The Senate

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  • Yes, CIA Director Nominee Mike Pompeo Needs To Answer Questions About Climate Change

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    After Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) grilled CIA director nominee Mike Pompeo on climate change during his January 12 Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing, Fox News responded to Harris’ inquiries with mocking condescension. But the fact is, the intelligence community has taken climate change very seriously under both the Bush and Obama administrations, and Harris has every reason to press Pompeo on whether that will remain the case in the Trump administration.

    During the hearing, Harris began by asking Pompeo whether he has “any reason to doubt the assessment” of CIA analysts that climate change is one of the “deeper causes of rising instability in the world.” Pompeo responded that it’s the CIA’s role to gather foreign intelligence and understand global threats, and that “to the extent that changes in climatic activity are part of that foreign intelligence collection task, we will deliver that information to you all and to the president.”

    Harris then pointed out that Pompeo has previously “questioned the scientific consensus on climate change,” and asked whether he has any reason to doubt NASA’s statement that multiple studies show “97 percent or more of actively published climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” Pompeo responded by claiming that his political commentary has been primarily focused on critiquing the effectiveness of climate policies, and he added that he hasn’t “looked at NASA's findings in particular” and couldn’t give Harris “any judgement about that” during the hearing.

    Pompeo also made this very telling remark: “I, frankly, as the director of CIA, would prefer today not to get into the details of climate debate and science. It just seems my role is going to be so different and unique from that.” In doing so, Pompeo signaled that climate change will not be a focus of the CIA under his leadership, which “could leave the CIA without crucial context as it evaluates threats around the world,” as Climate Central reported.

    At the same time, Pompeo’s remark has inspired several Fox News pundits to mock Harris for choosing to ask about climate change -- beginning with Fox News contributor and Libre Initiative spokesperson Rachel Campos-Duffy, who like Pompeo himself, has deep ties to the oil billionaire Koch brothers.

    On the January 12 edition of Outnumbered, Campos-Duffy declared that Harris had asked a “dumb question.” Later that evening, The Five co-host Eric Bolling said Harris’ question was “ridiculous,” adding, “This is a spy agency. They are supposed to gather intel on bad guys, not the weather.” And on the January 13 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy joked, “Maybe [Harris] thinks the C in CIA stands for climate, but it doesn't. It stands for Central.”

    What these Fox pundits either don’t understand or are unwilling to acknowledge is that evaluating climate change impacts is a critical component of the CIA’s mission. According to a September 2016 report prepared by the National Intelligence Council and coordinated with the U.S. intelligence community, “Climate change and its resulting effects are likely to pose wide-ranging national security challenges for the United States and other countries over the next 20 years.” As Harris mentioned, current CIA director John Brennan has also spoken to the importance of the agency accounting for climate change, stating in a 2015 speech that climate change is aggravating existing security problems and “is a potential source of crisis itself.”

    And lest you think that only the Obama CIA views climate change as a priority for the intelligence community, a 2008 National Intelligence Assessment completed under the Bush administration also concluded that climate change poses a national security threat, as Grist reported at the time.

    This is far from the first time that Fox News has dismissed the national security implications of climate change, but if the CIA itself adopts that misguided view, it will be a dramatic shift that should concern all Americans.

  • Breitbart Admits Role As Trump Enforcer, Showing Why It Should Be Denied Congressional Press Credentials

    Breitbart Editor Says Republicans Should Fear The Website If They Cross Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a Politico article detailing how President-elect Donald Trump’s “horde of enforcers” -- Breitbart.com listed prominently among them -- are scaring Republican lawmakers away from criticizing him, a Breitbart editor said Republicans are right to fear the right-wing website, which was previously run by Trump senior counselor Stephen Bannon. This admission from Breitbart that the outlet plans to support Trump, rather than objectively cover his incoming administration, further demonstrates that the website is not editorially independent enough to warrant permanent Capitol Hill press credentials.

    Breitbart applied for permanent Capitol Hill press credentials in November. Media Matters has objected to the request, urging members of the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery in an open letter to reject the request based on Breitbart’s disqualifying inability to demonstrate editorial independence from the Trump team as required by the committee's rules. Breitbart fails this standard in several ways, as several former members of the committee have acknowledged. In a December 21 Politico report headlined “Trump posse browbeats Hill Republicans,” Breitbart further demonstrates why the site must be disqualified from obtaining a permanent press pass by admitting that it will go after Trump’s Republican critics.

    From the Politico article (emphasis added):

    In early December, Rep. Bill Flores made what seemed like an obvious observation to a roomful of conservatives at a conference in Washington. Some of Donald Trump’s proposals, the Texas Republican cautioned, “are not going to line up very well with our conservative policies," though he quickly added that there was plenty the incoming president and GOP Congress could accomplish together. Little did Flores realize the hell that would soon rain down from Trump's throng of enforcers.

    Breitbart seized on Flores' remarks a few days later, calling them proof that House Republicans planned to “isolate and block President Donald Trump’s populist campaign promises.”

    [...]

    It’s little wonder that Capitol Hill Republicans have papered over their not-insignificant policy differences with Trump, shying away from any statement about the president-elect that might possibly be construed as critical. They’re terrified of arousing the ire of their tempestuous new leader — or being labeled a turncoat by his army of followers.

    It's a novel form of party message discipline that stems from Trump but doesn't necessarily require the president-elect to speak or tweet himself. Plenty of others are willing to do it for him. Since the election, numerous congressional Republicans have refused to publicly weigh in on any Trump proposal at odds with Republican orthodoxy, from his border wall to his massive infrastructure package. The most common reason, stated repeatedly but always privately: They're afraid of being attacked by Breitbart or other big-name Trump supporters. "Nobody wants to go first," said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who received nasty phone calls, letters and tweets after he penned an August op-ed in The New York Times, calling on Trump to release his tax returns. "People are naturally reticent to be the first out of the block for fear of Sean Hannity, for fear of Breitbart, for fear of local folks."

    An editor at Breitbart, formerly run by senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon, said that fear is well-founded.

    “If any politician in either party veers from what the voters clearly voted for in a landslide election … we stand at the ready to call them out on it and hold them accountable,” the person said.

  • Final Scorecard: Climate Change Absent From Debates In Most Key Senate And Governors’ Races 

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    In late September, we launched a real-time scorecard to keep tabs on how often debate moderators and panelists in the presidential election and 18 tightly contested Senate and governors’ races were asking the candidates about climate change. We’ve been constantly updating the scorecard ever since, publishing transcript and video/audio whenever climate questions were asked. Check out our completed scorecard here.

    The November 4 Senate debate in Illinois was the last of the 55 debates we examined, and the final results are not pretty for those of us concerned about climate change. Here are the key takeaways from our scorecard of climate change questions in presidential, Senate, and governors’ debates:

    • Just 12 of the 55 debates held in these key races included questions about climate change (22 percent). If you exclude the three presidential debates and the vice-presidential debate, where the lack of climate questions was well-chronicled, the portion of debates with climate questions inches up to 24 percent.

    • Broken down by individual race, only eight of the 19 contests featured at least one debate question about climate change (42 percent). In addition to the presidential campaign, debate moderators completely ignored climate change in the following races: Arizona Senate, Indiana Governor, Missouri Senate, Missouri Governor, Montana Governor, Nevada Senate, New Hampshire Governor, North Carolina Senate, North Carolina Governor, and West Virginia Governor. Each of these states face serious climate-related challenges, some of which I detailed here.

    • Only races in two New England states -- Vermont and New Hampshire -- featured more than one debate with a climate question. The Vermont Governor race had four debates with questions about climate change, and the New Hampshire Senate race had two.

    • In six of the 12 debates with climate questions, the climate questions were asked because voters spoke up and asked them. The climate change questions generated by voters included a Twitter question in Wisconsin, two Facebook questions in Vermont, an audience question in Ohio, a question from the Open Debate Coalition website in New Hampshire, and a question in Indiana submitted to the Indiana Debate Commission using an online form.

  • Climate Silence Witnessed At Presidential Debates Extends To Key Battleground States

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    There were roughly 190 questions (including follow-ups) asked to the candidates during the presidential and vice presidential debates this year, and not one of them was about climate change. This stunning media failure has rightly drawn the attention of journalists, environmental groups, and at least one U.S. senator.

    But it’s also important to recognize that the climate silence we have witnessed on the national stage is not unique to the presidential election. Media Mattersdebate scorecard is tracking climate change questions in 18 of the most closely contested Senate and governors’ races across the country, and the results so far are troubling. We’ve found that just eight of the 37 debates held in these races through October 20 included questions about climate change. That's 22 percent.

    Climate change was not addressed in the Senate debate or any of the three governors’ debates in North Carolina, a state that was recently devastated by Hurricane Matthew, which featured record-breaking rainfall and flooding that scientists have linked to global warming. It was also ignored in the Senate debate in Arizona, which was recently identified as the western state that is most at risk from increased wildfires as a result of climate change, and in both governors’ debates in West Virginia, which suffered through flooding over the summer that was made worse by global warming.

    There have also been zero climate change questions in Senate or governors’ debates in Missouri, Montana, and Nevada, which are all among the states that are least prepared to deal with emerging climate-related threats, according to a report card produced by Climate Central and ICF International.

    The eight debates that have included climate change questions occurred in seven states: Florida (Senate), Indiana (Senate), New Hampshire (Senate), Ohio (Senate), Pennsylvania (Senate), Wisconsin (Senate), and Vermont (in two debates for governor).

    In more than half of these states, the climate questions were asked because voters spoke up and requested them. In Wisconsin, the climate question was submitted by a citizen via Twitter. In Vermont, the moderator asked a climate question submitted by a voter on Facebook. In Ohio, an audience member asked the climate question. And in Indiana, the climate question, while flawed, was submitted by a voter to the Indiana Debate Commission.

    The lesson from both the presidential debates and these Senate and governors’ debates is clear: If voters want to hear about climate change, they’ll need to continue to press moderators to ask about it and continue to take advantage of opportunities to make their voices heard.

  • Newspaper Editorials Slam McCain For Unprecedented Pledge To Block Any Clinton Nominee For Supreme Court

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Newspaper editorial boards are sharply criticizing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for promising that he and his fellow Republican senators would block any and all nominees for the Supreme Court put forth by a President Hillary Clinton, noting that McCain’s promise upends the GOP’s stated reasons for refusing to even hold a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

  • What Media Are Missing About Planned Parenthood And The Controversy Over Zika Funding

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On September 6, Congress again failed to approve a federal response to the Zika virus after Republicans included a legislative “poison pill” designed to exclude Planned Parenthood from receiving funding. In spite of the essential role Planned Parenthood plays in Zika response and prevention, media framed the controversy as an example of Democratic obstruction. Here’s what the media are missing about the Zika funding controversy.

  • The Media Should Not Give Republicans A Pass On Unprecedented Obstruction Of Obama’s Judicial Nominees

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    With Congress back in session and Democrats pushing action on Obama’s judicial nominees, it is important for media reporting on these developments to explain that Senate Republicans are engaging in unprecedented obstruction, which includes a historic blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and exceptional obstruction of judicial nominations to district and circuit courts. Media should point out that Republican senators cannot credibly use the fact that is an election year as an excuse not to move forward with confirmations.

  • After John McCain Told A Few Jokes, Politico Declared The Return Of The “Straight Talk Express”

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    John McCain

    Politico’s report on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) re-election fight could not have been more flattering to the candidate if his press staff had authored it.

    Based on attending a single day of events with McCain, Politico published an August 23 story headlined “The return of ‘Straight Talk’ McCain” that claimed that, at least for that day, he was again “the loose, accessible, happy warrior of Straight Talk Express yesteryear” and was “at ease on the trail” while “running what might be his last campaign in vintage plainspoken style.”

    The fawning article relayed anecdotes from reporter Burgess Everett’s travel to a series of McCain campaign events that day. Readers learn that McCain told several jokes over the course of the day, that he was “relaxed enough to kid around about ethnic jokes” during one event and told a light joke at Everett’s expense at another. Everett also reported that McCain criticized Congress and President Obama, and that when asked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the “straight-talker” first dodged the question before eventually saying,“I believe we should do everything we can as Republicans to steer Mr. Trump in the right direction.”

    Somehow the article never mentioned that McCain has endorsed Trump. And despite the paeans to the “plainspoken” McCain, it never found space to bring up how the senator hemmed and hawed his way through a stammering nonanswer after being asked earlier this month if he is comfortable with his choice for president of the United States controlling the nuclear arsenal:

    The Straight Talk Express is back! Congrats to the senator’s campaign press operation.

    Thanks to an intensive, decades-long effort to cultivate the press, McCain has received an unearned reputation from reporters as a maverick and a straight-talker, as detailed in Media Matters’ 2008 book, Free Ride: John McCain and the Media. Yet after his words and actions make clear that he is a Republican like any other, the press regularly finds ways to declare that the “old” McCain is “back.”

     
  • Media Slam The Republican Leaders Disavowing Trump’s Feud With Khans But Not Rescinding Their Endorsements

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media figures are criticizing Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for refusing to rescind endorsing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while condemning his attacks on the Khans, an American Muslim family whose son was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. They are calling the statements refusing to flat-out disavow Trump “acts of cowardice,” “less than worthless,” and “empty words.”

  • Colorado Editorial Board Fails To Disclose Conflict Of Interest While Heralding Senate Candidate Darryl Glenn

    ››› ››› MARLEE PITTMAN

    The editorial board of The Gazette newspaper in Colorado Springs, CO, has consistently praised U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn (R) without ever disclosing the financial ties between the editorial board and the campaign. Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings show that the wife of Colorado Springs Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen received over $3,000 for campaign consulting services in 2015.