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“Ted Cruz Is Trolling Congress”: It’s Time The Media Calls Him On It

In the accountability-free zone that passes for Sunday morning news shows, it takes a lot for a politician to generate any kind of pushback from their intellectually malleable hosts. So, it passes as noteworthy when Bob Schieffer, host of CBS News’ Face the Nation, recently followed up on a ridiculously false statement by one of his show’s guests, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right, lemme—lemme go back to one thing and—the question I asked you was, “Would you ever conceive of threatening to shut down the government again?”

SEN. TED CRUZ: Well, as I said, I didn’t threaten to shut down the government the last time. I don’t think we should ever shut down the government. I repeatedly voted—

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well—

SEN. TED CRUZ: —to fund the federal government.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Senator—

(OVERTALK)

BOB SCHIEFFER: —if you didn’t threaten to shut down the government, who was it that did? I mean, but we’ll go on—

Not exactly withering cross-examination, to be sure. But what even the transcript of the absurd exchange doesn’t fully capture, though this video clip does, is Schieffer’s astonishment—to the point of outright amusement—at Cruz’s brazen embrace of an obvious lie. The clubby world of DC punditry depends upon an unspoken agreement of plausible deniability between both pundits and politicians. So when one of the latter so clearly and consistently leaps off the cliff of reality, members of the former who try to stick with the equivocating, “both sides” script risk being taken down as well. That someone like Schieffer could be reduced to near giggles by Cruz’s duplicitousness symbolizes how timid and soft the Washington press corps has grown. And it reveals how ill-prepared the media is to deal with someone like Cruz, whose shtick is naked, intellectual dishonesty.

Put more simply, Cruz is little more than a Congressional troll. Since his election fifteen months ago, he has embarked upon a non-stop campaign of willful antagonismprivileged contrarianism, and unabashed self-aggrandizement. Trolls peddle phony outrage and crave undeserved attention and, not coincidentally, Cruz’s political toolkit contains just two elements: monkey wrenches and soapboxes.

As just one among 100 in the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” Cruz tends to get written off by the press as merely a colorful, mostly harmless crank. The Senate’s precarious legislative process and the House’s deep polarization, however, means Cruz’s disingenuous obstructionism makes an already dysfunctional Congress even more unpredictably combustible. All last summer, he ran a traveling political medicine show for the FEMA-camps-and-Benghazi-conspiracy crowd, touting the potential for repealing Obamacare as part of the impending government budget showdown. Though his trolling was an obvious fundraising and publicity stunt with zero chance of success, Republicans in Congress went along with his no-win scenario, taking the whole of the federal government down with his party in October.

In the past week, Cruz pulled two more variations on this same reckless behavior. While Senate Republican leaders had already accepted the necessity of passing a clean debt limit bill and were willing to let Democrats approve it with a simple majority, Cruz nearly blew up the process by threatening a filibuster at the last minute. Facing yet another publicity disaster, not to mention risking the full faith and credit of the nation’s financial system yet again, twelve GOP Senators reluctantly voted for passage. And while disaster was temporarily avoided in that case, Cruz likely killed off the House’s numerical advantage on immigration reform when he unexpectedly stuck the incendiary “amnesty” label on Speaker Boehner’s broad principles for reform last week.

Of course, no one should shed tears for folks like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell when they have to publicly confront the embarrassment of the GOP’s slouching towards Bethlehem. And if the Republicans’ refusal to address immigration before next fall’s midterm elections costs it seats in the House or its chance for the majority in the Senate, so much the better. But make no mistake, Republican self-immolation on this scale means millions of Americans are burned in the backdraft.

Sadly, the press rarely connects the dots on the long-term, real-world damage of Cruz’s legislative sabotage. In fact, his tactics have so mesmerized the media that what would otherwise be unprecedented intransigence by the rest of the GOP caucus gets normalized. For example, there was this New York Times story last week, which soft-peddled Cruz’s key role in sparking the potential debt ceiling disaster but that gave credit to Senate Republican leaders for having “rescued” the aforementioned debt ceiling vote. Politico, as only it can do, one-upped the Times with a long, behind-the-scenes process story that also glossed over Cruz as provocateur and instead featured this laugher of a quote from Senator John McCain about Mitch McConnell’s “yea” vote: “I must say it was a very courageous act.” Yes, inside the Beltway, it takes “courage” for the Senate Minority Leader to vote for a bill to pay for things that Congress has already spent money on.

The usual suspects, apathy and ignorance, are no doubt contributing factors in the political press’s unwillingness to call out Cruz’s spiteful grandstanding. I suspect subconscious bias is at work as well. The “Everybody hates him” reputation Cruz has now firmly and deservedly established sounds an awful a lot like the old newsroom shibboleth about objectivity—that when both parties are complaining about your reporting that’s a sure sign you’re doing it right. If you’ve ever wondered how far afield from honest governance a politician can wander before the “objective” media finally calls out his or her bullshit, Ted Cruz looks to be the ongoing case study.

This kind of journalistic negligence emboldens other extremist Republicans in Congress to sow even more dysfunction, though. In addition, the lack of public accountability only serves to discourage more rational members of the GOP who might otherwise be tempted to leverage intra-party pressure in stopping the needless obstruction. Indeed, it’s gotten so bad that the fear of facing a primary threat on the right from the next wannabe Ted Cruz—whom the press will lavish with uncritical attention—has reduced some feckless House Republicans to concern trolling with their Congressional votes, as part of what’s being called the “vote no, hope yes” caucus.

In the end, this is the most pernicious effect of Cruz’s trolling—the way his deceitful behavior disconnects political rhetoric and action from the good faith of those Americans he represents—and more importantly—how it impacts those Americans he doesn’t. Any press corps that proclaims to be a beacon of truth and accountability in a free society should feel compelled to call out these anti-democratic tactics for what they are. Failure to do so really is no laughing matter.

 

By: Reed Richardson, The Nation, February 18, 2014

February 20, 2014 Posted by | Media, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Cry Foul Over Presidential Multi-Tasking”: No, The Iran Deal Is Not A Manufactured Distraction From ObamaCare

Critics of the nuclear accord struck between Iran, the United States, and five other global superpowers are deeply skeptical about the deal’s terms, fearing it is too weak and relies too much on placing trust in a secretive state.

Some Republicans, meanwhile, think the deal is a farce for another reason.

John Cornyn on Twitter: Amazing what WH will do to distract attention from O-care

10:15 PM – 23 Nov 2013 from Austin, TX, United States

Cornyn isn’t just any random Republican either. He’s the Minority Whip, the second-ranking GOPer in the Senate, so his opinion carries more weight than if someone akin to, say, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) unloaded on the administration with a factually-light claim.

The argument gained some credibility Sunday when Bob Schieffer repeated it in question form on Face the Nation to House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) McCarthy, for his part, offered only a semi-dismissal: “I know they need some other type of news, but that would be the biggest mistake any administration could do. I would hope that would never be the case.”

As “distraction” murmurs intensified, Cornyn doubled down on the claim. And come Monday, Fox News’ morning hosts were opining on how Secretary of State John Kerry, amid the ObamaCare debacle, magically “pulls a rabbit out of his hat and changes the subject.”

There’s one huge problem with the augment: The deal was reportedly in the works for at least eight months — or well before ObamaCare went live and exposed glaring problems with the health care website.

Administration and Iranian officials met in Oman back in March for the first of at least five secret meetings, according to the Associated Press. The AP learned of the first meeting soon after it happened, the news agency said, but could not confirm the details and so sat on the story until now.

Going back even further, Secretary of State John Kerry, while still in the Senate in 2011, began forging ties with the Omanis that may have laid the groundwork for the nuclear negotiations.

Certainly, President Obama would like to talk about something other than his administration’s poor handling of the ObamaCare rollout. And indeed, the White House is quietly pushing Democratic lawmakers to shift their focus to the economy.

Yet assuming a historic deal was really a calculated gambit to shift the conversation in Washington from domestic to foreign affairs is, given the many months and rounds of negotiations that resulted in the deal, quite a stretch. You could argue that the administration, anticipating the ObamaCare implosion, started preparing an Iranian smokescreen earlier this year, just in case. But to truly believe that you would have to view the news in a complete vacuum, and be a pretty big cynic to boot.

And as far as distractions go, a nuclear deal with a country a plurality of Americans believe is an “enemy” is not exactly the best shiny object to reach for. So far, the reaction to the deal has been mixed, with even some prominent Democrats panning the accord as too friendly to Iran. So though the deal shifted the news cycle, it did not do so in a way uniformly beneficial to the White House.

Plus, the nuclear pact is only the latest piece of news Republicans have claimed is a manufactured ObamaCare distraction. When Democratic senators last week scrapped centuries-old rules governing filibusters, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused them of “cook[ing] up some fake fight.”

“I’d probably be looking for an exit, too, if I had supported this law,” he said, “I’d be looking to change the subject, just as Senate Democrats have been doing with their threats of going nuclear and changing the Senate rules on nominations.”

Yes, the Senate changed the conversation from ObamaCare to arcane debate rules last week. But McConnell, as with Cornyn, had no proof it was a deliberate, politically motivated calculation.

The administration has so far refused to respond to the allegations. And that may be a good idea: Were they to respond, someone would probably accuse them of again trying to distract from ObamaCare.

 

By: Jon Terbush, The Week, November 25, 2013

November 26, 2013 Posted by | Iran, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Irresponsible Knee-Jerkery”: Very Bad News From ABC, NBC And CBS

Despite completely misreporting on administration emails related to the pretend Benghazi “scandal,” after they were misquoted (and/or fabricated) to him by a reportedly Republican source, ABC News and their White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl still refuse to properly correct and apologize for having lied about“obtaining” those emails.

Had Karl’s error — compounded by his “cover-up” even more than his original “crime” — contained news that falsely appeared good for Democrats instead of for Republicans, he would have been hammered and forever discredited by the right until finally fired by ABC News. But, alas, his completely false report on Benghazi benefited Republicans rather than Democrats, so no biggie, it seems. He gets to keep his career!

ABC’s Karl, however, wasn’t the only top-tier network newsman who blew it big time, further tarnishing the profession over the past week. Not by a long shot.

Here’s how NBC’s Brian Williams opened — opened! — NBC Nightly News last Tuesday, the same day that the Treasury Department’s Inspector General report was released, offering zero evidence of White House involvement in the so-called IRS “scandal”

BRIAN WILLIAMS: “As a lot of American adults not so fondly remember, the last time the government was found looking into the phone calls of reporters and using the IRS for political purposes, it was the Nixon era, and while times have changed and circumstances are different, that subject came up at the Obama White House today as the administration now scrambles on several fronts.” (NBC Nightly News, May 14, 2013)

Odd. The “last time” we ”not so fondly remember…the government…found looking into the phone calls of reporters and using the IRS for political purposes”, was during the George W. Bush era, not the Nixon era. Did Williams sleep through that decade? Seemingly so. Or, it’s safer to allude to the discredited Nixon than the off-scot-free Dubya. Or, Williams simply felt like lying to his audience. Either way, why has Williams also failed to correct or apologize for his grotesquely absurd, remarkably misleading and demonstrably inaccurate opening? And why has he seemingly faced little or no pressure to do so (unlike Karl) from others in the media?

Finally, the network Sunday news shows this week — what we were able to catch of them, anyway — proved to be the usual misinformative lockstep knee-jerkery that keeps us from even bothering to check in on them much anymore. From ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos (which, astonishingly failed to even mention Karl’s extraordinary journalistic lapse, but managed to end its broadcast nonetheless with the straight-faced voice-over: “ABC News: Accurate. Credible. Unmatched.”) to NBC’s Meet the Press to Fox “News” Sunday, they all pretended that last week’s week of “scandals” was on par with Watergate, Iran-Contra, Teapot Dome and other actual presidential scandals. That must be what they train for.

But the award for irresponsible knee-jerkery under the guise of seasoned journalistic commentary must certainly go to CBS’ Bob Schieffer, who, as seen on his Twitter account, appears quite proud of his breathless “dumb and dumber” finger-wagging on this week’s Face The Nation, despite its lack of tether to reality or verifiable facts…http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50147143n

So, ya didn’t even bother to read the IG’s report before describing the IRS scandal as “dumb and dumber”, did ya, Bob? We’ve sent that question to CBS and will update if we receive a response. But based on his commentary, it seems he clearly has not. Else, he could not have described the IRS as trying to “get away with” having “gone after the Tea Party” — not based on the currently existing evidence, anyway. Nor could he have made his completely irresponsible comparison to Watergate in the bargain.

So that’s a major fail, by the very highest echelons of each and every broadcast news outlet in a single week. And yet some dare to criticize us — a mere “blog” after all — for getting the story right, time and time again?! Seriously?!

 

By: Brad Friedman, The National Memo, May 20, 2013

May 22, 2013 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“History Is A Cruel Judge Of Overconfidence”: Ten Years Ago, Bush Declared “Mission Accomplished” And The Media Swooned

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Mission Accomplished Day, or as it might better be known, Mission (Not) Accomplished Day. Sadly, it comes amid another upheaval in sectarian violence in Iraq—two days ago The New York Times warned of a new “civil war” there—and a week after the attempts at Bush revisionism upon the opening of his library. We’re also seeing aspects of the run-up to the Iraq invasion playing out in the fresh, perhaps overheated, claims of chemical weapons in Syria.

In my favorite antiwar song of this war, “Shock and Awe,” Neil Young moaned: “Back in the days of Mission Accomplished/ our chief was landing on the deck/ The sun was setting/ behind a golden photo op.” But as Neil added elsewhere in the tune: “History is a cruel judge of overconfidence.”

Nowhere can we see this more clearly than in the media coverage of the event.

On May 1, 2003, Richard Perle advised, in a USA Today op-ed, “Relax, Celebrate Victory.” The same day, President Bush, dressed in a flight suit, landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to major military operations in Iraq—with the now-infamous “Mission Accomplished” banner arrayed behind him.

Chris Matthews on MSNBC called Bush a “hero” and boomed, “He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics.” He added: “Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple.”

PBS’ Gwen Ifill said Bush was “part Tom Cruise, part Ronald Reagan.” On NBC, Brian Williams gushed, “The pictures were beautiful. It was quite something to see the first-ever American president on a—on a carrier landing.”

Bob Schieffer on CBS said: “As far as I’m concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time.” His guest, Joe Klein, responded: “Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me.”

Everyone agreed the Democrats and antiwar critics were now on the run. The New York Times observed, “The Bush administration is planning to withdraw most United States combat forces from Iraq over the next several months and wants to shrink the American military presence to less than two divisions by the fall, senior allied officials said today.”

Maureen Dowd in her column did offer a bit of over-the-top mockery, declaring: “Out bounded the cocky, rule-breaking, daredevil flyboy, a man navigating the Highway to the Danger Zone, out along the edges where he was born to be, the further on the edge, the hotter the intensity.

“He flashed that famous all-American grin as he swaggered around the deck of the aircraft carrier in his olive flight suit, ejection harness between his legs, helmet tucked under his arm, awestruck crew crowding around. Maverick was back, cooler and hotter than ever, throttling to the max with joystick politics. Compared to Karl Rove’s ”revvin’ up your engine” myth-making cinematic style, Jerry Bruckheimer’s movies look like Lizzie McGuire.

“This time Maverick didn’t just nail a few bogeys and do a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28 at a range of two meters. This time the Top Gun wasted a couple of nasty regimes, and promised this was just the beginning.”

When Bush’s jet landed on the aircraft carrier, American casualties stood at 139 killed and 542 wounded. That was over 4,300 American, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi, fatalities ago.

 

By: Greg Mitchell, The Nation, May 1, 2013

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Iraq War | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Donald Trump’s Not So Great Relationship With “The Blacks”

In an episode early in Donald Trump’s career, his New York real estate company was sued by the federal government for discriminating against potential black renters. After a lengthy legal battle, it ultimately agreed to wide-ranging steps to offer rentals to nonwhites.

The little-remembered case provides crucial context for the current discussion centering on Trump and race. The celebrity businessman made news last month when he declared, “I have a great relationship with the blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks.”

He has recently come under fire for attacks on President Obama that critics have described as racially tinged. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer, for example, said Wednesday there is  “an ugly strain of racism” in Trump’s recent (baseless) accusations that President Obama should not have been admitted to Columbia. Also yesterday, Trump told a black reporter, unprompted, “Look I know you are a big Obama fan.”

The discrimination case began in the earliest days of Trump’s career, when he was still in his 20s.

Fred Trump, Donald’s father, was, unlike his son, a self-made man. He made his fortune by building thousands of units of middle-class housing in Brooklyn and Queens. But in the early 1970s, Donald was made president of the family company.

One of Donald’s first challenges came in October 1973, when the Justice Department hit the Trump Organization with a major discrimination suit for violating the Fair Housing Act. The Times reported:

… the Government contended that Trump Management had refused to rent or negotiate rentals “because of race and color.” It also charged that the company had required different rental terms and conditions because of race and that it had misrepresented to blacks that apartments were not available.

The journalist Gwenda Blair reported in her 2005 Trump biography that while Fred Trump had sought to combat previous discrimination allegations through “quiet diplomacy,” Donald decided to go on the offensive. He hired his friend Roy Cohn, the celebrity lawyer and former Joseph McCarthy aide, to countersue the government for making baseless charges against the company. They sought a staggering $100 million in damages.

A few months after the government filed the suit, Trump gave a combative press conference at the New York Hilton in which he went after the Justice Department for being too friendly to welfare recipients. He “accused the Justice Department of singling out his corporation because it was a large one and because the Government was trying to force it to rent to welfare recipients,” the Times reported. Trump added that if welfare recipients were allowed into his apartments in certain middle-class outer-borough neighborhoods, there would be a “massive fleeing from the city of not only our tenants, but communities as a whole.”

A federal judge threw out Trump’s countersuit a month later, calling it a waste of “time and paper.”

Writes Blair in her book:

Donald testified repeatedly that he had nothing to do with renting apartments, although in an application for a broker’s license filed at the same time he said that he was in charge of all rentals.

In 1975, Trump ultimately came to a far-reaching agreement with the DOJ in which he and the company did not admit guilt but agreed not to discriminate and to take steps to open its housing stock to more nonwhites. The company agreed to submit a weekly list of vacancies to the Urban League, which would produce qualified applicants for a portion of all vacancies.

But it didn’t end there. In 1978, the government filed a motion for supplemental relief, charging that the Trump company had not complied with the 1975 agreement. The government alleged that the Trump company “discriminated against blacks in the terms and conditions of rental, made statements indicating discrimination based on race and told blacks that apartments were not available for inspection and rental when, in fact, they are,” the Times reported. Trump again denied the charges.

It’s not clear what happened with the government’s request for further action (and compensation for victims), but in 1983, a fair-housing activist cited statistics that two Trump Village developments had white majorities of at least 95 percent.

At the very least, the case is something for reporters to ask about next time Trump touts his “great relationship with the blacks.”

By: Justin Elliott, Salon War Room, April 28, 2011

April 28, 2011 Posted by | Bigotry, Birthers, Class Warfare, DOJ, Donald Trump, Government, Middle Class, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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