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“In Conspicuous Handcuffs”: The GOP Has A Fox News Problem

Poor Mitt Romney has become a Republican punching bag as leaders within the party denounce his post-election comments about how President Obama won re-election by promising government-funded “gifts” to minority groups and young voters. As Republicans jab Romney though, they’re missing the larger, more pressing point: They don’t have a Mitt Romney problem. They have a Fox News problem.

Romney’s “gifts” put-down echoed the infamous claim Romney made during the campaign that 47 percent of Americans see themselves as “victims” and are overly dependent on the government. With the campaign concluded, lots of fellow Republicans now feel free to bash Romney:

• “It’s nuts,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

• “I absolutely reject what he said,” announced Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

• “When you’re in a hole, stop digging. He keeps digging,” complained Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Though prominent conservatives are now lashing out at the former presidential candidate, the truth is Fox News has loudly championed the divisive philosophy behind Romney’s “47 percent” and “gifts” comments for months and practically authored them for the Republican candidate. Last week Fox talkers cheered Romney’s “gifts” post-election critique, treating it as a universal truth. (According to Fox Business host Stuart Varney, Obama was “buying votes with taxpayer money. Handouts all over the place.”)

And it’s not just a Fox News problem. Republicans have an even more expansive right-wing media problem (television, radio, Internet, etc.), which now doubles as the face and voice of the GOP and which celebrates the kind of toxic “47 percent” and “gifts” rhetoric that’s being condemned within the party. The far-right press is convinced Obama won re-election by “offering” voters a “check” in exchange for their support.

As Media Matters noted:

Fox host Bill O’Reilly said that voters feel economic anxiety and just “want stuff,” while Fox host Eric Bolling said Obama is a “maker versus taker guy.” Fox contributor Monica Crowley said that the election showed that “more people now are dependent on government than not.” Rush Limbaugh compared the president to Santa Claus, saying that “small things beat big things” in the election and “people are not going to vote against Santa Claus.”

In fact, O’Reilly and Limbaugh rushed to take credit for Romney’s “gifts” comments last week, since both of them had been pushing the “maker vs. taker” narrative in the wake of Romney’s election loss.

The split over Romney’s “gifts” remark highlights the larger divide within the conservative movement between two distinct camps: activists and politicians who want to get more Republicans elected vs. right-wing media players who want to grow their audience.

Note that after the Republican flop on Election Day, talk radio’s Laura Ingraham dismissed conservative hand-wringers who worried about the political future by stressing that “talk radio continues to thrive while moderate Republicans like John McCain and to some extent Mitt Romney continue to lose presidential elections.” That’s how hosts like Ingraham view the political landscape. That’s how they determine success and failure, not by tallying the wins and losses posted by Republicans candidates, but by counting up the number of radio stations that carry their syndicated show.

The same is true with Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson. Asked why the conservative media completely failed in their attempt to “vet” Obama, who easily won re-election despite four years of hysterical, far-right claims about him, Carlson told BuzzFeed his publication’s work had been a success because traffic to the site was up. (Carlson also blamed the “legacy media” for being hostile to his site’s supposed “journalism.”)

I’m sure that’s comforting news to RNC leadership. And I’m sure the Daily Caller chasing inane, anti-Obama conspiracy theories for the next four years will put the Republican Party on firm footing for 2016.

For now, it’s easy to blame Romney. That’s what losing parties often do after an election, they pile-on the vanquished candidate. The part that would take some guts and fortitude would be calling out the right-wing media that are generating the type of hate rhetoric that Romney embraced and routinely used during the campaign.

Republicans won’t because they’re intimidated by the right-wing media’s power. That’s why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie quickly got on the phone with Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch after Murdoch tweeted that Christie, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and his bipartisan appearances with Obama, needed to re-endorse Romney or “take the blame” for the president’s re-election.

Murdoch: Jump! Republicans: How high?

That unhealthy relationship is the reason why, when it comes to the simple question of whether America is divided between “makers and takers,” and if the 62 million Americans who voted for Obama represent a decaying nation of moochers in search of handouts, there’s a wide gulf within the conservative movement. The right-wing media consider the claim to be a central tenet, while Republican leaders think saying it out loud is completely batty and a prescription for an electoral losing streak.

So yes, those are conspicuous handcuffs the GOP is wearing: Fox News has hijacked the party’s communications apparatus and is pushing the type of paranoid, blame-the-voter rhetoric that loses elections, and the type of rhetoric Romney’s now being blamed for. But the GOP can’t turn it off. In fact, most Republicans can’t even work up enough courage to ask Fox News to turn down the volume.

Unwilling to acknowledge the GOP’s future poses a long-term media problem (the topic is not to be discussed), Republicans pretend they have a short-term Romney one.

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, November 20, 2012

November 21, 2012 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Take That Turkey Off The Table”: The Bush Tax Cuts For The Wealthy Are Un-American

Reading about the historic Johnstown flood of 1889 brought to mind the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy—and why the president must rid us of them now as the nation starts a new season, thankful yet sober.

The 1 percent of that era were the robber barons of the Gilded Age, with great steel, coke, and railroad wealth concentrated in Pittsburgh. They started an exclusive club, several industrial barons, including Andrew Carnegie, devoted to fishing and hunting, by the South Fork Dam. The dam the club constructed nearby overlooked several towns and villages in the rugged incline and valley below. On a terribly rainy spring day when the dam broke, an entire lake drowned those towns in torrents of water, debris and floating trees, and houses. Because the fancy club’s earthen dam was shoddy, roughly 2,200 people died in the worst natural disaster to befall an American town up to that point.

The robber barons’ summer recreation endangered the whole community’s safety and livelihood. People talked about the dam breaking all the time before it did. And that’s what I’m talking about. For too long we have lived under the yoke, under the treacherous dam of putting really rich people first. To recover from our own economic calamity, those tax cuts must be scrubbed, along with everything with George W. Bush’s name on it. Let it not be forgot, he’s the guy that took peace and prosperity and turned it all into desert dust and debt.

Taking that turkey off the table would not upset most wealthy people, who were content to live under the Clinton tax code. That is what President Obama wishes to do, but he has been thwarted once before by stubborn Republicans. This time around, he seems to have more mettle about getting rid of the significant tax break the rich have received, just for being rich. It will also bring substantial revenue badly needed by the Treasury. I grant you, there are hedge fund managers out there who see it differently than you and me.

As we mark the autumn harvest in a collective ritual that brings comfort, let’s resolve to rid ourselves of the most divisive policy remaining from the Bush years. A policy that is, in the end, unfair and un-American. And life will start looking up.


By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, Washington Whispers, November 20, 2012

November 21, 2012 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Incompetent Managers”: Vulture Capitalism Ate Your Twinkies

What happens when vulture capitalism ruins a great American company?

The vultures blame the workers.

The vultures blame the union.

And vapid media outlets report the lie as “news.”

That’s what’s happening with the meltdown of Hostess Brands Inc.

Americans are being told that they won’t get their Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos because the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union ran the company into the ground.

But the union and the 5,600 Hostess workers represented by the union did not create the crisis that led the company’s incompetent managers to announce plans to shutter it.

The BCTGM workers did not ask for more pay.

The BCTGM workers did not ask for more benefits.

The BCTGM workers did not ask for better pensions.

The union and its members had a long history of working with the company to try to keep it viable. They had made wage and benefit concessions to keep the company viable. They adjusted to new technologies, new demands.

They took deep layoffs—20 percent of the workforce—and kept showing up for work even as plants were closed.

They kept working even as the company stopped making payment to their pension fund more than a year ago.

The workers did not squeeze the filling out of Hostess.

Hostess was smashed by vulture capitalists—“a management team that,” in the words of economist Dean Baker, “shows little competence and is rapidly stuffing its pockets at the company’s expense.”

Even as the company struggled, the ten top Hostes executives pocketed increasingly lavish compensation packages. The Hostess CEO who demanded some of the deepest cuts from workers engineered a 300 percent increase in his compensation package.

“Wall Street investors first came onto the scene with Hostess about a decade ago, purchasing the company and then loading it with debt. All the while, its executives talked of investments in new equipment, new research and new delivery trucks, but those improvements never materialized,” explains AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.

“Instead, the executives planned to give themselves bonuses and demanded pay cuts and benefit cuts from the workers, who haven’t had a raise in eight years,” said the AFL-CIO head. “In 2011, Hostess earned profits of more than $2.5 billion but ended the year with a loss of $341 million as it struggled to pay the interest on $1 billion in debt. This year, the company sought bankruptcy protection, the second time in eight years. Still, the CEO who brought on the latest bankruptcy got a raise while Hostess demanded that its workers accept a 30 percent pay and benefits cut.”

When BCTGM workers struck Hostess, they did not do so casually.

They were challenging Bain-style abuses by a private-equity group—Ripplewood Holdings—that had proven its incompetence and yet continued to demand more money from the workers.

“When a highly respected financial consultant, hired by Hostess, determined earlier this year that the company’s business plan to exit bankruptcy was guaranteed to fail because it left the company with unsustainable debt levels, our members knew that the massive wage and benefit concessions the company was demanding would go straight to Wall Street investors and not back into the company,” recalled BCTGM president Frank Hunt, who described why the union struck Hostess rather than accept a demand from management for more pay and benefit cuts.

“Our members decided they were not going to take any more abuse from a company they have given so much to for so many years,” Hunt explained. “They decided that they were not going to agree to another round of outrageous wage and benefit cuts and give up their pension only to see yet another management team fail and Wall Street vulture capitalists and ‘restructuring specialists’ walk away with untold millions of dollars.”

On November 6, American voters rejected Mitt Romney and Bain Capitalism.

But that didn’t end the abusive business practices that made Romney rich. They’re still wrecking American companies, like Hostess.

Instead of blaming workers, we should be holding the incompetent managers to account and cheering on any and every effort to rescue Hostess from the clutches of the vulture capitalists.


By: John Nichols, The Nation, November 18, 2012

November 21, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It’s Not About Fundamentals”: The Internal Republican Phony War Intensifies

For the cynical-minded, today’s front-line reporting from the Struggle for the Soul of the Republican Party can induce bitter laughter: in response to “establishment” talk that Republicans need a clearer and more systematic conservative message that is marketed un-stupidly, some self-conscious conservative activists are “pushing back,” per a deeply confused WaPo piece from Paul Kane and Rosalind S. Helderman:

After nearly two weeks of listening to GOP officials pledge to assert greater control over the party and its most strident voices in the wake of Romney’s loss, grass-roots activists have begun to fight back, saying that they are not to blame for the party’s losses in November.

“The moderates have had their candidate in 2008 and they had their candidate in 2012. And they got crushed in both elections. Now they tell us we have to keep moderating. If we do that, will we win?” said Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Family Leader. Vander Plaats is an influential Christian conservative who opposed Romney in the Iowa caucuses 10 months ago and opposed Sen. John McCain’s candidacy four years ago.

So now the shallow trenches have been dug for the phony war:

The conservative backlash sets up an internal fight for the direction of the Republican Party, as many top leaders in Washington have proposed moderating their views on citizenship for illegal immigrants, to appeal to Latino voters. In addition, many top GOP officials have called for softening the party’s rhetoric on social issues, following the embarrassing showing by Senate candidates who were routed after publicly musing about denying abortion services to women who had been raped.

Yes, years from now conservatives will sit around campfires and sing songs about the legendary internecine battles of late 2012, when father fought son and brother fought brother across a chasm of controversy as to whether 98% or 99% of abortions should be banned; whether undocumented workers should be branded and utilized as “guest workers,” loaded onto cattle cars and shipped home, or simply immiserated; whether the New Deal/Great Society programs should be abolished in order to cut upper-income taxes or abolished in order to boost Pentagon spending. There’s also a vicious, take-no-prisons fight over how quickly to return the role of the federal government in the economy to its pre-1930s role as handmaiden to industry. Blood will flow in the streets as Republicans battle over how to deal with health care after Obamacare is repealed and 50 million or more people lose health insurance. Tax credits and risk pools or just “personal responsibility?”

Look, there could be a true “period for reflection” and “struggle for the soul of the Republican Party;” the list of heterodox conservative thinkers that David Brooks trots out in his latest New York Times column would provide a good starting point. The trouble is none of these people have a bit of influence over Republican political actors, particularly when they are heterodox. The real debate is between people like Reince Priebus and John Cornyn and people like Bob Vander Plaats and Ted Cruz. They are entitled to fight with each other all day long about how many zygotes could fit on the head of a pin, and how deeply the 47% have been corrupted into permanent serfdom. But the MSM really, really needs to show it understands this isn’t a fight about any kind of fundamentals.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, November 19, 2012

November 21, 2012 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Weird Science”: A Guide For Republican Candidates Asked About Earth Science

Twenty years or so ago, a few politicians got caught when somebody asked them the price of a gallon of milk and they didn’t know the answer. As a consequence, campaign managers and political consultants started making sure their candidates knew the price of milk and a few similar items like a loaf of bread, should they ever be called upon to assure voters that they do in fact visit the supermarket and are thus in touch with how regular folk live their lives. In a similar but somewhat more complex game of gotcha, Marco Rubio is the latest Republican politician to express discomfort about the question of the earth’s age. Unfortunately, unlike the price of milk, that’s not a question upon which people of every ideology agree. But if you’re a politician wondering what you should answer if you get asked the question, here’s a guide to the possibilities, and what each one says about you. There are four possible answers:

1. “The earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old.” This answer says more than, “I have memorized this particular fact.” By being stated as a fact, it communicates not only that you accept that the work of physicists and geologists is a more helpful guide to this question than counting up the “begat”s in the Old Testament, but also that you also aren’t particularly afraid of those who believe otherwise. It also might indicate that you are a believing Catholic, since the Vatican, not exactly a bastion of progressive thinking, is totally fine with the science on this one.

2. “I’m not sure of the exact number, but it’s in the billions.” Much like answer number 1, this one marks you as someone who is pro-science. But it says you aren’t a know-it-all, so that might make it go down a little easier with the folks back home.

3. “I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians…” This is Rubio’s answer, and it means, “I’m a Republican with national aspirations.” You’ll notice how he cleverly offers something for everyone. By saying “I’m not a scientist,” he acknowledges that a scientist might be able to tell you the age of the earth, as opposed to telling you the approved propaganda of the International Scientific Conspiracy. But then he says “that’s a dispute amongst theologians,” which I’m not even sure is true (do theologians really argue about this?), but in any case winks to the Republican base that maybe Rubio thinks the real answer is to be found in whether you assign each “begat” 20 years or 25 years. So if you’re a Republican, this is safe territory. Although I have no idea whether this applies to Rubio, this is also what you say if you know full well how old the earth is but are afraid that you’ll offend the rubes if you say so.

4. “The earth is somewhere between 6,000 and 9,000 years old.” This answer says, “I’m a Republican from a safe conservative district.” Not all Republicans from safe conservative districts believe this, but I’m pretty sure that everyone in Congress who does believe it is a Republican from a safe conservative district. As Representative Paul Broun of Georgia recently put it so colorfully, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old.” For the record, despite what he said, Broun is not actually a scientist, though he did somehow manage to obtain a medical degree, which of course makes him an expert in geology, enabling him to sift through “a lot of scientific data” and determine that every actual scientist is wrong about this question.

So those are your options. I don’t know if any of the Republicans who will soon be lining up for 2016 will be asked this question, but if they are, I’m betting they’ll all choose answer number 3.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 19, 2012

November 21, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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