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Mitt Romney: Conservative Trojan Horse or Political Chameleon?

11:16 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Romney caricature

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

What became of Mitt Romney the “severe conservative” who so assured the American right earlier this year that he had long since slipped his moorings to a moderate political past in Massachusetts? Surely a “severely conservative” Mitt Romney wasn’t the guy who showed up to debate Barack Obama on the 3rd of October. Apparently this “pivot to the center” was widely observed but not universally accepted:

Jonathan Chait:

Tonight’s debate saw the return of the Mitt Romney who ran for office in Massachusetts in 1994 and 2002. He was obsessive about portraying himself as a moderate, using every possible opening or ambiguity — and, when necessary, making them up — to shove his way to the center. Why he did not attempt to restore this pose earlier, I cannot say. Maybe he can only do it in debates. Or maybe conservatives had to reach a point of absolute desperation over his prospects before they would give him the ideological space. In any case, he dodged almost every point in the right wing canon in a way that seemed to catch Obama off guard.

Conservative columnist David Brooks wrote of the contrast between the rhetoric of the Republican primaries and Romney the debater:

The G.O.P. did its best to appear unattractive. It had trouble talking the language of compassion. It seemed to regard reasonable political compromise as an act of dishonor. It offered little for struggling Americans except that government would leave them alone…on Wednesday night, Romney finally emerged from the fog. He broke with the stereotypes of his party and, at long last, began the process of offering a more authentic version of himself…Far from being an individualistic, social Darwinist, Romney spoke comfortably about compassion and shared destinies…Far from wanting to eviscerate government and railing about government dependency, Romney talked about how to make government programs work better…Far from being an unthinking deregulator, Romney declared, ‘Regulation is essential’ … Most important, Romney did something no other mainstream Republican has had the guts to do. Either out of conviction or political desperation, he broke with Tea Party orthodoxy and began to redefine the Republican identity.

MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:

This move to the center, there’s no complaint from conservatives. Is it that they are so eager to defeat President Obama that they, right now, say, anything that works is okay with them?

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat:

What Romney executed on Wednesday night was not just a simple pivot to the center, as much of the post-debate analysis suggested. Pivot he certainly did — stressing bipartisanship and touting his record as the moderate governor of a liberal state, backing away from the more implausible spending cuts implied by his budget promises, explicitly breaking with the idea that upper-bracket tax cuts can be a self-financing free lunch.

Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin:

Is the ‘new’ Mitt Romney going to be on offer through Election Day, or might he backslide?

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:

Read the rest of this entry →

Romney Rolled by the Far Right?

5:43 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Oh well, it looks like someone broke the Etch-A-Sketch. After being hagridden for the past few weeks by the talking heads of America’s far right from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity to Ann Coulter to finally Laura Ingraham who said “I might be the skunk at the picnic, but I’m going to say it and I’m going to say it clearly, “Romney is losing.”; Mitt Romney may have elected for what amounts to a the ultimate “Hail Mary” pass in finally settling on Paul Ryan for his V.P. pick. After all when one of the country’s most stridently didactic ideologues, Erick Erickson, comes out and says “Conservatives have put aside their distrust of Romney on this issue [Romney's Massachusetts Health Care Law] in the name of beating Barack Obama. They thought he and his campaign team had gotten the message and the hints. Consider the scab picked, the wound opened, and the distrust trickling out again.” – did Romney have any other choice? Other possible contenders like Rob Portman and Tim Pawlenty would have amounted to adding more blandness to an already bland campaign. Marco Rubio, a definite Tea Party favorite, was just too inexperienced, Chris Christie too bombastic and disinterested anyway. However the real question is will the selection of Paul Ryan ultimately doom Romney’s hopes of being elected? Has Romney now baked failure into his own cake?

Romney has been stumbling and fumbling of late having been successfully “swift boated” by the Obama machine and for the lingering questions related to releasing more tax returns as well as questions as to would he ever define what he’d actually do as president. Recent polling, for what it’s worth in August, showed Romney slipping behind Obama, especially in swing states. By selecting Paul Ryan, Romney has added substance to a campaign seen to be largely devoid of it. However, what if Romney has added the wrong ingredients to his political stew? After all Paul Ryan’s budget plans have never been popularly embraced in the body politic beyond ultraconservatives. Quoting Brett LoGiurato of Business Insider “It hasn’t been polled for a while, but most polls of Ryan’s budget plan don’t produce sparkling reviews. Ryan’s proposal didn’t poll well in a May 2011 CNN survey, which showed that 48 percent of respondents preferred President Barack Obama’s approach to Medicare compared to 39 percent on the plan spearheaded by Ryan. Overall, about 20 percent more people opposed Ryan’s Medicare plan than supported it. The poll also found that both younger and older voters were cool to Ryan’s plan. Forty-three percent of voters 64 years old and younger thought Ryan’s plan’s changes would make things at least a “little worse off.” And 58 percent of respondents 65 and older said the same thing — including 33 percent who said it would make them “a lot worse off.” Finally, 50 percent of voters overall thought it would make the country worse off as a whole, compared with 38 percent who said it would make it better. The most eye-popping stat from the poll? More than a quarter of Republicans — and 35 percent of self-identified conservatives — opposed the Ryan plan.” Furthermore, the selection of Ryan allows Obama to bring the issue of a do nothing obstructionist Congress squarely to center stage. With congressional approval ratings at an all time low, particularly for Republicans, and public frustration with Congressional Tea Party obstruction more or less a constant, Paul Ryan will act as a handy punching bag for the Obama machine thereby saddling Romney with the negatives that flow from this highly unpopular Republican dominated Congress. Thus it’s not likely that Paul Ryan will save Mitt Romney any more than Sarah Palin was able to revitalize the McCain campaign.

In an environment where the public longs for bi-partisan cooperation and problem solving the selection of Ryan sends a message that compromise isn’t on the agenda for the G.O.P. Nate Silver of the New York Times in an article titled “A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan” suggests that Romney’s choice of Ryan has less to do with pressure from the ideological purists on the right and more to do with the fact that Romney himself realized that his campaign was faltering: “When a prudent candidate like Mitt Romney picks someone like Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin as his running mate, it suggests that he felt he held a losing position against President Obama. The theme that Mr. Romney’s campaign has emphasized for months and months — that the president has failed as an economic leader — may have persuaded 47 or 48 or 49 percent of voters to back him, he seems to have concluded. But not 50.1 percent of them, and not enough for Mr. Romney to secure 270 electoral votes.” Silver goes on to show how Paul Ryan, on the basis of political philosophy, is the most ideologically extreme pick for Vice president ever: “Various statistical measures of Mr. Ryan peg him as being quite conservative. Based on his Congressional voting record, for instance, the statistical system DW-Nominate evaluates him as being roughly as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota…Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900. He is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center.” In a country seen as being fairly split down the middle and with politics being played, as conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer says, “between the 40 yard lines” it would appear that picking the most conservative running mate ever would be a losing proposition if not a reckless one.

Time and again we’ve heard the ideologues on the far right state that when the G.O.P. picks candidates that stray from the movement’s core conservative values the party loses. John McCain is held up as the latest example of this and more often than not Ronald Reagan is held up a an example of what being true to core conservative values is all about. The only problem with that is the fact that Reagan was conservative in his rhetoric but he was hardly a guy to trim the size of government, cut taxes or attempt to dismantle the social safety net. Moreover, he was a master at compromise, something that today’s conservatives detest. Suffice it to say that even Ronald Reagan would have problems in today’s Republican Party, how could he not? Historically the issues that Ryan has raised in his budget and which the Tea Party backed Republicans in Congress have taken on are political losers for the G.O.P. John Harris and Mike Allen writing for Politico pointed out “It is hard to overstate the risks Romney is taking in making a choice that virtually guarantees a far-reaching debate about the broader role of government and the entitlement state. Simply put, it is a debate Republicans have almost never won when they’ve put it directly before voters in the past.”

Thus in picking a candidate that more than ever personifies the values of the far right what are we to conclude of the logic inherent in the conservative mantra “that when the G.O.P. picks candidates that stray from the movement’s core conservative values the party loses.” if they indeed go on to lose this election? Will picking Paul Ryan then be seen to be a mistake as it moved the Romney message beyond the pale of the moderates and independent voters thereby costing the Republican Party what should have been an easy victory? For one thing there’s no evidence I’ve ever seen that suggests that a president is elected because of the guy he picked to be vice president. In fact Nate Silver’s article shows that vice presidential picks have more downside to them than upside. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I believe that Ryan will ultimately have a downside impact on Romney’s chances of being elected. Secondly now that Romney has saddled him with Ryan and his unpopular reputation for cutting back on entitlements, privatizing them where possible and cutting taxes on the richest among us the election has ceased to be a referendum on Obama’s performance and has become a choice election between two competing visions of America. Obama was unlikely to win on a straight referendum of his economic performance but his chances have now improved in the long haul due to the negatives that come with Paul Ryan, his budgetary ideas and his recycled supply-side economic theories that have already been tired and seen to fail in the past. In the short run Romney’s numbers may see a brief boost in the ratings game but in the long run Ryan and his ultra conservative baggage are more likely to be an albatross around Mitt Romney’s neck ands that’s hardly where a candidate wants to be heading into a presidential election.

S.J. Gulitti

8/13/12

Sources:

Laura Ingraham Tears Into Romney Campaign: He Needs New Communications Team, Strategy; http://www.mediaite.com/online/laura-ingraham-tears-into-romney-campaign-he-needs-new-communications-team-strategy/

Romney aide’s health care remarks spark flap; http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2012/08/andrea-saul-health-care-romney-/1#.UCP5E6Pxrs1

Should Mitt Romney fire his spokeswoman?; http://theweek.com/article/index/231814/should-romney-fire-his-spokeswoman

Rush Limbaugh Wants Mitt Romney To Fire His Top Advisors And Hire ‘Real Conservatives’; http://www.businessinsider.com/rush-limbaugh-romney-obama-romneycare-eric-fehrnstrom-conservatives-2012-8#ixzz23Ssl5YRm

The Moment All the Doubts About Romney Resurfaced on the Right; http://www.redstate.com/erick/2012/08/08/the-moment-all-the-doubts-about-romney-resurfaced-on-the-right/

Here’s The Gigantic Risk Mitt Romney Is Taking With Paul Ryan; http://www.businessinsider.com/paul-ryan-polls-show-mitt-romney-is-taking-a-huge-risk-2012-8#ixzz23T0fbbAH

A Risky Rationale Behind Romney’s Choice of Ryan; http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/11/a-risky-rationale-behind-romneys-choice-of-ryan/

Paul Ryan Is The Most Extreme VP Candidate In More Than A Century; http://www.businessinsider.com/paul-ryan-is-the-most-extreme-vp-candidate-in-more-than-a-century-2012-8#ixzz23T5scKC6

Pros And Cons: Ryan As Romney’s VP; http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2012/aug/11/pros-and-cons-ryan-as-romneys-vp/

Paul Ryan VP pick shakes up Mitt Romney battle plan; http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/79598.html#ixzz23TDUPK36

Barack Obama Weak on Terrorism?

6:54 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In the run up to the 2008 elections and thereafter one of the persistent criticisms of Barack Obama was that he would be ”soft” on terrorists and likely to be ineffectual in dealing with the hydra headed threat of Islamic terror. We were told again and again by people like Rudy Giuliani that if Obama were elected that “we would be hit again.” Sarah Palin warned in a speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention that Obama would ”reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world” and ” Al-Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America … he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights?” 
 
Once elected the criticisms didn’t subside either. Newt Gingrich said: “This administration is underestimating how hard this war is going to be. The American people should demand that we are much more aggressive in seeking data and that we are much more aggressive in stopping people.” Likewise Dick Cheney opined ” We’ve seen a lot of decisions made, especially in this administration with respect to the War on Terror, which is no longer a War on Terror, it’s an overseas contingency operation.” The aforementioned are but a sampling of the doubts and criticisms that were slung at the Obama Administration with a fair degree of regularity and which would reach fever pitch in the far right media anytime a terrorist attack had been thwarted or as was all to apparent during the Ground Zero Mosque controversy.
 
Well, it goes without saying that the liquidation of Osama bin Laden on Barack Obama’s watch should, in the eyes of any intelligent and rational human being, lay to rest the plethora of nonsense that has surrounded this administration as it relates to both its ability and commitment in successfully prosecuting the war on terror. Alas, the fact that we can provide some degree of procedural rights to those being held on suspicion of having been involved in terror plots in no way impeded our ability to eliminate Osama bin Laden. Nor did our same Navy Seals show any predisposition towards appeasement when they freed the crew of the Marsek Alabama off Somalia in 2009 by killing or capturing their pirate captors. 

To paraphrase conservative commentator Major Garret of the National Journal: “Killing bin Laden represents a continuum of competence on the part of Barack Obama in fulfilling his campaign pledge to eliminate Osama bin Laden as a terrorist threat and thus the War on Terror is seen to be effectively fought. Few would deny that the death of Osama bin Laden represents a major victory for the administration and the nation. Likewise, few would deny that so much of the criticism leveled at the Obama Administration by opponents on the right constitutes political grandstanding at a time when we should all be standing shoulder to shoulder in a unified war or Islamic Terror. In the aftermath of the bin Laden assassination Barack Obama appears more serious then ever while so many of his critics seem to have done nothing but jumped to conclusions about the Administration’s ability to successfully fight the war on terror.

SJG

5/3/11

Sources:

 Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention Sep 3, 2008

 Terror Attempt a Referendum on Obama Security Policy?

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/newt-gingrich-obama-administration-underestimating-war-terrorism/story?id=9450864

 Gingrich Will Blast Obama on Terrorism

http://politicalwire.com/archives/2010/07/26/gingrich_will_blast_obama_on_terrorism.html

Sean Hannity Lies About Obama Slashing Transit and Port Security Funds to NYC

http://www.politicususa.com/en/hannity-obama-nyc

 Former VP Dick Cheney on Obama Administration ‘Dismantling’ Terrorism Policies

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,517300,00.html

Of Snowstorms, Conspiracies and Tea Parties

10:56 am in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

I have more than a few Tea Party adherents in my family who, prior to this summer, used to make a habit of sending me every little headline about how cold and snowy it was and how those “facts” proved that global warming was a fallacy being undone with each snowflake drifting down to earth. Oddly enough, they never sent me a single headline this summer about how unbelievably hot it was in the Northeast. I guess while I was bobbing around the bayous Louisiana they were reading the World Meteorological Organization’s Press Release No. 904 which came to the following conclusion: “The year 2010 is almost certain to rank in the top 3 warmest years since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850” and its byline: “2010 in the top three warmest years, 2001-2010, warmest 10-year period.”  Well now, as if by magic, the spate of cold weather and overly abundant snowfall gripping the Northern Hemisphere has set off a new round of debate, doubt and denial as it relates to the changing climate.

Global Warming is not a hot button issue with me and I believe that the related science is still in the process of being validated. That along with the fact that some of the findings have been manipulated for political purposes makes for a situation where the jury is still out with the final verdict still in the process of being formulated. Likewise the same holds true for most of the counterarguments. However, none of the aforementioned takes away from the fact that there are discernable changes in the climate that cannot be denied. There is little reason to doubt that there have been major changes in the climate in the last 50+ years. To deny that is to make an argument contrary to historical fact. At 57 I can remember winters that were much different than they are now, at least around the Northeast where I grew up. One of the great misconceptions surrounding the global warming debate hinges around snowfall and temperatures. There is nothing inconsistent with the general theory of global warming where some regions will grow colder with increased amounts of snow fall while others see their climate grow warmer. It hinges in part on the changes in the ocean current, the jet stream and the Central Asian snow pack. Moreover what the opponents of global warming fail to realize in pointing out the increase in snowfall this year and last is that the debate about climate is about trends, not a snapshot of a series of weather events within a given winter or within several winters. Focusing on short term events instead of long term trends serves to undermine an opponent’s counter argument as it fails to account for the larger, longer term picture. It fails because climate is a long-term trend whereas weather is the short term manifestation of climate and to focus on a handful of weather events while ignoring the longer term trends is to invite a flaw into one’s analysis. That flaw ultimately leads to misconstrued and faulty conclusions.

Judah Cohen of Atmospheric and Environmental Research has recently published findings that effectively debunk the idea that the increased snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere is inconsistent with the idea that the overall climate is warming. Quoting Dr. Cohen:” The not-so-obvious short answer is that the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes… Annual cycles like El Niño/Southern Oscillation, solar variability and global ocean currents cannot account for recent winter cooling. And though it is well documented that the earth’s frozen areas are in retreat, evidence of thinning Arctic sea ice does not explain why the world’s major cities are having colder winters… As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased. The sun’s energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools. When snow cover is more abundant in Siberia, it creates an unusually large dome of cold air next to the mountains, and this amplifies the standing waves in the atmosphere…That is why the Eastern United States, Northern Europe and East Asia have experienced extraordinarily snowy and cold winters since the turn of this century.” A further scientific elaboration on Dr. Cohen’s model and an assessment of its accuracy can be found in a National Science Foundation Special Report entitled “Predicting Seasonal Weather, A Special Report.”

Yet in contrast to the scientific findings that have been put forth from reputable organizations such as the National Science Foundation and Atmospheric and Environmental Research, a large element of the opposition’s argument seems to hinge upon conspiracy theories, an anti-intellectual bias or the preaching’s of that ever present claque of political entertainers who make their living on cable television masquerading as political analysts. Needless to say, it’s definitely a hot button issue among the Tea Party crowd to deny the climate changes that have taken place. John M. Broder in an article entitled “Climate Change Doubt Is Tea Party Article of Faith” detailed the extent to which members of the Tea Party Movement are willing to accept anything but science in their efforts to dispute the scientific data contained in those reports that postulate that the world’s climate is changing due to global warming. Quoting Broder: “Skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party Movement… For some, it is a matter of religious conviction; for others, it is driven by distrust of those they call the elites. And for others still, efforts to address climate change are seen as a conspiracy to impose world government and a sweeping redistribution of wealth.” Citing a New York Times / CBS poll conducted in October, Broder showed the degree to which members of the Tea Party Movement differ from the general public on the issue of global warming. Tea Party Movement supporters are considerably more skeptical when it comes to the existence and effects of global warming than the American public generally. The survey found that only 14 percent of Tea Party supporters said that the problem of global warming was here and now versus 49 percent of the public at large. More than half of Tea Party supporters said that “global warming would have no serious effect at any time in the future, while only 15 percent of other Americans share that view” and, “8 percent of Tea Party adherents volunteered that they did not believe global warming exists at all, while only 1 percent of other respondents agreed.”

Broder links the sentiments of the Tea Party Movement’s opposition to global warming theories with other groups that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. He points out that the fossil fuel industries have spent $500 million dollars since 2009 on lobbying against climate change legislation, that they have funded “lavishly financed institutes to produce anti-global-warming studies” and “waged a concerted campaign to raise doubts about the science of global warming”, as well as “paid for Web sites to question the science.” At the same time the anti global warming rhetoric has been a staple on the talks shows of America’s preeminent political entertainers: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and of course, Sarah Palin. Promoting anti-global warming skepticism has been a core tenet of right wing groups like Americans for Prosperity, and the Tea Party cash cow, Freedom Works.

All this begs a number of questions: If there is such a compelling body of scientific knowledge that disproves the theory of global warming, then why not just stick with the science and forgo the political theatrics? Why spend millions of dollars on lobbying and public relations to discredit the theory of global warming by raising doubts when you could just produce objective hard science results that point to the contrary? Surely the advocates of global warming theory were set back last summer when it was found that several scientists in England had fiddled with scientific findings for political reasons. That having happened, wouldn’t those who oppose global warming theory been better served by a counterargument based on facts at a time when their opponent’s integrity was in question? Or, conversely is their counterargument better served by the image of doubters poking around among snowdrifts with their yardsticks in some unscientific attempt to dispute actual scientific findings? Why do the doubters engage in deflection by saying that the argument surrounding global warming is really Marxist wealth redistribution disguised as science when the scientific reports don’t include any mention of politics and policy? Perhaps someone should clue these opponents in to the fact that we live in an age dominated by science and technology and that any disputing of hard science is not likely to come about via conspiracy theories, unsupported skepticism or Biblical quotes that address man’s relationship with the natural world within which he exists.

Steven J. Gulitti

12/28/10

Sources:

World Meteorological Organization’s Press Release No. 904

http://www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press_releases/pr_904_en.html

Predicting Seasonal Weather, A Special Report

http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/autumnwinter/model.jsp

Bundle Up, It’s Global Warming

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/opinion/26cohen.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

Atmospheric and Environmental Research: In the News http://www.aer.com/news/inTheNews/index.html

 

IPCC Official: “Climate Policy Is Redistributing The World’s Wealth”

http://thegwpf.org/ipcc-news/1877-ipcc-official-climate-policy-is-redistributing-the-worlds-wealth.html

 

Climate Change Doubt Is Tea Party Article of Faith

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/21/us/politics/21climate.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

What Is the True Nature Of The Fox News Network?

12:05 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

The recent firing of Juan Williams by NPR for comments made on the Fox News and his affiliation with that network has created an interesting sidebar to this now all too familiar affair. The renewed scrutiny of NPR for its alleged liberal bias has resulted in an interesting byproduct. That byproduct is an increased level of attention now being paid to Fox, its parent the News Corp., and its wealthy conservative CEO, Rupert Murdoch.

The practice of allowing candidates to solicit campaign contributions while appearing on Fox News is a significant departure from what is generally considered television news broadcasting. Mr. Murdoch has abided this practice along with his own well-publicized million dollar contributions to Republican campaign organizations and other efforts to promote positions on the far right. That raises a fundamental question: Is Fox a legitimate news organization or has it morphed into something between a news organ and a political action operation even to the point of being considered a shill? A shill is defined as: “a person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.” A political action committee is defined as:“a type of political committee organized to spend money for the election or defeat of a candidate.” Mr. Murdoch has a record of promoting conservative ideas no matter what the cost. He has continued to prop up the conservative “The New York Post” in spite of its staggering losses to the tune of between $15 million to $30 million. According to Business Week magazine: “The Post has lost so much money for so long that it would have folded years ago if News Corp. applied the same profit-making rigor to the tabloid as it does to its other businesses.” What then is the purpose of the continued support of a newspaper the commentary of which often resembles old-fashioned agitprop? There can only be one logical explanation and it’s because the Post represents Mr. Murdoch’s primary organ for presenting the conservative line in what is one of the bluest regions in the country and he is willing to spend whatever it takes to do so.

The argument that Fox News has become somewhat of a political operation is more than apparent when one examines the following evidence. Former Ohio Republican Congressman and now candidate for Governor, John Kasich, appearing during prime time on “Hannity” was given time to solicit campaign contributions while on the air saying:” If you have extra nickels or dimes, please send it our way.” According to Brian Stelter of the New York Times this is not the first time Kasich has used an appearance on Fox to raise money for his campaign. Quoting Stelter: “The channel was the subject of an election complaint in Ohio because Mr. Kasich was able to ask for money and display his Web site address during an interview in August on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Fox’s biggest prime time talk show. Mr. Kasich used to host a weekend show on Fox, and Mr. Murdoch has called him a friend.” Moreover Stelter points out that Fox employees have engaged in more direct political action both on and off the air: “Sometimes the most outspoken of the Fox hosts go out and raise money directly. Mr. Hannity has headlined several fund-raisers for Republicans this year. And just last week, Mr. Beck donated $10,000 to the U. S. Chamber of Commerce to defend it against criticism from President Obama — and challenged his radio listeners to donate as well.”  Beyond these various forms of political action is the fact that several likely candidates for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination are presently on the Fox payroll or regularly appear on the network, including Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

When you look across the political spectrum to Fox’s chief rivals: MSNBC, CNN and NPR you see several object lessons in how competing news organizations have different values. Political action at MSNBC, for example, is much more constrained, to the point that there is very little deviation from what could considered legitimate news reporting and commentary. Again quoting Stelter: “All this political activity has spurred at least a little bit of hand-wringing at the channels. NBC News, which operates MSNBC, recently reiterated its rule that employees may not engage in political activity, but said it had carved out an exception for some MSNBC hosts.” To date whatever exceptions exist at MSNBC, they are not even remotely close to the on the air solicitation of funds, public activities related to fund raising by network commentators or the employment of prospective presidential candidates on the network’s payroll which is presently the case at Fox. At NPR political activity of any variety is virtually nonexistent. In the final analysis what we have witnessed at Fox News is the evolution of a news organization into something beyond what is commonly considered political reporting and commentary into something short of a political action committee, a sort of quasi-political news organ if you will. That said shouldn’t the Fox News Network scrub the subtitle of “Fair and Balanced” from its headline banner seeing as it can no longer legitimately make that claim in light of the fundamental transformation that has taken place within the Fox organization?

Steven J. Gulitti

10/25/10

Sources:

Two Takes at NPR and Fox on Juan Williams; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/22/business/media/22williams.html?_r=1

Candidates Running Against, and With, Cable News; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/24/us/politics/24cable.html?emc=eta1

The New York Post: Profitless Paper In Relentless Pursuit;http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_08/b3921114_mz016.htm

Coming Unhinged On the Far Right: A Postscript

1:44 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

When I wrote my earlier article there were doubters among the readership as to who actually was perpetrating violence against those in Congress who had voted in favor of health care reform. Since that article there continues to be a growing stack of evidence of both borderline seditious rhetoric as well as actual examples of threatening behavior having been leveled against the more progressive elements in American political society.

The F.B.I. defines domestic terrorism as follows: “Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.During the past decade we have witnessed dramatic changes in the nature of the terrorist threat. In the 1990s, right-wing extremism overtook left-wing terrorism as the most dangerous domestic terrorist threat to the country. During the past several years, special interest extremism, as characterized by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), has emerged as a serious terrorist threat. …Special interest terrorism differs from traditional right-wing and left-wing terrorism in that extremist special interest groups seek to resolve specific issues, rather than effect widespread political change.” (F.B.I. "The Threat of Eco-Terrorism" (February 12, 2002): http://www.fbi.gov/congress/congress02/jarboe021202.htm.)

If you had the opportunity to watch the Chris Matthews Show this past Sunday, the 18th of April, you would have witnessed a lively discussion on the nature of the present threat of political violence emanating from the far right side of American politics. I have taken the time to delve into several of the show’s references, as a means of producing undeniable evidence of the propensity for political violence among right-wing extremists.

First there is Michael Savage who, on his April 9th Savage Nation Show said: “What we need is a vigorous right-wing movement in America, not a Tea Party. And you need to face off against those scum on the left and then you’ll have a nation.” (See – Michael Savage: “Obama a traitor who is not Loyal to America” http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201004120011) Then there is the example of Mike Vanderboegh, former Alabama Militiaman who now hosts the Freedom Radio Show. In his “To all modern Sons of Liberty: THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW.” He clearly and explicitly incites his followers to violence: “Pelosi and her ilk apparently do not understand that this Intolerable Act has some folks so angry that they are ready to resist their slow-rolling revolution against the Founders’ Republic by force of arms… These are collectivists. They do not hear you grumble. They do not, it is apparent after the past year of town halls and Tea Parties and nose-diving opinion polls, hear you SHOUT. They certainly do not hear the soft "snik-snik" of cleaning rods being used on millions of rifle barrels in this country by people who have decided that their backs are to the wall, politics and the courts no longer are sufficient to the task of defending their liberties, and they must make their own arrangements…. So, if you wish to send a message that Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows. Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight. Break them and await arrest in willful, principled civil disobedience. Break them with rocks. Break them with slingshots. Break them with baseball bats.” (http://sipseystreetirregulars.blogspot.com/2010/03/to-all-modern-sons-of-liberty-this-is.html).

Finally there is Michele Bachmann who recently advocated that Minnesotans become “armed and dangerous” in reaction to Barack Obama’s energy policy. As reported in the Minnesota Independent: “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back. Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing, and the people — we the people — are going to have to fight back hard if we’re not going to lose our country. And I think this has the potential of changing the dynamic of freedom forever in the United States.” Quoting the author, Chris Steller: “Smart Politics notes it’s not the first time since the election of President Obama and a new Democrat-led Congress that Bachmann dubbed her conservative compatriots “foreign correspondents reporting to you from enemy lines.” The metaphor, combined with her “armed-and-dangerous” rhetoric, drifts close to Sean Hannity’s excited speculation about a militant right-wing reaction.” (“Bachmann wants Minnesotans ‘armed and dangerous’ against Obama energy policy” BY CHRIS STELLER, MINNESOTA INDEPENDENT, March 24, 2009 http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/article/2009/03/24/bachmann-wants-minnesotans-%E2%80%98armed-and-dangerous%E2%80%99-against-obama-energy-policy.html.)

If the above dosen’t constitute incendiary or seditious rehetoric, than what does in fact constitute? At this point in time it would seem to me that the preponderence of reported incidents seems clearly aimed at the current administration and its supporters, not the other way around. I know there are those on the right who are bending over backwards to try to explain away today’s clear and present evidence of a trend towoard right-wing violence with comparisons back to the sixties, violence by animal rights or enviornmental groups but that was then and this is now. Today the problem lies clearly on the far-right and generally speaking, nowhere else. There are those who will say that there is plenty of evidence of current left-wing violence if one cares to look, well fine, give us some credible and empirical examples in the present and not five or six or forty years ago. As we observe the fifteenth anniversary of the America’s greatest act of domestic terror, the Oklahoma City Bombing, let us be ever mindfull of those clear and present threats aimed at our public safety, regardless of which side of the political spectrum they come from, and as good citizens, stand up to reckless rehtoric when ever and where ever you confont it.

Steven J. Gulitti
19 April 2010

MSNBC’s Airing the McVeigh Tapes: Sensationalism or Timely Reminder?

7:25 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

On April 19th, on the fifteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, MSNBC will televise live footage of interviews with Timothy McVeigh, the right wing mastermind of the attack. In light of all the turbulence and controversy surrounding the administration of Barack Obama, is this just another case of crass sensationalism or does it serve as a timely, in your face, reminder of what constitutes an extreme threat to public safety?

In my last two articles: Coming Unhinged on the Far Right and Hutaree Militia: Foiled Fantasy of a Citizen’s Uprising, I pointed out what I believe to be an undeniable trend towards a violent confrontation between the government and the far right. I experienced some degree of pushback from conservatives who fell back on the argument that the left had committed plenty of violent acts in the sixties, as if that were somehow relevant today. Nowhere in either of these articles did I ignore, condone or endorse left wing violence. In fact I roundly deplored all political violence:” It is time for Progressives to stand up to thugs and fanatics of any stripe, be they far to either the left or right, and to no longer tolerate threats of violence on the part of those who having lost out in the political arena, have chosen to attempt change through extra legal means.”

Many conservatives would point to an incident of labor thuggery by SEIU members, the Weathermen Bombings or the Seattle World Trade Organization anarchist riots as being somehow equivalent to the damage done in Oklahoma City or on par with the numerous deaths thus far committed by anti-government extremists since the inauguration of Barak Obama. In doing so, they are deliberately ignoring the facts that currently exist. Some critics went so far as to label the recent reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center as just a bunch of “liberal propaganda” for having pointed out the exponential growth in hate groups and anti-government “patriot” organizations since the Obama election. This argument, that past left-wing terror is somehow relevant to dealing with today’s clear and present danger, is a straw man argument being made by people who are fooling themselves with a historically challenged analysis in assessing the present situation. Its either that or they are so heavily invested in an anti-Obama crusade that they have become complacent in accepting this threat as it has yet to produce another Oklahoma City. Thus far it serves to support their anti-government animus so they have implicitly accepted the rhetoric while not actually endorsing violent acts.

I spent the last week with my reserve unit where I am part of an armed maritime security / law enforcement team. One of our team leaders is also a U.S. Marshall and SWAT team member with a background in having dealt with anti-government groups. We got on to the topic of domestic terror and his name and office will remain anonymous. I asked him if he had witnessed a significant rise in the number of anti-government organizations and he answered yes to that question. I asked him if they were predominately right wing and he said while there are some on the left, there were more on the right. Furthermore, I asked him if the findings of the Southern Poverty Law Center constituted legitimate research, again he agreed with me that their findings are consistent with what he was seeing from with inside the Marshall’s Service. He went on to say that the Secret Service was working overtime to keep up with all of the potential threats that have emerged in the last six months.

On this Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show the topic of domestic terror was front and center and Matthews presented two quotes from right wing extremists to underline his point that this is a serious problem. Michael Savage on his April 9th Savage Nation Show said: What we need is a vigorous right-wing movement in America, not a Tea Party. And you need to face off against those scum on the left and then you’ll have a nation. Then there was Mike Vanderboegh of Freedom Radio on March 17 who advocated going for the throats of the country’s elites. Finally, Nora O’Donnell pointed out how Sarah Palin starts off so many of her speeches with “Do you love you freedom.” implying that the current administration is bent on taking it away. If anyone can claim, that at least the Savage and Vanderboegh quotes are not an incitement to violent behavior that would to me constitute an act of outright self-denial.

If individuals are being complacent in their implicit acceptance of this incendiary rhetoric, what then is the position being taken by the Republican Party? I found it interesting that every one of Matthews’ panelists pointed out that to date, the G.O.P. has said very little in the way of condemning those on the far right who have put forth politically violent and vitriolic commentary. A salient point made by the commentators was that Fox News had allowed both Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck to run wild with their comments and that the G.O.P. of today lacks the moderating forces of thirty years ago who would have distanced the Party from the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. Joe Klein, having looked up the meaning of sedition said, the current language of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin “came up against the seditious.” Even Kathleen Parker who is listed on the conservative TownHall.com website of conservative columnists said:” The Republican Party must distance itself from the far right otherwise it will be seen as complicit.”

In the final analysis, when you take in to account the totality of the present situation, I think the MSNBC airing of the McVeigh Tapes should serve as a reminder of just how dangerous and incendiary rhetoric can become. That said, it is impossible to deny that there is an element of the sensational in the airing of McVeigh’s interviews. But it is also hard to deny that there are those among us who in their deep dislike of Barak Obama and dynamic social change are silently endorsing the very language on the part of leading right-wing politicians and media personalities, which could lead us, God forbid, down the road to another Oklahoma City.

Steven J. Gulitti
April 18, 2010

Progressives, Its Time To Take The Offensive!

8:00 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

Conservative columnist, David Brooks once pointed out that the Internet has had the net effect of not bringing us closer together, but rather, driving us further apart. By allowing individuals to coalesce into narrower, self-reinforcing groups – based on political, ideological, religious or regional sentiments – the Internet has created a society that is characterized by many separate groups where communication is largely within and between group members. Brooks went on to say that one could get up and watch Fox News from dawn to dusk, read conservative newspapers or magazines and listen to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity on talk radio and thus, never come across a competing idea all day. Likewise, the same sort of thing happens amongst the denizens of the left. It reminds me of a comment made by Norman Mailer after the Bush victory in 2004: “How could Bush have won, I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” Mailer was reflecting the fact that as a resident of New York City, one of the Bluest in America, you would never find a Bush supporter, unless you deliberately left the insularity of your own social group.

That brings me to the point of this piece. Many of us who utilize the blogs to traffic in political thought tend to stay on those blogs that are user friendly. We tend to blog on those sites that are supportive of the ideas we ourselves promote and favor. At the same time there are those on the far right who are doing the same thing, peddling their ideas or attacks against the current administration and Progressive ideas in general. These attacks on the very essence of Progressive thought go largely unchallenged with no more than a handful of stalwart progressives waging a counterattack and enduring a tremendous amount of vitriol and abuse in the process. Thus it is time for us to sally forth and bring the battle to the opponent’s home turf. Anyone who has had a peek at the latest trio of reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center knows full well just how violent the rhetoric on the right has become. All one need do is to look at the attacks against those who voted for health care or consider the case of the Hutaree Militia as proof positive that things are getting more confrontational and vicious.

I regularly dust it up with the wing nuts on TownHall.com but there are also several others like AmericanThinker.com; Human Events, and RedState.com to name just a few.
It would be great if we could get some help battling lies and misinformation on these sites and others like them. Townhall.com in particular is easy to deal with, as they don’t restrict your participation unless you engage in bona-fide hate speech. AmericanThinker.com screens your input and RedState.com will redact your comments if they don’t agree with you. I had an article dispelling the lies on health care redacted and I have since been barred from this site so you may only be able to get one shot at them and then you are done. If you’re up for the fight, and you ought to be, considering the stakes, the links are below.

We just fought and won some semblance of a health care reform program and there are plenty of other important battles ahead. As Progressives we need to learn how to throw a punch, figuratively, and stop being seen as a bunch of kumbaya signing pushovers who let the right push us around. My advice to you is the same that Stonewall Jackson gave a group of cadets at the outset of the Civil War. When asked just how bad he expected things to get he replied: “If I were you I would draw my sword and throw away the scabbard.”

Steven J. Gulitti
April 11th, 2010

Rage on the Right
The Year in Hate and Extremism

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/spring/rage-on-the-right

Fear of FEMA

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/spring/fear-of-fema

Midwifing the Militias – Resurgence of the Patriot Movement.

http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/spring/midwifing-the-militias

Townhall.com

http://townhall.com/columnists/

Human Events

http://www.humanevents.com/

American Thinker

http://www.americanthinker.com/

RedState.com

http://www.redstate.com/

Revving Up the Kamikazes on the Right

7:31 pm in Uncategorized by SJGulitti

In 1281 medieval Japan was spared a Mongolian invasion thanks to a massive typhoon that swept across Kyushu Island, thereby destroying the invading fleet and drowning the Mongolian warriors. The storm was deemed a divine wind or kamikaze, sent by the gods to save the Japanese. In the waning days of the Second World War, Imperial Japan would invoke the legacy of the 1281 typhoon in an attempt to forestall defeat in the Pacific by crashing wave upon wave of kamikazes into allied invasion fleets as they made their way toward the Japanese home islands. Today an ideologically challenged G.O.P. is failing in its effort to forestall the current administration’s recovery plan. Many commentators on the right have chosen to meet the new political reality with waves of virtual kamikaze attacks through all manner of media. The recent New York Post comic portraying a monkey shot by two policemen and insinuating that the monkey is Barack Obama is the latest, and most tasteless, example of the Right’s desperation.

Lead by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Phyllis Schlafly and even the venerable Tony Blankley and Pat Buchanan, the public has been bombarded with Read the rest of this entry →