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“Media Not Doing Its Job”: Campaign Press Adopts The Trump Rules — They’re The Opposite Of The Clinton Rules

Switching back and forth between MSNBC and CNN last Thursday night as they aired competing, hour-long interviews with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, viewers ran the risk of whiplash. The threat lingered not just because Clinton and Trump were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but because the tone and tenor of the two events seemed dramatically different.

Here were some of the questions posed to Clinton from the MSNBC event’s co-moderators, NBC’s Chuck Todd and Telemundo’s José Díaz-Balart:

  • “What would you do to make possible that the [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival] students become permanent residents?”
  • “Would you ever imagine raising the retirement age in the next 10 years?”
  • “Do you foresee a time when the federal government would be able to include the undocumented [workers] in federal grants for education?”
  • “Should people start paying Social Security taxes on income over $120,000?”
  • “Is a presidential visit [to Cuba] a step too far? Would a President Clinton be going this quickly?”

By contrast, here were some of the questions posed to Trump from the CNN moderator, Anderson Cooper:

  • “What do you eat when you roll up at a McDonald’s, what does – what does Donald Trump order?”
  • “What’s your favorite kind of music?”
  • “How many hours a night do you sleep?”
  • “What kind of a parent are you?”
  • “What is one thing you wish you didn’t do?”

Obviously, those questions don’t reflect everything asked over the 60-minute programs. And I’m not suggesting Trump didn’t get any policy questions during his CNN sit-down. But the vibe from MSNBC’s Clinton event was definitely, Midterm Cram Session, while the vibe from CNN’s Trump event leaned towards, People Magazine Wants To Know. (One week later, Clinton sat for a CNN town hall where she did not receive any of the light, lifestyle questions that were asked to Trump.)

In a way, the interviews nicely captured the unfolding guidelines for the 2016 campaign season. With both Clinton and Trump enjoying big election wins last weekend and now apparently with inside tracks to their party’s nomination, we’re beginning to see signs about what the press coverage of a Clinton vs. Trump general election might look like.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have been in the public spotlight so long, and have been sparring with the Beltway press for so many years, that so-called Clinton Rules have been established. They outline the informal guidelines media follow when covering the Clintons.

The one-word distillation of the Clinton Rules? Negativity. Likely followed by distrust, snark, and condescension. Simple facts are considered optional and the Clintons are always, always held to a different, tougher standard than everyone else.

By contrast, Trump has only been in the campaign spotlight for eight months but I’d suggest the media’s Trump Rules have already come into focus: Intimidation, aggrandizement, and a lack of curiosity.

In other words, when you fly above the campaign season with a bird’s eye view, it seems inescapable that the press is being soft on the Republican, while at the same being hard on the Democrat.

Have reporters and pundits given Trump a complete pass? Absolutely not. (See more below.) Just as with the Clinton Rules, there are always exceptions to the coverage. But in terms of a vibe and a feel, it’s hard to claim that Trump is getting hit with the same relentlessly caustic (she’s doomed!) coverage that follows Clinton around everywhere she goes.

Can anyone even imagine what the relentless, almost hysterical, press coverage would look like if Clinton rallies were marred by violence, and if she denounced campaign reporters as disgusting liars? So far, neither of those phenomena from the Trump campaign have sparked crisis coverage from the press.

Some journalists are starting to concede the Trump Rules are in effect. The Washington Post just dubbed Trump a “unicorn” because he gets away with things no other candidate does. On Twitter, BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith suggested “there’s obviously been a trade, mostly on TV, of laying off his dishonesty and bigotry on exchange for access.”

Pulitizer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin bemoaned the hands-off vetting of Trump:

Do we know, at this point, about his modus operandi in business? Do we know how he treated his staff? Do we know what kind of leader he was when he was building his business? I mean, I don’t know the answers to these things. All I know is that, when I see him now, it’s like his past is not being used by the media to tell us who the guy really is.

And neither do I.

For instance, I don’t know much about Trump’s finances. Clinton last year released eight years of tax returns but Trump won’t yet give a firm answer regarding if and when he’ll do the same. So why hasn’t that been a pressing media pursuit?

Last week, veteran Time political scribe Joe Klein also teed off on his colleagues, while appearing on MSNBC’s Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell:

It’s the most — probably the most embarrassing coverage of a candidate that I’ve seen in my 11-God- help-me presidential campaigns. First of all, we’re aggrandizing him like crazy because he boosts ratings. Second of all, we’re not doing our job.

Days later, leaked audio from MSNBC’s infamous Trump town hall event seemed to confirm a central claim that excessive Trump coverage — and usually the fawning variety — is good for business and good for media careers. During a commercial break after Mika Brzezinski thanked Trump for participating in the town hall event, Trump said, “I’m doing this because you get great ratings and a raise — me, I get nothing.”

They don’t teach that at journalism school.

Note that the strange part of the larger Trump Rules phenomenon is that the candidate mouths so much constant nonsense on the campaign trail, you’d think he’d dread going on TV and answering pointed questions about his bullying campaign. But it’s quite the opposite. Because even when journalists raise thorny topics with him, they usually give Trump a pass.

For instance, on Sunday’s State of the Union, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump about the white supremacist supporters he had retweeted, which certainly constitutes a probing question that likely made Trump uncomfortable, right?

Not exactly. While the initial question from Tapper was good, when Trump responded with a rambling, 600-word non-answer, which concluded with him vowing to bring jobs back from India, Tapper simply moved on to the next topic instead of drilling down on the fact that the Republican frontrunner was retweeting white supremacists.

Or hit the Wayback Machine to last September when Trump appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation and spun for host John Dickerson the fantastic tale about how 9/11 terrorists had tipped off their (mostly non-existent) wives about the pending terror attack, and had their (mostly non-existent) wives flown home days before hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center.

Dickerson’s response? He didn’t raise a single question about Trump’s concocted claims.

Print journalists seem to be doing a better job at fact-checking Trump. To his credit, Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post has called out some of Trump’s more outlandish claims. Kessler’s recent foray surrounded Trump’s “truly absurd claim he would save $300 billion a year on prescription drugs.”

Kessler’s conclusion? Trump is nuts. Or, more delicately:

Once again, we are confronted with a nonsense figure from the mouth of Donald Trump. He is either claiming to save four times the entire cost of the Medicare prescription drug system – or he is claiming to make prescription drugs free for every American.

Have occasional findings of fact like that changed the often-breezy tenor of Trump’s overall coverage? No they have not. Because two days after Kessler’s Medicare takedown, Trump was interviewed for an hour on CNN where the candidate wasn’t asked about his nutty prescription drug estimates. But he was asked what kind of music he likes and if he orders French fries at McDonald’s.

Welcome to the Trump Rules.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Senior Fellow, Media Matters for America; The National Memo,  February 25, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Worst Possible Version Of Himself”: Yeah, MSNBC, Mark Halperin Will Solve All Your Problems

What do the thought leaders in the liberal blogosphere think about Mark Halperin? Well, Markos Moulitsas says he’s “a useless piece of shit who is always wrong about everything,” “has no political acumen,” and has been “engaged in a long-running jihad against the truth.” Duncan Black says that Halperin “sucks ass” and is “proud of the fact that Matt Drudge rules his world.” Gawker’s new boss, Alex Pareene says Halperin is “the world’s laziest dispenser of conventional wisdom” and “the worst hack in America.” Also he’s so bad at what he does that “the most offensive thing about the existence of Mark Halperin is that he’s the worst possible version of himself.” Esquire‘s Charles Pierce says Halperin is one of “the worst two things that have happened to American political journalism in the past 30 years” because “he long ago invented the kind of Beltway insidery railbird bullshit that passes today for analysis.” Heather Digby Parton says that Halperin is “the quintessential Villager, a man who exhales conventional wisdom the way the rest of us exhale carbon dioxide.” Ed Kilgore is especially brutal on this subject:

Mark Halperin is one of the most famous, and certainly one of the most richly remunerated, journalists in Christendom—yet is capable of writing graph after graph and page after page of palpable nonsense, expressing not only an indifference to but an active defiance of any objective evidence that transcends the “insider” information he purveys…

…He writes what Villagers want to read, and is rewarded with unequaled access to their most avaricious thoughts and intentions. And because they do matter in politics, albeit not as much as they would wish, there is a sort of “journalism” going on, but not of the sort that should be taken seriously…

I bring this up because MSNBC wants to do something very silly.

The talks, first reported by New York Magazine, center around rebroadcasting Bloomberg’s 5 p.m. show “With All Due Respect” at 6 p.m. on MSNBC, sources at both networks who are familiar with the discussions said.

“With All Due Respect” is hosted by “Game Change” co-authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who are regular guests on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

For many at NBC, the idea of rebroadcasting a competitor’s show feels desperate. “Talk about out of ideas,” one on-air talent at MSNBC said. “We’re going to run a rerun of another rival network’s show? As a programming decision that is completely insane.”

That last quote there is pretty easy to put in Rachel Maddow’s mouth, don’t you think?

In any case, who’s the audience for MSNBC’s political programming? Who are their fans? Who do those fans read on the internet? Who do they respect?

And even if much of the MSNBC audience has never heard of weird names like Atrios, BooMan, digby, and kos, they’re still cut from the same kind of cloth. They do not want to listen to Mark Halperin for ten minutes, let alone a full hour. If they don’t already, they will hate Halperin with the white hot heat of a thousand suns.

Maybe the management should ask the greatest blogger of all time, The Rachel Maddow Show producer Steve Benen, what he thinks about airing Mark Halperin Bloomberg reruns at 6 p.m.

Here’s what Benen had to say about Halperin back in August 2008:

It’s difficult to identify with any real certainty the single worst political analysis of the presidential campaign, but if you missed ABC News’ “This Week” yesterday, you missed Time‘s Mark Halperin offering analysis that was so bizarre, it was tempting to think it was intended as satire. Only in this case, Halperin was serious.

So, if this is what MSNBC Chairman Andrew Lack wants to do, he should resign before he humiliates himself and pisses off all the actual talent he’s already assembled.

It’s also unclear that either side would get a significant ratings boost from the deal. MSNBC’s 5 p.m. show, “MTP Daily,” hosted by Chuck Todd, has floundered in the ratings. The show has averaged 499,000 viewers since it launched, and just 65,000 of those viewers are in the coveted 25-to-54 year-old demographic.

But sources at NBC say Lack may be less concerned with ratings than with relevance. Halperin and Heilemann are big names in New York and Washington, and their addition could buy MSNBC a greater stake in the political discussion during the 2016 campaign. To that end, sources said, he may be willing to overlook the hurdles.

Trying to be more relevant by running reruns of Mark Halperin that first aired on a rival network that no one watches?

Good luck with that.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor for the Washington Monthly, November 20, 2015

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Journalism, Mark Halperin, MSNBC | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Let’s Talk About What Makes Governing Harder”: The Problem Is One Political Party Catering To An Ever Decreasing Group Of Voters

By now almost everyone has weighed in on the article in the NYT by Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman about Hillary Clinton’s strategy for winning the 2016 presidential election. Chuck Todd and his friends at First Read adopted the conventional wisdom of the Washington D.C. pundit class with their response titled: This is the Way to Win Elections (But it Makes Governing Harder).

Campaigns see an America more polarized than ever, and winning is all about coming out ahead in this polarized world. But it makes governing harder than it already was. Bottom line: Campaigns don’t engage in persuasion anymore. They simply look for unmotivated like-minded potential voters and find an issue to motivate them. And if someone wins office by not having to persuade a voter who actually swings between the two parties, there isn’t any motivation for said elected official to compromise.

Of course Ron Fournier joined that chorus immediately with his entry titled: The Right Way and Wrong Way to Win the Presidency.

My problem with this approach is that it works only until Election Day, when a polarizing, opportunistic candidate assumes the presidency with no standing to convert campaign promises into results.

Naturally, David Brooks agrees.

…this base mobilization strategy is a legislative disaster. If the next president hopes to pass any actual laws, he or she will have to create a bipartisan governing majority. That means building a center-out coalition, winning 60 reliable supporters in the Senate and some sort of majority in the House. If Clinton runs on an orthodox left-leaning, paint-by-numbers strategy, she’ll never be able to do this. She’ll live in the White House again, but she won’t be able to do much once she lives there.

This is a classic case of the media’s addiction to “both sides do it” as a way of explaining gridlock in Washington. It is a lie they tell themselves (and us) about what is going on in order to claim a false sense of balance in reporting to appease conservatives who constantly decry the “liberal media.” The fact that it is a lie matters less than their desire to prove that claim wrong.

So let’s take a moment to deal with the facts. As I pointed out before, the positions Hillary Clinton has articulated enjoy broad support among voters – including independents. In reacting to the same article, Steve M. dug up some of the actual numbers.

Americans support gay marriage by a 60%-37% margin, and 58% want the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage nationwide — and Hillary’s is a “liberal position”? There’s 72% support for legalization of undocumented immigrants — and her position on immigration is too left-wing? And when I Google “bipartisan support for criminal justice reform,” one of the first hits is a post with precisely that title from, um, FreedomWorks — but Clinton’s out of the mainstream? Oh, please.

So if Clinton is talking about issues that enjoy 60-70% support from Americans, where is the polarization coming from? What stops elected officials from compromising to address their concerns? Do you suppose it has anything to do with a Republican Speaker of the House who finds it hard to even utter the word “compromise?”

Let’s take a close look at just one example to make the point: immigration reform. Typically Democrats have prioritized a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people in this country while Republicans have prioritized border security. Not that long ago, a bi-partisan group of Senators got together to compromise by drafting a bill that included both priorities. With Democrats still in control of the Senate, it passed there. But Speaker Boehner refused to bring it up for a vote in the House. Part of Hillary Clinton’s agenda in her campaign is to support the Senate’s bi-partisan approach to immigration reform.

So let’s be clear about what makes governing harder: the problem is that we have one political party that is catering to an ever-decreasing group of voters that completely rejects any form of compromise to their agenda. When/if folks like Chuck Todd, Ron Fournier and David Brooks figure that one out – they will finally be able to start telling the American people the truth.

 

By: Nancy LeTournau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 9, 2015

June 12, 2015 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Governing, Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Make This Monster Pay A Price”: Why We Needed To Hear From Dick Cheney One Last Time

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s time is about up, in many senses. For a Republican Party trying to look forward, he shouldn’t be a go-to voice for the media on national security policy. His sneering attacks on President Obama aren’t news anymore. The man who famously said, “It’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart,” about the donor to his taxpayer-funded heart transplant should have lost the power to shock us by now. Unless he has a sudden attack of conscience, and apologizes for his career, he has nothing to say worth hearing.

Except on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. There’s been some anger on the left that Cheney took his seat yet again on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, but I think he belonged there, one last time. Let the American people hear from the man who claims that interrogation methods we prosecuted after World War II, as well as others even more depraved, aren’t actually torture.

Cheney is such a monster that he couldn’t even keep himself from defending “rectal feeding.” While he acknowledged that it “was not one of the techniques that was approved,” he sanctioned it nonetheless. “I believe it was done for medical reasons. … It wasn’t torture in terms of it wasn’t part of the program.”

That would seem to imply that anything that was “part of the program” was torture, which of course Cheney denies.

Ironically, earlier on Fox News Cheney said, “I don’t know anything about” rectal feeding or rectal rehydration (he may well have been lying). But by the time he got to “MTP,” he wasn’t willing to let any torture method go undefended. And even host Chuck Todd noting that “the medical community has said there is no medical reason to do this” didn’t shame him.

Todd asked Cheney some tough questions about U.S. prosecution of Japanese officials who waterboarded Americans, about the fact that at least a quarter of the detainees were innocent and, of course, about rectal feeding. Unfortunately, Cheney either dodged or lied.

Their exchange about innocent detainees showed Cheney at his most sociopathic:

TODD: Twenty-five percent of the detainees, though, twenty-five percent turned out to be innocent. They were released.

CHENEY: Where are you going to draw the line, Chuck? How are –

TODD: Well, I’m asking you.

CHENEY: — you going to know?

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Is that too high? You’re okay with that margin for error?

CHENEY: I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. And our objective is to get the guys who did 9/11 and it is to avoid another attack against the United States. I was prepared and we did. We got the authorization from the president and authorization from the Justice Department to go forward with the program. It worked. It worked now for 13 years.

“I have no problem” if 25 percent of the people we detained and potentially tortured were innocent. Take that in. It’s the same mentality that leads to police shooting unarmed black men in the name of public safety. But it squares with Cheney’s famous “one percent doctrine” that governed the aftermath to 9/11: If there’s even 1 percent chance that terrorists might have a weapon of mass destruction, the U.S. should act as if it’s a certainty, and do whatever it takes to stop them.

It also squares with Cheney telling Larry King, about his lifesaving heart donor, “I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person.”

America’s torture architect got a new heart, but he can never get a soul. Americans needed to see that display of authoritarian arrogance on Sunday. But now let’s hope he goes away.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, December 15, 2014

December 16, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, National Security, Torture | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Enhanced Interviewing”: Five Questions Chuck Todd Should Ask Dick Cheney On Sunday

This Sunday, Dick Cheney will be interviewed by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. If the former vice president’s previous appearances on that program and others are any indication, he will likely say things that are untrue, and say them with that quiet yet firm Cheneyesque confidence that makes it clear that anyone who disagrees with him is either a fool or a traitor, if not both.

So I thought it would be worthwhile to offer Todd some suggestions on questions he might ask Cheney, in order to elicit the most revealing answers as we have this vital debate on our recent past.

You have long insisted that techniques like waterboarding, stress positions, and sleep deprivation are not torture. In order to come to that conclusion, you must have a definition of torture that those techniques do not meet. So what is your definition of torture?

This may seem like a matter of semantics, but it is an absolutely central question to this entire debate, and one that neither Cheney nor any of the other Bush administration defenders of the torture program have ever answered. When asked, Cheney has always simply insisted that we didn’t torture, and that the “enhanced” techniques we used aren’t torture Why? Because they aren’t. Unlike most sane Americans, I’ve actually read Cheney’s turgid memoir, “In My Time,” and there too he simply states flatly that “The program was safe, legal, and effective,” but not torture.

There is a common definition of torture — the infliction of extreme physical or mental suffering in order to obtain information or a confession — that is reflected in U.S. law, the UN Convention Against Torture, and in the minds of pretty much everyone around the world. Under no reasonable interpretation of the term would something like stress positions, which are designed to produce excruciating pain and which have been used as a torture technique for centuries, not qualify. But Cheney doesn’t agree. So he really ought to tell us what he thinks does constitute torture.

We’ll have a new president in two years. Would you advise him or her to restart the torture program?

Two days after taking office in 2009, Barack Obama signed an executive order banning the use of cruel and degrading techniques, and declaring that all U.S. personnel, whether in the CIA or any other agency, would have to abide by the interrogation guidelines set out in the Army Field Manual. It also revoked a 2007 order signed by President Bush, which had declared that “members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces” were outside the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

What I asked yesterday applies here: Since Cheney is an enthusiastic defender of the torture program in place during the Bush years, and since there are still terrorists in the world, one might presume that he believes not only that it was right to torture suspects in the past, but that we should continue to torture suspects in the future. He should have the chance to make clear whether that is in fact what he believes, and what his advice to the next president would be.

If things like waterboarding, stress positions, and sleep deprivation are “safe, legal, and effective,” but are not torture, would you recommend that other countries also use them on prisoners they hold?

Some liberals have noted that Cheney’s implicit position is that these techniques are not torture if we perform them, but would be torture if someone else did. Since this is obviously not something anyone would admit to believing, Cheney should be asked directly if he thinks other countries should also start using these techniques. That would apply to our allies, but it could also apply to less friendly countries like China or Russia. And of course, the natural follow-up is: If an American is captured in some conflict and is subjected to things like waterboarding and stress positions, would Cheney tell that person that not only hadn’t he been tortured, but he had been treated in a safe and legal manner?

During the run-up to the Iraq War and in its early days, you told the American people many things that were false. I know you still believe that all things considered, the war was the right thing to do. But do you think that if you and other members of the Bush administration had argued only from what you actually knew to be true, the public would have supported the war?

The Iraq War’s defenders furiously resist the idea that it was sold on false premises. Some of the things administration representatives said, like “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” were misleading bits of fear-mongering, but were technically hypothetical. However, many of the other things they said were provably false. That’s why, if and when Todd asks such a question, he should have some specifics at hand to keep Cheney from simply asserting that it was all a matter of interpretation and our judgment based on what we thought at the time. What distinguished Cheney’s remarks from those of some of his colleagues was that they were spoken without any qualification or hedging, but were stated as undeniable facts.

For instance, in an August 26, 2002, speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Cheney said: “We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons.” That was false. He also said: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” Not only was this not true, the idea that there was “no doubt” about it was also not true — it was a matter of vigorous debate within the intelligence community, a fact of which Cheney was surely aware.

In an appearance a week later on Meet the Press, Cheney said, “we do know, with absolute certainty, that [Saddam Hussein] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon.” Tim Russert then asked: “He does not have a nuclear weapon now?” And Cheney replied, “I can’t say that. I can say that I know for sure that he’s trying to acquire the capability.”

Or there’s his statement that “it’s been pretty well confirmed” that 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta traveled to Prague to meet with Iraqi intelligence officials, an utterly bogus story that was nothing like “pretty well confirmed” when Cheney made the claim. I could go on, but it’s worth probing whether Cheney thinks that deceiving the public in the manner they did was necessary to achieve what he sees as a greater good.

Since the end of the recession, the economy has created over 10 million new jobs. Even if we count from the beginning of Barack Obama’s presidency when hundreds of thousands of jobs were being shedded every month, he has still overseen the creation of a net of six million jobs. In its eight years in office, the Bush administration created a net of 1.3 million jobs. Why has Barack Obama done better than your administration did on job creation?

This is a non-torture-related bonus question. Perhaps Cheney would respond, as many conservatives would, that Barack Obama deserves no credit for anything good that happens with the American economy. But the follow-up would then be, does that mean George W. Bush had no effect on the economy either? The Bush administration enacted huge tax cuts which, all the administration’s representatives assured the public, would result in an explosion of job growth. That never happened. How would Cheney explain it?

One thing we should be able to agree on is that Todd shouldn’t waste his time with Cheney doing things like handicapping the 2016 presidential race. Cheney doesn’t answer questions very often, so when he does, the interviewer ought to make the most of the opportunity.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, December 11, 2014

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Meet The Press, Torture | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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