Nel's New Day

October 24, 2015

Dem Pool Shrinks by Half; Bush in Trouble

The presidential candidate pool of 2016 is more shallow now after the loss of a few men running from both parties. The one causing the most excitement was a man who never declared his candidacy but kept people dangling from hints that he might. I always felt that Vice-president Joe Biden wasn’t going to be a candidate. By the time he got initiated, he would be 74 years old—definitely a one-term president and a lame duck from the get-go. Pushed by supporters and waiting for Hillary Clinton to be a disaster on the Democratic side, he kept making presidential statements, such as lambasting Clinton for declaring the GOP as her enemy.

Biden came away from the Democratic debate preaching bipartisanship with the party of Donald Trump and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), late of the 11-hour hearing debacle from the Benghazi select committee. President Obama went into his first term advocating a bipartisan approach with GOP members who were not as extremist as now (hard to believe!) and lost three years. GOP congressional members promised to vote for bills if the president watered them down. He did, and they didn’t. That’s why the country is stuck with the mish-mash of the Affordable Health Care Act giving money to private insurance companies instead of a successful single-payer plan. After three years in office, President Obama finally understood that the GOP is not to be trusted. Clinton understands the vicious motivation of the GOP before the final months of her campaign, and the conservative party made their position very clear by threatening to impeach Clinton on the first day of her presidency.

With many faithful followers, Biden looked like a good possibility to take over the Dem race. His poll numbers were also up, but looking like a success is easier if a person isn’t actually competing. He has a good background in some areas such as authorizing the Violence against Women Act, but Biden comes with baggage. there’s also some baggage to Joe Biden. His banking ties a representative of Delaware, the state with loose laws surrounding corporations, may have put him too close to credit-card companies before the past few years. In 1988, he dropped out of the presidential candidacy after accusations of plagiarism in a speech.

The hearings for Clarence Thomas, possibly the worst Supreme Court justice ever, may also come back to haunt Biden. He chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment and failed to call on three other witnesses who would have given the same testimony as Hill. Although Biden has evidence regret about the hearing, he has not apologized for subjecting Hill, a black woman, to public humiliation. Those hearings are over 24 years in the past, but a new movie coming out will definitely revive memories of those dark days.

Before the Thomas hearings, Biden voted against legal abortion in 1982 by supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. During the next two decades, he received mixed marks from NARAL Pro-Choice America with a 36 percent rating in 2003, 0 being total disagreement. Biden did defend women’s rights to abortions during his 2008 presidential run but always claimed that he is opposed to abortion and always supported the Hyde Amendment, claiming that people opposed to abortion shouldn’t have to pay for them. Biden accepts his Catholic faith’s position that “life begins at conception.” He also voted in favor of the Iraq War, believing that people opposed to war should still have to pay for it.

The most recent candidate to drop out of the Democratic race is Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee. This step was a given after his failure to defend a vote at the first Democratic debate, but it became pretty definite when someone overheard him talking about it in the frozen foods section of a Dave’s Marketplace on Thursday night. Chafee made his official withdrawal during a speech to the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington the next morning.

Jim Webb’s change in status from Democratic candidate to a possible third runner in the final election reduces the Democratic field by one half to three people. Less known than any other candidate unless perhaps GOP Jim Gilmore, who hasn’t qualified for any debates, Webb’s record shows a short attention span—Secretary of the Navy for Ronald Reagan for only one year and senator for only one term, both by his choice. Those watching the Democratic debate may remember him for whining about not having enough time to talk and bragging about killing a North Vietnamese soldier. He also complained about his party leaving him—probably because he’s a Southern Democrat, another term for Republican. He defends the Confederate flag and the Confederacy, opposes gun-safety legislation, and rejects the Black Lives Matter movement. A descendant of Confederate officers, he has voiced sympathy for state sovereignty leading to the Civil War and suggested that the states were justified in trying to secede.

Webb is the only Democratic candidate to appear on the Fox network where he criticized Democratic policies in an interview with Bret Baier. Webb said that the Dems is their failure to champion the working people, using people with no health care for an example. In fact, it is the GOP that tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act fifty-plus times. Twelve years ago, he wrote an op-ed that supported Swiftboating Republicans who attacked John Kerry for opposing the Vietnam War by saying that Kerry didn’t deserve his Purple Star. Webb has said that women are biologically unsuited to fight in wars and poison male cadets with their presence.

The question now is who will be the next candidate to drop out on the GOP side. At this time donors are showing disillusionment with everyone except the top runners, and Jeb Bush is not in that top three. An average of 194 recent polls puts Bush at 7.3 percent, not far above Carly Fiorina at 4.7 percent. A recent poll puts Donald Trump ahead of Bush by 59 percent to 41 percent. Only two U.S. representatives—no senators or governors—have endorsed Bush within the past two months.

Worst of all, he raised only $13.5 million during the past three months, instead of the hoped-for $25 million, and spent $11.5 million of it. He has less cash on hand than Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson, forcing Bush to reduce expenditures. Bush cut staff salaries by 40 percent, reduced staff members in Miami by one-half, and uses cheaper hotels. Money problems drove Scott Walker out of the race; Bush’s SuperPAC raised $103 million in the first six months, but the lack of money coming into the campaign does not bode well.

While Bush goes down, Marco Rubio goes up, perhaps because he has more to talk about than a brother who caused the United States great disaster while president. Rubio has similar positions to Bush, but he’s younger and more charismatic, especially since the “joy” that Bush touted in his campaign has disappeared. Bush can brag about more experience, but the GOP, who put Trump and Carson at the top of the list, seems to consider experience a liability instead of an advantage. Walker claimed to drop out of the race for “the good” of the party; the question is whether Bush will do the same.

The next few days may indicate a direction for Bush, the candidate, as Bushes descend on Houston en masse—Papa Bush, little brother George, and sons, Jeb Jr. and George P. The events include a Monday breakfast, a Tuesday evening reception, and a program later for younger donors at beer distribution company Silver Eagle.

The next GOP debate is October 28, 2015—just four days from now.

July 23, 2015

MSNBC Goes Farther Right with Chuck Todd

Chuck Todd, the opinionater instead of moderator on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” now has another five hours a week, starting in September, to destroy Democrats in a new show on MSNBC. People who consider the channel to be liberal need to take a good look at it, starting with “The Morning Joe Show.” It’s natural—although upsetting—that the conservative boss for programs would cut “The Cycle,” “Now with Alex Wagner,” and “The Ed Show” in favor of a less learned and more right-leaning host.

Ed Schultz, who lost the time slot given to Todd, often had higher ratings than Chris Hayes in “All In,” but Phil Griffin likes Hayes. Seeing the writing on the wall, Hayes has also been moving right in the past few months. In a vicious circle, MSNBC gradually dumps its progressive hosts, progressive watchers leave the channel, ratings go down, and Griffin blames the ratings on the programming’s “liberal bias” to get rid of more hosts that provided higher ratings. Rachel Maddow is most likely safe, but “Politics Nation” with Al Sharpton will probably be dropped for a more conservative Brian Willliams’ newscast. After missing from broadcasting for six months for his lies, Williams will find a home at the newest conservative channel on television.

Chuck Todd seems unable to ask probing questions, frequently giving his conservative guests a pass and acting as a mouthpiece for corporate media and conservatives. To Todd, this isn’t a problem because he thinks that asking questions is not his job.

Last fall, Todd campaigned for recently elected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) during a segment on “Morning Joe.” In commenting on a clip showing the refusal of Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s opponent, to answer questions about whether she voted for President Obama, Todd sneered:

“And Kentuckians expect her to cast a tough vote on anything? Is she ever gonna answer a tough question on anything? You wanna be a U.S. senator? If you can’t find a way to stand behind your party’s president … you can disagree with him but you can’t answer a basic question and you come across looking that ridiculous? I think she disqualified herself.”

The GOP effectively used “disqualified” in their attack ads on Grimes, giving credit to the person viewed as NBC News’ top political man. Jim Newell described Todd’s flip remark as “arrogant and short-sighted commentary,” but Todd blamed Grimes for his blunder and said, “She invited this on herself.”

Todd’s hatchet job on Grimes was very different from his profile of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) when she was running for Congress. Ernst refused to answer any questions from local newspaper boards and wouldn’t even meet with them. While not addressing this, he supported her position on the “Personhood Amendment” that he said would protect “unborn human beings” and “grant all unborn human beings with equal protections.” The definition of “personhood” is “every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being,” starting from an egg. Ernst’s and Todd’s amendment would prevent many forms of contraception.

Todd also thinks that correcting lies is not his job as a journalist. When he interviewed Ed Rendell two years ago, the former Pennsylvania governor pointed out that the media had been complicit in spreading lies about the Affordable Care Act. Todd responded:

“But more importantly, it would be stuff that Republicans have successfully messaged against it. They [the media] don’t repeat the other stuff because they haven’t even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”

One example of Todd’s failure occurred last May when House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told host Chuck Todd that “Obamacare made it harder for employers to hire people.” He claimed that it was a “fact” that “any employer in America” will say that. He continued by saying that having Medicaid is nothing because doctors won’t see Medicaid patients. Last year, 75 percent of surveyed employers reported that the Affordable Care Act made no difference in their hiring. Not one major business organization filed a brief to stop the ACA in the King v. Burwell lawsuit heard by the Supreme Court. Todd’s question to Boehner:

“So you don’t see Obamacare as good for the country?”

Todd also gave Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) a pass in “misrepresenting” economics when he said that he claimed that raising taxes on the wealthy while lowering taxes on everyone else doesn’t work:

In May, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) had to explain why the country needs funding for the infrastructure because Todd didn’t seem to understand that lack of money put into it, for example Amtrack, could cost people their lives.

When he was asked why 62 percent of his guests are white men, Todd said that it was because “you want to put the best people on. You want to put the best, smartest people on.” To Todd, the “best, smartest people” are white men. For almost a year, former Secretary of State James Baker appeared an average of once a month to explain what President Obama was doing wrong in the Middle East. It appears that he’s classified as “smartest.”

One of Todd’s guests, comedian Lewis Black, commented that he didn’t know how hosts kept from “barking” at some guests on their show. Todd explained:

“We all sit there because we know the first time we bark is the last time we do the show. There’s something where all of the sudden nobody will come on your show.”

Todd’s lack of sensitivity was clearly demonstrated a few days after the white man killed nine black people in a Charleston (SC). A segment about gun violence showed convicted murderers—all of them black—talking about their regret. Todd may not have noticed this blunder if guest Eugene Robinson and his show’s audience had not pointed out that murder “is not just an African-American problem.” Yet Todd tried to cover himself by saying that the purpose of Meet the Press is to make people “uncomfortable.”

Chuck Todds’ book about President Obama last year, “The Stranger,” blamed the president for income inequality, instability in the Middle East, and partisan as if he had control over the intentional GOP gridlock in Washington. Other Todd criticisms of the president were his “passive leadership and lack of managerial experience.” The review from the Columbian Journalism Review reported:

“Todd has written a disappointing book, a slab of pedestrian punditry….  On a range of issues, from the stimulus to healthcare reform to Syria, Todd weighs in on how the process looked, while devoting barely a second’s thought to the policy’s merits.”

When presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) appeared on Meet the Press, Todd didn’t ask about Sanders’ call for “political revolution” and instead asked him about Hillary Clinton’s “trustworthiness.” Todd tried to lead Sanders into a comparison of Presidents Clinton and Obama as a lead-in to criticisms about the current presidential candidate. “Do you take her at her word?” Todd asked. Sanders expressed hope that “the media will allow us to have a serious debate in this campaign on the enormous issues facing the American people.” Todd showed that he had no intention of a debate about policy by talking about Sanders’ essay on women’s rape fantasy, written 43 years ago, which Sanders said was a badly written attempt to discuss gender roles in the 1970’s.

At least Todd recognized Hillary Clinton as a presidential candidate, something he failed to do about Sanders. Todd delighted the far-right, including Rush Limbaugh by this statement that has swept the Internet. “Not quite right” will undoubtedly appear in GOP ads:

“Everybody has watched this campaign and we all come to the same conclusion: there’s something just not quite right. You know, is it enthusiasm? I don’t know. Is it her? I don’t know. There’s just something that doesn’t seem to be big, bold, and boom.”

As Todd trashes at least three of the Democratic presidential candidates, he fails to mention that his wife works for another Dem candidate, Jim Webb. Strategist Kristian Denny Todd is on Webb’s campaign team.

The first principle of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics is “Seek Truth and Report It.” Todd fails on both these points. A point under this principle requires good journalists to consider the source’s motives, yet Todd not only allows smear campaigns on his program against Democrats but also joins in.

Todd thought that Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) stunt to use a snowball as proof that climate change doesn’t exist was just plain fun. LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik accused Todd of “pander[ing] to American anti-intellectualism.” He added, “How low can the news departments of our major networks sink?” Farther down, obviously MSNBC has gone several steps lower by replacing a thoughtful show with Todd’s cuteness and softball approach toward Republican lies.

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