Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Potpourri

John Cole: I Suppose This Was The Next Step

Apparently Fox News is no longer content being the voice of the GOP, and has decided to become the voice of Christianity, as well:

Brit Hume had some advice for Tiger Woods during this week’s “Fox News Sunday.” Woods will recover as a golfer, Hume says, but it remains to be seen whether he will recover as a person.

“He’s said to be a Buddhist,” Hume said. “I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. ... Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery.”

Tell me again- why don’t the other networks go after Fox news on a daily basis? Shouldn’t it be in their interest to expose these hacks and frauds for what they are? Wouldn’t it just make sense from a competition standpoint, if pride in the profession is not enough?

  • digby adds:
    Does everyone remember when the villagers all insisted that Brit Hume was a straight, objective newsman and that his very presence at the top of the Fox News hierarchy disproved all accusations of bias? Well, this ought to finally put an end to any remaining questions on that count:
    When I first read that I thought Hume might have been joking. He does have a dry sense of humor and I could see this comment being tongue in cheek. But he wasn't:

    The more ideologically marginalized these conservatives get the more their prejudices just come bursting through the surface of their "mainstream" personas.
digby: Chain Of Fools
I heard some bozo going on about this on talk radio the other day and I didn't know where they were getting it:
A phony new email chain letter — one of the antiquated viral sort leftover from the AOL era — is claiming that the case against President Barack Obama’s citizenship has reached the Supreme Court, based on a forged and typo-riddled Associated Press “report.”


The full absurdity can be read below. (Obviously, sic throughout.)

AP- WASHINGTON D.C. – In a move certain to fuel the debate over Obama’s qualifications for the presidency, the group “Americans for Freedom of Information” has Released copies of President Obama’s college transcripts from Occidental College . Released today, the transcript school indicates that Obama, under the name Barry Soetoro, received financial aid as a foreign student from Indonesia as an undergraduate at the The transcript was released by Occidental College in compliance with a court order in a suit brought by the group in the Superior Court of California . The transcript shows that Obama (Soetoro) applied for financial aid and was awarded a fellowship for foreign students from the Fulbright Foundation Scholarship program. To qualify, for the scholarship, a student must claim foreign citizenship.

This document would seem to provide the smoking gun that many of Obama’s detractors have been seeking. Along with the evidence that he was first born in Kenya and there is no record of him ever applying for US citizenship, this is looking pretty grim. The news has created a firestorm at the White House as the release casts increasing doubt about Obama’s legitimacy and qualification to serve as President.. When reached for comment in London , where he has been in meetings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Obama smiled but refused comment on the issue. Britain ’s Daily Mail has also carried the story in a front-page article titled, “Obama Eligibility Questioned,” leading some to speculate that the story may overshadow economic issues on Obama’s first official visit to the U.K. In a related matter, under growing pressure from several groups,

Justice Antonin Scalia announced that the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to hear arguments concerning Obama’s legal eligibility to serve as President in a case brought by Leo Donofrio of New Jersey .. This lawsuit claims Obama’s dual citizenship disqualified him from serving as president. Donofrio’s case is just one of 18 suits brought by citizens demanding proof of Obama’s citizenship or qualification to serve as president.

Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation has released the results of their investigation of Obama’s campaign spending. This study estimates that Obama has spent upwards of $950,000 in campaign funds in the past year with eleven law firms in 12 states for legal resources to block disclosure of any of his personal records. Mr. Kreep indicated that the investigation is still ongoing but that the final report will be provided to the U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder. Mr. Holder has refused to comment on the matter.
Millions of people will believe this BS. It's really that easy.

And the writer who says that the email is some anachronism is wrong. These email chains are huge on the right and very powerful. These people don't believe mainstream news (except Fox) but when they get something in their email from someone they know and trust they take it as gospel.
Think Progress: Brennan responds to Cheney: He’s either ‘willfully mischaracterized’ Obama or is ‘ignorant of the facts.’

Earlier this week, former Vice President Dick Cheney joined the GOP’s hypocritical attacks against President Obama’s response to the attempted Christmas day terror attack, claiming that ” it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war.” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer responded by pointing out Obama’s numerous “public statements that explicitly state we are at war,” adding that unlike the Bush administration, Obama “doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it.” On Fox News Sunday today, White House Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan said that either the “vice president or others have wilfully mischaracterized President Obama’s position and actions or they’re just ignorant of the facts“:

BRENNAN: It’s disappointing to me that either the vice president or others have willfully mischaracterized President Obama’s position and actions or they’re just ignorant of the facts. I think in either case, it doesn’t speak well to sort of the reasons why they sort of went out and said these things. I came back into government for the express purpose of making sure that we can make this country safer than its ever been in the past. I have worked with the president over the past 12 months now and he is as determined as anybody I’ve worked with. I’m neither Republican nor Democrat. I’ve worked with the previous five administrations and this president is determined. And I think he has demonstrated in his language. He says we’re at war with al Qaeda. Were going to destroy al Qaeda the organization and we’re going to demonstrate through our actions, whether it be in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other places that al Qaeda might be able to run, but they’re not going to be able to hide.

Watch it:

  • Steve Benen adds:
    If I only had a nickel for every time experts have had to speculate as to whether far-right Republicans are "willfully" dishonest or "ignorant of the facts."
Mike Allen takes a look back at the political reactions to the 9/11 attacks, and raises a relevant point.

The GOP is blaming Obama for the attack. But Republican lawmakers, candidates, pundits and commentators -- and the Bush administration -- blamed the CLINTON administration for 9/11. In September 2006, Secretary of State Rice told the New York Post editorial board, "Nobody organized this country or the international community to fight the terrorist threat that was upon us until 9/11. ... We just weren't organized as a country either domestically or as a leader internationally. But what we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton Administration did in the preceding years…We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda." ...

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), a few hours after the attacks: "We had Bill Clinton backing off, letting the Taliban go, over and over again." ... Then-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), later CIA director, in The New York Times, 10/22/01: "[T]he fact is that the Clinton administration was not very interested in our intelligence community, did not spend very much time worrying about, or using it, or investing in it.... It's impossible not to go there if you really do an anatomy of why we are where we are today."

Now, Bob Cesca notes that it's pretty silly to compare 9/11 to the failed plot on Christmas -- 3,000 innocents killed vs. a guy who set his crotch on fire. Not much of a comparison.

That said, the larger truth of Allen's observation is rather compelling -- if Clinton deserved the blame for 9/11, Bush would necessarily have to get the same amount of blame for the system failures that nearly led to last week's attack.

And since the political world would never agree to such a thing, this is probably a good time to review the Media/Political Establishment's Rules for Understanding the Political Implications of Terrorism (or MPERUPIT):

* If terrorists successfully attack during a Democratic president's first year in office (first attack on World Trade Center), it's the Democrats' fault, and the attack is good news for Republicans.

* If terrorists unsuccessfully attack during a Democratic president's second term, it's the Democrats' fault the terrorists even tried, and the attack is good news for Republicans.

* If terrorists successfully attack during a Republican president's first year in office (9/11), it's the Democrats' fault, and the attack is good news for Republicans.

* If terrorists unsuccessfully attack during a Republican president's second term, it's only because the Republican is "taking the fight to the enemy," and the attack is good news for Republicans.

* If terrorists unsuccessfully attack during a Democratic president's first year in office, it's the Democrats' fault the terrorists even tried, and the attack is good news for Republicans.

If you don't have the handy dandy MPERUPIT list readily available, remember this shortcut: bad news is good for Republicans; good news is good for Republicans; Democrats are to blame for Republican failures; and Republicans deserve credit for Democratic successes.

As long as you filter all terrorism-related news through this convenient prism, domestic coverage of current events will always make sense, even when it doesn't.


For over a week now, the right has been working aggressively to go after President Obama over national security policy. But since the failed Christmas-day plot, conservatives haven't quite come up with a coherent line of attack. Indeed, nine days later, I'm still not quite sure what it is the right is complaining about. I've spent the last week feeling a bit like Brick Tamland saying, "I don't know what we're yelling about."

Right-wing pundit Charles Krauthammer seems to think the problem has little to do with substantive disputes, and more to do with semantic differences.

[J]ust to make sure even the dimmest understand, Obama banishes the term "war on terror." It's over -- that is, if it ever existed.

Obama may have declared the war over. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has not. Which gives new meaning to the term "asymmetric warfare."

It's hard to overstate who strikingly dumb this is. President Obama has stressed repeatedly over the last year, using plain and unambiguous language that even Charles Krauthammer can understand, that he believes the nation is at "war" with al Qaeda and other terrorist networks who seek to commit acts of violence against the United States and its allies. The president never "declared" any war "over." Krauthammer either hasn't been paying attention, or he's blatantly lying, hoping his readers aren't quite sharp enough to know the difference.

But at its core, Krauthammer's argument has all the sophistication and maturity of a bumper sticker -- those who use the phrase "war on terror" are strong and sensible; those who don't are weak and misguided. It's the premise that's underpinned practically all of the far-right rhetoric since Christmas. Conservatives aren't complaining about the administration's efforts; they're complaining about the administration's word choice.

Can we try being adults about this? The Obama administration agreed early on that the "war on terror" phrase was lacking. That was hardly shocking; one can't wage a "war" against a tactic. It also made strategic sense -- Anthony Cordesman, a national security analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained the "war on terror" has "became associated in the minds of many people outside the Unites States and particularly in places where the countries are largely Islamic and Arab, as being anti-Islam and anti-Arab."

By moving away from the phrase, the president and his team came into line with the thinking of Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who banned the use of the phrase "Global War on Terror" back in 2007. Even Donald Rumsfeld rejected the phrase back in 2006: "[I]t is not a 'war on terror.'"

And as Matt Yglesias noted yesterday, none other than Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who's tried to get out in front of the confused lynch mob since Christmas, said as recently as 2008 that the phrase "war on terror" is the "dumbest term ... you could use".

If our discourse could rise above a junior-high level, "even the dimmest" would understand that the key to national security is the efficacy of the policy, not the semantics. And when it comes to counter-terrorism, Obama and his team have proven themselves quite effective at capturing, detaining, and occasionally even killing terrorists. If Krauthammer is unsatisfied with this, he'll have to do a far better job of explaining why.

The Newsweek headline late on Friday certainly seemed provocative enough: "Exclusive: Obama Got Pre-Christmas Intelligence Briefing About Terror Threats to 'Homeland.'" The article notes that three days before the failed Christmas-day plot, President Obama "received a high-level briefing" that reviewed a report on "key homeland threats."

We obviously don't know the details of the still-classified report, but Newsweek's sources for the article noted that the document made no reference to Yemen, a Christmas-day plot, or an imminent attack. But that didn't stop White House detractors from pouncing on the Newsweek piece as evidence of ... something.

Mike Allen did a nice job of explaining why the article may not be quite as exciting as conservative activists would like to believe.

Did the President have a briefing on December 22 on holiday threats? You bet he did. He demanded it. The holidays are traditionally a time of increased threat reporting and the President wanted to be sure his team was on top of that reporting -- doing the fine work it had done, for example, on the Zazi and Headley cases earlier in the year.

In fact, the President demands regular counterterrorism and homeland security briefings that bring together the whole team representing the heads of the government agencies charged with intell and homeland security. Did the December 22 briefing include a warning of an attack? No. It did not. And despite the provocative headline on his story, the Newsweek reporter does not report that there was one. Because he couldn't. Because there wasn't.

About a month before 9/11, George W. Bush was briefed on the threat posed by al Qaeda, bin Laden's intentions, etc.* The Bush White House responded by doing very little. I get the sense conservatives are still a little sensitive on this point, and would like a comparable situation with Obama.

This isn't it.

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