Reince Priebus’ Letter To Mr. And Mrs. Bergdahl

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl,

Hello. You probably don’t know me, but my name is Reince Priebus. I am head of the Republican Party, when Rush Limbaugh is off the air or under the influence of narcotics. I am the guy who, along with Mitt Romney, began exploiting the Benghazi tragedy before we even knew what happened or how many had been killed. I told the world how pathetic it was that President Obama “sympathizes with attackers.” Heck, I said that before I knew any of the facts. That’s how propagandistically efficient I am, when it comes to The Scary Negro.

Now, it has probably come to your attention that my party is pedal-to-the-metal exploiting the release from captivity of your son, Bowe. I heard a Fox host say this morning, with jubilation in his voice, that “This story is just getting rolling, really.” Isn’t it nice to have friends? And it isn’t just Fox. Today on MSNBC—Allah love ‘em!—the talk has been about how questionable it was for the President to do what he did to get your son back. You know, “Was it too much of a price to pay?” Or “Did Obama negotiate with terrorists?” and all that stuff. It’s a beautiful thing, ain’t it? We have spent years criticizing Obama for not calling this the War on Terror and when he obviously treats it like a real war, with POW swaps and everything, we get to criticize him for that, too! Awesome!

In any case, I wanted you to know why my party has no shame in using the occasion of your son’s release to slam him and the President, even if, like with Benghazi, we don’t have all the facts. Indeed, we have gone to a lot of trouble to provide the media with plenty of soldiers who knew your son and who say they are angry he was swapped out for five Taliban prisoners in Gitmo. And we are generating a lot of rumors and half- and quarter-truths surrounding the disappearance of your boy and the subsequent search for him. It doesn’t really matter what the facts are at this point, what matters is that we smear President Obama. And if that means ripping apart your son, so be it. I hope you know what I mean.

Look, we’re desperate. We’ve been out of power now for a long time. We have only received the majority of the popular vote in a presidential election once in our last six tries. And that year we only got 50.7% of the vote. So, perhaps you can see why we find it necessary to do anything we can to get back in power, including trashing your son and the President who secured his release. Yes, we know that normally we are rah-rah guys when it comes to the military. Normally we would cheer at the keeping of a long military tradition of not leaving any soldier, no matter the circumstances of his disappearance, in enemy hands.

But you have to understand that these aren’t normal times. And President Obama is not a normal president. He is a weak leader—we claim. We have to keep telling people how weak he is because if they ever stopped and thought about it, if they ever checked into it, they would begin to see that the President has been pretty damned tough on the international scene, especially when it comes to hunting down and snuffing out terrorists. Since he took office, he has killed all kinds of al Qaeda leaders. And I’m not just talking about Osama bin Laden. He has killed top al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, Kenya, and elsewhere. At one point they were dropping like drone-dead flies. He’s been so good at it that left-wingers have compared him to Dick Cheney, for God’s sake!

And besides all that, there is a possible long-term upside to negotiating, directly or indirectly, with the Taliban. Maybe it will prove to be a useful thing in the future, as we pull most of our troops out of Afghanistan. Maybe it will prove to be a brilliant strategy that will help save lives over there and help us better manage the transition, even possibly reduce the intensity of the conflict. If that’s the case, it is even more imperative that we Republicans poison the well right now. Before Americans start thinking about the good that might—I said might—come.

Thus, you can see, I hope, that it was necessary to use the tragedy in Benghazi—oh, yes, we are still using it—to put doubts in the minds of the American people about this president’s leadership and that of his obvious successor, Mrs. Clinton. And, unfortunately for you and your soldier son, the release of Bowe Bergdahl is another opportunity that we simply couldn’t pass up. And this one is even better than Benghazi! Some journalists are already starting to talk about impeachment! That’s efficiency, I tell ya!

I do want to warn you about something, something kind of delicate. In the course of our campaign to exploit this incident, it will sound like we think President Obama should have let your son, the last POW from those interminable Bush-authored wars, rot in the custody of the Taliban. It will sound like we think the Commander in Chief should have said to hell with the long and nearly sacred tradition of “no soldier left behind” and let your son die in captivity. Well, not only does it sound like that, that is what our position entails.

You see, we can’t be happy that your son is back at home, no matter what he did or didn’t do. That would mean that we are happy that President Obama did what he did. And admitting that, Mr. and Mrs. Bergdahl, will never happen. It just isn’t possible. It is not in my or the GOP’s DNA to give President Obama a jot or tittle of credit, no matter what he does. We can’t even credit him for good intentions. Hell, he’s in Europe right now, and if he decided to execute a flying forearm smash in the face of Vladimir Putin and take back Crimea single-handedly, you know what we’d do? We would have a segment on Fox five minutes later questioning whether flying forearm smashes erode the dignity of the office! More propagandistic efficiency!

Finally, I wanted you to know that there is a way of handling all this that might be good for everyone, depending on your politics. Your son, by some accounts (that we provided, of course!), was kind of, uh, different. He didn’t want to “drink beer or eat barbecue and hang out with the other 20-year-olds.” Apparently he spent a lot of time in his bunk reading books and “learning Dari and Arabic and Pashto.” Someone said he “wrote Jason Bourne-type novels,” casting himself in the leading role. We know that you, as devout Calvinists, home-schooled your son and taught him “ethics and morality.” You said, “Bowe was definitely instilled with truth.” And that leads me to a little scheme I’ve been thinking about.

When your son finally comes home, maybe you can instill in him a new truth. One that would make your entire family heroes to all those who are bashing you guys now. It is simple really: Convince Bowe to say that, yes, he walked off his base. Yes, he was uncomfortable with the war effort. But the real reason he was uncomfortable with it, the real reason he left his fellow soldiers that day, was because he did not respect President Obama’s leadership. All he has to say is that the President was so weak as a Commander in Chief that he, Bowe Bergdahl, couldn’t take it anymore. He had to get away, even if it meant capture by the enemy.

If he says that, I guarantee you that I and Rush Limbaugh and other leaders of the Republican Party will forgive him—forgive you!—and welcome all of you back as patriotic Americans on a special one-hour Sean Hannity program. It is that easy. I promise.

Sincerely,

Reince Priebus

[Photo of Bowe Bergdahl provided by Bergdhal family, via Rolling Stone]

How To Get A Job On Fox “News”

I watched President Obama’s press conference on Tuesday at The Hague. Man, oh, man. What is it about those ABC News guys?

First, a little background:

When Fox “News” first opened up its fairly unbalanced doors in 1996, a 23-year veteran of ABC News, Brit Hume, joined them. Hume had been ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent, and at Fox he was the anchor of Fox’s “Special Report” for ten biased years.

In 2003, another prominent ABC News correspondent, Chris Wallace, joined Fox. Wallace, son of Mike, still hosts the closest thing−and sometimes it isn’t that close−to a real news show on the network, “Fox News Sunday.”

John Stossel, who for years was a correspondent and co-anchor of ABC News’ 20/20 program, left ABC in 2009 to join Fox “News” and Fox “Bidness” Channel, where he preaches his libertarian ideas to, if not the choir, at least the gullible.

Earlier in 2009, Michael Clemente joined Fox as a Senior Vice President of News, after spending 27 years at ABC News, including a stint as senior broadcast producer for ABC’s World News Tonight and later for 20/20. His last job at ABC News was as Senior Executive Producer of the ABC Digital Media Group.

If you happen to watch Fox “News,” you will see Rick Klein, who is a “regular guest.” Except that Rick  Klein is the Political Director for, uh, ABC News! Now, I understand that ABC does not have its own cable news platform, but why allow your Political Director to appear so often on Fox? Is it because occasionally Fox promotes his stuff for ABC? If so, ABC News ought to be ashamed of itself.

All of which leads us to Tuesday’s press conference at the Hague. Jonathan Karl, who is currently ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent, actually asked President Obama these questions:

Mr. President, thank you. In China, in Syria, in Egypt and now in Russia we’ve seen you make strong statements, issue warnings that have been ignored. Are you concerned that America’s influence in the world, your influence in the world is on the decline? And in light of recent developments, do you think Mitt Romney had a point when he said that Russia is America’s biggest geopolitical foe? If not Russia, who?

If that sounds to you like something John McCain might ask, or something that Reince Priebus might ask, or something that Sean Hannity might ask, you have good ears. Karl is apparently auditioning for Roger Ailes and, as a long-time Fox monitor, I’d say he is well qualified for a job on the network. Or just about any reactionary operation. Here’s how a few right-wing sites reported on Karl’s performance at The Hague:

right wing responses to karl

And my personal favorite, posted by Jonathan Karl’s Fox friend Greta Van Susteren, includes a proud shot of the ABC News correspondent:

greta and jon karl

As you can see, Karl is something of a journalistic hero on the right. But that’s not just for what he did at The Hague yesterday. When you examine Karl’s body of work, you see why the right-wingers love him so.

He started his reporting career in a right-wing organization created to promote conservative journalism on college campuses, the same kind of collegiate journalism that gave us people like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin. Karl also worked for Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, which is basically Fox “News” in print. He has written articles for the right-wing Weekly Standard (including this embarrassing piece), a publication that helped bring us the Iraq War.  At ABC News, if you watch his reporting, you see a clear bias in favor of Republican talking points, including the need for austerity and tiny tales of government waste. Because I like Diane Sawyer, I frequently watch her newscast, and the best one can say about Karl’s reporting is that it slants to the right; the worst one can say about it is that, well, Karl is an undercover reactionary.

Nothing demonstrates his conservative bias better than his infamous mishap involving the Fox-created Benghazi scandal. Karl went on the air last spring and unethically fed into the Fox Benghazi narrative by erroneously “quoting” from an email that he himself had not read. The false quotes, presented as “exclusives,” made it appear that the White House (read: Barack Obama) and State Department (read: Hillary Clinton) had “dramatically edited” the famous Benghazi talking points used by Susan Rice on all the Sunday news shows. We found out later that Karl was fed his false information by, uh, congressional Republicans. He sort of apologized for the error and ABC News should have sort of fired him, but on he goes.

Given Karl’s track record, you have to wonder why President Obama, who has publicly compared Jonathan Karl to Fox’s Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry, didn’t answer Karl’s question this way:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Wow, Jonathan! Isn’t ABC treating you well? Aren’t they paying you enough? Did Roger Ailes promise you a job and a raise if you came here to the Netherlands and tried to claim how weak I am on the world stage? Isn’t that Fox’s “Obama meme du jour”? No, wait. They’ve been saying that for some time now. But, congratulations anyway! I think you’ve got the job you obviously want whenever you want it. I look forward to not calling on you at my next presser. Oh, and tell Mittens that Mr. President said “hey.”

Instead of that, President Obama, soberly and thoughtfully, answered in a way that demonstrated what real strength is and why we are fortunate the American people chose him to lead the country in these perilous times:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jonathan, I think if the premise of the question is that whenever the United States objects to an action and other countries don’t immediately do exactly what we want, that that’s been the norm, that would pretty much erase most of 20th century history.

I think that there’s a distinction between us being very clear about what we think is an appropriate action, what we stand for, what principles we believe in, versus what is, I guess, implied in the question, that we should engage in some sort of military action to prevent something.

You know, the truth of the matter is, is that the world’s always been messy. And what the United States has consistently been able to do, and we continue to be able to do, is to mobilize the international community around a set of principles and norms. And where our own self-defense may not be involved, we may not act militarily. That does not mean that we don’t steadily push against those forces that would violate those principles and ideals that we care about.

So yes, you’re right, Syria — the Syrian civil war is not solved. And yet Syria has never been more isolated.

With respect to the situation in Ukraine, we have not gone to war with Russia. I think there’s a significant precedent to that in the past. That does not mean that Russia’s not isolated. In fact, Russia is far more isolated in this instance than it was five years ago with respect to Georgia and more isolated than it was certainly during most of the 20th century when it was part of the Soviet Union.

And what we have to make sure we’re…putting all elements of our power behind finding solutions, working with our international partners, standing up for those principles and ideals in a clear way.

There are going to be moments where military action is appropriate. There are going to be some times where that’s not in the interests — national security interests of the United States or some of our partners, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to continue to make the effort, or speak clearly about what we think is right and wrong. And that’s what we’ve done.

With respect to Mr. Romney’s assertion that Russia’s our number one geopolitical foe, the truth of the matter is that, you know, America’s got a whole lot of challenges. Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors — not out of strength, but out of weakness.

Ukraine has been a country in which Russia had enormous influence for decades — since the breakup of the Soviet Union. And you know, we have considerable influence on our neighbors. We generally don’t need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them. The fact that Russia felt compelled to go in militarily and lay bare these violations of international law indicates less influence, not more.

And so my response, then, continues to be what I believe today, which is Russia’s actions are a problem. They don’t pose the number one national security threat to the United States. I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan, which is part of the reason why the United States, showing its continued international leadership, has organized a forum over the last several years that’s been able to help eliminate that threat in a consistent way.

Exploring The Left’s Own Obsession

I said on Monday that there is “something seriously wrong” with Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as others on the right who are suffering from an Obama-induced detachment from reality. Graham had blamed the invasion of Ukraine on the President, saying, We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression.”

Whatever is wrong with Senator Graham (and, please, let’s stop blaming it on his primary election and the need to please radicals in his party; that makes what he’s doing worse, not better), the disorder has deepened. Yesterday he tweeted:

graham tweet

In comes the bizarre conservative obsession with Benghazi, which means that rational thought is on vacation. Even in times that call for some semblance of national unity, in the face of thuggish behavior by a thuggish despot, we get Benghazi. How sad that is.

But I don’t want to just pick on conservatives, when it comes to foreign policy obsessions. On the far left we have an equally strange and disunifying foreign policy obsession: Barack Obama and George W. Bush are the same people, just different colors.

A long-time follower of this blog, and a man of the left, Gerry Malan, commented on my piece on the right-wing’s hysterical reaction to what happened in Ukraine. He said,

We have proof of two US State Department high officials confirming their plan to install a new client regime in the Ukraine.

When I asked him to provide such proof, he responded with this:

Not sure how you missed the Nuland recording where she and our Ukraine ambassador discussed cutting out the EU and putting in our own selected thugs. Here it is from Foreign Policy on Focus:http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/02/21-8

Today on Common Dreams Ray McGovern explains more of the Obama/State Department grab for the Crimea:http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/03/02-2

I highly recommend reading more from RT and less from Morning Joe.

So, I spent some time following those links and reading the content. And I’m still waiting for “proof” that the Obama administration tried to install “our own selected thugs,” or that there is any such thing as “the Obama/State Department grab for the Crimea.”

On the day it was released, I listened to the famous secretly-recorded phone call between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt (hear it here or read a transcript here). That call featured Nuland saying “Fuck the EU.” Besides that one bit of profanity, what I heard during that call is not what some liberals, way too many I’m sad to say, heard in it.

As Gerry Malan’s comment makes clear, and as the writers he references also make clear, what some folks heard was a secret and grand attempt at American imperialism, executed by “neoconservatives” in the Obama administration. But what I heard was not some worrisome conspiracy to bring down a democratically-elected president, but two people discussing events in Ukraine that were not started by the United States, nor part of a plot to set up a “client regime” in that country, but events that lent themselves to some democracy- and better government-favoring manipulation by the United States. And I’d be disappointed if we were not doing that kind of “meddling” in such events, since I have a fondness for democracy and good government and believe we should help those Ukrainians who also have a fondness for those things. Especially when it doesn’t involve American troops and trillions of dollars.

As for that Russian-leaked phone call, let’s remember what Jonathan Marcus pointed out was the reason for it:

The clear purpose in leaking this conversation is to embarrass Washington and for audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message to portray the US as interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.

“For audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message.” I don’t want to be in that audience. I tend to side with my own guys when a Russian thug is hard at work trying to embarrass them. I’m sorry that some liberals don’t have that same disposition. Unlike too many lefties, I will need a whole lot more than what I heard in that phone call to get me to buy what the Russians, and to some extent folks in the far-left press, are selling.

And one guy on the far left trying to sell this conspiracy is Patrick Smith, who wrote one of the articles that Gerry Malan linked to and presumably helped him conclude that, “We have proof of two US State Department high officials confirming their plan to install a new client regime in the Ukraine.” Smith is a long-time journalist and foreign correspondent, but to give you an idea of the kind of pieces he writes these days, he recently wrote an article for Salon.com titled, The world is right to hate us: Arrogance, ignorance and obscene foreign policy,” and subtitled, “This White House was supposed to be different. But our arrogant foreign policy has been the same since the 1950s.” That sort of gives you an idea where Smith stands.

Now, on to what he writes about that intercepted phone call and the recent events in Ukraine:

…we get to hear two American diplomats talking about Washington’s plan, already in motion, to install a client regime in the Ukraine.

Ah. There is that “install a client regime in Ukraine” stuff. But think about it. Even if there were proof of such a plot, it is hard to see just what we would do with such a client regime, especially when the opposition who would lead such a regime are, in the words of Patrick Smith, full of “oligarchs of the new Russian model.” Just why would we want to get mixed up with those guys in such an intimate way?

But even Patrick Smith isn’t quite bold enough to make the claim that there is “proof” that such a vast neocon-led conspiracy was and is going on:

With Kiev again erupting in violent confrontation, an understanding of the possible role of covert activities is essential to a complete picture.

“Possible role of cover activities”? Possible? Proof is more than speculation. Proof is more than saying it is wise to have “an understanding of the possible role of covert activities” in the confrontation going on in Ukraine and in what Gerry Malan and other liberals are calling a “plan to install a new client regime in the Ukraine.” If there is proof, present it. That intercepted phone call is not proof. But there is evidence all over the place that what led to the fall of the government in Ukraine was homegrown frustration with corruption and malfeasance. Whether the protesters went too far and committed their share of violence, and whether there are neo-fascists and other miscreants among their ranks, is another question. We are debating here whether the United States government deliberately toppled a democratically-elected president.

I admit I am suspicious of anyone, like Patrick Smith, who tries to make the case for a conspiracy to install that new client regime but who also says that “demonizing Yanukovich is a distraction.” What? Viktor Yanukovich, the former Ukrainian president, caused turmoil in the country, ordered the killing of civilians, and looted the treasury. I don’t find demonizing him a distraction and I’m suspicious of the motives of any writer who could so cavalierly dismiss his role in the mess.

I also find suspicious the writer’s motives when he says things like this:

There is a tendency among the East European nations to idealize the West, as if westernizing is the solution to all problems. I see this among the Kiev demonstrators. It is a mistake. Disillusion is never far when people follow this line of thought to its end.

That sounds like good old-fashioned lefty-loathing of Western civilization, a disease that some liberals just can’t shake. And for some of them the disease gets worse when a Democrat is in the White House. I wish I had the cure for such an illness, but I don’t. Western civilization, for all its faults, is better than the alternative. Therefore I tend to give it the benefit of the doubt. I wish all Westerners did.

As for the actual speculation on this client regime stuff, Mr. Smith writes:

More interesting by far are the machinations Nuland and Pyatt describe. The American plot revolves around manipulating various figures in the opposition, backing the fortunes of some, keeping others from the table, and thereby inducing a friendly, post–Yanukovich government of one kind or another, compromised from its very conception.

And what exactly is wrong with such manipulation, so long as it is not accomplished at the point of a gun? I’d like for any liberal to explain to me why it isn’t a proper component of our foreign policy, as part of a larger Western strategy, to attempt to curb the appetite of a Russian despot? Mr. Smith also says:

The West unites around the thought of undermining Putin’s neo-imperial ambitions and pushing institutions such as NATO up to his doorstep.

So? Isn’t that what we should be doing? Isn’t “undermining” people like Putin a worthy objective? Or have liberals become so critical of Western civilization that they can no longer distinguish between the good and the bad? At one point Ambassador Pyatt says during the phone call with Assistant Secretary of State Nuland:

I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead we want to keep the moderate democrats together.

Is that some awful conspiracy? Keeping those “moderate democrats together.” What next? Will we have the gall to advocate for a chicken in every Ukrainian pot? Seriously, this left-wing criticism is surreal. Since when are liberals opposed to democracy and good government and thwarting the ambitions of thugs? So what that we publicly said we were peace-loving brokers regarding the uprising, while behind the scenes we are trying to make good things happen more than we dared to publicly admit. God, I hope we do that stuff all the time. We have national interests, even if sometimes they President-elect Putin watches the tactical exercises of Russia's Northern Fleet in the Barentsevo Sea on April 6, 2000. He has been at the helm during a decade of Russian economic growth fueled by natural resources of gas and oil.are only what should be non-controversial interests (at least for Americans) in seeing to it, the best we can, that good democratic governance has a chance to flourish where it is wanted. To me, that is better—and much different—than invading Iraq and forcing it on people, like the real George W. Bush did.

What I find appalling about all this is the idea that what the United States was trying to do, shape events as best they could in favor of better democratic angels in Ukraine, is worse than what the Russians were and are doing, including endorsing the use of deadly force against Ukrainian civilians and still implicitly threatening such force. If this is what hard-core liberalism has become, count me out. I think I can still tell the good guys from the bad ones, even if, in this case, one of the “good guys” is Victoria Nuland, a career foreign service officer who, after she worked for Bill Clinton, then worked for neocons like Bush and Cheney, before working for Barack Obama. In any case, even if we were talking about bad guys, we aren’t exactly talking about torture or starting a war on false pretenses here, even though one of the commenters on Smith’s piece wrote,

Obomba is a thug who heads a thug state (see Engelhardt’s article of yesterday here at CD), and it seems that by now this ought to be clear to anyone who has been paying attention to his appointments, his bellicose foreign policy, and assassination program. No different in fact from Bush the Lesser and an entire lineage of U.S. presidents who threw their weight around all over the planet, plundering, occupying, killing, etc. That is (why) Nuland was appointed as she was. She is the perfect agent of a rogue state.

What a load of America-loathing bullshit. But this thinking, engendered by the kind of writing Patrick Smith does these days, represents what some folks on the far left think. They fail to differentiate between bad, better, and best. It sounds so much like what I hear a lot of Obama-hating conservatives say. As I said, count me out as wanting to join that kind of liberalism, which I find every bit as darkly conspiratorial as anything Glenn Beck could fantasize into existence. And thank God or Allah that Obama isn’t that kind of liberal either, just like he isn’t the same kind of neoconservative thinker that led us to a foolish war during the Bush administration.

For the record, as many mistakes as America has made in its foreign policy, and believe me there have been a lot, trying to seek out and help “moderate democrats” in Ukraine doesn’t rise to the level of the “assassination program,” for God’s sake. Those of us on the left, who value the principles of good-government democracy, shouldn’t let an obsession with misguided neo-conservative “regime change” philosophy get in the way of appreciating the fact that we, as a nation of freedom-loving democrats, should still be friends of liberty everywhere, even if we screw things up now and then.

The deal about all this “fuck the EU” business is that the U.S. diplomats were expressing frustration at the slow-walking EU folks, who want to avoid a confrontation with Russia and a mean-spirited despot like Putin, who controls much of their energy needs. In that context, we all should be applauding what these two U.S. diplomats were trying to do, not accuse them of evil. It’s not exactly like they were trying to establish the Ukrainian version of the bleeping Third Reich.

As for Gerry Malan’s other link to an article by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern—who was a daily briefer for George H. W. Bush but who now thinks Julian Assange is a “hero”—I will only quote one passage:

In early February, as violent protests raged in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and the White House professed neutrality, U.S. State Department officials were, in the words of NYU professor emeritus of Russian studies Stephen Cohen, “plotting a coup d’état against the elected president of Ukraine.”

Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative “regime changers” of Official Washington and their sophomoric “responsibility-to-protect” (R2P) allies in the Obama administration? Have they dangerously over-reached by pushing the putsch that removed duly-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych?

What? There is no evidence, not to mention proof, that the United States pushed “the putsch” that ended Yanukovych’s presidency. Protests in Ukraine initially began in November of last year, after Yanukovych backed away from signing a free trade agreement with the European Union, mostly under pressure from Putin. There were also issues with the Ukrainian constitution. But, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune pointed out, wanting closer ties with Western Europe wasn’t enough to get “[m]iddle-class professionals, blue-collar workers, students and retirees” out to “form ranks of street fighters armed with Molotov cocktails.” The biggest reason for the unrest was a familiar one:

The demonstrations reflected the appalling state of governance in Ukraine. The Yanukovych government was a kleptocracy. Policy goals were subordinate to the enrichment of the president and a privileged elite, known colloquially as “the family.” In international rankings of corruption, Ukraine was recognized as one of the most corrupt regimes on Earth.

There you have it. The tumult in Ukraine was not a coup d’état (as Russian expert and Putin apologist Stephen Cohen claimed) plotted by Barack Obama and the U.S. government. And if someone, anyone, claims it was then they have to offer up more evidence than a Russian-provided telephone call between two American diplomats.

60 Minutes Leaves Fox “News” In The Lurch

You have heard by now that the famed CBS News program 60 Minutes is doing a my bad! on its recent report on Benghazi, a report that many right-wingers, especially the Obama-haters on Fox “News,” have been using to justify their own misreporting on the tragedy that occurred there.

Here is the way HuffPo began its story:

In a humiliating retreat from a piece she had staunchly defended, “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan admitted on Friday morning that she and the news magazine had made a “mistake” in their reporting of a controversial story about the Benghazi attacks.

You can read the details for yourself, but the important thing to know here is that because Fox journalism is always seeking validation from mainstream journalists (who are much too eager to give it to them), it quickly latched onto the 60 Minutes story. Via Media Matters, here is how an alleged straight news reporter (he’s not) on Fox, Brett Baier,opened a segment on Fox’s flagship news program Special Report the day after the Lara Logan piece ran:

BAIER: Answers are still hard to come by in the investigation into last fall’s Benghazi terror assault. Last night, one of journalism’s heavy hitters reaffirmed what we knew and had reported on.

“What we knew and had reported on” turns out to be, well, “what we wish we knew but reported on as if we knew it.”  Fox, and many Republican politicians and pundits, have been pushing the idea that somehow President Obama or someone in his administration (by the time its all over future presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be to blame) withheld military help from those under attack in Benghazi, and that the whole thing was a grotesque scandal that the “lamestream media” was covering up. Foxers were so damn happy that finally someone had legitimated their coverage they could hardly contain themselves.

Again, on the day after the 60 Minutes report aired, Media Matters chronicled another Fox response, this time from another anchor pretending to be a straight journalist, Martha MacCallum:

Now 60 Minutes, the venerable news program, Sunday night news program, is putting a lot of focus on this story … Here at Fox News we’ve been covering this story for a very long time. At times we’ve been criticized for continuing to cover this story…

It remains to be seen whether 60 Minutes will remain a “venerable news program” in the eyes of Fox on-air talent, but what we do know is that right-wingers will not give up their quest to taint the President or, as will eventually happen as the 2016 draws closer, taint Hillary Clinton over the horrific events in Benghazi.

Finally, the indispensable Media Matters.org also kept track of other right-wingers’ expressed glee over the now-flawed 60 Minutes report: from Pat Robertson’s pronouncement that “it’s all over” for Obama to Breitbart’s declaration that “It was a reversal for CBS News, which played a key role in the Benghazi cover-up in 2012,” to the National Review’s Jonah Goldberg’s tweet:

jonah goldberg tweet

Yikes! It turns out that the original 60 Minutes piece—centrally flawed—does corroborate “pretty much everything” Fox has been reporting.

What The President Should Know And When He Should Know It

Barack Obama, I found out today, is a liar. Oh, yeah, that’s right. Here, see for yourself:

President Obama Lied, Millions Will Lose Insurance Under Obamacare He Promised They Could Keep, Says Report

Lest ye think the Republican talking point in that headline is confined only to right-wing websites like the one above, well, you should know that the basis of that headline is a report by NBC News. Yes, that NBC News. The one that is supposed to be in bed with Obama and the Democratic Party.

Here’s how that story began:

President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

I won’t here go into why that and similar stories are essentially ridiculous—most of the relatively small number of people affected will lose their “junk” insurance plans in favor of better ones—but I do want to go into another Republican talking point that is making the rounds, even the rounds outside of conservative media: Obama is either “detached” from his administration because he doesn’t know what is going on, or he actually knows what is going on but won’t admit it.

Thus, if you believe the Republican Party and its conservative pundit defenders (not to mention non-conservative pundits who should know better, like Dana Milbank), President Obama should, among other things:

♦ Know everything going on at HHS, and especially know how to write the code that makes the ObamaCare website work;

♦ Know everything that is going on at the IRS, and especially know when conservative groups think, mistakenly, that they are getting undue scrutiny;

♦ Know everything that is going on at the NSA, and especially know every phone call the agency is “listening” to or every email it is “reading”;

♦ Know everything going on at ATF, and especially know when the agency is about to double-down on a Bush-era “gunwalking” tactic designed to catch Mexican drug cartel kingpins;

♦ Know everything going on at the State Department, and especially know the status of diplomatic security in Benghazi;

♦ Know everything going on at the Justice Department, and especially know when the Attorney General is about to issue a subpoena against a reporter, especially a reporter from Fox “News”;

♦ Know everything going on in every agency of the government, at all times, to the minutest detail;

♦ And if he doesn’t know everything that is going on, at all times, to the minutest detail, that itself is a scandal, a big, big, scandal.

♦ On top of all those things he should know, he should also know that he is required to wine and dine Republicans regularly, so they can persuade him to “reform” Social Security and Medicare beyond recognition, all in exchange for not shutting down the government again or placing a large stick of dynamite under the economy and lighting it this time.

Yes, the President is expected to know all these things.

Stale Bread

We have all watched as Fox “News” and other right-wing media outlets have pushed the so-called Benghazi scandal. And some of us watched, in relative horror, as CNN recently joined in with its own right-wing-infected “special investigation,” complete with ominous music and boldly titled, “The Truth About Benghazi.

Revealing the truth about Benghazi, of course, had little to do with that dubious special investigation. What it did have to do with, as David Brock pointed out, is CNN’s turn toward more right-wingishness, presumably as a way “to compete with Fox News.”

The honcho of CNN, Jeff Zucker, “has lent legitimacy to the right’s agenda, especially the never-ending complaint that the network never airs enough conservative points of view,” Brock wrote. Zucker told Variety that such a complaint “was probably a valid criticism.” Yes, the network that brought us Pat Buchanan, Lou Dobbs, Erick Erickson and Dana Loesch lacks conservative voices.

As Brock notes, the response to that “never-ending” conservative criticism includes producing “truth” programs that push “long-debunked myths about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.”

Such is the state of the television news business these days. Excepting some thoughtful programs on MSNBC, it’s a race to the bottom it seems and CNN wants to be a part of it, even if it can’t really compete with the worst of the worst on Fox. But there may be something happening on the Roger Ailes-controlled conservative channel that needs a closer look.

For many years Fox “News” and right-wing media in general have been selling the stale bread of conservatism in the form of turd sandwiches. Hannity and Limbaugh may be the two biggest turds, but there are many smaller ones that serve as nourishment for American reactionaries. However, there may be a move away from selling pure turd sandwiches and instead put something more appetizing between those slices of stale conservative bread, something that would attract people who are not part of the turd-loving Tea Party tribe.

I’m talking about the rumor that the attractive Megyn Kelly, who is part of Fox’s daytime Republican propaganda lineup, may replace the unattractive Sean Hannity, who is part of Fox’s evening Republican propaganda lineup. John Whitehouse, writing for Media Matters, begins his interesting piece on the rumor this way:

Megyn Kelly’s move to primetime will mark a shift in the very essence of Fox News, away from the hate of right-wing radio and towards something more effective at shilling conservative misinformation.

Whitehouse says that Kelly,

is a much more pernicious purveyor of political propaganda. Kelly has the unique ability to pluck misinformation and imbue it with a veneer of legitimacy that Sean Hannity has long since lost, if he ever had it at all.

The point of all this, says Whitehouse, is adaptation. Fox is moving away from the Hannity-turd model of conservative propaganda, thus “allowing it to more effectively advance a political agenda.” My own view is that, fearful of a powerful Hillary Clinton-for-president campaign, there is a need to get people like Megyn Kelly out there to push, without the insanity of Hannity, the Benghazi “scandal,” which, naturally, will soon be an all-out assault on our former Secretary of State.Roger Ailes, Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity

And speaking of politics, take a look at what is happening to New Jersey governor Chris Christie. I have heard even liberal commentators rave about his appeal, about his personality, about his ability to attract even Democratic voters (and Democratic money). Christie is obviously a favorite of the mainstream press, which is why so much was made of his public spat with Rand Paul. By comparison to the nuts-turds in the Republican Party, Chris Christie looks quite sane and un-turdly, which, of course, is why he is so politically dangerous to Democrats.

Besides his willingness to raise money for the unhinged right-wing congressman from Iowa, Steve King—talk about your turds!—consider just how conservative Christie is. As Salon’s Alex Pareene notes, the governor

is anti-choice on reproductive rights (after being pro-choice);

has doubts about evolution;

has doubts about the reality and causes of climate change;

bullies “teachers and public servants”;

favors at least some privatization of public schools;

has opposed same-sex marriage in his state;

has opposed early voting in his state;

has vetoed a minimum wage increase;

has withdrawn New Jersey’s participation in a carbon cap and trade agreement;

has “killed” his state’s version of the DREAM Act;

has cut funding for women’s health services, including cancer screenings and family planning, which led to the closing of clinics.

Others have pointed out how Christie refused to renew a state tax on millionaires while cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit.  He has cut business taxes and increased the amount of subsidizes given to corporations operating in New Jersey. He has cut funding for county colleges, causing tuition to go up for students.

The bottom line is that Chris Christie is a very conservative, even ultra-conservative guy. He’s just not a turd in the same way Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh are. And that’s why he may be able to serve up president-size slices of stale conservative bread to a public hungry for solutions to the dysfunction in Washington.

Especially now that CNN has made a conscious turn toward the dark side of journalism.

Barack Bulworth

Last night I finally saw in graph form what the CBO came up with for its projected budget deficit for this year:

deficit 2013

As St. Rachel pointed out, this isn’t a good thing in an economy struggling to keep the recovery momentum, such as it is, going. This isn’t a good thing with so many unemployed folks out there. Nor is it a good thing with government jobs, jobs held by, say, teachers, disappearing as I write this.

But it is what Republicans, especially Tea Party phonies, have been squawking about since George Bush went on a spending spree Barack Obama became president.

And apparently no matter how far the damn deficit falls, they won’t stop squawking about it. Because, as we all know, their squawking has very little to do with government spending, but has to do with the Scary Negro, who they claim is spending it, and who they claim he is spending it on.

Remember the 2012 election charge, a charge that came from everywhere on the right, that O was trying to “buy” the election by spending a ton of money on the poor, minorities, and other natural Democratic constituencies? If so, he did a terrible job of spreading the cash around.

Maybe, just maybe, he won the election for other reasons.

And maybe, just maybe, O needs to take this chart and shove it down the throat of the next Republican who opens his or her mouth about “out of control” government spending. And then maybe he needs to rat out the Republicans—instead of eating and playing golf with them—to the American people about how phony their deficit hysteria was and still is, and explain that it is the Republican Party in Congress that is responsible for nothing, absolutely nothing, getting done to fix the country’s problems.

Finally, maybe O needs to go to many of the red states in the country and explain to the people there that the reason teachers and cops and firefighters are out of jobs, and the reason that unemployment is so high, is that their Republican governors and Republican legislators are starving the beast of their state governments, too.

And he should tell all the people everywhere that it is only the people who can put a stop to this madness.

Because no one thinks that anything positive, especially in terms of  the economic recovery, will get done while Republicans essentially control Congress. So, President Obama may as well go back to traveling around the country and, as The New York Times reported, possibly go “Bulworth.” What else can he do? How many dinners does he need to have, how many rounds of golf does he need to play with reactionaries, before he realizes that they will never allow him to actually govern the country?

For a fantasized version of what a Barack Bulworth would say, Ezra Klein wrote a great piece. Here is part of what President Bulworth had to say to a reporter who ask him yet another dumb question about whether the American people can “actually trust their government”:

BARACK BULWORTH: Look, the reason the American people can’t trust their government is here in Washington. Right now sequestration is cutting unemployment checks by 10 or 11 percent. Do you hear anyone talking about that? Or doing anything about it? No. You hear Republicans aides telling Politico, anonymously, that the speaker is quote “obsessed” with Benghazi. You know, I don’t think most of the Republicans screaming about Benghazi could find Libya on a map. I don’t think 10 of them knew our ambassador’s name. And, let me be clear, Speaker Boehner certainly wasn’t obsessed with giving us the money we asked for to keep the embassy’s safe.

But now he’s obsessed with Benghazi. And not even Benghazi. The Benghazi talking points. Are you kidding me? He’s not obsessed with global warming or unemployment or rebuilding our infrastructure.  And now that there’s conflict, all of you are obsessed with Benghazi talking points too, and meanwhile, we’re cutting the National Institutes of Health and we’re cutting too deep into the military and we’re making life harder for the unemployed and we’re doing nothing to keep this planet in good shape for our kids.

Look, this is why the American people can’t trust their government. Because this town is obsessed with conflict and political advantage and not with real problems. We worry about the wrong things so much that we don’t even have time to talk to the American people or each other about the right things. And that’s not the I.R.S.’s fault.

Who wouldn’t want to see that guy do a presser? It would scare the tan off John Boehner’s face, but, much more important, it would educate the people as to what the Republican Party is doing to the country.

Desperately Seeking Scandal

In an intriguing, but sad, way, the interests of the Republican Party and the interests of Big Media met, as a triad of quasi-scandals seemed to explode over the White House last weekend. Both the GOP and Big Media need at least the appearance of scandal, thus we have before us, night and day, the appearance of scandal.

Republicans, of course, want to destroy President Obama’s presidency completely, a job they started on January 20, 2009. Big Media, of course, wants to prove to Republicans that journalists, often accused of putting their liberalism and love for Obama over their professional duties, will help right-wingers bring down this president at the slightest hint of trouble.

So much for the “liberal media.” As coverage the past week or so demonstrates, there isn’t, and never was, any such thing.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday, the general thrust of the conversation among the talking heads was that Obama was very close to making a Nixonian exit from the scene, what with all the “scandals” surrounding his presidency. On Morning Joe on Wednesday, the general thrust of the conversation among the talking heads was that Obama was not being Nixonian enough, in that he should fire everyone and his brother who had the slightest connection to anything the government might have done wrong. He needed to show how mad he was over this stuff, by God.

Get it? One day Obama is attacked for being Richard Nixon. The next day he is attacked for not being Richard Nixon.

So, what happens? Late Wednesday President Obama obliges the throngs of Republicans and journalists on his trail by firing (uh, “asking for his resignation”) the one guy who apparently had nothing to do with the IRS mess when it actually happened, the agency’s acting director, Steven Miller. “It is important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward,” the President said.

Okay, now that Mr. Miller has been duly sacrificed, let’s see how confidence going forward is being restored. President Obama’s long-time political enemy and chief saboteur for the GOP, Mitch McConnell, had this to say after Steven Miller was given the left foot of fellowship:

If the President is as concerned about this issue as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with Congress to get to the bottom of the scandal — no stonewalling, no half-answers, no withholding of witnesses. These allegations are serious — that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election. We are determined to get answers, and to ensure that this type of intimidation never happens again at the IRS or any other agency.

“These allegations are serious–that there was an effort to bring the power of the federal government to bear on those the administration disagreed with, in the middle of a heated national election,” McConnell said, as if it weren’t he who was making those “allegations,” as if it weren’t his party who was claiming, without even the tiniest bit of evidence, not to mention proof, and without the slightest hint of embarrassment, not to mention shame, that President Obama pulled a Richard Nixon and used the IRS last year in order to keep Mitt Romney from becoming president.

Meanwhile, Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Committee and one of the most virulent Obama-haters in the country, issued the following Tweets after the Miller dismissal:

priebus tweets

Priebus told fellow Obama-hater Sean Hannity:

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that these folks hated the tea parties—the President called them “teabaggers,” he said he wanted to punish his enemies. That’s what he’s all about.

Yep, that’s our Obama. He’s always trying to punish his enemies, except when he’s golfing or dining with them.

In any case, unless we soon see President Obama boarding a helicopter, after resigning from office, and heading back to Chicago with his pigmented tail between his legs, nothing, absolutely nothing, will quiet down Republicans, who use Big Media to prosecute the President for crimes neither he, nor anyone as far as we know, have committed.

Just one example of how Big Media helps Republicans do that is ABC News’ Jonathan Karl. He was caught—by a former ABC News guy, Jake Tapper, who is now at CNN—inventing a quote in a piece he did on the Benghazi emails, a piece that made it look like the White House was involved in some sort of cover-up of what happened in Benghazi, which just happened to be what Republicans have been claiming since the Benghazi tragedy happened last year.

Not only did Karl pretend he had actually seen the original emails, others on the air at ABC reported it that way too. (You can read the details here.) Now that the emails have been made public (Republicans had them months ago and knew there was nothing incriminating in them relative to the White House), we see that there is exactly no way to claim that Obama, or anyone at the White House, was trying to scrub the “truth” from the infamous talking points that Susan Rice used on those infamous Sunday talk-show appearances so long ago.

It was mostly the CIA , in the person of its deputy director, Michael Morell, who watered down those talking points to the point that David Petraeus, who at the time was actually leading the CIA, said,

Frankly, I’d just as soon not use this.

So, where does Susan Rice, who was smeared repeatedly by Republicans, go to get her reputation back? She might have become Secretary of State, the ultimate job in her diplomatic profession, were it not for the incessant attacks on her character by Republicans in Congress, not one of whom have apologized to her for their disgraceful behavior.

And when does ABC News apologize for misleading reporting, reporting that conveniently supported unsupportable charges made by Republicans?

My hope, and it is only a very faint hope, is that after all the overreaching and misreporting and hysteria related to the the three let’s-pretend-they-are-scandals-even-if-they-might-not-be issues involving the IRS, the attacks in Benghazi, and the Justice Department’s snooping around in the telephone records of Associated Press reporters, that the public will quickly turn off the next Republican who wildly waves his or her hands on Fox or any other cable news channel, claiming our President had done bad things to the country.

I said it was only a hope.

George Will Channels Glenn Beck, Or How A Once-Respected Conservative Columnist Has Caught The Hate-Obama Plague

I’ve often picked on George Will, the conservative columnist famous for being a right-wing nerd.

And I’ve picked on him for good reason. He’s written some nasty and nutty columns in his career, but perhaps none as nasty and nutty as his column in yesterday’s Washington Post (“In IRS scandal, echoes of Watergate”).

While I won’t hold him accountable for the headline of his piece, I will hold him accountable for beginning his piece with a selection from the Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon:

“He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to . . .cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”

Will, knowing that he is a media darling, intentionally invoked the ghost of Tricky Dicky to, what else, bring attention to himself, which is somewhat excusable I suppose. A guy has to make a living, even if it is peddling nonsense.

But while it is excusable for a conservative columnist to engage in some hyperbole regarding the Obama presidency—and God knows the Scary Negro brings out the beast in those pale-faced conservatives—it is not excusable for a man with the reputation that George Will has enjoyed to engage in the kind of conclusion jumping fit for, say, Glenn Beck:

The burglary occurred in 1972, the climax came in 1974, but 40 years ago this week — May 17, 1973 — the Senate Watergate hearings began exploring the nature of Richard Nixon’s administration. Now the nature of Barack Obama’s administration is being clarified as revelations about IRS targeting of conservative groups merge with myriad Benghazi mendacities.

The nature of Barack Obama’s administration is being clarified…” Hmm. Not one thing that has been revealed so far, from either the IRS fiasco or the Benghazi tragedy, has even come close to implicating President Obama in some kind of Nixonian crime. Not one thing. Nothing. But here is the much-respected George Will comparing the “nature” of Obama’s presidency to Nixon’s. I once thought that only in the noggins of people like Glenn Beck would such tripe thrive. But the plague has spread and even those with intellects are vulnerable.

Oh, and to show how this whole column was designed to draw attention to himself and not to offer us any real insight, Will includes this cover-his-ass disclaimer:

It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty of more than an amazingly convenient failure to superintend the excesses of some executive-branch employees beyond the Allegheny Mountains.

Wait a minute: “It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty…”? Huh? Will begins his column with a reference to impeachment, compares Obama to Nixon repeatedly, and then adds, “It remains to be discovered whether the chief executive is guilty…”? What bullshit, what utter bullshit, that is.

And to expect the President, no matter who he is, to “superintend the excesses” of anyone and everyone who works in the executive branch is itself an absurdity. What is Obama supposed to do? Do we want him spending his time running from building to building, city to city, state to state, embassy to embassy, making sure all 2.65 million executive branch employees are doing their jobs correctly?

Is Obama supposed to be the superintendent-in-chief?

The tommyrot in this column culminated in this:

Five days before the IRS story broke, Obama, sermonizing 109 miles northeast of Cincinnati, warned Ohio State graduates about “creeping cynicism” and “voices” that “warn that tyranny is . . . around the corner.” Well.

Well what? What’s that “well” there for? I’ll tell you what it’s there for. It is to confirm that the Scary Negro, the one that has driven pale-faced conservatives nuts for more than four years, is the tyrant they all imagined him to be. Barack Obama is a Black Panther—excuse me, a New Black Panther—who means to do real harm to the country, especially the parts of the country with lots of conservative white folks in it.

Finally, Will claims that,

If Republicans had controlled both houses of Congress in 1973, Nixon would have completed his term. If Democrats controlled both today, the Obama administration’s lawlessness would go uninvestigated.

Get that? Did you get that transition from using the specific name “Nixon” to using the phrase “the Obama administration’s lawlessness”? Did you get that slick move from naming a man who personally committed crimes for which he had to be pardoned, to using the phrase, “the Obama administration“? Again, it’s as if bad deeds done by IRS staffers in Cincinnati or elsewhere is Obama’s fault and is equivalent to the crimes committed by Richard Nixon himself.

What dishonest piffle that is.

And by the way, as Politico reported,

[R]oughly one-third of House committees are engaged in investigating some aspect of the Obama administration…

With millions of Americans out of work or out of full-time work, with a slow economic recovery, with working-class incomes declining, with all the other things going on both here and abroad, ain’t it nice to know that Republicans have something to do?

We Need The Exorcist

Mike Huckabee, Fox host, former governor of Arkansas, former Republican presidential candidate, Baptist preacher, and either a demon-possessed Republican or a Republican-possessed demon (my analysis is incomplete at this time; there may be a distinction here without a difference), has exposed himself as completely out of his mind.

He and a lot of other Benghazi-obsessed Republicans think Big O has been involved in a cover-up of biblical proportions, but Huck has ditched his medication and the resulting stream-of-consciousness insanity is particularly brutal:

I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term. I know that puts me on a limb. But this is not minor. It wasn’t minor when Richard Nixon lied to the American people and worked with those in his administration to cover-up what really happened in Watergate. But, I remind you — as bad as Watergate was, because it broke the trust between the president and the people, no one died. This is more serious because four Americans did in fact die…

When a president lies to the American people and is part of a cover-up, he cannot continue to govern. And as the facts come out, I think we’re going to see something startling. And before it’s over, I don’t think this president will finish his term unless somehow they can delay it in Congress past the next three and a half years.

Just why Barack Obama would want to even remain in office and try to govern a country full of Mike Huckabees is beyond me. I wouldn’t blame O if he and Michelle decided to grab the kids, turn out the lights, and hand the keys to the White’s House over to Huckabee, Limbaugh, Hannity, and Wayne LaPierre, and just be done with it.

exorcist gopThen, by God, we could start two or three more wars in the Middle East, maybe drop a nuke or two on North Korea, kill ObamaCare, boot poor folks off Medicaid and other socialist welfare programs, make gun ownership mandatory, and, oh yeah, start probing the privvies of pregnant women all over the country who don’t have sense enough, by God, to make their own decisions about motherhood.

Either that, or we will have to find a good exorcist—an energetic Democratic electorate who will register and then show up to vote even in off years—to cast the devil out of the Republican Party.

A Clinton Convert

“With all due respect, the fact is we have four-dead-Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference—at this point—does it make?”

—Hillary Clinton

I spent most of the day watching Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testify before committees in both houses of Congress. And I can say without a doubt that, as much as I like and admire Joe Biden, I am now a convert to the “Hillary Clinton for president” effort.

As a conservative during the Clinton years, naturally I was not a fan of either Bill or Hillary. And after moving to the other side of politics, their side, I was still not a fan, having been influenced by Christopher Hitchens, who wrote a rather scathing book about the Clintons, No One Left to Lie To: The Values of The Worst Family, published in 2000.

But even if all or most of Hitchens’ assertions about the Clintons were true, in the case of Hillary, she has done so much more with her life since her time in Arkansas and since her time in the White House with her husband. And in our redemption-friendly culture, that matters.

By all accounts, she worked hard as a U.S. Senator, mostly distinguishing herself, if you don’t count that “yes” vote on the Iraq war, a vote that will always haunt her. She also said all the right things after she was defeated by Barack Obama in those bitterly contested Democratic primaries. She even came to a  union convention I attended in Boston and wooed the room by emphatically indicating she would campaign hard for her former opponent.

But I have been taken especially with her service in Barack Obama’s administration, service which has overcome my resistance to her candidacy for the presidency in 2016. As nearly every Democrat, and some Republicans, said in the hearings today, she has done an exemplary job, serving as she has in rather tumultuous times.

One of the reasons I spent the day watching her testimony on Benghazi was because I wanted to see for myself if she had what it would take to overcome the relentless right-wing attacks that will inevitably come her way, should she decide to begin another campaign.

Oh, I knew she had been through that blistering nonsense before, but what she will face in 2016, should she decide to face it, will make the attacks she and Bill endured during the 1990s seem very amateurish.

My finding after hours of observation: she’s got what it takes and then some.

No Republican who tried to best her today did so. She made those who attacked her look relatively small by comparison. She spent the whole day talking about an American tragedy that occurred under her watch, and she held her own, refusing to back down, as some Republicans tried to make Benghazi look like Watergate or something worse.

She looked good, sounded better, and exuded competence and passion the entire time, all of which is essential for a presidential candidate. Thus, as I said, I’m a convert. And as a new convert I am going to show my enthusiasm for Hillary with an excerpt from her prepared remarks today, most of which won’t get much TV time in all the reporting to come, but  need to be read by all those who, like me, have been a little reluctant to get behind Hillary Clinton.

This woman is smart, tough, and she understands the world and America’s place in it:

The United States must continue to lead… in the Middle East and all around the globe. We have come a long way in the past four years. We cannot afford to retreat now. When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened.

That’s why Chris Stevens went to Benghazi in the first place. Nobody knew the dangers better than Chris, first during the revolution and then during the transition. A weak Libyan government, marauding militias, even terrorist groups… a bomb exploded in the parking lot of his hotel, but he didn’t waver. Because he understood that it was critical for America to be represented in that pivotal place at that pivotal time. Our men and women who serve overseas understand that we accept a level of risk to protect this country we love. They represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation. And they cannot work in bunkers and do their jobs. 

It is our responsibility to make sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs and to do everything we can to reduce the risks they face.

For me, this is not just a matter of policy… it’s personal.

I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters. It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID. Nearly 70,000 serving here in Washington and at more than 275 posts around the world. They get up and go to work every day – often in difficult and dangerous circumstances thousands of miles from home – because they believe the United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the earth has ever known.

And when we suffer tragedies overseas, the number of Americans applying to the Foreign Service actually increases. That tells us everything we need to know about what kind of patriots I’m talking about. They ask what they can do for their country. And America is stronger for it.

Today, after four years in this job, after traveling nearly 1 million miles and visiting 112 countries around the world, my faith in our country and our future is stronger than ever. Every time that blue and white airplane carrying the words “United States of America” touches down in some far-off capital, I feel again the honor it is to represent the world’s indispensable nation.

President Rand Paul

I watched in its entirety Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning.

Predictably, the biggest grandstander in the current Senate, John McCain, did his grandstanding for his Fox “News” Channel fans. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin did the same. No doubt, both will be guests on Fox today and tonight.

But the biggest grandstander of them all was Rand Paul who, unbelievably, uttered this sentence:

Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi and did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post.

Now, although she is rather feisty and capable of putting Senator Paul (God, that makes me cringe) in his place, Hillary Clinton did not really do that. I, though, will write the response that she should have given the Senator from Kentucky:

Senator Paul, you said, “if you had been president” you would have fired me. Let me explain something to you: If there ever is a future time when the American people are stupid enough to put you in charge, nobody would have to worry about firing me. I would grab my family, those whom I love, and get the hell out of the country. As dangerous a place as Libya is, I’d rather live there than live any place in which you had real power.

Now, if you please, the thought of someone like you ever becoming president has made me ill yet again and I will have to take a break.

 

Language Matters, But Not Much To Journalists

George Lakoff is an amazing linguistics guru who I have quoted often. He has something to say about what Republicans in Michigan did to unions:

Michigan has just passed a corporate servitude law. It is designed to take away many of the worker rights that unions have conferred throughout their history: the right to a living wage. The right to equal pay for women. The right to deferred payments in the form of pensions. The right to negotiate workplace standards and working conditions. The right to overtime pay.

The law is intended to destroy unions, or at least make then ineffective.

Something else Lakoff said should have your attention:

The deeper truth about unions is that they don’t just create and maintain rights for workers; they work for and create crucial rights in society as a whole. Unions created weekends, the eight-hour workday and health benefits. And through their politics, they have been at the center of support for civil rights and other social justice issues. In short, unions don’t just work for their members. They work for all of us. Including businesses: Workers are profit creators.

But perhaps the most important truth Lakoff, the linguist, passes on to all of us who call ourselves Democrats is this:

Language matters. Republicans understand this better than Democrats. Republicans have called their corporate servitude law a “right to work” law, as if the law conferred a right instead of taking many away. The first principle of political and social communication in cases of conflict is: avoid the other side’s language. The Democrats keep violating this principle, using the Republicans’ name for this law. In this way they are helping Republicans, because using the Republican language activates Republican framing, not just for this law, but for conservative ideology at the deepest level…

Language works so that the conservative name “right to work” evokes the conservative political ideology in the brains of those who hear it without wincing. The more an idea is activated in the brain the stronger it gets. Thus, the use of the conservative name strengthens the conservative ideology in the brains of the public.

The press is not being neutral in using the Republican name for the law. Journalists too, in just using the name, are supporting both the Republican framing of the law and conservative ideology. The press is not being balanced — which is what journalists typically claim to be. Balance would be to use both the names “corporate servitude law” and “right to work law” and to explain the differences in the progressive and conservative understanding of what the law is and does.

Of course, to do so would change a false view of language that journalists too often internalize, namely, that language is neutral. To see that it isn’t, just try speaking or writing of “Michigan’s corporate servitude law” and listen to conservatives scream bloody murder over a truth that does fit their view of democracy. And listen to them keep screaming because it is important to keep repeating the true name of the law if the public is to understand what the law really does.

No, language is not neutral. Language matters. Journalism matters. Politics matters.  Ask labor unions in Michigan. Heck, ask Susan Rice, who has now withdrawn her name from consideration to be our Secretary of State, all because a handful of Republican senators, among them John McCain and Lindsey Graham, working openly with Fox “News” and other more reputable news outlets, sought to destroy her public service career, and now have.

I recommend you read the entire Lakoff piece.

Fox Gets Thwacked

In what can only be considered one of the sweetest dope slaps Fox “News” has ever received in real time on its own air, I present to you the appearance of Thomas Ricks, who today set the record straight on Fox’s hyper-partisan coverage of the tragedy in Benghazi.

Although Ricks is no Sean Hannity, he is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who has spent considerable time covering military conflicts around the world and reporting on defense issues. He has also written several books, including books on the Iraq war. And he apparently knows a little about professional wrestling, as he executes a perfect spinning headlock elbow drop on a Fox host:

The Enablers

Blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com is now a very popular conservative, partly because CNN chose to employ him as a political contributor. The network chose him to represent conservatives on its network even though:

he referred to Michelle Obama as “Obama’s Marxist harpy wife,”

he called former Obama spokeswoman Linda Douglas “the Joseph Goebbels of the White House Health Care shop,”

he smeared retired Justice David Souter a “goat f*&king child molester,”

he labeled the Democratic National Convention, “The Vagina Monologues.”

Yes, despite all that, Erickson has a job at CNN and has become quite popular.

When he was hired by the network, first as a contributor to the old John King, USA program, CNN’s political director said Erickson was “an agenda-setter whose words are closely watched in Washingtonand that, “as a person who still lives in small-town America, Erick is in touch with the very people John hopes to reach.”

So, Washington pays attention to this guy and this guy is in touch with those small-town folks and CNN thus blesses his noxious rants with legitimacy.

And I’m afraid that in that formulation we can find the reason our divisions in America are so deep and so bitter.

You see, because Erick Erickson does speak for some people, some conservative people, he does get attention, even, I’m sorry to admit, in Washington, D.C.  But because CNN, which used to be a first-class news organization, gives him a platform that reaches millions of people, he gets much more attention than he deserves.

And so it is with most of what is now being called the “conservative media complex,” of which Erick Erickson’s RedState is a small part. Without help from more mainstream outlets, like CNN, these corrosive conservative voices would have a limited impact on our discourse, beyond selling their ideological trinkets to a relatively small but gullible audience.

A larger part of that conservative media complex, Fox “News,” is also given undeserved credibility by mainstream news outlets, which, just because there are some real journalists working there, treat Fox as a completely legitimate journalistic enterprise, thus damaging the brand of all.

About three years ago, bona fide reporters, like Jake Tapper of ABC News, came to the aid of Fox, as the White House was pushing back against the network and accusing it, accurately, of being “a wing of the Republican Party.” Tapper referred to Fox as “one of our sister organizations.”

Some sister.

Enabling Fox to do what it does—which is to provide part of the country with its own set of facts, facts that happen to support the conservative agenda of the Republican Party, and facts that often don’t happen to be the facts that the rest of us understand as facts—is part of why there were a lot of conservatives who woke up on November 7th and couldn’t believe their eyes: Barack Obama is still alive!

Our country has always been divided in various ways, but never have we had anything like a Fox “News,” a large-scale enterprise that not only broadcasts our differences, which would be okay, but it magnifies them, exploits them, and then profits from them.

While there have been a multitude of examples that I could cite to back up this claim, none of them are as stark, as telling, as what has been happening on that network since Mitt Romney first shamefully tried to exploit the tragedy in Benghazi.

In fact, as I write this, Fox is featuring the nutty right-wing congressman Louie Gohmert, who is unashamedly calling for a “special prosecutor” to investigate what happened in Benghazi, even though there are already investigations going on all over the place.

But Gohmert was really on the network to promote a group called “Special Operations Speaks,” which claims to have 100,000 signatures on a petition, the title of which is:

Special Operations Speaks DEMANDS an Independent Investigation to Uncover Potential High Crimes and Misdemeanors in Benghazigate

In case that doesn’t make clear the motives of this right-wing group that purports to represent “the Special Operations community,” how about the group’s logo, complete with the universal symbol for Obama haters:

______________________________

Having Gohmert on this morning is just another attempt by Fox “News” to commodify ignorance, and, perhaps more important for its profitability, to undermine and delegitimate President Obama.

In fact, things have gotten so bad on Fox, that this morning even Geraldo Rivera went on the network and called the latest claim by Foxers—that David Petraeus was essentially forced to cover for the Obama administration because of the investigation over his extra-marital affair—”absolutely reckless, and it has no fact base at all and really is a disgrace to a man who has served us honorably.”

No fact base at all,” says Geraldo, yet the beat goes on, and on.

And the vitriol continues to flow.

As do the profits for the father of Fox, Rupert Murdoch.

President Obama Dope Slaps McCain And Graham At Press Conference

If you heard a loud pop this afternoon, it came from Washington, D.C., as President Obama, during an excellent press conference that every American should have seen, dope-slapped John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

And it’s about damn time.

Here was the question and the President’s remarks:

JONATHAN KARL: Thank you Mr. President. Senator John McCain, and Senator Lindsey Graham both said today that they want to have Watergate-style hearings on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and said that if you nominate Susan Rice to be Secretary of State, they will do everything in their power to block her nomination. Senator Graham said, he simply doesn’t trust Ambassador Rice after what she said about Benghazi. I’d like your reaction to that? And — and would those threats deter you from making a nomination like that?

OBAMA: Well first of all I’m not going to comment on various nominations that I’ll put forward to fill out my cabinet for the second term. Those are things that are still being discussed. But let me say specifically about Susan Rice, she has done exemplary work. She has represented the United States and our interests in the United Nations with skill, and professionalism, and toughness, and grace. As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her.

If Senator McCain and Senator Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi? and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received? and to besmirch her reputation? is outrageous.

And, you know, we’re after an election now. I think it is important for us to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi, and I’m happy to cooperate in any ways that Congress wants. We have provided every bit of information that we have and we will continue to provide information. And we’ve got a full-blown investigation, and all that information will be disgorged to Congress.

And I don’t think there’s any debate in this country that when you have four Americans killed, that’s a problem. And we’ve got to get to the bottom of it and there needs to be accountability. We’ve got to bring those who carried it out to justice. They won’t get any debate from me on that.

But when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me. And should I choose, if I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity at the State Department, then I will nominate her. That’s not a determination that I’ve made yet.

That was a presidential beat down. And McCain and Graham deserved every bit of it.

The Right’s Convenient Outrage Over Benghazi

It’s official: John McCain thinks the President, who whipped his sorry behind four years ago, is a liar.

Regarding Benghazi, I heard him tell the low-information hosts on Fox this morning:

Why did the President of the United States continue to deceive the American people and the world? We need a select committee. Nobody died in Watergate. Nobody died in Iran-Contra. Four people died here because of their lack of action. As my friend Lindsey Graham says, they turned that consulate into a death trap.

Fox host Steve Doocy, in whose brain IQs go to die, followed McCain’s outrageous assertion with, “They did indeed.”

It’s amazing to me that without any evidence, with only “new questions” about what happened, the Foxers and their allies in Congress can continue to pretend that they know President Obama is guilty of everything from ignorance to treason.

I’m also amazed at how damned concerned are all those Foxers and Republican legislators about the four Americans who died in Libya, when those same people spent little time worrying about the Bush II administration’s failure to pay close attention to intelligence that seemed to foresee what happened on 9/11.

If Fox and its allies had spent a fraction of the time looking into that unfortunate episode as it has spent claiming that Obama is lying about what happened in Benghazi, we probably wouldn’t have had the second Bush administration.

And I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

For the record, and because Fox “News” will never touch it, here is an excerpt from Kurt Eichenwald’s article two months ago in The New York Times:

On Aug. 6, 2001, President George W. Bush received a classified review of the threats posed by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, Al Qaeda. That morning’s “presidential daily brief” — the top-secret document prepared by America’s intelligence agencies — featured the now-infamous heading: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” A few weeks later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda accomplished that goal.

It took almost three years for the Bushies to release that incriminating document, and they did so only under pressure from the 9/11 Commission. The Times article continued:

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

In response, the C.I.A. prepared an analysis that all but pleaded with the White House to accept that the danger from Bin Laden was real.

Eichenwald points out that despite the CIA’s “repeated warnings” and more briefs about the upcoming “planned assault,”

the White House failed to take significant action.

Get that, Fox? Get that, John McCain and Lindsey Graham and all you others out there who are now quick to blame Obama for Benghazi? George W. Bush failed to take significant action. He failed. Where was your outrage over that? Where is it today? Three thousand Americans died on 9/11 and many more have died in our response, much of it misguided, to those attacks that the CIA warned were coming. Where’s the ongoing outrage?

We don’t know if the 9/11 attacks could have been stopped, even if Bush and his neocon friends had paid sufficient attention to the warnings. But we know it wouldn’t have hurt if they had, as there were at least a couple of events—co-conspirator Mohamed al-Kahtani’s detention in Orlando in August of 2001 and flight-school trainee Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest later that month in Minnesota—that might have led to the unraveling of the entire plan.

And we all know that the death of four Americans in Benghazi was indeed a tragedy, apparently one that could have, should have, been prevented, even though we don’t yet know enough to say what went wrong and who was responsible for it.

And, sadly, we know that people like John McCain and his channelers at Fox “News” will not wait to find out what happened before they hurl accusations at President Obama, even though not a damned one of them bothered to so much as question Bush’s ham-handed handling of intelligence warnings, just prior to the worst terrorist attack in our history—and on our own soil.

If McCain and other Foxers had been all over the Bush administration’s pre-9/11 failures, if they had been on television demanding Watergate-like hearings over those failures, then perhaps they would have more credibility today, as they prematurely demand a “select committee” over Benghazi, which would quickly turn into an Obama hate fest.

But they didn’t say a word about those prior failures, and I, for one, don’t give a damn what they are saying now.

Essay: A Day In The Life Of The Nightly News, Or How Television Journalism is Being Transfoxed And What We Can Do About It

___________________

trans·fox: \tran(t)s-‘fox\ transitive verb: to change in composition or structure so as to appease conservatives, intransitive verb: to become transfoxed: become “fair and balanced” in the Fox “News” sense

trans·fox·a·tion: \tran(t)s-fox-ā-shən\ noun: the operation that converts objective news reporting into “fair and balanced” reporting in the Fox “News” sense

The Erstwhile Conservative Dictionary

iberals and Democrats need to start complaining more, and I mean a lot more, about the way the press, particularly the national political press, does its job. In fact, we need to start a major campaign of whining about the news business, particularly about the television network news business.

Something needs to be done about what is happening to big-time TV journalism, vis à vis its coverage of politics and political campaigns. There has been a slow but steady transfoxation of television news going on.

As a former conservative, I can tell you that what often accompanies conservatives’ ideological message is a withering critique of the news business, which they believe, as vigorously as they believe anything, is strongly skewed toward the left. That’s nonsense of course, but what isn’t nonsense is the fact that their whining, their unrelenting attacks against journalists and the news industry, have been—without question—quite effective. Those attacks, combined with the advent and financial success of Fox “News,” are working.

And we, those of us in the fight against reactionary political forces, need to undertake a plan of unrelenting attacks ourselves, before all the news business is transfoxed.

Conservatives’ constant complaining and protesting of news coverage has caused too many mainstream political reporters, editors, and anchors to shy away from presenting an accurate accounting of political news. This is especially true on the nightly network news shows.

If you watch the evening news on ABC, CBS, or NBC, you get very little of what is actually happening on the campaign trail or in the world of politics (there’s only about 21 minutes of news time available in a nightly broadcast and only a fraction of it is devoted to political news). What campaign news you get often features results from the various polling firms, especially the network’s own polling efforts, or other reports on the horse race aspect of the contest. And what other political news you get frequently comes in the form of a carefully composed report designed to achieve some mystical and false balance, rather than in a form that follows the evidence and reports the truth.

A perfect example of that false balance and failure to follow the evidence was—is—the press’ coverage of the deliberate attempt by Republicans to subvert Obama’s first term by sabotaging the economic recovery. If the popular political press had accurately reported on that issue, if they would accurately report on it today, Republicans would have to answer for it, would have to explain their actions to the American people, would have to defend their radical and nakedly political motives.

Alas, Republicans are free to run, with much success, against Democrats on the basis of an alleged “failure” to right the economy.

As a random test of my theory of the transfoxation of high-profile TV journalism, I decided to spend some time surveying the three network’s nightly news broadcasts on Friday night, in terms of their coverage of the presidential campaign. Despite a declining viewership (less than half of what it was in 1980), there are still around 21-23 million folks who get their nightly news from either ABC, CBS, or NBC, with NBC viewership the greatest of the three at about 8-9 million per night. (About 13 million get their news from the networks’ morning shows.)

And here’s what I, naively it turns out, thought would be the big news stories Friday night related to the campaign, all of which developed after Thursday night’s network broadcasts:

♦ John Sununu’s offensive comments about Colin Powell and Romney’s failure to address them, especially since Sununu is the national co-chair of Romney’s campaign and one of his top surrogates.

♦ Romney’s refusal to answer questions about Richard Mourdock’s weird claims about God and rape, especially since Romney’s running mate holds similar views and Romney himself has said he would be “delighted” to sign a law outlawing all abortions.

♦ Romney falsely telling Ohio voters that Chrysler was moving jobs to China.

Surely, I thought, all three of those stories would come up in some way or another.

ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer

I first watched ABC. The first story Diane Sawyer presented, naturally, was about Hurricane Sandy and the threat it poses to folks on the Atlantic Coast. Fine, so far.

The second story, comprising two reports, was about presidential politics, beginning with a silly piece by ABC’s White House reporter Jake Tapper, focusing on Obama’s attempt to “reach out to young voters” via non-traditional, “pop culture” news sources like “The View” and Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show.” Tapper’s voice-over began:

President Obama has not taken questions from White House reporters since August. Today he took them from MTV…

Now, given what happened on the campaign trail in the 24 hours since the last ABC News nightly broadcast, did that “story” really deserve such a prominent place? No, it didn’t, clearly. But it was a way for Tapper to vent his frustrations about the Obama campaign’s decision to ignore him in order to reach folks who get their news from less “official” and presumably less sterile sources.

ABC’s second report from the campaign trail on Friday night was a piece by David Muir, who covers Romney’s Swing State Lying Tour. Now, I want to reiterate that Muir is covering Romney out on the campaign trail. He’s there with him, hearing everything Romney says. He, more than anyone else at ABC, should be aware of what is happening, or in the case of Romney, what is not happening, since Mittens refuses to answer any campaign reporter’s questions.

So, what was the substance of Muir’s report Friday night? That Romney was “rallying key voters,” namely white men, around his vapid “economic message.” There was a Green Giant-size graphic to make the point clear:

Rick Klein, Senior Washington Editor of ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer, who often, and unbelievably, appears on, uh, Fox “News” (and given his opinions, I think he is auditioning for a job) saw to it that his boyish mug appeared during the segment saying,

Mitt Romney may have a hard time relating to voters, but he is dialed in to white men. They are very much attuned to what he is saying about the economy.

As he was giving us that wonderful journalistic gem, one that just happens to favor Romney’s efforts, and one that fails to mention that what Romney is “saying about the economy” has been discredited by nearly every economist and fact-checker in the Milky Way, this image appeared on the  screen:

Ah. Isn’t that special, that nice, old, and quite white vet greeting Mittens? So sweet, so touching. What important news that is.

Muir, who again travels with Romney every day, finished up his stunningly bad piece of journalism by explaining that the earnest GOP candidate was concentrating on “jobs” and “white men” and Obama was, well, he was spending his time courting “undecided women” folk.

Such is the state of network TV journalism these days, at least at ABC on Friday night.

Meanwhile, let’s look more closely at what really was worthy of reporting, what really happened out on the campaign trail, since ABC News had last broadcast its nightly program on Thursday.

Romney’s loudmouthed surrogate John Sununu said on CNN that Colin Powell, a man who has had more military bling-bling pinned on his chest than any thousand neo-con think-tankers, endorsed Obama because he was proud of his race. That race-baiting remark, not the first to drip from Sununu’s venomous lips, at least should have been mentioned on ABC ‘s broadcast, along with the fact that Romney refuses to comment on it, don’t you think?

Also deserving at least a mention was Romney’s stubborn and supposedly strategic refusal to comment on the mess surrounding Richard Mourdock’s stupid and offensive comments about God and rape. One would think, given the role the gender gap is expected to play in this election, that story would deserve at least thirty seconds on a national news broadcast, right?

And also not mentioned was a particularly sensitive story, given the importance of Ohio to the election, about Romney lying to Ohioans about a loss of jobs:

The Detroit News, which endorsed Romney, felt compelled to point out, rather politely, that he was lying through his car-loving teeth when he said at a rally in northern Ohio on Thursday night that Chrysler was considering moving production of its Jeep vehicles to China—whoops! my bad; according to the friendly paper, Romney was merely, “reacting to incorrect reports circulating online.”

Yes. That’s quite different from lying. The paper took pains to point out that Romney was a victim of “right-leaning blogs.” A victim. He was misled. Those right-leaning blogs, as they always do, lied about—the Detroit News said they “misinterpreted“—a Bloomberg News story regarding Chrysler’s possible building of Jeeps in China “for sale in the Chinese market.” And Romney merely fell for their lies. Poor guy.

A Chrysler spokesman emphatically said that “Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China,” and then directly aimed the barrel at Romney and the right-wing:

A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.

Jeep LogoUnnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments,” If only big-time, mainstream journalists, broadcast and print, were as willing to tell the truth as plainly as that Chrysler spokesman.

But even though it would be way too much to ask of network reporters and editors, not to mention big-city newspapers, to actually use language like “unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments” in reporting on either Romney or Obama, it is not too much to ask that they at least report on what Romney said and how wrong he was and particularly how careless he was to take as gospel something written on a right-wing blog. If he wasn’t lying, then by God he was bleeping careless, too bleeping careless for a man who is auditioning for a job that depends on carefully and correctly evaluating what he reads.

But nothing from ABC News on Friday night about Romney’s false claim, or nothing about Romney’s refusal to discuss John Sununu’s comments about General Powell’s proud-of-his-own-race endorsement of Obama or Richard Mourdock’s pathetic comments about God and rape. Nothing.

But we did find out that white guys, particularly old white guys, really, really like Romney. And we found out that Obama prefers MTV to ABC’s White House reporter. (And, by the way, who can blame Obama, given the way ABC’s Jake Tapper reports the news?)

So, that was ABC. What happened on Friday night on CBS and NBC?

CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley

CBS’ Scott Pelley briefly introduced the major stories of the night, beginning with Hurricane Sandy. Then he introduced the second story, “The Economy Picks Up Steam,” which noted the 2% GDP growth last quarter. But Pelley helpfully added a remark, presumably to soften for Romney the blow of good news: “But is it enough?” Enough for what? To keep Romney out of the White’s House? Jeez.

The third news snippet of the night on CBS was about the $2 billion dollars both candidates and their SuperPacs have spent on the campaign. It would have been nice if Pelley had tossed in the reason that so much money is available (Republicans want it that way) and so much of it is anonymously given (Republicans want it that way, too), or that about half of Obama’s dough was given by small donors and less than a fourth of Romney’s booty came from the little people, undoubtedly a lot of the little people Romney Hood referenced in his infamous “47%” discourse on dependency.

But, no, Pelley quickly pivoted to the latest polling, and viewers saw this:

Then Pelly brought on the old newsman Bob Schieffer, who told us how “perplexed” and “flummoxed” are the experts over who is going to win the election. Now, that there was some hot news, pardner. And Schieffer ended his segment with the comment that this election will come down to “turnout.” Yep, that was a shocking bit of news, there Bob. Thanks.

Pelley then promoted Schieffer’s “Face the Nation” Sunday broadcast by announcing that John McCain—who bleeping else?—will make his gazillionth appearance on a Sunday network show.  I can’t think of any more important and pressing news than that, can you?

The program moved on to a report on the horrific meningitis outbreak, and we are now more than half way through the broadcast, with no mention of Romney’s ducking questions on Sununu or Mourdock or his fibbing to Ohio voters about Chrysler moving Jeep jobs to China. It’s getting late.

The next segment was a piece on the Scott Brown-Elizabeth Warren senate race in Massachusetts. Scott Brown, naturally, was called a “moderate Republican” by the reporter, even as she allowed Brown to say on camera that Warren was “an extremist.” That damn liberal media! They were at it again!

The next story entailed a brief mention of a suicide bomber in Afghanistan, who killed at least 41 people outside a mosque. Then we moved on to the touching story of a recovering Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl who was shot in the head on a school bus by the Taliban in Pakistan for advocating education for girls.

Her defiant and inspiring recovery is one of those feel-good stories that TV journalists are especially good at, perhaps because in this case they didn’t have to bother to appease conservative Taliban media critics. There’s no “both sides are guilty” reporting necessary when it comes to the assassination attempt of a schoolgirl by religious zealots donning turbans.

The CBS Evening News ended with an “On The Road” segment that featured an amazing man who is organizing a collection of old photos, 160 million of them and counting. It’s the kind of story that networks like to end with, you know, so folks can comfortably move on to “Dancing With The Stars” and “Two and a Half Men.”

And that was it for the night, all 21 minutes and 26 seconds of news for CBS viewers. Romney escaped the spotlight, in terms of what he had really done and not done since the last broadcast. No Sununu, no Mourdock, no Jeep-jobs-to-China falsehood.

NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams 

On NBC things went significantly better. Hurricane Tammy consumed a third of the broadcast. Then came the campaign coverage segment which began with a report from reporter Peter Alexander, who is following the Romney campaign and who did his segment standing in front of what looked like a rather large crowd of Mittenites.

Alexander included in his piece a “flub” by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who said during a Romney rally in Ames, Iowa, on Friday:

We will put America on a new path to a new day with a new President Obama—a new President Romney, pardon me.

Also at that Iowa rally, sharing the stage with Mittens, was Congressman Steve King, a crazy man who has wondered aloud about Obama’s citizenship, who has suggested states should still be able to stop couples from using contraception, and a man who supports the candidacy of Todd Akin. Unfortunately, Alexander never bothered to mention King in his reporting. Palling around with extremists must be old news. Sort of like Romney Hood’s tax returns.

But after playing some Romney boilerplate, Peter Alexander then remarkably and accurately reported:

Speaking at a construction company that benefited from President Obama’s stimulus grant that Mr. Romney routinely attacks, the Republican nominee blasted his opponent…

Now, that’s what journalists are supposed to do, right? If a candidate is attacking another candidate for his stimulus plan failures, people should know he is doing so at a site that was helped by that other candidate’s stimulus plan. Isn’t that the way it’s suppose to work? Kudos to Alexander and NBC. But where was ABC and CBS? Why didn’t their reporters mention that important fact? Huh? They were at that same event.

Alexander then pointed out the President’s MTV interview, which apparently cut deep into official TV journalism’s soul so much it just had to be broadcast far and wide. Reporters can sometimes be a sensitive lot.

But to his great credit, Alexander then pivoted to the John Sununu story, playing Sununu’s older offensive remarks about Obama being “lazy and detached” and his new offensive comments about Colin Powell, along with showing his subsequent statement trying to backtrack but not apologize. Alexander then ended with this:

We reached out to the Romney campaign for comment, Brian, but they offered nothing in addition to Governor Sununu’s statement.

They offered nothing. Which is what they usually do, but we didn’t hear a word about their silence, about Mittens’ silence, on ABC or CBS. Kudos again to a Fox-resistant NBC.

Up next came a segment with the talented Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and White House correspondent. Brian Williams appropriately introduced the segment this way:

So, Chuck, here’s the field in front of us: John Sununu says Colin Powell endorsed the President ’cause they’re both black guys. A surrogate for Romney slips up and mistakenly endorses Obama for president. Romney goes after stimulus while his host on that very piece of property accepted help from stimulus money. Beyond unforced errors, the Romney campaign’s effort is to put together the electoral and not the popular vote math in these next ten days to push a victory out of it.

Now, you just wouldn’t hear Diane Sawyer of Scott Pelley talk that way, would you? No, you wouldn’t. Kudos to Brian Williams.

Chuck Todd then went through some scenarios that included the possibility of a Romney-Obama electoral tie, and a Republican-controlled House picking Romney for president and a Democrat-controlled Senate picking Biden for VP.

Yikes.

In any case, that was the end of the campaign and political news for NBC on Friday night.

Again, even though it did much better than the other networks, even though it did cover the Sununu fiasco, NBC’s broadcast did not mention the Mourdock issue nor the issue of Romney’s phony claim that Ohioans were going to lose Chrysler Jeep jobs to China. And considering what’s at stake regarding both of those stories—women’s reproductive rights and jobs in the electorally-important  Ohio—wouldn’t those stories at least have deserved a mention, especially since an aging Chuck Grassley’s relatively harmless gaffe was featured? Huh?

Maybe the NBC News team felt bringing all that other stuff up would be like piling on, even if Romney, at least on this day, deserved it. You can bet, though, that over on Fox, if the Obama campaign had had a similar bad day full of bad news, the crew wouldn’t hesitate to cover every painful  issue, over and over and over. See: Benghazi story. In fact,  the Romneybots at Fox don’t even require Obama to actually have had a bad day. They just make one up and go with that. See: Benghazi story.

Thus, although Fox has negatively influenced journalism, particularly network news journalism, I suppose we can be grateful that, at least on Friday night, NBC News did resist the transfoxation of the news and stood for more accurate coverage of what’s going on out on the campaign trail.

At least that’s something. But it ain’t enough. Let’s start whining.

And winning.

Libya: It’s Harder Than You Think

It appears that Qaddafi is well on his way to repelling the rebel assault in Libya.

This morning on Morning Joe I heard lefty Nicholas Kristof say the following about the Obama Administration’s position:

Question: What is now holding back the United States from acting in a forceful way, in a way that shows leadership, maybe even out front, but with the support of others?

Kristof: Part of the problem is that we have stalled too long.  I mean a no-fly zone would have been, I think, quite effective three weeks ago, I think, probably would have been very effective. At this point, when… Qaddafi has been able to move all of his artillery right next to Benghazi, there’ much less that we an actually do.  And so now the administration is talking about going way beyond and actually attacking tanks and having a “no-move” zone in eastern Libya, which actually makes me kind of nervous.

Question: Was there an opportunity missed here? What happened?

Kristof: Absolutely. Absolutely.  They were so nervous about a no-fly zone that they missed that opportunity. There was a real window here, when we could have moved in with, I think, minimal costs and peeled off the Libyan military from Qaddafi, but that window at this point has pretty much closed.

A bona fide lefty who thinks Obama should have acted sooner and that the “costs” would have been “minimal.”  Hmm. I’m not sure why he thinks that.

Now, let’s turn to the Right.   National Review was initially opposed to direct intervention in Libya, and wrote of the so-called no-fly zone strategy:

If we are serious about limiting his ability to massacre his countrymen, the no-fly zone would have to become a no machine-gun zone, too — in other words an honest-to-goodness military intervention to affect events directly on the ground. Deploying our air power while Qaddafi continued to kill with impunity would make us look more ineffectual rather than less. For now (perhaps this will change if Qaddafi begins to consolidate his position on the strength of his air force), the no-fly zone seems a classic case of looking for lost keys under the streetlight; it’s the handiest way for us to intervene, not the most effective.

That was written on February 28.  Yesterday, the same editors wrote this:

Qaddafi is a murderer of Americans with whom we still have a score to settle. If he survives after we and our allies sought his ouster (even if ineffectually), he will be even more unpredictable; he would be foolish not to restart his WMD programs as insurance against foreign intervention against his regime in the future.

Uh-oh. The Right talking about WMDs again? I suppose you know what is coming next:

All this means that we should want the rebellion against Qaddafi to survive. We initially opposed a no-fly zone, but circumstances have changed. We should establish both a no-fly zone and a no-drive zone in the approach to the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi to prevent Qaddafi’s armored vehicles from entering the city.

Make no mistake about this: That “no-drive zone” means war. And just how long would it be before that strategy would mean American troops on the ground in Libya?  Well, National Review’s conservative editors think of everything, don’t they? Try this:

We are not talking of a military operation comparable to taking and occupying Baghdad in 2003. If we check Qaddafi’s offensive, then we can consider other options. Perhaps we will only want to do what’s necessary to maintain the rebels’ enclave so they can fight another day; perhaps we will want to undertake decapitation strikes against the regime in Tripoli; perhaps we’ll want to use the threat of such strikes to try to bargain Qaddafi out of the country.

Or perhaps we will get ourselves involved in a mess that we can’t get out of. 

Even if we stopped Qaddafi’s advance into eastern Libya, namely Benghazi, then what?  Help the rebels overthrow him? We know next to nothing about the motives of the rebels. We don’t know they would be better or worse than Qaddafi himself.  We don’t know that if they were to overthrow him that they would establish a Madisonian democracy or call up Glenn Beck for instructions on how to establish a caliphate.

Besides all that, there is evidence that tribal loyalties were much misunderstood in the West and that the rebel strength was vastly overrated.  This point is made very well in an article by Vivienne Walt at Time, who quoted Mustafa Fetouri, of the Academy of Graduate Studies in Tripoli, as saying,

The West’s interpretation was very, very stupid. They just gambled on the wrong thing, and made a huge, stupid mistake.

The Time article continued:

One crucial error by Western leaders, says Fetouri, has been to downplay Libya’s complex web of tribal loyalties, which has helped to keep Gaddafi in power for more than four decades — an impressive achievement, given several assassination attempts and years of Libya being an international pariah under stiff economic sanctions. Some tribal alliances date back decades to the bloody rebellions against the Italian colonial forces before World War II, and even some tribal leaders who hold grudges against Gaddafi, for having failed to deliver services or cutting them out of certain privileges, rushed to his defense once the antigovernment demonstrations in Benghazi became an armed rebellion. For those people, says Fetouri, “they will die for Gaddafi, because he belongs to their tribe.”

And because the rebels adopted the same flag used by the much-despised monarch that Qaddafi overthrew in his 1969 coup, it became much easier for him to enlist volunteers, as Time put it, “to fight to hold Libya together.”

It turns out, as G. K. Chesterton told us long ago, that it matters what flag one flies.  Time:

That flag, says Fetouri, “represents the misery my country lived through as puppets of the West.” He cites one of his relatives — no fan of Gaddafi — who traveled 400 miles (640 km) to join the government forces against the rebels; he had driven from the Bani Walid area, the heartland of the Warfalli tribe southeast of Tripoli, which has long been the bedrock of Gaddafi’s support. Fetouri, who says he himself had been tempted to join the antigovernment protests before they morphed into an armed rebellion, asked his relative why he was “fighting for Gaddafi.” He said the man told him “it was about Libya the country, not Gaddafi.”

Thus, we are likely watching Qaddafi retake the territory he has lost, unless the West does something. 

I confess, I’m torn here.  Like a majority of the American people, part of me thinks we should not get involved. Mind our own business.  We’ve invaded two countries over there, enough is enough.

But part of me also believes that if we could help the rebels without a long-term commitment, we should.  We should be on the side of so-called freedom fighters, particularly since the Arab world is asking us to. What that involves militarily, I don’t know.  But I do know it should not involve putting one American on the ground to possibly die in someone else’s civil war.  Not now, not this war.

Some good folks are urging President Obama to act now.  They seem to know better than he does what is involved both in terms of his personal legacy as president and in terms of America’s larger legacy.  The New Republic writes that Bill Clinton “waited tragically too long” to intervene in Bosnia in the mid-1990s:

When Slobodan Milosevic and his Bosnian Serb allies launched their war of “ethnic cleansing,” while “the West”—which is always to say, first and foremost, the United States—wrung its hands, many tens of thousands of innocent people were murdered and raped before President Bill Clinton finally found the resolve to mix air power and diplomacy to bring the genocidal violence to a halt.

Therefore:

Qaddafi is the kind of neighborhood bully that Slobodan  Milosevic was. And he must be met by the same kind of principled power. For America to do less than that now—less than the minimum that the Libyan rebels and the Arab neighbors are requesting—would be to shrink into global vacillation and ultimately irrelevance. If Barack Obama cannot face down a modest thug who is hated by most of his own people and by every neighboring government, who can he confront anywhere?

It’s a lot easier to write that kind of stuff than it is to have to actually make a real decision, no doubt.  As for me, I can live with whatever limited intervention the President decides to undertake, or I can live with his decision not to intervene. But I won’t measure his presidency by this decision one way or the other.  It’s just not that simple.

And I don’t think that America’s global reputation hangs in the balance over what to do about Libya.  It’s not that simple, either.

What is simple to understand, though, is that being president these days is an especially tough job.  And I remain confident that the right man for these times is holding that job.

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