TPM Media's Zachary Roth reported earlier in the week that the political action committee that organized the Tea Party Express -- Our Country Deserves Better PAC -- funneled almost two-thirds of its spending from July to November back to the political consulting firm from which it was spawned, Russo, Marsh, and Associates. More than $850,000 of the money the supposedly grassroots PAC collected went to the firm of GOP political operatives who ran it.
For those who may have forgotten, the Tea Party Express was the faux-grassroots operation that Fox News hopped aboard in late August, after the network's promotion of the health care town hall meeting disruptions but before they started flogging the 9-12 protest. (It's so hard to keep Fox's political activism straight!) It was a nationwide bus tour organized by a political action committee whose mission is to oppose President Obama and other Democrats; with a pedigree like that, how could Fox resist?
Fox News heavily promoted the Tea Party Express; the Our Country Deserves Better PAC even used Fox's promotion in a fundraising email. Then Fox's Griff Jenkins hit the trail with the Express, following that bus around the country, throwing journalistic integrity aside as he declared its riders "the America that Washington forgot."
But somehow, Jenkins missed out on the real story: how loyal tea-party-goers were separated from their hard-earned cash, which was funneled to fat cat Republican political consultants. Russo, Marsh, and Associates salutes you, Fox News. They could have scammed the tea partiers without you, but it probably wouldn't have been nearly as lucrative.
The GOP-friendly polling firm continues to struggle with the basic understanding of terrorism investigations. Here's a finding from Rasmussen's poll in the wake of the attempted Christmas Day attack [emphasis added]:
Seventy-one percent (71%) of all voters think the attempt by the Nigerian Muslim to blow up the airliner as it landed in Detroit should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act. Only 22% say it should be handled by civilian authorities as a criminal act, as is currently the case.
Flashback: Rasmussen advertised the same ignorance in the wake of the Ft. Hood handgun massacre in November, when the polling firm asked whether that attack should be handled by the military as a terrorist attack, or by civilian authorities as a criminal one.
We highlighted the obvious flaws in the question back thend. And guess what? The the flaws still hold today:
Why is it an either/or question? Why are respondents asked to pick between a "military" terrorist investigation and "civilian" criminal investigation? It makes no sense. First of all, a terrorist investigation, by definition, is a criminal one. Second, it's the FBI (i.e. a "civilian" authority) that has been investigating "terrorists acts" in this country for generations. Civilian authorities launch terrorist investigations all the time, so why does Rasmussen pretend that only "military authorities" do that? Why does Rasmussen suggest that if civilians investigate Ft. Hood, then it won't be a terrorist investigation?
Why did Rasmussen formulate a question that makes no sense?
You have to credit Andrew Breitbart for perseverance. Less than a week after Ornamentgate blew up in the blogger's face, he's back with yet another dubious accusation. And just like his last smear, this one crumbles with the least bit of scrutiny.
Yesterday, Breitbart's BigGovernment.com claimed that the "Bertha E. Lewis" who visited the White House in September, according to recently released visitor logs, was in fact ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis. In a breathtaking bit of hubris, the post links Lewis' purported visit to the heavily edited ACORN tapes Breitbart released that month, expressing shock that Obama had subsequently "acted almost as if he'd never heard of the group," even as he had just met with its CEO.
The post concludes:
Of course, it is possible that this isn't ACORN's Bertha Lewis. After a previous dump of visitor records listed the name, Jeremiah Wright, the White House said, 'oh, that was a different Jeremiah Wright.' The media, of course, said, 'okay,' and never followed up. So, maybe the Bertha Lewis listed here isn't the CEO of ACORN. Just another Bertha Lewis who gets special weekend access to the White House Residence, complete with an extra-special staff tour. Sure, possible, but we'd love to see a bookie's odds on that.
It's not clear how President Obama meeting with the CEO of ACORN would be problmatic anywhere outside the right-wing fantasy world in which the group is the root of all evil, but guess what? Politico's Ben Smith called the White House. Yup, it's a different Bertha Lewis (a whitepages.com search turns up more than 100 matches, go figure). He also called ACORN. Yup, Lewis' middle initial isn't "E."
Looks like there's more egg all over Breitbart's face (and that of Glenn Reynolds and the other right-wing bloggers who ran with his report).
I can't wait for BigJournalism.
UPDATE: Fox Nation is now blaring the headline, "ACORN CEO Visited White House Week Before Scandal Broke." This is what happens when you run with a Breitbart story: you end up being embarrassed.
In January 2007 -- in what can only be described as a stunning display of race baiting, religious bigotry, and outright dishonesty -- the hosts of Fox & Friends spent a substantial portion of a broadcast repeating an obviously false online claim that then-Sen. Obama had attended a radical Islamic madrassa as a child in Indonesia.
The madrassa lie was quickly debunked by CNN. Fox & Friends was forced to "clarify" its report. John Moody, who was a Fox News executive at the time, reportedly said that the Fox News hosts who ran with the false story "violated one of our general rules, which is know what you are talking about. ... They reported information from a publication whose accuracy we didn't know." Separately, Moody also reportedly wrote of the madrassa incident: "For the record: seeing an item on a website does not mean it is right. Nor does it mean it is ready for air on FNC."
But almost three years later, the madrassa smear has returned to Fox. On two shows this week -- both guest-hosted by Fox News' Eric Bolling -- frequent Fox guest Ann Coulter has claimed three times that Obama attended "madrassas" as a child. Bolling has yet to challenge Coulter's false claims.
Mediaite posted video of one of Coulter's comments here.
From the December 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor (as transcribed on Fox News' website):
COULTER: And I also would like say, especially with a former Obama advisor on the program, I mean, this is - this was part of the selling point of for Obama liberal. Andrew Sullivan pointed out, you know, what are these radical Islamists going to do when they look and see the president of the great Satan. And you know, he has brown skin. And he attended madrassas. And he talks about how he's so moved by the call to prayer five times a day. He used to hear in Indonesia. If anyone can say we're going to look for radical Islamists, it ought to be President Obama. If he does that, if he institutes racial profiling at the airports, I'll vote for him.
BOLLING: Matthew, would it be so bad?
From the December 30 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck (as transcribed in the Nexis database):
BOLLING: Ann, let me just talk to you about this for a second.
Since Obama has been in office June 2009, the Little Rock soldier was killed, August 2009; U.S. citizen born in Brooklyn, he's going to fight for the Taliban; in September, Talib Islam born Michael Finton wants to go fight for the Taliban; the Zazi brothers in Denver, they want to blow up the New York City subway; Nidal Hasan, the Army major at Fort Hood; and then this attack on Christmas.
You know, these incidences have definitely stepped up in the last 11 months.
COULTER: Right, I think they have. And that isn't a very long time for three actual attacks on U.S. soil. And I think the point is, these are two competing ideologies of how you deal with our enemies. And if anything, I mean -- I mean, they kept using it as a selling point that Obama would throw Islamic radicals on their hind legs when they look up and they see someone who studies with [sic: studied at] madrassas and they see the "Great Satan" has a president with a brown face and the world is going to love us.
Well, that clearly has not come to be the case. And moreover, you know, he is in a position even stronger than George Bush to do what ought to be done and that is to start looking for passengers who look like the last three dozen terrorists to attack airplanes. He could engage in -- whatever you want to call it -- racial profiling, ethnic profiling, looking for young Muslim males, foreign-born Muslim males. But no, to the contrary, what we have is his homeland security coming out and saying the system works.
BOLLING: Andrew, you're in the west coast. Are feelings changing a little bit? It's been a liberal left coast for a long, now they see all these attacks and potential attacks going on. Is the sentiment changing?
BREITBART: In Hollywood -- well, look, the thing is, what's happened over the last few years in Hollywood and as being a critic of Hollywood at large, I have to make an apology to the FOX audience because, for years, I thought it was a monolithically left-centered town. It's not. There are tons of right-of-center libertarian-leaning conservatives. It's just that there's a certain Stalinist bent to leftist where if a person were to peep, a conservative peep were to comes out of a Jon Voight, these people are merciless in getting rid of them.
There are a ton of people who would love to make movies that portray the threat of terrorism, to use Hollywood like Hollywood was used in World War II, to be part of the war effort, but Hollywood continues to still make anti-war movies at a time of war even with Obama in power.
BOLLING: Ann, what -- is it going to take a successful attack where, you know, a lot more Americans die for the sentiment to change? I mean, this whole, you know, it's a culture. This whole culture has to change. It has to be more -- hey, we better err on the side of safety, because if we don't, people die. If we err on the side of political correctness, people's feelings get hurt, right?
COULTER: Right. Right, well, I happen to think sentiment has changed. Maybe it didn't need to change. I think if you polled Americans after 9/11, they would have said drop the political correctness when it comes to boarding airplanes.
And like I say, Obama can be doing more than Bush. He is specially situated that way, as having gone to madrassas as a child, not being a white male, which is, you know, the height of political incorrectness, but just the contrary, we're moving in exactly doing the -- making -- repeating the worst mistakes of the Bush administration.
The response to this attack is -- is for Obama to take the bull's move, not to allow people to read magazines for the last hour of a flight, not to go to the bathroom for the last hour of a flight. I mean, the way of objective of airport security seems to be to just make it more and more unpleasant for Americans to fly and to make it easier and easier for radical Muslims to fly to the point that now they're talking about doing these full nude body scans for everyone boarding an airplane.
BOLLING: And, Andrew, Ann makes a good point. Have they won? Have they won? If they haven't won the war, has al Qaeda won a small battle just making, you know, our lives miserable every time we step into an airport?
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder wants to know what people think is "the best (or worst) Republican political scandal of the decade?" Ambinder offers four choices:
Not mentioned? The Bush administration lying its way into a war of choice, listening in on the phone conversations of Americans, torture, Abu Ghraib, putting an unqualified crony in charge of FEMA, the US Attorneys firing, outing a CIA operative to get back at her husband, etc.
I don't think Ambinder is unique in his view of what constitutes a major political scandal, not by any stretch of the imagination. But when the political/media elite come to view the possibility that Larry Craig tried to pick up a guy in an airport as more scandalous than Abu Ghraib, warrantless wiretapping of Americans, or the dishonest march to war against a country that didn't attack us, we're in pretty bad shape.
Take a look at the results of Gallup's annual "most admired" poll. The top ten most-admired men include six U.S. political figures: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Glenn Beck, John McCain, and George H.W. Bush. 31 percent chose Obama or Clinton; the Bushes, Beck and McCain combined for 8 percent. Among women, 23 percent named Hillary Clinton or Michelle Obama as their most-admired, while 17 percent named Sarah Palin or Condoleeza Rice.
That's a pretty convincing edge for the liberals across the two lists -- 54 to 25. (We're combining different questions here, so it isn't right to say "54 percent" or anything like that, but you get the point.)
Now look at the way USA Today reports these results:
President Obama is the man Americans admired most in 2009, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin are virtually tied as the most-admired woman.
The close finish by Clinton, named by 16% in the open-ended survey, and Palin, named by 15%, reflects the nation's partisan divide.
Liberals were named about twice as frequently as conservatives -- and so USA Today declares that the close finish by Clinton and Palin reflects the nation's partisan divide. Really? Why? Why doesn't the fact people were twice as likely to name a liberal their "most admired" person reflect the nation's dislike for conservative political figures?
I have no idea what Maureen Dowd is talking about:
America seemed to have lost her ingenuity, her quickness, her man-on-the-moon bravura, her Bugs Bunny panache.
Were we clever and inventive enough to protect ourselves from the new breed of Flintstones-hardy yet Facebook-savvy terrorists?
Even before a Nigerian with Al Qaeda links tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet headed to Detroit, travelers could see we had made no progress toward a technologically wondrous Philip K. Dick universe.
Before he left for vacation, Obama tried to shed his Spock mien and juice up the empathy quotient on jobs.
Given that every utterance of the president is usually televised, it was a throwback to radio days - just at the moment we sought reassurance that our security has finally caught up to "Total Recall."
In his detached way, Spock was letting us know that our besieged starship was not speeding into a safer new future, and that we still have to be scared.
Bugs Bunny? "Flinstones-hardy"? "Technologically wondrous Philip K. Dick universe"? "Total Recall"? Spock? What in the world is Dowd going on about? Does she really think "Total Recall" is something we aspire to?
I can only assume that this disjointed overdose of unexplained cartoon/book/film references is nothing more than an attempt to make clear that she's engaging in theater criticism rather than offering an actual assessment of any sort of policy. But there was never much danger that would have gone unnoticed -- not with passages like this:
But in a mystifying moment that was not technically or emotionally reassuring, there was no live video and it looked as though the Obama operation was flying by the seat of its pants.
Given that every utterance of the president is usually televised, it was a throwback to radio days...
Anyway, as far as I can tell, Dowd wants Obama to be more like Bugs Bunny. And Arnold Schwarzenegger. You know, so he can keep us safe from Barney Rubble.
Here's the beginning of today's front-page Washington Post article headlined "Republicans see political opportunity in Obama response to failed airplane bomb":
Republicans are jumping on President Obama's response to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner as the latest evidence that Democrats do not aggressively fight terrorism to protect the country, returning to a campaign theme that the GOP has employed successfully over the past decade.
Well, OK, but it's also a campaign theme that the GOP has employed unsuccessfully over the past decade. Why does the lede pretend otherwise? A more accurate and honest lede would describe it as "a campaign theme that the GOP has employed with mixed success over the past decade." Or, even better, "a campaign theme that the GOP employed successfully in 2002 and 2004, but that has since been unsuccessful."
Buried deep in the article, we see this passage:
Obama's approval rating on national security has remained relatively steady since he took office. In a mid-November Washington Post-ABC News poll, 53 percent of Americans said they approved of the way Obama was handling the threat of terrorism, while 41 percent said they disapproved.
But pollsters warned that the president's standing is tenuous ...
The "pollsters" in question turn out to be one pollster, Republican strategist Neil Newhouse.
Now take a look at the very end of the article -- literally the last sentences, after more nearly 1,100 words:
The Republican strategy is further complicated by the fact that the nation's counterterrorism intelligence and security procedures were created after Sept. 11, 2001, by Bush and congressional Republicans. Current watch-list systems were put in place years ago and have not changed. In addition, the former Guantanamo Bay detainees who showed up in the al-Qaeda leadership in Yemen were released by Bush two years ago.
Two paragraphs earlier, the Post had finally gotten around to telling readers that Republican Senator Jim DeMint has blocked President Obama's nominee to lead the TSA.
So the Post hypes the efficacy of Republican attacks on Democrats over national security despite the fact that in the past two elections those attacks have been spectacularly unsuccessful, buries poll data that shows that President Obama's approval rating on national security has remained steady despite months of Republican attacks, and tacks on at the very end an acknowledgement that the Republican attacks are undermined by their own actions. They must think this is how you win a Pulitzer now that Politico has a spot on the prize committee's board.
Q: If a liberal Democrat did something like this, how would the media react?
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) sent a letter to President Obama today asking him to halt the transfer of six Guantanamo detainees to Yemen. The request, they say, is in light of the danger they've apparently just now realized Yemen poses, because Nigerian terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has said he was trained there.
The only problem: those six detainees have already been returned to Yemen.
A: An endless barrage of sarcastic comments about "rookie mistakes" and head-shaking about how Democrats don't "get" national security and warnings of political peril for the party as a result.
And yet conservative senators who were among the lead cheerleaders for the Iraq war can screw something like this up, and you won't hear a peep about Joe Lieberman and John McCain not having the foggiest idea what they're talking about.
If you were typing up Dick Cheney's attack on Barack Obama's response to the Christmas Day attack in which someone tried to blow up a plane bound for Detroit, and hyping the GOP "strategy for next year's midterm congressional elections" of "portray[ing] Democrats as weak on security," would you maybe include mention of the fact that two of the four people who allegedly plotted that attack were released from U.W. custody in 2007, while Dick Cheney was Vice President?
UPDATE: And just to be clear, Allen didn't get an interview with Cheney. No, he describes the source of Cheney's attacks as "Cheney said in a statement to POLITICO" -- which is a fancy way of saying "Cheney said in a press release." So to sum up: Dick Cheney sends Mike Allen a press release, which Mike Allen then copies-and-pastes it into a "news article" without mentioning key facts that would undermine Cheney's press release. Aren't you glad Politico got a spot on the Pulitzer committee?