Bill O’Reilly Was Right

Congress, under the watchful and exhausted eye of John Boehner, has to reprioritize, since denying Obama a second term has failed in spectacular fashion. Now they just have to pull out any stops to defeat his legacy.

On the eve of the President’s inauguration, I can safely let the sigh escape from my chest, a deep exhale of relief that we escaped a Romney/Ryan administration and their consequent taking of the country back(wards).  From the administration of Reagan onwards, momentum has been building in a movement to revert the country to its constitutional origins: of, for, and by monied white men.  And while this is certainly nothing new, candidates and elected officials of the past at least had the decency to pretend to equality.  Not so anymore.  With the election of our first black President, it seemed like the country was turning a chapter entitled “post-racism.” Yet what resulted was quite the opposite, with the right digging in their heels and ushering in the “Philosophy of No” and culminating in Mitt Romney’s address to the NAACP in July, blatantly dismissing an entire segment of the population because they could offer him little political capital.   The right said “No” to anything the President proposed, be it fair pay for women or compensation for the first responders of September eleventh.  We could argue that the divisiveness has roots beyond the specific kink of Mr. Obama’s hair, and some of it might be, but not all of it.  Not by far.

It can’t be easy for the Romneys, blindsided by their loss as they were.  The Fox pundits as well, though they’ve had time to recoup now, to double down on their anti-left propaganda.  And Congress, under the watchful and exhausted eye of John Boehner, has to reprioritize, since denying Obama a second term has failed in spectacular fashion. Now they just have to pull out any stops to defeat his legacy, to deny him any legislative victories, and if it continues to come at the expense of the constituency that voted them in, so be it. They have an endgame in mind; they’re looking at the big picture.  If all goes right (right, get it?), they won’t have destroyed the country beyond repair.  And when they get back into office, the magnitude of their success will be two-fold: they can blame the destruction on the Obama administration and exact greater power in creating positions to help clean up the mess.  Hey, it will create jobs, right?  Right?

What stuck in my mind in the days after the election were not necessarily the sputtering of Karl Rove or the disingenuous conciliatory speech of Romney, but a statement uttered by Long Island’s own Bill O’Reilly.  “Obama wins,” he spit, “because it’s not a traditional America anymore.” He went on to speak about the white establishment losing its position in the majority, about the black and hispanic votes, women.  His face mourned the loss of a country he’d known.  I felt for him.

Because he was right.

Traditional society had walls.  It was segregated into sects with borders, color-coded in socio-economic terms.  We had the pride of a country whose leaders were for the most part homogenous and our brown people were cared for as best we could.  But we had expectations: they needed to speak our language, to buck up and to thank the establishment for the spoils of what it meant to be American. Yet, somehow, that wasn’t enough. Some people started to feel “entitled.”

The Internet age ushered in the modern era where people began to see over the walls separating “us” and “them.”  A global economy brought with it the unintended consequences of a global society, multi-languaged, multicolored and multi-ethnic.  The model of success wasn’t the white-bread version of the trust fund baby boy being inducted into his father’s fraternity based on donations to the alumni association, making inbred connections among the masters of the universe.  The pool so small, in fact, that the name Bush is being floated as we speak as a 2016 candidacy. It started to look more Horatio Alger than anybody ever intended.  Black leaders in business and politics started to pave a way, but was America ready for a black man in the white house?

Gone now is the pretense to the political correctness of Clinton’s nineties.  Clinton, whom Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison deemed “America’s first black President” due to the ferocity with which he was hunted and treated by the establishment during the Whitewater scandal, ushered in a time when derogatory language went underground and was whispered behind the backs of hands.  Now, twenty years after he first took office, the culture has shifted so decisively that it is a faux pas not to utter a racist slur, but to accuse someone else of racism.  With commentators like Rush Limbaugh feeling comfortable making statements like, “The NAACP booed Romney because he’s white,” and Bill O’Reilly lamenting the diluting of the power of the white vote, we find ourselves at a crossroads.  We can take this country back(wards) or, as Obama supporters shouted from streets and eaves and stadiums, we can move “Forward.”

Because once upon a time, a brown child of a single mother on welfare with an un-American father, who was raised on a far-away island and spent some formative years in Indonesia, dared to think that maybe this was his country too.  He thought that maybe he had something to offer this modern America, that is neither black nor white, Eastern or Western, monied or in need, but all of it. All of it.

And so America begins a new tradition.  And the Bill O’Reillys of the world live unhappily ever after.

Big Pac with Cheese

The super-spending group asked the Federal Election Commission whether it could produce an ad that was 201Cfully coordinated201D with a candidate 2014 without having it count as a coordinated communication under federal election law.

FEC Deadlocks (Again) on Guidance for Big-Money Super PACs

by Marian Wang ProPublica, Dec. 2, 2011, 12:21 p.m.

A bold request from American Crossroads, a conservative Super PAC founded by Karl Rove, apparently struck a nerve with hundreds of people who don2019t typically pay much attention to the more obscure aspects of campaign-finance law.

The super-spending group asked the Federal Election Commission whether it could produce an ad that was 201Cfully coordinated201D with a candidate 2014 without having it count as a coordinated communication under federal election law.

Coordination, as we2019ve noted [1], is the one crucial restriction on Super PACs, groups that are otherwise unfettered by the limits that apply to candidate campaigns and traditional PACs. Provided they don2019t coordinate their spending with candidates, Super PACs can raise as much money as they want from anyone they want, even corporations and unions.

The request by American Crossroads was prominently parodied [2] by comedian Stephen Colbert, who was joined by nearly 500 others in flooding the FEC with comment letters that, as one commissioner put it, were 201Cnot very complimentary [3]201D about what American Crossroads was trying to do. The commission is usually 201Clucky to get one or two comments,201D said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat.

Yesterday, Weintraub and the five other FEC commissioners met to decide whether a 201Cfully coordinated201D ad could be considered uncoordinated. The result? A 3-3 deadlock.

201CThe commission is unable to reach a conclusion on this request,201D said the FEC2019s chair, Cynthia Bauerly, after several heated exchanges between the commissioners failed to produce consensus.

To be sure, the group2019s request [4] [PDF] was unusual 2014 and so forthright about its aims that more than one commissioner praised the group for its candor: American Crossroads stated its intent to create an ad that 201Cwould be fully coordinated201D with candidates, that 201Cwould be thematically similar201D to the candidates2019 own re-election campaign materials, and would feature candidates in the actual ad.

The purpose, the group stated, would be 201Cto improve the public2019s perception of the featured Member of Congress in advance of the 2012 campaign season.201D

The three Democratic commissioners voted to deny the request [5], arguing that, even setting aside the FEC2019s coordination rules, such an ad is essentially a donation of something of value to the candidate for the purpose of influencing an election, or an in-kind contribution. The Republican commissioners disagreed, arguing that their Democratic counterparts were judging the ad by a broader standard than the FEC2019s own coordination rules, which are exceedingly narrow [1].

As we reported last month, the FEC, made up of three Democratics and three Republicans, has frequently deadlocked [6] on key issues like the rules governing these increasingly influential Super PACs. And when the commission can’t make up its mind, groups have the choice of taking the FEC2019s deadlock as a de facto green light and plowing ahead anyway.

In other words, American Crossroads could look at this 3-3 split and still produce the ad it wants to 2014 taking a calculated risk that if its actions are challenged down the road and the FEC’s makeup doesn’t change, the commissioners would surely deadlock again in the enforcement process.

Whether American Crossroads will indeed choose that path remains to be seen. After all, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska appeared in supposedly independent, uncoordinated ads earlier this year, arguing that they were 201Cissue201D ads. Republicans have complained [7], but the FEC has yet to sanction Nelson or the funders of the ad.

In a statement, American Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said the group is “reviewing the FEC statements and evaluating options,” but that the more important question is how the vote will affect Nelson, who “has already taken action identical to what we asked about.”

 

Gangsta Prankstas: Citizen Murdoch and Bill Oh’Really?

The actions of those involved in the evolving News Corp scandal are hardly surprising given the arrogance endemic to the organization as a whole.

Rupert MurdochIf it bleeds it leads.  With the specter of his News Corp getting hacked to pieces by the bloody politicians who have done his bidding, Rupert Murdoch has become the bleeding headline.  The miasma of Murdoch’s brand of “yellow journalism”, to quote frequent Fox News pundit, Congressman Peter King, has hung over Brits (and Yanks) like a London fog.  Now it is being dispersed by blasts from the media mogul’s very own supplicants.

Hacking into the cell phone of a murdered thirteen years-old schoolgirl to make room for false hope and more expressions of family anguish seemed just the ticket to keep a titillating tabloid story going.  Ditto that for terrorist bombing victims and dead soldiers.  There is no place for morality and ethics when titillation, manipulation, power and profits are the four corners of your world.  But sex, lies and payoffs have turned toxic for the Thunder from Down Under.     

Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron, who appointed the editor of Murdoch’s offending newspaper as his administration’s chief spokesman, was shocked, shocked by all this appalling behavior: “The people involved, whether they were directly responsible for the wrongdoing, sanctioned it, or covered it up, however high or low they go, must not only be brought to justice, they must also have no future role in the running of a media company in our country.”

On this side of the pond, King wrote FBI Director Robert Mueller, to declare, “It is revolting to imagine that members of the media would seek to compromise the integrity of a public official for financial gain in the pursuit of yellow journalism….  If these allegations are proven true, the conduct would merit felony charges for attempting to violate various federal statutes related to corruption of public officials and prohibitions against wiretapping. Any person found guilty of this purported conduct should receive the harshest sanctions available under law.” 

To what degree has this gangster culture permeated Murdoch States-side operations like Fox ‘News’?  Exhibit A is the Bill O’Reilly Loufa Affair.  This sordid sortie was quickly covered up by $6 million in hush money Fox News president Roger Ailes purportedly paid to make one plaintiff female producer half O’Really’s age go away.   Leave aside the graphic recordings of phone sex and sexual predation contained in the Verified Complaint, Index No. 04114558  filed on October 13, 2004 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York.  In “Andrea Mackris, Plaintiff against Bill O’Reilly, News Corporation, Fox News Channel, Defendants,” O’Reilly rails into Mackris’ hidden microphone about what would happen should one of his victims complain:

“If any woman ever breathed a word I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born.  I’ll rake her through the mud, bring up things in her life and make her so miserable that she’ll be destroyed.  And besides, she wouldn’t be able to afford the lawyers I can or endure it financially as long as I can.  And nobody would believe her, it’d be her word against mine and who are you going to believe?  Me or some unstable woman making outrageous accusations.  They’d see her as some psycho, someone unstable.  Besides, I’d never make the mistake of picking some crazy, unstable girl like that…

“If you cross Fox News Channel, it’s not just me, it’s Roger Ailes who will go after you.  I’m the street guy out front making loud noises about issues, but Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes and makes things happen so that one day BAM!  The person gets what’s coming to them but never sees it coming.  Look at Al Franken, one day he’s going to get a knock on his door and life as he’s known it will change forever.  That day will come happen, trust me.” 

Oh really? Whitey Bolger couldn’t have gangsta-spun it any better, though he wouldn’t have gotten caught on tape.

Implication in criminal activity has not been a disqualifier in the News Corp/Fox world.  Consider Fox pundit Karl Rove, who barely escaped prosecution for his role in leaking the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame.  Rove came to his Machiavellian station as “Bush’s Brain” by cutting his spurs on political prankstering.  At 19, Rove assumed a false identity to access the campaign office of a Democratic candidate for Illinois treasurer.  He concocted a campaign flier on a thousand sheets of stolen letterhead promising “free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing” and distributed them to derelicts who showed up to disrupt the Democrat’s campaign rally.   Rove’s fingerprints were all over rumors of John McCain’s POW-induced instability and black love child during the 2000 South Carolina Republican primary.

Grand Old Pranksters can track their tradition back through Lee Atwater, Donald Segretti to the godfather of modern political buggery, Tricky Dick.  But it was the grand old man of yellow journalism, William Randolph “You can crush a man with journalism” Hearst who can lay claim to one of the founding principles of Fox family values when he got the boot from Harvard for a bevy of pranks including the imprinting of professors’ names inside chamber (piss) pots.  Or so he claimed; turns out he was expelled for grades.  Could prankstering be a gateway drug for News Corp criminality?

Lawyer for the family of murdered thirteen years-old Milly Dowler provided the most damning judgment upon yet another resignation and arrest of a News Corp exec: “This is not just about one individual but about the culture of an organization.”

“Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel,” said Citizen Kane 72 years ago.  “His paper should be run out of town.”

Mid-Term Elections

Dubya

Former President George W. Bush indicated last week that his chief regret from his tenure in office was not privatizing Social Security.

Let’s allow that to sink in for a moment… (Sits back in chair and taps finger pensively on chin and whistles a wee tune from the old country.)

Soooooooo, two protracted wars, economic Armageddon, Osama Bin Laden still among the living, a historic bailout (yes, the first big one was his), the greatest disparity in wealth since the run-up to the Great Depression, a blown surplus he inherited and a record deficit he left us with don’t necessarily rank among W’s regrets. This is why the good Lord invented mid-term elections, a time to evaluate the consequences of our most recent electoral decisions and issue a popular referendum to our leaders. And there’s nothing like a stinging recession to draw the ire of the masses—something that was absent during the foggy days of the Bush administration. Barack Obama will have no such luck next week.

The favored prognostications on the mid-terms have a throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater feel to them. The recalcitrant Tea Party wing nuts have Democrats flip-flopping and Republicans retrenching, and the polling appears to be more out of touch with political reality than the Dow Jones Industrial Average is out of touch with the economic reality of the times we live in. So, while there is little doubt our elected officials will be wildly tossed about on election night, I don’t think anyone can accurately predict where the pieces will land. This applies equally to the national, state and local landscapes.

For my part, I will assume my normal election night posture. This is my Superbowl. No, this is my Uberbowl. After lovingly putting my children to sleep and sweetly kissing my bride, I take up residence on my couch with a laptop, a television, a home phone and a BlackBerry. Beside me rests a bowl of popcorn and a six-pack of Blue Point Toasted Lager to be consumed throughout the evening. At the other end of the myriad communication devices at my disposal are my dedicated editors and reporters who live for this night as I do, strategically positioned at disparate campaign headquarters so they can send me timely updates and anecdotes; the vast majority of the latter are typically inappropriate and not for publication but amusing nonetheless.

But election night is just the capstone to this wild and bitter campaign season that has been gaining steam since the crowning of President Obama. The weeks and months leading up to this election have seen hope replaced by fanaticism, while an estimated $3 billion has been spent assailing the public with dirty-bomb messaging. The media have spent an unprecedented amount of energy dissecting the sources of campaign financing, which has undergone a sea change due to opaque contributions from major donors. The funding is sheltered primarily by committees organized under the 501(c)(4) designation for non-profits that’s now expanded to include advocacy groups. In recent election cycles major donors and corporations have skirted the funding limitations of political action committees (PACs), which require transparency and place limits on contributions, by donating to 501(c)(4) groups who run political ads. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this year to allow the continuation of this practice, which led Obama to courageously criticize the justices during his State of the Union speech just days after this decision was handed down. This action was indeed courageous because rebuking the Supreme Court in such a public fashion is almost taboo. More importantly, his comments were prescient, and we are all living with the results.

But the media’s obsession with campaign financing and public figures such as Karl Rove, who helped organize perhaps the biggest group—Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies—is noise. The Democrats and major backers like George Soros used this loophole to great advantage in the last cycle; but this go-around the Republicans perfected it. Since time immemorial money has been finding its way to politicians. Whether it’s a bag of cash exchanged in a hotel room or a shady “policy group” taking cheap shots in a TV ad over a politician’s war record, campaign cash moves quickly through the Beltway. So while the sheer volume of donations is unprecedented, I find the whole thing quite unremarkable. The only people who give massive sums of money are the people who have it and want more of it.

The argument over secret funding and the anger manufactured from special interest groups preying on people’s fears are what we call gorilla dust. Hopefully Jon Stewart’s rally in D.C. this weekend will indeed restore sanity, and voters will make calculated decisions, not emotional ones. In the waning days of the campaign, when every other television ad is political, newspaper editors make their grand declarations and campaign managers are plagued by carpal tunnel syndrome from tweeting, texting and emailing, do your best to keep your head about you.

Remember that while big things are happening at the top, much of the work is getting done in the trenches. If you’re unhappy with Obama and want to send a message by turning Congress upside down, knock yourself out. Likewise, if you’re tired of the Republicans being the “party of no,” then let Obama keep his House in order. But that lever in the voting booth or oval on the ballot has little to do with the state senator who funded improvements to your library or the town council member who heard your protests at a board meeting and put in a stop sign on your block.

While public tumult is a good thing that keeps our elected officials on their toes and prevents George W. Bush-like amnesia down the road, it can also lead to bad decisions. Or as my father says: everything in moderation… except, of course, on election night in my den.