This morning I nearly choked on my coffee when I saw that The New York Times' editorial board published an opinion piece with the headline, "Shut Down the Benghazi Committee." For once, I couldn't agree more with the Times.
Two years ago, I wrote an e-book with my colleague, Ari Rabin-Havt, titled, The Benghazi Hoax. In it, we detailed the 15 most common falsehoods the Fox Noise Machine and conservative blowhards pumped out on a daily basis as they tried to politicize the tragedy in Benghazi.
Mitt Romney had failed to do so effectively in the 2012 election, so the right-wing turned its sights on the woman they thought most likely to be the next Democratic nominee for president.
Fox News was a driving force behind House Republicans' formation of the sham Benghazi Committee. In fact, the network ran nearly 1,100 prime-time segments pushing the propped-up storyline in the first 20 months after the national tragedy alone.
On May 2, 2014, House Speaker John Boehner announced the Benghazi Select Committee. In the ensuing two weeks, as Media Matters reported, Fox News provided over $124 million dollars' worth of promotion on their airwaves. Mainstream media followed suit, awaiting each and every utterance of Rep. Trey Gowdy and his committee cronies.
Two years later, the results speak for themselves.
The committee has spent $4.6 million taxpayer dollars and uncovered no new information or wrongdoing by any individual. Despite major leaks to reporters, the Select Committee on Benghazi has offered no recommendations for how to prevent similar tragedies from happening in the future.
Now, The New York Times is reaffirming what I have been saying for the past two years, after they followed committee Republicans down the rabbit hole of Hillary's emails -- another glaring red herring in this tragedy-turned-partisan-ploy.
This may be one of the ugliest abuses of taxpayer funds and exploitations of a national tragedy in modern American history.
Politicians in both parties can expect to be dragged through the mud, but conservatives should be ashamed of dishonoring men and women who try to keep us safe, solely for partisan political gain. There should be general agreement -- if nothing else, common decency should tell you -- that politicizing a tragedy such as this crosses a line.
This was a political hit-job of the highest order. Hopefully, it is the last we'll see of any kind of political attack like it.
During his deposition last week before a congressional panel investigating the 2012 tragedy in Benghazi, Libya, Sidney Blumenthal -- a former journalist and Clinton White House adviser and my longtime friend -- was asked more than 45 questions by the Republicans about his relationships with me, Media Matters, and a pair of super PACs I founded, American Bridge and Correct The Record.
By comparison, Blumenthal was asked by those same Republicans fewer than 20 questions about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, only four questions about U.S. security there, and zero questions about the U.S. presence in Benghazi, according to a fact sheet circulated by Democratic committee staff.
The chairman of the House Select Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, was especially animated in quizzing Blumenthal, who, as the press reported weeks ago, is a paid consultant to my aforementioned groups. Gowdy asked Blumenthal about his role in the production and promotion of four Media Matters research posts that were sharply critical of various false claims made by conservative media on Benghazi. Another Republican asked if Blumenthal had written or edited a recent statement from Correct the Record pointing out the partisan agenda behind the committee's ongoing investigation. (Blumenthal testified, accurately, that he had no role in any of it, though even if he had, what does that have to do with the avowed purpose of the committee?)
Had the Republicans done some research, they would have discovered that our relationship is no secret. Blumenthal and I both wrote about it in our respective memoirs of the Clinton White House years, The Clinton Wars and Blinded by the Right, both published more than a decade ago.
So how did the House Select Committee on Benghazi suddenly morph into the House Select Committee on Media Matters? Why are the Republicans more interested in The Benghazi Hoax, the title of an e-book published by Media Matters, than in Benghazi itself? Let's count the ways.
The Select Committee on Benghazi is the tenth congressional committee to investigate the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks. None of them -- including the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee -- have found significant wrongdoing by the Obama administration, and many of the investigations have cleared the administration of the false conspiracies conservative media have put forward. Yet Gowdy's committee has been investigating the same issue for 409 days, longer than U.S. inquiries into Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination or Iran-Contra, according to a statement by the Democratic minority. They calculate the cost to U.S. taxpayers at $3.5 million -- and counting.
At this point, it's obvious that the committee's intended target is potential Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If all the Republicans have left to nail her with is Media Matters and Blumenthal, this is an investigation that may as well shut down. There isn't even a whiff of scandal here. Media Matters sources of all its research to publicly available information and original reporting, and we make our work product public on this website. If the Republicans want to figure out what we're up to, the answer is a click away.
Not only is there nothing amiss here; we're proud of the good work we do.
I wish I could say the same for the Republican-led committee, which at this hour is refusing requests from committee Democrats and from Blumenthal to release the transcript of his deposition. Clearly, Gowdy doesn't want the public to see his handiwork.
On one level, the Republicans are sitting on the deposition -- while apparently leaking select parts to the media -- to save themselves from political embarrassment. Blumenthal was asked hundreds of questions in the course of a nearly nine-hour inquisition -- ostensibly so that the committee could learn more about a notional business deal to provide humanitarian assistance in Libya that ended up never coming to fruition, with no money changing hands and no favors sought from the U.S. government.
In fact, Blumenthal told me that the lead Republican lawyer for the committee told him and his lawyers at the end of a long day of questioning that "maybe we got five minutes worth of something."
Yet while the inquiry was a pointless waste of time and money with respect to the committee's mandate, in fact it was not without a purpose. The questions about Blumenthal's long-standing personal relationship with the Clintons, about his work at the Clinton Foundation, and about his work with us, were wholly illegitimate and out-of-bounds. But they were not without a design, and an insidious one at that.
By refusing to release the transcript, the Republicans want to hide the true nature of the Blumenthal deposition: Their partisan attempt to both chill Blumenthal's right to freely express his own political views and more broadly to intimidate our organizations -- organizations that have led the way in exposing the fraudulence of the Benghazi investigation itself. (Not to mention our role in specifically defending Hillary Clinton from the Republicans' unfair attacks on the subject).
If Democrats had hauled a politically active Republican before a congressional committee and spent hours grilling the witness on his political and professional associations and activities -- "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Democratic Party?"-- I can only imagine the hue and cry about the abuse of Congressional power we'd be hearing from the conservative echo chamber right now. Yet progressives for the most part have stayed silent in the face of this blatant effort to suppress First Amendment rights.
Well, not us. After the deposition concluded, I publicly offered to give Gowdy a tour of our offices at his convenience. There he would find hard-working staffers committed to providing the public with fact-based information upon which to understand and judge the critical issues of the day -- including the tragic deaths of four Americans in Benghazi that have been shamelessly politicized by Republicans.
Gowdy would also meet groups that won't be thrown off-mission or harassed or cowed into standing down by desperate partisans who have nothing to offer voters in the coming election but recycled pseudo-scandals.
New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan is right that the Times story last week, which falsely charged that Hillary Clinton might have broken federal rules regarding her email practices was "not without fault." According to Sullivan, "the story should have been much clearer about precisely what regulations might have been violated, and when they took effect."
But Sullivan misses the main point, and in doing so continues to leave the wrong and unfair impression that Clinton might have violated federal rules when she plainly didn't.
In defending the story's charge, Sullivan cites federal regulations from 2009 that "required that any emails sent or received from personal accounts be preserved as part of the agency's records."
As the State Department said last week, in 2014 Secretary Clinton turned over to the department some 55,000 pages of emails from her personal account. Clearly the emails were preserved, as the rules required. They are part of the agency's records, and Secretary Clinton has called on the department to release all of them to the public, an unprecedented act of transparency.
The 2009 regulations contained no real-time preservation requirements, according to the State Department. The time requirements were added to the law that I referenced in my letter to the Times, and which passed after Clinton left office. As such, they are not pertinent to her tenure. Moreover, more than 90 percent of the emails from Clinton's personal account were sent to official State Department email addresses, and thus were preserved in real-time in the agency's records, exceeding the requirements of the law as it existed at the time.
Sullivan failed entirely to confront the fact that the main authority cited by the paper on the Clinton emails, a former top lawyer at the National Archives and Records Administration, said the day after the article appeared that Clinton had not violated the law, undercutting the article's central contention. Indeed, the Times cited no legal authority whatsoever to say a violation had occurred or even might have occurred.
Clearly, what happened here is that the reporter, Michael Schmidt, and presumably his editor, Carolyn Ryan, mistakenly believed that Clinton's email practices violated federal rules, and despite finding no source to back them up, they published the allegation on the Times front page anyway.
I don't know what that is, but it isn't journalism.
In any event, I welcome Sullivan's conclusion that the Times can learn from this controversy by ensuring subsequent stories are "airtight."
Sullivan's reply to my letter can be read in full here.
After the publication of Media Matters' ebook The Benghazi Hoax, which tells the story of how the right twisted a tragedy into a failed witch hunt against the Obama administration, CBS News came under fire from media critics and journalism experts for airing a botched 60 Minutes report on Benghazi that featured a supposed eyewitness to the attacks who had lied about his actions the night of the attack. The story resulted in an internal investigation into how 60 Minutes got it wrong and a leave of absence by correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan. Here's the story of how CBS got burned by the Benghazi hoax.
Conservatives are out in force this morning claiming Lara Logan's segment on CBS' 60 Minutes is evidence their yearlong effort to convert the tragedy in Benghazi into a political scandal was warranted.
Far from it -- it is the latest Benghazi Hoax.
From watching the 60 Minutes segment, you would be led to believe there is a "lingering question" involving the U.S. military's response to the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The report did not let viewers know that an anti-terrorism team was deployed from Spain, along with Special Forces based in the United States and Croatia. None of these forces even made it to Libya until 11 hours after our diplomatic and CIA teams had been evacuated.
Furthermore, the belief that the military did not do everything it could to rescue those in Benghazi has been contradicted by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, and former Secretaries of Defense Leon Panetta and Robert Gates.
Claims that the military didn't do everything it could to help those in Benghazi go hand-in-hand with the conspiracy that a "stand down" order was issued to a Special Forces team in Tripoli. Even congressional Republicans have debunked this claim:
"Contrary to news reports, Gibson was not ordered to 'stand down' by higher command authorities in response to his understandable desire to lead a group of three other special forces soldiers to Benghazi."
While those interviewed during the 60 Minutes report decried the lack of funding for embassy security, the program failed to note:
For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department's Worldwide Security Protection program -- well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration's request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012.
The 60 Minutes piece follows the same pattern as every other element of The Benghazi Hoax we've witnessed for the past 13 months. Supposedly new revelations promoted by different media outlets are simply worn-over versions of the same hoaxes debunked months before; context that would provide critical information to viewers or readers is missing; and the right-wing media exaggerate the new allegations to something unrecognizable from the original report.
Nothing in the 60 Minutes report implicated Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in any wrongdoing leading up to the attack in Benghazi -- in fact their names were never mentioned. But conservatives are already on the attack against the president and former secretary of state. Evidence, context, and truth don't matter as long as tragedy can be converted into political scandal.
Already this morning, cheered on by Fox News, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is using the CBS report as the pretext for blocking every Obama appointment before the United States Senate until "the survivors [of Benghazi] are being made available to the Congress" -- never mind that they have already answered questions from numerous investigators and that the Senate has access to those interviews.
Once again, rather than do the country's business, conservatives, led by their media, would rather halt the work of government in an attempt to score political points with their base.
Zev Chafets wants you to know that some of Roger Ailes's best friends are black.
He makes that point repeatedly throughout his latest tome, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, the product of a year of unprecedented access to Roger Ailes, his employees at Fox News, and his friends and family.
The result is largely an amalgamation of anecdotes that lets its subject off the hook for the most controversial aspects of his 40-year career, either by whitewashing them from the record entirely or by deflecting the reader with misdirection.
Roger Ailes is friends with Jesse Jackson, and he's friends with David Dinkins, Chafets writes, making no mention of the race-baiting ads Ailes ran against the former New York City mayor - designed to exacerbate tensions between the city's black and Jewish populations.
Ailes is a "profane, skydiving, hard-charging producer" is what Chafets gleans from Joe McGinniss's The Selling of the President, describing Ailes' work on the 1968 Presidential campaigns. Missing is the race-baiting quote from the book that has dogged him ever since. While casting one of Nixon's "Man in the Arena" appearances, Ailes strategized with McGiniss about how to utilize racial tensions to his candidate's advantage, telling the reporter: "As long as we've got this extra spot open. A good, mean, Wallaceite cab driver. Wouldn't that be great? Some guy to sit there and say, 'Awright mac, what about these niggers?'"
Media Matters has long been disturbed by the way Fox News star Glenn Beck uses references to the Holocaust, Nazis, and anti-Semitic smears in his daily rhetoric. Almost since the show began, Beck has blurred the line between making a point and blatant anti-Semitic fearmongering.
The Jewish community has had enough. Today in The Wall Street Journal, 400 rabbis from around the country took a stand on what they rightly see as unacceptable language on the nation's most widely watched "news" channel.
That 400 rabbis had to sign and publish an open letter asking Rupert Murdoch to sanction Beck and Roger Ailes because of their blatantly anti-Semitic and hateful language is shocking. The letter shouldn't have had to be written.
Those unfamiliar with the more subtle attacks on those of Jewish descent -- including most of Beck's audience -- probably don't catch all the nuances of his words. We have attempted to catalogue Beck's persistent use of truly despicable language and commentary, and the resulting product is extensive. When viewed in full, patterns begin to emerge.
Beck has a habit of supporting his arguments by using the work of known anti-Semitic and white supremacist individuals. On September 22, 2010, he promoted a book by Eustace Mullins to cite information to supplement his distorted argument about the Federal Reserve. Of all the authors he could have chosen, Mullins was an interesting choice, given that he was acknowledged in his obituary as a "nationally known white supremacist and anti-Semite" who named himself the "Executive Director of the 'Aryan League of America'" and wrote, "The Whiteman's very existence is in danger." He also wrote Adolph Hitler: An Appreciation in which he compared Hitler to Christ and described both as victims of Jews.
Another one of Mullins' works, The Biological Jew, is a literal treasure trove of the filthiest lies told about Jewish people over the centuries, including:
Beck has utilized what he has learned from Mullins and others to construct his own convoluted arguments. While the Mullins book, The Biological Jew, cannot be held responsible for all of Beck's beliefs, it can be used as a one-stop shop for the most egregious anti-Semitic views held by thousands throughout history.
On Government Control:
This is why the Jew MUST control our communications; this is why he MUST control our education; this is why he MUST control our government; and most important, this is why he MUST control our religion. If he fails to do this, in any area, he endangers his continued existence as a biological parasite. [The Biological Jew, Page 24]
This is George Soros's money, hand-picking secretary of states so they have them in his pocket. [...] You have to go out and vote. You have to get everybody you know to go out and vote. Do not -- do not allow yourself to get involved with the George Soros cronies. If it is a close call on Tuesday, George Soros will be managing the recounts just to make sure it's fair. Don't let the intimidation of rocks (ph) and agitators suppress you. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 10/31/10, via Nexis]
On Manipulating Economies:
This was the Jew, who made his appearance upon the stage of history as a magician, a fortuneteller, a petty thief, or, in the open country, a treacherous and cold-blooded bandit. He became a physician, a teacher, an acolyte in any kind of religious group. From earliest history, he practiced money-lending, and always at usurious rates of interest.
All of these Jewish vocations have one thing in common, the opportunity for fraud. The Jew always operated from a basis of fraud, and slipped easily from one vocation into another. A Jew practices medicine in one city, and, leaving behind a trail of corpses, turns up in another town as a soothsayer. After some widows are bilked of their life savings, he again takes to the road, assisted, as always, by the international Jewish community. In another town, he becomes a student priest, and soon he offers daring new interpretations of the religious beliefs, until his superiors find that he is stealthily transforming every tenet of their faith into some strange and barbaric dogma. He moves on, and turns up in another city as a highly trusted government official, respected by all, until, one evening, the gates of the city are opened to an invader, and the Jew becomes the Grand Vizier of the conquerors. [The Biological Jew, Page 27 (emphasis added)]
Soros is a "spooky dude" who "thought the dollar needs to be devalued" and "says spend more money." "I don't know if this is the start of the latest, you know, Soros push to collapse a currency. I don't know if this is it; oh, but it's coming. Be prepared, because powerful people like George Soros would like that to happen. Because they're preparing. Have you?" [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 10/5/10]
On The Collapse Of Empires:
Since the parasite depends upon the host for its food, we would suppose that it would do everything within its power to aid the gentile community to become richer and more powerful. But, overriding every other consideration is the parasite's determination to keep its position upon the host. For five thousand years, history has recorded the efforts of gentile hosts to dislodge their Jewish parasites. Empires rise and fall, continents are discovered, wildernesses are explored and settled, and man makes progress through new inventions. Yet through it all, one factor remains constant. The gentile host, fearful of the damage which it is suffering from the presence of the Jewish parasite, tries to dislodge it. The parasite has prepared for such efforts, which it always foresees, by attaching itself so securely to the host that the host only damages itself in its wild struggles. In some cases, the gentile host destroys itself in these efforts. The Jewish host prefers seeing the gentile host destroyed instead of leaving peaceably from a still-living host. If the host dies, the parasite looks for another host. It has no feeling of any kind for the host which has provided it with food. This callous attitude is typical of the philosophy of .the Jew, and it is exemplified by the current phrase so popular in Jewish Hollywood, 'Who needs it?'" [The Biological Jew, Page 29 (emphasis added)]
Look, gang, this is all about power. Do you know who is taking money out of the stock market? Who's taking the off-ramp right now? George Soros. Wait a minute, you mean the guy who's -- yes, the guy who's issuing these statements on me? Yes! George Soros, the fund management, reduced his $25 billion in equity investments to $8.8 billion in March and then down to $5.1 billion at the end of June. Why? He's getting out of the market because he knows.
Experts are saying that they believe he is shifting his money towards government bonds. Gee, what do you think? Maybe to be liquid.
This guy doesn't care about people or countries, just money and power. He didn't care when he famously profited off of England's misery. He won't care when our day of reckoning comes because he'll profit on that as well. He and his family will be going to Singapore. Well, can your family go to Singapore? Make no mistake. The day is coming and we must stick together and rely on the truth. [Glenn Beck, 8/25/10, via Nexis (emphasis added)]
On Jews Bankrupting Other Communities:
The gentile worker has spent his life in providing sustenance for the Jewish parasite, enabling the parasite to live in luxury while the gentile worker labors long hours each day in order to survive on a mere subsistence level. The earnings of the gentile worker vanish before his eyes into the Jewish monetary system, as calculated and abstruse monetary laws go into effect. Meanwhile, the Jewish educational system instructs the gentile worker's children that they can look forward to the privilege of laboring all of their life to support the Chosen People of God, who live in the style to which they have become accustomed.
The Jewish monetary system is a series of variations on the shell game at the county fair. The gentile is certain that the pea is under the shell on the left, but when he bets on it, the shell on the left has nothing under it. The gentile puts his money down on other Jewish peas, but whatever he buys suddenly depreciates. The bonds which he purchases drop in value, and he sells at a loss, in order to avoid losing everything he has. [The Biological Jew, Page 30]
"[M]any, including the Malaysian prime minister, believe it was billionaire speculator George Soros who helped trigger the [Southeast Asian] economic meltdown" in 1997, a reference to former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's anti-Semitic claim that Soros was part of a Jewish "agenda" to collapse Southeast Asian currencies. [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 10/5/10]
[T]he Jew knows that his first task, upon arriving in a gentile community, is to subvert and take over its government, and to paralyse the people with subtle injections of poison, so that they become helpless and unable to defend themselves. Thus, the Jew begins agitation to set up a "progressive" government, also known as a "popular front", a "democratic" government, a "people's" government, a "liberal" government, and all of these are synonyms for the Jewish government, which will protect the presence of the parasite and guard it against the anger of the exploited gentiles. [The Biological Jew, p28]
Progressive policies create "slavery"; "slavery to government, welfare, affirmative action, regulation, control." [Glenn Beck, 10/27/09]
"Progressives have put their agenda now in a hyper-drive. And it is crystal clear that their final goal is anything but American." [Glenn Beck, 1/18/10, via Nexis]
"Tonight, I just want to focus on the economy. I'm going to close the case on what is -- what Barack Obama has said is the fundamental transformation of our country. I believe it's the destruction of our monetary system. [...] And, transforming America -- I would say that that means collapsing the system as we know it and rebooting it as a progressive utopia." [Glenn Beck, 1/5/10, via Nexis]
Beck often refers to himself as a teacher who presents information to let his audience come to their own conclusions. If Beck is preparing his curriculum and chalkboard illustrations on works like those of Mullins, exactly what conclusion is he hoping is audience will come to?
Rupert Murdoch has sent some new signals about where he and NewsCorp may stand in the brewing battle between the GOP establishment's preferences for the GOP presidential ticket in 2012 (led by paid Fox New contributor Karl Rove) -- which pointedly do not include Sarah Palin -- and the increasingly probable "rogue" presidential candidacy of Palin (also a paid Fox New contributor).
To date it has been established that Palin and Beck stand together in the use of divisive fear mongering and violence-inciting language that has already led to real violence (the head-stomping of a progressive activist by a Rand Paul supporter in Kentucky), a string of death threats directly linked to Beck (Nancy Pelosi and Patty Murray), and a near tragedy at the Tides Foundation directly linked to Beck by the shooter himself. In reaction to a challenge by myself and Michael Keegan in the Huffington Post, Palin said, "I stand with you with you, Glenn" in direct reference to his reckless rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and their palpable deranged consequences. It goes without saying that Beck (and Rush Limbaugh to boot) stand with Palin, but it's also clear that she, the one with the electoral political ambition, needs them more than they need her. Fox's Greta Van Susteren also seems to be on the Palin bandwagon.
In a little-noticed interview with the Australian Financial Review, Murdoch, echoing Palin, has announced in no uncertain terms he stands with Beck -- a "very genuine, extremely well-read libertarian" was his description of his star. Perhaps to underline the point that his top talent ought to get with the extremist Beck/Palin program, he trashed top-rated host Bill O'Reilly for a relatively even-handed interview of Hillary Clinton. "Disgraceful," Murdoch called O'Reilly's handling of that interview. Murdoch's disgraceful statement -- and its message to all of Fox's on-air talent and producers -- shows once again the cynicism and deception behind the slogan "Fair and Balanced." (Bill, I have tried to be booked on your show for years without success. I would be happy to come on soon to defend your handling of the Clinton interview and analyze your boss's trashing of you.)
Could be that Murdoch wants to back the hottest Fox stars -- Beck and Palin -- for financial reasons; he observed in the same interview that Fox is "beating the shit" out of CNN in the ratings. Of Beck he said: "Millions -- millions -- watch him at 5 in the afternoon!!" Could be that he views Tea Party agitation as merely something to be ginned up by Beck and Palin, and used in the service of a victory against Obama by ANY GOP nominee, which he will do everything he can, in the accustomed role of political kingmaker, to ensure. "The Tea Party will stiffen the back of the Republican Party," Murdoch said.
This, itself, telegraphs far and wide within Fox that Murdoch's prior statement that Fox should not support the Tea Party or any political party is no longer operative (doesn't look like it ever was anyway, except when Fox humiliated Sean Hannity by yanking him off a Tea Party fundraiser at the eleventh hour). But words matter when you are the boss, and Murdoch has now flip-flopped. When asked by the Australian interviewer, "Are you worried by the attacks on Fox for bias and its support for the Tea Party and Republicans?" Murdoch replied, "Noooo...People love Fox News."
But there is more to suggest Murdoch has shown his hand -- not just in standing with Beck -- but by signaling that he will throw the weight of his powerful political apparatus disguised as a media empire behind Palin as his favored GOP nominee.
In the same interview, Murdoch quoted Mike Bloomberg as telling him that after Bloomberg met with Obama, Bloomberg "came back and said I'd never met in my life a more arrogant man." Murdoch, a close personal friend and political supporter of Bloomberg, who used the New York Post to help elect the mayor, endorsed Bloomberg's purported views of Obama.
What's behind Murdoch's Bloomberg boosterism? Probably boosting Sarah Palin.
Against the conventional wisdom, John Heilemann of New York Magazine has argued at length -- in a much-discussed piece "2012: How Sarah Barracuda Becomes President" -- that a Bloomberg candidacy can only help Palin become President, if she is the nominee. Bloomberg is not a centrist -- centrism is not a political position, it is a non-position, and therefore attracts little support, especially in a third party frame (remember the Unity 08 flop?). He is a moderate with clear views.
What most commentators who have thrown cold water on Heilemann's thesis have missed is that they have misunderstood Bloomberg, interpreting the wrong-headed notion of his "centrism" as drawing equally from both the Democrat and the Republican ticket and thus not affecting the outcome either way.
The truth is that many of Bloomberg's views are to Obama's left in word or deed: on immigration, gay rights (he is for same sex marriage), he is a strong supporter of gun control, against the death penalty, has enacted plans to fight global warming, and talks frequently about the pressing social need to reduce the income gap between rich and poor. There was also his unequivocal position in favor of building the New York City Mosque. Would President Bloomberg -- a staunch pro-choicer -- have let the Stupak Amendment slide through? "Reproductive choice is a fundamental human right, and we can never take it for granted," Bloomberg has said.
Other views Bloomberg holds provide succor to Democrats in the financial services industry and more broadly in the business community who have been turned off by what they see as Obama's populist anti-Wall Street polemics and anti-business pro-union attitudes. "Wall Street's staunchest defender," New York Magazine dubbed the Mayor, who is also less than enamored with organized labor.
These positions altogether draw away from the Democratic nominee, not the Republican. Can a man who just said this weekend in an interview with the Wall Street Journal of the new Congress -- "If you look at the U.S. you look at who we're electing to Congress, to the Senate, they can't read" -- possibly draw many votes from Palin, or from any GOP nominee who will have to co-opt the Tea Party folks to win? Don't think so.
What about Bloomberg's fiscal conservatism? His actual record certainly won't be attractive to the right. He doesn't like taxes, but he eliminated New York's deficit and balanced the budget by raising them. Could his fiscal conservatism play well with Democratic base? Also unlikely. Bloomberg and Treasury Secretary Geithner have disagreed about the extension of the Bush tax breaks for the rich. But the smoke signals coming out of the Obama administration this weekend suggest an openness to the Bloomberg (and Congresssional Republican) position -- not a permanent extension, but maybe for a year or two.
So if some progressive Democrats who favor progressive tax policy end up interpreting the Bloomberg and Obama tax policies as in effect the same, why not pick the stronger social liberal, Bloomberg?
What is clear as this story develops is: MSNBC execs are wringing their hands over and trying to kill their marquee host, Keith Olbermann for some piddling personal donations -- after having just a few weeks ago announced a new openly progressive branding campaign -- "Lean Forward" -- for the increasingly competitive cable network, that success brought to them in the first place by Olbermann's talents as a broadcaster (MSNBC is "beating the shit" out of CNN too). Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch is swiftly maneuvering, promoting his top stars, issuing new commands to his troops with a partisan political end game in mind: "With any kind of a Republican candidate ... Obama will find it impossible to win" re-election. For now, it looks like Murdoch's preferred candidate is Sarah Barracuda. What will Karl Rove and Company do about that? Stay tuned.
On Glenn Beck's Friday radio show, Sarah Palin called in to reply to a Huffington Post op-ed I published last Tuesday with People for the American Way President Michael Keegan. Keegan and I had made an earnest plea to Palin to repudiate Beck's use of violence-inciting rhetoric. That evening, I appeared on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell and ended the interview by saying I had heard no reply yet from Palin and if I did not hear one the next morning, I would call her MYSELF with a personal plea to repudiate Beck before we see another major tragedy like Oklahoma City. We were going to find out, I told O'Donnell, whether she would or wouldn't repudiate Beck.
My calls to Palin on Wednesday went unreturned that day and on Thursday.
On Friday, Keegan and I -- and the American public -- got our answer. Palin told Beck, "I stand with you, Glenn."
Today, Palin, appearing on Fox News Sunday as a Fox News contributor, made serious accusations of journalistic malfeasance against another TV network, CBS. Station officials called the allegations "absurd" and "untrue." The same accusations had been made hours earlier by Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism website, which has a well-known history of releasing selectively edited tapes and of making false allegations about ACORN and Shirley Sherrod in the service of right-wing political agitation.
This afternoon, Fox aired the Breitbart video, and AFTER the airing, reporter Carl Cameron admitted Fox "cannot verify" Palin's claims or "listen to the entirety of the message."
So, Palin stands with Beck. My question for Beck: Will you show Sarah, with her unproven accusations that your own network says it can't verify, the same faith she showed in you Friday? Glenn, do you stand with Sarah?
Your producer Stu said Friday you have my phone number. Call me.