Maddow: In search of liberal press criticism!


Here’s what it doesn’t look like: How would it look if the liberal world conducted real press criticism? Not just of the Fox News Channel, but of the mainstream press?

Here’s what it wouldn’t look like. Last night, Rachel Maddow was criticizing “the Beltway media” again—or at least, she was pretending to do so:
MADDOW (2/5/13): The accusation that President Obama has grown the deficit giantly since he has been in office is a very politically potent accusation. And when Republicans say it, the Beltway media tends to write it down as if it was true.

It is not true. It has not been true for a very long time, and there’s really no excuse anymore for not knowing that.
According to Maddow, Republicans have been saying that Obama “has grown the deficit giantly since he has been in office.” And when Republicans make that claim, Maddow says “the Beltway media” tend to write it down as if it’s true.

Like everything else, that’s possible! But Maddow didn’t quote any Republican actually making that (bogus) claim. More significantly, she didn’t cite any mainstream journalist or mainstream news org which had advanced such a claim.

(To watch the whole segment, click this.)

Gullible liberals may hear such a statement and think Maddow's playing it tough. In fact, she is basically clowning. In the process, she’s making her liberal viewers dumber while avoiding a fight with a powerful mainstream press corps—the cultural sea within which she swims for her millions of dollars per year.

Did Maddow ever explain who she was talking about in this segment? Was it ever clear who she meant by “the Beltway media?”

Did she ever name the person who has said that Obama “has grown the deficit giantly since he has been in office?” Did she ever cite a Beltway news org which has made that (bogus) claim?

Predictably, no. During the segment, she discussed Obama’s appeal to the Congress to delay the imposition of next month’s scheduled budget cuts. (We think that’s good advice.) Earlier in her presentation, this is the spot where she first mentioned those wascally Republicans—and one major national news org:
MADDOW: The Republicans, of course, want another round of harried negotiations. Speaker John Boehner, second-place vice presidential finisher Paul Ryan, they say they do not want out of this latest self-imposed crisis in Washington. They want to use the threat of that crisis, they want to use the threat of this sequester thing, the threat of a self-imposed recessionary force, to force the president into spending cuts he otherwise would not make.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month on why they feel that way. Quote, "The driving passion for Mr. Boehner in these fiscal debates is his conviction that trillion-dollar deficits are sapping the country of its energy and prosperity."

Trillion-dollar deficits, his driving passion. Everybody loves John Boehner’s passion.
Maddow was snarking about Boehner in that last statement. But in this passage, she doesn’t cite any Republican making the claim she would later describe. Nor is the Wall Street Journal shown to have made such a claim.

As she continued, Maddow hoisted a chart and made these (accurate) statements:
MADDOW (continuing directly): But this is supposedly what he feels so passionate about. This is a chart of the country’s budget deficit levels every year. Red bars are President Bush’s deficits from 2008 and 2009. Blue bars are President Obama’s deficits. Those really big bars are when the whole world economy crashed, including ours. Remember that?

You notice how the deficit gets smaller when the bars are blue over time? See how they’re getting shorter as you go to the right?
Indeed, Maddow’s chart showed the deficits getting smaller in the Obama years. But it also showed four straight annual deficits which were, in fact, over one trillion dollars each year.

As she continued, she made another accurate statement. She then moved to the bogus claim which still had no named author:
MADDOW (continuing directly): Today, the Congressional Budget Office released their deficit projection for 2013. So for this upcoming year, the nonpartisan CBO, their projection, and according to them, under President Obama, the deficit is slated to continue to shrink, as it has been under President Obama.

But the supposedly gigantic growth of those deficits is why congressional Republicans are committed to us lurching from self-imposed crisis to self-imposed crisis instead of us working this stuff out like adults.
That highlighted statement is true. The 2013 deficit is projected to be just $854 billion—assuming those spending cuts are made, the cuts Obama wants to halt. (We agree with Obama’s judgment.)

At this point, Maddow moved to her key accusation—her unsupported key accusation. She referred to “the supposedly gigantic growth of those deficits.”

From the chart, a viewer could easily see that such an accusation would be wrong, that the deficits haven’t been growing. But Maddow has quoted no Republican making that claim, and no one in “the Beltway media.”

From there, she moved to the ringing claim with which we opened this post: Republicans say that Obama has grown the deficit giantly since he has been in offcie. And when Republicans say it, the Beltway media tends to write it down as if it was true.

We hate to be the ones to tell you, but Maddow is often a bit of a fraud. That segment last night was lazy, dumb and insulting. Its central claims were thrilling to hear—but they were unsupported.

Did we mention that this segment was presented by Rachel Maddow? As usual, Maddow was posturing for easily pleased liberal viewers while failing to challenge anyone in the actual mainstream press corps.

What would liberal press criticism really look like? Thrust us—this ongoing scam isn’t it.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it: Can you name a major mainstream journalist or news org Maddow has ever challenged?

She constantly dings "the Beltway media." Have you ever heard anyone's name?


  1. "Obama deficits" gets over 8 million hits on Google.

    Forbes op ed 12/25/2012: "President Obama's Legacy: $20 Trillion in Debt for 2016 Victor"

    The statement that Republicans claim Obama has "grown the deficit giantly" needs "support"? Whatever. The lack of expressed support for a claim that suffuses everything Republicans and their legions of mainstream press-credentialed camp followers say shows Maddow to be a fraud? Whatever.

    I guess, once again, there must be a level of sophistication here that escapes me.

    1. You may know and I may know that "Obama has grown the deficit giantly" has been a constant (and misleading) refrain among conservative pundits since the 2012 election season began; but I think the point is that Maddow doesn't explicitly say who in particular she is referring to. She's just blithely taking it as a given that we all know who she's talking about as a class, so she conveniently doesn't have to name names which is so rude to do. One mustn't name names!

      I wish more people would call out pundits who talk about "the deficit" and "the debt" interchangeably. They claim "Obama has grown the deficit" and when you point out, as Maddow did, that the deficit has actually decreased they say "oh, but the debt has grown from 10 to 16 trillion, that's what we meant." Well why didn't you say that, let's talk about why that debt grew like that, which was the deficits ballooned by the Bush Admin's wars and tax cuts, deficits that didn't exist when Bush took office; deficits that are now finally coming down. But that doesn't serve their purpose, so they continue to deny and obfuscate. It's sickening. And they get away with it.

  2. Unfortunately you are accurate. She doesn't disgust me the way Dowd does, but I am getting wary.

  3. Note that Maddow cleverly doesn't focus on the more common Republican criticism that Obama has grown the national debt giantly. She ignores that one, because it's a valid criticism of the Mr. Obama.

    1. That's ridiculous. What has really caused the national debt to grow are the policies put in place by Bush and the Great Recession that those policies brought about.

      Of course, the national debt will almost always grow in any case. Surpluses that will reduce it in absolute terms have been very rare in our history. What we want as a goal is not to eliminate it -- we've had much worse debt levels before, as did Britain for centuries as the greatest power in the world, and as does Japan today with no impact on the interest rates the bond market demands -- but to bring it over the next decade or so into a better relationship with GDP. This means moderating its absolute growth -- with, for example, getting more taxes from the people who can afford them without cutting back on what they spend in our economy, and more revenue from others because they have more jobs at better wages -- while making GDP grow. If GDP grows, the debt-to-GDP ration automatically comes down because the denominator is bigger. GDP will grow only when we improve employment. Tax revenue from the middle class will grow only when we improve employment.

      Flash: the first priority we have is not to cut spending to reduce the deficit or the national debt, but to start trying to achieve full employment.

    2. Quaker in a BasementFebruary 6, 2013 at 11:03 PM

      "...because it's a valid criticism of the Mr. Obama."

      No, it's not. Really. It isn't.

      Saying that Mr. Obama has "grown the national debt giantly" is valid only if one accepts that he has grown the deficit. It is valid only if one is willing to fault Mr. Obama for not simply waving his hands and making two wars, an aging population, and a near-catastrophic recession just disappear.

      So no, it's not a valid criticism at all.

    3. Quaker, I worked for a corporation that was near bankruptcy. In fact, if we had known the full amount of its liabilities, it was actually bankrupt by a large amount. I'm proud to say that we saved that company. Today it's an highly-rated insurance company.

      Anyhow, during the desperate period, we did lots of things to save money and to avoid losing money. There was a corporate culture to economize that affected everyone from the CEO on down. We've seen little or none of that attitude from the Obama Administration.

      Look at all the things Obama didn't do to economize.
      -- set an example at the top, by curtailing expensive, unnecessary travel
      -- seek to reduce governemnt salaries and pensions
      -- seek to implement the measures recommended by the Simpson-Bowles committee that he himself had appointed for that purpose
      -- take the lead in adjusting Social Security and Medicare to be sustainable long term.

      These and other "sins of omission" are why it's fair to blame Obama for the enormous rise in the national debt on his watch.

    4. If you want the money, you can't point to piddling penny-ante shit like David does here. But he does. Ergo, he's a lying sack of shit. I know, I know: already demonstrated many times over.

    5. Quaker in a BasementFebruary 8, 2013 at 3:17 PM

      Look at all the things Obama didn't do to economize.

      Now you put those goal posts right back where you found them, young man. First we were talking about the things the bad, bad man did to grow the debt. Then, suddenly, we have switched to talking about the things the man didn't do to move the trend off its existing course.

      "Curtailing unnecessary travel"? You must be joking. That's number one on your list?

      Stop your clowning.

  4. David In Cal- what an as%hole.

  5. Maddow relied on a set of assumptions for which she seems to believe is common knowledge among her audience. Her error exists in the belief that the majority of Americans are rational and do not deliberately deceive themselves with unsupportable delusions and the cynical manipulations of opponents. One need not always source the obvious.

  6. This piece seems overwrought with Maddow-bashing. This was a two-minute segment. How many times has she done segments before on her show which have documented Republicans criticizing Obama for creating trillion-dollar deficits? Lots. I've heard it so often I can't believe anyone would question it, just because who said it isn't sourced in a two-minute segment. It's been one of the Republicans' top talking points for the last four years.

  7. The difficulty Maddow faces, even if she were a good deal better at her job and was unconstrained by MSNBC management, is that Obama himself has promoted the deficit hysteria line. As did Clinton and Gore. And most of the rest of the Democratic party.

    If she were to start naming names, she'd never finish -- it's the entire Washington establishment promoting a level of nonsense which, thanks only to Krugman's plain language and high visibility, many lay people now see *as* nonsense. The fact that national finances have absolutely nothing to do with one's personal money management, and that there is no workable analogy between a mortal with limited earning potential facing debt, and a government with a productive future work force facing debt. is not intuitive. Most people can't arrive at these insights on their own, even forgetting the conscious attempt of certain elites to create panic ("unfunded liabilities!") with nonsensical arguments which look only at the debit side and ignore the credit ledger.

    In this respect, Krugman's contribution to the national discourse is inestimable. And the mere fact that Maddow is even talking about the issue ought to give some cheer. To everyone, that is, but TDH.

  8. Did Rachel Maddow steal Bob's lunch once, or what? (Or get the job he thinks he should have?) He devotes enormous amounts of energy to pillorying her for relatively venal sins. In this case, does Bob think the Republicans haven't accused Obama of running up gigantic deficits? No, but he savagely attacks her for failing to properly source that obvious claim. That's why I almost never read the Daily Howler -- the overwrought and underthought nature of the polemic is tiring, and often seems to reflect envy ans personal animus rather than any coherent view on the issues. But yeah, fuck Rachel Maddow!


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