The shutdown in the news — False Equivalency edition

by David Safier

There's what happens and what the media says happens. Sometimes they're pretty close to the same, other times, not so much. The most important thing to watch in the reporting of the shutdown isn't the purely factual reporting. That's reasonably straightforward. It's whether coverage follows the false equivalency viewpoint — a pox on all their houses for the shutdown, no matter who bears the brunt of the blame — or points out that the Republican party, led by its far right wing, has created the messwe're in.

My verdict based on coverage I'm seeing in the Star and a few other papers: false equivalency is still rearing its ugly head, but lots of the commentary, especially editorials, is getting it right.

The AP story the Star put on its front page is pure false equivalency. It actually lets the Republicans draw first blood, saying in the second paragraph, "Republicans said it was [Obama's] fault, not theirs, and embarked on a strategy — opposed by Democrats — of voting on bills to reopen individual agencies or programs."

But then you turn to the editorial, which tells the story correctly.

[T]here are times, as we have reached now, when a small number of elected officials — this time a fundamentalist subset of the Republican Party — can monkey-wrench the legislative process and hold the country hostage to their unreasonable demands.

The bottom line, to our mind, is one of practicality: One cannot reason with bullies. Any attempt to do so presupposes a position of good faith that we have yet to see in the tea-party Republicans who are putting their beliefs and political aspirations above the law of the land.

The editorial weighs the recent Ron Barber vote where he sided with the Republicans, then concludes, "We understand his position but don’t agree with Barber on this." (The best and most thorough analysis I have read of Barber's vote is right here on BfA, courtesy of AzBlueMeanie.)

In his column, Tim Steller dives into the controversy over Barber's vote. Steller doesn't really take a side on the issue, but the end of the column where he tries, and fails, to get Martha McSally, who has declared she will run for Barber's seat, to say how she would have voted, is priceless. Classic McSally: I'm going to fix everything when I get to Washington, but I won't give you any specifics about anything I plan to do. (Has anyone seen my talking points? Oh, there they are.)

Elsewhere, the editorial in the AZ Republic comes down as hard on the far right as the Star. The headline says it all: Put down the tea pot, Republicans, and back away. The second paragraph states simply, "Most of all, we need the Republican Party to rein in the madness."

And here's an editorial that may have surprised people in motels all over American from USA Today. The headline: The Shutdown Party: Our view. House Republicans are making demands largely unrelated to budgetary matters. Here's the money quote:

This shutdown, the first in 17 years, isn't the result of two parties acting equally irresponsibly. It is the product of an increasingly radicalized Republican Party, controlled by a disaffected base that demands legislative hostage-taking in an effort to get what it has not been able to attain by the usual means: winning elections.

John Boehner wrote a column in the same edition, but the paper's editorial staff got the last word.

A BREWER-CONTINUES-TO-AMAZE UPDATE: OK, this isn't exactly on topic, but Gov. Brewer thinks Republicans should end the shutdown, according to the Capitol Times.

Gov. Jan Brewer said a delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate isn’t worth a federal government shutdown.

[snip]

“That’s not going to happen. I don’t believe that’s going to happen. I think that it’s pretty much carved in stone, the direction of where Obama health care is going. And I believe they need to get us a budget or a continuing resolution, and we need to get America, the United States back on track,” Brewer told reporters on Tuesday, when asked whether the shutdown would be worth it if it led to a delay in the individual mandate.

Brewer went on to say both parties are to blame, but when it's coming from a conservative Republican governor, equivalency rather than "blame the Dems" is a nod to how badly the Rs have screwed up.

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