A purported debate between conservative pundit Ann Coulter and the Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus at the Conservative Political Action Committee highlighted the ugly rhetoric conservative media have used to discuss immigration and showed how far right conservative media have shifted compared to a Republican Party that has maintained that immigration reform is necessary and important.
In what was billed as a "debate" between a liberal and a conservative on the last day of CPAC, Coulter sat down with Kaus to discuss various issues but ended up talking mainly about immigration reform or as they call it, "amnesty." After repeating the debunked claim that President Obama was selectively enforcing immigration laws, Coulter and Kaus, both well-known opponents of immigration reform, launched into an attack on reform that touched on many of the conservative media's favorite discredited myths, including:
Interspersed within these myths was language that has found favor among nativist and anti-immigrant fringe groups such as the term "anchor baby," a derogatory phrase for the American children of undocumented immigrants.
At one point, Kaus stated that immigration reform represented "the triumph of ethnic politics over economic politics." Coulter for her part bizarrely accused immigrants of trashing national parks while arguing for stigmatizing illegal border crossers and unwed mothers:
COULTER: Now at all these national parks in California where the littering is coming from recent immigrants -- oh, we can't suggest any one group is doing it. Let's just shut the park. And that's what they're doing. This is always the solution now. We don't want to stigmatize anyone. No sometimes stigma is good. They've stigmatized smoking out of existence, how about stigmatizing unwed motherhood, littering, running across the border illegally. How about stigmatizing it? Can we just do that?
She also complained about the "browning of America" and claimed that "if you don't celebrate it, you're a racist." She concluded the discussion by threatening Republicans who support reform with "death squads."
As Right Wing Watch reported, during another event before her discussion at CPAC, Coulter likened the country's changing demographics to being raped because "demographics are changing by force."
Coulter and Kaus' rhetoric on immigration is typical of what passes for discourse on the issue in right-wing media circles. Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham has been especially inflammatory, routinely using racially tinged speech while talking about immigrants. Conservative radio host Mark Levin has accused undocumented students of lowering U.S. education rankings and has said that reform represents the "suicide of the nation." Rush Limbaugh has used talking points from nativist groups to argue against immigration reform. Fox News has traded on fears of undocumented immigrants to advance absurd claims, including that photo ID cards will allow them to vote (even though legal and undocumented immigrants constitutionally cannot) and that allowing undocumented immigrants to drive legally with a state-issued driver's license will endanger American lives.
Following an announcement that House Republican leaders will unveil a set of "principles" for guiding debate on immigration reform, conservative media urged Republicans to reject these and any attempts to pass immigration reform legislation this year. This is the latest in a series of conservative media attacks against the immigration reform effort that began in 2013.
The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus, who headlined a tea party event in August to stoke fears of how comprehensive immigration reform "would change America irrevocably, and for the worse," has a piece out detailing how Republicans can filibuster immigration reform and show that "[a]mnesty as we know it can go away." What Kaus is advocating of course is the same level of GOP obstructionism conservative media have been calling for to kill immigration reform.
In his September 4 piece, Kaus lamented the fact that immigration reform supporters, with help from "La Raza and Mark Zuckerberg, big business lobbyists, the Catholic Church and the Media-Amnesty Complex," will continue to advocate for a path to citizenship until an immigration bill becomes law. He then went on to describe his "tentative simple, four step plan," which began with exhorting Republicans to block all immigration bills that don't first enforce the border.
Kaus is giving preference here to the "enforcement-first" approach that immigration restrictionists have long favored, which seeks to militarize the border and take other extreme steps to cut off illegal immigration. As Kaus pointed out, this approach has been rejected by supporters and Democrats who will accept nothing less than "an inclusive, immediate path to legal status for the 11 million, and an achievable and clear path to eventual citizenship," in the words of America's Voice executive director Frank Sharry.
This approach would create an impasse designed to effectively kill reform efforts. A number of conservative media figures have similarly agitated for such outright obstruction.
However, this seems to be going against the grain, as more and more congressional Republicans express support for reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. As the Miami Herald reported, tea party Rep. Steve Southerland is the most recent Republican to do so:
[W]hen asked Friday in Miami, Southerland sounded more open to the idea of a general pathway to citizenship, Still, he drew a distinction between young people brought as children and those who came when they were older and knew they were breaking the law.
Southerland said he wasn't sure about whether they should be granted a special path to citizenship or legal residency.
"If there's going to be a chance to create a legal path, there has to be a recognition of the wrong done," Southerland said, indicating they would need to pay fines and express contrition. "But I believe in reconciliation."
The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus will appear at an August 21 Tea Party meeting to whip up fears that comprehensive immigration reform "would change America irrevocably, and for the worse."
The Hancock Park Patriots, a Tea Party group based in Los Angeles, announced Kaus' participation in the event, promising that he would answer the questions "Can they be stopped?" and "What's the alternative?"
Kaus self-identifies as "neoliberal" and "common sense Democrat" but espouses a far-right ideology, including a fixation on union-busting, and his participation in the Hancock Park Patriots meeting makes clear that Kaus is anti-immigrant. The former Slate blogger has become obsessed with the issue, dedicating all but one of his posts in July on his Daily Caller blog to the subject.
Daily Caller contributor Mickey Kaus theorized that recent incidents of sexual assaults in the military may be a diversion tactic aimed at steering attention away from the White House.
Sexual assaults in the military are a growing problem. A Pentagon report released this month determined up to 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012, up from an estimated 19,000 the year prior. The report found that 62 percent of victims who reported being assaulted faced retaliation as a result. Recently, three different military officials, each tasked with overseeing sexual assault prevention programs, were investigated or charged with committing an act of sexual assault or harassment.
Kaus's dismissal of the sexual assault crisis is in keeping with the Daily Caller's standards for publishing sexist content.
So Michelle Obama vacations in Spain with her daughter and an expensive posse, leaving her husband alone on his birthday and undermining his party's political chances (bad recession 'optics'). This is the sort of story on which I suspect there are three levels of perception:
1. Unsophisticated: Jeez, they must have had some kind of fight. She's pissed! This is a big 'screw you.'
2. Sophisticated and well informed: At their level everyone is too smart and experienced to let any kind of spat affect state affairs. These things get planned out well ahead of time by staff. Only the unsophisticated jump to conclusions on the basis of crude external appearances.
3. Real Insider: Jeez, they must have had some kind of fight. She's pissed! This is a big 'screw you.'
So, based on nothing more than the fact that Michelle Obama is in Spain, Mickey Kaus suggests that she and Barack Obama are fighting. It's almost hard to believe such a reasonable and thoughtful person only got less than six percent of the vote in the California Senate primary, isn't it?
But Kaus's complete lack of evidence is plenty for the Newsbusters crew: Melissa Clouthier quotes Kaus and hints darkly about "what's going on between President Obama and his wife," concluding that "Barack and Michelle are fighting and she is so selfish she doesn't care how it looks" and Mark Finkelstein compares Michelle Obama unfavorably to his mom.
I guess there are two distinct axes on which you can judge press organizations--actually, there are many more than two (see below), but two are important here: 1) Neutrality--Are they attempting to be "objective," trying to serve the "public interest" in some balanced way, or are they ideologically (or otherwise) driven in a way that inevitably colors their coverage--what topics they pick, what 'experts' they rely on, etc. 2) Independence--Whether they are biased or generally neutral, can somebody--a political party, a Mafia family, a government-- tell them what to do?
I think it's pretty clear MSNBC and the NYT and Breiibart.tv are not neutral. They all have an agenda and they pursue it. But they are independent. The Obama White House can't tell Bill Keller what to do. They can't tell Keith Olbermann what to do. (They can suck up to him, and it will probably work, but that's a different issue.) Breitbart is for sure independent--I can't see anyone telling him what to do.
Ok, Mickey. If it's "pretty clear" MSNBC and the New York Times have an "agenda" and "pursue it," it should be pretty easy for you to explain what that agenda is.
And, fair warning: You'll need to reconcile your claims about the Times' "agenda" with the paper's handling of the 2000 election and the Bush administration's Iraq claims, and your claims about MSNBC's "agenda" with ... Well, with lots of things.
So, let's have it, Mickey. What is the New York Times' agenda. What is MSNBC's? How do they "pursue it"?
Mickey Kaus, Friday: "the possibility for a Nobel backlash seems non-farfetched."
Time magazine, Friday: "Why Winning the Nobel Peace Prize Could Hurt Obama"
Gallup, Monday: "Barack Obama appears to have gotten a slight bounce in support after he was announced as the Nobel Peace Prize winner on Friday. His 56% job approval rating for the last two Gallup Daily tracking updates is up from a term-low 50% as recently as last week, and 53% in the three days before the Nobel winner was announced."
Huh. Maybe it turns out that Americans don't hate their president for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Weird.
(A quick pre-emptive note to commenters: Read that again. I didn't say anything about whether Obama should have won the award. My point is simply that the idea that it was absurd to suggest that winning the award was some sort of disaster for Obama.)
Following the news that President Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, numerous media figures have called for him to "turn it down" or "give it back," often asserting that he has not accomplished enough to deserve the prize. On his radio show, Glenn Beck said Obama "has to turn it down. ... [I]t's the only way for him to make a win out of this"; Internet gossip Matt Drudge asked on his website, "Will he turn it down?"; and Michelle Malkin said, "[I]f Obama had an ounce of real humility, he'd refuse to accept the award."
The Fox Nation, Gateway Pundit blog, and Mickey Kaus all highlighted a Minneapolis Star Tribune column to claim or suggest that ACORN stole the 2008 Minnesota Senate election for Sen. Al Franken (D). In fact, the column -- which Gateway Pundit and Kaus falsely claimed was a Star Tribune "report" or "story" -- did not contain a single allegation of a fraudulently cast vote, and the Minnesota Supreme Court stated that counsel for Franken's 2008 opponent, Norm Coleman, "confirmed at oral argument that Coleman makes no claim of fraud on the part of either voters or election officials."
For the 10th anniversary of his blog, Mickey Kaus takes a stroll down memory lane, giving readers who missed some of his work a second chance to become exasperated at his inanity. Here's one reminiscence:
Worst case of being spun: Watching from the press area, I thought Gore cleaned Bush's clock in their first 2000 debate. Then I went to the spin room where Stuart Stevens immediately mentioned that Gore hadn't been to Texas with James Lee Witt, as he'd boasted. Didn't that play into the festering press meme that Gore was an insecure embellisher? It sure did. I wrote a goading piece saying this was a test of whether reporters could trash a Dem as they had said they would. (It was a test they passed.)
Since a butterfly flapping its wings could have tipped the 2000 election the other way, and since Gore would have been a better president than Bush, I've been feeling guilty about that piece. It's true that a) there were other reasons Gore "lost" the debate among viewers--he grunted and sighed obnoxiously, something I couldn't hear in the press area. And b) every Dem political pro I've talked with thinks it was inexcusable-- and telling--that Gore boasted about Witt when he knew and was surely told that any new little boast would kill him. Still ... flap, flap ....
Ok. First of all, Gore didn't lose the debate among viewers. Polls taken immediately after the debate found that Gore won the debate among viewers. He "lost" the debate after reporters like Mickey Kaus began nit-picking his performance to death. Nit-picking that Kaus now admits was off-base. Still, he can't bring himself to tell the truth: Debate viewers thought Gore won. Reporters like Kaus undid that victory via what even Kaus admits was lousy reporting.
Second, how obnoxious could Gore's grunts and sighs have really been if Kaus wasn't even aware of them at the time?
Third: Every Dem political pro Kaus talks to is wrong to blame Gore. Had Gore said nothing even remotely inaccurate, the media would have made some thing up. Don't believe me? Review the Love Canal fiasco. Go ahead; I'll just sit over here, slamming my head against the wall while I wait.
Ok. Finally: Mickey Kaus thought it was an open question in October of 2000 whether reporters would "trash a Dem"? Seriously? What planet had he been living on rock had he been living under? Had he somehow missed eight years of harassment of Bill Clinton? Had he missed the Love Canal and Love Story and Internet debacles? Had he been asleep for the entire presidential campaign up until that point? If Mickey Kaus has a purpose in the world, it is that he is (supposedly) a savvy observer of the media - and he really wasn't sure by October of 2000 whether reporters would "trash a Dem"? That's a level of cluelessness that should be disqualifying.
Discussing recent comments by Michelle Obama, Tucker Carlson said: "I have thought from Day One that Michelle Obama, impressive as she is, clearly intelligent, very handsome, self-possessed -- I think that she's got a chip on her shoulder." Similarly, Slate.com blogger Mickey Kaus wrote of Michelle Obama: "For whatever reason, she sure seems to have a non-trivial chip on her shoulder and it's not a winning quality." Additionally, referring to a February 16 Newsweek profile, VDARE.com contributor Steve Sailer wrote that Michelle Obama "sounds like she's got a log-sized chip on her shoulder from lucking into Princeton due to affirmative action."