Right-wing media are offering GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney advice for the upcoming presidential debate. They suggest Romney should push economic myths to attack Obama's record, "smack the president," and get under Obama's skin.
Right-wing media have pushed numerous myths about the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and protests in the Middle East, from distorting the Obama administration's response to the attacks to misleading about the nature of security at the Benghazi consulate.
Right-wing bloggers have echoed an accusation that Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, allegedly practiced law without a license. But the charge was dismissed by the general counsel of the agency responsible for enforcing Massachusetts bar rules, who said that Warren's activities are not a violation of those rules.
The accusation against Warren originally appeared in the blog Legal Insurrection in a post titled "Elizabeth Warren's law license problem." Author William A. Jacobson, an associate professor at Cornell Law School, writes that, "Warren has practiced law in Massachusetts without a license in violation of Massachusetts law for well over a decade." He notes that Warren, a professor at Harvard Law School, listed her law school office as her address on a handful of legal briefs, and is not a member of the Massachusetts bar. The charge was quickly echoed by other right-wing bloggers ranging from Jim Geraghty at National Review Online, who termed the accusation a "bombshell," to Breitbart.com's Michael Patrick Leahy, who wrote that "though Warren operated a law practice from her Cambridge office for more than a decade, she never obtained a license to practice law in Massachusetts."
But according to a post on The Docket, the blog of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, Jacobson's charge has been rejected by Michael Fredrickson, the general counsel of the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers, which is "an independent administrative body to investigate and evaluate complaints against lawyers." According to The Docket:
Rule 5.5 of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct states that an attorney cannot, without a license to practice in Massachusetts, "establish an office or other systematic and continuous presence in this jurisdiction for the practice of law." It also states an attorney cannot, without a license, "hold out to the public or otherwise represent that the lawyer is admitted to practice law in this jurisdiction."
Michael Fredrickson, general counsel for the BBO, says he does not believe a law professor would be considered to have "a continuous presence" or "an office practicing law."
"If they actually practice here - as some part-time law professors at some of the smaller schools do - they might," Fredrickson says. "But being a professor at one of the large schools, their office is a professor's office, and the fact that they tend to dabble in the practice of law doesn't run afoul of our rule. I don't think Elizabeth Warren would fall within that, such that she would have to register here."
Maybe now Bill Kristol knows how Barack Obama feels.
Like Obama, the long-time conservative commentator has become a (temporary) punching bag for the more radical elements of the far-right press. Kristol's sin? Acknowledging that Romney's "47 percent" comments made behind closed doors to wealthy donors were "stupid and arrogant."
Over the weekend, Breitbart.com condemned Kristol as a "pinhead" and suggested a wounded ego was the reason The Weekly Standard editor took issue with Romney's donor comments.
Last week, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin lashed out at Kristol and denounced him as a "windbag" in "meltdown mode." For Malkin, insulting nearly half the electorate and deriding them as lazy and irresponsible was the perfect campaign pitch for Romney to make. Because according to Malkin, this campaign is all about "about America's makers versus America's takers." (Fox News also loved the "47 percent" attack line.)
That's clearly how the fanatical far-right media see the looming November election. Yet Kristol's critique of Romney's comments was self-evident: "It's worth recalling that a good chunk of the 47 percent who don't pay income taxes are Romney supporters."
The fact that Malkin and others castigate Kristol only shows how fanatically they take the oath of loyalty during the campaign season. (And how name-calling is their first response to a debate.)
There's also an alternate universe narrative being pushed in the fevered swamps of the right-wing blogosphere at places like Breitbart.com. It preaches to readers that Romney's campaign is in great shape and that polls suggesting otherwise should be dismissed as bogus because the sampling is all wrong. (Biased!)
The suggestion that Romney's campaign is struggling is all a liberal media creation, goes the Breitbart line. The problem is when conservatives like Kristol puncture the bubble that Malkin and Breitbart bloggers hold so dear. In response, Kristol must be denounced as a fool.
And the family feud rages on.
Conservative media have claimed that the Obama administration is waging a "war" on "cheap," "clean" coal that will cause blackouts and massive layoffs. In fact, the Obama administration has simply implemented long overdue and legally required clean air regulations to protect public health without hurting electric reliability or employment, and much of the transition away from coal is due to the rise of cheaper, cleaner natural gas.
Dismissing evidence to the contrary, conservative media this week claimed the Obama administration is considering releasing Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as "the Blind Sheikh," who was convicted of planning terrorist attacks against the U.S. Even after administration officials denied accusations that Abdel-Rahman may be released, right-wing media continued to push the claim.
Right-wing media expressed outrage over the Obama campaign's use of flag imagery in a campaign poster. But this is not unique to the Obama campaign: a modified American flag was used as a banner for Abraham Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign.
Right-wing media outlets are pushing dubious allegations to attack Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the violence that claimed the life of the U.S. ambassador to Libya. But the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has poured cold water on the attack.
[T]he US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and "lockdown", under which movement is severely restricted."
Breitbart.com editor Ben Shapiro even used the report to call for Clinton's resignation, saying: "The details are so explosive that they will result in a Congressional investigation. In fact, they're so explosive that they should result in the resignation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."
The Drudge Report linked to the same Independent article under a picture of Clinton with the headline "Paper: U.S. warned of embassy attack, but did nothing."
Fox News also hyped the charge that Clinton had advanced warning of the attacks. Fox & Friends guest co-host Eric Bolling said: "You have to wonder. Hillary Clinton came on September 12 and she came on September 13 and she said, you know -- denouncing the attacks and whatnot. But why was she on twice saying the exact same thing? Maybe, maybe we did have advanced knowledge of these protests and attacks coming."
But later on Fox, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) showed why right-wing media should not have jumped on this one thinly-sourced report so quickly. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Rogers about the Independent report. Rogers responded: "As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I have seen nothing yet that indicates that they had information that could have prevented the event." He added:
ROGERS: That doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I just haven't seen it yet, and we should be cautious about that. There's a difference between having lots of information flowing in, which we've had over months about the trouble that was brewing, especially Al Qaeda in the Maghreb looking for Western targets to strike -- the Maghreb being the northern part of Africa. So we knew that there was at least an interest in violence. This is the same site in Benghazi that had been attacked by an IED a couple months prior to that event. So we knew that there should have been a heightened level of security just for those reasons.
Conservative media outlets are claiming that the military is purchasing more electric vehicles in an attempt to "prop up the Obama administration's green agenda." But military leaders across the political spectrum say that the Pentagon's green initiatives will enhance military effectiveness and strengthen national security.
Last month, Stars and Stripes reported that the Defense Department plans to add about 1,500 "road-capable" electric cars to its fleet over the next few years. So far, the military has purchased 168 plug-in electric vehicles -- including some Chevy Volts. Thomas Hicks, the Navy's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy, recently told Scientific American that the goal of the military's green initiatives is "improving our combat capability, improving our mission effectiveness, and reducing our vulnerabilities to foreign sources of fossil fuel."
But conservative media outlets have conjured up another motive, accusing the Obama administration of using taxpayer dollars to boost GM's sales numbers -- even though the military is buying several types of electric vehicles. A Breitbart post said: "The Obama administration is helping General Motors again by buying up its struggling line of electric cars." And a Washington Free Beacon article stated: "The Pentagon's massive car-buying scheme is the latest example of government trying to help GM raise its sales volumes."
Other conservative outlets are calling the purchases a "political statement," and an attempt to "prop up the Obama administration's green agenda." And Fox News, which never misses an opportunity to lambast the Volt, issued the self-fulfilling prophecy that the military's purchase will become "the latest controversy in the Volt's short life."
Several conservative outlets cited a Reuters report that GM is losing up to $49,000 on every Volt sold to suggest that electric vehicles are a waste of taxpayer money. But as the International Business Times pointed out, this figure does not take into account future Volt sales or the application of its technology to other products, which will lower per-vehicle costs. GM called the Reuters figure "grossly wrong," and said that it expects to break even by the time the second-generation Volt is introduced in a few years. Former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz wrote in Forbes that "[m]aybe the Volt, a first-generation technology masterpiece and the most-awarded car in automotive history, will never make a really decent profit. But succeeding generations of the same technology will."
International Business Times noted that the Volt is a forward-looking investment by GM, which "should be reassuring to investors and the market." Likewise, the military's investment in electric vehicles is part of a long-term strategy to reduce its dependence on oil, mitigate the risks of climate change and enhance national security.
With recent campaign polls showing noticeable movement towards President Obama in recent days, and with some news accounts reporting that Romney aides concede they're losing ground, National Review editor Rich Lowry reached out to a nameless Romney "adviser" for a comment.
The aide insisted the Boston-based campaign "feels good" about the electoral map and its chances of defeating Obama in key swing states in November.
Aside from that expected spin, what was most curious was the aide's attack on the supposedly Democrat-leaning press corps and how it's working in tandem with the Obama campaign. Romney himself has pressed this same campaign conspiracy, which flourishes online among fevered conservative bloggers: Journalists are de facto White House employees. (If so, they're doing an awful job.)
But note this whopper that followed [emphasis added]:
And the more Washington DC controls our economy, the more important inside-the-beltway publications are and the more money they make. The 202 area code is dominated by people who will make more money if Obama is reelected, so it's not just an ideological thumb they're putting on the scale for him, it's a business interest.
The aides' comments mirror the increasingly aggressive right-wing media's attacks on the press. This assault is driven by the conspiratorial claims that not only do journalists have a liberal bias, and therefore spin the news in that direction, but that reporters go to work each day determined to re-elect Obama. The all-consuming allegations paint the picture of a completely rigged system where the White House and press corps work seamlessly to advance a Democratic agenda.
"This is all about the media OPENLY coordinating with the Obama campaign to win reelection for a failed president," proclaimed Breitbart.com this summer. It's a declaration that has been repeated on an endless loop ever since, and with increasing frenzy.
Now the latest twist is the claim that the media want Obama to win because the press corps will enrich itself with Obama in the White House because. How? Because Obama wants the government to control the U.S. economy, therefore D.C. media becomes more important. (Does that even make sense?)
Polling is a tricky business. It's an inexact science predicated on extrapolating broad trends from small populations. The safest way to approach polls is to treat them as what they are: snapshots of a moment in time taken from a specific angle. The worst way to handle them is to do what Breitbart.com is doing with CNN's polls: treating them either as the unvarnished truth or a pernicious liberal conspiracy depending entirely on President Obama's numbers.
On June 1, CNN released a poll showing that the presidential race had tightened from the previous month, and Breitbart.com's John Sexton called it "bad news for the president."
More bad news for the President arrives today in the form of a new CNN poll. The poll, conducted May 29-31, shows the race for President has tightened significantly over the last month. If the election were held today, 49% would vote for Obama and 46% for Romney, which is within the poll's margin of error.
Last month CNN's poll showed the President with a 9-point advantage (52-43%). The high water mark for the President has been 54% in CNN's March poll.
On August 9, CNN released a poll showing Obama with a seven-point lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters, and Breitbart.com's Mike Flynn alleged "CNN Is Just Making Up Poll Numbers Now."
Okay, I'm not certain they are literally making up poll results, but the poll CNN and British market research firm ORC International released Thursday afternoon is so screwy and raises so many questions that they might as well be doing it intentionally. If CNN is already resorting to these kinds of tricks before the conventions have even started, it's going to be a very long campaign.
Some conservative media figures are praising Clint Eastwood's performance from the final night of the Republican National Convention, in which the actor spoke to an empty chair representing President Obama. Eastwood rambled on at length, engaging in an awkward, one-person back and forth with the imaginary president that was meant to critique Obama's policy record.
Politico reported that "the Romney family seemed less than thrilled when the camera panned to them" during Eastwood's "disjointed moment." The Washington Post said Eastwood's performance "looked bizarre on the television screen." The New York Times spoke to Romney aides, who anonymously described the performance as "strange, " "weird," and "theater of the absurd."
Right-wing media are stirring up outrage over a UCLA online learning program that will offer students, regardless of legal status, the chance to study immigrant and labor rights. The one-year program, which is open to any student who has graduated from a U.S. high school, will cost the same for all students. But Fox News claimed the program would be a "much better deal" if "you are an illegal alien" than a legal resident or American citizen.
UCLA recently launched the National Dream University as a joint effort with the National Labor College. The program is a one-year, accredited program which does not offer a degree, and is comparable to 18 academic credits that are "transferrable to other institutions of higher education." The program offers six courses to be completed in trimesters over the course of 2013 on topics related to labor and immigration policy.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said that if you are "illegal and qualify for this program, it will cost you $2,400. If you made the foolish mistake of becoming a resident and belong here, then you'll get punished and be paying $6,642." Fox & Friends aired the following on-screen graphic:
But Fox's numbers are wrong. The cost of the program, which is "open to everyone regardless of their immigration status," is the same. An extensive search of the UCLA website Fox cited as a source provided no tuition figures that match the "Legal Student" costs projected during the Fox & Friends segment. Further, in an email to Media Matters, Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, confirmed that tuition for the program does not change based on the student's status:
Right-wing media have distorted efforts by President Obama's re-election campaign to restore early voting for all Ohio voters, claiming the campaign is suing to restrict voting for members of the military. In fact, the Obama campaign's lawsuit seeks to restore early voting for all Ohioans, including members of the military and their families.
Right-wing media are fearmongering over an Obama campaign smartphone app that makes it easier for any smartphone user and Obama supporter to get involved in the campaign without first having to visit a campaign office. Conservative media are claiming that it will allow users to "spy" on their neighbors and report that information back to the campaign.
In fact, the app is designed to simplify the process for getting involved in the 2012 campaign; it includes only information that is publicly available; and it has built-in privacy protections against abuse. Moreover, the Romney campaign also makes voter information freely available to anyone who registers on its website.
On July 30, the Obama for America campaign introduced an iPhone app that "will make it even easier to connect with the campaign and pitch in wherever you are." From the campaign:
This campaign's strength has always come from the millions of grassroots supporters who are organizing their communities, and the new Obama app puts the latest organizing tools right at your fingertips.
With the new app, you can easily find local volunteer events near you, get a list of voters to talk to in your neighborhood, and access all the information you need to spread the word: from President Obama's record to state-specific voting info. You can also stay up to date with breaking news, which you can instantly share with friends and family using Facebook, Twitter, email, and text messaging.
In an article on the app, Pro Publica noted: "All this is public information, which campaigns have long given to volunteers. But you no longer have to schedule a visit to a field office and wait for a staffer to hand you a clipboard and a printed-out list of addresses." Pro Publica went on to report:
It's unclear if the app displays all registered Democrats who live in a certain area, or only a subset of voters President Obama's campaign is trying to reach.
Asked about the privacy aspects of the new app, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign wrote that "anyone familiar with the political process in America knows this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public."
The information included in the app has "traditionally been available to anyone who walks into a campaign field office," said the spokesperson, who declined to be named.
While the app makes voter information instantly available, it displays only a small cluster of addresses at a time. It has built-in mechanisms to detect when people are misusing the data, "such as people submitting way too many voter contacts in a short period of time," the spokesman said.