Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates destroyed the right-wing narrative that his memoir attacks President Obama's approach to the war in Afghanistan, a narrative instigated by Bob Woodward and subsequently perpetuated by Fox News.
Gates' memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, caused widespread controversy preceding its January 14 release because of how Gates characterized the Obama administration's handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a January 13 interview on NBC's Today with co-host Matt Lauer, Gates explained that "what has been lost in the news media is that I actually agreed with virtually every decision President Obama made on Afghanistan." Gates opened the interview lamenting that the "book has sort of been hijacked by people along the political spectrum to serve their own purposes, taking quotes out of context and so on."
Following the release of excerpts from Gates' memoir, media figures seized on the selective quotes to attack President Obama. On January 7, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, a vocal critic of the Obama administration, characterized Gates' memoir as a damning critique of Obamathat "unleashes harsh judgements about President Obama's leadership" in Afghanistan. But Woodward's own accounts of the book's contents -- he acknowledged later in the piece that Gates believed "Obama was right" on each of his decisions regarding Afghanistan -- undermined his article.
Fox News personalities quickly followed suit. In a January 8 op-ed on FoxNews.com, Fox national security analyst K.T. McFarland used Gates' memoir to claim that Obama committed troops to a strategy he didn't believe in, saying, "Obama had concluded early on that the surge was a lost cause, but he went ahead anyway," a fallacious conclusion in light of Gates' comments.
In a January 13 column on FoxNews.com, New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin echoed Woodward, claiming:
The former defense secretary offers the most devastating critique to come from an Obama insider. He paints the president as estranged from the very Afghan military surge he ordered and suspicious of and hostile toward top leaders of the armed forces.
On the January 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox military analyst retired Gen. Jack Keane claimed Gates' memoir showed "President Bush wanted to win and President Obama, simply put, wanted to get out."
Right-wing media responded to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's (R) admission that his administration caused a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge as political payback with praise for the embattled governor and used Christie's response to pivot to criticisms of President Obama including invoking the phony Benghazi scandal.
Fox News' resident anti-LGBT pop psychologist Keith Ablow boldly declared that "marriage died in 2013," badly misreading a recent court decision in Utah to blame same-sex marriage supporters for turning marriage into "the Wild West."
In a December 31 column for FoxNews.com, Ablow congratulated himself for predicting that the legalization of same-sex marriage would result in the legalization of polygamous marriages, citing a recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups striking down part of Utah's anti-polygamy statute. Marriage, Ablow argued, has become "the Wild West," with incestuous marriages being the next frontier in the fight for marriage equality:
More than a year ago, when states began to legalize gay marriage, I argued that polygamy would be the natural result. If love between humans of legal age is the only condition required to have the state issue a marriage license, then it is irrational to assert that two men or two women can have such feelings for one another, while three women and a man, or two men and a woman, cannot.
Well, now U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups has found parts of Utah's anti-bigamy law unconstitutional. His ruling comes in a case brought by Kody Brown and his four wives, who are featured in the reality TV show, "Sister Wives."
I believe the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold that finding, if Utah challenges it.
As I predicted, this will officially make marriage the Wild West, in which groups of people can assert that they are married and should have all the benefits of that status, including family health plans and the right to file taxes as married people.
It will also, eventually, lead to test cases in which a few unusual sisters and brothers insist that they can marry, because they are in love and promise not to procreate, but, instead, to use donor eggs or sperm.
Marriage is over.
It was always at least a little funny that a huge percentage of people swore to stay together until death, then divorced and remarried.
But, now, it is, officially, judicially, a joke.
If two men can marry, and three men can marry, and five women and a man can marry, and three men and two women can marry, then marriage has no meaning.
Men are under threat. Despite the fact that women still make less than men do, are hugely underrepresented in media, and face so much sexism on a daily basis that Republicans actually have to undergo training to learn how to talk to women in non-offensive ways, conservative media would like you to know that it's really men who have it tough.
The "War on Men" is waged on multiple fronts, from elementary school classrooms to the workplace to men's own marriages. Nowhere is safe. So to help the besieged men out there, here is a list of all the things conservative media said were examples of the "War on Men" in 2013.
1. Kids Don't Play "Tag" Anymore.
In September, National Review Online hosted a debate which asked "Is there a war on women? Or is it a war on men?" An example of the suffering of men, according to the panel, was that "schools are replacing boys' favorite game, 'tag,' with a more female-friendly alternative called 'circle of friends.'" As Alice Munro noted in the New Republic, this isn't true.
2. "Female Sexual Freedom."
The "War on Men" really began with contemporary feminism in the 1960s, according to Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto, when women dared "to be equal to men" and wanted "sexual freedom":
MARY KISSEL: [W]hen did this war on men begin? Can you pinpoint a starting point?
TARANTO: Well, it all goes back to the beginning of contemporary feminism in the early '60s. You know, women wanted to be equal to men, they wanted to be able to do all the sort of professional things including the military that men could do, and --
KISSEL: Was there anything wrong with that, though, James? I mean, that sounds --
TARANTO: Well, that's too long to go into now, the question of what's wrong with that, but in addition they wanted sexual freedom. Well what is female sexual freedom? It means, for this woman, that she had the freedom to get drunk, and to get in the backseat of the car with this guy. There was another woman who accused him, he was acquitted in this case, of sexual assault. This so-called assault happened in his bedroom, to which she voluntarily accompanied him, even the jury said that was consensual.
According to conservative media, the Affordable Care Act's mandate that insurance companies can no longer discriminate is the same as "sticking it to men" and waging a "war on bros." In reality, the law makes sure insurance companies can't force women to pay more for health care just because they are women.
4. "Feminized" Schools Have Rules, Standards.
The "War on Men" starts "as a war on boys," according to NRO's Helen Smith, which manifests when schools "take away recess" and adopt "a feminized approach to schools to the point where it is mainly for those who conform, sit still, and like to follow rules."
5. Sometimes, Men Are Accused Of Sexual Harassment.
Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto fights the "War on Men" on a regular basis. In June, he dismissed the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, claiming that efforts to address the enormous problem contributed to the "war on men" and were an "effort to criminalize male sexuality." Taranto conveniently ignored the fact that many victims of sexual assault in the military are also male, and that most men probably don't agree that "male sexuality" necessarily includes having sex with drunken women in cars.
6. Commercials And Sitcoms Make Men Look Stupid.
In 2012, FoxNews.com columnist Suzanne Venker claimed that a factor in the "War on Men" was that "Women aren't women anymore," because now they have college degrees and have sex outside of marriage. In 2013, she took this probing analysis further, saying that men -- who are "second class citizens" -- are under threat because Title IX forbids discrimination in college sports and because of "sit-coms and commercials that portray dad as an idiot."
7. Women Work Full-Time Jobs.
In December, Venker uncovered yet another layer in the war on men: women these days are "financially independent," and despite the "simply irrefutable" fact that they "prefer part-time work," many continue to insist on working full-time jobs, harming men's ability to fulfil their natural inclination to be primary breadwinner.
8. Women Would Like To Make The Same Amount Of Money Men Do.
At FoxNews.com, Carrie Lukas argued that President Obama's nominee to the Office of Personnel Management was the new "general" in the "war on men's pay," because she was tasked with attempting to close the gender wage gap in government salaries. Lukas baselessly claimed that this would result in men being paid less money in order to make up the difference -- literally the opposite of what was intended, which was to pay women more.
9. "Obama's America."
Finally, WSJ editor James Taranto blamed "Obama's America" for waging the "War on Men" with the sexual harassment regulations under Title IX, which he claimed unfairly police men's sexuality.
Pope Francis pushed back on attacks from conservative media figures who described him as a "Marxist" after he commented on wealth inequality.
Pope Francis recently released Evangelii Gaudium, which included criticisms of the "idolatry of money" and wealth inequality around the world. In response, numerous conservative media figures attacked him.
Rush Limbaugh described the Pope's writings having "gone beyond Catholicism" and into "pure Marxism."
Other conservative media figures soon followed suit. Fox Business host Stuart Varney said the Pope was engaging in "neo-socialism" while Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said the document "reveals a disturbing ignorance" by the Pope. FoxNews.com called him "the Catholic Church's Obama," adding, "God help us."
In an interview with Italy's La Stampa newspaper, Pope Francis defended his remarks: "Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended." He added, "There is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church."
The Pope expanded on his critique of "trickle-down" economics, noting that "The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor."
As part of the latest hoax about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News is distorting a document recently unearthed by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.
Fox and Judicial Watch are trying to keep alive the phony right-wing narrative that the Obama administration somehow covered up the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, in which four Americans were killed.
A December 12 FoxNews.com article about the Judicial Watch documents says, "Newly released documents show an official at the State Department urged a contractor providing security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi not to respond to media inquiries, in the wake of the September 2012 terrorist attack."
Thus far, the only portion of the "documents" that Judicial Watch has released is an out-of-context, three-sentence quote from an email sent by State Department contracting officer Jan Visintainer to Blue Mountain Group, a firm that helped provide security at the diplomatic post in Benghazi. The email is dated September 26, 2012 -- about two weeks after the attacks.
In reality, the quote from the email shows that Blue Mountain Group first suggested declining to speak with the media, and Visintainer agreed that this was the correct course. Visintainer also said he spoke about the matter with public affairs personnel at the State Department.
Here is the entirety of the quote cited by Judicial Watch and Fox News:
"Thank you so much for informing us about the media inquiries. We notified our public affairs personnel that they too may receive some questions. We concur with you that at the moment the best way to deal with the inquiries is to either be silent or provide no comments."
Yet, in a blog post misleadingly titled "State Dept. Ordered Benghazi Security Co. to Dodge Media," Judicial Watch called this email "scandalous."
No matter. Fox News and others in the conservative media are more than happy to forward this latest exaggeration to continue to push their Benghazi hoax.
Image via Steve Rhodes
After Pope Francis released his first apostolic exhortation -- in which he criticized global inequalities of wealth and the tenets of so-called trickle-down economics -- right-wing media went on the attack, characterizing the pope's treatise as "disturbingly ignorant" and "pure Marxism."
In response to Senate Democrats invoking the so-called "nuclear option," right-wing media advanced a number of myths not only about filibuster reform, but about the qualifications of President Obama's nominees who have languished in the confirmation process. What right-wing media have ignored is that Democrats used the "nuclear option" only after unprecedented GOP obstruction prevented Obama's judicial and executive nominees from receiving an up-or-down vote.
Right-wing media have seized on Senate Democrats' parliamentary change to eliminate filibusters for most presidential nominees to call for Republicans to block immigration reform or advance the notion that the change makes it less likely for Republicans to act on reform. In fact, Republicans repeatedly refused to act on immigration reform long before this change took place.
Media fell for another misleading leak from the House Oversight Committee when they hyped allegations that the Obama administration ignored HealthCare.gov security warnings -- though the warnings were for a portion of the site that will not be operational until early 2014.
On November 11, a CBS News report cited selectively leaked partial transcripts from Affordable Care Act (ACA) opponent Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to claim that "the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security." The network was criticized by Maddow producer Steve Benen when he found that the warnings referenced a function of the health care website that won't be active until early 2014 and has nothing to do with the parts of the website that are currently in use. A Democratic staffer Benen talked to also said that this part of the website "will not submit or share personally identifiable information."
CBS' faulty report aired just days after the network faced widespread criticism and was forced to apologize for failing properly vet an unreliable source that was prominently featured in the network's October 27 60 Minutes report on the Benghazi attack. But CBS wasn't the only outlet to promote misleading claims from the leaked Oversight Committee transcript.
On November 11, The New York Times reported that The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Henry Chao, "[t]he chief digital architect for the federal health insurance marketplace," was "not aware of tests that indicated potential security flaws in the system, which opened to the public on Oct. 1," citing excerpts released by Issa. The same day, FoxNews.com claimed that Obamacare security concerns had been "withheld," but never mentioned that its story was based on a partial transcript. CNN's New Day, and Fox News' America's Newsroom and On The Record with Greta Van Susteren all ran the story on November 12. The Associated Press repeated the claim "Chao was unaware of a memo earlier that month detailing unresolved security issues" as late as November 13 -- after contradictory reports had surfaced.
The media's failure to confirm the suggestions made by partial transcripts from the House Oversight Committee is a significant oversight, considering the committee chairman Darrell Issa's history of releasing misleading material the press.
One of the curious sub-plots to the ongoing drama of 60 Minutes and its since-retracted October 27 Benghazi report is the extent to which Dylan Davies, CBS News' discredited Benghazi "witness," informed Fox News' reporting. The day after the 60 Minutes report aired, Fox News' Adam Housley disclosed on-air that "some of our reports for FoxNews.com last fall included this 60 Minutes witness' account," but added that he stopped talking to Davies "when he asked for money." Even still, Housley said at the time that Davies' story on 60 Minutes "reaffirms, really, what we've been reporting." After CBS retracted their story, Fox News vice president Michael Clemente stated unequivocally: "We stand by our reporting on Benghazi."
This is an awkward situation for Fox: they cited a "witness" whose credibility has since been trashed, and they had suspicions about his credibility before it was publicly destroyed, but they're nonetheless defending every scrap of their Benghazi reporting, including the pieces that cited Davies. So which Fox News articles featured the now-discredited British security contractor as a source? That's tough to nail down, as Fox News never cited Davies by name. But there are a couple of FoxNews.com reports from late 2012 that cite British sources to make claims that are incorrect or unsupported by other accounts of the attacks.
On November 3, 2012, Housley published an "exclusive" for FoxNews.com challenging the CIA's timeline of Benghazi attacks and claiming that "security officials on the ground say calls for help went out" before the attack on the diplomatic compound actually started at 9:30 p.m., Libya time. Housley's report cited "multiple people on the ground" who said that the "Blue Mountain Security manager" -- a possible reference to Davies, who was training the British firm Blue Mountain's security forces at the consulate -- "made calls on both two-way radios and cell phones to colleagues in Benghazi warning of problems at least an hour earlier."
One source said the Blue Mountain Security chief seemed "distraught" and said "the situation here is very serious, we have a problem." He also said that even without these phone and radio calls, it was clear to everyone in the security community on the ground in Benghazi much earlier than 9:40 p.m. that fighters were gathering in preparation for an attack.
Even if this isn't a reference to Davies, the report appears to be incorrect. Several different accounts of the night of the Benghazi attack make no reference to any "distraught" messages from the Blue Mountain security force prior to the attack -- indeed, they all describe a scene of (relative) normalcy until the moment the attack started. "The radio on the Blue Mountain frequency was silent," write Fred Burton and Samuel L. Katz in Under Fire. "There was no chatter on the February 17 [militia] frequency either. There was, for the most part, silence."
Right-wing media claimed opposition to the Affordable Care Act influenced the Virginia governor election despite polls that show the health reform law was an insignificant factor in the race.
Media coverage of nuclear power often suggests that environmentalists are illogically blocking the expansion of a relatively safe, low-carbon energy source. However, in reality, economic barriers to nuclear power -- even after decades of subsidies -- have prevented the expansion of nuclear power. While nuclear power does provide meaningful climate benefits over fossil fuels, economic factors and the need for strict safety regulations have led many environmentalists to focus instead on putting a price on carbon, which would benefit all low-carbon energy sources including nuclear.
Right-wing media continue to deny that President Obama's judicial nominees have faced unparalleled obstruction from congressional Republicans, and is mischaracterizing the legal philosophies of those nominees.
FoxNews.com contributor John Lott not only misled on the overwhelming hurdles President Obama's nominees have faced, he also rather bizarrely branded one nominee as "controversial," even though his legal opinions are based on well-established Supreme Court precedent.
From Lott's October 16 column:
The Senate Judiciary committee will vote on either Wednesday or Thursday whether to confirm Robert Wilkins, President Obama's nominee to the prestigious D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals -- the court often referred to after the Supreme Court as the "second highest court" in the country.
President Obama has spared little rhetoric in threatening Republicans should they dare defeat or delay Wilkins' nomination. When Wilkins was nominated in June, Obama accused Republicans of being "cynically" engaging in "unprecedented" obstruction of judicial nominations.
Democrats claim that any fair consideration would guarantee Wilkins' quick confirmation. After all, as they point out, Wilkins was quickly confirmed as a District Court judge in 2010 "without opposition."
But it might not be such smooth sailing, for after getting on the bench, Wilkins has made a number of controversial rulings -- recently striking down Texas' voter photo ID law and upholding aggregate campaign finance donation limits.
The president and other Democrats complain that Obama's nominees are suffering the most difficult confirmations ever. Many newspaper articles agree, such as in the New York Times, USA Today, and the Congressional Research Service.
But, these numbers are fundamentally flawed.
These studies don't look at what finally happens to nominees, only what happens at some arbitrary cut-off date, such as last fall or at the end of a president's first term.
In reality, many of the longest confirmation battles involve nominations made during a president's first term and not finished until some time during his second term.
A president's decision to make nominations late in a congressional cycle can also strongly influence the results.
Actually, President Obama has little to complain about.
But As Lott himself acknowledges, numerous analyses (including one by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service) have shown that President Obama's "rhetoric" is true -- his nominees have been blocked at unprecedented levels. Lott dismisses these studies by highly reputable sources because supposedly their "numbers are fundamentally flawed," a bold claim from a source whose research on gun violence has been repeatedly and seriously discredited.
Dr. Keith Ablow -- the discredited psychiatrist who is a leading member of Fox News' "Medical A-Team" -- cited President Obama's childhood to claim that his "victim mentality" accounts for his tough stance against Republicans over the government shutdown and will lead to "dissolving the will of countless Americans" to provide for themselves.
In an October 10 FoxNews.com column, Ablow claimed that Obama's actions as president can be understood if seen through the prism of his "victim mentality." He criticized Obama's rhetoric calling the GOP's actions forcing a government shutdown as taking "hostages," claiming that this shows Obama believes "America victimized him and countless millions of others" and considers anyone who opposes him as "not just his adversary, but abusive, predatory and even threatening.":
It is exceedingly difficult to come to terms with a person who sees you as his oppressor, his kidnapper, and someone terrorizing him who might well destroy him. You aren't likely to consider whether your assailant and jailer and would-be killer has a few good ideas, after all.
A victim mentality would explain why the president immediately allies with anyone else he thinks might be a victim, too. Seeing Barack Obama as someone who has a victim mentality would explain a lot. That mentality relies on believing one has been harmed, that one was not responsible for the injuries that occurred, that one could not have prevented what happened and that the person's suffering makes that person morally right and deserving of sympathy.
Ablow then described all the ways Obama has purportedly not gotten over being victimized as a child, asserting that "the president's victim mentality could have already gone global":
As a young boy, Obama was, indeed, helpless.
He was helpless to stop his father from abandoning him.
He was helpless to stop his mother from leaving him with his grandparents.
He was helpless to stop his white grandmother and caretaker from communicating to him her fears of black people.
I'm not sure the president ever got over it.
The president's victim mentality could contribute to dissolving the will of countless Americans who might otherwise see themselves as capable of summoning internal resolve and creativity to surge out of poverty.