Patterico's Pontifications

4/10/2014

Sebelius Steps Down

Filed under: General — Dana @ 5:07 pm

[guest post by Dana]

The Washington Post is reporting that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be stepping down from her post on Friday morning. According to a White House insider, Sebelius began having a conversation with the President in early March regarding the transition.

“At that time, Secretary Sebelius told the President that she felt confident in the trajectory for enrollment and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and that she believed that once open enrollment ended it would be the right time to transition the Department to new leadership,” the official said. Bloomberg News and the New York Times first reported Sebelius’s decision.

The move comes months after the start of a rocky period in the rollout of the federal health-care law. The Web site on which Americans tried to sign up for coverage via the newly created exchanges was plagued by technical glitches and there was uncertainty about whether the administration would meet its enrollment goals. As the health-care implementation problems started piling up last fall, Republicans called on her to step down.

President Obama defended Sebelius back in November in an NBC News interview, saying that she “doesn’t write code; yeah, she wasn’t our I.T. person.” Press Secretary Jay Carney, defending her last week, rejected any suggestion that Sebelius would be fired.

–Dana

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: “Shut up,” he Voxplained:

Lerner Contempt Hearing Today

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:27 am

Lois Lerner has been referred for a contempt charge for refusing to answer questions posed by the House Oversight Committee, after having made a grandstanding statement in which she denied breaking any laws or doing anything wrong. The vote, to be held by the House Oversight Committee, will take place today. You can watch the proceedings live here. All these votes are happening on party lines, so I think you can expect she will be held in contempt and it will be dismissed as partisan by the partisan Democrats. (The fact that we don’t agree with your correct conclusion makes your conclusion partisan, will be their argument.)

In a separate proceeding, a committee voted (along party lines) to refer Lerner for consideration of prosecution by Eric Holder, himself in contempt of Congress. “You don’t want to go there, buddy!” Here’s the guy who will be deciding whether to prosecute Lerner:

So let’s all hold our breath over that.

Meanwhile, it looks like Lerner and Elijah Cummings may have snuggled up regarding True the Vote:

New IRS emails released by the House Oversight Committee show staff working for Democratic Ranking Member Elijah Cummings communicated with the IRS multiple times between 2012 and 2013 about voter fraud prevention group True the Vote. True the Vote was targeted by the IRS after applying for tax exempt status more than two years ago. Further, information shows the IRS and Cummings’ staff asked for nearly identical information from True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht about her organization, indicating coordination and improper sharing of confidential taxpayer information.

That’s not at issue in today’s contempt hearings, but it’s an indication of why it’s important to hold Lerner accountable. Of course, holding her in contempt and doing nothing to follow up isn’t really holding her accountable, and she won’t really be held accountable, but it doesn’t change the fact that she should be.

P.S. It’s worth keeping this in mind, too:

IRS agents testified before Congress that the agency’s political targeting did not apply to progressive groups as Democrats and the media have claimed, according to a bombshell new staff report prepared by the House Oversight Committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa.

IRS agents testified before Oversight that ACORN groups were scrutinized because the agency thought they were old organizations applying as new ones. Emerge America was scrutinized for potential “improper private benefit.” No evidence exists that the IRS requested additional information from any Occupy Wall Street group.

“Only seven applications in the IRS backlog contained the word ‘progressive,’ all of which were then approved by the IRS, while Tea Party groups received unprecedented review and experienced years-long delays. While some liberal-oriented groups were singled out for scrutiny, evidence shows it was due to non-political reasons,” according to the Oversight staff report, which was obtained by The Daily Caller.

Paging Robin Abcarian! (Who is busy demagoguing the wage gap argument that was overwhelmingly debunked here last night.)

Questioning Ethics…Some Of The Time

Filed under: General — Dana @ 6:53 am

[guest post by Dana]

Last week I put up a post about George W. Bush and his art exhibit opening in Dallas. The post included a video of Bush’s daughter Jenna Bush Hagar interviewing the former president about his paintings on NBC’s The Today Show.

Last night, I stumbled upon a link to a story entitled, “The Ethics of NBC Letting George W. Bush Be Interviewed by His Daughter”. While acknowledging the segment on Bush was a commercial success for NBC, the people at Think Progress were troubled,

[A]s a journalistic outlet, what are the ethical implications of turning over an interview with a former President to his own daughter?

Citing the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which states, “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived”, three experts in ethics and journalism were contacted by the publication. According to Think Progress, all three “raised substantial concerns with the segment”.

Marc Cooper , professor at the Annenberg School For Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, said the segment,

“helps erode any lingering hope the public might have that these powerful news organizations have much intention to hold the powerful accountable and instead prefer to cater to their children and play patsy with their parents.”

Cooper added that “networks long ago abandoned any serious ethical standards, especially for its morning shows.”

From Todd Gitlin, professor and chair of the Ph.D. program at the Columbia University School of Journalism,

“The disgrace of network broadcasting is always making new bottoms.” He noted that there were any number of serious questions NBC News could and should pose to former President Bush, including for example the Iraq War, the collapse of the financial system, and his inaction in the face of catastrophic climate change. Instead, according to Gitlin, NBC “pretties up the self-indulgence of the president… those are the journalism ethics in charge… as satire, this is rock-bottom stuff.”

Bill Reader, a professor of journalism at Ohio University, seemed less concerned,

“I am thinking it is really not much different than when NPR reporters interview their parents for cutesy Mother’s Day or Father’s Day features. Rather his concerns center on the energy spent “on a pointless puff piece about ‘daddy’s painting hobby’” which he calls “a vapid waste of time.”

At the end of the report, Think Progress dutifully informed readers that Chelsea Clinton’s hiring as a special correspondent at NBC’s Rock Center also resulted in criticism being lobbed at NBC, and they provided a link to several brief New York Magazine pieces commenting on nepotism and incestuous privilege. I was, however, unable to locate any question of ethics regarding the Clinton hire in Think Progress archives.

In light of said experts and their comments, if we are questioning ethics, should the ethics of an overtly left publication seeking out the journalistic opinions of several overtly politically like-minded professors be questioned?

After all, if the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics warns, “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived”, shouldn’t Think Progress have considered that a conflict of interest might easily be perceived by readers upon noting the politics of the go-to professionals? Especially, as ultimately, this is about politics. Because Bush.

Clearly, Think Progress questioning the ethics in this, and the subsequent statements of Cooper and Gitlin confirm that partisanship was a motivating factor. Being generous, whether intentionally or not, their statements rallied the troops and got the righteous indignation motors revving again. Why else go after a former president who has intentionally avoided the public eye since leaving office and has subsequently protected his private life? If Think Progress were seriously interested in ethics, they would do well to focus on the political power players currently making noise and news, rather than on those who have clearly avoided the spotlight and have no intention of seeking public office.

As I am not a professional journalist, I sought out one who decades ago graduated from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and has worked in journalism for most of her professional adult life, including as a contributing editor at a major metropolitan newspaper. She made the following observations,

Puff pieces have always been a part of EVERY news organization. This was a feature and they likely only got Bush to do it because his daughter works there. Isn’t that why they hired her?

And it wasn’t even a feature that deeply explored whether his art was good or what influences he has been inspired by. It was puff pure and simple. Every TV news organization does PUFF pieces. The question is, do they do them right before a major election in favor of the candidate their puffing about or in front of passing a huge and hated-by-the-population law?

It’s kind of like Michelle Obama on the cover of Home and Garden. Or the Obama family on the cover of People. Or Michelle Obama at the Oscars. Do a search on their critiques of that journalism and … what do you find?

Ironically, after doing a good faith search of Think Progress archives, as well as articles specifically by author of this article, Judd Legum, I was unable to locate any questioning of ethics when Chelsea Clinton interviewed her mother, Hillary Clinton, which aired on ABC News in 2011. At the time of the interview, Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State, and the opening questions from Chelsea to her mother, were, “What in the 21st century is the appropriate role of government? What is the appropriate role of civil society? What can and should government do? What can and should civil society do?”

In closing, it should be noted that author Judd Legum’s bio reads in part, “Judd was the Research Director for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign.”

Ethics, anyone?

–Dana


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