(Bear with me, I watched the show this morning; I don’t have precise quotes.)

Chris Wallace was interviewing Michelle Bachmann on Fox News Sunday this morning, and pushed her a bit on her rhetoric that Obama was “anti-American” and this was the “most radical administration in US history.” Her explanation was that Obama had caused America to go from “100% of the economy in the private sector’s hands, to 51% of it being in the government’s hands.” She listed the government’s takeover of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the banking industry, AIG, the auto manufacturing companies and healthcare as the basis for her claim.

To his credit, Wallace observed that the government’s intervention in Fannie, Freddie and the banking industry was done by a Republican president. To Bachmann’s discredit, she did not amend her views.

Wallace could have gone much further. He could have mentioned that the government’s investments in the banking industry are transitory, designed to be exited at the earliest possible date. In fact, I believe all the huge “too big to fail” banks except Bank of America have repaid the government and exited the TARP program. He could have mentioned that the government already was a vast player in the healthcare business long before Obama came along.

There is a valid debate to be had about the proper scope of government. There is a valid point to be made that Obama is moving us in the “more” direction. But Bachmann’s rhetoric shows that either she’s colossally uninformed, or completely uninterested in any such debate.

An analyst or guest (not sure who the guy was exactly) was on Fox & Friends this morning, reporting that ACORN had received more than $10 million in government funding. The scroll notes during his comments indicated ACORN had received $1.6 million this year alone. That leaves $8.4 million+ that was funded prior to this year. Proof that the Bush Administration was in bed with ACORN.

Right?

I was reading another blog about how some people blur the line between real news and entertainment news (The Daily Show, et al.). The same goes for real news versus opinion shows.

The highest profile examples are certain of the cable news channels, most particularly MSNBC and Fox. These are great networks, and I watch them all the time and enjoy it. But, they do not deliver the news. Chatter back and forth between “analysts” of unknown or dubious provenance is not news.

Here is my quick guide:

  • If a media source does not present information and credible analysis of that information, it’s not news. Ask yourself if the people doing the talking are presenting original information, or commenting on the news. MSNBC and Fox present virtually no original information.
  • If a media source mostly features conservative operatives who think Obama and/or the Democratic Congress is doing all the wrong things, or liberal operatives who think they are doing all the right things, it’s not news.
  • If a media source has no reporters, it’s not news.
  • If one finds oneself agreeing all the time with a media source, or disagreeing all the time with it, it’s not news.
  • If a media source tells you repeatedly that it speaks the “truth,” it’s not news.

What is news, and where can we go to get it? Where can one find original reporting, the presentation of facts and cogent analysis? Personally, I find these useful:

  • The New York Times and Washington Post. Note to some: spare me the diatribe about the liberal NYT. I don’t often read the opinion pages. Here are the stories featured on their website at this moment: “Protests and Poltical Tensions Mar NATO Meeting,” “Financial Industry Paid Millions to Obama Aide,” and “Obama’s Farm Subsidy Cuts Meet Stiff Resistance.” All three written by real reporters. All three fact-based, none judgmental. All three of them, for that matter, neutral to negative for Obama, for those who think the NYT is in his pocket. And you can click on www.nytimes.com at any moment of any day and find a wealth of such solid, real information.
  • NPR. Same thing goes here. Lead stories on their website right now are: “U.S. Scambles to Revamp Terrorism Detainee Policies,” Iowa Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down,” and “Reaction Mixed to Planned N. Korea Rocket Launch.”
  • CNN. We have no better source than CNN for keeping us abreast of the facts of life. I have never understood the criticism of CNN as a liberal outlet. Since I have been preparing this post, they have had an indepth update from Obama’s trip to Europe, Obama’s schedule for the day, a report about two police officers killed in Pittsburgh, and an update on the Binghamton killings. Hardly the stuff of liberal bias.
  • The New Yorker. When I have the time, this magazine consistently puts out painstakingly researched and brilliantly written pieces on every conceivable subject, including the big issues of our day. On their website, the lead article today is “What Happened To Gao Zhishang?,” about what happened to a prominent Chinese lawyer. There are thoughtful pieces on Syria (by Seymour Hersh) and Afghanistan (not to mention a very funny Woody Allen piece about Bernie Madoff!).

The better we understand the distinction between news and opinion, between reporting and commentating, the better off we are.