Norman Ornstein: Dems Willing to Cut Entitlements. Huh?

Folks born in my home town of Grand Rapids, Minnesota (not Michigan) can say the darndest things sometimes.

Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, writes (together with Thomas Mann) in the Washington Post that the Democrats “are centrist protectors of the government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures.”

Democrats willing to trim retirement and health benefits? Huh? Where? When?

Is he sure he and his co-writer didn’t accidentally drop in the word “Democrats” whereas they meant to write “Republicans”? Because that statement characterizes Repubs much more than Dems. Gotta be a typo. Where are the Washington Post’s proofreaders when you need them?

Last I checked, the Democrats are fighting tooth and nail to maintain and increase government-provided retirement and health benefits, even in the face of national bankruptcy. In fact, just two years ago they pushed through the most massive increase in government-provided health benefits in U.S. history (Obamacare)!

Maybe, just maybe, Dems would consider slightly slowing the rate of entitlement growth (which is not “trimming” or cutting) only in exchange for a massive tax increase. Supposedly Obama put together a budget plan containing some of that. But his fellow Democrats rejected it outright. Which just goes to show that while perhaps an individual Democrat or two would consider trimming entitlements – especially in exchange for a tax increase – it’s practically a non-starter for Democrats as a whole.

Those who implement new multi-trillion-dollar government redistribution programs even though we’re already many trillions of dollars in debt are protectors of redistributionist government all right. But they’re not “centrist.” They’re downright leftist. And massively fiscally irresponsible.

WaPo Redeems

Just when you thought the Washington Post jumped the shark* with its recent front-page, Sunday edition, above-the-fold story on romance in the Occupy Wall Street camps, the paper redeems itself with two very good pieces. One is what the Post does best: human interest stories with a policy/political/national security bent. It focuses on Jennifer Matthews, a key CIA agent and mother of three, who was among the seven Americans killed in the December 2009 suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

Another article was the type of article you don’t find very much in the Washington Post (apart from regular columnists like Krauthammer and Will): a grown-up’s piece on the topic of income inequality, titled “Angry about inequality? Don’t blame the rich,” by James Q. Wilson.

True, the OWS romance piece was a human interest story with a political bent, but its corniness should have relegated it to the Style section. It belonged nowhere near the front page.

One other observation. The Post’s ombudsman showed that the paper’s coverage of the annual Pro-Life March was rather biased, with its absence of photos indicating the large size of the crowd and its use of the term “antiabortion ideology.” That begs the question: why isn’t the ombudsman catching these things before they go to print? Surely the Post employs copyeditors to proofread for typos before putting each issue to bed. Why not the same to proofread for bias?

* A phrase describing the moment in the evolution of a television show or other entity (in this case newspaper) when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase originated from the Happy Days episode where Fonzie jumps a shark while water skiing.

(Also see previous post on Washington Post quality control issues.)

WaPo: If you don’t get it, you ain’t missin’ much

Has the Washington Post gone down hill or what?

In today’s paper, the Outlook section – a special Sunday section with extended-length opinion pieces – has as its lead article, taking up three-quarters of the page including the illustration, a story on how more and more celebrities and other folks are wearing retro thick-framed glasses.

Just what I always wanted learn about.

I could see an article like that being in the Style section. But in Outlook?

There were two other articles on the Outlook front page. One urges someone named Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law professor who’s thinking of running for Senate in Massachusetts, to work on Wall Street (and “fix it”) instead. Yep, just what I always wanted to read about.

The third article is a book review titled “A Palin Tell-All With Nothing Much to Say”.

So if it has nothing much to say, then why even write an article about it?

All three articles are wastes of valuable newspaper-page real estate.

The inside articles aren’t much to write home about either, including one titled “5 Myths About the Redskins”. Nothing against articles on the Redskins, but that belongs in the Sports section.

The front page today’s Post isn’t too exciting either. With tons of important news going on in the world, all they feature on the front page was something about tax breaks piling up, China’s thirst for oil, cameras in Fairfax County schools, and a poll on how people feel about the Redskins and its owner.

The Post has an advertising slogan that goes, “If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.”

How about changing it to, “If you don’t get it, you ain’t missin’ much.”

Update, Oct. 30, 2011:

Subsequent Sunday issues of the Post revealed that the articles both in Outlook and on the front page were more substantive. Still not the most riveting content (a lot of mush, especially in the Outlook/opinion section), but more substantive nevertheless. So maybe the above was a fluke. We’ll keep an eye on it.

Hey WaPo, Why Not Seek Outside Help With the Wikileaked Cables?

Remember when the Washington Post (and NYT) solicited its readers to help its staff comb through the trove of Sarah Palin’s e-mails as governor, in an effort to dig up dirt?

Funny that they didn’t issue a similar solicitation to their readers with regard to the trove of leaked diplomatic cables by Wikileaks, at least not that I’m aware of. There’s surely too much material there for the WaPo staff to comb through on their own. And another 200,000 or so unredacted cables were just released.

So why wasn’t WaPo as enthusiastic in getting outside help in digging up dirt within the Wikileaks documents as it was with the Palin documents?

That’s a rhetorical question. (The answer is obvious.)

But if I’m wrong and it turns out that WaPo did make a similar solicitation with regard to the Wikileaks cables, then I’ll promptly issue a correction and apology. Ditto if it turns out that WaPo did the same thing vis-à-vis a trove of documents from a prominent left-leaning politician.

Big Blow to WaPo’s Appearance of Objectivity

Eyebrow-raising move that the Washington Post just took. They’re asking readers – not their paid journalists – to help them comb through 24,000 e-mails pertaining to the governorship of Sarah Palin. Seems unprecedented. Obviously they’re looking for dirt. Which is in their prerogative.

But something tells me they’ve never done such a move vis-a-vis a prominent Democrat, let alone an important piece of legislation such as last year’s 2,000-page health care bill. And I doubt they ever will do something like that vis-a-vis a Democrat. Would hope to be proven wrong of course, but am not crossing my fingers on that one.

What they’re doing is legit in the sense that, as a news organization it’s their job to dig up dirt. But to beg unknown, untested, non-journalist strangers to do it for them, unpaid? Not only are they advertising to the world that they’re way short staffed and underfunded – and thus potentially damaging to their image as a prominent news organization (late-night comedians could get some mileage out of it) – but it’s treading on dicey territory; you never know what nutcases they may elicit help from. I suppose if the editors thoroughly cross-check the results, it may work.

But the fact that they probably will never do anything like that regarding someone on the left reinforces the perception that the Post is biased in favor of the left.

To be biased in favor of the left is in their prerogative, too. It simply means that fewer and fewer people on the right will purchase their product. That’s probably one of the factors contributing to the Post’s declining sales.

(What would be illigit is if the Post became government subsidized and still maintained its leftward bias, as is currently the case with PBS and NPR. FYI there have been proposals to provide government subsidies and/or tax subsidies to newspapers, given their declining fortunes.)

Note that the New York Times is having a similar dirt-dig, but the belief that they’re biased in favor of the left is so widespread that such a move by them probably is expected. While the Washington Post is known for leaning left, it’s also perceived as being less partisan than the New York Times. This latest move damages that perception.

The episode is also instructive because it illustrates that to dig up dirt on someone, the digger should be someone philosophically opposed to that person. If the digger is friendly to that person, he or she may disregard potentially negative information on that person – and when soliciting the help of unknown readers, the Post wouldn’t want that to happen. Also note that that’s probably why whenever there’s a special prosecutor for, say, a president, the special prosecutor comes from the opposing political party.

I submitted the Post’s online “application” form for the job of digging up dirt on Palin, but I did mention that I lean conservative, and that if that disqualifies me on the spot, to keep me in mind for any similar project they may have vis-a-vis a prominent Democrat. (Not that I actually think they’ll have a project like that in the future, which is exactly my point.)

So, I’ll bet virtually all of the 100 people they choose to do the digging will be strong critics of Palin for reasons explained above. If they (1) ever did have a project like that vis-a-vis a Democrat, would they (2) just keep it to strong critics of that person, and thus righties? Probably a moot point because (1) would never happen in the first place.

This episode is instructive in another way because our newspapers are supposed to try to dig up legitimate dirt on politicians of both main political ideologies. But with some 95 percent of reporters having a leftward ideology, wouldn’t they have a hard time bringing themselves to expose dirt on their ideological soul mates? They therefore probably often avoid targeting them in the first place, and if and when they do, they may disregard potentially negative information on that person. It’s like putting the chicken in charge of the chicken coop.

To help guard against that, they really should make more of an effort to put more righties on staff.

But I doubt that will ever happen. Even when they created a new position to report on what’s going on among those right-of-center, they hired a hard leftie for that.

Passing Up a Juicy Story

Interesting story about journalistic malpractice in today’s Daily Caller. Mark Judge recounts how The Washington Post wrote a story about sexual abuse by a Catholic priest at Georgetown Preparatory School, yet left out of the article the fact that a convicted child pornographer and leftist talk radio host, Bernie Ward, also once taught at Georgetown Prep.

After Judge informed the reporter, Michelle Boorstein, of that fact, Boorstein called back Judge to say that the school told her “Bernie Ward never taught there. So that won’t be part of the story.” As someone who had Ward for a teacher at Georgetown Prep, Judge was flabbergasted.

Yes, deliberately leaving out essential elements of a supposedly objective news story is journalistic malpractice, pure and simple.

Heck, if Boorstein would have dug a little deeper and fact checked what Judge told her, she would have had an intriguing little story on her hands. It could have gone something like this: News flash! Georgetown Prep denies it ever employed a child pornographer, when the facts are plain that he did indeed work there. What gives?

But a story like that would have been embarrassing to the left. That must be why they never pursued it.