Remember when the Lee newspaper editors assured readers that political coverage wouldn’t suffer when they replaced Mike Dennison and Chuck Johnson with other, somewhat less-seasoned reporters? Today’s coverage in the Missoulian about Representative Zinke’s Weekly Republican Address demonstrates in a small way just how flawed that thinking was.
In his story, Missoulian reporter Dillon Kato offered this context-free soundbite from Zinke’s speech as if it were a statement of fact, which it wasn’t.
At the start of June, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, called debate around the $612 billion National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a 1.3 percent pay raise for most military members, a “waste of time.”
Kato didn’t bother to provide any context for the assertion, which came from Zinke’s speech, which was filled with red meat, right wing platitudes from the Fox News/Breitbart world of manufactured controversies. What Reid was saying was simple: given that President Obama would veto the Republican proposals, their instance on passing them for political theater truly is a waste of time, a waste that actually does threaten sustainable funding for government programs, including military spending.
Senator Patty Murray explains, “calling GOP insistence on moving their own spending bills a “waste of time.” She and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) took a full two months to hammer out the first agreement to lift the caps in 2013, she said — a pact that many lawmakers hope can be recreated this year. “It’s getting us, every day, closer to a meltdown.”
What neither Zinke nor the purported news story mention is that the reason President Obama is likely to veto the measure is simple: Republicans are using budget tricks to increase military spending while refusing to budge on sequestration of other areas of the budget:
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who voted against the NDAA during committee markup, told POLITICO Tuesday he is pushing his colleagues to block the bill on the floor “because of the budgetary fakery.” And Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said it’d be “very hard for me to vote for an NDAA that takes money out of the OCO fund without some guarantee that we’re going to address sequestration in other parts of the budget.”
It’s certainly great politics for Representative Zinke to get the attention the Republican weekly address provided him, and I’m sure he appreciated the opportunity to offer Republican talking points that poll well. I’d just appreciate it if the Montana press would do more than repeat those claims without offering the kind of context and balance journalists should offer their readers.
You know, something more experienced reporters would have done.