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“Bordering On Checkbook Journalism”: If CBS Wants Its Reputation Back, A Better Explanation Is In Order

The comic figure of the braggart soldier first appears in Plautus’s play Miles Gloriosus in roughly 200 BC, although the Roman dramatist acknowledged a now-lost Greek model. So it’s surprising that somebody who’s spent as much time in war zones as 60 Minutes’ Lara Logan failed to recognize the type: a swaggering, self-anointed hero describing military feats nobody witnessed but him.

Bars near military bases around the world harbor fakers like Dylan Davies, aka “Morgan Jones,” as 60 Minutes called him, although they do have to be careful who they lie to. It’s mainly a tactic for fooling gullible women. I used to know a fellow whose girlfriend forgave his drunken blackouts because of his terrible experiences in Vietnam—a war that ended when he was nine.

That said, Lara Logan’s apparent naiveté is far from the most objectionable thing about CBS’s ill-fated attempt to pander to the far right’s odd obsession with the Benghazi tragedy. See, 60 Minutes’ October 27 episode supposedly falsifying the Obama administration’s version of what happened that terrible night in Libya wasn’t so much TV journalism as an infomercial for a book in which CBS had a financial stake—a manifest conflict of interest 60 Minutes neglected to mention until called its hand.

Exactly how generous an advance Simon & Schuster’s “Threshold Editions” bestowed upon Davies for his heroic tale about singlehandedly fighting his way into the besieged U.S. compound where Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three fellow Americans were killed by a terrorist mob hasn’t been revealed. Presumably enough, however, to give the one-time British mercenary ample reason to concoct a narrative pleasing to its readers’ expectations.

Having previously published books by such innovators in the art of storytelling as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Jerome Corsi, Threshold editors would appear to be less than rigorous about fact-checking. So excuse me for saying so, but that makes Davies virtually a paid source, and 60 Minutes a practitioner of checkbook journalism that could ruin its well-deserved reputation.

Nothing about the way CBS handled the ensuing controversy gave confidence. After boasting that its report raising “lingering questions” about Benghazi was the result of a year’s reporting and over 100 interviews, the network stonewalled as obvious flaws in its reporting began to appear.

Within three days of the 60 Minutes broadcast, the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung learned that Davies had submitted a written incident report to Blue Mountain, his British-owned employers—a version in which nothing he told Lara Logan he’d seen and done at the U.S. compound that night could possibly be true, because he’d never actually gone there.

“Immediately,” wrote Jay Rosen at, “the CBS report is in deep trouble. And anyone with a clear mind can see that. Except the people at CBS. When your key source tells two different stories, something is seriously amiss.”

Instead, a CBS spokesman announced, “We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday.”

Translation: “We’re 60 Minutes, and you’re not.”

Two days later, Davies gave The Daily Beast an interview claiming he’d neither written nor seen the incident report with his name on it, although he admitted lying to his bosses because “he did not want his supervisor to know he had disobeyed his orders to stay at his villa” that night.

So CBS’s source now says he’s told two different stories. Did Logan and her producers know that? If so, shouldn’t 60 Minutes have explained to begin with? If not, exactly what did a year’s reporting consist of?

Well, you can see where this is going. In a classic con-man’s bluff, Davies also told The Daily Beast that he’d told State Department and FBI investigators exactly what he’d told 60 Minutes.

Meanwhile, mum remained the word at CBS. They stood by their story. Period. Mystifyingly, Logan assured the New York Times that “If you read the book, you would know he never had two stories. He only had one story.”

So the incident report is a forgery? Wow, that would be news.

Who wrote it, Michelle Obama?

Then on November 7, the hammer dropped: The New York Times produced the FBI report: “Dylan Davies, a security officer hired to help protect the United States Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, gave the FBI an account of the night that terrorists attacked the mission on Sept. 11, 2012 that contradicts a version of events he provided in a recently published book and in an interview with the CBS News program 60 Minutes.

So last Sunday, they sent Logan out to apologize: “The most important thing to every person at 60 Minutes is the truth,” she said, “and the truth is we made a mistake.”

Sorry, but that simply won’t do. Lara Logan’s a formidable figure and 60 Minutes has long defined TV journalism. But if CBS wants its reputation back, a better explanation is in order.


By: Gene Lyons, Featured Post, The National Memo, November 13, 2013

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Benghazi, Journalism, Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Don’t Bother Us With Governing”: With Caucus-Wide Sentiment, House GOP Pushes Distractions Over Policy

At the start of every Congress, the leadership of both chambers generally set aside bill numbers as a way of designating their biggest priorities. The House Republican majority, for example, will set aside H.R. 1 through H.R. 10 for their top 10 most important bills – the ones they’re most eager to pass.

And in this Congress, H.R. 1 has nothing to do with immigration, health care, energy, or security. Rather, it’s tax reform.

For the last several months, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has been quietly meeting with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on a major overhaul of the federal tax code – the first in a generation. It’s no easy task, and Camp has made clear he considers this the most important project of his political career.

The general proposition is pretty straightforward: if Congress eliminates unnecessary deductions, closes loopholes, and scraps superfluous tax giveaways, the result will be a simpler, streamlined tax code that produces more revenue. The benefit would mean more deficit reduction, lower rates overall, or both. The trouble, of course, is that those deductions, loopholes, and giveaways have their champions and they’re hard to get rid of, compounded by the fact that Democrats and Republicans disagree on what to do with the new revenue.

But that’s not the only trouble. Brian Faler had a report this morning on an angle I hadn’t considered.

[Some of Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s] fellow Republicans now don’t want him to release his long-awaited tax reform bill for fear it will allow Democrats to change the subject. They want the public’s focus on people who have lost their health insurance and those having trouble signing up at, and not on what will surely be a controversial tax-reform bill.

It’s a cruel bit of timing for Camp, who’s spent three years, almost since the day Republicans took control of the House, trying to build support for the first tax overhaul in a generation. He’s repeatedly promised his panel would take up legislation this year, and if it doesn’t soon, Camp – who faces term-limit restrictions on his chairmanship – may never get the chance.

Got that? Camp believes he’s finally made progress on H.R. 1 – ostensibly the one thing House Republicans actually want to pass in this Congress – and he’s eager to move forward. Camp, however, is effectively hearing from his own allies, “Don’t bother us with that now; we’re too busy raising a fuss about health care.”

Indeed, the Politico report added that lobbyists involved with the process believe House GOP leaders will “pressure Camp to pull the plug” on his tax-reform measure.

This reminds me a bit of a story from March, when Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) said he wanted to tackle legislation regarding loan guarantees to clean-energy companies, but he dropped the legislation because “he chose to focus more” on Benghazi and Fast and Furious.

In other words, the congressman had a policy priority, but it was abandoned – a partisan crusade got in the way.

Seven months later, it seems Camp is running into a similar issue. He wants to follow through on years of work on tax reform – for the record, I have a hunch I won’t care for his plan – but his effort is getting in the way of Republicans’ anti-healthcare fun.

And since it’s a post-policy party, the conflict between governing and gamesmanship isn’t much of a contest, at least with the House GOP majority.

Don’t forget, just last week Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) boasted that the House Republicans’ top priority should be “messaging,” not problem solving. As Dave Camp is apparently realizing, this is a caucus-wide sentiment.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 13, 2013

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Congress, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Will Republicans Do?”: Here Comes The Real Government Takeover Of Health Care

For the last few weeks, Republicans have been full of schadenfreude over President Obama’s broken “If you like your plan, you can keep it” promise.

Now, this issue is about to blow up in Republicans’ faces.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who faces a tough re-election fight in a red state next year, has introduced a bill to address the president’s broken promise through greater government control over the individual health insurance market. Her bill would obligate insurers to continue offering all the plans they offer today unless they entirely exit the health insurance business in a state.

What will Republicans do with this proposal? Do they really want a federal law that says health insurers can’t enter or exit specific lines of business?

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has introduced a bill in the House that would allow insurers to continue offering plans that would have been prohibited under the Affordable Care Act, but his bill is vulnerable to the criticism that it will still lead to a raft of plan cancellations as insurers choose to discontinue plans because the ACA has changed the financial incentives they face.

If Congress really wants to make sure people can take their plans, it will need to use the heavy-handed Landrieu approach; the light-touch Upton approach won’t work. Erick Erickson (of all people!) understands this; he wrote a piece this morning called “It’s a trap“:

The House, with the help of a good number of Democrats, will pass the Upton plan and send it to the Senate. Harry Reid will substitute the Landrieu plan and send it back to the House. The House will be forced to either vote for the Landrieu plan or be characterized as siding with insurance companies against people.

In one fell swoop, the Democrats will have the GOP on record saving Mary Landrieu’s re-election in Louisiana by casting her as the one who saved Americans’ health care plans, and also getting on record as really being in favor of fixing Obamacare with the use of mandates.

Pretty much. And it’s the comeuppance conservatives are getting for (1) having no health care agenda of their own and (2) endorsing the bizarre idea that health reform should not lead to health plan changes. With no health policy guidestar other than they’re against what the president is for, Republicans are liable to walk into traps like demanding more health insurance regulation than the president wants.


By: Josh Barro, Business Insider, November 13, 2013

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Unable To Win Elections”: They Tried To Break The Federal Government, Now They’re Going After The Courts

The astounding show of Republican recklessness that led to last month’s government shutdown made one thing very clear. The new Republican Party — the one ruled by the Tea Party — isn’t interested in making our government work. They want to break it.

Now, as if shutting down the government of the United States, furloughing hundreds of thousands of government employees, wasting billions of dollars and threatening to wreck America’s economy wasn’t enough, Republicans in Congress have set their sights on a new target: our justice system.

Yesterday, Senate Republicans took their campaign against our government to a whole new level when they blocked the nomination of Nina Pillard to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is widely considered to be the nation’s second-highest court behind the Supreme Court.

Pillard is one of President Obama’s three nominees to fill vacancies on the D.C. Circuit, which is currently operating with nearly one-third of its active judgeships vacant. All three nominees have extraordinary professional qualifications. All three have support from across the ideological spectrum. Yet Senate Republicans are vowing to filibuster all three simply because they were nominated by President Obama.

One of the most basic functions of the U.S. Senate is to provide “advice and consent” to the president on his nominations to executive agencies and to the federal courts. For most of our country’s history, the Senate has generally taken this constitutional order responsibly, using its power to block only nominees whom senators found unqualified or dangerously far out of the mainstream. That is, until now.

The same party that shut down the government in an attempt to nullify a duly-enacted law that it does not like is now trying to prevent a twice-elected president from filling vacancies on an important court — a duty entrusted to him by the Constitution.

There’s a reason Republican obstructionists have targeted the D.C. Circuit. The court has the last word on important federal laws and administrative rules on issues ranging from clean air regulations to workers’ rights to cigarette labeling requirements to presidential recess appointments. Basically, just about any area that we regulate through our federal government is going to be affected by the D.C. Circuit. And it is currently dominated by conservative ideologues: nine of the 14 judges on the court (including “active” judges and senior judges who participate in panel decisions) were nominated by Republican presidents seeking to remake the courts in their ideological image.

Republicans want to keep it this way. President Obama has nominated five people to the court, yet Senate Republicans have allowed only one of these nominees to so much as receive a confirmation vote. By comparison, the Senate confirmed four of George W. Bush’s nominees to the court and eight of Ronald Reagan’s. In fact, the ninth, tenth, and eleventh seats that Republicans today demand remain vacant are ones that they ensured were filled when George W. Bush was president.

To give you an idea of just how conservative this court is as a result, just this month a George W. Bush nominee and a George H.W. Bush nominee ruled that employers who oppose birth control should be able to deny their employees access to affordable contraception through their insurance plans — an absurd twisting of the true meaning of religious liberty. A few months ago, the court ruled that a law requiring employers to display a poster listing employees’ legal rights violates the free speech rights of the employers. No, really!

Unable to win national elections, Republicans are trying to hold on to what power they still have — and that includes control of the powerful D.C. Circuit. Just like they couldn’t accept that the Affordable Care Act was the law of the land, the Tea Party won’t admit that Americans chose President Obama to be the one making picks to the federal courts.

The Tea Party thinks that it has some sort of intellectual property claim on the U.S. Constitution. But sometimes I wonder if its leaders have even read it.

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For The American Way, Published in The Huffington Post Blog, November 13, 2013

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Federal Courts, Presidential Nominations, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Is Driving In Circles”: Like Past Outreach Efforts, “Burning Glass” Is Doomed To Failure

Just days after Republican Ken Cuccinelli discovered that running as the transvaginal ultrasound candidate may have been a mistake in increasingly blue Virginia, three Republican women are launching a new effort to solve the GOP’s serious problem with female voters.

The Republican Party’s outreach to women — to the degree that it reaches out at all — has clearly not been working. Poll after poll shows that women favor the Democratic Party over the Republicans, and recent elections have confirmed it. President Obama topped Mitt Romney by 9 percent among women in 2012, and Terry McAuliffe beat Cuccinelli by an identical amount in Virginia in 2013. Among unmarried women, the gender gap is even more severe.

As Jonathan Martin reports in the New York Times, Republican consultants Katie Packer Gage, Ashley O’Connor and Christine Matthews hope to reverse the trend by launching a group called Burning Glass Consulting.

“We want to get smarter about how we communicate the Republican message specifically to women,” Gage told the Times. “Certainly there are challenges with other demographic groups, but women represent 53 percent of the electorate.”

According to the report, “The three strategists will undertake public opinion research, TV ads and general consulting for Republican candidates about how to better reach that majority.”

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the Republican Party has been down this road before. Just eight months ago, the Republican National Committee itself declared its intention to “stop talking to itself,” and improve outreach to minorities, the working class, and the same women that Burning Glass intends to target today.

“Instead of driving around in circles on an ideological cul-de-sac, we need a party whose brand of conservatism invites and inspires new people to visit us,” the Republican consultants who wrote the report optimistically suggested.

The suggestion didn’t take. On the contrary, Republicans have managed to move even further out of the mainstream — at a grave cost to their already tattered reputation.

Ultimately, Burning Glass Consultants will encounter the same problem the RNC did. Sure, a more moderate tone couldn’t hurt the Republican Party’s efforts to win over women — it may even help them on the margins. But there is no message fix that could paper over the fact that elected Republicans are devoting their efforts to shuttering women’s health clinics, restricting access to contraception, and trashing the Affordable Care Act’s maternity coverage, among a long, long list of other policies that are genuinely hostile to women.

Yes, the Republican Party would benefit if far-right candidates like Richard Mourdock would stop telling women that they can’t undergo an abortion after being raped, because “God intended” for them to be attacked. But the GOP would be even better off if that wasn’t the party’s official platform.

Burning Glass’ effort to attract female voters is surely well intentioned. But as Republicans are finding out in their unsuccessful push to attract Hispanic voters, actions speak louder than words.

By: Henry Decker, the National Memo, November 12, 2013

November 14, 2013 Posted by | GOP, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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