Free Markets, Free People
Well now we know why, at least for some, Hurricane Irene was so hyped. It gave apologists for big government a chance to spin the response into plaudits for big government and a claim it is still necessary. Missing, of course, is any context or proportion. Those, like Dana Milbank and Steve Benen, just use the opportunity to bash small government conservatives in general and the Tea Party in particular.
And they brilliantly erect giant strawmen and then just flat tear them apart.
Tea Partyers who denounce Big Government seem to have an abstract notion that government spending means welfare programs and bloated bureaucracies. Almost certainly they aren’t thinking about hurricane tracking and pre-positioning of FEMA supplies. But if they succeed in paring the government, some of these Tea Partyers (particularly those on the coasts or on the tornadic plains) may be surprised to discover that they have turned a Hurricane Irene government back into a Katrina government.
Tea Partiers have a very specific notion of what government spending means to them and it certainly isn’t just centered in the canard of “welfare programs and bloated bureaucracies.” In case Mr. Milbank hasn’t noticed, his big government now owes more in debt than our economy produces in a year. That is the problem the Tea Party has with “big government”. And, frankly, that’s a problem Milbank should have with it too. Instead he spends a column touting big government using the pretext of a natural disaster (and government’s response to it) to attack those who object to the continuing deficit spending of big government. Instead, if had in sense, he’d be leading the charge to rein it in.
Stipulated, there are things that government can do because of government’s orientation. Wage war, for instance. But that doesn’t then excuse the excesses elsewhere. Nor does it justify its intrusion in areas it has no business being in. And it certainly doesn’t justify it spending more than it takes in. Those are the Tea Party’s objections to big government’s spending, Mr. Milbank. Please try to present them properly the next time you attempt the subject.
Of course nonsense like Milbank’s above lead to absurd conclusions in order to attempt to persuade:
The other model is to have a weak federal government, without the funds to forecast storms or to launch a robust emergency response in time to do any good. You might call that the Tea Party model.
Really. Who said anything about a “weak federal government”? I believe what the Tea Party is more interested in is a Constitutionally structured federal government that does its job, stays out of areas it doesn’t belong, and spends no more than the revenue it takes in. Oh yeah, and the real pesky part – doesn’t engage in social engineering.
As for Benen he seconds Milbank:
That Tea Party model, by the way, isn’t a hypothetical scenario — congressional Republicans are not only unwilling to provide emergency disaster relief without offsetting spending cuts, they’re also eager to cut the resources NOAA needs to track storms, while also slashing the FEMA budget.
This week, federal agencies are winning generally rave reviews, but if the public expects equally competent disaster response efforts in the future, Americans will have to hope the GOP agenda is rejected.
Oh, the horror – those dastardly Republicans want to actually not spend in a deficit mode. They want to live within the revenue stream that the federal government has coming in. Imagine wanting to offset spending in one area to ensure payment in another without borrowing money? Those simple Tea Partiers! Don’t they know that sometimes you just have to spend, spend, spend?
Uh, gee Mr. Benen, isn’t that what has gotten us into this mess in the first place? The fact that the government actually got something right for a change doesn’t then justify “big government”. What it does is demonstrate nothing more than every now and then a blind squirrel will find an acorn. Lord knows the fed has had enough practice it’s certainly something it should be getting right. But then, our military has been “getting it right” on disaster relief missions outside the country for years, decades even. It’s not like there wasn’t precedent. Yes, again stipulated, sometimes it takes a big organization to do what is necessary in a disaster to provide aid where needed. That said, that doesn’t excuse “big government”, spending excesses, waste, fraud, abuse, intrusion into areas the government doesn’t belong, social engineering via the tax code and other means and bankrupting the nation.
What is it about these types of apologists for big government that they don’t seem to ever be able to quite grasp those points?
Dana Milbank does a pre-emptive strike on possible criticism of Obama’s globe trotting during a time of domestic economic woe. He notes that the “normally querulous opposition” hasn’t said a word about the fact that he’s spent 12% of his presidency outside the country and has more trips planned before the end of the year – a record unsurpassed by any president.
Why no criticism per Milbank? Heh … why do you think?
Normally, Obama’s wanderlust would be a liability, because Americans care more about the economy than foreign affairs. But the normal rules don’t seem to apply this year, largely because Obama’s predecessor left the nation’s world standing in a shambles. While Republicans may be tempted to criticize Obama for being “intercontinental,” as Bush would have put it, “the ability to change the way America is viewed is powerful,” a senior Obama adviser said Thursday, “and they are afraid of looking petty.”
Polling by the Pew Research Center at the end of Bush’s presidency found that 70 percent of Americans thought the country had become less respected in the world (only 5 percent said “more respected”), and most of them thought the decline in standing was a major problem.
“Repairing our image overseas was an important consideration for the public,” said Andrew Kohut, the poll’s director. Americans have given Obama credit for a “dramatic improvement” in the nation’s standing, he said.
Here’s an alternative thought for Milbank to consider. The reason the “normally querulous opposition” isn’t saying much, and, in fact, is complaining he isn’t gone enough (fall of the Berlin wall) is when he’s gone he isn’t here mucking things up. Or more succinctly, it’s to their advantage to have him gone.
On a separate subject, my theory as to why he’s going so much has to do with his realization that he is in over his head and as his poll numbers and popularity sink here, he seeks a narcissistic boost elsewhere. One of the main reasons, as some have theorized, he didn’t go to Berlin is there wasn’t enough about him in the program. Of course that didn’t stop him from inserting a totally irrelevant fact that when the wall fell those there at the time wouldn’t have imagined the US would have a president of “African descent” in office in his two minutes speech. What that had to do with anything is beyond me but it is another indicator of how self-absorbed the man is. On his Asian swing, as with his other visits to foreign countries, he will indeed be the center of attention. And, of course, issuing apologies as for the US as is his want, he can’t help but be more popular than a predecessor who didn’t do that sort of thing.
Whether the new “standing” we supposedly enjoy means anything at all really isn’t explored in the Milbank column. Apparently if that new standing is based on contempt (and the popularity of a US leader who panders too it) rather than respect, that’s fine – just so the numbers are “better” than they were previously. Because that means all kinds of important things to America – like more jobs, a better economy, a resolution on Afghanistan and much, much more.
If so, in terms of presidential press conferences, that’s a real “freedom of the press” no-no. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post is pretty sure that a question from the Huffington Post was, in fact, staged:
After the obligatory first question from the Associated Press, Obama treated the overflowing White House briefing room to a surprise. “I know Nico Pitney is here from the Huffington Post,” he announced.
Milbank reports that he knew Pitney was there because Pitney had been contacted by the White House and was escorted by White House staffers to the reporters area and told he’d probably be called on. Milbank takes it from there:
Pitney asked his arranged question. Reporters looked at one another in amazement at the stagecraft they were witnessing. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel grinned at the surprised TV correspondents in the first row.
The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world — Iran included — that the American press isn’t as free as advertised.
I bring this up because while it may seem trivial to some, it points to the lengths this White House will go to stage manage even such events as press conferences. Manipulation of the press is usually much more circumspect than this and doing it as they did with a grinning Rahm Emanuel standing on the sidelines points to a certain arrogance and cavalier attitude toward the tradition of freedom of the press.
But yesterday’s daytime drama belonged primarily to Pitney, of the Huffington Post Web site. During the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the Huffington Post often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions. But here was Obama fielding a preplanned question asked by a planted questioner — from the Huffington Post.
Pitney said the White House, though not aware of the question’s wording, asked him to come up with a question about Iran proposed by an Iranian. And, as it turned out, he was not the only prearranged questioner at yesterday’s show. Later, Obama passed over the usual suspects to call on Macarena Vidal of the Spanish-language EFE news agency. The White House called Vidal in advance to see whether she was coming and arranged for her to sit in a seat usually assigned to a financial trade publication. She asked about Chile and Colombia.
Milbank says what wasn’t discussed was Afghanistan, Iraq, or many other critical topics with the time, instead, given to those with the prearranged questions. Not good. Not healthy. But, as Milbank points out, pretty ironic.
Part 2 happens tonight with the ABC informercial for the President’s health care plan.
From watchdogs to lapdogs, the media, with the exception of those like Milbank, simply play along.