Scandal bias

Among the news stories it’s highly unlikely the vast majority of Americans came across last news was the New York Times’ thorough timeline and deconstruction of the Benghazi attack.   It’s serious and thorough journalism and it completely undermines the case that there’s anything remotely scandalous about the Obama administration response.  Was this a huge screw-up?  Of course– an American ambassador died.  But the breathless conspiracy and cover-up that have been red-meat on the right for a year– not so much.  Of course, thinking people already had seen enough evidence to know that was so much bluster.   Here’s Drum’s nice summary of the piece and the key take-away points.

And credit to the NYT for the excellent journalism.  But where are the headlines that say “No actual Obama scandal on Behghazi”?  Never going to happen, of course.  And that’s the nature of the news business.  “Scandal!” sells papers.  “Nope, no scandal here” does not.  That said, it seems to be that basic journalistic ethics would suggest that organizations that benefited so much in viewership/readership from endlessly yelling “scandal!  scandal?!  scandal!” (yes, I’m looking at you Washington Post), would have some sense of obligation to give the “no scandal” coverage at least 1/10 as much coverage.  Alas, we don’t live in that world.  The lesson?  Don’t let yourself ever be accused of a scandal whether you are actually guilty of it or not.  Not exactly comforting.

What if Democratic presidents were better for the economy and no one cared?

Well, that’s pretty much the reality.  Reader/correspondent Bob A. sent me a link to this Froma Harrop column that summarizes the latest economic study to find fairly convincing evidence that Democratic presidents are better for the economy than are Republican presidents:

Let’s turn the mic over to Bob Deitrick, a principal at Polaris Financial Partners in Westerville, Ohio. Deitrick crunched 80 years of numbers. Politically, 1929 to 2009 were exactly divided — 40 years under Republican presidents and 40 under Democrats.

He put his extraordinary findings in a book, “Bulls, Bears and the Ballot Box.”

Because President Obama was in office for only three years at the time of the writing, Deitrick and his co-author left him out. But Deitrick now has enough of an Obama track record to have recently declared in a Forbes interview, “By all measures, President Obama has outperformed every modern president.” …

Here’s an interesting calculation: Suppose that in 1929, you put $100,000 in a 401(k) fully invested in stocks. Under the 40 years of Republican presidents, you would have ended up with only $126,000. Under the Democrats, you would have amassed a retirement nest egg of $3.9 million! …

Here’s a longer summary of Deitrick’s research complete with handy charts.


Now, here’s the thing, Dietrick’s research was new to me, but his conclusions were not.  There’s been plenty of evidence on the matter for years.  Just google: “are Democratic or Republican presidents better for the economy” (I didn’t actually use quotation marks) or something similar and you’ll get links to plenty of similar research.  This is not just one research cherry-picking numbers (here’s a classic Michael Kinsley column on this from 2008).

The simple fact is the economy has performed considerably better under Democratic that Republican presidents.  There’s two possible explanations for this– random chance or relative to Republicans, Democrats enact policies that are better for the economy.  Random chance should not be too easily written off, we are talking about a pretty small sample here.  That said, given the very different economic policies pursued by Democrats and Republicans, it seems to me the most reasonable conclusion is, in fact, that Democratic presidents actually are better for the economy.   Surely not “beyond a reasonable doubt” proof, but surely enough to meet the “clear and convincing evidence” standard for civil judgments.

But here’s the thing, in the end this is not going to change anybody’s vote.  Democrats can feel good about ourselves and say “see, our policies really our better.”  (And we should).  But Republicans will A) just ignore the evidence or B) figure it is a bunch of liberal economists cherry-picking data.  It’s nice to be right.  It’s even nicer to make a difference.

That said, I think it is definitely in Democrats’ interest to make this a consistent and long-term talking point.  You do that enough, and to a considerable degree you can get the media to accept it.  Especially once they do their own google searches and see that Democrats are actually right about this.  There definitely develops conventional wisdom about the parties and it sure would be nice if that conventional wisdom included “Democrats are better for the economy.”  Especially because it is quite likely true.

Photo of the day

Loved this In Focus gallery of images of Saturn and its moons shot by the Cassini spacecraft.  Some really cool stuff here:

A quartet of Saturn’s moons, from tiny to huge, surround and are embedded within the planet’s rings in this Cassini composition. Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is in the background of the image. Next, the wispy terrain on the trailing hemisphere of Dione can be seen on that moon which appears just above the rings at the center of the image. Saturn’s small moon Pandora orbits beyond the rings on the right of the image. Finally, Pan can be seen in the Encke Gap of the A ring on the left of the image. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

The evolving GOP

Seen a number of places lately make mention of the fact that support for the “theory” of Evolution (much like the “theory” of Gravity) has declined considerably among Republicans.  I enjoyed Dana Milbank’s take the most:

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center recently released the results of an extensive poll done in 2013 on Americans’ views of evolution. Like other polls, it shows that overall views are stable: Sixty percent believe that humans have evolved over time, the same as said so in 2009.

But within those results, there was a huge shift in the beliefs of Republicans: 48 percent say that humans have existed in our present form from the beginning, compared with 43 percent who say we have evolved, either with or without help from a supreme being. That’s an 11-percentage-point swing from just four years ago, when 54 percent believed in evolution…

How to explain this most unexpected mutation? Given the stability of views on evolution (Gallup polling has found responses essentially the same over the past quarter-century), it’s unlikely that large numbers of Republicans actually changed their beliefs. More likely is that the type of people willing to identify themselves as Republicans increasingly tend to be a narrow group of conservatives who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible — or partisans who regard evolution as a political question rather than one of science.  [emphasis mine]

The Pew poll also found that the share of Republicans who attend worship services weekly or more is 52 percent, up five points from 2009, and that the proportion who self-identify as conservative is 71 percent, up six percentage points from 2009. The party remains overwhelmingly white, at 86 percent, and the number of those ages 50 to 64 and 65 and older climbed seven points and two points, respectively.

In short, the Republican party is simply becoming even more, the party of religious, old, white people.  Nothing against old religious white people– I’m related to and love a number of them.  But if you are trying to have a successful party in a two-party system you cannot simply double down on a demographically-shrinking portion of the electorate.

On a related note, I find the overall evolution results just depressing.


To agree to the assertion that, “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” as do fully a third of Americans is literally as sensible as saying the earth has a 4000 mile circumference (worked for Columbus).

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