Following an interview President Obama gave to a television station in Orlando, Florida, in which Obama praised the United States as "a great, great country that had gotten a little soft" and talked about things that can be done to improve upon the best system in the world, CNN contributor Erick Erickson took to Twitter to call him "a jerk."
Here are Obama's full comments from the interview with WESH anchor Jim Payne:
OBAMA: One of the reasons that I ran for president was that wages, incomes had flatlined at the same time that costs had gone up. I think that people had thought that opportunities had become more constricted for the next generation. And that's why making sure that we're revamping our education system; making sure that we've got world-class infrastructure; investing in basic science, and research, and technology; making sure that we are moving manufacturing back to the United States and that we are being tough with our trading partners -- making sure that they are not taking advantage of us -- I mean, there are a lot of things that we can do.
The way I think about it is, is that this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft, and we didn't have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track, but I wouldn't trade our position with any other country on Earth. We still have the best universities, the best scientists, and best workers in the world. We still have the most dynamic economic system in the world. So we just need to bring all those things together.
Obama sure comes off as an anti-American president here, doesn't he? He points out that the United States is a great country that could stand to be even greater with some improvement and he gets attacked not only by Erickson, but by The Drudge Report and Glenn Beck's The Blaze as well.
In her book, America by Heart, Sarah Palin described the United States as a great country that also has "flaws." Would Erickson call Palin a "jerk" for acknowledging that?
Right-wing media are mocking the Obama campaign's launch of a site called Attack Watch to fight smears against the president. Yet right-wing media have relentlessly pushed many smears about the president -- during and since the 2008 campaign -- including pushing the claim that he was not born in the United States, claiming he was educated in a madrassa, attacking his faith, and claiming the administration committed federal crimes.
Right-wing media have seized on a 2008 video of then-candidate Barack Obama, in which he criticized President Bush for adding $4 trillion to the debt, to accuse Obama of hypocrisy because $4 trillion in debt has also accumulated since Obama took office. However, this ignores the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected $1.2 trillion in deficit before Obama took office -- based entirely on Bush's actions and economic conditions -- and that wars, policies, and the economic downturn that all began under Bush continue to inflate the debt.
You might remember Penny Starr as the CNSNews.com reporter who tried to manufacture outrage over a gay-themed art exhibition at the Smithsonian last year. Now, she's upset by something she found on the Internet:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is offering advice to parents and teens about sex education, including assurances that teens may "experiment" with homosexuality as part of "exploring their own sexuality," and that masturbation should be of concern only "if a child seems preoccupied with it to the exclusion of other activities."
The information, located on a "Questions and Answers About Sex" link on the "Quick Guide to Healthy Living" portion of the HHS Web site, also describes children and infants as "sexual beings."
Under the question "When Do Kids Start Becoming Curious About Sex?" the answer notes that infants have curiosity about their bodies.
"Children are human beings and therefore sexual beings," the Q&A Web page says. "It's hard for parents to acknowledge this, just as it's hard for kids to think of their parents as sexually active. But even infants have curiosity about their own bodies, which is healthy and normal."
This sort of thing, of course, is catnip for the right-wing media, which have used Starr's article as a way to attack the Obama administration. The headline at Fox Nation blamed "Obama's HHS" for publishing this information; a LifeNews headline stated that "Obama Admin Pushes Sex on Kids." Even the version of Starr's article posted at NewsBusters -- like CNS, a division of the conservative Media Research Center -- carried the headline "Obama's HHS: 'Children Are Sexual Beings.'" The Blaze and Weasel Zippers are among the other right-wing websites that picked up on the story.
Right-wing media mocked Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for stating that food stamps are "economic stimulus." In fact, experts agree that food stamps are one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus.
A New York Post blogger criticizing a government program that provides cell phones and monthly minutes free of charge to low-income individuals baselessly stated that free cell phones are now a "civil right." Despite that phrase appearing nowhere in the news article the Post linked to, the meme has traveled through the right-wing media, including one segment on Fox & Friends that contained several falsehoods about the program.
Right-wing blogs are claiming that in planning a bus tour to the Midwest later this month, President Obama has "copie[d]" Sarah Palin, who embarked on a bus tour earlier this year. In fact, Obama went on a bus tour during his 2008 campaign, and for decades sitting presidents and presidential candidates have traveled the nation by bus.
Glenn Beck's The Blaze is stoking fears of a sinister plot aimed at "indoctrinating children" with the "overtly controversial stance" that global warming is man-made with free books and SpongeBob SquarePants:
On July 20, 2011, kids in the Washington, D.C. area were treated to free books during a special U.S. Department of Education event. Two of the books that were offered featured popular Nickelodeon characters as part of the network's "Big Green Help Series," a campaign encouraging children to help protect the Earth.
But one of these publications takes an overtly controversial stance, as it promotes the idea that global warming is a man-made problem that requires human intervention in order to be stemmed.
Of course, there should be nothing remotely controversial about the idea that humans are contributing to climate change. Countless scientific organizations and groups long ago moved past the notion that the concept is "controversial." The controversy exists only in the fevered imaginations of right-wing commentators, like those at The Blaze, where it has become a point of pride to deny a massive body of scientific research.
In recent weeks, the right-wing media have used reports of wildlife deaths -- particularly those of bats and birds -- in order to attack wind energy. Although wind turbines are responsible for a number of wildlife deaths, precautions are being taken to reduce the number of deaths caused by wind turbines annually. As unfortunate as these wildlife deaths are, the fact remains that wind turbines provide more benefit to the environment than they do harm to wildlife.
Animals affected by wind turbines have included birds, Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and bats. The right-wing media found these deaths significant, but presumably only because it suits their alternate energy bashing agenda.
Fox Nation asked, "Bald Eagles vs [sic] Wind Farms: Who Wins?"
Before there was any evidence of who was responsible for the terrorist bombing and shooting in Norway, mainstream media outlets rushed to finger Muslims and Muslim groups as potential perpetrators and listed grievances that radical Muslims had against the country. Norwegian officials have since said that a non-Muslim was responsible for the terrorist acts.
Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, recently revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant. Right-wing media responded with virulent anti-immigrant attacks, with Don Surber of the Charleston Daily Mail writing: "kick the lying, illegal alien Jose Antonio Vargas out."
Right-wing media have attacked a recent Maryland State Board of Education ruling that requires high school students to be "environmentally literate" before graduating as "indoctrination" and "brainwash[ing]," while using it as an opportunity continue the right-wing's longstanding war on climate science.
Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter for the Washington Post, "outed" himself today as an undocumented immigrant in a self-authored New York Times Magazine piece detailing his experience as a young Filipino immigrant working hard to achieve the American dream. It wasn't until Vargas attempted to obtain a learner's permit at his local California DMV that he learned the citizenship documentation he had been provided by his naturalized grandparents was fake.
I decided then that I could never give anyone reason to doubt I was an American. I convinced myself that if I worked enough, if I achieved enough, I would be rewarded with citizenship. I felt I could earn it.
I've tried. Over the past 14 years, I've graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I've created a good life. I've lived the American dream.
But I am still an undocumented immigrant.
Predictably, it took almost no time for the right-wing slander machine to gear up its attacks on Vargas and his family.
First up, National Review's Daniel Foster accused Vargas of "fraudulent tax fraud," in a piece posted today:
Vargas entered the country illegally after his grandfather paid a coyote $4,500 to smuggle him in. The grandfather then obtained a fake passport and green card for Vargas, which they used to acquire a valid Social Security card. But that card, which subjected Vargas' right to work to the approval of the then-INS, was illegally doctored, allowing Vargas to secure job after job for more than a decade by showing nothing more than a photocopy of a fake document.
The first part of Vargas' story -- a kid living and loving America for years before his shocking discovery that he has been made complicit in a crime -- does indeed elicit sympathy. It's stories like these that make me open, at least in principle, to something like a narrowly-tailored version of the "DREAM" Act. But the second part of his story, in which a fear- and shame-driven Vargas, with the aid of his family, perpetuated and compounded those crimes (Vargas eventually got around to what you might redundantly call fraudulent tax fraud, repeatedly reporting himself as a citizen rather than a "permanent resident", when in fact he was neither), elicits from me nothing like the outpouring of support Vargas is already enjoying on the Left.
Right-wing media have attacked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for recently saying that it is "not good logic" to target Muslim men younger than 35 for security screenings at airports. In her comments, Napolitano instead recommended screening based on travel plans, behavior, and existing intelligence -- a method recommended by experts who note that racial profiling is ineffective.
It turns out that Fox Business' Eric Bolling's tweet about President Obama "chugging 40s" in Ireland didn't have any racial overtones at all. That's the assessment of Meredith Jessup, a blogger for Glenn Beck's The Blaze, who observes that white people, such as herself, have also consumed malt liquor out of 40 oz. bottles:
Apparently making a reference to "40′s" -- meaning 40 oz. -- is inherently racist. Why? NewsOne (For Black America) explains:40s is slang for 40 oz bottles of beer, usually malt liquor, that was popular in hip hop in the 90s.
Uh, so? Do white people not drink 40s? I have. Did white people not enjoy hip hop in the 90s? I don't really want to admit it, but in fact I did.
All of this pseudo-racism nonsense detracts from the real struggles people have gone through in battling actual racism and only serves to divide people more.
So if white people also do it, it's not racially insensitive? By that standard, this horribly racist mailing from a California GOP group depicting Obama on a food stamp with fried chicken and watermelon is actually quite anodyne, given that white people also use food stamps and have been known to eat fried chicken and watermelon.
This is how racial stereotypes typically work -- they transform unremarkable things (food stamps, fried chicken, and 40s) into damaging slurs. Claiming that the stereotype Bolling invoked isn't offensive -- or doesn't exist -- is willfully obtuse.
Saying "white people also do it" isn't an argument against the hurtfulness of the stereotype. It's an acknowledgement of its unfairness, and argument against the stereotype itself.