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March 31, 2009

15:25

In a March 31 editorial, The Washington Times claimed of Rick Wagoner's resignation as General Motors CEO: "In a unprecedented move, the Obama administration essentially fired TK Waggoner [sic], the chief executive of General Motors. This is unheard of in American history -- and sends an ominous signal to millions of shareholders for whom the auto maker is part of their retirement plans." At no point did the editorial mention that, in September 2008, the government reportedly required AIG to replace its CEO as a condition of receiving government funds, and, when he announced the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson stated that the CEOs at both companies were being replaced.

In announcing his resignation, Wagoner stated, "On Friday I was in Washington for a meeting with Administration officials. In the course of that meeting, they requested that I 'step aside' as CEO of GM, and so I have."

Since September, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and AIG executives have been removed in the context of a government bailout:

  • In a September 7, 2008, jointly released statement, Paulson and then-Federal Housing Finance Agency director Jim Lockhart announced that as part of the government's taking Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship, "New CEOs supported by new non-executive Chairmen have taken over management of the enterprises."
  • A September 17, 2008, Washington Post article reported of the Bush administration's decision to bail out AIG, "The terms of the rescue package allow the government to replace [chief executive Robert] Willumstad, and a source familiar with the matter said last night that Willumstad would be succeded [sic] by Edward Liddy, former chief executive of Allstate." On September 17, 2008, the Associated Press likewise reported Willumstad's removal as a part of the bailout deal.

In addition, in September 1979, then-Chrysler CEO and chairman John Riccardo resigned while the company was seeking federal aid, reportedly under pressure from the Carter administration. According to a September 21, 1979, Washington Post article, before Riccardo's resignation, "President Carter told a town meeting in Burlington, Iowa, that any government aid package would require Chrysler to 'reconstitute their management.' [Then-Treasury Secretary G. William] Miller made a similar point on Saturday, stating that while any management shift must be made by Chrysler's board, 'I'm sure' that before a final plan goes to Congress, a decision on future management resources would be made."

Congress ultimately enacted the Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act, which became law on January 7, 1980.

From the September 21, 1979, Washington Post article (retrieved from Nexis):

Chrysler Corp. board Chairman John Riccardo announced yesterday he will seek early retirement, "effective immediately," from the ailing automobile manufacturer.

Riccardo's departure was seen as evidence of Carter administration pressure for changes in Chrysler's top management, prior to any endorsement of loan guarantees the company is seeking.

Riccardo, who was due to step down in December as chief executive in any event, will make his retirement request at a Chrysler board meeting Thursday.

As chairman and chief executive, Riccardo is expected to be succeeded by Lee Iacocca, the ousted former president of Ford Motor Co. who was hired as Chrysler president last November by Riccardo. At the time, Riccardo told reporters that Iacocca probably would be named chief executive in about one year.

Riccardo's announcement yesterday came 48 hours after the company was rebuffed by Treasury Secretary G. William Miller in its request for $1.2 billion in federal loan guarantees. Miller termed the request "way out of line."

Last month, President Carter told a town meeting in Burlington, Iowa, that any government aid package would require Chrysler to "reconstitute their management." Miller made a similar point on Saturday, stating that while any management shift must be made by Chrysler's board, "I'm sure" that before a final plan goes to Congress, a decision on future management resources would be made.

Riccardo said yesterday he will seek early retirement for two reasons -- health and the company's need to have a new management team in place.

He said that he had been hospitalized earlier this year because of a heart problem," and advised by physicians to retire immediately. "However, I felt at the time that in view of Chrysler's serious situation I should stay on until the end of the year in order to provide the funds necessary to return Chrysler to profitability," he stated.

Moreover, "there is no question that even though I have actively addressed the major problems facing Chrysler, in the minds of many I am closely associated with the past management of a troubled company," Riccardo added. "It would be most unfair to the new management and the employes [sic] of Chrysler if my continued presence as board chairman should in any way hinder the final passage of our request for federal loan guarantees."

Both Riccardo, 55, and Iacocca recently agreed to give up all but one dollar of their $360,000 annual salaries for two years. Iacocca will be 55 years old next month.

Other media outlets also reported that Riccardo stated of his resignation: "[T]here is no question that even though I have actively addressed the major problems facing Chrysler, in the minds of many I am closely associated with the past management of a troubled company. ... It would be most unfair to the new management and to the employees of Chrysler if my continued presence as board chairman should in any way hinder the final passage of our request for federal loan guarantees." From an October 1, 1979, Newsweek article (retrieved from Nexis):

Riccardo was originally scheduled to step down in December, in part because of heart problems he developed earlier this year. But last week, he added a second reason. "I am closely associated with the past management of a troubled company," Riccardo said. "It would be most unfair to the new management and the employees of Chrysler if my continued presence should... in any way hinder our request for Federal loan guarantees." Chrysler's original bid for $1.2 billion in loan guarantees was rejected two weeks ago by Treasury Secretary G. William Miller, and the firm is now working on a second proposal.

From a September 18, 1979, AP article (retrieved from Nexis):

Chrysler Corp. Chairman John Riccardo, fearing he might be an obstacle to federal help for the troubled company he serves as chief executive, is asking for early retirement.

Riccardo also said Monday he had been advised by doctors to retire after a heart problem flared up in May, and had decided "this is the appropriate time to follow the advice."

He said he would ask Chrysler's directors at Thursday's board meeting to let him go immediately.

Riccardo did not specifically say he would recommend president Lee A. Iacocca to succeed him as chief executive, but it was clear he would.

He called Iacocca "one of the foremost automobile men in the industry. That was my judgment when I brought him in, and that is my judgment now. I am absolutely confident that under his leadership the company will return to the position of eminence that it deserves," Riccardo said in his statement.

It was agreed when Iacocca came from Ford Motor Co., where he had been president, last November that he would succeed Riccardo at the end of the year as chief executive, with Riccardo staying on as chairman. Iacocca was not expected to take the chairmanship at the time.

"There is no question that even though I have actively addressed the major problems facing Chrysler, in the minds of many I am closely associated with the past management of a troubled company," Riccardo said.

"It would be most unfair to the new management and to the employees of Chrysler if my continued presence as board chairman should in any way hinder the final passage of our request for federal loan guarantees," Riccardo said.

He said he was now "confident that the necessary assistance will be provided" because "even though the final amount is not yet fixed, the administration has agreed it will support a loan guarantee."

Chrysler turned to the federal government after reporting a $207 million loss for the second quarter. On Saturday, it presented its revival plan to Treasury Secretary G. William Miller, who said the request for $1.2 billion in loan guarantees was too high and would have to be reworked.

From the March 31 Washington Times editorial:

In a unprecedented move, the Obama administration essentially fired TK Waggoner [sic], the chief executive of General Motors. This is unheard of in American history -- and sends an ominous signal to millions of shareholders for whom the auto maker is part of their retirement plans.

Little wonder that GM's stock sank by 25 percent on the news, a loss of over a half-billion dollars in wealth. While other factors undoubtedly contributed to the sell-off, the drop in the overall stock market today is hardly encouraging. Many investors worry which companies and executives are next. Turmoil is hardly the way to restore investor confidence while the nation endures one of the worst financial crisis [sic] in living memory.

President Obama claimed Monday that he has "no interest or intention" of running the auto industry. But that's just what he's doing. As we saw in Italy and France in the post-war years, when politicians pick corporate leaders or set company strategy, the profitability and even the health of firms declines. So Mr. Obama's boast that "my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan" suggests a sharp veer in a failed European direction. There was little doubt about Mr. Obama's intent when he said he is "absolutely committed ... to meet one goal ... building the next generation of clean cars." The president doesn't seem to care that hybrid-car sales have plunged by two-thirds since April 2008, a much steeper decline than total car sales.

Mr. Obama is also micromanaging Chrysler's merger talks with Fiat -- requiring in what country different engines will be built.

Industry analysts and Democratic lawmakers view Mr. Obama's approach with alarm. (They have noticed that shareholders vote too.)

Firing GM's CEO is may [sic] be politically popular with some. But cooler heads have noted that Mr. Obama has now taken political responsibility for one of America's most-troubled and vexing industries. Hardly seems like a political winner in the long run. Others feel sorry for Mr. Waggoner [sic]. Democratic Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was right when she called Mr. Wagoner a "sacrificial lamb." Jeremy Anwyl, at the automotive website Edmunds.com, told us that Mr. Wagoner's firing was "political theater."

While Mr. Obama has forced the country on to the autobahn of the Old Europe, he ignores the lessons of contemporary Europe. The Continent has largely sobered up from such statist meddling. Take Sweden, which refused to bail out its automotive and other industries.

Mr. Obama already controlled much of American auto industry policy. It was at his insistence that the original auto company loans were granted. Yet, having the Obama administration determining GM's CEO and micromanaging Chrysler's merger talks with Fiat, are placing a big bet that politicians can do what decades of professional managers have failed to do. It will be the biggest miracle since the 1980 U.S. hockey team's victory over the Soviet Union if the government gets this right ... and cause for more jubilation.

13:50

On the March 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent William La Jeunesse asserted that "our corporate tax rate is second highest in the world," ignoring the effective corporate tax rate, which is lower in the United States than it is in several other countries.

As Media Matters for America has noted, conservatives in the media, including The Wall Street Journal, Fox News host Neil Cavuto, and radio host Rush Limbaugh, have pointed to the U.S. statutory corporate tax rate of 35 percent to claim that the United States has one of the highest tax rates in the world. In fact, according to an August 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), "Statutory tax rates do not provide a complete measure of the burden that a tax system imposes on business income because many other aspects of the system, such as exemptions, deferrals, tax credits, and other forms of incentives, also determine the amount of tax a business ultimately pays on its income." World Bank and GAO data indicate that the U.S. effective corporate tax rate is lower than 35 percent and lower than several other nations' effective corporate tax rate.

In its August 2008 report, the GAO estimated that "[t]he average U.S. effective tax rate on the domestic income of large corporations with positive domestic income in 2004 was an estimated 25.2 percent." Moreover, in June 2007, the Treasury Department concluded: "If special provisions were eliminated, the top corporate tax rate could be lowered to 27 percent or more than 40 percent expensing could be provided to all businesses for new the cost of tangible investments, and the tax system would produce the same level of revenue." Further, in its Paying Taxes 2009 publication, based on its 2009 Doing Business report, the World Bank-International Finance Corporation estimated that the United States has a lower effective rate of current corporate tax than that of several other nations, including Germany, Canada, India, China, Brazil, Japan, and Italy. The publication also included a figure that compared effective and statutory corporate tax rates for several G8 and BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries:

From the March 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BRET BAIER (anchor): President Obama said last week many of the American jobs that have been moved overseas will not be coming back, but he remains determined to stop the exodus. Correspondent William La Jeunesse reports on the unintended consequences that move might create.

[begin video clip]

LA JEUNESSE: Outsourcing has become one of the bogeymen of the recession, but the economic reality is 15 percent of all U.S. businesses -- 40 percent of those in the tech sector -- have sent millions of jobs overseas in the last 10 years to raise profits and stay competitive, a practice the president has promised to stop.

OBAMA: -- by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D-NY): I don't see any good reason why we should endorse, support, or not vigorously close any shelter that's there. I don't know how it's in America's best interest to allow this to happen.

LA JEUNESSE: But it might not be that simple. As companies with millions, even billions, offshore could relocate completely out of the U.S. to dodge hefty taxes. Or they could simply spend the money overseas, boosting foreign economies rather than our own.

MICHAEL KLAYKO (Brocade Communications CEO): That would be a really tough decision. I think there'd be a lot of folks right now that would figure out how to spend that cash offshore.

LA JEUNESSE: Brocade Communications CEO Michael Klayko says up to a trillion dollars earned from foreign manufacturing and service centers run by American companies is sitting offshore.

Profits are not taxed at the local rate -- say, 12 percent in Ireland or 20 percent in Turkey. But when that money comes home, it's taxed at a combined federal and state rate of 40 percent, which could mean hundreds of billions the Obama administration desperately needs.

HEATHER BOUSHEY (Center for American Progress senior economist): The goal is not to penalize businesses; the goal is to make sure that businesses that are headquartered here in the United States pay their fair share of taxes.

LA JEUNESSE: Right now, our corporate tax rate is second highest in the world. Businesses say the main reason they outsource isn't lower taxes but cheaper labor. While closing some loopholes, Congressman Charlie Rangel says that Washington may be willing to reduce the corporate tax rate below 30 percent to keep U.S. businesses competitive and to stop the bleeding of American jobs.

In Los Angeles, William La Jeunesse, Fox News.

[end video clip]

12:01

In promoting its newly launched website, TheFoxNation.com, Fox News has run advertisements telling viewers that "[i]t's time to say 'no' to biased media and 'yes' to fair play and free speech." However, on March 31, The Fox Nation labeled Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) a "[d]angerous duo," linking to an Agence France-Presse article that simply reported that Dodd and Frank "promised President Barack Obama on Monday they would work with the White House to enact a sweeping overhaul of US financial regulatory structures by year's end." Nothing in the AFP article in any way characterized Dodd or Frank as "[d]angerous."

From The Fox Nation:

From the AFP article:

Two key US lawmakers promised President Barack Obama on Monday they would work with the White House to enact a sweeping overhaul of US financial regulatory structures by year's end.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, both Democrats, wrote to Obama after US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pushed last week for major reforms.

Support from the two Congressional heavyweights will be critical to Obama's efforts to overhaul US financial supervision.

"We write today to reiterate our commitment to work together on a bicameral basis with your administration to enact legislation by the end of the year to create a new, more robust regulatory framework to enhance financial stability and protect investors and consumers in the 21st century," they wrote.

The lawmakers pledged "to act expeditiously, carefully, and deliberately" to ensure "more effective supervision and regulation" and they agreed with the "core principles" that Geithner laid out on Thursday.

They also vowed to work "with other major financial centers" around the world to coordinate efforts and minimize the likelihood that any new rules could hurt US competitiveness.

Dodd and Frank also said they favored "comprehensive reform of the corporate governance and executive compensation of financial institutions" after a bonus controversy at bailed-out insurer AIG.

Geithner on Thursday unveiled broad reform proposals covering banks and other financial firms as well as hedge funds, money market funds and the more complex derivative market, drawing on lessons learned from the global financial meltdown.

From Fox News' promotion of The Fox Nation:

ANNOUNCER: It's time to say "no" to biased media and "yes" to fair play and free speech. Express your views, your values, your voice. It's your nation. The Fox Nation. Finally, a place to call home: TheFoxNation.com.

10:39

During a discussion of the House Financial Services Committee's vote in favor of H.R. 1664, the Pay for Performance Act, Fox News' Fox & Friends aired on-screen text that falsely claimed: "Bill lets government set your salary." In fact, the bill would not regulate pay for all workers but rather regulates compensation only for employees of financial institutions that have received federal assistance -- a fact acknowledged by co-host Steve Doocy and guest Glenn Beck during the segment. Additionally, the bill regulates pay for those institutions during the period in which the public investment in them remains outstanding.

From the text of H.R. 1664 as adopted by the House Financial Services Committee:

(1) PROHIBITION. -- No financial institution that has received or receives a direct capital investment under the Troubled Assets Relief Program under this title, or with respect to the Federal National Mortgage Association, the Federal Home Loan Montage Corporation, or a Federal home loan bank, under the amendments made by section 1117 of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, may, while that capital investment remains outstanding, make a compensation payment, other than a longevity bonus or a payment in the form of restricted stock, to any executive or employee under any existing compensation arrangement, or enter into a new compensation payment arrangement, if such compensation payment or compensation payment arrangement --

(A) provides for compensation that is unreasonable or excessive, as defined in standards established by the Secretary, in consultation with the Chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel established under section 125, in accordance with paragraph (2); or

(B) includes any bonus or other supplemental payment that is not directly based on performance-based measures set forth in standards established by the Secretary in accordance with paragraph (2).

Provided that, nothing in this paragraph applies to an institution that did business with a recipient of a direct capital investment under the TARP.

Indeed, during the segment, Doocy said: "Now, we know with the bonus bill thing it says that if you take government money -- your corporation does -- they can control the amount of money that you would get in a bonus form and also salary if you are a top executive. But this new bill says it goes beyond just the top executives -- it affects anybody in the building" [emphasis added]. Similarly, Beck said: "So if you are taking government money -- let's just say like you are in Congress and you don't perform and your business isn't doing well, then you should make less than -- what does Congress make -- $174,000 a year" [emphasis added].

In addition to the "Bill lets government set your salary" graphic, Fox News also aired graphics falsely describing the bill as "[c]ontrolling your compensation" and "[s]etting your salary":

From the March 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: All right. Let's talk a little bit about something -- Byron York in the Examiner in Washington today, Glenn Beck, is talking about how apparently the House Financial Services Committee has approved a measure that goes beyond the AIG bonus bill.

BECK: I'm shocked.

DOOCY: It's called the Pay for Performance Act of 2009.

BECK: Yes.

DOOCY: Now, we know with the bonus bill thing it says that if you take government money -- your corporation does -- they can control the amount of money that you would get in a bonus form --

BECK: Yes.

DOOCY: -- and also salary if you are a top executive.

BECK: Right.

DOOCY: But this new bill says it goes beyond just the top executives --

BECK: Right.

DOOCY: -- it affects anybody in the building.

BECK: Let's see if I have this right. Anybody who is taking government money --

DOOCY: Your corporation.

BECK: -- we gotta make sure that their performance is good so that -- so they are not taking obscene amounts of cash, like with the AIG people --

DOOCY: Sure.

BECK: -- it's 165,000.

DOOCY: All the way from --

CARLSON: Million.

KILMEADE: Timothy Geithner will decide how much you should make.

DOOCY: Sure.

BECK: Right. OK, so let me just get this right. So if you are taking government money -- let's just say like you are in Congress and you don't perform and your business isn't doing well, then you should make less than -- what does Congress make -- $174,000 a year.

Oh, and by the way, if you work two years you get a portion of that for the rest of your life. If you work 11 years you get all of it for the rest of your life. Oh, and you get free health care. OK, so these are the guys to regulate. And they are the guys who know about performance.

08:54

In a March 31 article, the Los Angeles Times uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain saying of Rick Wagoner's resignation as General Motors CEO: "This is a remarkable move by the federal government -- I think unprecedented in the history of this country. ... What does this signal send to other corporations and financial institutions about whether the federal government will fire them as well?" Similarly, on the March 30 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Lou Dobbs stated that "[s]everal leading Republicans immediately criticized the president's plan and blasted his decision to fire GM's CEO Rick Wagoner. Senator John McCain said Wagoner's dismissal is a remarkable and unprecedented act." In fact, the government did not fire Wagoner as Dobbs claimed. Rather, the government told GM that Wagoner had to step down as a condition of GM receiving further government aid. Moreover, contrary to the characterization of the government's action as "unprecedented," similar actions occurred at AIG and at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where chief executives were removed in September 2008 as part of agreements to accept government aid.

As Media Matters for America has noted, in announcing his resignation, Wagoner stated, "On Friday I was in Washington for a meeting with Administration officials. In the course of that meeting, they requested that I 'step aside' as CEO of GM, and so I have." Indeed, The New York Times reported on March 30, "The White House on Sunday pushed out the chairman of General motors and instructed Chrysler to form a partnership with the Italian automaker Fiat within 30 days as conditions for receiving another much-needed round of government aid" [emphasis added].

Moreover, contrary to McCain's claim that the decision to ask for Wagoner's resignation as a condition for further government aid was "unprecedented," since September, several executives have been asked to resign as a condition for receiving government aid:

  • In a September 7, 2008, jointly released statement, then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and then-Federal Housing Finance Agency director Jim Lockhart announced that as part of the government's decision to take Fannie and Freddie into conservatorship, "New CEOs supported by new non-executive Chairmen have taken over management of the enterprises."
  • A September 17, 2008, Washington Post article reported of the Bush administration's decision to bail out AIG, "The terms of the rescue package allow the government to replace [chief executive Robert] Willumstad, and a source familiar with the matter said last night that Willumstad would be succeded [sic] by Edward Liddy, former chief executive of Allstate." On September 17, 2008, the Associated Press likewise reported Willumstad's removal as a part of the bailout deal.

From the March 30 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: Chrysler reacting quickly to the president's demand for action on forming an alliance with Fiat. Chrysler today said it has reached agreement on what it called a framework for a partnership with Fiat. No details were given, however.

President Obama gave Chrysler 30 days to complete work on such an alliance with Fiat or face losing as much as $6 billion in additional money from the federal government.

Several leading Republicans immediately criticized the president's plan and blasted his decision to fire GM's CEO Rick Wagoner. Senator John McCain said Wagoner's dismissal is a remarkable and unprecedented act.

Another leading Republican, Senator Bob Corker [TN], said, quote, "Firing Rick Wagoner is a side show to distract us from the fact that the administration has no progress to announce today." Senator Corker added, "With sweeping new power, the White House will be deciding which plants will survive and which won't, so, in essence, this administration has decided they know better than our courts and our free-market process how to deal with these companies."

From the Los Angeles Times article by reporter Jim Puzzanghera:

In a message to GM employees Monday, Wagoner said he agreed to the administration's request Friday to step aside and called his replacement as CEO, longtime GM executive Fritz Henderson, "an excellent choice."

"GM is a great company with a storied history. Ignore the doubters, because I know it is also a company with a great future," Wagoner told them.

Obama said the decision was "not meant as a condemnation" of Wagoner, but was done because the company needs a "new vision and new direction."

Some Republicans, however, were alarmed at the decision to oust the head of a private company, even one that has received government bailout money. GM and its financing arm have received a total of about $19.3 billion. Chrysler and its financing arm have received about $5.5 billion.

"This is a remarkable move by the federal government -- I think unprecedented in the history of this country," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "What does this signal send to other corporations and financial institutions about whether the federal government will fire them as well?"

07:33

Any day now, a three-judge panel in Minnesota will rule on Norm Coleman's lawsuit to overturn the results of the state's Senate election recount, which was completed in January. The complete hand recount concluded that the incumbent Republican lost to challenger Al Franken by 225 votes. Coleman demanded a full court case; today, almost nobody, including Coleman's own attorney, thinks the Republican will prevail in the judges' upcoming ruling, which follows a tedious seven-week trial.

End of story, and after a drawn-out, 18-week process, Franken will finally be seated in the U.S. Senate, right? Wrong. If Franken prevails as expected before the three-judge panel, Coleman will then have 10 days to file yet another appeal, this one to the Minnesota Supreme Court. If Coleman loses there as well, Republican leaders in Congress are encouraging him to not give up his legal challenge and take his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could create a scenario in which the Minnesota election might not get decided until the fall -- almost a year after voters went to the polls -- even if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeal.

As we discovered in Florida back in 2000, the U.S. election system is hardly perfect. And when contests are extraordinarily close and invite unprecedented scrutiny, questions always arise. But states do their best to ensure accuracy, and in the end, even in ridiculously narrow contests, a winner has to be declared and the loser has to accept defeat.

Except, apparently, in Minnesota, where Coleman has adopted the rather unique strategy of litigating his case indefinitely, thereby preventing Democrats from seating their 59th member in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to cut off filibusters. Meaning, the battle for Franken's seat not only remains a news curiosity, but in terms of politics and power, it's a very big deal and has attracted nationwide press attention.

Coleman, of course, has the right to appeal his case, just as other suspicious second-place candidates have done in the past. What seems to be unique is this case, though, is how so much of the press coverage has politely refrained from suggesting that Coleman's a sore loser for adopting his marathon litigation approach.

Traditionally, candidates who lost and cried foul had a rather short window to prove their case before the media lost patience and started calling the candidate out as petulant and self-involved. Just ask Al Gore, who was hounded in the press by the specter of the "sore loser" label practically from the moment he withdrew his concession in the early morning hours following Election Day. I doubt a day went by during the Florida recount when there wasn't a "sore loser" reference to Gore in the press. (In Nexis, I found nearly 900 "sore loser" press mentions in Gore articles between November and December 2000.)

For some reason, Coleman has been able to mostly avoid the dreaded "sore loser" label, one that can be a career-killer for any politician. Instead, the press has largely given Coleman and his Republican supporters an open canvas on which to operate. (A Nexis search finds just a handful of "sore loser" media mentions regarding Coleman since November.) As Coleman and his attorneys look over their recount legal options, they in no way have to be concerned about or factor into play the potential "sore loser" meme that could do real damage to his effort. They can play hardball with impunity because they're getting a free pass from the press.

The strange part is that Coleman's getting that press pass even though some members of the Republican Party have been brazenly open in discussing the Minnesota case in terms of a blatant stall campaign specifically designed to thwart Democrats from securing the critical 59th seat in the U.S. Senate. (A quirk in Minnesota election law means Franken, the state's winner to date, cannot be seated in the Senate while Coleman's appeals process plays out in Minnesota courts.)

"The battle in Washington is real. Every day in the Senate without Al Franken is a great day," Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) recently told a Tulsa audience. Politico reported that Republicans back the idea of Coleman appealing his case indefinitely because "a long fight is worth it if it keeps Franken from becoming the 59th Senate Democrat, which would give President Barack Obama a huge advantage over the next two years."

Even when Republicans cast the litigation marathon as a way to simply freeze out Franken, the press and its army of commentators remain distant, reluctant to cast aspersions on Coleman's rope-a-dope campaign. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article on the delays ("Minnesota Senate Standoff Plays Into GOP's Hands") seemed to tip its hat to Republicans for so effectively stymieing Democrats [emphasis added]:

Four months after Election Day, the fight over Minnesota's U.S. Senate seat drags on with no clear end in sight. And that may be working to the Republicans' advantage. Party leaders say they are digging in for a prolonged legal process, keeping Democrats from claiming a seat they think is theirs -- and hampering the majority party's ability to push through its agenda.

[...]

But Republicans can claim a kind of strategic victory by blocking the Democratic former comedian's path to the Senate, which requires 60 votes to pass controversial items.

Only in the article's final paragraph did the Journal even hint that Coleman's marathon appeal process might -- just might -- have a political downside.

I think the free pass from the press has emboldened the Minnesota Republican and his army of attorneys in recent weeks. It's emboldened them precisely because there seems to be nothing they can do that will spark a "sore loser" backlash. For instance, earlier this month, Coleman's lawyers, after suffering a number of courtroom setbacks, wrote to the three-judge panel asking it to take the extraordinary step of setting aside the November vote and basically having the state, four months after the fact, revote. Claiming it would be impossible for the judges to pick a winner, Coleman's legal team suddenly wanted to start from scratch.

The ploy was a stunner and may have redefined election season chutzpah: It would have been like Gore's attorneys suddenly asking for a complete Florida revote amidst their oral arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"[Y]owza!" Twittered ABC's Jake Tapper when reading the Coleman news. But interestingly, the Coleman call for a revote received very little attention (i.e. actual press coverage) inside the Beltway, and very few in the press treated the request as unusual, let alone borderline bizarre.

For the three days following Coleman's jaw-dropping request, the news received no coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, or USA Today. Coleman's request was all the more amazing considering there is there no mechanism or precedent under Minnesota law to allow for such an event. (Only the U.S. Senate could approve a total revote for Minnesota.)

The Hail Mary received zero network television news coverage and garnered just a passing reference on cable news, which came on MSNBC's Hardball. (At least that was the only cable reference found on Nexis; not every cable show's transcripts are archived there.) Even more incredibly, while discussing Coleman's extraordinary do-over request, the Hardball guests focused on Franken's reportedly low approval ratings among Minnesota voters. In other words, they wondered how Coleman's drawn-out election lawsuit was hurting Franken's reputation.

But imagine if the roles were reversed and Franken, the Democrat and former comedian (the press loves to stress that fact), had pulled a last-minute, let's-change-the-rules stunt while his attorneys plotted out even more long-shot legal appeals. I suspect that not only would the story have been thoroughly chewed over by Beltway scribes, but the media disdain would have been unmistakable and unvarnished.

Just ask Al Gore. In 2000, during the contentious recount process in Florida, the press made it abundantly plain that Gore not only faced an uphill battle winning the recount, but that he ran the risk of being dubbed a sore loser, a risk that had to weigh heavily into his recount strategy. The legal action surrounding Florida lasted just five weeks -- compared with the almost 20 weeks already taken up by the Minnesota wrangling -- but the "sore loser" meme was everywhere:

  • "By energetically pressing that point, Republicans said they hoped to convey that Mr. Bush's ascent to the White House was inevitable -- and that sore losers in the vice president's camp were trying to steal the election from him." [The New York Times, 11/9/2000]
  • "Mr. Bush's advisers accused the Gore campaign of playing fast and loose with the facts of the disputed vote in Florida, and they came to a news conference here armed with voter registration statistics, visual aids and pointed implications that Vice President Al Gore and his allies were acting like sore losers." [The New York Times, 11/10/2000]
  • "In announcing that they would contest election results in Miami-Dade County (and perhaps elsewhere) in court, as allowed under Florida law, Mr. Gore's lawyers risked making Mr. Gore look, at least in legal terms, like the one thing he had struggled for days not to be seen as: a sore loser." [The New York Times, 11/24/2000]
  • " In blunt, often brutal language reminiscent of the rhetoric aimed at President Clinton during his impeachment and trial, Gore is portrayed as a win-at-any-cost sore loser with a penchant for lying and a death wish for his party." [The Washington Post, 11/30/2000]
  • "Republicans are already undertaking a public relations counteroffensive that will portray Gore as the ultimate sore loser." [The Washington Post, 11/27/2000]
  • "But the official said the manual recounts must show a steady, even if slow, net gain in newfound votes for Gore. Otherwise, momentum will fade and Gore's continued legal battles will seem the desperate grasps of a sore loser." [The Washington Post, 11/17/2000]

And that was just a portion of the Times and Post news coverage. Everywhere Gore turned in late 2000, the press was warning him about the dangers of becoming (or being seen as) a sore loser. Either that, or the press was constantly reminding the public about how Republicans wanted to portray the Democrat. (Via the press, of course.)

Yet in all of their Coleman coverage since Election Day, neither the Post nor the Times has ever published the phrase "sore loser" in connection to the endless Minnesota litigation. And that's been the media rule in print and television. It's simply not something that Coleman or Republicans have to concern themselves with, which in turn provides them with enormous wiggle room for upcoming appeals.

If Coleman soon suffers yet another recount loss and appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court, will the press finally dip its toe into the sore loser pool? What if Coleman loses at the Minnesota Supreme Court in April or May and then appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could then tie up the Senate seat into next year? Will the press then suggest Coleman and Republicans are sore losers?

Is there any point along Coleman's unprecedented litigious path at which the press will apply the same standard to a Republican that it applied to a Democrat?

March 30, 2009

22:51

On the March 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report, during a report on former General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner's resignation, White House correspondent Wendell Goler aired a clip of Carly Fiorina -- whom he identified only as a "[f]ormer Hewlett-Packard CEO" -- criticizing President Obama. Goler did not note that Fiorina was also a senior economic adviser for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. According to her website, Fiorina "was named as John McCain's Victory '08 Chairman for the Republican National Committee. The focus of this role was to be the primary advocate for Senator John McCain's Presidential candidacy and for the Republican Party in its many facets." Fiorina is also reportedly considering running against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA) in 2010.

During the segment, Goler stated that Fiorina "says Wagoner and the GM board should have quit after accepting the government bailout," then aired a clip of her asserting: "They were acknowledging their failure in their primary accountability, which was to make the tough choices necessary to keep their company viable. They failed to do that. On the other hand, I very much worry about a president firing a chief executive." Goler later reported, "Publicly, they [the Obama administration] say his sacking was not unprecedented." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Obama did not "fir[e]" or "sack[]" Wagoner, but made his resignation a condition of the federal government's extension of further aid to GM. Indeed, as Fiorina herself noted during the segment, she has advocated resignations by executives in companies receiving federal aid. In a December 12, 2008, Wall Street Journal op-ed, Fiorina wrote: "[W]hen CEOs go to Washington and ask for taxpayer money, they should also be prepared to submit their resignations and those of their boards. To earn a bailout, a CEO and board should be held accountable for the decisions they've made -- or perhaps the actions they've failed to take."

From the March 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

OBAMA: Morning everybody.

GOLER: Flanked by his senior economic advisers, President Obama said neither GM nor Chrysler had satisfied the terms of their $17 billion government bailout by coming up with a plan to return to profitability. But he decided to give them one more chance to keep the worst from happening.

OBAMA: We cannot and must not -- and we will not -- let our auto industry simply vanish.

GOLER: Aides say calling in the loans under the terms set by the Bush administration would force both GM and Chrysler into involuntary bankruptcy, since neither can afford to repay them. Mr. Obama didn't rule out bankruptcy, but he said if it's necessary, it should be a controlled process where workers stay on the job.

OBAMA: What I'm not talking about is a process where a company is simply broken up, sold off, and no longer exists.

GOLER: Still, officials decided Chrysler can't make it on its own. The company was given 30 days to find a buyer, and late in the day, announced a tentative deal with Fiat to produce cars in this country with a less-than-majority stake for the Italian automaker until U.S. government loan money is paid back.

GM, with more popular cars and more global resources, was given two months to come up with a new profitability plan. But CEO Rick Wagoner was sacked. The president says GM needs a new start. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina says Wagoner and the GM board should have quit after accepting the government bailout.

FIORINA: They were acknowledging their failure in their primary accountability, which was to make the tough choices necessary to keep their company viable. They failed to do that. On the other hand, I very much worry about a president firing a chief executive.

GOLER: Privately, administration officials say Wagoner stuck with the trucks and SUVs that were GM's bread and butter long after he should have focused on lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Publicly, they say his sacking was not unprecedented.

GIBBS: There have been management and board of directors changes in the past.

GOLER: At Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were almost government entities from the start, and at AIG, which the government basically took over in order to efficiently dismantle. But plans call for GM to remain a privately held company.

18:09

Despite the scientific consensus that human-caused global warming is real and is negatively affecting our planet, those who disagree continue to receive a significant amount of attention from the media. A recent example was the March 29 New York Times Magazine cover story about physicist Freeman Dyson, who argues that global warming is not a significant problem. More broadly, throughout the past year, the media have repeatedly provided a platform for critics who argue that the globe is in a period of "cooling," while often failing to challenge their suggestion that this shows that global warming is a myth. These critics often misleadingly cite the fact that the average global temperature in 2007 and 2008 was cooler than it was in 1998, echoing an April 4, 2008, BBC article, which reported that "temperatures have not risen globally since 1998 when El Nino warmed the world." Other times, the claim is made by media figures themselves; for instance, syndicated columnist George Will wrote in his widely criticized February 15 Washington Post column that "according to the U.N. World Meteorological Organization [WMO], there has been no recorded global warming for more than a decade" -- despite repeated statements by the WMO and its representatives the Earth remains in a warming trend.

In fact, climate experts reject the idea that the relatively cooler global average temperatures in several of the last 10 years are any indication that global warming is slowing or does not exist. Scientists have identified a long-term warming trend spanning several decades that is independent from the normal climate variability -- which includes relatively short-term changes in climate due to events like El Niño and La Niña -- to which they attribute the recent cooler temperatures.

In a February 11 Guardian op-ed, Vicky Pope, the head of climate change advice at the U.K. Met Office Hadley Centre, explained that claims about the pace of global warming require more than 10 years of data, "since natural variations always occur on this timescale." She continued, "1998 was a record-breaking warm year as long-term man-made warming combined with a naturally occurring strong El Niño. In contrast, 2008 was slightly cooler than previous years partly because of a La Niña. Despite this, it was still the 10th warmest on record."

According to the Met Office website, the WMO "requires the calculation of averages for consecutive periods of 30 years," which was chosen "as a period long enough to eliminate year-to-year variations."

In a letter to the editor of The Washington Post published on March 21, WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud responded to Will's column, writing that "[i]t is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record ... and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects." Jarraud wrote:

Data collected over the past 150 years by the 188 members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) through observing networks of tens of thousands of stations on land, at sea, in the air and from constellations of weather and climate satellites lead to an unequivocal conclusion: The observed increase in global surface temperatures is a manifestation of global warming. Warming has accelerated particularly in the past 20 years.

It is a misinterpretation of the data and of scientific knowledge to point to one year as the warmest on record -- as was done in a recent Post column ["Dark Green Doomsayers," George F. Will, op-ed, Feb. 15] -- and then to extrapolate that cooler subsequent years invalidate the reality of global warming and its effects.

The difference between climate variability and climate change is critical, not just for scientists or those engaging in policy debates about warming. Just as one cold snap does not change the global warming trend, one heat wave does not reinforce it. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the global average surface temperature has risen 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit.

Evidence of global warming has been documented in widespread decreases in snow cover, sea ice and glaciers. The 11 warmest years on record occurred in the past 13 years.

While variations occur throughout the temperature record, shorter-term variations do not contradict the overwhelming long-term increase in global surface temperatures since 1850, when reliable meteorological recordkeeping began. Year to year, we may observe in some parts of the world colder or warmer episodes than in other parts, leading to record low or high temperatures. This regional climate variability does not disprove long-term climate change. While 2008 was slightly cooler than 2007, partially due to a La Niña event, it was nonetheless the 10th-warmest year on record.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-sponsored by the WMO, has confirmed through observations and increasingly sophisticated and realistic models that regional variability has increased and will continue to increase as global surface temperatures rise. This is likely to result in more weather and climate extremes, such as droughts, floods, storms and heat waves. Responding to these challenges will require the collaborative efforts of all countries and of scientists in multiple disciplines to develop adaptation strategies to reduce the risk of disaster. This topic is scheduled for discussion at the World Climate Conference-3 beginning Aug. 31 in Geneva.

Further, the April 2008 BBC article that reported that "temperatures have not risen globally since 1998 when El Nino warmed the world" also reported that Jarraud disputed the notion that "this means global warming has peaked."

From the revised version of the BBC article:

Global temperatures for 2008 will be slightly cooler than last year as a result of the cold La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said.

The World Meteorological Organization's secretary-general, Michel Jarraud, told the BBC it was likely that La Nina would continue into the summer.

But this year's temperatures would still be way above the average -- and we would soon exceed the record year of 1998 because of global warming induced by greenhouse gases.

The WMO points out that the decade from 1998 to 2007 was the warmest on record. Since the beginning of the 20th Century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74C.

[...]

"When you look at climate change you should not look at any particular year," he said. "You should look at trends over a pretty long period and the trend of temperature globally is still very much indicative of warming.

"La Nina is part of what we call 'variability'. There has always been and there will always be cooler and warmer years, but what is important for climate change is that the trend is up; the climate on average is warming even if there is a temporary cooling because of La Nina."

Similarly, in a January 11, 2008, post on RealClimate.org, Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote that "short term comparisons" of weather and climate are "misguided." According to Schmidt, "the climate system has enormous amounts of variability on day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year and decade-to-decade periods. Much of this variability (once you account for the diurnal cycle and the seasons) is apparently chaotic and unrelated to any external factor -- it is the weather":

Some aspects of weather are predictable -- the location of mid-latitude storms a few days in advance, the progression of an El Niño event a few months in advance etc, but predictability quickly evaporates due to the extreme sensitivity of the weather to the unavoidable uncertainty in the initial conditions. So for most intents and purposes, the weather component can be thought of as random.

If you are interested in the forced component of the climate -- and many people are -- then you need to assess the size of an expected forced signal relative to the unforced weather 'noise'. Without this, the significance of any observed change is impossible to determine. The signal to noise ratio is actually very sensitive to exactly what climate record (or 'metric') you are looking at, and so whether a signal can be clearly seen will vary enormously across different aspects of the climate.  

Schmidt wrote that "if you start to take longer trends, then the uncertainty in the trend estimate approaches the uncertainty in the expected trend, at which point it becomes meaningful to compare them since the 'weather' component has been averaged out. In the global surface temperature record, that happens for trends longer than about 15 years, but for smaller areas with higher noise levels (like Antarctica), the time period can be many decades."

Nonetheless, media figures have, on numerous occasions, advanced this falsehood or allowed it to go unchallenged:

  • On the March 26, 2009, edition of CNBC's The Kudlow Report, anchor Larry Kudlow asserted that "global warming ... is now being disputed for global cooling."
  • On the March 2, 2009, edition of his Fox News program, Sean Hannity, while referring to "environmental nut cases," said, "Every time they have a global warming summit or -- it snows." Former McCain presidential campaign adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer replied in part: "[I]t's hilarious, 'cause when you talk to the scientists, they said, 'you could make the case just as much for global cooling,' and then, you know, that they're -- that this stuff has just run amuck."
  • Appearing on the March 2, 2009, edition of Fox News' Special Report, senior political analyst Brit Hume said the Earth "has seen no average warming for the past 10 years." Hume acknowledged that "[t]here does seem to have been some increase in the average Earth temperature during the last part of the 20th century" and that "there are computer models that say this trend will continue with profound effects on the way we live." But he then asserted that "[t]he problem with these models is that when data from the past have been plugged into them, they have had trouble predicting today's temperatures. The climate alarmists certainly did not foresee the cooling trend of the past decade."
  • On the February 2, 2009, edition of MSNBC's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock touted climate change skeptic Martin Hertzberg's assertion that global warming is not occurring because, in Murdock's words, "the Earth temperature has gone down 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1997." Murdock was referencing the following quote from Hertzberg that Murdock included in a February 1 column: "[T]he average temperature of Earth's atmosphere has declined over the last 10 years. From the El Nino Year of 1998 until Jan. 2007, it dropped a quarter of a degree Celsius (0.45 degrees Fahrenheit). From Jan 2007 to the spring of 2008, it dropped a whopping three-quarters of a degree Celsius (1.35 degrees Fahrenheit)."
  • On the January 6, 2009, edition of CNN Newsroom, anchor Heidi Collins said, "New research is heating up the global warming issue once again. The data suggests a split on whether the planet is truly in peril." Then, in a report, CNN correspondent Ines Ferré said, "A confusing picture of our world's climate: Three independent research groups found that 2008 was the ninth or 10th warmest year since 1850 when record-keeping began, but it also was the coolest year since the turn of the 21st century." Ferré then aired a clip of Weather Channel co-founder Joseph D'Aleo saying "We are too short-sighted or certainly the -- those who believe in it are not looking at all the big picture, which needs to include other factors than natural cycles in the ocean and of the sun that are the real drivers."
  • On the January 5, 2009, edition of Special Report, anchor Bret Baier said: "Despite dire warnings from global warming alarmists ... former nuclear scientist and energy expert Michael Fox writes in the Hawaii Reporter that 2008 was, quote, 'another grim year for the global warmers. ... 2008 marked the tenth consecutive year of no global warming. ... The Earth has been cooling for the last six years.' "
  • Lou Dobbs said during the introduction of his December 18, 2008, CNN show: "And tonight, unusual winter storms are dumping snow in unusual places across Western states, and a huge snowstorm is headed toward the Northeast. This is global warming?" During his segment on the issue, Dobbs hosted Heartland Institute senior fellow and science director Jay Lehr, who at one point during the interview said: "We've been warming out of that cold spell from the Revolutionary War period, and now we're back into a cooling cycle. The last 10 years have been quite cool. And right now I think we're going in to cooling rather than warming, and that should be a much greater concern for humankind. But all we can do is adapt. It is the sun that does it, not man."
  • In a November 25, 2008, Politico article, Erika Lovley wrote that "[c]limate change skeptics on Capitol Hill are quietly watching a growing accumulation of global cooling science and other findings that could signal that the science behind global warming may still be too shaky to warrant cap-and-trade legislation." As evidence, Lovley quoted D'Aleo saying, "Recent warming has stopped since 1998, and we want to stop draconian measures that will hurt already spiraling downward economics."
  • In a June 17, 2008, column, former Washington Times editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden falsely claimed that "the earth has been measurably cooling for the last decade, despite everything [former Vice President] Al [Gore] and his followers have done about it."
  • On the August 21, 2008, edition of Special Report, Baier said, "Finally, the World Meteorological Organization says the first half of 2008 was the coolest in at least five years. It expects 2008 will almost certainly be cooler than recent years, although temperatures remain above the historical average." He continued: "The United Kingdom Meteorological Office Hadley Centre for Climate Studies says data shows worldwide temperatures have declined since 1998. A scientist with WMO says, quote, 'We can expect with high probability this year will be cooler than the previous five years.' Climate scientists differ about whether the cooling temperatures undermine the case for man-made global warming."
  • On the April 4, 2008, edition of Fox News' America's Pulse, host E.D. Hill falsely claimed, in a teaser for an upcoming segment, that "the U.N. [United Nations] says the planet may actually cool off for the 10th year in a row." Later, during a discussion of the issue with Greg Gutfeld, host of Fox News' Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld, Hill similarly stated: "U.N. meteorologists now saying that we could have, for the 10th year in a row, a colder year, temperatures ... decreasing, not warming, getting colder."

By contrast, during an interview with Christopher Field, the director of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, on the February 17 edition of CNN's American Morning, co-host John Roberts said that "some people have been pointing this -- to this in recent days, a graph from NASA tracks temperature data from 1880 until this year. And in 1999, there was a real spike. There was also one that looks like it was about 2005 or so. But the overall trend from 1998 on has been down, and some people are suggesting that the world is actually cooling as opposed to getting warmer. What do you say about these data from NASA?" Field replied: "It's important to remember that the world's climate system is incredibly complex with a whole bunch of internal dynamics. The internal dynamics are such that, for several years at a time, you can see the average temperature go in a direction that's different from the long-term trend. The fact of the matter is that all of the recent years have been among the very hottest on record, and there is abundant evidence that, over the long run, the planet is continuing to warm, and it's highly likely that this is a consequence of the greenhouse gases that are being released by human activity."

From the March 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Number two: Every time they have a global warming summit or -- it snows.

PFOTENHAUER: It snows. Right.

HANNITY: You like that, coach? It cracks me up.

LOU HOLTZ (former football coach): I knew where you were going. I'll tell you what. Hey, I'm just walking over here; I don't have a coat. I'm freezing, there's eight inches of snow, and I said, thank God for global warming. I'd have really been cold.

HANNITY: Now it's the new ice age. Yeah, exactly.

PFOTENHAUER: You're right. You're exactly right.

HOLTZ: Wow. Am I lucky?

PFOTENHAUER: Well, you know, it's hilarious, 'cause when you talk to the scientists, they said, "you could make the case just as much for global cooling," and then, you know, that they're -- that this stuff has just run amuck. But I'll tell you what: With Carol Browner in that White House, buckle up.

HANNITY: And Doug, by the way, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] couldn't make it 'cause of the snow.

From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the January 6 edition of CNN Newsroom:

COLLINS: New research is heating up the global warming issue once again. The data suggests a split on whether the planet is truly in peril. Our Ines Ferré has a story from New York.

[begin video clip]

FERRÉ: A confusing picture of our world's climate: Three independent research groups found that 2008 was the ninth or 10th warmest year since 1850 when record-keeping began, but it also was the coolest year since the turn of the 21st century.

New data from the University of Illinois says ice levels are roughly the same as those seen 29 years ago. But after decades of ice melt in the Arctic, that may be of little comfort. The increase is because of the formation of thin ice, which melts easily once the winter is over.

Even so, one climatologist, skeptical of global warming, feels the entire debate is muddled with selective data.

D'ALEO: We are too short-sighted or certainly the -- those who believe in it are not looking at all the big picture, which needs to include other factors than natural cycles in the ocean and of the sun that are the real drivers.

FERRÉ: NASA scientists report that more than 2 trillion tons of land ice in Greenland, the Arctic, and Antarctic have melted since 2003.

Some farmers fear future regulations on greenhouse gas emissions could include what it could amount to a cow tax. The United Nations calculates livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

PAT MICHAELS (Cato Institute senior fellow): Extremism in the pursuit of climate policy is certainly no virtue. And what's really going on is we have rather a moderate increase in temperature, so why would one jump off the bridge and take money away from people?

From the January 5 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BAIER: Despite dire warnings from global warming alarmists, DailyTech online reports global sea ice levels are now equivalent to those seen 29 years ago.

Satellite data from the University of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center indicates the rate of global sea ice increase in the last four months of the year was the fastest rate of change on record.

Meanwhile, former nuclear scientist and energy expert Michael Fox writes in the Hawaii Reporter that 2008 was, quote, "another grim year for the global warmers. ... 2008 marked the tenth consecutive year of no global warming. ... The Earth has been cooling for the last six years."

From the August 21, 2008, edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BAIER: Finally, the World Meteorological Organization says the first half of 2008 was the coolest in at least five years. It expects 2008 will almost certainly be cooler than recent years, although temperatures remain above the historical average.

The United Kingdom Meteorological Office Hadley Centre for Climate Studies says data shows worldwide temperatures have declined since 1998. A scientist with WMO says, quote, "We can expect with high probability this year will be cooler than the previous five years."

Climate scientists differ about whether the cooling temperatures undermine the case for man-made global warming.

From the February 17 edition of CNN's American Morning:

ROBERTS: All right. So, scientists and environmentalist talk about a threshold, the certain number of parts per million in greenhouse gases beyond -- which they call a tipping point -- beyond which it may be impossible to reverse global warming. This new data that you have been talking about -- these new data -- does that change that tipping point? Does it accelerate it? Might we already be there, as some scientists are suggesting?

FIELD: One of the critical important goals for climate research is to figure out where these tipping points are. The fact of the matter is that we can't be 100 percent confident. There is abundant evidence that these threshold conditions are out there somewhere. It's an active area of research. And I think what we're calling for is caution about approaching them too quickly, given that we don't know exactly where they are.

ROBERTS: You know, I'm holding in my hand, and some people have been pointing this -- to this in recent days, a graph from NASA tracks temperature data from 1880 until this year. And in 1999, there was a real spike. There was also one that looks like it was about 2005 or so. But the overall trend from 1998 on has been down, and some people are suggesting that the world is actually cooling as opposed to getting warmer. What do you say about these data from NASA?

FIELD: It's important to remember that the world's climate system is incredibly complex with a whole bunch of internal dynamics. The internal dynamics are such that, for several years at a time, you can see the average temperature go in a direction that's different from the long-term trend.

The fact of the matter is that all of the recent years have been among the very hottest on record, and there is abundant evidence that, over the long run, the planet is continuing to warm, and it's highly likely that this is a consequence of the greenhouse gases that are being released by human activity.

16:00

On the March 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, in talking about the death of actress Natasha Richardson, former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey (R) misrepresented a health-care provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, while co-host Martha MacCallum baselessly suggested the United States might be headed "down the same path" as Canada with regard to health care.

During the segment, McCaughey again falsely claimed that the recovery act "actually will require doctors to practice cost-effective care and the government will monitor it to make sure they do it." In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, the provisions to which McCaughey referred address establishing a national coordinator for health-care technology and an electronic records system such that doctors would have information about their patients "to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care." Indeed, as FactCheck.org wrote, "there's nothing in the law that says the national coordinator will 'make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems ... cost effective.'"

MacCallum later said: "[I]n this piece this morning, one of the doctors in Canada said, 'Well, I don't really want the United States lecturing to us about our health-care system, because we don't have, you know, 40 million people uninsured.' But this is what they do have, a cost-benefit analysis when you're lying there on the table." She then asserted: "[I]t's such a sad story, and, you know, for the family ... woulda, coulda, shoulda at this point is not going to change anything in their lives, but it is worth examining on this basis because there are things in this provision in the stimulus bill that might lead us down the same path." However, President Obama has explicitly rejected replacing the U.S. health-care system with one based on the Canadian model. Salon.com's Alex Koppelman noted in a March 27 blog post that several conservative media figures and outlets have claimed that the Canadian health-care system caused Richardson's death.

Teasing the segment on Richardson's death, America's Newsroom ran on-screen text reading: "Did Canadian-Style Health Care Hasten Richardson's Death?"

From the March 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

BILL HEMMER (co-host): Also, there is this -- Martha?

MacCALLUM: And now we have the 9-1-1 transcripts from the accident that caused the death of actress Natasha Richardson. Some critics are saying that Canada's health-care system does share the blame for her death. We're going to go through those transcripts. We'll tell you if there's anything in there to substantiate that claim.

[...]

MacCALLUM: Well, as friends and family struggle to move on following her death, there's new light today being shed on the possibly crucial moments that could have changed the fate of Natasha Richardson. The 9-1-1 transcripts have just been released, and they detail the following hours after her fall on the ski slopes at a Canadian resort. They also raise some questions about whether the Canadian health system played a part in her tragic death.

Joining us is health-care expert Betsy McCaughey. She is the former lieutenant governor of New York, of course -- Betsy, good to have you here today.

McCAUGHEY: Thank you.

MacCALLUM: You know --

McCAUGHEY: Very sad times.

MacCALLUM: It is, and as you go through some of what happened, you know, on that day: She fell down. She went back to her room. She rested for a little while. She's -- really didn't feel right.

They took her to a facility that was 25 miles away. And now we do know that there was a CT scanner there, which raises the question, was it used? We don't know the answer to whether or not it was used. But that in and off itself raise the question: Why wouldn't they use it if it was there?

McCAUGHEY: Well, Dr. Paul Saba, the emergency room physician, has told the press that doctors have to do a cost --

MacCALLUM: Right.

McCAUGHEY: -- benefit analysis. In the U.S., when an accident victim is brought in, all resources are used. That patient is given every chance to live. Unfortunately, there's more and more emphasis on cost-benefit analysis, and the new stimulus legislation just passed in Washington actually will require doctors to practice cost-effective care and the government --

MacCALLUM: So --

McCAUGHEY: -- will monitor it to make sure they do it.

MacCALLUM: -- what on earth does that mean? You know, you have this woman, she's young.

McCAUGHEY: That's right.

MacCALLUM: And she's lying there -- they have a CT scanner. And it's my understanding that we don't know whether or not they used it, but there's no doubt that what you're talking about -- this cost-benefit analysis -- went into that decision.

McCAUGHEY: Exactly. And it's very important for Americans to understand when they hear that the government is going to lower the cost of your health care, it means fewer nurses on the floor, longer waits for treatment, and doctors who are forced to think about the cost before they give you the treatment to make you live.

MacCALLUM: And, I mean, in the current system here, they're going to employ whatever they have available to them.

McCAUGHEY: Exactly.

MacCALLUM: And now, you're going to have the doctor perhaps saying, "Well, you know, we're not sure. It looks -- I mean, it's very unlikely that this is anything serious. It wasn't a great fall." But then you get this bizarre set of circumstances where, indeed, it was.

And the other thing I want to ask you about is the helicopter issue, because there was no chopper. You know, they wasted a ton of time when you think back on it -- 25 miles to the first hospital, and then another two-hour plus over to the Montreal trauma.

McCAUGHEY: And time is critical with this kind of injury.

MacCALLUM: Yeah.

McCAUGHEY: And medevacs are much more common in the United States. They do enable skiers and people who are in remote places to get emergency care when needed.

MacCALLUM: So, you know, about the helicopter issue -- I mean, in this country, she would have been choppered out of that area and probably brought to New York, right?

McCAUGHEY: In most ski resorts that's available now. But the really critical issue here for all Americans is to think twice about whether they want to lower their health-care costs if it will mean that they don't get the care they need to live.

MacCALLUM: Because I thought it was interesting -- in this piece this morning, one of the doctors in Canada said, "Well, I don't really want the United States lecturing to us about our health-care system, because we don't have, you know, 40 million people uninsured." But this is what they do have --

McCAUGHEY: I do want to see people go --

MacCALLUM: -- a cost-benefit analysis when you're lying there on the table.

McCAUGHEY: Exactly. And there are ways to give people health insurance -- they already get emergency health care --

MacCALLUM: That's right.

McCAUGHEY: -- in the United States --

MacCALLUM: Absolutely.

McCAUGHEY: -- but there are ways to give them health insurance, without taking away what everybody already has insurance expects when they're in an accident.

MacCALLUM: Yeah. And it's such a sad story, and, you know --

McCAUGHEY: It's a very sad story.

MacCALLUM: -- for the family, it's a -- you don't want is -- woulda, coulda, shoulda at this point --

McCAUGHEY: That's right.

MacCALLUM: -- is not going to change anything in their lives, but it is worth examining on this basis because there are things in this provision in the stimulus bill that might lead us down the same path.

McCAUGHEY: Let's scrimp on the things that we don't need to save our lives.

MacCALLUM: Thank you, Betsy -- Betsy McCaughey.

15:50

On the March 27 edition of his Fox News program, Sean Hannity stated that "[t]he director of national intelligence says Gitmo detainees will be released right here in the U.S.," and later alleged: "So we're going to release these enemy combatants on American soil, OK?" Hannity also referred to the detainees that "we're going to release" as "Gitmo combatants." In fact, in the comments to which Hannity referred, National Intelligence director Dennis Blair was not proposing that the United States release "enemy combatants on American soil"; rather, during a March 26 press conference, Blair outlined the "process" by which the government would determine whether and how to release detainees into the United States who are not "too dangerous to let out" and have not "committed offenses that merit punishment."

Indeed, Blair was answering a specific question about detainees belonging to the Uighur ethnic group from western China. As Media Matters for America has noted, the Bush administration told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in September 2008 that the 17 Uighur detainees "will be treated as if they are no longer enemy combatants."

As Media Matters noted, Hannity also falsely claimed during the same Fox News segment that "we actually have from the Pentagon 61 people that we released from Gitmo. Sixty-one have gone back to the battlefield."

From Blair's March 26 press conference:

QUESTION: On the disposition of the prisoners at Gitmo, you've got some options, and none of them are really great. You give them to governments overseas who may jail them or release them, and we've seen some of what's happened there. There's some talk about releasing, or putting some in U.S. jails.

BLAIR: Right.

QUESTION: Possibly releasing some inside the United States, the Justice Department talked a little bit about perhaps releasing the Uighurs in the U.S., or at least some of them. What criteria are you using to make those determinations, and what -- if anyone is released into the U.S., what kind of follow-up will you do with them for security and what kind of assistance would you give them to sort of get them started in our country?

BLAIR: I probably couldn't describe the process any better than you just did. We are building dossiers on each of the detainees in Guantanamo that puts together all of the information we have about them. We're developing a process to make an evaluation of what can be done with them, given the options that we have.

And in the case of each of those -- each of the, those options, we are in fact thinking through the additional measures that have to be taken, some of which you cited. If they are sent to another country, we have to be sure that that country will treat them in a humane fashion. So that's part of the -- that's part of the consideration. If they are to be detained in the United States after some sort of process that determines that they are too dangerous to let out, or have committed offenses that merit punishment, we have to worry about where they're put and what the effect is on the -- what that effect might be on the place where they're placed.

If we are to release them in the United States, you can't just sort of, as you said, put them on the street and there, but we need some sort of assistance to them to start a new life and not return to some of the conditions that may have inspired them in the first place. So all that is a work in progress. It's under intense timeline because a year is not a very long time to go through that complexity. So all that's in process.

From the March 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: The director of national intelligence says Gitmo detainees will be released right here in the U.S. And guess what? Given federal assistance to start a new life. You've got to be kidding me. What's next? Straight ahead.

[...]

HANNITY: All right. So I'm going to start with you, considering we were battling this morning.

JAY THOMAS (radio host): Sure.

HANNITY: We'll pick it right up where we left it.

THOMAS: I don't know if we were battling, but --

HANNITY: Nah, I'm just teasing. It was fun -- you were fun. So we're going to release these enemy combatants on American soil, OK?

THOMAS: Yeah.

HANNITY: You know, I don't know if it includes Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9-11, but we're going to release these guys --

THOMAS: There's only 20 of them we're releasing, though.

HANNITY: All right, but they're going to be released.

THOMAS: But aren't they Chinese guys? Aren't they, like --

BETSY McCAUGHEY (former New York lieutenant governor): Twenty? One could do deadly damage.

THOMAS: I understand. They could --

HANNITY: She's -- I think he was kidding at this point.

THOMAS: You make me want to have a handy wipe. I know you're into the -- whatever.

But it's 20 guys. Seventeen are Chinese. And if they go back to China -- they're from a Muslim section or whatever -- they may be killed. And who's -- and they've proven or said that they weren't enemy combatants.

Wouldn't you love them just to open the gate at Guantánamo and let them just stay in Cuba?

HANNITY: Just go -- in Cuba.

THOMAS: And do the -- what is it, the Mariel -- the boat lift that we hated so much? But I have to tell you, I'm pro-choice on this. I think you give them a choice. They either go back to their country of origin -- they go into -- they can go into Cuba if they want, or we release them into any number of Chinatowns in the United States. I mean, what else --

HANNITY: Where -- where you think they would be --

THOMAS: They would be welcome. They would be welcome. They --

HANNITY: Well, look --

THOMAS: But they didn't do anything. Now, remember now --

HANNITY: But here's -- but here's the other side of this.

THOMAS: -- it's a democracy. We said they didn't do anything.

HANNITY: But we're going to release them, Betsy, and then we're going to give them money. I mean --

McCAUGHEY: This is --

HANNITY: -- we're going to bail out --

THOMAS: Well --

HANNITY: -- we're going to bail out the Gitmo combatants. This is, you know --

McCAUGHEY: Right. This is -- the president's action toward these military tribunals has been an outrage, especially to the families who lost someone on 9-11 or with the attack of the USS Cole.

THOMAS: But these people didn't kill anybody in 9-11.

McCAUGHEY: But --

SOPHIA NELSON (attorney): Let her finish.

THOMAS: They were in China.

McCAUGHEY: The -- the standard of proof is --

HANNITY: Some -- some. We don't know exactly who specifically --

THOMAS: Seventeen are Chinese and three --

McCAUGHEY: -- is too high.

THOMAS: -- are Middle Eastern.

McCAUGHEY: We know that -- we know that one of the Gitmo detainees who was released because he said that he wanted to go back to his family and farm his land --

HANNITY: Yeah.

McCAUGHEY: -- is now leading the Taliban effort in southern Afghanistan.

HANNITY: No, that's true. But as a matter of fact --

McCAUGHEY: So --

HANNITY: No, we actually have from the Pentagon 61 people that we released from Gitmo. Sixty-one have gone back to the battlefield. So, I'm not -- I don't even know if I necessarily have the confidence that the government is releasing people that are truly and completely innocent.

McCAUGHEY: Our major obligation --

NELSON: I think we're -- look --

McCAUGHEY: -- is to the safety of our citizens --

HANNITY: And I agree with you.

MCCAUGHEY: -- not to these Gitmo detainees.

HANNITY: And this is a war.

NELSON: Picking up on Betsy's point -- and it's very important. This is a serious issue. This isn't something we ought to be joking about. We're setting a very dangerous precedent here, releasing people -- terrorists -- and I really get annoyed when people talk about democracy. They're not in a democracy. This is a democracy for American citizens, not terrorists who come here to harm us or do our people harm. I don't think they have any rights.

THOMAS: If you held me for seven years --

NELSON: I think that --

THOMAS: -- and I didn't do anything --

NELSON: Too bad. Well, you know what?

THOMAS: -- I would be really mad.

NELSON: The bottom line is --

THOMAS: Well, I'm sorry. They --

NELSON: -- those rights of due process --

THOMAS: They have said that --

NELSON: -- apply to American citizens --

THOMAS: -- they didn't do anything.

NELSON: -- I don't think they ought to apply to terrorist citizens.

HANNITY: You know, I gotta tell you --

THOMAS: There's only 20 that they say they didn't do anything.

HANNITY: There's a hard -- this is a hard question, because, you know what? I'm sort of leaning -- I've been so pro-death penalty my whole life -- but the Innocence Project, you know, by Barry Scheck, has kind of made me question, as a pro-life guy, that maybe that's not a good idea. We've made too many mistakes.

THOMAS: What about the money it costs to put someone to death? It's much more expensive.

HANNITY: I don't care how expensive it is. If you rape a child or kill somebody, and it's on video -- now, my standard is increasing. If you're on video, and we've got, you know, 1,000 percent proof, I have no problem. You go.

But the only point is, is if we make mistakes, these are people that are going to go out there, they think God is inspiring them with 72 virgins in heaven to kill Americans. And I -- this is a time of war. They declared war on us. Some of them were picked up on the battlefield. I'm just -- I'm worried we make a mistake, and America pays the price.

THOMAS: Why do you think that these 20 are guilty, if we say they're not guilty? Why do you think these 20 -- there's 246. Twenty may be released into the United States.

McCAUGHEY: You're confusing the standard of proof.

NELSON: Exactly.

McCAUGHEY: They may not be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, but we cannot afford to expose our nation to the risk that they may be -- mal-intended.

THOMAS: Then send them home to wherever they came from, and that's it.

HANNITY: Don't release them in the U.S., and certainly don't give them --

McCAUGHEY: That's right.

THOMAS: Send them home.

14:35

On March 27, USA Today reported the Republican charge that proponents' support for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 amounted to support for "a provision that allowed the [AIG] bonuses to be paid" without noting that those bonuses would have been paid in the absence of the stimulus bill.

Reporting on the March 31 New York 20th Congressional District special election, USA Today reporter John Fritze wrote that Republican candidate James Tedisco "has tried to tie [Democratic candidate Scott] Murphy's support of the stimulus to AIG because the law includes a provision that allowed the bonuses to be paid." At no point in the article did Fritze note that the stimulus bill did not create the right of AIG to pay those bonuses, which would have been paid without the bill at all. What the stimulus bill did was impose restrictions on the ability of companies receiving aid in the future to pay bonuses. So if the bill hadn't passed at all -- the outcome Tedisco reportedly says would have been the right one -- then there would be no restrictions on the payment of bonuses by companies receiving aid.

From Fritze's March 27 USA Today article:

The midterm elections are more than a year away, but voters who live in the small towns and rolling farms of Upstate New York are providing an early look at how President Obama's economic policies may play out on the campaign trail in 2010.

Months before races heat up elsewhere, two candidates here are vying for an open House seat in the nation's only competitive special election -- a swing district where the $787 billion stimulus law and bonuses paid to AIG executives have become key issues. The winner may provide a blueprint for how to campaign next year in an election that will decide control of Congress.

[...]

The candidates, Republican James Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy, have battled for weeks over Obama's response to the economy and now the American International Group bonuses. Both are echoing messages heard in Washington: Murphy says the stimulus is imperfect but necessary to stem further job losses, and Tedisco argues the measure includes wasteful spending that will not help the economy.

Tedisco also has tried to tie Murphy's support of the stimulus to AIG because the law includes a provision that allowed the bonuses to be paid. Murphy has countered that Tedisco's opposition to the stimulus would have cost the state tens of thousands of jobs and killed a tax break intended to benefit middle-income residents.

[...]

Money flowing into the district has translated into a bitter television ad war. Tedisco aired an ad last week on the AIG bonuses, arguing that because Murphy supported the stimulus he "supported a loophole letting AIG executives keep their bonuses." The language was a last-minute addition to the bill and did not become widely known until after the company paid bonuses this month.

Murphy has suggested in his ad that because Tedisco opposes the stimulus he is against 76,000 jobs for Upstate New York and "the largest middle-class tax cut in American history." The jobs figure is an estimate that even the Obama administration has said is subject to large margins of error.

12:49

During the March 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Martha MacCallum claimed that President Obama "told [Rick Wagoner,] the boss of General Motors: You are fired," and Fox Business Network contributor Stuart Varney claimed that "it's the first time in modern history that the government has fired the chief executive of a private corporation." In fact, the government did not fire Wagoner, but made his resignation a condition under which the federal government will extend further aid to GM. Moreover, Varney's claim that the decision lacked precedent ignored similar decisions at American International Group (AIG) and at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where chief executives were removed in September 2008 as part of agreements to accept government aid.

In announcing his resignation, Wagoner stated, "On Friday I was in Washington for a meeting with Administration officials. In the course of that meeting, they requested that I 'step aside' as CEO of GM, and so I have." While MacCallum claimed that Obama "fired" Wagoner, she did not point out that Wagoner's resignation was a condition of additional government assistance. Indeed, a March 30 New York Times article reported, "The White House on Sunday pushed out the chairman of General motors and instructed Chrysler to form a partnership with the Italian automaker Fiat within 30 days as conditions for receiving another much-needed round of government aid" [emphasis added]. The Times continued:

The decision to ask G.M.'s chairman and chief executive, Rick Wagoner, to resign caught Detroit and Washington by surprise, and it underscored the Obama administration's determination to keep a tight rein on the companies it is bailing out -- a level of government involvement in business perhaps not seen since the Great Depression.

President Obama is scheduled to announce details of the auto package at the White House on Monday, but two senior officials, offering a preview on condition of anonymity, made clear that some form of bankruptcy -- a quick, court-supervised restructuring, as they described it -- could still be an option for one or both companies.

Mr. Obama's auto industry task force, in a report released Sunday night assessing the viability of both companies and detailing the administration's new plans for them, concluded that Chrysler could not survive as a stand-alone company.

The report said the company would get no more help from the government unless it can finalize a proposed alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat by April 30. It must also reduce its debt and health-care obligations.

If a deal is reached between Chrysler and Fiat, the administration says it would consider another loan of $6 billion to Chrysler.

G.M., on the other hand, has made considerable progress in developing new energy-efficient cars and could survive if it can cut costs sharply, the task force reported. The administration is giving G.M. 60 days to present a cost-cutting plan and will provide taxpayer assistance to keep it afloat during that time.

Along with Mr. Wagoner's ouster, the task force said most of the company's board would be replaced over the next few months. In a statement Monday, Mr. Wagoner said he had been urged to "step aside" by administration officials, "and so I have."

His resignation is the latest example of the government taking a hands-on role in making major decisions at companies it is bailing out. The government has already pushed banks to make management changes and sharply reduce or eliminate their dividends, and it also is directing many of the decisions at the troubled insurance giant American International Group, which is nearly 80 percent owned by the government after its rescue.

In deciding to urge Mr. Wagoner to step down, the Obama administration seemed mindful of the public's growing outrage over bailouts of private companies, as well as the bonuses paid to employees of A.I.G.

Mr. Obama is well aware that he cannot afford to give the appearance of using tax dollars to reward executives who have done a poor job, and he began signaling as early as last week that he would take a tough stance with the automakers.

Moreover, contrary to Varney's claim that the decision to ask for Wagoner's resignation as a condition for further government aid was "historic," several executives have been asked to resign as a condition for receiving government aid since September:

  • In a September 7, 2008, jointly released statement, then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and then-Federal Housing Finance Agency director Jim Lockhart announced that as part of the government's decision to take Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, "New CEOs supported by new non-executive Chairmen have taken over management of the enterprises."
  • A September 17, 2008, Washington Post article reported of the Bush administration's decision to bail out AIG, "The terms of the rescue package allow the government to replace [chief executive Robert] Willumstad, and a source familiar with the matter said last night that Willumstad would be succeded [sic] by Edward Liddy, former chief executive of Allstate." Likewise, a September 17, 2008, Associated Press article reported:

In the most far-reaching intervention into the private sector ever for the Federal Reserve, the government stepped in Tuesday to rescue American International Group Inc. with an $85 billion injection of taxpayer money. Under the deal, the government will get a 79.9 percent stake in one of the world's largest insurers and the right to remove senior management.

AIG's chief executive, Robert Willumstad, is expected to be replaced by Edward Liddy, the former head of insurer Allstate Corp., according to The Wall Street Journal, citing a person it did not name. Willumstad had been at the helm of AIG since June.

[...]

Under the deal, the Federal Reserve will provide a two-year $85 billion emergency loan at an interest rate of about 11.5 percent to AIG, which teetered on the edge of failure because of stresses caused by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and the credit crunch that ensued. In return, the government will get a 79.9 percent stake in AIG and the right to remove senior management.

AIG shares sank $1.34, or 36 percent, to $2.41 in morning trading Wednesday. They traded as high as $70.13 in the past year.

The government's move was similar to its bailout of Sept. 7 of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where the Treasury Department said it was prepared to put up as much as $100 billion over time in each of the companies if needed to keep them from going broke.

From the March 30 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

BILL HEMMER (co-host): Good morning, everybody, on a Monday -- Fox News Alert now. We are awaiting news from the White House on the future of America's auto industry, and the president will step to the cameras this morning to tell the country how Detroit has come up short on plans to restructure. Chrysler is all but history. GM is on life support. More than a million jobs hang in the balance. That is where we start this morning. And good morning -- whole new week here in America's Newsroom. Hello.

MacCALLUM: I'm Martha MacCallum. Good morning, everybody. Good morning, Bill. I'm in for Megyn Kelly today. Even before the president speaks this morning, he sent a message that was heard loud and clear from coast to coast. He told the boss of General Motors: You are fired.

HEMMER: Rick Wagoner, the man on your screen, had almost four decades with GM, and now he is out. Our man Stu Varney, out of FBN, says welcome to the new America, where elected officials can hire and fire folks who work in what was previously called the private sector. That man leads our coverage. Stu Varney, good morning to you. What do you make of this?

VARNEY: Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: How do we understand it?

VARNEY: OK. This makes history -- makes history for two reasons. Number one, it's the first time in modern history that the government has fired the chief executive of a private corporation. The government does not own General Motors, but it totally controls it.

Second, it's the first time that I can remember that the American government has forced the sale of an American private corporation to a foreign company. Chrysler is being forced into a deal to be taken over by Fiat of Italy. More than that, if they got a deal after 30 days, the new deal -- the Fiat-Chrysler organization -- gets $6 billion of taxpayer money.

Bill, the writing is on the wall for any private company that takes government money. The government is going to tell you who you can fire -- who you can fire, how much you can pay them, the perks that they can receive, their business practices, and basically what product you can put out. History.

HEMMER: Sounds like oversight a hundred percent of the way.

VARNEY: Yeah, it's full control.

HEMMER: When you think about it, too, the White House sending its own team to Detroit to oversee the new restructuring. These companies are not going to make a move unless the White House gives them the thumbs up.

VARNEY: No. The government now controls the car industry in the United States.

12:18

In his March 30 Washington Post column, media critic Howard Kurtz wrote, "Fox [News] executives maintain that the channel's reporting is aggressive but not ideological," adding, "Senior Vice President Bill Shine says that 'our reporters, people like Major Garrett, have been asking tougher questions' than their rivals, such as scrutinizing efforts to increase White House involvement in the 2010 Census." But Fox News' strategy in covering the new administration is not limited to " 'asking tougher questions' than their rivals"; Shine recently suggested that Fox News could serve as "the voice of opposition on some issues" with Democrats in power in Washington.

A March 23 report on NPR's Media Circus featured clips of Shine saying of Fox News: "There were a couple of people who basically wrote about our demise come last November, December, and were, I guess, rooting for us to go away. ... With this particular group of people in power right now, and the honeymoon they've had from other members of the media, does it make it a little bit easier for us to be the voice of opposition on some issues?"

From Kurtz's March 30 Washington Post column:

Fox executives maintain that the channel's reporting is aggressive but not ideological. Senior Vice President Bill Shine says that "our reporters, people like Major Garrett, have been asking tougher questions" than their rivals, such as scrutinizing efforts to increase White House involvement in the 2010 Census.

As for the commentators, Shine says Hannity still has some liberal guests and that Beck has "a very populist message -- he's mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. There's anger and fear out there and he's giving people an outlet for that."

From the March 23 edition of NPR's Media Circus:

DAVID FOLKENFLIK (NPR media correspondent): How has the Fox News Channel fared in the age of President Obama? Quite well, thank you, says Bill Shine, Fox News' senior vice president for programming.

SHINE [audio clip]: There were a couple of people who basically wrote about our demise come last November, December, and were, I guess, rooting for us to go away.

FOLKENFLIK: Ratings estimates from Nielsen show audience levels are up; crazy high for a news channel, and among the highest of all basic cable channels. And Shine says that's because Fox has taken a skeptical eye to the new administration.

SHINE [audio clip]: With this particular group of people in power right now, and the honeymoon they've had from other members of the media, does it make it a little bit easier for us to be the voice of opposition on some issues?

FOLKENFLIK: Let me answer that for him: Sure it does.

07:55

During the March 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, correspondent Molly Henneberg falsely claimed that "[r]econciliation was last used in 2001 by Republicans to pass the first Bush tax cuts." In fact, Republicans used the budget reconciliation process to pass several major Bush initiatives after 2001, as the blog Think Progress recently noted. These initiatives include the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005. Reconciliation was used as recently as 2007, when the Democratic Congress passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act.

During her report, Henneberg described reconciliation as a "maneuver" that congressional Democrats may use "to achieve some of President Obama's more controversial budget priorities, including health-care reform and a cap-and-trade energy policy."

As Media Matters for America documented, Fox News host Sean Hannity recently made the false claim that reconciliation would allow the Obama administration to pass legislation "without any Republicans even having an opportunity to vote."

From the March 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BRET BAIER (anchor): While several Democratic lawmakers have taken steps to trim the president's budget, others are trying to use parliamentary shortcuts to preserve some of his most ambitious initiatives. Correspondent Molly Henneberg reports.

[begin video clip]

HENNEBERG: House and Senate Democrats are holding out the possibility of using a maneuver called reconciliation to achieve some of President Obama's more controversial budget priorities, including health-care reform and a cap-and-trade energy policy. Political analysts say reconciliation makes it easier for the majority to get bills, which are attached to the budget through Congress, especially through the Senate.

J.D. FOSTER (Heritage Foundation senior fellow): Because of the reconciliation instructions, you don't have a right to filibuster. You can raise some -- offer amendments and raise objections, but, ultimately, it's going to take 51 votes to move the legislation forward, not 60.

HENNEBERG: The 60 votes that are usually needed in the Senate to stop a filibuster and pass a bill. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid [NV] has said nothing is off the table when it comes to reconciliation. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has watched many House-passed bills die in the Senate, says the future of health-care reform may depend on it.

PELOSI: I think the best prospect for that to happen is to do it under reconciliation.

HENNEBERG: Reconciliation was last used in 2001 by Republicans to pass the first Bush tax cuts, but now the GOP is furious the Democrats may use it to pass potentially sweeping energy and health-care reform.

REP. PETE HOEKSTRA (R-MI): They're going to have a major impact on the country, and to put them through a process that will not allow for a full debate is absolutely outrageous.

March 29, 2009

16:14

During an interview with Sen. John McCain on the March 29 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, host David Gregory falsely equated March 13 comments by President Obama with McCain's September 2008 comment that the "fundamentals of our economy are strong." Gregory said to McCain: "On the economy -- I don't have to remind you -- during the campaign, you said that, as this financial crisis was really unraveling, as the economy was taking a dive, that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. You were criticized as being out of it, not getting it, not understanding the economy. And yet, just a couple of weeks ago, this was the president in the Oval Office." Gregory then aired a March 13 clip of Obama saying, "If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy ... then we're going to get through this. And I'm very confident about that." But as Media Matters for America has documented, in his March 13 comments, Obama did not comment on the broad "fundamentals" of the economy; rather, Obama cited specific "fundamentally sound aspects of our economy," including, "all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy."

By contrast, Obama criticized McCain in September 2008 for broadly stating that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Following Obama's criticism, McCain revised his comments to claim that by "fundamentals," he had been referring to "the American worker, and their innovation, their entrepreneurship, the small business."

From Obama's March 13 speech:

OBAMA: If you've been laid off your job, if you've lost your home, then, you know, right now is very tough. But we're providing help along the way. That's why we put a housing program in place; that's why we're going to be announcing additional steps to help small businesses.

But if we are -- if we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy, all the outstanding companies, workers, all the innovation and dynamism in this economy, then we're going to get through this. And I'm very confident about that.

From McCain's September 15, 2008, speech:

McCAIN: As you know, there's been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street, and it is -- it's -- people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult time. And I promise you, we will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street. We will reform government.

Following McCain's September speech, the Obama campaign immediately criticized McCain's remarks. In a speech in Grand Junction, Colorado, hours after McCain's remarks, Obama said, in part:

OBAMA: It's not that I think John McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of most Americans. I just think [he] doesn't know. He doesn't get what's happening between the mountain in Sedona where he lives and the corridors of Washington where he works. Why else would he say that we've made great progress economically under George Bush? Why else would he say that the economy isn't something he understands as well as he should? Why else would he say, today, of all days -- just a few hours ago -- that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong? Senator -- what economy are you talking about?

Numerous media outlets documented that McCain changed his message on the economy after the Obama campaign criticized his comment. Indeed, later that day during a campaign stop in Orlando, Florida, McCain said: "And my opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals -- the American worker, and their innovation, their entrepreneurship, the small business -- those are the fundamentals of America, and I think they're strong." During the same appearance, McCain also said: "The fundamentals of our economy are at risk. ... And those fundamentals are threatened, they are threatened and at risk because some on Wall Street have treated Wall Street like a casino.''

From the March 29 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

GREGORY: On the economy -- I don't have to remind you -- during the campaign, you said that, as this financial crisis was really unraveling, as the economy was taking a dive, that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. You were criticized as being out of it, not getting it, not understanding the economy. And yet, just a couple of weeks ago, this was the president in the Oval Office -- watch.

OBAMA [video clip]: If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy ... then we're going to get through this. And I'm very confident about that.

GREGORY: What did you think when you saw that?

McCAIN: I think we're in agreement. I think what the president is saying now -- and it's needed to be said to the American people -- that we have the best workers, we're the most innovative, we're the most productive. We still have the fundamentals of a very strong economy and we need some confidence to get through this. We need -- that's part of the recovery. So, I'm glad we're in agreement.

GREGORY: But in the campaign, do you think that criticism was unfair?

McCAIN: Look, life isn't fair, we all know that.

15:20

On March 29, the Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by Andrew Klavan, a contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute's quarterly magazine, City Journal, in which Klavan claimed of Rush Limbaugh: "I listen to Limbaugh every chance I get, and I have never heard the man utter a single racist, hateful or stupid word." Klavan then issued to "liberals" what he referred to as "the Limbaugh Challenge," writing: "Listen to the show. Not for five minutes but for several hours: an hour a day for several days. Consider what he has to say -- the real policy material under the jokes and teasing bluster. Do what your intellectual keepers do not want you to do and keep an open mind." Media Matters for America, however, listens to the entire Rush Limbaugh Show everyday and has documented numerous examples of Limbaugh spewing offensive commentary and basic misstatements of fact. Media Matters recently launched the Limbaugh Wire, providing hour-by-hour coverage of and commentary on Limbaugh's program.

Below are some examples of offensive commentary and falsehoods by Limbaugh that Media Matters has documented in just the last month, complete with audio:

A Media Matters compilation of some of Limbaugh's most outrageous remarks prior to March can be found here.

From Klavan's March 29 Los Angeles Times op-ed, "Take the Limbaugh Challenge":

If you are reading this newspaper, the likelihood is that you agree with the Obama administration's recent attacks on conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh. That's the likelihood; here's the certainty: You've never listened to Rush Limbaugh.

[...]

You're not a moderate or you wouldn't be reading this newspaper. You're not tolerant of a wide range of views; you are tolerant of a narrow spectrum of variations on your views. And, whatever you claim, you still haven't listened to Rush Limbaugh.

Which leads to a question: Why not? I mean, come on, the guy's one of the figures of the age. Aren't you even curious? I listen to all your guys: NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, The Times, the New York Times, the New Yorker -- I check out the whole left-wing hallelujah chorus. Why are you afraid to spend a couple of hours listening to Limbaugh's show and seriously considering if and why you disagree with him?

Let me guess at your answer. You don't need to listen to him. You've heard enough to know he's a) racist, b) hateful, c) stupid, d) merely an outrageous entertainer not to be taken seriously or e) all of the above.

Now let me tell you the real answer: You're a lowdown, yellow-bellied, lily-livered intellectual coward. You're terrified of finding out he makes more sense than you do.

I listen to Limbaugh every chance I get, and I have never heard the man utter a single racist, hateful or stupid word. Do I always agree with him? Of course not. I'm a conservative; I think for myself. But Limbaugh, by turns insightful, satiric, raucously funny and wise, is one of the best voices talking about first principles and policy in the country today.

Therefore, I am throwing down my gauntlet at your quivering liberal feet. I hereby issue my challenge -- the Limbaugh Challenge: Listen to the show. Not for five minutes but for several hours: an hour a day for several days. Consider what he has to say -- the real policy material under the jokes and teasing bluster. Do what your intellectual keepers do not want you to do and keep an open mind. Ask yourself: What's he getting at? Why does he say the things he says? Why do so many people of goodwill -- like that nice Mr. Klavan -- agree with him?

The mainstream media (a.k.a. the Matrix) don't want you to listen to Limbaugh because they're afraid he'll wake you up and set you free of their worldview. You don't want to listen to him because you're afraid of the same thing.

Don't believe me? Well, then, gird your loins. Gather your courage. Accept the Limbaugh Challenge. See what happens.

I dare you.

March 27, 2009

20:42

On the March 26 edition of CNN Newsroom, congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar falsely claimed that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's proposal for Congress to pass legislation allowing the federal government to take over failing nonbank financial institutions was an "unprecedented ask" by Geithner. Similarly, during the March 24 edition of Situation Room, CNN repeatedly discussed Geithner's proposal while airing the caption "Unprecedented Request For Power; Admin. wants to regulate non-banks." In fact, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) chairman Sheila Bair -- both Bush appointees -- previously stated that the federal government needed and should have such power.

Additionally, several CNN correspondents, anchors, and hosts have reported that Geithner had requested "unprecedented" power, but did not note Paulson's or Bair's comments.

During a November 20, 2008, speech, Paulson said that "[w]e need a mechanism, essentially an amendment of the federal bankruptcy system, for the orderly wind-down of such institutions," and that with such "wind-down authorities" as part of a "new framework," "we could achieve again the proper balance between market discipline and regulatory oversight, and no institution should be deemed to be too interconnected or too big to fail." From Paulson's remarks:

In the Blueprint for Regulatory Reform that we developed prior to this financial turmoil and released last March, and which has proven to be remarkably appropriate, we recommend a U.S. regulatory model based on objectives that better align the regulatory structure with the reasons why we regulate -- to ensure stability, safety and soundness and to protect consumers while also supporting innovation.

In our model, a market stability regulator would have authority to review any systemically important financial company, and to look for problems anywhere in the financial system in order to protect against systemic risk. Our continuing challenge has been what to do about non-depository institutions that may be too big or too interconnected to fail. We need a mechanism, essentially an amendment of the federal bankruptcy system, for the orderly wind-down of such institutions. Also, to ensure the market stability regulator can fulfill its role, large, systemically-important institutions, including hedge funds, should be required to have a charter that would permit some type of oversight.

[...]

Under a new framework, which includes market infrastructure, transparency and wind-down authorities, we could achieve again the proper balance between market discipline and regulatory oversight, and no institution should be deemed to be too interconnected or too big to fail.

Similarly, during a June 18, 2008, speech, Bair stated, "I believe that we need a special receivership process for investment banks that is outside the bankruptcy process, just as it is for commercial banks and thrifts," adding that "the FDIC's authority to act as receiver and to set up a bridge bank to maintain key functions and sell assets offers a good model." From Bair's remarks:

I believe that we need a special receivership process for investment banks that is outside the bankruptcy process, just as it is for commercial banks and thrifts. The reason goes back to the public versus private interest.

The bankruptcy process focuses on protecting creditors. When the public interest is at stake, as it would be here, we need a process to protect it. This process must achieve two central goals. First, it should minimize any public loss and impose losses first on shareholders and general creditors. Second, it must allow continuation of any systemically significant operations.

As I've previously suggested, the FDIC's authority to act as receiver and to set up a bridge bank to maintain key functions and sell assets offers a good model. A temporary bridge bank allows the government to prevent a disorderly collapse by preserving systemically significant functions. It enables losses to be imposed on market players who should be at risk, such as shareholders. It also creates the possibility of multiple bidders for the bank and its assets, which can reduce losses.

The authorities that the FDIC has are a good model, but there are still many open issues.

From the March 24 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

CNN figures describing Geithner's proposal as seeking "unprecedented" power without noting Paulson's and Bair's previous comments include:

  • During the 11 a.m. ET hour of the March 26 edition of CNN Newsroom, Keilar stated that Geithner was "asking for those unprecedented powers to seize and either wind down -- possibly wind down companies like AIG, these non-bank financial institutions, and do it in such a way that the FDIC seizes banks." Similarly, in the noon ET hour of the March 24 edition of CNN Newsroom, Keiler stated that Geithner was "asking Congress to give the Treasury Department, to give the federal government, unprecedented power when it comes to dealing with companies like AIG, when it comes to selling off assets, when it comes to winding down a company."
  • On the March 24 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs stated that Geithner had "made a pitch for even more power, expanded, unprecedented power that would allow the government to virtually shut down failing financial companies, such as AIG."
  • Congressional correspondent Dana Bash introduced her report on Geithner's proposal -- aired on the March 24 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight and the 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. ET hours of The Situation Room -- by stating: "The treasury secretary is trying to channel AIG anger into a new solution: Give him unprecedented power."
  • On the 8 a.m. ET hour of American Morning, White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux said of Geithner's proposal, "All of this, [anchor] John [Roberts], unprecedented, but Tim Geithner will go before lawmakers and say this is necessary to make sure that this kind of abuse doesn't happen again."

As Media Matters for America documented, during several reports on Geithner's proposal, CNN cited House Republicans' characterization of the proposal as a power grab, including House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) charge that the proposal constitutes "an unprecedented grab of power." However, in its reports on the budget blueprint that House Republicans, led by Boehner, released on March 26, CNN did not note that Republicans also proposed giving the federal government authority to take over financial institutions.

From the 2 p.m. ET hour of CNN Newsroom on March 26:

KYRA PHILLIPS (anchor): If a company is too big to fail, it shouldn't be too big to regulate or too complicated or too well-connected or too sneaky. So says Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, asking Congress to rewrite the rules of the U.S. financial system.

GEITHNER [video clip]: To address this will require comprehensive reform. Not modest repairs at the margin, but new rules of the game. And the new rules must be simpler and more effectively enforced. They must produce a more stable system, one that protects consumers and investors, rewards innovation, and is able to adapt and evolve with changes in the structure of our financial system. Our system, the institutions, and the major centralized markets must be strong enough and resilient enough to withstand very severe shocks and withstand the effects of a failure of one or more of the largest institutions.

PHILLIPS: CNN's Brianna Keilar on the Hill. Brianna, how'd the new proposals go over?

KEILAR: Well, key Democrats, Kyra, are onboard. But some Republicans saying they're afraid this proposal and multiple proposals by the Obama administration to reform these financial markets, they're afraid that it's a remedy that might ultimately kill the patient.

And that includes a proposal that we first heard of on Tuesday -- that unprecedented ask by the Treasury secretary to give -- for Congress to give the federal government the power to seize and perhaps wind down these companies like AIG. That was at the heart of the most contentious exchange of this hearing that we saw as this hearing wrapped up a short time ago. Let's listen.

[begin video clip]

REP. DONALD MANZULLO (R-IL): Do you realize how radical your proposal is?

GEITHNER: It is not a radical proposal --

MANZULLO: Oh, it's absolutely -- you're talking about seizing private businesses, and you don't consider that to be radical?

GEITHNER: No. This is a prudent, carefully designed proposal to protect our financial system from the --

MANZULLO: If it's prudent and carefully designed, Mr. Secretary, then you would have the answers to some of my questions, such as what size business would be subject to this.

[end video clip]

KEILAR: You see there some Republican discomfort, Kyra, with just how involved the federal government could be getting here. Why are they concerned? Well, because they fear that with so much involvement, it could be overreaching, that ultimately, instead of just regulating, it could ultimately stifle the U.S. economy. We expect this to play out as this issue moves forward and they start talking about writing a bill, moving forward with votes on this, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: And we'll follow it. Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

From the 11 a.m. ET hour of CNN Newsroom on March 26:

DON LEMON (anchor): It is a very busy day here in the CNN Newsroom, and we are monitoring a hearing right now. It's happening on Capitol Hill. That hearing is focused on how to prevent the current economic crisis from ever happening again.

There you see him right there, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. He is presenting a plan to the House Financial Services Committee. He's calling for more government power to seize troubled financial firms.

[begin video clip]

REP. DAVID SCOTT (D-GA): This great expansion of power to seize non-bank companies, where in the federal government should that power rest? Should it be with you and Treasury, should it be in the Fed, or perhaps in FDIC?

GEITHNER: Well, what we're proposing to do is build on the model established for the FDIC for banks and thrifts. That model, we have a lot of experience with it. There is a whole range of important checks and balances in that system to limit discretion, so the existence of this does not increase moral hazard, as your colleague said.

And we think that model offers a lot of promise. And we're basically suggesting a model which would substantially rely on the FDIC itself to run this new regime. But you have to have some checks and balances in the system.

[end video clip]

LEMON: Now, here's what Mr. Geithner wants to do. He wants to completely overhaul how the government regulates financial firms. CNN's congressional correspondent, Brianna Keilar, following the hearing.

Brianna, he made big news on the Hill Tuesday. Now he's back at it again. We were talking here, saying he just should set up shop down there.

KEILAR: Yeah, twice in three days. He's quite the regular here on Capitol Hill, Don. And you could see he was answering questions there about his controversial proposal on Tuesday that he brought before this committee for the first time, asking for those unprecedented powers to seize and either wind down -- possibly wind down companies like AIG, these non-bank financial institutions, and do it in such a way that the FDIC seizes banks. That's very controversial, so he's answering questions on that today. But he is also talking about regulating -- regulating the markets.

And the headline today, in particular, one thing he is proposing, and that is starting sort of a position that is someone who would be a systemwide regulator who would look at the big picture. Because, Don, one of the big questions about this whole financial crisis is, how did no one -- you know, how did no one -- how was this missed? How did we not see this coming with these lending practices and all these foreclosures on the horizons leading to these toxic mortgage-backed securities, and then ultimately bringing the financial markets to the -- to its knees? How didn't we see this coming?

He's talking about establishing someone who would be able to see the risk and see the weaknesses, the point being to do it before it becomes a massive problem, as it is now, Don.

From the March 24 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight:

LOU DOBBS (host): Good evening, everybody. The president's news conference will begin less than an hour from now. It comes just hours after Treasury Secretary Geithner and Fed Chairman [Ben] Bernanke went to Capitol Hill. There, they faced more stinging criticism for their handling of the banking crisis and the AIG bonus scandal.

But they also made a pitch for even more power -- expanded, unprecedented power that would allow the government to virtually shut down failing financial companies such as AIG. Now, the White House apparently trying to wrest control of the message and to deflect the outrage by putting President Obama in front of reporters tonight in a live, nationally broadcast news conference. This is the second of his now 64-day-long presidency. The economy, AIG, the president's new border protection initiative all on the agenda -- Dan Lothian with our report tonight.

[...]

DOBBS: Well, as Dan just reported, the Treasury secretary and the Fed chairman today asked Congress to give the president sweeping additional powers. They sat down in front of the House Financial Services Committee. There, they said the government should be able to take a troubled company such as AIG and shut it down. Dana Bash has our report from Capitol Hill.

[begin video clip]

BASH: The Treasury secretary is trying to channel AIG anger into a new solution: Give him unprecedented power.

GEITHNER: AIG highlights very broad failures of our financial system. [...] We came into this crisis without the authority and the tools necessary to contain the damage to the American economy.

BASH: Timothy Geithner wants Congress to grant him that same power over non-banking financial institutions like AIG that the FDIC has over banks -- the ability to take control of a failing company and do what it takes to reduce risks. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke backed the idea, saying he would have had better tools to handle AIG's crisis and its controversial bonuses.

BERNANKE: This bonus issue would not have arisen because all of the contracts could have been adjusted.

BASH: In fact, Bernanke said when he learned of AIG's bonuses, he wanted to sue but was stopped by Fed lawyers.

BERNANKE: Connecticut law provides for substantial punitive damages if the suit would fail.

BASH: Bernanke and Geithner's new proposal was clearly intended to deflect outrage, but it didn't always work, like when this Democrat demanded a full list of companies taking taxpayer dollars that paid bonuses.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D-CA): Are you going to give us the chart, or are you going to hide the ball?

GEITHNER: I'm not going to hide the ball.

SHERMAN: Are you going to give us the chart?

GEITHNER: I will reflect on the suggestion you made and see if that is a reasonable --

SHERMAN: In other words, you won't commit to telling the American people how many folks at Goldman Sachs or AIG are going to make a million dollars this year?

GEITHNER: Congressman, I will think carefully about your proposal.

BASH: That exchange, evidence that Geithner's shaky bailout history will make lawmakers think twice before expanding his power.

[end video clip]

BASH: Now, the House Republican leader blasted Geithner for what he called a, quote, "unprecedented power grab." But, Lou, Democratic leaders, they pretty much said that they supported this idea, but you know, the big question is what is going to happen with rank-and-file lawmakers, because many of them say that they're a little bit wary about jumping into a Treasury proposal like this on a complex issue because they say they've been burned before. Lou?

From the noon ET hour of the March 24 edition of CNN Newsroom:

BETTY NGUYEN (anchor): And we've been listening to the hearing on Capitol Hill with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke as they speak before the House Committee on Financial Services. It's an important one today as they delve into the AIG scenario -- what happened, why did it happen, how could it have been dealt with even better?

CNN's Brianna Keilar is outside the hearing room on the Capitol -- at the Capitol. And Brianna, it seems like, you know, the headline so far is, before we even discuss broadening the Treasury secretary's powers, let's find out what went wrong with AIG.

KEILAR: Sure. And that's really issue number one today in terms of the first issue they're dealing with, this residual outrage over the AIG bonuses. And then, overall, just the need to help AIG out considering what happened with that whole bonus debacle. So you've seen there Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner defending exactly why AIG needed a bailout in the first place and talking a little bit about the bonuses as well.

But the real headline today, Betty, is that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, here in this hearing, asking Congress to give the Treasury Department, to give the federal government, unprecedented power when it comes to dealing with companies like AIG, when it comes to selling off assets, when it comes to winding down a company. And this is something, this request of Congress, it's already getting some pushback from Republicans, including the top Republican in the House, John Boehner.

Here's what he said even before these men came before this committee to testify.

BOEHNER [video clip]: This is an unprecedented grab of power. And before that occurs, there ought to be a real debate about whether we should give that authority to the Treasury secretary. We need to look at insurance operations, as an example, that are regulated by states. What interest would the Treasury secretary have here, and why would he want this power?

KEILAR: And some Republicans raising concerns with the Treasury secretary, if that isn't then ripe for some abuse of power, turning over too much control to the Treasury. Tim Geithner saying that's not a concern, what we're trying to do here is make sure that what happened with AIG doesn't happen again. That if there is a company like AIG, we will have more control when it comes to executive compensation and other things, so that we don't look back and say, wow, we really should have done something differently -- Betty.

From the March 24 edition of CNN's American Morning:

ROBERTS: As we said, the Treasury secretary is going to be back on Capitol Hill this morning, and CNN has learned that he is asking for more power over financial businesses which are currently subject to little or no regulation. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux broke some of the details overnight and joins us now live from the White House. So what's he going to ask Congress for today, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: John, really the idea is that the government would have a lot more oversight in the financial industry -- really, some of those institutions that escape those big regulatory measures. And senior aides are telling us this morning that what Secretary Geithner is actually going to go before lawmakers, he is going to say that, "All institutions and markets that could pose systemic risk will be subject to strong oversight, including appropriate constraints on risk-taking."

Now, specifically what are they talking about here? Well, there are three big things that the government could step in on. One of them is to sell or transfer company assets, very important aspect of this. The other thing that we've all been talking about over the last couple of weeks in light of AIG is renegotiating or dissolving executive compensation. And, finally, taking a look at these financial institutions and seeing whether or not there is any risky portfolios or trading that is going on that the government could step in and actually change the outcome.

All of this, John, unprecedented, but Tim Geithner will go before lawmakers and say this is necessary to make sure that this kind of abuse doesn't happen again -- John.

20:24

This week, conservative media figures bombarded the media landscape with accusations that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's proposal to allow the government to take over nonbank financial institutions amounted to a massive White House "power grab." A chilling accusation to be sure, especially when one considers the unprecedented abuses of power that occurred on President Bush's watch. In the words of Fox News' Sean Hannity, Geithner's plan is "the single biggest power grab and move toward socialism in the history of the country."

Others in the media uncritically cited such conservative claims, including House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) charge that Geithner's proposal constitutes "an unprecedented grab of power," despite the fact that the budget blueprint released by House Republicans, including Boehner, contained a call for "a process to address insolvent institutions that stops throwing good money after bad into failing institutions and places insolvent ones into temporary receivership." The GOP's proposal raises the question of whether the media, which reported ad nauseam on the charge that Geithner and the White House are engaging in a "power grab" by asking Congress for this authority, will now note that the same House Republican caucus that made the charge has now proposed giving the federal government similar authority. Hypocrisy, anyone?

Of course, the central question remains: How can it possibly be a power "grab" if the Obama administration is seeking this authority from Congress -- a coequal branch of government?

Where's W? The disappearing of a president

Like last week, much of the coverage this week of the AIG executive bonuses was devoid of any mention of the Bush administration's role in the controversy. A USA Today/Gallup poll question about who was to blame for the AIG bonuses conveniently left out the Bush administration as a possible response, despite the administration's decision to give AIG billions in aid without requiring that the company withhold the bonuses. Similarly, a Wall Street Journal article about Geithner and his aides' involvement in decisions about AIG's bonus payments did not note that it was the Bush administration that negotiated a November 2008 stock purchase agreement with AIG through which the Bush Treasury Department injected $40 billion into the company without requiring that the bonus contracts be nullified.

Worse yet, the conservative Washington Times took things a step further, reporting GOP criticism of Democrats over the AIG bonus issue and quoting a Republican strategist asserting: "This is not something [Democrats] can point to George Bush. ... They own the issue of giving bonuses to the AIG executives." Glaringly absent was any mention that the $53 million in AIG bonuses that the article mentioned were reportedly paid out under the Bush administration or that a Bush-appointed special inspector general for TARP has stated that the Bush Treasury Department knew about the AIG bonus contracts and did not insist on their cancellation as a condition of AIG's receiving bailout money.

For the media, laughter is not the best medicine

Media Matters for America this week released a compelling online video, titled "Infectious Laughter: The Epidemiology of a Smear," that demonstrates in detail how the conservative echo chamber operates, using President Obama's interview with Steve Kroft on CBS' 60 Minutes from last weekend as a case study. Echoing a March 22 Politico article, discussion of Obama's laughter was hyped by the Drudge Report. Additionally, the March 23 editions of several morning news shows featured segments on Obama's laughter during the interview. The segments, which aired on NBC's Today, MSNBC's Morning Joe, MSNBC Live, and Fox News' Fox & Friends, are reminiscent of the media's echoing of the Drudge Report, among others, in seizing on Hillary Clinton's laugh as a new subject of attention in September 2007 following Clinton's appearance on all five Sunday political talk shows. Whereas commentators speculated whether Clinton's laughter -- which some described as a "cackle" -- was evidence of her "calculating" nature, according to the Politico article, Obama's "awkward laughter highlighted an issue Obama has faced dating back to the campaign, a sense that he sometimes is too 'cool' and detached to fully grasp the public anxiety over mounting job losses and economic worries." Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski, however, challenged her co-hosts' fixation on the topic, stating, "I don't care who's laughing. ... I want to look at the plan and really assess it fairly. Tone is one thing; we'll see what the action is."

Reading from Limbaugh's teleprompter

Almost daily over the past several weeks, conservative leader Rush Limbaugh has been fixated on Obama's use of a teleprompter. Despite the fact that such a device has commonly been used by media figures and past presidents of both political parties, Limbaugh presses on, day-after-day, taking every opportunity to lambaste what he refers to as "TOTUS," or the "teleprompter of the United States."

Apparently reading directly from Limbaugh's own personal teleprompter, several conservative media figures -- including Matt Drudge and Sean Hannity -- uncritically highlighted a March 18 SkyNews.com report that a "teleprompt blunder has led to Barack Obama thanking himself in a speech at the White House in a St Patrick's Day celebration." But as Toby Harnden, U.S. editor for the U.K.'s Telegraph, noted, the pool report of Obama's March 17 event with Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen indicates that in saying, "First, I'd like to say thank you to President Obama," Obama was, in Harnden's words, making "a good-natured and well-received joke" at the expense of Cowen, who earlier in the event had mistakenly read from the teleprompter displaying Obama's speech. Indeed, as early as March 18, Fox News anchor Bret Baier reported that Obama had "jokingly" made the comments in question.

The ghost of George Will's presence

Last month, The Washington Post's George Will faced intense, widespread criticism for dubious global warming claims he made in two separate columns. It now appears The New York Times Magazine has been possessed by Will's science-denying spirit, as it is slated to run a profile of physicist and global warming skeptic Freeman Dyson this weekend.

The profile quotes without challenge Dyson's false suggestion that there was a scientific consensus in the 1970s that the earth was cooling. Unlike the current consensus that global warming exists, there was no consensus in the 1970s that the earth was cooling. A September 2008 article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (a peer-reviewed publication) investigated the "pervasive myth" that "there was a consensus among climate scientists of the 1970s that either global cooling or a full-fledged ice age was imminent." The article found:

A review of the climate science literature from 1965 to 1979 shows this myth to be false. The myth's basis lies in a selective misreading of the texts both by some members of the media at the time and by some observers today. In fact, emphasis on greenhouse warming dominated the scientific literature even then.

Additionally, The New York Times Magazine sent Nicholas Dawidoff, whom Brad Johnson refers to as a "baseball writer" and who has not previously written about science for the Times, to profile Dyson. Dawidoff has published four books -- The Fly Swatter, a biography of his grandfather Alexander Gerschenkron; In the Country of Country, a collection of biographies of country musicians; The Catcher Was A Spy: The Mysterious Life Of Moe Berg; and The Crowd Sounds Happy: A Story of Love, Madness and Baseball -- and began his career covering baseball for Sports Illustrated. Dawidoff not only allowed Dyson to advance the previously mentioned falsehood about global cooling, he also quoted Dyson accusing Al Gore of being global warming's "chief propagandist" and "an opportunist" and accusing scientist James Hansen, the head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, of "consistently exaggerat[ing] all the dangers" of global warming.

Be sure to check out these lists of Dawidoff's previous articles for The New York Times Magazine and The New York Times.

Clearing up Kudlow's intentions

As Washington Post Co. blogger Greg Sargent noted this week, Media Matters has launched Financial Media Matters, a website dedicated to holding accountable those who report on the financial industry, as well as those who report on labor, the economy, and other fiscal matters. The new website will focus extensively on ensuring that outlets such as CNBC, Fox Business Network, and The Wall Street Journal are held accountable.

Also, following CNBC host Larry Kudlow's expression of interest in running for U.S. Senate in Connecticut, Media Matters President Eric Burns wrote an open letter last week to CNBC President Mark Hoffman that stated, in part, that Kudlow "is either a journalist or a candidate; he cannot be both. ... As a private citizen, [he] has a right to explore a run for public office, but using his platform as a CNBC host to further his political ambitions jeopardizes the integrity of your network." This week, Kudlow announced that he will not run for Senate, as The New York Times and the Hartford Courant, among others, noted.

This week's media columns

Media Matters Senior Fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser, and Karl Frisch look at Jeff Zucker and the CNBC straw man, deficient budget coverage, and the right's toxic assets, respectively.

Week in Review video

Click on image below to watch:

Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog, research, and information center in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign-up to receive his regular weekly columns by email.

18:29

On March 27, the Drudge Report linked to a March 26 post on The Hill's Briefing Room blog that advanced Sen. Judd Gregg's (R-NH) false comparison of the estimated deficits and increased debt under President Obama's proposed budget and the deficits and debt of nations in the European Union. The Hill reported that Gregg argued Obama's budget would lead to a higher national debt and annual deficits than the EU allows its member states, and confirmed this was the case with regard to deficits, according to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates. But The Hill did not mention that the U.S. national debt had already exceeded the threshold permitted by the EU before Obama even took office, that some EU member states currently have deficits or national debts that exceed EU threshold levels, or that EU rules governing deficits include exemptions for circumstances such as "a severe economic downturn."

The Hill article was based on Gregg's assertion during the March 26 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe that Obama and the Democratic Congress will "take the deficit up to about 4 or 5 percent" of gross domestic product (GDP) and "the debt up to 80 percent" of GDP, and thereby leave the U.S. unable to meet the "threshold" required "to get into the EU." Citing Gregg's criticism of the Obama budget, The Hill reported that the EU requires "a budget deficit to be less than three percent, and requires a national debt beneath 60 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)" and further reported that "[a]ccording to the Congressional Budget Office, the [U.S.] yearly budget deficit would fall well beyond that threshold in coming years."

Article 104 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community prohibits member states' "ratio of government debt to gross domestic product [from] exceed[ing] a reference value, unless the ratio is sufficiently diminishing and approaching the reference value at a satisfactory pace." The Stability and Growth Pact set a "60% of GDP reference value for the debt ratio." However, according to the European Commission's report titled "Public Finances in EMU - 2008," as of 2008, "Eight Member States have a debt ratio above the 60% reference value," including Italy, which has a debt ratio of over 100 percent of GDP.

Moreover, the U.S. national debt had already well exceeded 60 percent of GDP prior to the time Obama took office. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the national debt on January 19, 2009 -- the day before Obama's inauguration -- was approximately $10.63 trillion. According to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. GDP in current dollars was approximately $14.26 trillion in 2008. Therefore, the U.S. national debt was approximately 75 percent of GDP when Obama took office.

Five EU member states are also currently running deficits exceeding 3 percent of their GDP. The European Commission announced on March 24:

With the economic crisis eating away at public finances, budget deficits in five countries are expected to exceed the 3% of gross domestic product allowed by the EU.

Concerned about the effect on the stability of the eurozone, the commission is proposing deadlines for complying with the cap. All five - France, Greece, Ireland, Spain and the UK - already posted deficits above the 3% limit last year.

Ireland is asked to bring its budget deficit into line by 2013. France and Spain by 2012. Greece should take steps to get its deficit back under control in 2010. And the deadline for the UK would be 2013-14.

EU leaders have the final say on the proposed deadlines.

According to Article 104 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community, EU "Member States shall avoid excessive government deficits," and under most circumstances, an "excessive" deficit is defined as when "planned or actual government deficit to gross domestic product exceeds a reference value." The 1997 Resolution of the European Council on the Stability and Growth Pact defines this "reference value" as a deficit exceeding "3% of GDP." However, in addition to including an exemption for when the "the excess over the reference value is only exceptional and temporary and ... comes close to the reference value," the treaty establishing the European Community also prescribes that when the European Commission files a report documenting that a member state has surpassed the acceptable level of annual debt, the commission "take into account ... the medium-term economic and budgetary position of the Member State."

From Article 104 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community:

1. Member States shall avoid excessive government deficits.

2. The Commission shall monitor the development of the budgetary situation and of the stock of government debt in the Member States with a view to identifying gross errors. In particular it shall examine compliance with budgetary discipline on the basis of the following two criteria:

(a) whether the ratio of the planned or actual government deficit to gross domestic product exceeds a reference value, unless:

-- either the ratio has declined substantially and continuously and reached a level that comes close to the reference value,

-- or, alternatively, the excess over the reference value is only exceptional and temporary and the ratio remains close to the reference value;

[...]

3. If a Member State does not fulfil the requirements under one or both of these criteria, the Commission shall prepare a report. The report of the Commission shall also take into account whether the government deficit exceeds government investment expenditure and take into account all other relevant factors, including the medium-term economic and budgetary position of the Member State.

The Commission may also prepare a report if, notwithstanding the fulfilment of the requirements under the criteria, it is of the opinion that there is a risk of an excessive deficit in a Member State.

Two other EU resolutions regulating excessive deficits -- the Council Resolution on speeding up and clarifying the implementation of the excessive deficit procedure and the Stability and Growth Pact -- also include language acknowledging exemptions under certain circumstances, such as during a "severe economic downturn."

From the Council Resolution on speeding up and clarifying the implementation of the excessive deficit procedure:

1. The excess of a government deficit over the reference value shall be considered exceptional and temporary, in accordance with Article 104c(2) (a), second indent, when resulting from an unusual event outside the control of the Member State concerned and which has a major impact on the financial position of the general government, or when resulting from a severe economic downturn.

In addition, the excess over the reference value shall be considered temporary if budgetary forecasts as provided by the Commission indicate that the deficit will fall below the reference value following the end of the unusual event or the severe economic downturn.

2. The Commission when preparing a report under Article 104c (3) shall, as a rule, consider an excess over the reference value resulting from a severe economic downturn to be exceptional only if there is an annual fall of real GDP of at least 2 %.

3. The Council when deciding, according to Article 104c (6), whether an excessive deficit exists, shall in its overall assessment take into account any observations made by the Member State showing that an annual fall of real GDP of less than 2 % is nevertheless exceptional in the light of further supporting evidence, in particular on the abruptness of the downturn or on the accumulated loss of output relative to past trends.

From the Stability and Growth Pact:

Adherence to the objective of sound budgetary positions close to balance or in surplus will allow all Member States to deal with normal cyclical fluctuations while keeping the government deficit within the reference value of 3 % of GDP.

[...]

5. [The member states] will correct excessive deficits as quickly as possible after their emergence; this correction should be completed no later than the year following the identification of the excessive deficit, unless there are special circumstances;

6. [The member states] are invited to make public, on their own initiative, recommendations made in accordance with Article 104c (7);

7. [The member states] commit themselves not to invoke the benefit of Article 2 (3) of the Council Regulation on speeding up and clarifying the excessive deficit procedure unless they are in severe recession; in evaluating whether the economic downturn is severe, the Member States will, as a rule, take as a reference point an annual fall in real GDP of at least 0,75 %.

[...]

3. [The commission] commits itself to prepare a report under Article 104c (3) whenever there is the risk of an excessive deficit or whenever the planned or actual government deficit exceeds the reference value of 3 % of GDP, thereby triggering the procedure under Article 104c (3);

4. [The commission] commits itself, in the event that the Commission considers that a deficit exceeding 3 % of GDP is not excessive and this opinion differs from that of the Economic and Financial Committee, to present in writing to the Council the reasons for its position;

5. [The commission] commits itself, following a request from the Council under Article 109d, to make, as a rule, a recommendation for a Council decision on whether an excessive deficit exists under Article 104c (6).

The Drudge Report linked to The Hill's blog post under the headline: "Gregg: USA couldn't even join EU due to debt levels..."

From the March 26 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

JOE SCARBOROUGH (co-host): Well, Senator, you're not alone. The Congressional Budget Office and the new budget director that was appointed by the Democratic Congress says the numbers don't add up. It's unsustainable, and in effect, the Obama budget will bankrupt America. Why isn't Congress listening to the Congressional Budget Office?

GREGG: Well, because they're listening to the president, and the president and his party control the Congress. The problem here is that they're going to take the deficit up to about 4 or 5 percent of GDP and keep that at that level for the next 10 years and then beyond. And that takes the debt up to 80 percent -- the public debt up to 80 percent of gross national product. Now, you cannot, under any circumstances, sustain a system where the public debt is 80 percent of gross national product. To get in -- to try to put this in perspective, to get into the EU, a nation has to have its public debt at 30 percent or less of gross national product and its deficit under 3 percent. So essentially, we won't even be able to get into the EU if we wanted to -- which, hopefully, we don't -- but I mean, that's the type of threshold which we couldn't meet, because our government is going to get so large and the borrowing is going to get so huge.

The March 26 post by Michael O'Brien on The Hill's Briefing Room blog:

Gregg: U.S. couldn't even join EU due to debt levels

The United States wouldn't even be eligible to enter the European Union if it wanted to because of its debt levels, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) claimed Thursday.

"We won't even be able to get into the EU if we wanted to," Gregg said this morning on MSNBC, "because our government is so large and so huge."

The European Union's Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) adopted in 1997 requires a budget deficit to be less than three percent, and requires a national debt beneath 60 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

"We've been lectured by France on the fact that we're not fiscally responsible right now," Gregg, the would-be commerce secretary, noted with incredulity.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the yearly budget deficit would fall well beyond that threshold in coming years.

Still, Gregg expressed resignation with the likelihood that the Obama administration's proposed budget would emerge successfully from Congress.

"He's in charge, and they've got the votes here in Congress," he said.

18:10

On the March 27 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk, co-host Trace Gallagher stated that Attorney General Eric Holder "says" reinstituting the ban on assault weapons "would help in the battle with violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, but gun advocates say that's not right." Supreme Court correspondent Shannon Bream then asserted: "Absolutely. ... [T]hey say if you go to the border, if you talk to law enforcement agents who are there, working all along both sides of the border, and immigration officials as well, and ask them about this issue, they'll say the vast majority of guns, according to them, that are in Mexico being used in some of these drug cartels are not coming from the United States." At no point did Gallagher or Bream mention that statistics from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) contradict the anecdotal claim of these "gun advocates." ATF and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated in recent congressional testimony that "according to ATF's National Tracing Center, 90 percent of the weapons [in Mexico] that could be traced were determined to have originated from various sources within the U.S."

In a joint prepared statement to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, William Hoover, ATF assistant director for field operations, and Anthony P. Placido, DEA assistant administrator for intelligence, testified:

The southwest border is the principal arrival zone for most illicit drugs trafficked into the U.S., as well as the predominant staging area for the subsequent distribution of these drugs throughout the U.S. Guns are an integral part of these criminal enterprises; they are the "tools of the trade." Drug traffickers routinely use firearms against each other and have used these weapons against the Mexican military, law enforcement officials, and Mexican civilians. Because firearms are not readily available in Mexico, drug traffickers have aggressively turned to the U.S. as their primary source. Firearms are routinely being transported from the U.S. into Mexico in violation of both U.S. and Mexican law. In fact, according to ATF's National Tracing Center, 90 percent of the weapons that could be traced were determined to have originated from various sources within the U.S. One thing must remain clear in any discussion of violence in Mexico, or violence practiced by Mexican traffickers operating in the U.S.: drug gangs are inherently violent, and nowhere is this more true than in Mexico, where "Wild West"-style shootouts between the criminals and the cops, and elements of opposing trafficking groups are unfortunately considered normal.

From March 27 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk with Martha and Trace:

TRACE GALLAGHER (co-host): Well, in the meantime, Attorney General Eric Holder is battling for a gun fight, because the attorney general is reconsidering instituting a ban on assault weapons. Holder suggested bringing back the ban in response to the escalating drug violence in Mexico. He says it would decrease the flow of guns from the U.S. into Mexico.

But gun rights advocates say liberal Democrats are using the war next door to push for more restrictions on guns right here in the U.S. Shannon Bream is following this live from D.C. She's on RM-232.

And Shannon, the attorney general says the ban would help in the battle with violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, but gun advocates say that's not right.

BREAM: Absolutely. They think this is kind of a smokescreen, because they say if you go to the border, if you talk to law enforcement agents who are there, working all along both sides of the border, and immigration officials as well, and ask them about this issue, they'll say the vast majority of guns, according to them, that are in Mexico being used in some of these drug cartels are not coming from the United States. So these folks say the Second Amendment is now under attack by the attorney general.

They think he is trying to reinstate this ban on assault weapons as a way of, you know, getting gun control kind of maybe under the radar, because nobody looks at what's happening in Mexico and thinks that's a positive thing. It's obviously a very tragic situation. It gets people's attention. And so, you know, reinstating the ban in that arena makes it -- to a lot of people, it makes sense.

But folks are warning, if you care about your gun rights, you need to take another look at this, a closer look, Trace.

GALLAGHER: Shannon, how is this playing out on Capitol Hill?

BREAM: Well, you know, surprisingly -- not surprisingly, Republicans have said we're going to fight this. But a little bit more surprisingly, there is very strong, very organized Democratic opposition as well. We have a letter that came from 65 Democrats on the House side to the attorney general. We've got a quote from that.

It says: "It is hard to believe the ban would be any more effective in controlling crime by well-funded international drug traffickers, who regularly use grenade launchers, anti-tank rockets, and other weapons that are not available on the civilian market in the U.S."

So they say these guns that would be banned, that's not the only thing that these guys have in their arsenal. Also another letter went out from Senators [Max] Baucus [D-MT] and [Jon] Tester [D-MT], saying they will vigorously oppose any attempt to revive this ban.

So there is definitely organized bipartisan support against this that will be motivated to fight with the attorney general is proposing, Trace.

GALLAGHER: And I guess the bottom line here, Shannon, is does the administration have the support it needs?

BREAM: You know what? It doesn't sound like it right now because even top Democratic leaders -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] and also House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] -- have come out and said, you know, we don't want to go down this path. We're not in favor of reinstating a ban here. What we need to do is enforce the gun laws that we have in effect right now.

And that's something you're hearing from people on both sides of this debate. They say the U.S. already makes it illegal for these guns to go across the border. Things have to be enforced on both sides of the border in order to make it effective. Let's do that. Let's make sure that's working before we pass an even broader law that's going to also need to be enforced. Let's start with what we have on the books now, Trace.

GALLAGHER: Shannon Bream live in D.C. Shannon, thank you.