Five at 8 – 1/20/10: The post-Coakley panic

1) In the wake of yesterday’s Republican win in the Massachusetts Senate election, Democrats and Republicans get to test whether anything has changed. When an election ends, will people close ranks and move together, or pick up the pitchforks and move farther apart?

Let’s hit the editorial pages. From the once-mighty Boston Globe (which proved it has no idea how to conduct political polls):


For now, Brown deserves to savor a truly historic victory. He no doubt will follow through on his pledges to oppose key parts of President Obama’s agenda, as he should, having campaigned so vigorously on those issues. But in other ways, he should recognize that he represents a progressive state and look for opportunities to work with the rest of the state’s congressional delegation in a bipartisan spirit.

All of Massachusetts wishes him well, and congratulates him on a truly impressive campaign.

Republicans will point out — perhaps accurately — that the only time you hear the word “bipartisan” is when a Republican wins. Across town at the Boston Herald, they’re still in a fightin’ mood.


And like that battle in Concord more than two centuries ago, this is only the opening round.

Her fellow Democrats will attempt to blame the loss entirely on Martha Coakley, her inability to connect with voters, her verbal blunders and on assuming her primary victory was all she needed. Much of that is true, but it is also true that Coakley promised to be simply more of the same.

Chris Good of The Atlantic says one of the reasons voters were frustrated and impatient is the political paralysis in Washington. Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com “plays the blame game.”


If you follow through on the math, this would suggest that Coakley would have won by about 8 points, rather than losing by 5, had the national environment not deteriorated so significantly for Democrats. It suggests that the Democrats would have won by 9 points, rather than losing by 5, had the candidate been someone other than Coakley. And it suggests that the race would have been a 1-point loss (that is, basically too close to call), rather than a 5-point loss, even if Coakley had run such a bad campaign and even if the national environment had deteriorated as much as it has, but had there not been the unusual circumstances associated with this particular election.

Discussion point: Will people move closer together in search of the common good, or move farther apart?

As for the future of health care, Sen. Al Franken told MPR’s Cathy Wurzer this morning that the reform movement isn’t dead. “We may have to win over a Republican,” he said. “But it takes two to play ball and we need Republicans to be willing to do that and not be invested in simply not having a bill.”

2) Times change. Here are images of CNN (and sometimes CBS) reporter/anchor Anderson Cooper saving a boy in Haiti from the chaos of looting. Here’s the video:

Wayback Machine time: It’s 1979 and CBS’ 60 Minutes star Ed Bradley was in the middle of a story about boat people escaping Vietnam. Some can barely get to shore, and Bradley jumps in to help:

Some of journalism’s upper crust debated whether a reporter should get involved in a story, even if human life is at risk. Thankfully, you don’t hear many discussions like that anymore.

In fact, have you noticed the number of network TV journalists wearing surgical garb? They’re doctors, too, and they have to balance being a doctor with being a reporter.

“Worse, it can become self-promotional: ‘Is this compassion or is it congratulations?'” an ethics professor tells the Washington Post today. “‘It’s almost as if the networks are saying, ‘Look at our correspondent down there.’ It gives me an uncomfortable, queasy feeling.'”

Some Minnesotans aren’t in the predicament; they’ve got just one job– helping. MPR’s Dan Olson has the story of Minnesota-based Project Haiti, whose workers are hitting Port au Prince running today.

3) When does disaster photography cross the line? I wrote last week that news editors were in a tough spot trying to convey the extent of the disaster in Haiti without offending the sensibility of the reader or viewer. An NPR blogger puts up a defense, but…


At the same time, we should give American audiences some credit. Yes, the images are there, available 24 hours a day, but not everyone has given in to the non-stop voyeurism. Even if you wanted to, who has time? And surely, many in the American public have used that wonderful little thing called the “off button” (which we in media also tend to forget about). And most Americans appreciate the difference between horror flicks and a terrible reality. The fascination might be similar, but the actions — and donations — the Haiti images inspire are ultimately what matters … right?

There’s no question the images prompted the outpouring. Justin Kownacki points out that it’s what makes people get involved. The thing about shock, though, is you can only get away with it once… maybe twice. It was shocking, for example, when All in the Family played the sound of a flushing toilet. People get desensitized, even to piles of corpses. How do we convey the extent of the disaster the next time?

4) College marketing has changed. Here’s a YouTube video posted this week by Yale. Over to you, University of Minnesota. (h/t: Chris Spulock)

5) It’s hoar frost season in Minnesota. Northfield’s Griff Wigley documents it. Carleton College took the daytime view.

Bonus: A bar in New York is the place to watch football for fans of the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, New York Magazine reports, except when they’re playing each other as they will this Sunday.


The bar has had affiliations with both teams for some time. Per Schon, a long-gone employee/Vikings fan initiated the Minnesota connection about a decade ago; neighborhood Saints fans adopted the establishment a few years later. The regular Sunday waitress, Swiss-neutral, wears a shoulders-exposed Flashdance-style T-shirt custom-made for flipping — Saints logo on one side, the Vikings on the other. The Vikings lay claim to the front room and the Saints the back. (Bathrooms are in between, and Schon notes that fans of both teams are so intense that bartenders use the facilities during game play because no drink orders are coming in.) According to Castator, the fan bases tend to merge together in the back room after their games are over; Grundahl says he’s heard of dating and even business connections coming out of the co-mingling.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Barack Obama took the oath of office one year ago today. On a scale of A through F, what letter grade would you give President Obama’s first year in the White House?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Analysts stress the importance of a new president’s first year to set the tone for the other three. Midmorning examines the failures, accomplishments, and unfinished business during President Obama’s first year in office.

Second hour: Jeannette Walls’ first memoir shocked readers with her dysfunctional childhood in a poor rural Arizona town. In her latest novel, which is a fictionalized prequel to “Glass Castle,” she revisits her family to explore the pioneering life of her resourceful grandmother during the Great Depression.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Monte Achenbachof the American Refugee Committee from Haiti to update us on the rescue and relief efforts underway.

Second hour: A Twin Cities speech about health care reform by Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political editor Ken Rudin considers the Scott Brown win.

Second hour: The earthquake recovery outside of Port au Prince.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) -

Haiti is officially a Catholic country, but after the devastating earthquake, many family are seeking solace from their indigenous religion — voodoo. NPR has the story.

A critical shortage of mental health professionals in rural Minnesota prompted lawmakers in 2007 to create a new licensing category that allows program graduates to practice with less training. How’s that effort working so far? MPR’s Tom Robertson will report.

  • John O.

    One “word”: 1994.

    The Republicans are more aware of the current mood than the Democrats. As Bette Davis famously once said, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

  • Shannon

    Republicans created the current mood. The mood tinged of fear and loathing.

  • bsimon

    “Will people move closer together in search of the common good, or move farther apart?”

    The safe bet is farther apart; the Brown victory was not propelled by a search for common ground.

  • Al

    \\in search of the common good

    What common good? That happened in bygone era. There are few statesmen and women in our state and national elected offices today, a statement I have heard retired statesmen of both the right and the left make on Midday over the past few years. The few that are left are drowned out or forced out because they are not partisan enough for the activists in either party. Due to our current media and communications landscape, the voices of over-the-top, partisan, un-elected personalities are more often heard than those of level-headed statesmen. Maybe I’m just too much of a pessimist on this, but I have a hard time seeing how a level-headed, well-meaning leader will get a voice in edgewise any time soon to work for the common good.

  • JackU

    I think pressure should be put on politicians from both sides to restore the filibuster to its historic roots. The group in opposition to a particular bill has to marshal its forces to keep someone there speaking and controlling the floor. If they yield the floor, to supporters of the bill, a cloture vote can be called. If 2/3 of the assembled senators vote for cloture then the bill can move to a floor vote.

    This requires both sides to commit resources (bodies) to the process. The opposition needs to have speakers available around the clock. Supporters need to make sure they have people in place if a cloture opportunity arises.

    The final piece would be to allow any member to propose tabling debate for a period of time (say 1 week). A tabling motion would only require a simple majority of Senators in attendance when the motion is proposed. This would allow both sides to rest and to move on to other business. Re-opening the debate could happen at any time by motion of a given Senator. Other rules would have to apply to the reopening of the debate to insure that the supporters can’t “kill” a filibuster with out the opposition having a chance to restart the process.

  • MR

    Like the Village Voice had in their headline, “Republicans Gain 41-59 Seat Majority in Senate.”

    My guess is that the GOP believes that politically, their strategy of saying no to absolutely everything will allow them to win more seats in the midterms. Whether that is a good idea for the country doesn’t seem to enter into the conversation. So I expect more of the same, and for the GOP to continue saying no to everything.

  • GregS

    If Reid and Pelosi shorten the 2,000 page Pork-Project Bill to a 30 page Healthcare Reform Bill, it will pass and the Democrats will have a future.

    If they continue like they have since 2006, they will face CHANGE come this fall.

  • Kim E

    About journalists and reporters helping during disasters: I was thinking more about this last night. If you saw someone being mugged in the street, isn’t the right thing to do to try to help, even though it’s dangerous? I think these journalists and reporters have a sort of human duty to help. They’re in the thick of it, they see what’s going on. The right thing to do is to try to help.

  • Kim E

    Ha, I just watched the “Yale” video, very cool!