Daily Caller contributor Mickey Kaus theorized that recent incidents of sexual assaults in the military may be a diversion tactic aimed at steering attention away from the White House.
Sexual assaults in the military are a growing problem. A Pentagon report released this month determined up to 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012, up from an estimated 19,000 the year prior. The report found that 62 percent of victims who reported being assaulted faced retaliation as a result. Recently, three different military officials, each tasked with overseeing sexual assault prevention programs, were investigated or charged with committing an act of sexual assault or harassment.
Kaus's dismissal of the sexual assault crisis is in keeping with the Daily Caller's standards for publishing sexist content.
Despite previously applauding a Bush administration official who invoked the Fifth Amendment and declined to testify before a Congressional hearing, Rush Limbaugh is now criticizing IRS official Lois Lerner for doing the same.
On May 22, Lerner, who heads the IRS office for tax-exempt organizations, exercised her Fifth Amendment right during a congressional oversight committee hearing into the IRS' scrutiny of conservative groups. Lerner said she had done nothing wrong, but on the advice of her counsel and due to an ongoing criminal investigation, said she would not answer questions or testify before the committee.
Later that day, Limbaugh said Lerner was using the Fifth Amendment to get out of answering questions and that the Fifth Amendment wouldn't be used by someone who says they "haven't done anything wrong":
LIMBAUGH: By the way, on this Lois Lerner business folks, about the Fifth Amendment -- the Fifth Amendment is not meant to be used as a way to get out of answering questions. The Fifth Amendment is clearly there to ensure that you don't have to testify against yourself.
The Fifth Amendment-- you're charging me? Then you prove it. I'm not going to incriminate myself. But it's not meant to be used as a way of getting out of answering questions. Particularly when you say first, "I haven't done anything wrong! I have not participated in any criminal activity, I haven't done anything wrong." Well then why are you invoking the Fifth? Just so you don't have to answer questions? Sorry, it doesn't work that way.
Limbaugh's statements, however, contradict comments he made about the Fifth Amendment during the George W. Bush administration.
In 2007, the Bush White House came under fire for the allegedly politically-motivated firing of U.S. attorneys. The Department of Justice's White House Liaison, Monica Goodling, was called to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, but instead refused to answer questions after citing her Fifth Amendment right.
During a March 2007 broadcast, Limbaugh responded to a caller's question about Goodling invoking the Fifth by describing the hearing as a "perjury trap," praised her attorney for being "wise to have her plead the fifth," and even taking issue with those who assume that pleading the Fifth is an admission of guilt:
LIMBAUGH: It's a perjury trap. A lot of this stuff is just being set up for perjury traps. That's why they want Rove and Harriet Miers under oath on this whole issue. So, the lawyer says that the obvious lack of impartiality of the Senate and conclusions already reached make anybody, especially Monica Goodling's testimony, perilous here. He's wise to have her plead the Fifth. Now, what do you think about this, though, Matt? The Fifth Amendment is what it is. It's certainly a constitutional right. But most people think, "A-ha! A-ha! Fifth Amendment! A-ha, a-ha! Guilty! You're afraid to go up and show it. You're afraid to admit it." You know that's how people react to people who take the fifth.
Less than 24 hours after Alex Jones theorized that a "weather weapon" could have been used to cause the devastating Oklahoma tornado, conservative gossip Matt Drudge returned to his pattern of promoting the conspiracy theorist.
On May 21, Jones told a caller that the government has the ability to "create and steer groups of tornadoes" and that if people spotted helicopters and small aircraft "in and around the clouds, spraying and doing things" in Oklahoma, it could be evidence that a "weather weapon" was used.
Today Drudge prominently links to a story on Jones' website Infowars in the upper left hand corner of his site. The linked story claims that "armed Homeland Security guards" were "policing free speech" by appearing outside an IRS building in St. Louis during a Tea Party protest.
Drudge later changed the headline, linking to the same story:
Media Matters has previously documented that Drudge has linked to Jones at least 244 times in the last two years, and that Drudge contributor Joseph Curl worked with Jones to "crash" a party being held by former Bush staffers.
Jones hailed Drudge for pushing "into the mainstream media" his conspiracy theory that the Department of Homeland Security was stockpiling ammunition for use against American citizens while Drudge said 2013 would be the "year of Alex Jones."
The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore cited figures that independent analysts have called misleading to hype Florida Gov. Rick Scott's claims about his administration's job creation record.
In a post on the Journal's Political Diary blog titled "The Florida Phenom," Moore wrote that Scott's job creation record may "save him from defeat" in the upcoming gubernatorial race. Moore touted Scott's claim that his administration had already completed half his campaign promise to create 700,000 jobs by 2017, concluding "The thing most likely to save him from defeat is, as Joe Biden once put it, that three letter word: J-O-B-S":
Now the needles are all pointed in a northward direction, and the man in charge during the turnaround is Republican Gov. Rick Scott. He promised 700,000 new jobs in seven years, and in an interview last weekend he said, "we're half-way there." The state has seen employment rise by just over 350,000 since 2010. A new analysis by the nonpartisan Florida Economic Estimating Conference is expecting 900,000 new jobs by 2018.
Sure, there's a national recovery, but the unemployment rate in Florida "has fallen almost twice as much as the national average," the governor noted. Mr. Scott credits pro-growth policies. "We cut taxes 24 times," he said, including business and property taxes by $200 per homeowner. The budget deficit has been tamed. The housing oversupply has been cut by one-third.
Despite Moore's endorsement, Scott's job creation claims have been criticized by independent analysts. PolitiFact Florida pointed out that Scott's campaign promise was actually to create 700,000 jobs on top of the 1 million the state was already expected to add - in essence promising to create 1.7 million jobs by 2017:
New York Times columnist Bill Keller thinks President Obama should appoint failed Whitewater sleuth Kenneth Starr to investigate the Internal Revenue Service's improper scrutiny of conservative groups. And yes, Keller adopts the conventional wisdom that so-called scandals in recent weeks have "knocked" Obama's "second term off course." (Public polling suggests otherwise.)
But let's now marvel at the columnist's fantastic claim that if Obama appointed that special counsel the partisan clouds would magically part in Washington, D.C. and Congress and the press, would suddenly focus on the nation's pressing duties. Keller insists the "scandal circus on Capitol Hill is a terrible distraction" and that a special counsel would allow Beltway players to "turn their attention to all that unfinished business," such as immigration reform and passing a budget.
This is part of the pundit fantasy school of writing that has been persistent throughout the Obama presidency and it goes like this: If Obama would just do X (i.e. schmooze more, be less partisan, appoint a special counsel, or just lead), Republicans would cooperate with him legislatively because Republicans are honest brokers who have a deep desire to address the nation's most pressing issues. And the only real obstacle to progress is the fact that Obama can't figure out what makes Republicans tick. He just doesn't get it.
It's that mindset that leads to posts like the one from Keller, suggesting that if the president would move to further criminalize the IRS controversy, that would somehow lower the partisan temperature and would allow Republicans to get back to what they really want to do, which is work with the president to pass pressing legislation.
What Keller conveniently ignores is that Republicans have already made it obvious that they don't matter what the Obama does, it doesn't matter what personal approach he takes, they're going to oppose him across the board.
How else would Keller explain the GOP's historic opposition to emergency relief for Hurricane Sandy? The GOP's historic opposition to the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense? The GOP's refusal to pass gun legislation that enjoyed nearly universal support among Americans? And the GOP's mindless, time-wasting obsession with trying to "repeal" Obama's health care reform?
Let's take a closer look a recent example of radical Republican tactics and place it in the context of Keller's claim that a special counsel would produce Congressional productivity.
On May 9, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was scheduled to vote Gina McCarthy's nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency out of committee and send it to the Senate for a full vote. But thirty minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, Republican notified Democrats that all eight Republican members were boycotting the vote, thereby making it impossible to move McCarthy's nomination forward. Republicans complained that the nominee hadn't sufficiently answered questions submitted by committee Republicans, even though she had already responded to more than 1,000 written queries.
In the end, McCarthy was approved by the committee, but the Republican stalling tactics represented, "an unprecedented attempt to slow down the confirmation process and undermine the agency," as former Republican Congressman Sherwood Boehlert recently lamented.
That's the backdrop for Keller's declaration that appointing a special counsel to spend months investigating the IRS would eliminate partisan wrangling and clear the way for cooperation.
It's pure Beltway pundit fantasy.
The Wall Street Journal called for reform that would lighten the tax burden on corporations without noting that corporate tax revenue has reached historic lows in a time of historically high profits.
Following the May 21 Senate hearing into Apple's strategies to lighten its corporate tax burden, a Wall Street Journal editorial argued that the real issue was not the company's ability to dodge taxes, but the fact that U.S. corporate taxes are "the developed world's highest." The editorial concluded that the U.S. should lower its corporate tax rate to "ideally zero, but 12.5% also works."
The editorial's main argument that U.S. corporate taxes are too high hinges upon pointing to statutory corporate tax rates. In defending Apple's practices, it explains:
The genuine outrage is that Apple's profits in the U.S. are subject to a combined state and federal statutory tax rate of 39.1% that is the developed world's highest. Corporate taxation is so heavy in the U.S. relative to other countries that even while enjoying its near-zero rate in Ireland, Apple ends up with roughly the same overall effective tax rate, 14%, as South Korea's Samsung, its main global competitor.
The editorial cites statutory instead of effective tax rates for a reason. While the U.S. may rank among the world's highest in statutory corporate tax rates, what corporations typically pay is substantially lower. According to Goldman Sachs' David Kostin, in the last 45 years, the median S&P 500 firm has paid a tax rate that is substantially lower than the statutory rate due to special tax preferences, subsidies, and loopholes. Furthermore, most recent data suggest that the median firm pays an effective tax rate of 30 percent -- a full 9 percentage points below the statutory rate:
And according to the Wall Street Journal's own reporting, in FY2011, corporate tax receipts as a share of profits fell to their lowest level in 40 years. Indeed, as ThinkProgress notes, even as corporate profits have hit a 60-year high, the tax burden on U.S. corporations has hit a historic low. Furthermore, in recent years, corporate tax receipts as a percentage of total government revenue have significantly declined:
The Journal's claim that corporate taxation in the U.S. is high because of its statutory rate relative to the rest of the world also doesn't stand up to scrutiny. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, citing U.S. statutory rates in comparison to other countries is inherently misleading:
Many corporate leaders have noted that other OECD countries have lowered their corporate tax rates in recent years, but fail to mention that these countries have also closed corporate tax loopholes while the U.S. has expanded them. As a result, the U.S. collects less corporate taxes as a share of GDP than all but one of the 26 OECD countries for which data are available.
While there is broad bipartisan support for reforming the corporate tax code, The Wall Street Journal's misleading portrayal of corporate taxes stacks the deck in favor of corporations lowering their historically low tax burden.
Fox News falsely claimed Ambassador Thomas Pickering was "reluctant to testify" to Congress about his investigation into the September 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, ignoring Pickering's volunteering to testify in a public hearing.
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (CA), Chair of the House Oversight Committee, has subpoenaed Pickering, the co-chair of the independent Accountability Review Board that investigated the State Department's handling of the Benghazi attacks, to testify before Congress on the investigation's findings.
On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy claimed Pickering was "reluctant to testify" and had to be "forced" to do so with the subpoena, implying that this undermined Pickering's credibility as an investigator. On-air text also claimed Pickering was "worried" and "reluctant to testify":
In fact, as Politico reported on May 17, the subpoena issued by Issa was in response to "a letter from Pickering volunteering to appear before the committee," and the subpoena was only necessary because Issa demanded a private hearing instead of the public hearing that Pickering requested:
Pickering and and Admiral Michael Mullen have requested the ability to respond publicly to criticism of a review the two retired officials conducted of the Benghazi attacks.
But Issa is insisting that Republicans and Democratic staffers get a pre-testimony crack at the witnesses by interviewing them behind closed doors first, saying staff and members have only had access to an unclassified version of the Accountability Review Board report on Benghazi.
A copy of Pickering and Accountability Review Board co-chair and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen's letter to Issa volunteering to testify explains that Pickering felt a private hearing was inappropriate, because "the public deserves to hear your questions and our answers."
Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer attacked IRS official Lois Lerner for planning to invoke the Fifth Amendment during congressional hearings on IRS scrutiny of conservative groups, a change from his previous support for a Bush administration official doing the same.
A May 21 Los Angeles Times article reported that Lerner, "[a] top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups," will invoke her Fifth Amendment rights and not testify before the House Oversight Committee due to an ongoing criminal investigation and to avoid possible self-incrimination.
On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Krauthammer responded to host Bill O'Reilly's claim that Lerner's invoking the Fifth Amendment was evidence that the IRS controversy "was really building," saying that it was not unreasonable to infer that her decision was evidence "that there is a lot [the Obama administration has]got to hide and they are very worried."
But Krauthammer's claims conflict with statements he made during the George W. Bush administration. In a March 9, 2007 column, Krauthammer declared that invoking the Fifth Amendment was former Bush White House Chief of Staff Scooter Libby's right. Krauthammer seemingly defended Libby, claiming that the controversy around the reveal of former CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity was a case of "memory lapses," casting doubt on the testimony of former NBC host Tim Russert, and dismissing the potential criminality of Libby's action:
This demonstration of Russert's fallibility was never shown to the jury. The judge did not allow it. He was upset with the defense because it would not put Libby on the stand -- his perfect Fifth Amendment right -- after hinting in the opening statement that it might. He therefore denied the defense a straightforward demonstration of the fallibility of the witness whose testimony was most decisive.
Toensing thinks this might be the basis for overturning the verdict upon appeal. I hope so. This is a case that never should have been brought, originating in the scandal that never was, in search of a crime -- violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act -- that even the prosecutor never alleged. That's the basis for a presidential pardon. It should have been granted long before this egregious case came to trial. It should be granted now without any further delay.
A recent Fox News poll of registered voters, which purports to illustrate that a majority of voters agree with the network's dark narrative on the Obama administration's response to the 2012& Benghazi attacks, relies on questions from a foundation of tired distortions and lies.
Fox News conducted a poll of 1,013 registered voters between May 18-20, attempting to discern respondents' opinions on a variety of questions related to the government's handling of the Benghazi attacks. FoxNews.com published the poll on May 21 with the title, "Fox News Poll: Obama could have done more to help those in Benghazi."
Fox's poll questions, however, are predicated on the same distortions and outright lies Fox has pushed for the last nine months, which casts a pall of doubt on the veracity of its results.
For example, see Question 14, to which 62 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative:
Do you think President Obama could have done more to help the Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on the night of the attack?
The very premise of this question is bogus. Fox implies that perhaps Obama didn't do enough to help the Americans at the consulate, which flies in the face of explicit testimony from military and defense leaders regarding the White House's response. Testifying before Congress in February, outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both testified that President Obama was fully engaged "pretty constantly" as the crisis unfolded, and that the response was appropriate and normal. What's more, as CNN reported on February 7:
Dempsey said he stood by the conclusion of an independent review board, which concluded the "interagency response was timely and appropriate, but there simply was not enough time, given the speed of the attacks, for armed U.S. military assets to have made a difference."