Turning Around The Media’s Recent Obama As Loser Narrative

Pack journalism resulted in a misleading stream of newspaper articles which would make readers think that the Obama presidency had collapsed. Real problems have been exaggerated greatly out of proportion, with a temporary computer problem compared to Katrina and the desirable transfer of people from insurance plans designed to avoid payouts to real insurance plans presented as a disaster. As Reagan, Clinton, and Bush all had problems in their second term, the media  narrative has been that the same must happen with Obama. Fortunately there is hope that another feature of the news media, a desire to periodically change story lines, might lead to improved coverage once the web site is fixed and most Americans find out that they are better off, or at least doing the same, under the Affordable Care Act.

The New Republic is hardly a bell weather as to where the media will be going, but an article posted yesterday does present a hopeful sign of where coverage, if accurate, might change to:

It’s been a pretty good week for the Obama administration. The bungled healthcare.gov Web site emerged vastly improved following an intensive fix-it push, allowing some 25,000 to sign up per day, as many as signed up in all of October. Paul Ryan and Patty Murray inched toward a modest budget agreement. This morning came a remarkably solid jobs report, showing 203,000 new positions created in November, the unemployment rate falling to 7 percent for the first time in five years, and the labor force participation rate ticking back upward. Meanwhile, the administration’s push for a historic nuclear settlement with Iran continued apace.

All of these developments are tenuous. The Web site’s back-end troubles could still pose big problems (though word is they are rapidly improving, too) and the delay in getting the site up working leaves little time to meet enrollment goals. Job growth could easily stutter out again. The Iran deal could founder amid resistance from Congress or our allies.

After giving  examples, Alec MacGillis described some of the factors which led to such misleading coverage the last few weeks:

What explains for this even-worse-than-usual excitability? Much of it has to do with the age-old who’s-up-who’s down, permanent-campaign tendencies of the political media, exacerbated by a profusion of polling, daily tipsheets and Twitter. Overlaid on this is our obsession with the presidency, which leads us both to inflate the aura of the office and to view periods of tribulation as some sort of existential collapse. Add in the tendencies of even more serious reporters to get into a chew-toy mode with tales of scandal or policy dysfunction, as happened with the healthcare.gov debacle – the media has been so busy hyping every last aspect of the rollout’s woes that it did indeed start to seem inconceivable that things might get better soon.

Andrew Sullivan reviewed similar stories of gloom and doom for the Obama administration: “The Healthcare.gov fiasco was Katrina; the Syrian pivot was a disastrous wobble; the Iran negotiations were abject surrender; the economy was going nowhere.” Then he gave further examples of how reality looks far better than recent headlines:

But it’s worth digesting how all these alleged disasters have settled down. Obama’s alleged surrender to Putin on Syria … has led to something no one really believed possible: a potential shut-down of Syria’s WMD potential. What Bush failed to do in Iraq (because Saddam’s WMDs were a fantasy), Obama has almost succeeded in doing in Syria – with Putin’s help. The Iran negotiations – far from being a surrender – have set the stage for a real rapprochement. Les Gelb notes:

The Obama team has won the first round on the six-month agreement with Iran by a knockout. The phony, misleading, and dishonest arguments against the pact just didn’t hold up to the reality of the text. As night follows day, the mob of opponents didn’t consider surrender, not for a second. Instead, they trained their media howitzers on the future, the next and more permanent agreement, you know, the one that has yet to be negotiated.

Even George Will has conceded as much.

The media might stick with the current storyline and highlight every problem which is likely to occur with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the economy, and in unstable parts of the world. Or they might present the full story where Obama has been imperfect, has made mistakes, but has in reality done a lot to improve the economy, improve health care, and is showing promise regarding potentially major achievements in foreign policy.

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Iran Deal

POTUS about to make statement regarding deal with Iran on nuclear program. Next Fox to accuse Obama of making deal to reduce risk of nuclear war in order to take attention away from Obamacare problems.

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Wingnuts Say The Darndest Things: Bombing Iran

“What are we going to negotiate about? I would say ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ …You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ And so there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development. You want to be peaceful? Just reverse it all,  and we will guarantee you that you can have a nuclear power plant for electricity purposes, energy purposes.’–Sheldon Adelson, a major financial backer of Mitt Romney

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CIA Documents Support Obama Administration On Libya

Mitt Romney was embarrassed by his belief in the untrue attacks on Obama from right wing about Libya during last week’s debate. Yet more evidence has come out debunking the attacks on Obama. CIA reports support the Obama administration:

The Romney campaign may have misfired with its suggestion that statements by President Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Riceabout the Benghazi attack last month weren’t supported by intelligence, according to documents provided by a senior U.S. intelligence official.

“Talking points” prepared by the CIA on Sept. 15, the same day that Rice taped three television appearances, support her description of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate as a reaction to Arab anger about an anti-Muslim video prepared in the United States. According to the CIA account, “The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. Consulate and subsequently its annex. There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations.”

The CIA document went on: “This assessment may change as additional information is collected and analyzed and as currently available information continues to be evaluated.” This may sound like self-protective boilerplate, but it reflects the analysts’ genuine problem interpreting fragments of intercepted conversation, video surveillance and source reports.

The senior intelligence official said the analysts’ judgment was based in part on monitoring of some of the Benghazi attackers, which showed they had been watching the Cairo protests live on television and talking about them before they assaulted the consulate.

“We believe the timing of the attack was influenced by events in Cairo,” the senior official said, reaffirming the Cairo-Benghazi link. He said that judgment is repeated in a new report prepared this week for the House intelligence committee.

Here’s how the senior official described the jumble of events in Benghazi that day: “The attackers were disorganized; some seemed more interested in looting. Some who claimed to have participated joined the attack as it began or after it was under way. There is no evidence of rehearsals, they never got into the safe room . . . never took any hostages, didn’t bring explosives to blow the safe room door, and didn’t use a car bomb to blow the gates.”

The Benghazi flap is the sort of situation that intelligence officers dread: when politicians are demanding hard “yes” or “no” answers but evidence is fragmentary and conflicting. The political debate has focused on whether the attack was spontaneous or planned, but the official said there’s evidence of both, and that different attackers may have had different motives. There’s no dispute, however, that it was “an act of terror,” as Obama described it the next day.

“It was a flash mob with weapons,” is how the senior official described the attackers. The mob included members of the Ansar al-Sharia militia, about four members of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, and members of the Egypt-based Muhammad Jamal network, along with other unarmed looters.

The official said the only major change he would make now in the CIA’s Sept. 15 talking points would be to drop the word “spontaneous” and substitute “opportunistic.” He explained that there apparently was “some pre-coordination but minimal planning.”

The Los Angeles Times has a similar report on the attack.

Kevin Drum summarized what we know and ended with this summary:

There were conflicting reports on the ground, and that was reflected in conflicting and sometimes confused reports from the White House. I don’t think anyone would pretend that the Obama’s administration’s response to Benghazi was anywhere near ideal. Nevertheless, the fact is that their statements were usually properly cautious; the YouTube video really did play a role; the attack was opportunistic, not preplanned; and it doesn’t appear to have had any serious connection with al-Qaeda. It’s true that it took about ten days for all this to really shake out, but let’s be honest: ten days isn’t all that long to figure out what really happened during a violent and chaotic attack halfway around the world. I get that it’s a nice opportunity for Republicans to score some political points in the runup to an election, but really, there’s not much there there.

While it took time to figure out exactly what happened, it is not true, as Mitt Romney claimed, that Barack Obama did not refer to this as a terrorist attack for fourteen days. He actually made such references during the two weeks after the attack, including in speeches on September 12, and 13.

Republicans who are looking for a failure on national security might look back at George Bush, who first ignored intelligence warnings about the 9/11 attack, and then attacked Iraq based upon false claims of weapons of mass destruction.This shows the importance of Obama’s approach of viewing the intelligence as an evolving source of information as opposed to jumping to conclusions as Bush did with Iraq and Romney did with Libya.

Mitt Romney has stopped using Libya on the campaign trail, finding that his claims on the issue are not supported by the facts. It also will be harder for him to use Iran as a campaign issue now that the Obama administration has been successful in getting Iran to talk regarding their nuclear program:

News of the agreement — a result of intense, secret exchanges between American and Iranian officials that date almost to the beginning of President Obama’s term — comes at a critical moment in the presidential contest, just two weeks before Election Day and the weekend before the final debate, which is to focus on national security and foreign policy.

It has the potential to help Mr. Obama make the case that he is nearing a diplomatic breakthrough in the decade-long effort by the world’s major powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but it could pose a risk if Iran is seen as using the prospect of the direct talks to buy time.

It is also far from clear that Mr. Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, would go through with the negotiation should he win election. Mr. Romney has repeatedly criticized the president as showing weakness on Iran and failing to stand firmly with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat.

Conservatives who oppose negotiations with Iran certainly might be right that Iran will not negotiate in good faith. Despite this risk, it would be foolish not to attempt a negotiated settlement. It will be interesting to see if Mitt Romney takes a position on the proposed negotiations.

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Things Still Not Going Well For “Mitt the Twitt” After Leaving London

Things just continue to go badly for Mitt Romney, even after leaving London, the site of multiple gaffes. He’s  flip-flopped on his decision not to allow the press at his fund raiser in Israel but still will leave many questioning whether he plans to tell the big donors something different from what he says in public. CNN reports that “The reporters, however, will be escorted out before Romney takes questions from the audience during the event on Monday.”

Romney was also forced to backtrack on a view expressed by an aide on Iran which Romney didn’t want expressed in public:

A top Mitt Romney foreign policy aide on Sunday said the GOP presidential candidate would back an Israeli military strike on Iran to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” said Romney adviser on Middle East affairs Dan Senor in a briefing with reporters, according to media reports.

Any doubts as to what he will tell Israeli donors once the media is escorted out?

Meanwhile the Israelis aren’t happy about Romney trying to drag them into partisan disputes:

The high profile battle surrounding the state of ties between the allies has inserted Israel into the campaign as never before. But Israeli officials and analysts are anxious about that spotlight, and would prefer to be more of an afterthought. That’s because an election debate over Israel could damage long term ties between they countries by risking the Jewish state’s long cultivated bipartisan support in Washington.

“We don’t want to be part of the issue,” says an Israeli diplomat, who was not authorized to speak. “We have very strong bi-partisan support and we want to keep it that way. We want there to be strong relations with the US. Not with blue or red.”

Further in the article:

Republicans and the Israeli right see common cause “on three issues: the Land of Israel, religion, and family values,” says Mitchell Barak, an Israeli pollster. “There’s a natural connection to the Israeli left to the Democrats, and vice versa: That’s based on share values of democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and protection of minorities.”

But that risks upsetting a key strategy by pro-Israel allies in the US of cultivating support among both Democrats and Republicans in order to ensure that there’s continuity of US support for Israel regardless of who controls the White House or the Congress.

“It was very easy to stay out of this when American presidential candidates didn’t come to Israel three or four months before the election,” says one American Jewish official active in boosting bilateral ties. “If it looks like you look like you are backing one, and the other gets elected, you are in trouble.”

Romney hoped that his foreign trip might improve his reputation and make him look presidential, as a foreign trip did for Obama in 2008. Instead his constant gaffes only underscore how unprepared Mitt Romney is to be president, despite running for the job for several years. Romney’s often bizarre behavior is bound to result in more adverse media coverage, such as in the  Newsweek cover story (cover above). The story actually suggests that Romney might be something other than a wimp:

In some respects, he’s more weenie than wimp—socially inept; at times awkwardy ingratiating, at other times mocking those “below” him, but almost always getting the situation a little wrong, and never in a sympathetic way. The evidence resonates across too many years to deny. What kind of teenager beats up on the misfit, sissy kid, pinning him down and violently cutting his hair with a pair of school scissors—the incident from Romney’s youth that The Washington Post famously reported (and Romney famously didn’t really deny) back in May? The behavior extends, through more sedate means, into adulthood. The Salt Lake Olympics remains his greatest triumph, for which he wins deserved praise. But to many of those in the know, Romney placed a heavy asterisk next to his name by attacking the men he replaced on the Olympic Committee, smearing them in his book, even after a court threw out all the corruption charges against them.

And what kind of presidential candidate whines about a few attacks and demands an apology when the going starts to get rough? And tries to sound tough by accusing the president who killed the world’s most-wanted villain of appeasement? That’s what they call overcompensation, and it’s a dead giveaway; it’s the “tell.” This guy is nervous—terrified—about looking weak. And ironically, being terrified of looking weak makes him look weaker still…

But if Romney is elected? Be nervous. A Republican president sure of his manhood had nothing to prove. Reagan was happy with a jolly little shoot-up in Grenada, and eventually he settled down to the serious work of arms control, consummating historic treaties with Mikhail Gorbachev. But a weenie Republican—look out. He has something to prove, needs to reassert that “natural” advantage. That spells trouble more often than not.

Mitt Romney: Is he a wimp or a weenie? We report, you decide.

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ABC Promoting Bloomberg Story On Koch Illegal Activities

Conservatives in general, and especially the extraordinarily ignorant people who make up the Tea Party movement, are among the most gullible people who have ever lived. If you need sheep to promote your interests who will believe that cigarettes pose no danger to one’s health or that climate change poses no danger to the environment, there are plenty of conservatives who can easily be fooled into promoting your cause. Conservatives and libertarians are also the most dangerous threat to freedom and a working capitalist system in the world–presenting a far greater threat to free market economies than the socialists ever did. Conservatives promote a world view based upon false historical and economic facts which leads the right wing sheep to promote government policies which enrich the ultra-wealthy and eliminate the regulations which are essential for a market economy to function fairly. Of course the leaders of the conservative movement are well aware that the principles they preach are false, as can be seen in their actions.

The Koch brothers have been long-time heroes to libertarians and conservatives who have been unaware of how they have used government to enrich themselves. Their brand of libertarianism also appears to mean that they feel free to ignore the law. Bloomberg published a recent report on the activities of the Koch brothers, which has now been picked up by ABC News:

In a recent documentary, David Koch can be seen addressing Tea Party leaders and espousing American values, saying, “The American dream of free enterprise, capitalism is alive and well.”

But now questions are being raised about the American values of the source of the Koch brothers’ wealth.

This week’s edition of Bloomberg Markets reveals that one Koch Industries subsidiary was trading with Iran and that another subsidiary in France was paying bribes to get business in six different countries.

In one previously undisclosed document from a French labor court case, Koch Industries admits the payments are “violations of criminal law.” A company spokesperson told ABC News that the letter relates only to the conduct of the employee fired in the bribery case and “does not discuss or concern United States law or the company’s potential liability.”

“It’s a document right there in the court record, out of the lips of Koch Industries,” said David Evans, one of the co-authors of the Bloomberg Markets article.

 

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who Non-News & The Rise of The Iranian Machines

Here’s an abbreviated edition for this holiday weekend, dominated by non-news. There was no new broadcast of Doctor Who this week, with the BBC having concluded the series and BBC America taking the holiday weekend off, now falling four weeks behind the BBC. Coming up on Saturday is The Lodger in which The Doctor tries to blend in as a normal person when stranded without the Tardis for a week.  It is pretty much a stand alone episode, but there are subtle references to other events of the season, including a crack in the wall.

Other non-news involving Doctor Who is that the BBC is stating there are no plans for the rumored Doctor Who movie.  I’m not really disappointed. There is little point unless they came up with the right stand-alone story to be done as a movie. Even then, to avoid messing up the regeneration count, I would only like to see them do one if they used the current Doctor. The one exception to this is if they were able to bring back David Tennant to reprise his role.

In yet more non-news. there has been speculation that Matt Smith will be dropped as The Doctor. I did think he was a bit young and did not have the stature to follow David Tennant, but that would have been a difficult task for any actor. Fortunately Karen Gillan did such an excellent job as Amy Pond that this helped make the season a success.

There is also no news about the specifics of the script for the Christmas Special with rumors that the script is lost.

Iranian Robot Pre-Cylon

And finally, moving away from D, those who fear that we are fated to destroyed by Cylons or other robots of our own creation might take a look at Iran, which has announced the development of robots to do “sensitive jobs.” There is no elaboration on what there capabilities actually are.

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Why The Authoritarian Right Has A More Negative View of Libertarians Than Democrats Do

I’ve had a number of posts on libertarian views of the Democrats and Republicans, including posts on libertarians supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 election.  Kos notes an interesting item in a Pew Research Center study which looks at it from the opposite direction. The overall survey looks at views on capitalism and socialism, but one question looks at how Democrats and Republicans view libertarians:

Reactions to the word “libertarian” are evenly divided — 38% positive, 37% negative. On balance, Republicans view “libertarian” negatively, Democrats are divided, while independents have a positive impression of the term…

More than four-in-ten independents (44%) react positively to the word “libertarian,” while 32% have a negative reaction. Democrats are nearly evenly divided (39% positive, 37% negative). However, Republicans on balance have a negative impression of this term (44% negative, 31% positive).

I agree with Kos that it is not surprising that Republicans have a more negative view of the word “libertarian” than Democrats do. He writes:

The notion that Republicans are libertarian is ludicrous. They stick their noses into our bedrooms, into our doctors’ offices, into churches. They demand the roundup of people who don’t look like them. They whine about Miranda rights and due process. They are more concerned about the rights of big energy conglomerates, than they are about the rights of people to enjoy long walks on pristine beaches. They whine about true independent and free media that doesn’t validate their ideology. They freak out about anyone who doesn’t believe in their god, or worse, in any god at all.

For the American Taliban, “liberty” means their ability to impose their beliefs and lifestyle on the rest of society.

So of course they would react negatively to the word, since they equate it with libertinism. For a movement predicated on imposing its mores on the rest of society, this is obviously deeply offensive.

I agree that for the most part the negative impression of  “libertarian” is due to the authoritarian nature of the current conservative movement and Republican Party. There might also be an additional factor. While it makes little sense, many libertarians have seen the Republican Party as being closer to their views and have attempted to influence the party. This may have resulted in more conflicts between individual Republicans and libertarians, making some Republicans more likely to express a negative opinion of them as a result of such conflict along with their fundamental difference in views.

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American Influence Improves Due To “Obama Effect”

International opinion regarding the United States has rebounded sharply since the Bush years according to a recent BBC survey.It is especially notable that American “soft power” has increased while Chinese influence has been “in neutral.”

For the first time since the annual poll began in 2005, America’s influence in the world is now seen as more positive than negative.

The improved scores for the US coincided with Barack Obama becoming president, a BBC correspondent notes.

As in 2009, Germany is viewed most favourably while Iran and Pakistan are seen as the most negative influences…

“People around the world today view the United States more positively than at any time since the second Iraq war,” said Doug Miller, chairman of international polling firm GlobeScan, which carried out the poll with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (Pipa) at the University of Maryland.

“While still well below that of countries like Germany and the UK, the global standing of the US is clearly on the rise again.”

Pipa director Steven Kull noted: “After a year, it appears the ‘Obama effect’ is real.

“Its influence on people’s views worldwide, though, is to soften the negative aspects of the United States’ image, while positive aspects are not yet coming into strong focus.”

He added: “While China’s image is stuck in neutral, America has motored past it in the global soft-power competition.”

Of the full list of 28 countries surveyed this year, the US is viewed positively in 19 (20 including the US itself), while six lean negative and two are divided.

Compared with 2009, positive views of the US jumped 21% in Germany, 18 in Russia, 14 in Portugal and 13 in Chile – though Russia and Germany continued to have a negative view of the US overall.

Meanwhile, negative opinions of the US declined by 23% in Spain, 14 in France and 10 in the UK, with the result that all three lean towards a positive view of the country.

Such an improvement  in American influence was anticipated by Obama supporters and Andrew Sullivan points out that, “One argument many of us made in favor of the election of Barack Obama was that he would instantly help the US recover from its nadir of global reputation in the Bush-Cheney pre-emptive war-and-torture era.”

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Sarah Palin Rejects Separation of Church and State

Back in 2007 I had a post debunking John McCain’s claim that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. This is an area where he agreed with his 2008 running mate. Steven Benen reports that Sarah Palin has made this and several other similar mistakes.  She believes that America needs to get back to its Christian roots and rejected any notion that “God should be separated from the state.” She believes that the Founding Fathers, who promoted the principle of separation of church and state, were opposed to one of their  most important ideas.

Palin also suggested that suggests religious people necessarily also reject separation of church in state. Actually it has often been religious people who understood the importance of separation of church and state to guarantee their right to worship as they wished.

Benen commented:

The amusing aspect of this is the notion that the United States would return to its roots with support for National Day of Prayer observances. That’s backwards — Thomas Jefferson and James Madison explicitly rejected state-sponsored prayer days. I’ll look forward to the conservative explanation of how the Founding Fathers were godless socialists.

I also can’t wait to hear how right-wing voices who want smaller government believe it’s appropriate for the federal government to issue decrees encouraging private American citizens to engage in worship.

But far less amusing is the fact that Palin and others of her radical ilk reject any notion that “God should be separated from the state.” It’s the 21st century, for crying out loud. There are some countries that endorse Palin’s worldview and intermix God and government — Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan under Taliban rule come to mind — but they’re generally not countries the United States tries to emulate.

The separation of church and state has long been a concept that all Americans could embrace, and has served as a model for nations around the world to follow. For Palin to publicly denounce this bedrock American principle suggests she might actually be getting worse…

If anyone this conspicuously unintelligent has ever sought national office, I can’t think of who he/she is.

Personally I don’t find any of this surprising considering how Palin ignored the separation of church and state as Governor of Alaska.

Update: Crooks & Liars has video along with a discussion of Palin’s association with the Prayer Warriors.

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