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“A Clear Stake In The Issue”: The Media Is Obsessed With Hillary’s Emails Because The Media Is Obsessed With Stories About Itself

That the email controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton is still raging after nearly two weeks has awakened in Democrats a familiar dread. Nobody expected Republicans to give Clinton an easy time, but some of her supporters clearly hoped that time and experience had changed the way the press would adjudicate scandal accusations, or at least had diluted old suspicions so that the Clintons, their political enemies, and the media wouldn’t combine to form such a toxic brew.

As TPM’s Josh Marshall wrote, “the email story is shaping up to be another classic Clinton scandal. On the merits, the hyperventilation seems way out ahead of the actual facts…. And yet here we are againwith an almost infinite, process-driven scandal that can easily continue on into a Clinton presidency, if there is one…. Always a dance, always drama.”

The ingredients of this particular drama lend themselves to unending innuendo and recrimination. Clinton and her lawyers controlled all of her State Department–era emails, decided amongst themselves which to hand over to the government, and will presumably resist all GOP efforts to peek into the remainder, assuming they’re still retrievable. Republicans can thus whip the paranoid/birther contingent of their coalition into a state of permanent suspicion by projecting whatever malfeasance they want on to the missing emails.

But I think the nature of the email story makes it a poor proxy for gauging the relationship Clinton’s campaign will have with the press going forward. Keep in mind that this isn’t the first Clinton error Republicans have tried to exploit. When the press has taken GOP Benghazi accusations seriously, it’s gotten burned. Republicans have more credibly tried to raise questions about Clinton’s big dollar speeches and Clinton Foundation fundraising practices, but none of these stories have captured the press’ interest quite like the email controversy.

What distinguishes the email controversy is that it intersects in obvious ways with the professional interests of the same political press corps that will cover Clinton throughout the presidential campaign. It’s such big news because the news itself has a clear stake in the issue. The national press corps doesn’t generally expend a tremendous amount of energy holding senior bureaucrats to the letter of records-keeping protocols, or worrying about how much public business government officials are conducting on private email accountsthough perhaps they should.

But when reporters learned that the most public and politically aspirant of these officials had it in her power to deprive them of records to which they should be entitled, those reporters, quite predictably, responded not just as reporters but as representatives of their trade. This isn’t just any old process story, but one which practically invites reporters to miscalibrate in expressing industry outrage.

It’s also an old phenomenon, and one Clinton really should have anticipated. She hadn’t left Foggy Bottom for more than five months when the same press corps erupted over the revelation that, while conducting a leak investigation at the State Department, the DOJ had used a secret warrant to seize Fox News reporter James Rosen’s emails.

The press was correct to criticize that particular tactic, but in so doing it revealed a kind of shallowness about itself. It didn’t object to DOJ intimidation per se, but to the fact that a reporter rather than a mere civilian had been the target. If Rosen had been an imam in Michigan or a political dissident, the White House briefing room would have been mostly silent about it.

Instead they made it front page news, and forced the administration to examine itself to such great effect that Attorney General Eric Holder now considers the DOJ’s conduct toward Rosen his greatest regret. My hunch is that Hillary Clinton will have to put herself through a similar reckoning before the press lets go of the email story.

Assuming she does, though, I don’t think we can say with any certainty that it will set a tone for the media’s overall coverage of Clinton’s campaign. And as a political issue of its own, the email controversy will probably prove to be self-limiting. Republican presidential hopefuls like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have email problems of their ownwhich, unsurprisingly, are a much bigger deal to in-state reporters in Florida and Wisconsin than to the national press corps that has been covering Clinton. Moreover, if Republicans in Congress allow their questions about Clinton’s emails to morph into a witch hunt, they’ll turn her into a martyr.

This particular Clinton drama is sui generis. Which means we’ll have to wait until the next imbroglio to learn whether the media and the Clintons will get along better this time around than they did in the 1990s.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, March 16, 2015

March 19, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Media, National Press Corp | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Where Bibi Leads, The GOP Will Follow”: Netanyahu In Effect, Is ‘Their President’

Yes, it looks like Bibi Netanyahu has a better shot than Bougie Herzog does of forming the next government. There are many moving parts here, so it’s not completely set in stone. But the clear consensus by 5 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday, an hour after the polls closed, was that Netanyahu and Likud have a clearer path to 61 seats than Herzog and the Zionist Union party do.

I’ll leave it to others who know the intricacies of Israeli politics better than I to parse all that. But let’s talk about the impact of a possible Netanyahu victory on our politics here in the United States. The answer is appallingly simple, I think: Though we won’t see this happen immediately or sensationally, it seems clear that, month by month and inch by gruesome inch, a Netanyahu win will move the Republican Party further to the right, to an unofficial (and who knows, maybe official) embrace of Netanyahu’s pivotal and tragic new position of opposition to a two-state solution.

Netanyahu declared said opposition, as you know, the day before the voting, when he stated, in a videotaped interview: “Whoever today moves to establish a Palestinian state and withdraw from territory is giving attack territory for Islamic extremists against the state of Israel. Whoever ignores that is burying his head in the sand.” When his questioner asked if this meant a Palestinian state would not be established on his watch, the prime minister said: “Indeed.”

Now, it’s been known in Israel and America that this was Netanyahu’s true view of things for some time. He partially gave the game away last summer during a press conference. But he never quite said it as directly as he did Monday, in the culminating event of his final, frenzied, fear-mongering campaign. Israeli leaders of the major parties have at least officially supported a two-state solution for many years. But as of Monday, opposition to a two-state solution is official Israel policy, and as long as Bibi’s the boss, it will remain so.

The United States has officially supported a two-state solution at least since George H.W. Bush was president. Presidents of both parties, and even virtually all serious presidential contenders from both parties, have been on record in favor of a two-state solution. Each president has put varying spins on what it means, and has invested more (Bill Clinton) or less (George W. Bush) elbow grease in trying to bring such a solution about. But it has been the bipartisan position in the United States for 25 years or more, and that has meant there at least was a pretense—and sometimes more than that—of a shared goal somewhere down the road between Israel and Fatah (admittedly not Hamas).

Now Netanyahu has ditched that. How will our Republicans react? Well, they love Netanyahu. As they recently demonstrated to us all, he is, in effect, their president, at least on matters relating to the Middle East and Iran. Is it so crazy to think that what Bibi says, the Republicans will soon also be saying?

Now throw Sheldon Adelson into this stewpot. There are many reasons the Republican Party as a whole has become so epileptically pro-Israel in recent years: their ardor for Bibi, the power of the lobby, the influence of the Christian Zionist movement, and more. But another one of those reasons is surely Adelson. When you’re that rich and that willing to throw multiple millions into U.S. and Israeli electoral politics (to the GOP and Likud), you become influential. Adelson is completely opposed to a Palestinian state. “To go and allow a Palestinian state is to play Russian roulette,” he said in October 2013.

There is already a history of GOP candidates making their hajjes, so to speak, out to Adelson’s Las Vegas base of operations and saying what he wants to hear. John Judis wrote about this in The New Republic a year ago. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and John Kasich trotted out to Vegas and filled Adelson’s ear with pretty music. Judis: “The presidential hopefuls made no attempt to distinguish their views on Israel and the Palestinians from Adelson’s.” Christie even apologized for having once used the phrase “occupied territories”!

So here we are today: Bibi, their hero, has said it openly, and “proved” (for the time being) that saying it pays electoral dividends; their base certainly believes it; and Adelson and his checkbook make it potentially quite a profitable thing for them to say. So watch the Republican candidates start announcing that they’re against the two-state solution. Some will be coy about it (Bush, probably). Others—Ted Cruz, and I suspect Walker, who’s already been acting like foreign policy is just a little make-believe game anyway, an arena that exists merely for the purpose of bashing Barack Obama and pandering to the base—will likely be less coy.

If this happens, do not underestimate the enormity of the change it heralds. As of now, I am told by people who know, no Republican legislator in Washington has explicitly disavowed a two-state solution. The closest Congress has come to doing so was on a 2011 resolution offered by then-Representative Joe Walsh that called for congressional support for Israeli annexation of “Judea and Samaria.” Walsh got a number of co-sponsors, 27 of whom are still in office.

But that was then. Four years later, Bibi is the American right’s über-hero, and there’s every reason to think Republicans will follow where he leads. And so a rare point on which our two parties were, however notionally, united, will likely be yet another point of division—and given the intensity of feeling here, bitter division. Republicans will think they can increase their percentage among Jewish voters. The current polls indicate that three-quarters to four-fifths of U.S. Jews (about the percentage that votes Democratic) back a two-state solution. But if Bibi proved anything these last few days, he proved that demagoguery and lies can alter percentages. Brace yourselves.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 17, 2015

 

March 19, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Reality-Avoidance Scheme”: The Republican List Of Things You Cannot Say

You are, perhaps, already familiar with the Republican List of Things You Cannot Say. If not, here’s a quick refresher:

1. “Vagina.” That’s a definite no-no. Three years ago, Republicans in the Michigan statehouse banned Democratic Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking after she used the v-word.

2. “Condom.” The Bush administration sought to ban sex-ed teachers from mentioning the c-word or, indeed, any contraceptive method but abstinence.

3. “Gun.” A 2011 Florida law prohibits pediatricians from asking if parents have a g-word in the house. Mind you, they can ask about swimming pools, tobacco, seatbelts, lead paint and other potential home-based threats to children’s health. But not firearms.

To that list, a new term has now been added. In Florida, you may not say “climate change.”

Now, you’d think the Sunshine State would be using the double c-word quite a bit just now. Florida is, of course, a lowlands state, home to the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, i.e., the Everglades, and as such, one of the most environmentally vulnerable places in the country. That confluence of facts represents a challenge to which a governor can respond in one of two ways: 1) grapple with the problem and look for ways to solve it; or 2) ignore the problem and silence those who dare to bring it up.

Governor Rick Scott has chosen the second option. The state now operates under an unwritten gag order banning environmental officials from using the double c-word in any official email, correspondence or report to discuss the threat from human-caused planetary warming and rising seas.

The governor, for the record, denies any such rule exists. “It’s not true,” he told reporters last week. But Scott’s words are simply not credible in the wake of a withering report published last week by the Miami Herald. In it, multiple former state Department of Environmental Protection officials describe how they were, in fact, censored by their superiors. “We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said former DEP attorney Christopher Byrd.

No, the GOP is not the only party to regulate what its officials may say. Yes, the Obama administration has lately come out against language conflating Islam and terrorism in order, it says, to deny gangs of criminal thugs the legitimacy of religious underpinnings. You may or may not find that reasoning persuasive, but give the White House this much credit: The ban seems designed to make a philosophical point — not to forestall discussion of terrorism.

What we see in Governor Scott, on the other hand, amounts to little more than a reality-avoidance scheme, a way of not having a debate he cannot win and would rather not have. The governor has previously tried denying the reality of global warming. He has used the “I’m not a scientist” dodge that the GOP adopted in lockstep last year. But this may be his most effective means yet: Commandeer the language, rendering discussion impossible.

It is not, however, the debate about global warming that threatens to submerge downtown Miami, but global warming itself. It turns out that, contrary to what we believed as children, if you ignore a thing, it doesn’t go away. Often times, it simply festers and gets worse. And as guns, condoms and vaginas continue to exist despite GOP silencing, so too does the threat to Florida, the country and the planet from rising seas and temperatures.

Yet in the face of that existential danger, the GOP continues its strategy of sowing doubt, denial and delay. It is a depressing sign of our times that Florida’s governor exerts so much energy to manage the language of catastrophe.

Here’s a thought: Address the catastrophe and the language will take care of itself.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 18, 2015

March 19, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Global Warming, Rick Scott | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Presidents Negotiate Arms Agreements”: Cotton And The War Caucus Count On Constituents’ Ignorance

When a Man’s fancy gets astride on his Reason; When Imagination is at Cuffs with the Senses; and common Understanding, as well as common Sense, is Kickt out of Doors; the first Proselyte he makes, is Himself. Jonathan Swift, 1704

As near as I can determine, Senator Tom Cotton’s biggest worry about Iran is that its government is as bellicose and fanatical as he is.

The good news is that based on the Islamic Republic’s response to the condescending, adolescent tone of the “open letter” he and 46 Republican senators addressed to Iran’s leaders, that seems unlikely. Judging by their measured responses, Iranian politicians appear to understand that they weren’t its real audience.

Rather, it was a grandstand play directed at Cotton’s own constituents among the GOP’s unappeasable Tea Party base. Its actual purpose was to express contempt and defiance toward President Obama, always popular among the Fox News white-bread demographic — basically the same motive that led Cotton to repeat Obama’s name 74 times during a 2014 election debate with Senator Mark Pryor.

That big doodyhead Barack Obama’s not the boss of them.

Except that particularly with regard to foreign policy, he is. But hold that thought.

Javad Zarif, the American-educated Iranian foreign minister involved in intense negotiations with Secretary of State John Kerry, observed that the senators’ letter has “no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy.”

The Persian diplomat pointed out that the agreement’s not being hashed out between the U.S. and Iran, but also among Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Any deal would be put before the UN Security Council and have the force of international law.

A future U.S. president could renounce it, but at significant political cost unless Iran clearly violated its terms.

Slate’s Fred Kaplan points out chief executives from FDR and Reagan to George W. Bush have negotiated arms control deals negotiated in ports of call from Yalta to Helsinki. “In other words,” Kaplan writes, “contrary to the letter writers, Congress has no legal or constitutional role in the drafting, approval, or modification of this deal.”

Presidents negotiate arms agreements, not raw-carrot freshman senators.

Iran’s crafty old “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Khamenei lamented “the decay of political ethics in the American system,” but added that he stood by the process. “Every time we reach a stage where the end of the negotiations is in sight,” Khamenei said, “the tone of the other side, specifically the Americans, becomes harsher, coarser and tougher.”

Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus reported the score: “Qom Theological Seminary 1, Harvard Law 0. When an ayatollah sounds more statesmanlike than the U.S. Senate, it’s not a good sign.”

Bargaining is practically the Persian national sport. They’re inclined to see a my-way-or-the-highway type like Tom Cotton as unserious and immature.

As if to confirm that impression, the Arkansas senator took his newfound notoriety to CBS’s Face the Nation, where he complained about Iran’s growing “empire.”

“They already control Tehran, increasingly they control Damascus and Beirut and Baghdad and now Sana’a as well,” Cotton said. “They do all that without a nuclear weapon. Imagine what they would do with a nuclear weapon.”

You read that correctly. Arkansas’ brilliant Harvard law graduate complained about Iran’s control of Tehran — the nation’s capital since 1796.

As for Iran’s alleged “control” of Baghdad, you’d think an Iraq veteran like Cotton would have some clue how that came about. Hint: President George W. Bush invaded Iraq. The Bush administration deposed Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein, whose invasion of neighboring Iran led to an eight-year war killing roughly a million people. They installed as prime minister Nouri al Maliki, a Shiite nationalist who’d spent 24 years exiled in, yes, Iran.

How Iranian-armed Shiite militias came to be leading the fight against ISIS terrorists west of Baghdad is that the Iraqi government begged for their help. It’s in Tehran’s national interest to defeat ISIS even more than in Washington’s. Can this possibly be news to Cotton?

Probably not, but he can count on his constituents’ ignorance. It would be astonishing if 20 percent of Arkansas voters could locate Iran on a world map, much less grasp that if Iran looks stronger, it’s because the U.S. keeps attacking its enemies. “Like all the Iran hawks before him,” Daniel Larison writes in American Conservative, “Cotton claims to fear growing Iranian influence while supporting policies that have facilitated its growth.”

For President Obama, a verifiable agreement preventing the Iranian regime from developing nuclear weapons they say they don’t want could be a diplomatic triumph, reshaping the entire Middle East without firing a shot.

To the War Party, that would be a bad thing. Meanwhile, Tom Cotton gave his first speech in the U.S. Senate, prating about “global military dominance” and “hegemonic strength” like the villain in a James Bond movie.

It was a performance calculated to make him a star.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, March 18, 2015

March 19, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Tea Party, Tom Cotton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“At What Cost Victory”: Bibi’s Ugly Win Will Harm Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu won a big election Tuesday, but he won ugly by staking out a new position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is likely to harm his nation in the months ahead.

A reckoning is coming—faster than expected—for Netanyahu, his Likud Party and maybe even for the State of Israel itself.

Complete returns showed that Netanyahu’s Likud Party won 29 seats in the Knesset to 24 seats for the Zionist Union (formerly Labor) Party headed by Isaac Herzog, who ran a more spirited campaign than expected but almost certainly fell short of the support necessary to form a government.

Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, whose job consists mostly of presiding over elections, said not long after the polls closed that he wants a coalition government and has given Netanyahu, Herzog and the other party leaders a couple of days to engage in a frenzy of (largely unconsummated) deal-making. But Herzog’s parliamentary math problem got worse as the evening wore on, and it’s hard to see where he finds the “mandates” (seats) to prevail.

One big surprise was the performance of the Joint List, a coalition of usually fractious Arab parties that won 13 seats and finished third, far better than Arab Israelis ever have in the past. But their influence will be limited because Arab parties traditionally refuse to join the government so as to avoid being complicit in official Israeli policy that they loathe.

As the returns came in, the center-left and other critics of Netanyahu held out hope that Moshe Kahlon—whose center-right Kulanu Party won 10 seats—would nurse his anger at Netanyahu (in whose government he once served) and side with Zionist Union. But even that would be unlikely to yield enough seats to oust Netanyahu. The small religious parties that often hold the balance of power faded amid Bibi’s last-minute panicky bid for right-wing votes.

That panic had a purpose. Netanyahu came back from the dead by doing something politicians almost never do—predicting his own defeat. He told base voters that he would lose if they didn’t abandon far-right-winger Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayeudi Party and flock back to Likud. Instead of trying to hide his desperation, he flaunted (or contrived) it, to great political effect, winning by several seats more than expected.

Like George W. Bush in his 2004 reelection campaign against John Kerry in the aftermath of 9/11, Netanyahu wielded security issues as a polarizing political weapon, overcoming personal unpopularity and a mediocre economic record with a campaign based largely on fear. It worked.

But at what cost? In the days before the election, Netanyahu accused the opposition of being manipulated by Americans, insulted Arabs for simply voting, doubled down on support for settlements in East Jerusalem and—most significantly—said there would be no Palestinian state on his watch, thereby confirming a view that critics always suspected he harbored.

Cynical about their politicians, some Israeli pundits predicted that Netanyahu would slip away from his new line, just as he this week repudiated his famous 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University in which he proclaimed, “Let us make peace,” and endorsed a two-state solution.

Bibi can try, but Monday’s comment set his feet in cement. “I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory gives territory away to radical Islamist attacks against Israel,” Netanyahu told a website owned by his most generous supporter, American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Should he go back on this pledge, his right-wing supporters would desert him and he would be forced to call another election next year that he would likely lose.

Netanyahu knows that intransigence on the Palestinians is harmful to his purported security priority—confronting a nuclear Iran. He knows that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and other countries can’t ally with Israel against Iran until he makes peace with the Palestinians. But he was willing to do what it takes to win.

Now the rest of the world will do what it takes to punish his government. That means that the “BDS” movement (Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions) will likely move from the (sometimes anti-Semitic) fringe closer to the center of the debate on college campuses and in international forums. As the Palestinians pursue their case globally with more finesse than they once had, the Israeli policy—shorn of efforts to achieve peace—will look increasingly illegitimate.

And Bibi and Likud might be in for a rude shock at the United Nations. On Tuesday, moderate Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN that it was “hard to imagine” there would be no consequences from Netanyahu’s new one-state views.

Bibi has placed all his chips on the Republican Congress, which has no say over how the U.S. votes in the U.N. Schiff—who often reflects the view of the White House—hinted that the Obama administration might consider selectively lifting the American veto in the Security Council that has protected Israel for more than six decades.

While the U.S. will no doubt continue to veto the most obnoxious U.N. resolutions, others (like those based on comments of U.S. officials about the need for a two-state solution) are now more likely to pass with the tacit support of the U.S., opening a new chapter in international pressure on Israel.

Beset by European boycotts, rebuked by international tribunals, estranged from the president of the United States—it’s not a pretty picture of the fate of America’s closest ally in the region.

But that might be the fallout from the most bruising and consequential Israeli election in many years.

 

By: Jonathan Alter, The Daily Beast, March 18, 2015

March 19, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, United States | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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