguing otherwise is “a breathtaking fraud” because the “Social Security trust fund is a fiction.”

Dean Baker refutes.

It’s nice that Mr. Krauthammer thinks that government bonds are worthless…. While he is welcome to believe anything he wants, the bonds held by the Social Security trust fund are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. Krauthammer may want to default on bonds that belong to the nation’s workers, but his desires are not the same as reality.Selling these bonds to fund Social Security no more raises the deficit than the decision of a rich person to sell bonds to finance their consumption raises the deficit. The deficit was incurred when the money was lent to the Social Security trust fund in the first place.

The size of the deficit, including the money borrowed from Social Security — the on-budget deficit — is reported in every budget document put out by the government (e.g. here and here). Krauthammer might try to learn a bit about how the budget works before he goes off ranting about Jack Lew and Social Security….

In reality, the projected shortfall in the program is relatively distant and minor. The country has far more urgent concerns, like putting 25 million unemployed or under-employed people back to work. This should be the focus of our political leaders right now.

And Jacob Lew defends his, and Social Security’s honor:

Krauthammer is correct when he writes that there is no “lockbox” that keeps the money sent in by workers for until they retire. By design, when more taxes are collected than are needed to pay benefits, funds are invested in Treasury bonds and are held in reserve for when revenue collected is not enough to pay the benefits due. Yet these Treasury bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government in the same way that all other U.S. Treasury bonds are, making them anything but ”worthless IOUs” as Krauthammer suggests. The government has just as much obligation to pay back the bonds in the Social Security trust fund as we do to any other bondholders.Responsibly honoring that obligation – one that we planned for and always knew was there –entails undertaking fiscal policies that would make it easier, not harder, to meet these obligations. When I last was OMB Director at the end of the Clinton Administration, the Congressional Budget Office estimated $5.6 trillion in budget surpluses over the next decade because of fiscally responsible measures that Democrats and Republicans, working together, had taken….

This is the most important point: the problem is not with Social Security, but in the near term the mismatch between what we take in and what we spend in the rest of the budget. Working people had payroll taxes taken from their salaries to pay for future benefits, and instead the money was used to pay for tax cuts and other initiatives. It is hardly fair now to say that those working people caused the problem just when they are ready to collect benefits.

Krauthammer’s argument is inside out. We should not blame Social Security for our current fiscal problems when it is the irresponsible fiscal behavior of the past that has presented the country with future challenges to fund our commitments, including Social Security over the next two decades.

That irresponsible fiscal behavior was unfortunately extended by the tax-cut deal and intensifed by the payroll tax holiday, making it even easier for Social Security to be the target of deficit peacocks and the Very Serious People who believe “shared sacrifice” means everybody but the rich and corporations sacrifice. That aside, Lew is absolutely correct. Social Security is not the problem. Massive tax cuts for the rich and two unsustainable wars are the problem.

By: Joan McCarter, Daily Kos, March 12, 2011

March 13, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Deficits, Economy, Federal Budget, Social Security | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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