Saturday, February 28, 2015


Lead story at Fox Nation right now, citing radio talker Mark Levin's speech at CPAC:

Really? It's conservatively incorrect to call America a nation of immigrants?

Why do Fox and Levin hate Ronald Reagan?

(That's from a speech Reagan delivered in Shanghain in 1984.)



Here's the headline of a blog post published yesterday by The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza:
Jeb Bush Was Very, Very Good at CPAC Today
By contrast, here's a post headline from Jonathan Martin of The New York Times:
CPAC Reception Is Mixed for Jeb Bush, Despite Bused-In Backers
Yes, Jeb decided he needed to bus in supporters. It's being reported that the buses left from K Street -- y'know, where all the lobbyists work? -- and Georgetown.

Cillizza admits that Jeb inspired walkouts, that Jeb got heckled, and that Sean Hannity was a surprisingly gentle to Jeb in their CPAC Q&A. (I don't think the mostly softball nature of the questions is a surprise at all -- Hannity may make a living stoking purist right-wing rage, but every four years the guy who signs Hannity's paychecks decides it's time to find some Republican who's electable and try to catapult him into the White House, even though Republicans struggle in presidential elections precisely because they first have to appeal to voters Fox has made into a hysterical mob. Murdoch and his henchman Roger Ailes don't even want to dial down the mob-goading long enough to fluff a presentable candidate properly, which is why Mitt Romney got a cold shoulder from Fox for much of the last campaign, but the folks at Fox think they want someone electable, so of course Hannity was nice to Jeb.)

Jeb is still for immigration reform. He's still for Common Core. As Martin and Maggie Haberman remind us in a separate Times article, Jeb supported giving driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants and allowing them to pay state college tuition at in-state rates, although he's repudiated those positions.

So he's not what Republican voters want. But the fact that the appearance wasn't a disaster is, to Cillizza, excellent news for Jeb Bush:
Good luck, smart organization and a solid performance in the face of adversity is what successful presidential campaigns are built on.
Yeah, but somewhere along the line you have to have voters who actually like you, no? Without being bused in and being told to like you?

I know, I know -- it's not clear that Mitt Romney ever had any such voters (at least outside the Mormon community), and he came semi-close to becoming president. But he worked hard at saying what his base wanted to hear. Jeb isn't doing that.

Andy Kaufman used to go on stage at comedy clubs and test the audience: How annoying and anti-funny can I be up here and still make you feel you had an entertaining comedy experience? Can I make you laugh by not being funny at all? Sometimes that's what comes to mind for me when I watch Jeb Bush try to win the Republican nomination. His campaign is some sort of anti-politics performance art.

But Cillizza's point, I think, is that you can buy a win. Maybe you can't have rent-a-voters the way you can have rent-a-crowds at CPAC (well, actually you can in caucus states, I guess), but you can spend so much money on advertising that voters will think they want to vote for you.

Cillizza will admire Jeb if he can pull this off. He'll probably compare Jeb to Hillary Clinton -- hey, the only reason she won all those votes in the primaries is that most Democratic voters actually supported her! That's much less impressive than winning the primaries in a party consisting mostly of people who hate you!

I can really see that as a common mainstream-media message going into the fall: Jeb won even though his party despises him! Jeb won because people in smoke-filled back rooms thought he was the best candidate and because Hannity and his fellow wingnut bloviators listened to their bosses and took a dive for him! That's more impressive than Hillary's actual popularity! So vote Jeb in November!

Friday, February 27, 2015


Prostrating yourself before the angry Republican base and repudiating a moderate, reasonable position you used to hold on a hot-button issue is a smart career move for anyone seeking the Republican presidential nomination, but I think Marco Rubio still needs to debase himself a bit more on immigration if he hopes to stand a chance in the primaries:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that he's learned he was wrong on his approach to immigration reform.

Rubio, a onetime Tea Party favorite whose support for a comprehensive immigration reform package hurt him with the GOP base, told the conservative crowd that he now understands U.S. borders must be secured before anything else can be done....

"You have 10 or 12 million people in this country, many of whom have lived here for longer than a decade, have not otherwise violated our law other than immigration laws, I get all that," Rubio said. "But what I've learned is you can't even have a conversation about that until people believe and know, not just believe but it's proven to them that future illegal immigration will be controlled."

... Rubio said recent border issues had proven his earlier approach was wrong, calling a border security first approach "the only way forward."

"You can't just tell people you're going to secure the border, we're going to do E-Verify. You have to do that, they have to see it, they have to see it working, and then they're going to have a reasonable conversation with you about the other parts, but they're not going to even want to talk about that until that's done first....."
You know what, Marco? The base doesn't want to "have a reasonable conversation ... about the other parts" -- not now, not in some future right-wing utopia with a border sealed as tight as the one between North and South Korea, not ever. The base doesn't want to hear you say you "get all that" after you've talked about how long many undocumented immigrants have lived here. The base doesn't "get all that." The base doesn't care.

Maybe you can make vague references to comprehensive immigration reform if you're not under a cloud of suspicion. But if you're a heretic like Rubio, even a reformed one, you'd better overcorrect.

That's what Mitt Romney did in 2012 on universal health care. Yes, he was highly suspect as a result of Romneycare, but you really have to hand it to him: He promised Obamacare repeal at every possible moment, in just about every speech and every ad. He conveyed the impression that he hated Obamacare with the fury of a thousand suns. That still wouldn't have been enough if Romney hadn't had the money to prevail in the primaries, but he still needed to position himself that way on the most important issue for Republican voters or he probably would have lost the nomination, huge war chest notwithstanding.

Rubio doesn't have Romney's cash (and Jeb Bush is making certain that he'll never get his hands on serious money), but a hard line is his only hope for a credible run. If he doesn't want to be an ultra-hardliner on this, he should at least do what Romney did in 2012: go vague when talking about what happens after the glorious day when he gets the border nice and sealed. He should sound punitive (I don't believe "self-deportation" talk hurt Romney one bit with voters in his party). Otherwise, he should just give up the race now.

And if you think the base will buy what Rubio is selling read this Free Republic thread.


I see that Dave Weigel is using the word "gaffe" to describe Scott Walker's assertion at CPAC that he's ready to take on ISIS because he took on unions -- even though, as Weigel concedes, "In the room, it killed." According to Weigel, you know that Walker and his backers think he committed a gaffe because the remark is now being described as a joke. That's true in at least one instance -- but it's not being described as just any kind of joke:
[Walker] gave no indication that he was joking. That only emerged at Thursday night's CPAC parties and at one of Friday's first speeches, from conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

"My friend Craig Shirley reminded me of this," said Ingraham, citing the historian of Ronald Reagan's presidential bids. "In 1980, Ronald Reagan was campaigning—I think it was before the New Hampshire primary -- and he said, I know how to deal with the Soviets. I can bring them to the negotiating table. After all, I had to deal with the old studio chiefs in Hollywood. And the media, just like they did with Scott Walker, went after him. Oh, how could he compare dealing with the studio heads? And Ronald Reagan basically said, 'I have a sense of humor, and you don't.'"

You can watch Ingraham say this in the following clip. She gets to Walker a few minutes in, after a series of nasty remarks about Jeb Bush (like Rush Limbaugh, she says that Bush and Clinton should run on the same ticket).

At about 2:40, Ingraham prefaces the reference to Reagan by saying,
But we have to realize, my friends, you go into battle with the political system you have. And we already know that the media and much of the donor class is hostile to conservatism. And guess what? That's been true for a very long time. They were joking on MSNBC this morning about Scott Walker's comment yesterday....
And so on, until we get to Reagan talking about Hollywood.

Do you see where I'm going? Even if Ingraham is trying to help Walker to do a climbdown, she's saying his remark is being pounced on by the same sorts of evil media liberals who hated and underestimated Reagan, the greatest human being who ever walked the earth.

How the hell does that comparison leave Walker with any lasting damage as far as rank-and-file Republicans are concerned? If you say Walker joked the way Reagan joked, how does he lose face with the voters he seeks?

By the way, I can't find Shirley's anecdote online. I searched a number of ways, including within the texts of Shirley's voluminous history of the 1980 campaign. My search skills may be failing me, but if I'm right, this never actually happened.

Then again, Reagan liked to make up stories that "proved" his point, didn't he? Reagan was criticized in the media for this, but it never seemed to do him serious harm.

At the very least, Walker is being mocked now by just the sorts of people whose mockery proves his point about the vastness of the army arrayed against all True Patriots. Maybe incidents like this are making the money boys skittish about Walker, but in his quest to become President of Red America, this is a positive development, not a negative one.


BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins told us yesterday that Jeb Bush's campaign has many gay and gay-friendly top aides and strategists:
When Bush officially launches his presidential bid later this year, he will likely do so with a campaign manager who has urged the Republican Party to adopt a pro-gay agenda; a chief strategist who signed a Supreme Court amicus brief arguing for marriage equality in California; a longtime adviser who once encouraged her minister to stick to his guns in preaching equality for same-sex couples; and a communications director who is openly gay.

To an extent that would have been unthinkable in past elections, one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination has stocked his inner circle with advisers who are vocal proponents of gay rights.
Hot Air's Allahpundit thinks this might make some strategic sense -- Jeb has already lost very conservative primary voters, and an openness to gay rights might help him with younger Republicans. Also, Jeb might win some favor with the mainstream press -- but Allahpundit thinks there are serious limits in that area, because the MSM is so damn liberal:
Endorsing gay marriage would also earn Jeb some friends in the media, with whom he has a complicated relationship right now. The media obviously favors him in the primaries against right-wingers but they also worry that, because of his fundraising, he’s the strongest GOP challenger for Hillary. They’ll hit him hard in the general, as they always do with the GOP nominee, to protect their own side, but they might not hit Jeb as hard if he sides with them against conservatives on their pet social issue. They’ve turned that into a litmus test for decency and progressive thinking among politicians, so for Jeb to join their camp on it would necessarily complicate their narrative that the Republican nominee has malevolent retrograde designs on America.
Um ... apparently Allahpundit isn't aware of the wet, sloppy kiss Jeb just got from Joe Klein at Time magazine:
He is a political conservative with a moderate disposition. And after giving his speeches a close read, I find Bush’s disposition far more important than his position on any given issue. In fact, it’s a breath of fresh air. I disagree with his hard line toward Cuba and the Iran nuclear negotiations, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say about reforming Obamacare. His arguments so far merit consideration, even when one disagrees with them.

There is none of John McCain’s chesty bellicosity. Bush makes no false, egregious claims, on issues foreign or domestic. He resists the partisan hyperbole that has coarsened our politics....

Bush’s economic vision is traditionally Republican.... His solution is providing more opportunity rather than income redistribution. We’ll see, over time, what he means by that.

... the way Bush talks about governmental sclerosis is the important thing.... There is no call to blow up the Environmental Protection Agency or ignore science. But there is awareness of a radical truth: that there is no creative destruction in government....

... He does not seem to be an angry man, and the need to screech has been the great Republican vulnerability in recent presidential campaigns. His candidacy takes crazy off the table -- no nutso talk about vaccinations or evolution or the President’s patriotism. Even if you disagree with him, his civility demands respect.
And this was before the Coppins story appeared. Klein doesn't mention gay rights at all. Bush, I remind you, is still opposed to gay marriage, but if he begins discussing that issue with "a moderate disposition" rather than "chesty bellicosity," Klein is going to swoon again. As, I predict, will many other mainstream journalists and pundits.

Here's the thing: I don't believe Jeb will actually reverse his opposition to gay marriage. Read between the lines of the Coppins story and you get the feeling that Jeb wanted this story out there as a dog whistle to pro-equality hedge fund zillionaires (Jeb's strategy, of course, has been to hoover up all the money he possibly can in order to effectively buy the nomination):
One senior Republican fundraiser with close ties to several mega-donors said it is increasingly important for candidates to reject conservative dogmas on the marriage issue in order to get a hearing from big-dollar contributors.

“It hasn’t become a litmus test yet, but as far as how people are viewing your ticket to entry, you have to be approaching the LGBT issue with a new mindset in order to be taken seriously,” the fundraiser said. “They want to win. And they believe that if Republicans nominate a candidate who is perceived as anti-gay, that will be a net liability in the 2016 elections.”

The party’s most prominent pro-gay mega-donor, hedge-fund billionaire Paul Singer, has yet to pick a 2016 horse -- but some Bush insiders believe his early gestures toward LGBT inclusion will help give him an inside track to the investor’s cash. Singer reportedly spent time earlier this week fielding pitches on behalf of several likely presidential contenders.
Jeb is going to be at CPAC today. I think he's going to reaffirm his opposition to gay marriage -- and I think he wanted the Coppins story out there as a signal to East Coast fat cats that he doesn't really mean what he'll be saying.

But if he gets the nomination, it may not matter what his position is. Allahpundit is wrong -- the mainstream press doesn't like Hillary Clinton all that much and would love to beat her the way the press beat Al Gore in 2000, by mocking her as an uncharismatic, desperate loser running against a Republican who's really not all that scary and who's actually a breath of fresh air after an eight-year Demoratic presidency. Jeb has to win the nomination to be that guy, but if he gets through the primaries, he'll have a lot of backing in the "liberal" media.

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."


UPDATE: If you think Walker's remarks on ISIS were an embarrassing gaffe, and if you believe that the right general regards Walker as an embarrassment right now because Jim Geraghty of National Review wrote a post titled "Scott Walker's Awful Answer on ISIS," read Ed Kilgore's post "The Only Audience Scott Walker Cares About Right Now." Kilgore points out that Walker's speech went over like gangbusters on the right (post from Geraghty's NR colleague Andrew Johnson: "“Walker Thrills a Packed House at CPAC”) -- and in the center as well. Kilgore:
... even Mark Halperin, who has probably wagered the profits from his next Ultra-Insider book on a Jeb Bush nomination, gave Walker’s speech an letter-grade score of “A,” his highest for the seven major CPAC speakers on Thursday.
I'll add that they loved Walker's speech at Fox.


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.