From the February 11 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ:
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National Journal's Ron Fournier and CNN's Jake Tapper each admitted that they failed to cover the crisis involving Flint, Michigan's water supply until recently.
In a January 20 National Journal column headlined "How Government--and This Columnist--Failed Flint," Fournier acknowledged that he "blew it" by failing to bring up Flint's ongoing water crisis in a December 2015 column about Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's "refreshing approach to politics." By December, Snyder had already been widely criticized for his handling of the situation, which has resulted in children across the city suffering from lead poisoning.
From Fournier's January 20 column, in which he also pointed to a broader failure on the part of the media to cover the crisis:
Like the story about Johnny Whitmire, the scandal in Flint is a reminder of how government and other institutions fail.
--Arrogant leadership, with a lack transparency, follow-up, and singular attention to mission.
--Lack of power at the bottom of society's brutal pecking order. This would not have happened in a wealthy city like Traverse City, Michigan, or Snyder's hometown of Ann Arbor.
--Finally, a lack of oversight from traditional institutions. Where was the state legislature and Congress? Where was the media? Why did a scientist in Virginia crack the case with a FOIA request, rather than an investigative journalist?
For that matter, why did I write a column about Snyder's leadership that didn't even mention Flint? There's no good answer, no excuse. I took my eye off the ball. I blew it.
In addition, during an interview with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on the January 20 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Tapper apologized for failing to cover the Flint crisis over the many months that it was becoming worse and worse. After promising to "shame" Snyder or President Obama if they don't provide Weaver with "the response you need," Tapper admitted, "I'm sorry that it took us so long to get on this story."
From the January 20 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper:
Media outlets called out both Republican presidential candidates and CNN for "resort[ing] to scare tactics" during the December 15 presidential debate, lamenting the fact that "fear and terror stole the Republican debate stage."
Media figures across the ideological spectrum are condemning Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, calling it "dangerous," a violation of the First Amendment, and "fascistic." Trump's proposal builds on previous calls from Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush to exclude Muslim Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
CBS' Face the Nation was the sole network news Sunday political talk show to ignore the claims of a former staffer for the House Select Committee on Benghazi alleging that the committee has turned into a "partisan investigation" with a "hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton."
On October 10, The New York Times reported that Bradley Podliska, who worked as an investigator for the Benghazi committee and was allegedly fired unlawfully, accused the committee of focusing "primarily on the role of the State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton" instead of leading a comprehensive investigation into the September 2012 Benghazi attack that killed four Americans.
CNN's State of the Union treated the story as breaking news and opened with an exclusive television interview of Podliska. In his CNN interview, Podliska said that the Benghazi probe "has become a partisan investigation," that has shifted its focus "to go after Hillary." On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace questioned Benghazi committee member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) about the accusations made by Podliska. On NBC's Meet the Press, Chuck Todd briefly mentioned Podliska's accusations, noting that both Podliska and the Republicans on the committee "agree that Hillary Clinton was being targeted," and asked, "doesn't that hurt the committee?" And on ABC's This Week, Martha Raddatz asked Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) about Podliska's statement that "he was fired from that committee because he was told to focus too much on Hillary Clinton instead of finding out answers about Benghazi."
But John Dickerson, the host of Face the Nation, failed to mention this news at all. The only mention of Benghazi came from panelist Ron Fournier, who also neglected to mention this news story, despite bringing up both Clinton and Benghazi:
RON FOURNIER: Let me talk a little bit about emails if I could, which is her untrustworthy problem, and the Democrats are pointing at Republicans, and McCarthy is saying we just want to bring her down as mitigating for her. We have two sets of facts. One is, we know that the Republican Party did everything they could to destroy Hillary Clinton with Benghazi -- hyper-partisan Republican Party. And they caught Hillary Clinton red handed creating a improper covert server that undermined the Freedom of Information Act, that subverted legislative oversight, and jeopardized U.S. secrets.
Both of those things can be true. As a matter of fact, both of those things are true, but the Democrats try to use the one thing to mitigate them, and the Republicans try to use the other to mitigate them. And meanwhile, both parties think that - most voters think that the leaders of the parties are lying to them, because they are.
Is there a "right way" and a "wrong way" to win elections? Is it "too easy" for presidential candidates to simply win more electoral votes than their opponents? Or are they responsible, for the sake of our democracy, to try to win big?
That odd debate was sparked this week by the New York Times in a widely, widely ridiculed article that seemed to chastise Hillary Clinton's campaign for not trying to win over swing voters and voters in deeply red, Republican states. Despite the ridicule, the "narrow path" critique was quickly embraced by columnists David Brooks at the Times and Ron Fournier at National Journal, who attached ethical implications to the campaign strategy.
Fournier complained that simply winning more votes than your opponent in 2016 is definitely the "wrong way" to get elected. "It's not the right path." Brooks agreed, insisting that by not spending an inordinate amount of time, money and resources chasing swing voters, Clinton would be making a "mistake." Worse, it's "bad" for "the country."
Sure, she might be elected. Sure she might be able to lead the country in a direction she wants and beat back Republican initiatives she thinks are bad for the country. But it would all still be a terrible "mistake," according to Brooks.
Why? The optics wouldn't be right. It's too "easy." Because entire presidencies are now determined by how elections are won. If races are won the "wrong" way, the four-year term is a waste. Because national elections in a deeply divided nation are supposed to be unifying events. Or something. (Did I mention this "narrow path" critique has been widely, widely ridiculed?)
But here's the thing: The campaign tactic of getting out the core supporters to vote in big numbers not only proved hugely successful for President Barack Obama, which means the Clinton team would be foolish to not try to replicate it, but that strategy was first championed by Karl Rove during President George Bush's 2004 re-election run. And guess what? The Beltway press toasted Rove as a political genius for the so-called "base" blueprint.
From the May 13 edition of Courtside Entertainment Group's The Laura Ingraham Show:
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Media figures are exploiting the feeding frenzy over Hillary Clinton's email to engage in wild speculation, including wondering if she committed a felony. Numerous independent legal analysts have said that Clinton did not violate the law through her use of a non-government email account.
Offering up some advice to the political press corps as it prepares to cover the 2016 presidential campaign, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently stressed that reporters and pundits ought to take a deep breath when big stories broke; to not immediately promote stumbles and campaign missteps to be more urgent and damaging than they really are.
"We may wish certain snags were roadblocks and certain missteps collapses, because we think they should be or they're sexier that way," wrote Bruni.
That was in his February 28 column. Four days later Bruni abandoned his own advice.
Pouncing on the controversy surrounding which email account Hillary Clinton used while serving as secretary of state, Bruni tossed his counsel for caution to the wind and treated the email development as an instant game changer and even wondered if the revelation indicated Clinton had a political "death wish."
But that fits the long-running pattern of the D.C. media's Clinton treatment: Over-eager journalists hungry for scandal can't even abide by the advice they dispensed four days prior. Or maybe Bruni simply meant that his advice of caution was supposed to apply only to Republican candidates. Because it's certainly not being applied to Hillary and the email kerfuffle coverage.
Instead, "The media and politicos and Twitterati immediately responded with all the measured cautious skepticism we've come to expect in response to any implication of a Clinton Scandal," noted Wonkette. "That is to say, none."
Just look how the very excitable Ron Fournier at National Journal rushed in after the email story broke and announced Clinton should probably just forget about the whole running-for-president thing. Why preemptively abandon an historic run? Because she may reveal herself to be "seedy," "sanctimonious," "self-important," and "slick." This, after Fournier denounced Bill and Hillary Clinton two weeks ago for their "stupid" and "sleazy" actions.
That seems like a temperate way for a Beltway columnist to write about presidential campaigns, right? Then again, both Fournier and Bruni drew a straight line from the unfolding email story to Bill Clinton's extra-marital affair nearly 20 years ago, which strikes me as odd, if not downright bizarre.
"As long as she's a national figure--and especially when she runs for president--Hillary Clinton will get more scrutiny than anyone else in the field," wrote Jamelle Bouie at Slate this week. (The press is also slow to react when holes in the email stories appear.)
Scrutiny is certainly part of the campaign equation and no candidate should be sealed off from it. What I'm highlighting is how Clinton scrutiny is so often wrapped in an almost a high school brand of social contempt.
After President Obama repeated the assessment of James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, of the intelligence community's initial view on the threat posed by the Islamic State, media are accusing Obama of "throwing the intelligence community under the bus."
The Beltway media's theater critics posted their latest Hillary Clinton notices after she appeared at a political event in the important swing state of Iowa over the weekend. Bypassing substance as they now routinely do, scribes focused on style and many found it lacking: Too scripted! Clinton, the commentators complained, didn't come across natural enough. She lacked the charm of her husband, her body language was off, and so were her fashion choices.
"She cautiously enunciates each word from her prepared text, even the jokes," wrote Roger Simon at Politico. "She is careful, modulated, meticulous. She is Hillary." (Simon suggested Hillary's outfit was too formal for the Iowa event, as well.)
MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough denounced Clinton as a "robot" with "no creativity, no spontaneity, nothing from the heart." Daily Beast editor John Avlon said on CNN that while Clinton was "urgent, important, and well-scripted," she nonetheless has to worry about "the connection question" and paled in comparison to her husband: "It's the natural versus the professional."
There's something deeply ironic about Hillary's drama coaches in the press doling out direction for her public appearances. It's ironic because some of the people and outlets hounding Hillary to be less scripted today -- to be more candid - were among those who spent the summer bemoaning Hillary's unscripted and candid comments. They're the same ones who dissected her every utterance and announced them to be both lacking and deeply troubling.
Recall the dominant theme of the media's gaffe-obsessed coverage from Hillary's book tour was, quite often, 'Oh my God, I can't believe she just said that.' And now they're deducting points for Clinton not being open enough?
The summer coverage continued the Beltway press' long tradition of parsing portions of Clinton comments often taken from hours worth of long-form interviews, spinning one phrase in the most unappealing way, and then announcing Clinton's word choice and "tone" was all wrong. (CNN even altered a Hillary quote this summer to make it more incriminating and newsworthy.)
It's sort of the Goldilocks approach to campaign journalism: 'Hillary's too hot. No, she's too cold. Why can't she just get it just right?'
Media outlets are overlooking President Obama's consistent emphasis on eliminating the threat posed by the extremist group the Islamic State -- and the U.S. airstrikes against it -- to fixate on Obama's recent reference to shrinking the group's influence to a "manageable problem."
National Journal columnist Ron Fournier distorted President Obama's comments on his strategy toward the Islamic State in order to accuse the president of failed leadership.
During a joint press conference Wednesday with the president of Estonia, Obama defined his objective regarding the Islamic State: "to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it's no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States."
Responding to a follow up question, Obama reiterated that goal: "Our objective is to make sure that ISIL is not an ongoing threat to the region." Asked a third time to lay out his strategy, Obama stressed the need to degrade the terrorist group to what he called "a manageable problem." This was based on the observation that even after the core of a terrorist organization has been decimated, "a few individuals" might still be able to commit acts of terror.
Calling the president "maddeningly indecisive, unclear, and defensive," Fournier said he found himself "puzzled" after Obama's comments.
The observation at the center of Obama's much parsed statement is so noncontroversial, even Ron Fournier thinks it probably represents the best possible outcome in the actual world: "While containing ISIS may be the best realistic outcome, 'Let's Manage the Situation!' is hardly a national rallying cry."
Who needs realistic outcomes guiding strategy when we haven't even come up with a good slogan yet!
But note the subtle way in which Fournier distorted what Obama actually said:
CNN panelists adopted a framework identical to a Republican attack on Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes, going so far as to argue that Grimes' recent comments could play into the hands of her Republican critics without once mentioning the actual Republican attacks on Grimes that were already underway.
Huffington Post associate editor Igor Bobic reported on July 30 that Grimes "drew attention" earlier this week when the Kentucky Democrat suggested that Israel's Iron Dome defense system helped Israel resist Hamas forces trying to tunnel into Israel. CNN host John King introduced a discussion on the topic by claiming that first-time national candidates like Grimes have to "head the test on foreign policy." During the discussion, Associated Press political reporter Julie Pace cautioned that the comments could help Grimes' opponent, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:
PACE: [E]xperience has been one of the things that McConnell's campaign has been going after with her, and this might play into that.
What the CNN panelists never mentioned is that Republican campaign operatives were already attacking Grimes with the exact same framework that formed the basis of the CNN discussion.
National Journal's Ron Fournier illustrated in his latest column why it's a bad idea to rely on excerpts from a book for one's commentary rather than actually reading it.
In 2011, a "grand bargain" to lower the long-term debt by $4 trillion by cutting entitlement spending and raising taxes fizzled when Republicans pulled out of negotiations. Some pundits, including Fournier, counterintuitively blamed Obama for Republican refusal to support any bill that increased taxes.
Fournier suggested in a May 12 column that former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's new memoir, Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, supports that conclusion.
While the book was released today, Fournier clearly has not read it -- he describes it as "forthcoming" and cites excerpts from Politico's Playbook. Unfortunately for Fournier that is a crucial error, as the full text of that section of the memoir makes clear that Geithner blames Republicans, not Obama, for the failure of the debt talks.
Fournier wrote that Geithner's memoir "captures a moment at which President Obama faced a choice between forging ahead with a promise to seek GOP compromise on the nation's debt crisis or bow to pressure from his liberal base. Obama chose surrender." Fournier cites the following paragraphs from Geithner's book, excerpted by Politico, as evidence of that claim:
Dan Pfeiffer, the president's communications director [now senior adviser] and another 2008 campaign veteran, often took the other side of the debate, saying we couldn't afford to alienate our base and split a weakened Democratic Party in pursuit of an imaginary compromise with Republicans who didn't want to compromise.
At another meeting in the Roosevelt Room, I told the president I thought there was a chance that he could break at least some Republicans away from their no-new-taxes mantra and forge a deal to stabilize our long-term debt. It wouldn't be a deal that his base would like, but if he wanted to get anything through the House, he couldn't be bound by the demands of Democrats. "You have a chance to split the Republicans," I said. "But only if you're willing to split the Democrats...."
I remember during one Roosevelt Room prep session before I appeared on the Sunday shows, I objected when Dan Pfeiffer wanted me to say Social Security didn't contribute to the deficit. It wasn't a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute. Pfeiffer said the line was a "dog whistle" to the Left, a phrase I had never heard before. He had to explain that the phrase was code to the Democratic base, signaling that we intended to protect Social Security.
Based on the Politico excerpts, Fournier concluded:
Obama decided not to split the Democrats--or to seriously seek compromise. Yes, he did propose a modest adjustment of entitlement spending in exchange for tax cuts on a "grand bargain," but that now appears to have been a mere signal (or dog whistle) to debt-fretting independent voters. It was a game. Liberals played their part and objected to the reforms. Republicans played their part and said they would never raise taxes. Despite advice from Geithner, fellow Democrats, and top Republicans who recognized the GOP negotiating ploy, Obama seized on it as an excuse to surrender to his base.
In fact, Geithner made clear that Obama had sought to "seriously seek compromise," only to be abandoned at the negotiating table. Here is the very next paragraph in Geithner's book following the exchange about Social Security (Kindle location 7177):
On July 21, Boehner, remarkably, stopped returning the President's calls. He soon announced he was abandoning the grand bargain. This time, his rationale was that the President had moved the goalposts by asking for an extra $ 400 billion in revenues. But that was just a pretext; the negotiations were fluid. We had raised the revenue target, and their drafts still were calling for unacceptable political scalps, but the President hadn't drawn a line in the sand. The problem was that most of Boehner's caucus was unwilling to accept any new revenues, and many had pledged never to vote to raise the debt ceiling; he once told us that he was more interested in doing big things than being Speaker, but ultimately he was unwilling to split his caucus and risk his job. The President, by contrast, was willing to alienate some of his Democratic allies to pass an agreement he believed would be good for the country.