Thursday, February 26, 2015


Just as Rudy Giuliani can barely make it through a sentence without invoking 9/11, Scott Walker can't seem to talk about anything without steering the discussion to his battle with unions in Wisconsin.

And yes, that includes foreign policy, as were reminded again today:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) argued his fight with unions has prepared him to be commander-in-chief during his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference.

"If I can take on 100,000 protestors I can do the same across the world," Walker said in response to a question about international terrorism.
This comes less than a week after that confab in New York at which Giuliani stole the show by attacking President Obama's patriotism -- Walker spoke there, too, and, as Larry Kudlow reported at National Review, he linked foreign policy to the union fight there as well:
... he frequently referred to his successful efforts in Wisconsin to curb public-union power as a means of lowering tax burdens, increasing economic growth, and reducing unemployment.

Noteworthy, Walker argued that when Reagan fired the PATCO air-traffic controllers over their illegal strike, he was sending a message of toughness to Democrats and unions at home as well as our Soviet enemies abroad. Similarly, Walker believes his stance against unions in Wisconsin would be a signal of toughness to Islamic jihadists and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
As Heather noted at Crooks & Liars, when Walker went on Morning Joe last month and made the same assertion about the effect of the PATCO lockout on the Soviets, he got a "Pants on Fire" from PolitiFact Wisconsin. (Walker claimed that Soviet documents prove his point, but historians say no such documents exist.)

That's his story and he's sticking to it.

The fight with the unions -- in particular, their reported mistreatment of him and his family -- is the bloody shirt Walker's going to wave all the way through the campaign, at every possible opportunity. As I told you last week, his current fight with private-sector unions over a right-to-work law led to protests at the house where his parents live -- a fact he was eager to exploit on Fox News. As I wrote then:
You have to remember that Walker treats reported attacks on family members by people opposed to his policies as one of his prime qualifications for office. He constantly refers to this; we're supposed to want to vote for him because his family has been attacked.

Here's a Washington Times blog post from November 2013: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: 'I had a stack of death threats.'" Here's a story from the same period at Wisconsin Reporter: "‘Unintimidated:’ Gov. Scott Walker’s book details death threats during hostile time." Here's an account of a "tele-town hall" conducted by Walker earlier this month:
Walker talked about some of the death threats made against him by those who opposed his conservative reforms. One threatened to “gut my wife like a deer,” and another note said that if his wife didn’t stop him, he’d be “the first Wisconsin governor ever assassinated,” he said. The threats are part of the reason he’s “exploring that very real possibility of stepping up and providing a new level of leadership,” he said during the 30-minute call.
This was shortly after Walker's speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit made him a serious contender for the GOP nomination; the death threats were a key part of that speech.

No one should ever threaten a politician with violence, much less a member of a politician's family. But Walker is acting as if he and his family are the only people in the history of American politics who've ever had to deal with this.
In 2007, Joe Biden said of Giuliani, "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, a verb, and 9/11. There's nothing else! There's nothing else!" For Walker, it's a noun, a verb, and "union thugs."


Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska has published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal outlining a possible Republican response if the Supreme Court guts Obamacare in the King v. Burwell case. Sasse makes all the usual GOP noises about how awful and illegal and totalitarian Obamacare is, but even he can see that its abrupt termination in the majority of U.S. states would be a disaster. So here's his proposal:
First, in the event that the court strikes down the subsidies as illegal, Congress must be prepared to offer immediate, targeted protection to those hurt by this administration’s reckless disregard for the rule of law. ObamaCare took these patients hostage. Conservatives have a duty to save them.

So within a week I will introduce legislation that uses the 1985 “Cobra” law as a temporary model to protect those harmed by ObamaCare. Cobra offers workers who have lost their jobs the option to keep their health coverage for 18 months -- so Congress should offer individuals losing insurance the ability to keep the coverage they picked, with financial assistance, for 18 transitional months. This would simultaneously avert the full-scale implementation of ObamaCare in these 37 suddenly desperate states. It would also help protect suffering patients entangled in the court’s decision to strike down illegal subsidy payments.

Second, Republicans need to unify around a specific set of constructive, longer-term solutions, and then turn the 2016 presidential election into a referendum on two competing visions of health care. Simply opposing ObamaCare isn’t enough.
OK, fine. Let's say this all happens. Where are we likely to be as President Obama's term ends?

Republicans still think that branding themselves as the We Hate Obamacare Party will send one of their own to the White House, but there's no reason to suspect that thatwill be any truer in 2016 than it was in 2012 -- Republican politicians and voters may think about the health care law the way Ahab thought about Moby-Dick, but normal Americans aren't as monomaniacal. Hillary Clinton will run as an O'care supporter, and will probably demand a permanent fix if one is needed, and polls still suggest she'll win the presidency easily.

But if so, she'll almost certainly have to work with a Republican House and a Senate that's either majority Rpublican or (barely) majority Democrat, with filibusters a regular threat. But if Sasse's patch has been passed, and has made the post-King v. Burwell world roughly indistinguishable from the pre-King v. Burwell world for most Americans, then the law will really be ingrained and hard to dislodge.

Yet Republicans still won't agree to patch it permanently -- you just know they won't, even if Hillary kicked their butts in November 2016 and Democrats had impressive gains in House and Senate races. They'll still be trying to repeal Obamacare. Democrats will insist on a permanent solution. There'll be the usual congressional impasse and the usual brinkmanship.

And the outcome, I'm guessing, will be ... a renewal of the temporary fix, probably to be followed by another, and another, and another, until one party or the other is sufficiently dominant in Washington to get its way on healthcare.

Because that's how everything's done now, thanks to Republican intransigence, right?


Chris Christie is struggling in presidential polls, and Gail Collins thiks she knows why:
Chris Christie is political toast.

Cause of his charred presidential prospects: an unreformed state pension system. I know that’s disappointing. Not nearly as exciting as the political near-death experiences that went before. We were hoping the next disaster would be something like Governor Yells at Elmo. Or a reprise of the day he chased a guy down the boardwalk while waving an ice cream cone, this time maybe featuring Tom Hanks or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
No, those wouldn't hurt him. Yelling at Elmo would probably endear Christie to GOP-base voters who think public broadcasting should be defunded, even if that threatens Sesame Street. And certainly those voters liked the Chris Christie who used to go medieval on random hecklers.

It's not the pension problem that's doing him in. Look at the recent GOP primary polls collected by HuffPost Pollster (go to the link for the full list and other candidates' numbers).

Christie regularly scored in double digits, enough to put him in the top tier in a crowded field, right through the summer of 2014. (Earlier numbers are at the link.)

Then what happened? Well, several things. The first thing is that Mitt Romney happened. He started talking seriously about running for president -- and he immediately shot up in the polls, while Christie sunk to single digits. If you're one of the remaining Republican voters who want a nominee who's a bit to the left of the extreme right, it's quite possible that you dumped Christie for Romney around that time. (The only poll since October in which Christie has scored in double digits was one that didn't include Romney.)

At the same time, Jeb Bush started making serious moves, and he helped split the not-completely-wingnutty vote. More important, Ben Carson's name began to be added to pollsters' candidate lists. Mike Huckabee began to make moves. And Scott Walker got a wave of publicity, all of it positive as far as most Republicans are concerned.

Christie's appeal in the GOP falls into two categories: he's not on the extreme right (which is a good thing to some voters) and he's been on Fox News a lot infuriating liberals. But Mitt and Jeb took some of his support in the former category, and Walker, Carson, and Huckabee have really cut into his support among voters for whom the latter is extremely important.

That was Christie's big mistake: He spent 2014 traveling the country collecting chits as head of the Republican Governors Association, rather than being seen on Fox attacking union teachers and other right-wing Antichrists. He doesn't seem like an obvious president -- he's too young and jumpy and he isn't a mature alpha male like Romney or Bush, which matters to a few GOP voters -- so when he failed to tap into the other source of his appeal, namely his ability to annoy and needle Fox viewers' mortal enemies, he lost even more ground, to Carson and Walker.

Christie seems toothless right now. He doesn't have liberals and Democrats on the defensive. Republicans think that we think he's a joke; by contrast, they think (at least right now) that we fear Walker (and, to a lesser extent, Carson).

Romney aggressively attacked Obama throughout 2014, and sometimes got under Democrats' skin -- that's a big reason why he polled well while he was flirting with a run. Christie should have done what Romney did. If he doesn't have us on the defensive, he's got nothing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Ellen at NewsHounds has a good rundown on the many times Bill O'Reilly and his minions have tried to intimidate those who challenged them. This didn't just start in the present situation, in which O'Reilly has threatened reporters at The New York Times and Mother Jones. After writing something critical about O'Reilly, Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post was ambushed by an O'Reilly producer.
Terkel also noted that O’Reilly has also ambushed columnist Cynthia Tucker, then of the Atlanta Journal-constitution, after she criticized O’Reilly and Seattle Post-Intelligencer editor and publisher Rogers Oglesby. A quick Google search also uncovered O'Reilly ambushes of New Yorker Editor Hendrik Hertzberg, after he wrote something about Newt Gingrich O’Reilly didn’t like, former PBS host Bill Moyers, producer and director of Outfoxed, Robert Greenwald, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and the editor of the Virginian Pilot, Denis Finley.
In this case, of course, O'Reilly is not just sending underlings out to ambush reporters -- he's personally issuing threats. At New York magazine, Gabriel Sherman says that's because this story is an obvious winner for O'Reilly:
Thanks to the Mother Jones article, O’Reilly has been given an opportunity to wage war against a phalanx of liberal media aggressors. This is what his audience expects.

Since joining Fox News at the network’s launch in 1996, O’Reilly built the biggest audience in cable news by appealing to viewers’ sense of cultural victimhood at the hands of coastal elites and the mainstream media. His boss Roger Ailes runs the network not like a news organization, but as a political campaign. In Ailes's world, factual accuracy matters less than whether an anchor is advancing the daily agenda. Which is why the Mother Jones article has been such a boon for O’Reilly and Fox. The allegations, dredged up from the early 1980s, lack the punch of Stars & Stripes' report on Williams's Iraq embellishment and can be seen by Fox's viewers as a nasty swipe at their biggest star. As a piece of journalism, Mother Jones raised legitimate questions about O'Reilly's past claims. As politics, they threw him a meatball to hit out of the park.
Sherman suggests that a different sort of scandal might seriously threaten O'Reilly -- in fact, once upon a time, one actually did, Sherman says:
One indication that O'Reilly is waging a calculated media campaign is to compare his ferocious response to a true scandal with career-ending implications: the 2004 lawsuit by a Fox News producer named Andrea Mackris, who accused O'Reilly of having lurid phone sex. In my biography of Ailes, I reported how Ailes and Rupert Murdoch were furious at O’Reilly for creating the humiliating mess. Ailes instructed O'Reilly that if he spoke out in public, he was in danger of losing his show. Aside from a handful of muted comments, O’Reilly remained silent about the allegations. His ratings held, and O'Reilly hung on to his job.

This time around, Ailes is giving O’Reilly the freedom to open fire.
Sherman is offering a selective reading of his own book. It's true that O'Reilly -- at Fox's insistence -- refrained from public comments on Mackris's suit, but Mackris, as Sherman's book notes, says O'Reilly tried to intimidate her privately:
“If you cross Fox News Channel, it’s not just me, it’s Roger Ailes who will go after you,” he assured Mackris. “I’m the street guy out front making the loud noises about the issues, but Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day BAM! The person gets what’s coming to them but never sees it coming. Look at Al Franken, one day he’s going to get a knock on his door and life as he’s known it will change forever,” O’Reilly said. “That day will happen, trust me.... Ailes knows very powerful people and this goes all the way to the top.”

“Top of what?” Mackris asked.

“Top of the country. Just look at who’s on the cover of his book,” O’Reilly replied, referring to Bush and Cheney. “They’re watching him and will be for years. He’s finished, and he’s going to be sorry he ever took Fox News Channel on.”
And once Mackris's lawsuit was filed, Ailes and then-VP of media relations Brian Lewis did much of the rough stuff on O'Reilly's behalf, according to Sherman's book:
From the outset, Ailes and Brian Lewis sought to be in control of the message. Ailes made sure O’Reilly got the directive: if he opened his big mouth, he could eventually lose his show. Except for a few fleeting comments, O’Reilly remained silent about the headlines. But O’Reilly had loud voices speaking for him. Fox’s PR department and his lawyer, Ronald Green, fed the pack of tabloid reporters a steady supply of nasty gossip about his accuser. To gather dirt, O’Reilly hired the celebrity private investigator Bo Dietl. Sources with damaging anecdotes were tracked down. “This could be a message to people,” Dietl said on MSNBC on the evening of October 15. “When you file these frivolous lawsuits ... we’re going to investigate you and we’re going to uncover things.”

Fox had a crucial ally in the war over O’Reilly: Murdoch’s New York Post. On October 15, the front-page headline blared “EXCLUSIVE: O’Reilly Accuser in Bar Blow Up.” The article, the first in a series of personal attacks on Mackris, quoted a pastry chef named Bethenny Frankel accusing Mackris of provoking a fight with her at the bar of the Peninsula Hotel after Frankel asked to borrow a chair from her table. “She literally verbally attacked and abused and harassed us ... like a raving lunatic,” Frankel told the tabloid. A few days later, one of O’Reilly’s private investigators convinced Matthew Paratore, the owner of a bar and restaurant on the Upper West Side that Mackris frequented, to talk to O’Reilly’s lawyers. On October 19, the Post ran a story headlined “BOOZY BOAST,” which quoted Paratore alleging that Mackris had recently dined with Al Franken and that a few months before returning to Fox, she bragged about writing a book to “take [O’Reilly] down.” O’Reilly’s lawyer also told the Post that Mackris once drunkenly started stripping off her clothes in front of Paratore. “If you think I’m going to fuck Bill O’Reilly, I’m going to fuck you even more,” Green quoted her as saying.

... Green went after Mackris viciously. He told the [New York Daily News] Mackris was “insolvent” and that when she was a White House intern in 1991, she gave herself the nickname “Andrea Mattress.” “It speaks volumes to what was going on then,” he said.
O'Reilly eventually settled, but that was only because he got cold feet, according to Sherman; Fox's Brian Lewis "told executives that Fox could have prevailed if he had been allowed to continue the PR campaign," Sherman writes.

And what did the Mackris scandal do to O'Reilly's reputation with his fans? Sherman again:
The success of Fox’s PR offensive was validated by the most important measure: ratings.... O’Reilly survived a sex scandal by retaining the support of his fans. Ratings for the Factor jumped 30 percent during the heat of the scandal.
And history seems to be repeating itself. TVNewser reports:
“The O’Reilly Factor” averaged 3.3 million viewers on Monday, [February 23,] its highest total viewers since November, 25, 2014 when the Ferguson verdict was announced.
It going to take a hell of a lot more than this to bring O'Reilly down.


UPDATE: Gawker asks, "Why Has Fox News Stopped Defending Bill O’Reilly?"
Over the past week, Fox News has aggressively rebutted accusations that its star host Bill O’Reilly lied about his whereabouts during the Falklands War in 1982. But after a new report challenged O’Reilly’s recent claim that he was present at the violent suicide of a Lee Harvey Oswald acquaintance in 1977, the network declined to defend him. Is Fox blinking?
Nahhh. Fox obviously regards this story as dangerous (like the Mackris story) rather than not dangerous (like the Falklands story). But the nasty reaction will be more or less the same. If the JFK story gets legs, expect ugly tactics in response that can't be traced to O'Reilly or Fox rather than those that can. But they'll come.


One victory for Rudy Giuliani: He's got us asking, in all seriousness, whether President Obama really does love America.

The question is asked in two new polls. The first one is from Rasmussen, and even though the pollster's surveys usually have a rightward skew, it shows that a majority of respondents actually do think Obama loves his country:
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 35% of Likely U.S. Voters agree with this statement made last week by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani -- “I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” Just over half (51%) disagree with this comment, but another 14% are not sure.
However, Republicans overwhelmingly believe Obama doesn't love America:
Sixty-two percent (62%) of Republican voters do not believe Obama loves the nation he leads. Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Democrats and unaffiliated voters by a 48% to 33% margin say that’s not true.
And a YouGov poll yields similar results:
Overall, 47% of respondents said they believe the president loves his country while 35% said he does not. But the split between Democrats and Republicans on the issue is what was truly striking. While 85% of Democrats believe Obama loves America and just 6% say he does not, a whopping 69% of Republicans came down on Giuliani’s side while just 11% said the opposite.

Dear pollsters: Please keep polling this question. But don't just poll it in reference to Obama. I want to know whether Americans think Hillary Clinton is patriotic, or George W. Bush, or John Boehner, or Nancy Pelosi. And I'd like to see the breakdown by party. I'd also like to know whether Republicans think the typical Democrat loves or hates America, and vice versa.

I have no hard evidence for this, but I have a gut sense that Republicans, if asked, would say that every contemporary Democrat is unpatriotic. But I don't believe Democrats would say the same thing about Republicans. We can't go back in time, yet I think the majority of Democrats would have said George W. Bush loves his country, even at the low point of his popularity.

The fact is, most Democrats aren't fire-breathing ideologues. Election results show that we're approximately at 50-50 nation -- Democrats do better in presidential elections, Republicans in other elections, but there's a rough balance overall -- and yet Gallup's ongoing surveys of ideology show that there are far more self-identified conservatives in America than self-identified liberals. The remainder of Americans call themselves moderates -- and these days, I assume, a greater percentage of those moderates vote Democratic.

I don't even think it's a reflex for dyed-in-the-wool liberals to accuse conservatives of disloyalty to the country. Sure, we make "Why does [X] hate America?" jokes, and sometimes they're more than jokes, but lack of patriotism is rarely the first charge in our indictments of Republicans. And Democratic politicians rarely talk this way -- yes, conservatives never stop whining about the fact that Obama once said it was "unpatriotic" for Bush to run up large debts, but even then Obama wasn't saying that Bush was essentially unpatriotic -- he just said that that was an unpatriotic deed.

When we have right-wingers like Glenn Reynolds arguing that vast swaths of the U.S. electorate are unpatriotic, I think it's clear that there's a large McCarthyism gap between the parties. So let's survey it. Do Republicans really believe that everyone who disagrees with them is a traitor? Are Democrats less inclined to think that way? And if so, what does that say about our continued ability to coexist -- and about who, exactly, is dividing us as a nation?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


There's a lot to digest in the new Public Policy Polling national survey of Republican voters -- the huge lead for Scott Walker, the strength of Ben Carson, the weakness of Christie, Paul, and Rubio...
PPP's newest national Republican poll finds a clear leader in the race for the first time: Scott Walker is at 25% to 18% for Ben Carson, 17% for Jeb Bush, and 10% for Mike Huckabee. Rounding out the field of contenders are Chris Christie and Ted Cruz at 5%, Rand Paul at 4%, and Rick Perry and Marco Rubio at 3%.
Also notable are the numbers on global warming (66% of Republicans surveyed don't believe in it), evolution (belief/disbelief is 49%/37%,) and making Christianity the state religion (57% are in favor), not to mention Benjamin Netanyahu's 57% favorability rating (higher than that of any potential 2016 presidential candidate)

But I want to point out something else. Jeb Bush is mired in third place, a bit behind Carson and far behind Walker, and that may not be for the reason you think:
The struggles Bush is having with some Republican primary voters don't seem to have anything to do with his brother's legacy. George W. Bush has a 74/21 favorability rating with them, and the closest any of this year's candidates get to that is a 56% favorability for Mike Huckabee.
George W. Bush has a 74%/21% approval/disapproval ratio among the Republican survey respondents? Really? But wait -- haven't pundits told us that the rise of the Tea Party was as much a reaction to Bush as to Obama?

That's what National Journal's Michael Hirsh wrote in 2013:
... the rebellion against Big Government that the tea party has come to embody really began more than a decade ago with a growing sense of betrayal among conservatives over Bush's runaway-spending habits. Conservatives were angered by his refusal to veto any spending bills, especially in his first term, not to mention what happened during the nearly six years of GOP control of the Senate and House from 2000 to '06, when federal spending grew to a record $2.7 trillion, more than doubling the increase during Bill Clinton's two terms. The final outrage that lit the brushfires of tea-party fervor was Bush's sponsorship of the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program in the fall of 2008, just before he left office, in order to bail out Wall Street.

It is arguably true that President Obama's decision in 2009 to pile a giant stimulus and a new national health-care program on top of TARP transformed those brushfires into a true national conflagration -- and a movement. But in reality Obama's actions were more like a tipping point, many conservatives say. "This social and political phenomenon of the tea partiers was burning all through the Bush years," Reid Buckley, brother of the late William F. Buckley and the self-appointed keeper of his flame as a father of modern conservatism, said in a 2010 interview. "It's a long-term slow boil that has disaffected most people who call themselves conservatives. There's nothing I have against President Obama that in this I wouldn't charge Bush with."
And in a 2014 appearance on Bill Maher's show, Bill Kristol rejected Maher's contention that the Tea Party arose because Obama is a black president:
“I totally believe it,” Maher replied. “It happened a month after he took office. Suddenly white people were very upset about debt even though Bush had raised the debt way more than Obama had.”

Kristol responded to that point by noting that the Tea Party movement was also “upset at Bush for raising the debt.”

“There [were] conservatives upset at Bush for raising the debt, and Tea Partiers rebelled against the Republican establishment as well as the Democratic establishment,” Kristol said.

Well, in this poll, not only is George W. Bush popular with a broad spectrum of Republicans, he's slightly more popular with teabaggers:

Deficits? Spending? When Bush was in charge, 'baggers didn't care. And they resent him for it now. Spending and deficits are only bad when a Democrat is in the White House.


My gratitude, once again, to Charlie Pierce, who linked my last post, which included excerpts from Hugh Hewitt's smear-filled interview of David Corn. Corn has questioned Bill O'Reilly's claims of journalistic heroism, so the right believes Corn must be crushed, and Hewitt's now done his part. This comes, Pierce notes, just as we're learning that Hewitt will co-anchor an early Republican presidential debate in the 2016 campaign season:
Salem Media Group (NASDAQ: SALM), announced today that it will team up with CNN as the exclusive radio outlet to broadcast three GOP presidential primary debates, sanctioned by the Republican National Committee....

The first of the three debates will take place September 16th at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Salem's nationally syndicated radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt will join in the Q&A of this debate. Hewitt is a 25-year veteran of radio and broadcast journalism.

Hewitt will also broadcast special editions of his program pre- and post-debate. At the conclusion of the debate, candidates will be invited to join Hewitt to talk candidly about the event and the pressing issues facing the nation....
Pierce offers a prediction about this debate:
... it will be moderated by a guy who defended Bill O'Reilly by red-baiting a reporter. This indicates to me that the entire process will take place within the bubble of American conservatism. (Low bridge, Jebbie!) That means we're even money to have an "I Paid For This Microphone, Mr. Green" moment when one of the aspirants feels ill-used by the new rules. Whether all this serves the ultimate nominee well remains to be seen. But it promises to be a show.
Yes, maybe. Maybe it's going to be like a staged reading of a Breitbart comments section.

Or maybe not. Hewitt's a seasoned operative, and he's just as capable of toning it down if, y'know, the right people want him to do that. Remember, Hewitt is the same guy who tried to grease the skids for Mitt Romney starting in 2006, the year he published a book (written with Romney's cooperation) titled A Mormon in the White House? As Washington Monthly's Elon Green noted in the spring of 2012, the book wasn't especially hard-hitting:
A Mormon in the White House? [is] a work that, even by the standards of Regnery Publishing, is hardly probing. Per Regnery, Hewitt’s “provocative investigation” uncovered “[t]he key weaknesses that make McCain, Giuliani, and Jeb Bush each unelectable -- and that Mitt Romney doesn’t share”; “How Romney battled against his state’s highest court and its overwhelmingly Democratic legislature on behalf of traditional marriage”; and “How Romney saved the Salt Lake City Olympic Games under the very real fear of another terrorist attack after 9/11.”
By the 2012 primary season, Hewitt, ostensibly a doctrinaire conservative, was,in Green's words, "Romney's special pleader." His interview questions, as Green notes, were a tad less pugnacious than the ones he asked David Corn yesterday:
Romney has rewarded Hewitt with no less than four interviews this year alone, on January 26, February 7, February 23 and March 8. Perhaps these questions explain Romney’s largesse:
“Tonight, Colorado and Minnesota. Do you expect to extend your winning streak in either or both places?”

“Do you think that these gas prices, Governor Romney, are going to be a major issue through the fall? Or will they be, through the manipulation of the Strategic Oil Reserve, or something else, brought down in time to defuse the issue for the President?”

“But generally speaking, did these debates work to alert the country to the seriousness of the problems we are facing? Or did they trivialize these problems?”

“Now Governor, more generally, you ran the Olympics. You took it over when it was in a state of chaos. And you had a thousand different things going on. I’ve told people about the number of events and countries and athletes. Is running a campaign more or less complicated than running the Olympics?”

“Will you passionately fight for the military if you’re the nominee?”
And my favorite:
“Last question, Governor, quick, there’s a picture over at of you and Mrs. Romney driving four of your grandchildren in a convertible. Is that a ‘63 Nash Rambler?”
In the upcoming debate, we might see the amped-up Hewitt we saw in the Corn interview -- or, as in these Romney interviews, he might blow kisses.

Chances are we'll get both from Hewitt -- candidates the Republican National Committee and fat-cat donors would like to see disappear will get rough stuff, while Hewitt strokes the favored candidate or candidates. (Jeb? Walker? Rubio?)

Either way, the whole enterprise is going to be phony, and will bear about as much resemblance to a news event as right-wing media outlets bear to actual news organizations.


I predicted last week that David Corn's questioning of Bill O'Reilly's claim that he experienced "combat" in Buenos Aires during the Falklands War won't do the slightest bit of harm to O'Reilly's career; I anticipated that the response would eventually turn vicious and thuggish, and would eventually involve ad hominem attacks on O'Reilly's critics.

Well, here's a moment of thuggishness from O'Reilly himself, as reported in The New York Times:
Mr. O’Reilly’s efforts to refute the claims by Mother Jones and some former CBS News colleagues occurred both on the air and off on Monday. During a phone conversation, he told a reporter for The New York Times that there would be repercussions if he felt any of the reporter’s coverage was inappropriate. “I am coming after you with everything I have,” Mr. O’Reilly said. “You can take it as a threat.”
In a better media world, this would offend every journalist who wasn't an ideological ally of O'Reilly's. This would get the rest of the press's back up. But it won't, because the nerdy members of the Journalism Club see O'Reilly and the rest of the people at Fox as BMOCs who sit at the cool table in the media's high school cafeteria. They fear Fox. So most of them won't wade into the fight.

Meanwhile ,David Corn went on right-wing apparatchik Hugh Hewitt's radio show yesterday. Expecting to be asked about the O'Reilly story, Corn was subjected to attacks on his own character for most of an hour, eventually terminating the phone call with Hewitt. Real Clear Politics has posted the audio, deceptively headlining the clip "David Corn Hangs Up On Hugh Hewitt After 45-Minute Grilling on Bill O'Reilly." It wasn't a "45-minute grilling on Bill O'Reilly." Most of it wasn't "on Bill O'Reilly" at all. It was an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink attempted character assassination of Corn, built on irrelevancies twisted into something sinister.

The transcript is here. The effort to impugn Corn started early:
HH: All right. Let me go to Understanding Our Generation. Now I want to go to you. You graduated from Brown in what, 1982?

DC: Yeah.

HH: And you were Phi Beta Kappa there?

DC: Yes, I was.

HH: Did you go to Columbia as well? I saw that in one of the bios.

DC: Yeah, I went to Columbia for a semester, had credits transferred to Brown.

HH: Now standards vary for Phi Beta Kappa. What was the rule at Brown? Did they count the Columbia courses?

DC: I don’t know.

HH: So you have no idea, what was the standard at Brown for Phi Beta Kappa?

DC: I can’t tell you what the standard was 30 years ago, Hugh. Someone, you know, one of my teachers proposed me and I got it. I don’t think you had to apply for it.

HH: You don’t recall how you got it?

DC: I recall, you know, this is crap. What do you care?

HH: I’ll, it’ll come forward. It’s about credibility. It happened 30 years ago, right?

DC: Yeah, it happened 30 years ago.

HH: And you can’t remember how you got it?
You see where this is going -- Corn questioned O'Reilly's memories of thirty years ago ... and what was Corn doing decades ago? Becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa! Did he deserve it? Does he now know why that happened? Is his memory of becoming a member of PBK accurate? Hunh? Hunh?

We move on:
HH: I brought up Phi Beta Kappa, because it’s on your bio, as is this. You appeared a lot on Fox. In fact, you worked for Fox, right?

DC: Yeah, I worked for Fox.

HH: How long did you work for them?

DC: They’re saying 7 years. I haven’t looked at the record, but that sounds right.

HH: What were you paid by them?

DC: What?

HH: What were you paid by them?

DC: I’m contractually obligated not to say.

HH: Was is a lot?

DC: It wasn’t retirement money.

HH: Was it six figures?

DC: I’m contractually obligated not to say. How much are you paid?

HH: This is an interview, not a debate. I just am curious, because...

DC: Well, wait a second. This is a discussion.

HH: No, this goes to motive, David.
No, this goes to motive, David -- right, because being hired by Fox as a token liberal, then being let go because Fox no longer believed it needed the fig leaf of pseudo-balance, speaks to Corn's character.

This leads to:
HH: ... I’m asking you were you fired by Fox?

DC: The contract was not renewed at a time when they told me they were generally not renewing contracts with commentators like me.

HH: Are you bitter about being fired by Fox?
The O'Reilly story shows up in a tiny percentage of this "grilling." The rest is all about Corn. And it has a narrative arc: It begins with a bizarre set-up (Hewitt asks Corn whether he thinks Alger Hiss was guilty) and returns, near the end, to red-baiting based on that opening gambit:
HH: And do you understand, I’m just curious if you understand, why your refusing to have an opinion on Hiss goes to your credibility.

DC: Oh, boy. We’re going to end up with that again?

HH: Yeah, we are. Do you understand why that goes to your credibility?

DC: Do you have an opinion on whether George W. Bush lied about the Iraq War?

HH: I do. He did not.

DC: Okay, well, that goes to your credibility with me.

HH: Right. Now but you don’t have an opinion on Hiss. That goes to your credibility.

DC: I don’t care.

HH: I know you’re saying that, but you don’t have an opinion. And the reason that goes to your credibility is it’s this major event by the man who advised FDR at Yalta about which there is no doubt that he’s a communist.

DC: Oh, yada, yada, yada. Come on.

HH: Yeah, but you folks at the Nation...

DC: You tell me, you tell me, you tell me you’re worried about ISIS, and that’s the most important thing, and instead you, now you want to spend time talking about Alger Hiss?

HH: No, I’m talking about David Corn.

DC: Stop. You know, how retro, Hugh.

HH: I am talking about David Corn, not about Alger Hiss.

DC: But you’re asking about Alger Hiss. I don’t care about Alger Hiss.

HH: I’m talking about the blinders that you wear when you come to history. I’m talking about the fact it does not appear...

DC: Blinders?

HH: Yeah, you’ve got blinkers on.

DC: Serious? You just said, you just give me...

HH: You don’t have an opinion on Alger Hiss?

DC: You gave me a hard time about caring about that happened 30 years ago, and now you’re droning on about Alger Hiss?

HH: You don’t have an opinion on Hiss. That goes to your credibility. If you said he was a Soviet spy, I’d move on. If you said he wasn’t a Soviet spy, you’d be shattered. You can’t say the latter, because your friends at The Nation won’t talk to you anymore.

DC: I don’t work at the Nation magazine.

HH: So you say the former. Do you have any friends there?

DC: Personal friends?

HH: Yeah.

DC: No.

HH: You have no friends at The Nation?

DC: Personal, define friends. I don’t, they’re in New York, I’m down here. I don’t socialize with anyone from the Nation these days.

HH: Okay, on the left, you know what Hiss is. I mean, everybody knows this. It’s like the Hiss question’s the easiest question.

DC: This is ridiculous.
You'll say that Hewitt doesn't actually land any of his punches, that no reasonable person would hear this and consider Corn's character to be impugned. That may be true, but Hewitt isn't addressing reasonable people -- he's trying to stir up the right-wing mob. The conservative audience has now been told not that Corn is a journalist who's found evidence discrediting O'Reilly, but that Corn is a slippery, devious, hypocritical sworn enemy of American values and the Truth. On the right, Corn is on trial here, not O'Reilly.

The New York Times reports that former O'Reilly colleagues at CBS, including one who's vigorously questioned o"reilly's story, are refusing to go on his show to confront him because they know this will happen to them as well, except that O'Reilly will do the wet work personally.
Mr. O’Reilly had invited several former CBS employees to appear on his show, including [Eric] Engberg, the anchor Dan Rather and Van Gordon Sauter, who was president of CBS News.

Mr. Engberg said he declined to defend his account on Mr. O’Reilly’s show because “if he wants to present a different view or version of reality, I am not going to stand around and debate it.” He also said he was familiar with the way Mr. O’Reilly ran his show. “Nobody gets a fair shake,” Mr. Engberg said. “He just wants to beat them up, call them names.”

Mr. Rather and Mr. Sauter also did not appear on the show.
Engberg's right. This is war. If only both sides understood that.

And it would be nice if the mainstream media figured out that the mainstreaming of McCarthyites like O'Reilly and Hewitt over the past couple of decades is the real journalism scandal here.

Monday, February 23, 2015


In case you haven't figured it out, all bills in Republican-controlled legislators must do one of three things: (a) shift the tax burden from the rich to the poor, (b) ease restrictions on traditional energy, or (c) tighten access to reproductive services. In category (c), Idaho legislators are now in the process of approving a bill that will prevent doctors from prescribing abortifacients via telemedicine, because what could possibly be a more pressing issue?

While the bill was being debated (it just passed a committee vote, 13-4), this happened:
An Idaho lawmaker received a brief lesson on female anatomy after asking if a woman can swallow a small camera for doctors to conduct a remote gynecological exam.

The question Monday [was] from Republican Rep. Vito Barbieri....

Dr. Julie Madsen was testifying in opposition to the bill when Barbieri asked the question. Madsen replied that would be impossible because swallowed pills do not end up in the vagina.
I just wanted to point out that this isn't a regrettable blind spot on the record of an otherwise exemplary public official. Barbieri is -- and I'm sure this won't shock you -- an across-the-board wingnut wackaloon. He's the kind of guy who goes on Facebook to post speeches by Muslim-bashing Dutch politician Geert Wilders:

(Wilders has been called "Europe's bravest man" by, um ... Pam Geller. He and his party were also admired by right-wing Norwegian mass murder Anders Breivik.)

Also, on a page at, Barbieri posted this:
Muslims unable to assimilate with Americn Principles? Duh!!

"I want my children to understand this regarding - MUSLIMS"

QUESTION....Can a good Muslim be a good American?

This question was forwarded to a friend who worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years. The following is his reply:

Theologically - NO... Because his allegiance is to Allah, The moon god of Arabia.

Religiously - NO. Because no other religion is accepted by His Allah except Islam. (Quran,2:256)(Koran)

Scripturally - NO. Because his allegiance is to the five Pillars of Islam and the Quran.

Geographically - NO. Because his allegiance is to Mecca, to which he turns in prayer five times a day....
I'll spare you the rest.

Barbieri also hangs with the Oath Keepers:

(He spoke in 2013 at an Oath Keepers gathering that was described in an AP article titled "Patriots' Group Rallies in Northern Idaho Over Economy’s 'Inevitable Collapse.'")

Oh, and meanwhile, he's also a member of ALEC:

So, yeah -- Barbieri's a full-service wingnut. Curious how many state and local politicians in those country are as far out on fringe as Barbieri, and how the rest of us don't even consider that remarkable.


At The Washington Examiner, Byron York explains that of course it's not the fault of the right-wing that so many Americans can't name President Obama's religion, and that double-digit percentages say he's a Muslim. Why, look at the numbers on church attendance!
For one thing, few people see Obama openly practicing any religious faith. After the president did not attend church on Christmas 2013, the New York Times, citing unofficial White House historian Mark Knoller, noted that Obama had attended church 18 times in nearly five years in the White House, while George W. Bush attended 120 times in eight years. Yes, there are a variety of reasons some presidents don't go to church very often, but in Obama's case, absence does nothing to change existing public perceptions of him.
So tell me: As president, how many times has Obama attended services at a mosque?

Should we ask Mark Knoller?

Michael McManus, a socially conservative religion writer, has said that President Reagan "attended church only once in his eight years of presidency." Why doesn't anyone think Reagan was a Muslim? Or an atheist? And why didn't York mention that fact?

Eric Boehlert notes this:

So it was okay, I guess.

York insists that Obama brings this on himself:
For example, it would not be a stretch to guess that those Americans who told Gallup and Pew that they did not know the president's faith would remain unsure after hearing reports that at the recent National Prayer Breakfast, Obama explained Islamic State violence by urging listeners to "remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ." Again, many people don't pay close attention to the news, and snippets of reports on Obama's faith, like his remarks at the Prayer Breakfast, could yield a confused picture.
Yes, people are exposed to that quote over and over and over again and are never told -- especially by right-wing media. Somehow, they don't seem to have been told quite as often that Obama also said this in the same speech:
But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge -- or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it. We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism -- terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.
Oh, but it must be Obama's fault that that quote isn't reported. It couldn't possibly be the fault of members of the media who had a vested interest in reporting only the Crusades quote, could it?

ALSO, TOO: BooMan is right:
Was Laura Bush Russian Orthodox?

If we paid people to spread that rumor, people would start to believe it.

It wouldn't be Laura's fault, even though we all know that she loves Dostoyovsky, right?



You'll be told that Rudy Giuliani's new Wall Street Journal op-ed "walks back" the McCarthyite remarks he made about President Obama last week. It doesn't.

The op-ed begins with a transparently dishonest pseudo-walkback -- he effectively tells everyone who read stories about what he said, "Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?" -- and then goes on to advance the same treason-baiting talking points he was advancing last week.
My blunt language suggesting that the president doesn’t love America notwithstanding, I didn’t intend to question President Obama’s motives or the content of his heart.
To use the language of the faith Giuliani and I used to share, this isn't a sincere act of contrition because Giuliani won't acknowledge what he did wrong. Of course he intended to question President Obama’s motives and the content of his heart. He said of the president, "I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me." In a sincere apology or legitimate walkback, Giuliani would acknowledge what he actually said, and admit his own error. All he's willing to do here is concede a perhaps inappropriate "bluntness," to quote the op-ed's title.

In the rest of the op-ed, Giuliani just keeps punching the president; this is no walkback. And, well, that's how the right operates -- never cede ground, never give up any fight. That's why the right wins so many of America's political battles.

Obama, to Giuliani, is still a bad, harmful president because he won't praise America to the skies at every possible opportunity. To Giuliani, not only is American chest-thumping entirely justified, it makes the rest of the world like us more:
American values, worn with pride, give our nation a unique moral authority that can help achieve foreign-policy and security goals while fostering the consensus necessary to address thorny domestic issues.
The reason we win wars is that we say we're awesome all the time! Why doesn't Obama understand that?

Giuliani says that Obama is a bad president because Giuliani doesn't hear him saying America is awesome -- it doesn't matter if Obama actually does say this if it seems to Giuliani as if he doesn't:
Irrespective of what a president may think or feel, his inability or disinclination to emphasize what is right with America can hamstring our success as a nation. This is particularly true when a president is seen, as President Obama is, as criticizing his country more than other presidents have done, regardless of their political affiliation.
Obama's actual words and deeds don't matter, only what he "is seen" as doing or saying (by, presumably, Giuliani and his fellow consumers of right-wing media propaganda).

Of course, as Paul Waldman has noted, Obama praises America on a regular basis. This is from Obama's most recent State of the Union address:
... I still think the cynics are wrong. I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.

I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I've seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California, and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, New London. I've mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, in Boston, in West Texas, and West Virginia. I've watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I've seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in 10 Americans call home.

So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who every day live the idea that we are our brother's keeper and our sister's keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.
Yeah, Obama said this, but is he seen to have said this?

(UPDATE: The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler has collected many more examples of Obama expressing his love for America and praising it as exceptional. But Obama's not seen as having said any of the things Kessler quotes, I guess.)

In the op-ed, Giuliani identifies John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton as presidents who "possessed the ability to walk a fine line by placing any constructive criticisms regarding the ways the country might improve in the context of their unbending belief in American exceptionalism." Well, maybe -- but I wonder what the Giuliani of 2015 would say about the Kennedy of 1960 who said this as he was running for president:
We have heard many general claims and boasts, we have heard how we are first in every area of international competition. We have heard about what must be done to stand firm and to stand up to Khrushchev and all the rest. But no amount of oratory, no amount of oratory, no amount of claims, no unjustified charges, can hide the harsh facts behind the rhetoric, behind the soothing words that our prestige has never been higher and that of the Communists never lower. They cannot hide the basic facts that American strength in relation to that of the Sino-Soviet bloc relatively has been slipping, and communism has been steadily advancing until now it rests 90 miles from this city of Miami. [Applause.]

The implacable Communist drive for power takes many forms and works in many ways, but behind it all, behind every weapon that they have in their arsenal is one basic fact, and that is the military power of the Communist bloc, for it is here that the Communist advance and relative American decline can be most sharply seen, and it is here that the danger to our survival is the greatest.
"American decline"! A True Patriot can't say that!

Paul Waldman has quoted a speech Ronald Reagan delivered on Election Eve 1980, in which he said,
Many of us are unhappy about our worsening economic problems, about the constant crisis atmosphere in our foreign policy, about our diminishing prestige around the globe, about the weakness in our economy and national security that jeopardizes world peace, about our lack of strong, straight-forward leadership.
But Reagan expressed even more doubts about America in a speech he delivered in 1969, when he was governor of California. In that speech, among other things, he said this:

In that speech, he also said this:

"Are we the lost generation"? Invoking the fall of Rome? WHY WON'T RONALD REAGAN TALK ABOUT AMERICAN GREATNESS?!?!?!

And apparently Giuliani didn't think it was necessary to talk incessantly about New York City's greatness when he was running for mayor. This is from his 1989 campaign stump speech:
Maybe the best way to put it is no matter what else we do, no matter what other great things we achieve in the next year or two years, if next year this city has more crime and more drugs, this city's going down.

It's going to continue to decline. No one is going to want to live here. No one is going to want to place businesses here. No one is going to want to keep their business here, if the crime rates increase next year the way they have this year, if the murder rate increases next year the way it has last year and this year.

Last year we set a record for the most murders in our history as a city ... and we're about to set that record again this year. If we set that record next year, there's nothing we're going to be able to do to bring this city back. There's nothing we're going to be able to do to move this city from its present course, which is a city in decline, to what we're going to have to do, which is to move it toward progress and a better future.
Didn't Giuliani know that you harm a place if don't lavish it with praise all the time? Why did he hate New York?

Sunday, February 22, 2015


So Dan Balz and Robert Costa of The Washington Post spoke to Scott Walker yesterday, and I imagine you already know what happened:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a prospective Republican presidential contender, said Saturday he does not know whether President Obama is a Christian.

“I don’t know,” Walker said in an interview at the JW Marriott hotel in Washington, where he was attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Told that Obama has frequently spoken publicly about his Christian faith, Walker maintained that he was not aware of the president’s religion.

“I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that,” Walker said, his voice calm and firm. “I’ve never asked him that,” he added. “You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?”
Charles Johnson thought Walker was playing defense. I disagree:

I think Walker was going on offense -- he was seizing an opportunity to curry favor with the base and to further establish himself as the new King of the Wingnuts.

It's working. The base hates the fact that he was asked this question and loves his response, especially this part:
Walker said such questions from reporters are reflective of a broader problem in the nation’s political-media culture, which he described as fixated on issues that are not relevant to most Americans.

“To me, this is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press,” he said. “The things they care about don’t even remotely come close to what you’re asking about.”

Walker said he does not believe that most Americans care about such matters.“People in the media will [judge], not everyday people,” he said. “I would defy you to come to Wisconsin. You could ask 100 people, and not one of them would say that this is a significant issue.”
That's nonsense, of course -- the right-wing base is obsessed with the question of what Obama believes in (short answer: not America, not capitalism, and not Christianity). The wingers got thrills up their legs when he said this.

Kemberlee Kaye at Legal Insurrection in a post titled "The Washington Post Played ‘Gotcha’ with Scott Walker (and Lost)," described this as "the WaPo Inquisition" and said that Balz and Cota were "shamed" by Walker's attack on Washington and the media. Scott Greer of the Daily Caller decried "the most outlandish question posed to a potential candidate yet." And Gateway Pundit's Jim Hoft, with his usual infantile fondness for all caps, titled his post "Gov. Walker DESTROYS LIBERAL MEDIA After Latest Attempt at Gotcha Question." ("Liberal media"? Um, Costa used to write for National Review, and, in fact, once had a William F. Buckley Journalism Fellowship at the National Review Institute.)

So: big win for Walker in his pursuit of the nomination, right?

Well, maybe not. He's going to keep climbing in the polls, but I bet he's alienating some of the big-money boys who thought the 2014 was a GOP year because the Establishment wrested control of campaigns from the Tea Party. I bet Walker's driving some of the fence-sitters right into the arms of Jeb Bush.

Even before this Balz/Costa interview, mainstream media mandarin Dana Milbank was writing that Walker's silence in response to Rudy Giuliani's McCarthyite comments about Obama should disqualify Walker from the presidency. A piece at The New York Times right now is titled "Establishment Republicans Question Scott Walker’s Handling of Giuliani Comments" And notice what's at the bottom of the front page of today's New York Daily News:

From the story:
Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said Giuliani’s remarks could backfire on the Republicans as the campaign continues.

“Rudy’s comments are red meat -- no, filet mignon -- for the GOP activist base,” he said. “But Rudy’s patriotic breast-beating hurts with voters who are turned off by invective.

“Rudy has put all the GOP presidential candidates in a tough spot. They can’t win no matter how they respond to his comments.”
Yes, but Jeb deftly tiptoed away from Giuliani's comments:
A statement distributed by aides said that "Governor Bush doesn't question President Obama's motives. He does question President Obama's disastrous policies."
It shouldn't matter what the Daily News thinks, but don't forget, Mort Zuckerman, the chairman and publisher of the News, was one of the movers and shakers in attendance when Giuliani smeared the president and Walker said nothing. In order to become president, Walker needs to thread the needle, holding on to his wingnut base while impressing just enough powerful centrists (in both the donor and media classes) to secure both the nomination and a general election victory. I've been thinking that he's now the favorite for the nomination, but if the money people don't think so, and the centrist press starts portraying him as Ted Cruz rather than the declaring him safe the way George W. Bush was declared safe in 2000, then his needle-threading isn't working.

But boy, is the next round of GOP polls going to look good for him.

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Dave Weigel, echoing complaints from right-wingers, says the Rudy Giuliani story shouldn't have blown up the way it did:
The [Scott] Walker cameo clearly turned this into a news-swallowing story....

Was it news? Well, sure! But review the timing: the week before the Giuliani hubbub, the White House introduced a version of an authorization of military force against ISIS. Next week, Congress is looking at a deadline on a must-pass Homeland Security funding bill, with Republicans expected to include riders that will prompt a presidential veto. If you thought it was strange to spend the week in between discussing whether a former New York Mayor was disrespectful to the president, you're not alone.
Well, the Brian Williams kerfuffle became "a news-swallowing story" a few days after a Jordanian pilot was seen on video being burned alive by ISIS, and stayed in the news even as the death of American ISIS hostage Kayla Mueller was announced -- why did that happen? Sorry, Dave, life is unfair.

Weigel argues (correctly) that Giuliani's remarks became news because he spoke at a gathering whose guest of honor was possible future president Scott Walker, and because he's a figure of great interest to the large number of reporters based in and around New York City.

But as Weigel notes, Giuliani's been uttering McCarthyite smears against Obama for quite some time -- and Weigel's point seems to be that Giuliani should be free to say these things without fear of exposure by the press.
On February 13, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani talked for almost half an hour to the Iranian American Community of Arizona. The Arizona Republic dispatched a reporter to interview Giuliani before the speech; the mayor insisted that "it's only the president who refuses to say" that Islamic radicalism is behind terror attacks. Giuliani's speech itself did not make the newspaper.

... Giuliani's Phoenix speech ... was pure vitriol.... In it, he said that Iranian negotiators were "looking into weak eyes" when they looked at the president....

"What is wrong with him?" asked Giuliani of Obama. "Is there no passion for the lives of these innocent people? Is there no caring for them?" He continued:
When I was mayor of New York, if someone threatened to destroy New York City, I would go anywhere, anyplace, anytime, and I wouldn't give a damn what the president of the United States thought, to defend my country. That is a patriot! That is a man who loves his people! That is a man who protects his people! That's a man who fights for his people, unlike our president!
... His remarks in New York ... were in sync with what Giuliani had been saying for years, at campaign rallies and on Fox News I was in the crowd at an Ohio rally for Mitt Romney in November 2012 when Giuliani went hoarse with anger about how the president had let Americans die in Benghazi. He asked then, "You think if we'd elected John McCain as president, those people wouldn't have had the full resources of the United States of America trying to save them?"
You were probably unaware of these sppeches, and Weigel's point is that that's as it should be -- Giuliani should be able to question Obama's patriotism wherever and whenever he chooses without interference from reporters or members of the public who find it noteworthy or troubling.

Weigel quotes a harrumphing Twitter message approvingly:
"I missed the part where Rudy Giuliani was still mayor of NY or influential political figure," tweeted Amy Walter, the national editor of the Cook Political Report. I spent the week in Kentucky and South Carolina, talking to party activists, congressmen, and people who live productive lives; I heard nobody react to this news tidbit, either negatively or positively.
So ... what? Giuliani's a forgotten figure now? Do Weigel and Walter seriously believe that? And therefore he should be free to smear the president whenever he chooses, exempted by journalistic ethics from the possibility that his remarks will go viral? Sorry, but that's crazy.


And Weigel is also wrong when he suggests that a double standard is being applied here:
The media seemed to be making up rules as it went along. In 2008, Barack Obama said it was "unpatriotic" for George W. Bush to add trillions to the national debt. In 2004, Howard Dean warned Democratic voters that there was "a group of people around the President whose main allegiance is to each other and their ideology rather than to the United States."

And then there was Giuliani. When he spoke, we learned that it was off-limits for someone to question an opponent's patriotism.
Here's the difference: There are large numbers of Americans -- I think it's safe to say millions -- who believe that Democrats literally favor America's enemies and hope that those enemies will do harm to U.S. citizens. The idea that Republicans wish harm on Americans is believed by far fewer Americans, and it's never taken hold in mainstream consciousness the way the notion of Democratic treason and disloyalty has since 1972 (or 1968 or whatever start date you prefer -- Glenn Beck fans go back to the Wilson administration).

If you were to remark, after a high-profile mass murder by a Caucasian male, that maybe the police should routinely profile white men, it's not the same as saying that the police should routinely profile black men, because black men actually are profiled in this society, in a way that white men never will be -- every black man suffers through this. I'm not equating the two, but every Democrat functions under a somewhat similar cloud of suspicion: Do you hate America and love its enemies like McGovern/Carter/whoever?

There's a double standard in this country on presumptions of patriotism, whether or not Weigel notices it. Democrats who accuse Republicans of disloyalty to country are merely trying to turn the tables. Republicans who accuse Democrats are reinforcing a well-established group slander.


Rudy Giuliani is now like a little spoiled brat who's been told by his parents not to repeat a four-letter word and is responding by repeating it over and over again at the top of his lungs. Here he is repeating it to the New York Daily News; here he is repeating it to the New York Post.

And what exactly is he saying? This is what frequently surprises me about prominent wingnuts: I expect rank-and-file wingers to repeat the ignorant nonsense they pick up from Fox and Free Republic and World Net Daily verbatim. I'm not surprised when right-wing entertainers (Ted Nugent, Victoria Jackson, Nick Searcy, Charlie Daniels) parrot the same simple-minded talking points -- they're just ordinary Americans who got famous.

But it always surprises me when people who have power and clout utter pronouncements that are indistinguishable from the crap your right-wing uncle forwards you every few days. When we've seen billionaires who travel in the best circles comparing Obama to Hitler, or Jack Welch declaring that good job numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics must be the result of Obama administration manipulation ("Those Chicago guys will do anything"), or billionaire Joe Ricketts concluding that the best way to defeat Barack Obama in 2012 would be an ad campaign rehashing the Jeremiah Wright story, I've always found myself thinking: Aren't these people too sophisticated for this? Don't they avail themselves of serious sources of news and information, if only because they need to in order to maintain their place at the top of the heap?

Apparently not. Apparently they watch just as much Fox as your uncle. Apparently they don't get information from sources that are any more nuanced than Fox.

And that seems to be true of Giuliani. He may have once been a serious candidate for president of the United States and he may now be a globetrotting international security consultant, but he wallows in the same pool of ignorance as your uncle. The Daily News interviews him and tells us,
The former mayor also brought up Obama’s relationship with “quasi-communist” community organizer Saul Alinsky and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
("Relationship"? Um, Saul Alinsky died when Obama was ten years old.)

In the Post we get Alinsky again, Frank Marshall Davis, and (of course) Jeremiah Wright (“Obama never left that church,” Giuliani says, ignoring the fact that Obama actually did leave the church).

There isn't an original thought here; there's nothing that wasn't said first by gutter-scrapers like Dinesh D'Souza and Glenn Beck.

But that's what are right-wing elites are like now -- they're ignoramuses with money.


Political pros were so bedazzled by Rudy Giuliani in the aftermath of 9/11 that thirteen-plus years later they still can't see clearly. How else do you explain nonsnse like this, from CNN's Stephen Collinson?
... by amplifying his charge that President Barack Obama doesn't love America, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani appears ready to risk sullying the powerful mythology that grew around his leadership when he steadied and steeled the nation in the terrible, confusing time after 9/11.

Since those fleeting days when he was a unifying figure, Giuliani has more often dealt in waspish rhetoric and savage mockery -- especially of a president he says has "failed."

"America's Mayor" has gone rogue, lashing out at Democrats and liberal orthodoxy on the war on terror and saying, for example, during the Ferguson controversy last year that the biggest danger to a black child was not from a white police officer but from another African American.

The latest firestorm over Obama's patriotism may complete Giuliani's political journey from the center left of the Republican Party to the conservative jungles where Sarah Palin and Donald Trump roam.

"Rudy has devolved into this red meat Republican base ideologue who periodically seems to need self identification," said Douglas Muzzio, a political scientist at Baruch College and a New York City media commentator. "Maybe it is Rudy in his dotage, where he has lost whatever boundaries he once had. He sounds like a bitter old man."
Rudy was part of "the center left of the Republican Party" before now, or at least for the past thirteen years, as opposed to being a "red meat Republican base ideologue"? Seriously?

You mean, he was a centrist in 2004, when he delivered this Cheneyesque denunciation of John Kerry?
"We need to understand how to support our military. We need to understand how to support our intelligence services. He's been an opponent of our military for 20 years. He's been an opponent of our intelligence services for 20 years."
Or in 2007, when he made these Cheney-like pronouncements?
"I listen a little to the Democrats, and if one of them gets elected, we are going on defense," Giuliani continued. "We will wave the white flag on Iraq. We will cut back on the Patriot Act, electronic surveillance, interrogation and we will be back to our pre-Sept. 11 attitude of defense."

He added: "The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us."

After his speech to the Rockingham County Lincoln Day Dinner, I asked him about his statements and Giuliani said flatly: "America will be safer with a Republican president." ...

"This war ends when they stop coming here to kill us!" Giuliani said in his speech. "Never, ever again will this country ever be on defense waiting for (terrorists) to attack us if I have anything to say about it. And make no mistake, the Democrats want to put us back on defense!"
And on the inflammatory racial content of some of Giuliani's recent remarks, does Collinson seriously think this is something new?
Black leaders, Mr. Giuliani said in 1994, had to “learn how to discipline themselves in the way in which they speak” if they expected to chat with him. The city’s welfare-state philosophy, he said later, was racist and “enslaved” black New Yorkers....

When [then-Democratic mayoral candidate David] Dinkins called Mr. Giuliani, who served in the Justice Department, a “Reagan Republican,” he fired back. His campaign ran an ad in a Jewish newspaper with a photo of Mr. Dinkins and Mr. Jackson, a year after Mr. Jackson made a comment widely seen as anti-Semitic. Mr. Giuliani began calling Mr. Dinkins “a Jesse Jackson Democrat.”

... In September 1992, he spoke to a rally of police officers protesting Mr. Dinkins’s proposal for a civilian board to review police misconduct.

It was a rowdy, often threatening, crowd. Hundreds of white off-duty officers drank heavily, and a few waved signs like “Dump the Washroom Attendant,” a reference to Mr. Dinkins. A block away from City Hall, Mr. Giuliani gave a fiery address, twice calling Mr. Dinkins’s proposal “bullshit.” The crowd cheered. Mr. Giuliani was jubilant.
And of course, there was
the 2000 killing of [an] unarmed black man, Patrick Dorismond, outside a city bar, after which Mr. Giuliani made the unusual step of releasing Mr. Dorismond’s sealed juvenile police record and saying that Mr. Dorismond was “no altar boy.” (Mr. Dorismond had been an altar boy, in fact, and had even attended the same Catholic school as the mayor.)
So I'm puzzled when I read this now in The New York Times:
To some in Republican politics, Mr. Giuliani’s public eruption looks like the product of slack political instincts, the shoot-from-the-lip behavior of a former champion who has lost self-awareness with each year removed from office.
"Shoot-from-the-lip behavior" is a new thing from Giuliani? What the hell planet have you people been living on for the past quarter century?

Friday, February 20, 2015


At Mother Jones, David Corn and Daniel Schulman have published a thorough, extremely well researched story proving that Bill O'Reilly has lied for years when he's claimed to have experienced "combat" as a reporter in a "war zone" during the Falklands War. O'Reilly did cover the war for CBS News, but from Buenos Aires; as Corn and Schulman note, the Falkland Islands, where combat in the war actually took place, are "300 miles off Argentina's shore and about 1,200 miles south of Buenos Aires." Being in Buenos Aires and saying you saw combat in the Falklands is like saying you witnessed the Bay of Pigs invasion because you happened to be in Key West at the time.

This lie -- and O'Reilly has lied repeatedly -- is at least as great a breach of journalistic ethics as any untrue utterance from Brian Williams. But O'Reilly will emerge from this without a scratch, while the career of Williams will probably never recover.

Maybe you're thinking, Really? It seems bizarre that O'Reilly would survive unscathed, given how much the mainstream media hates Fox News. But that's a fallacy: The mainstream media doesn't hate Fox News. If anything, the mainstream media treats the Murdoch media with kid gloves.

Part of this is fear: The Murdoch press doesn't take this sort of attack lightly. If the story does have legs, the fight won't be over the facts of the story.

Already we see Fox house "media critic" Howard Kurtz firing a warning shot. He claims that the Corn/Schulman story "appears to turn on semantics" and has an "adversarial tone"; he notes that Corn is "also an MSNBC contributor" and says, insinuatingly, that "Corn was a Fox News contributor, from 2001 to 2008," but his "contract was not renewed."

This is a love tap, but it hints at the sort of back-alley mugging that's coming if the story stays in the news. If O'Reilly is somehow put on the defensive for more than a news cycle or two, every real or faux scandal in the professional history of Corn, Schulman, Mother Jones, and MSNBC will be unearthed. If it's possible to suggest guilt by association, that will be suggested. This will be war.

But it's unlikely that we'll get to that point. The rest of the media won't pile on O'Reilly the way it piled on Williams.

The Williams pile-on was, in large part, a product of mainstream media self-hate. People in the media know that they often fail to inform, that they provide more and more fluff and less and less substance; they also know that they're regularly pummeled by the right for being an insular cabal with a political bias. So they turned on one of their own to show that, while they may be schlockmeisters, at least they don't circle the wagons to protect members of the clique. The refs have been successfully worked; they agree with right-wing critiques of one of their own.

The folks in the mainstream press won't hold O'Reilly to the same standard because he and his defenders will shout and bray and beat their chests, and the MSM will shrink back from this dominance challenge. O'Reilly's doing that already:
In a series of scathing interviews last night, O'Reilly declared that Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, is a "far-left assassin," a "guttersnipe liar," and a "disgusting piece of garbage" who authored "a politically motivated hit piece." ...

In one interview with TVNewser, he even appeared to threaten Corn, saying, "When everybody writes the truth, I've talked to about eight or nine reporters, and when they verify what I'm saying, because it's easily verifiable, then I expect David Corn to be in the kill zone. Where he deserves to be."
The mainstream media actually respects bullyboy tactics like this. This kind of thuggish behavior seems to have worked extraordinarily well for Murdoch for decades, especially for Fox News since its inception -- Murdoch is thriving while other media operations are dying, and Fox always dominates the ratings. The rest of the press envies and respects Murdoch & Co. for this. What's regarded as unethical at other journalists' news organizations is "colorful" or "audacious" in Murdoch Land. It's "swagger." It's old-fashioned Front Page bare-knuckle toughness. No one's going to hold these guys to journalistic standards -- they're mas macho.

O'Reilly should suffer consequences, of course. I'd argue that he should suffer more than Williams because the nightly news broadcast over which Williams presided until recently was so insubstantial that it has no influence on the national discussion of serious issues. O'Reilly's program, by contrast, has a tremendous influence on that discussion, as do all the Fox prime-time programs.

But it doesn't matter. The MSM secretly admires Fox and hates itself. So this won't touch O'Reilly.