The Politico's Pit Bull

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THE PLANK MARCH 3, 2009

The Politico's Pit Bull

Slowly but surely, Politico's Jeanne Cummings has morphed her "Pit Boss" column from a gilded gossip sheet to a right-wing echo chamber. Or worse--because unlike much of the mainstream media these days, she's not so much repeating the GOP line as distilling it. Last week, in a piece titled "Class Warfare Returns to D.C.," she wrote,

... right on cue, Obama defended his $1.3 trillion in tax hikes over 10 years with a little class warfare."I know that this will not always sit well with the special interests and their lobbyists here in Washington, who think our budget and tax system is just fine as it is. No wonder — it works for them," the president said. "I work for the American people, and I'm determined to bring the change that the people voted for last November."

Perhaps only in Washington does "American people" versus "special interests" count as class warfare. In any case, notice that Obama doesn't even mention economic class. Nor does anyone else cited in the column. Cummings is simply taking the stalest of conservative talking points and applying it where all but Rush fear to tread, asserting as fact what is really a pernicious, and useless, slur. 

Today's column, "Tough Talks to Banks Could Backfire," is equally ridiculous. After running through a raft of supposedly dangerous new regulatory proposals in Congress, Cummings writes,

And even President Barack Obama has allowed himself some venting."I understand that, on any given day, Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless behavior," the president said in his national address last week."I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive. ... This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over," he added to roaring applause inside the House chamber — and probably in many American living rooms, as well.The investor class, of course, answered Obama in its own signature way: with a brisk sell-off the next morning.

But that's not at all what happened. The market did tank, but it wasn't because investors wanted revenge--it was because existing housing sales hit an 11-year low. If anything, investors are nervous about the lack of strong government action, not too much. Nor does Cummings' assertion make up in logic what it lacks in evidence: As an investor, better accountability is exactly what I want to see right now, and I'm not particularly concerned about limits placed on executive compensation. And of course, Cummings gets exactly no direct quotes in her piece, because no one is willing to accompany Cummings that far out on a limb. For all her baseless wing-nuttery, Cummings would never make it on right-wing radio--she's still too circumspect for Rush and Laura. The question is, what's she doing in Politico?

--Clay Risen 

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posted in: the plank, person career, barack obama, jeanne cummings

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