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“Unsettling Paranoia”: Despite Media’s ‘Crush,’ Rubio Sees Bizarre Conspiracy

In media and political circles, it’s known as the “Full Ginsburg.” It’s when one notable public figure appears on all five major Sunday morning shows on the same day, and it’s usually reserved for policymakers at the center of major breakthroughs.

It came as something of a surprise, then, when Marco Rubio celebrated his fifth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary by pulling off the Full Ginsburg. Then seven days later, following his double-digit loss in the South Carolina primary, Rubio pulled off the Full Ginsburg again, receiving and accepting five more Sunday-show invitations.

When was the last time someone had back-to-back Full Ginsburgs? Never. Rubio, once hailed as “the Republican savior” on the cover of Time magazine, received a media reward that no American has ever received.

Had the Florida senator actually won those primaries, the media’s adulation might have been easier to understand, but remember, Rubio made 10 appearances over two Sundays after embarrassing defeats.

The reason for this special treatment is one of those things the political world tends not to talk about, though Slate’s Jamelle Bouie recently acknowledged what usually goes unsaid: “[T]he media has a huge crush” on Marco Rubio.

With this in mind, it came as something of a surprise to see Rubio on CBS this morning, complaining about an elaborate media conspiracy – to help Donald Trump. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent flagged this bizarre quote:

“The media’s pumping [Trump] up as some sort of unstoppable force…. Unfortunately he’s being pumped up because many in the media with a bias know that he’ll be easy to beat in a general election.”

In a separate ABC interview this morning – the conspiracy is so vast, news organizations keep putting Rubio on television so he can share his conspiracy theory – the senator said the media is “holding back” its Trump criticism in order to hurt Republicans in the fall.

“It’s important for Republicans and conservatives to be aware of what is happening,” he added.

So, from Rubio’s perspective, the same news organizations that have shown him levels of affection that border on creepy are actually conspiring in secret against him. It’s all part of an elaborate media ruse to help Trump defeat Rubio in order to help Democrats.

Remember, thanks to media hype, we’re supposed to think Rubio’s the smart one in the 2016 field.

The senator’s conspiracy theory is so crazy, it’s unsettling that he repeated it out loud on national television. Keep in mind that last night, as part of the network’s debate coverage, CNN told viewers that Rubio has “new momentum.” The network made the claim before the debate, on the heels of Rubio losing the Nevada caucuses – which he expected to win – by 22 points.

This, a week after Politico published a lengthy report on Rubio’s campaign in South Carolina – the headline read, “Rubio surges back to electrify South Carolina” – that read as if his campaign aides had written it themselves.

This, nearly a month after pundits and reporters eagerly pretended Rubio’s third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses was actually a triumphant victory.

Greg Sargent recently noted that media figures are “making it absurdly obvious that they want to be able to say Rubio is rising,” prompting MSNBC’s Chris Hayes to respond, “It’s like watching parents attempt to will their toddler into doing a difficult task.”

To be sure, this isn’t unprecedented. We can probably all think of election cycles in which the media obviously adores a candidate (John McCain in 2000, for example) and obviously scorns another (Al Gore in 2000, for example). It certainly seems as if the “crush” on Rubio is real, but he’s not the first to enjoy such affections.

Rubio is, however, the first candidate in recent memory who benefits from the media’s overt fondness, but who nevertheless believes the media is engaged in a conspiracy to help one of his rivals, in order to help one of his other rivals.

Such paranoia says something unsettling about the presidential hopeful’s perspective.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 26, 2016

February 27, 2016 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“How Much Change Can The Right Take?”: Trump Is Getting Too Much Media Attention

Brent Budowsky is experiencing some exuberance. Whether it’s irrational exuberance or not, we may never know.

Stop the presses! According to a new poll by Quinnipiac University on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) destroys Republican candidate Donald Trump in a general election by 13 percentage points. In this new poll, Sanders has 51 percent to Trump’s 38 percent. If this margin held in a general election, Democrats would almost certainly regain control of the United States Senate and very possibly the House of Representatives.

It is high time and long overdue for television networks such as CNN to end their obsession with Trump and report the all-important fact that in most polls, both Hillary Clinton and Sanders would defeat Trump by landslide margins. In the new Quinnipiac poll, Clinton would defeat Trump by 7 percentage points, which is itself impressive and would qualify as a landslide, while the Sanders lead of 13 points would bring a landslide of epic proportions.

Obviously, polls like this taken eleven months before a general election aren’t worth much. But there’s a point here regardless. There’s a pretty strong assumption in many quarters that a Brooklyn-raised seventy-four year old self-proclaimed socialist Jewish guy from granola-chomping Vermont doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected president of the United States. Yet, this Quinnipiac poll shows he’d schlong the current Republican front-runner, and schlong him like a drum. Not only that, but he’d have more potential coattails than Hillary Clinton.

Maybe that’s true right now–maybe it would even still be true next November–but that’s not the main point that Budowsky wants to make. His point is that Trump is getting too much media attention and Bernie Sanders (especially) and Hillary Clinton are getting too little.

I know a lot of regular voters who are not media-types who would vote for Sanders over Clinton in a heartbeat if only they could be assured that he wouldn’t lose a very winnable election. And who knows what happens when the Republicans bring out all their Willie Hortons and Swift-Boat Veterans for Truth? Does Sanders have the kind of teflon that the Clintons are famous for possessing?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. I do sometimes wonder if the right in this country will just completely and finally lose their shit if we elect someone like Sanders as president. Putting up with a President Hillary Clinton seems like indignity enough for these folks who have been raised on Vince Foster watermelon conspiracies and Benghazi heat-fever dreams. But, at least the Establishment knows that the Clintons are what happens to you when you lose an election and not some earth-shattering proof that your country has been lost forever and turned over to the communists.

Then part of me just has a prurient interest in seeing just how mental the right will go if it turns out that Sanders can not only win but that he can destroy them in a wipeout landslide.

What I am pretty sure about is that Trump is at least as unorthodox and unacceptable to a huge swath of the electorate as Sanders would be. In a matchup between the two of them, we’d be assured of getting something we’ve never seen before and basically no one thought was possible.

I’d have plenty to write about, that’s for sure.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 23,2015

December 25, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“President Trump? Not Just A Joke, A Bad Joke”: American Voters Will Catch On Eventually

I am getting hit on Twitter for forecasting Donald Trump’s demise a couple months ago in this space. As he has risen in the polls and dominated the news media since the Fox News debate, I have been told what an idiot I am to have underestimated The Donald. Even my wonderful cousins, who have lived in Italy for over 40 years, warn me that if former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi can do it over there, Trump may be able to get elected over here.

First of all, it is important to point out that Trump has galvanized support from a disaffected electorate for his blunt talk, in-your-face attitude and refusal to talk and act like a traditional politician. That is enough to scare the pants off Republicans, especially the country club set. “Could he really get the nomination?” they ask. Second, his supporters are getting increasingly passionate and involved and attending his speaking events in ever larger numbers. And third, he is dominating the news cycle. One reporter told me that they turned off the cameras when he started to speak to the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier in the year; now, they are carrying his press conferences live.

My colleague Bill Press made the point about the news media in a column: “As long as he brings them top ratings, they’ll give him all the time he wants. CNN’s Brian Stelter compared coverage given GOP candidates by CBS, NBC and ABC between Aug. 7 and Aug. 21. On the evening news, Trump talk consumed 36 minutes, 30 seconds. Jeb Bush came in a distant second with 9 minutes and 22 seconds. Marco Rubio, 1 minute, 35 seconds. And poor Lindsey Graham, only one second.”

Now, there is no doubt that outrageous talk, bluster and playing P.T. Barnum result in serious ink. But, as many columnists have pointed out, that does not make him a serious candidate. Nevertheless, it may not matter in the short term.

He may win a large number of primary and caucus states. Could he get the nomination? I doubt it. It’s not impossible, though. But, after all, when practically all the candidates drop out, and we are left with Donald Trump, any member of the Republican Party would jump at the opportunity to be the Trump-alternative.

There is one interesting question, however. If Trump can draw 24 million people to watch a debate in the summer on Fox News, what does that say about his ability to bring people into the system who are not traditional participants in the early stages of nominating a president? Could he flood the states in the winter and spring with new voters? Unclear.

But, at the end of the day, the American people will get the joke: Donald Trump is not emotionally or substantively fit to be president of the United States. He may run a company, but he can’t run the country. He may be appealing as a protest figure, as the “I’m mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take this any more” character, Peter Finch, in the film “Network.” But, ultimately, we are electing a president, we are not participating in a game show or dealing in reality TV or watching “Entertainment Tonight.”

Issues matter, plans for the country matter, ability to govern matters – and none of those things are strengths of Donald Trump. He is first and foremost a man with a tremendous ego that needs to be fed, not a man of serious ideas or well thought out positions that go beyond sound bites. His bluster and unvarnished rhetoric have gotten him farther than I would have thought but, at the end of the day, the American people will not buy what he is selling.

The scary thing for the Republican Party is whether its voters will get the joke. Will he ruin the party’s chances in 2016? Will he be their nominee or decide to run as a third party candidate? Regardless, Donald Trump is not good news for the Republican Party or the country, for that matter.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, August 31, 2015

September 1, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Shallow Television Political Reporter”: NBC Analyzing Poor David Gregory To See What Makes His Show So Bad

If it’s Monday, it’s NBC embarrassing itself in front of everyone. Today, the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi brings us the story of a network that can’t figure out why “Meet the Press” isn’t the runaway ratings smash it used to be. (This is not the first piece of this year exploring that subject.) Is the problem host David Gregory? They sent in experts to figure it out:

Last year, the network undertook an unusual assessment of the 43-year-old journalist, commissioning a psychological consultant to interview his friends and even his wife. The idea, according to a network spokeswoman, Meghan Pianta, was “to get perspective and insight from people who know him best.” But the research project struck some at NBC as odd, given that Gregory has been employed there for nearly 20 years.

Well, how absolutely humiliating, to have this reported in the Washington Post. (NBC disputes the use of the word “psychological,” claiming they brought in a “brand consultant.”)

Is there something psychologically wrong with David Gregory? No, besides the usual superhuman vanity of a television professional. He is just not a great host of a news talk show! He is incurious. He asks predictable questions and is not informed enough to ask follow-ups that go beyond the scope of his briefing materials.

And his guests are usually terrible! That is not strictly his fault (maybe NBC should psychologically evaluate its bookers?), though it doesn’t seem like he’d suddenly become a better host with more interesting guests. I mean, he is just going to ask the same sorts of “David Brooks, what does this mean for Hillary 2016?” questions even if the person he is speaking to isn’t actually David Brooks. He thinks like a shallow television political reporter, because that is … what he is. His entire career has been on TV, and all a lifetime of being on TV teaches you is how to simulate gravitas, on TV.

David Gregory should still find some other kind of TV show to host (game show?), but he should know that “Meet the Press” isn’t terrible solely because of him.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, April 21, 2014

April 23, 2014 Posted by | David Gregory, Meet The Press | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Getting By On Fumes”: Has Rush Limbaugh Finally Reached The End Of The Road?

Like him or hate him, there is no disputing that Rush Limbaugh’s very special brand of mixing right-wing politics with his flare for entertainment has produced one of the most successful radio programs in the medium’s long history.

Whatever the burning political question of the day, millions of Americans have relished the opportunity to tune into Rush’s program, knowing that he would quickly take that hot potato, throw a few gallons of verbal kerosene into the mix and elevate the matter into a five alarm fire with a just a few well-chosen words spoken in the style only Rush Limbaugh could produce.

Until now…

At long last, it appears that Rush Limbaugh has run out of steam.

I have to acknowledge that I have sensed Rush getting by on fumes for some time now (yes, I tune into his show from time to time to enjoy his broadcasting skills if not his message). However, it was only recently that the world of Limbaugh crossed that thin red line from partially serious to total self-parody and audience deception—a line crossed from which there is often no return.

It happened on the occasion of Stephen Colbert’s appointment to fill David Letterman’s soon to be vacated chair on the CBS  (CBS +0.65%) late-night set.

By using this occasion to create a political narrative designed to stir up his listeners, Limbaugh telegraphed to his loyal followers that he is now dependent upon feeding fully faux political nonsense that his audience instinctively—or explicitly—knows is a bunch of baloney.

To be sure, this is hardly the first time Limbaugh has fed his audience a diet of twisted information and bizarre, conspiratorial memes. However, it may well be the first time that he attempted to shove a diet down the throats of any semi-rational listeners still living in the real world made up of nonsense that even his most loyal listener could not possibly swallow.

That’s a problem for Rush.

A show like Limbaugh’s is wholly reliant on his listeners’ willingness to believe—or suspend belief—no matter how ‘out there’ their guru’s arguments may be. While it is one thing for me to sneer at much of what Limbaugh may present, it is quite another when he attempts to sell his loyal audience on stuff they already know, through personal experience, to be false and fraudulent hokum.

Upon hearing the news of Colbert’s new gig, Limbaugh pronounced— as only Limbaugh can pronounce—

“CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservatism. Now it’s just wide out in the open. What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny, and a redefinition of what is comedy. They’re blowing up the 11:30 format… they hired a partisan, so-called comedian, to run a comedy show.”

Not quite satisfied with his initial declaration, Limbaugh returned to the subject in a later program, commenting further on CBS’s  decision to hire Colbert—

“It clearly indicates that the people making this decision have chosen to write off a portion of the country, that they don’t care if a portion of the country watches or not.”

Rush has it right on his last statement.

Indeed, the people who make decisions at television networks have chosen to write off a portion of the country—a decision that was made for them a very long time ago.

However, it has never had anything to do with making choices of audience based on anything even resembling politics and has always had everything to do with blowing off  anyone older than 49 years of age because these older folks are poison to advertisers. In other words, the networks are clearly writing off those in ‘the heartland’ if they’ve reached 50 years old—just as they’ve written off folks in this demo in every other nook and cranny of America.

What Limbaugh chose to ignore in his rant is that this is a choice based on what television advertisers want—and what television advertisers want is a young television viewing audience or, to be more specific, viewers that fall between the ages of 18-49. Despite Limbaugh’s truly lame efforts to pretend otherwise, if you fall within this age group, you are welcomed to the party whether you be a progressive, conservative, independent, communist, John Bircher, or whatever other political affiliation you can conjure up.

You see, car companies don’t really care about your politics when they are trying to sell you a car via a TV commercial—they care about whether you are in a position to buy that new car should they succeed in getting your attention. Purina really doesn’t give a damn about your politics or your dog’s politics when they are trying to sell you their brand of dog food.

For these reasons that would appear to be obvious to everyone but Rush Limbaugh—although we all know that they are obvious to him too—all viewers younger than 50 are coveted by the television networks.

And yet, Limbaugh—a guy who has spent his life in media—wants his audience to believe that there is some political agenda on the part of a network at work here. Never mind that early morning and late night are the two largest sources of revenue for every broadcast network. Limbaugh expects us to believe that CBS is willing to throw all that money out the window to make a political statement.

If you are a Limbaugh fan, how are you not asking yourself just how dumb this man thinks you are?

Even the right-wing Frontpagemag.com was able to properly discern the truth of the situation and provide an excellent explanation of reality:

The number of people who watch a TV show stopped mattering years ago. If it did, Murder She Wrote, a show that had an older audience and high ratings, wouldn’t have been canceled. Instead there’s talk of rebooting it with younger multicultural leads in a different setting.

Network television doesn’t just fail to count older viewers; it tries to drive them away. A show with an older viewership is dead air. Advertisers have been pushed by ad agencies into an obsession with associating their product with a youthful brand.

The demo rating, 18-49, is the only rating that matters. Viewers younger than that can still pay off. Just ask the CW. Older viewers however are unwanted.

A network show would rather have 5 million viewers in the demo than 15 million older viewers. A cable show would rather have 1 million viewers in the demo than 10 million viewers outside the demo.

Colbert and Stewart have the top late night talk shows in the demo. That means 1 million ‘young’ viewers. That’s barely what Letterman was pulling in on a top network.

Networks, which already have high median ages, are doing everything possible to bring them down. CBS has a median age of 58 and is the oldest network. Colbert is supposed to lower their average.

Letterman’s show had a median age of 56. Colbert’s show has a median age of 39. That a 49-year-old comedian with an audience whose median age is 39 is considered a draw for younger audiences reveals just how thoroughly younger viewers are abandoning television.”

As someone who spent the overwhelming majority of his career as a television producer and executive, I can state with absolutely certainty that Frontpagemag.com got it precisely right—and when was the last time you heard me say that a right-wing anything got it exactly right?

So, what does it say when a guy like Rush Limbaugh stoops to trying to build a political fire out of what is about as apolitical as chicken soup?

It says Rush is running on empty. It says he’s grown lazy. It says he’s probably trying to hold on to get though the next presidential election cycle before fading off into the sunset.

Rush’s audience knew that his anti-Colbert rant was nonsense the minute it left Limbaugh’s lips. How did they know?

While Limbaugh’s listeners may be inclined to believe the words of the great Rush Limbaugh, these aging listeners are the very people who can no longer find anything on TV to watch because everything is so skewed to the young viewer. They know all too well that it has nothing to do with their politics and everything to do with their age and being outside the desired demographic.

Rush Limbaugh ‘works’ when he can fire up his audience with red-hot ideology designed to bring out the anger of his listeners. But no entertainer succeeds when they try to stupidly pull the wool over the very listeners who have been loyal—and Limbaugh’s effort to politicize the Colbert hiring was just that.

 

By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, April 15, 2014

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Rush Limbaugh, Seniors | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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