The publication last week of an excerpt from a forthcoming Barack Obama biography sparked an especially frenzied response from conservative bloggers who view the president's distant personal past with an unhealthy fascination.
The book's new revelation about the identity of a girlfriend Obama had soon after he graduated college nearly 30 years ago, along with the other biographical nuggets, were deemed to be crucial pieces of information that had gone missing during the 2008 campaign season. Washington Examiner columnist Byron York bemoaned the fact that the Vanity Fair excerpt revealed "a portrait of Obama that might have enriched the voters' understanding of him in the 2008 campaign."
Indeed, for conservatives, previously unearthed details about Obama post-college girlfriend represented the latest piece of evidence that reporters hadn't done enough digging during the previous campaign. That they never grilled the candidate; that they ignored the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story! (Fact: They covered it. Exhaustively.)
But this time around, it's going to be different. Obama's (supposedly mysterious) life story is going to be fleshed out during the 2012 campaign.
Under the headline, "Re-Vetting Wars: Obama's Girlfriends Speak," American Thinker blogger Thomas Lifson noted "One of the foremost concerns of the Obama re-election effort is the promised re-vetting of Obama, playing off the widespread perception that the media utterly failed to investigate the reality beneath the highly manufactured identity peddled in 2008."
That vow to "vet" the president has become a mantra this year. Addressing CPAC this winter, Andrew Breitbart declared "[T]his election we're going to vet him," and specifically promised to "vet" Obama's "college days." (Days after Breitbart died in March, his site unveiled the "college days" vetting he had promised; it did not go well for Team Breitbart.)
That same month, Sean Hannity announced it was clear that Obama's "friends" in the press made sure "that his past remains un-vetted," while Hannity's angry guest Michelle Malkin reported it was time to "vet the prez."
The vetting obsession however, doesn't spring from a natural affinity for fact checking. Instead, it's used to bolster the broader conservative argument that the real reason Obama won an electoral landslide victory in 2008 was because the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is. And, by extension, if Obama wins re-election in November, the only reason will be because for his four years in office, the press (purposefully) hid the truth about who Obama really is.
The conspiracy theory serves as a convenient catchall excuse for why Obama succeeds electorally despite the conservative press' depiction of him as a monster determined to destroy the American economy and ruin our way of life. That's all accurate, the bloggers insists. It's just that the liberal media hasn't properly conveyed all the crucial information to voters.
The right-wing media continued their pattern of encouraging people to fear Muslims by hyping a thinly sourced column in an Egyptian newspaper about a supposed proposal to legalize necrophilia. Al-Arabiya has reported that members of the Egyptian parliament are denying that any such law was ever proposed.
A recent study of satellite data found that nighttime land temperatures in the immediate vicinity of wind turbines in Texas have increased relative to nearby areas without turbines. Conservative media outlets, including Fox Nation, Rush Limbaugh and Jim Hoft, are distorting the research to claim that wind farms "cause global warming" and Fox News' morning show concluded "wind ain't working." But the study's lead author said via email that this coverage is "misleading."
The researchers, led by Liming Zhou, said it is "[v]ery likely" that "wind turbines do not create a net warming of the air and instead only re-distribute the air's heat near the surface, which is fundamentally different from the large-scale warming effect caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases." The turbines pull down warm air, increasing land surface temperatures, which already have "a larger day-night variation" than the surface air temperatures featured in daily weather reports.
The authors further noted that "this analysis is from a short period," from 2003 to 2011, and is "over a region with rapid growth of wind farms," west-central Texas, so it is likely that their estimate of a "nighttime warming effect" is higher than "in other locations and over longer periods."
Right-wing media have seized on comments made this week by Democratic Rep. Chaka Fattah, suggesting that Fattah "admit[ted]" that Democrats are expecting voters to back them in the fall in exchange for "handouts" and "protect[ing] their government-aid gravy train." These attacks are yet another example of conservative media attempting to gin up outrage over programs designed to help struggling Americans.
During a discussion on the April 24 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation about House Majority Leader John Boehner's recent comment that Democrats have a one-in-three chance of reclaiming the majority, Fattah said in part that "people who are unemployed, they're not going to be voting for the party who wants to cut their benefits, cut access to food stamps, cut job training." From PoliticsNation:
FATTAH: President Obama is right, we need to continue to invest. That's why our GDP is up, and that's why we've got 35 months of private sector job growth. We are headed in the right direction. Unemployment continues to drop, and those people who are unemployed, they're not going to be voting for the party who wants to cut their benefits, cut access to food stamps, cut job training. The idea that Republicans are trying to help those who are unemployed is nonsense. And I think on this Election Day, those who have a job can credit the administration for stabilizing our economy, and those who don't know that this administration is trying to put them to work.
The Washington Examiner picked up Fattah's comments in an April 25 blog post, claiming that Fattah said that "unemployment could actually encourage people to vote for President Obama in order to secure welfare benefits such as food stamps." The Fox Nation later republished the Examiner post under the headline, "Democrat: Unemployed Will Vote for Obama to Keep Their Welfare":
The conservative blog Gateway Pundit highlighted Fattah's comments and claimed that it's "all about the handouts," while The Blaze claimed that Fattah "openly admit[ted] that some voters are supporting President Obama because he's the most likely to protect their government-aid gravy train." And an April 26 Big Government post added:
In other words, Fattah believes Americans who've been conditioned to live on Democrat handouts will certainly continue to vote for the Democrats. The last thing they'd do is vote for those rascally Republicans who want to rein in spending and encourage people to strive, once more, for some semblance of personal responsibility.
Conservative media have repeatedly accused the Obama administration of "bribing" voters, and this latest round of echoes that theme. But the programs mentioned by Fattah -- the food stamp program, known as the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and jobs training programs -- are hardly a "gravy train" that discourages unemployed Americans from "striving" for "some semblance of personal responsibility.
Fox News and other conservative media have promoted a video that suggests environmental regulations will cause "America to fail." But the video, created by a conservative group with a history of ethical problems, makes many misleading claims including denying global warming.
Sometimes you just have to marvel at the almost-transcendent inanity of the conservative blogosphere. For a few years now, some conservative media figures -- led by conservative bloggers like Jack Cashill -- have been obsessed with proving that Bill Ayers is the true author of President Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father.
If you were under the impression that this conspiracy theory couldn't sink any lower than Cashill's column in February highlighting how Obama and Ayers both use words like "skillet" and "ice cream" in their writing, you were mistaken.
This week, seeking to add more "evidence" to this theory, some conservative blogs are running with the claim that Google has joined in on the conspiracy and is now listing Ayers as the author of Dreams on Google Books.
That might be somewhat interesting if it actually happened. But it didn't.
Right-wing media are responding to Obama adviser Samantha Power's appointment as chair of the newly created Atrocities Prevention Board by reviving the long-debunked smear that Power once advocated for an invasion of Israel.
Echoing a post by conservative blogger and Breitbart contributor Jeff Dunetz, Jim Hoft and Weasel Zippers both ran with the false claim that Power "called for [a] military invasion of Israel." Hoft further called Power a "Jew-basher," while Weasel Zippers stated that Power's appointment to the Atrocities Prevention Board was "[u]nreal even by Obama's woeful standards."
All three posts take comments made by Power out of context in order to claim that she pushed for an invasion of Israel.
Right-wing media have attacked a proposed Obama administration rule change that would reduce the amount of time required for undocumented immigrants who are immediate relatives of American citizens to apply for residency as "stealth amnesty" by a "lawless regime." But the proposed rule change would allow eligible immigrants to obtain a lawful return visa without a long separation from their families; moreover, immigrant-rights activists have said that the current system encourages people to remain here illegally.
Right-wing media have attacked President Obama for his recent comments about shooting victim Trayvon Martin and his family, accusing Obama of "inject[ing]" himself into the debate using "racial code" and claiming that his statement is evidence that "he's got it in for this country."
Once again, the right-wing media are working hard to create a controversy where none exists. This time, they're attacking President Obama for telling Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" to negotiate on the issue of missile defense after the November election. In the opinion of these media conservatives, Obama's comments are further evidence that he is "surrendering America." In fact, according to Obama, he was referring to the fact that anything he could do on missile defense would require bipartisan buy-in, which is not very likely during an election year.
Following a meeting on Monday with Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea, Obama told the Russian president, "On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it's important for him to give me space," adding: "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility." Medvedev responded: "I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin]." The comments were intended to be private, but were picked up by a hot microphone.
Cue the outrage. Conservative blogger Doug Powers, writing at MichelleMalkin.com, accused Obama of "capitulation." Hot Air's Ed Morrissey blasted the incident as proof that American voters "need to fear an Obama second term." The headline of a post by Breitbart.com's editor in chief, Joel Pollak, read: "Obama to Putin: I'll Surrender America After Re-Election." Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft wrote that Obama "explained his secret plans to sell out America and her allies" and "told Medvedev to wait until after his reelection to sell out American security." Fox News contributor Palin wrote of the incident: "Let this exchange be a warning to voters: President Obama will have 'more flexibility' to weaken us if he's re-elected in November." Fox News contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton called Obama's comments "a fire bell in the night" and accused the president of "giving way on American missile defense, defending our homeland."
But Obama explained today that he was talking about the difficulty in an election year of getting the bipartisan agreement necessary to negotiate on important foreign policy issues. Obama said: "This is not a matter of hiding the ball." He added: "The only way I get this stuff done is if I'm consulting with the Pentagon, if I'm consulting with Congress, if I've got bipartisan support, and the current environment is not conducive to those kinds of thoughtful consultations."
And bipartisan buy-in is important. In 2010, the right-wing media claimed that Obama was "compromising our missile defense capabilities" by negotiating the New START treaty with Russia. In fact, military leaders strongly supported New START. At the time, 13 Republicans were willing to ignore the right-wing media freak-out and vote for New START, allowing the treaty to attain the support of two-thirds of the Senate needed for ratification. But instructively, that vote did not happen until a lame-duck session after the midterm elections were concluded. Does anyone believe Obama would get so much Republican support on a controversial issue during an election year?
Right-wing media are falsely claiming that a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that the cost of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has doubled since CBO's estimate in 2010. In fact, CBO's analysis actually showed that the insurance coverage provisions of the health care law will cost less than originally estimated.
Conservative media figures, led by Rush Limbaugh, have continually distorted and exaggerated the content of Sandra Fluke's testimony before Democratic members of Congress.
They have gone so far afield of Fluke's actual testimony that it often appears as if they never actually watched or read it.
Here are some of the conservative claims about Fluke's testimony, along with what she actually said.
Fox News and right-wing blogs have promoted a chart that purports to show the "alarming" fact that national debt per person is higher in the United States than in several crisis-stricken European countries. This comparison is flawed because these countries' economies are fundamentally different -- a fact demonstrated by the substantially higher interest rates that the crisis countries using the euro must pay on their debt, compared to countries that can borrow in their own currency.
After the British tabloid Daily Mail published a flawed article that distorted climate research to claim we could be "heading for a mini ice age," conservative media followed suit. In fact, the study did not project a decline in global temperatures.
Right-wing media have applauded Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood. But Komen's decision could affect access to breast cancer screenings and other cancer-related services for thousands of women, as the Komen funds have allowed Planned Parenthood to provide 170,000 breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals in the past five years.