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“Out Bullying The Bullies”: The Donald Trump Vs. Fox News Clusterfuck, Explained

A quick recap of the tumultuous, on-again/off-again relationship between Fox News and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump:

Trump has an ally in Fox News.

Trump doesn’t like Megyn Kelly.

Trump irons things out with Roger Ailes.

Trump is boycotting Fox News.

Trump is no longer boycotting Fox News.

Trump spends New Year’s Eve with Fox News.

Trump might not show up at Fox News’ GOP debate.

Trump is kind of a chicken for ducking Fox News’ debate.

Trump is “definitely not” going to the debate.

Why can’t these two frenemies just get along?

Like the bickering Sam and Diane duo from Cheers sitcom fame, Trump and Fox News obviously belong together (they like all the same things!), but they just can’t get past their stubborn differences.

Thursday night’s Fox-hosted primary debate on the eve of the Iowa caucus has now been completely overshadowed by the roiling feud between friends/enemies Trump and Fox, as the two institutional bullies lock horns. Is the current impasse a lasting one, or will the harsh words be papered over in the days and weeks to come the way previous Trump vs. Fox skirmishes ended in handshakes and smiles? It’s too soon to tell.

What’s so strange about the discord is that Trump is practically the living personification of the Fox News id: He’s a bigoted nativist who wallows in Islamophobia and thrives on dividing Americans and insulting President Obama as an un-American radical.

After the traditionally nice campaign of Mitt Romney in 2012, you’d think Fox News would be loving the insult-throwing Trump, a candidate who, like so many Fox anchors and hosts, isn’t afraid to make stuff up. Trump mirrors the often-tasteless brand of divisive rhetoric that Ailes helped hallmark at Fox.

But the truth is, Trump seems to hold Fox in the same general contempt that he holds the rest of the press. Meaning, from the Trump worldview, Fox doesn’t operate on a similar plane as him. Fox is subservient to Trump and — in his mind — should be in the business of touting his campaign. If and when it does not, Trump loses his cool because he doesn’t like to be second-guessed by “lightweight” journalists.

This represents a whole new world for Fox, which has controlled the conservative debate, and in turn controlled Republican politicians, for more than a decade. Fox sets the parameters. Fox picks the agenda. Fox grooms a handful of Republicans for right-wing media stardom. That’s why I can’t recall anyone ever picking such a public fight with Fox News from inside the GOP tent the way Trump has. It’s simply not done. And Fox’s frantic, off-key corporate response to Trump’s jabs has confirmed that executives there have very little practice fighting intramural skirmishes.

Forget that Fox cemented Trump’s right-wing celebrity status in 2011 when it handed over uninterrupted airtime for him to unfurl his misguided birther campaign against President Obama. Forget that Sean Hannity’s basement is probably lined with Trump for President posters.

Without Fox News’ exaggerated generosity over the years, and without Fox providing endless free airtime in the form of promotional blitzes to tout Trump as a possible presidential player, it’s unlikely Trump today would be perched atop the Republican field.

Trump this week is exercising a power play, pure and simple. (He knows he’s the reason Fox likely sold ads for the debate at a sky-high rate.) Bottom line: Roger Ailes is finally facing someone who’s willing, and eager, to out-bully him. And do it in public.

Of course what makes all this angry back-and-forth so funny is that one combatant is supposed to be a news organization. News organizations aren’t supposed to have bizarre, on-going public spats with one party’s leading candidate. Anchors on a news channel aren’t supposed to plead with candidates to show up at debates. And the head of a news channel doesn’t usually try to patch things up by directly phoning powerful politicians. But this is Fox News, so all the normal rules go out the window.

Indeed, the underlying truth here is that if Fox News conducted itself as an ethical news outlet, these kinds of messy spats and hurt feelings wouldn’t be an issue. Instead, Fox is often run as a Republican National Committee marketing arm, or a GOP clubhouse, raising expectations from Republicans in terms of how they’ll be treated. Trump clearly senses a weakness there and is now trying to exploit it.

In August, I suggested that Fox News, via the unwieldy Trump charade, had “eaten the Republican primary season” and that the “slow-motion fiasco is only going to get much, much worse for Republicans.”

Boy, has it. Democrats are likely pointing and laughing this week.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, January 28, 2016

January 29, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fox News, Roger Ailes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cuban Migrants Get Unfair Advantage Over Other Latinos”: The Benevolence Of The Law Made Sense In Decades Past

The Cold War is over, but it still deeply distorts U.S. immigration policy.

Consider the bizarre situation at our southern border. A wave of migrants is expected to appear there, hoping for safe passage into the U.S. and an expedited path to legal status and eventually full citizenship. They will get it.

These lucky migrants won’t be Mexicans fleeing drug cartels. They won’t be Hondurans, who must endure the world’s highest murder rate. And they won’t be citizens of El Salvador, where the Peace Corps just suspended operations due to the increasing violence.

No, we deport those people.

They will be Cubans. In recent months, increasing numbers of Cubans have been leaving their island country, flying to Ecuador first and then traveling northward through Central America. They wish to migrate to the U.S., fearful that thawing diplomatic relations will end the special treatment that Cubans who leave the island have long received.

That special treatment needs to end.

The hypocrisy that is embedded in U.S. immigration law will be on full display as the Cubans begin arriving, which could happen within the next few weeks.

Since 1966, the Cuban Adjustment Act has given Cuban people an extraordinary advantage over other migrants wishing to enter the U.S. The law was originally intended as a political and humanitarian reply to communism and the oppression of Fidel Castro. No proof that a person has suffered persecution. Where he or she arrives from is enough.

When people attempt to arrive through the Florida Straits, the policy that developed was dubbed “wet foot, dry foot.” If a Cuban can get one foot on dry U.S. soil, they can stay and are offered permanent legal status in a year and many other benefits of welfare and help to restart their lives.

The benevolence of the law made sense in decades past. But a good argument can be made that many of the migrating Cubans are fleeing not persecution but economic turmoil. And in doing so, they are not any more desperate, perhaps even less so, than those fleeing the violence and poverty of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Thousands of Central Americans arrived and asked for asylum in the summer of 2014. But those people are the wrong type of Latino for our policies. Many of them are indigenous, poor and have little formal schooling. So they were held for months in detention camps at the border. Many were eventually released, free to stay in the U.S. at least until their pleas for asylum status or legal residency can be assessed by an immigration judge. Raids and deportations of undocumented immigrants continue.

Meanwhile, as many as 8,000 Cubans who have been stranded in Costa Rica will soon be making their way northward through Mexico, after agreements were worked out by several Latin American governments. The Obama administration plans to open refugee screening centers in Central America, an attempt to stem the flow of non-Cuban migrants.

In this election year, especially in light of the GOP’s appeals to anti-immigrant sentiment, the migrant Cubans will present a political test.

GOP presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio, whose parents left Cuba before Castro took over, has introduced legislation to curb abuses of the American generosity toward Cubans. The Sun Sentinel of South Florida in 2015 documented cases in which Cubans claiming to be exiles were taking U.S. government benefits or committing other types of fraud, even after returning to Cuba.

How far Rubio’s legislation and the companion bill in the House will advance remains to be seen. And there is virtually no appetite in an election year to overhaul immigration for the benefit of more than just Cubans.

Amnesty is still a curse word in most GOP circles. In decades past, that didn’t matter in the case of Cubans, who could be counted on to become Republicans.

If the GOP is to have any hope of salvaging the Latino vote this presidential cycle it will have to traverse this sticky thicket, also acknowledging the needs of other Latino migrants. They have to beat back the anti-immigrant bleating of Donald Trump, as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley did in her response to the State of the Union speech.

They must vow to be just. They must promise to rewrite immigration law to weigh all humans’ needs equally and fairly, with no favor based on country of origin or likely partisan affinity. And they must not bow to nativist screeds.

 

By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-Page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; Featured Post, The National Memo, January 15, 2016

January 17, 2016 Posted by | Central America, Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Boehner Failed”: No Particular Genius Is Required To Succeed In Politics, But You Do Have To Be Able To Count

Nothing so became John Boehner’s tenure as Speaker as his manner of leaving it. Subjectively speaking, he has never appeared to believe very much of the arrant nonsense his position required him to utter. An old-school politician who literally grew up working in the family bar, his conservatism is of the traditional Midwestern kind — more Bob Dole, say, than Ted Cruz.

More process and negotiation, that is, than ideological certitude and visionary schemes to purge the nation of sin. To be blunt about it, very few Roman Catholics and none who grew up in a bar could ever believe such a thing possible. Unafraid to let his emotions show as Pope Francis urged lawmakers to compromise for the common good, Boehner may have, in that moment, recognized his own complete failure.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Boehner expressed his frustration in theological terms. Asked if the fundamentalist-dominated Tea Party faction, which views him as a sellout to President Obama, was unrealistic, he almost shouted.

“Absolutely they’re unrealistic!” he said. “But the Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean, this whole idea that we were going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013, this plan never had chance.”“But over the course of the August recess in 2013, and the course of September,” Boehner added, “a lot of my Republican colleagues who knew it was a fool’s errand, really they were getting all this pressure from home to do this. And so we have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they… KNOW are never going to happen.”

No, and shutting the government down in 2015 to get rid of Planned Parenthood has even less of a chance of accomplishing anything other than pointless melodrama, TV face time for the aforementioned Sen. Cruz, and the near-certain election of a Democratic president.

The late Robert F. Kennedy once told a friend of mine that no particular genius was required to succeed in politics, but you do have to be able to count. It’s because Boehner understands that, yet seemingly lacked the intestinal fortitude to abandon the so-called “Hastert Rule,” that his speakership came to such a sad end.

What with Hastert nearing an ignominious denouement of his own — the former Speaker’s lawyers are reportedly negotiating a guilty plea involving hush money paid to a young man he’d sexually molested as a high school coach — you’d think Republicans would want to avoid the phrase, if not the practice.

The act of refusing to let the House vote on any bill not supported by a majority of Republicans not only placed party above country, it also permitted Tea Party hotheads to paralyze the government. In consequence, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin points out, a 2013 immigration reform bill favored by GOP leadership that passed 62-38 in the Senate never even came to a vote in the House.

Supported by such luminaries as Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio, the bill would clearly have passed had Boehner allowed a vote — good for the nation, good for the Republican Party. Alas, to keep his job, Boehner caved to Tea Party nativists. In consequence, Toobin writes, “he suffered the fate of all those who give in to bullies; he was bullied some more.”

This year it was the highway bill — another popular, badly needed, job-intensive piece of legislation also opposed by the Tea Party. The tyranny of the minority, you might call it. If they had their way, we’d all have to buy tractors and bush-hog our own roads.

Instead, Boehner permitted the innumerate faction something like 60 votes to repeal Obamacare — each as futile and pointless as the last, and the very definition of “things they know are never going to happen.”

Another consequence of Boehner’s failure, it should be said, is the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, the blowhard billionaire who appears to have convinced millions of voters who failed to master 8th grade civics that he can solve the nation’s toughest problems by yelling at them.

In stepping down, Boehner secured the agreement of his GOP antagonists to vote for a “clean” continuing resolution that would keep the government funded through mid-December with no demands to defund Planned Parenthood — the latest extreme right publicity stunt. After that, all bets are off.

“November and December are going to be like Dante’s Inferno around here,” New Jersey Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. told the New York Times.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows that Republican voters oppose shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood by 56-36 percent. Americans overall oppose the idea by 69-23 percent.

All that’s needed is a Speaker strong enough to put country above party.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, September 30, 2015

October 1, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Polarized Congress Will Ignore Pope’s Plea”: We Are Living Through A Deeply Polarized Era In Which Compromise Is A Dirty Word

In a more generous political climate, an adorable little girl who gave a letter and a hug to Pope Francis could make a difference. In an era with a more pragmatic Congress and a less Balkanized electorate, 5-year-old Sophie Cruz could break through the gridlock around immigration reform.

But we are living through a deeply polarized era in which compromise is a dirty word, listening to those with whom we disagree is seen as weakness and respect for different opinions regarded as betrayal. Pope Francis’ gracious address to Congress, in which he urged compassion toward “foreigners,” won’t change that. Neither will a cute little girl.

The pope’s embrace of young Sophie has flashed around the world, carried at the supersonic speed of social media. As he made his way down the National Mall in the Popemobile on Wednesday, he spotted her trying to break through his firewall of security guards and beckoned for her.

She handed him a letter — accompanied by a delightful drawing of the pope with children of different races — pleading for a comprehensive immigration reform that might save her parents from deportation. Though she is a citizen (so far, at least, since Donald Trump has not yet had his way on birthright citizenship), her parents crossed the border from Mexico illegally.

Her well-written letter and her flawless recitation of it for reporters were no accident. She and her parents, who live in Los Angeles, went to Washington with a group of immigration activists. They apparently chose Sophie as likely to get the pope’s attention because of his well-known affection for children.

Their strategy hearkens back to the days of the civil rights movement, when activists scoured the landscape for well-scrubbed and presentable symbols to show to the nation. That’s quite understandable. When an oppressed group has the opportunity to present itself on a grand stage, its leaders seek to make a good impression. And that in no way diminishes Sophie’s charm.

She gave moving testimony to the anxiety and insecurity created by the threat of deportation, writing to the pope: “I would like to ask you to speak with the president and the Congress in [sic] legalizing my parents because every day I am scared that one day they will take them away from me.”

But those voters who are willing to be persuaded by the hopes and dreams of 11 million undocumented immigrants already support changing the law. According to a recent CBS poll, 58 percent believe they should be given citizenship, while another 10 percent believe they should be granted legal status. That’s a substantial majority who support bringing those immigrants out of the shadows.

The Republican Party, however, has been captured by the xenophobic minority following Donald Trump, with his denunciation of Mexicans as “rapists” and “murderers” and his insistence on deportation for millions. Little Sophie won’t change their views. Neither will the powerful preaching of Pope Francis.

“In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants,” he told Congress.

In a different political climate, that message may have moved Speaker John Boehner, a Catholic, who teared up during the pope’s address. But he seems cowed by the nativists in his restive caucus, and he has refused, so far, to force a vote on the comprehensive immigration reform plan passed by the Senate two years ago.

Our political system is paralyzed, for now, by the fears and bigotry of a few. And little Sophie can’t change that.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, September 26, 2015

 

Editor’s Note: House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation, effective October 30, after this piece was filed.

September 27, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Immigration Reform, Pope Francis | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Republican Party Can’t Escape Its Past”: Trapped At The Center Of A Tug-Of-War Between Its Own Ego And The Conservative Id

A lot can happen through three hours of political debate, enough to carry multiple headlines and just as many different analytical perspectives. Even before the main-stage debate Thursday night, a consensus gelled that Carly Florina had distinguished herself among the also-rans, that Rick Perry continues to struggle to communicate extemporaneously, and that most of the seven candidates who didn’t make the top 10 didn’t make it for a reason.

But nothing that any individual candidate—including Donald Trump—said or did tonight stuck out as more significant than the thematic fact that Republicans are still tripping over the long tail of the 2012 election.

Part of what makes this process so awkward for them is that the GOP never really reached consensus about what it needed to do differently in 2016 to avoid the result it achieved four years ago. Some of them think the biggest error Republicans committed in the last election was racing to a rightmost position on immigration at the beck and call of xenophobes. Others think it was Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s breezy willingness to disparage “takers”—and Romney’s statements about the 47 percent specifically. Still more thought the party’s only error was nominating a candidate whom conservatives didn’t instinctively trust.

Every single opposing viewpoint in this dispute is represented in the current primary—and among the Fox News moderators and other conservative journalists who have the greatest access to the candidates—and the result is deeply unstable equilibrium between factions. The Republican Party is trapped at the center of a tug-of-war between its own ego and the conservative id.

Donald Trump personifies this dynamic more than any other candidate. Surrounded by Republicans who vowed not to run independent candidacies, he refused to take the same pledge, making explicit reference to the leverage his threat gives him against a cowering GOP establishment. He swatted away questions about his crude sexism by attacking political correctness and reiterated his view that the government of Mexico is sending rapists and murderers to the United States. And nobody was willing (or able) to take issue with any of the substantive claims he made, except insofar as he represented himself as a true Republican.

This isn’t the issue that most Republican Party leaders wanted center stage in the first 2016 primary debate. And it’s arguably only there because the party retreated from its tepid commitment to pass an immigration bill in 2013, and chose instead to pander to the same nativists, while surrendering their power to influence policy.

During the undercard debate, one moderator structured a question about labor market weakness in America around the premise that too many people are choosing to idle about on the dole rather than work for a living. She clearly believed everything Romney said in the 47 percent video and wanted the dark horse candidates to vouchsafe all of it. To their modest credit, none of them took the bait, exactly. They framed the issue instead as a problem with government spending fostering dependency—a slightly less dismissive, slightly more infantilizing way of describing the same, mostly imagined phenomenon. Certainly many of them still see the issue exactly the same way they did four years ago. And though nobody used the most damaging possible language in this instance, the 47 percent idea, and the fierce certainty many Republicans have that Romney was exactly right about it, litters the conservative mindshare like unexploded ordnance.

What you saw tonight—and the vastness of the field made this tension more vivid—are several candidates who want to hew to a new line of some kind, only to be pulled back, like the Godfather, into a morass they were trying to escape.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, August 6, 2015

August 8, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Immigration Reform | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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