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“A Programming And Political Failure”: Sarah Palin, Fox News And The End Of An Era

Wasn’t it fitting that Sarah Palin’s exit from Fox News was made official the same week President Obama celebrated his second inauguration? Didn’t it just seem apt that the once-future star of Fox News and the Tea Party movement lost her national media platform just days after the president she tried to demonize for four years basked in the glow of his easy reelection victory?

Palin’s breakup with Fox was expected, but it’s still significant. A “milestone,” is how former Bush speechwriter David Frum put it.

The move represents the end of a brief, ill-conceived era within the conservative media movement, and specifically at Fox, where in the wake of Obama’s first White House win Palin, along with preposterous cohort Glenn Beck, was irresponsibly tapped to become a high-priced pundit who trafficked in hate.

At Fox, Palin represented a particularly angry and juvenile wing of the conservative movement. It’s the part that appears deeply obsessed with Obama as a person; an unhealthy obsession that seemed to surpass any interest in his policies. With lazy name-calling as her weapon of choice, Palin served as Fox News’ point person for misguided snark and sophomoric put-downs. Palin also epitomized the uber-aggressive anti-intellectual push that coincided with Obama’s swearing in four years ago.

And for a while, it looked like the push might work. In 2010, it seemed like Palin and Beck might just succeed in helping Fox change the face of American politics with their signature calling cards of continuous conspiracies (Beck) and perpetual victimization (Palin).

But it never happened.

In the wake of Beck’s cable TV departure in 2011, Obama’s reelection win in 2012, and now Palin’s farewell from Fox last week, it’s obvious the blueprint drawn up by Fox chief Roger Ailes was a programming and political failure. Yes, the name-calling and conspiratorial chatter remains at Fox, but it’s no longer delivered by Palin who was going to be the star some loyalist thought the channel could ride all the way to the White House.

Let’s also note that Fox’s Palin era was marked by how the Beltway press often did everything in its power to prop her up as a “star” reaching new heights, when with each passing month Palin’s standing with the public seemed to register new lows.

Belying claims of liberal bias, the political press seemed desperate for Palin to succeed and to become a lasting presence in American politics; a permanent TV foil during the Obama era. Can you think of another time when the press so enthusiastically heralded the losing vice presidential candidate as a political and media “phenomena”?

— ABC’s The Note: “There is precisely one superstar in the Republican Party.”

Time’s Mark Halperin: Palin’s “operating on a different plane, hovering higher than a mere celebrity, more buoyant than an average politician.”

Washington Post’s David Broder: “A public figure at the top of her game.”

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Whatever success and momentum Palin enjoyed on Fox in terms of influencing the national conversation (i.e. “death panels”), it slowed in January 2011. That’s when, responding to an Arizona shopping center shooting spree that nearly claimed the life of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Palin cast herself as a victim, and condemned the press for manufacturing a “blood libel.” (Palin appeared to not understand that historically, “blood libel” relates to the anti-Semitic charge that Jews murder children and use their blood for religious rituals.)

The Beltway press seemed truly aghast by Palin’s performance. And so did Roger Ailes. When Palin bowed out of the 2012 presidential race and did so on a right-wing talk show instead of on Fox, thereby robbing the channel of the spotlight, her star seemed to fade precipitously, to the point where her views and commentary were irrelevant to last year’s presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, Palin’s departure is also significant because it comes at a time when Fox is still reeling from Obama’s reelection. (A reelection Palin was supposed to help derail.) Where the channel spent the previous four years with a laser-like focus rallying right-wing believers in an effort to drive Obama from the White House, while simultaneously, we were told, saving liberty and countless freedoms, Fox today seems utterly lost knowing it won’t ever defeat Obama at the polls.

Clinging ever tighter to the gears on its phony outrage machine, Fox talkers take turns taking umbrage. Last week’s relentless sobbing over Obama’s inauguration speech (too partisan!) was a perfect example of how the channel can’t stop lashing out at imaginary slights.

Writing for Esquire‘s website, Tom Junod noticed the same pervasive sense of bewilderment. A student of Fox who wrote a lengthy profile of Ailes two years ago, Junod labeled the Fox incarnation on display early in Obama’s second term to be a “freak show” wallowing in defeat and an over-sized “sense of injury”:

The question, of course, is whether [Ailes] knows what anyone else in the United States might like, or whether his network, even as it holds its captive audience, will descend further into political irrelevance. For all his instinctive showmanship, and for all his purported populist genius, Ailes saw Obama cobble together his new majority right under his nose, and knew neither what to call it or how to stop it.

In other words, Fox News got steamrolled by Obama’s reelection. Palin’s departure from the Fox payroll serves as a useful exclamation point to that fact.


By: Eric Boehlert, The Huffington Post, January 28, 2013

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Inauguration 2013, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Lesson From The Inauguration”: When Everything Is Partisan, Just Do What’s Right

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Republicans started complaining that President Obama’s second inaugural address was too “partisan” and lacked “outreach” across the aisle. But who was left out? What did they find “partisan”? The acknowledgement of climate science? The idea that women should receive equal pay for equal work? The nod to civil rights struggles of our past and present? The hope that no American will have to wait in hours-long lines to vote? The defense of the existence of a social safety net? The determination to offer support to the victims of a historic storm and to find real answers to the epidemic of mass shootings? In the not-too-distant past, none of these would have raised eyebrows except on the very, very far right. But I guess that’s the point: what was once the radical fringe is now in control of the Grand Old Party.

In many ways, Monday’s inauguration ceremony was a Tea Party Republican’s nightmare-come-true. The openly gay poet. The Spanish sprinkled into the benediction. The one-two-three punch of “Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall.” It was the embodiment of all that the far right has tried to wall itself off from as the country begins to include more and more of the real America in its democracy.

What would have pleased this faction, short of winning the presidential election? I imagine they would have preferred a paean to the America of their imaginations — where the founders were flawless and prescient about the right to bear assault weapons and the Constitution was delivered, amendments included, directly from God; where there are no gay people or only silent ones, where the world is not getting warmer; where there have been no struggles in the process of forging a more perfect union. This, of course, would have been its very own kind of political statement — and one that was just rejected by the majority of American voters.

If embracing America as it is rather than as a shimmery vision of what it never was constitutes partisanship, and if it turns off people who cling to that dishonest vision, let’s have more of it.


By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post, January 24, 2013

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Inauguration 2013 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Playing The Victim”: Paul Ryan’s Attempted Clarification On “Takers”

Paul Ryan exhibited some chutzpah today in a cry of foul play aimed at the president’s shot at those who divide Americans into “takers and makers,” which until it got him into trouble in 2012 was one of the Wisconsin Randian’s favorite rhetorical devices.

According to the Weekly Standard, Ryan went on television this morning and perhaps having read Michael Gerson’s WaPo op-ed accusing the president of creating a “raging bonfire of straw men, played the victim his own self:

Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan knocked President Barack Obama for “shadowbox[ing] a straw man” in his inaugural address. Speaking Tuesday morning on the Laura Ingraham Radio Show to guest host Raymond Arroyo, Ryan responded to Obama’s statement that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security “do not make us a nation of takers, they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

Ryan called Obama’s insinuation that he and other reform-minded Republicans consider recipients of these benefits “takers” a “switcheroo.”

“It’s kind of a convenient twist of terms to try and shadowbox a straw man to try to win an argument by default,” Ryan said.

“No one is suggesting that what we call our ‘earned entitlements’, entitlements you pay for, you know, like payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security, are putting you in a ‘taker’ category,” Ryan continued. “The concern that people like me have been raising is we do not want to encourage a dependency culture. This is why we called for welfare reform.

Note first off that Ryan conveniently omits mentioning Medicaid in his self-defense against Obama’s alleged calumny, for the good reason that it is not an “earned entitlement” based on payroll tax deductions. For that matter, Ryan is advancing an interpretation of Medicare that he knows is completely erroneous, because over 40% of Medicare expenditures come from general revenues rather than payroll taxes or premiums. Who knows, maybe Ryan thinks Medicare beneficiaries are “takers” just three days out of every week, or is telegraphing a future intention to limit benefits to payroll taxes paid.

But in fact, Republicans deploying the taker/maker dichotomy, most especially Paul Ryan, are almost always referring to people who receive more federal government benefits, regardless of their type or justification, than they pay in federal taxes. Here’s an example from Ryan:

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said in 2010 that 60 percent of Americans receive more financial benefits from the government than they pay in taxes, making them “takers,” rather than “makers,” according to a 2010 video of Ryan speaking with Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.).

“Right now about 60 percent of the American people get more benefits in dollar value from the federal government than they pay back in taxes,” Ryan said. “So we’re going to a majority of takers versus makers in America and that will be tough to come back from that. They’ll be dependent on the government for their livelihoods [rather] than themselves.”

Ryan has been making similar statements for years. His 60 percent comment to Jones was not a one-time gaffe, but an iteration of a point Ryan has repeatedly made while arguing for his plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system.

Who’s actually engaging in a “switcheroo” here?


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 22, 2013

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Inauguration 2013, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Resolute, More Seasoned”: President Obama’s Inaugural Address Was A Modern Speech Steeped In History

President Obama gave a truly American speech yesterday. It resonated from the opening reference to “all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights,” to his constant refrain of “we, the people.”

It was in many ways a stronger speech than four years ago, more resolute, more seasoned, more ready to ensure that America lives up to the words expressed in the Declaration of Independence. It was a speech for a modern era, acknowledging the rapid change of the 21st century.

The strong thread of his speech was the strong history of America, from the war for independence to the emancipation proclamation 150 years ago to the March on Washington 50 years ago. “From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall,” the President highlighted the guiding value that all are created equal. The age-old creed was made modern and relevant to all Americans — of any color, any natural origin, any gender, any sexual orientation.

The notion that an inaugural address would mention gay marriage and highlight the start of the gay revolution at Stonewall would have been unthinkable a decade or two ago. What an amazing transformation.

The melding of traditional aspirational values and the struggle to solve modern American problems was inspiring. He was forward looking and pragmatic when it came to tackling the issues of immigration reform, climate change, equal economic opportunity, helping the most vulnerable. And he was equally pragmatic when he recognized that “outworn programs are inadequate to our times” and that government is not the answer to all our problems.

But his was a defense of government as “we, the people” to achieve what our framers designed. He did not deride government or Washington but set out a positive, progressive, future for us to pursue together. This was a change from what we have heard over the past thirty years.

It was, in many ways, a very modern speech clothed in the best of our history to act as a call to Americans. This is a president now comfortable with the bully pulpit and a leader committed to using it in the years ahead. You will see a Barack Obama ready to inspire and organize people for the cause. My guess is that this speech was just the beginning.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, January 22, 2013

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Inauguration 2013 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Promises Of Our Founding”: President Obama’s Unapologetic Inaugural Address

President Obama used his inaugural address to make a case – a case for a progressive view of government, and a case for the particular things that government should do in our time.

He gave a speech in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt’s second inaugural and Ronald Reagan’s first: Like both, Obama’s was unapologetic in offering an argument for his philosophical commitments and an explanation of the policies that naturally followed. Progressives will be looking back to this speech for many years, much as today’s progressives look back to FDR’s, and conservatives to Reagan’s.

Obama will be seen as combative in his direct refutation of certain conservative ideas, and it was especially good to see him argue — in a passage that rather pointedly alluded to Paul Ryan’s worldview — that social insurance programs encourage rather than discourage risk-taking and make us a more, not less, dynamic society. “The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us,” he said. “They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.” This is one of the most important arguments liberals have made since FDR’s time, and in the face of an aggressive attack now on the very idea of a social insurance state, it was important that Obama make it again.

Yet the president pitched his case by basing it on a long, shared American tradition. He rooted his egalitarian commitments in the promises of our founding. The Declaration of Independence was the driving text– as it was for Martin Luther King, whom we also celebrated today, and as it was for Abraham Lincoln.

Obama’s refrain “We, the people” reminded us that “we” is the very first word of our Constitution and that a commitment to community and the common good is as American Washington, Adams and Jefferson. The passages invoking that phrase spoke of shared responsibility – “we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it,” “We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.” Obama said a powerful “no” to radical individualism (a point my colleague Greg Sargent made well earlier today in the course of a kind and generous reference to my book “Our Divided Political Heart”).

Some will no doubt think (and write) that Obama should have sought more lofty and non-partisan ground. The problem with this critique is that it asks Obama to speak as if the last four years had not happened. It asks him to abandon the arguments he has been making for nearly two years. It asks us to pretend that we do not have a great deal at stake in the large debate over government’s role that we have been having over an even longer period.

Neither Roosevelt nor Reagan gave in to such counsel of philosophical timidity, and both of their speeches are worth rereading in light of Obama’s.

“We of the Republic pledged ourselves to drive from the temple of our ancient faith those who had profaned it,” Roosevelt declared. “[W]e recognized a deeper need—the need to find through government the instrument of our united purpose to solve for the individual the ever-rising problems of a complex civilization. . . . We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster.”

“In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem,” Reagan said. “It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed. It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people.”

Like these two presidents, Obama offered his fellow citizens the “why” behind what he thought and what he proposed to do — a point made to me after the speech by former Rep. Dave Obey. In my most recent column, I argued that Obama’s re-election (and the way he won it) had liberated him to be “more at ease declaring exactly what he is for and what he is seeking to achieve.” And that is exactly what he did in this speech.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 21, 2013

January 22, 2013 Posted by | Inauguration 2013 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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