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“The Politics Of Fear Comes With Fine Print”: If You’re Afraid Of Anything, Vote GOP, But Don’t Expect Us To Actually Do Anything

After a couple of Republican congressional candidates literally included ISIS propaganda excerpts in their anti-Democratic attack ads, the message of this year’s elections came into sharper focus. The GOP has effectively given up on running against “Obamacare” and unemployment – choosing instead to tell Americans there’s a monster under their beds and only Republicans can save them.

Last night in North Carolina, for example, Sen. Kay Hagan (D) debated her far-right challenger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), who focused the bulk of his attention on Islamic State terrorists and the Ebola virus.

Does Tillis have any background in national security? No. Has he presented new ideas on keeping the public safe? No. Does he have any expertise in infectious diseases? Of course not. Are there any instances in which Hagan has made a misstep on these issues? Not even one.

But Tillis gets the sense North Carolinians are feeling anxiety, and the Republican hopes he can exploit that angst for personal gain.

As Jeremy Peters reported, there’s a lot of this going around.

With four weeks to go, the election has taken a dark turn as conservatives use warnings about Islamic State militants, the Ebola virus and terrorist acts to send a message: The world is a scary place, and the Democrats can’t protect you.

Take a new Republican ad aimed at Representative Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona that warns of terrorists streaming across the Mexican border. “Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day,” it says. “Their entry into our country? Through Arizona’s backyard.”

Another one, against Senator Mark Udall in Colorado, plays a clip in which he says the Islamic State does not pose an imminent threat. “Really?” the announcer asks. “Can we take that chance?” An ad in another Arizona House race features the footage of the journalist James Foley right before his beheading.

There’s no denying the political potency of fear. Those who feel terrified are more easily manipulated, more likely to ignore reason, and more likely to show poor judgment. Those who otherwise have nothing worthwhile to offer the public often turn to demagoguery because it can be an effective substitute for substance.

But there’s one important flaw in the Politics of Fear, or at least the Republicans’ reliance on it.

The GOP pitch relates to government in a fairly obvious and direct way: your government, the argument goes, whatever its intentions, simply isn’t capable, competent, or prepared enough to keep you safe. Your family should therefore feel a sense of panic … and vote Republican.

Cooler heads might notice the flaw in the logic. An American in a constant state of fear about terrorism, diseases, the state of the Secret Service, migrant children, and creeping Sharia, might think twice about supporting the party that believes in slashing budgets, gutting the public sector, and generally avoiding governing whenever possible.

In other words, the Republican tack is burdened by an awkward contradiction: what Americans need is a strong, vibrant public sector prepared for every emergency, which is why Americans should vote for a party that wants to weaken and dismantle the public sector as quickly as possible.

Think of it this way: If Republicans could magically take control every federal office today, what exactly would they do differently than the Obama administration in, say, addressing Ebola? Privatize the CDC, cut taxes, and offer vouchers for protective gear? What would they do differently about ISIS? Continue the airstrikes President Obama launched back in early August – the ones Republicans don’t even feel like holding an authorization vote on?

The entire strategy is void of meaning and purpose if Republicans are pushing fear for the sake of fear – there’s still no agenda, no vision, no plans, and no ideas to serve as a foundation.

“If you’re afraid – of pretty much anything – vote GOP,” the message goes. “Just don’t expect us to actually do anything if we win.”


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 10, 2014

October 11, 2014 Posted by | GOP, National Security, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It Was ‘Partisan Garbage’ Then”: When Fox News Didn’t Blame The (GOP) President For Beheadings

After terrorists kidnapped and beheaded two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, while releasing gruesome videos of the act, Fox News focused much of its ire on President Obama, portraying him as a source of troubling weakness.

“The president stuck his head in the sand, and now we’ve seen two Americans have lost their heads,” insisted Fox analyst K.T. McFarland. Colleague Ralph Peters claimed of the president’s foreign policy, “We have a president who has a real physiological problem: that he can’t face responsibility and certainly not the responsibilities of his office,” while Sean Hannity wondered if Obama’s “radical indoctrination” had clouded his judgment.

On and on it goes, as the blame-America finger pointing takes up hour after hour of programming. The Washington Times’ Charles Hurt on Wednesday wanted to know when Obama would stop acting like a community organizer and start hunting down the killers. Charles Krauthammer condemned Obama for not rising to the occasion, while former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Fox to claim world leaders see the president as “weak and ineffective” in the wake of the most recent beheading.

That last part is telling because in the spring of 2004, when Cheney was vice president and the misbegotten war he championed was raging in Iraq, two American citizens, Nick Berg and Paul Johnson, were also kidnapped by Islamic terrorists and were also beheaded for the world to see. But of course, Cheney didn’t see that as a sign of President Bush’s weakness and ineffectiveness, and neither did the White House’s loyal band of professional defenders at Fox News.

Even six years into Obama’s presidency, it’s still stunning to see how radically different Fox presents the news and frames its commentary based entirely on which party controls the White House. When Bush was president, Fox talkers urged that Americans come together and support the administration as it battled lawless killers (“murders,” “sadists,” “savages”) who decapitated Americans.

In 2004, Fox hosted long conversations about the beheadings and Bush’s name was often never even mentioned. He was a non-player in the story. But today, the beheadings revolve around Obama.

With a Democratic president, many of those same 2004 talkers now turn their attention, and their wrath, to Pennsylvania Avenue and use the deaths as a cudgel to bash the president as being impotent. i.e. He didn’t prevent the deaths! Of course neither did Bush, but the Fox rules of propaganda were different for him.

Nick Berg was working in Iraq as an independent contractor fixing antennas. He disappeared on April 9, 2004. His decapitated body was found near an overpass in Baghdad, and soon a video of the beheading appeared on a website associated with al Qaeda. (On his radio show, Sean Hannity aired the unedited audio of Berg’s dying screams.)

Four weeks after Berg’s murder, terrorists abducted Paul Johnson, a Lockheed Martin engineer who lived in Saudi Arabia. They demanded the Saudi government release all its al-Qaeda prisoners. Days later, on June 18, Johnson was murdered on tape. (After the beheading news broke, Bush made a brief public statement and then boarded a plane to attend a Bush-Cheney `04 campaign rally in Nevada.)

That day, Fox News host Oliver North appeared on Hannity & Colmes and announced that the media and Democratic politicians, including Sen. Ted Kennedy, “had blood on their hands” because they had been denouncing the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib by American soldiers; torture that Johnson’s killer’s cited in his death video.

Unlike today, the president in 2004 was completely blameless in the beheading deaths, according to Fox News. Democrats? Not so much.

Obviously, news of Americans being beheaded by terrorists ran counter to Bush’s 2004 re-election claim of being able to protect citizens in the War on Terror. Hannity at the time, who can’t stop criticizing Obama today, was adamant that Democrats stop criticizing Bush.

In June 2004, Hannity used news of Johnson’s death as a reason Democrats should stop attacking the president politically while the country was engaged in “World War III”  [emphasis added]:

HANNITY: Richard, the shrillness of the rhetoric, a vice president of the United States screaming that — Al Gore screaming Bush betrayed America. Are we taking limited resources and the president and his cabinet have to spend all that time fighting politically when they ought to be focused in on World War III? It’s time that we now unite a country, using this as the latest example that we have been warned. They want to kill us all?

RICHARD MINITER: I completely agree. I think politics should stop at the water’s edge. We should go back to the Scoop Jackson Democrats where they would argue like heck about domestic policy, but during a war they would not attack the president or the military.

On that point, Hannity and colleague Bill O’Reilly were in complete agreement. From The O’Reilly Factor on June 18, 2004, commenting on Johnson’s repulsive execution:

O’REILLY: It is becoming readily apparent that the United States, we, the people, have to unite. And if we don’t unite, we’re going to see this happen more and more, and then on a mass scale.

We’ve got to stop with the partisan garbage, because that’s what it is, and we’ve got to stop with the selfishness and understand that this is a war. This is something we have never faced before. And stop the grand standing. And the politicians who exploit this for partisan benefit on both sides have got to be voted out of office. We have got to unite.

Contrast that with O’Reilly on Wednesday night’s program when he urged Obama to “stop his confused posture, his stammering, stuttering” in the wake of the beheadings. O’Reilly attacked the president for wanting to “punt” on the crisis and said he would be doing Americans a “great disservice” if he refused to “formally declare war on Muslim terrorism.”

Today, good luck finding calls on Fox News for unity – the network is too busy trying to use the tragic murders to damage and debase the president.


By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, September 5, 2014

September 8, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Fox News, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stop Complaining About Obama’s Golfing”: It’s Not About Optics, It’s About Doing Your Job

Of course, Obama is hardly the first president to vacation – President John Adams took an amazing eight months off in one year in office, and President John F. Kennedy went away almost every single weekend of his presidency. And Obama’s not the first president to get criticized for it either. President Ronald Reagan, who was on vacation for more than 300 days of his presidency, took an incredible amount of heat for not coming rushing back to the White House after the death of two Marines in Lebanon, an attack that would lead to the 1984 bombing of the Marine barracks there. But he blew off the criticism and even campaigned for two days before returning to Washington.

We don’t let our son watch the news anymore. Growing up with parents who are big consumers of news, my boy—at the ripe old age of three—already knows something is amiss if Diane Sawyer is taking a night off. If David Muir is at the anchor desk he has been known to ask, “Is Diane sick?” (We haven’t started explaining the more permanent transition going on at ABC just yet because we don’t know how he will take it.)

But between Ferguson, ISIS, Gaza, Ukraine, Ebola and every other tragic news story happening, there are too many questions that newscasts raise now that a three-year old shouldn’t have to wonder about. Too many sad faces on the screen, and it’s too soon to explain why.

Being president of the United States means engaging on all of those issues every day, often multiple times – whether you’re on vacation or you’re not. And regardless of the location, this president – like every occupant of the Oval Office before him – is making decisions based on the welfare of the nation, far ahead of what his vacation schedule is.

Something unspeakable happened to James Foley, and his grieving family lives with the tragedy created by the ruthless monsters who took him from them. I can’t say how I’d react if someone took my son from me in the same way. No one can know who hasn’t gone through such a horrible thing. But I can guess. My guess is that I’d want the entire world to stop. That I’d want a moment of silence that never ended. I would want people to stop laughing and businesses to close. I have no judgment for the impulse of any American who feels any hint of that sadness at Foley’s loss.

But I have little patience, and our country has little need for, the people who play politics with his life. One mindless commentator tweeted that people who share my view support golfing while Americans are being beheaded. The New York Times wrote that the president was “seemingly able to put the savagery out of his mind,” as he went on to continue his vacation with his family and his friends after addressing the incredible tragedy.

I’m not sure why the New York Times thinks it can read minds, but knowing this president, I know one thing with great clarity: The savagery of those who attack Americans is never far from his mind. This notion that he can detach is mostly wrong. For the man who gave the green light to take out Osama bin Laden and is often first to hear the reports of American servicemen and women who die in missions that he ordered, the savagery of this world is not far from the forefront of his mind at every moment of the day.

I don’t remember, but I assume that I was one of the many Democrats who gleefully took shots at President George W. Bush for the time he spent at Crawford—and if so I regret it. Presidents are better for having time out of Washington, even better for time away with their families.

Whether you’re a partisan or a cynical reporter who has been making the same critique about presidential vacations for decades, I assume you probably agree that human beings function better when they get a little time away. I wouldn’t want my surgeon to be some woman who hasn’t had a break in 4 years. I wouldn’t want to share the road with a truck driver who hasn’t had enough sleep. It doesn’t matter what your occupation is; you will do your job better if you recharge your batteries. And even though the president is never really on vacation, giving him at least a little downtime is good for all of us.

In the end, it’s not about the optics. It’s about doing your job. And if the president is doing his – which he is – we should all be able to appreciate the fact that he is taking the opportunity to be a dad, a husband and even a leader of the free world who can clear his head on the golf course.


By: Bill Burton, Executive Vice President at Global Strategy Group; Politico, August 25, 2014


August 27, 2014 Posted by | Media, Presidential Vacations, Press | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Always Ready For Closeups”: Dick Cheney Is Still A Petty Hypocrite

Former vice president Dick Cheney resurfaced again this week, to sharply criticize President Barack Obama for being on vacation when ISIS murdered American journalist James Foley.

During a Wednesday night appearance on Fox News’ Hannity, Cheney reiterated his belief that President Obama doesn’t understand foreign policy, and slammed him for playing golf after making a statement condemning Foley’s killing and denouncing ISIS as a “cancer.”

“Every day we find new evidence that he’d rather be on the golf course than he would be dealing with a crisis that’s developing rapidly in the Middle East,” Cheney insisted.

Cheney is not the only person to criticize President Obama for taking a working vacation, nor is his criticism the most ridiculous (for example, The Hill recently criticized the president for taking a walk while “the White House grapples with crises at home and abroad”). But the complaints are especially galling coming from the 46th vice president.

For starters, Cheney’s former boss blew Obama out of the water in terms of time spent away from Washington. To date, President Obama has spent about 150 days on vacation. During his two terms, according to accepted presidential vacation expert Mark Knoller of CBS, George W. Bush spent 1,020 days: 487 at Camp David, 490 at his Crawford, Texas ranch, and 43 at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

But guess who Cheney thinks was better at dealing with crises in the Middle East (never mind the question of who’s responsible for them)?

Cheney himself has some experience with executive branch vacations. Back in 2005, Cheney hesitated to cut his own vacation short after Hurricane Katrina struck, and then pointedly turned down President Bush’s request that he lead a task force designed to speed the recovery effort (White House advisor Dan Bartlett reportedly backed the decision, noting that the vice president “doesn’t do touchy-feely“).

For its part, the White House insists that, like his predecessors, President Obama is perfectly capable of doing his job from outside of Washington. But that won’t stop the media from obsessing over his vacation. After all, punditry is hard during the dog days of summer — and overeager critics like Cheney are always ready for their closeups.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, August 22, 2014

August 24, 2014 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Dick Cheney | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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