Conservative media figures and their cut-outs in the Republican Party went out in full force Sunday, ready to cast blame and aspersions on President Obama for the closures of U.S. embassies around the world after intelligence suggested a possible al Qaeda attack.
With our embassies around the world under what all acknowledge to be a serious threat, these conservatives saw a political opportunity, cynically using the fear of an imminent terrorist attack to regurgitate year-old smears about Barack Obama's success in the war on terror.
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, the Iraq War's #1 cheerleader, led the charge with a blog post Saturday, hyperbolically stating, "Al Qaeda's not on the run. We are."
He followed that up on Fox News Sunday, telling host Chris Wallace:
KRISTOL: Four years ago President Obama gave a much-heralded speech as outreach to the Muslim world. And now, four years later we are closing embassies throughout the Muslim world. The year ago the president said Al Qaeda is on the run. And now we seem to be on the run.
Kristol's falsehoods were reflected by other conservatives across the media. Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint also appeared on Fox News Sunday echoing Kristol's attack: "Well, it's clear that Al Qaeda may be more of a threat to us than they were before 9/11 now."
Later in the panel he went on to state, "The instability around the world is clearly related to at least a perception of a lack of resolve of the United States and a perception of weakness."
The president's remark during his economic speech in Tennessee Tuesday that "for most of this year, an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals have shifted focus from what we need to do to shore up the middle class" once again revved up the conservative outrage machine.
Their fervor was only increased when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that the ginned-up controversy about Benghazi talking points was among the "phonyscandals" President Obama was talking about.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz appeared on Hannity last night and accused the Obama administration of "try[ing] to personally disparage the people that are trying to get at the truth," and concluding that it's something "we should not stand for."
This sentiment was simply a repetition of what was being stated by conservative media figures such as Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, and the hosts of The Five as they simultaneously ignore the fact that each of their Benghazi charges are falling apart, now in fairly rapid succession.
Take for example the latest conservative media accusation -- that CNN was able to interview the purported perpetrator of the Benghazi attack yet the FBI has done nothing.
Eric Bolling claimed this was evidence that "President O" has "no suspects, no interviews, no leads, and no answers."
Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry questioned Jay Carney on this in the White House briefing room:
HENRY: How is it that someone who is potentially the lead suspect in this terror attack could sit down with a media organization for a couple of hours and never be contacted by the FBI?
Hopefully Henry and Bolling were watching Greta's show later that evening when she interviewed former FBI Special Agent Jonathan Gilliam and queried him on why CNN's suspect had not been interviewed by the FBI:
GILLIAM: [L]et's just go back to investigations 101 and think about this. First off,why in the world would an open investigation, that's active, would the investigators go and talk to a suspect? When I was in the FBI I could have talked to a thousand of the suspects that we were looking at. But we knew where they were, we knew what they were doing, and that's what leads an investigation.
And once again another element of the Benghazi scandal turns out to be phony. It's no surprise -- we have consistently witnessed over the past eleven months conservative accusations about Benghazi fall flat in the face of truth.
Of all social programs, in recent weeks nothing seems to rile up conservative media figures more than government programs designed to alleviate hunger.
This is a marked change from a time when former Republican Sen. Bob Dole (KS) was instrumental in the effort to "reform the Food Stamp Program (now known as SNAP), expand the domestic school lunch program, and establish the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children."
Fox News' Stuart Varney, who previously claimed all the poor lacked was a "richness of spirit," toyed with the notion of letting the children of poor immigrants starve. Varney this week claimed that the AARP's helping seniors get food benefits was tantamount to a "buy the vote campaign."
On Fox News, Brian Kilmeade attempted to cast aspersions on the White House by claiming two Americans "were added to food stamp programs for every job the Obama administration created." This numbers game was echoed by The Washington Times and Breitbart.com in an obviously attempt to stigmatize the program.
All three ignored the fact that 45 percent of benefit recipients are under 18 years old, nine percent are over the age of 60, and 30 percent have jobs that simply don't pay enough to afford to eat. (Of course Fox News also demonizes workers' attempts to earn a living wage.)
Last night in the midst of a scornful monologue Bill O'Reilly appealed to his audience to "call out the racial charlatans."
O'Reilly's now multiday diatribe against what he terms the "grievance industry" is endemic of his scornful attitude towards anyone who works to solve clear racial imbalances that still persist in America today.
The source of his ire Tuesday night was a hearing held by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. The distinguished panel of witnesses included Center for Social Inclusion Founder Maya Wiley, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson, and Southern Poverty Law Center founder Morris Dees, who has risked his life on the line battling against the most virulent forms of racism from the KKK to Neo-Nazi groups.
It's clear O'Reilly did not care to examine or watch the content of the hearing, which was not critiqued at all in the segment. O'Reilly simply dismissed the witnesses before the panel as "far-left people who believe America is essentially an unjust country," saying that the hearing displayed a lack of diversity.
O'Reilly makes it clear throughout the segment that he can't see racism beyond the reach of his scornful gaze. Discussing the very issue of discrimination in America, according to O'Reilly, is simply a way to "stick it to the U.S.A." because the perception of racism in the country degrades our standing in the world.
During the segment O'Reilly played a montage of several black male media and political figures expressing their perceptions on race following the Trayvon Martin case that concluded with Jay Z speaking about how he did not sleep for "two days" after the verdict, upset by the "blatant" racism he witnessed.
O'Reilly seemingly dismissed the comments of Tavis Smiley, Touré, and Congressman Charlie Rangel because Jay Z could not possibly speak about racism in America being "a multimillionaire hobnobbing with President Obama." According to O'Reilly, Jay Z's entire life experience is wiped out because he achieved financial success.
As opposed to looking for solutions to solve clear racial divides in our judicial, economic, and education systems, O'Reilly's answer is shut up and stop whining because you have it good in America.
That is O'Reilly's race hustle -- demonizing anyone who speaks up against inequality, attempting to bully them into silence.
As fast food workers in 7 cities walked the picket line fighting for better wages and working conditions the conservative media turned its focus towards a solution to help lift up our working men and women out of poverty -- mock them.
To respond to the day long strike, Fox trotted out Richard Berman, failing to identify him as a highly paid consultant to the food and beverage industry. He proceeded to threaten fast food workers, claiming if they demanded incomes allowing them to live above the poverty line, the only solution would be to replace them with iPads.
On Your World with Neil Cavuto, Fox Business's Charles Payne claimed that the striking workers' demand for a living wage was akin to rewarding "mediocrity."
From an air conditioned studio in Rockefeller Center, the handsomely compensated Fox contributor asserted that a wage of $15 per hour earned spending countless hours on your feet without a break, in front of a hot stove, serving hundreds of customers, would be "cursing" those workers, ridding them of the impetus to "get better," "go to college," or "improve" their lot in life.
At the luxurious wage of $15 per hour minimum wage workers would spend their days "play[ing] video games" and "hav[ing] large families."
Payne, who has a long history of suggesting that the poor live in comfort, that our social safety net keeps people in poverty, and that there needs to be more "stigma" surrounding food stamps, represents the conservative id surrounding the issue of poverty.
While 4 in 5 Americans will "struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives," the right believes the solution to all of their problems is scorn.
On Saturday night Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski posted a FoxNews.com segment in which Reza Aslan, a noted religious scholar, was interviewed by Spirited Debate host Lauren Green, a Fox News religion correspondent.
Kaczynski asked "Is this the most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done?" due to the host's inability to accept that Aslan, who is Muslim, would have any legitimate interest in a scholarly work about Jesus.
While the segment itself was jarring, particularly when Green falsely accused Reza Aslan of hiding his Muslim faith -- a ridiculous charge implying devotion to Islam is something that must be hidden -- and furthermore as the author points out, he noted it on the second page of his book and in countless interviews.
It should surprise no one that Islamophobia has a home on Fox. From the top on down, the network's attitude could be at best described as hostile to Muslims. In Zev Chafet's hagiography of Ailes, published earlier this year, he quotes Fox News' boss explicitly stating his hostility to Muslims (emphasis added):
He donates upward of 10 percent of his net income to charities, many of them religious, including an annual fifty grand to the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and another fifty grand to Catholic charities." He told me he'd be glad to give to Muslim charities, too, "if they disarm.
A Rolling Stone profile of Ailes quoted a source close to the Fox boss who claimed he "has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim - which is consistent with the ideology of his network."
These beliefs have been reflected by a number of the network's on-air personalities.
Earlier this week Sean Hannity expressed his support for Utah Senator Mike Lee's plan to hold America hostage -- unless Obamacare is defunded, Lee has threatened to block appropriations bills, resulting in at least a partial shut down of the government.
Hannity followed up yesterday by suggesting this nihilistic vision for the legislative process should be a "litmus test." He further specified "either you Republicans get off your backside and stand as a bold contrast to Obamacare and make a courageous stand, or get out of the way and we'll primary you and we'll get rid of you."
Rush Limbaugh joined in, telling his audience "one last chance to stop" Obamacare is the upcoming continuing resolution budget fight, making the point that Republicans "denying Obama and the Democrats" the ability to fund the government is a "crucial thing."
Senator Lee's efforts spawned a full-fledged campaign by the conservative media. At Redstate.com, Fox News contributor Erick Erickson asked his readers to call targeted Republican senators and "ask that they sign the Mike Lee letter" which specifically states that its signers "will not support any continuing resolution or appropriations legislation that funds further implementation or enforcement of Obamacare."
Erickson continued in his blog post: "It is important to get their signatures on that letter or we can presume they will fund Obamacare."
Conservative radio host Dana Loesch followed suit by launching a campaign targeting her home state senator Roy Blunt, demanding he too sign Lee's letter.
Fortunately for the country, some members of the Senate Republican Conference do not share the same self-flagellating desires of the conservative media.
On last night's episode of The Five, host Eric Bolling claimed Democrats strategically create racial division as a political strategy. Asked by fellow host Bob Beckel whether he believes that "we sit around in the Democratic Party and want to have racial division," he replied, "I do, yes."
It was an absurd charge coming from Bolling, whose racial invective has included referring to the President of Gabon's visit to the White House as "a hoodlum in the hizzouse" and suggesting that President Obama was "chugging 40s" during a state visit to Ireland.
Bolling wasn't the only one on Fox claiming that racism is largely being drummed up by liberals. Co-host Greg Gutfeld chimed in claiming that "racial warfare right now is the crack cocaine of CNN, MSNBC, and most college campuses."
Later in the evening Bill O'Reilly told his audience that civil rights leaders want "to divide the country along racial lines because that's good for business."
Oh the irony.
There are few in American politics who have done more to strategically divide this country along racial lines for political and financial gain than Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
A day after Senator Mike Lee of Utah threatened to shut down the government if Obamacare is not defunded, he took his campaign to Sean Hannity's radio show.
Knowing he is in the minority in the Senate, Lee has explicitly threatened to filibuster appropriations bills, including continuing resolutions needed to keep the government operating, telling a Baltimore radio station "I'll utilize every procedural mechanism at my disposal to do it."
A procedural maneuver such as this, if Lee and Hannity gain the backing of a significant number of Republican Senators, would surely result at best in a stand-off that if unresolved would lead to a government shutdown akin to what occurred in 1995. As NPR notes, that year "it wasn't just government workers who took big hits, but tens of thousands of businesses somehow reliant on the government whether they knew it or not." Groups affected included veterans, those needing the assistance of the State Department, patients seeking help from the National Institutes of Health, and even those needing firearms permits processed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Hannity, ignoring the consequences, eagerly jumped onboard telling Lee:
"This is an interesting moment - I think - and a test for the Republican Party. Are they going to be the conservative alternative? How many members of the House and Senate ran on repealing Obamacare? Now they can vote symbolically or they can take this stand, is what you're telling them to do. I'm supporting you. I think they ought to just put their foot down, stand on principal and stop calculating what political impact is going to be felt here. Fund the rest of the government, but just defund Obamacare. And then if the Democrats want to shut down the government, then let them shut it down."
Hannity's suggestion that Democrats would be shutting down the government by rejecting Lee's threat is either willfully ignorant or blindly naïve of the legislative process.
Lee knows he does not have the majority of votes in the Senate to kill Obamacare by defunding it. And while the House of Representatives is willing to waste its time on dozens of phony Obamacare repeal votes, the chamber never has taken real steps towards that goal.
Telling his listeners Republican members of the House and Senate should "stop calculating what political impact is going to be felt here" Hannity at least tacitly admits the political peril it would place the GOP in if Lee were to follow through on this maneuver.
But the politics don't account for the millions of Americans, from veterans, to small businesses who contract with the federal government who would be harmed by this legislative gamesmanship - not to mention the signal of instability it sends to financial markets around the world that the US government cannot pass a budget without its minority party, led by conservatives media figures holding the country hostage to their narrow ideology.