Did Mike Huckabee Really Say That You Will Go To Hell If You Vote For Obama?

Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, ordained Southern Baptist minister, enthusiastic Romney supporter, and current Inquisitor of the Republican Party, said this in a political ad:

Christians across the nation will have an opportunity to shape the future for our generation and generations to come. Many issues are at stake, but some issues are not negotiable: The right to life from conception to natural death. Marriage should be reinforced, not redefined. It is an egregious violation of our cherished principle of religious liberty for the government to force the church to buy the kind of insurance that leads to the taking of innocent human life.

Your vote will affect the future and be recorded in eternity. Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire? This is Mike Huckabee asking you to join me November the 6th and vote based on values that will stand the test of fire.

Not only does the Huckster say that God is sneaking a peek at the secret ballot of Christians (God is a nosy deity, I guess), he also says that the vote of Christians can trump God’s will, in that their vote “will affect the future.” And, more important, Pastor Huck suggests a non-Romney vote will subject the actions of Christians—those folks purchased by the blood of Jesus—to a “test of fire.”

Most liberal commentators, because they don’t much understand the language of evangelicals, are interpreting Huck’s comments as meaning that Christians are hell-bound if they vote for The Scary Negro Who Hates God. Here’s an example from Slate:

Huckabee Says Christians Will Go to Hell If They Vote Obama

Not so though. It sounds like that, it sounds like the Huckster is sending Christian Obama voters to hell, but that’s not what he means. If you read 1 Corinthians 3, you’ll see the Apostle Paul tells us:

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

See? “The fire will test the quality of each person’s work,” that is, each Christian’s work. Huck is saying that a “yes” vote for Obama will compel God to make a huge withdrawal from the Christian’s heavenly reward bank account, but won’t necessarily send that Christian to hell. He or she will escape “through the flames.” Slick, eh?

Thus, discerning Christians, and those with rather large heavenly bank accounts, can afford to vote for Obama without fear that God will immediately assign them to an eternity in hell. God will merely slap a big penalty on them, call it a Kenyan Socialist Obama Tax, for disobeying Mike Huckabee, but they will still get to heaven.

They just may have to sit in the cheap seats.

So, all you Christians out there with grace to spare, Barack is your man! Feel free to vote your conscience!

“Stupid FEMA Trucks”

By now we have all been reminded, through various statements he has made in the past, how Mitt Romney feels about FEMA and firemen and policemen, about those faces of government that folks in a heap of storm trouble rely on, in this complex society, whether the need is rescue, recovery, or rebuild.

We know all about that in Joplin. More than a dozen federal agencies were on the ground here after our tornado, and in our community of about 50,000 folks, more than 800 FEMA employees were doing their thing here, so much so that people normally a little suspicious of government, like the president of our Chamber of Commerce, said,

FEMA was an absolute champion.

Millions upon millions of dollars from American taxpayers have flowed into this area for all kinds of purposes, from housing to debris removal. President Obama has been here two times, pledging each time to keep government’s commitment to partner with private efforts to get Joplin back on its feet.

As we see the horrendous pictures on television of the destruction brought on by a much larger storm than the devastating Joplin tornado, as we see government workers of all kinds on the ground doing what it is they do in the wake of such destruction, we should remind ourselves of how strong is the anti-government spirit that animated Mitt Romney to say “we cannot afford” to do the kinds of things that those government workers, firemen, cops, and, yes, FEMA folks, are now doing all over the Sandy-ravaged Northeast.

Or animated Romney to say, in the context of FEMA and disaster relief:

Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

That anti-government spirit is strong, indeed. Last year, the popular conservative, Glenn Beck, announced that he was going to bring ordinary people, including religious leaders, together to, as one report put it,

step up and help the less fortunate by providing goods and services for the poor and for people who are faced with a disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the Joplin, Missouri tornado.

“God forbid if there is a Joplin or Katrina,” Beck said. “If we have done our job so well that when the stupid FEMA trucks come rolling down, we say ‘Man, turn around, push off,’ that’s when Man will be free again.”

Stupid FEMA trucks.” I wonder how many Glenn Beck, anti-government conservatives in the path of Hurricane Sandy feel that way about FEMA trucks today?

Locally, here where FEMA and the federal government has played such a crucial role in our post-tornado recovery, a local blogger, a man who sometimes writes the in-house editorials for the Joplin Globe , a man who is often a guest Globe columnist, wrote earlier this year:

America was great because of the lack of government controls, by and large. I want to go “back” to that principle and simply allow government to do the minimum needed to prevent anarchy. Otherwise let the “people” sort it all out on their own. I don’t care how “complex” society becomes. The Constitution is so basic to any society that it will work fine regardless of new technology.

As for “needs” of people, That has NEVER changed in history. And by and large the Constitution ignores those needs other than defense against foreign “needs”.

Give people freedom and they will by and large as a nation do fine.

This writer, again a man with a voice on the Joplin Globe’s editorial page, including authoring some of its own editorials, said he wants to go back to a time when there was just enough government to “prevent anarchy.” Let people “sort it all out on their own,” he said, no matter how “‘complex’ society becomes.”

Hmm.

Give people freedom,” this writer says, and “by and large” they’ll do just fine.

By and large. I wonder, as I see folks all over the Northeast in shock at what has happened to them, what has happened to their communities, if they are by and large doing just fine. I wonder if all those storm victims, including conservative ones, want to sort it all out on their own. I wonder if those victims long for a shoestring government just big enough to prevent anarchy.

Yes, I wonder.

Hurricane Sandy: Union Thugs At Work

After The Storm Is Over

In my reaction to the Joplin Globe’s why-should-the-rich-pay-more reasoning in its editorial endorsing Mitt Romney, I wrote:

…let’s just let the moochers and their mooching kids in Romney’s “47%” starve to death here in our lovely Joplin community, a community propped up by a lot of government money after the tornado paid us a visit. Now that houses and businesses are going up all over the place, now that there is plenty of money floating around this FEMA-blessed area, to hell with everyone else.

I had forgotten, when I wrote that, that Mittens had something to day during a CNN Republican primary debate about the kind of federal disaster relief that benefited folks here in Joplin:

KING: What else, Governor Romney? You’ve been a chief executive of a state. I was just in Joplin, Missouri. I’ve been in Mississippi and Louisiana and Tennessee and other communities dealing with whether it’s the tornadoes, the flooding, and worse. FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role. How do you deal with something like that?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better. 

Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut — we should ask ourselves the opposite question. What should we keep? We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do? And those things we’ve got to stop doing, because we’re borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we’re taking in. We cannot…

KING: Including disaster relief, though? 

ROMNEY: We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.

The Joplin Globe, a paper that has spent the last 17 months chronicling the post-tornado recovery of Joplin, including stories on the large role FEMA and the federal government played in that recovery, endorsed a man who said that “we cannot afford to do those things” these days because neither he nor the Joplin Globe believe that the rich should pay a little more in taxes.

It will be interesting to see how many Republicans, those in the path of Hurricane Sandy, will refuse the help of the federal government after the storm is over.

I didn’t see any refusal of federal help around here in this very red Republican town after the tornado tore through the middle of it, and I don’t expect Governor Christie or any other Republican official or any other Republican voter will say after their storm subsides, “No, we cannot afford to do those things.”

 

Speaking Of Newspaper Endorsements…

I’m sure you all have heard about the Des Moines Register‘s turncoat endorsement of Mitt Romney the other day. It made all the news, especially all the right-wing news, since it was the first time since 1972 that the paper endorsed a Republican.

The Des Moines Register’s reasoning in its endorsement was almost as dumb as the Joplin Globe’s reasoning in its endorsement of Romney. Here is just one example:

Early in his administration, President Obama reached out to Republicans but was rebuffed. Since then, he has abandoned the effort, and the partisan divide has hardened. That has hampered not only the economy, but the entire country. We remain a nation of red states and blue states.

Get it? Republicans “rebuffed” President Obama (and it wasn’t just “early in his administration,” either, it was throughout his term) and it is Obama’s fault for not continuing to allow Republicans to rebuff him. Therefore, the hardening of the “partisan divide” is Obama’s fault and we should elect a Republican to be president.

Such a dazzlingly dopey deduction is exactly why Republicans set out to sabotage the Obama presidency in the first place. The figured they could count on fools like the Des Moines Register editorial writer(s) to make it Obama’s fault.

But besides that Iowa paper’s confused and confusing endorsement, perhaps you didn’t hear, I know I didn’t until today, that the Salt Lake Tribune, way out there in Mormon land, actually endorsed Barack Obama. Yep, the paper, which had endorsed Obama four years ago, stuck with him, despite what must have been some cultural—and subscriber—pressure to jump ship in favor of Mittens. (The same kind of pressure which no doubt wilted the resolve of the Joplin Globe to stay with the President.)

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Obama endorsement is a profile in courage for a paper that  operates in a “largely Mormon, Republican, business-friendly state,” as its editorial acknowledged, in a year where a Mormon, Republican, and business-friendly Mitt Romney is a candidate. That must have been a tough business decision, if not a tough political one.

Keeping in mind my criticism of the Joplin Globe’s Romney endorsement—”utter phoniness” and “complete incoherence“—I would like to share what the Salt Lake Tribune editorial said about a man the state knows well.

After praising Romney for rescuing the 2002 Olympics in Utah, the paper said:

In short, this is the Mitt Romney we knew, or thought we knew, as one of us.

Sadly, it is not the only Romney, as his campaign for the White House has made abundantly clear, first in his servile courtship of the tea party in order to win the nomination, and now as the party’s shape-shifting nominee. From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: “Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?”

The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.

Romney is “shameless,” the Tribune said, when it comes to telling folks what they want to hear. In the Joplin Globe endorsement, that widely held view of Mitt Romney didn’t merit a mention. It didn’t come up. How can that be? How could our local paper not even at least acknowledge the one thing that is universally suspected about Romney—including by conservatives, who don’t trust him either—that he just might not do what he says he will do, whatever that is on a given day.

But more than that, Romney’s credibility problem, which the Joplin Globe editorial pretends doesn’t exist, is related to the one thing the paper insisted was its primary reason for endorsing Romney: his tax plan, which the Globe, despite all the contrary evidence, believes is legitimate. But it believes that on faith, not evidence. And given all the lies, given all the changes in Romney’s policies and his principles, how can anyone have faith in what Mitt Romney says?

The Salt Lake Tribune addresses the very issue that the Joplin Globe touted as its primary reason for endorsing Romney:

To claim, as Romney does, that he would offset his tax and spending cuts (except for billions more for the military) by doing away with tax deductions and exemptions is utterly meaningless without identifying which and how many would get the ax. Absent those specifics, his promise of a balanced budget simply does not pencil out.

You see, that kind of sound reasoning, as opposed to the silly, sophomoric shards of thought that characterized the Joplin Globe’s editorial endorsement, leads to the following conclusion:

In considering which candidate to endorse, The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board had hoped that Romney would exhibit the same talents for organization, pragmatic problem solving and inspired leadership that he displayed here more than a decade ago. Instead, we have watched him morph into a friend of the far right, then tack toward the center with breathtaking aplomb. Through a pair of presidential debates, Romney’s domestic agenda remains bereft of detail and worthy of mistrust.

Therefore, our endorsement must go to the incumbent, a competent leader who, against tough odds, has guided the country through catastrophe and set a course that, while rocky, is pointing toward a brighter day. The president has earned a second term. Romney, in whatever guise, does not deserve a first.

Mittens, Commander-In-Chief Material?

The video message below was produced by the Truman National Security Project, a group of progressives who believe “progressive values and national security go hand-in-hand.”

Imagine that.

Remember how Republicans tried to turn John Kerry, a Vietnam war hero, into a lying fraud? They claimed he was “unfit to serve” as commander-in-chief because all of the combat medals he was awarded were illegitimate. They also claimed that his criticism of the Vietnam War, after he came home, betrayed the trust of our troops and harmed those still in the field.

The swiftboating of John Kerry was one of the most despicable campaign tactics in the modern history of politics.* But it was based on the doggedly persistent but false meme that Democrats are national security weaklings, that we don’t care about the military, or we want to dismantle it and make America a third-rate power. Barack Obama, even though he gave the order that put Osama bin Laden’s body in the bellies of a thousand fishes, is still attacked for being weak on national security issues. Still.

The Truman Project is fighting back against that overarching false meme, which has helped win Republicans so many elections, that Democrats are somehow less interested in protecting the country, less patriotic, and Republicans are the real commander-in-chief types. The project’s mission, which is to recruit and train “a new generation of progressives across America to lead on national security,” is based on a simple premise:

Understanding national security is a litmus test for leadership.

Watch and see if Mittens passes that test:

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*Check out this article from the Huffington Post a few weeks ago to see how Republicans slandered Democratic candidate for Georgia State Representative, Scott Holcomb, a Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan veteran. His GOP opponent—who never served in the military—falsely accused him, in a campaign ad, of doing drugs while he was serving in the Army. Yep, Republicans love our troops, as long as they are Republican troops.

Joplin Globe Doubles Down On Dumb And Endorses Romney

Just as I suspected it would, the Joplin Globe has endorsed Mitt Romney.

Thus will end my association with the paper, as I will soon cancel my subscription.

I don’t do so lightly, as I have always known the paper’s Republican leanings, even when I was receiving beer money from the Globe for blogging. But the utter phoniness of the editorial endorsing Romney, along with its complete incoherence, compels me to react in the only rational way I know how: say goodbye to an old friend who has not only disappointed, but who has disappointed in a way that is irreparable.

And I can now spend the $15 a month on a digital subscription to The New York Times.

The Globe lost some subscribers four years ago for its daring endorsement of Barack Obama. It will lose me for its stunning lack of faith in its original endorsement. It is clear that Globe management was not prepared to make the mistake of endorsing the locally unpopular president, despite his two visits here and despite his administration’s enormous efforts to help Joplin recover from last year’s tornado. Instead, the paper has invented ridiculous reasons for endorsing Romney, including this one:

But in regard to the issue that is front and center for Americans — jobs and economic recovery — this nation remains stalled.

Stalled? Don’t the members of the editorial board read their own paper? Huh? The nation is not stalled. GDP is in fact growing and has been growing for 13 straight quarters. The quarter before Mr. Obama took office the economy was shrinking at a pace of almost minus 9 percent. MINUS BLEEPING NINE PERCENT. And during the first quarter of his presidency the economy was shrinking at a rate of  minus 5.3 percent, a situation he had absolutely nothing to do with, since he was still trying to find his way around the White’s House at that time.

The most recent GDP numbers indicate we are now growing at 2 percent, which is nothing to brag about, but:

given the utter hole we were in,

given the obstruction presented by the Republican Party in terms of filibustering Obama’s additional economic efforts to get us out of that hole,

given the fact that Republicans created the so-called “fiscal cliff” that has businesses worried about the rules of the game next year,

given the fact that, according to an article in the Globe itself, “slower global growth has cut demand for American exports,”

given the effect this year’s expansive drought had on agriculture inventories,

2 percent ain’t all that bad.

It’s certainly a helluva lot better than the minus 9 percent growth Obama inherited, from an administration that was acting according to the exact same philosophy that Mr. Romney, to the extent you can believe a goddamn word he says, plans to act on, should voters take the Globe’s advice and put him in the White’s House.

And other economic indicators are improving, including housing, which has been the main drag on the economy. The private sector has added more than 5 million jobs over the last 31 consecutive months of job growth. And if it weren’t for the shedding of state and local government jobs—which the President has tried to get Republicans in Congress to help stop—the overall job numbers would be even better.

But perhaps the most nauseating part of the Globe’s endorsement, besides completely ignoring Romney’s many, many lies and his penchant for secrecy, was this:

Obama’s mistake was that he favored short-term, targeted solutions.

Are you kidding me? Of course he favored short-term, targeted solutions. You bet he did. You know why? Because the goddamned economy was in the toilet. Millions of American jobs were being flushed into the abyss of Republican economics. That’s why he “favored short-term, targeted solutions.” And so did almost every other economist this side of Rush Limbaugh.

And so did the Joplin Globe in 2008.

As I noted, the paper endorsed Barack Obama four years ago. You know what the paper said then? Here’s what:

Following the market collapse and the recent Wall Street bailout, we believe that the nation needs a new economic plan.

Obama’s plan to provide tax cuts for middle-income Americans is a welcome one, as is his plan to eliminate capital-gains taxes for small businesses and provide cuts for businesses that create and keep jobs in the United States.

If tax cuts for middle-income Americans and tax cuts for businesses aren’t “short-term, targeted solutions,” then what the bleep is? The Globe was calling for, in 2008, short-term, targeted solutions that it now opposes. What hubris. What hypocrisy.

Obama did the things the Globe asked in 2008. He cut taxes for middle-income Americans. He also cut taxes, including capital-gains taxes, for small businesses. Here is a list of those tax cuts from Politifact:

From the Recovery Act, HIRE Acts, and Affordable Care Act:   

1. A new small business health care tax credit   
2. A new tax credit for hiring unemployed workers   
3. Bonus depreciation tax incentives to support new investment   
4. 75 percent exclusion of small business capital gains   
5. Expansion of limits on small business expensing   
6. Five-year carryback of net operating losses   
7. Reduction of the built-in gains holding period for small businesses from 10 to 7 years to allow small business greater flexibility in their investments   8. Temporary small business estimated tax payment relief to allow small businesses to keep needed cash on hand
   
From the Small Business Jobs Act:
   
9. Zero capital gains taxes on key investments in small businesses   
10. Raising the small business expensing to $500,000   
11. An extension of 50 percent bonus depreciation   
12. A new deduction for health care expenses for the self-employed   
13. Tax relief and simplification for cell phone deductions   
14. An increase in the deduction for entrepreneurs’ start-up expenses   
15. A five-year carryback of general business credits   
16. Limitations on penalties for errors in tax reporting that disproportionately affect small business   

From the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act:
   
17. 100 percent expensing

That’s an impressive small-business tax-cutting list, don’t you think? Yet, despite the Globe advocating for those things four short years ago, now suddenly the paper says, “long-range, core change is needed.” Yeah, that’s what a “stalled” America needs alright. Let’s austerity ourselves into prosperity. It’s working so well for the Europeans who have tried it.

The 2008 Globe endorsement of Obama also included this:

With the war in Iraq well into its fifth year, Obama has said that it is time for the Iraqi government to begin stepping up to take on financial responsibility for its country at a time when our country is spending billions of dollars (not to mention the human cost) each month in our efforts there.

And we agree that beginning a responsible drawdown of American forces will also require Iraq to begin taking more military control of its country, and allow our troops to place more emphasis on al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and bringing 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden to justice.

Needless to say, Obama ended the war in Iraq. It’s over. Done. Finished. Just like the Globe suggested was necessary. He also put “more emphasis on al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.” And about bringing that “9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden to justice,” perhaps the Globe editorial board hasn’t heard the goddamned news yet: The sonofabitch is bottom-feeding in the North Arabian Sea, thanks to a courageous SEAL Team Six and their Globe-endorsed Commander-in-Chief.

End the war in Iraq? Check. Put more emphasis on the bad guys in Afghanistan? Check. Bring bin Laden to justice? Check. Joplin Globe endorsement? Uh, well, no. All those checks and plenty more, yet President Obama is not worthy of another term says the Joplin Globe.

Moving on from the paper’s moving goal posts, the Globe additionally argues,

Romney won’t raise any new taxes to reduce the deficit. Period….It’s true that the nation’s wealthiest 2 percent — individuals making more than $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 — can pay more, but why should they?

Yeah, why should they? Let’s balance the budget by getting the money from the poor, the elderly, the disabled. Or maybe we could rob the piggy banks of the countless kids getting free or reduced price lunches here in Southwest Missouri.

Or let’s just let the moochers and their mooching kids in Romney’s “47%” starve to death here in our lovely Joplin community, a community propped up by a lot of government money after the tornado paid us a visit. Now that houses and businesses are going up all over the place, now that there is plenty of money floating around this FEMA-blessed area, to hell with everyone else.

Yeah, why should the rich pay more? Under Bill Clinton they were suffering mightily under those confiscatory 39.6 percent tax rates, weren’t they? God, how did they get by? How did they survive? And how did the economy create those 22 million jobs, given such a drain on those overburdened “job creators”?

The Globe continues:

Romney’s plan is to roll back individual income tax rates for all income groups by 20 percent, and cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent, while at the same time reducing personal and corporate deductions.

This gets us closer to the kind of overhaul that is needed.

Oh, Allah. Help me. How many times must this stuff be debunked? One can go all over the Internet and get various versions of the debunkery, so I won’t go into it here. Suffice it to say that the Globe repeats the Romney line that he will reduce personal and corporate deductions sufficiently to make his plan work. Oh, yeah? Which ones? Tell us, Joplin Globe. Tell us which tax deductions Romney will “reduce.”  He won’t tell us, so why don’t you? And if you can’t tell us, then you don’t know what the hell you are talking about by saying,

This gets us closer to the kind of overhaul that is needed.

Finally, I recently wrote a piece titled, “The Joplin Globe’s Dumbest Editorial Of All Time,” based on its assertion that Romney’s plan to cut the chump change used to fund public broadcasting was part of “a serious conversation about the proper role and reach of the federal government.” Boy, was I a little premature with that one. In its Romney-endorsing editorial, the Globe doubled-down on dumb with this remarkable ending passage:

When it comes to systemic problems, think Big Bird. Recent posturing over that “Sesame Street” character is telling.

During the first debate, Romney bluntly warned moderator Jim Lehrer that he would cut off funds for public broadcasting if the nation was having to borrow money from China to pay for it. If true, it’s the kind of thing a debtor nation must do.

The Obama campaign attacked Romney on that point.

Sure, funding for public broadcasting is an insignificant part of the budget, but if Obama isn’t even willing to cut one one-hundreth of 1 percent of federal spending for something that is non-vital to America, then the president is not serious about reducing spending at all.

If Obama is not serious about that, he is the wrong person for the job.

Mitt Romney should be the next president.

Yes, Mitt Romney should be the next president because he courageously promised to save American taxpayers one dollar and thirty-five cents a year by cutting off funding for public broadcasting, even though he would have exactly no power to do so without a willing Congress. That is real courage, real commitment, real change.

Maybe he can go on from there and cut the federal subsidy for the goddamned Joplin airport. Next he can tackle those free lunches that the greedy freeloading kids around here eat at school. Then, after he is energized by such “serious” budget cutting, he can cut Medicaid, so Joplin’s poor and elderly can unceremoniously croak in our streets.

Yes, why should the rich, the Romneys of the world, pay more? When there are so many better alternatives?

Now, I can truly say, without fear of future contradiction, that I have indeed read the Joplin Globe’s dumbest editorial of all time.

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

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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.

Trump Finally—Finally—Gets Put In His Place: On The Receiving End Of A Teabagger’s Offer (Not For The Kiddies)

Although some in the media take Donald Trump seriously, and by some I mostly mean Fox “News” (although NBC, which employs the buffoon, often takes him seriously, too), Stephen Colbert, the cleverest man on television, does not.

Colbert gives Trump and his latest racist-inspired offer the treatment they deserve:

A Candid Republican Tells The Truth About Racism In His Party

Friday night on MSNBC, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a Republican who served as chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell during the George W. Bush administration, was asked to comment on Republican bully and Romney bullshitter John Sununu’s race-based assertion that Powell endorsed President Obama because, well, “take a look at Colin Powell,” he said.

Wilkerson, forcefully and without qualification, said this:

My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people, not all of them but most of them, who are still basing their decisions on race. Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists. And the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants president Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as Commander-in-Chief, as President, and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.

All of you lurking conservatives out there who have followed this blog for the past three and a half years, who have indicted me, a Democrat, for what you claim are false accusations of racially-tinged resentment and false accusations of racism on the part of Republicans, can take it up with Colonel Wilkerson, one of your own.

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