As President Obama readies his push for new measures to help curb gun violence, conservative writers, including a USA Today columnist, are calling the unfolding gun debate a "distraction" and a "red herring" designed by the White House to focus attention away from what's really important in America, the national debt.
Dismissing the implications of a steady string of mass shootings, including the Newtown, CT elementary school massacre, gun advocates in the media accuse the president of fabricating the need for action or attention on the issue. He's being an "opportunist" who's "picking a fight" on guns, they insist.
The dismissive claim actually runs counter to a popular right-wing mantra this month that the Obama administration's gun control efforts stand as the precursor to a looming civil war, and that Obama's true tyrannical nature will be revealed.
Either way, portraying 30,000 gun deaths each year in America as a "distraction," and especially portraying the issue of school gun killings as a "red herring," strikes me as tasteless.
Nonetheless, in his USA Today column, conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds suggested Obama is purposefully focusing on guns in order to keep attention off "the country's financial situation." Left unmentioned by Reynolds was the fact that gun violence was thrust to the forefront of Obama's second-term agenda because a madman massacred kids and teachers inside a Connecticut school with a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle. Meaning, Obama's trying to deal with the issue of gun violence in a public way because gunmen keep going on shooting rampages across the country.
On the topic of gun violence in America, Reynolds' column remained silent. He was only interested in blaming Obama for allegedly manufacturing a diversion. (In his December 25 column, Reynolds lodged a similar complaint, insisting, "They'd rather have us talking about gun control" than the national debt.)
Following Reynolds' lead, Powerline blogger John Hinderaker apologized for having recently weighed in on the issue of gun control. Why apologize? Because Hinderaker now realizes gun control, gun violence, and shooting sprees represent a "distraction" from what really matters, the debt.
And writing at Breitbart.com, AWR Hawkins could barely mask his contempt for anyone who thinks guns represent an issue of importance in America today. Accusing the president of trying to "seize on the emotions of those who operate emotionally rather than rationally," the blogger wrote that any effort to curb gun violence in the wake of the Connecticut mass murder was a "red herring" designed to "redirect all emotion" away from what really matters.
I wonder if Newtown families agree.
Fox News is promoting a report from a British tabloid to claim that new data shows "Global Warming [Is] Over." But the agency that released the data explained that the tabloid report is "misleading" because it is based on a short-term period that obscures the long-term upward trend in global temperatures.
The Roberts Court's five Republican-appointed justices invented a new rule that threatens to greatly weaken public employee unions in yesterday's Knox v. SEIU decision. Reaching out to decide an issue that the parties to the case never argued, these justices instead engaged in "radical policy-making" using an argument drawn from a friend of the court brief submitted by the Cato Institute and a coalition of other right-wing organizations. As the cheerleading for the decision by right-wing institutions and blogs makes clear, the decision is much more likely to be the first battle in a new legal war on public employee rights than a mere reworking of technical legal rules.
In the case, the five conservative justices turned precedent on its head to severely limit the ability of public employee unions to spend fees from employees they represent to fight anti-worker political battles. The limits adopted by the conservative justices went beyond what even the parties in the case had requested.
The Knox decision is evidence that the Court's Republican-appointed conservative majority has decided to inject the Court into the national debate on workers' rights, according to both Justice Stephen Breyer, who dissented in the case, and Steven Hayward of the right-wing Powerline blog. Justice Breyer noted that states have taken varied approaches to nonmember rights in union workplaces, and that the political debate on this subject, especially with respect to public employees, is "intense." Now, he observed, the conservative justices have not only entered the debate, but apparently "decide[d] that the Constitution resolves it." Powerline's Hayward agrees, writing that the Knox decision's effect will be "similar to the Scott Walker reforms in Wisconsin that have devastated public employee union political capacity there. Step by step."
Constitutional scholar Garrett Epps calls Knox "the Court's Scott Walker Moment."
Conservative media are twisting comments made by an EPA administrator -- and circulated by Senator Inhofe (R-OK) -- to suggest that the Obama administration is trying to shut down the coal industry. But the official was referring to a rule that applies only to new coal plants, and which industry leaders have said "won't have much of an impact" on business.
In a speech at Yale University in March, Region 1 administrator Curt Spalding discussed the EPA's efforts to implement necessary environmental safeguards with minimal economic consequences. Referring to greenhouse gas performance standards for new power plants, Spalding said:
You can't imagine how tough that was. Because you got to remember, if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and all those places, you have coal communities that depend on coal. And to say we just think those communities should just go away, we can't do that. But she had to do what the law and policy suggested. And it's painful. It's painful every step of the way.
The conservative media seized on these comments as proof of the Obama administration's "plan to destroy the coal industry in America."
The Daily Caller -- once again serving as Senator Inhofe's press office -- reported that Inhofe would take to the Senate floor to "highlight a little-known speech by an EPA regional administrator who admitted on video that the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry. Likewise, Fox Business' Lou Dobbs reported that Spalding was "caught on tape admitting the Obama administration's air regulations will kill the coal industry."
Fox Nation took that one step further, claiming that Spalding revealed that "the whole point of President Obama EPA's air regulations was to kill coal." And the Blaze reported that according to Spalding, the EPA aims to "drive an entire industry into the ground for no apparent reason."
In fact, Spalding said no such thing. And to suggest that the new greenhouse gas rule would "kill" the coal industry is absurd, as it applies only to new power plants. In announcing the rule, the EPA clearly stated that it "only concerns new generating units that will be built in the future, and does not apply to existing units already operating or units that will start construction over the next 12 months."
And since few companies plan to build new coal plants anyway given the low cost of natural gas, The Economist predicts that the new rules "will only formalise a shift that had already been under way, with little immediate economic impact." American Electric Power, one of the largest U.S. utilities, told the National Journal: "We don't have any plans to build new coal plants. So the rules won't have much of an impact." Duke Energy echoed this point, saying that the new rule "means nothing to us."
On May 17, The New York Times reported on a plan presented to Joe Rickett's Ending Spending Action Fund that would highlight controversial remarks made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright and link these remarks to President Obama. Soon after the report received widespread coverage, the Romney campaign rejected the attack on Obama, despite having brought up Rev. Wright himself in Sean Hannity's radio show as recently as February. After having obsessed about Rev. Wright in the 2008 election, the right-wing media reacted to the decision by lamenting the opportunity to reignite the attack.
The New York Times article reported that in a report titled "The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama," a "group of high-profile Republican strategists" proposed a plan that:
[C]alls for running commercials linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose race-related sermons made him a highly charged figure in the 2008 campaign.
"The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way," says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade.
The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama's former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as "black liberation theology."
The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an "extremely literate conservative African-American" who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln."
But the right-wing media has not followed Romney as he has attempted to distance himself from the ad campaign.
Conservative media are once again hyping the amount of oil in the U.S. by including oil shale, ignoring that oil companies have found no profitable way to develop that resource.
The most recent flood of misinformation came after testimony by the Government Accountability Office's Anu Mittal about "oil shale," a sedimentary rock that when heated at high temperatures can produce liquid fuels (except gasoline) with a larger carbon footprint than conventional liquid fuels. While some conservative outlets claimed it was major news, the testimony -- which was based on an October 2010 GAO report -- contained no positive developments for oil shale, which has long been known to exist in large amounts in the U.S. but is not commercially viable. Earlier this year, energy expert Robert Rapier wrote, "It is not at all clear that even at $100 oil the shale in the Green River formation will be commercialized to produce oil." Even an editor at the right-wing blog The American Thinker acknowledged that "any large scale operations" for oil shale development would be "prohibitively expensive at this time." And just recently, Chevron gave up its oil shale lease in Colorado.
Mittal noted in her testimony that no technology to develop oil shale "has been shown to be economically or environmentally viable at a commercial scale." But Fox News' nightly news show and CNSNews.com, a project of the conservative Media Research Center, failed to mention that oil shale is not currently commercially viable. Breitbart.com and Investor's Business Daily incorrectly suggested that oil shale is not being developed because of Obama administration policies, rather than economic considerations. And Powerline suggested that oil shale is in fact viable because of the "advance of extraction technology," seemingly confusing oil shale with tight oil from shale rock, which can be extracted via horizontal drilling and hydrofracking.
It's interesting to see that the same people who dismiss the enormous potential of solar and wind power and attack investment in renewable energy are hyping the potential of oil shale. A December 2011 Congressional Research Service report, which classified oil shale as a "sub-economic" resource, stated that "despite government programs in the 1970s and early 1980s to stimulate development of the resource, production of oil shale is not yet commercially viable."
On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day, rallying across the country to raise awareness about pressing environmental challenges. Organized by a Democratic senator and a Republican congressman, Earth Day 1970 "achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats," according to Earth Day Network, and provided momentum for the passage of landmark legislation to protect our air, water, and endangered species.
But in today's political climate, even Earth Day has become the target of partisan attacks from the right.
This past Sunday, as millions of Americans celebrated Earth Day, conservative media figures spent the day downplaying the impact of human activity on the environment, advocating for more fossil fuel development, and taking credit for misleading the public about the threat of climate change. Others attempted to spread fear about the holiday by noting that it falls on Vladimir Lenin's birthday, and by linking it to a convicted murderer who falsely claimed to be behind the first Earth Day.
And one right-wing blogger recalled how he tried to delay his son's birth because he "really didn't want a child born on Earth Day."
It was not long ago that Earth Day -- and the values of conservation and environmental responsibility it represents -- enjoyed bipartisan support. The Times-Picayune reported on Sunday on the shift that has taken place over the last 40 years:
A recent New York Times article highlighted two studies that the article claimed "question the pairing of food deserts and obesity" and may "raise questions about the efforts to combat the obesity epidemic simply by improving access to healthy foods." While right-wing media have seized on the article to claim that food deserts are a "make-believe" issue, food experts have called the Times article "sloppy" and have said the two studies it highlights are "definitely outliers," in the face of "over 50 studies" in the past three years finding "the opposite."
Rush Limbaugh's trademark misogyny continues to haunt the Republican Party, but conservative pundits refuse to acknowledge that unpleasant truth. Instead, many Obama critics insist the recent political battle over contraception, in tandem with Rush Limbaugh's three-day verbal assault on Sandra Fluke, hasn't really hurt the GOP. In fact, it might have even helped.
What are partisans conveniently ignoring? The recent avalanche of good-news polling for Democrats, specifically the mounting evidence that the gender gap is accelerating at an alarming rate for Republicans.
That's Limbaugh legacy so far this year. But his fans don't dare admit it.
It was the Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan who was out front last week leading the GOP's denial brigade. Obama's supposed political woes, she announced, began in January when the White House announced its (popular) decision to require church-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance plans that cover contraceptives for women. (In February, Noonan suggested Obama may have lost his re-election bid based solely on his handling of the issue.)
In her recent column, Noonan was sure she heard the "public reaction" to Obama's handling of the initiative:
"You're kidding me. That's not just bad judgment and a lack of civic tact, it's not even constitutional!"
Note those quotation marks are basically air quotes. Meaning, Noonan simply made up the quote, which reflected her own reaction to the contraception question, and suggested it mirrored a broader feeling about how Obama's contraception policy left a "sour taste" with Americans, and Catholics in particular.
Public polling released last month suggests otherwise:
Responding to a relentless wave of Iowa attacks ads produced by a Mitt Romney-friendly Super PAC, an angry Newt Gingrich last week challenged Romney to debate the "dishonest" commercials. Over the holiday weekend, Gingrich said of the ads, "I feel Romney-boated."
As the Associated press noted:
Gingrich's nautical attack was a reference to a 2004 TV ad campaign by a group called the "Swiftboat Veterans for Truth" that bloodied Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Gingrich's turn of phrase was telling. Why? Because this was Newt Gingrich, a leader of the modern-day conservative movement, presidential candidate, and proud Republican partisan adopting language that acknowledged the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are synonymous with unsubstantiated campaign attack ads. With his "Romney-boated" comment, the former Republican Speaker of the House reinforced what progressives have been saying for years.
But wait, everyone knows the Swifties peddled slanderous lies about John Kerry, right? Everyone acknowledges their ad campaign represented a new low point in American politics, right?
For years, prominent right-wing bloggers have clung to the parallel universe belief that the Swifties were honorable men and that none of their wild Vietnam War claims about Kerry were ever debunked. Within the right-wing media, the Swift Boat Veterans are fondly remembered as heroes who "courageously told the untold truths."
Previously, from Michelle Malkin:
A reminder to conservatives: "Swift-Boating" does not equal smearing. Swift-Boating means exposing hard truths about corrupt Democrats.
Most of what the Vets said in their ads has never been disputed, let alone discredited.
From Patterico's Pontifications:
The canard that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was a "smear campaign" is so well accepted by Big Media that ABC NEWS feels comfortable in portraying the Swifties' ad campaign as "slanderous" and "smear ads."
On and on the denial goes as far-right bloggers cling to their Swift Boat fantasy. But now, with the likes of Newt Gingrich using the Swift Boat handle as bipartisan shorthand for claims of duplicitous campaign lies, that fantasy is being put to bed.
After ABC News uncovered the faux scandal that a California automaker that received a federal loan is creating American jobs, the right-wing media is predictably failing to acknowledge those American jobs. Instead, they're hyping the fact that the company, Fisker, is assembling the cars in Finland, without clarifying that none of the loan money is going towards the overseas facility.
For instance, Fox's "straight news" program America's Newsroom aired a graphic saying "FEDERAL LOAN ... FOR FINLAND?" But host Bill Hemmer never mentioned that the loan supported American jobs, or that Fisker is barred from putting the money towards its overseas plant:
It's also worth noting that this story is not "news" -- the Department of Energy included the fact that the cars would be assembled "overseas" in a press release announcing the loan over a year ago:
A New York Times/Bay Citizen article cherry-picked statistics from a Brookings Institution report and reportedly misrepresented interviews to call the goal of creating 5 million green jobs in 10 years a "pipe dream." Conservative media have seized upon the Times article to claim that "even" the "left" agrees that investment in green jobs is a "a waste of money and time."
While Hurricane Irene slammed the East Coast over the weekend, right-wing media responded by criticizing President Obama, claiming that he "politicize[d]" Irene and that his hurricane briefings were nothing more than a "pathetic" "command center photo-op." This comes days after the right-wing media's latest bout of Obama Derangement Syndrome, when they absurdly attacked Obama for being on a golf course when the East Coast earthquake struck.
A few days ago, right-wing blogger John Hinderaker enthusiastically endorsed a "slick" new video released by a group called Senate Accountability Watch attacking Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) for wanting to "regulate your internet use." It features a military family, two video game-playing schlubs, and an elderly woman all using the internet to enrich their lives until a faceless "Al Franken" pushes the huge red "REGULATE INTERNET" button on his desk and shuts off their internet access.
The message of the video is, as Hinderaker puts it, that net neutrality "is a bad idea because it is being promoted by Al Franken," and the implication is that net neutrality legislation would allow government officials to restrict access to the internet (net neutrality is actually aimed at preventing governments and internet service providers from doing that). The message isn't exactly new or compelling, Hinderaker's endorsement notwithstanding. Far more interesting is the brief, sordid history of Senate Accountability Watch -- an organization founded by a controversial Republican operative for the sole purpose of harassing Al Franken.
Senate Accountability Watch was founded in August 2010 by Jeff Larson, a direct marketing tycoon who worked closely with former Sen. Norm Coleman, whom Franken narrowly defeated in the drawn-out 2008 Minnesota Senate election. Larson just recently signed on as the Republican National Committee's chief of staff. In September 2010, Senate Accountability Watch filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee over an email Franken's campaign committee sent out promoting Franken's role in supporting net neutrality. Larsen filed another complaint with the Federal Election Committee in December claiming that Franken's PAC and other Democratic groups had violated election laws by accepting donations from a "foreign national," British comedian Eddie Izzard.
Neither complaint succeeded. The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed Larson's allegations, saying they "do not merit further review," and Larson actually petitioned to withdraw his FEC complaint when he learned that Izzard is a legal resident of the United States and thus entitled to make political donations. The FEC later dismissed the complaint.
Senate Accountability Watch's failed ethics complaints are only the most recent of Jeff Larson's political misadventures.
Larson earned a considerable amount of notoriety during the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary when his direct marketing firm, FLS, conducted a series of robocalls on behalf of George W. Bush smearing Sen. John McCain. Eight years later, McCain hired FLS to conduct robocalls tying Barack Obama to William Ayers.
Larson was also at the center of two political controversies in the 2008 election cycle. In June 2008, National Journal revealed that Sen. Norm Coleman had been renting a Capitol Hill apartment from Larson at the extremely low price of $600 per month. Larson was a longtime ally and client of Coleman's; FLS billed the senator for $1.6 million in services going back to 2001. The Washington, DC-based ethics group CREW filed an ethics complaint against Coleman, claiming he had "violated the Senate gifts rule by accepting lodging from Republican operative Jeff Larson."
In October 2008, Larson found himself in the spotlight again when it was revealed that the Republican National Committee had reimbursed him for $130,000 in clothing he purchased for then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Thus far there doesn't seem to be any indication that Larson's anti-net neutrality video will air on television, and it hasn't earned much notice beyond Hinderaker's blog.
And what's so funny is conservatives are utterly blind to the double standard in play here.
As we noted last night, Glenn Beck and others are outraged that some union protesters rallying against budget cuts in Wisconsin are waving signs labeling the state's Republican governor a "dictator."
How dare they??
Now adding to the hit parade of offended observers is conservative John Hinderaker at Powerline. Behold his insight [emphasis added]:
A common theme of the union demonstrators in Madison today was that Governor Walker is a "dictator." This showed up on sign after sign. It sheds light, I think, on how public union members in particular, and liberals in general, think. What is going on here is that the voters of Wisconsin have elected a Republican Governor and--overwhelmingly--a Republican legislature, precisely so that they can get the state's budget under control.
Playing the dictator card "sheds a light" on how liberals think, claims Hinderaker, speaking on behalf of a movement that's been calling Obama a dictator for two years running.
Ironic, dontcha think?
Hinderaker goes on to argue that it's not dictators liberals dislike, it's democracy. Of course, last time I checked Obama was democratically elected. In fact, he won in an electoral landslide. And in 2008, Democrats democratically won control of the House and the Senate. Yet the Obama-hating chorus has been calling the president a dictator for nearly 100 weeks now. So what gives?
On that point, Hinderaker offers no insight. Instead, he just plays dumb.