Los Angeles Times: Sub-zero stupid

One might think that the press might feel a little sheepish about its performance during the 2000 election, in which it mindlessly repeated the notion and helped convince the public that Bush and Gore were really the same, and that there really wasn’t that much difference between the parties–an egregious journalistic failure that has already had catastrophic results.

One would be wrong.

Sunday’s Los Angeles Times leads with an article entitled, “Obama, McCain agree on many once-divisive issues” with the subtitle: “Their similar stances on immigration, nuclear weapons, global warming and stem-cell research are evidence of a centrist shift in the political landscape.”

Never–and this is high bar–have I seen a more misleading and shallow piece of so-called journalism. As long as Sam Zell is trying and succeeding in destroying the Times by firing writers, he might as well start with the scribes who penned this atrocity–Janet Hook, Peter Wallsten, and Peter Nicholas

Where to start? Well, here’s an easy one:

Both McCain and Obama favor combating global warming with a “cap and trade” system. Under this plan, the government would set limits on emissions. Companies and others who emit gases below those limits would be able to sell credits to those unable to meet the targets.

Except that, you know, McCain doesn’t think there should actually be a cap, and has opposed the already extremely weak Warner-Lieberman bill. He thinks global warming is a problem; he just doesn’t want to do anything about it. As opposed to Obama, who thinks it’s a problem, and does want to do something about it. See? No difference at all.

Here’s another:

McCain has repeatedly opposed setting timetables for withdrawing U.S. forces, but more recently he has said he wants most troops out by 2013 — the first time he has mentioned a specific date.

Obama has repeatedly said he would withdraw troops within 16 months of taking office, but he has hedged in ways that would give him wide latitude: He says he will listen to military commanders, will react to events on the ground and may “refine” his plan after his upcoming trip to Iraq.

Except that McCain thinks that the US troop presence can be so benign that US forces can remain there for a century, whereas Obama, well, wants to get troops out in 16 months. See? Pretty much the same!

Or this one:

Both embrace the idea of continuing Bush’s faith-based initiative, a program that funnels federal money to religious charities for social services.

Except that Obama wants to ensure that these charities don’t discriminate and don’t use federal money for proselytization, and well, McCain does. What’s a Constitution between friends?

And, as a final example, the Times insists that “the candidates are also converging on the major issue of immigration — to the surprise and delight of immigrant advocates and businesses who depend on their labor.”

Well–who knows where McCain is on immigration nowadays. Disavowing his own bill one day, coming back the next, It really depends on whom he speaks to. But the Times assures us that he really believes in a comprehensive reform because–and as Dave Barry would say, I’m pretty sure I’m not making this up–the very pro-Republican National Restaurant Association tells us so! (The NRA opposes increasing the minimum wage, the Lili Ledbetter Act, paid sick leave, and card-check legislation, but supports permanent repeal of the estate tax: just the sorts of objective viewpoint that we can count on to tell us whether McCain is a moderate!).

But no matter, because:

Obama speaks more directly to the idea of legalization, and McCain addresses it in subtle terms, but advocates say the position is essentially the same.

“Sen. McCain never really repudiated his [original] position,” said Tamar Jacoby, who heads a business coalition called ImmigrationWorks USA. “Saying you’re going to do it in phases doesn’t mean you’re not going to do it.”

Yes, of course: Tamar Jacoby, who has showed her own straight-shooting bonafides by being part of the Manhattan Institute, writing for the Wall Street Journal editorial page, and spending a lot of time on Fox News.

What do Hook, Wallsten, and Nicholas do with their time? They certainly don’t do any research. As they used to say in the Tootsie Pop ads: the world may never know.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.