Obama and Fox

Fox was intentionally set up to promote the Republican Party and conservative agenda as opposed to being a legitimate news organization. The contrast between Fox and a  legitimate news organization can be seen by comparing Fox with CNN. While CNN has hired considerably more Republicans and people with previous experience in conservative organizations than they have hired Democrats, they still strive for objectivity. In contrast, Fox was a Pravda-like defender of the Bush administration, while taking the opposite approach of attacking the White House when occupied by either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.

Fox creates a problem for Democrats such as Barack Obama. A Democratic president has to be careful about directly attacking a media outlet to avoid appearing overly-sensitive and to avoid looking like the Republicans who thrive on such attacks on the press. He has managed to get in an occasional gentle swipe at Fox. Obama responded to claims that the media has not been critical enough of him by saying, “It’s very hard for me to swallow that one. First of all, I’ve got one television station entirely devoted to attacking my administration.”

Obama did not disagree when the interviewer identified the station as Fox. Obama added, “Well, that’s a pretty big megaphone. And you’d be hard-pressed, if you watched the entire day, to find a positive story about me on that front.” Obama went on to say he welcomes “people who are asking us some, you know, tough questions.”

Obama also joked about Fox at the White House Correspondents dinner last month saying, “Most of you covered me; all of you voted for me, apologies to the Fox table.”

Who Do You Trust On Health Care Reform?


Gallup has conducted a poll which asks about who people trust to recommend the right thing to reform the health care system. The results are summarized in the table above (click on it for a larger image).

They got it about right, although I suspect that many healthcare professors would give a more objective view than doctors. This does show why Obama felt it was necessary to try to obtain support at the recent AMA meeting. Doctors definitely go near the top (in my highly biased view) but our opinion must always be taken with a grain of salt. We see the problems of the uninsured and under-insured on a daily basis, and an increasing number of doctors are recognizing how far we have fallen behind European countries on many measures. Doctors do vary widely in our view of health care reform. While most realize that changes are needed, many doctors are also terrified of change if they feel it will result in lowering their incomes.

While doctors have conflicting motivations, many doctors do have the advantage of understanding a complex system better than people outside the system. As a result I’ve been able to write many posts about the unrealistic responses to the health care crisis which frequently come from the Republicans. I have also been able to respond to misconceptions which are also held by liberal bloggers who support health care reform. Working in health care can lead to understanding more about details being discussed than those who only write on the topic, but there are also many doctors who have little understanding of the business end and organization of health care.

Not surprisingly, the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies are distrusted, with the Republicans leaders in Congress trusted least of all. As an independent I go along with the political rankings here–which I would apply to most political issues and not only health care. While there are areas where I disagree with him, I would rank Obama well above the Democratic leadership. While I  am not a big fan of either political party, since their move to the far right in recent years I also agree with the placement of the Republican leadership well below the Democrats.

On Line Discussion of the Letterman Controversy

Letterman Palin

I’ve already had many posts on the dispute between David Letterman and Sarah Palin, along with the smear campaign from the right against Letterman. With all the distortions of fact and attacks from the right, a lot of material has been discussed on this matter. The Washington Post has a discussion with Paul Farhi which summarizes much of the issue. Farhi began with an introduction:

Greetings, all, and welcome back again. So, the strange case of Palin v. Letterman appears to be resolved with Letterman’s very classy apology last night. I say “appears” because, based on my email, some people just won’t let it go. They insist, despite TWO on-air explanations, that Letterman really, really was aiming his crack at 14-year-old Willow Palin, not 18-year-old single mom Bristol Palin. I won’t defend the joke–even Letterman concedes it’s not defensible–but I got news for some of you: The joke makes no sense in reference to Willow. But I guess vendettas and political ax grinding know no logic, or even facts.

I do find this whole episode curious, primarily because of its timing. As I wrote in today’s paper (hey, I like quoting myself; at least I won’t be accused of a misquote), variations of this sort of “joke” have been around since Palin came to national prominence last summer at the Republican Convention. Yet dozens of both milder and harsher iterations (Saturday Night Live’s insinuation that Todd Palin raped his daughter is especially outrageous and revolting) were ignored by Palin, the Republican Party and the outraged types who are now venting in my email box. Sarah Palin even made a now-famous appearance on “SNL” just a few weeks after that skit aired. So what’s different this time? I don’t get it, either.

To answer his question, Farhi is right that there have been many other jokes about Bristol Palin with many being far worse than the one Letterman told, and later stated he regretted. Additional examples are here. Despite the attacks, Letterman has actually told far fewer jokes about Bristol Palin than other late night comics. The difference is that the far right is under the misconception that Letterman is promoting a liberal agenda and that he selectively makes jokes about Republicans. While he makes jokes about members of both parties, the right wingers who attack are not likely to watch his show and only hear about selective jokes he has told. The right has been targeting Letterman since well before last week’s jokes. This began during the campaign, and was also seen in reports such as this from earlier in the year.

The full story is worth reading as I can only touch on some of the questions here. Farhi responded to the view that Letterman should not have apologized as he did nothing wrong by noting how classy his apology was. Farhi noted that Palin was keeping an eye on the politics of this, comparing her attacks on Letterman to previous attacks on Hollywood by Dan Quayle, Joe Lieberman, and Bob Dole. A commenter pointed out that, “Perhaps the reason she didn’t condemn similar jokes from Leno or Conan was because she knew that targeting the network of Dan Rather would play well among conservatives.”

A commenter noted the timing of the second apology, not coming until Monday as Letterman tapes his Friday show on the preceding Monday. Farhi thought that the weekend interregnum was critical as it gave Letterman time to reflect on the whole mess.

There were comments on whether this would hurt or help Letterman. Farhi, along with most television columnists, believes that this has worked to his benefit, especially in light of Letterman’s increasing ratings over the past week. Farhi wrote that this is “probably going to be remembered as his ‘Hugh Grant’  moment–i.e., the thing that propelled him past his competition, for good.” He later responded to a claim that Letterman has jumped the shark by saying, “Whatever the opposite of  ‘jump-the-shark’  is, I think Letterman is there now.”

Farhi responded to a commenter who did not see the significance of other comedians having made worse jokes without receiving a response:

I won’t defend Letterman’s “joke.” Never have. But I think it’s fair to point out that the same joke got no reaction from Palin, or her supporters, just a few months ago. And, frankly, “Saturday Night Live’s” bit on this was much, much worse than Letterman’s. Not only was there no protest about it, she went on “SNL” a few weeks later. Sorry if these facts are inconvenient to you in your state of outrage, but they are facts.

Later when someone tried to claim that Letterman’s joke was worse than the one on SNL, Farhi replied, ‘The  ‘SNL’  skit directly insinuated that Todd Palin had an incestuous relationship with his daughters. I don’t know how you can get more vulgar and ugly than that.”

During the discussion it was noted that it is possible Palin  “may have been taking orders from the McCain campaign on media strategy” when she did not show similar outrage to the jokes on Saturday Night Live. Farhi later responded to another question on this topic:

I think the bigger-fish-to-fry theory has some validity here. If she had complained about it at the time, it would have been a huge distraction for the McCain campaign. On the other hand, she didn’t have to go on “SNL” if she had a problem with their jokes about her and her family.

Later someone argued that, “NO ONE — absolutely no one has the right to make crude remarks about teens that might have a lasting effect on them.” Farhi replied, “Fair enough. But is NBC (Conan, Leno, Saturday Night Live) and Comedy Central (Stewart) on the same list? Why single out CBS and Letterman?.”

Farhi commented on the misconception among conservatives that Letterman has been taking sides politically:

I’ve never thought of Letterman as a Democrat or a liberal–he just wailed on Bill Clinton and Hillary, and still does–but apparently this whole controversy tapped into some latent Dave-is-a-lousy-liberal wellspring among conservatives. Weird.

When someone said that Letterman has taken sides, Farhi responded, “More so than Stewart, Leno, Conan, etc.? Again, I’m not so sure about that.” Realistically the far right provides more material for comedians. It is also likely that intelligent, educated people will reject the agenda of the far right. While support for the two parties might normally be more even among television celebrities, it is not surprising that they would reject the Republicans now that they are under the control of far right extremists–as the majority of voters have.

Farhi responded to a comment that it didn’t matter which daughter the joke was aimed at:

Actually, it DOES matter, on some level. Again, I think the daughters should be off limits, but if anyone is going there, the only way that joke makes sense is in reference to the older daughter, who is, in fact, a single mother. People who keep insisting that it was about the “rape” of a 14-year-old–as Palin said last week–are just blatantly ignoring the facts.

Farhi resonded to a question about telling such a joke about the Obama girls by pointing out, ” If it had been about the Obama girls, it would not have made sense (neither has been pregnant).” In addition, Bristol Palin has been appearing in public speaking about her pregnancy, making her a more likely target, right or wrong, for jokes of this type.

A commenter speculated that  “I think the issue for Palin is CBS. Republicans have alleged for years that the network has a liberal bias. Palin may also be trying to pay back CBS for that embarrassing Katie Couric interview from last fall.” Farhi responded, “Maybe. But I saw nothing unfair about that interview. Those WERE her own words, weren’t they?”

Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that conservatives will continue to lash out against the media, often blaming the messenger when the facts work against them.

Anti-Letterman Demonstration Reveals Insanity Of Protesters

Jonah Green captured the above video of the estimated 15 to 50 right wing lunatics who showed up to protest against David Letterman. (Hat tip to Danny Shea). The video shows they are misinformed, believing all the smears spread by the right wing about David Letterman, along with many other beliefs of the extreme right. One says Letterman “rapes children with his mouth.” They also expressed opposition to socialism, which is hardly relevant to this issue, and were split as to praising Fox News or Jay Leno. They are clearly unaware of the fact that Leno, along with the other late night comedians, have told far more jokes about Bristol Palin than Letterman has–with many of the other jokes being far worse.

Besides opposing socialism and supporting Leno, another common response of protesters was to make a false equivalency between the Palin situation and Letterman’s. They hardly appear to be taking the high moral ground with their own personal attacks, especially after Letterman has apologized twice and agrees he should not have included jokes about Bristol Palin. There is hardly a comparison between a teenager getting pregnant and soon breaking up with the father and adults who have the means to raise a child getting married after the birth of their child.The Palins have also made a target of Bristol by having her speak at public events on her pregnancy and teen pregnancy.

This line of attack won’t work any better than Dan Quayle’s attacks on the fictional Murphy Brown for being an unwed mother. Do Palin supporters really want to have yet one more similarity between Dan Quayle and Sarah Palin to be discussed? It is already bad enough for Palin that she came out of this matter being described as not intelligent enough to be president if she didn’t understand that the joke only makes sense about Bristol as opposed to Willow, along with once again appearing to have a thin skin and intolerant of criticism.

Top Ten Things Overheard at The Fire David Letterman Rally

Nazi march flag

Despite days of planning for the rally, numerous RSVP’s, and months of preparing to go after Letterman by the right wing, the Fire Letterman Rally (picture above) didn’t come off as planned. There were estimates of only 15 to 50 people who weren’t satisfied with Letterman’s apology showing up.

The rally might have been a flop but  Letterman still was able to make numerous jokes about the attacks on him during the monologue. The show started with an announcement that “CBS would like to apologize in advance to everyone Dave insults tonight. He means well but but he’s just an idiot.”

The monologue began with instructions for everyone in the audience to come forward when Dave calls their name to pick up their apology. He promised to get through this as quickly as possible so everyone could get to the Fire Dave Rally and he  said his son is telling everyone at school that his father is Conan. While the jokes were primarily directed at himself he did make some jokes about Sarah Palin saying that Palin accepted his apology and “she also accepted a $500 gift certificate from Lens Crafters.” He said he was nervous about the apology to Sarah Palin so to get his confidence up he rehearsed by apologizing to Tina Fey.

Letterman also presented the Top Ten Things Overheard  at The Fire David Letterman Rally:

10. David Who?

9. Well, it was nice of CBS to provide the catering.

8. We should have done this years ago.

7. What idiot turned Broadway into a pedestrian mall?

6. Isn’t there always a crowd demanding Letterman be fired?

5. March around the potholes, people.

4. Can we also get CBS to bring back ‘Gunsmoke’?

3. When does Cheney get here with the waterboarding gear?

2. He should apologize for that hairpiece.

1. Thanks for coming, Regis.