The New York Times allowed retired F.B.I. senior official Ron Hosko to criticize President Obama over his recent comments concerning the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server without explaining that Hosko is the president of a right-wing organization.
After being courted by Republican Benghazi investigators for nearly three years, all the time benefiting from endless committee leaks on Capitol Hill, the Beltway press now faces the prospect of a messy break-up. With Benghazi Select Committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) under increasing outside fire from Democrats, who claim his inquiry has jumped several sets of rails, and under internal fire from a whistleblower who alleges the committee's investigative work is overwhelmingly partisan, the committee stands poised to lose its remaining credibility.
That flashpoint might come next week when Hillary Clinton returns to Capitol Hill more than 30 months after testifying about Benghazi -- in order to once again testify about Benghazi. Or more specifically, to testify about her private emails, which have become the all-consuming focus of Gowdy's inquisition.
By any commonsense standard Gowdy's inquiry has been a Congressional bust. ($4.6 million spent to hold just a handful of public hearings?) If that's effectively highlighted during Clinton's nationally televised testimony, and if Democrats continue to press forward with their procedural attempts to dismantle the costly committee, Gowdy's time in the spotlight might be quickly ending.
And that's where the messy break-up looms. The Benghazi committee has been very good to a Beltway press corps anxious to pursue storylines about Clinton's supposed incompetence and crooked ways. This year, the Benghazi committee has helped pundits produce months' worth of baseless speculation about looming email indictments and the potential for a Clinton campaign "collapse." The Benghazi committee has provided institutional cover for the press to game out wild, what-if scenarios in which Clinton inevitably plays the villain, or a bumbling bureaucrat in over her head.
In other words, Gowdy provided the contours for the media's beloved "scandal" narrative. And Gowdy's committee has been generous with leaks that always make Clinton and her team look bad, even when upon closer examination the leaks don't hold up to scrutiny.
So think of Trey Gowdy as this decade's Ken Starr. He's an obsessive Clinton chaser who teamed up with a grateful press corps to produced endless "scandal" coverage. But like Starr, the facts are finally running out on Gowdy.
I mean, have you seen Gowdy's growing list of woes?
Describe it however you want, but Gowdy's Select Committee, which has been in session longer than Congress' Watergate investigation, is done. And it's done because its cover has been blown and because the scandal plots won't line up the way he wants. And the sooner the press admits that and moves on, the better because journalists have allowed themselves to be played for too long.
"The reality is that the Republican staff and majority of the committee have made it function as an oppo-research arm of the Republican National Committee, far more interested in whatever it might dig up about or against Hillary Clinton than any remaining mysteries on the four Americans killed in Benghazi," wrote James Fallows at The Atlantic.
Yes, Gowdy's sudden laundry list of bad news is long, but as the New York Times' Paul Krugman noted, "We shouldn't have needed McCarthy blurting out the obvious for the press to acknowledge that the Benghazi investigations have utterly failed to find any wrongdoing."
And we shouldn't have needed Bernie Sanders declaring, "the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" at the Democratic debate this week for the press to acknowledge that its never-ending flood of coverage has been wildly out of proportion for the plodding process story.
Gowdy's blind, partisan pursuit has been hiding in plain sight for years. Just like Ken Starr's blind, partisan pursuit of the Clintons was easily detectable. Yet the press played along because the Clinton gotcha game generates buzz and it's good for journalists' careers.
And since there's a collective Beltway mindset, being wrong when chasing Clinton inquisitions means rarely being held accountable, or being forced to defend wildly erroneous charges.
So most often, the fling is win-win for Republicans and press. And it has been for years. But there comes a time when the Republican pursuer loses all creditably and threatens to tarnish journalists who don't break things off.
For Gowdy and the press, that time is now.
A professor of history and Holocaust studies debunked Ben Carson's suggestion that fewer people would have been killed in the Holocaust had there been greater access to guns in an op-ed for The New York Times, explaining that such assertions "are difficult to fathom" for anyone "who studies Nazi Germany and the Holocaust for a living."
Ben Carson has come under fire after an October 8 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer where he claimed that the number of people killed in the Holocaust "would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed." Carson's comments were immediately called out as "historically inaccurate" by the Anti-Defamation League, but Fox News figures continuously stood by the controversial comments, which parroted an old right-wing media talking point.
In an October 14 op-ed for The New York Times, Alan Steinweis, a Holocaust studies and history professor at the University of Vermont, wrote that Carson's comments are "strangely ahistorical, a classic instance of injecting an issue that is important in our place and time into a historical situation where it was not seen as important." Steinweiss went on to assert that contrary to the talking points popularized by conservative media and echoed by Carson, he "can think of no serious work of scholarship on the Nazi dictatorship or on the causes of the Holocaust in which Nazi gun control measures feature as a significant factor" and that such assertions "trivialize" the experience of Jews in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s:
To anyone who studies Nazi Germany and the Holocaust for a living, as I do, Ben Carson's statements about gun control are difficult to fathom. "I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed," the Republican presidential candidate said in a recent interview.
Mr. Carson's argument, which he made in his new book "A More Perfect Union" and was asked to defend last week, is strangely ahistorical, a classic instance of injecting an issue that is important in our place and time into a historical situation where it was not seen as important. I can think of no serious work of scholarship on the Nazi dictatorship or on the causes of the Holocaust in which Nazi gun control measures feature as a significant factor. Neither does gun control figure in the collective historical memory of any group that was targeted by the Nazi regime, be they Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, gay people or Poles. It is simply a nonissue.
Mr. Carson's remarks not only trivialize the predicament in which Jews found themselves in Germany and elsewhere in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. They also trivialize the serious, prolonged and admirable efforts undertaken by many Germans to work through the causes of their country's catastrophic mistakes of that period.
The origins of the Nazi dictatorship are to be found in the authoritarian legacy of the German Empire, the inability to cope with the defeat in World War I and the failure to achieve political compromise during the Weimar Republic. When it comes to explaining the Holocaust, Germans inquire about the place of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in their society and about the psychological and cultural factors that led ordinary citizens to participate in, or to accept, horrific atrocities. They understand their own history well enough to avoid being distracted by demagogy about gun control.
If the United States is going to arrive at a workable compromise solution to its gun problem, it will not be accomplished through the use of historical analogies that are false, silly and insulting. Similarly, coming to terms with a civilizational breach of the magnitude of the Holocaust requires a serious encounter with history, rather than political sloganeering that exploits history as a prop for mobilizing one's base.
The New York Times reported just 158 families have contributed more than half of all early money supporting the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, with 138 mostly supporting Republican candidates. RH Reality Check followed up on the Times' reporting to point out that two of these families are also top contributors to anti-choice causes and candidates.
Times reporters Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish wrote that, "Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision five years ago."
From the October 10 edition of the Times (emphasis added):
They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.
Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, a New York Times investigation found. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision five years ago.
Sharona Coutts of RH Reality Check examined the list of 158 families reported in The New York Times and wrote in RH Reality Check, "But what the report didn't mention was that the two families that have contributed the most to presidential campaigns also give prolifically to anti-choice groups and candidates."
From the October 13 RH Reality Check report (emphasis added):
But what the report didn't mention was that the two families that have contributed the most to presidential campaigns also give prolifically to anti-choice groups and candidates. This is consistent with a little-noticed trend on which RH Reality Check has been reporting for a while: the merging of political mega-donors with anti-choice activism. This fact is worth bearing in mind when listening to the anti-choice rhetoric being spouted by Republican presidential contenders.
At the top of the New York Times list is the Wilks family, the fracking barons who are cementing their place as arch-conservative mega-donors. According to the Times analysis, brothers Farris and Dan, and their spouses Jo Ann and Staci, have contributed a combined $15 million during this campaign so far in support of Ted Cruz's campaign.
As RH Reality Check has previously reported, the Wilkses are significant anti-choice donors, and have also plowed millions into a program that seeks to indoctrinate school children and university students with their right-wing views.
While the Times did mention the Wilkses' anti-choice stance in a list of donors that accompanied the main piece, it's worth noting the extent of those activities.
The Wilks family uses at least two foundations--the Thirteen Foundation and the Heavenly Father's Foundation--to funnel donations to dozens of right-wing organizations, including crisis pregnancy centers, anti-choice advocacy groups, and religious organizations that oppose the right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term.
Second on the Times list are Robert Mercer, a Wall Street hedge fund manager, and his daughter, Rebekah Mercer. Also Cruz fans, the Mercers are reported to have given $11.3 million in campaign contributions so far.
Mercer is emerging as a conservative presence within the more traditionally liberal enclaves of New York City. Between 2005 and 2013, his foundation, the Mercer Family Foundation, contributed nearly $40.1 million to mostly conservative causes, including some prominent anti-choice groups, federal tax records show. Some of his giving has gone to neutral groups or causes, such as the Mayo Clinic or supporting ovarian cancer research. However, he gave $10.5 million to the anti-choice, right-wing Media Research Center between 2008 and 2013, as well as a quarter of a million dollars to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal group that takes on high-profile conservative cases.
In an article for The New York Times, CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood criticized the field of Republican presidential candidates for unveiling so-called "populist" tax reform plans that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. Harwood will moderate the upcoming Republican presidential debate on October 28, which will focus on the economy.
Multiple media figures derided Hillary Clinton's laugh during the first Democratic presidential debate, calling it a "cackle" and "a record scratch." During the 2008 presidential race, Clinton's laughter was repeatedly attacked, despite criticism that such attacks were rooted in sexism.
During the October 13 CNN debate in Las Vegas, Clinton laughed after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders defended her from repeated questions about her use of private email by criticizing the media for fixating on the issue and saying, "The American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!" Clinton and Sanders shook hands as the crowd applauded.
But several media figures initially focused on Clinton's laugh. BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski tweeted, "oh god the Clinton laugh is out," while the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza wrote, "THE CLINTON LAUGH," and Fox's Sean Hannity tweeted "Omg that laugh."
Several conservative media figures took it further, calling it a "cackle":
::looks up 'cackle' in the dictionary:: ::sees Hillary's face::-- Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) October 14, 2015
(Hillary's laugh grates like a record scratch.)-- Sonny Bunch (@SonnyBunch) October 14, 2015
The cackle. Drink!-- Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) October 14, 2015
Cue the cackle. #DemDebate-- toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) October 14, 2015
Attacking Clinton's laughter was a common theme during the Democratic primary before the 2008 election. In September 2007, after Clinton appeared on several Sunday political talk shows and laughed in response to some questions, media figures spent weeks debating and mocking her laughter. Fox News led the charge, with Bill O'Reilly even discussing Clinton's laughter with a "body language expert" who deemed it "evil," and Sean Hannity calling the laugh "frightening."
The mainstream press picked up on the attacks on Clinton's laugh, with New York Times political reporter Patrick Healy writing an article with the headline "Laughing Matters in Clinton Campaign," in which he described Clinton's "hearty belly laugh" as "The Cackle," calling it "heavily caffeinated" and suggesting it may have been "programmed."
Then-Politico reporter Ben Smith also described Clinton's laugh as her "signature cackle," while Politico correspondent Mike Allen and editor-in-chief John F. Harris wrote that Clinton's laugh "sounded like it was programmed by computer."
And New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has a long history of nasty attacks on Clinton, claimed Clinton's laugh was allowing her to look less like a "hellish housewife" and a "nag" and more like a "wag":
As Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, once told me: "She's never going to get out of our faces. ... She's like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won't stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone."
That's why Hillary is laughing a lot now, big belly laughs, in response to tough questions or comments, to soften her image as she confidently knocks her male opponents out of the way. From nag to wag.
The list goes on: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, then-MSNBC host David Shuster, then-MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, radio host Mike Rosen, Dick Morris, the Drudge Report, The Boston Globe's Joan Vennochi, Time magazine's Joe Klein, the New York Times' Frank Rich, CNN's Jeanne Moos, and others all debated or derided Clinton's laughter during Clinton's first run for president.
Politico's Allen said on MSNBC during all of this that "'cackle' is a very sexist term," and disputed MSNBC's Chris Matthews' use of it in reference to Clinton. Other outlets agreed; Jezebel called out Matthews for his "cackle" criticism and other derisive remarks, asking, "can we agree that no matter what your political allegiances, this is not the way you speak of a woman -- whether she is a senator or not?" Rachel Sklar, writing in the Huffington Post, said at the time "I keep finding sexist Hillary Clinton bashing everywhere I turn," noting that criticisms of the candidate's laughter "turn completely on the fact that she's a woman. 'The Cackle?' So would never be applied to a man. We all know it."
Unfortunately, the criticism hasn't stopped in the intervening seven years. The Washington Free Beacon has a "Hillary Laugh Button" permanently on its site. The National Journal published in June 2014, many months prior to Clinton declaring her second bid for president, a "Comprehensive Supercut of Hillary Clinton Laughing Awkwardly With Reporters." And conservative tweet-aggregator Twitchy in August mocked "scary as hell" pens which featured "Clinton's cackling head."
Conservative media are attacking the prospect of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) running for Speaker of the House, claiming Ryan supports "open borders," compromised with Democrats on spending, and supported President Obama's trade deal.
In the wake of allegations that the House Select Committee On Benghazi illegally retaliated against a whistleblower who protested the committee's abandonment of its original mission to turn an investigation of the circumstances around the 2012 Benghazi attacks into a partisan focus on Hillary Clinton's personal email account, a new report from The New York Times has confirmed his account.
The New York Times reported on October 10 that Bradley Podliska, a former investigator for the Republicans on the Benghazi committee who 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 conducting a comprehensive investigation into the September 2012 Benghazi attack that killed four Americans. The committee, which was pushed for and promoted extensively by Fox News, was recently revealed by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be a part of a political strategy to harm Clinton.
The new whistleblower allegations and subsequent Times report further support McCarthy's admission. According to the Times, the extent of the committee's "shift" in focus has been dramatic as "the committee has conducted only one of a dozen interviews that Mr. Gowdy said in February he had planned to hold with prominent intelligence, Defense Department and White House officials, and it has held none of the nine public hearings -- with titles such as 'Why Were We in Libya?' -- that internal documents show have been proposed."
From the October 11 report:
When the House select committee investigating the 2012 attacks on American government outposts in Benghazi, Libya, was created, Democrats immediately criticized it as a partisan effort to damage the political fortunes of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But Representative Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican and former federal prosecutor who is the committee's chairman, told Fox News at the time: "I have no friends to reward and no foes to punish. We're going to go wherever the facts take us."
Now, 17 months later -- longer than the Watergate investigation lasted -- interviews with current and former committee staff members as well as internal committee documents reviewed by The New York Times show the extent to which the focus of the committee's work has shifted from the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack to the politically charged issue of Mrs. Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
A committee with a stated initial goal of learning more about how four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed in Libya has created a political whirlwind in Washington, affecting not only Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign, but now also the race for House speaker. Mrs. Clinton is scheduled to testify in front of the committee on Oct. 22.
The committee has conducted only one of a dozen interviews that Mr. Gowdy said in February he planned to hold with prominent intelligence, Defense Department and White House officials, and it has held none of the nine public hearings -- with titles such as "Why Were We in Libya?" -- that internal documents show have been proposed.
At the same time, the committee has added at least 18 current and former State Department officials to its roster of witnesses, including three speechwriters and an information technology specialist who maintained Mrs. Clinton's private email server.
Bradley F. Podliska, a major in the Air Force Reserve who worked as an investigator for the House Select Committee on Benghazi is accusing the committee of focusing their investigation solely on Hillary Clinton, rather than the entirety of the Benghazi incident, and unlawfully firing him for taking leave to go on active duty.
From an October 10 New York Times report:
A former investigator for the Republicans on the House Select Committee on Benghazi plans to file a complaint in federal court next month alleging that he was fired unlawfully in part because his superiors opposed his efforts to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic mission in the Libyan city. Instead, they focused primarily on the role of the State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, he said.
The former investigator, Bradley F. Podliska, a major in the Air Force Reserve who is on active duty in Germany, also claims that the committee's majority staff retaliated against him for taking leave for several weeks to go on active duty. If true, the retaliation would violate the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which Major Podliska plans to invoke in his complaint, according to a draft that was made available to The New York Times.
Podliska was also interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper. In the October 11 interview on State of the Union, Podliska claimed the "partisan investigation" shifted focus to almost exclusively focus on Clinton after it was reported that she utilized a private email server. Podliska told Tapper, "The victims' families are not going to get the truth and that's the most unfortunate thing about this."
Media Matters has extensively documented that Fox News and the conservative media have been one of the driving forces behind the creation of the House Benghazi Committee, particularly its focus on Clinton.
A Media Matters review found that cable news shows and leading newspapers around the country remained largely silent on arson attacks that targeted Planned Parenthood clinics following the release of a series of deceptively-edited, anti-choice videos smearing the health care provider. Prime-time cable news shows and the nation's three highest-circulation newspapers dedicated minimal coverage to the arson attacks. The LA Times and Spokane's Spokesman Review provided the most coverage of the attacks.
The New York Times' Paul Krugman called out the media's fraudulent coverage of the Benghazi committee and Hillary Clinton's email use, for treating the non-scandals as "real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place."
In an October 9 column, Krugman observed that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy "inadvertently did the nation a big favor with his ill-advised honesty" when he bragged about the Benghazi committee's success in "inflicting political damage on Hillary Clinton," exposing how the Fox News manufactured Benghazi hearings "had nothing to do with national security."
Krugman called out media figures who cover topics such as the Benghazi hearings and Clinton's use of email for pretending "that we're having real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place," calling it a "kind of fraudulence":
So Representative Kevin McCarthy, who was supposed to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the House, won't be pursuing the job after all. He would have faced a rough ride both winning the post and handling it under the best of circumstances, thanks to the doomsday caucus -- the fairly large bloc of Republicans demanding that the party cut off funds to Planned Parenthood, or kill Obamacare, or anyway damage something liberals like, by shutting down the government and forcing it into default.
Still, he finished off his chances by admitting -- boasting, actually -- that the endless House hearings on Benghazi had nothing to do with national security, that they were all about inflicting political damage on Hillary Clinton.
But we all knew that, didn't we?
I often wonder about commentators who write about things like those hearings as if there were some real issue involved, who keep going on about the Clinton email controversy as if all these months of scrutiny had produced any evidence of wrongdoing, as opposed to sloppiness.
Surely they have to know better, whether they admit it to themselves or not. And surely the long history of Clinton nonscandals and retracted allegations -- remember, there never was anything to the Whitewater accusations -- should serve as a cautionary tale.
Somehow, though, politicians who pretend to be concerned about issues, but are obviously just milking those issues for political gain, keep getting a free pass. And it's not just a Clinton story.
Again, none of this should come as news to anyone who follows politics and policy even moderately closely. But I'm not sure that normal people, who have jobs to do and families to raise, are getting the message. After all, who will tell them?
Sometimes I have the impression that many people in the media consider it uncouth to acknowledge, even to themselves, the fraudulence of much political posturing. The done thing, it seems, is to pretend that we're having real debates about national security or economics even when it's both obvious and easy to show that nothing of the kind is actually taking place.
But turning our eyes away from political fakery, pretending that we're having a serious discussion when we aren't, is itself a kind of fraudulence. Mr. McCarthy inadvertently did the nation a big favor with his ill-advised honesty, but telling the public what's really going on shouldn't depend on politicians with loose lips.
New York Times contributor Bryce Covert highlighted how Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's claim that Democrats promise "free stuff" to court black voters - a narrative widely used by conservative media - "takes an incredibly narrow, and therefore misleading, view of government benefits," and is at odds with his own tax plan.
In a September speech during a campaign stop in South Carolina, Jeb Bush claimed that Democrats use "free stuff" in order to sway black voters. As The Washington Post's Phillip Bump subsequently explained, Bush's assertion had a "lack of evidence" and was based on popular conservative myths. Conservative media have spent years propping up similar unsubstantiated claims that Democrats use "free stuff" to entice minority voters and jumped to defend Bush when he parroted their talking point.
ThinkProgress' Bryce Covert explained in an October 8 op-ed for the New York Times that the "free stuff" talking point ignores how "we all get 'free stuff' from the government" such as tax credits, deductions, and exclusions. Writing that Bush "is almost certainly aware of the freebies available through taxes" as his own tax plan would give out more of them, Covert pointed out the disconnect between Bush's comments and his economic proposals:
The Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush got caught sounding like a Mitt Romney rerun recently: He told a mostly white audience that he could attract black voters because his campaign "isn't one of division and get in line and we'll take care of you with free stuff." The remark comes just three years after Mr. Romney was lampooned for later describing his own message in a speech to the N.A.A.C.P. as one where the listeners shouldn't expect "free stuff."
In each context, it was clear what kind of government stuff they meant, given the voters they were talking about. They meant welfare programs -- cash benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamps, housing subsidies and other direct spending programs that help the poor -- that are, often unfairly, associated with black Americans.
But the shorthand of "free stuff" also takes an incredibly narrow, and therefore misleading, view of government benefits. There's a whole treasure trove of government handouts that aren't dispensed through spending, but rather through the tax code. That doesn't make them any less "free" than a rent voucher or an Electronic Benefit Transfer card.
The government loses about $900 billion in revenue every year on just the 10 largest tax expenditures -- called expenditures because while they aren't direct outlays, they come at a cost just like direct spending. It's a pot that includes credits like the earned-income tax credit and Child Tax Credit as well as deductions and exclusions that help mainly middle-class people reduce how much they owe each April. It also includes special tax rates such as the lower burden on money made through investments instead of a salary. Tax credits mainly help the poor, but the rest help the well off: According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than half of the benefits of these expenditures go to the richest 20 percent of American households.
These facts are obscured for most people. While those who get government benefits through spending programs are often aware -- and too frequently ashamed -- of that fact, those who get them through the tax system usually don't realize they've received a handout. In a 2008 poll, 57 percent of people said they had never availed themselves of a government program, yet 94 percent of those same people had in fact benefited from at least one -- mostly through what the Cornell professor Suzanne Mettler has called the "submerged state," or the huge but often invisible network of money spent through the tax code.
Jeb Bush, however, is almost certainly aware of the freebies available through taxes. (According to one analysis of his federal income tax returns, he himself has saved at least $241,000 since 1981 through the mortgage interest deduction.) Just days before he vowed not to promise voters more free stuff, he put out a tax plan that would give out a whole lot more of it.
There are a couple of things in his plan that would benefit low-income Americans, like a boost to the earned-income tax credit. But thanks to proposed changes such as lowering the top income tax rate, ending the estate tax paid by the wealthiest 0.2 percent and even further reducing the rate for investment income, the biggest benefit would be handed to those who are already counted in the richest 1 percent slice of America. And it would come at a cost of at least $1.6 trillion over a decade, according to analysis by the Tax Foundation.
Every four years, politicians stigmatize "free stuff" like food stamps and welfare while courting votes -- and gloss over tax breaks. But the problem goes beyond disingenuous politicians. Statements like these erode support for government. The more "visible" benefits someone has used -- in other words, direct spending programs -- the more likely he is to feel the government has helped him personally. If most Americans falsely think they don't get free government stuff, though, they won't want to offer it to the people they think get it instead.
Several media outlets have refuted Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio's claim that his tax reform plan sets him apart from GOP rivals because it would balance the federal budget in 10 years.
Cable morning news shows mostly ignored The New York Times' editorial board's call for House Republicans to "shut down the Benghazi committee" now that it has lost "any semblance of credibility." The editorial was mentioned in only one segment on CNN's New Day, and ignored by Fox News' Fox & Friends, as well as by MSNBC's Morning Joe hosts -- who stayed silent about the editorial during an interview with committee chair Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) as he vigorously defended what is now one of the longest congressional investigations in history.
The New York Times editorial board argued that it's time for House Republicans to shut down the Benghazi committee, noting that the crusade to paint Hillary Clinton as "personally responsible for the deaths" of four Americans in Benghazi "has lost any semblance of credibility."
On September 29, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is running to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as the Speaker of the House, told Sean Hannity that one of the biggest accomplishments of the Republican House majority was creating the Benghazi Committee, which he credited with hurting Clinton's poll numbers. Hannity initially praised McCarthy and the committee for its "political" strategy, but has since walked back the complements amid backlash. Fox News largely ignored McCarthy's damning comments, falling in line with the network's years-long campaign to create and promote now-pervasive lies, smears, and conspiracy theories about Benghazi.
On October 7, in the aftermath of McCarthy's acknowledgement, The New York Times editorial board called for an end to the Benghazi committee. Deeming it a "charade" that "has accomplished nothing," the board wrote that the "laughable crusade" should be shut down or at the very least renamed "the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton." The board went on to claim that the committee and its efforts have lost "any semblance of credibility" and has "become an insult to the memory of four slain Americans":
House Republicans may be disinclined to disband the Select Committee on Benghazi with the presidential race heating up. But at the very least they should rename their laughable crusade, which has cost taxpayers $4.6 million, "the Inquisition of Hillary Rodham Clinton."
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, a leading candidate to become the next speaker of the House, acknowledged last week that was the point of burrowing into the details of the 2012 attacks on government facilities in eastern Libya that killed the American ambassador and three colleagues.
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?"Mr. McCarthy said in an astonishing moment of candor that was clearly a gaffe, rather than a principled admission. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?"
Lawmakers have long abused their investigative authority for political purposes. But the effort to find Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the Libya attacks, was personally responsible for the deaths has lost any semblance of credibility. It's become an insult to the memory of four slain Americans.
"There's nothing to justify the committee's long duration or expense," said Representative Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California who sits on the committee and has called for it to be disbanded. "We have nothing to tell the families and nothing to tell the American people."
Mrs. Clinton is scheduled to testify before the committee on Oct. 22. The hearing will give Republicans another chance to attack the credibility and trustworthiness of the leading Democratic presidential candidate. It will do nothing to make American embassies abroad safer or help the relatives of the four killed in Libya.
The hearing should be the last salvo for a committee that has accomplished nothing. If the Republicans insist on keeping the process alive, the Democrats should stop participating in this charade.