From Howard Kurtz's December 21 Washington Post column:
To the untrained eye, Mike Huckabee appears to be running for president again.
Looking into the camera, he unloads on President Obama: "He's never done this kind of work before. He's never run a state or a private company, or as best we can tell even a Sno-Cone stand. So running the whole country, that's a big leap from community organizer."
But the former Arkansas governor is just doing his Fox News show -- and, what's more, insists he may pass up the 2012 race. Although if he were plotting another White House campaign, what better route than by pounding home a conservative message on television?
Huckabee hasn't exactly abandoned Republican politics, either. On Sunday, he headlined a Nebraska rally staged to oppose the Democrats' health care bill. His HuckPAC has been involved in local races, raising $305,000 in this campaign cycle. His Web site urges followers to "Vote No Against Senate Health Care Bill" and invites fans to join him and his wife, Janet (for just $3,999!), on a tour of Israel next month. Fox executives told Huckabee to stop plugging the Web site on the air after learning that it linked to his political action committee, which the network deemed a conflict of interest.
Eighty advertisers have reportedly dropped their ads from Glenn Beck's Fox News program since he called President Obama a "racist" who has a "deep-seated hatred of white people." Here are his December 21 sponsors, in the order they appeared:
The right-wing media have spent the year BEGGING for progressive leaders to call them Nazis.
Back in April, media conservatives freaked out over declassified Department of Homeland Security report detailing potential increases in right-wing extremism. Ignoring the possibility that the election of a black president could have an actual effect on the radicalism and recruitment of actual hate groups - like, for instance, the Klan - the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world were convinced that the report was actually aimed at them.
Then in August, Nancy Pelosi commented that protestors are "carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care." Sure enough, swastikas and other Nazi icons had appeared on signs carried by those protestors, who were suggesting that the Democrats' health care reform plans were reminiscent of Hitler's Germany. But the right-wing was sure that Pelosi was talking about them, and had been calling the protestors or opponents of health care reform "Nazis."
Now, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is getting the same treatment. In a floor speech yesterday, Whitehouse criticized Senate Republicans' rampant obstructionism of health care reform efforts, specifically their refusal to support cloture on a defense appropriations bill in hopes of slowing down attempts to move to a vote on health care. Whitehouse stated that Senate Republicans were "desperate to break this president," adding "They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist."
From Whitehouse's December 20 floor speech (about 115 minutes in):
The lowest of the low was the Republican vote against funding and supporting our troops in the field in a time of war. As a devise to stop health care, they tried to stop the appropriation of funds for our soldiers. There is no excuse for that. From that, there is no return. Every single Republican member was willing to vote against cloture for funding our troops, and they admitted it was a tactic to obstruct health care reform. The Secretary of Defense warned us all that a "no" vote would immediately create "a serious disruption in the worldwide activities of the Department of Defense," end quote, and yet every one of them was willing to vote "no."
Almost all of them did vote no. Some stayed away, but that's the same as "no" when you need 60 "yes" votes to proceed. Voting "no" and hiding from the vote are the same result. Those of us on the floor see it was clear. The three of them who did not cast their yes votes until all 60 Senate votes had been tallied and it was clear that the result was a foregone conclusion. And why? Why all this discord and discourtesy, all this unprecedented destructive action? All to break the momentum of our new young president.
They are desperate to break this president. They have ardent supporters who are nearly hysterical at the very election of President Barack Obama. The birthers, the fanatics, the people running around in right-wing militia and Aryan support groups, it is unbearable to them that President Barack Obama should exist. That is one powerful reason. It is not the only one.
Rather then assess the validity of Whitehouse's claims - do such people exist, and do they support Republcian senators? - the right-wing started screaming about how Whitehouse was accusing them all of membership in hate groups.
Washington Times blogger Kerry Picket got the ball rolling, providing Whitehouse's full comment but doing so under the headline, "Sen. Whitehouse: foes of health care bill are birthers, right-wing militias, aryan groups." RedState's Erick Erickson took over from there, claiming that Whitehouse said that "If you oppose health care deform, you are a racist, hate-spouting, Aryan who roots for the assassination of Barack Obama" and "labeled everyone opposed to the legislation as racist hatemongers rooting for bullets against the President." The claim spread through the right-wing blogosphere from there, and just made the jump to Lou Dobbs' radio show.
What seems oddest about the right-wing media's obsessive claims that progressives are calling them Nazis is the implication that comparing your political opponents to Hitler and company is out of bounds. If the right really believes that such comparisons are beyond the pale, maybe its time for them to stop informing us how much Obama and his politics remind them of Hitler.
This is quite telling, courtesy of the WashPost's Chris Cillizza as he toast the ultimate political "winners" of the health care reform showdown [emphasis added]:
-- John McCain: The Mac was back during the health-care debate, a feisty presence on the Senate floor and in front of the television cameras, leading the GOP opposition to the bill. McCain's performance over the past several weeks proved that he is and will continue to be a major force in the chamber. His stalwart opposition to the plan is also good politics, making it harder for former representative J.D. Hayworth to challenge him from the ideological right in a primary next year.
What exactly did McCain do in recent weeks in terms of the health care debate to emerge as a clear "winner"? (As a "major force"?) He maintained a "presence" on the Senate floor. He also showed up on TV on a lot and opposed Obama's initiative. Wow, I mean what more could a political leader do during an historic legislative showdown?
The truth is if you strip away the Beltway media's obsessive, McCain's-our-man-coverage, the Arizona senator, like virtually every Republican member of Congress, was a spectator during the health care legislative process. Without the votes to stop anything, and having adopted a strategy to uniformly oppose everything Democrats offered up, Republicans assigned themselves to permanent bystander status.
Meanwhile, McCain himself is not considered to be a health care expert and his opposition to the White House plan was telegraphed months ago. Meaning, McCain brought nothing of substance to the debate. Yet lo and behold, looking back on the legislative process which Republicans lost, the WashPost tips its cap to McCain for emerging as a health debate "winner."
From Bob Owens' December 21 Confederate Yankee blog post, headlined "All I Want Is A Byrd Dropping For Christmas":
Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) has seen far better days, and is often little more than a warm body when he is helped into the Senate. Granted, lucidity and coherence is not a priority among Senate Democrats, but Byrd is an embarrassment even for a party that regular drafts the imaginary or dead to vote.
Robert Byrd has been around a very long time, and his many decades of service have made West Virginia a wonderful state in which to manufacture methamphetamine or frame the locals for murder. But it's time for Senator to do the right thing, and expire.
It isn't too much to ask for Byrd to step off for that great klavern in the sky before the Senate vote that may force this nation to accept government-rationed health care. Even a nice coma would do.
Without his frail, Gollum-like body being wheeled into the Senate's chambers to cast the deciding vote, the Senate cannot curse our children and grandchildren with crushing debt and rationed, substandard healthcare.
I suppose some will be shocked and appalled that I'd wish for the former kleagle to die on command. I'd remind them that the party wheeling in a near invalid to vote in favor of this unread monstrosity of a bill is the one that should feel shame.
From Pamela Geller's December 21 Atlas Shrugs blog post (emphasis in original):
The moochers and the looters, the crooks and degenerates voted at 1 am this morning to rip the constitution to shreds, to rape the American people and to nationalize medicine. Straight on party lines. All 40 Republicans voted against cloture. It was the Republicans' desire to continue the debate and hold up the legislation. All 58 Democrats and two independents voted to end debate -- the minimum number needed. They will pay for destroying this country.
In what can only be considered an act of treason and blasphemy, Senate Democrats are on track to pass the bill on Christmas Eve.
Because the org clearly misfired when it came to Karl Rove's defense and essentially backed his claim that Obama currently had "the worst ratings of any president at the end of his first year." Rove wrote that in his recent WSJ column and I immediately flagged it as being false and highlighted how Ronald Reagan's approval ratings at the end of his first year were identical to Obama's.
Rove's definitive claim (i.e. "the worst ratings") is not true. Yet PolitiFact took up the issue and announced Rove's suggestion was "mostly true," even though PolitiFact confirmed my point about Regan's approval ratings.
This analysis is just embarrassing, especially coming from a fact-checking site that's supposed to offer clarity [emphasis added]:
Still, if you're making the comparison -- and political observers have been doing precisely these sorts of comparisons for years -- Rove's statement holds up fairly well. Yes, Rove spoke too loosely when he said that Obama's numbers were the worst of any president's, and he failed to mention equally bad ratings for Reagan, a conservative icon whose politics were more in tune with Rove's than Obama. But with the exception of Reagan, every other elected president had clearly higher approval ratings at this point in his tenure than Obama has. So we rate Rove's statement Mostly True.
You follow? Rove stated unequivocally that Obama's approval ratings were the worst for any president at the end of his first term. But that's false. Period. So what conclusion did PolitiFact come to? It determined that Rove's assertion was "mostly true" and "holds up fairly well."
Except, y'know, for the fact that it's not accurate.
The larger point is that Rove could have used more ambiguous language and suggested Obama's year-end ratings were "among" the lowest for president. That would have been accurate. But Rove clearly wanted to make a splash; he wanted to make a definitive OMG-type of statement about Obama's ratings. (Indeed, the WSJ used the "worst ratings" ever line as the column's pull quote.) Rove wanted to start an anti-Obama meme with his worst-ever claim. And among his obedient followers, Rove has.
Rove chose to use definitive, attention-grabbing language with his worst-ever claim. And the language was false. So why did PolitiFact give Rove a pass?
UPDATED: Rove's swipe only worked if he played dumb about Reagan's polling numbers. There's just no way Rove would have ever written, "Along with Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama has won a place in history with the worst ratings of any president at the end of his first year."
In order to slam Obama, Rove had to lie about previous polling numbers. And PolitiFact thinks that's fine.
Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza thinks the media did an "ok job" at a "damn near impossible" task: explaining health care reform:
Wilmington, NC: You mentioned the public "souring" on health reform. I suspect that measure is simply a reflection of the tone of the coverage, rather than an informed opinion. Every conversation I have heard on health reform has been notably misinformed or, at best, uninformed. Seriously, the state of public understanding of the issue and its proposed legislation is a cosmic joke. Do you believe our news media has performed well in the aggregate in informing us on this matter? Do you know of any polling data that might contradict my sense of the utter cluelessness of pretty much everyone out here about this policy?
Chris Cillizza: I think the media has done an ok job is trying to explain what is an incredibly complex and wide-ranging bill to the public.
The simple fact is that explaining an overhaul of the health care system in our country in 30 column inches of a 20 minute television broadcast is damn near impossible.
I think the media has done a terrible job at a relatively simple task. See, Cillizza is right that explaining everything about health care reform is damn near impossible. On the other hand, explaining the basic facts of "an overhaul of the health care system in 30 column inches or a 20 minute television broadcast" is incredibly easy. The media just chose not to do it.
For example, one of the central disputes over the public option was whether or not it would increase the deficit. Opponents said it would, and were frequently quoted as such in the media. But the Congressional Budget Office said that, in fact, it would reduce the deficit. But those news reports indicating that critics claimed it would add to the deficit typically failed to make the point that, according to CBO, this was not true. Had the media wanted to "explain" the basics, it would have been incredibly easy to make sure that every news report that mentioned the public option indicated that it would reduce the deficit.
And the same applies to other basic facts about the reform package. 300 million Americans were never going to understand every aspect of health care reform. But 300 million Americans don't need to understand every aspect of health care reform. Had the media committed themselves to explaining -- over and over again -- the basic facts that everyone does need to know, they would have done a much better job.
Instead, the news media basically punted on actually explaining things and focused on politics and process and minutia, while passing along politicians' claims and talking points without indicating whether or not they were true.
As for the "ok job" part: I'll renew my recent challenge to the Washington Post:
The Post has a polling budget. If they're so convinced that they've covered health care "pretty well" -- well enough that they can devote extensive resources to figuring out who golfers sleep with -- let's see them prove it. I dare the Post to conduct a scientific poll of its readers, asking them a basic question about health care reform: According to the Congressional Budget Office, would health care reform that includes a government-run public insurance option increase the deficit or reduce it?
If the Post has done a good job of covering health care reform, a large majority of its readers should be able to answer that question correctly. It would cost just a few thousand dollars -- a drop in the bucket for a newspaper like the Post -- in exchange for which the Post would be able to brag about how great its reporting is, and how well informed its readers are. And the paper would get to throw the results in the face of the critics Farhi dismisses as "presumptuous and self-serving" people who "lecture" the Post about " 'serious' news" simply "to telegraph that they themselves are verrrrry serious people and that we should follow their sterling example." Won't that be satisfying!
What's the downside? There is none, unless, of course, the Post thinks that the results would embarrass the paper and undermine its claims to have done a good job of reporting on health care.
Massive, full-screen photo of Biden looking silly? Check.
Start-to-finish snark? Check.
Inane comparison of Biden to Dick Cheney? Check:
Following the phone call that could consume 25, maybe 30, of Biden's monthly minutes, "The vice president will spend the remainder of the day meeting with senior staff."
They've no doubt simply packed into Wilmington despite the federal government's snow day. Or maybe Biden has a home bunker for videoconferencing.
We won't really know because, like the rest of Biden's officially opaque workday, those meetings with unnamed people on unspecified subjects for unannounced durations are closed to any outsiders, too.
Remember how unacceptably secretive bordering on evil that was when Dick "The Most Dangerous Vice President in American History" Cheney used to do the very same thing?
Is it even possible that Andrew Malcolm is dumb enough to expect journalists to be invited to attend the Vice President's meetings with his senior staff? Is it even possible that he expects us to be dumb enough to think Biden meeting privately with his staff is the "opaque" equivalent to Dick Cheney meeting secretly with energy company executives?
There are more than 13,000 majors in the U.S. Army, and the Pentagon says more are needed. According to The Washington Post, "Majors plan and direct day-to-day military operations for Army battalions, the units primarily responsible for waging the counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout the Army, majors fill key roles as senior staff members, putting together war plans, managing personnel and coordinating logistics."
One major, however, has been plucked from the obscurity of serving in Afghanistan to do battle on a second front. Why? Because he wrote an academic paper that offends WorldNetDaily.
In May 2008, Army Maj. Brian L. Stuckert -- then a student at the Army Command's School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas -- wrote a 61-page monograph titled "Strategic Implications of American Millennialism." In it, Stuckert examines how millennialism, and specifically dispensational pre-millennialism -- the branch of Christian eschatology that Jesus will return to take up Christians into heaven by means of a rapture immediately before a seven-year tribulation, then return to Earth to reign for a millennia -- has influenced American military policy. Stuckert supports his claims with copious footnotes and an extensive bibliography. From the abstract of Stuckert's monograph:
Military leaders, planners and strategists require greater understanding of American millennial thought. Millennialism shapes both American culture and U.S. government policy. While most Americans are influenced to some degree by the ideas of pre-millennialism, many are unaware of the philosophical or theological underpinnings. Military leaders charged with interpreting policy into strategy and acting on behalf of the nation on the international stage cannot afford to remain ignorant of the effects of pre-millennialism. Due to a general lack of awareness of millennialism and an uneasy reticence to discuss religious factors, understanding and analysis of our own policies and motives is often deficient. Additionally, the cultural imprint that derives from millennialism impairs our understanding of the words, actions and motives of other actors on the world stage. These factors can be problematic for any military leader or planner attempting to achieve U.S. Government policy objectives through strategy, operations and programs.
As demonstrated by American history, millennialism has predisposed us toward stark absolutes, overly simplified dichotomies and a preference for revolutionary or cataclysmic change as opposed to gradual processes. In other words, American strategists tend to rely too much on broad generalizations, often incorrectly cast in terms of 'good' and 'evil,' and seek the fastest resolution to any conflict rather than the most thoughtful or patient one.
Not an especially controversial conclusion, is it? But it is if you're WorldNetDaily. Here's how a December 19 WND article by Bob Unruh spun this paper -- and thus declared war on an active-duty soldier:
A research paper written by a U.S. Army major for the School of Advanced Military Studies in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., calls for Americans to lose the evangelical Christian belief of pre-millennialism because of the damage it does to the nation's foreign interests.
At no point does Unruh offer any evidence that Stuckert, whom Unruh notes is "reportedly assigned in Afghanistan," demand that "Americans ... lose" belief in pre-millennialism -- he can't, given that Stuckert's monograph is directed at military strategists and not the American public at large. Nothing Unruh quotes out of the paper supports such a claim; indeed, the closest he comes is Stuckert's statement that "We must come to more fully understand the background of our thinking about the U.N., the E.U., the World Trade Organization, Russia, China and Israel. We must ask similar questions about natural events such as earthquakes or disease." A call for understanding is clearly not the same thing as a demand that Americans abandon pre-millennialism, as Unruh claims. Unruh also fails to offer evidence for his suggestion that Stuckert is claiming mere belief in pre-millennialism "damage[s] ... the nation's foreign interests."
Unruh waits until the eighth paragraph to quote the head of the Fort Leavenworth program pointing out that Stuckert's monograph "was simply an 'academic paper' like works at any college across the nation, 'which is to say it reflects the author's own opinions.' "
Then, strangely, Unruh appears to give credence to Stuckert's conclusions by quoting a blogger's baseless and paranoid reaction to it:
Others were more blunt in their assessments of Stuckert's work. Blogger John McTernan, for example, called it "the most dangerous document to believers that I have ever read in my entire life."
"After reading this document, it is easy to see the next step would be to eliminate our Constitutional rights and herd us into concentration camps," he said.
"The last third is an interpretation of Bible belief on world events. This report blames all the world evils on believers! World peace would break out if it were not for Bible believers in America," he said.
McTernan said he had contacted Col. Stefan Banack, listed on the monograph as the director of the School of Advanced Military Studies, who defended the writing.
"The conversation was extremely heated between us, and he hid behind the freedom of speech to produce it. He refused to let me write an article to refute this attack on Bible believers. He refused to tell me what this study was used for and who within the military was sent copies. I believe that it represents an official military view of Bible believers as Col. Banack said there was no study or article refuting this one," McTernan said.
Unruh also writes of McTernan, possibly explaining how this came to WND's attention in the first place:
"While God is in control, I believe it's also naive to deny the ... stage-setting events happening right before our eyes," he continued. "Read the many articles from WorldNetDaily (www.wnd.com) covering the EXTREME thinking of [President Obama's] core group of advisers."
Unmentioned, of course, is the fact that many of those articles on Obama's "core group of advisers" are false and misleading.
Other than quoting a ranting blogger and distorting what Stuckert wrote, Unruh offers no challenge to Stuckert's views.
With this attack on Stuckert, WND is potentially distracting a military officer from his duties in a theater of war by smearing him and taking his words out of context. WND has, in essence, declared war on a soldier, and for no reason other than a purported violation of conservative correctness.
Which raises the question: Why does WorldNetDaily hate our troops in Afghanistan? And why is it so afraid of a mere academic paper?