Breaking Down Media Spin on Obama and Stimulus

ideological battle continues as progressive leaders seek to save the
U.S. economy from collapse. Conservatives in the federal government and
beyond have rallied together to challenge the will of the people with
the most sophisticated propaganda machine known to politics. Last week,
in Calling Out the Conservative Lies on Stimulus,
I drew attention to the hidden motives of conservative leaders in
Congress. This week I'd like to shift focus and call out some of their
spin agents in the mainstream media for their less than savory attempts
to undermine the progressive movement.

First a recap of what has happened in the last few weeks:

President Obama was inaugurated in the presence of more
than two million people who came together to show their commitment to a
fundamental change in the course of our country. Obama immediately set
to work fulfilling campaign promises - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay
Act, closure of Gitmo, an end to torture, and a bold recovery plan for
an economy crippled by years of conservative mismanagement.

President Obama also made good on his promise to change the tone in
Washington, calling for unity and reaching across the aisle to invite
Republicans to help rebuild America. Days on end were devoted to
gaining Republican participation in a landmark bill to envision a
nation prosperous in its shared infrastructure, outstanding in the
education of its populous, and equipped for the energy demands of the

President Obama's inclusive approach stood in stark contrast to the
block of Republicans who unanimously voted against the recovery plan in
the House of Representatives. Senate Republicans then took to the
political stage to grandstand against the plan, halting the delivery of
true relief (in the form of jobs that provide stable incomes to
millions of unemployed). They preferred to obstruct the process to
allow time for allies in the media to organize a counter-attack.

The stage has been set. Editorial pages are starting to fill with
opinion articles by members of the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation,
and hundreds of other conservative think tanks. Talking heads in the
cable news parrot memes crafted and disseminated through a
consolidated, and largely conservative owned, media apparatus.

No matter where you turn, you'll now find messages about runaway
"government spending", the need for more "tax cuts", and seedlings of
doubt about Obama's character. My favorite of these disingenuous
mumblings is the deeply ironic framing of bipartisanship. What once
meant something akin to "working across party lines" has been twisted
to mean something else. Now we hear nonsense like this from Steve
Holland of Reuters UK:

"President Barack Obama showed he is willing to cast
aside talk of bipartisanship and flex Democratic muscle to push
opposition Republicans out of the way in the battle over a U.S.
economic stimulus."

This came from an article titled, What the stimulus battle tells us about Obama.
Holland goes on to note the"Republican charges that the plan was
stuffed with wasteful Democrat spending items" - a hat tip to the
conservative idea that the efficiency of markets are superior to pesky
government programs. This is followed with a claim that Obama "changed
his tune, reverting to some of the rhetoric he used on the campaign
trail to win the White House."

Here is our first inkling of what bipartisanship is supposed
to mean. Working across party lines is only about party boundaries. It
says nothing about ideology. After all, there are a few very
conservative-minded people in the Democratic Party (Joe Lieberman
anyone?). President Obama's efforts to work across party lines can be
ignored when bipartisanship means granting conservative ideology as the centerpiece of the plan.
More than a week of meetings with Republican leaders doesn't count
because there is no change in ideology. As long as President Obama
continues to attempt the unthinkable - a recovery plan that delivers
millions of jobs and a promise of advances in renewable energy,
education, health care, and more - he will be treated as an
obstructionist by the media.

Never mind that President Obama won a landslide victory in November.
Ignore the millions of people who happen to agree with his views about
government and the economy. Pretend that conservative principles of
governance are not the root cause of this disaster. None of these
things matter so long as we have a Bad Apple in the barrel. Our
President is a flip-flopper. He's the real problem.

Okay, back to reality. The truth is that our economy is in dire
shape. Every day ends with thousands more people out of work. Where's
that story? I'm still waiting for the news article pointing out how
Republicans are obstructing the process. Hundreds of elected officials,
all from the same party, are refusing to budge from their ideological
stance like defiant children on the verge of throwing a tantrum. Yet,
we're expected to question the character of President Obama after he
offered a hand of friendship to the most extreme and reckless band of
ideologues to hold the reigns of government in U.S. history.

A series of yarns with the stench of truthiness are expounded daily
to the detriment of our democracy. Our challenge as progressives is to
overtake this massive message machine - or bypass it entirely - and
tell our stories. We can speak out about the promise of opportunity
that only comes through investments in common infrastructure. Our
voices can ring with joy at the progress we've made expanding the
boundaries of human dignity to include women and people of color. And
we can speak truth to power, shifting the locus to an empowered
citizenry, by calling deceptive media narratives out when we see them.

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