Sunday, January 4, 2009

Confused Reporting

It is unclear why two fundamentally unrelated events reported by Edward Luce were packaged as a single story on the Financial Times Web site. The pessimistic explanation would be that someone over at the Financial Times decided that it was time to run a things-are-not-going-well-for-Barack-Obama story, even if, prior to Inauguration Day, it is a bit of a stretch to say that "things are going" at all. Furthermore, only one of those events, the decision of Bill Richardson to withdraw his nomination for Commerce Secretary (for what appear to be perfectly acceptable reasons), is directly related to Obama's transition planning. The reporting of this decision was then convolved with a discussion of the rate of progress in Congressional deliberation over the next round of actions to take towards economic recovery (which I am sure we all expect the Congress to do between now and Inauguration Day).

This second side of Luce's report was further confused by what appeared to be a failure to recognize the difference between deliberating and dithering. If one wanted to pick on the Congress, a better place to start might be with Majority Leader Harry Reid's comment on Meet the Press that it was important to "do it right the first time," as if, through a sort of "Kol Nidre effect," all actions (vows) taken in 2008 (particularly when under the duress of pressure from the Bush Administration) are now "off the books." From a Constitutional point of view, this may be a new Congress; but, particularly over the last three months, many things have been done (particularly involving the commitment of Federal funds) that cannot be undone. The Congress that meets this week does not have a clean slate but one on which much has been written, and it is no easy job to sort out how much of that text is wisdom and how much is folly.

However, if we give Reid some slack by taking "the first time" as a rhetorically confused slip of the tongue, then this may actually be a sign that, as I had previously written, Congress is ready to begin "deliberating over solutions rather than providing ineffective bandages made out of checks for large amounts of money." Put another way, Reid wants to run the Senate in such a way that it steers a course between the Scylla of the tendency to expect instant gratification under the new Administration by virtue of Barack Obama's "messianic aura" and the Charybdis of pressure for immediate action applied by the fear-mongering faith-based alarmism of the Bush Administration. From that point of view, any rumors that Obama would have a Congressional solution plan on his desk on January 20 is a gross departure from realistic thinking that could easily be taken as psychotic. The idea that Fox News would think of pressuring House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer over the Congress needing the time until the President's Day recess for proper deliberation should remind us that journalistic practices are still in serious need of improvement; but it is even more preposterous that the usually-staid Financial Times should decide to treat such claptrap as news. The only "real news" that came out of today's antics of the "Sabbath-Day gasbags" (as Calvin Trillin used to call them) is that they are already hard at work trying to tear down our new Congress before the first gavel has fallen in either the House or the Senate!

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