The lament has spread all across the media spectrum this week, as the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri unfolds and people search for answers to the police killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown.
"Obama Should Go To Ferguson, Pronto," urged a Businessweek headline, beseeching the president to fill a leadership vacuum on the ground in Missouri. "Obama, can't you see black anger in Ferguson?" asked Marc Lamont Hill in a CNN essay. Writing at Daily Beast, Stuart Stevens lamented that Obama had "lost faith in his voice in Ferguson"; that he was "increasingly uncomfortable with the role of healer-in-chief," while the Washington Post's Joel Achenbach urged Obama to give another "national address" on race because that's what the crisis demands.
Maureen Dowd's New York Times column today's mocks Obama as a "the most ordinary of men" with a "bored-bird-in-a-gilded-cage attitude" who is unwilling to engage with the issue of racial strife.
Most of the of the do-something commentary has adopted the same premise: Obama could help the Ferguson crisis by giving a speech about race or addressing the situation more forcefully, but he won't. He won't use his powers. (See: The Green Lantern theory that Obama could convince a recalcitrant GOP Congress to pass legislation if he only tried.)
That premise though, and most of the commentary, completely ignores the corrosive role of the right-wing media in America, how it has spent years trying to silence and intimidate Obama on the topic of race, and how it's used some of the most offensive, guttural rhetoric and personal attacks to do so.
Through Obama's two terms, most of the Beltway press has remained strangely silent about the astonishingly ugly race baiting that now passes for mainstream conservative media commentary. That same press corps is now turning a blind eye to the tangible damage that kind of rhetoric has done to public debate, or the chance of public debate, and how the right-wing media has tried to implement a heckler's veto on Obama; to effectively shout him down.
It's fine for pundits to yearn for open dialogue and rhetorical leadership from the White House. It's less helpful for them to ignore the unpleasant realities of nasty partisan politics in the age of Obama. It does no good to pretend race baiting hasn't become a badge of honor and a professional path to success for lots of right-wing pundits.
For Obama to aggressively insert himself into the Ferguson story now is to invite a right-wing media hurricane that would likely rage for weeks. How do we know? Because again and again we've seen President Obama's attempts to engage on similar issues act as a lightning rod for these angry voices, quickly making it impossible to focus on the pressing issue at hand.
In an interview on CNN's Reliable Sources, Glenn Beck hyped his independent media venture while trying to divert attention away from his recent and past paranoid fantasies and conspiracy theories.
In an August 3 interview with host Brian Stelter labeled "the evolution of Glenn Beck," Beck appeared to discuss his network, The Blaze, and a move to a less political brand of talk, but Beck's own comments in the interview and recent work show his act hasn't really changed at all.
In his continued crusade against the Common Core education standards, Glenn Beck encouraged people across the country to boycott tests associated with Common Core, later declaring, "The day we're all willing to peacefully go to jail like Martin Luther King, we will win."
In a live broadcast to nearly 700 theaters nationwide, Beck and his fellow anti-Common Core "warriors" joined forces Tuesday night to "make Common Core history" (emphasis original) in a two-hour live movie titled We Will Not Conform. Those "warriors" included conservative commentator and notorious Common Core misinformer Michelle Malkin, hosts Dana Loesch and Pat Gray from Beck's The Blaze, "self-proclaimed historian" David Barton, Townhall columnist Terrence Moore, Jay Spencer of Liberty University (a sponsor of the event), and representatives from state-based groups waging war on Common Core.
The participants also included Matt Kibbe and Ellen Wheeler from FreedomWorks, a group which "started out as the Koch-funded Citizens for a Sound Economy" and came under scrutiny last year "due to bizarre internal feuding and questions about its finances." Former FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey told Media Matters at the time that "the group wasted money by paying Glenn Beck $1 million ... to fundraise for the organization."
This live event is just the latest salvo in Beck's campaign against the state-based education standards, which were originally adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Beck and co-author Kyle Olson released a book in May called Conform, which, in addition to baselessly attacking teachers and public schools for 222 pages, argued that Common Core helps progressives remove parents from their children's lives. The day before the event, Beck compared Common Core to slavery.
From the July 21 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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In a rush to sensationalize growing violence in Iraq at the hands of religious extremists, media have circulated dubiously sourced maps which purport to illustrate plans for a future Islamic caliphate that extends from Spain to the southern and easternmost reaches of India.
A Sunni Islamist militant group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) has torn through Iraq in recent weeks, violently capturing several cities and straining the Iraqi government's ability to respond. On June 29, according to the Wall Street Journal, ISIS "announced itself as a new Islamist 'caliphate' ... unilaterally declaring statehood and demanding allegiance from other Islamist groups."
In the wake of this news, media outlets from Fox News to ABC have issued reports on the militant group's future plans based on maps culled from Twitter to declare that ISIS is strategizing to take over swath of territory larger than the Roman Empire within the next five years -- a goal that would include, among other feats, conquering Spain, Portugal, Greece, and most or all of India. The maps resemble the geographic dominance of the historic caliphates that ended with the demise of the Ottoman Empire.
On June 3 ABC News published a map -- also cited by Breitbart.com -- which was "purportedly published" by ISIS and "widely shared on Twitter." According to ABC, the "terrifying" map was "published at the same time that ISIS announced the creation of a caliphate."
But ABC News didn't actually trace the image to ISIS, and instead relied on a tweet of the image from American Third Position (A3P). ABC didn't disclose that A3P is a white nationalist political party in the United States.
As iO9 pointed out, "This is one of those 'garbage in, garbage out' stories, since ABC News' source was Twitter." The outlet cited to analysis from Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who explained, "It's an old image put out by fans of the group ... There is nothing official about it nor is there some alleged 5-year plan."
Fox News reported the same day that a "chilling new map reveals the ISIS plan for world domination," displaying an expanded, translated map the network claimed was "released by ISIS" to lay out "its five-year plan." Several days ago the Daily Mail similarly highlighted the map as a "chilling five-year plan," as did The Blaze, the website of notorious caliphate fear monger Glenn Beck.
While Fox attributed the map to ISIS, the Daily Mail described it as having been "widely shared by ISIS supporters on social networks."
Despite the serious tone of their reports, neither the Daily Mail nor Fox News cited any experts to discuss how realistic it would be for ISIS to conquer a swath of land that envelops half of Africa and India and includes territory protected by NATO (Spain, Portugal).
Right-wing media have launched a campaign of mockery, victim-blaming, and denial to dismiss the sexual assault epidemic, particularly on college campuses, and the Obama administration's efforts to curtail the growing problem.
Conservative talk radio hosts lashed out at Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran for beating his tea party primary challenger, Chris McDaniel, with the help of votes from blacks and Democrats.
Notorious misinformer Glenn Beck appeared on Fox News to push various myths about the Common Core education standards while promoting his upcoming live movie We Will Not Conform.
On June 12, Fox's Sean Hannity hosted Beck, a former Fox host and founder of The Blaze network, to discuss the Common Core State Standards, which were adopted in 2010 by 45 states and the District of Columbia. "Political turbulence" surrounding the standards, however, has led a few states to opt out of Common Core, following months-long smear campaigns from right-wing media figures, including Beck and Fox. Beck even wrote an "angry and ignorant" book titled Conform, which spent 222 pages lobbing ridiculous attacks against the standards and public education in general.
On Hannity, Beck plugged his July 22 live movie, which will also feature fellow Common Core misinformer and conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. After Hannity explained that Beck was "going to show in this movie how to defeat Common Core," Beck claimed that Common Core opponents are "winning on this." He then propagated a series of myths about the standards, including that Common Core is about "control, manipulation, [and] propaganda" and that it takes away freedom from teachers, despite polls showing that teachers support it. Beck even likened Common Core to education in China because it "use[s] propaganda in the classroom" to "shape these minds to get them to be good little boys and girls for the state."
Given that he launched his campaign against Common Core by stating, "We will not save our country unless we save it first from this attack," Beck's live movie promises to be yet another absurd ruse in his constant, fact-free crusade again Common Core.
Sean Hannity appears to be hoping for a repeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat, using his considerable influence as a conservative talk show host to promote extreme right-wing candidate Chris McDaniel in a runoff election for the GOP's U.S. Senate ballot slot in Mississippi.
Hannity linked McDaniel's race to that of Virginia's 7th congressional district, which ended June 10 in a surprise victory for conservative outsider Dave Brat. In Mississippi, neither Sen. Thad Cochran nor his opponent McDaniel received more than 50 percent of the vote in the state's June 3 primary, forcing a runoff on June 24.
Conservative talk radio's influence was undeniable in Brat's defeat of Cantor -- radio hosts like Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, and Glenn Beck devoted a significant amount of time to promoting Brat and took credit for his surprise win. On the June 11 edition of his radio show, Sean Hannity continued the trend, playing a full campaign ad for Chris McDaniel and hosting the candidate himself. Hannity referenced Cantor's defeat several times and praised McDaniel, who he previously endorsed, as a "solid conservative":
HANNITY: After last night's political earthquake a lot of people saying -- remember some have been predicting the tea party is dead, even though there had been a lot of success actually this election year.
HANNITY: I have always been very, very reluctant to endorse in primaries. Very reluctant. And I decided to get into this race and support Chris McDaniel because I see him as a solid conservative.
Conservative talk-radio hosts like Mark Levin, Glenn Beck and Laura Ingraham devoted considerable time touting Republican anti-immigration congressional candidate David Brat, and they took credit for his surprise victory over Rep. Eric Cantor during the Virginia primary election.
Brat's candidacy was most vocally championed by conservative radio host and ABC News contributor Laura Ingraham. Ingraham led the charge against Cantor with a sustained effort to put Brat into office. Holding true to her extreme anti-immigration stance, Ingraham applauded Brat and his "consistent, principled stance against Amnesty," attending multiple rallies for the candidate and even posting a "Vote Brat, Stop Amnesty" election day reminder in order to get out the vote.
However, after Brat's victory, Ingraham was quick to point out that she didn't do it alone. On a June 11 appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends, she praised her fellow conservatives, including Mark Levin, for being "the only people covering this race" (emphasis added):
INGRAHAM: This is being branded as a tea party victory. That's not quite accurate, and Brat addressed this last night. Not one major tea party organization came out and endorsed Brat. Supported Brat in any meaningful way. We had a difficult time getting the tea party groups and Brat connected. They bascially told him, 'you don't have a chance,' they wrote him off.
And there were a few people -- myself, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter, Mickey Kaus, Breitbart News, The Daily Caller -- they were pretty much the only people covering this race. I said this yesterday on Fox & Friends. We had 625 people hanging off the balcony of Eric Cantor's own country club last Tuesday night and there was no major media there except for Breitbart News and a little reporter from the local NBC. That's it.
Mark Levin hosted David Brat four times since April to discuss both his campaign and Eric Cantor's stances on immigration policy, of which Levin has long been a vocal critic. During a May 29 interview on Levin's show, Brat received the host's full-throttle endorsement. Levin encouraged his audience to visit the candidate's website adding, "in my humble opinion if you have a few bucks, give the guy some help because he needs it and he would be a great member of Congress." Levin also supported Brat on his social media platforms:
On June 9, the day before the election, Levin again hosted Brat on his show, telling him that "I'm all for you, I want you to win" during and allowing him to thoroughly explain his platform to listeners.
Ingraham and Levin's support propelled Brat further into the conservative media sphere as Brat gained momentum in the run up to Tuesday's primary. A day before the election, Brat appeared on the The Glenn Beck Radio Program. Beck began his interview with Brat by noting that a variety of conservative media figures supported his cause, saying, "Doc Thompson, Laura Ingraham, Pat & Stu have talked to him and are big fans."
Cantor's defeat was especially stunning after his campaign raised more than $5.4 million dollars, a number that towered over the meager $123,000 that Brat's campaign spent. However, what little Brat did spend came in part from the support of those driven by conservative radio's urging. As the Washington Post wrote in a June 11 article, the talk-radio hosts were responsible for driving many donations to the Brat campaign:
Brat was boosted for months by conservative talk-radio hosts, including Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, who touted him as a contender to their listeners and drove small-dollar donations into Brat's coffers.
Now that the Brat's win is clear, conservatives have wasted no time patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Fox News quickly quickly moved to credit conservative radio, with contributor Brit Hume claiming that ""There are parts of this country where if Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter, and Mark Levin are on the radio supporting you, that's worth a lot" during an appearance on the June 11 edition of The Kelly File. Levin later appeared himself on Hannity to complete the victory lap.
Glenn Beck decried "thought police" for making it difficult to say "fag the new nigger," the title of a poster he featured on his web show.
During the June 9 edition of Beck's The Blaze TV program, Beck invited anonymous street artist Sabo to discuss his work. In May, Sabo produced a widely-condemned "Abortion Barbie" poster to attack Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, depicting "a mostly-naked Barbie doll with a plastic baby in her belly."
The segment spotlighted a number of Sabo's other controversial posters, including one that read "FAG THE NEW NIGGER":
Discussing the poster, Sabo and Beck lamented that they couldn't use homophobic and racist slurs because "we live in such a politically correct society":
SABO: You know, it bothers me you can't say the name.
BECK: It bothers me. It bothers me.
SABO: I mean, we are such a politically correct environment that you can't even say "fag the new nigger." Why is that? It's a word.
BECK: I know that. But you know what the reality is.
BECK: It astounds me that the people who, my whole life, have accused me and people like me of being a Nazi, of trying to stifle speech and everything else - I don't care what you're saying. It doesn't bother me. It's not going to make me cower in fear and run away crying. However, they have now stifled everyone's speech to the point to where we're now getting down to thought police.
Sabo went on to lament that "the whites in general have been beat down so much" and compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler.
With the outsized vitriol Barack Obama's presidency has inspired among conservatives, it's seemed inevitable that the right would try to find some reason to impeach him. For more than five years, fringe activists, conservative media, and various Republican politicians have invoked the specter of impeachment over any number of manufactured scandals and supposed outrages. In a new book out today, National Review writer and former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy tries to kickstart the movement in earnest, laying out the "political case" for impeaching the president.
Writing in the New Republic in 2010, liberal journalist Jonathan Chait predicted that if Republicans took control of the House of Representatives and Obama won a second term, "the House will vote to impeach him before he leaves office." He continued, "Wait, you say. What will they impeach him over? You can always find something." Indeed, for much of Obama's presidency, the prospect of impeachment has been a hammer in search of a nail.
While fringe activists have been agitating for impeachment for years, more mainstream conservatives have been considerably more reluctant.
In Faithless Execution: Building The Political Case For Obama's Impeachment, McCarthy tries to bridge the gap and build support for impeachment as a serious idea. The crux of McCarthy's argument is that despite what he sees as the rock-solid legal justification for impeaching Obama, Republicans cannot move forward with the effort without first convincing the public that removing the president from office is the right course of action. To do so without public backing would "look like partisan hackery. It would be worse than futile."
Slate's David Weigel explained in a piece last month about Republicans' recent push to impeach Obama "without looking crazy" that many of the supposed impeachable offenses highlighted in McCarthy's book have already "faded under the klieg lights of big media." (Though Weigel points out that McCarthy "puts some of the blame for that on Republicans" and their timidity over the issue of impeachment.)
While he's ostensibly trying to jumpstart popular support for removing Obama from office, McCarthy's book seems unlikely to win any new converts -- it's just more preaching to people already in the conservative media bubble (the first reference to frequent right-wing boogeyman Saul Alinsky comes in the third paragraph and the first invocation of "ACORN" follows shortly thereafter).
Half of Faithless Execution is comprised of McCarthy's draft Articles of Impeachment. The supposed outrages in the book are a mix of ongoing focuses of conservative ire -- "The Benghazi Fraud," and "The Obamacare Fraud," for example -- and long-forgotten Scandals of the Month like the "racially discriminatory" Justice Department's treatment of the New Black Panther Party. If all of these pseudo-scandals that conservatives flogged relentlessly weren't enough to keep Obama from winning a second term, it's hard to envision the public deciding they constitute justification for impeachment thanks to a reinvigorated push from Republicans.
Update: Faithless Execution's release comes amid a new wave of conservative calls for impeachment. This morning, Fox News judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said Obama "may very well have committed a federal crime" with the release of Bowe Bergdahl. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy responded by plugging McCarthy's book, and Napolitano highlighted McCarthy's comments to the Mail Online suggesting potential impeachment over Bergdahl. Napolitano added, "it's a very, very valid argument that people are going to start talking about." A few hours later, Fox News program Outnumbered returned to the impeachment subject, with host Sandra Smith asking, "does this become an impeachable offense?" Fellow Fox contributor Allen West was more forceful, posting on his website, "the U.S. House of Representatives should file articles of impeachment against Barack Hussein Obama."*
McCarthy concedes in the book, "As things currently stand, the public does not support impeachment -- no surprise, given that no substantial argument for impeachment has been attempted."
Whether or not McCarthy sees any of the other arguments as "substantial," the prospect of impeaching Obama has been a regular source of discussion for conservatives since shortly after the president took office. McCarthy's isn't even the first book to try to lay out the argument in serious fashion -- last year WND writer Aaron Klein and co-author Brenda Elliott released Impeachable Offenses: The Case for Removing Barack Obama from Office.
Media Matters looks back at some -- but far from all -- of conservatives' incessant calls for impeachment below.
Right-wing media greeted news of the release of the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan with claims that his freedom was timed to distract from the controversy plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
From the May 29 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Radio Program:
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Glenn Beck's The BlazeTV acted out sexual propositions and labeled each skit "RAPE!" in an attempt to mock the prevalence of reported sexual assault.
In response to reports that the 22-year-old who went on a deadly shooting spree in Santa Barbara was inspired by a hatred towards women who had refused his sexual advances, The Glenn Beck Program attempted to debunk the statistic that one in five women have reported experiencing a sexual assault. The May 27 edition of Beck's program dismissed the number -- cited by the Obama administration during the announcement of a new initiative to protect college students from sexual violence -- as a "completely untrue statistic."
As evidence, Beck presented a pre-recorded segment by The Blaze's Stu Burguiere, which featured skit performances of sexual assault scenarios in which network radio host Jeff Fisher propositioned another man in a blonde wig and skirt.
The skits purported to reenact questions from two studies on sexual assault -- the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Report and 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey -- ostensibly to show how the number of sexual assault victims is "massively" inflated: