"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Ultimately, Fox News Gotta Be Fox News”: Let’s Not Get Carried Away With The Megyn Kelly Lovefest

I agree that at least some of this praise was justified—it may not be hard to get Donald Trump to whine, but Kelly was really onto something. Early on in the debate, I was struck by questions that were indeed tougher and more substantive than one would be likely to see from less consciously ideological media outlets. And I agree that Kelly deserves credit for addressing Donald Trump’s history of egregiously sexist comments (“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”)

Even better was the question Kelly asked Walker about his abortion policies. You might expect Fox News moderators to allow Republican candidates to sidestep their least popular views on the subject. To her credit, Kelly asked Walker to defend his position that bans on abortion should not even contain exemptions for the life of the mother—making the laws even more restrictive than they were in most states before Roe v. Wade—observing that Walker’s position was opposed by 83 percent of the public.

Given that the abortion debate is so often conducted on terrain Republicans would prefer, and not just on Fox News, this question was a welcome surprise and yielded important information about one of the Republican frontrunners, who confirmed his radical views.

But before we get carried away praising Kelly and the other moderators, we should keep a couple of things in mind. First of all, even if Kelly is a good journalist and asked some good questions last night, she has some views that are nutty enough that Trump would sign for them. In particular, she has expressed consistently bizarre and retrograde views on race: obsessing over the utterly irrelevant New Black Panthers as if Richard Nixon was still in the White House, defending the racist emails sent by police officers in Ferguson as normal, and insisting that the fictional Santa Claus “just is” white. Not to mention her willfully misleading attacks on Black Lives Matter.

Granted, the personal politics of the moderators don’t matter if the questions are fair. But even on this score Fox News has been overpraised. It’s certainly true that some of the candidates were asked tough questions—Trump, most notably, but also other candidates like Walker and Ben Carson. But consider the kind of questions that were given to Florida senator Marco Rubio:

WALLACE: All right, well, Senator Rubio, let me see if I can do better with you. Is it as simple as our leaders are stupid, their leaders are smart, and all of these illegals coming over are criminals?

WALLACE: Senator Rubio, when Jeb Bush announced his candidacy for presidency, he said this: “There’s no passing off responsibility when you’re a governor, no blending into the legislative crowd.”

Could you please address Governor Bush across the stage here, and explain to him why you, someone who has never held executive office, are better prepared to be president than he is, a man who you say did a great job running your state of Florida for eight years.

BAIER: Senator Rubio, why is Governor Bush wrong on Common Core?

WALLACE: Senator Rubio, more than 3,000 people sent us questions about the economy and jobs on Facebook. And here is a video question from Tania Cioloko from Philadelphia. Here she is. (begins video clip) “Please describe one action you would do to make the economic environment more favorable for small businesses and entrepreneurs and anyone dreaming of opening their own business.”

KELLY: Senator Rubio, I want to ask you the same question. But I do want to mention, a woman just came here to the stage and asked, what about the veterans? I want to hear more about what these candidates are going to do for our nation’s veterans. So I put the question to you about God and the veterans, which you may find to be related.

Rubio wasn’t so much thrown softballs as he was given softballs set up on a tee with 10 strikes and the defensive team told to leave the field. (When Kelly asked the last question, I expected her to ask Rubio his position on motherhood and apple pie too.)

The questioning, in other words, was much less fair than it might have seemed on the surface. Donald Trump, who isn’t going to win the nomination but has a toxic effect on the party as long as he’s in the race, was treated to a brutal inquisition. Rubio, who is arguably the most appealing general election candidate in the field but whose campaign is floundering, was thrown one life preserver after another. John Kasich and Jeb Bush were also treated more gently than the other candidates.

In other words, as Ed Kilgore noticed last night, the candidates who Republican elites would most like to see get traction were given much easier questions than the candidates Republican elites would prefer pack up and go away. Ultimately, Fox News gotta be Fox News.


By: Scott Lemieux, U. S. Contributing Opinion Writer, The Guardian; Talking Points Memo, August 7, 2015

August 9, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fox News, GOP Primary Debates | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Last Night’s Consolation Prize”: Seeing Karl Rove Earn His Nickname ‘Turd Blossom’

How bad was last night? It was so bad that, for me, the only emotional consolation prize was the small and admittedly puerile pleasure of seeing Karl Rove squirm, again on an election night. It had nothing to do with who won or who lost, but it was the only media moment that made me smile, a piece of spinach caught in the teeth of wall-to-wall Republican gloating.

I say this even as I acknowledge that Rove’s discomfiture paled next to that of 2012, when he infamously insisted on Fox News that Romney had won Ohio, despite the network’s calling it for Obama. Rove’s intransigence forced Megyn Kelly to walk with camera in tow to Fox’s “brain room” for confirmation, where she shot the ham-headed GOP op down on national TV.

Kelly was there again last night when Rove, who should have been doing a victory dance, instead invited the viewer to imagine him bending over for a rectal exam.

As the scale of the GOP victory started to register, Chris Wallace asked Rove what it felt like to lose a midterm election badly, because Rove had experienced George W. Bush’s midterm massacre in 2006, when the Republicans lost thirty House seats, six Senate seats, and both chambers of Congress. How did Bush’s Brain think Obama felt after being hit by this wave?

Every president is “idiosyncratic,” Rove started off and then, looking pained, he added, “It’s like going to a proctologist without an anesthesiologist.”

“Thanks for the metaphor,” Wallace said, wincing, as Megyn said something like “Eeeew!”

Actually, it was the second time Rove, whom W. had long ago dubbed “Turd Blossom,” has publicly likened presidential politics to proctology. In a 2012 Wall Street Journal column, he called getting vetted for the vice-presidential slot on Romney’s ticket (in the wake of John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin four years earlier) “a political proctology exam.”

Yes, I’m not proud of it, but seeing “the Architect” being embarrassed on TV was my desperate little crumb of solace.

There are of course more substantial, electoral forms of solace—Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska and South Dakota voted to raise the minimum wage; Scott Brown lost, Tom Wolf won. And The Nation’s Zoe Carpenter details them here.

But for the moment, I see the glass 90 percent empty. Nunn and Orman didn’t come close, the “hairless serpentine” in Florida topped Charlie Crist. Scott Walker and even Sam Brownback survived. The Dems’ would-be Southern firewall, Kay Hagan, went under after a solid year of street demonstrations against her opponent. Voter suppression, which a couple of late court decisions limited for this election, will only get worse next time, when the delayed laws take effect, and the media will largely ignore the issue, again. How much of the vote yesterday was lost to voter ID, missing voter registrations and malfunctioning machines we’ll probably never know.

But at least Megyn Kelly thinks Karl Rove is kinda gross. That’s something. Isn’t it?


By: Leslie Savan, The Nation, November 5, 2014

November 6, 2014 Posted by | Fox News, Karl Rove, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s Not About Content Of Character”: Hey, Fox Pundits! How Blatant Must The Anti-Obama Racism Be?

I have a question for George Will.

If he can’t answer it, maybe Brit Hume can. Both men were recently part of a panel on Fox News Sunday to which moderator Chris Wallace posed this question: Has race played a role in the often-harsh treatment of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder? Wallace was reacting to a clip of Holder strongly hinting that a testy encounter with House Republicans was part of a pattern of race-based abuse of himself and the president.

Some of the panelists framed their answers in political dimensions, i.e., what does this mean for the midterms? But Hume and Will responded directly.

Has race played a part? Heck no.

Said Hume: “This strikes me as kind of crybaby stuff from Holder. My sense about this is that both Eric Holder and Barack Obama have benefited politically enormously from the fact that they are African-American and the first to hold the jobs that they hold.”

“Look,” added Will, “liberalism has a kind of Tourette’s Syndrome these days. It’s just constantly saying the word ‘racism’ and ‘racist.’ It’s an old saying in the law: If you have the law on your side, argue the law, if you have the facts on your side, argue the facts. If you have neither, pound the table. This is pounding the table.”

And here, let us remove Holder from the equation because, frankly, the question I’m here to ask is more pertinent to his boss than him. I just wish Messrs. Will and Hume would explain one thing:

You say race has played no role in the treatment of President Obama? Fine. What would it look like if it did?

I mean, we’re talking about a president who was called “uppity” by one GOP lawmaker, “boy” by another and “subhuman” by a GOP activist; who was depicted as a bone-through-the-nose witch doctor by opponents of his health care reform bill; as a pair of cartoon spook eyes against a black backdrop by an aide to a GOP lawmaker, and as an ape by various opponents; who has been dogged by a “Tea Party” movement whose earliest and most enthusiastic supporters included the Council of Conservative Citizens, infamous for declaring the children of interracial unions “a slimy brown glop”; who was called a liar by an obscure GOP lawmaker during a speech before a joint session of Congress; who has had to contend with a years-long campaign of people pretending there is some mystery about where he was born.

There’s much more, but you get the drift. So I wish those men would explain how, exactly, the treatment of the president would differ if race were indeed part of the mix. What misbehavior would make them say: “OK, this is definitely about color of skin, not content of character”? Because from where I sit, much of the behavior toward Obama would need white hoods to be more blatantly racial than it already is.

Hume, by the way, says some critics have called his comments themselves “racist.” They’ve also scored the fact that this discussion was undertaken by an all-white panel. While the optics were odd, there was nothing in what he or Will said that would seem to merit that label. Those who slap him with it are likely motivated by the same knee-jerk reflex by which my critics — depend on it — will claim that I consider any disagreement with the president to be — sigh — “racist.”

That’s silly. But then, discussion of this seminal American fault line often reveals in some of us an unfortunate fondness for clownish superficiality. And yet that silliness does not detract from the criticality of the fault line itself. Nor can I share Will’s conviction that manly taciturnity is the best way to seal that fissure.

So what I ask is not rhetorical, not abstract, not a joke. It is a serious question.

And I’d appreciate the same sort of answer.


By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 21, 2014

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Fox News, Racism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“GOP’s ‘Damaged-Goods’ Primary”: Why Christie And Walker Are Staring Each Other Down

You’ve got to hand it to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: He’s enduring his current political troubles defiantly, even going on the offensive this weekend by tweaking New Jersey’s embattled Gov. Chris Christie over Bridgegate. Christie’s troubles are “just beginning,” Walker slyly told reporters at a Republican Governors Association event this weekend, while his own, he claims, are behind him. “A Democrat district attorney looked at it and he’s done. It’s done.” Christie, by contrast, has “ the legislature which is not on his side politically, and they’ll probably drag it out for some time.”

In other words: Scott Walker to big GOP establishment donors: “I’m your guy!”

Typically, though, Walker took his claims a little too far: While one investigation into campaign law violations is closed – after six Walker aides and associates were convicted – another is ongoing. And Walker made a big mistake when he tried to feed his “it’s old news” line about his troubles to Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Wallace shot back: “Because of this dump of 25,000 documents, it’s new news to a lot of the people in the state and it’s been big news in local papers in Wisconsin.” (It was actually 27,000 documents, and they showed, among other things, that Walker’s aides set up a secret email system so campaign workers and Walker’s county employees could coordinate their work.)

Then Wallace set to grilling Walker about details, but it turns out Walker doesn’t do details:

WALLACE: In one email that was released this week, your then chief of staff Thomas Nardelli, let’s put this up on the screen, writes campaign and county workers that you wanted to hold daily conference calls, “to review events of the day or of a previous or future day so we can better coordinate sound timely responses,” and in another e-mail county administrative director Cynthia Archer suggests that colleagues should use a private e-mail account. “I use this private account quite a bit to communicate with SKW,” that’s you, “and Nardelli, the former chief of staff.” Question: if county workers were doing nothing wrong, why should they be using a private e-mail account?

WALKER: Well, but that’s exactly to my point. You had a Democratic district attorney spend almost three years looking at every single one of those communications, interviewing people, talking to people and closed the case.

WALLACE: Did you have your own private e-mail account?

WALKER: It’s one of those where I point out district attorney has reviewed every single one of these issues.

WALLACE: But sir, you’re not answering my question.

WALKER: No, because I’m not going to get into 27,000 different pieces of information.

Maybe Walker can be forgiven for thinking his deflection would be accepted in the friendly confines of Fox, but his dodges were so artless they offended Wallace. Beltway pundits may have declared Walker’s troubles a “snooze,” but Chris Wallace wasn’t snoozing on Sunday.

Still, Walker had a better weekend than his 2016 rival Chris Christie. Although the New Jersey governor has ignored the suggestion that he step down as chair of the Republican Governors Association until his bridge troubles are resolved, he kept an unusually low profile as the nation’s governors gathered in Washington this weekend. He only appeared at a couple of official events, seeming “uncharacteristically quite and reserved,” according to Time magazine, and he ditched the media the whole weekend, as he has since his two-hour pity party/press conference over a month ago.

Christie didn’t attend either Sunday night’s White House dinner or Monday’s meeting with the president. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was slated to lead the Republican delegation visiting Obama as well as the closing press conference. Jindal’s own 2016 hopes have been dashed by his unpopularity in Louisiana, but maybe that’s a sign of Bobbymentum.

So far I’d have to say that Walker is surviving his scandal with more aplomb than Christie, but it’s not over. That other John Doe investigation, into whether Walker’s recall campaign illegally coordinated with outside right-wing groups that flooded the state with money, continues. Reporters and Democratic operatives continue to delve into those 27,000 documents released last week. Walker is brazenly asserting that voters have no right to know more about his staff’s secret email system or other oddities in the new emails, including the racism of his top aides. He seems to think that “unindicted” is the same as “unscathed.” But most people have higher standards than that for their governor and their president.

When even Fox News doesn’t accept that Walker’s troubles are “old news,” that’s bad news for Scott Walker 2016.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, February 24, 2014

February 25, 2014 Posted by | Chris Christie, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Total Howler”: Paul Ryan’s Budget, His Own Facts And Obamacare

Hello, I am back. We will discuss aspects of my vacation in due course, but first, our friend Mr. Ryan.

He’s facing lots of derision for assuming the repeal of Obamacare in his new budget. First of all, credit where it’s due–it was apparently Chris Wallace of Fox News who brought this information to light in questioning Ryan, so good for him.

And second of all, yes, this is a total howler. Repeal of Obamacare? Not going to happen. Could theoretically happen in 2017, one supposes, but by that time, even if there is a Republican president and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, including the super-majority of 60 in the Senate that would presumably be needed to enact full repeal, states will be getting billions in federal funding to put working poor people on the rolls of their new exchanges. It seems pretty unlikely that broad support for undoing that would exist.

So Ryan’s assumption doesn’t pass any known laugh test. So why does he do it? Well, because of the old saying “that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.” Which is to say…

The Republicans have spent the years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act insisting that it’s a deficit-buster. You heard Mitt Romney say this a thousand times. It wasn’t true, and it isn’t true. In June 2012, Politifact gave Romney a flat-out “false” when he made the claim, writing:

…for claims about deficits, we consider the Congressional Budget Office, often called the CBO, to be the standard by which we fact-check claims.

The CBO said this about the health care law back in 2010: It lowers the deficit, by about $124 billion over 10 years.

And in 2011, when Republicans offered a bill to repeal the health care law, the CBO said that increased the deficit, by about $210 billion over 10 years.

Now, is the CBO infallible? Certainly not. And good questions have been raised about some of the CBO’s methods in accounting for the health care law’s effects. We reported on some of those concerns in great detail in a fact-check of statements from U.S. Rep Paul Ryan, R-Wisc. He said the law was “accelerating our country toward bankruptcy.” We rated that Mostly False.

So Ryan has been telling this lie for a while, as have all Republicans. The month after this Politifact assessment, the CBO issued a second report running some new numbers and finding the same result. And this year, The New York Times reported in mid-February that the deficit was decreasing (and it is, and rapidly; see Krugman today on this) largely because of lower health-care costs, by no means all but some of which could be traced to the ACA.

In other words, in reality land, Obamacare contributes to deficit reduction. By how much, we certainly don’t yet know. But all the signs we have–the experts’ projections and the early evidence–suggest that this is the case.

But in Republican land, it’s an article of faith that the ACA increases the deficit. This being the case, or “the case” as it were, then how in the world could Ryan introduce a new budget to eliminate the deficit in 10 years (the full thing is being unveiled Wednesday) that includes Obamacare? He’d be destroyed by the agitprop machine of the right if his budget did that, both because they just detest the thing and because it “increases” the deficit. They’ve agreed on this! Anyone who says otherwise is guilty of apostasy.

So again, this is our “new” GOP. Making up realities according to how the howling half of the base would respond. That sounds kind of like the old GOP to me.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, March 11, 2013

March 17, 2013 Posted by | Ryan Budget Plan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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