Reed College Public Policy Lecture: Today's Financial Crisis in a Historical Mirror (November 7, 2009)
links for 2009-11-08

Covering Michelle Bachmann...

To set the stage, let's call on Rachel Weiner of the Huffington Post:

Michele Bachmann Links Swine Flu To Democrats, Gets History Wrong: Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann... suggested on Tuesday that President Obama was to blame for the swine flu crisis... implying that swine flu epidemics are a Democratic phenomenon that dates back to President Carter.

I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence...

Unfortunately, Bachmann's facts are a little off. As Glenn Thrush notes, Republican President Gerald Ford, not Carter, led the country during the last outbreak of the virus...

Now comes Ed Luce of the Financial Times, to talk about:

[Michele] Bachmann voices ire at ‘Bail-out Nation’: Michele Bachmann, a rising rightwing star of the Republican party... a second-term congresswoman, who played a prominent role in the “town hall” agitations against Mr Obama’s healthcare reform agenda in August.... “What we are seeing is a real sense of unease among American people and not just Republicans,” Ms Bachmann contended in an interview with the Financial Times. Whether it’s the government bail-out of the banking system, or the White House sacking the chief executive officer of General Motors, or the bail-out of AIG, or the level of debt accumulation, more and more people are joining a coalition that is saying this is unconstitutional and un-American.”...

Ms Bachmann, whose mere name can provoke apoplexy in some liberal quarters... stress[ed] the coalescence of a new movement, united against further federal government involvement in the economy.... “What I can say is that we are agreed on 70 to 80 per cent of the issues and that it is united around a defence of the constitution. The fabric of this big tent is made up of the very parchment of the constitution...”

Clearly this will not do: any story about Michelle Bachmann that aims to inform its readers has to teach its readers--whether by telling, or showing, or both--that the woman is a wingnut.

Ed Luce fails as a journalist because he fails to do this.

But things are even worse. The opening line in his story about Michelle Bachmann:

Reaction against Barack Obama’s 'Bail-out Nation'...

coupled with:

Whether it’s the government bail-out of the banking system, or the White House sacking the chief executive officer of General Motors, or the bail-out of AIG, or the level of debt accumulation, more and more people are joining a coalition that is saying this is unconstitutional and un-American...

positively cries out for the observation that this "coalition" is of Republicans denouncing Republican policies: AIG was bailed out by Paulson and Bernanke with George W. Bush's approval, the TARP was a Republican proposal, the level of debt accumulation is what it is because of the Bush tax cuts, etc., etc., etc...

The Financial Times is one of the few print journalistic institutions which still has a reputation of being as likely to be accurate as an honest bathrobe-clad weblogger with his or her reputation on the line. It would be a shame were it to lose that reputation.

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