Tag Archives: Glenn Thrush

Not Exactly A Moment Of Zen

Jon Stewart’s last show of 2010

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

In his last show of the year, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart took Congress and the media to task for not making the Zadroga bill a priority. Named for James Zadroga, a 911 first responder who died in 2006 of respiratory disease, the bill would create a trust fund to cover the health care costs of surviving police, firemen, emergency medical technicians and clean up crews who toiled for months in the wreckage of the World Trade Center. The bill passed the House but has been stalled in the Senate due to GOP concerns that it would, in essence, create a new — albeit relatively tiny — entitlement.

(Stewart may have taken outrage lessons on the issue from his buddy Rep. Anthony Weiner with whom he’s shared a South Hampton summer sublet.)

In the wake of Stewart’s show, ABC’s Jonathan Karl ran a story on World News and the cable nets seem to have woken up to the bill’s existence. On Sunday, New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand announced that a revised version of the bill, which reduces the cost from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion – the measure is offset by closing a corporate tax loop hole – had gained at least some GOP support. Indeed, several prominent Republicans have come out in support of the bill with Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace calling it a “national shame” that the legislation has yet to be enacted.

With Senate Democrats upping the pressure for passage of the bill giving health benefits to sickened 9/11 responders, it’s going to get increasingly hard for GOP Senators to maintain their opposition. That’s because even right-leaning commentators and political operatives are growing mighty uncomfortable with the Senate GOP’s stance.

Case in point: This morning Joe Scarborough ripped into GOP opponents of passing the bill, which is called the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. He said Republicans were taking a big risk, and the crucial point Scarborough made is that this should be a national issue, not a New York one

Matt Negrin at Politico:

Paging Jon Stewart: The White House needs your help.

Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s press secretary, told reporters on Tuesday that he hopes the Comedy Central host can persuade enough Republican senators to vote for a 9/11 health bill so it can head to the president’s desk.

“If there’s the ability for that to sort of break through in our political environment, there’s a good chance that he can help do that,” Gibbs said in his briefing. “I think he has put the awareness around this legislation. He’s put that awareness into what you guys cover each day, and I think that’s good. I hope he can convince two Republicans to support taking care of those that took care of so many on that awful day in our history.”

Stewart has dedicated lengthy segments on “The Daily Show” to the legislation that would help the first responders on Sept. 11.

“It seems, at the end of a long year around the holiday season, a pretty awful thing to play politics about,” Gibbs said Tuesday. “That’s a decision that 42 Republican senators are going to have to make.”

Steve Benen:

I’m glad Stewart’s efforts are garnering attention, because it’s really not an exaggeration to say the bill would have no chance without his coverage. Indeed, major media outlets — at least in broadcast media — almost completely ignored the Zadroga bill every step of the way. When a GOP filibuster blocked the most recent attempt at passage, despite 58 votes in support of the proposal, it looked like Republicans had killed the bill.

But then “The Daily Show” ran a bunch of segments on this, noting not only the legislation’s merit and the inanity of Republican talking points against the bill, but also calling out news organizations for blowing off an important story regarding 9/11 heroes who need a hand.

And sure enough, Stewart’s public shaming paid off — news shows that couldn’t be bothered to even mention the bill in passing started talking about it. The visibility took a story that was entirely overlooked by the mainstream and made it a national issue, which in turn prompted Republican senators to begin talking to Democratic sponsors again.

The New York Daily Newsnoted this morning, “Thanks in large part to relentless television advocacy by Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show,’ the 9/11 bill has risen up the agenda.”

It’d be an exaggeration to say Stewart was solely responsible. Other voices in media (including, ahem, the one you’re reading now) were reporting on the importance of the bill several weeks ago, and as soon as the tax deal was settled, Republicans who were at least open to the Zadroga bill were willing to start talking again.

Christopher Beam at Slate:

In the never-ending debate about whether Jon Stewart is a comedian with opinions or an activist who happens to make jokes, he’s always argued for the former. When Tucker Carlson accused Stewart of liberal hackery on Crossfire in 2004, Stewart famously played the joker card. “You’re on CNN,” he said. “The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.”

It’s true—Stewart leans left, but the jokes always come first. At October’s Rally To Restore Sanity, which many observers considered his coming-out party as the anti-Glenn Beck, Stewart was careful not to cross the line into advocacy. He didn’t even tell people to vote. He’s just not “in the game,” he told Rachel Maddow in an interview in November. “I’m in the stands yelling things, criticizing.”

Last week, Stewart stepped onto the field. The change came after Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would provide $7.4 billion in medical benefits to firefighters, police officers, and health workers who got sick from working at Ground Zero on and after 9/11. Stewart didn’t just mock the 42 Republicans who refused to consider the bill until the Bush tax cuts were extended. He ripped them apart. “I can’t wait for them to take to the floor to talk about why their party hates first responders,” he said. He shredded Sen. Mike Enzi’s argument that the bill would lead to waste, fraud, and abuse by pointing to Enzi’s support for corruption-riddled spending in Iraq. Last week, he did a follow-up segment, “Worst Responders,” in which he called the refusal to pass the 9/11 bill “an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11.” The bill would even be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes. “It’s a win-win-win-win-just [bleep] do it!” he yelled. He also blasted the media for failing to cover the story, noting that the only cable news network to devote a full segment to the issue was Al Jazeera. He then interviewed four first responders—a fireman, a police officer, a Department of Transportation worker, and an engineer—who suffered illnesses as a result of their work at Ground Zero. The segment had funny moments. But the jokes didn’t come first.


Stewart would probably argue that pushing for 9/11 workers comp—9/11 workers comp, for Chrissake!—isn’t taking a political stance. It’s taking a stance for decency, heroism, and the American people. Indeed, he called it “the Least-We-Can-Do-No-Brainer Act of 2010.” But stripped of the funny, that sounds a lot like what a politician would say. So did Stewart’s cheap shot about Mitch McConnell crying over the departure of his friend Sen. Judd Gregg—but not, Stewart seemed to suggest, about 9/11. Republicans may have had a flimsy case for blocking the bill, and Stewart rightly mocked the GOP for failing to help 9/11 workers after milking the tragedy all these years, but by shaming them in the name of 9/11 workers, he was engaging in demagoguery himself. It may have been for a good cause, but it was political demagoguery all the same.


If Jon Stewart Can Do It

Then maybe a charismatic fairly popular tall skinny guy with a fancy podium and the ability to get people to point TV cameras at him almost any moment can figure out how to do it.

Glenn Thrush at Politico:

New York Democrats hoping for quick action on a bill to give health care compensation to ground zero workers are about to run into Tom Coburn.

The Oklahoma Republican senator and physician — known in the Senate as “Dr. No” for his penchant for blocking bills — told POLITICO on Monday night that he wouldn’t allow the bill to move quickly, saying he has problems with parts of the bill and the process Democrats are employing.

Another Republican, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi, said he had concerns with the measure and that it should instead move through the committee process.

“I’m not trying to fight it; I’m trying to get it right,” Enzi said. “There are 30 things that ought to be changed real quick in committee but very difficult on the floor. To finish a bill at this point of time, we’re not going to be able to amend it.”

Mark Joyella at Mediaite:

It’s a huge victory at the very last minute–the lame duck Congress delivering the 9/11 First Responders bill–and a moment in history.On Fox News, Shepard Smith, who railed against the Republicans who blocked the bill in the face of 9/11 heroes, asking “how do they sleep” at night, was on set to report the passage this afternoon.

At times visibly teary-eyed, Smith called it a “compromise of utmost importance for those who put their lives on the line.”

Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni described how the deal got done:

“Everybody saw the writing on the wall, the time was running out, Republicans might get a black eye for not supporting the 9/11 responders if they blocked the bill, and Democrats wouldn’t have a chance to get quite as good a deal if they waited for the next Congress.”

Smith’s coverage of the 9/11 First Responders bill even earned him praise from the most unlikely of quarters–at MSNBC, where Rachel Maddow gave due props for Smith creating a “hullabaloo” about the bill: “All hail Shep Smith at Fox News,” she declared. “And I’m not kidding.”

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Filed under Legislation Pending, TV

Don’t Drink The Water

Andrew Moseman at Discover:

The oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico is finally out, as the Deepwater Horizon sank into the sea yesterday and hope for finding 11 missing workers began to fade. The damage assessment for the oil spill, however, has just begun.

Oil from an undersea pocket that was ruptured by the rig, which was leased by the energy company BP, has begun to spread outward. The spill measures 10 miles (16 kilometers) by 10 miles, about four times the area of Manhattan, and is comprised of a “light sheen with a few patches of thicker crude,” U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Cheri Ben-Iesau said today [BusinessWeek]. Whether or not the 700,000 gallons of diesel on board Deepwater Horizon is part of the spill remains unknown. Transocean, the company that owns the rig, admitted that it failed to “to stem the flow of hydrocarbons” before the rig sank.

Josh Garrett at HeatingOil:

On top of the heavy human cost of the incident is the threat of widespread environmental damage, which is growing by the minute as a massive oil slick spreads toward land. By Monday afternoon, the size of the oil slick was estimated at 1,800 square miles, the New York Times reported. Although no environmental effects have yet been observed, sea flora and fauna could soon be harmed by the presence of the oil in the water. Environmental damage could worsen as the oil slick moves into coastal ecosystems, which the US Coast Guard estimated would not happen for at least 36 hours, according to the Wall Street Journal. BP, the oil company that commissioned the sunken platform, is charged with stopping the leak and cleaning up the spilled oil, both of which could take months.

Cain Burdeau at Daily Caller:

Crews used robot submarines to activate valves in hopes of stopping the leaks, but they may not know until Tuesday if that strategy will work. BP also mobilized two rigs to drill a relief well if needed. Such a well could help redirect the oil, though it could also take weeks to complete, especially at that depth.

BP plans to collect leaking oil on the ocean bottom by lowering a large dome to capture the oil and then pumping it through pipes and hoses into a vessel on the surface, said Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP Exploration and Production.

It could take up to a month to get the equipment in place.

“That system has been deployed in shallower water, but it has never been deployed at 5,000 feet of water, so we have to be careful,” he said.

The spill, moving slowly north and spreading east and west, was about 30 miles from the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast Monday. The Coast Guard said kinks in the pipe were helping stem the flow of oil.

From the air Monday afternoon, the oil spill reached as far as the eye could see. There was little evidence of a major cleanup, with only a handful of vessels near the site of the leak.

The oil sheen was of a shiny light blue color, translucent and blending with the water, but a distinct edge between the oil slick and the sea could be seen stretching for miles.

George Crozier, oceanographer and executive director at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, said he was studying wind and ocean currents driving the oil.

He said Pensacola, Fla., is probably the eastern edge of the threatened area, though no one really knows what the effects will be.

“We’ve never seen anything like this magnitude,” he said. “The problems are going to be on the beaches themselves. That’s where it will be really visible.”

Aaron Viles, director for the New Orleans-based environmental group Gulf Restoration Network, said he flew over the spill Sunday and saw what was likely a sperm whale swimming near the oil sheen.

“There are going to be significant marine impacts,” he said.

Seymour Friendly at Firedoglake:

We have the information that Federal law places all the responsibility for cleanup and emergency response onto the rig’s operator. BP leased the rig from Transoceanic, hence, BP is liable.

Obviously, without massive regulation and investment, British Petroleum is not going to plan and prepare effectively for disasters like this. Such preparation is not profitable to them.

Handling a disaster like this should without doubt be a Federal obligation. BP can absorb the costs, but the Feds should fulfill the mandate for having plans and personnel ready for response, and requirements and safety guidelines that prevent and mitigate disasters as well.

As it stands, of the three initial possible responses:

1) Activate the massive cutoff valve, stopping the flow of oil, via improvised use of deep-sea ROVs,

2) Drill “intervention wells” over a period of months,

3) Place an apparatus over the well that transports the leaked oil to the surface where it can then be removed from the sea indefinitely,

That BP, which owns the decision in lieu of Federal regulations and agency authority, is going to elect for (3).

That means that oil will be going to the surface, and recovered, until the “something can be done”. In other words, this oil leak in the Gulf may go on for a very, very long time.

I’d like to see the Obama administration rectify its statement today that it has “acted swiftly to protect the environment” in light of the fact that it is not clear that there is even a Federal capacity to respond to this situation, and the best of our information is that the leak will continue indefinitely, with the Feds needing to figure out how to remove the oily water produced for months, and the wreck of the oil rig left at the bottom of the deep blue sea.

James Herron at WSJ:

However, contrary to initial Coastguard reports Friday that no oil was leaking from the sunken drilling rig, it became apparent Saturday that around 1,000 barrels a day of crude oil is gushing from ruptures in the pipeline that linked the platform to the sea bed. An oil slick 30 miles long and 20 miles wide is drifting slowly north towards the shore, although weather forecasts indicate it will not hit land for at least 72 hours.

“The oil is ours and we are responsible for the cleanup,” said a BP spokesman. [Read BP’s latest press statement here.]

BP is throwing all the resources it has available at the spill, so the cost to the company may be substantial. It has deployed 32 spill response ships and five aircraft to spray up to 100,000 gallons of chemical dispersant on the slick and skim oil from the surface of the water and deploy floating barriers to trap the oil.

In case attempts to shut down the leaking oil using a remotely operated subsea robot fail, BP is already sending in another rig to drill a second well to inject a specialized heavy fluid into the reservoir and cut the flow of oil from the sea bed–a process that could take months.

“We’ve already spent millions,” and will continue to spend whatever is necessary, said the BP spokesman.

UPDATE: John Cole

Rod Dreher

UPDATE #3: Paul Krugman

Chris Good at The Atlantic

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner

UPDATE #4: John Hinderaker at Powerline

National Review

Andrew Sullivan

Mark Schmitt and Megan McArdle at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #5: Glenn Thrush and Mike Allen in Politico

Allah Pundit

Steve Benen

UPDATE #6: Pascal-Emmanuel Gorby at The American Scene here and here. And via PEG, Lexington at The Economist

UPDATE #7: Huffington Post

UPDATE #8: Daniel Gross at Slate


Filed under Energy, Environment

That’s Deep, Man

Josh Green at The Atlantic:

The culture of Washington reporting has changed in the wake of the Halperin/Heilmann book.

An exchange I had yesterday with an administration source:

Me: “So we’ll do this on deep background, right?”

Them: “Yeah, but not ‘Halperin deep background’–deep background.”

Me: “Right. I can use the info, but if I want to quote I gotta run it by you first.”

Them: “Yes. No book scenes, none of that stuff.”

Me. “Yeah, yeah, I got it.”

Mike Allen and Glenn Thrush in Politico:

Heilemann said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “We had a very clear agreement with all those sources that our interviews would be on deep background. … Our ground rules are … that we won’t identify any of our sources as the sources of the material. But we said to them all very clearly that if they put themselves in scenes of the book, if they were uttering dialogue to people in the book in part of a scene, that we would identify them as the utterer of those words.”

Halperin added: “There’s no one we talked to for the book who we burned in any way, or violated any agreement with.”

Politico suggests Reid gave these quotes directly to the reporters. Why did they end up in print? Heilemann, for his part, defended their approach on MSNBC by saying that the reporters told all interviewees that “if they put themselves in scenes of the book, if they were uttering dialogue to people in the book in part of a scene, that we would identify them as the utterer of those words.”

But if Politico is right here, then Reid wasn’t putting himself in a scene. He was speaking directly to the reporters, on “deep background.” The reporters declined to elaborate to Politico exactly what transpired, and I’ve been unable to get them to comment. Meanwhile, other controversial “quotes” in the book are merely paraphrased.

To be clear, there may well be an explanation for what happened with Reid. And producing narrative histories with unclear sourcing in the text is a grand D.C. tradition (see Woodward, Bob). But what’s mystifying is that virtually none of the media figures lavishing attention on this book have broached the sourcing issue, something you’d think would merit a bit of discussion among professional journalists. Discussion of this has been left almost entirely to bloggers.

Hopefully, Politico’s piece will change that.

Glenn Greenwald:

Unjustified anonymity — especially when mindlessly repeating what shielded government sources claim in secret — is the single greatest enabler of false and deceitful “reporting.”  Despite (or, really, because of) its unparalelled record of producing lies, it will never stop, because agreeing to it is how “journalists” end up being selected as favored message-carrying servants for the powerful.  This falsehood-producing method isn’t ancillary to American journalism but central to it; the book which is occupying the attention of America’s political and media class is based exclusively on unattributed, shielded sources, and that seems to bother none of them.

None of the falsehoods documented here will ever lead to any accountability, because the identity of the falsehood-producers will be shielded by their loyal journalist-servants, and the journalists themselves will simply claim that they wrote what they did because their hidden sources told them to.  That’s not only the effect, but the intent, of the central method of American journalism:  to disseminate outright falsehoods to the American public and ensure that neither the liars nor their loyal message-carriers ever face any consequences or even reputational loss.  Anonymity is so common that “reporters” barely even bother any longer to explain why it’s justified, notwithstanding numerous policies of media outlets requiring exactly that explanation.  As the use of anonymity has escalated rapidly, so, too, has the pervasiveness of outright falsehoods and the inherent unreliability of much of what the American media “reports.”  Lying is so much easier — and thus so much more common — when you get to do it while remaining hidden

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post:

More perplexing “ground rules” were offered on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, where Heilemann said they had told sources “that [they wouldn’t] identify any of our sources as the sources of the material.” However, he added, “we said to them all very clearly that if they put themselves in scenes of the book, if they were uttering dialogue to people in the book in part of a scene, that we would identify them as the utterer of those words.”

I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work! At what point does someone speaking on background suddenly transform into someone who’s actively placing themselves inside a scene in an as-yet-unwritten book? And in this case, there’s no evidence Reid ever said these words to anyone else, so the scene is actually the off-the-record interview itself! It’s too charitable to simply call this shady.

In today’s Politico, Mike Allen and Glenn Thrush write that Reid “chatted freely with the two disarmingly charming book authors who came to his office at the Capitol shortly after the 2008 election…. Reid wasn’t on guard — perhaps because he’d been told by his staff that the meeting would be “off the record,” according to a person with knowledge of the exchange.”

But then comes this bullshit:

In the second-guessing that followed, Capitol Hill veterans said there was no way that such inflammatory words from a Senate majority leader would remain off the record, even if that had been the arrangement.So it’s OK to violate a promise to a source — as long as the quote is really juicy? That is just absurd. Imagine what Mark Halperin would say if a blogger made that argument.

As it happens, some bloggers have been calling for reporters to out their sources in certain cases — not when their quote is particularly juicy, but rather when they’ve flat-out lied behind the cover of anonymity.

Clint Hendler at Columbia Journalism Review

That’s the question facing New York magazine’s John Heilemann and Time’s Mark Halperin, the book’s authors. (And, unfortunately, CJR won’t be able to ask it. Kate Pruss Pinnick, their publicist, says that “the guys are only doing one interview on their methodology”—and it won’t be with us.)

This is a very messy situation, so let’s start by laying out what they’ve said elsewhere about their sourcing agreement, starting with the book’s author’s note:

All of our interviews—from those with junior staffers to those with the candidates themselves—were conducted on a ‘deep background’ basis, which means we agreed not to identify the subjects as sources in any way.It’s helpful that the authors, after introducing the term “deep background,” offer their own definition, because, as is usually the case with attribution standards, there isn’t a universally understood definition of the term.

But their standards seem to be consistent with the following scenario. If Joe Schmoe spoke to them, the substance of his remarks is on the record, but the source of the information is not. He should never find the words “Joe Schmoe told us…” introducing the information he passed on, or the words “Joe Schome told us he said…” introducing a quote. But he could certainly find all the information—even information that a reasonable reader would assume only Joe Schmoe had access to—relayed in minute detail.

It’s not hard to see how this sort of agreement can get very weird, very quickly. Even if the authors never tell you who told them about a scene, it’s hard not to venture an accurate guess. See, for example, New York’s Halperin/Heilemann excerpt on the Edwards meltdown, where the Rielle Hunter-related exploits of Jonathan Brumberger, a young staffer, are detailed alongside his internal monologue, and his one on one interactions with the candidate. Gee, I wonder who talked?

There are some internal thoughts in the paragraph containing the Reid remarks, but context around the Reid quotes make it less clear who passed on his words:

He was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama—a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.Given the tenses and phrasing, one likely guess for the source of the quotes would have been someone other than Reid—a staffer, aide, or consultant or some such who heard Reid muse about race as Obama considered or undertook his run.

But on Monday morning Greg Sargent of the Plum Line reported that the majority leader’s office confirmed that the comments were made by Reid himself in an interview with Halperin and Heilemann. Politico’s Mike Allen and Glenn Thrush later reported that the taped interview occurred “shortly after” the election.

While the authors identify the “Negro”-laced comments as having been offered “privately,” which they certainly were, the book doesn’t say to whom they were offered, or when. We now know that, according to Reid’s office, the quotes come from the authors’ first-hand knowledge. But readers, seeing the phrasing on the page, would have no idea of the quote’s source—it could have been, as seemed quite possible on first reading, that Reid offered the observation to someone else, who then passed it on to the authors.

So you see? By not using the words “Reid told us,” they’ve lived up to their (now rather narrow seeming) commitment not to identify the source of any information.

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

Deep background, to me, has always meant that information can be conveyed — but sourcelessly, so I am asking the reader to take it finally on my own authority. Example: if a senior Democratic official had told me that, as I reported earlier, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s IE team had just spent $600,000 on an ad buy in Massachusetts, I could report that as fact without sourcing it to anyone — as long as I was confident it was true. More precisely, as long as I am willing to have my own reputation judged by whether it’s true. (My source for that, incidentally, was NOT a senior Democratic official.) For any matter of consequence, deep background information can’t be stenographic. It’s incumbent upon reporters to check it out thoroughly…to get second sources, to make sure that the stuff is solid.

From the perspective of a source, it allows them to impart information without leaving any fingerprints. The journalist has to be aware of this motivation and take it into account.

Off the record, to me, means off the record. Obviously, telling ANYTHING to a reporter entails the reality that the reporter’s brain will record the information and use it, either to build to something else, or to keep in mind when figuring out what questions to ask.

My favorite off-the-record example to give is my learning, the DAY of the election in 2004, that Elizabeth Edwards had received a positive cancer diagnosis. For a variety of reasons, I agreed to keep this information off the record until the next day. Off the record, in that instance, meant precisely that. In addition to not writing or broadcasting the information, for me it includes an understanding that I will not talk to other people about it. Sometimes, off-the-record information is negotiated to include an embargo, and sometimes it isn’t.

Confusion sets in, though, because some sources conflate “off the record” information with “deep background” information. Sources assume that talking to a reporter carries with it the implication that the reporter will use the information somehow. But off-the-record information can include information that really will never be published — if, say, in the course of reporting about the attack on the CIA base in Khost, reporters learn the name of the chief of station in Afghanistan, and the CIA makes a convincing case that the name of the woman would, upon being published, jeopardize national security (and assuming reporters agree and are willing to abide by this request), then that information truly becomes off-the-record…segregated in one’s mind from any writing endeavor.

So is there a fifth category? Often, sources enter into off the record agreements with reporters knowing full well that reporters are writing books….and that the information imparted to them will only be off the record until the book is published. I call this category “Off The Record ‘Till The Book Is Published.”

So under what rules was Harry Reid operating under when he gave an interview to one of the authors of Game Change? Perhaps he believed that the authors would use the information he was imparting but not quote him directly — even though they would be permitted to attribute the information to him directly. In that case, perhaps Reid expected his conversation with the author to result in a sentence that said something like,

“Reid believed that America was ready for a black president, and it didn’t hurt that Obama was lighter-skinned, or that he talked like a Harvard law professor.”

Or “and that his appeal to a post-partisan, post-racial America was suited to his own bi-racial background and evident ability to operate in both black and white worlds.”

Something like that.

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner

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Filed under Books, Mainstream

Kids! Come Quick! The Sharks And The Jets Are At It Again!

Today, we had more instances of people hating each other. Let us begin with Chris Matthews:

Mark Finkelstein at Newsbusters:

Hosting MSNBC’s 10 AM hour today, Matthews made his remark while chatting with Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Anne Kornblut of WaPo.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You guys see Live and Let Die, the great Bond film with Yaphet Kotto as the bad guy, Mr. Big?  In the end they jam a big CO2 pellet in his face and he blew up.  I have to tell you, Rush Limbaugh is looking more and more like Mr. Big, and at some point somebody’s going to jam a CO2 pellet into his head and he’s going to explode like a giant blimp. That day may come. Not yet. But we’ll be there to watch. I think he’s Mr. Big, I think Yaphet Kotto.  Are you watching, Rush?

Ed Morrissey:

Note too, that Matthews isn’t using the dishonest “some people are saying” dodge here, either.  He’s openly wistful for the day it happens, telling Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Washington Post reporter Anne Kornblut that “we’ll be there to watch” when someone offs Rush.

Classy.  Really, really classy.  Does NBC want to stand behind this standard for its broadcasts?

Moe Lane:

So, what’s the *most* offensive thing about this Chris Matthews clip?

So. Is it…

  1. The aforementioned wants-Limbaugh-to-die bit?
  2. That the only reason that Chris Matthews is trying this is in the hope that going after Limbaugh will boost his ratings?
  3. Or that Chris Matthews thinks that Live and Let Die is a great film?

I’m actually going to go with 3). Chris Matthews will undoubtedly coward up and claim the usual ‘it-was-just-a-joke’ defense; and as for getting eyeballs, well, Matthews needs to get them somehow.  But Live and Let Die wasn’t even Roger Moore’s best Bond film; I’ll also be marginally nice and merely note that Matthews’ pick of it may say some very interesting things about how the pundit views African-Americans…

Gateway Pundit

And on to Nancy Pelosi, Glenn Thrush in Politico:

Hitler hearts Pelosi?

That seems to be a view the National Republican Congressional Committee [which brought you the put-Pelosi-in-her-place statement last week] seems to be endorsing, judging from what the committee posts on their Twitter account.

On Tuesday morning, as the Senate Finance Committee prepared to vote on the Baucus bill, someone at the NRCC posted a bizarre Tweet linking to an altered three-minute section of the 2004 Hitler biopic “Der Untergang” from the conservative site Moonbattery — with a voice-over of the The Fuhrer ranting about how only Nancy Pelosi shares his vision of health care reform.

The Tweet: “Funny Video: Moonbattery: Hitler Reacts to ObamaCare Maneuvers”

Hitler, played by Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, is trapped in his bunker with his generals, and rants [in the phony subtitles] about President Obama’s revisions to his socialized medicine plan — and how only he and Nancy Pelosi are still fighting the good fight.

“What the hell are the Democrats doing?” Hitler screams. “At least I have Pelosi on my side. What’s wrong with them?… I socialized medicine overnight and everything’s going great… Like Pelosi, I don’t give a s**t about the American people.”

An NRCC spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a call for comment.

UPDATE: “House Republicans have gone way too far,” said Jennifer Crider, spokewoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “The NRCC’s despicable promotion of a video comparing Nancy Pelosi’s effort to reform health care to America to Adolf Hitler’s extermination of millions is a shocking new low that must be condemned. Republican Leader John Boehner should order NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions to immediately remove this vile Tweet and apologize.”

UPDATE: NRCC spokesman John Randall says they have pulled down the Tweet and offered a mea culpa:

“We saw the video this morning and thought, like other parodies, that it was funny,” Randall just told me. “In 20-20 hindsight, we realized it was in poor taste and pulled it down… I don’t want anyone to think we’re comparing Democrats to Nazis and to Hitler.”


You Know Who Else Likes Nancy Pelosi? Hitler.

Once upon a time, strained and inappropriate references to Hitler and Nazis were the quickest ways to get yourself drummed out of the acceptable club. No longer, I guess.


The Jewish groups simply have to weigh in on this one. They certainly wasted little time going after Alan Grayson for using the word holocaust in a completely reasonable context. They were completely beside themselves on the Move On flap and have been very slow off the mark about these “Democrats are Hitler” comments, which have become so common we are starting to get used to them.

I’m not one to be delicate about language, so I’m not going to be too shocked if everyone wants to start allowing Hitler comparisons. But this double standard is out of hand. I’ve heard gasbags in just the last month characterize Move-On as a hate group based on this flap. If that’s so, then at this point the Republican party is too.

Steve Benen

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Goldwater, Kennedy, Church, Fulbright, Dirksen, Proxmire Vs. McCain, Kerry, Crapo, Lincoln, Durbin, Feingold


Glenn Thrush in Politico:

There is no shortage of politicians hoping to take Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, but there’s no real candidate to fill Kennedy’s role as leader of the Senate liberals.

A handful of well-known and ambitious progressives in the upper chamber are eager to carry on Kennedy’s legacy — including his fellow Massachusetts native John Kerry, his best friend Chris Dodd of Connecticut, plus Tom Harkin of Iowa, Dick Durbin of lllinois and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

But none possesses the alchemical mixture of celebrity, seniority, personal charm, legislative savvy and ideological zeal that made Kennedy the most effective liberal in a generation — and one of the most accomplished legislative yeomen in Congressional history.

“There will never be anyone like him again — he truly is irreplaceable,’ said former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who worked elbow-to-elbow with Kennedy on family leave and minimum wage bills in the early 1990s.

“There is no personality that as soon as you see them you say, ‘There’s the leader of the progressives’ — Kennedy was it,” says Bill Cunningham, a former top aide to the late New York Sen. Pat Moynihan, a longtime Kennedy friend who worked closely with him on health care reform.

The question now isn’t who in the Senate can fill Kennedy’s shoes but who will choose to follow in his footsteps. In the spirit of getting things done, Democrats would like to honor Sen. Kennedy’s memory by passing health reform. It will be a shame if Republicans are in no rush to lend a hand. Ted Kennedy was as steadfast a champion of his beliefs as the Senate has ever seen, but he always understood what too many in Washington forget: Every cause is better served when principle takes a seat at the table, and no cause moves forward when its champions walk away.

In the end, it’s not the roar that makes a lion. The sign of a courageous life is having so much to show for it.

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

It’s a question for all levels of the GOP: can the staffers, pundits, activists and regular voters “lionize,” as Reed puts it, a legislator who works with Democrats? It’s probably unfair to ask this of Republicans, exclusively: President Obama campaigned on coalition-building postpartisanship as a governing strategy, and Democrats are still working to get a handful of Republicans on board with a mutually agreeable health care bill.

But there’s an impulse among liberals to say: forget the Republicans–we’ve got 60 votes. Don’t bother to work with the other side–they didn’t work with us. And Kennedy was an institution; if the Senate has become more partisan and toxic in recent times as Reed suggests, Kennedy built his bipartisan name before that happened. So Republicans may not be able to elevate a lawmaker known for bipartisanship, but in an age of Democratic supermajority, now that Kennedy is gone, can Democrats?

Cynthia Tucker at The Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Over the last 24 hours, many other observers have noted Kennedy’s reputation for reaching across the aisle. Interestingly, the same used to be said about McCain.

When he ran for president, McCain’s reputation for a principled bipartisanship was intact. But since his defeat, he has bowed to the harsh nihilism that seems to be all that Republicans represent these days. They just want to defeat Obama and his policies. They don’t care about getting anything done.

If McCain really has such “personal affection” for Kennedy — or if he has a shred of concern left for his country — he ought to quit listening to the cynics of his party and start seriously negotiating on health care reform.

Teddy Kennedy earned his reputation for pragmatism when Democrats were out of power. The GOP needs the same sort of pragmatism now that they are out of power.

Even if few other Republicans follow McCain’s lead, he has little to lose with the party’s base, who never cared much for him anyhow. McCain might as well accomplish something worthwhile in his remaining years in the Senate.


Steve Benen:

The political media establishment has long adored McCain. Many wondered, after McCain’s offensive conduct on the campaign trail last year, whether that same political media establishment would welcome him back with open arms once the presidential race ended. The answer now seems obvious. McCain hasn’t done anything to earn their love, but that apparently doesn’t matter.

As for the comparison itself, Kennedy was among the most accomplished lawmakers in the history of the United States Senate. McCain has an impressive personal background, but very few accomplishments to his name. Kennedy was principled, brilliant, and knowledgeable. McCain is inconsistent, easily confused, and has no patience for details. Kennedy was widely admired and respected by those who worked with him. McCain is known for screaming at his colleagues, even Republicans, who dare to disagree with him.

We knew Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy was a friend of ours. John McCain is no Ted Kennedy.

Chris Good:

Maybe McCain will become the next Kennedy…especially if he dedicates himself, as Kennedy did, to moving bills through the Senate–a diligence to go along with his ideals that’s been praised as Kennedy’s utmost value. McCain has been burned, more or less, by the fires of his party’s partisanship, possibly re-vulcanized against pressure to fight the Dems no matter what. Things got crazy in ’08, and many wondered if McCain really wanted to be courting Evangelicals and saying Obama hung out with a terrorist. If Kennedy teaches us anything, it’s that a politician can be born again into a new life of effectiveness and work…for McCain, that could mean being reborn, post-2008, as his old self.

Eli at Firedoglake:

Face it: there is no “new Ted Kennedy.”  There was only the one Ted Kennedy, and now he’s gone.  It’s Max Baucus’s Senate now, and God help us all.

Alex Massie:

Most of the time, however, the “world’s greatest deliberative body” is also the world’s worst. Now that Kennedy has died, the Senate is still further denuded of genuine talent. Who steps forward now to be the kind of Senator who can actually expect to be listened to respectfully, regardless of the matter under discussion? Who, in short, will lead the Senate?

There aren’t too many contenders. Robert Byrd is too old, too odd a figure and, anyway, more interested in Senate procedure and opening Robert C Byrd Memorial highways in West Virginia. (Also, of course, there is the unfortunate KKK membership. Long renounced, but still…) So who else now that Clinton and Obama and Kennedy have all left, stripping the Senate of much of its star quality.

Richard Lugar (R-IN) commands respect, not least for his work on proliferation. But a leader of the Senate? Only maybe. Jim Webb (D-VA) has stature, certainly and a welcome, cussed, independent streak. But he’s also only a freshman even if his bearing might suggest otherwise.

Which leaves a pair of failed Presidential candidates. John McCain’s been in Washington a long time and he’s the darling of the Sunday morning TV shows. But outside foreign policy – where his instincts invariably favour the most reckless course of action – his actual interest in politics sometimes seems lacking and not just because his signature domestic achievement (campaign finance reform) was a dreadful bill. Does McCain really want to lead or does he like the idea of leading more than the reality? Sometimes it’s hard to say and McCain tends to be at his best in defeat, not victory.

Which leaves a surprising candidate: John Kerry. Might the mantle of leadership pass from one Massachussetts Senator to another? It seems an unlikely thing to say but it’s not impossible. Kerry has a wide range of legislative interests and, like Kennedy, is much better suited, temperamentally, to the legislative than the executive branch.


Tom Schaller

Chris Dodd joked today during an impromptu press conference that Ted Kennedy had “the burden of serving with me and my father” in the Senate. There’s so much talk, rightly, about what happens now that Kennedy is gone: who can replace him, literally and spiritually; the bitter irony of him not being around to negotiate the final language for and vote upon President Obama’s health care package.

But Dodd’s quip got me to thinking about what the Senate looked like when Ted Kennedy arrived. Though Kennedy took office by special election in late 1962, his first full Congress was the 88th, seated soon thereafter in January 1963. Here’s a short list of some of the tall Senate names from that Congress:

Alabama’s John Sparkman; Arizona’s Barry Goldwater and Carl Hayden; Arkansas’ J. William Fulbright; Connecticut’s Abe Ribicoff and Thomas Dodd; Georgia’s Richard Russell; Idaho’s Frank F. Church; Illinois’ Everett Dirksen; Indiana’s Birch Bayh; Louisiana’s Russell Long; Maine’s Edmund Muskie and Margaret Chase Smith; Minnesota’s Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy (and later, Walter Mondale, who filled Humphrey’s seat at the end of that Congress); Mississippi’s John Stennis; Montana’s Michael J. Mansfield; Nebraska’s Roman Hruska; New York’s Jacob Javits; North Carolina’s Sam Ervin; Rhode Island’s Claiborne Pell; South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond; South Dakota’s George McGovern; Tennessee’s Al Gore Sr. and Estes Kefauver; Texas’ Ralph Yarborough and John Tower; Virginia’s Harry Byrd; Washington’s Scoop Jackson; West Virginia’s Robert Byrd; and Wisconsin’s William Proxmire.Wow.

Not all are lions, but thate’s a safari’s worth of talent right there. The abbreviated list above includes titanic and long-serving senators (R. Byrd), including the man who has served in Congress longer than anyone else (Hayden); past and future presidential nominees and vice presidential nominees (Sparkman, Goldwater, Humphrey, McGovern, Thurmond, H. Byrd); leaders of key, historical congressional committees or commissions (Church, Ervin, Kefauver); memorable party leaders of the chamber (Mansfield); the first woman to ever serve in both the House and Senate (Chase Smith); not only Dodd’s father, but a southern civil rights pioneer who fathered a certain vice president who later won the national popular vote in 2000 (Gore); and two senators whose surnames are synonymous with landmark education law (Fulbright, Pell).

Heck, two of the three Senate office buildings on Capitol Hill—Dirksen and Russell—are named for senators who were part of that 88th Congress.


Filed under History, Political Figures, Politics

They Want To Believe, Like Fox Mulder Without The Aliens And The Dana Scully

6a00d83451c45669e2011571592b38970c-500wiBreaking down the Birther movement by the numbers. Poll done by Daily Kos/Research 2000.

Allah Pundit:

Party-line breakdowns: Dems 93/4/3 (the last figure is “don’t know”), Indies 83/8/9, and GOP … 42/28/30. Fully 58 percent of Republicans aren’t willing to accept a state-issued Certification of Live Birth as proof that The One was born in Honolulu? I’m skeptical, but, er, not so skeptical that I’m willing to poll this myself at HA. Sounds like a job for Scott Rasmussen. How about it, Scottster?

Glenn Thrush in Politico:

That means a majority of Republicans polled either don’t know about — or don’t believe the seemingly incontrovertible evidence Obama’s camp has presented over and over and over that he was born in Hawaii in ’61.

It also explains why Republicans, including Roy Blunt, are playing footsie with the Birther fringe.

Surprise, surprise: Birther sentiment was strongest in the South and among the 60-plus crowd – presumably because seniors can’t log on to the Internet and rely on rumor, word of mouth and right-wing talk radio.

When do we start a serious dialog about the Birther movement being a proxy for racism that is unacceptable to articulate in more direct terms?

Andrew Sullivan:

And it has nothing to do with his race. Via Benen. What it also means – now that the GOP is an almost entirely Southern party – is that the Republicans cannot really take this on. 58 percent – a clear majority of Republican voters – either don’t believe or are unsure about whether Obama is legitimately the president of the United States.

Jillian Bandes at Townhall:

Poll numbers are poll numbers, but given the record, wouldn’t it be worth taking a second glance before assuming that even a fraction of the Republican political establishment pays deference to these cats? I wish I could travel back in time and see how many Democratic politicians would hesitate when asked how much attention they paid to the conspiracy theorists pushing the “Bush caused 9/11” junk. I doubt any would say they paid attention; none come to mind that actually did. And as The Economist points out, despite 39% of Democrats believing that 9/11 was a conspiracy in 2007, “there wasn’t a corresponding rise in tolerance for 9/11 conspiracy theorists.” Lo – I also don’t recall a massive right-wing blogger orgy claiming that all Dems were convinced Bush was the one blowing everything up.

Democracy in America:

That the question even has to be asked must make Republicans uneasy. Ben Smith suggests that “you can see why Republican politicians are inclined” not to blow off the people who believe this. Except, in 2007, a pollster asked Democrats whether they thought George W. Bush knew anything about the 9/11 attacks before they happened, and only 39% would definitely say no. There wasn’t a corresponding rise in tolerance for 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

Last week, it seemed like this conspiracy theory might have been a media flare-up. It’s looking more like the kind of stubborn obsession that will dog Republicans through 2012, at least, just as 9/11 conspiracy theorists annoyed Democrats in 2004 and 2008.

Alex Knapp:

If those numbers are accurate (and the DailyKos/Research 2000 polls aggregate in line with other major polls, so there’s no reason to immediately question the numbers), then this is a much more serious problem. As my colleague Dodd pointed out earlier this week, if less than half of Republicans believe that Barack Obama is a citizen, that makes it much more difficult for the Republican Party to put forth reasonable debate and opposition against the Democrats and craft sound policy proposals.

You just can’t focus on policywhen 1/3 of your base wants you to focus on the crazy. You can’t craft sound bipartisan legislation by working with the President when a photo-op with him risks you votes in the primaries becaue 1/3 of your constituency doesn’t want you “working with foreigners” and thinks that the President doesn’t belong there.

Steve Benen:

For a crazy, demonstrably false, racist idea, these are discouraging numbers.

But I was especially surprised by the regional breakdowns. In the Northeast, West, and Midwest, the overwhelming majorities realize the president is a native-born American. But notice the South — only 47% got it right and 30% are unsure.

Outside the South, this madness is gaining very little traction, and remains a fringe conspiracy theory. Within the South, it’s practically mainstream.

EARLIER: Obama’s Birth Certificate Was On The Grassy Knoll, Where It Shot Vince Foster And Brought Down The World Trade Center, The End

UPDATE: Jeb Golinkin at New Majority:

It’s hard to believe that 58% of Republicans take seriously the conspiratorial mutterings of a handful of obvious nutcases. What the poll numbers suggest instead is hard-core sore loserdom.

Republicans have to know that birtherism is factually incorrect, ignorant, and idiotic. Ladies and gentlemen: please, get a grip on yourselves.  If you don’t like the fact that Democrats are in power, engage in intelligent criticism. There’s a lot to criticize! But fruit-cake xenophobia will not defeat this President.  It’s nonsense and it needs to stop.

Kevin Drum:

We’ve obviously spun back into a version of the full-bore Clinton derangement mode that swept the nation in the early 90s.  This kind of thing always starts with a few fringe characters, but there’s a difference this time around.  Clinton craziness was initially pushed by the fringe media and then picked up and amplified by the mainstream guys.  This time it started in the mainstream media: Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Andy McCarthy, Sean Hannity, etc. etc.  No middleman required.

Which makes you wonder: what would it be like if Hillary Clinton had been elected?  I think we’ve suspected this all along, but now we know the answer with scientific precision: it would have been exactly the same.  It was never Clinton Derangement Syndrome in the first place.  It was Conservative Derangement Syndrome.

UPDATE #2: Daniel Larison

UPDATE #3: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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Filed under Conservative Movement, Political Figures

We’re Banning Daryl Hannah Now?

Glenn Thrush in Politico:

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) — an ardent anti-abortion activist — is worried that the Obama administration’s loosening of restrictions on stem cell research will result in the creation of a new race of bio-engineered “human-animal” hybrid freaks.

Or beautiful mermaids.

The bill — modeled on an inexplicably overlooked effort by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — would ban the creation of “part-human, part-animal creatures, which are created in laboratories, and blur the line between species.”

The legislation, he says, “is limited in scope” and wouldn’t limit the use of some animal parts for human use, including porcine pig valves.

Despite giving no concrete examples of what such hybrids would look like (i.e. Spider-Man), he’s got 20 co-sponsors including one Dem, Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

“As our nation suffers through the greatest economic decline in a generation and our country’s brightest minds are working tirelessly to reverse course, what does Sen. Brownback propose? Banning mermaids,” quipped Chris Harris of Media Matters.

Jason Linkins in HuffPo:

“The legislation, Brownback said, ‘is limited in scope’ and wouldn’t limit the use of some animal parts for human use, including porcine pig valves.” OKAY? Everyone is still allowed to get freaky with some “porcine pig valves.” (Aren’t all “pig valves” porcine?)

Anyway, Brownback called the measure “philosophical and practical.” His worries seem to have stemmed from his “background in agriculture,” where folks have been working to genetically modify soybeans. Naturally, Brownback concluded that if we weren’t careful, this could lead to the rise of the Minotaurs, or a similar Dr. Caligari-type moment where we’d be “setting a time-bomb that might detonate many generations down the line,” which would force the CIA to have to waterboard a human genome until it confessed to the whereabouts of the were-people.

Brownback and Landrieu have twenty co-sponsors for the bill, all of whom should be paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue while citizens mock them and throw pig valves.

Jeroly in Daily Kos:

This doesn’t just affect minotaurs, centaurs and satyrs.  It affects human beings too.  Genetic research which injects human DNA material into animals or vice versa in order to cure genetic diseases would be prohibited.  That cure for cancer you were hoping for? Fuhgeddaboudit!  An antidote to ebola infection?  No way.  The next botox?  Keep dreaming.

Let the radical right continue to mythologize Sam Brownback.  It’s time for mythological creatures like us to stand up for our rights!!!


UPDATE: Ronald Bailey in Reason

Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right

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Filed under Culture War, Legislation Pending