Fox News' Sean Hannity repeated the recent Fox talking point that President Obama was willing to negotiate with Iran, Syria, and other foreign actors, but refused to even speak with Republican members of Congress. In fact, the president has repeatedly emphasized his willingness to negotiate and recently spoke with Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and other congressional leaders.
On the September 30 edition of Hannity, host Sean Hannity asked his guest. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), about the President's willingness to work with Republicans to avoid a looming government shutdown over GOP efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act. Hannity said, "The president will talk to Syria, Iran, Vladimir Putin, but he won't talk to members of the House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate. Do I have that right?" Graham responded, "You got it right."
Hannity claimed Obama was unwilling to even "talk" with Republicans in Congress. In reality, Obama called Speaker Boehner and other GOP leaders earlier today. According to Reuters:
President Barack Obama urged House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Monday to back legislation to fund the government for six weeks and to vote on it quickly to avoid a government shutdown in hours.
The White House said Obama, in a phone call to the top Republican in Congress, asked Boehner to drop House Republican attempts to tie continued funding of the government to cutting money for Obama's signature healthcare law, the central obstacle holding up an agreement.
Despite Hannity's claim, Obama's call to congressional leaders was even reported in his show's on-screen text:
And though the text describes the news as "Breaking News," Reuters reported on the call over an hour before Hannity aired.
OBAMA: I'm always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better, to make sure our government works better. I'm always willing to work with anyone to grow our economy faster, or to create new jobs faster, to get our fiscal house in order for the long run. I've demonstrated this time and time again, oftentimes to the consternation of my own party.
Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol praised Republican efforts to force congressional staffers to foot the entire cost of their health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare"), pretending any subsides Congressional staffers receive from their employer would be tantamount to "special treatment."
With the deadline to avoid a federal government shutdown looming, Republican Senator David Vitter (LA) proposed an amendment to the spending bill that would fund the government and avoid a shutdown. His proposal, passed by the House on a 228 - 201 vote, eliminates health care subsidies members of Congress and their staff will receive from their employer, the federal government, to help pay the cost of their coverage under the Obamacare exchanges.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol praised the plan as an "extremely strong, political, and substantive" provision during an appearance on the September 30 edition of Fox News' Special Report. Discussing the possibility of a government shutdown, Kristol claimed:
KRISTOL: This is the best political ground for them to fight on ... They are getting rid of the exemption -- the special treatment for congressmen who get special treatment -- better than that of anyone else who's forced into the exchanges.
When host Bret Baier pointed out that even some Republican congressmen disagreed with the measure because they "don't think that their staff should have to feel the pain here," Kristol doubled down:
KRISTOL: I think the House Republicans are intelligent to insist on it, to prevent the Obama administration's change of it and to say, 'I'm sorry, there's no reason Congress or their staffs, nice people though they are, should get a better break than all the other Americans who are being forced into the exchanges under Obamacare.'
The "better break" Kristol cites is actually a special punishment targeted at congressional staff members, a punishment Vitter and House Republicans are fighting to continue.
From the September 27 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
From the September 26 edition of Cumulus Radio Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
Loading the player reg...
Following a 21 hour fake filibuster by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), right-wing media figures were quick to praise the effort as "genius." Fox host Sean Hannity opened his September 25 show, Hannity, with an over-the-top montage of Sen. Cruz's filibuster alongside images of Gadsden flags, American flags, trains, and Americans getting their hair cut, while conservative radio host Bill Cunningham compared Cruz to Davy Crockett, James Bowie, and John Wayne:
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's (TX) speech on the floor of the Senate was the culmination of a several-month campaign to convince his congressional colleagues to vote against any appropriations bill that does not defund Obamacare, which gained the support of a host of right-wing talk radio figures such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Erick Erickson, and Rush Limbaugh.
After Cruz spent 21 hours pleading for Republicans and Democrats to vote against cloture, the motion passed unanimously with the acquiescence of Cruz himself.
Several years ago, it was expected these talkers would have cowed the Republican Conference to their whim. Today, Sean Hannity is supportive of Cruz but other elements of the conservative movement remain divided. Fox News contributor Karl Rove has used his media platform to make arguments for avoiding this fight, while fellow contributor Sarah Palin has attacked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, demanding he "release the GOP names encouraging you to trash [Ted Cruz.]"
Since Rush Limbaugh's radio program went into syndication in August of 1988, talk radio has held unprecedented power over the GOP, wreaking vengeance on those who defied it. Erick Erickson recently cited conservative anger at George H.W. Bush for violating his "no new taxes" pledge as the reason for his defeat in 1992.
The age of talk radio has not been kind to the Republican Party's national candidates who have failed to capture a plurality of the popular vote in five of seven elections since Limbaugh's program went national. (In fact, one of those elections was Bush's 1988 victory, which, in reality, occurred before his influence reached its apex.)
Conservative talk radio is good for its hosts' bottom lines because it captures the loyalty, dedication, and financial muscle of a large niche audience. This can amount to millions of listeners, hundreds of millions of dollars, but still represents a limited quantity of voters -- far less than the 50 percent it takes to win an election.
Politicians like Cruz recognize the power of that niche in building his brand within the Republican Party.
Cruz also recognizes the financial benefit long known by the talk radio hosts raising millions of dollars off of a stunt that threatens to do billions of dollars in damage to the economy. It's important to recognize, however, that even the majority of Republicans oppose Cruz's tactic.
Instead of rallying in support or cowering in fear, Cruz's GOP colleagues in the Senate are bucking the conservative radio base for fear of being replaced in the primaries.
In addition to failing to unite behind Cruz's campaign, Fox recently announced its decision to downgrade the position of its talk radio star Hannity from his prime location at 9 p.m. to the less desirable 10 p.m. timeslot. This moves makes way for Megyn Kelly who, while maintaining the network's conservative ethos, delivers a far different product than her conservative counterparts.
It is perhaps heartening that after nearly 25 years of right-wing talking heads dragging the Republican Party away from a place where it can constructively engage with its counterparts, the Senate Republican Conference has briefly broken free of talk radio's grip.
It remains to be seen if this a long-term trend or a short-term realignment. But for once, the calculation that what is good for Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and now Ted Cruz is often to the detriment of the broader Republican Party has been heeded at this time by its leaders in the United States Senate.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (joined by a coterie of Senate Republicans) spoke on the Senate floor for about 21 hours in opposition to funding the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare." Cruz's speech was not a filibuster, it had to end before today's scheduled vote on the Senate's bill to continue funding the government, and was never a threat to derail legislation that was passed and signed into law three years ago.
As such, much of the media coverage of Cruz's speech has focused on the political circus Cruz has whipped up. Since he couldn't actually alter the legislative process and has few supporters on either side of the aisle, it's not unreasonable to think that Cruz is doing this for his own benefit. Washington Examiner political writer Timothy Carney has sensed this tone in the media coverage of Cruz's fake filibuster and sounds the familiar "LIBERAL BIAS" klaxon, arguing that Texas state senator Wendy Davis' (D) filibuster to halt passage of a restrictive anti-abortion rights bill this past summer was similar to Cruz's but "the media spin was different."
The circumstances surrounding Cruz's and Davis' speeches, however, are pretty different. "Davis's filibuster was no more likely than Cruz's to change the law," Carney wrote. Perhaps so, but Davis' filibuster was an extraordinary measure taken in response to extraordinary measures deployed by Gov. Rick Perry and the Republican-dominated legislature. Davis' filibuster came at the end of a special legislative session convened by Perry specifically to pass the abortion law, and after it failed to pass Perry had to call yet another special session to pass the bill, and a third after that to deal with the business the legislature couldn't attend to because it was wrapped up in the abortion debate. Cruz was operating within the regular business of the Senate and there was a hard deadline on how long he could continue.
Politically, Davis' filibuster became a flashpoint in the national abortion debate because it split activists along the well-established lines, and abortion rights supporters worked doggedly to elevate Davis' profile while opponents worked to marginalize her. It also helped to highlight the intense state-level fights over abortion rights that had not registered on the national media's radar. With Cruz, that dynamic doesn't exist. He has a few supporters in the Senate, and most Republicans -- including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn -- aren't backing him. Even the Wall Street Journal editorial board dismissed his anti-Obamacare campaign with more than a whiff of contempt: "The supposedly intrepid General Cruz can view the battle from the comfort of HQ while the enlisted troops take any casualties."
And Cruz is relitigating a fight that has long since been resolved. Most of the country already knows of and has an opinion of Obamacare. It was a central theme of the 2012 election and the guy who was for it won easily. The only thing Ted Cruz has brought to the table is Ted Cruz. Steve Benen put it just right: "Cruz seems to be generating quite a few headlines for himself. But as a qualitative matter, was Davis' speech a more important, consequential, and impressive display? I don't consider it a close call."
From the September 25 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
From C-SPAN's September 25 coverage of Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) floor speech against Obamacare:
Loading the player reg...
Hawking shady products - gold coins sold at a 30-percent markup, "survival seeds," and financial newsletters only designed to enrich their authors -- has long been the core strategy of funding the conservative media enterprise.
But the deleterious effect of the latest conservative media scam threatens to be far greater than a tube of seeds that will yield no fruit.
The conservative media, along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT), have conned their base into believing that shutting down the government -- unless Barack Obama agrees to stop the implementation of Obamacare -- is a strategically and politically salient idea for the GOP and the conservative movement. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) earlier this summer dubbed it "the dumbest idea I've ever heard."
Fueled by television ads starring Cruz and paid for by the Senate Conservative Fund -- a PAC initially founded by Heritage President Jim DeMint to shift the Senate GOP Conference rightward -- this movement was buoyed by an active campaign from the conservative media that began months ago. In July, Rush Limbaugh called the effort to block funding the government a "crucial thing" and the "one last chance to stop" Obamacare.
Sean Hannity called for a government shutdown months ago, telling his audience:
"I think they ought to just put their foot down, stand on principal and stop calculating what political impact is going to be felt here. Fund the rest of the government, but just defund Obamacare. And then if the Democrats want to shut down the government, then let them shut it down."
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson has used his blog, RedState.com, to call for the "scalps" of Republican politicians who do not "fight" to defund Obamacare with a government shutdown.
This has set off an internal GOP war, with some on the right expressing doubt that a government shutdown is a viable or effective strategy. This was on display Sunday on CBS's Face the Nation when Tom Coburn (R-OK) implied that his colleagues in the Senate pushing for a government shutdown weren't living in the "real world."
"Tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is, and we do not have the political power to do this," Coburn told host Bob Schieffer. "We're not about to shut the government down over the fact that we cannot, only controlling one house of Congress, tell the president that we're not going to fund any portion of this. Because we can't do that."
Karl Rove also took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to warn that defunding the government over Obamacare "would strengthen the president while alienating independents," ultimately leading the GOP towards electoral defeat.
Coburn, Rove, and others calling for restraint now are simply trying to slay a monster of their own creation. In early 2009, with momentum carrying the Obama administration forward, the Tea Party and its champions fought to create this toxic environment in which forcing a government shut down over Obamacare seemed like a viable option.
August town hall meetings degenerated into chaos as grassroots conservatives screamed at their members about a government takeover of healthcare. Obamacare was not simply a new health insurance system; the conservative base believed it was an all-out effort by Democrats to kill their grandmothers and children with disabilities. It needed to be defeated at all costs.
Tea Party members in Congress and the conservative media continued to use this rhetoric with their base long after their lies had been debunked and long after the bill's passage.
They cheered as this rhetoric enabled the GOP to win 63 seats in the House of Representatives, six in the Senate, and 675 state legislative seats -- allowing them to control the redistricting process.
They pushed their state governments to reject the law's Medicaid provisions and exchanges and looked the other way as conservative groups attempted to sabotage the implementation of the law by convincing young people it would be better to go without health insurance than sign up for Obamacare.
Admittedly, some groused when tea party extremists rejected candidates such as Mike Castle in Delaware in favor of sure losers like Christine O'Donnell, but they stood silent as tea party members in the House made the chamber ungovernable.
This week these strategies have finally come to a head. With the deadline for funding the government days away, the House has passed a bill sure to be rejected in the Senate and one the President won't sign. The Republican Caucus in the House is primarily made up of Tea Party members, whose districts, due to gerrymandering, are more subservient to the rhetoric of the conservative media than to the needs of the country.
Even those in the GOP and the conservative media lamenting this latest potential government shutdown bear responsibility for it. They have stood by and cheered since 2009 as the conservative base was spoon-fed lies about healthcare. Now that they recognize these lies have metastasized, not simply into false promises about gold coins or gardens that will feed your family after a financial apocalypse but into a political movement that will do long-term damage to the GOP, they are crying for its end.
However, the faulty calculation sold, and continuing to be sold, by many in the right-wing media is clear: if you can stop the federal government from murdering your grandmother and child, then a government shutdown and even electoral defeat is a small price to pay.
From the September 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
Loading the player reg...
NBC News' Chuck Todd claimed that Congressional Republicans refrained from talking about Benghazi on the one-year anniversary of the attacks -- the statements and actions of at least seven GOP officials on September 11 prove otherwise.
September 11, 2013 marked the twelve-year anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history and the one-year anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Over the last year, congressional Republicans and conservative media have formed an echo chamber of lies, smears, and conspiracies related to the Benghazi attacks and the Obama administration's handling of its aftermath.
On Meet the Press the Sunday following the anniversary, NBC News' Chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd claimed that Republicans withheld from discussing Benghazi during the one-year anniversary of the attacks: (emphasis added)
DAVID GREGORY (host): Meanwhile, we're talking about not only twelve years after 9/11, and the Middle East, Benghazi, back as a political focus this week.
TODD: It is. The House Republicans have not dropped this as an issue. They didn't talk about it last week during the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi attack, but this week on Thursday alone, three different hearings are going to be taking place on the same day on Capitol Hill. House Republicans, they don't want to drop this.
But House and Senate Republicans alike jumped at the opportunity to push Benghazi falsehoods on the anniversary of the attacks.
Several elected Republicans took to the friendly airwaves of Fox News on Wednesday, September 11 to politicize the year-old attacks and condemn the president's response. Republican Congressman Frank Wolf (VA) suggested the Obama administration was hampering an investigation into the Benghazi attacks when he spoke on Fox's America Live. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) went on Fox's Your World and complained that the debate over intervention in Syria is a distraction from the Benghazi attacks "where nothing ever occurred to ... bring people to justice." Later, on Fox's On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, both Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) launched multiple attacks on Obama to intimate that the administration was not committed to investigating Benghazi.
From the September 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
There is an odd excitement in the right-wing media over an exchange between MSNBC host Karen Finney and conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt. The right-wing talker invited Finney on his program after she linked the rhetoric of Ted Cruz to that of Joe McCarthy, an unsurprising comparison considering the Texas senator's previous hunts for communists on the Harvard Law School faculty.
Instead of discussing Cruz's behavior, however, Hewitt decided to discuss the history of McCarthyism, ostensibly defending the Wisconsin senator.
"Was Alger Hiss a communist?" Hewitt asked. Finney responded, "I think that's distracting from the point I was trying to make."
Finney continued, "And the point I was trying to make was, you had Joe McCarthy was on a mission to root out communism in the government, and he did it in such a way that created a hysteria that was very unhealthy for this country. Do you really disagree with me on that?"
Hewitt refused to engage with Finney's question and refused to discuss the damage McCarthy had done, just like he refused to acknowledge the damage to our discourse caused by Ted Cruz's behavior. This is after Finney explicitly stated, "Obviously, spying on this country and betraying this country is absolutely wrong. Of course it is."
Hewitt somehow views Finney's hang-up as a victory. However, what this interview demonstrated was Hewitt's inability to defend the rhetoric Cruz and others use within Hewitt's own party. Instead he chose to engage in a 50-year-old conversation involving Alger Hiss that has no relevance to today's discussions.
Finney later tweeted that she hung up because Hewitt "was interested in a shout fest not an honest conversation." And she was absolutely right.
Responding to President Obama's statement that Republican members of Congress are afraid of Rush Limbaugh, the radio host claimed that Republicans are not listening to him -- despite Limbaugh's regular boasting about his influence on the Republican agenda and Republican politicians routinely backpedaling their criticism of him.