State Journal criticizes Republicans? No weasel words?

Over the weekend a teensy-tiny little thing happened in the Wisconsin State Journal. They published an editorial criticizing Wisconsin Republicans, namely the gov and his loyal minions majorities in the legislature.


The thing is, there was no fuzzy language, no ambiguity, no blaming ill-defined “state leaders” or “state gubmint” in general. No random speculation that Democrats, too, had they been in charge, would have done the same. No, they just said “Republicans”, who are, after all, undeniably in control of every branch of our state government.

It’s a tiny thing. (Yes, very tiny.) But it’s unusual (and refreshing) to see the State Journal editorial board just say the obvious — their pals are screwing up.  As we all know, it’s hard for them to criticize Republicans without some fig leaf of fuzziness or both-siderism to obscure and soften the point.

Seriously, this is a newspaper that somehow (hard to believe but true) blamed “Congress and all of Washington” for the dangerous and ill-advised debt-ceiling fiascoes of 2013 which were, of course, motivated not by “Congress and all of Washington” in general, but specifically by the Tea Partying zealots of the Republican House. Somehow the State Journal editorial board was careful never to assign the blame where it actually belonged. It was actually a bizarre pattern of misinforming, performed over and over as we noted repeatedly.

So, are we giving them too much credit for one tiny event on Sunday? Well, sure. Almost certainly. But we try to encourage even small progress when we can.


Addendum & clarification

One more thing, just to be clear.

When we objected in our previous post to the Wisconsin State Journal blaming “Congress” and/or “all of Washington” for the debt-ceiling fiasco, we took that language from the State Journal itself. (From their print edition.) Only readers of the print edition would have seen this sub-headline:Who's to blame 3

So, reading just the headlines, which many readers do, the Wisconsin State Journal says the government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis were orchestrated by, well, everybody in Washington. It was everybody’s fault. Voters can blame “all of Washington”. Could there be anything more nakedly misleading?

We’ve said it before. Here it is again. The State Journal editorial board just cannot criticize their beloved Republicans without simultaneously pointing the finger at others, even in cases where it’s not true. There’s a name for this, but it isn’t “journalism”.

Don’t ask ’em to explain this sub-headline, because they won’t, and they can’t. Do they understand how damaging this to their own credibility?

The irony of all this, no doubt lost on the editorial board, is that it all takes place under their main headline, “Broken trust won’t be easy to win back”.

Broken trust won't be easy to win back

The Wisconsin State Journal whiffs on easy editorial

We’ve written before about what happens with the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board when they try to criticize their beloved Republicans. It’s just so hard for them. They cannot permit themselves to say something ugly about the R’s unless they also pair it with something ugly about the D’s. The latter can be imaginary if need be.

(If it’s late in the day, see the Editorial Board Drinking Game.)

Frequently, of course, there really is something bad to say about the D’s. But when there isn’t, the editorial board simply asserts that both sides are to blame. It’s a practice that makes these three old white guys look biased and ridiculous, but apparently they cannot help themselves. They’re lighting their own pants on fire. Sunday’s editorial about the debt-ceiling showdown was another case in point.

It begins

The Republicans in Congress own most of the blame for Washington’s latest dysfunction.

“Most” of the blame? That’s the very first sentence???

Toles - GOP burns its own brandActually: It was Republicans, and Republicans alone, who shut down the government, who threatened the world economy, who might do it again. ‘Tweren’t the D’s. ‘Twere the R’s. Wasn’t “mostly” the R’s. Wasn’t “Congress”. Wasn’t all of “Washington”. It was the R’s, the Republicans.

Mr. Johnston, Mr. Smalley, Mr. Milfred, you got it wrong. And it was so, so easy, it’s amazing you could get it wrong. Well, maybe not “amazing” but “outrageous”, because you’ve making this identical blunder ever since the first debt-ceiling showdown (2011).

Gentlemen, please surrender your press credentials at the nearest J-School, and fergawdsakes remove that “Wisconsin’s independent voice” thing from your editorial page masthead. Thank you.

Wisconsin State Journal flubs up debt-ceiling discussion AGAIN

A short while back we recalled the very poor work of the Wisconsin State Journal as it discussed the previous debt-ceiling “crisis” two years ago. We said in part

In it, they managed to portray the whole farce — not as extortion by the GOP’s newest, most unhinged, most extremist wing, which it was — but rather as a battle between the extremes of both parties, which it wasn’t. How does a board of so-called “journalists” ever wash away the embarrassment…?

Now they’re at it again. And they’ve bungled it, again. And in exactly the same way. They simply cannot say that Republicans — indeed about 90 Tea Party House Republicans — are to blame.

GOP AngryThe Tea Partiers are playing a dangerous game of brinksmanship, and Republican House Speaker Boehner is so far allowing them to do so. And it’s all based on the outlandish belief that they, as a minority, in one branch of government, should dictate. That cannot — cannot — be allowed.

But how does the Wisconsin State Journal describe it?

Congress should stop playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States.

It’s “Congress“? It’s not Tea Party Republicans in the House? It’s just everybody in Congress? “Congress” needs to stop playing games?

We suppose it’s possible — if you stick your head way, way up, uh, somewhere — to call carjacking a “dispute over who should drive,” but it certainly wouldn’t be useful journalism. It would be going way out of one’s way to obscure the truth.

C’mon, State Journal editorial board. This was unacceptable.

The GOP “uncertainty” hoax

failureLydia DePillis at the Washington Post Wonkblog accumulates a damning list of quotes from GOP’ers over the last two years supposedly worrying about higher taxes, new regulations, and so on increasing “economic uncertainty” for businesses, “job creators” and well, anyone trying to plan for the future. Here’s the first quote:

“I believe our mission as legislators is to liberate our economy from the things that impede growth…to provide clear policies, so that innovators and entrepreneurs have the green light to move forward and create jobs, without having to worry about second-guessing from Washington.” – Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), May 2011

But now, of course, these self-same GOP’ers are themselves deliberately causing massive economic uncertainty in order, they say, to block Obamacare.

It turns out that “uncertainty” stuff was a mere talking-point, now dropped like a hot potato, as the Tea Party wing of Congress

  • shuts down the federal government
  • offers a whirling hors d’oeuvres tray of silly plans to fund just those parts of the government they happen to like
  • suggests, not all that seriously, funding the government for a few months or even a few weeks!
  • and prepares to default on America’s sovereign debt.

All that “concern” about “economic uncertainty” was phony as a $3 bill. It’s now been discarded and replaced with new talking points. (And, yes, massive economic uncertainty.)

Is our point that the GOP has lied about something, again? Well, that’s obviously one point.

But there’s another point we’ll choose to make. What kind of journalist is it who gets lied to, over and over, right in his or her face? What kind of journalist never seems to tumble to the fact they’re being lied to? (Lied to again and again. And by the very same people?)

Is it endless gullibility? Gullibility is surely one of the last things you’d hope to find in a real reporter, and yes, there are fake reporters. There are fakes in every line of work, and we’re not talking just about the fake news on Comedy Central. We’re talking about our most esteemed national press. Are they so very lazy that they know a source is throwing dust in the air, and yet they pass it along, as if it were something worth paying attention to? How is the average person supposed to make sense of this? It’s poison to democracy, poison to the public dialog.

We are seeing simultaneous, serious failures in the great American experiment. The press really needs to rethink its relationship with the easy, obvious, self-serving, and yet powerful class of liars. This cynical partnership is leading to disaster. Has it become a condition of employment to maintain that everything is more or less normal? Nothing can be called what it is?


Debt Ceiling Fun Party

daffy duckSoon we’ll all be treated to another “debt-ceiling” showdown. There is nothing in our national politics more silly or contrived or cynical or stupid than the idea that the U.S. Congress should decide to renege on its own debts, downgrade its own credit worthiness, and raise its own future borrowing costs. Wait, did we say “its own” borrowing costs? We mean “our” borrowing costs. Thanks, know-nothing wing of the party of wealth! Thanks for holding us hostage. When it comes to lunatic lawmakers, you rock! Your work on climate change has been, well, out of this world! And your efforts to strangle the economic recovery have been outstanding. And who can hate everything that Obama does the way you do? No one! But this hostage taking should cement your legacy forever. You guys rock.

The last time this same “crisis” was forced into being, the Wisconsin State Journal bungled its response, and bungled it memorably. Perhaps you recall. Yes, they were exasperated, so that was fine, but then they transformed it into one of their most thoroughly dumb and dishonest editorials in memory, and our memory for this sort of thing is pretty good.

In it, they managed to portray the whole farce — not as extortion by the GOP’s newest, most unhinged, most extremist wing, which it was — but rather as a battle between the extremes of both parties, which it wasn’t. How does a board of so-called “journalists” ever wash away the embarrassment of publishing this:

The ideologically-driven progressives on the far left and the rigid tea party crowd on the far right seem equally entrenched against building consensus around workable solutions.

But at some point, the relentless finger-pointing and blaming of “the other side” needs to stop so America’s very real and complicated problems can be addressed in meaningful ways.

What amazing and dishonest tripe. The crisis had been manufactured entirely by one side, indeed by one faction within that one side.

It’s well known that the State Journal editorial board has an extremely difficult time criticizing Republicans. In order to publish any sort of criticism, they must first employ the magic juju words: Democrats. just. as. bad. Of course, sometimes the Democrats ARE just as bad. But sometimes they’re not. Responsible commentary distinguishes between these times. And in the last debt-ceiling farce, the Dems were not to blame. The Republicans were acting like unsupervised 7th graders. Sorry, 7th graders… that was undeserved. Let’s say kindergarteners. Well, that’s wrong, too. The Republicans were behaving very badly. Let’s just leave it at that.

Now we’re going to re-live the whole farce again. The lunatic fringe of the right has spent so much time with Fox News and Limbaugh and others that many of them are actually convinced that the new healthcare law is apocalyptic, despite the fact that the healthcare law models the 20-year-old ideas of the conservative Heritage Foundation. How does this rightwing fringe keep getting weirder and weirder?

We can’t help feeling this whole mess has been aided by the willingness of far too many working journalists to soften what is clearly going on, and for the opinion arms of journalism to treat seriously what is just unprecedentedly stupid. Obviously, the role of the Wisconsin State Journal, by itself, is insignificant in this nation-sized mess. But, of course, they weren’t alone and they never are.

It seems more and more likely our local scribes will have another chance to discuss this. Will they do better this time around?