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“A Swarm Of Media Cicadas”: Morning Joe’s Week-Long Whine Over Obama ‘Optics’

It started a while ago, but it may have reached an absurd peak this week: Joe Scarborough, Chuck Todd and the MSNBC morning crew’s whining about Obama’s ostensible tin ear and awful “optics.”

What so unnerved them this time was that Obama gave a speech on the economy in the aftermath of the Navy Yard shootings in Washington. That bad timing is proof, said Joe, that the president is facing a “lame-duck meltdown.”

In the Monday speech, long planned for the fifth anniversary of the financial collapse, Obama attacked the GOP for risking “economic chaos,” with its threats to shut down the government if Obamacare isn’t defunded (which the House just voted for today) and to refuse to raise the debt ceiling. Obama addressed the massacre, and he delayed the speech by an hour but no longer because, as he later told Telemundo, “Congress has a lot of work to do right now.”

That set off nearly three days of Morning Joe tsk-tsking, as if they were a swarm of media cicadas. Mika made sad faces, Joe went into his customary high dungeon, and the other boys, including Mike Barnacle, John Heilemann and liberal Donny Deutsch, joined the concerned circle of consensus.

But it was frequent MJ guest and former George W. Bush aide Nicole Wallace who pointed out the faux pas’s true dimensions. It was, she said, as devastating a moment as when her old boss, asked what was the biggest mistake he made after 9/11, said he couldn’t think of one. “This for me is that moment for Obama,” Wallace said, “where he is publicly showing us he’s incapable of adapting and adjusting to events. It’s incredibly revealing and incredibly damaging to the White House.”

Wallace, a moderate Republican, may sincerely believe this, if only to remind herself that good people can make bad, career-crushing decisions. She’s no stranger to that problem, having worked as Sarah Palin’s adviser in the 2008 campaign—until she realized the Alaskan governor wasn’t fit to be a vice-president. (Wallace later revealed that she didn’t vote that year.)

But no such excuse exists for the rest of the Morning Joe gang or for Chuck Todd. Todd complained about Obama’s misstep all day Tuesday. He led The Daily Rundown the next day by asking, “Where’s the outrage?”—outrage not only that Congress, just blocks from the Navy Yards shooting, wasn’t stirred to debate gun control but outrage that the president didn’t change his plans.

Maybe Obama should have rescheduled. Waiting a day wouldn’t have hurt; and, sure, he should have anticipated the media carping. But the carping itself—not just from MSNBC, of course, but from the usual suspects like Maureen Dowd and Fox News—was way out of proportion. Especially given the outrage that the same media choose not to feel every day.

Just this morning, for instance, Morning Joe mentioned yesterday’s mass shooting on the South Side of Chicago. But that didn’t change the show’s plans, which included a deep discussion on the wonders of the latest iPhone.

Where’s the outrage?! (Well, Joe did briefly rage about the Chicago violence, saying that law-abiding citizens there were asking, “Do you know if there’s a version of stop-and-frisk you can import from New York to our neighborhood?”)

And Joe and company surely spent more time this week bewailing the timing of Obama’s speech than they spent covering another still-unfolding and deadly emergency, the Colorado floods. This selective finger-wagging can go on and on—why didn’t they obsess over the House’s vote to cut food stamps by $40 billion? Or the ongoing misery by sequester? Or anything that’s more important than whatever the media take on with self-intoxicating urgency? (Remember the IRS kerfuffle, the “worst scandal since Watergate,” as Peggy Noonan wrote?)

Of course, speech-timing-gate is just part of the larger Beltway consensus that Obama is a failure as a salesman, on issues from healthcare to Syria to Larry Summers.

Obama, Politico complained, was “incoherent,” moving from calling for intervention in Syria to asking for a congressional vote “to diplomacy [with] Putin, who had spent the summer humiliating him in the Edward Snowden case.”

By giving up on Summers’s nomination to head the Fed, Politico said, “Obama also allowed a vacuum to grow in which liberals in his own party felt no compunction about publicly registering their opposition, whatever their president’s preferences.”

So Obama is a sap who listens to his Democratic and lefty critics, and occasionally changes his mind. That’s pretty much the opposite, in fact, of Nicole Wallace’s slam that “he’s incapable of adapting and adjusting to events.”

He’s either too forceful or too weak, a tyrant or a dupe. He’s never Goldilocks. You can almost hear the Morning Joe crowd: if Obama had postponed his speech in light of the violence in DC, they’d say that means the terrorists have won.

On Morning Joe yesterday, Wallace took another stab at proving the White House is in as much disarray as it was when she worked there; she asked former Obama advisor David Axlerod, Isn’t there anyone who “can walk into the Oval Office and tell the president he just screwed something up?” (Yes, said Axelrod, naming three people off the bat.)

But then, with Joe and Mika absent from the set, guests Carl Bernstein and Lawrence O’Donnell indirectly but firmly critiqued the show’s hysteria itself. Look, said Bernstein, however he did it, Obama avoided war (for now). O’Donnell cited Obama and Kerry’s accomplishments in Syria—”And this comes after a week of everyone complaining about the zig-zag,” he said, adding, “the president is dealing with something as serious as Syria policy…and all you’re getting in the media is a theater review of the performance styles.”

Obsession with performance styles will lead journalists to say the darnedest things. Chuck Todd, the political director of NBC News, said it wasn’t the media’s job to present the facts on Obamacare, asserting, “What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the president of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”

After getting criticized, Todd tweeted that he was misunderstood: “point I actually made was folks shouldn’t expect media to do job WH has FAILED to do re: ACA.”

Actually, isn’t it the job of the news media, a k a journalism, to find facts and report on their distortions? Isn’t it news when politicians lie? That’s a point CREDO is making in a petition to the NBC News president, saying, “Correcting Republican lies is part of your job.”


By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, September 20, 2013

September 23, 2013 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“If Liberals Hate Something, It Must Be Terrific And Effective”: Those Obamacare Rape Ads Are A Scam On Conservatives

I suppose I have to talk about the creepy anti-Obamacare ads that everyone, or at least all the liberal bloggers, are talking about today.

Look, folks: this is a very obvious scam.

This is not about stopping the ACA.

This is about money.

Oh, for the donors, it’s presumably about stopping Obamacare.

But for the people putting together the ads, unless they are incredibly stupid and naive, it’s almost certainly about raising money from those donors. And, perhaps, making a name for themselves (or a bigger name — I’m not looking to see who is responsible) within the conservative movement.

These ads could not be better designed to do one thing: to get condemned by liberals. Thus impressing easily scammed conservative marks, who tend to really believe that if liberals hate something, it must be terrific and effective.

This campaign is not designed to convince young people to “opt out” of Obamacare. It’s part of a “campus tour” supposedly designed to convince those young people to go without insurance, but that’s transparently a fraud; traditional-aged college students, the ones who are supposedly being targeted, aren’t really the customers that matter (it’s their older brothers and sisters…yes, some traditional-age college students may purchase their own insurance under ACA, more than was the case before, but it must be a fairly small group).

No, there are real efforts to undermine the law — harassing the “navigators,” pressuring the NFL and others not to publicize it, and more — but this campaign isn’t one of them.

Will it have any effect on actual consumer behavior? I doubt it. But it is worth noting that if it does “work” at all, it’s going to work on the people who respond best to the affect evoked by the ads: in other words, people already primed and ready to hate Obama(care), people already primed and ready to hate the government of the United States, people primed and ready to suspect the very worst of the program. And do note: the way it “works” is by convincing them to go without health insurance.

So basically: if you’re a rich conservative who isn’t very smart about how you give your money, this ad is designed to pick your pocket. If you’re a non-rich conservative, you might get duped into some foolish behavior, but that’s just acceptable collateral damage. For everyone else, it’s an occasion for (to be fair, entirely justified) outrage, I suppose, but basically it’ll come and go without any real effects.

Hey, I know: we’re not supposed to question motives. I believe that. So I’ll say again: it’s possible that these ads are not a scam, but a real political campaign undertaken by seriously naive and stupid operatives. Just as it’s possible that the people doing the “defund” campaign sincerely believe that a government shutdown threat would achieve that, as opposed (as Jamelle Bouie and others pointed out) just finding it an effective money-raising tool). I have to admit, however: that’s not what I think is going on.


By: Jonathan Bernstein, Washington Monthly, Ten Miles Square, September 20, 2013

September 23, 2013 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“More Than A Value For Birth”: A Right-Wing Agenda Can Be Defeated

Pope Francis is stirring up all Catholics and the ways that we are involved in the world — including in politics. For too long the leaders of our church were either firmly committed to a narrow view of the Gospel or were timid about speaking of the full message of Jesus. Politicians have been for not toeing the line on the narrow message.

Now we have a breath of fresh air. This fresh air is disturbing to those who have engineered the narrow message. I can only imagine that those who have been focused on abortion and same sex marriage are angry at the sea change. Their crafty plans of using faith for a right-wing political agenda are crashing down around their ears. Pope Francis is saying that the Gospel cannot be used to benefit one political party.

In 2012 U.S. Catholic sisters and my organization, Network, were criticized by the Vatican for not holding their narrow focus. Now we see that our pope knows that no one political party has control of the Gospel message.

The faith value of life is more than a value for birth. Gospel values that mandate a care for the poor are at the heart of our faith and Pope Francis is speaking of that message. I don’t believe that our pope (or God) would be pleased with the Republican effort to eliminate food stamps for hungry people, end housing benefits for struggling workers, deny healthcare for those with no access and to refuse to consider comprehensive immigration reform.

Pope Francis spoke of his own change and conversion to a more compassionate leadership. He is speaking to the heart of those who have been in control with fear and judgment. The test is to see if they can embrace the more challenging role of struggling together to create the common good.

Catholic Democrats also have a test in front of them. They have struggled for years to be faithful in the face of a narrow right-wing agenda. Now the challenge will be for them not to retaliate. The conversion for the Democrats will be to continue to work for the full message of the Gospel and not be arrogant or judgmental themselves.

On the bus we learned that we need the 100 percent to embody our faith. We need the 100 percent to make the Gospel live. And in our pluralistic country I pray that this renewed message will help the 100 percent live our communal and Constitutional mandate to “form a more perfect union.”


By: Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of Network, Opinion Pages, The New York Times, September 22, 2013

September 23, 2013 Posted by | Abortion, Politics, Poverty | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Major League Asshole”: Ted Cruz Is Not Well-Liked And The Knives Are Coming Out For Him

“Be liked and you will never want,” said Willy Loman, the protagonist of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. “That’s the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked!” Of course, the great tragic figure of the American theater was terribly wrong about that. But in politics, personal relationships still matter, even if the days when Lyndon Johnson would call up a senator and sweet-talk him into changing his vote on a bill are long gone.

I’m thinking about this because Ted Cruz—Tea Party hero, up-and-comer, future presidential candidate—is suddenly finding himself on the receiving end of a whole lot of hostility from House Republicans. By way of context, there’s a broad consensus that Cruz is, as George W. Bush would put it, a major-league asshole. He’s not someone who wastes time and energy being nice to people or cultivating relationships that could be useful down the road. He’s pretty sure he’s smarter than everyone, and doesn’t mind making it clear that’s how he feels. People consider him rude and condescending. This was apparent from the moment he got to Washington, and it was true back in Texas as well. But if you agree with his politics, then does that matter?

It sure seems to matter today. On the surface, there’s a tactical dispute about whether Cruz is working hard enough to get the Senate to defund Obamacare now that the House is about to do its part by passing a continuing resolution that does the defunding deed. Because he expressed some resignation about the CR’s prospects in the Senate—which is tantamount to admitting that Republicans will not be able to flap their arms and fly to the moon, no matter how hard they try—Cruz is being hit left and right, or more properly, right. House Republicans feel that Cruz encouraged them to force a government shutdown over defunding, and now that they’re doing their part, he doesn’t seem to be doing enough on his end. Republican Rep. Sean Duffy fumed that Cruz had “abused” and “bullied” House Republicans. His colleague Peter King said, “If he can deliver on this, fine. If he can’t, he should keep quiet from now on and we shouldn’t listen to him,” which is actually strong words from a congressman to a senator. And check out this, from the National Review:

House insiders say a handful of House Republicans cursed Cruz in the cloakroom on Wednesday, and a leadership source says angry e-mails were exchanged among GOP staffers who consider Cruz to be a charlatan. “Cruz keeps raising conservatives’ hopes, and then, when we give him what he wants, he doesn’t have a plan to follow through,” an aide fumes. “He’s an amateur.” Another aide says, “Nancy Pelosi is more well-liked around here.”

Holy cow. That’s like somebody on the Red Sox saying that Alex Rodriguez is more well-liked in the Sox clubhouse than one of his teammates. So would this have happened if Cruz was a nicer guy? My guess is that there would be far less of this open antagonism.

And this tells us something about Cruz’s long-term prospects. He got where he is by being smart and aggressive, and having the good fortune to be in Texas at a time when the Tea Party was ascendant. In high school and college he was a champion debater, an activity in which winning means getting in front of people and talking your opponents into submission. But running for president (which Cruz would plainly like to do one day) means getting a whole lot of people to like you. Fundraisers, reporters, other politicians who might endorse you, power brokers from the highest party pooh-bah down to every block captain in Des Moines—you’ve got to court them and make them love you so they’ll work their hearts out. Politicians like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush who excel at that personal side of politics have an immense leg up.

It’s one thing to be personally awkward, like Al Gore or Mitt Romney—that makes it harder, but not impossible. But if you’re someone who inspires this kind of venom, that’s another matter entirely.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, September 20, 2013

September 23, 2013 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Obamacare Swindle”: Republican Grifters Using Defunding To Raise Money From Gullible Tea Partiers

House Republican leadership does not want a government shutdown over Obamacare, but the agitation of conservative activists might make one inevitable.

That’s not good news for Republicans. After the debt ceiling crisis in 2011, congressional approval ratings dipped to their lowest ever, with Republicans taking a huge hit; in one survey, 71 percent of respondents disapproved with the GOP’s handling of the debt limit. In another, 68 percent said the same (PDF).

Conservatives must know they have nothing to gain politically from taking this stance, which raises the question: why do it? One answer, as suggested by the National Review’s Robert Costa in August, is money. Tea party organizations, he writes, “aren’t worried about the establishment’s ire. In fact, they welcome it. Business has boomed since the push to defund Obamacare caught on. Conservative activists are lighting up social media, donations are pouring in, and e-mail lists are growing.” [Emphasis mine]

To illustrate the point, Heritage Action for America—the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank—has a standing website devoted to collecting donations. “Conservatives in Congress have proposed using the fight over a key budget bill, called the continuing resolution, to strip funding from this law. But Establishment Republicans and special interests in Washington are resisting this plan,” it explains. But there’s no reason to panic: “You can ensure Obamacare is defunded,” it asserts. All it takes is a small donation to Heritage. “Time is of the essence. Please donate now to ensure we have the resources to fight and win.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, this particular push had raised over $327,000, and it’s no stretch to assume that other, similar efforts have raised as much if not more cash. To wit, the Senate Conservatives Fund—a political action committee devoted to electing “true conservatives to the United States Senate”—also has a specific website that collects donations for Obamacare repeal. It asks supporters to “Join Mike Lee and Ted Cruz in the fight to stop Obamacare” with a small contribution. The same goes for the National Liberty Federation, a Tea Party group that wants to know if you have a few dollars to spare in the fight against Obamacare.

Of course, no matter how much money these groups collect, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. And they know it. “Even they admit privately that they won’t succeed in defunding Obamacare,” notes The Wall Street Journal in a recent editorial urging “kamikaze” Republicans to give up their self-defeating crusade against the law. As President Obama said in a speech on Monday, “the Affordable Care Act has been the law for three-and-a-half years now. It passed both houses of Congress. The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. It was an issue in last year’s election, and the candidate who called for repeal lost.” Simply put, there is no conceivable scenario that ends with Obama dismantling his signature legislative achievement.

It should be said that the most fervent opponents of the Affordable Care Act are Republican base voters. Of those who “always” vote in GOP primaries, notes the Pew Research Center, 53 percent oppose the law and want lawmakers to make it fail. When they demand action—as they have for the last four years—Republican politicians and conservative activists have a choice. They can try to channel this anger into something constructive, or they can cynically use it to boost their own prospects. For lawmakers like Ted Cruz and organizations like Heritage Action, the choice was simple: Give them what they want, even if it’s doomed to fail.

If there were no money involved, I’d call this a misguided bid for relevance. As it stands, the effort to defund Obamacare is a lucrative business. Which is why it continues to go forward, even as the odds for success dip to the quantum level. For the lawmakers and groups spearheading this movement, Tea Party voters aren’t dedicated citizens as much as they are gullible customers; ripe targets for their brand’s commercialized outrage.

Ted Cruz may style himself as a leader, but the reality is that he and his fellow travelers are just the latest in a long line of shameless grifters. And like the presidential campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, this grift will continue for as long as there is money to earn, and Republican voters to con.


By: Jamelle Bouie, The Daily Beast, September 18, 2013

September 23, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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