Right-wing media personalities lashed out at Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) for "sabotag[ing]" Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) in the GOP's ABC News debate, claiming that Christie's attacks led to Rubio's poor performance in New Hampshire's GOP primary.
From the February 9 edition of CNN's America's Choice:
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As Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump campaigned in New Hampshire, media outlets hyped a "subdued" and "toned down" candidate, even going so far as to ask the presidential candidate "who are you, and what have you done with Donald Trump?" However, the media's portrayal of a different Trump is occurring as Trump continues to make extreme statements, including his support for forms of torture "a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding," and his remark that he could look Syrian refugee children in the face and say "you can't come" to America.
A CNN op-ed outlines how media criticism of Hillary Clinton's voice is not only "sexist" and a distraction from political issues, but also represents a "charge faced by professional women that they are too aggressive and ambitious."
Miami Herald and World Politics Review columnist Frida Ghitis calls out reporters for attacks on Clinton's speaking style, suggesting the criticism is part of "the 'shrill' smear against Hillary Clinton." Ghitis writes that Bob Woodward and Joe Scarborough's critique of Clinton's Iowa victory speech was an example of "transparent sexism." Ghitis also calls a New York Times report "absurd" for claiming that Clinton came off angry compared to Sanders, when in fact both speeches were "heated and intense." She highlights The Philadelphia Inquirer's assessment that Clinton lacks "elegance and grace," Peggy Noonan's comparison of Clinton to a "landlady yelling," and Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza's comment that Clinton was "Hyper aggressive." Ghitis likens the "sexist" attacks against Hillary Clinton to the "charge faced by professional women that they are too aggressive and ambitious."
These are not the only sexist attacks that have been levied against Clinton since her speech in Iowa. Fox's Geraldo Rivera claimed her "shreik" was "unpleasant" and suggested Clinton "may be hard of hearing," while Sean Hannity -- who has referred to Clinton as "shrill" in the past -- said the speech was merely "angry, bitter screaming." The media has a history of making sexist remarks about Clinton, targeting subjects including but not limited to her voice. From the February 8 op-ed:
Woodward, in case you haven't heard, brought his decades of expertise to the MSNBC show "Morning Joe" to shed light on the difficulties faced by the once-undisputed Democratic front-runner. He opined "a lot of it, with Hillary Clinton has to do with style and delivery, oddly enough." Then he explained, "She shouts. There is something unrelaxed about the way she is communicating and I think it just jumps."
The transparent sexism, along with Clinton's poor performance with women, led former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to declare this weekend at a Clinton campaign rally that "there is a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." Women, in fact, are free to choose among the candidates. But like all voters, they should ensure that insidious sexism, theirs or the pundits', does not waft in to cloud their judgment.
That there is sexism in politics, in business, in the world, is beyond dispute. But in this particular case there is an overarching risk, a cautionary message for voters. Sure, sexist attitudes are a problem for women. But here they are a problem for all Americans deciding who should become president. Instead of discussing what truly matters, the experts are talking about Clinton's tone of voice. And that is just one of the distractions along this well-trod path.
There's the voice, of course, which a (female) writer in The Philadelphia Inquirer finds lacks "elegance and grace," and Peggy Noonan says "reminds me of the landlady yelling." Then there is that charge faced by professional women that they are too aggressive and ambitious.
During Thursday's debate, The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza called her "Hyper aggressive." Another debate review, in The New York Times, contrasted her and her opponent, saying Bernie Sanders "kept his cool in the debate," while Clinton appeared "tense and even angry at times." The truth is they were both heated and intense, which was fitting. The Times' comparison was absurd.
Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald debunked the partisan assertions that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton improperly used a private email account, pointing out that her predecessors similarly used private email accounts that received information that was retroactively classified.
For months, conservative media figures baselessly hyped claims that Clinton violated the law by receiving State Department emails on her private email account while secretary of state. On February 4, reports emerged that Colin Powell and aides to Condoleezza Rice also used private email accounts when they served under President George W. Bush and some of their emails contained information that was subsequently classified on a retroactive basis.
In a February 8 article for Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald explained that Powell and Rice's aides' use of a private email account was "meaningless except that it sets up a rational conversation (finally) about the Hillary Clinton bogus 'email-gate' imbroglio" and showed that the fixation on Hillary Clinton's emails "has been a big nothing-burger perpetuated for partisan purposes." Eichenwald wrote that Powell and Rice, like Clinton, "did nothing wrong" and that "this could only be considered a scandal by ignorant or lying partisans":
This news involving Powell and Rice is meaningless except that it sets up a rational conversation (finally) about the Hillary Clinton bogus "email-gate" imbroglio. Perhaps the partisans on each side will now be more willing to listen to the facts. From the beginning, the "scandal" about Clinton using a personal email account when she was secretary of state--including the finding that a few documents on it were retroactively deemed classified--has been a big nothing-burger perpetuated for partisan purposes, with reports spooned out by Republicans attempting to deceive or acting out of ignorance. Conservative commentators have raged, presidential candidates have fallen over themselves in apoplectic babbling, and some politicians have proclaimed that Clinton should be in jail for mishandling classified information. The nonsense has been never-ending, and attempts to cut through the fog of duplicity have been fruitless.
So did Powell and the aides to Rice violate rules governing classified information, since the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) staff has recently determined that some of their years-old personal emails contain top-secret material? No. The rules regarding the handling of classified information apply to communications designated as secret at that time. If documents that aren't deemed classified and aren't handled through a SCIF when they are created or initially transmitted are later, in retrospect, deemed secret, the classification is new--and however the record was handled in the past is irrelevant.
In other words, just because the FOIA staff years later labeled emails sent from Powell and Rice's aides as classified does not mean those records contain some crown jewels of critical intelligence. In fact, usually they are quite benign. I have seen emails called "top secret" that contained nothing more than a forwarded news article that had been published. (The Associated Press has reported that one of Clinton's "secret" emails contains an AP article.)
The bottom line: Democrats may try to turn the revelations about the email accounts used by Powell and Rice's staff into a scandal. They may release press statements condemning the former secretaries of state; they may call for scores of unnecessary congressional hearings; they may go to the press and confidently proclaim that crimes were committed by these honorable Republicans. But it all be lies. Powell and Rice did nothing wrong. This could only be considered a scandal by ignorant or lying partisans.
So there is no Powell or Rice email scandal. And no doubt, that will infuriate the Republicans who are trying so hard to trick people into believing Clinton committed a crime by doing the exact same thing as her predecessors.
Eichenwald joins other lawmakers and media commentators who agree that the revelation that Powell and aides to Condoleezza Rice also received retroactively classified information indicates that the allegations against Hillary Clinton are part of a partisan smear campaign.
CNN's S.E. Cupp and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt parroted language from Marco Rubio's campaign to defend his debate performance, which garnered criticism. Hewitt claimed that Rubio is "being attacked by mainstream media," and Cupp echoed Hewitt, saying "the attention" is good for Rubio "going into New Hampshire and South Carolina." NBC's Alexandra Jaffe tweeted an image of an email from Marco Rubio's campaign, which read "the media pounced" on him because they "know our campaign is building momentum." From the February 8 edition of CNN Newsroom:
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La prensa escribió este guión hace mucho tiempo: el senador Marco Rubio se convertiría el candidato favorecido por el "establishment" en las primarias del partido Republicano mientras las élites del partido buscan responder a las campañas insurgentes de Donald Trump y del senador Ted Cruz.
Este punto ha sido recalcado de manera especialmente fuerte en la prensa desde que el circo de Trump llegó a la campaña electoral el verano pasado: el partido Republicano tiene sus esperanzas puestas en un redentor templado, pragmático, que pueda atraer a votantes céntricos y ayudarle a los Republicanos a evitar un desastre en noviembre. ("Permitir que Trump obtenga la nominación dejaría a los Republicanos con el peor candidato que ningún partido haya tenido en décadas", escribió Jonathan Chait en la revista New York).
El tercer lugar que obtuvo Rubio en los resultados del caucus de Iowa solo ha fortalecido el argumento, con la prensa esencialmente ungiéndolo como el ganador de Iowa. Según CNN, "puede que haya ganado la credibilidad del "establishment" que necesita para permanecer cerca de los primeros lugares de la carrera Republicana a la presidencia en el largo plazo". Reuters coincidió, coronando al "senador de la Florida Marco Rubio y al 'establishment' Republicano" como los grandes ganadores de Iowa por el lado Republicano.
Pero ¿qué pasa cuando los hechos cambian pero el guión no? ¿Qué pasa cuando un supuesto candidato del "establishment" como Rubio comienza a apoyar el tipo de retórica fea y divisoria que se ha vuelto sinónima de las regiones más oscuras de Fox News y el partido Republicano? ¿Qué pasa cuando adopta políticas públicas radicales que solo años atrás habrían sido vistas como extremistas, hasta para los programas de radio en la frecuencia AM? (Como por ejemplo, hacer ilegales los abortos incluso para las víctimas de violación e incesto).
En otras palabras, ¿qué pasa cuando Rubio hace un cruce cerrado hacia la derecha y destruye las diferencias significativas que tenía antes con Trump? ¿O las que tenía con Cruz? ¿No vuelve eso irrelevantes y engañosas a palabras calmantes y benevolentes como "Establishment"?
No creo que quede duda de que, en general, Rubio ha recibido el beneficio de una cobertura mediática generosísima. Ya sea la conclusión arrebatadora de que es un comunicador "carismático", o los medios felizmente tragándose el anzuelo lanzado por su campaña de que el tercer lugar en Iowa era esencialmente una victoria, o la prensa rehusándose firmemente a hacer una investigación profunda de las cuestionables finanzas del senador, ver a Rubio en el debate Republicano el año pasado atacando a la prensa por ser un súper PAC liberal para Demócratas fue entretenido. La verdad de los hechos es que, los expertos televisivos parecen adorarlo.
Una manera en la que ese afecto es demostrado, es ignorando la sustancia en la campaña de Rubio; escondiendo el extremismo que se encuentra como base de sus propuestas. Reconocer que Rubio ocupa los extremos del espectro político y que en realidad se ha movido hacia ahí aceleradamente en los últimos meses, mancha el retrato que a la prensa la gusta pintar de él: el redentor del "establishment".
A mí, la palabra "establishment" suena como equivalente de "moderado". Y en el caso de Rubio, eso es un mito completo.
Al colocar al senador de la Florida en ese ancho carril del "establishment", los expertos televisivos y reporteros parecen sugerir que es de alguna manera parte de un ala pragmática del partido Republicano (¿existe eso, tan siquiera?) que practica un conservadurismo de sentido común; que es diferente y superior de esos interruptores foráneos como Trump y Cruz, que abrazan más caos político.
Esta semana, un artículo del New York Times ponía a Rubio fuera de la derecha dura Republicana que parece estar siendo atraída por Trump. Reuters explicó lo que distingue a Rubio del supuesto "exterior", a pesar de que Rubio parece estar de acuerdo con Trump y Cruz en tantos temas, incluyendo su desdén por el Presidente Obama: "[Rubio] empapó sus críticas con un mensaje más optimista e inclusivo".
Pero solo porque un extremista cubre su retórica divisoria con lenguaje optimista, no significa que la prensa electoral deba de seguirle el juego y retratarlo como alguien que claramente no es. Y aún así...
Pronosticando las posibilidades de Rubio de llegar a la Casa Blanca, FiveThirtyEight recientemente proclamó que los estrategas Demócratas están "aterrorizados de enfrentarse a Rubio en el otoño". ¿Por qué? Debido a su habilidad de "establishment" de ampliar el "atractivo Republicano con los moderados, los "millennials" y los Latinos".
"Rubio está apuntándole a ser el candidato Republicano con la credibilidad de "establishment" y el atractivo amplio necesario para ganar en una elección general, un unificador que podría juntar al electorado joven y moderado junto a los conservadores y los evangélicos", reportó el Christian Science Monitor.
¿Un unificador? Rubio se alejó de su único intento de legislación "establishment" con la reforma migratoria que él, como parte de la Pandilla de Ocho, ayudó a empujar en el Congreso. Pero rápidamente, al encontrarse fuera de tono con una base Republicana rabiosa que ha adoptado la postura anti-inmigración como la prueba de fuego definitoria, Rubio corrió tan a la derecha en este tema que ahora no solo se opone a su propia propuesta de reforma, está conectando el tema con el ascenso de ISIS.
Nada de unificar ahí.
En cuanto al potencial atractivo que Rubio ejercería sobre el electorado joven y moderado, una parte central de la narrativa mediática sobre el "establishment", la agenda cada vez más de extrema derecha que está adoptando el senador, levanta dudas.
Rubio se opone a la expansión de revisar los antecedentes para los propietarios de armas, incluso a pesar de que un 90 por ciento de estadounidenses apoyan la medida, así como una mayoría abrumadora de propietarios de armas e incluso miembros de la Asociación Nacional del Rifle (NRA por sus siglas en inglés). Se opone a la igualdad matrimonial y "cree que a algunos tipos de empresas, como fotografías para bodas, debería permitírseles rechazar a clientes gay". No quiere aumentar el salario mínimo (incluso a pesar de que piensa de que actualmente es muy bajo). No cree en el cambio climático.
Traducido de PolitiFact [énfasis nuestro]:
Rubio apoyará legislación anti-aborto que incluirá excepciones para violaciones e incestos, pero su preferencia es que el procedimiento sea ilegal, incluso para casos de violación e incesto.
Es importante notar que en términos de la marca "establishment", una serie de Republicanos del "establishment" que lograron la nominación presidencial, incluyendo a Mitt Romney, el senador John McCain, y George W. Bush, todos coincidían en que permitir la legalidad del aborto en los casos de violación o incesto era el mejor enfoque. Rubio, sin embargo, se ha alejado de ese modelo y ha escogido una postura bastante más radical.
Y cuando Trump propuso prohibir la entrada de todos los musulmanes a los Estados Unidos, Rubio pareció rebasarlo en el extremismo febril, por lo menos inicialmente. "No se trata de cerrar mezquitas", le dijo a la presentadora de Fox News, Megyn Kelly. "Se trata de cerrar cualquier lugar -- ya sea un café, un comedor, un sitio de internet -- cualquier lugar en donde los radicales se estén inspirando". (Rubio más tarde dijo que Trump no había pensado lo suficiente su propuesta de prohibir la entrada a musulmanes.)
¿En general? "Ha sido afectado por Trump", hizo notar Peter Beinart en la revista The Atlantic.
Puede que aún exista un candidato "establishment" escondido entre el campo Republicano que pueda intentar salvar al partido de su propio extremismo, pero en base a la definición mediática aparente de "establishment", Rubio no es esa persona.
From the February 7 edition of CNN's State of the Union:
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is being harshly criticized for repeatedly using the same line that President Obama "knows exactly what he is doing" during ABC News' February 6 Republican presidential debate. A CNN commentator noted that line is "gospel, when you listen to conservative talk radio," and echoes a talking point former Fox News host Glenn Beck frequently used.
Four times during the debate, Rubio said that contrary to the claims of those who portray him as incompetent, Obama "knows exactly what he is doing," explaining at one point: "He knows exactly what he's doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world. That's why he passed Obamacare, and the stimulus, and Dodd-Frank, and the deal with Iran, it is a systematic effort to change America." After one iteration, Gov. Chris Christie called Rubio out for using a "memorized 25-second speech" tailored by political advisers.
Following the debate, CNN commentators savaged Rubio's performance, calling it "damaging," "somewhat bizarre," and "hard to watch." But Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord pointed out that Rubio's comments were "gospel, if you listen to conservative talk radio" because "there are plenty of people out there in the base who really do think he wants to change the country in a direction they don't want to see it go."
Indeed, as Media Matters Executive Vice President Angelo Carusone pointed out, Rubio's comments echo Glenn Beck's oft-repeated claim that President Obama was engaged in the "fundamental transformation of America," deliberately trying to damage the country so he could "chang[e] America into something other than it always has been."
From the February 6 edition of CNN's Smerconish:
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From the February 5 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:
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CNN political commentator Errol Louis explained that Hillary Clinton's email use as secretary of state was typical of "what happens in the way of classified material" and noted that the new report that other former secretaries of state had information in their personal emails that was retroactively deemed classified is "a validator" that "helps make her case." Yesterday, NBC News reported "State Department officials have determined that classified information was sent to the personal email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the senior staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice." Clinton has been the target of numerous debunked attacks over her email use when she served as secretary of state. From the February 5 edition of CNN's New Day:
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With Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton facing a barrage of criticisms over the tone of her voice during a recent speech, Media Matters looks back at the rampant sexism she faced from the media during her 2008 presidential bid.
The press wrote this script a very long time ago: Senator Marco Rubio could become the favored establishment candidate in the Republican Party primary as party elites search for answers to the insurgent campaigns of outsiders Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.
That note has been hit especially hard in the press since the Trump circus arrived on the campaign trail last summer: The GOP is hoping for a tempered, pragmatic savior who can appeal to mainstream voters and help Republicans avoid disaster come November. ("Allowing Trump to have its nomination would saddle Republicans with the worst nominee any party has had in decades," wrote Jonathan Chait at New York.)
Rubio's third-place finish in the Iowa caucus has only cemented that claim, with the press essentially anointing him the Iowa winner. He "may have won the establishment credibility he needs to stay near the top of the Republican presidential race for the long-term," according to CNN. Reuters agreed, crowning "Florida Senator Marco Rubio and the Republican establishment" as one of the big Iowa winners on the GOP side.
But what happens when the facts change but the script does not? What happens when a so-called Establishment candidate like Rubio starts espousing ugly, divisive rhetoric that's synonymous with the darker regions of Fox News and the Republican Party? What happens when he adopts radical policy positions that just years ago would have been seen as borderline even for AM talk radio? (i.e. Outlawing abortions even for victims of rape and incest.)
In other words, what happens when Rubio takes a very hard right turn and obliterates meaningful differences between himself and Trump? Between himself and Cruz? Don't calming, feel-good code words like Establishment then become irrelevant and misleading?
I don't think there's any doubt that, overall, Rubio has benefited from very generous press coverage. Whether it's the sweeping conclusion that he's a "charismatic" communicator, the media happily running with his campaign's spin that it essentially won in Iowa by finishing third, or the press' steadfast refusal to delve deeply into the senator's questionable finances, watching Rubio at the Republican debate last year attack the press as a liberal super PAC for Democrats was amusing. The truth is, pundits seem to revere him.
One way that affection is displayed is to ignore the substance of Rubio's campaign; to whitewash the extremism now at the base of his pitch. To acknowledge that Rubio occupies the far reaches of the political spectrum, and that he's actually sprinted there in recent months, taints the portrait the press likes to paint of him: establishment savior.
To me, establishment sounds like a placeholder for "moderate." And in the case of Rubio, that's a complete myth.
By placing the Florida senator in that wider establishment lane, pundits and reporters seem to suggest that he's somehow part of a pragmatic Republican wing (does that even exist?) that practices common sense conservatism; that he's separate and above those outlier disrupters like Trump and Cruz who embrace more political chaos.
This week, a New York Times dispatch placed Rubio outside of the Republican "hard right" that seems to be flocking to Trump. Reuters explained what distinguished Rubio from the so-called outside, even though Rubio seemed to agree with Trump and Cruz on so many issues, including their disdain for President Obama: "[Rubio] embedded his criticism within a more optimistic, inclusive message."
But just because an extremist coats his divisiveness in "optimistic" language, doesn't mean the campaign press should play along and portray him as something he's clearly not. And yet ...
Forecasting Rubio's White House chances, FiveThirtyEight recently claimed that Democratic strategists are "terrified to face Rubio in the fall." Why? Because of his establishment ability to broaden the GOP's "appeal with moderates, millennials and Latinos."
"Rubio is aiming to be the GOP candidate with the establishment credibility and broad appeal needed to win in a general election, a unifier who can bring together young, moderate voters, along with conservatives and evangelicals," the Christian Science Monitor reported.
A unifier? Rubio walked away from his one stab at establishment legislating with the immigration reform bill that he, as part of the Gang of Eight, helped shepherd through Congress. But quickly finding himself out step with a rabid Republican base that's adopted anti-immigration as its defining litmus test, Rubio sprinted so far to the right on this issue that not only does he oppose his own reform proposal, he's connecting the issue to the rise of ISIS.
No unity there.
As for Rubio's potential appeal to young voters and moderates, a central part of the media's establishment narrative, the senator's increasingly right-wing agenda certainly raises doubts.
Rubio opposes expanding background checks for gun owners, even though 90 percent of Americans support the measure, as do an overwhelming majority of gun owners and even NRA members. He opposes marriage equality and "believes some kinds of businesses, like wedding photography, should be allowed to turn away gay customers." He doesn't want to increase the minimum wage (even though he thinks it's currently too low). He doesn't believe in climate change.
From PolitiFact [emphasis added]:
Rubio will support anti-abortion legislation that includes an exception for rape and incest, but he prefers that the procedure be illegal even in cases of rape and incest.
It's important to note that in terms of the "Establishment" branding, a string of recent Republican Establishment nominees for president, including Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, and George W. Bush, all agreed that allowing abortions to be legal in the case of rape and incest was the best approach. Rubio, though, has broken from that model and staked out a far more radical stance.
And when Trump proposed banning all Muslims from entering America, Rubio seemed to out-flank him in the fevered swamps, at least initially. "It's not about closing down mosques," he soon told Fox News' Megyn Kelly. "It's about closing down anyplace -- whether it's a cafe, a diner, an internet site -- anyplace where radicals are being inspired." (Rubio later said Trump hadn't thought through his Muslim ban.)
Overall? "He's been Trumped," noted Peter Beinart at The Atlantic.
There may still be an establishment candidate lurking in the Republican field who can try to save the party from its own extremism, but based on the media's apparent definition of Establishment, Rubio isn't that person.
From the February 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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