‘You are fascinated with sex and you don’t care about public policy’
There are two weeks to go until Election Day and tensions are flaring on Fox News.
In an interview with Newt Gingrich, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly suggested that Donald Trump might be a “sexual predator.” She based this on things he’s said (“We saw on that tape Trump himself saying he likes to grab women by the genitals and kiss them against their will”) and the many women who have came forward alleging Trump has sexually assaulted them.
Gingrich, one of Trump’s most prominent supporters, become livid.
“You are fascinated with sex and you don’t care about public policy,” Gingrich, who has been married three times, told Kelly.
“I’m not fascinated by sex,” Kelly replied, “but I am fascinated by the protection of women and what we are getting in the oval office.”
After the driver of a truck in Nice, France, drove into a crowd of people watching fireworks, killing at least 80, Newt Gingrich told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that the time had come to start testing Americans of “Muslim background” for their loyalty to the United States.
“We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported,” Gingrich said.
He went on to say that even looking at websites that promote terrorism should be a felony and punished with jail time:
Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia, glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door. But we need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are. Anybody who goes on a website favoring ISIS, or Al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups, that should be a felony, and they should go to jail.
Beyond the fact that the identity (and religion) of the attacker in Nice have yet to be released, Newt’s statement is blatantly incompatible with the First Amendment — “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” — by calling for deporting Muslims, including presumably American citizens of “Muslim background,” based solely on their religious beliefs.
It’s also highly unlikely that the Constitution’s protection of civil liberties would allow for making it a felony to “go on a website” that favors al-Qaeda.
But Gingrich seems to be desperately trying to regain ground with Donald Trump amid reports that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is likely to be his running mate. So he’s now going even further than Trump, whose proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States was already seen as extreme and unconstitutional, by saying it’s time to kick out Muslims who are already here.
Newt Gingrich unloaded at the Fox News morning chat show on Monday, for the role that TV hosts have played in giving Donald Trump an easy platform for his candidacy. The Fox hosts actually mounted a decent rebuttal, illustrating how other campaigns have failed to exploit the media as effectively as The Donald has.
Fox & Friends Co-host Steve Doocy asked Newt what the Republican establishment is doing now about the rise of Trump: “This is their nightmare scenario. What are they trying to do?
“Oh, I think they live in a fantasyland right now,” Gingrich said bluntly. “Donald Trump is tapping into something in the country that’s real. And if you take Trump’s vote, and Cruz’s vote, and Carson’s vote, the three outsiders, they are once again at about 62 percent in South Carolina. And they have been consistently above 60 percent everywhere in the country, if you pool together all of the insurgents. And there’s a message there: People believe the country’s decaying; they believe Washington is the heart of that decay. They want somebody who’s gonna kick over the table and change Washington. That’s why Cruz has done so well, and it’s why Trump has done so well.
Co-host Brian Kilmeade chimed in. “What’s interesting is, I remember Mitt Romney, one of his great advantages was money, and that’s why a lot of you guys couldn’t keep up,” Kilmeade said, which got Newt laughing. He continued: “This time, the billionaire is spending the least amount of money, and running away with this thing.”
“Wow,” Newt said, in a suddenly stern tone, “But that’s because of you guys.”
“Look, that’s because of you guys,” Newt explained. “Donald Trump gets up in the morning, tweets to the entire planet at no cost, picks up the phone, calls you, has a great conversation for about eight minutes — which would’ve cost him a ton in commercial money. And meanwhile his opponents are all out there trying to raise the money to run an ad — nobody believes the ad.”
Kilmeade then felt the need to defend himself from the charge of building up Trump — and indeed, he offered a good critique of how other candidates simply didn’t embrace the free media strategy in the same way as Trump.
“Well I mean, people make decisions. Newt, people make decisions,” Kilmeade said. “Mitt Romney made a decision — for three months he wouldn’t do us at all. I mean, people decide — for a while, Jeb Bush wouldn’t hop on any television at all.
“Oh, I know,” Gingrich responded.
“Hillary Clinton didn’t do anything in the beginning. Donald Trump from day one made himself available to big and small — it paid off.”
Doocy added: “Plus, he’s invented scenarios where suddenly he’s got all this free media. You know, that pope thing at the end of the week? Who wasn’t talking about that?
Next got accusatory again: “Look, you could say that Trump is the candidate Fox & Friends invented. He was on your show I think more than any other show.”
“Every Monday,” Doocy helpfully interjected, referring to The Donald’s old regular slot on the show, which he had for several years before ever launching his campaign.
Newt continued: “—It was always a happy, positive conversation. He just kept going around the country — and this is one of his great advantages: He loves what he’s currently doing. And he is having a ball. That gives him more energy, and the fact that he can get on his plane to go back home, to get up in the morning, get back on his plane — a pretty comfortable life for a presidential candidate.”
“You know what?” Doocy said, bringing the segment to a close. “I want to be a billionaire, too — just saying.”
Well, not everything. But America’s looking much better than you think
Good news! The U.S. economy grew at a rollicking 5 percent rate in the third quarter. Oh, and it added 320,000 jobs in November, the best of its unprecedented 57 straight months of private-sector employment growth. Just in time for Christmas, the Dow just hit an all-time high and the uninsured rate is approaching an all-time low. Consumer confidence is soaring, inflation is low, gas prices are plunging, and the budget deficit is shrinking. You no longer hear much about the Ebola crisis that dominated the headlines in the fall, much less the border crisis that dominated the headlines over the summer. As Fox News host Andrea Tantaros proclaimed earlier this month: “The United States is awesome! We are awesome!”
OK, she was talking about the Senate torture report, not the state of the union, but things in the U.S. do look rather awesome. Mitt Romney promised to bring unemployment down to 6 percent in his first term; it’s already down to 5.8 percent, half the struggling eurozone’s rate. Newt Gingrich promised $2.50 gas; it’s down to $2.38. Crime, abortion, teen pregnancy and oil imports are also way down, while renewable power is way up and the American auto industry is booming again. You don’t have to give credit to President Barack Obama for “America’s resurgence,” as he has started calling it, but there’s overwhelming evidence the resurgence is real. The Chicken Littles who predicted a double-dip recession, runaway interest rates, Zimbabwe-style inflation, a Greece-style debt crisis, skyrocketing energy prices, health insurance “death spirals” and other horrors have been reliably wrong.
Come to think of it, the 62 percent of Americans who described the economy as “poor” in a CNN poll a week before the Republican landslide in the midterm elections were also wrong. I guess that sounds elitist. Second-guessing the wisdom of the public may be the last bastion of political correctness; if ordinary people don’t feel good about the economy, then the recovery isn’t supposed to be real. But aren’t the 11 million Americans who have landed new jobs since 2010 and the 10 million Americans who have gotten health insurance since 2013 ordinary Americans? It’s true that wage growth has remained slow, but the overall economic trends don’t jibe with the public’s lousy mood. And the public definitely does get stuff wrong. A Bloomberg poll this month found that 73 percent of Americans think the deficit is getting bigger, while 21 percent think it’s getting smaller and 6 percent aren’t sure. In fact, the deficit has dwindled from about $1.2 trillion in 2009 to less than $500 billion in 2014. My favorite part is the mere 6 percent who admitted ignorance; 73 percent are definitely sure the shrinking deficit is actually growing.
The point isn’t that the midterm election’s discontent was illegitimate. The point is that Americans should cheer up! Six years ago, the economy was contracting at an 8 percent annual rate and shedding 800,000 jobs a month. Those were Great Depression-type numbers. The government was pouring billions of dollars into busted banks, and experts like MIT’s Simon Johnson were predicting that the bailouts would cost taxpayers as much as $2 trillion. In reality, the bailouts not only quelled the worst financial panic since the Depression, they made money for taxpayers. Nevertheless, last week, after the government sold its stake in Ally Bank, its last major holding in a financial institution, Johnson complained to The New York Times about the “unfortunate and inappropriate message” being sent by people pointing out the bailouts were actually profitable. In this holiday season, can’t we be a little bit happy we didn’t have to waste the $2 trillion he thought we were going to waste?
This bah-humbug brand of moral superiority has flourished since the crisis: How dare you celebrate this or that piece of economic data when so many Americans are still hurting? It’s awkward to argue with that view, since many Americans are indeed still hurting. But the economic data keep showing that fewer Americans are hurting every month. No one is satisfied with 5.8 percent unemployment, but it’s way better than the 10 percent we had in 2010 or the 11 percent Europe has today. Declining child poverty and household debt and personal bankruptcies are also worth celebrating. Better is better than worse. Whether or not you think Obamacare had anything to do with the slowdown in medical cost growth, it’s a good thing that Medicare’s finances have improved dramatically, extending the solvency of its trust fund by an estimated 13 years. It’s a good thing that U.S. wind power has tripled and solar power has increased tenfold in five years. And while it’s true that the meteoric rise of the stock market since 2009 has produced windfalls for Wall Street, it has also replenished state pension funds and 401(k) retirement plans and labor union coffers. It definitely beats the alternative.
Let’s face it: The press has a problem reporting good news. Two Americans died of Ebola and cable TV flipped out; now we’re Ebola-free and no one seems to care. The same thing happened with the flood of migrant children across the Mexican border, which was a horrific crisis until it suddenly wasn’t. Nobody’s going to win a Pulitzer Prize for recognizing that we’re smoking less, driving less, wasting less electricity and committing less crime. Police are killing fewer civilians, and fewer police are getting killed, but understandably, after the tragedies in Ferguson and Brooklyn, nobody’s thinking about that these days. The media keep us in a perpetual state of panic about spectacular threats to our safety — Ebola, sharks, terrorism — but we’re much likelier to die in a car accident. Although, it ought to be said, much less likely than we used to be; highway fatalities are down 25 percent in a decade.
The other problem in acknowledging good news, not just for the press but for the public, is that it has come to feel partisan, like an endorsement of whoever occupies the White House. Republican leaders have exacerbated this problem by describing everything Obama has done — his 2009 stimulus package, his 2010 Wall Street reforms, his 2013 tax hikes on high earners, his various anti-pollution regulations aimed at coal-fired power plants, and most of all Obamacare — as “job-killing” catastrophes that would obliterate the economy. It’s hard to point out that the economy is humming along nicely without making those doom-and-gloom predictions sound ill-advised and over-the-top. Because they were. Liberals who predicted disaster when Obama refused to nationalize the banking system during the financial crisis and when Republicans insisted on the harsh budget cuts in the 2013 “sequester” were wrong, too. Disaster hasn’t happened.
As ideologically inconvenient as that may be for chronic complainers on the left and right — and for pundit types invested in their bad-year-for-Obama narrative — it’s wonderful for the country. You don’t have to endorse Obama’s economic philosophy to realize that it hasn’t wreaked short-term havoc, just as you don’t have to endorse the Obama or George W. Bush anti-terror philosophies to acknowledge that America hasn’t endured a rash of terror attacks since 2001. Last week, polls finally found a majority of Americans recognizing that the economy is improving, which is to say a majority of Americans are recognizing reality. It’s probably time for politicians to discover a new Ebola to scream about.
There is no shortage of candidates in this less-than-perfect union. The U.S. is still plagued by inadequate public schools, crumbling infrastructure, soaring college tuition costs, stark inequality. Many Americans want accountability for reckless bankers, torturers and fatal choke-holders. Washington is still almost as dysfunctional as everyone says it is. Congress this session really was the second least productive ever. And even though Obama is winding down the U.S. involvement in overseas wars, the world remains a scary place. There’s still plenty to worry about.
But for now be merry! And may the new year be as awesome as this year.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is one of the most important donors in the Republican party. He more-or-less singlehandedly kept Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential hopes alive for months. So it is a big deal that Adelson reportedly dismissed Sen. Ted Cruz, thought to be a top contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, as “too right wing” and “a longshot.”
That’s based on a report by the New York Observer‘s Ken Kurson, who quotes what he calls “one source close to Adelson.” Adelson allegedly said this after speaking to Cruz spoke at a recent Zionist Organization for America dinner. The day after the dinner, Adelson and Cruz met again for two hours at a hotel. Afterwards, Adelson concluded that Cruz is too conservative to be a likely GOP primary winner, according to the New York Observer’s anonymous source.
Israel is Adelson’s top issue (aside from banning the online gambling sites that threaten his casino empire), so this meeting was a big chance for Cruz to impress him.
The implication of this quote appears to be that Adelson doesn’t himself object to Cruz’s politics, but merely thinks they make him unelectable even in today’s Republican Party. Indeed, the conservative Texas Senator has managed to alienate a massive chunk of the Republican establishment, party elites whose support is critical in the all-important “invisible primary.”
Adelson’s view of the Republican presidential field matter. His 2012 donations made him the “single biggest donor in political history,” according to the New York Times. Adelson’s support could make or break a bid for the GOP nomination. If Cruz has lost him, that’s a major blow.
Update: Adelson got in touch with the Observer after the report went out. According to Kurson, “Mr. Adelson called the Observer after publication of this story to dispute that characterization of his reaction to Mr. Cruz. Mr. Adelson made clear to the Observer that he was the only person in the room with Mr. Cruz and thus the only one in a position to know how he felt about the Senator.”
Meet The Press: Senior White House Adviser Dan Pfeiffer; RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; Former Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA); Dr. Nancy Snyderman (NBC News); Others TBD.Face The Nation: Director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIHDr. Anthony Fauci; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; House Majority LeaderKevin McCarthy (R-CA); Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD); Roundtable: Anthony Salvanto (CBS News), Jonathan Martin (New York Times), Nancy Cordes (CBS News) and John Dickerson (CBS News).
This Week: CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden; Treasury Secretary Jack Lew; Roundtable:Van Jones (CNN), Peggy Noonan (Wall Street Journal), Mark Halperin (Bloomberg Politics) and John Heilemann (Bloomberg Politics).
Fox News Sunday: Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH); Former Secret Service Agent Dan Bongino; Roundtable: Brit Hume (Fox News), Julie Pace (Associated Press), George Will (Washington Post) and Juan Williams (Fox News).
State of the Union: CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden; Dr. William Frohna ( MedStar Washington Hospital Center); Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI);Roundtable: Former White House Chiefs of Staff Bill Daley, Andrew Card, Mack McLarty and Ken Duberstein.
60 Minutes will feature: an interview with FBI Director James Comey (preview); and, a report on the “smartest dog in the world” (preview).
American hostages have been brutally murdered by terrorists in the Middle East. Other Western captives may suffer the same fate at the hands of the Islamic State. In response, President Obama’s opponents are doing what they always do when the going gets tough for the United States: ask WWRD? In “What Would Reagan Do,” CNN Crossfire host Newt Gingrich penned an imaginary speech that a mythical version of the Gipper would deliver to the nation about the threat from ISIS. Over at the Washington Times, Gayle Trotter used the same gambit, inventing a Reaganesque address announcing military strikes to make the point that “Americans expect their president to vindicate the victims of terrorism.” Meanwhile, Breitbart News even interviewed President Reagan’s former National Security Adviser Robert “Bud” McFarlane to provide a lecture about “peace through strength.”
Unfortunately for the Gipper’s hagiographers, we know exactly what Reagan would do about terrorists with American blood on their hands. President Reagan would send them a cake, a Bible and American weapons. And the Oval Office address he would deliver to the nation would start something like the one he gave on March 4, 1987:
“A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not. As the Tower board reported, what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages.”
Iran-Contra, as you’ll recall, almost laid waste to the Reagan presidency. Desperate to free U.S. hostages held by Iranian proxies in Lebanon, President Reagan provided weapons Tehran badly needed in its long war with Saddam Hussein (who, of course, was backed by the United States). In a clumsy and illegal attempt to skirt U.S. law, the proceeds of those sales were then funneled to the contras fighting the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. And as the New York Timesrecalled, Reagan’s fiasco started with an emissary bearing gifts from the Gipper himself:
A retired Central Intelligence Agency official has confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee that on the secret mission to Teheran last May, Robert C.McFarlane and his party carried a Bible with a handwritten verse from President Reagan for Iranian leaders.According to a person who has read the committee’s draft report, the retired C.I.A. official, George W. Cave, an Iran expert who was part of the mission, said the group had 10 falsified passports, believed to be Irish, and a key-shaped cake to symbolize the anticipated ”opening” to Iran.
Paul Krugman revealed Ryan’s big con years ago. It’s gotten worse. Why does anyone take him seriously on policy?
If the GOP as a whole has pretty much given up on the whole “rebranding” thing, their 2012 vice presidential nominee, Congressman Paul Ryan, most definitely has not. In fact, rebranding is pretty much his thing, regardless of how credible — or incredible, actually — his efforts may be.
For years, Ryan touted himself as an avid Ayn Rand disciple, until he didn’t in early 2012, even calling it “an urban legend” that he had anything serious to do with Rand at all. He then tried to present the latest iteration of his draconian soak-the-poor/shower the rich budget proposal as grounded in Catholic social teaching, rather than Rand’s fiercely anti-Christian philosophy, a claim that the conservative U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops soundly rejected, writing that his proposed budget failed to meet certain “moral criteria” by disproportionately cutting programs that “serve poor and vulnerable people.”
Setting the massive contradictions aside for the moment, it’s not an absurd idea in theory. The modern European welfare state was actually invented by conservatives, beginning in Germany, under the first post-unification chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. But this happened in the face of a powerful socialist movement, amidst tremendous dislocations, as well as international pressures that gave German elites powerful reasons to want to make life in Germany much more tolerable for the German people as a whole. In short, when the real-world political incentives are there, history shows that conservatives really can find effective ways to help fight poverty. The only problem is, the solutions they come up are the very thing that cause conservatives today, like Ryan and his Tea Party brethren, to foam at the mouth, and call “socialism!”
What was a surprise, at least to some, was the utter clumsiness of how Ryan’s new focus on poverty got him into trouble on race. He went onto Bill Bennett’s radio show and channelled Newt Gingrich from the 2012 primaries:
We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.
Ryan also cited Charles Murray, white nationalist author of “The Bell Curve.” While many people took him to be speaking in racial code, it was arguably even worse if he was not, as Brian Beutler pointed out:
But if Ryan genuinely stumbled heedless into a racial tinderbox then it suggests he, and most likely many other conservatives, has fully internalized a framing of social politics that wasdeliberately crafted to appeal to white racists without regressing to the uncouth language of explicit racism, and written its origins out of the history.
Of course, something like this has actually happened repeatedly throughout the history of white supremacy in America: True origins are constantly being erased, nefarious intentions hidden, unspeakable injustices naturalized. But what I find fascinating about Ryan is how self-assuredly he switches from all-knowing to naif, without for a moment even thinking this might tarnish his moral authority in any way. He later said his comments had “nothing to do” with race, and the next day issued a statement saying, “After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make.” There was no sense of moral responsibility at all, no sense that he owed anyone an apology. (This is all quite typical of a psychopathic personality — as will be touched on below.) But he did have to do something, from a political point of view.
And so he met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus this Wednesday, in order to try to pretend to have a dialogue on poverty. It was not very much of a success. “We didn’t get a whole lot accomplished,” CBC chair Marcia Fudge said to the press afterward, but Ryan found it easy to pretend otherwise. “What is good out of this is that we need to talk about better ideas on getting at the root cause of poverty, to try and break the cycle of poverty.” Ryan also spoke about the need to “improve the tone” in the conversation about poverty — something that he himself might have thought about earlier, no?
Crossfire got really heated up Tuesday over the Arizona bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT individuals. Van Jones posed a provocative question to former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli: “What is the difference between a business owner saying no blacks are allowed here versus no gays are allowed here?” Cuccinelli dismissed the comparison, but CNN columnist LZ Granderson insisted the principle is the same because the bill is just “straight-up, plain nothing but discrimination!”
He told Cuccinelli that it’s not a matter of religious principle, it’s always about protecting the Christian faith, and called him and others out for pushing what he deemed institutionalized homophobia.
“Where in the Bible does Jesus say no to people? He’s always bringing people in! So are you really using this as––you brought up your religious faith, or are you wrapping your homophobia around the Bible and trying to find scriptures that justify your homophobia?”
Cuccinelli scolded Granderson for resorting to a personal attack, but Granderson stood on that point, telling Cuccinelli that he’s made “several remarks over the years that I would classify as homophobic, so I would say that you personally are probably a homophobe.”
Newt Gingrich asked if Catholic priests should be “coerced” into performing gay marriages. Granderson said no, because there’s a difference between churches doing what they want and a public businesses “that’s actually utilizing taxpayer dollars to help sustain itself” discriminating against people.
Cuccinelli insisted, “They undercut a fundamental precept of this country and that is religious freedom.”
Many recent articles have trumpeted the “bipartisan breakthrough” that led to a federal budget deal. Don’t believe any of them. Partisan warfare is very much alive.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a key broker of the budget deal, signaled that a standoff over the debt ceiling is coming soon.
Said Ryan: “We, as a caucus, along with our Senate counterparts, are going to meet and discuss what it is we want to get out of the debt limit. We don’t want ‘nothing’ out of the debt limit. We’re going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.”
The comments show how broken our legislative system has become. Just days ago, Ryan agreed to a budget deal that increases the federal debt — and hailed it in a series of interviews — but now he won’t agree to raise the debt ceiling mandated by the very same budget deal.
In the last fiscal standoff in October, the Obama administration held firm and refused to negotiate over the debt ceiling. Expect the same reaction this time.
Of course, the real reason there was a budget deal is that Republicans felt it was politically advantageous. With the White House on the defensive for nearly two months over the ObamaCare implementation, Republicans don’t want to do anything to distract from their woes.
Newt Gingrich said it best: “I think this is mediocre policy and brilliant politics. It doesn’t get them what they want on policy terms, but it strips away the danger that people will notice anything but ObamaCare. And the longer the country watches ObamaCare, the more likely the Democrats are to lose the Senate.”
He’s right. The budget deal probably is good politics — at least in the very short term.
So as both sides move the country to the edge of the fiscal brink early next year, remember it’s all about politics. But will the politics still be good for either side?