It’s been a difficult week for so many Americans. As recently as last weekend — which seems like months ago — many were concerned about a missile test from nuclear-armed North Korea. Since then, we’ve seen the bloodshed in Boston, the deadly explosion in Texas, the ricin letters, Midwestern flooding, and a Senate minority ignoring the will of 90% of Americans.
It can be a bit much, and when people are feeling on edge, they need to see their elected officials operating at their very best. The vast majority of officials, known and unknown, have been exemplary.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), however, appears to be falling far short of this standard.
It didn’t take long for a lawmaker to pick up the latest right-wing conspiracy theory about the Boston Marathon bombings. Just hours after controversial terrorism expert Steve Emerson reported [Wednesday] night on Sean Hannity’s show that unnamed “sources” told him the government was quietly deporting the Saudi national who was initially suspected in the bombing, South Carolina GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan grilled Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the rumor at a hearing [Thursday] morning.
Duncan, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, presented the conspiracy theory as fact, chastising Napolitano for deporting a terror suspect (who, in reality, isn’t being deported and isn’t a suspect). Napolitano, annoyed, replied, “I don’t know where that rumor came from.”
As it turns out, it came from Hannity’s show, and was pushed very aggressively by Glenn Beck. Drudge and Erick Erickson talked it up, too. All of them were completely wrong.
And while that’s unfortunate, right-wing media personalities aren’t on the House Homeland Security Committee. Duncan is, and he used his official platform to pester the Secretary of Homeland Security, in a public congressional hearing, with bogus information he presented as fact, all because he couldn’t tell the difference between reality and silly conspiracy theories.
Worse, when Napolitano tried to set the record straight, Duncan pressed forward, saying, “He is being deported.” Except, of course, the person in question is not. When the far-right congressman continued to spout nonsense, Napolitano effectively gave up, saying Duncan’s inquiries are “full of misstatements and misapprehensions,” and “not worthy of an answer.”
Wait, it gets even worse.
Aviva Shen noted a separate exchange from the same hearing.
In a House hearing Thursday morning, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was sidetracked from her testimony on the DHS budget when Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) asked her to respond to an online conspiracy theory about the DHS supposedly stockpiling ammo for an attack on Americans. Duncan argued this was more credible than mere “Internet rumors” because the Drudge Report, a popular conservative aggregator, said it was true.
It’s a difficult time, and Americans need sensible policymakers to keep their heads on straight, serving at the top of their game. In other words, the country needs officials who aren’t acting like Jeff Duncan.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 19, 2013
Whether you support the candidacy of Mitt Romney or not, we all should be able to agree that his experience as Governor of Massachusetts—at the time when the first universal healthcare law in the nation was conceived and placed into operation—makes him something of an expert on the subject of health care economics.
And that is precisely what makes his comments during last night’s edition of “60 Minutes” all the more bizarre.
When asked whether the nation has a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who do not currently have coverage, the Governor responded;
“Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance. If someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.”
Never mind that ‘60 Minutes’ interviewer Scott Pelly was quick to accurately point out that ER care is the most expensive form of treatment that one can access. What is far more interesting is that the remark so clearly puts Governor Romney at odds with the other candidate seeking the presidency—and I don’t mean Barack Obama.
I refer, of course, to the ‘other’ Mitt who seems to come and go at various moments in the campaign, offering up direct contradictions to the positions of the Mitt Romney we watched last night on the CBS news show.
You see, it was the ‘other’ Mitt who said during a 2010 interview over at MSNBC—
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to have millions and millions of people who have no health insurance and yet who can go to the emergency room and get entirely free care for which they have no responsibility.”
And it was the ’other’ Mitt who told Glenn Beck in a 2007 interview—
“When they show up at the hospital, they get care. They get free care paid for by you and me. If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is. ”
Apparently, when 2002 Mitt Romney decided to divorce himself and split into two, distinct entities, the ‘other’ Mitt Romney gained possession of the Governor’s cognitive skills —including the ability to recall why Romney supported the Massachusetts universal care effort in the first place. It was, after all, 2002 Mitt Romney who often highlighted the inefficiency of emergency room care as the sole option for uninsured Massachusetts residents, allowing them to get free care while those who are insured are left to pay the bill.
It would also appear that it was the ‘other’ Mitt Romney who gained custody of the understanding that while our laws require emergency rooms to treat patients in an effort to stabilize their health condition, the law does not require the treatment that can ultimately restore all of these patients to health.
As noted by the current incarnation of the GOP candidate, when a patient turns up at the ER with severe stomach pain, that patient will be treated until her condition is stabilized. But it is the ‘other’ Mitt Romney who understands that, when the tests administered in the ER reveal that the patient has Stage One stomach cancer, it will not be up to the ER to administer the six months of chemotherapy that will be required to save the patient’s life. For that, the patient better be insured or face a truly precarious situation.
The ‘other’ Romney understands that ER care is insufficient to truly treat many patients and that, even when it was possible to get the desired result via ER care, it is the worst possible way to administer health care.
Here’s a thought—maybe current candidate Romney should consider getting rid of his failing campaign staff and see if he can entice the ‘other’ Mitt Romney to join the campaign as a strategist and adviser.
At the end of the day, I think we’d all be better off for it.
By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, September 24, 2012
Note to Mitt Romney: This is what happens when you run for president on the back of Fox News and embrace the dark anti-Obama conspiracies that fuel the right-wing media.
On Monday, the Republican nominee was forced to hold a rare, late-night press availibility to respond to Mother Jones’ report on a video of Romney taken surreptitiously at a closed-door Florida campaign fundraiser in May where the candidate tells donors that “there are 47 percent who are with [President Obama], who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
The notion that Obama voters are lazy victims who rely on the government for sustenance from birth to death represents Romney’s open embrace of Fox News and the same insulting allegation that it, along with other right-wing talkers, has been making for the last four years. Here, the Republican’s long-standing caricature of the lazy welfare recipient gets dramatically expanded to include tens of millions of Americans who vote Democratic and who apparently worship big government and disdain hard work.
The sweeping generalization Romney uses to denigrate so many voters, and the fact he did it behind closed doors while speaking to wealthy donors, is what turned the comments into a significant campaign news event. Writing off nearly half the electorate as selfish dependents who refuse to take responsibilities for their own lives isn’t usually how White House candidates frame their campaigns.
What’s telling though is how, once again, the fingerprints of Fox News and the right-wing media are all over the Romney campaign and its latest misstep.
Fact: Fox and friends have been railing for years about how Obama is purposefully making more people dependent on the government (an “entitlement state“) so he can turn that dependency into votes. Obama, according to the fevered rhetoric from the far-right swamp, wants to radically extend the reach of the government in an effort to extract voter loyalty. “He’d rather you be a slave and be economically dependent upon him,” is how Fox favorite Rep. Allen West (R-FL) put it.
Remember Glenn Beck’s unhinged comparison to Obama as drug-dealer-in-chief?
If he’s not a socialist, if he’s not a Marxist, then he must be a heroin dealer. I believe our new president is pushing a much more powerful version of heroin, and he is getting people strung out.
Meanwhile, discussing welfare work requirement reform this summer (and while completely misrepresenting the changes the Obama administration implemented at the behest of Republican governors), Fox contributor Laura Ingraham claimed the changes were designed to be a “push for election turnout.” Explained Ingraham: “Give more free stuff to people and hope that they come to the polls.”
And of course Rush Limbaugh has been relentlessly promoting the unsavory talking point, claiming the Democratic president doesn’t “want people leaving the welfare rolls” because “those are voters that are getting away.”
All of this strange right-wing media rhetoric has apparently soaked in and has been embraced by the Romney campaign. In fact, just last week, an unnamed Romney adviser complained to National Review that the reason the media are allegedly rooting for Obama is because “the more Washington DC controls our economy, the more important inside-the-beltway publications are and the more money they make.”
Again, with this twisted notion that the (socialist!) Obama administration is trying to control people’s lives by expanding the size of government, and that Americans who receive government services automatically support Democrats. (No unemployment recipient has ever voted Republican?) Indeed, the Atlantic mapped out where Romney’s 47 percent of no-income-tax-paying voters live, and it turns out “those people are disproportionately in red states — that is, states that tend to vote Republican.”
This is the kind of fringe, conspiratorial rhetoric that campaigns usually leave to the periphery. And for good reason. But Mitt Romney is the Fox News candidate and apparently that means echoing every dark, incoherent attack that the talk channel can conjure up.
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters, September 18, 2012
Rep. Michele Bachmann, Washington’s Most Beautiful Demagogue, has an enviable seat on the House Intelligence Committee, because, after the Republicans took control of the House, Rep. John Boehner thought that would be a good idea that wouldn’t end up embarrassing him and the Republican Party and the nation as a whole. Who could’ve predicted that Bachmann would use the position to advance dingbat conspiracy theories, seek press attention with wild accusations, and generally continue acting as Michele Bachmann has always acted?
Bachmann actually got more pushback than she probably expected when she accused Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin of being in league with the nefarious Muslim Brotherhood. John Boehner said “accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous,” which seems to suggest that the person leveling the accusations shouldn’t have a privileged position related to national security and intelligence. Bachmann is reportedly worried that her committee assignment is in jeopardy.
Here’s the problem, though: The more extreme House Republicans don’t actually have any respect for Majority Leader Boehner, who always wants them to do lame non-conservative stuff like “raise the debt ceiling after winning stunning concessions on entitlements from President Obama and the Democrats.” Michele Bachmann, who has a huge campaign war chest and a national following, is a bit more influential with this crowd. Lots of activist conservatives think even criticizing her crusade against shadow agents of Islamofascism was cowardly and out of line.
And Robert Costa reports that Boehner is basically scared to remove her from the Intelligence Committee. That’s not quite how he phrases it, but the implication is there. Boehner is sort of hoping people just stop paying attention to Bachmann so that he doesn’t have to do anything about her:
Bachmann doesn’t appear ready to back down. Instead, sources tell NRO, she is working behind the scenes to generate support for her intelligence-committee post. Conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck, who has spoken with Bachmann on his program about the Abedin story, has reported that Bachmann is “facing pressure to apologize for her comments” or risk being “removed from her position.” Republican House aides roll their eyes at the Beck story. No such pressure, they say, is being exerted on the congresswoman. If anything, a third leadership source reiterates, Boehner is doing his best to avoid spending time on the Bachmann matter, publicly or privately.
Yet the general goodwill that has existed between Bachmann and Boehner for the past year seems to be gone. Bachmann, long a force during closed-door conference meetings, is now a backbencher once again, at least in the eyes of many congressional politicos. Boehner may be pressured to kick her off the committee, but with her star power fading, he doesn’t seem in any rush to make her a martyr.
Yeah, this seems like spin from Boehner. He knows he’ll catch hell if he actually punishes Bachmann, and he’d just much rather focus on anything else. So he says she’s embarrassed herself and no one will pay her any mind in the future, because as we all know Michele Bachmann is very concerned with not seeming like a deranged kook. Boehner’s “just don’t look” strategy means she doesn’t actually need to worry about any repercussions for her irresponsible statements, and she will likely feel free to continue making them.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, July 27, 2012
Reading a lot of conservative posts last night and this morning (unfortunately, just part of the gig here), I was mystified at the conviction of so many people that the mangled clips of the president’s “you didn’t build that” quote from Roanoke provided a gigantic, “aha” moment in the campaign that would drive Obama from the White House like a whipped Kenyan dog. The money quote that most of them are tossing around comes from the deep thinker Pat Sajak:
It’s as if President Obama climbed into a tank, put on his helmet, talked about how his foray into Cambodia was seared in his memory, looked at his watch, misspelled “potato” and pardoned Richard Nixon all in the same day.
Really? I mean, even if you buy the twisted, mendacious version of the Obama quote that the Romney campaign is retailing, are Americans really so protective of the tender sensibilities of business owners that they are shocked anyone would suggest that each and every one of them built their businesses strictly on their own? (Aside from from roads and bridges and inheritances, how’s about employees as a significant factor in business success?).
But then Dave Weigel explained it to me:
Call it a magic word gaffe—a statement that reveals not what a politician believes, but what you already feared, in your bone marrow, that a politician believes. Democrats still can’t understand why Obama’s speech is supposed to offend anyone. Republicans know that he’s a closet socialist, and that this sentiment only comes out when his energy is flagging….
A normal gaffe is usually discovered by the “mainstream” press, or by a rival campaign, in real time. Think about the Obama campaign hounding John McCain on his “the fundamentals of the economy are sound” as Lehman collapsed. Think about “the private sector is doing fine” becoming proof, for Romney, that Obama saw no problems in the private sector. The magic word gaffe takes more digging, because the media that mostly covers campaigns aren’t primed to hear what partisans hear.
Barack Obama’s presidency has been full of these moments. If you watched Glenn Beck during his Fox News years, you got endless exposure (more than 100 episodes of it, according to Lexis-Nexis) to an Oct. 30, 2008 quote from an Obama rally in Columbia, Mo. “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” said the candidate.
Bingo. The “magic word gaffe” is sort of the inverse of the “dog whistle” whereby pols use banal language that has a special meaning to ideologues (“constitutional conservative” being one notable example; “respect for life” being another). For our right-wing brothers and sisters, progressive (itself a magic word—maybe even a secret handshake—connoting Marxist convictions) discourse is full of these signifiers. “Equality.” “Fairness.” “Giving something back.” “Shared sacrifice.” Constant vigilance for these magic words is how conservatives have convinced themselves that the blandly pragmatic center-left politician Barack Obama pursuing leftover moderate Republican policies is a villain-figure straight out of Atlas Shrugged or (for the godly) Left Behind, hating success and righteousness.
The problem with this stuff, of course, is that the low-information swing voters who will decide the present election will require an awful lot of education to understand the magic word gaffes. They haven’t marinated their brains with Beckian revisionist history and don’t run around pasting “Breitbart Is Here!” posters on telephone poles. Many of them, in fact, probably don’t own businesses and don’t much think of their own bosses—much less the Mitt Romneys of the world—as heroic figures. So the nastiness aimed at Obama will inevitably get a lot coarser than what we are hearing today. So what if a few facts get bent or invented along the way? America must be protected!
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, July 20, 2012