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  • WSJ Vs.WSJ: The Pence Economy

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal's editorial board praised Donald Trump's running mate, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN), for economic growth in Indiana during his time in office -- ignoring the paper's own reporting that the state's growth "resembles overall U.S. performance under Obama."

    The Journal’s editorial board heaped praise on Pence’s handling of the Indiana economy on July 20, pointing to the governor’s conservative policies as something “the rest of the country could emulate” -- dismissing President Obama’s economic record as part of the reason for the state’s success and ignoring the paper’s own reporting that the state’s growth “resembles” national trends. The Journal touted the point that under Pence, Indiana’s unemployment rate dropped from 8.4 percent to 5 percent, also noting that he cut income taxes from 3.4 percent to 3.3 percent and has amassed a budget surplus (emphasis added):

    President Obama visited Elkhart, Indiana, on June 1 to tout the state’s economic recovery, taking credit for its success and claiming that it represents the 2016 election’s basic policy choice. He’s right, but the economic lessons speak better of GOP Governor and vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and his predecessor Mitch Daniels than they do Mr. Obama’s policies.


    All states have seen declines in the jobless rate, and Indiana’s has fallen to 5% in May from 8.4% in 2013 when Mr. Pence became Governor. The Indiana difference is that the rate has fallen even as the labor force has increased by nearly 187,000. Many states have seen their jobless rates fall in part because so many people have left the labor force, driving down the national labor participation rate to lows not seen since the 1970s. The Illinois workforce has grown by only about 71,000 in the same period, though it is roughly twice as large. Indiana is adding jobs fast enough that people are rejoining the workforce.


    Mr. Pence has continued the progress, cutting taxes every year of his tenure even as the state has continued to pile up budget surpluses. He cut the individual tax rate to 3.3% in 2015 from 3.4% and it will fall to 3.23% in 2017, the lowest in the Midwest, according to the Tax Foundation. One reason the tax rate can stay so low and flat is because it applies to a relatively broad base of income with fewer loopholes than more steeply progressive tax codes.

    The Journal’s editorial board claimed the job growth seen in Indiana is “different” because “the [unemployment] rate has fallen even as the labor force has increased,” an idea dismissed by Politico on July 19, which wrote “the drop in Indiana’s unemployment almost perfectly mirrors the national trend. And the labor force has grown in all but nine states.” A report by the Associated Press (AP) also found that the state’s unemployment rate “largely paralleled the national mark.” The parallel unemployment trends can even be seen in the Journal’s own graph from a July 16 article that undercuts Pence's ownership claim of Indiana's recovery:

    The Journal’s rhetoric resembles praise Trump had for Pence’s handling of the Indiana economy -- which so closely mirrors the U.S. economy that MSNBC’s Steve Benen argued if Pence did a “great job producing economic results, by Trump’s own reasoning, it’s hard not to consider Obama an amazing success.”

    The Journal’s editorial board touted Pence’s income tax cut, but upon closer inspection by the AP, that tax cut works out to be a mere $85 for someone making $50,000 a year. The AP also called into question the budget surpluses the Journal praised, reporting that Pence’s surpluses drew criticism after an infrastructure crisis in which opponents blamed “a handful of roadway deaths on Pence’s desire to build a budget surplus at the expense of properly funding infrastructure.” (The willingness of Republican governors to raid infrastructure funding to fill budget gaps created by trickle-down tax cuts has been well-documented.)

    Pence has also been accused of politicizing Indiana’s health budget. On June 6, 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported on one of the Indiana towns facing an opioid crisis and how Pence’s “war on Planned Parenthood” inadvertently created an “exploding HIV outbreak” in his state. When Indiana Republicans cut funding for Planned Parenthood, they cost some parts of the state their only HIV testing centers, leading to an outbreak of the virus among intravenous drug users and their sexual partners and forcing the state to eventually provide emergency funding for needle exchange programs.

    Other Republican-led states have seen their economies falter after implementation of conservative policies; Kansas and Louisiana have been devastated by Gov. Sam Brownback's and former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s trickle-down economics -- Brownback’s Koch-backed tax cut program has been particularly destructive. Like Pence, Ohio Gov. John Kasich claimed his conservative policies led to an economic “miracle” for his state, but it is easy to demonstrate how Ohio’s economic recovery pre-dated his term of office and is also largely following the national trend.

  • Wash. Post’s Paul Waldman To Media: “Can We Please Not Grade Trump On A Curve?”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman called on members of the media to avoid judging Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “on a curve” when he delivers his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, asserting “simply reading a speech off a teleprompter is not in and of itself a praiseworthy accomplishment.”

    During Trump’s presidential campaign, media have repeatedly hyped Trump as a more “serious-sounding candidate” and problematically lauded imaginary campaign “pivots” after Trump has delivered pre-prepared speeches in a subdued tone or abstained from personally attacking his opponents. This pattern not only whitewashes Trump’s usual racist, sexist, and conspiratorial rhetoric, but also praises him for mastering “campaign 101.”

    Waldman beseeched media not to praise Trump for “getting all the way through” a single speech “without doing anything shocking or offensive” and treating the presidential candidate “as though he were an eight-year-old giving his first clarinet recital.” In the July 21 article, Waldman asserted that a speech absent of vulgarity and attacks is “the bare minimum we should expect from any functioning adult, much less someone seeking to become the most powerful person on Planet Earth,” and said “As we judge Trump’s speech …it’s equally important to note how everything he has done in this campaign contradicts that picture.”  From the article:

    I beseech everyone, particularly my colleagues in the media: Can we please not grade Trump on a curve?

    If there’s something he does or says that’s worthy of praise — a truly compelling new argument for his candidacy, a rhetorical flourish that brings a tear to the eye of every viewer, a newfound eloquence — then by all means give it the tribute it deserves. But let’s not forget that simply reading a speech off a teleprompter is not in and of itself a praiseworthy accomplishment.

    It’s a little hard to know what in particular to expect from Trump’s address, because unlike many presidential candidates, he didn’t have a standard stump speech that he delivered with only minor variations time and again on the campaign trail. Instead, Trump would get up before crowds and free-associate, rambling on about whatever popped into his mind, though a big chunk of every speech was taken up with reciting his terrific poll numbers and his fantastic results in previous primaries, lest anyone forget how great he was doing and how much everyone loved him. While there were often exciting moments — telling supporters to beat up a protester, mocking a disabled reporter, tossing out his latest bit of xenophobic fear-mongering — those covering the events regularly reported how boring the speeches were; at about the 45-minute mark, attendees who had waited on line for hours to get in often started drifting away.

    In part because his events generally showcase a bizarre combination of tedium and brownshirt rally, on the few occasions where Trump has delivered a prepared speech, pundits acted as though he were an eight-year-old giving his first clarinet recital. It barely mattered what it actually contained; he was lauded for getting all the way through it without doing anything shocking or offensive. Look at how “disciplined” he’s become! He stuck to the script! There were no insults thrown at minority groups! This new Trump really looks presidential!

    Given that history, I suspect that we’ll hear a similar reaction to tonight’s speech. So yes, we know that unless there’s a technical glitch or he faints dead away in the midst of it all, there will be words projected on a teleprompter, and Trump will speak those words out loud. They will be words written by other people and refined through multiple drafts, and as a consequence are likely to have at least some of the logical coherence and policy substance of which Trump is utterly incapable when speaking on his own. If his aides are successful in the begging and pleading they’re no doubt subjecting him to today, there will be few if any ad-libs. There won’t be any swearing, or surprise lines tossing out decades of American policy, or vulgar new attacks on a group of voters he has somehow not gotten around to offending yet.

    All that is the bare minimum we should expect from any functioning adult, much less someone seeking to become the most powerful person on Planet Earth. So if that’s all we get from Trump’s speech, can we agree that it isn’t enough to deserve hosannas of celebration?

  • NBC’s Today Ignores Possible Lawbreaking In Interview With Trump Campaign Chairman

    Speechwriter Who Claims To Have Helped With Melania Trump’s Speech May Only Work For Trump Organization

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    NBC Today hosts Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie did not press Paul Manafort, chairman of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign, in an interview about whether the speechwriter who took responsibility for plagiarism in Melania Trump’s Republican National Convention speech was employed by the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization. If it’s the latter, that may be a violation of federal law.

    The Trump campaign has come under fire for the July 18 speech by the candidate’s wife, which plagiarized portions of Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention. The campaign and Manafort initially lied, claiming that “no cribbing” occurred and and to claim that it did is “crazy.” On July 20, the campaign released a statement in which an “in-house staff writer at the Trump Organization” named Meredith McIver took responsibility for the plagiarism and said she had offered her resignation but that Donald Trump did not accept it. The statement was also written on the letterhead of Trump’s conglomerate the Trump Organization, not the Trump campaign.

    According to The Washington Post, if Trump’s campaign “used corporate resources” to help with Melania Trump’s speech, “that could be illegal.” The Post quoted Lawrence Noble, general counsel for the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, and reported, “If the campaign used corporate resources ‘willingly and knowingly,’ the offense is a criminal one.” The paper explained Noble’s rationale: “If she was working for the campaign,” it would have been legal, “but it seems clear that she offered to resign from her theoretically unrelated Trump Organization job.”

    Discussing the controversy during the July 21 edition of Today, Manafort conceded that McIver “was somebody who was not part of the campaign,” and Lauer noted she was “part of the Trump Organization.” Manafort added that he “didn't even know [McIver] was involved in the process” and “didn't even know of her existence.” Rather than pressing Manafort about the specific arrangement of McIver’s role in the campaign, Lauer transitioned to discussing Trump’s upcoming convention speech:

    MATT LAUER (CO-HOST): Let me just go back to something we talked to you about on Monday morning -- or Tuesday morning, excuse me, the morning after Melania Trump's speech where it was widely believed she had plagiarized portions of that speech. You came onto other shows and this show. You said, "No, there was no plagiarizing. There was no cribbing." You even went as far as to blame Hillary Clinton. We now know in the last 24 [hours] that yeah, it was a mistake on the part of a speechwriter. That person has taken the blame for it. So when you said, "When Hillary Clinton is threatened by a female, the first thing she does is try to destroy that person," would you offer Secretary Clinton an apology for blaming her?

    PAUL MANAFORT: First of all, you have to put the situation in context. It wasn't a speechwriter. This was somebody who was not a part of the campaign.

    LAUER: Part of the Trump Organization.

    MANAFORT: And I didn't even know she was involved in the process. When I spoke to Melania Trump, she said, and she believes and still does, that she did not put those words in there. She did not know that they were words from Michelle Obama, those specific words.


    SAVANNAH GUTHRIE (CO-HOST): Sorry, but that statement says the exact opposite. And Trump told The New York Times he knew two days ago that in fact Melania had said the speech -- the question is really not about whether she did or she didn't. It's really a matter of candor and whether you knew that those words came from Michelle Obama's speech.

    MANAFORT: And I did not know. I was told by Mrs. Trump and I believe Mrs. Trump and I don't think Mrs. Trump still believes she personally put those words in that speech. And as far as Ms. [McIver's] concern, I didn't even know of her existence. I asked the speechwriters if they had done it. They said no. I asked Mrs. Trump. She said no. And as far as I was concerned, there was no one else in the process and so therefore that was my position.

    LAUER: Huge night for your candidate tonight. What’s he going to say, what do you want him to say?

  • GOP Presidential Nominee Donald Trump: A Media Matters Reader

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The Republican National Convention concludes tonight with a speech by nominee Donald Trump. Below is a look back at some highlights from Media Matters’ coverage of Trump’s 13 months as a candidate so far.

    Trump Has Found Allies At Fox News And In The Larger Conservative Media

    While Trump and Fox News publicly feuded at times during the Republican primary, the network’s support for Trump is undeniable, as it showered the nominee with far more interview airtime than any of his rivals. Many conservatives both inside and outside Fox News have also been eager to explain away any and all controversies surrounding the candidate:  

    How Conservative Media Enabled Trump’s Outrageous Lies

    Donald Trump & Fox News: Timeline Of A Relationship

    STUDY: Trump Won The Fox Primary, Doubling Any Other Candidate In Interview Airtime

    STUDY: As The General Election Looms, Trump Retreats To Fox News

    A Guide To Hannity's Desperate Defenses Of Trump

    The 11 Worst Right-Wing Media Defenses Of Donald Trump's Campaign (So Far)

    But Not All Right-Wing Media Are On Board With Trump

    Trump’s candidacy has driven a wedge in the conservative media landscape, with numerous prominent pundits decrying the Republican nominee as unfit to be president:

    20-Plus Conservative Pundits Who Have Vowed Not To Support Trump If He's The Nominee

    INFOGRAPHIC: The Conservative Civil War Over Donald Trump

    National Review And 22 Conservative Media Personalities Call Trump A "Philosophically Unmoored Political Opportunist"

    Trump’s Alliance With Conspiracy Theorists

    Some of Trump’s strongest supporters are prominent conspiracy theorists and smear artists:

    A Comprehensive Guide To Trump Ally Roger Stone, A Racist, Sexist Conspiracy Theorist

    Trump’s Kitchen Cabinet: What The Media Needs To Know About The Nominee’s Top Advisers And Supporters

    9/11 Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Is Chief Promoter For Roger Stone’s Pro-Trump “Stop The Steal” Rally

    Donald Trump Praises Leading Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones And His "Amazing" Reputation

    Embracing The Clinton Crazies, Trump Becomes AM Talk Radio’s Nominee For President

    Trump’s White Nationalist Media Fans

    Trump’s candidacy has found a troubling fan base among white nationalist media figures and groups. The white nationalists have cheered his campaign and his proposed policies, defended him over several race-based controversies, and used his candidacy to fundraise.

    White Nationalists Love Trump’s Convention: “GOP Is Becoming The De Facto White Party”

    “Trump Is Right”: Trump’s White Nationalist Backers Applaud His Racist Attacks On Federal Judge

    White Nationalist Leaders Praise Trump’s “Stunning” Anti-Semitic Tweet

    The Trump Campaign's Long And Complicated History Of White Nationalist Support

    Donald Trump's Campaign Gave Press Credentials To A White Nationalist Radio Program

    Donald Trump Is A Fundraising Engine For White Nationalist Media

    Mainstream Media Dropping The Ball On Holding Trump Accountable

    While some outlets have intermittently done a good job of fact-checking Trump and his policy proposals, non-conservative outlets have faced widespread criticism for generally failing to hold Trump accountable, featuring wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s candidacy, and allowing him phone in for interviews at an alarming rate:

    Veteran Campaign Reporters: “The Stakes Are Too High” To Let Trump Get Away With Constant Lying

    Veteran Journalists And Historians Rip "Pathetic" And "Fawning" Media Coverage Of Trump

    How The Media Helped Donald Trump Boost His Candidacy

    How Media Outlets Repeatedly Hyped An Imaginary Trump Pivot

    Veteran Journalists: Trump Coverage “Devastating” For News Credibility

    The Staggering Numbers Behind The Media's Trump Obsession

    Media Critics: Networks Should Hang Up On Trump Phone Interviews

    STUDY: Trump The Only Candidate To Swamp The Sunday Shows With Phone Interviews

    The Trump Campaign’s War On The Press

    Trump and his campaign have waged a war against the media:

    Libel Laws, Threats, Nasty Insults: A Guide To Trump’s War Against The Media

    Journalism Rights Groups Fear Trump’s Threat To Press Freedom

    Former White House Press Secretaries Fear Trump Could Poison White House Press Relations

  • NY Times Editorial Explains The Absurdity Of Trump Campaign’s Outreach To Latino Voters

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times editorial board excoriated the Trump campaign’s planned “Hispanic engagement tour” as a “farcical gesture” given Trump’s dehumanization of the Latino electorate and resultant widespread belief  among Latinos that Trump is “racist.”

    The Trump campaign’s announcement that it plans to reach out to Hispanic voters comes amid the whitest Republican National Convention in a century -- an event celebrated by white nationalists and criticized by the media for its hostility toward Latinos. The sudden interest in engagement is also surprising given Trump’s tendency to reject requests for interviews with Hispanic media.

    The Times editorial explained that, despite Trump’s sudden realization “of the limits of a presidential campaign based on chauvinism and fear,” it’s too late for him to repair the damage he’s done with the Latino community. The editorial noted that “a new Latino Decisions survey has 83 percent of Latino voters saying Mr. Trump is a racist.” From the July 21 editorial:

    But after the lights go down in Cleveland, when the yelling subsides, the balloons go limp and the delegates go home, the party will be alone with its message and its nominee.

    What next? Why, minority outreach, of course. “Donald Trump’s going to be doing a Hispanic engagement tour coming up soon,” said the party chairman, Reince Priebus.

    “Engagement” doesn’t seem likely, given public reactions to the Trump campaign’s message of suspicion and disgust. In some states, Mr. Trump is polling at zero among black voters. A new Latino Decisions survey has 83 percent of Latino voters saying Mr. Trump is a racist, and 71 percent saying he has made the Republican Party more hostile to Latinos. Those results track closely with other polls this month, one conducted by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News and one by Univision.


    The Latino electorate, meanwhile, isn’t going away or shrinking. Neither is the challenge of confronting immigration. Instead of a “Hispanic engagement tour,” which is almost sure to be a farcical gesture, Republicans could stop demonizing immigrants and start thinking about actually fixing the immigration system.

    This means getting back to where they were only three years ago, when an ambitious bipartisan plan handily passed the Senate. That bill was blocked by hard-core House Republicans fanning the same border hysteria and cultural anxieties that Mr. Trump exploits today. Republicans will eventually understand — even if their nominee does not — that there is no future in being the party of white grievance and racial exclusion. Not in these diverse United States. Whether that insight is reached through reflection and self-correction, or an autopsy of yet another failed presidential campaign, remains to be seen.

  • Media Should Not Fall Back To The Elusive “Trump Pivot” Narrative At Trump’s GOP Convention Speech

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Media figures have been predicting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s imminent "pivot" towards acting "presidential" for months, and they're at risk of making the same mistake again after Trump’s July 21 nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. The proclamation has consistently backfired and it whitewashes Trump’s racist, slanderous, and conspiratorial rhetoric.

    Throughout Trump’s presidential campaign, media outlets and figures have obsessively looked for the Trump “pivot.” Each time the candidate has momentarily abandoned his usual vitriolic rhetoric for a teleprompter-driven speech, media figures rushed to claim that Trump was “pivoting” toward the general election and acting more “presidential,” whitewashing all of the racist, sexist, slanderous, and conspiratorial attacks he regularly doles out.

    With three disastrous days so far at the convention -- and given Trump’s past speeches leaning toward the dangerous and extreme -- media must avoid the trap of setting a low bar for Trump’s acceptance speech and refrain from allowing a seemingly tame speech from being praised by the media as a pivot.

    Following Trump’s April victory in the New York primary, Fox’s Megyn Kelly and ABC’s Tom Llamas said Trump was becoming “more presidential” and “trying out a more presidential style” because he did not call his opponent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “Lyin’ Ted.” Trump returned to using the phrase immediately the next day. In June, after Republican leaders beseeched Trump to “get on message” following his multiday racist crusade against the federal judge presiding over lawsuits against Trump University, Trump delivered a teleprompter speech devoid of any attacks. Media figures immediately proclaimed it looked like a “new, more presidential Donald Trump” and that Trump had “acted presidential,” but less than a week later, the candidate suggested President Obama was sympathetic to terrorists.

    This pattern has whitewashed many of Trump’s past actions and comments, such as doubling down on his proposed Muslim ban, accusing Cruz’s father of being involved in the John F. Kennedy assassination, and questioning the faith of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In the past month Trump has praised former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, claimed without any proof that moments of silence were called for the murderer of police officers in Dallas, and speculated Obama was giving subliminal support to the shootings of police officers though his “body language.”

    The tendency to praise Trump after he shows restraint in his speeches, as CNN analyst David Gregory noted, gives Trump “credit for kind of campaign 101.”

    Some media figures have called on their colleagues to stop grading Trump on a curve. CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill noted the whitewashing means “we’re not talking about something controversial” and instead, “We're talking about Trump changing the direction of his campaign.” NBC’s Nicolle Wallace pointed out that any Trump “pivot” comes right before his tendency of “trotting out conspiracy theories.” And former Jeb Bush communications director Tim Miller pointedly said on MSNBC, “How stupid can we possibly be to keep getting fooled by this guy? And every day I get a call from a reporter who says now is he going to pivot? Now is he going to pivot? No, this is Trump.”

    Media have another chance with Trump’s speech to learn from their mistakes. Regardless of what Trump says in his likely teleprompter-guided speech, they must not fall back on this tired and false narrative. As Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter of Trump’s book The Art of the Deal, aptly explained to The New Yorker, “‘There is no private Trump’” that “he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign.”

    It’s time media finally accept that.