It's obviously too early to know for certain, but on the final day of the 2012 presidential campaign there seems to be a general consensus forming that President Obama is well-positioned to beat Mitt Romney at the polls tomorrow. And in the face of that prospect, some in the media are already beginning to challenge the legitimacy of Obama's reelection.
On November 4, Politico published an article enumerating the "lessons learned" from the 2012 campaign. Among them was the surprising assertion that the coalition Obama put together to win reelection -- "Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites" -- is insufficient to provide the incumbent the political capital he might otherwise enjoy were he to have the support of independents and white voters. "A broad mandate this is not," declared authors Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen.
Politico didn't explain why broad mandates rest on the shoulders of whites and independents, simply asserting instead that Obama, should he win, will win in a way that lacks legitimacy. Part of their analysis, however, rested on the myth that the United States is "a center-right country," which certainly helps to explain why they'd view an electoral coalition that excludes the center-right's top constituency -- white men -- as a political nonstarter.
While Politico went the route of demography, conservative pundits are instead opting for catastrophe. Specifically, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, suggesting that Romney was poised to run away with the election until Sandy halted his "momentum" and gave Obama a boost in public opinion going into the campaign's final week.
Right-wing media are abetting Mitt Romney's attempt in the third presidential debate to hide his opposition to the successful U.S. automobile industry rescue. In fact, Romney condemned the auto rescue, a rescue that experts say was necessary to save the industry.
The right-wing media are hyping a video of President Bill Clinton's speech that was heavily cropped by the Republican National Committee to claim he agreed with Mitt Romney that President Obama has not fixed the economy. But in the full video, Clinton makes clear that the economy has improved under President Obama but hasn't yet fully recovered, a claim nearly identical to one Obama himself has made several times.
At a campaign event for President Obama in Ohio, Clinton pointed out that, while the economy has not fully recovered, the policies implemented under Obama prevented the economy from sliding into a depression and have created millions of jobs over the last three years. Clinton described the economy as "plainly moving back" and concluded "why in the wide world would you dump a strategy that is working for one you already know will not work?"
But the right-wing media are using a heavily-cropped version of Clinton's speech taken from the GOP's YouTube channel to make it seem like Clinton was supporting Romney's attacks on Obama's record. The cropped version features President Clinton saying:
CLINTON: Governor Romney's argument is, "we're not fixed, so fire him and put me in." It is true, we're not fixed. When President Obama looked into the eyes of that man who said in the debate, "I had so much hope four years ago and I don't now," I thought he was going to cry. because he knows that it's not fixed.
Breitbart.com featured the video under the headline "Clinton: 'It is true' Obama hasn't fixed economy." The Weekly Standard's blog described the video by claiming " Bill Clinton said that Mitt Romney's argument 'is true, we're not fixed.' " The Daily Caller wrote:
Ed Klein, terrible journalist and prurient hack, writes today for the Daily Caller (naturally) that Hillary Clinton's statement taking responsibility for security lapses at the American consulate in Benghazi were motivated by a secret plan to capture the White House in 2016.
Sourcing his report to "a member of Hillary's inner circle to whom I have spoken" (Klein has a remarkable gift for retaining access to Clinton insiders despite years of peddling trashy nonsense about the former first lady), Klein writes that Clinton threatened to resign if the White House "continued to make her the scapegoat for Benghazi," but her secret team of lawyers and strategists came up with a more "rational" course of action.
Here's how he describes the plan:
After the Clinton legal team had a chance to review the State Department cable traffic between Benghazi and Washington, the experts came to the conclusion that the cables proved that Hillary had in fact given specific instructions to beef up security in Libya, and that if those orders had been carried out -- which they weren't -- they could conceivably have avoided the tragedy.
Clearly, someone in the Obama administration dropped the ball -- and the president was still insisting that it was not his fault.
In the end, then, Hillary decided to assume responsibility to show that she was acting more presidential than the president.
I am told by my sources that she firmly believes that when the State Department cable traffic is made public, either through leaks to the press or during formal House committee hearings, it will exonerate her and shift the blame for the entire mess onto the president.
Let's break this down this "rational" scheme, shall we?
According to Klein, Clinton knowingly and falsely accepted responsibility for Benghazi security in order to cover for President Obama so that he might stand a better chance at reelection. Clinton was also fully aware that there are secret State Department cables showing that, in taking responsibility for Benghazi, she was not telling the truth, and that these cables will soon see the light of day. This calculated effort to cover up the alleged truth about Benghazi under the assumption that the truth will eventually be exposed is, per Klein's telling, all part of a plan to make Clinton seem presidential. Because if there's anything that screams "leadership," it's complicity in a cover-up.
This makes absolutely no sense. None whatsoever.
Nevertheless, Fox News "straight journalist" Bret Baier is on the case, taking his cues from a credibility-vacant huckster's axe-grinding nonsense.
Conservative media outlets including The Weekly Standard, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Breitbart.com, and the Drudge Report have claimed that Michelle Obama broke the rules by joining audience applause at one point during the debate. Fox Radio's Todd Starnes went so far as to call Michelle Obama unbecoming. These attacks come despite the fact that Mitt Romney repeatedly violated the debate rules.
Prior to the debate, the campaigns agreed to a rule stating that "the candidates may not ask each other direct questions during any of the four debates."
Nevertheless, Romney repeatedly asked Obama questions during the debate on a variety of subjects including oil drilling, the investments in Obama's pension, and the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
All of which leads to the possibility that the conservative media is less concerned with the debate rules than they are with changing the subject from the substance of the debate.
CNN's Candy Crowley is debunking a claim pushed by the right-wing media that she walked back a fact check of Mitt Romney's remarks about the attack in Libya during the second presidential debate.
During the debate, Romney expressed disbelief that President Obama referred to the September 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as an "act of terror" the day after the attack occurred. Crowley noted that the president did in fact use those words, and she has consistently made that same point since the debate.
Here's the exchange at the debate:
ROMNEY: I -- I think interesting the president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That's what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.
It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CROWLEY: It -- it -- it -- he did in fact, sir. So let me -- let me call it an act of terror...
OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
CROWLEY: He -- he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take -- it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.
ROMNEY: This -- the administration -- the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.
CROWLEY: It did.
Crowley was correct. The day after the attack, Obama addressed the nation from the White House Rose Garden and said:
As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it. Our country is only as strong as the character of our people and the service of those both civilian and military who represent us around the globe.
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
Right-wing bloggers are falsely claiming that Joe Biden is "lying" about having played football at the University of Delaware. Contrary to their claims, several newspapers have interviewed people who knew Biden while he played freshman football at Delaware.
More than 20 years of reporting debunks this claim. For instance, a 1987 Washington Post article retrieved from the Nexis database quoted Biden's father, Joe Biden Sr., saying that he made his son leave the team because of poor grades after his freshman season. A 1987 Los Angeles Times article reported that Biden's college roommate said the same thing (via Nexis):
"He probably never studied as hard as other people did," recalled Biden's roommate at the University of Delaware, Donald Brunner, now a senior vice president with J. P. Morgan. Brunner and Biden both played football as freshmen, but Biden then quit the team, Brunner said, under pressure from his father, who thought that he was devoting too much time to sports and not enough to books.
In 2008, The News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, published an article about Biden's high school and college football days. One of Biden's teammates at Delaware, Jack Istnick, recounted a story from practice (article available for purchase here):
Every now and then, the freshman players would help the varsity practice.
One day, Biden and Jack Istnick were shagging punts for the varsity so it could work on its kick-coverage teams. This was done at full speed with full contact. The ball was kicked to Biden, who got "absolutely leveled," Istnick said, "mainly because I didn't block anyone."
"The [freshman] coach, Scottie Duncan, looked at me and looked at Joe lying on the ground and said to me, 'Don't you like him?' "
The Breitbart post uses an ellipsis-laden quote from a September 8 speech Biden made at Ohio University as evidence that he lied specifically about having played in a football game there in 1963:
"I came ... I was a football player ... I came here in 1963 ... and we beat you Bobcats, 29-12," Biden said.
However, a CBS News video of Biden's appearance, used by NRO, shows that Biden did not actually claim to have played in the game.
Right-wing media have attacked early voting, claiming it leads to fraud, pushes uninformed voters to cast ballots too early, and is unconstitutional and untraditional. In fact, early voting increases the integrity of the voting process, and the vast majority of early votes are cast in the final two weeks before the election by decided voters. Early voting dates back to the founding of the country.
From the October 11 edition of CNN Newsroom:
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One problem with embracing conspiracy theories is that once they start to unravel there's little chance of salvaging them. Yet that's when true believers, like Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson, usually hold on tighter to the wild schemes.
Pressed about obvious holes in the "liberal media bias" allegation that appeared in the wake of the first presidential debate when President Obama was showered with negative coverage by the mainstream press, Carlson insists the relentless lumps Obama took did nothing to undercut the endless conservative cries about media unfairness.
That just doesn't add up. Then again, Carlson recently made the odd claim that journalists were biased because they weren't interested in the Daily Caller's overhyped and underwhelming "exclusive" story on a five-year-old Obama speech that had already been widely reported on. (Being bored while reading The Daily Caller is a form of journalistic prejudice?)
As for Obama's debate coverage, the New York Times' David Carr pointed out that the media's universally negative response to the Democrat's performance took some of the air out of the "liberal media bias" tires.
Carr's point was that if ever there were a time in this campaign for the so-called palace guard, liberal media protectors of Obama to swoop in and defend their wounded candidate, it would've been in the wake of the first debate. Instead the press collectively clobbered Obama. So where's the proof of left-wing bias that Fox News effortlessly feeds off of?
Carlson emailed Carr this response [emphasis added]:
The lesson is that the press doesn't control poll results. It's possible to get elected even if the media are rooting for your opponent, as both Reagan and George W. Bush proved.
It's also true that reporters get bored with the existing storyline, which until last week was that Romney had already lost. So they welcome a chance to talk about something else.
But none of this proves there's no bias. I don't think any fair person who has watched carefully could claim Romney and Obama have been held to the same standard by the press. They haven't.
Wait, what? The liberal press doesn't control the polls? Didn't we just witness an entire right-wing movement boldly declare that the media do control polls and that's why Romney had been trailing Obama, because the media and pollsters colluded to keep the Republican down? Because there is rampant "media polling bias"?
Indeed we did.
The Daily Caller and the Drudge Report are hyping the fact that Barack Obama attended vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz's wedding to Julius Genachowski (now the head of the FCC) in 1991 as evidence of a conflict of interest.
The campaign to intimidate ABC reporter Martha Raddatz, who will moderate the October 11 vice presidential debate, is being led by a news organization that has received considerable financial backing from a wealthy donor who has spent millions of dollars trying to defeat President Obama.
Raddatz has come under fire from the right-wing media machine since the conservative Daily Caller reported that Obama attended her wedding in 1991 as a guest of the groom, Julius Genachowski, a Harvard Law School classmate of the president. Raddatz and Genachowski divorced in 1997.
After the Daily Caller reported on Obama's attendance at the wedding, the conservative media echo chamber pounced, touting the Daily Caller piece and working the refs by insinuating that Obama's attendance at a wedding more than 20 years ago would give Vice President Joe Biden an unfair advantage during the VP debate.
But one of the key financial backers of the Daily Caller has also been deeply engaged in raising money to elect a Republican to the White House.
From the October 7 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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On conservative pundit Frank Gaffney's radio show yesterday, Daily Caller reporter Matthew Boyle falsified congressional testimony by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz concerning Operation Fast and Furious. Boyle incorrectly claimed that Horowitz testified that it was "unfathomable" that Attorney General Eric Holder was unaware of controversial tactics employed during the failed gun trafficking sting.
In actuality, when Horowitz was asked, "Did you find any evidence that Attorney General Holder approved of the gun walking tactics that are under investigation -- that have been under investigation by this committee?" during a September 20 House Oversight Committee hearing, he responded, "We found no evidence that the attorney general was aware in 2010, before Senator Grassley's letter, of Operation Fast and Furious and the tactics associated with it." [C-SPAN via Nexis, 9/20/12]
But in an interview, Boyle distorted this testimony. He indicated that Horowitz stated before Congress that Holder was aware of the tactics used in Fast and Furious. From Boyle's interview:
BOYLE: So the point is, is that at this point in time it's very hard to believe that Holder didn't know. And the IG [Inspector General] has actually said that before Congress. He has actually -- I can't remember the exact quote off the top of my head -- but he said something like that, "It's unfathomable that the Attorney General was unaware of this when everybody who works for him was." So basically what has happened here is there is there is a culture of plausible deniability that has been created around Holder. [emphasis added]
An independent report issued by the Office of the Inspector General on September 19 reached the opposite conclusion, stating, "We found no evidence that Attorney General Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious, or learned about the tactics employed by ATF in the investigation, prior to January 31, 2011."
Right-wing media are reviving the "death panels" lie in reaction to Mitt Romney's criticism of a health-care advisory board during the first presidential debate. In fact, that board, established under the 2010 health care reform law, is forbidden from rationing health care, and Romney's own health care reform in Massachusetts includes a similar unelected board.