From the February 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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The Associated Press gave Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) space to parrot tired Benghazi myths about military aid and President Obama's whereabouts the night of the attacks in its coverage of the congressman's recent speech in New Hampshire.
On February 18, the Associated Press detailed Issa's criticisms of the Obama administration during a New Hampshire speech, highlighting Issa's accusation that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta refused to send military aid to Americans under attack in Benghazi in September 2012 and his suggestion that Obama was absent as the administration planned its response to the attacks:
Issa said that Clinton and former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta were accountable as the "top two informed individuals who were awake."
"They didn't react," he said, adding later, "We need to find out from Secretary Clinton, why in the world you wouldn't have insisted that (security forces) be moving and providing support."
Rather than acknowledge that Issa's claims have been soundly discredited, AP prefaced his remarks with the vague disclaimer, "Democrats complain that the continued focus on the Benghazi attack, in particular, is a political stunt designed to weaken Clinton should she run for president."
And yet, Issa's claim that Clinton and Panetta "didn't react" that night, which AP takes at face value, has been called "cartoonish" by military leaders, who have repeatedly testified that the response represented the best of our military's capabilities.
Ted Nugent denied his long history of incendiary comments while appearing on the campaign trail with Republican Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. Reacting to condemnation of his comments from CNN Wolf Blitzer, Nugent compared the network to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
Update: After bizarre series of events, Brown has reportedly renewed his contract with the network. Though a Fox spokeswoman told the Boston Globe Brown was "currently out of contract," Brown responded this morning by telling the Washington Post that report was actually inaccurate. The Post now has a statement from Fox executive Bill Shine saying their previous agreement merely expired last week and the end of Brown's contract was "purely administrative."
Brown is now free to resume using the network to help bolster his political future (Brown has also invited speculation that he'll run for president in 2016). According to the Post, he will appear on Fox & Friends tomorrow.
After using the platform for the past year to help revive his political career, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is "currently out of contract" with Fox News.
A Fox spokesperson told the Boston Globe yesterday that Brown is no longer under contract, but declined to say whether the move was due to Brown exiting in order to run for Senate in New Hampshire or if his contract had merely expired.
The Globe reports that in December, the network said that Brown's contract would be terminated if he "authorized an exploratory committee to be formed for a run." Fox News has previously been happy to keep employees that were publicly considering political runs under contract indefinitely, like perennial will-they-or-won't-they quasi-candidates Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. Though Brown has repeatedly stoked speculation that he might challenge Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for her Senate seat -- including relocating to New Hampshire, speaking at GOP events in the state, and teasing a new website with a campaign-ready slogan -- he has yet to take any formal steps towards mounting a run, so his exit from Fox comes as something of a surprise.
During his last Fox appearance, Brown joined Lou Dobbs on his Fox Business show on February 10, spending several minutes railing against the current state of Congress and the government. Near the end of the conversation, Dobbs awkwardly transitioned to ask, "what's new in New Hampshire?" Brown responded that he and his family "love it. It's obviously a wonderful state." He added, "We'll see, I have a lot of decisions to make, and you've just nailed it in terms of what the issues are, and it's very frustrating. And I think you need good people down there, we'll just see who it is." Dobbs closed the segment by telling Brown, "the country is watching, and I know New Hampshire is."
Brown's last two columns for FoxNews.com read a lot like stump speeches. In a column published on February 12, he announced, "we get to replace the members of Congress in 2014 that have been enabling the president's unpopular agenda." His February 14 column -- headlined "GOP can once again lead as the part of fiscal responsibility" -- highlighted that "21 Democratic-held Senate seats are up for grabs" in November and touted how "Republicans of all political stripes share a commitment to fiscal responsibility and less government spending."
Regardless of whether he actually runs for Senate in New Hampshire, Brown's relationship with Fox News is symptomatic of the network's central role in Republican politics.
Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is facing criticism over his decision to campaign with National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent because of the rocker's inflammatory attacks on women and racially charged commentary about President Obama.
After reports emerged that Nugent would be making two February 18 campaign appearances with Abbott, the move was condemned by the Texas Democratic Party, women's group Annie's List, and the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis.
Citing Nugent's recent characterization of Obama as a "mongrel" -- a term that describes a dog of indeterminate breed -- the Texas Democratic Party issued a press release calling on Abbott to cancel the planned appearances:
Austin, TX -- This Tuesday, Attorney General Greg Abbott is set to have joint appearances with right-wing radical Ted Nugent. According to the Texas Eagle Forum, the Attorney General will join Nugent for events in Denton and Wichita Falls.
According to the Dallas Morning News, "Just last month, [Nugent] told Guns.com at the Las Vegas hunting and outdoor trade show that, 'I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.'" [Dallas Morning News, 2/13/2014]
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa released the following statement:
"Just last month, Ted Nugent called President Barack Obama a 'subhuman mongrel' and 'gangster.' He spews hate against our first African-American President and in return, Attorney General Greg Abbott welcomes him to the campaign trail. Is this how Abbott celebrates Black History Month? Texans deserve better than a statewide office holder and candidate running for governor who welcomes Ted Nugent and his repugnant comments. I can't help but recall the old saying, tell me who your friends are, and I'll tell you who you are."
According to Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, the Democrats are doomed.
That's the takeaway from the 650-word piece Rubin published yesterday under the headline, "The Democrats' demise." According to Rubin, the "far right has fallen on hard times" while the Democratic Party "as a political force" is "spent" and "surviving precariously on the potential for wacky opponents and fading star power." By her telling, the time is ripe for "the mainstream Republican Party" -- ie, people Rubin supports -- to "reestablish itself as the responsible party of reform."
This is Jennifer Rubin's shtick -- her political allies are always on the rise, and her political enemies are always on the run (a week before the 2012 election Rubin wrote that it was "possible" that Obama could lose Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota). The fundamental flaw in her latest rosy assessment of the GOP's prospects - which she of course does not address -- is the overwhelming, near-historic unpopularity of the Republican Party.
The Washington Free Beacon hid crucial details about a conservative group bent on smearing Hillary Clinton over the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.
In a February 13 report, the Free Beacon highlighted a Reuters article about OPSEC to promote the group's latest smear campaign. OPSEC, described by the Free Beacon only as "military slang for 'operational security,'" is releasing a report attacking the former secretary of state for her actions before, during, and after the September 11, 2012 attacks. The Free Beacon used the report to imply Secretary Clinton was personally responsible for the terrorist attacks, claiming "the attack was not caused by inadequate information but by inadequate leadership" and that her personal choices "enabled the attack."
But as the original Reuters report explained, OPSEC, a right-wing group made up of retired intelligence and special forces operatives, has partisan ties and a history of disingenuously attacking the Obama administration. The group "first surfaced during the 2012 presidential campaign," when they produced a 22-minute film and TV ads accusing President Obama of "seeking political gain from the May 2011 military operation that killed Osama bin Laden." (PolitiFact rated the claims made in the ads as "false" and "mostly false.") Key members of the group have current and former affiliations with the Republican party, and Reuters uncovered that more than a quarter of OPSEC's 2012 funding was raised by Campaign Solutions, a political consultancy which represents Republican candidates.
OPSEC's president, Scott Taylor, has also previously been accused of "shady campaign tactics" in his multiple bids for Republican state office, and as Business Insider noted, the group's maneuvers reveal they are more interested in attacking President Obama and the Obama administration than promoting any national security interests. According to OpenSecrets, OPSEC spent almost $500,000 in the 2012 election cycle on "electioneering communications" alone.
Official investigations have found Secretary Clinton, the Obama administration, and the military did everything within their power to rescue the Americans stationed in Benghazi at the time. The official inquiry into the State Department's role conducted by the independent, nonpartisan Accountability Review Board found that security at Benghazi was inadequate and offered recommendations for State to prevent future attacks, all of which are being implemented, but found Clinton personally blameless.
As Reuters noted:
Thomas Pickering, who chaired the State Department's official inquiry, said his panel concluded Clinton's performance was appropriate: "We did look at her role. We thought that she conducted her meetings and activities responsibly and well."
Republican censure of Mrs. Clinton is expected to intensify, even though it is unusual to see such fierce, coordinated opposition to a would-be presidential candidate surface 2-1/2 years before nominating conventions.
Pickering condemned the way the Benghazi incident was being politicized: "Our investigation was certainly independent, thoroughly researched, carefully presented." He said the new round of accusations appears to be "clearly an effort to introduce once again partisan politics into an issue which should be furthest from partisan politics."
The New York Times published a guilt-by-association attack on Hillary Clinton, attempting to connect a trade dispute over alleged steel dumping to the former secretary of state through unrelated philanthropic connections.
Citing a Commerce Department investigation into dumping allegations against Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian business leader, reporter Amy Chozick fixated on Pinchuk's relationship to the Clintons as if it were news to Times readers:
Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton have built a sprawling network of powerful friends around the globe, one that could aid Mrs. Clinton's chances were she to seek the presidency. But those relationships often come with intersecting interests and political complications; few people illustrate that more vividly than the Ukrainian oligarch Victor Pinchuk.
But in 2008, the Times published a front-page story on Pinchuk which reported his relationship with former President Bill Clinton. The article also detailed that Pinchuk is one of the biggest non-American donors to the Clinton Foundation; that Clinton acknowledged the relationship and praised Pinchuk's philanthropy; that the former president spoke in Yalta advocating strengthening Ukraine's ties to the United States and Europe, a cause close to both men; and that Pinchuk attended a birthday party for Clinton (as well as one for former President George H. W. Bush).
Chozick's story does not acknowledge the prior Times account. Instead, it rehashes old details and attempts to tie them to the pending Commerce Department investigation. Yet Chozick offers no evidence to suggest that the Clintons are connected to that dispute in any way. On the contrary, she acknowledges that there is no evidence that Bill or Hillary Clinton, or anybody in the government, has intervened in the trade dispute. Chozick wrote:
There is no evidence that Mr. Pinchuk or Mr. Schoen discussed anything other than the political crisis in Ukraine with the State Department, or that any United States officials tried to influence the trade case.
From the February 13 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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In its continued opposition to the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and a proposed amendment to this historic law, The Wall Street Journal published a misleading op-ed by Hans von Spakovsky, an unreliable contributor to the National Review Online.
The op-ed of von Spakovsky, a right-wing activist who has called the "modern 'civil rights' movement" indistinguishable from "discriminators and segregationists of prior generations" and whose attempts to fearmonger about "virtually non-existent" voter fraud have been repeatedly discredited, followed a WSJ editorial that compared the bipartisan attempts of Congress to update the VRA with that of "Jim Crow era Southerners."
Although this new effort to strengthen the VRA through the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 has prominent Republican support, von Spakovsky claimed "[t]his bill really isn't about the [Supreme Court's recent Shelby County v. Holder] decision. It is about having the federal government manipulate election rules to propagate racial gerrymandering and guarantee success for Democratic candidates." From the WSJ op-ed, which defended the conservative justices' gutting of the VRA in Shelby County and smeared the subsequent bipartisan efforts to repair the damage:
Before Shelby County, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required certain states to get "preclearance" from the federal government before making any voting changes. But the Supreme Court ruled that the formula to determine which jurisdictions were covered was unconstitutional because it was based on 40-year-old turnout data that did not reflect contemporary conditions. Census Bureau data show that black-voter turnout is on a par with or exceeds that of white voters in many of the formerly covered states and is higher than the rest of the country. We simply don't need Section 5 anymore.
In Shelby County, a radical break from precedent that has been described by experts as "on a par with the Court's odious Dred Scott and Plessy decisions and other utterly lamentable expressions of judicial indifference to the ugly realities of racial life in America," the bitterly divided Supreme Court struck at the heart of the VRA's efficacy by dismantling its "preclearance" process.
Even as the conservatives did so, however, Chief Justice John Roberts explicitly told Congress to fix this formula that requires covered jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to submit election changes for federal review before implementation. Contrary to von Spakovsky's strange assertion that "this bill really isn't about" Shelby County and is "an attempt to circumvent" the decision, this new bipartisan legislation is actually a direct response to Roberts' invitation to Congress to "draft another formula based on current conditions."
Admittedly, this new formula is more complex than von Spakovsky's preferred method of determining voter suppression by "turnout data," a confusion between correlation and causation that has been described as a rudimentary failure of "Statistics 101." Rather, Section 5 of the VRA imposes the preclearance process on jurisdictions with an incorrigible track record of suppressing votes based on race, and the formula to determine this discrimination has been changed in the new legislation to incorporate a comprehensive and rolling 15-year record.
The claim of the op-ed that the old formula led to "unwarranted objections" on the part of the Department of Justice toward alleged voter suppression is also inaccurate; this preclearance mechanism has been extremely effective at stopping racially discriminatory election changes. In fact, the two cases that von Spakovsky highlights both involved Section 5 successes.
Fox News baselessly stoked fears that undocumented immigrants would be able to vote if they received identification cards in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his first State of the City address on February 10, in which he announced a plan to offer identification cards to all residents, regardless of their immigration status.
On the February 12 edition of Fox's The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson reported on de Blasio's announcement and falsely suggested that the plan is intended to permit undocumented immigrants to vote. She asked guest Emily Tisch Sussman:
CARLSON: So, Emily, am I to assume that the reason that de Blasio would want this is so that people can move on to vote? I mean, I don't really understand -- what do you think his whole effort is in this?
SUSSMAN: We do really see that having these either ID cards or driver's licenses for the undocumented, does actually promote public safety. You know, those who are involved in fatal car crashes, one in five have not gone through the proper training of a driver's license, it would bring them into that kind of system. It would have more economic security for those. It would have better trust with the police -- it really does bring them in in a number of ways.
Karl Rove has called into question the relevance and efficacy of using Monica Lewinsky as political ammunition to attack Hillary and Bill Clinton in the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign -- comments that fly in the face of public statements made by RNC chairman Reince Priebus.
On the February 11 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox contributor Karl Rove criticized Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) recent attempts to smear possible presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by bringing up her husband's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Rove observed that "beating up on Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky" and "spending a lot of time talking about the mistakes of Bill Clinton" do not constitute "a big agenda for the future of the country":
HEMMER: Rand Paul is out there banging on the Clintons every day. Now what's his strategy?
ROVE: Well, I'm not sure he has a strategy, I was intrigued the other day, somebody said why are you doing this and he said people keep asking me about it. I'm not certain that it is -- look, each one of these candidates needs to do two things in 2014. One is they need to make this about something bigger than their own personal ambitions. This can't be 'I want to run for president' --' It's got to be about something bigger than that, and frankly, Rand Paul spending a lot of time talking about the mistakes of Bill Clinton does not look like a big agenda for the future of the country. The second thing that they need to do is they need to strengthen their skills as a candidate. Each one of these people has run and won in a state. Like Rand Paul has won in Kentucky, Chris Christie has won in New Jersey. But they are about ready to enter a contest that's going to be across 30 some-odd states for the primary, 35 or 40 states. They're going to cover most of all of the 50 states -- it's going to be a big complex thing, and they've got to strengthen their skills to get ready for it. I'm not certain again that beating up on Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky is a particularly good thing to strengthen your skills for the 2016 contest.
For a candidate who enjoys historically strong polling support for her possible White House push, Hillary Clinton is sure getting heaps of bad press as supporters await her decision on whether to run for president in 2016.
According to endless Beltway commentary regarding her non-candidacy, Clinton's overseeing an ominous "shadow campaign" that features a "political hit list" to keep track of "treacherous" foes. She's linked "to a culture of payback and bare-knuckles politics." Her non-candidacy is peaking too soon and it lacks "transparency"; it's a "predestined" "train wreck." "Indecision" is becoming a trademark. She's taking a "wrong turn" and repeating her mistakes from 2008. Her presence "unsettles" Democrats, she doesn't stand for anything, and her campaign needs a better manager!
Keep in mind Clinton isn't even a candidate yet. And the general election won't be held for more than 1,000 days. But that hasn't stopped the Beltway press from obsessing over her on a daily basis and routinely detailing all the things wrong with Clinton's would-be run. Because being the dominant would-be Democratic frontrunner and leading all GOP contenders in the polls is suddenly a bad thing?
Well, it's certainly not a good thing:
Politico: Hillary's No Slam Dunk in 2016
The Atlantic: Can Anyone Stop Hillary? Absolutely
National Journal: Why You Shouldn't Pay Attention to Hillary Clinton's Massive 2016 Lead
Can you spot the trend? And can you image the negative tone of the press coverage if Clinton's poll numbers were soft?
Obviously, candidates ought to face media skepticism. And over the last 20 years, few have faced more doubts in the press than Hillary Clinton. But isn't it odd that right now it seems the widely agreed-upon Beltway narrative regarding Clinton is that her possible campaign is already in deep trouble. That's the spin despite the fact that poll after poll puts her in one of the most enviable positions of any potential candidate in modern American history.
Talk about a vast disconnect between the people and the press.
Here's what's curious: Look at the sour assessments that surround the chattering class's Clinton appraisal and then compare that to the last time the Republican Party had a presidential campaign-in-waiting. As is the case with Clinton today, that featured a candidate with global name recognition, a big lead in the primary polls and a seemingly bottomless well of generous donors. That was George W. Bush prior to 2000, and the press had very few doubts about his mission.
"The national news media have built up George W. Bush like a rock star," observed one Florida newspaper columnist in 1999. And that media worship started long before Bush formally declared his candidacy in June of that year. It began in earnest when Bush won a re-election landslide as the governor of Texas in 1998.
Back then, while Bush lurked on the sidelines and gobbled up endorsement and campaign cash prior to his official candidacy, the press was amazed by his good fortune. There was no chronic hand-wringing. Instead, reporters and pundits marveled at Bush's standing and the unmatched infrastructure his team had built.
From the February 4 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
A year ago this week, The New York Times reported that Karl Rove was teaming up with "the biggest donors in the Republican Party" to create a new political group to "recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts." A year later, the group is essentially dormant, having apparently done no fundraising and holding less than $200 cash on hand. What happened?
The Times report in early February 2013 announcing the formation of the Conservative Victory Project was big news in political circles. Rove's two other major political groups -- American Crossroads and its sister organization Crossroads GPS -- had proven to be fundraising juggernauts during the 2012 election cycle, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars.
Despite the fact that the Crossroads groups were largely ineffective at winning elections in 2012, Rove's apparent fundraising acumen meant that a new group was likely to be a heavy hitter in the world of political groups.
But according to recent filings with the FEC, Conservative Victory Project had $179 cash on hand as of December 31. The group brought in only $10,798 in the second half of 2013, and every dollar came from American Crossroads (its meager spending has all been on mundane things like legal and bank fees and computer support).
The fact that 2013 was mostly an off year for elections may have contributed to the lack of activity surrounding Conservative Victory Project (as it surely did for the Crossroads groups, whose fundraising decreased drastically compared to 2012). But other factors are almost certainly at play -- after all, the group intended to play an active role in GOP primaries around the country this year and rolled out with the help of a major New York Times article last February, a decidedly strange move if it intended to then sit on the sidelines for almost a whole year.
Rove, who has served as a Fox News contributor for several years, has had a historically rocky relationship with some of his fellow conservative media colleagues. The announcement of Conservative Victory Project, which right-wing personalities viewed as a betrayal of the tea party and conservative principles, caused the tensions to boil over.