In a stunning development one day after the release of Where’s the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is not Eligible to be President, by Dr. Jerome Corsi, World Net Daily Editor and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Farah has announced plans to recall and pulp the entire 200,000 first printing run of the book, as well as announcing an offer to refund the purchase price to anyone who has already bought either a hard copy or electronic download of the book.
In an exclusive interview, a reflective Farah, who wrote the book’s foreword and also published Corsi’s earlier best-selling work, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak out Against John Kerry and Capricorn One: NASA, JFK, and the Great “Moon Landing” Cover-Up, said that after much serious reflection, he could not go forward with the project. “I believe with all my heart that Barack Obama is destroying this country, and I will continue to stand against his administration at every turn, but in light of recent events, this book has become problematic, and contains what I now believe to be factual inaccuracies,” he said this morning. “I cannot in good conscience publish it and expect anyone to believe it.”
If they had only taken the same action when it turned out that the claims of the Swift Boat Liars, including Jerome Corsi, was also based upon factual inaccuracies.
Even more unfortunate, this turned out to be a hoax:
for those who didn’t figure it out yet, and the many on Twitter for whom it took a while: We committed satire this morning to point out the problems with selling and marketing a book that has had its core premise and reason to exist gutted by the news cycle, several weeks in advance of publication. Are its author and publisher chastened? Well, no. They double down, and accuse the President of the United States of perpetrating a fraud on the world by having released a forged birth certificate. Not because this claim is in any way based on reality, but to hold their terribly gullible audience captive to their lies, and to sell books. This is despicable, and deserves only ridicule. That’s why we committed satire in the matter of the Corsi book. Hell, even the president has a sense of humor about it all. Some more serious reporting from us on this whole “birther” phenomenon here, here, and here.
Update: Jerome Corsi, who is making a living by lying and smearing people, is now upset that Esquire posted a false story about him and is threatening to sue Esquire. The difference is that Esquire admitted their story was a parody while Corsi continues to spread his lies.
The challenge in Egypt is now to establish a democracy rather than slip back into another form of dictatorship. Since the Bush years, many Americans have feared that we are in danger of democracy slipping away here. Bob Herbert wrote about this challenge today:
In an Op-Ed article in The Times at the end of January, Senator John Kerry said that the Egyptian people “have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities.” Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades, democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones who could afford it.
The corporate and financial elites threw astounding sums of money into campaign contributions and high-priced lobbyists and think tanks and media buys and anything else they could think of. They wined and dined powerful leaders of both parties. They flew them on private jets and wooed them with golf outings and lavish vacations and gave them high-paying jobs as lobbyists the moment they left the government. All that money was well spent. The investments paid off big time.
As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their book, “Winner-Take-All Politics”: “Step by step and debate by debate, America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many.”
As if the corporate stranglehold on American democracy were not tight enough, the Supreme Court strengthened it immeasurably with its Citizens United decision, which greatly enhanced the already overwhelming power of corporate money in politics. Ordinary Americans have no real access to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.
When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as though society has treated them unfairly.
As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation.” (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make you sick.)
It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?
The Koch brothers have been the target of many liberal bloggers lately. I agree with criticism of them for matters such as their pollution record, criticism of the increased concentration of wealth among the ultra-wealthy, and criticism of a system which allows small numbers of wealthy people to have so much power. I do not object to the fact that they are spending money to promote their views (if you can look beyond the other areas of criticism). Personally I wouldn’t mind if we had more wealthy individuals spending money promoting democracy and true freedom. What is really amazing is the number of libertarians who see the Kochs as promoting liberty as opposed to oligarchy.
This leads to one of the reasons our democracy is in trouble–many on the right confuse limitation of government with liberty. In an era where there are many powerful forces, a liberal government is often essential to preserving liberty for the individual. On the other hand, we must also be vigilant in preventing government from infringing upon our liberties. Here, far too many people on the right look the other way and advocate increased government action where it does not belong while complaining about legitimate actions of government.
In any discussion of the dangers to our democracy, we must include the importance of an informed electorate. The conservative dominance of the news media helps create the problem of people who see people like the Kochs as supporting rather than threatening freedom and democracy, along with the many falsehoods common on the right which I have discussed in multiple other posts. How can voters intelligently access health care reform when right wing media outlets are making false claims about death panels, job killing, and a government take-over of health care? How do voters evaluate proposals to deal with climate change when the right wing noise machine spreads the propaganda of the petroleum industry? How do individuals assess the candidates in a democracy when, hearing the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars and Birthers, along with distortions of the actual beliefs of liberal candidates?
The Boston Globe has an article which describes a phenomenon which has been clear for a long time as a new discovery. They reported on studies which found that people, especially ideologues, often ignore facts which contradict their views:
Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.
This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters — the people making decisions about how the country runs — aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.
“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”
This is hardly surprising. We’ve seen this during the Iraq war as many conservatives held onto beliefs that there was WMD in Iraq or that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attack. In addition, we see conservatives expressing numerous beliefs which are counter to fact. In economics we see conservatives hold onto the same erroneous economic views regardless of how often they lead to disaster. In science this includes belief in creationism and denial of the human role in climate change. In history we see a growing number of conservatives deny the fact that the Founding Fathers supported separation of church and state despite all the historical documentation that this is what they intended.
The conservative movement, with its disconnect from reality, is also prone to spreading unfounded conspiracy theories. In recent elections we’ve seen them hold onto disputed claims such as those from the Swift Boat Liars and the Birthers. Many conservatives continue to claim that neither John Kerry’s military record or Barack Obama’s birth certificate have been released. In reality, not only have both documents been made public but they have also been posted on line. Then we have the Tea Party movement which is totally disconnected from reality.
Of course there are also some nutty views held on the far left too. The difference is that the left in this country is dominated by people who are generally pragmatic and even moderate by international standards. Those with views which are contrary to fact on the left tend to have little influence, while the conservative movement has become dominated by ideologues who deny the facts whenever they contradict their extremist views.
The researchers looked at a few specific issues:
New research, published in the journal Political Behavior last month, suggests that once those facts — or “facts” — are internalized, they are very difficult to budge. In 2005, amid the strident calls for better media fact-checking in the wake of the Iraq war, Michigan’s Nyhan and a colleague devised an experiment in which participants were given mock news stories, each of which contained a provably false, though nonetheless widespread, claim made by a political figure: that there were WMDs found in Iraq (there weren’t), that the Bush tax cuts increased government revenues (revenues actually fell), and that the Bush administration imposed a total ban on stem cell research (only certain federal funding was restricted). Nyhan inserted a clear, direct correction after each piece of misinformation, and then measured the study participants to see if the correction took.
For the most part, it didn’t. The participants who self-identified as conservative believed the misinformation on WMD and taxes even more strongly after being given the correction. With those two issues, the more strongly the participant cared about the topic — a factor known as salience — the stronger the backfire. The effect was slightly different on self-identified liberals: When they read corrected stories about stem cells, the corrections didn’t backfire, but the readers did still ignore the inconvenient fact that the Bush administration’s restrictions weren’t total.
Incorrect views on the right, such as on WMD and the effect of tax cuts, are fairly widespread. I imagine that there are some on the left who believe that Bush supported total restrictions on stem cell research, but most liberal writings have been more specific in criticizing Bush for the federal restrictions on funding of stem cell research. Articles frequently noted that, while the ban was not total, Bush’s limitations on the stem cell lines on which research was allowed wound up crippling stem cell research.
This phenomenon described is hardly surprising or anything new, but there might be some value in publicizing such academic research. This might help a bit in countering the misinformation which commonly comes from Fox and the Tea Party rallies. Of course the research also demonstrates what we already knew–those who believe these claims are unlikely to change their minds based upon the facts.
The tea party movements have been characterized by angry people who are ignorant of the issues and are being misled by operatives from the far right. Playboy has interviewed one of the right wing operatives who has explained how he manipulates their followers by appealing to the Reptilian portions of the brain as opposed to their logic centers. We’ve seen his type of work before:
Did you get an automated call from the sister of a 9/11 victim asking you to reelect President Bush in 2004? That was me. Did you get a piece of mail with the phrase supports abortion on demand as a means of birth control? That may have been me too.
The people the source deals with “may not read much, but they all know their Ayn Rand.” He described the “black arts” techniques used to manipulate them:
A good piece of mail gets its message across in 10 seconds. Television gives you 30 seconds, maybe. We’re playing to the reptilian brain rather than the logic centers, so we look for key words and images to leverage the intense rage and anxiety of white working-class conservatives. In other words, I talk to the same part of your brain that causes road rage.
In other words, this is a continuation of the usual right wing misinformation campaign. New York Magazine noted the similarity and questions if Democrats will be prepared to counter it:
Think Swift Boating, or the James O’Keefe ACORN project. It sounds dark the way this person describes it (“black arts” never sound particularly appetizing, unless they are practiced by Robert Pattinson), but it’s really nothing new. The question is whether Barack Obama, as head of the Democratic Party, is going to retain his frustrating coolness in the fall as these tactics are being used against liberal candidates across the country in an effort to take away the Democratic majority in Congress. No matter how rational he can be, is reason any good when it’s up against road rage?
Marc Ambinder is wondering about something which most of us noticed quite a while ago in asking, Have Conservatives Gone Mad? He provides some examples:
It is absolutely a condition of the age of the triumph of conservative personality politics, where entertainers shouting slogans are taken seriously as political actors, and where the incentive structures exist to stomp on dissent and nuance, causing experimental voices to retrench and allowing a lot of people to pretend that the world around them is not changing. The obsession with ACORN, Climategate, death panels, the militarization of rhetoric, Saul Alinsky, Chicago-style politics, that TAXPAYERS will fund the bailout of banks – these aren’t meaningful or interesting or even relevant things to focus on. (The banks will fund their own bailouts.)
There are far more examples. For example, climategate is just one example of the rejection of science by many conservatives (accompanied by a conspiracy theory based upon their creative misinterpretation of stolen email). There’s also their rejection of evolution, along with cosmology or any other branch of science which conflicts with a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. Plenty of other conspiracy theories, along with rejection of science, are also popular on the far right, especially if we extend to the Ron Paul crowd. At least the Paul supporters don’t accept the beliefs still held by many on the right that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 attack and that Iraq had WMD at the start of the war.
Hatred of Obama has brought about a new set of reliefs which are unteathered from reality, from the claims that he was born outside of the United States to the claims he is a Muslim or a Marxist. Of course this is nothing new. The current bogus claims about Obama are as absurd as the discredited claims of the Swift Boat Liars. Right wingers continue to base conspiracy theories upon claims that both John Kerry’s war records and Barack Obama’s birth certificate are being kept secret. It is hardly a secret when both documents have been posted on the internet.
Ambinder speculates as to the causes of this insanity:
Conor Friedersdorf thinks the problem lies with the conservative movement’s major spokespeople – its radio/net news nexus — and the “overwhelming evidence that their very existence as popular entertainers hinges on an ability to persuade listeners that they are “‘worth taking seriously as political and intellectual actors.’” That is why the constant failures of these men to live up to their billing is so offensive, destructive, and ruinous to conservatives. There are plenty of women, too, is all I’ll say.
The right wing noise machine is certainly responsible for much of the problem. In many cases it isn’t even clear if the clowns who spread their insane beliefs even believe what they are saying, or are just doing this because it is an easy way to make a good living. Scott Adams has speculated about this and written, “I find it mind boggling that anyone believes a TV talk host is expressing his own true views.” We’ve had Glenn Beck say “I could give a flying crap about the political process.” Beck has also described himself as “a rodeo clown” and conceded, “If you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.”
Unfortunately there are a lot of idiots who actually believe the things that people like Glenn Beck say, regardless of how much evidence there is that he makes it up. Ambinder has a suggestion for the media as to how to respond:
I think this sensibility is pervasive throughout the smart media — old and new. I think it’s one reason why, say, Jake Tapper and other good reporters are very keen about direct fact-challenging — why the media is reasserting itself as gatekeepers. (CNN might want to think about branding themselves here, even at the risk (well, the reality) of calling out Republicans more.) I think it’s because there’s so much misinformation out there — most of it spread by the conservative echo-chamber. With the advent of Fox News and the power of that echo-chamber, complaints about liberal media bias are quite irrelevant — the reaction to it being like lupus’s reaction to the body, as Jon Stewart correctly noted.
It would certainly be useful to have Jake Tapper of ABC, CNN, and others devote more time to fact checking. The far right will just write off the facts as liberal bias but maybe having the facts out there more will do some good. Fact checking will definitely play into the belief that CNN is a liberal counterpart to Fox which is absurd when you look at how many Republicans they have hired in recent years since the network was sold by Ted Turner. There is no doubt that they will have far more to fact check with Republican than Democratic statements, plus the Republican falsehoods are much further from reality than the errors coming from the Democrats.
ACORN was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by Brooklyn prosecutors and the supposedly incriminating tape was found to have been edited. New York Daily News reports:
Brooklyn prosecutors on Monday cleared ACORN of criminal wrongdoing after a four-month probe that began when undercover conservative activists filmed workers giving what appeared to be illegal advice on how to hide money.
While the video by James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles seemed to show three ACORN workers advising a prostitute how to hide ill-gotten gains, the unedited version was not as clear, according to a law enforcement source.
“They edited the tape to meet their agenda,” said the source.
O’Keefe and Giles – who visited ACORN offices in several cities, including its Brooklyn headquarters – stirred controversy when they posted the videos on their Web site.
They were hailed as heroes by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and their footage led several government agencies to temporarily cut funding for ACORN as the prosecutors opened an investigation.
“On Sept. 15, 2009, my office began an investigation into possible criminality on the part of three ACORN employees,” Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a one-paragraph statement issued Monday afternoon.
“That investigation is now concluded and no criminality has been found.”
Update: Many of the attacks on Acorn from the right wing were based upon false information spread by Andrew Breitbart. Media Matters reports that Breitbart has walked back his claims of criminality on the part of ACORN.
Even though the evidence against ACORN has been shown to have been fabricated my bet is that this will not change the attitude of most on the right. They enjoy living in their fantasy world and have far too many defenses built up to protect them from facing reality.
The American right wing has become an authoritarian movement which operates by fabricating false evidence to demonize their opponents. They will hold to their fantasies about ACORN just as many on the right still think that Saddam was involved with the 9/11 attack, there was WMD in Iraq at the time of the war, that the claims of the Swift Boat Liars about John Kerry were anything other than politically motivated lies, and that Barack Obama is a Muslim born outside of the United States.
It must be a very slow news day. The latest thing to get the conservative bloggers all worked up is a letter sent under the name of Ellie Light. At very least the same letter was sent to multiple newspapers, and it also appears that the writer attached different addresses from different cities.Ben Smith posted a copy of the letter as emailed to him a few weeks ago:
A year ago, if we had read in the paper that employers were hiring again, that health care legislation was proceeding without a bump, that Afghanistan suddenly became a nice place to take your kids, we would’ve known we were being lied to. Back then, we recognized that the problems Obama inherited as president wouldn’t go away overnight.
During his campaign, Obama clearly said that an economy that took eight years to break couldn’t be fixed in a year, that Afghanistan was a graveyard of empires and would not be an easy venture for us. Candidate Obama didn’t feed us happy talk, which is why we elected him. He never said America could solve our health care, economic and security problems without raising the deficit. Instead, he talked of hard choices, of government taking painful and contentious first steps towards fixing problems that can’t be left for another day.
Right after Obama’s election, we seemed to grasp this. We understood that companies would be happy to squeeze more work out of frightened employees, and would be slow to hire more. We understood that the banks that had extorted us out of billions of dollars, were lying when they said they would share their recovery. We understood that a national consensus on health care would not come easily. Candidate Obama never claimed that his proposed solutions would work flawlessly right out of the box, and we respected him for that.
But today, the president is being attacked as if he were a salesman who promised us that our problems would wash off in the morning. He never made such a promise. It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything.
Compared to the nasty and dishonest letters from Obama haters, typically repeating the same lines, this is extremely tame. Many conservative bloggers are claiming that this is being sent out by the White House without any evidence to back up their claim. This is probably yet another baseless conservative conspiracy theory. Besides, I wonder how many of them were upset when the false claims spread by the Swift Boat Liars were eventually tracked back to Karl Rove’s misinformation operation at the Bush White House.
My bet is that this is one of a large number of Obama supporters who is acting on her own. We have seen many examples of individuals working to support Obama since there was first talk about him running for president. It is not necessary for the White House to send out letters. There are plenty of Obama supporters who regularly do so on their own.
It would be wrong of her if she sent out the letter with false return addresses (and perhaps a fake name) but considering the state of politics in this country this is hardly worth getting terribly upset over. The Cleveland Plain Dealer noticed the variety of return addresses on this letter in other papers and received this response from Light:
In a Sunday morning e-mail to The Plain Dealer, Light denied speculation that she’s actually President Obama, his wife, Michelle, or National Security Council member Samantha Power.
“I’m flattered, and I must give the Tea Partiers credit for even knowing who [Power] is,” Light’s e-mail said. “But what I want to point out is that, if I were a person trying to imply this huge groundswell of support for our beleaguered president, then I would have signed the letter with different names. However, as you may have noticed, my main point is that absence of support for the president.
“I am not surprised that an article that tends to discredit a pro-Obama letter-writer has lots of readers. I understand that there are 10 million dittoheads that daily scour the airwaves, print and online press for something nasty to say about the president, so I’m sure your article will get more hits,” she wrote in another e-mail later Sunday. “I’m not sure why you would write me that people would probably be interested in what I have to say. My impression is that my letter could contain Chinese food recipes with a Pro-Obama subject line, and the event would be interpreted as fodder for that same highly-motivated, but narrow class of people.”
Representatives of the White Houses media affairs office did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
Light said she didn’t submit her letter to all the outlets that published it, and said many carried it after it was cited several weeks ago by Politico’s Ben Smith. She says she prefers submitting her letters to smaller papers, “specifically because I think rationality needs a broader audience.”
Further in the article she is quoted again:
“I think there’s only one reason why an editor publishes something in his or her paper: because they think it is going to be read,” Light’s e-mail said.
“If my letter were boilerplate [White House senior adviser David] Axelrod dribble, as has been suggested by your new fan club, it would not have been published. Many of my friends have written letters to the editor and bemoan the fact that they never get published. I reply that everything they wrote in their letters has been said before by others. I think, however, this one letter that I wrote, is unique enough, that it was worth widespread attention, simple as that.”
Lacking much of substance to attack Obama on, opponents have been desperate to grab at anything. Several conservative sites have latched onto this criticism of Obama’s response to yesterday’s tragic shooting at Fort Hood. The article complains about not seeing “a somber chief executive offering reassuring words and expressions of sympathy and compassion.”
One conservative blog even writes, after a ridiculous claim that Obama hates the military and sides with a Jihadist: “That he would call yesterday’s horrific act of violence an ‘outburst of violence’ validates that he deserves no respect. It is times like this that I REALLY miss President Bush.”
Beyond the absurdity of the earlier charges and objection to Obama’s objection to an “outburst of violence,” it is rather inane to use this to bring back the memory of George Bush. As most will recall, upon being informed of the the worst terrorist attack on this country, George Bush continued to read a about a pet goat. He was then virtually absent for a couple of days after a tragedy far more serious than the one yesterday.
This morning, when the President gave his opening remarks at the Tribal Nations Conference, the day looked very different. By 5:02 EST when he was scheduled to give closing remarks, it was clear that all Americans were rightly concerned with the tragedy in Texas, and the President took his time to give his thoughts and prayers:
Now, I have to say, though, that beyond that, I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead for Native Americans, as well as collaboration with our administration, but as some of you might have heard, there has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas. We don’t yet know all the details at this moment; we will share them as we get them. What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed, and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence.
My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen, and with those who live and serve at Fort Hood. These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It’s difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.
I’ve spoken to Secretary Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and I will continue to receive a constant stream of updates as new information comes in. We are working with the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, all to ensure that Fort Hood is secure, and we will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government.
In the meantime, I would ask all Americans to keep the men and women of Fort Hood in your thoughts and prayers. We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident. And I want all of you to know that as Commander-in-Chief, there’s no greater honor but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for and that their safety and security when they are at home is provided for.
So we are going to stay on this. But I hope in the meantime that all of you recognize the scope of this tragedy, and keep everybody in their thoughts and prayers.
It sure sounds like Obama changed his planned statements to provide “reassuring words and expressions of sympathy and compassion” in response to the immediate situation. That is far more than what George Bush did after 9/11.
Update: Some conservatives are sure searching for a way to turn yesterday’s shooting at Fort Hood into yet another way to attack Barack Obama, failing to realize how disrespectful to the troops their sick attempts to play politics with this really are. Now even one of the Swift Boat Liars has gotten into the act. There’s yet another bizarre charge raised against Obama related to the shootings here.
Update II:Steve M. has more on the absurd attack from the right on Obama for calling the attack an “‘outburst of violence” while praising George Bush:
This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas — a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction.
These people will grasp at any straw, won’t they?
Hey, at least they aren’t still blaming Bill Clinton for everything.
Update III: Some conservatives have linked here with attacks claiming I brought up a comparison to George Bush. If they had the ability to actually comprehend this post they would see that the post was written in response to argument from the right that George Bush handled such situations better. Bush’s inability to respond meaningfully to 9/11 during the first forty-eight hours after 9/11 was far more significant. Obama’s response is nothing like Bush’s flippant comment to “now watch this drive” immediately after discussing terrorist killings:
This was a breaking news event on a day when Obama had a scheduled event. It made perfect sense for his staff to work to get the information on the shootings and write a statement to make at the conclusion of his scheduled appearance. Obama’s statement on the shootings should be judged by what he said about the shootings–not what he said in an unrelated scheduled event.
Obama did not make “shout-outs” during his actual statement on the shootings. Considering the nature of the breaking news there was nothing wrong adding a statement on at the time of his current engagement. If Reagan or Bush had done this conservatives would have said nothing.
Even if one really felt that it would have been significantly better if he had canceled his planned appearance at the last minute to make a statement solely on the shootings this is hardly a major point. Only those who already hate him, and his attempts to preserve our American values from the onslaught from the right wing, would use this as an excuse to show the degree of disrespect for the dead soldiers that we are now seeing from the right wing. This hardly justifies the claims from the right I cited that Obama hates the troops or sides with a Jihadist. This is purely a case of hating Obama and then working backwards from that point to make an attack which makes absolutely no sense to anyone outside of the right wing’s echo chamber.
Update IV: Video and transcript of Barack Obama’s statement at the Fort Hood memorial on November 10 are posted here.
John Kerry is not only “de facto Secretary of State” per an earlier post. He is also Politico’s Man of the Hour” for resolving the dispute over Afghanistan’s election.
Bloomberg compares Kerry’s diplomatic efforts to other high-profile diplomatic efforts:
Kerry’s involvement is the latest high-profile diplomatic effort by an unofficial envoy that has benefited the Obama administration. In August, former President Bill Clinton flew to North Korea to secure the release of two American journalists and held discussions with regime leader Kim Jong Il that started a thaw in relations with the U.S.
The Obama administration is now willing to hold direct talks to persuade North Korea to return to multinational negotiations aimed at eliminating its nuclear weapons program.
Also in August, Senator Jim Webb, a Virginia Democrat, flew to Myanmar, where the U.S. has had limited contact, and won the release of an American imprisoned there. The Obama administration has since announced a new policy of direct talks with the military rulers of the Southeast Asian nation in an effort to promote democratic changes.
In another example, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a former ambassador to the United Nations, visited Cuba as a de facto envoy and recommended upon his return that the administration engage in broader talks with the communist government.
Marc Ambinder asks, “Has Sen. John Kerry ever had as good a press cycle?” Probably not since he won the Iowa caucuses in 2004, leading to victory for the Democratic nomination. This widespread praise for Kerry is well-deserved, but the heads must be exploding on a few of the Swift Boat Liars.
Considering how extreme and out of touch with reality portions of the conservative movement have become, it is always good to see conservatives who oppose these trends. There were two such examples today from Jon Henke and Bruce Bartlett.
[T]he Web site Worldnetdaily.com says that the government is considering Nazi-like concentration camps for dissidents. Jerome Corsi, the author of “The Obama Nation,” an anti-Obama book, says that a proposal in Congress “appears designed to create the type of detention center that those concerned about use of the military in domestic affairs fear could be used as concentration camps for political dissidents, such as occurred in Nazi Germany.”
The article goes on to explain what was really proposed:
In truth, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., has proposed a bill that would order the Homeland Security Department to prepare national emergency centers — to provide temporary housing and medical facilities in national emergencies such as hurricanes. The bill also would allow the centers to be used to train first responders, and for “other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”
Henke responds by saying conservatives should disassociate themselves from WorldNetDaily:
In the 1960′s, William F. Buckley denounced the John Birch Society leadership for being “so far removed from common sense” and later said “We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner.”
The Birthers are the Birchers of our time, and WorldNetDaily is their pamphlet. The Right has mostly ignored these embarrassing people and organizations, but some people and organizations inexplicably choose to support WND through advertising and email list rental or other collaboration. For instance, I have been told that F.I.R.E (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) – an otherwise respectable group that does important work – uses the WND email list. They should stop.
No respectable organization should support the kind of fringe idiocy that WND peddles. Those who do are not respectable.
I think it’s time to find out what conservative/libertarian organizations support WND through advertising, list rental or other commercial collaboration (email me if you know of any), and boycott any of those organizations that will not renounce any further support for WorldNetDaily.
Sounds like a good idea but it isn’t so simple to separate the kooks from the conservative establishment. Steve Benen points out one problem:
There is, however, a small catch. Henke argues that those who advertise on WorldNetDaily shouldn’t be considered “respectable,” and deserve to be boycotted. That’s an entirely defensible position, but the Republican National Committee is one of the entities that does business with WorldNetDaily. Indeed, they partnered on a mailing as recently as last week.
Many conservatives have already drifted away from the conservative movement and the Republican Party, such as former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett. Today he responded to a question as to why he has become so anti-Republican:
I think the party got seriously on the wrong track during the George W. Bush years, as I explained in my Impostor book. In my opinion, it no longer bears any resemblance to the party of Ronald Reagan. I still consider myself to be a Reaganite. But I don’t see any others anywhere in the GOP these days, which is why I consider myself to be an independent. Mindless partisanship has replaced principled conservatism. What passes for principle in the party these days is “what can we do to screw the Democrats today.” How else can you explain things like that insane op-ed Michael Steele had in the Washington Post on Monday?
I am not alone. When I talk to old timers from the Reagan years, many express the same concerns I have. But they all work for Republican-oriented think tanks like AEI and Hoover and don’t wish to be fired like I was from NCPA . Or they just don’t want to be bothered or lose friends. As a free agent I am able to say what they can’t or won’t say publicly.
I think the Republican Party is in the same boat the Democrats were in in the early eighties — dominated by extremists unable to see how badly their party was alienating moderates and independents. The party’s adults formed the Democratic Leadership Council to push the party back to the center and it was very successful. But there is no group like that for Republicans. That has left lunatics like Glenn Beck as the party’s de facto leaders. As long as that remains the case, I want nothing to do with the GOP.
I will know that the party is on the path to recovery when someone in a position of influence reaches out to former Republicans like me. We are the most likely group among independents to vote Republican. But I see no effort to do so. All I see is pandering to the party’s crazies like the birthers . In the short run that may be enough to pick up a few congressional seats next year, but I see no way a Republican can retake the White House for the foreseeable future. Both CBO and OMB are predicting better than 4% real growth in 2011 and 2012. If those numbers are even remotely correct Obama will have it in the bag. Also, Republicans have to find a way to win some minority votes because it is not viable as a whites-only party in presidential elections. That’s why I wrote my Wrong on Race book, which no one read.
Update: Besides writing the right wing nonsense quoted above, Jerome Corsi was a co-author of Unfit for Command which spread the false claims of the Swift Boat Liars against John Kerry during the 2004 election. Just as honorable conservatives should denounce the current insane writings of Corsi, honorable conservatives should have denounced his 2004 attacks on a war hero.
Of course few did. As much as some conservatives would like to dissociate themselves from this type of thought, this type of baseless attack now forms the heart of the conservative movement. Take away their hatred, paranoia, and shared delusions and there is not much left of the current conservative movement. People like Henke and Bartlett have an uphill battle if they want to return the conservative movement to being a reality-based philosophy.
The Birther movement is an embarrassment for serious Republicans who realize this whole faux controversy is a gift to the Democrats.There is once again confirmation that Obama was born in Hawaii, but there’s no doubt that the conspiracy theorists will find a way to deny the evidence. The Honalulu Advertiser reports:
Hawai’i's Health Department confirmed yesterday that it has President Obama’s original Aug. 4, 1961, birth certificate in storage, but the announcement is unlikely to satisfy conspiracy theorists who insist Obama was born in Kenya.
“We don’t destroy vital records,” Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said. “That’s our whole job, to maintain and retain vital records.”
The Health Department’s director reiterated yesterday that she has seen Obama’s birth records.
“I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawai’i State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai’i State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawai’i and is a natural-born American citizen,” Fukino said in a statement. “I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008, over eight months ago.”
Fukino tried on Oct. 31 to put an end to the belief among so-called “birthers” that Obama was not born in Honolulu’s Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital. The birthers insist that Obama was not born in the U.S. and is therefore ineligible to be president.
Despite Fukino’s statement yesterday — and several court rulings and statements by Hawai’i's Republican governor, Linda Lingle, the issue continued to resonate from Capitol Hill to the blogosphere.
It is doubtful that this will convince those who believe Obama is not an American citizen. Conspiracy theorists can always come up with a new argument since they are not bound by reality and they typically consider any source of contrary information to be part of the conspiracy.
Birthers will continue to deny that the birth certificate is legitimate. We saw similar denial after the claims of the Swift Boat Liars in the 2004 election were proven to be politically-motivated fabrications. For years after John Kerry’s military records were both posted on line and reviewed by journalists many right wing blogs continued to post claims that Kerry’s military records were never released.
Peter Daou compares Palin-bashing to Hillary-bashing at Huffington Post. His message seems to be that both Palin and Hillary Clinton were treated unfairly as they were women. Both were subjected to some unfair criticism, and some of this was related to their gender, but both were also subjects of attack for reasons independent of this. While it is strange to lump both Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton together because their views are so different, both of them have views which I (and many others) find objectionable, both have demonstrated a lack of integrity when pushing their agendas, and both tend to display poor judgment in matters of public policy.
If Peter simply wants to separate such differences of opinion on public policy from personal attacks I totally agree with this. While I would be reluctant to vote for a ticket containing either a Palin or a Clinton, there are many grounds to criticize them without resorting to many of the attacks which they have been subjected to. I not only agree with Peter in criticizing the comments claiming Hillary Clinton was pimping her daughter, I wrote a post defending Clinton on this while opposing her candidacy. When posting about the many lies of Sarah Palin I noted regret that personal issues were mixed in.
What bugs me about the way that Peter lumps together the attacks on both Palin and Clinton in such a manner is that it implies that only female politicians are treated this way. Gender differences do make it inevitable that there will be some differences in the nature of the attacks, but plenty of male politicians have also been treated quite unfairly. One example from each party in a presidential campaign quickly comes to mind–the attacks of the Swift Boat Liars on the honor of a war hero in their false claims about John Kerry in 2004 and the Daisy Ad used by Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in 1964.
Unfair treatment is a fact of life in politics. It would be great if it could be eliminated but it cannot. Most politicians take their lumps and continue. They do not run away and hide like Sarah Palin.
The uncomfortably close relations between the Republican Party establishment and those in the right wing media who have increasingly been feeding the hatred of the far right extremists who have been committing violence has been receiving increased attention. This has been discussed recently by Judith Warner, Paul Krugman, and Frank Rich. Krugman recently wrote, “Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.” Frank Rich discussed this topic at length in today’s column:
Conservatives have legitimate ideological beefs with Obama, rightly expressed in sharp language. But the invective in some quarters has unmistakably amped up. The writer Camille Paglia, a political independent and confessed talk-radio fan, detected a shift toward paranoia in the air waves by mid-May. When “the tone darkens toward a rhetoric of purgation and annihilation,” she observed in Salon, “there is reason for alarm.” She cited a “joke” repeated by a Rush Limbaugh fill-in host, a talk-radio jock from Dallas of all places, about how “any U.S. soldier” who found himself with only two bullets in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden would use both shots to assassinate Pelosi and then strangle Reid and bin Laden.
But hyperbole from the usual suspects in the entertainment arena of TV and radio is not the whole story. What’s startling is the spillover of this poison into the conservative political establishment. Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan G.O.P. chairman who ran for the party’s national chairmanship this year, seriously suggested in April that Republicans should stop calling Obama a socialist because “it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.” Anuzis pushed “fascism” instead, because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.” He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler.
Obama’s Cairo address, meanwhile, prompted over-the-top accusations reminiscent of those campaign rally cries of “Treason!” It was a prominent former Reagan defense official, Frank Gaffney, not some fringe crackpot, who accused Obama in The Washington Times of engaging “in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain.” He claimed that the president — a lifelong Christian — “may still be” a Muslim and is aligned with “the dangerous global movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood.” Gaffney linked Obama by innuendo with Islamic “charities” that “have been convicted of providing material support for terrorism.”
Violence committed by right wing extremists is the more serious problem but a similar, even if less violent, mind set can be seen in the recent conservative fatwa against David Letterman. Despite agreement from Letterman that he should not have told a joke which was clearly about Bristol Palin, and despite the fact that Bristol Palin has been the target of jokes from multiple comedians largely because of the manner in which Sarah Palin has intentionally placed her children in the public spotlight for political gain, conservatives continue to attack with outright lies as to what Letterman actually said.
There was no point in attacks on David Letterman once he conceded that he should not have told the joke, with conservatives proceeding to over play their hand and ultimately discrediting themselves. The controversy is about the desire of the authoritarian right to prevent any criticism of their extremist agenda and has little to do with any real concern about sexist jokes. Conservatives wage their war on the modern world without regard for fact, with such distortions being common place. This has included a similar distortion of a joke told by John Kerry in 2006, the fabrications of the Swift Boat Liars, all the lies about Obama which were spread during the presidential campaign, and the recent lies about Sotomayor such as that sixty percent of her decisions have been overturned. While less extreme and violent than those who have been committing violence, the conservative movement has increasingly become dominated by hostility towards reason, freedom of expression, and much of the modern world.
While conservatives quickly launched a smear campaign full of misinformation on Sonia Sotomayor, it looks like it might already be fizzling out. There is no doubt that some right wing bloggers and talk radio propagandists will continue to repeat the same lies indefinitely. Those indocrinated in far right propaganda have a tough time shaking it off regardless of how much evidence is presented that they are wrong. There are still some who claim that Obama isn’t a natural born American citizen and that the there is some validity to the discredited claims of the Swift Boat Liars against John Kerry. There are also some signs of rationality as some conservatives realize that, barring some unexpected revelations, none of their false claims will be enough to prevent Sotomayor’s nomination from being approved.
The right wing attacks have been based on limited and distorted evidence and are so weak that even some conservatives are not able to go along. Some such as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich are making claims that she is a racist–a claim which certainely takes a lot of chutzpah considering the record of the GOP. These claims were based upon taking a few lines out of context from a lecture given in 2001. The simple fact that claims of racism are based upon a single lecture from almost eight years ago should already raise some red flags as to the validity of the argument. Rod Dreher reviewed the statements which earlier had him thinking she was racist in context and conceded, I was wrong about Sotomayor speech.
They have made an even weaker argument in dishonest claims that sixty percent of her cases were overturned by the Supreme Court. This argument is so deceitful that it might help open a few more eyes as to the dishonest tactics regularly employed by the right wing noise machine. They leave out the important facts that she only had five cases reviewed by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court typically reverses 75% of circuit court decisions that rules on. Having three cases reversed is hardly meaningful. This actually represents 2% of her total cases, far less than the 60% number misleadingly cited by the right.
The attackers also claimed that Sotomayor has a far more liberal record than she actually has. Her decisions have offen been based upon narrow technical grounds specific to the individual case as opposed to ideology. The conservatives who have actually looked at her record are finding that she is far more centrist and far less ideological than they first heard. She has a very limited record with regards to abortion, and opponents of abortion rights found that her record was not what they expected. Steven Waldman wrote:
One has to assume Obama wouldn’t have appointed Sonia Sotomayor without some indication that she’s pro-choice but — based on very, very little information — I wonder if she might not end up being an abortion centrist.
Neither of these cases dealt with the merits of abortion. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that in the two cases we know of that related partly to abortion, she took the position that pro-life groups would have wanted (albeit for reasons unrelated to Roe v. Wade). At a minimum, these cases would seem to indicate that, if she is pro-choice, she didn’t let those views affect her view of the relevant law.
While some bloggers and right wing pundits will repeat any attack, the arguments are appearing to be too weak even for the Senate Republicans. Mike Allen reports that any Republican opposition to her is fizzling out quickly:
More than 24 hours after the White House unveiling, no senator has come out in opposition to Sotomayor’s confirmation.
“The sentiment is overwhelming that the Senate should do due diligence but should not make a mountain out of a molehill,” said a top Senate Republican aide. “If there’s no ‘there’ there, we shouldn’t try to create one.”
So far there is certainly no ‘there’ there in the accusations being fabricated by the right. The attacks upon Sotomayor are so weak, and so transparently false, that if they have any impact it should be to increase the backlash against the Republicans. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah for the Republicans to raise charges of racism against others and only their most hardcore supporters can even listen to such claims without chuckling at them. Maybe Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice is on to something and their attacks are being orchestrated by a mole out to further destroy the Republican Party:
In instance after instance since Obama’s 2008 election and the Democratic sweep of Congress, the GOP is proving itself to be not so much “stuck on stupid” as much as “stuck on preaching to its (already convinced) choir.” It seems oblivious to the fact that OTHER voters — from critically important ethnic and age demographics — need to be courted which means being at least partially on the same cultural wavelength. Today’s Republican party is seemingly Super-glued to the slash-and-burn, characterize and demonize conservative talk radio political culture.
It’s hard to imagine that a party that has problems with independent voters and Latino voters so going out of its way to repel voters it needs, unless there is a Democratic mole inside the GOP instigating these comments.
Calling her a racist will get lots of publicity but it’s going to drive many Hispanic voters away in droves. And so will the faces delivering this message: the well-fed, sizeable face of multi-millionaire private- jet-owner Limbaugh, sitting in front of his mike, and the very familiar face of Gingrich. Many Americans (who are not millionaires or who aren’t conservative Republicans) will look at and compare the two GOPers’ life narratives with that of Sotomayor.
Even worse: many independent voters, Democrats who may not be enamored with Obama, and moderate Republicans have already distanced themselves from the GOP. This latest barrage at Sotomayor now clearly is part of a pattern: no matter what the issue, the GOP is responding now with demonization in attempts to stir up hot button resentments and/or political rage.
And even worse for the GOP: its unlikely to resonate among the younger voters the GOP will need to regain footing in the 21st century.
So, except for getting nods of approval and cries of “That’s the way, go get ‘em!” from Republicans, what gains will Republicans (via talk shows, Gingrich and weblogs) make in accusing Sotomayor of being a racist — except, rightfully or wrongfully, causing some on the fence to conclude that those Republicans raising the racism issue could perhaps be mistakenly talking about what they are seeing when they look in the mirror?
A mole might be the most rational explanation for the manner in which the Republicans persist in utilizing tactics which drive away rational voters, but unfortunately what we are seeing is the actual mindset of the conservative movement.
Barring any unexpected findings she will be easily confirmed. The manner of the right wing attacks are now one of the most significant aspects of this story, considering that any pick would have been subjected to similar lies from the right wing. Their distortion of her judicial record is very similar to how the right typically distorts voting records, such as taking an up or down vote on an overall budget and then launching attacks based upon saying a Senator voted for or against a specific item in the budget.
In a democracy it is an extremely serious issue when votes are being influenced not by the actual facts or serious discussion over different viewpoints but based upon repeated campaigns of distortion such as this. It is important for a democracy to work for the voters to be working from accurate information, not the misinformation regularly spread by the right. It would be both legitimate and healthy for the democratic process if conservatives responded to a nominee with an honest discussion of the areas where they disagreed. Instead they ignore her actual record, as they also do with political candidates, and launch attacks based upon fabrications created by distortions of the record and taking statements out of context.
John Hawkins writes The Right Needs to Play as Dirty as the Left. Beyond being wrong on most issues and being incompetent in office, their dirty politics is a major reason why most Americans are rejecting politicians of the right. Public attention to Sarah Palin’s family, which was more a national phenomenon than something coming from the left, hardly compares with the dirty tactics of Dick Tuck, Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the Swift Boat Liars.
It gets even more ridiculous. Hawkins’ recommendations include:
Instead of continuing to complain, here’s a better idea. Why don’t conservatives do opposition research on the journalists endlessly running stories about Bristol Palin and Joe the Plumber? Have they ever been arrested? Whom do they own property with? Have they ever been paid to do a speech for someone and then run a favorable news story about him? Certainly Keith Olbermann’s personal life is just as newsworthy as Joe the Plumber’s, and the details of Maureen Dowd’s life are just as noteworthy as those of Bristol Palin — are they not?
Sure, start writing about Keith Olbermann and Maureen Dowd’s sex lives. Anyone think that will get anyone who has abandoned the Republicans to give them another chance?