Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 24, 2009

SELECTIVE MEMORIES.... ThinkProgress' Faiz Shakir was on MSNBC yesterday, and raised a point that often goes overlooked. "Remember back in October, November, December, January of this year, when Karl Rove and so many Republican pundits were going on TV and saying the market is failing because of President Obama?" Faiz asked. "That the market was reacting because President Obama was now in office? What happened to that?"

The Washington Examiner's J.P. Freire wasn't impressed. "I think that's a brilliant strawman you made up," Freire responded. "I can't remember anyone saying that."

Memories can be tricky sometimes, can't they?

Over the first seven weeks of the Obama presidency, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, just one of many Wall Street indexes, dropped from 7,949.08 to 6,547.04. A wide variety of conservatives said this was necessarily evidence that the White House's economic policies were a mess, if not an outright failure, and that the president didn't know what he was doing. The Wall Street Journal ran an entire editorial on this in early March.

As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9034 on January 2, its highest level since the autumn panic. Yesterday the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama's policies have become part of the economy's problem.

Americans have welcomed the Obama era in the same spirit of hope the President campaigned on. But after five weeks in office, it's become clear that Mr. Obama's policies are slowing, if not stopping, what would otherwise be the normal process of economic recovery. [...]

So what has happened in the last two months? The economy has received no great new outside shock.... What is new is the unveiling of Mr. Obama's agenda and his approach to governance.

Faiz has a variety of similar observations from the likes of Karl Rove and Lou Dobbs. The argument was also repeated by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fred Barnes. It was one of Mitt Romney's favorite talking points for a while, too.

"I can't remember anyone saying that"? I can't remember any conservatives not saying that.

At least for now, the markets have recovered from their Spring lows, and as of yesterday, are back to around January levels. If the president's conservative critics were right in March, the recent upswing is necessarily evidence of a sound White House economic agenda, and I'm anxiously awaiting the WSJ editorial heralding President Obama as sort of financial genius.

Of course, all of this is quite silly, and using the Dow as some kind of financial approval rating for the administration is foolish.

But conservatives have been awfully silly about this, first blaming Obama for the markets' downturn, and second, in Freire's case, pretending the criticism never happened.

Steve Benen 9:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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Comments

damn steve, if the corporate media sez it didnt happen, goddamit, it didnt happen -- quit making up your little liberal tricky fantasy whines --- sheee-it...

and besides, just cos it's not still happening doesnt mean it wasnt back in March... right, Al?

Posted by: neill on July 24, 2009 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Tells me about all I'll ever need to know about J.P. Freire.

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on July 24, 2009 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

These idiots and liars continually prove to me that my decision to vote "D" or "I" at every election is a sound one. Try the truth once in while and you repigs may even find some converts.....not! but at least you'll have some integrity and dignity, if you can imagine such concepts, which is doubtful.

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on July 24, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's always safe to assume that these guys are lying their asses off, no matter what they say. It's the safest assumption outside of "the sun will rise tomorrow morning".

Posted by: DH Walker on July 24, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

I am heartened by the improvement in the equity markets and hope they reflect a bottoming out of the real market although given the track record of Wall Street, that may well be a false hope. The more interesting issue for most Americans is the real market and as bad as it is, I believe it would be much worse and no where near a bottom if not for the stimulus bill. Of course there are many on the right who have already labeled the stimulus bill an abject failure and if we are bottoming out, the right will claim that this is normal and would have happened sooner but for the stimulus bill. The rubber will really hit the road depending on the condition of the economy 2 months before the mid terms and all the bloviating will mean nothing.

Posted by: terry on July 24, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Fleas:

The fact that these assholes haven't yet learned that the existence of YouTube, the blogosphere (and a zillion other things) so easily busts them on their lying, just shows how deeply-ingrained their dishonesty is. It's just who and what they are.

Posted by: DH Walker on July 24, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

You're talking about March. Faiz had referred to this as a major talking point in the fall. He eventually showed me some news clips from Fox News where some conservatives were saying this in the fall, but I don't see how not remembering that small blip in the Washington news cycle is indicative of my own personal bias. I think in the fall, it might not have been a good point. Anyway, it *is* a strawman, because I wasn't making that point in the fall -- this is a pretty lame attempt at guilt by association.

My mistake was simply not saying, "I don't recall ever saying that." Which I should have. Obvs.

Even talking about the Dow dropping as a response to Obama policies in the spring, is, as you say, pretty silly. And trying, in general, to predict the market, from a purely political standpoint, is pretty silly. But I think that plenty of liberals have also used this rhetorical ploy, accusing Bush or "free market economics" of being responsible for the economic downturn. The Dow doesn't follow politics as closely as the press does.

All that said, I prefer to stick to polls.

Anyway, that link to the Chait piece is fantastic. I do like his point. And since doing television, I've grown particularly wary of 2 things: (1) recycling the conventional wisdom (this is why Krauthammer is the best conservative on television today) and (2) how quickly people will seize on something you say to tell you how much of an idiot you are. Though I suppose it's one of the fun parts.

Anyway, been reading your blog a while and enjoy it.

Posted by: J.P. Freire on July 24, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Pretending criticism never happened . . . We see it all the time. In March, right-wing commentators revel in what they call "the Obama bear market." Four months later, none can remember it.

It's a safe bet that when unemployment realities again take hold,
the DOW will plunge, allowing pundits to hang it on the new president. Later, when market indicators are better, amnesia will descend once more.

This is the standard even though left-leaning media (notably MSNBC) can reel out endless footage showing Fox commentators' earlier "sky is falling" routine.

Such extensive playback capability was unheard of 50 years ago.
Yet in that era of notebooks, bulky tape recorders and cumbersome sound-on-film equipment, one seldom heard a pundit ask, "When did I say that?"

In news commentary as in politics, accountability has ossified and crumbled.


Posted by: jerry Elsea on July 24, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

I want to know how Obama got us into these quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan!

Posted by: Conservatroll on July 24, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

This of course is exactly the same mentality that lets people continue to claim that Obama hasn't produced his birth certificate when in fact he did produce it a year ago. It's the old "Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?" approach to Big Lie propaganda. And that is why it is so great that Al Franken is finally in Washington, because one of the signature accomplishments of his career as a writer is to quote people who claim that "I never said that, you can't prove I said it" and then find that proof and throw it in their faces before the day is out.

Posted by: T-Rex on July 24, 2009 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

...but I don't see how not remembering that small blip in the Washington news cycle is indicative of my own personal bias.

And that's the problem.

You "can't remember" a relentlessly-pushed and now-discredited RNC talking point. The fact that you'd even describe it as a "small blip" - an outright lie - reveals your bias as much as your convenient memory.

Posted by: DH Walker on July 24, 2009 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, this is what the don't want to talk about;

http://money.cnn.com/2009/03/26/news/economy/gdp/index.htm?postversion=2009032610

this was obviously the fault of Pelosi and Barney Frank and the GDP was clearly reacting to the threat of an Obama presidency. 8 years of Bush had nothing to do with it.

Posted by: grinning cat on July 24, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

"Even talking about the Dow dropping as a response to Obama policies in the spring, is, as you say, pretty silly. And trying, in general, to predict the market, from a purely political standpoint, is pretty silly. But I think that plenty of liberals have also used this rhetorical ploy, accusing Bush or "free market economics" of being responsible for the economic downturn. The Dow doesn't follow politics as closely as the press does."

Maybe you should do some homework and check into what the SEC was doing for the last 8 years.

Posted by: grinning cat on July 24, 2009 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe you should do some homework and check into what the SEC was doing for the last 8 years.

Not likely. Reducing analyses to a "he-said/she-said" thing is what conservatives do when cornered. "Conservatives think one thing, liberals think another. Who's to say who's right?" is always the dodge. Both "sides" are given equal weight, even when one "side" is completely wrong and/or shamelessly lying.

And gee, afterall, who can say what affects the economy? How can we answer any question at all? What is the essential nature of truth? Who can dare offer an opinion on these esoteric philosophical arguments that have plagued wise men since the dawn of time? That's how the dodge plays out.

It's just like the old joke about having one guy who says the earth is round, and another who says the earth is flat, and this is presented as "Shape Of Earth: Views Differ".

Posted by: DH Walker on July 24, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

@DH Walker -- The whole reason I'm showing up here is to clarify. Arguing in good faith is just that. Re-read what you wrote -- do you really think engaging people that way works? I mean, if you just want to rip on me, fine. But I'm more interested in hearing you out than wacking you rhetorically.

Anyway, if it *was* an RNC talking point, I assure you, I wouldn't have known it because I don't much care for the RNC. (See my coverage of the RNC chairman race.) But hey, man. If you want to think I take orders from on high, it's cool by me.

Posted by: J.P. Freire on July 24, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

@DH Walker -- The whole reason I'm showing up here is to clarify. Arguing in good faith is just that. Re-read what you wrote -- do you really think engaging people that way works? I mean, if you just want to rip on me, fine. But I'm more interested in hearing you out than wacking you rhetorically.

Anyway, if it *was* an RNC talking point, I assure you, I wouldn't have known it because I don't much care for the RNC. (See my coverage of the RNC chairman race.) But hey, man. If you want to think I take orders from on high, it's cool by me.

Posted by: J.P. Freire on July 24, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

J.P. Freire:

I don't think you read what I wrote all that carefully. I don't think you're taking orders from the RNC - I think you're ignoring the way that they push their talking points. And I think that that's dishonest.

And I'm not remotely interested in "engaging" you to ask you nicely if you would, pretty-please, maybe, if you could do me a favor and stop being such a lying hack, maybe?

In other words, I think you've already made it clear enough that "arguing in good faith" is something you aren't interested in.

Posted by: DH Walker on July 24, 2009 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

JPFreire@ 1124am:

I don't much care for the RNC either, but that is all
the MORE reason to know what their talking points
are.

The fact that you covered their chairman's
race and don't know what their talking points are
(i.e. what the chairman will be spouting or generating if selected) seems even more damning
of your ignorance.

Posted by: catclub on July 24, 2009 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

catclub:

Exactly. Even in "defending" himself, he can't help but distort the issues.

Jornalists have an almost sacred, constitutionally protected duty and responsibility to the public (ie, you and me) to help keep them informed. And, you know, not bullshit them.

Freire is doing a terrible job, and doesn't seem to care about it. We should engage him in a dialog, apparently, rather than just telling him to stop fucking lying to us and do his job.

Posted by: DH Walker on July 24, 2009 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

It was also a very common refrain by the GOP-enabling talking head shills on CNBC. It started last fall - I remember a rant from some floor trader that they always have on who wears a big GOP sign on his chest - ignoring the Lehman Bros bankruptcy and the credit market collapse, he went on this extended rant about the market was sinking because traders suddenly became aware that Obama would win the Presidency - and basically it never stopped. Just as some networks are getting criticized for giving the birthers a platform, CNBC went totally in the tank giving those blaming the market collapse on Obama an unchallenged national television platform.

If Freire thinks this is all a "strawman", then he's a horses ass and has absolutely no business pretending to be a journalist.

Posted by: andy on July 24, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

J.P.Freire -
Thanks for coming in & expressing your views.

Please take note that many here are pretty angry about how the GOP (when it was in power) had stuck it to everyone but the "Plutocrats." There's a general feeling that the corporate-owned media wishes to downplay that history into oblivion. And that's why folks with your type of opinions generally get more airtime than a Mother Jones type or someone like Michael Moore.

I appreciate that the height of this anti-Obama drumbeat was in March. But was that reason to dismiss it in its entirety? Since that feed into the worldview stated above, Steve's scorn is well received here.

Just stated this for clarification.

Posted by: BuzzMon on July 24, 2009 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Let's not forget that Drudge was also in on this silliness:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_03/017307.php

(granted that's from March rather than late 08, but it was the same idea)

Posted by: TG Chicago on July 24, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

TG Chicago:

It was effing everywhere, and for a significant amount of time. Freire is just flat-out lying about it, and everyone here knows it. Next he'll be saying that he "doesn't remember" anyone mentioning Bill Ayers during the campaign.

Posted by: DH Walker on July 24, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

@Buzzmon -- that's a good clarification. But I've been on with people from ThinkProgress, and if I had my druthers, someone from Mother Jones would be on the air every day to talk. And rather than have some churlish talking head to respond to him, I'd rather have a dyed-in-the-wool, well-versed-in-Hayek/Burke/Nock conservative argue with him.

But there's also a presence of mind issue. Guys, in 4 minutes -- FOUR MINUTES -- Faiz and I had a very short exchange on this. If Faiz had clarified when he was talking about, i would have totally had the presence of mind to accept that. In fact, we spoke later, and I completely appreciated his point.

But again! It's 4 minutes! And over this, the commentariat league is roasting conservative journalists as undertaking a massive cover-up effort. For heaven's sakes.

Posted by: J.P. Freire on July 24, 2009 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

And over this, the commentariat league is roasting conservative journalists as undertaking a massive cover-up effort.

No, just petty lying.

Again, stop exaggerating/distorting things to make your point. That also constitutes lying.

Stop it. You're supposed to be a journalist.

Again: stop it.

Posted by: DH Walker on July 24, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

And this kind of stuff is why I'm willing to support Obama on issues that I don't fully understand. Almost every day, one of his detractors in the media or among Republicans says something astonishingly deceitful or crazy. They lie and they lie and then they lie some more.

At this point, anything they are against automatically has some merit in my eyes.

Posted by: Kreniigh on July 24, 2009 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK
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