The cover of the June 3 issue of National Review shows a caricature of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with exaggerated features and playing a fiddle in front of what appears to be the attacked U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya engulfed by flames. The cover, as TPM noted, is likely "an allusion to the Roman Emperor Nero, who is said to have 'fiddled while Rome burned.' "
According to PBS, history has implied that Nero himself set the fire that burned Rome, so that he could rebuild the city more to his liking:
History has blamed Nero for the disaster, implying that he started the fire so that he could bypass the senate and rebuild Rome to his liking. Much of what is known about the great fire of Rome comes from the aristocrat and historian Tacitus, who claimed that Nero watched Rome burn while merrily playing his fiddle. Gangs of thugs prevented citizens from fighting the fire with threats of torture, Tacitus wrote. There is some support for the theory that Nero leveled the city on purpose: the Domus Aurea, Nero's majestic series of villas and pavilions set upon a landscaped park and a man-made lake, was built in the wake of the fire.
Unlike Nero, Clinton is documented to have been active at the time of the attack in Benghazi. Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, testified to a House committee on May 8 that Clinton called him the night of the attack for a report of the events:
HICKS: I think at about 2 p.m. -- 2 a.m., sorry -- the Secretary, Secretary of State Clinton called me along with her senior staff were all on the phone and she asked me what was going on and I briefed her on the developments. Most of the conversation was about the search for Ambassador Stevens. It was also about what we were going to do with our personnel in Benghazi. And I told her that we would need to evacuate and she said that was the right thing to do.
By all accounts, the Heritage Foundation study that would have been the conservative media's cudgel to defeat comprehensive immigration reform a second time is all but rotting in the ground, buried under accusations of anti-immigrant and race-based bias. Beyond losing all credibility, its conclusions that reform will total at least $6.3 trillion have been exposed as bogus by the most respected conservative groups and immigration experts.
In fact, the only people left willing to defend Heritage are part of an anti-immigrant movement that mainstream conservatives are reportedly trying to confine to the fringe. But that hasn't stopped right-wing media outlets from amplifying these voices in an effort to tank a bipartisan immigration proposal currently being debated in the Senate.
In a column published by WND and Human Events, Pat Buchanan defended Heritage and Jason Richwine, the co-author of the study whose writings that race and intelligence are genetically linked forced his resignation.
As The Washington Post reported, Richwine wrote in his Harvard doctoral dissertation that Latinos are undesirable as immigrants because, he argued, they have lower IQs than white Americans. Other controversial comments by Richwine surfaced, including his claim that "psychometric testing has indicated that at least in America, you have Jews with the highest average IQ, usually followed by East Asians, and then you have non-Jewish whites, Hispanics, and then blacks."
After citing a series of examples he argued showed "greater 'underclass behavior' among Hispanics," Buchanan warned that by granting legal status to the country's population of undocumented immigrants -- most of whom are from Latin American countries -- "America in 2040 is going to look like Los Angeles today." He added: "America in 2040 will be a country with whites and Asians dominating the professions, and 100 million Hispanics concentrated in semiskilled work and manual labor."
In his criticism of the Heritage study, American Action Forum president and former Congressional Budget Office head Doug Holtz-Eakin explained to a congressional committee:
You have to be very careful about the assumptions you make. We know that the labor force participation of first-generation immigrants is higher than the native-born. If you go to the second generation where people often worry about the take-up of public programs -- there are more college degrees in the second-generation immigrants than the native-born. There are more advanced degrees, graduate degrees. There's higher rates of labor force participation among those. So it's not the case that program participation is higher than in the native born population on the whole.
Buchanan has repeatedly stated that the influx of undocumented immigrants is "not immigration" but "an invasion of the United States of America." He has warned that America is "committing suicide" while "Asian, African, And Latin American children come to inherit the estate." He once argued against immigration reform by citing the views of white nationalists.
This is the core group of people who have joined Buchanan in defense of Heritage and Richwine's scholarship. It is basically a "who's who" of the anti-immigrant extremist establishment that continually argues against non-white immigrants and groups:
The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed on the Voting Rights Act by Edward Blum, founder of the in-house legal project of the right-wing's Donors Trust, but failed to disclose his ties to the Supreme Court's VRA case, Shelby County v. Holder. The op-ed, which identifies Blum as a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and director of the Donors Trust-supported Project on Fair Representation, recycles misinformation about the challenge that has been extensively and widely debunked.
In the wake of recent election failures are more Republican leaders now counseling a break from Fox News' patented style of relentless partisan attack? Are they suggesting the party distance itself from the monotonous mode of Obama attacks that Fox has made synonymous with the GOP?
According to reports from the National Review Institute's recent gathering in Washington, D.C, some calls for common sense moderation seem to be making the rounds. They're being coupled with the admission that the type of campaign stories Fox obsessed over last year turned out to distractions at best, and electoral losers at worst.
With Fox this month posting its worst primetime ratings in more than a decade, the time would seem right for a Republican re-examination of its near total dependence on the cable outlet and its unique brand of paranoid programming.
Last week I wrote about how one prominent conservative voice, Erick Erickson, was begging fellow partisans to ditch the faux outrage that's become so prevalent in right-wing circles. Erickson urged them to move into areas of more substantial debate and argued the self-pitying shtick does nothing to build a movement or get candidates elected. It also doesn't do any good for the Republican Party's image, as its recent 26 percent approval rating indicates. (Whether Erickson believes his own advice has come into question; he's now leaving CNN to go to work for Fox, the operators of the dubious Outrage Machine)
Some of the chatter from the National Review Institute's summit was in the same vein, as Republicans seek to build, and project, a movement that doesn't revolve entirely around Obama name-calling and extended televised freak-outs over imaginary White House slights. (And yes, some of the chatter was just more right-wing extremism, like the claim from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia isn't conservative enough.)
"Just being 'no,' just being a stopgap isn't enough," Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told attendees, according to a report in Politico, which stressed "GOP standard-bearers" wanted members to "take a deep breath" and concentrate on more than simply loudly opposing Obama. "We have to show prudence," said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who warned Republicans about avoiding Obama's attempts to divide them.
That certainly doesn't sound like the Fox obstructionist approach. In fact, let's agree that exhibiting "prudence," discretion, and caution doesn't appear anywhere in the Fox News programming blueprint. It's pretty much been banned since January 2009, which is what allowed Fox talkers to depict the president as a "Marxist" "racist" who hates America.
Urging Republicans to throttle back on the Obama Derangement Syndrome act makes sense politically though, since the president remains personally quite popular. Avoiding the Fox-manufactured distractions would also help the GOP.
Described as the crown jewel of civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act has been the target of right-wing misinformation for decades, and a parallel legal assault against its constitutionality will be argued before the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder on February 27. The VRA, enacted to stem voter suppression on the basis of race in the South, contains a provision within it - Section 5 - which identifies the worst historical offenders and requires that election changes in those jurisdictions pass federal review. The current legal challenges to the VRA focus on Section 5, and are the continuation of the same discredited claims lodged against this anti-discrimination law since its inception.
Conservative media figures are taking a partial quote from President Obama out of context in order to attack him as reacting callously to the deaths of U.S. diplomatic personnel.
In an appearance taped today for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, President Obama was asked if communication between government personnel had failed to provide "the optimal response" to the Benghazi attacks. Obama replied in part: "If four Americans get killed, it's not optimal. We're going to fix it. All of it. And what happens, during the course of a presidency, is that the government is a big operation and any given time something screws up. And you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it."
Conservative media figures like Matt Drudge, Monica Crowley, Hugh Hewitt, Mary Katherine Ham,John Podhoretz, Jonah Goldberg, Erick Erickson and outlets like Fox Nation all used early reports of Obama's comments to attack him, with several falsely suggesting that Obama had said the deaths of American personnel in Benghazi, and not the communications effort, was "not optimal."
Affirmative action policies that will come before the Supreme Court in the upcoming Fisher v. University of Texas case have long been the target of right-wing misinformation that distort the benefits of diversity in higher education. Contrary to the conservative narrative in the media, these admissions processes serve important national interests by promoting equal opportunity and are based on long-standing law.
John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the UN and vocal critic of the Obama administration, is often sought after by the media for his opinion on foreign policy issues, but his stake in the presidential election -- as a foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney -- is rarely, if ever, disclosed by the outlets that publish him.
In addition to editorials in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, and appearances on Fox News that left Bolton's ties to Romney undisclosed, a Media Matters review found editorials in five additional publications written or co-written by Bolton that left out that key information.
In total, Bolton wrote seven editorials that were critical of Obama's policies for The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Examiner, The Weekly Standard and the National Review after he became affiliated with the Romney campaign. None of those op-eds identified Bolton as a member of the Romney team. However, three of those outlets -- the Times, Monitor, and the Examiner -- have reported separately on Bolton's position in the campaign.
Conservative media have claimed that the Obama administration is waging a "war" on "cheap," "clean" coal that will cause blackouts and massive layoffs. In fact, the Obama administration has simply implemented long overdue and legally required clean air regulations to protect public health without hurting electric reliability or employment, and much of the transition away from coal is due to the rise of cheaper, cleaner natural gas.
Fox's Neil Cavuto and his guest used Tuesday's attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya to push for more domestic drilling and construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But experts say that neither will reduce our vulnerability to price spikes, and that the only way to achieve true energy security is to use less oil.
Cavuto hosted the Consumer Energy Alliance's David Holt yesterday, who claimed that "we can drastically reduce our imports" by expanding offshore drilling and natural gas extraction, and approving the Keystone XL pipeline:
But Cavuto did not disclose that Holt has a financial stake in extracting tar sands. In addition to working for the industry-funded CEA, Holt is also a managing partner at HBW Resources, a lobbying group with "close ties to Alberta's tar sands industry," according to a Salon.com exposé.
National Review columnist Deroy Murdock echoed Holt's argument today, urging President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to give the U.S. access to "friendly oil." But an analysis prepared for the Department of Energy found that U.S. oil imports are "insensitive" to "whether or not KXL is built" because much of the oil transported by the pipeline would be exported overseas:
With recent campaign polls showing noticeable movement towards President Obama in recent days, and with some news accounts reporting that Romney aides concede they're losing ground, National Review editor Rich Lowry reached out to a nameless Romney "adviser" for a comment.
The aide insisted the Boston-based campaign "feels good" about the electoral map and its chances of defeating Obama in key swing states in November.
Aside from that expected spin, what was most curious was the aide's attack on the supposedly Democrat-leaning press corps and how it's working in tandem with the Obama campaign. Romney himself has pressed this same campaign conspiracy, which flourishes online among fevered conservative bloggers: Journalists are de facto White House employees. (If so, they're doing an awful job.)
But note this whopper that followed [emphasis added]:
And the more Washington DC controls our economy, the more important inside-the-beltway publications are and the more money they make. The 202 area code is dominated by people who will make more money if Obama is reelected, so it's not just an ideological thumb they're putting on the scale for him, it's a business interest.
The aides' comments mirror the increasingly aggressive right-wing media's attacks on the press. This assault is driven by the conspiratorial claims that not only do journalists have a liberal bias, and therefore spin the news in that direction, but that reporters go to work each day determined to re-elect Obama. The all-consuming allegations paint the picture of a completely rigged system where the White House and press corps work seamlessly to advance a Democratic agenda.
"This is all about the media OPENLY coordinating with the Obama campaign to win reelection for a failed president," proclaimed Breitbart.com this summer. It's a declaration that has been repeated on an endless loop ever since, and with increasing frenzy.
Now the latest twist is the claim that the media want Obama to win because the press corps will enrich itself with Obama in the White House because. How? Because Obama wants the government to control the U.S. economy, therefore D.C. media becomes more important. (Does that even make sense?)
In an attempt to shield Mitt Romney's campaign from criticism that many of its claims against the Obama administration are based on falsehoods, conservative media have resorted to attacking fact-checkers, accusing them of liberal bias or of "shilling" for the Obama campaign. This is in keeping with the position of the Romney campaign, which has said, "We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers."
Conservative media outlets are praising Mitt Romney's newly released energy plan, claiming it will lower gas prices, create jobs, and "make America an energy superpower." But experts say Romney's goal of energy independence by 2020 is a "pipe dream" and that his plan overlooks environmental consequences and fails to address the real obstacle to U.S. energy security: our dependence on oil.
The National Review has attempted to distract from Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) and Rep. Todd Akin's (R-MO) support of the extreme "Sanctity of Human Life Act" -- legislation that equates abortion and contraception to murder -- by neglecting to mention its relevance to Akin's rape comments and falsely asserting potential bans on abortion aren't a concern. But it is the act's radical redefinition of a fertilized egg as a person that Akin was defending with his imaginary claim that "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy, and the fact that voters in conservative states have rejected similar "personhood" laws merely demonstrates how far outside the mainstream Ryan and Akin are.
In their move to distance conservative media from Akin's comments, the editors of the National Review called for Akin to withdraw his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. However, this calculated abandonment of Akin for announcing a right-wing view that the National Review acknowledges, but prefers kept under wraps, ignores the resurgent movement to criminalize all forms of abortion. By omitting the relevance of the Sanctity of Human Life Act to Akin's comments and the editorial's claim that "no state is going to ban abortion in the case of rape even if Roe v. Wade is overruled," the editorial is perpetuating frequent contributor Ramesh Ponnuru's attempts to gloss over Ryan and Akin's hostility to reproductive rights.
Indeed, the National Review's misdirection is even more apparent now that it appears the 2012 Republican platform will once again support a so-called "human life amendment" to the Constitution that would criminalize abortion in all circumstances. Furthermore, not only is the National Review's reassurance on state abortion bans irrelevant if reports on the GOP platform are accurate, it is wholly misrepresentative of recent state efforts to infringe on women's constitutional rights. In fact, conservative-leaning states have seen multiple attempts at "personhood" bills similar to Ryan and Akin's legislation. This fall, Colorado will likely again have a "personhood" ballot initiative presented to its voters, even though the unconstitutional measure just failed in Mississippi and was held "void on its face" in Oklahoma by the state Supreme Court.
Accordingly, it is unsurprising that Akin's apology for becoming "nationally notorious...for saying something stupid" was specifically only for the "words I said" in reference to rape and not for "the heart I hold," wherein presumably all abortion is criminalized pursuant to "personhood" legislation. A radical criminalization that, the National Review fails to mention, could also apply to in-vitro fertilization, stem-cell research, most forms of contraception, and even miscarriage.
National Review claims it has new evidence that President Obama associated with a minor political party in Chicago in the 1990s. This is apparently supposed to reveal more about Obama's political views and the way he governs than his service in the U.S. Senate and the three years he has been president.
The article instead appears to be part of the right's ongoing effort to further the absurd myth that the media has not vetted Obama -- an argument that is destroyed by the facts.
National Review's Stanley Kurtz writes that he has minutes from a meeting of the New Party's Chicago chapter showing that Obama requested an endorsement and joined the party in 1996. Kurtz describes the New Party as "deeply hostile to the mainstream of the Democratic party and even to American capitalism."
Kurtz is trying to create confusion about the New Party's place on the political spectrum. Questions about Obama and the New Party arose during the 2008 election, and in a Politico blog post, Ben Smith accurately described where the New Party fell:
[T]he New Party was a attempt to build a model of political fusion. It dissolved after losing a Supreme Court ruling aimed at making fusion -- a system under which more than one party can run the same candidate, which exists in some states -- universal.
It's strongest heir, run by another New Party founder, is New York's labor-backed Working Families Party, which cross-endroses (mostly) Democratic candidates in the hopes of pulling the party to the left. Such noted socialists as Hillary Clinton and various Republican state senate candidates have run on the line. There are running arguments over whether they're good for the political process, but no particular taint of radicalism.