There's been quite a bit of energy invested by reporters and pundits over the past week figuring out ways in which blame for the Republican-caused government shutdown can be spread around to the Obama administration. Those efforts have culminated in a masterwork of forced equivalence by Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who argued that the GOP is to blame for being completely unreasonable, and Obama is to blame because he's not indulging the unreasonableness of the Republicans, which is itself a form of unreasonableness.
Writing on her Washington Post blog at 11:00 a.m. EDT on October 7, Rubin lashed out at Republicans in Congress as a bunch of bumbling clowns who have no strategy for the shutdown or the debt limit fight, and no idea what they hope to extract in concessions from the Obama administration. The party, she wrote, is being needlessly stubborn in its unreasonable demands, is completely in shambles, and risks marginalizing itself so long as it clings to the "delusion" that it is "winning":
So long as Republicans think they are winning the speaker and cooler heads in the Senate will have difficulty putting together a package that could resolve the CR and/or the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, the business community, suburban Republicans and lifelong conservatives shake their head in dismay. This mess and the delusion that one can reach unattainable goals at the country [sic] expense are not why they have supported Republicans. And if the GOP doesn't get a grip, these voters might not do so in the future, or at the very least they might close their wallets to GOP candidates.
Writing on her Washington Post blog at 1:30 p.m. EDT on October 7, Rubin lashed out at President Obama for refusing to negotiate with the Republicans in Congress on the debt ceiling or funding the government (the same Republicans she painted as delusional and unreasonable). According to Rubin, the only reason Obama could have for refusing to negotiate (the fact that their demands are delusional and unreasonable apparently doesn't count) is that he wants the "political obliteration of his political opponents."
President Obama's assertion that he won't negotiate is inexplicable, unless the name of the game here is not a deal or economic survival but political obliteration of his political opponents. After weeks of intense focus on the crisis in Syria, the White House is set to turn to the economy.
The White House will counter that they will negotiate, after the continuing resolution and/or debt-ceiling bills are cleanly passed. But that is a distinction without a difference, and White House staffers know it. In actual war you can demand surrender and then negotiation, but in politics the other side has to survive and, hence, you must avoid making the terms so onerous that they can't be accepted. (Unless you think you are "winning" and the goal is to make the other guys look bad.)
When you want above all else to make the opposition look bad and set them up for failure (which, by the way, means a disaster for the country), then you decide to push them so hard they have to cry uncle. And when they are just as obstinate as you, they refuse to and the hostages suffer the consequences.
The "onerous" term the White House is supposedly imposing is refusing to negotiate on what Rubin herself called irrational and "unattainable" policy goals. Rubin is effectively pushing responsibility for the GOP formulating a coherent strategy onto Obama. She wrote in her first post that the GOP will be lost if it doesn't "get a grip." In her second post she said it's actually Obama's responsibility to make sure the other side "survives." At 11 a.m. she said the GOP was setting itself up for failure. At 1 p.m. she said it's the president who's setting them up for failure.
It doesn't make sense, but it covers both parties in blame, so mission accomplished.
Jennifer Rubin is using the fresh horror of the Washington Navy Yard massacre to take cheap shots at President Obama and make petty, insignificant, and ultimately false political arguments. Writing on her Washington Post blog, Rubin swipes at the president for calling the shooting "cowardly," instead of evil:
But what we know now is that a dozen brave souls in service of their country lost their lives, highlighting close to home how indebted we are to the military. President Obama properly acknowledged as such, before proceeding with a hyper-partisan speech blaming Republicans for the lack of economic progress. But Obama also said that the murders were a "cowardly" act. Not so. They were evil. The killing spree was, to be blunt, brazen and audacious. But in the end, just plain evil.
(In contrast with Obama, she points to Virginia governor Bob McDonnell's statement that "hit just the right note," because obviously we're all keeping score here.)
Rubin's reason for attacking the president's non-use of the term "evil" is as follows:
Yes, evil. Liberals tend to shy away from such terms, maybe afraid they'll sound like those dreaded values voters. Or maybe it's their therapeutic mindset that attributes most bad behavior to "sickness," personal or societal. They mocked President George W. Bush when he labeled terrorists as "evil-doers." The chattering class was horrified when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union the "evil empire."
Even in his Syria speech on Sept. 10, Obama didn't use the word "evil." He said Bashar al-Assad's regime was "repressive" and that use of gas against civilians violated international law and our "common humanity." He said the images were "sickening." But evil? It's not in his vernacular.
This is lazy and wrong. If Rubin had bothered to Google a few of Obama's speeches, she would have noticed this one calling the Tucson mass shooting "evil." Or this one calling the Sandy Hook mass shooting "evil." Or this statement calling the Sandy Hook shooting "evil." Or this weekly radio address calling the Boston Marathon bombing "evil." Or this speech calling slavery "evil." Or this speech calling the Holocaust "evil." Or this statement calling genocide in the Balkans "evil."
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin has come up with a novel and ingenious strategy for responding to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons against its own citizens: attack Iran. Frustrated with what she sees as the slow march to U.S. military action in the Middle East, Rubin posted to her blog this morning the draft congressional resolution she'd like to see in response to the Syria situation:
THEREFORE be it resolved:
1. The president of the United States shall be authorized to use all necessary force against Iran in the event it does not halt all enrichment and allow complete access to all facilities to verify the discontinuation and destruction of its nuclear weapons facilities;
2. It shall be the policy of the United States to support free peoples in Iran seeking to change the regime and obtain essential human rights and a normalized relationship with the West;
3. It shall be the policy of the United States to aid and assist Syrians, including the Syrian Free Army, seeking to live in peace with their neighbors and respecting the individual rights of the Syrian people so as to prevent a victory by the Assad regime and/or al-Qaeda forces;
3. [sic] Russia is an inappropriate party to negotiate on behalf of or verify the compliance of WMD disarmament by its ally Syria or by the government of Iran; and
4. [sic] The president shall be authorized to use all means necessary to achieve the president's stated purposes, to wit, enforcing sufficient consequences for use of WMDs, preventing the risk of future use by the Assad regime or Hezbollah and degrading the Assad regime's ability to use, deliver and command the use of WMDs.
For those of you quick to point out that Iran and Syria are, in fact, not the same place, and that attacking Iranian nuclear facilities would serve to stifle any hope for political moderation within Iran, you're forgetting that Jennifer Rubin is a clear-eyed foreign policy thinker who is respected by her colleagues and never gets anything wrong.
After recent reports that the Syrian government may have used chemical weapons against civilians, media figures have begun to push for U.S. military intervention in the region. But senior military leaders say that engagement could produce a negative long-term outcome.
Last month, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, detailed possible downsides to U.S. military involvement in Syria in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI). In addition to possible collateral damage to civilians and the loss of U.S. aircraft, Dempsey notes that a poorly planned military incursion "could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control." Additionally, Dempsey noted that military options could cost taxpayers between $500 million to $1 billion per month.
The change in ownership over at the Washington Post has generated a flood of free advice for new owner Jeff Bezos from all corners. Among those advice-givers, Patrick Pexton stands out as someone who not only worked for the Washington Post (he was the ombudsman until this past March) but also directly liaised with the Post's readership. In a column for the Washington City Paper, Pexton counsels Bezos to get rid of "the No. 1 source of complaint mail about any single Post staffer" that he received while serving as ombudsman: Jennifer Rubin.
She doesn't travel within a hundred miles of Post standards. She parrots and peddles every silly right-wing theory to come down the pike in transparent attempts to get Web hits. Her analysis of the conservative movement, which is a worthwhile and important beat that the Post should treat more seriously on its national pages, is shallow and predictable. Her columns, at best, are political pornography; they get a quick but sure rise out of the right, but you feel bad afterward.
And she is often wrong, and rarely acknowledges it. She was oh-so-wrong about Mitt Romney, week after week writing embarrassing flattery about his 2012 campaign, calling almost every move he made brilliant, and guaranteeing that he would trounce Barack Obama. When he lost, the next day she savaged him and his campaign with treachery, saying he was the worst candidate with the worst staff, ever. She was wrong about the Norway shootings being acts of al-Qaida. She was wrong about Chuck Hagel being an anti-Semite. And does she apologize? Nope.
He's right that Rubin was aggressively, enthusiastically, and embarrassingly in the bag for Mitt Romney during the 2012 election, and that post-election blog post she wrote about Romney's "Perils of Pauline" campaign was a particularly galling bit of revisionist history.
Pexton makes a another point that is important and has to be repeated: Rubin is an embarrassment "not because she's conservative, but because she's just plain bad." She lies consistently about matters big and small, with no indication that she cares one way or the other about being found out. She frequently makes claims that a simple Google search would prove false. That's not a problem of ideology. It's a problem of basic competence and forthrightness that the Post is going to have to address sooner or later.
The paper is, of course, free to address it however they see fit. But for its own sake, sooner would be better.
UPDATE: Politico's Dylan Byers obtained an emailed response from Rubin to Pexton's column: "'hahahahahhahaha' - that's a direct quote"
So much for having a national conversation about race.
Conservative commentators claimed they'd welcome an honest discussion about the thorny issue in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict. But within moments last week of President Obama offering up his personal reflection about the trial and how the killing of Trayvon Martin had been viewed within the African-American community, right-wing voices responded with almost feral anger and resentment.
Among those most incensed by Obama's thoughtful reflections was Jennifer Rubin who writes for the Washington Post. She called Obama's comments "disgusting." Furious at America's first black president for discussing the topic of race following a passionate trial verdict (he's "not a good person," Rubin stressed), the columnist lashed out at Obama for addressing a problem she claimed is no longer even relevant to the American experience.
Lamenting that Obama's won't allow people "get out of this racial archaeology," Rubin claimed Americans are "held prisoners forever in a past that most Americans have never personally experienced." (Fact: "Most Americans" haven't personally experienced anti-Semitism, but that doesn't stop Rubin from crusading against what she sees as outbreaks of it.)
Rather than addressing the substance of Obama's comments about how "the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away," Rubin simply dismissed the idea that racial prejudice has to be talked about, let alone discouraged, anymore. Like Prohibition and the Red Scare, racism apparently represents a distant chapter in America's past.
Rubin is hardly alone in her proud and public denial.
That right-wing refutation has been found on the fringes of the conservative movement for years, if not decades. And skeptics have often tried to downplay the significance of the problem, insisting that liberals use the issue to attack their political opponents. But in recent weeks, much the way the denial of global warming has become a conservative cornerstone, the blanket denial of the existence of racism has been mainstreamed and embraced as an empirical far-right truth: Racism against minorities has been relegated to America's past. It's now filed under "archeology," as Rubin put it, something historians and academics might study one day.
Noting the dubious trend, the Chicago Tribune's Rex Huppke recently quipped that saying racism is over is the new way of saying you have 'a black friend.'
Fox News Sunday panelists ignored a poll showing a majority of Texans oppose a proposed abortion ban bill, instead pushing the baseless claim that the bill is supported by that state's public.
Republicans in Texas recently attempted to pass a bill during a special legislative session that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, which is unconstitutional under Supreme Court precedent, with lower courts recently striking down similar bans in two other states. The bill did not include exemptions for rape or incest and contained other restrictions that would force all but five clinics that provide abortions in the state to close. The bill was defeated after Texas Senator Wendy Davis filibustered the bill for 11 hours, causing the special session to expire before the bill was passed. But Governor Rick Perry said he would convene another special session on July 1 to pass the bill.
When discussing the second attempt to pass the bill, the June 30 Fox News Sunday panel focused solely on the bill's 20 week ban provision to baselessly claim that the bill would pass because it has the support of the Texas public. Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin said Gov. Perry "is completely in tune with public opinion" on the bill. Fox News contributor Juan Williams backed Rubin, saying that polling shows "abortions after 20 weeks are not popular with anybody." Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel said that the ban is "something that Americans actually have a great deal of unanimity on."
But a mid-June poll of Texas residents showed that a majority of Texans oppose the abortion ban bill. The poll, conducted by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, found that 51 percent of Texans opposed the bill. Sixty-three percent of respondents said that Texas has enough abortion restrictions already, and 52 percent said they think that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Seventy-four percent, including a majority of Republicans and Independents, felt that private medical decisions about abortion should not be made by politicians.
Over the past month or so, columnists for major newspapers have gotten it into their heads that the "scandal" involving IRS agents in Cincinnati inappropriately scrutinizing conservative non-profit groups can be traced back to President Obama. According to these professional pundits who are paid very well to fill column space for their newspapers' print and online editions, the anti-Tea Party vibes Obama put out were picked up on by the IRS bureaucrats, who were then subconsciously impelled to exact retribution on the president's political enemies.
It turns out that this theory of presidential pseudo-telepathy was completely and fantastically wrong. Who could have predicted?
Newly revealed IRS documents show that the agency's targeting efforts were also aimed at progressive groups, medical marijuana groups, organizations focused on Middle East policy -- not just conservative and Tea Party groups.
This is a big problem for columnists like Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal, who devoted no fewer than three columns to the idea that the White House was "involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives" because President Obama said ungenerous things about the Tea Party and created an "environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable." Here's what she wrote on June 7:
The president of the United States spent months warning the country that "shadowy," conservative "front" groups -- "posing" as tax-exempt entities and illegally controlled by "foreign" players -- were engaged in "unsupervised" spending that posed a "threat" to democracy. Yet we are to believe that a few rogue IRS employees just happened during that time to begin systematically targeting conservative groups?
Turns out this scenario that Strassel thought so unbelievable was pretty much exactly what happened, except that the IRS was also targeting liberal groups. If she has an explanation for how Obama is responsible for that as well, we'd love to hear it.
After President Obama named former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as his new national security advisor, right-wing media figures called the appointment a "slap in the face," a "middle finger," and an "eff you" to Americans.
Right-wing media are wildly distorting facts and criminal procedure to pretend Attorney General Eric Holder "lied" to Congress when he testified about government surveillance of journalists and prosecutorial discretion at a May 15 hearing.
Now that the possible chilling ramifications of legal searches of reporters' work product have been widely condemned not only by the press, both political parties, and President Obama and Holder, right-wing media have resorted to misrepresenting search warrant procedure, criminal law, and basic facts of what the Department of Justice (DOJ) actually did in their investigation of how a State Department employee may have violated the Espionage Act of 1917.
Specifically, right-wing media claim Holder's May 15 testimony is inconsistent with a two-year-old affidavit DOJ filed in support of a search warrant request for an email account associated with Fox News' James Rosen, as part of their investigation into the government official's unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Fox News host Sean Hannity was the most recent example, who showed a clip of the testimony on his May 29 show and then stated "what you just witnessed was the United States Attorney General lying while under oath before Congress."
Continuing in a vein set by Fox News host Megyn Kelly on the May 28 edition of America Live when she complained "it is one thing for the DOJ to go into a courtroom and try to get your records, your phone records, your email records. It's quite another for them not to give you any notice[,]" right-wing media is complaining that the underlying legal rationale behind the warrant request was incorrect. In support of this argument, the Drudge Report has been pushing claims made on Breitbart.com that Holder went "judge shopping" in pursuit of approval for this supposedly flawed search warrant.
As of this writing, there is no indication that the IRS's inappropriate targeting of conservative political groups has any connection whatsoever to the White House. And some conservative talking heads are even acknowledging as much. But they're not letting that stop them from naming Barack Obama as the culpable party, arguing that the president is responsible due to his preternatural ability to bend the average bureaucrat to his maleficent will from afar.
It all started with RedState founder Erick Erickson, who wrote on May 15 that "Barack Obama never specifically asked that tea party groups and conservatives be targeted." But...
But by both his language and the "always campaigning" attitude of his White House, he certainly sent clear signals to Democrats with the power and ability to fight conservatives to engage as they could. Given his rhetoric against his political opponents, it is no wonder sympathetic Democrats in the Internal Revenue Service harassed and stymied conservative groups and, though little mentioned, pro-Israel Jewish groups and evangelical groups.
"President Obama did not have to tell the IRS specifically to harass conservative, evangelical, and Jewish groups who might oppose him," Erickson observed. "His rhetoric on the campaign trail and in the permanent campaign of the White House operations made clear what he wanted."
Right-wing media are increasingly and uniformly pushing the "personhood" position in their anti-choice attacks, an absolutist argument that equates fetuses with persons and goes beyond repealing Roe v. Wade to banning all abortions.
As recently as the 2012 presidential campaign, the GOP standard bearer claimed that although he opposed Roe v. Wade, he supported standard exceptions to abortion restrictions, and overturning 40 years of reproductive rights precedent would merely "return to the people and their elected representatives the decisions with regards to this important issue." This so-called moderate Republican position on "limits on abortion" was endorsed by prominent right-wing media figures such as Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, who assured her readers that "the GOP isn't waging a 'war on women'; it is waging a war on abortion on demand."
Now that the election is over, Rubin is following the lead of right-wing media and using convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell to attack extremely rare and mostly prohibited late-term abortions, by arguing a "baby is far more than a fetus" or a "a clump of cells" because "there's a lot of science out there that...allows us to save these children." From Rubin's appearance on the May 13 edition of Fox News' America Live:
We're talking about infants that if they would be operated on, for example, by a surgeon at 24 weeks, would likely survive. As you say, you can take sonogram, you can see them sucking their thumb, they respond to music, there's all sorts of indications that that baby is far more than a fetus, which is the way the pro-abortion lobby likes to refer to it. And I think this makes Americans confront that. The president doesn't want to talk about it. He goes out and talks to Planned Parenthood, and says I'm all with you folks, and those are the people who want abortion on demand for any reason, any place, any time.
I think one of the problems that the abortion lobby is having is the science. They say conservatives don't like science. Well, there's a lot of science out there that not only allows us to save these children but also allows you to see them. And to obtain an indication that this is something far more than just a clump of cells.
In falsely comparing Gosnell's killing of newborns with legal abortion, Rubin is making an important rhetorical shift that is being repeated elsewhere on Fox News. On May 14, Fox News co-host of The Five, Andrea Tantaros, did the same:
[Gosnell's conviction] gives the pro-life movement an argument against the pro-abortion movement, which is they continue to argue, argue, argue in favor of abortion. However, this court just said, you kill a baby outside the womb, it's murder. But what about a baby inside of the womb? That question has to be answered. And I think that this does give the pro-life movement some fuel for their fight.
Since Kermit Gosnell's conviction of the murder of three infants, right-wing media have dismissed existing laws and the context of Gosnell's case as part of their ongoing campaign to connect his horrific crimes to legal abortion procedures.
Members of conservative media are trumpeting a government report indicating that gun homicides have fallen as proof that the need for stronger gun laws is unwarranted, while ignoring multiple factors that could account for the decrease. At the same time, firearm violence continues to be a problem as firearm homicides have fallen less than serious violent crime in general and the rate of gun violence in the United States still far outpaces other high-income nations.
In a May report, the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicated that the number of gun homicides fell 39 percent from 18,253 in 1993 to 11,101 in 2011. The Pew Research Center adjusted the figures to represent per capita rates in its report on the BJS data, finding that the incidence of firearm homicide has fallen 49 percent during that time period.
Right-wing media have quickly seized upon this data to dismiss the need for stronger gun laws. According to the National Review Online's Charles C. W. Cooke, the BJS and Pew reports make "embarrassing reading for those who spend their time trying to make it appear as if America is in the middle of a gun-crime wave." John Nolte of Brietbart.com wrote, "This report not only proves the media wrong, it proves the NRA right." Conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin wrote that the reports represent "rotten data for anti-gun advocates trying to revive the Newtown, Conn., anti-gun legislative package." Townhall's Katie Pavlich, who is also a contributor at Fox News, added, "Once again more guns do in fact equal less crime."
But there is no logic to their arguments that data from the reports constitutes evidence against proposals to strengthen gun laws. Gun availability has been repeatedly linked to higher incidence of firearm homicides, and firearms remain the driving factor of homicides, with 70 percent of murders involving guns. According to an October 2012 report from BJS, the rate of serious violent crime declined 75 percent between 1993 and 2011, meaning that gun homicides are declining at a slower pace than overall crime.
Other factors may help explain the fall of gun crime since the early 1990s including reductions in lead levels, the end of the crack epidemic, advances in medicine that allow more gunshot victims to survive their wounds, and a declining rate of gun ownership.
Rich Lowry and Jennifer Rubin complained that President Obama used the term "women's health" and did not mention the word "abortion" while speaking in front of Planned Parenthood on April 26, despite the fact that abortions only make up a small portion of the women's health services that Planned Parenthood provides.
On the May 5 edition of Meet the Press, host David Gregory quoted a May 2 blog post by National Review editor Rich Lowry that appeared in Politico in which he wrote:
President Barack Obama was proud to become the first sitting president to address Planned Parenthood last Friday. But not proud enough to utter the word "abortion."
The unwritten rule is that when the left discusses abortion it is never called "abortion," but always referred to as "health" or, more specifically "reproductive health" - although abortion is the opposite of reproduction and for one party involved, the opposite of health.
Gregory read text from the blog in which Lowry stated unequivocally that "the left" is substituting the term "women's health" for "abortion." Gregory then provided MSNBC contributor and The Grio managing editor Joy-Ann Reid an opportunity to briefly respond to Lowry's question about why the president didn't mention abortion if it's "such a wonderful thing."
Host Chris Wallace brought up Obama's speech to Planned Parenthood as well during the May 5 edition of Fox News Sunday. Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, responded by saying:
RUBIN: I find his language so telling. He won't even use the word "abortion," he says "women's health." Can he not bring himself to say that we are talking about terminating pregnancies?
Despite the widely held, and repeatedly debunked, right-wing myth that the overwhelming majority of services provided by Planned Parenthood are abortion services, they make up a very small part of the services Planned Parenthood provides. One in five American women has chosen Planned Parenthood for health care at least once in her life and according to Planned Parenthood's latest annual report, abortion services made up a mere three percent of the services performed in 2011, while 95% of the services provided included STD testing and treatment, cancer screening and prevention, and contraception:
During the segment, Wallace himself provided statistics showing some of the other women's health services provided by Planned Parenthood: