Cenk Uygur

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The Sniveling Apologizers at MSNBC Don’t Represent Progressives

By: Cenk Uygur Monday February 3, 2014 12:22 pm

First, let me be clear that this is not intended for the hosts on MSNBC. It’s management that’s the issue. The way Phil Griffin has his hosts trot out for one apology after another is revolting. At least, he included himself in the genuflecting to the right-wing last time around. The whole display is pathetic.

Let’s also be clear about another thing. Phil Griffin, who happens to be the head of MSNBC, is not a liberal or progressive. I worked at MSNBC, I talked to Phil Griffin many times, I know Phil Griffin. He is not remotely progressive. All he cares about is success in his own career. He even basically admitted in this recent interview that he would head a conservative network if it made more money. The idea that he represents progressives as he keeps groveling to conservatives is absurd and sickening.

First of all, the last two apologies were not at all necessary. Melissa Harris Perry called Mitt Romney’s black grandson gorgeous (go back and check the tape). Yes, it would have been nice if someone on the set said, “God bless their hearts for being open minded in adopting someone outside of their race.” This is about as minor an infraction as I could imagine. Instead we got a tearful apology that was hard to watch and hard to stomach.

Now, there was a tweet sent out about how some right-wingers might not like a biracial ad by Cheerios. Gee, I wonder why they might think that. Maybe it’s because some right-wingers already had hateful things to say about that ad (yes, they don’t represent all conservatives, but once again, this is the most minor infraction in television history). The MSNBC employee didn’t make up that reaction — it already existed online. How many times has Bill O’Reilly characterized all liberals as saying something based on what some readers in the Daily Kos or The Huffington Post comments section said? Only about a million times.

Maybe that person at MSNBC who sent the tweet got the idea from a recent ad that caused outrage on Fox News because it included a Muslim woman and her husband who is in the U.S. military. They said this ad was only blocks from the site of 9/11! That is 100 percent bigoted response from the right-wing to an ad that involves two people from different backgrounds. Bingo.

Maybe they would have gotten the idea that Republicans don’t like biracial couples because ofa poll in the Republican primaries in the South where 21 percent of GOP primary voters in Alabama and 29 percent of the Mississippi GOP primary voters said that interracial marriage should be illegal.

Can anyone in America say with a straight face it is unclear which party in America is more racist? One of the parties had this thing called the Southern Strategy, where they decided being racist toward blacks would get more white voters in the South. Care to guess which party that was? If you’re still unclear on that or completely ignorant, maybe thelast two RNC chairs could help you because they both apologized for their party’s blatantly racist strategy.

Hey, anyone know whether Roger Ailes has ever apologized for running a station that argues we should take away voter rights in a way that disproportionately affects minorities? That’s happening right now and only a million times more important than any tweet. You can turn on Fox News almost any day and see some fictional story about voter fraud, the whole purpose of which is to limit voting by the poor, the elderly, college students and minorities. Any apologies about that?

How about an apology for the fear mongering and race baiting about the New Black Panther Party? How about an apology for white Santa? And white Jesus? How about an apology for a guest on Fox Business talking about executing his political opponents? Oh, maybe he was joking. What do you think would happen if Ed Schultz joked about executing some Christian fundamentalists? They would fire everyone at 30 Rock and schedule an implosion of the building by lunchtime.

And oh yeah, anyone remember who worked for Richard Nixon when they came up with the Southern Strategy? That’s right, Roger frickin’ Ailes. Has he ever apologized for that?

MSNBC doesn’t get it. Fox News and the right-wing are using this to set up a false equivalency. Yes, the Republicans race bait. Yes, Karl Rove did a push poll in South Carolina in 2000 asking if people would change their vote if they knew John McCain had an illegitimate black daughter (he doesn’t). Wait, who does Karl Rove work for again? Yes, Bill O’Reilly isamazed when he goes into a black restaurant and they act like regular human beings. Yes, the Republican Party got 2% of the black vote in the last election because of their obviously hostile stance against African-Americans. But wait someone at MSNBC tweeted something mildly inappropriate.

If MSNBC cared about not presenting liberals as sniveling cowards, they would never go through these debasing apologies one after another. But they don’t care about that because the guy who runs the network doesn’t give a damn about how progressives look, because he isn’t one of them.

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WHCD: A Salute to the Centurions

By: Cenk Uygur Sunday April 29, 2012 7:17 am

I was at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner tonight. And I loved 85% of it. This makes me somewhat of a hypocrite because I often criticize a lot of the people in that room, and I especially single out the chuminess of the press with the government.

Now, I justify my participation in this bacchanal event by saying two things. I am a spy for our audience — it’s important to know how these things work at a minimum. And it’s important to have conversations with folks in DC because you never know what you might get out of it and what you might learn. I promise you that these are 100% true. But nonetheless, it doesn’t justify me enjoying it so much.

But by the end of tonight I was feeling uneasy. I came home and tried to figure out why. My unease was first triggered by seeing Gen. David Petraeus there. He was in full uniform, but it wasn’t the standard green one you see on TV, it was a reddish formal one. He reminded me of the Roman centurions. But it wasn’t just that.

Then I saw Gen. Odierno in the same centurion outfit. There was a circle of admirers waiting to shake his hand. Then I remembered that Gen. Petraeus is now the head of the CIA. Does that mean he is no longer in the Armed Forces? Or is he a general and the head of a civilian branch of the government at the same time? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?

I guess it was one thing to see the politicians mingling with the press. I can get beyond that, if it was for just one night. But it churned my stomach to see the press so chummy with the guys who run the war machine. That’s not some liberal, anti-military spiel. We need a military, obviously. But shouldn’t the press be the most vigilant in their watchdog duties with these guys?

I guess Washington finds that concern weirdly out of place and I seemed to be the only one in the building worried about it (of course we don’t know if that’s the case, but people seemed to be thrilled to be talking to them).

Then the president spoke at the dinner itself. He was brilliant. It was genuinely funny. It was better than any stand up I have seen in awhile. At every joke and smile, he seemed like the most likeable guy in the world. Here’s the problem — I kept thinking about the drone strikes. I know, I am the world’s biggest downer (and hypocrite to boot for laughing at the jokes and generally enjoying the night).

I kept thinking how could that nice guy be the one who just ordered “signature” drone strikes where we bomb people without even knowing who they are. If you don’t know about this program, I know that it seems unbelievable, but it’s absolutely true. In Yemen and Pakistan, we can order drone strikes without having any idea who the target is or who the people we are firing at are. The kinds of strikes where we know who we’re bombing are now called “personality” strikes. Isn’t it amazing that they have a word for that?

We are now allowed to execute U.S. citizens abroad without a trial. Attorney General Holder calls this “due process without judicial process.” That chills me to my bones. Yet the marching band played on. And the centurions were warmly greeted.

When I got home, I put it all together and realized what was bothering me. It’s one thing to have this event be the aberration and be the one time of the year where the watchdogs let down their guard and have civil, polite and even friendly conversations with the people they cover. Again, I would really enjoy that. But the over-chumminess of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is not the exception, it’s now the rule.

We smile at the generals. We laugh at the president’s jokes. And the war machine hums on. I know some Americans have gotten really numb to it, some even enjoy and celebrate it. But people do actually die in far away countries like Yemen. Does the fact that they are just from Yemen make them any less human? Did the civilians killed in those strikes have it coming? Did they think our jokes were really funny tonight?

Let me be the asshole downer one more time. Imagine if we magically transported one of those Yemeni families whose kids were killed in a “signature” strike to the event tonight. Imagine how shocked or saddened they would be at our vast, vast indifference. It was such a nice party and everyone had such a good time, without a second thought.

Now, you can pick any injustice in the world and make a big stink out of it on a night like this to ruin everyone’s fun. And in some way that doesn’t seem fair. But I guess I was looking for some indication of a recognition that this was a one time exception and that tomorrow morning we would go back to the hard questions about Yemen and dead civilians. But how many of you think that’s going to happen?

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Vote Against Obama in Iowa

By: Cenk Uygur Thursday December 29, 2011 7:03 am

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a crime against our constitution. It allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens by the military inside the US – without a trial. It’s one of the worst laws ever passed in the US and it passed with nary a peep of opposition. I’m positive that a huge percentage of the population is not even aware of it, partly because the establishment media didn’t even bother covering it.

But it appeared for a while that the one guy fighting against it was President Obama. I was incredibly encouraged by that. I shouldn’t have been. It turned out at the end that he was threatening to veto the bill because he wanted it to have even more executive power, not less. This president has been a disaster for civil liberties. Every time I think about the fact that he used to be a constitutional law professor, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Indefinite detentions, summary executions of US citizens abroad without a trial, warrantless wiretapping and much, much more. All of the things we were outraged Bush did – and then some. Honestly, it makes me feel a little sick that I voted for him. At least, I could say that I fought tooth and nail against Bush.

And civil liberties abuses are the tip of the iceberg in disappointment with this president. Then there is the comedy of financial reform which doesn’t reform a damn thing. There are the zero prosecutions of the top bankers who destroyed our economy through their fraud, took our money and now spit in our face with it. There is the extension of the Bush tax cuts. There is the cave in on nearly every negotiation (the payroll tax cut being the exception that proves the rule (by the way, he “won” on more tax cuts, a profoundly Republican idea)). His crowning achievement of healthcare reform was a proposal originally written by the Heritage Foundation. There isn’t a Republican idea that President Obama didn’t want to cuddle with and adopt as his own.

Now, the argument goes that he might be bad, but the Republicans are worse. Of course. Right now, Newt Gingrich is on the campaign trail arguing that Mitt Romney isn’t kind enough to the rich. I’m not kidding. He is trying to make hay out of the fact that Romney takes capital taxes down to zero percent for only people making below $200,000. Newt thinks that’s discrimination against the rich and he would take it down to zero for everybody. Then he would make your kids clean the rich kids’ toilets in school.

I follow politics for a living; I’m not unaware of how hideous the Republican choices are. But that doesn’t mean that we should pretend that President Obama has been brilliant because we’re scared of the big, bad Republicans. That would be fundamentally dishonest.

And to be honest, I’m really disappointed that he does not have a primary opponent. This country is dying for someone who is going to take on the establishment. Who is that going to be on our side – Barack Obama? On that, I know whether to laugh or cry. Every time I think about the idea that President Obama might be against the establishment, I laugh and laugh and laugh. There is never been a guy who was this enamored with the establishment. If he had wrestling nickname it would be The Establishment.

The guy who appointed Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Larry Summers, Rahm Emanuel and Bill Daley (and a list of hundreds of others, including two new Fed appointments, one of which is a Republican who worked for the Carlyle Group) is not a guy who is interested in changing the system at all. Change was a cutesy slogan he used to trick us into thinking he was on our side.

I would have loved a progressive alternative, but apparently we are not going to get one (except for Rocky Anderson running on the Justice Party ticket). Primaries are the perfect place to send a message without taking away votes in the general election. But it didn’t happen because the Democratic establishment says we must fall in line because we wouldn’t want to hurt the agenda of the president. The agenda of the president sucks and is deeply Republican. I’d love to at least get him to reconsider that agenda for a second.

But there is one thing we can do right now that doesn’t really hurt the chances of the president getting re-elected and doesn’t help Republicans one bit. It is an idea that Occupy Iowa came up with. In the Iowa caucuses you can vote for “uncommitted.” In fact, since the 1970′s “uncommitted” has won twice on the Democratic side and it beat Bob Dole in 1980. Of course, the Republican Party has shut down this option on their side. They say you can vote that way in the GOP field but they will not register those votes or send those delegates. Of course, they’re the GOP; they have no interest in your dissent.

But if all of those people were to go and participate on the Democratic side they might have an effect. If “uncommitted” beat President Obama on the Democratic side in Iowa that would make some news. That might even get the attention of The Establishment. So far, he has only responded to right-wing pressure. He is the consummate politician, so if there was actually a little bit of pressure on his left he might have to respond to it, especially during an election season. Wouldn’t it be amazing if President Obama acted like a progressive on some issue because he was worried about the voters?

By the way, this strategy also has the benefit of being accurate. I am “uncommitted” toward Obama. I’m uncommitted from supporting a guy that has walked all over our civil liberties, that thinks tax cuts are the only answer, that gave all of the money to the bankers and asked for nothing in return, that thinks the right-wing establishment has all of the answers. Uncommitted is the kindest word I have.

If you live in Iowa, please send a message to the President for the rest of us. We voted for change last time, apparently you didn’t hear us. If you don’t hear us soon, you might be the one that gets changed.

The Young Turks on Current

How We Can Change the Media

By: Cenk Uygur Tuesday December 13, 2011 8:42 am

A quote you see everywhere is Gandhi’s line about being the change you want to see in the world. Since I’m a corny guy, I took that to heart. Here are some of the main problems with the establishment media that I want to help change:

1. They are the establishment. They don’t challenge the politicians, the government or the system. They are perfectly content to help maintain the status quo.

2. They trade access for positive coverage. In order to get political officials on their shows, they treat them with kid gloves. The single largest factor in making political decisions is campaign donations, yet they almost never ask them about that or talk about it on any of their shows.

3. They do non-stop talking points, yet no one ever says anything. It’s just people talking past each other in a very boring, scripted movie we’ve seen before.

4. They confuse neutrality with objectivity. If the Cowboys and Steelers play and the Steelers win 21-0, and you say the Cowboys and Steelers both played equally well – you have lied to your audience. You are neutral, but nowhere near objective.

So, we set out to do a political talk show where we break all of those rules. This is the beginning. We hope you join us somewhere down this road. Together, let’s be the change we want to see in the media.

You Can Participate in the Show (Current, 7PM ET) By Clicking Here

Huckabee the Scrivener: The Man Who Could be President, But Prefers Not To

By: Cenk Uygur Thursday November 10, 2011 8:10 am
Huckabee Apprantly Scrivening A Bass Guitar (Photo: protectourprimary, flickr)

Huckabee Apparently Scrivening A Bass Guitar (Photo: protectourprimary, flickr)

I have been saying for about a year now that the man best positioned to become the next President of the United States is Mike Huckabee. To this day, the Republican voter is desperately in search for the anti-Romney. Even seven out of ten Romney voters say they could switch their vote to someone else. There is no brand loyalty there at all.

In fact, seven out of ten Republican voters say holding the right positions is more important than electability – which goes to show Romney’s main argument on the importance of electability is not working. The bad numbers keep piling up, as 20% of conservative voters say they are less likely to vote for Romney because of his religion. It’s even worse among very conservative voters, 32% of whom have no qualms about discriminating against him because of his faith. Those are shockingly high numbers of people who have already eliminated him (unjustly), and those are just the ones admitting it.

But conservative voters are right about their central arguments against Romney – he is a flip-flopper, he is a slimy politician and he will say anything to get elected. These Republicans are thirsting for a real conservative to vote for. Meanwhile, there has been an absolute implosion of the other conservative candidates. Bachmann lasted about five seconds. Herman Cain is in a tailspin now, but was obviously never qualified to begin with. And Rick Perry might as well have screamed “Allahu Akbar!” as he blew himself up in last night’s debate.

Huckabee is an unquestioned social conservative, so I think he would win Iowa and South Carolina with relative ease. But more importantly, he is an excellent fake populist. I’m confident that in the end, like all Republicans, he would do whatever the big banks want him to do. But he talks a good game about feeling your pain and being against the powerful that are screwing you. He is the definition of folksy. And the country is in desperate search of folksy as opposed to slimy.

In fact, I think he is far more electable than Romney is when it comes to taking on Obama. President Obama struggles mightily at faking populism. And in reality, he has an enormous track record of helping the big banks in getting almost everything they ever wanted (he made the fatal mistake of once hurting their feelings though by calling them “fat cats”). Romney is the most obviously pro-Wall Street candidate in history, when the country is in a massively anti-Wall Street mood. I think Huckabee stands an excellent chance of cleaning both of their clocks.

Why Republican Voters Can’t Make Up Their Mind

By: Cenk Uygur Friday October 28, 2011 9:21 am

(image: jef safi)

It seems like every couple of weeks we have a new leader in the Republican field. Michele Bachmann has been there, so has Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, and now Herman Cain sits atop the field. Why can’t Republican voters make up their minds?

Here’s why – they don’t even believe their own positions. They want someone who is massively conservative and at the same time agrees with them on policy. The problem is the voters aren’t nearly as conservative as they think they are. So they love the tough talking governor from Texas until they find out he wants to get rid of Social Security. They like that Michele Bachmann doesn’t believe in global warming until they realize that she doesn’t believe in it because she’s bat-shit crazy.

If you choose ignorance as your party ideology why should it surprise you that you have completely ignorant party leaders? But it does, every single time. Watch, it’ll happen again. This time with Herman Cain.

The voters are going to wake up a week from now and realize they’re not sure they want someone leading the free world who doesn’t know what Ubeki-beki-beki-stan is or what his own position on abortion is. They love his ignorance when it comes to science and basic economics, but they hate it when it shows how unqualified he is.

Well, you can’t have it both ways. Someone who is remotely competent or sentient recognizes that 97% of the world’s scientists are right about climate change (including even Koch funded scientists), that cutting deficits during tough economic times does not stimulate the economy and that firing state workers means we have less workers. But those are all against the stated position of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. So, what is a Republican voter to do?

The answer is to fall in love with another conservative politician this week and find out he is a blithering idiot the next. Or worse yet, find out you don’t really agree with any of those positions when they affect you (get your government hands off my Medicare!). That’s the schizophrenia of the Republican electorate — they keep switching leaders because they don’t even believe their own positions.

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How To Regain Our Democracy

By: Cenk Uygur Thursday October 20, 2011 3:45 am

Declaration of Independence

Our politicians are bought. Everyone knows it. Conservatives know it just as much as liberals do. And libertarians have probably known it all along. The Democrats are bought and the Republicans even more so. They don’t represent us. They represent their donors. We have taxation without representation. Our democracy is in serious trouble.

We must regain our ability to make a difference, to have our votes count. Right now, corporate interests and special interests dominate our politics because they can spend unlimited money. Unfortunately, in this current system money speaks louder than words. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but the checkbook is far mightier than the pen. In the congressional races in 2008, the candidate who had more money won more than 93% of the time. Our representatives don’t serve us; they serve the people who pay them — their corporate funders.

Is Obama Playing Rope-a-Dope?

By: Cenk Uygur Thursday September 1, 2011 4:53 am
"Rope-A-Dope"

"Rope-A-Dope" by waerbaby on flickr

Here was the headline on Yahoo tonight: Obama bows to Boehner on jobs speech

I can tell you what any progressive who has been paying attention thought, “Oh boy, here we go again.”

President Obama has now changed the day of his address to Congress to accomodate the Republicans. They were having a GOP presidential debate on the original date he picked. So, Boehner told him to move his speech. He is the president for Christ’s sake. Of course, they should have accomodated him, not the other way around. But as usual, President Obama bowed.

So, this leads to the eternal question of whether Obama is just weak or if he is a brilliant strategist who has been playing rope-a-dope all along. I am so silly that I still had hope. My hope this morning was that Obama was laying a trap for the Republicans. He picks a day for his speech that is the same as the GOP debate. Then if Boehner says he won’t let him give the speech on that day, he seems so petty and harsh.

That way, either the president gives his big speech on jobs and bigfoots the Republican contenders or the Republicans look disrespectful and petulant for turning down the president. Well, if you’re playing rope-a-dope, that’s not a bad manuever. But it turns out that’s not what he was doing at all. He just stumbled into this problem and then stumbled out when he let Boehner dictate when he could and could not have his speech. That looks so sad.

You see, if you’re playing rope-a-dope, at some point you have to actually swing. When your opponent has worn himself out knocking you around the ring — you counter-attack. But that counter-attack is never coming. We’re holding our collective breath in vain.

Why is this definitely not rope-a-dope?