From the July 10 edition of CNN's Starting Point:
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Fox News regular Jay Sekulow claimed that voting is a privilege as he went to bat in support of the Texas voter ID law today, and denied that such laws disenfranchise eligible voters. In fact, Americans are constitutionally protected from having their vote denied on the basis of race - which the Department of Justice has said would happen under Texas' law -- and voter ID laws have already disenfranchised hundreds of voters, and could prevent millions more from voting in this year's elections.
Sekulow was on Fox's America Live, debating the Texas voter ID law that was passed in May 2011, but was blocked by the Department of Justice because:
As a state with a history of voter discrimination, Texas must get preclearance from the Department of Justice for changes in election law. The DOJ blocked Texas' law under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, declaring that it would disproportionately affect Hispanic voters.
In his defense of Texas' voter ID law, Sekulow said: "Look, voting is a privilege. I mean, there are things you have to do to vote." He also suggested that he didn't find "asking for identification to make sure you're the person that's actually casting the vote" at all problematic.
But Sekulow is in the wrong here - the Justice Department found that the Texas law would disproportionately affect minorities, which is unconstitutional. As the Department of Justice notes, the Voting Rights Act:
[C]odifies and effectuates the 15th Amendment's permanent guarantee that, throughout the nation, no person shall be denied the right to vote on account of race or color.
Throughout the Fox segment, Sekulow repeatedly denied that voter ID laws disenfranchise eligible voters and said that in some cases the IDs are available free of charge. However, not only can voters incur significant costs for the underlying documents needed to get those supposedly free IDs, but existing voter ID laws have already been found to have disenfranchised hundreds of voters during the 2008 election cycle.
Fox is promoting the falsehood that the Justice Department concluded that Texas' voter ID law was discriminatory and blocked the law based solely on the research of "a liberal group that promotes progressive ideas." In fact, DOJ stated that the law was discriminatory based on data compiled by the state of Texas itself.
In today's Washington Post, Michael Gerson became the latest right-wing media figure to join the hysteria surrounding last week's health care reform decision, impugning Chief Justice Roberts' conservatism by accusing him of "deferring whenever possible" to Congress and the Executive. Perhaps he should look closely at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's recent successes before the Supreme Court. If the Chamber's record is any indication, Gerson's charge is quite off.
A new analysis from the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) points out that the Chamber has a historic win average in the Roberts Court as it continues to push back on government regulation in fields such as labor, environmental, civil rights, and consumer protection policy. And the Roberts Court isn't only siding with big business' attacks on public interest law for the easy questions. In ideologically divided cases, the current right wing of the Court is in near lockstep with the Chamber, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito taking the pro-business side the most (84% and 92%, respectively). That's a peculiar form of institutional deference.
This escalating trend was just capped with a stellar 7-0 finish in the most recent term, bringing the Chamber's success percentage in the Roberts Court to an unprecedented 68%, as calculated by CAC. And when it comes to challenging the Obama Administration's defense of duly enacted legislation, the Chamber has shredded the U.S. Government's traditional advantage by notching five of those wins over the Solicitor General, who in normal times is considered the "Tenth Justice." That title for the SG might no longer be apt.
In a 2009 article, Robin S. Conrad, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's high-powered litigation shop, offered her contrarian perspective on what was apparent only three years into John Roberts' tenure. Claiming that her employer, the National Chamber Litigation Center, "clearly lost five out of seven" of its labor cases and went on to lose "nearly half the cases that it participated in during the 2007 Term," Conrad bemoaned the "myth of a pro-business bias" that stuck to the Roberts Court even before Citizens United unleashed a flood of corporate money into the country's elections. The Chamber's top lawyer did allow, however, that "time will offer more opportunities to understand the Roberts Court's take on business issues." It turns out she was right: time did tell about the Roberts Court's pro-business tilt.
Marc Thiessen's recent attack on Chief Justice John Roberts for his opinion upholding the health care reform law attempts to move the right's ideological goal posts for the Court from the strongly conservative part of the field into what Reagan Administration Solicitor General Charles Fried has called "radically reactionary" territory. Thiessen, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, expressed his discontent in a July 2 Washington Post op-ed that criticized Roberts - a Bush appointee - for agreeing with the court's liberal members in an opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act. He framed his attack as a lament over the supposed difficulties Republican presidents have had in confirming dependably conservative justices.
But in doing so, Thiessen downplayed Roberts' extensive record of voting similarly to his fellow conservatives, especially Samuel Alito, whom Thiessen identified as a reliable conservative. Thieseen also ignored the well documented shift in the court's ideological center in recent years: the four "liberal" justices are much closer to the center than William Brennan, Thurgood Marshall and other justices on the court's left only a few decades previously. In this way, Thiessen paints a picture of liberal triumph and conservative frustration which bears scant relationship to reality, which is the most conservative Supreme Court in modern times.
Thiessen grouped Roberts with justices who disappointed conservatives (Sandra Day O'Connor and David Souter, both of whom are no longer on the court) as opposed to acknowledged right-wing successes Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. He attempted to make this case by focusing solely on the health care decision, and downplaying the rest of Roberts' record as a justice.
That record is clear. Roberts is, to use Thiessen's expression, a "rock-ribbed conservative." In the just-completed 2011 Supreme Court term, he voted with the Thiessen-approved Justice Alito in 90.5 percent of cases, after voting with him 96.2 percent of the time in the 2010 term. Roberts also voted with Justice Thomas in 87.8 percent of cases and Justice Scalia in 86.5 percent of cases in the most recent term. In other words, in the overwhelming majority of cases, Roberts votes with the justices whom Thiessen acknowledges to be acceptably conservative.
From the June 30 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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During today's edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and guest Betsy McCaughey choose to ignore the significant role that the National Rifle Association played in yesterday's contempt proceedings against Attorney General Eric Holder.
Doocy twice highlighted the fact that 17 Democrats joined Republicans to cite Holder for contempt of Congress concerning Holder's failure to satisfy an inquiry led by the Republican-led House Oversight Committee investigation into the failed ATF Fast and Furious Operation. When Fox News contributor and Democratic strategist Joe Trippi suggested that the vote was about "politics," guest Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York, disagreed, citing the decision of some Democrats to cross the aisle.
What was left unsaid is that every Democrat who voted to cite Holder in contempt has recently received money from the rabidly anti-Holder NRA.
DOOCY: As we've been telling you, the House of Representatives yesterday on a bipartisan basis voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt.
DOOCY: Joe [Trippi], it was a bipartisan vote, 16 Democrats went along with Republicans and said, You know, you really should give up those documents there is a dead guy we are talking about. A border patrol agent.
JOE TRIPPI: We don't do this like you know bullet vote [where] everyone has to vote the same way on the Democratic side of the aisle.
TRIPPI: I'm not talking about the credible facts [in Fast and Furious], whether they are there or not. It looks like its politics.
BETSY MCCAUGHEY: I don't think it does because Democrats voted for the contempt. And you know what, all of those Democrats walked out, the Congressional Black Caucus --
TRIPPI: 16 Democrats --
MCCAUGHEY: -- they didn't have the nerve to vote against the contempt motion. They posed this as a walk out. But you know what, that was cowardice. Either you vote for it or you vote against it. Walking out that's just stage show but with no convictions.
The NRA has, of course, been trying to effectuate Holder's ouster since the beginning. On April 30, 2011, in the earliest stages of the House Oversight Committee's investigation into Fast and Furious, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre declared, "Holder's got to go!" In media appearances, LaPierre continues to promote his insane belief that Fast and Furious was an Obama administration plot to destroy the Second Amendment.
In a June 20 letter to lawmakers in support of citing Holder for contempt, the NRA's top lobbyist, Chris Cox, informed Members of Congress that the NRA would score the vote for its candidate rating system. Of the 17 Democrats who voted for contempt, 16 protected their A or A+ NRA rating. Rep. Kathleen Hochul (D-NY) possesses an NRA endorsement, but no rating.
UPDATE: During yesterday's broadcast of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, Doocy predicted that Democrats who voted for contempt would be influenced by the NRA's decision to score the contempt vote. Even though his prediction appears to have come true, Doocy did not mention the NRA's influence during today's Fox & Friends and instead adopted the narrative that the bipartisan outcome suggested that partisanship was not a motivating factor.
DOOCY: Regarding how come there are going to be so many Democrats vote against Eric Holder is the fact that the NRA said, "Ok, you know what we're going to do? We're going to score that vote." And what happens in Washington is anytime there is something that involve gun control the NRA says, "We're going to score it." And if people want a good score with the NRA, and if you're in a district where the NRA is important, you vote with what the NRA wants, which is contempt of Congress for Mr. Holder.
From the June 28 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the June 28 edition of MSNBC's PoliticsNation:
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While discussing the walkout of House Democrats in protest of the contempt vote against Attorney General Eric Holder, Fox News' Eric Bolling claimed on The Five: "I don't think I've ever seen that before. I don't think I've ever seen people vacating the House like that before -- over a vote."
Obviously Bolling hasn't been paying attention. In February of 2008, House Republicans walked out during a vote that held two Bush aides (Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers) in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the politically motivated firings of U.S. attorneys.
Mike Vanderboegh, the ex-militia blogger who calls himself one of the "midwives" of the Operation Fast and Furious scandal, recently predicted that if the Supreme Court declared the health care reform bill to be constitutional, it would lead to violent insurrection against "government tyranny."
The blogger posted the statements, which come from a recent unpublished interview, the same day the House of Representatives voted to find Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over his unwillingness to release documents related to Fast and Furious.
In the excerpts Vanderboegh posted on his blog "which deal with the decision today," he says of a then-potential decision upholding the health care law, "You may call tyranny a mandate or you may call it a tax, but it still is tyranny and invites the same response." He further predicts the response of his ilk: "If we refuse to obey, we will be fined. If we refuse to pay the fine, we will in time be jailed. If we refuse to report meekly to jail, we will be sent for by armed men. And if we refuse their violent invitation at the doorsteps of our own homes we will be killed -- unless we kill them first. ... I am on record as advocating the right of defensive violence against a tyrannical regime."
Vanderboegh gained fame in 2010 when he urged his readers to respond to the passage of health care reform by breaking the windows of Democratic offices, then took credit after vandals struck several such offices. The Alabama-based blogger has previously been part of the militia and Minuteman movements, and leads the Three Percenters, a group which claims to represent the three percent of gun owners who "who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act" but will instead, "if forced by any would-be oppressor, ... kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution."
Vanderboegh was one of the first to break the story that ATF whistleblowers said that they had been ordered to knowingly allow gun trafficking suspects to take weapons across the border into Mexico. The operation was intended to allow law enforcement to identify other members of the trafficking network that for years has directed assault weapons into the hands of Mexican cartels, with the goal of bringing those cartels down. He has said that he and a fellow blogger were the "midwives of the scandal" who introduced the whistleblowers to congressional investigators. He has theorized that the operation was part of a secret plot against the Second Amendment directed from the highest levels of government.
Last year Fox repeatedly hosted Vanderboegh on their air to provide expert commentary on the story. Then in November, four Georgia men were arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kill federal employees and civilians using explosives and the biological agent ricin. According to the criminal complaint against him, one of the alleged domestic terrorists repeatedly cited Vanderboegh'snovel Absolved as the inspiration for their plot. Media subsequently noted that Vanderboegh had, in the words of the Associated Press, "appeared as a commentator on Fox News Channel." He has not done so since.
After hosting claims that the EPA acted "lawless[ly]" by regulating greenhouse gas emissions, Fox News' flagship "straight news" program Special Report has ignored an important court ruling that undermines Fox's narrative.
Right-wing media figures are heaping harsh criticism on Chief Justice John Roberts for his opinion upholding the Affordable Care Act as constitutional. These critics ignore Roberts' record as Chief Justice, which is very conservative. But even this conservative justice recognized that the Constitution gives Congress the power to address the nation's health care crisis with the Affordable Care Act.
Breitbart.com editor-at-large Ben Shapiro blasted the Chief Justice:
I knew that Roberts was a bad pick because he didn't have a proven track record of adherence to the Constitution. He was picked by President Bush because Bush knew he didn't have a track record - and he knew that Roberts would sail through the confirmation process without a hitch.
That should have been an indicator that Roberts was a rotten pick. Nobody doubted Robert Bork's originalist credentials. Nobody doubted Clarence Thomas'. Nobody doubts Judge Janice Rogers Brown's. But nobody had any reason to buy into Roberts as an originalist. Yet they did.
Dan Gainor, Media Research Center's vice president for Business and Culture called the decision to nominate Roberts "awful."
Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes applied the "L word" to Roberts.
This attempt to paint Chief Justice Roberts as a closet liberal is absurd. Experts have called the Supreme Court under Roberts the "most conservative in modern history." As the leader of a five justice conservative majority, Roberts has played a leading role in decisions like Citizens United (empowering corporations and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited money in political campaigns); Wal-Mart (preventing women alleging sex discrimination from joining together to seek justice); Concepcion (allowing corporations to manipulate fine print in contracts to keep ripped off consumers from joining together in court); and Ledbetter (preventing a woman who was paid less than men from going to court).
Also, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce enjoyed a perfect year with the Roberts Court this term, winning every case in which the Court ruled on the position the Chamber took, according to a study by the Constitutional Accountability Center. (The Chamber took no position on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, but merely argued that if the mandate were struck down, the entire Act should be invalidated). According to the study, the Chamber has not won every case in a term since at least 1994.
Rather than calling John Roberts names or trying to make the absurd case that he is a closet liberal, the right should simply acknowledge that their crusade to kill the Affordable Care Act failed because they lost the vote of the deeply conservative, Republican-appointed Chief Justice who heads one of the most conservative and pro-corporate courts in history.
Today the United States House of Representatives will vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. The push for a contempt citation followed a lengthy investigation by the House Oversight Committee into Holder's supposed role in the failed ATF Fast and Furious operation, in which, according to whistleblowers, the agency allowed guns to be trafficked across the border as part of an investigation intended to take down a Mexican drug cartel.
Throughout the investigation members of the right-wing media have engaged in numerous distortions about Fast and Furious while sycophantically parroting allegations made by the Republican-led House Oversight Committee. Below some of these narratives are examined and debunked.
The National Rifle Association is one of the primary promoters of the conspiracy theory that Operation Fast and Furious was designed to create violence in Mexico, which in turn would be pointed to by the Obama administration as the justification for more restrictive gun laws, a bizarre claim that has gained a solid foothold in the right-wing media's Fast and Furious narrative. Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh has frequently told his listeners that the failed ATF operation was a premeditated "attack on the Second Amendment," citing this theory.
But none of the people promoting this theory have ever provided any hard evidence to prove its existence. Townhall News Editor Katie Pavlich breathlessly hashed out the conspiracy theory in her book, Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Cover-up, on the shaky premise that the fact that some members of the Obama administration have supported gun violence prevention measures was evidence enough of an anti-Second Amendment plot. But even Fox News host Bill O'Reilly dismissed such claims as a "conspiracy thing." And for good reason; the "evidence" offered by Pavlich and other promoters is circumstantial and the theory's logic entirely speculative. In fact, Obama has expanded, rather than restricted, the right to carry a gun during his first term.
When Obama asserted executive privilege over a set of internal Department of Justice (DOJ) documents on June 20, Fox News was quick to push the narrative -- straight from the GOP spin room -- that the president's use of privilege implied something sinister was afoot at the White House. As Happening Now guest host Gregg Jarrett put it, "If the president was not involved then executive privilege does not apply. If the president was involved, then three things, either Holder was not telling the truth in front of Congress, and or the White House was not telling the truth when it denied the White House and the president were involved, and the president himself may have not been telling the truth when he made statements."
There are two problems with this argument. First, Obama only asserted executive privilege over documents generated after February 4, 2011. Fast and Furious was terminated in January 2011. According to the letter that DOJ sent to Obama asking the president to assert his privilege, the documents in question "were created after the investigative tactic at issue in that operation had terminated and in the course of the Department's deliberative process concerning how to respond to congressional and related media inquiries into that operation."
Secondly, presidents have traditionally asserted executive privilege over matters in which they are not personally involved. When President George W. Bush first used executive privilege in December 2001, he acted to shield internal DOJ documents. In a separate instance in 2008, his Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, advised the president that he could shield Environmental Protection Agency documents because "[t]he doctrine of executive privilege also encompasses Executive Branch deliberative communications that do not implicate presidential decisionmaking."
From the June 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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