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MSNBC reports that FreedomWorks, the non-profit “grassroots” lobbying organization that has spearheaded anti-health care reform efforts (see April 14, 2009, June 26, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 14, 2009, and August 17, 2009), has recently raised the amount of money it charges organizations to take part in anti-reform protests. FreedomWorks used to charge groups $2,500 to distribute their materials at FreedomWorks-sponsored events; now the price is $10,000. However, the new price includes the opportunity for a group to have a speaker at a FreedomWorks rally. FreedomWorks says it is trying to offset costs for stages, equipment, and other operating costs. [MSNBC, 8/20/2009]
Representative Lynn Jenkins speaks at the August 19 forum in Hiawatha, Kansas. [Source: Topeka Capital-Journal]At a town hall in Hiawatha, Kansas, Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) tells constituents that the Republican Party desires a “great white hope” to appear, capable of defeating the political agenda of President Obama and the Democrats who lead Congress. Jenkins later apologizes for what she calls her infelicitous word choice. Jenkins lists a number of white Republicans who could emerge to lead the Republican Party against Obama and the Democrats. “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope,” she says. “I suggest to any of you who are concerned about that, who are Republican, there are some great young Republican minds in Washington.” Jenkins names three Republican House members—Eric Cantor (R-VA), Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Paul Ryan (R-WI)—as potential leaders. “So don’t, you know, lose faith if you are a conservative,” she says. Local reporters note that the phrase “great white hope” is often associated with racist attitudes in the US, centered around African-American boxer Jack Johnson, who became heavyweight boxing champion in the early 1900s. The reaction among white Americans was strong enough to create a campaign to find a white boxer—a “great white hope”—who could defeat Johnson and reclaim the title for whites. Kenny Johnston, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, finds Jenkins’s remarks unacceptable. “The congressman might have avoided this problem if she had stuck to discussing constructive solutions to the health care crisis instead of lamenting the Republican Party’s search for a leader,” he says. A spokeswoman for Jenkins, Mary Geiger, says Jenkins intended no racial overtones in her word choice. “There may be some misunderstanding there when she talked about the great white hope,” Geiger says. “What she meant by it is they have a bright future. They’re bright lights within the party.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 8/26/2009] Reporting on the incident, the news Web site Raw Story notes that in 1910, white boxer James Jeffries, slated to fight Johnson, told reporters, “I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.” During the match, a ringside band played the song, “All Coons Look Alike to Me.” Johnson defeated Jeffries. [Raw Story, 8/27/2009]
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) says the Senate should not pass a health care reform bill unless it garners “bipartisan” support. Hatch goes on to say that such a bill would not be bipartisan unless it could win “somewhere between 75 and 80 votes.” Two of Hatch’s colleagues, Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), have made similar statements, with Enzi demanding “a bill that 75 or 80 senators can support.” Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that all three senators have made very different claims in the past:
In 2001, all three boasted that then-President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax-cut bill was “built upon bipartisanship” after it passed the Senate with 58 votes.
In November 2003, after the Senate passed a prescription drug plan for seniors that was heavily favored by pharmaceutical firms, Grassley praised himself as the “lead Senate architect of the bipartisan legislation.” The bill passed with 54 votes.
In 2005, Senate Republicans harshly criticized Senate Democrats for filibustering seven of President Bush’s 205 nominees to the federal judiciary. Hatch and Grassley argued strongly against those nominees needing to be confirmed by a 60-vote “supermajority.” Hatch called the filubuster “unconstitutional,” and Grassley described judicial filibusters as “an abuse of our function under the Constitution.” [Fox News, 8/20/2009; Think Progress, 8/20/2009]
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), during a “telephone town hall” discussion of health care reform, reiterates her opposition to Democratic reform initiatives. Foxx, who has previously claimed that elderly Americans will be “put to death” under Democratic reform proposals (see July 28, 2009), says that any reform attempts by the federal government would be unconstitutional. Moreover, discussions about government reform issues are little more than “distractions” from more important issues. Foxx says: “The Constitution doesn’t grant a right to health care, and most of us are living as much by the Constitution as we can. It also doesn’t give the federal government the authority to deal with health care. As you may know, the 10th amendment, it says if it isn’t mentioned in the Constitution to be done by the federal government, it’s left to the states or the people.… I think one of the problems we have in this country right now is the fact that the federal government is trying to do too much. We need to leave things to the states and the localities.… And unfortunately, we are distracting ourselves from looking after the defense of this nation because we are dealing with issues that should, by right, be the state and individual’s.” Foxx has also claimed that every American has access to health care (see September 17, 2009), and has supported Medicare in past votes. [Think Progress, 8/21/2009]
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a key player in the Democrats’ health care reform process, defends his insistence on a bipartisan process that will produce reform supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Yet Baucus admits that Senate Republicans are almost uniformly committed to killing reform outright. Baucus is a member of the Finance Committee’s “Gang of Six,” a group of three conservative Democrats and three Republicans who are working to craft a reform proposal. “I just think if it is bipartisan, it’s more sustainable, it’s more durable, long-lasting,” Baucus says. “There will be more buy-in around the country. We’re going to make some mistakes. If it’s bipartisan, it will be easier to fix the mistakes, work together to fix the mistakes. It’s just better for the country.” However, he says: “The Republican leadership in the Senate and in the House is doing its utmost to kill this bill. They are putting intense political pressure on Chuck Grassley, Olympia Snowe, and Mike Enzi [the three Republican members of the “Gang of Six”], to bow out, because they want to kill it. So I’ve got a challenge ahead of me to work out all this on policy as we go through these meetings. The other thing is the politics of it: ‘People, this is the right thing to do for America. I know you’re under intense political pressure, but do the right thing. I know it’s easy for me to say right now, because I’m getting beat up by both sides, but not nearly as much as you are by the Republican hierarchy.’” Baucus says it is important to craft a bill that can garner the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster, which the Republicans will almost certainly invoke to try to delay or kill any reform bill. He does not support the reconciliation process that would allow the bill to pass with a 51-vote majority. [Think Progress, 8/21/2009; Helena Independent, 8/21/2009]
Betsy McCaughey is interviewed by Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show.’ [Source: Media Matters]Health care reform opponent Betsy McCaughey (see February 9, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 23, 2009, and July 23-24, 2009) appears on Comedy Central’s satirical news/comedy broadcast, The Daily Show. Host Jon Stewart devotes twice the usual amount of air time to interviewing McCaughey, and even then the interview is not broadcast in its entirety; Comedy Central posts the entire interview on its Web site. Stewart’s main interview tactic is to challenge McCaughey to prove one claim or another, such as her assertion that the health care reform legislation pending in the House would mandate “death panels” or “end-of-life” review committees; McCaughey then tries and fails to find language in the bill itself, and Stewart chastises her for spreading falsehoods. Late in the interview, Stewart calls McCaughey’s rhetoric “hyperbolic” and “dangerous.” [Comedy Central, 8/20/2009; Comedy Central, 8/20/2009; Media Matters, 8/21/2009; Huffington Post, 8/21/2009] He concludes by telling her, “I like you—but I don’t understand how your brain works.” [Salon, 8/21/2009] In an analysis of the interview, The Atlantic’s James Fallows, who lambasted McCaughey’s 1994 arguments against the Clinton administration’s health care reform efforts (see Mid-January - February 4, 1994), says he realizes after watching the interview that “I have been far too soft on Betsy McCaughey. Even when conferring on her the title of ‘most destructive effect on public discourse by a single person’ for the 1990s. She is way less responsible and tethered to the world of ‘normal’ facts and discourse than I had imagined.” Fallows writes that McCaughey succeeds as well as she does in the interview by ignoring Stewart’s points and rebuttals, and echoing her assertions even after Stewart effectively rebuts or mocks them. [Atlantic Monthly, 8/21/2009] Days later, McCaughey will be removed from her position as a director of Cantel Medical Corporation, in part apparently due to her performance on Stewart’s show (see August 20-21, 2009).
Health care opponent Betsy McCaughey either resigns, or is fired, from her post as a director of Cantel Medical Corporation. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow announces that McCaughey is fired; other sources report that she resigned voluntarily. Many media observers believe that part of the reason behind her departure is her poor performance on a recent interview with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart (see August 20, 2009). McCaughey retains her position as an adjunct fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, where she has consistently lobbied against health care reform and promoted issues favorable to health care and health insurance firms. In a press statement, Cantel says that “on August 20, 2009 it received a letter of resignation from Ms. Elizabeth McCaughey as a director of the company. Ms. McCaughey, who had served as a director since 2005, stated that she was resigning to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest during the national debate over health care reform.” [Yahoo! Finance, 8/21/2009; Stock Market Today, 8/22/2009]
Health reform organizer Randall Terry pretends to stab an elderly lady in the neck as part of an anti-reform protest. A fellow protester wearing a Barack Obama mask looks on. [Source: Feministe (.us)]Randall Terry, the former head of the extremist anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, gleans headlines during health care protests in the Southeast. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, Terry is nearly arrested while standing outside the federal courthouse stabbing baby dolls. In Nashville, one of Terry’s supporters dons an Obama mask and pretends to assault passers-by. One Nashville resident who witnesses the activities tells a local reporter: “It’s an angry white man in a black man’s mask. They’re just trying to shock people. They’re trying to say, ‘Barack Obama doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t care about your kids, because he’s black.’” During the same protest, Terry and an elderly supporter put on a bit of street theater: the elderly lady mimes seeking medical advice from Terry, who is dressed in a doctor’s jacket, and he pretends to stab her in the neck with a needle and kill her. According to Salon reporter Alex Koppelman, Terry’s twin messages in the protests are his opposition to abortion and to euthanasia—neither of which are supported in any health care reform bills before Congress. Before the protests, Terry wrote his supporters an e-mail: “It is refreshing to see the rage expressed at ‘town hall meetings.’ However, much of this anger is not about child-killing. It’s about the cost of the bill, or rationing, or if we can keep our current plan, or about treatments for the elderly. Our goal is to keep child-killing and euthanasia in the center of this debate until any vestige of taxpayers paying for murder is gone.” [Salon, 8/24/2009] At a Virginia rally soon after, Terry’s group re-enacts slave beatings (see August 24, 2009).
According to ABC News, the Justice Department’s release of a 2004 report by the CIA’s inspector general (see May 7, 2004 and August 24, 2009) is preceded by a “profanity-laced screaming match” between CIA Director Leon Panetta and White House officials. This apparently produces disquiet among White House officials regarding Panetta. According to ABC News, some White House officials are “worrying about the direction of its newly-appoint[ed] intelligence team.” Some reports say that Panetta has already threatened to resign once, and White House officials are discussing “a possible shake-up of top national security officials.” According to one unnamed “senior adviser to [President] Obama on intelligence matters,” “You can expect a larger than normal turnover in the next year.” And another former senior intelligence official predicts, “Leon will be leaving.” But a White House spokesman, Denis McDonough, says the reports of Panetta’s threatened resignation and a potential “shake-up” of top intelligence and national security officials are “inaccurate.” Both Panetta and CIA spokesman George Little say reports of his threatened resignation are “absolutely untrue”; the spokesman says of the alleged tirade that Panetta is known to use “salty language.” Former counterterrorism specialist and current ABC News consultant Richard Clarke says: “It would be a shame if such as talented a Washington hand as Panetta were to leave after one year. It takes that long for any senior bureaucrat to begin to understand what needs to get done and how to do it. The CIA needs some stability.” [ABC News, 8/24/2009] Newsweek’s Mark Hosenball says that Panetta has been sending mixed messages. “Panetta had been kind of ambiguous, at least in terms of his public statements and even his private messages, as to whether he’s strongly opposed to release of documents like this or not,” he says. “Some cases it’s looked like he’s been in favor of releasing documents like this; in other cases, it’s looked like he’s been against it. I think he’s trying to straddle the issue here. I mean, certainly, previous CIA directors like General Mike Hayden and George Tenet have strongly expressed the view that this stuff shouldn’t have been released. Panetta hasn’t been quite as strong in saying that publicly, anyway.” [PBS, 8/24/2009]
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), a key player in the Senate battle over health reform, tries to explain his earlier statements that Iowans were right to “fear” that the federal government would “pull the plug on Grandma” by encouraging American senior citizens to end their lives prematurely (see August 12, 2009). During his explanation, Grassley blames President Obama for his words. On CBS’s Face the Nation, he tells host Bob Schieffer that even though he is aware the House health reform bill “doesn’t intend to” kill senior citizens, he feels he has a responsibility to make such statements: “I said that because—two reasons. Number one, I was responding to a question at my town meetings. I let my constituents set the agenda. A person that asked me that question was reading from language that they got off of the Internet. It scared my constituents. And the specific language I used was language that the president had used at Portsmouth (see August 11, 2009), and I thought that it was—if he used the language, then if I responded exactly the same way, that I had an opposite concern about not using end-of-life counseling for saving money, then I was answering.… You would get into the issue of saving money, and put these three things together and you are scaring a lot of people when I know the Pelosi bill doesn’t intend to do that, but that’s where it leads people to.” Schieffer asks Grassley directly if the House legislation “would pull the plug on Grandma.” Grassley responds, “It won’t do that,” but then goes on to say that such claims are effective: “It just scares the devil out of people. So that [provision for end-of-life counseling] ought to be dropped.” The progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that Obama did indeed use the phrase “pull the plug on Grandma,” but he “used it as an example of the lies his opponents were pushing around to scare the American public.” [Think Progress, 8/23/2009]
The cover of the VA booklet ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’ The cover text reads: ‘Planning for Future Medical Decisions’ and ‘How to Prepare a Personalized Living Will.’ [Source: American Veteran Magazine]Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace tells his viewers that the Veterans Administration (VA) has a secret “death book” that urges veterans to “pull the plug” and commit suicide. The 51-page booklet is called “Your Life, Your Choices,” and, Wallace says, was pulled for rewriting and reissuance in 2007, yet the VA under President Obama is still using it. In his Fox News blog, Wallace writes: “What makes the book controversial is that—according to critics—it seems to push veterans in the direction of ‘pulling the plug.’ For instance—page 21 is a worksheet in which the veteran is asked to consider various situations and then check—whether in each case, life would be ‘difficult, but acceptable’—‘worth living, but just barely’—or ‘not worth living.’ You might think that the scenarios would involve irreversible comas and the like. But no—they include: ‘I can no longer walk but get around in a wheelchair’—‘I live in a nursing home’—‘I am a severe financial burden on my family’—and ‘I cannot seem to “shake the blues”’.” Wallace’s guest, Wall Street Journal columnist James Towey, whom Wallace describes as helping to “end use of the book under President Bush, and was shocked to see it has now been reinstated,” tells viewers that the message of the book is simple: “hurry up and die.” (Wallace notes that he learned of the VA’s “death book” from Towey’s August 18 Journal column.) And, Wallace writes, quoting Towey, “he says—when government can steer vulnerable individuals to conclude that life is not worth living—‘who needs death panels?’” Wallace briefly notes that he also interviewed VA’s Assistant Secretary, Tammy Duckworth, who noted that the book is “just one of many reference tools the VA makes available—and that it is currently being revised.” [Veterans Administration, 1997 ; Wall Street Journal, 8/18/2009; Fox News, 8/23/2009]
Debunking the Claim - The story of the “death book” is quickly debunked. Richard Allen Smith of the veterans’ organization VetVoice notes that the VA booklet is actually aimed at helping veterans choose not to commit suicide, and provides them with methods and resources to battle depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other conditions which lead veterans to consider prematurely ending their lives. [Richard Allen Smith, 8/23/2009] Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that the claim that the Bush administration “rescinded” the booklet in 2007 is false. While it was reviewed in 2007, the Bush administration actively promoted the use of the booklet throughout its tenure; an online document on the VA’s Web site labeled “Reviewed/Updated Date: December 29, 2008,” states, “To learn about a living will, read ‘Your Life, Your Choices.’” Wallace’s claim that the VA mandates all veterans receive the booklet is also false; it is considered an optional reference, not mandatory. [Media Matters, 8/24/2009]
Hidden Agenda? - Smith notes that Towey may have another reason for opposing the VA booklet. In 1996, Towey founded an organization called “Aging with Dignity.” In 1997, the organization released a 12-page pamphlet, “Five Wishes,” that it says does the same job as the VA’s booklet. It gives the ailing veteran a list of five questions that, it claims, when answered will guide your life decisions. For years, Towey has been trying to get the VA to stop distributing its own booklet and instead buy “Five Choices” to use with its veterans. In 2007, Towey did help force the VA to reassess and revise its booklet after complaining that it was biased against the anti-abortion viewpoint. Smith writes bluntly: “Astonishing. Jim Towey is one sick mother f_cker to argue that veterans should be presented with LESS information, not MORE, when it comes to making a living will, all so he can make a profit from peddling his end-of-life pamphlet that is shorter than the books my two-and-a-half-year-old reads.” [Huffington Post, 8/22/2009; Richard Allen Smith, 8/23/2009]
Claim Spread by Conservative Media - Even before Wallace’s August 23 broadcast, some conservative media outlets, having read Towey’s August 18 Wall Street Journal editorial, began spreading the story of the VA’s “death book.” The National Review printed editorials denouncing the booklet, and Fox News host Sean Hannity called it “the equivalent of a death panel.” Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) used her Facebook blog to accuse the VA of “encourag[ing] veterans to forego care as they make end-of-life decisions.” And radio host Rush Limbaugh told his listeners: “This thing is obsessed with death. It’s obsessed with you deciding—or with some—maybe some influence—that your life isn’t worth living. It’s—there’s nothing positive in this.” [Media Matters, 8/24/2009]
Entity Tags: Chris Wallace, Media Matters, National Review, James Towey, Fox News, Obama administration, Bush administration (43), Tammy Duckworth, Richard Allen Smith, Rush Limbaugh, US Veterans Administration, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
BlueCross BlueShield logo. [Source: TopNews (.us)]Health insurers have mobilized tens of thousands of employees to fight against the Democrats’ health care reform initiative, according to reports by the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. The insurance industry’s primary motive seems to be financial gain, according to the Times reporters. Many of the nation’s largest insurers, including UnitedHealth, have urged their employees to become involved in protesting health care reform, and provided advocacy “hot line” telephone numbers, printed “talking points,” sample “letters to the editor,” and other materials in almost every Congressional district throughout the nation. And many insurers, including BlueCross Blue Shield, have sponsored anti-reform television ads targeting conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, many of whom are considered vulnerable to pressure from the industry. The insurance industry is paying for over 900 lobbyists, spending $35 million in the first half of 2009 lobbying Congress and the White House. AFL-CIO spokesman Gerald Shea says: “They have beaten us six ways to Sunday. Any time we want to make a small change to provide cost relief, they find a way to make it more profitable.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009; Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
Jamming the 'Town Halls' - Insurers like UnitedHealth and others are sending their employees to “town hall” meetings to protest against reform. The Journal reports, “[T]he industry employees come armed with talking points about the need for bipartisan legislation and the unintended consequences of a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers.” But they are instructed not to become contentious and argumentative, according to a “Town Hall Tips” memo provided by the industry’s chief lobbying organization, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP—see Before August 6, 2009). The memo warns those attending the meetings to expect criticism, and to stay calm. “It is important not to take the bait,” the memo cautions. AHIP president Karen Ignagni says the town hall meetings are an opportunity “to strongly push back against charges that we have very high profits. It’s very important that our men and women… calmly provide the facts and for members of Congress to hear what these people do every day.” Larry Loew, who works for the insurance administration firm Cornerstone Group, says he attended a recent town hall meeting hosted by Representative Alan Mollohan (D-WV) because “my whole industry is being threatened.” Loew claims he was not coached by AHIP, but admits to preparing for the meeting by gathering talking points from hospital and insurance company Web sites. AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach says about 50,000 employees have been engaged in writing letters and making phone calls to politicians or attending town hall meetings. [Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
'Hallelujah!' - One industry proposal that is gaining traction among some in Congress is the so-called “individual mandate,” which would require all citizens to buy some form of health insurance. That provision would guarantee insurers tens of millions of new customers—many of which would receive government subsidies to help pay the premiums. Robert Laszewski, a former health insurance executive who now heads the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates, says of the provision, “It’s a bonanza.” The industry’s reaction to early negotiations can, Laszewski says, be summed up in a single word: “Hallelujah!” Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, says, “The insurers are going to do quite well” with health care reform. “They are going to have this very stable pool, they’re going to have people getting subsidies to help them buy coverage, and… they will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide—plus their administrative costs.” Aetna’s chief executive, Ron Williams, says: “We have to get everyone into the insurance market. That is a huge, big deal [and] everyone has coalesced around that.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009; Wall Street Journal, 8/24/2009]
Battling the Public Option, - Insurers have fought most strongly against the so-called “public option,” which would create a government-run, non-profit alternative to private health insurance. Some polls are showing public support for the public option has declined, and stock prices for the insurance corporations have tracked upwards. Other insurance industry proposals are gaining ground. The Senate Finance Committee is considering a proposal to lower the proposed mandatory reimbursement rate for insurers to policyholders from 76 percent to 65 percent, and the industry is pressuring Congress to lower the limit that insurers must meet to cover a policyholder’s medical bills, leaving more of the money it gleans from premiums as profits. “These are a bad deal for consumers,” says J. Robert Hunter, a former Texas insurance commissioner who works with the Consumer Federation of America. Insurance companies would reap huge profits by providing less insurance “per premium dollar,” he says. Former Cigna executive Wendell Potter says, “It would be quite a windfall” for the insurance industry. [Los Angeles Times, 8/24/2009]
Entity Tags: Consumer Federation of America, UnitedHealth Group, Urban Institute, Wall Street Journal, BlueCross Blue Shield, Alan Mollohan, Senate Finance Committee, AFL-CIO, Aetna, America’s Health Insurance Plans, Wendell Potter, Robert Laszewski, Health Policy and Strategy Associates, Gerald Shea, Cornerstone Group, J. Robert Hunter, Robert Zirkelbach, Ron Williams, Linda Blumberg, Karen Ignagni, Larry Loew, Los Angeles Times
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
Health care reform supporters pack a 2,700-seat high school gymnasium in Reston, Virginia, to hear former Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean and Representative James Moran (D-VA) discuss the Democrats’ reform proposals. Two pro-health care groups, Organizing for America and Change that Works, helped turn out the crowd, gathered signatures, and passed out signs, some of which resembled campaign signs for President Obama’s campaign, and some that were drawn in magic marker to appear homemade. One supporter says she goes because “I’ve heard these town hall meetings have been rude and out of control. I wanted to lend my support to the side that supports health care reform. I’m here to show my presence, wave my sign, and show that a good portion of Northern Virginia supports health care reform.”
Violent Street Theater - Anti-reform protesters gather outside the gym, and former Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry entertains the crowd with some street theater similar to what he has performed in recent days (see August 22-23, 2009). Terry and his supporters put on a skit with a man in an Obama mask pretending to whip a bloodied woman, who repeats the line: “Massa, don’t hit me no more. I got the money to kill the babies.” Terry also re-enacts his previous performance of a doctor pretending to stab an elderly woman to death. He explains his performance, saying, “There’s no way to pay for this thing without killing granny.” Two other protesters heckle supporters as they enter the gym; they wave signs and wear large flags around their shoulders adorned with a large machine gun and the words, “Come and take it.” (Guns are forbidden at the event because it takes place on school property.)
Police Remove Protesters - Inside, a small number of protesters try to shout down the rabbi who gives a preliminary invocation, but reform supporters drown out their boos and screams with cheers. Moran accepts only pre-screened questions, in an attempt to forestall raucous outbursts, but this process is disrupted when one protester pretends to be someone else who had been called upon to ask their question, and shouts out his objections to health care reform. In general, Moran is able to speak over the top of the near-constant heckling by using an amplifier and ignoring the taunts and jeers. However, when Dean takes the podium, the protesters erupt, and Moran orders some of them to leave. Police escort Terry and at least one other person out of the gym as the majority of the crowd chants, “Kick him out!” Although Dean is known as a fiery supporter of the government-run “public option,” his presentation is low-key and somewhat technical. [The Hill, 8/25/2009]
The Republican National Committee (RNC) releases a memo entitled “CIA IG Report Confirms Effectiveness of CIA Interrogation Program.” The memo is in response to the release of a 2004 CIA report detailing numerous instances of torture and abuse against detainees by CIA interrogators and contractors (see August 24, 2009). The RNC memo asserts that, far from detailing potential crimes and abuses, the report proves that the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program was effective in garnering critical intelligence from detainees. The memo reads in part: “Media coverage [of the report] seems to imply that CIA interrogators were constantly going beyond programmatic guidance, where the IG report found the reality to be that ‘there were few instances of deviations from approved procedures.‘… Additionally, the media today has latched on to the use of a gun in an interrogation, without usually reporting the other important element of that salacious story, which is that the interrogator was promptly disciplined for his actions.… Similarly going unreported today is that the release of the IG report should finally put to rest claims that the CIA interrogation program was not effective and did not produce actionable intelligence.” The memo notes that in the report, “[a]gency senior managers believe that lives have been saved as a result of the capture and interrogation of terrorists who were planning attacks, in particular, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaida, Hambali, and [Abd al-Rahim a]l-Nashiri.” In the report, an unidentified senior CIA official called the program “an absolute success.” [Weekly Standard, 8/24/2009] The RNC statement is contemporaneous with a similar statement from former Vice President Dick Cheney (see August 24, 2009).
Former Vice President Dick Cheney releases a statement that asserts the just-released CIA inspector general’s report (see August 24, 2009) proves that torture, which he refers to as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” works, and follows up with an attack on the Obama administration’s commitment to protecting the nation. Cheney writes: “The documents released Monday clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al-Qaeda. This intelligence saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks. These detainees also, according to the documents, played a role in nearly every capture of al-Qaeda members and associates since 2002. The activities of the CIA in carrying out the policies of the Bush administration were directly responsible for defeating all efforts by al-Qaeda to launch further mass casualty attacks against the United States. The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions. President Obama’s decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel (see First Half of August 2009), and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House (see August 24, 2009), serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this administration’s ability to be responsible for our nation’s security.” [Weekly Standard, 8/24/2009; Washington Independent, 8/24/2009] Cheney’s statement is contemporaneous with a similar statement from the Republican National Committee (see August 24, 2009).
Disputing Cheney's Assessment - A Democratic official disputes the assertions, saying that the report provides no basis to conclude that torture was effective in eliciting actionable intelligence, and cites caveats in the body of the report. [Politico, 8/25/2009] And the New York Times notes that the memos “do not refer to any specific interrogation methods and do not assess their effectiveness.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009]
'Silly Semantic Game' - Reporter and columnist Spencer Ackerman notes that the memos seem to suggest that the most useful intelligence came from traditional intelligence techniques. He writes, “Cheney’s public account of these documents have conflated the difference between information acquired from detainees, which the documents present, and information acquired from detainees through the enhanced interrogation program, which they don’t.” Human rights organizations take a similar line. Gitanjali Gutierrez of the Center for Constitutional Rights says the documents “don’t make the case for torture, they only show that the CIA is able to tailor documents to justify its actions after the fact.” Tom Parker of Amnesty International notes that the memos “are hardly the slam dunk we had been led to expect. There is little or no supporting evidence in either memo to give substance to the specific claims about impending attacks made by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in highly coercive circumstances.” [Washington Independent, 8/24/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009] Reporter Zachary Roth calls Cheney’s claim a “silly semantic game.” While it is true that the US gained actionable intelligence from detainees who were tortured, Roth observes, “it’s totally different from Cheney’s earlier claim—that the documents would show it was the EITs themselves that elicited the information.” [TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009]
Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), Obama administration, Central Intelligence Agency, New York Times, Gitanjali Gutierrez, Al-Qaeda, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Zachary Roth, Republican National Committee, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Tom Parker, Spencer Ackerman
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
Opponents of health care reform lead the debate during a speech and followup session by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), one of the so-called “Gang of Six” who are helping to write the Senate Finance Committee’s health care reform proposal. Around 500 people attend the event, held in a high school gym in Gillette, Wyoming. Enzi lambasts Senate Democrats and the White House for not engaging in what he calls “bipartisan collaboration” on reform, and calls for “market-based” health care solutions. Enzi says he has no use for a so-called “public option,” which would mandate a government-run alternative to private health care. “A government option is a monopoly, and it’s no option,” Enzi says, earning a strong round of applause. State Representative Timothy Hallinan, a Gillette Republican, earns more applause when he urges Enzi to pull out of negotiations with Senate Democrats and oppose any reform bill. When urged to do so by an audience member who identifies himself as a Republican, Enzi claims: “If I hadn’t been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care.… Someone has to be at the table asking questions. If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.… It’s not where I get them to compromise, it’s what I get them to leave out.” Some pro-reform members of the audience note the large amounts of campaign contributions Enzi has taken, and argue for the public option. Enzi retorts by claiming two government-run medical programs, Medicare and Medicaid, are “going broke,” and a public option program would suffer the same fate. [Associated Press, 8/25/2009]
Cover of CIA OIG report, with redactions. [Source: CIA / New York Times]A 2004 report by the CIA’s inspector general (IG) on torture (see May 7, 2004) is released to the public, after months of speculation as to its contents. The CIA opposed the release of the report for years, arguing that the release would demoralize its personnel and make it more difficult for the agency to do its job. The report’s release is triggered by a federal judge’s ruling in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The report, authored by former Inspector General John Helgerson, is heavily redacted, but the portions released to the public include a number of illegal and ethically questionable tactics used by US interrogators against detainees. Some of those tactics include the use of handguns, power drills, threats, smoke, and mock executions. Many of the techniques used against detainees were carried out without authorization from higher officials, and the Justice Department is reopening investigations into a number of the most serious allegations (see First Half of August 2009). The report says that the CIA’s efforts to provide “systematic, clear, and timely guidance” to interrogators were “inadequate at first” and that that failure largely coincided with the most significant incidents involving the unauthorized coercion of detainees, but as guidelines from the Justice Department accumulated over several years, oversight “improved considerably.” In the words of the Washington Post, “the report pointed to ongoing tensions between interrogators in the field and officials at the CIA Counterterrorism Center as to when detainees were compliant and when the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ was appropriate.” [MSNBC, 8/24/2009; Washington Post, 8/24/2009] In a statement, Helgerson says, “The most important findings of the review related to basic systemic issues: had management controls been established; were necessary laws, regulations, and guidelines in place and understood; had staff officers and contractors been adequately trained; and had they discharged their responsibilities properly?” [Washington Post, 8/24/2009] Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff says that the “report was generated at the beginning by agency officials within themselves who had deep concerns about what was going on. I was struck. One officer is quoted in this report saying that he’s concerned that he might one day—agency officers might one day end up on some ‘wanted list’ to appear before the world court for war crimes stemming from these activities. It was agents—it was the concerns about this came from within the agency. That’s what generated this report.”
Recommendations Redacted - Isikoff notes that at least half of the report is redacted, including the IG’s recommendations, and says, “I’m told the worst stuff is in those blacked out passages, which means we still don’t know the full story of this program.” [MSNBC, 8/25/2009] The report contains 10 recommendations for action on the CIA’s part, but all of them are redacted. [McClatchy, 8/24/2009] Helgerson states his regret that so much of the report is redacted. “The essence of the report is expressed in the Conclusions and Recommendations,” he says. “I am disappointed that the government did not release even a redacted version of the Recommendations, which described a number of corrective actions that needed to be taken.” [Washington Post, 8/24/2009] Isikoff’s Newsweek colleague, Mark Hosenball, says he believes much of the redacted information has to do with “renditions”: detainees transferred to foreign countries “and abused there.” [PBS, 8/24/2009]
Detailing 'Crime Scene[s]' - Author and reporter Jane Mayer says she believes the report, “in essence, [details] a crime scene. It’s very hard to get away from the fact that things like death threats and mock executions are specifically identified as torture under the Convention Against Torture and, therefore, are illegal, and they’re considered very major crimes. So the problem for the Obama administration, which inherited this report and the question about what to do about it, is that it’s a red flag to any prosecutor. It’s very hard to ignore this, when you’ve taken an oath of office that says you’re going to execute the laws and uphold the Constitution. So they’ve got to somehow do something with this. I was interviewing Larry [Laurence] Tribe, a law professor, who said, you know, it’s hard to do nothing about this when you see it.” Reporter David Ignatius notes that an earlier review by Justice Department prosecutors found that no one at the CIA could be prosecuted for crimes based on the findings of the report. However, that may no longer be true. “[I]t is interesting and troubling to people at the CIA that something that was already decided not prosecutable is now maybe prosecutable,” he says. Mayer notes that during the Bush administration, possible prosecutions were short-circuited by political appointees such as then-US Attorney Paul McNulty, “who was very much a political player, who actually wound up having to resign later in the Bush administration for other political problems.” [PBS, 8/24/2009]
Federal Prosecutor Appointed - In part as a result of reviewing the CIA report, Attorney General Eric Holder names a special prosecutor to determine if the CIA or its hired contractors broke any laws in interrogating detainees (see August 24, 2009).
Reactions - CIA Director Leon Panetta issues a statement that supports the agency’s efforts while avoiding defending torture or abuse. In his statement, Panetta writes that he is not “eager to enter the debate, already politicized, over the ultimate utility of the agency’s past detention and interrogation effort.” He says the program produced crucial intelligence but adds that use of the harsh methods “will remain a legitimate area of dispute.” Overall, Panetta says, the agency is committed to “moving forward” and not spending large amounts of time reflecting on past practices. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) calls the report, and the concurrent appointment of special prosecutor John Durham to investigate torture allegations (see August 24, 2009), “a great relief, a great moment for America as a country.” He continues: “We’ve finally seen the rule of law brought forward in a way that it is clear and direct on this situation, which has been so sort of poisoned with personalities and politics and propaganda. It’s a first kind of clear, bright light, and I couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be more relieved.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009; Central Intelligence Agency, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009] The ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer says, “The report underscores the need for a comprehensive criminal investigation that reaches not just the interrogators who exceeded authority but the senior officials who authorized torture and the Justice Department lawyers who facilitated it.” [Washington Post, 8/24/2009] Joanne Mariner, the terrorism and counterterrorism program director at Human Rights Watch, says: “The CIA inspector general’s report provides compelling official confirmation that the CIA committed serious crimes. A full criminal investigation into these crimes, and who authorized them, is absolutely necessary.” [Human Rights Watch, 8/24/2009]
Entity Tags: Jane Mayer, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), John Durham, David Ignatius, Jameel Jaffer, Joanne Mariner, Eric Holder, US Department of Justice, American Civil Liberties Union, Paul J. McNulty, Sheldon Whitehouse, Laurence Tribe, John Helgerson, Mark Hosenball, Leon Panetta, National Counterterrorism Center, Obama administration, Michael Isikoff
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
Attorney General Eric Holder announces he has appointed a federal prosecutor from Connecticut, John Durham, as a special prosecutor to investigate whether CIA interrogators broke any federal laws. [US Department of Justice, 8/24/2009; Washington Post, 8/25/2009]
Decision Stems from CIA IG Report - The investigation is preliminary in nature, and will decide whether a full investigation is warranted. Holder bases his decision in part on a just-released 2004 report on torture by the CIA’s inspector general (see August 24, 2009) and a Justice Department recommendation that there should be an investigation of about a dozen cases of possible abuse and torture from Iraq and Afghanistan (see First Half of August 2009). According to the conclusion of the CIA report: “The enhanced interrogation techniques used by the agency under the CTC [Counterterrorist Center] program are inconsistent with the public policy positions that the United States has taken regarding human rights. Unauthorized, improvised, inhumane, and undocumented detention and interrogation techniques were used.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009] The review is also prompted by a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) into memoranda drafted by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel related to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The OPR report recommends the department re-examine previous decisions not to prosecute in some cases related to the interrogation of certain detainees. The aim of the preliminary review is to find whether federal offenses were committed in some detainee interrogations. [US Department of Justice, 8/24/2009] According to the Washington Post, the review will focus on “a very small number of cases,” including one in which a CIA officer named Zirbel caused Afghan prisoner Gul Rahman to freeze to death at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002) and the intimidation of al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by a CIA officer named “Albert” using a handgun and drill (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003). These cases and the others were previously referred by the CIA inspector general to the Justice Department for examination, but the department decided not to prosecute (see (August 2004) and Mid-October 2005). [Washington Post, 9/19/2009; Associated Press, 9/7/2010]
Durham a Veteran Prosecutor - Durham has been investigating the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of interrogations that may have documented instances of torture (see January 2, 2008). Although Durham has a low public profile, he is a veteran of numerous high-level prosecutions, including cases against Boston-area organized crime figures, corrupt FBI agents, and former Governor John Rowland (R-CT). Durham is considered apolitical, and has worked closely with the Justice Department under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Connecticut defense lawyer Hugh Keefe calls him “the go-to guy for Justice whenever they get a hot case.” Former Connecticut prosecutor Mark Califano calls Durham’s approach to investigations “clinical,” and says he has “very rarely” concluded a case without bringing criminal charges. “He likes to make cases when there is evidence there,” Califano says. “You’ve got to balance whether that kind of information exists.… You can’t move forward if you don’t have the evidence.” [US Department of Justice, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009; Washington Post, 8/25/2009] Boston prosecutors and defense attorneys have characterized Durham as “honest” and “tenacious.” Warren Bamford, who heads Boston’s FBI office, said Durham “kind of has blinders on in the sense that he doesn’t worry about the politics and all the other stuff that might be swirling around, and I think that’s really what makes him so successful.” [Boston Globe, 1/7/2008] In a statement, Holder says, “Mr. Durham, who is a career prosecutor with the Department of Justice and who has assembled a strong investigative team of experienced professionals, will recommend to me whether there is sufficient predication for a full investigation into whether the law was violated in connection with the interrogation of certain detainees.” [Think Progress, 8/24/2009]
Senator: Durham a 'First-Rate' Choice - Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is enthusiastic about the choice of Durham. He says he has worked with Durham before, while Whitehouse was US Attorney for Rhode Island, and calls the prosecutor “very professional” and “a first-rate choice,” adding that Durham has “a very good grounding in this because he has been doing the investigation into the destruction of the torture tapes.” [MSNBC, 8/25/2009]
No Acknowledged 'Break' with White House - Holder notes that he will be criticized for undermining the CIA, and may be going against abjurations by President Obama to “move forward” instead of focusing on past transgressions, but says the facts left him little choice. “As attorney general, my duty is to examine the facts and to follow the law,” he says in a statement. “Given all of the information currently available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take.… I have concluded that the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations.” White House officials say Holder’s decision does not mark a break between the White House and the Justice Department on their policies toward interrogations. Deputy press secretary Bill Burton tells reporters that “ultimately, the decisions on who is investigated and who is prosecuted are up to the attorney general.… The president thinks that Eric Holder, who he appointed as a very independent attorney general, should make those decisions.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009; Washington Post, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009] Justice Department spokespersons refuse to say who will, and who will not, be investigated. [TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009]
Entity Tags: Mark Califano, John Durham, Warren Bamford, Office of Professional Responsibility, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Hugh Keefe, Obama administration, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), Matthew Zirbel, Central Intelligence Agency, “Albert”, Bill Burton, US Department of Justice, Sheldon Whitehouse
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his audience in two separate broadcasts that President Obama “wants to mandate circumcision” as part of the Democrats’ health care reform proposal. On August 24, Limbaugh says: “Not that I’m against circumcision, but it’s a family’s decision. Leave our penises alone, too, Obama!” On August 25, he says: “[I]t is President Obama who wants to mandate circumcision. We had that story yesterday; and that means if we need to save our penises from anybody, it’s Obama.” Limbaugh cites as his source a Fox News story based on an upcoming report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that may recommend circumcision for newborn boys in order to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS (the procedure can, later in life, reduce transmission of the disease from women to men). The CDC has not yet decided whether to make the recommendation. It is also considering whether to recommend circumcision for adult men who are at high risk for HIV infection. CDC spokesman Scott Bryan tells the St. Petersburg Times that any such recommendations “will be completely voluntary,” both for parents and for adult males. The St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact investigative team researches what involvement Obama may have had in the CDC’s potential recommendation, and finds none. “From what we found, Obama has not used the word ‘circumcision’ in any public statement as a candidate or as president,” the reporters note. “We also found no evidence that he has recommended circumcusion to the CDC. The only link—and it’s an indirect one—that we could find between Obama and the CDC’s efforts was a press release on the White House Web site announcing a series of HIV/AIDS community discussions, the first one being held in conjunction with the National HIV Prevention Conference we mentioned earlier. But the release did not mention circumcision. It turns out that circumcision recommendations have been under discussion since 2007, when George W. Bush was president. Given the fact the CDC was pondering the idea back then, it is no more accurate to say Obama wants to mandate circumcision than to say Bush did.” The Times calls Limbaugh’s assertions “ridiculous.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/27/2009]
The mainstream media shows little interest in reporting that the just-released CIA report on torture (see August 24, 2009) does not prove that torture works as a method of eliciting actionable intelligence from detainees, according to Washington Post columnist and blogger Greg Sargent, writing on the Post’s political blog “The Plum Line.” Sargent notes that when former Vice President Dick Cheney was asserting that the then-classified memos did indeed show that torture worked, “[t]he mainstream media trumpeted Cheney’s lies about what the documents show. But now that they’ve been made public and they contradict his claims, most reporters seem to have lost interest.” He also notes the coverage given to Cheney’s claim that the report proves torture was effective (see August 24, 2009). Sargent backs up his claim with analysis of the media coverage provided by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and CNN; the Times was the only source to directly address Cheney’s claims, but, as Sargent observes, “this came in the 13th paragraph in an article not directly focused on Cheney’s claims.” He goes on to note that only ABC News and the Washington Independent devoted stand-alone stories to Cheney’s claims not being proven. [TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009; Plum Line, 8/25/2009] CNN reported, “Cheney says documents show interrogations prevented attacks… and yielded crucial information about al-Qaeda.” Sargent notes that Cheney didn’t say that at all, but rather he said “that the same individuals who were tortured also happened to yield the most important evidence about al-Qaeda. He’s not saying that the docs proved torture was responsible for producing that info” (emphasis in the original). Sargent credits Cheney with “masterful obfuscation,” and says that CNN was “being played for chumps.” [Plum Line, 8/25/2009; CNN, 8/25/2009] Sargent observes: “To be fair, there was tons of news yesterday. Maybe the news orgs will get around to doing big takeouts on this. But come on, Cheney and his daughter Liz were granted tons of print space and air time to claim for weeks that these docs would prove torture worked. Seems fair to expect aggressive, stand-alone stories about what they do—and don’t—prove in the real world.” And reporter Zachary Roth concludes, “[N]o doubt, when Cheney or his daughter want to go public with their next set of self-justifying crap, they’ll be welcomed as authorities, as if none of this ever happened.” [Plum Line, 8/25/2009; TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009]
Entity Tags: Greg Sargent, Associated Press, ABC News, CNN, Elizabeth (“Liz”) Cheney, Zachary Roth, Washington Post, Central Intelligence Agency, New York Times, Washington Independent, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Former CIA case officer Robert Baer, now an author and a columnist for Time.com, tells MSNBC host Alison Stewart that former Vice President Dick Cheney is wrong when he says just-released CIA documents prove that “enhanced interrogation techniques”—torture—works (see August 24, 2009). Baer says: “I’ve looked to the documents and there is no evidence that torture led to the disclosure of imminent attacks, ‘the ticking bomb,’ as they call it. There’s just no evidence there.… [W]hat Cheney said and what’s come out in these documents don’t prove anything at all.” Baer goes on to say that he has never seen torture work: “I’ve spent 21 years in the CIA. It isn’t—and watched other countries use torture and it never worked. In fact, there was a rule, a very fixed rule in the CIA—don’t accept tortured information because it’s unreliable. And that was across the board. It went from China to Zimbabwe to every country in the world. It’s unreliable.” The CIA was never equipped to perform torture, or what Baer “nicely” calls “hostile intelligence,” in the first place. The agency, Baer says, is “filled with liberal arts majors who go out and collect intelligence without coercion. So 9/11 comes along. The White House is desperate to do something. It turns to the CIA.… So, guys, like you and me, will go out and then all we know about torture is we watch “24”, and suddenly, these guys are put on the line and they improvise and they use mock executions. They threaten mothers and children and the rest of it. And it looks like the amateur hour because it is the amateur hour. This is not the role of the CIA to do abusive interrogations. I mean, if anybody should be doing them, it should be the military or the FBI.” Baer supports the release of the memos because, he says, “I’m afraid we’re going to be attacked again and everybody’s going to say, you know, under this administration, maybe and say, they do something, we have to start going back to torture. What we need to know is, was it really useful or wasn’t it? And no one’s answered that question in spite of what Vice President Cheney says.” [MSNBC, 8/26/2009]
In an interview with NPR, Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), finds it difficult to both support Medicare and attack government-run health care. Steele is interviewed by Steve Inskeep, and tells him that government-run health care is never a good option, but simultaneously demands that health care reformers protect Medicare and retain its funding.
Says Democrats Want to Cut Medicare, Then Advocates Cutting Medicare - Steele calls Medicare “a valuable program” that is “the last line of opportunity” for elderly Americans to receive health care. He accuses Democrats of wanting to “raid” the program to fund health care reform, and says accusations that he wants to cut Medicare spending is “a wonderful interpretation by the left” that he wants to reduce such funding. However, in response to the next question, Steele says he supports cutting Medicare spending; Inskeep asks, “[Y]ou would be in favor of certain Medicare cuts?” and Steele says: “Absolutely. You want to maximize the efficiencies of the program. I mean, anyone who’s in the program would want you to do that, and certainly those who manage it want you to that.”
Protecting and Attacking Medicare Simultaneously - Inskeep pins Steele down on the dichotomy by noting that he has previously written about the need to protect Medicare while attacking the idea of President Obama’s “plan for a government-run health care system.” Inskeep observes, “You’re aware that Medicare is a government-run health care program,” and Steele retorts: “Yeah, look how it’s run. And that’s my point. Take Medicare and make it writ large across the country, because here we’re now—how many times have we been to the precipice of bankruptcy for a government-run health care program?” In the following exchange, Steele, according to Think Progress reporter Amanda Terkel, “tie[s] himself into knots”:
Inskeep: “It sounds like you don’t like Medicare very much at all.”
Steele: “No, I’m not saying that. No, Medicare…”
Inskeep: “… But you write in this [Washington Post] op-ed that you want to protect Medicare because it’s politically popular. People like Medicare.”
Steele: “No, no, no, no, no. Please, don’t…”
Inskeep: “That’s why you’re writing to protect Medicare.”
Steele: “Well, people may like Medicare, and liking a program and having it run efficiently is sometimes two different things. And the reality of it is simply this: I’m not saying I like or dislike Medicare.… My only point is that, okay, Medicare is what it is. It’s not going anywhere. So let’s focus on fixing it so that we don’t every three, five, 10 years have discussions about bankruptcy and running out of money.”
'You're Doing a Wonderful Little Dance' - Inskeep continues to drill into Steele’s support for Medicare and his simultaneous opposition to government-run health care, leading Steele to note, “I want to protect something that’s already in place and make it run better and run efficiently for the senior citizens that are in that system does not mean that I want to automatically support, you know, nationalizing or creating a similar system for everybody else in the country who currently isn’t on Medicare.” When Steele says the government could regulate the private industry to make sure that private insurers don’t make decisions for citizens’ health care based on profit, Inskeep asks: “Wait a minute, wait, wait. You would trust the government to look into that?” After a brief, spluttering exchange, Steele says, “I’m talking about those who—well, who regulates the insurance markets?” Inskeep notes, “That would be the government, I believe.” Steele then accuses Inskeep of trying to manipulate the conversation: “Well, and so it—wait a minute, hold up. You know, you’re doing a wonderful little dance here and you’re trying to be cute, but the reality of this is very simple. I’m not saying the government doesn’t have a role to play. I’ve never said that. The government does have a role to play. The government has a very limited role to play.”
Insists that 'No One's Trying to Scare' Americans about Reform - Towards the end of the interview, Inskeep asks whether it is difficult to explain health care to Americans in a way that “doesn’t just kind of scare people with soundbites.” Steele replies: “No one’s trying to scare people with soundbites. I have not done that, and I don’t know any leaders in the House and the Senate that have done that.” [National Public Radio, 8/27/2009; Think Progress, 8/27/2009] Steele has called the Democrats’ health care reform plan “socialism” and accused Congressional Democrats of being in a “cabal” to enact government-controlled health care over the objections of the American populace (see July 20, 2009). And his RNC has sent out a survey suggesting that the Democrats’ reform proposal would discriminate against Republicans (see August 27, 2009).
The question from the RNC survey asking about possible discrimination against Republicans. [Source: Washington Independent]The Republican National Committee (RNC) mails a survey to thousands of recipients that implies the Democrats’ health care reform efforts will use voter registration information to ration health care, and to deny care to Republicans. A question in the survey asks: “It has been suggested that the government could use voter registration to determine a person’s political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system. Does this possibility concern you?”
'Inartfully' Worded - Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine retorts, “Even we can’t believe the latest in the RNC’s effort to scare voters, lie to the public, and ‘kill’ health insurance reform.” RNC spokeswoman Katie Wright says the question might have been “inartfully” written, but reflects legitimate concerns about confidentiality: “Americans have reason to be concerned about the failure of the Democrats’ health care experiment to adequately protect the privacy of Americans’ personal information.” Politico’s Glenn Thrush says of Wright’s wording, “‘Inartfully’ seems to fall short of a loaded question which seems to have little basis in reality.” He notes that though the House bill gives the government the right to glean “point of service” data about someone’s health care payments or remittances through the use of an electronic benefits card, “nowhere in the proposed bill is any reference to tapping voter registration information.” [Politico, 8/27/2009; Republican National Committee, 8/27/2009 ]
AMA Criticizes Survey - The American Medical Association (AMA) denounces the survey’s implication, writing, “Patients should rest assured that the health care legislation under consideration in the House does not ration medical care or discriminate based on political affiliation.” [TPMDC, 8/27/2009] Progressive television host Rachel Maddow says of the survey, “In the horrible Hobbesian, no rules, no shame, free-for-all of lies, overstatements, and outrageous mischaracterizations that has been the health care debate this summer thus far, this one—this health reform is a secret plot to kill Republicans lie offered up by the Republican Party itself—was so bad that the Republican Party actually had to apologize for it today.” [MSNBC, 8/28/2009]
'Fundraising Appeal' Designed to 'Inflam[e] the Republican Base' - Retired insurance underwriter Raymond Denny, who received the survey, equates the question to the classic “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” He says: “It’s so blatantly lopsided. I called them [the RNC] up and said, ‘This is ridiculous!’ They just said, ‘All right.’” Denny tells a reporter he is concerned that such baseless insinuations—that the Obama administration would deny health care to Republicans—would become yet another talking point for anti-reform proponents. Another question asks: “Rationing of health care in countries with socialized medicine has led to patients dying because they were forced to wait too long for treatment.… Are you concerned that this would be inevitable in the US under the Democrats’ plan?” Denny says: “I wrote insurance policies. I know how words can be used to make people do what you want them to do. The law allows a lot of latitude with politicians. That I understand. Some of these techniques are used by both parties. But this to me seems way over the edge of normal politics.” Pollster Mike Riley says the survey is not, apparently, a legitimate information-gathering device, but rather a means of inflaming the Republican base and garnering donations. Such “surveys” are standard practice, he notes. “It’s common, trying to stir the pot to see what kinds of issues get attention. Both parties do that. They are using some of the hot-button issues to see what activates the voters. It’s politics as usual within the party faithful. No one that I know puts any credibility in these types of polls.” Another pollster, Bob Moore, calls the “survey” little more than “a fundraising appeal.” If such tactics “weren’t effective, they wouldn’t be using them,” he says. [The Columbian, 8/27/2009; Washington Independent, 8/27/2009; Washington Independent, 8/27/2009]
Entity Tags: American Medical Association, Bob Moore, Brandi Hoffine, Democratic National Committee, Glenn Thrush, Katie Wright, Republican National Committee, Mike Riley, Rachel Maddow, Raymond Denny, Republican Party
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
Rex Rammell. [Source: Spokane Spokesman-Review]A Republican candidate for the Idaho gubernatorial nomination, Rex Rammell, says that he would like to hunt and kill President Obama. Rammell makes his remarks during a local Republican Party fundraiser. Criticizing Governor C. L. Otter for not buying a “wolf tag,” or a license to hunt gray wolves, Rammell responds to a shout from an audience member about “Obama tags” by saying: “The Obama tags? We’d buy some of those.” Rammell later says he was merely joking and, though he supports nothing Obama is doing as president, would never call for Obama’s assassination. [Magic Valley Times-News, 8/27/2009] While Rammell may have been joking, he also distributes his “humorous” remark to his press distribution list for statewide reporting. [Boise Weekly, 8/27/2009]
Extending the Joke; GOP Lawmakers Lambast Rammell - Within hours, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) demands that Rammell apologize for the remarks. Crapo is also challenging Otter for the governor’s post in 2010. He says Rammell’s jokes undercut healthy debate over important issues. “Rex Rammell’s comments are in very poor taste and should not have been said,” Crapo says. “Remarks like these should not even be made jokingly. He should apologize for those remarks and for the perception they may have created.” Rammell refuses to apologize, noting that any hunting tags he might buy in Idaho would not be valid in Washington. He says, “Anyone who understands the law knows I was just joking, because Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue hunting tags in Washington, DC.” [Associated Press, 8/27/2009] Other Idaho Republicans, including Otter, Senator Jim Risch, Representative Mike Simpson, and former Governor Phil Batt, later join in Crapo’s condemnation of Rammell’s remarks. “Reckless and inflammatory statements like these gravely damage confidence in the political process and the good citizens who serve the public,” says Otter. “As governor, as an Idaho Republican, and as a citizen of our state, I reject and condemn this kind of rhetoric. There is no place for it in Idaho.” Simpson says, “It is absolutely irresponsible to say such inflammatory things, especially for someone who seeks to be a leader in Idaho.” Risch says: “I disgree often with the president and his policies. But the comment was totally unacceptable and should not have been made.” Batt says of Rammell’s two comments: “I think those are absolutely irresponsible statements. Totally irresponsible, maybe criminal. You’re not allowed to threaten the president, with good reason. We’ve had some tragic assassinations in our history and we don’t want to encourage them, even in a joking way.”
Refusing to Apologize - Rammell again refuses to apologize, instead slamming Crapo for “giving away” two million acres of remote land “to the environmentalists,” and saying, “Phil Batt should go to jail for allowing the wolves to enter Idaho in the first place.” Rammell says they, not he, are the real criminals. Batt believes Rammell is trying to energize his long-shot campaign for governor. He also says he worries that Rammell’s remarks reinforce the national impression that Idaho is a haven for right-wing secessionists, militia members, and racists. “Even though Idaho has had a very minimal amount of overt racism and discrimination, it’s haunted us for years,” he says. “And each little indiscretion tends to magnify it. It’s really too bad.” [Idaho Statesman, 8/28/2009]
Not an Issue of Free Speech, but Incitement to Violence - Idaho columnist Jill Kuraitis notes: “What would Rammell’s mother say? Mine would have said: ‘Threatening the president is a felony, and you will never say anything like that again. Clear?’ What would Rammell’s father say? Mine would have said: ‘I expect you to take this matter seriously. And if you ever hear anyone make a statement threatening the president, you will loudly object and then call the police.’” She adds: “Tossing a serious matter like this off with a simple ‘Rammell, what part of ‘that’s not funny’ don’t you understand?’ isn’t good enough. Calling the remark ‘tasteless,’ ‘unfortunate,’ or ‘inappropriate’ isn’t good enough, either. This isn’t about silencing anybody’s voice. Standing up to threats, no matter the intention of the speaker, doesn’t mean the speaker’s opinions should be silenced. Rhetoric encouraging any sort of violence, especially toward the president—any president—is the issue.” [New West Boise, 8/27/2009]
Fox News television banner promoting its coverage of the ‘Tea Party Express’ bus tour. [Source: Media Matters]Fox News gives in-depth coverage to the “Tea Party Express,” a bus tour organized by the Republican political action committee Our Country Deserves Better (OCDBPAC), whose stated mission is to oppose the Obama administration’s policy initiatives. Fox has previously promoted and covered other “tea party” protests (see April 15, 2009 and May 13-14, 2009). The network covers the kickoff of the tour, after over a month of extensive promotion on Fox News, Fox Business, the “Fox Nation” Web site, and FoxNews.com (see October 13, 2009). OCDBPAC used Fox’s promotion of the tour in its own fundraising efforts. Fox has hosted OCDBPAC vice chairman and “Tea Party Express” organizer Mark Williams, who has publicly stated his disbelief that President Obama is an American citizen, has expressed his belief in the so-called “death panels” connected to the health care reform legislation being crafted in Congress (see August 7, 2009), and has compared Obama to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Fox News provides viewers with information telling them “how you can join” the tour by noting the dates and locations of 22 tour stops, with anchors encouraging viewers to “be a part” of the tour. Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity joins the tour for the day, and broadcasts “live updates” from the bus. Reporter Griff Jenkins is assigned to cover the tour for a number of days, and will provide segments for broadcast periodically throughout the tour. Another Fox reporter, William La Jeunesse, reports from the Sacramento kickoff, and tells his audience, “[H]opefully Washington will listen to [the protesters’] concerns.” In a kickoff-day interview, Williams tells La Jeunesse that the purpose of the tour is to revive the Republican Party, which he says is “right now in a coma.” [Media Matters, 8/28/2009]
An August 2009 sermon by Arizona pastor Steven Anderson calling for the immediate death of President Obama (see January 18, 2009) triggers an inquiry by the Secret Service. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, after playing video excerpts of the sermon to his viewers, interviews ex-Secret Service agent Scott Alswang, who says that Anderson is treading very close to violating a federal law prohibiting threats against the president. “He is walking a fine line,” Alswang says. “The problem I have with it is that he seems to be inciting his congregation to go and act in a direction toward the president. And that, at least on a local level, would seem to me to be an inciting charge. And if someone in that congregation had mental disabilities or were prone toward violence or had a direction of interest toward the president or his family, there could be grave consequences.” CNN analyst Mike Brooks says that his sources confirm that Anderson has been interviewed by the Secret Service. [Phoenix New Times, 8/29/2009]
Denies Calls for Assassination - After his August sermon, titled “Why I Hate Barack Obama,” Anderson insisted he was not calling for anyone to actually assassinate Obama. “Nowhere in the sermon did I advocate vigilantism,” he said on August 27. “It’s a spiritual battle.… I’d rather have him die of natural causes anyway, that way he’s not some martyr. I’m praying for him to die just so he gets what he deserves.” [TPM Muckraker, 8/27/2009] Later, Anderson is more ambivalent, telling an ABC reporter: “I don’t care how God does it, I’m not going into further detail than that. It would be better now than later.” [ABC News, 9/1/2009]
Says Congregation Is Armed and 'Ready to Protect' Itself - Chris Broughton, who recently brought an AR-15 to an event featuring Obama (see August 17, 2009), is a member of Anderson’s church, and says he moved to Tempe to join that church. “I actually moved to the area because this church was preaching the message I believe in,” he says. Anderson says his congregation has received death threats over his sermons, and adds: “Guns are a great deterrent. We haven’t had any violence because people know if they come down here swinging a baseball bat, we’re ready to protect ourselves.” Anderson makes a practice of posting YouTube videos of his conflicts with law enforcement officials; in April 2009, he claimed he was beaten by Border Patrol and Arizona police officers after being stopped for speeding. Anderson is facing disorderly conduct charges. He has posted other videos from previous confrontations with Border Patrol authorities, and with a police officer at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. [Arizona Republic, 8/29/2009; ABC News, 9/1/2009]
Newsweek publishes an extensive article detailing what it calls “the five biggest lies in the health care debate.” Despite the title, the article actually debunks seven.
The government will have electronic access to your bank accounts and steal citizens’ money (see (July 30, 2009) and After). The bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee indeed calls for electronic fund transfers, but only from insurers to doctors and other providers. Patients are not involved in such transactions.
You’ll have no choice in what health benefits you receive. This story seems to originate from a blog, Flecks of Life, which features a picture of President Obama made up as the Joker from the Batman films. The House bill provides for a “health care exchange,” including a list of private insurers and a single government plan, allowing people without health insurance to choose from the list. The government will prevent insurers from refusing clients with “preexisting conditions,” and require them to offer at least minimum coverage. However, Newsweek observes, “The requirements will be floors, not ceilings, however, in that the feds will have no say in how generous private insurance can be.”
No chemo for older Medicare patients. Newsweek calls this a “vicious” rumor coming from the so-called “deather” camp (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 12-13, 2009, August 13, 2009, August 15, 2009, August 18, 2009, and August 23-24, 2009). The claim is that Medicare will refuse cancer patients over 70 years of age anything other than end-of-life counseling, including chemotherapy and other life-extending treatments. The claim, Newsweek says, “has zero basis in fact. It’s just a vicious form of the rationing scare.”
[H]ealth-care reform will be financed through $500 billion in Medicare cuts. Again, nothing in the House bill or anything being considered in the Senate exists to back this claim. There are proposed decreases to increases in future Medicare funding, essentially reducing Medicare expenditures from the forecast of $803 billion by 2019. $560 billion would be removed from future Medicare increases over the next 10 years, and would not come from funds slated to provide actual care to seniors. And the House bill proposes increasing Medicare funding by $340 billion over the next 10 years. According to Medicare expert Tricia Newman of the Kaiser Family Foundation, the money would pay for office visits, eliminate copays and deductibles, and close the so-called “donut hole” in Medicare drug benefits.
Illegal immigrants will get free health insurance. While a 1986 law allows illegal immigrants to receive free emergency care through emergency room clinics like everyone else in America, the House bill does not give anyone free health care. Illegal immigrants will not be eligible for subsidies to buy health insurance. In July, the House defeated a Republican-sponsored amendment to require anyone enrolling in a public plan or seeking subsidies to purchase health insurance to provide proof of citizenship. After the amemdment was defeated, Representative Steve King (R-IA) began spreading the false claims that since proof of citizenship would not be mandated, illegal immigrants would indeed be able to obtain government-funded health insurance. Newsweek writes: “Can we say that none of the estimated 11.9 million illegal immigrants will ever wangle insurance subsidies through identity fraud, pretending to be a citizen? You can’t prove a negative, but experts say that Medicare—the closest thing to the proposals in the House bill—has no such problem.”
Death panels will decide who lives. So-called “death panels” form the heart of the “deather” claims that the government would mandate “end of life counseling sessions” that would encourage elderly and seriously ill patients to allow themselves to die. Newsweek calls the claim a “lie” that “springs from a provision in the House bill to have Medicare cover optional counseling on end-of-life care for any senior who requests it. This means that any patient, terminally ill or not, can request a special consultation with his or her physician about ventilators, feeding tubes, and other measures. Thus the House bill expands Medicare coverage, but without forcing anyone into end-of-life counseling.”
The government will set doctors’ wages. This is another claim that seems to have originated on the Flecks of Life blog. Like the earlier claim, it is false. The House bill, according to Newsweek, “says that physicians who choose to accept patients in the public insurance plan would receive five percent more than Medicare pays for a given service, [but] doctors can refuse to accept such patients, and, even if they participate in a public plan, they are not salaried employees of it any more than your doctor today is an employee of, say, Aetna.” Amitabh Chandra of Harvard University says, “Nobody is saying we want the doctors working for the government; that’s completely false.” [Newsweek, 8/29/2009]
Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) gives a speech to an audience at the conservative Independence Institute in Denver, Colorado. Bachmann tells the audience that “we… have to make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers” to defeat health care reform. Bachmann, whose speech is frequently punctuated by cheers, says health care reform has “the strength to destroy this country forever.… Right now, we are looking at reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom. And we may never be able to restore it if we don’t man up and take this one on.” She continues: “Something is way crazy out there.… This cannot pass.… What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing. This will not pass. We will do whatever it takes to make sure this doesn’t pass.… You’re either for us or against us on this issue.” Calling her speech a “personal legislative briefing,” Bachmann tells the audience that many Americans pay half of their incomes in taxes, and thusly, “This is slavery. It’s nothing more than slavery.” The Colorado Independent characterizes Bachmann’s speech as “filled with urgent and violent rhetoric.” She proudly calls herself the nation’s “second-most hated Republican woman,” behind only former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), and calls herself first on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)‘s list of “top targets,” presumably for defeat in the 2010 elections. Bachmann provides her own proposal for health care reform: “Erase the boundaries around every single state when it comes to health care,” enabling consumers to purchase insurance across state lines; increase the use of health savings accounts and allow everyone to “take full deductibility of all medical expenses,” including insurance premiums; include tort reform; and, she concludes: “Do a few other tweaks and you’re there. Your whole crisis is gone.” [Colorado Independent, 8/31/2009; Think Progress, 9/1/2009]
Three Senate Republicans—Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), former presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ), and Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO)—hold a “Health Care Reform Forum” at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. The event is closed to the public. The attendees were invited either by the senators or the hospital administration. McConnell tells the audience that he believes it is time to “step back and start over” on health care reform. McConnell and McCain intend to take part in two more health care forums, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Hialeah, Florida, but both events will also be closed to the public. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who has taken part in several contentious town hall audiences (see July 27, 2009 and August 11, 2009), criticizes the Republican senators for not allowing citizens to take part in the discussions, saying: “I’m disappointed that the Republican leader of the Senate is coming to Kansas City on Monday and participating in a forum, but they’re not opening it up to the public. It’s invitation-only. I think it might be helpful for the leadership in the Republican Party to have some of the experiences I’ve had over the last week, where some of the meetings are wildly in favor of reform, and other meetings are wildly against it. I think having that pulse is important, and I think the Republican leader would benefit from that.” [Think Progress, 8/31/2009; Charlotte Observer, 8/31/2009]
A ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ poster featuring the name of a Charlotte-area abortion provider. [Source: Women's Rights (Change.org)]A women’s clinic in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Family Reproductive Health Clinic, is targeted with a series of “Wanted” posters naming the clinic’s doctors, and claiming they are “Wanted Dead or Alive” for the “crime” of abortion. The posters read in part: “We would like to introduce you to [two named doctors]. Their specialties are obstetrics, gynecology, and murder. Not only do these two men assist women and deliver babies, but they also harm women and kill babies.… You may contact them at their office or the clinic in which they perform the abortions.” The posters list the addresses of the named doctors’ private practices. The practice of anti-abortion organizations using such posters began as early as 1995 (see 1995 and After) and was ruled an illegal threat in 2002 (see May 16, 2002). The practice has allegedly resulted in the murders of three abortion doctors (see March 10, 1993, December 30, 1994 and After, and October 23, 1998), who were all named in similar “Wanted”-style posters. The practice has continued in spite of the court verdict (see January - April 2003). The clinic has been targeted for closure since 2002, when the Reverend Flip Benham, the head of Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue—see 1986), moved to the Charlotte area and vowed to shut it down. Since then, Benham and his group’s members have harassed and intimidated the clinic’s staffers and patrons; Benham has been videotaped screaming at patients that “Satan will drink the blood of your babies” and that the women will “go to your deaths” if they have abortions. Benham and his followers often use microphones amplified to what a clinic official calls “deafening levels” to speak to the patients, “swarm” patients’ cars as they enter the parking lot, and follow them up to the doors of the clinic, often stepping within inches of the patients as they harangue them. The clinic official says of the patients, “We try to prepare them for this when they make their appointment, but until you go through something like this, you can’t imagine what it’s like.” The police do little to curb the protesters’ actions, the official says. [Ms. Magazine, 9/2009]
Mark Williams, a conservative talk radio host in Sacramento and a prominent spokesman for the nationally based Tea Party Express (TPE), sends an email to colleagues defending himself against charges of racism and calling President Obama “our half white, racist president.” Williams writes: “CNN went over more than 7,000 articles on my site; likely they also listened to the shows archived there too. No doubt they did a Lexis Nexis on me and found 30 years of work by and about me. The best that they could do as a result was string together three quotes, out of context, and throw in a false allegation of me calling Obama a ‘Nazi.’ I was in the streets marching for civil rights while _sshole southern sheriffs were swinging nail-studded baseball bats at black’s heads, and stood between black kids and even more fucked up northern assholes were throwing rocks and gas bombs at school buses in my hometown during forced busing for deseg. Two things you can always count on: I will defend my record on race to no one [sic], under any circumstances and, I will call out any racist, any time, without regard to who they are… and that includes our half white, racist president.” Williams has called Obama “an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief” (see September 14, 2009). Williams is considered a leader of the Tea Party Express, which was created by a Republican consulting firm in 2009. [TPM Muckraker, 2/23/2010]
McClatchy reports that economies in Latin America are beginning to improve following the global financial crisis. The signs of the recovery include a “booming” construction industry in Peru, strong property sales in Peru, and expanding software companies in Chile. However, McClatchy says that the recovery in Mexico and other Central American countries is lagging behind, due to the slow recovery in the US. Prior to the global financial crash, Latin America had experienced its best five years of prosperity since the 1950s. [McClatchy Newspapers, 9/28/2009]
Conservative radio and Fox News television host Glenn Beck exhorts his radio audience to take part in the “massive” demonstration planned for September 12 as part of his “9/12 Project” (see March 13, 2009 and After). “I’m telling you, they [liberals, Democrats, and the Obama administration] have their hands around the neck of the republic,” he warns his listeners. “They are much farther ahead. We are just figuring it out. They have their hands around the neck of this republic and they are about to snap it.” He tells his audience to “get on your knees and pray, turn the other cheek, never in anger, never in anger, pray for more time, stand up in your community, and speak without fear.… You are the guardian and protector of liberty. You may be the only thing that stands between freedom and slavery. And if you can, join those who are willing to take a stand, on Washington, DC, on 9/12. If not, stand together, somewhere in your community, on 9/12. Get involved. They’re very well organized in their communities. And I didn’t realize how many socialist communities there were.” [Media Matters, 9/1/2009]
Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY), a vocal supporter of health care reform and an advocate of universal health care for all Americans (see July 30, 2009), engages in a contentious on-air debate on MSNBC with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. Weiner extolls the virtues of Medicare, a US-run health care system for all citizens 65 or older: “The United States of America, 40 percent of all tax dollars go through a public plan. Ask your parent or grandparent, ask your neighbor whether they’re satisfied with Medicare. Now, there’s a funding problem, but the quality of care is terrific. You get complete choice and go anywhere you want. Don’t look at—” Bartiromo interrupts Weiner by snapping: “How come you don’t use it? You don’t have it. How come you don’t have it?” Weiner replies: “Because I’m not 65. I would love it.” Bartiromo, seemingly unaware that Medicare is only for those aged 65 or older, and also that Weiner is 20 years too young for the system, retorts, “Yeah, come on.” Weiner says: “Medicare for someone age 45? I would take it in a heartbeat.” [Washington Post, 9/1/2009; Huffington Post, 9/1/2009]
Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), speaks to an audience of around 150 at Howard University in Washington. Steele’s speech is part of his outreach to historically African-American colleges and universities. Unfortunately for his outreach program, the first few rows in the auditorium are reserved for local Young Republicans; all of the attendees from that organization are white. Steele’s dialogue has few moments for the audience to contribute, as he delivers a long speech about providing for your own future, with all questions submitted in writing while he speaks. However, the dynamic changes when 23-year-old Amanda Duzak, a Towson University graduate, stands up against the rules of engagement and speaks out of turn. Steele had finished criticizing the idea of the “public option,” the proposed government-run alternative to private health insurance. Duzak says: “My mother died of cancer six months ago because she could only afford three of her six prescription chemotherapy medications. There are 50 million people in this country who could end up like my mom, suffering or dying because they do not have adequate health care (see September 17, 2009). Everyone in this room and everyone in this country should have access to good health care.” Duzak receives a solid round of applause, and Steele answers her. After saying he believes in mature, honest discussion, he says, “People are coming to these town meetings and they’re like [he then shakes].” Gesturing directly at Duzak, he adds: “It makes for great TV. You’ll probably make it tonight, enjoy it.” Steele then turns his back on Duzak as the crowd continues to applaud her. [Think Progress, 9/2/2009; Huffington Post, 9/2/2009; Washington Independent, 9/2/2009]
Tom Ridge and Rachel Maddow. [Source: Armchair Generalist]Former Homeland Security head Tom Ridge is interviewed by progressive television host Rachel Maddow. Ridge has authored a book, The Test of Our Times, a memoir of his tenure in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from October 2001 through the end of President Bush’s first term. Maddow notes that 22 federal agencies were incorporated under the leadership of DHS, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Border Patrol to the Coast Guard and the Secret Service, “the biggest change in what we pay federal tax dollars for since we got a unified Defense Department in 1947.” She goes on to note that one of the new agency’s biggest failures was its lackadaisical and incompetent response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, though the Coast Guard, one of DHS’s daughter agencies, did eventually deliver what she calls “belated but frankly relatively competent aid,” and Ridge was not DHS secretary when Katrina struck.
Raising the Threat Level - Maddow’s primary focus during much of the interview is the Bush administration’s raising of the so-called “threat level” during 2004, as the presidential elections heated up (see July 8, 2004, for example). In his book, Ridge noted that he wasn’t sure events justified the raising of the threat level.
October 2004 Threat Level Escalation 'Not Political,' Ridge Says - In his book, Ridge wrote that the administration tried to raise the threat level to “orange” just days before the presidential election, on October 29, 2004 (see October 29, 2004). However, when pressed on the subject, Ridge backs away from the implications he raised in his book that politics, not national security, prompted the escalation. “Well, that’s not quite the argument that I put in here,” he tells Maddow. “That passage has generated a lot of heat, so I would like to generate a little light on it.… Further in the book, I remind everybody that the system we designed to raise the threat level could not be manipulated, could not be orchestrated, directed, or pressured by any single individual. Regardless of what anybody says, the system was designed by the president to include the homeland security cabinet group sitting around from time to time when the intelligence warranted that group discussion. If you had a YouTube video of it, you would see the secretary of defense, the attorney general, the secretary of state, and others, having a conversation as to whether the intelligence generates enough concern that we want to raise the threat level. That happened many, many times. This is a particularly dramatic moment, because it is the weekend before the election.… We don’t see anything in the department that generates it, and certainly other people agreed with us. But Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General Ashcroft, very strong in their opinions, as everybody had expressed opinions on any other occasions that you never heard about because we never—we never raised the threat level. At the end of the day, I am using in the book, is there more intelligence, is there something—that is new.… [A]t no time—at no time—at no time did politics enter in my judgment, anybody’s equation. These are tough judgment calls. We made them on a series of occasions throughout two years. Rarely did we make those decisions to go up. Politics was not involved.” Ridge says flatly, “I was not pressured” to raise the threat level. Maddow reads from the fly leaf of Ridge’s book, “He recounts episodes such as the pressure that the DHS received to raise the security alert on the eve of the ‘04 presidential election,” to which Ridge retorts: “Those aren’t my words.… It’s the dust jacket.”
Raising the Threat Level for Political Reasons - Maddow reminds Ridge that both in interviews and his book, he has frequently asked the question of whether the decision to raise the threat level during his tenure was made for political reasons, and notes: “I think that I am persuaded by the argument that I think you make in the book, and you may not have intended it from what you said earlier, that it is a pernicious thing for the American people to perceive that the parts of our government responsible for ensuring our security are actually making decisions that aren’t about our security at all. They’re telling us it’s about security and it’s not.” In 2005, she notes, “you said at a forum about the terror alert level, you said there were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, ‘for that?’ (see May 10, 2005) Were there times—were there times when you felt like people were wanting to raise it for reasons that weren’t about the country’s safety?” Ridge denies ever raising the question, and explains: “I do admit, there were some times when we took a look at the intelligence. Some of my colleagues said, ‘Yes, I think we better go up.’ But none of those colleagues had the responsibility of dealing with the consequences of taking the country to a higher level. And so we were always very modest.… I don’t doubt for a moment that any of my colleagues who were involved in those discussions felt the reason we should either go up or not go up, add more security or reduce the security, was based on what they thought was in the best interest of the security of the country, period.… When I said, ‘for what?’ I must tell you, a couple of times I would come back to the office and say, ‘I don’t get it.‘… I don’t think that’s enough to go up. And part of that is yours truly saying to his leadership team who has responsibilities to oversee what’s going to go on, there’s not enough here to tell the governors and the mayors and the security professionals, you have got to raise another level, you have got to increase expenses, you have got to call in personnel. In my judgment, it wasn’t enough. And by the way, at the time we made the right decision, I believe.” Maddow reminds Ridge that in his book he wrote: “[I]t seemed possible to me that something could be afoot. I wondered, is this about security or politics?” She asks, “You’re saying now that you wondered that and you shouldn’t have?” Ridge replies: “No. I mused at the time, ‘Is there something else here?’ I said, ‘Is it politics? Is it security?‘… But there wasn’t anything there.”
Praising the President in 2004 - After a brief discussion of DHS’s response to Hurricane Katrina, Maddow asks about an incident in August 2004, when Ridge praised President Bush’s leadership in the Middle East. As Maddow describes it, Ridge was asked to praise Bush’s leadership. During a subsequent press conference, Ridge said that Bush’s leadership “was causing us to better target our defensive measures here and away from home. And the implication was that going to war in Iraq was a defensive measure like homeland security stuff that we do here at home.” She asks if he regrets making that statement. Ridge says he agrees with his 2004 assessment, and says he merely “threw the sentence into the press conference.” He says his comment became a “sideshow” that “marginalized the process” and caused people to question his objectivity. Ridge tries to deny that he was specifically talking about the war effort in Iraq, though, as Maddow notes, “[W]hen you said ‘targeting our defensive measures away from home,’ this is August ‘04, so we are more than a year into the war in Iraq with the implication there was that you were talking about Iraq.” Ridge now says that he meant the general war against terrorism. “I should have never mentioned the president’s name,” he says, “because it, again, created a perception—we talked about this earlier—that somehow politics were involved, but and politics was not involved in that decision. It was driven by intelligence.”
Making the Case for War with Iraq - Maddow segues into a statement Ridge made in February 2003, when he said on ABC: “I agree that as the president has said, the world community has said this is a rogue regime that has chemical biological weapons, trying to develop nuclear weapons, has means of delivery. That’s the reason this individual needs to be disarmed. The point in fact is that the world community has known for 12 years he’s got chemical biological weapons, means of delivery, and that’s precisely the reason of the United States and its partners are trying to disarm Saddam Hussein. He’s a threat to his region, he’s a threat to our allies. He’s a threat to us.” Maddow notes: “You were a crucial authoritative part of making what turned out to be a false case to the American people about Iraq being a threat, and us needing to attack them.… You made that case on national television a month before we started invading. Do you regret that?” Ridge replies: “No.… At the time, I think [sic] it’s true, and subsequent to that, the president’s leadership and the things we have done have kept America safe.” Ridge goes on to note that “everyone” believed the intelligence showed Iraq was an imminent threat to the US at the time the invasion was being considered. “You believed it at the time,” Maddow confirms, and then asks, “You don’t still believe it, do you?” Ridge replies: “Well, it’s pretty clear that the intelligence communities of several countries who had assessed his—who claimed that he had weapons of mass destruction, we haven’t found them.… But there were other reasons to go in. That was the one that was—that everybody focused on, and everyone who has been critical of the president for going into Iraq said we never found them. But I think the president made the decisions based on the facts and the intelligence as he knew it at the time, and I think it was the right decision at the time.” He denies that anyone in the administration did anything to “skew” or politicize the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD programs. “There’s no way that anybody in that group—I just—they would commit our blood and our treasure to a cause if they didn’t think it was necessary to commit our blood and treasure to a cause to keep America safe. The intelligence may have proven to be false, but there was no doubt in my mind that they were motivated to keep America safe. In retrospect, we can say that the intelligence was faulty.”
Maddow: No Credibility on National Security until GOP Admits Fault - Maddow tells Ridge: “I think you making that argument right now is why Republicans after the Bush and Cheney administration are not going to get back the country’s trust on national security. To look back at that decision and say, we got it wrong but it was in good faith and not acknowledge the foregone conclusion that we are going to invade Iraq that pervaded every decision that was made about intelligence—looking back at that decision-making process, it sounds like you’re making the argument you would have made the same decision again. Americans need to believe that our government would not make that wrong a decision, that would not make such a foregone conclusion—take such a foregone conclusion to such an important issue, that the intelligence that proved the opposite point was all discounted, that the intelligence was combed through for any bit that would support the foregone conclusion of the policy makers. The system was broken. And if you don’t see that the system was broken and you think it was just that the intel was wrong, I think that you’re one of the most trusted voices on national security for the Republican Party, and I think that’s the elephant in the room. I don’t think you guys get back your credibility on national security until you realize that was a wrong decision made by policy makers. It wasn’t the spies’ fault.” Ridge says any suggestion that anyone would have deliberately skewed or misinterpreted the intelligence on Iraq is “radical.… Later on, it may have proven that some of the information was inaccurate, but there were plenty of reasons to go into Iraq at the time; the foremost was weapons of mass destruction. That obviously proven [sic] to be faulty. But the fact of the matter is, at that time, given what they knew—and they knew more than you and I did—it seemed to be the right thing to do, and the decision was made in what they considered to be the best interests of our country.” When democracy in Iraq is finally established, Ridge says, “the notion that we went in improperly will be obviously reversed, and the history has yet to be written.” Maddow replies: “If you can go back in time and sell the American people on the idea that 4,000 Americans ought to lose their lives and we ought to lose those trillions of dollars for democracy in Iraq, you have a wilder imagination than I do. We were sold that war because of 9/11. We were sold that war because of the threat of weapons of mass destruction from this guy who didn’t have them, and our government should have known it. And, frankly, a lot of people believe that our government did know it, and that it was a cynical decision. And maybe everybody wasn’t in on it, maybe that is a radical thing to conclude, but I think that…” Ridge interjects: “I don’t share that point of view. You do.” [MSNBC, 9/2/2009]
Reactions - Reactions to the interview are predictably split, with progressives noting how much Ridge backpedals on questions he himself raised, and conservatives declaring victory for Ridge. Talking Points Memo notes the irony in Ridge’s claim that while his words should be trusted, the words on the dust jacket of his book should not be. [TPM LiveWire, 9/2/2009] Posters on the conservative blog Free Republic write that Ridge “pwned” Maddow, video game slang for dominating or “owning” someone. [Free Republic, 9/1/2009]
Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Free Republic, Talking Points Memo, George W. Bush, US Secret Service, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Republican Party, Tom Ridge, Rachel Maddow, US Border Patrol, US Department of Homeland Security, US Coast Guard
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defends Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to investigate allegations of prisoner abuse by the CIA (see August 24, 2009). Referring to Holder’s decision going against the apparent wishes of President Obama, Gonzales says, “As chief prosecutor of the United States, he should make the decision on his own, based on the facts, then inform the White House.” The attorney general has a “great deal of discretion” in such matters, he says. Gonzales also says that since Bush administration lawyers clearly defined what interrogation techniques were legal, the interrogators who went beyond those defined boundaries should be investigated. “We worked very hard to establish ground rules and parameters about how to deal with terrorists,” he says. “And if people go beyond that, I think it is legitimate to question and examine that conduct to ensure people are held accountable for their actions, even if it’s action in prosecuting the war on terror.” Holder, Gonzales says, is only concerned about the “one percent of actors” who went beyond the guidelines of Justice Department lawyers, and is not conducting a witch hunt. The other 99 percent “are heroes and and should be treated like heroes for the most part, not criminals,” he says. [Washington Times, 9/1/2009] Two days later, Gonzales backs down from his position. He tells a Washington Times reporter, “Contrary to press reporting and based on the information that’s available to me, I don’t support the investigation by the department because this is a matter that has already been reviewed thoroughly and because I believe that another investigation is going to harm our intelligence gathering capabilities, and that’s a concern that’s shared by career intelligence officials, and so for those reasons I respectfully disagree with the decision.” [Washington Times, 9/3/2009]
Michael Savage, a conservative radio host, tells his listeners that President Obama wants to have an “Obama Youth” program similar to the Nazi’s “Hitler Youth.” Referring to a speech Obama is preparing that is aimed at schoolchildren (which Savage falsely claims Obama “is going to force” children to listen to), Savage says “every dictator” such as Adolf Hitler, Cuba’s Raul and Fidel Castro, and others have routinely attempted to “brainwash” their young citizens by making speeches to them. “[Y]ou gotta hand it to dictators,” Savage says, “they see the future. That once they seize total power, they need a generation that loves them. Hitler had the Hitler Youth, and Obama would like to have the Obama Youth. Now he can’t create the Obama Youth Corps overnight, but he can certainly address the schoolchildren of America as a captive audience and sell them on fraudulent ideas such as global warming, health care for all, higher taxation for the pig rich, and things of this nature, and that’s what happens under a dictatorship, things of this nature.” [Media Matters, 9/3/2009] Obama will give the speech on September 8; it contains non-controversial reminders for schoolchildren to “stay in school” and “work hard,” and contains no references to “global warming,” “health care for all,” or taxing the “pig rich.” Schools are invited to broadcast the speech into classrooms or assemblies, but are not required to by either the White House or local school boards. After the speech, a Baltimore teacher will tell a reporter that she is disappointed that the country has “become so polarized that we believe that our president is an enemy and not our leader.” During George W. Bush’s presidency, she will say, “whether I disagreed or not, I still saw him as a leader.” [White House, 9/8/2009; CNN, 9/8/2009] Savage has called the landmark civil rights decision Brown v. Board “sickening” (see May 18, 2004), accused Obama of being educated in a radical Islamic madrassa (see January 10, 2008 and April 3, 2008) and being a potential “radical Muslim” (see February 21, 2008), called Obama’s presidential victory “the first affirmative-action election in American history” (see February 1, 2008), accused Obama of being sympathetic towards the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese of World War II (see March 13, 2008), said that homeless Americans should be put in “work camps” (see June 6, 2008), called Obama an “Afro-Leninist” (see June 6, 2008), said that welfare recipients should lose the right to vote (see October 22, 2008), accused Obama of using his grandmother’s death to conceal his “efforts” to falsify his Hawaiian birth certificate (see November 10, 2008), accused Obama of planning to fire all the “competent white men” in government once he became president (see November 18, 2008), and called Obama a “dictator” (see March 4-6, 2009).
Van Jones. [Source: Politico]White House official Van Jones, the Obama administration’s special advisor for environmental jobs, resigns after a barrage of criticism from conservative critics and Republican officials. Jones is an author, community organizer, and “green jobs” expert from the San Francisco area; before his resignation, he was in charge of a small White House program advocating for jobs in energy-efficient industries. Indications are that Jones was asked by White House officials to resign, in part because administration officials wanted to “move beyond” the criticism of him as Obama prepares to address Congress on the subject of health care reform (see September 9, 2009). In 2004, Jones signed a petition asking for an investigation into whether the Bush administration had allowed the 9/11 terrorist attacks in order to provide a pretext for war in the Middle East, though he has always said he does not support the so-called “truther” movement that features allegations of Bush officials’ involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Shortly before joining the administration, Jones used the term “_ssholes” to characterize Republicans. He is a public supporter of Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer. Conservatives have termed him a “radical Communist” for his affiliation with some left-wing protest movements. The New York Times calls the controversy around Jones a “significant distraction” to Obama’s health care agenda. Critics have attacked Jones specifically as well as administration officials such as him, sometimes called “czars,” who are appointed to positions of some influence in the White House without having to be approved by Congress. White House officials say that they were unaware of Jones’s more controversial statements and positions because his position was not considered senior enough to warrant complete vetting. Press secretary Robert Gibbs says that Obama does not endorse Jones’s views and did not hesitate to accept his resignation: “Well, what Van Jones decided was that the agenda of this president was bigger than any one individual. The president thanks Van Jones for his service in the first eight months, helping to coordinate renewable energy jobs and lay the foundation for our future economic growth.” [New York Times, 9/6/2009; Politico, 9/7/2009] The online news site Politico writes: “Jones’ departure from the position is the first real scalp claimed by the Republican right, which stoked much of the criticism of Jones.… Jones’ controversial statements fit snugly into the narrative woven by some conservative critics of Obama as a dangerous leftist, a critique that goes back to the campaign and was based as much on his past work as a community organizer and associations with the likes of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers as on his policies. Jones’ roots in radical politics, and a spate of newly surfaced links Saturday documenting his advocacy for convicted cop killer and former Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal—a death row prisoner who many in the activist left view as an unjustly convicted political prisoner—threatened to play into that narrative.” [Politico, 9/7/2009] One of Jones’s loudest critics was Fox News’s Glenn Beck, who has repeatedly targeted Jones on his show since July 2009. Beck regularly calls Jones a “Communist-anarchist radical.” Some speculate that Beck began attacking Jones because an organization co-founded by Jones, Color of Change, began a movement to force Beck’s resignation after Beck called Obama a “racist” (see July 28-29, 2009). The influential conservative news blog World Net Daily (WND) has attacked Jones since at least April 2009, calling him “an admitted radical communist and black nationalist leader” who “sees [the] environment as [a] racial issue.” Beck has used much of WND’s rhetoric in his attacks on Jones. [WorldNetDaily, 4/12/2009; Washington Independent, 9/4/2009; New York Times, 9/6/2009] In recent days, Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) called on Jones to resign, and Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-MO) called for an investigation into Jones’s appointment, labeling Jones as “erratic and unstable” in a letter to Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the chairman of the Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee. Former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean defends Jones, saying he was being penalized for not realizing what the petition he signed in 2004 was: “This guy’s a Yale-educated lawyer. He’s a best-selling author about his specialty. I think he was brought down, and I think it’s too bad. Washington’s a tough place that way, and I think it’s a loss for the country.” In his resignation letter, Jones writes: “On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.” However, he writes, though many have advised him to stay and fight for his position: “I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for our future.” [New York Times, 9/6/2009; Politico, 9/7/2009]
Entity Tags: Barack Obama, Glenn Beck, Bush administration (43), Howard Dean, New York Times, Mike Pence, WorldNetDaily, Obama administration, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Politico, Van Jones, Robert Gibbs, Christopher (“Kit”) Bond
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Health insurance corporations defend their use of “rescissions,” or denials of care due to what they term “pre-existing conditions” among their customers. Washington Post reporters interview Los Angeles businesswoman Sally Marrari, who in 2006 had her coverage canceled by Blue Cross & Blue Shield after the firm claimed she had withheld information from them about a back problem. Marrari was undergoing treatment for a thyroid disorder, a heart problem, and lupus. After her coverage was canceled, Marrari was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and quickly racked up over $200,000 in medical bills. She says she had no idea at the time that she had any back issues. She is currently suing the company, and is getting health care by trading office visits for work on her doctor’s 1969 Porsche at the garage she owns with her husband. Marrari’s tale is one of many cited by the Post as illustrative of the insurance industry’s unpopular practice. The Post writes, “Tales of cancellations have fueled outrage among regulators, analysts, doctors, and, not least, plaintiffs’ lawyers, who describe insurers as too eager to shed patients to widen profits.” Insurance company spokespersons claim to have little knowledge of just how and why particular patients are subjected to rescission, and Congressional investigators point to a patchwork of state laws and policies which lead to confusion. Since 2008, California’s five largest insurers have paid almost $19 million in fines for unfairly canceling policyholders’ insurance after those clients filed claims. One insurer, Health Net, has admitted to offering bonuses to employees for finding reasons to cancel policies. Gerald Kominski of the Center for Health Policy says: “This is probably the most egregious of examples of health insurers using their power and their resources to deny benefits to people who are most in need of care. It’s really a horrendous activity on the part of the insurers.” But insurers say the rescissions are necessary to combat fraud among policyholders. An Anthem Blue Cross spokeswoman says: “We do not rescind a policyholder’s coverage because someone on the policy gets sick. We have put in place a thorough process with multiple steps to ensure that we are as fair and as accurate as we can be in making these difficult decisions.” Blue Cross has been fined $11 million over the last two years by California state overseers, and required to reinstate dozens of canceled policies. Officials from three insurance companies recently told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee they had saved $300 million by canceling about 20,000 policies over five years. [Washington Post, 9/8/2009]
Joe Wilson attempting to shout down President Obama. [Source: Politics Daily]President Obama gives a speech touting his administration’s health care reform efforts to a joint session of Congress. The speech, at times forceful and other times attempting to reach across party lines for a bipartisan reform effort, is primarly designed to unify Democrats against a near-unified Republican opposition. Obama denounces some of the most egregious misrepresentations about the health care reform effort, including the so-called “death panel” claim (see August 7, 2009, August 15, 2009, and August 23-24, 2009), in which he calls the people who spread the tale “liars.” He warns Republicans that he will brook no more gamesmanship from them in the effort to craft a reform bill. “What we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government,” he says. “Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned. Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed.” Democrats roundly cheer Obama’s words; Republicans generally do not. [Politico, 9/9/2009; Washington Post, 9/9/2009; Salon, 9/9/2009] The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza later notes that the speech is stronger on rhetoric than it is on specifics. [Washington Post, 9/9/2009] Salon’s Joan Walsh, an avowed progressive, calls the speech “great” and writes: “What was most important about Obama’s address was his declaration that he won’t tolerate any more ‘lies’ or ‘bogus claims’ from the GOP. Yes, he used those terms.… My only real criticism is I wish he’d found a way to do this two months ago. Obama has never before been so lucid in explaining why reform is crucial.” [Salon, 9/9/2009]
Health Care an Economic Issue - Obama insists that reforming health care is critical to managing America’s continuing economic crisis, and key to shrinking the huge deficit. He says: “Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.” However, as Walsh writes: “I was not crazy about his firm promise, ‘I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficit.’ I’m not sure he can keep that promise, for one thing, and it’s not a pledge he makes when asking for more money for Afghanistan, or for the not terribly stimulative tax cut he included in the stimulus bill.” [Salon, 9/9/2009; Salon, 9/9/2009]
No Commitment to the Public Option - While Obama’s rhetoric is at times tough, he does not directly embrace the idea of a “public option,” the proposed government-run, non-profit alternative to private health insurance. Many Democrats, particularly those in the progressive wing of the party, are strongly in favor of such a measure. “It is only one part of my plan,” Obama says of the option. “To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end—and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal.” [Politico, 9/9/2009; Salon, 9/9/2009] He notes that he has no interest in punishing the health care insurance industry, saying, “I don’t want to put insurance companies out of business, I just want to hold them accountable.” [Salon, 9/9/2009]
Evoking Senator Kennedy - Near the end of the speech, Obama evokes the memory of former Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who died recently of brain cancer. Kennedy characterized health care reform as the centerpiece of his political agenda, and fought for it throughout his lengthy stay in the Senate. Obama reveals that Kennedy sent the White House a letter in his last days (see May 12, 2009), asking Obama and his fellow members of Congress to keep fighting for health care reform for the betterment of all Americans. Referring to Kennedy’s message, Obama closes with the line: “We did not come here to fear the future. We came here to shape it.” [Washington Post, 9/9/2009] Walsh says of the letter, “It let Obama return to his theme that health care in this wealthy nation is a moral issue and a matter of social justice.” [Washington Post, 9/9/2009]
'You Lie!' - During the speech, when Obama says that the health care legislation being crafted by Congressional Democrats does not offer free health care to illegal immigrants, Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouts, “You lie!” Many lawmakers gasp at Wilson’s outburst, but Obama merely points an admonishing finger in the direction of the shout and continues his address. (It takes some time to identify Wilson as the shouter, as he quickly sinks back into his seat among his fellow Republican House members.) The Associated Press writes, “The nastiness of August reached from the nation’s town halls” in Wilson’s outburst; Politico’s Glenn Thrush later calls Wilson’s shout “boorish,” and notes that his outburst “enraged audience members on both sides of the aisle.” Wilson’s disruptive behavior is only one of a number of displays of disagreement from Republicans during the address; many spend time during the speech texting on their Blackberries or waving copies of GOP reform proposals. After the speech, Wilson is chastised by, among others, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and he offers an apology to Obama through the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel (see September 9-10, 2009). [Politico, 9/9/2009; Associated Press, 9/9/2009] Cillizza later writes that the image of Republicans shouting at the president or showing their contempt for his message by texting during the speech gives a poor impression of them. “The more Republicans look like they are opposing the Democratic plan for partisan reasons, the more danger they are in politically,” he writes. [Washington Post, 9/9/2009]
Responses - Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), considered a possible opponent to many reform provisions, says he came away from the speech impressed. “I think it was a bit of a game-changer,” he says. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says, “The speech galvanized support along the Democratic Caucus across the political spectrum, from the progressive caucus to the Blue Dogs, and everybody left determined to get something done this year.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has a different response, ignoring the behavior of his own party members to accuse Obama of behaving in an undignified manner. “I was incredibly disappointed in the tone of his speech,” he says. “At times, I found his tone to be overly combative and believe he behaved in a manner beneath the dignity of the office. I fear his speech tonight has made it more difficult—not less—to find common ground. He appeared to be angry at his critics and disappointed the American people were not buying the proposals he has been selling.… If the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats go down this path and push a bill on the American people they do not want, it could be the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency.” Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL), who is running for the Illinois Senate seat once occupied by Obama, says: “He talked at us. He didn’t listen to us.… It was a missed opportunity.” However, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), one of the Obama administration’s most consistent critics, calls the speech “good,” and says: “I’m willing to compromise to get things fixed. But I’m not willing to put the government in charge because we don’t have a good track record.” [Politico, 9/9/2009] Political scientist Morris Fiorina calls Wilson’s outburst “a new low for the contemporary era,” and adds, “Some politicians seem to be adopting radio talk show hosts and cable TV commentators as their role models.” [USA Today, 9/10/2009]
Armed Man Attempted to Get to Capitol before Speech - Shortly before Obama’s speech, Capitol Police arrested a man trying to enter the Capitol grounds with a shotgun and a rifle (see September 9, 2009).
Entity Tags: Glenn Thrush, Tom Coburn, Barack Obama, Chris Van Hollen, Chris Cillizza, Rahm Emanuel, Ben Nelson, Mark Steven Kirk, Joan Walsh, Morris Fiorina, Joe Wilson, Edward Kennedy, John McCain, Lindsey Graham
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Joshua Bowman, a resident of Falls Church, Virginia, is arrested by US Capitol Police after attempting to gain access to the Capitol grounds as President Obama begins addressing a joint session of Congress on health care reform (see September 9, 2009). Bowman attempts to bypass a barricade impeding access to the Capitol building, asking officers if he can park in a secure lot. The lot requires a permit and a vehicle search. The officers, suspicious of Bowman’s timing, search his Honda Civic, and find a shotgun, a rifle, and ammunition in the trunk. Bowman is arrested for carrying two unregistered firearms. His intentions are unclear, according to police spokeswoman Sergeant Kimberly Schneider. The Capitol Police and Secret Service are on high alert during Obama’s speech, which features several members of the White House and almost the entire body of Congress present in a single location. [The Hill, 9/10/2009; Associated Press, 9/10/2009]
Charles Boustany. [Source: US House of Representatives / Wonkette (.com)]Representative Charles Boustany (R-LA), a cardiac surgeon, gives the Republican rebuttal to President Obama’s speech on health care reform (see September 9, 2009). [Politico, 9/9/2009] Boustany tells his listeners that Americans “want health care reform,” but wanted to hear Obama “tell Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, Majority Leader [Harry] Reid and the rest of Congress that it’s time to start over on a common-sense, bipartisan plan focused on lowering the cost of health care while improving quality.” Boustany acknowledged in an interview that the Republicans had done almost nothing themselves to address the health care crisis, but says in his speech that the Democrats’ reform proposals are too big, too expensive, and too ineffective. [Wall Street Journal, 9/9/2009]
Large Campaign Donations from Health Care Corporations - Boustany is an unusual choice for the response, as the Center for Responsive Politics notes that he has received $1,256,056 from health and health insurance interests in his five-year political career. Such donations make up over 20 percent of his total fundraising. David Donnelly of Public Campaign Actions Fund notes: “There is a conflict of interest when members of Congress stand before the public and recite the same talking points put forth by lobbyists and the heads of insurance and HMO giants opposing health care legislation. Rep. Boustany has taken more than $160,000 in campaign contributions from insurance and HMO interests alone. Do you think he’ll disclose that to his national audience tonight?” Boustany makes no such mention during his response. [US Newswire, 10/9/2009]
Voted against Children's Health Care, Flu Vaccination Funding - The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) notes that Boustany voted against the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), did not support a supplemental appropriations bill that included an increase in flu vaccination funding, and voted against an expansion of COBRA funding, a government program designed to supplement working Americans’ health coverage. DCCC spokeswoman Jessica Santillo says: “Congressman Boustany’s no votes on issues ranging from providing health insurance for children, to fighting pandemic flu, to keeping the doors open at community health centers makes him a credible voice for special interests, but not for hardworking Louisianians who struggle with health insurance companies.” Boustany has explained that his vote against S-CHIP funding was to encourage a different way to expand the program: “I proudly support S-CHIP, so we must ensure our children are getting the quality health care they need. A massive increase of S-CHIP further neglects those children who already slipped through the cracks. These children need to see a doctor to receive care.” [The Hill, 9/9/2009]
Other Details of Boustany's Life and Career Brought Up - Politico notes that Boustany had three malpractice suits filed against him while he was a practicing doctor. Two of the cases were ruled against Boustany, and the third was settled out of court for an undisclosed monetary amount. [Politico, 9/9/2009] Boustany has previously indicated his doubts that Obama is actually an American citizen, aligning him with the “birther” movement [Daily Kingfish, 9/9/2009] , a position he later recanted. [Huffington Post, 9/9/2009] And several progressive blogs delight in recounting his 2004 attempt to purchase an English lordship from a British con artist. [Daily Kos, 9/9/2009]
The second round of arguments in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case (see January 10-16, 2008, March 24, 2008, March 15, 2009, and June 29, 2009) is heard by the US Supreme Court. The first round of arguments, which unexpectedly focused on an unplanned examination of government censorship, ended in a 5-4 split, with the majority of conservative justices readying a decision to essentially gut the entire body of federal campaign finance law in the name of the First Amendment (see March 27, 1990, March 27, 2002, and December 10, 2003), but an angry dissent by Justice David Souter that accused Chief Justice John Roberts of failing to follow the procedures of the Court in rendering the opinion prompted Roberts to temporarily withdraw the opinion and offer a rare second argument (see May 14, 2012). Newly appointed Solicitor General Elena Kagan argues her first case before the Court. Citizens United, the plaintiff, is represented by former Bush administration Solicitor General Theodore Olson. Olson, a veteran of Court arguments, quickly discerns from the new round of “Questions Presented” that the Court is prepared to not only find in the plaintiff’s favor, but to use the case to render a broad verdict against campaign finance law as a whole. Olson argues cautiously, not wanting to extend the case farther than the Court may desire. The four minority liberal justices, knowing the case is lost, try their best in their questioning to raise awareness in the public once news reports of the arguments are made public. One of those justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, asks: “Mr. Olson, are you taking the position that there is no difference” between the First Amendment rights of a corporation and those of an individual? “A corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights. So is there any distinction that Congress could draw between corporations and natural human beings for purposes of campaign finance?” Olson replies, “What the Court has said in the First Amendment context… over and over again is that corporations are persons entitled to protection under the First Amendment” (see January 30, 1976, April 26, 1978, June 25, 2007, and June 26, 2008). Ginsburg follows up by asking, “Would that include today’s mega-corporations, where many of the investors may be foreign individuals or entities?” Olson replies, “The Court in the past has made no distinction based upon the nature of the entity that might own a share of a corporation.” Kagan then takes her turn, and begins: “Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, I have three very quick points to make about the government position. The first is that this issue has a long history. For over a hundred years, Congress has made a judgment that corporations must be subject to special rules when they participate in elections, and this Court has never questioned that judgment.” She begins to make her second point before Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the conservative majority, interrupts her. In 2012, author and reporter Jeffrey Toobin will write that Kagan almost certainly knows hers is a legal “suicide mission,” and can only hope that her arguments may sway the Court to narrow its decision and leave some of the existing body of campaign finance law intact. She tells Roberts later in the questioning period, “Mr. Chief Justice, as to whether the government has a preference as to the way in which it loses, if it has to lose, the answer is yes.” Justice John Paul Stevens, the most senior of the liberal minority, attempts to assist Kagan in making her argument, suggesting that the Court should content itself with a narrow ruling, perhaps creating an exception in the McCain-Feingold law (see March 27, 2002) for the plaintiff’s documentary (see January 10-16, 2008) or for “ads that are financed exclusively by individuals even though they are sponsored by a corporation.” Kagan agrees with Stevens’s proposal. Stevens then says: “Nobody has explained why that wouldn’t be a proper solution, not nearly as drastic. Why is that not the wisest narrow solution of the problem before us?” Kagan, with help from Ginsburg, undoes some of the damage done by Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart during the first argument, where he inadvertently gave the conservative justices the “censorship” argument by which they could justify a broader verdict. Ginsburg asks: “May I ask you one question that was highlighted in the prior argument, and that was if Congress could say no TV and radio ads, could it also say no newspaper ads, no campaign biographies? Last time, the answer was yes, Congress could, but it didn’t. Is that still the government’s answer?” Kagan replies: “The government’s answer has changed, Justice Ginsburg. We took the Court’s own reaction to some of those other hypotheticals very seriously. We went back, we considered the matter carefully.” Unlike Stewart, Kagan specifically says that the government cannot ban books. But the censorship argument remains. After the arguments, the justices render the same verdict: a 5-4 split favoring Citizens United. Roberts, Scalia, and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas vote in the majority, while Ginsburg, Stevens, and Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor vote in the minority. The second round of questioning, with its much broader scope, gives Roberts and his conservative colleagues the justification they need to render a broad verdict that would gut existing campaign finance law (see January 21, 2010). [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Entity Tags: Elena Kagan, US Supreme Court, Citizens United, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, David Souter, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, John G. Roberts, Jr, Jeffrey Toobin, Federal Election Commission, Sonia Sotomayor, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malcolm Stewart, Clarence Thomas
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
A T-shirt being marketed in support of Joe Wilson’s re-election campaign. [Source: Palmetto Scoop]Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC), who shouted “You lie!” at President Obama during his speech to a joint session of Congress earlier in the evening (see September 9, 2009), apologizes publicly for his behavior during the speech. In an e-mail to reporters, he writes: “This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.” He also apologizes to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. [Politico, 9/9/2009; Politico, 9/9/2009]
Slammed by Republicans and Democrats - Before Wilson makes his apologies, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) calls his actions “totally disrespectful,” and adds, “There is no place for it in that setting, or any other, and he should apologize for it immediately.” Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime senator, says the next morning: “I was embarrassed for the chamber and a Congress I love. It demeaned the institution.” Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) says after the speech: “Obviously, the president of the United States is always welcome on Capitol Hill. He deserves respect and decorum. I know that Congressman Wilson has issued an apology and made his thoughts known to the White House, which was the appropriate thing to do.” Cantor spent much of the speech ostentatiously texting on his Blackberry, and later claimed to be taking notes on the proceedings. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says angrily upon leaving the House chambers: “I’ve been here for 35 years. I’ve been here for seven presidents. I’ve never heard anything like that.… It strengthens the president, because it demonstrates what he is facing. Most people have respect for the president.” Wilson’s fellow South Carolinian James Clyburn (D-SC) says the outburst is just another in a long line of political attacks by Wilson. “Joe Wilson took our state’s reputation to a new low,” he says. “I thought [Governor] Mark Sanford had taken it as low as it could go, but this is beyond the pale.” (Sanford is under fire for having a long-term affair and spending state tax monies on visiting his paramour in Argentina.) “To heckle is bad enough, but to use that one word, the one three-letter word that was not allowed to be used in my house while I was growing up, is beyond the pale.” Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) says of Wilson’s outburst: “It was just something that nobody had ever witnessed before. We all felt embarrassed.” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) predicts Wilson’s outburst will have political consequences: “The person who said it will pay a price. I think the average American thinks that the president and the office deserve respect, and that was a disrespectful comment. They’ll pay a price in the court of public opinion.” [Politico, 9/9/2009; Associated Press, 9/10/2009; Associated Press, 9/10/2009; Time, 9/10/2009]
Acceptance - The White House quickly accepts Wilson’s apology. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agrees, saying, “It’s time for us to talk about health care, not Mr. Wilson.” [USA Today, 9/10/2009]
Resolution of Disapproval - House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says the House may call for a rebuke of some sort against Wilson. “There’ll be time enough to consider whether or not we ought to make it clear that that action is unacceptable in the House of Representatives,” he says after the speech. “I’ve talked to Republican members who share that view.” [Associated Press, 9/10/2009] On September 15, the House will pass a “resolution of disapproval” against Wilson, with only six Republicans voting for the resolution. [McClatchy News, 10/4/2009] The resolution is brought in part due to Wilson’s refusal to apologize to either Obama or to the House of Representatives on the floor of the House. [USA Today, 9/10/2009]
Using Wilson's Outburst against the GOP - The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent writes that Democratic strategists will use Wilson’s outburst to portray the Republican opposition to reform “as obstinate, angry, and irrevocally hostile towards Obama and his agenda.” [Plum Line, 9/10/2009] In the weeks after the speech, the Republican Party will use Wilson’s outburst as the centerpiece of a fundraising effort around the nation. The National Republican Congressional Committee will call Wilson a “national figure” who is raising important concerns about health care reform. The House Democratic campaign organization will respond, saying of Wilson and his Republican supporters, “[T]he very liars who heckled President Obama for calling them out are raising millions of dollars off of their rude, dishonest attack.” [Fox News, 9/26/2009] Salon’s Joan Walsh asks: “How is it that Obama hasn’t faced a single heckler in his own health care town halls, but he’s not safe from the angry, uninformed mob when he speaks to Congress? The next time you see an important Republican leader claim the town-hell hecklers are just fringe elements and bad apples, remind them of Rep. Wilson.” [Salon, 9/9/2009]
Raising Millions - In the days after the speech, Wilson will send e-mails to his supporters claiming to be the target of “liberals who want to give health care to illegals” for his outburst, and asking for donations. Wilson’s campaign will claim that it raises over $1 million in donations in the first 48 hours after the speech. [CNN, 9/12/2009] By the time the September 30 deadline passes, Wilson and the challenger for his House seat, Rob Miller (D-SC), a retired Marine, will have raised over $4 million between them. Wilson will attend fundraisers as far afield as Michigan and Missouri. When Wilson boasts of being given “hundreds of invitations” to appear with Republicans in other states, Miller will retort: “He’s out there on his ‘thank you tour.’ He should be doing an apology tour. He should be apologizing to every teacher, every law enforcement official, every man, woman, and child in South Carolina for being disrespectful to the president.” [McClatchy News, 10/4/2009]
Entity Tags: Steny Hoyer, Barack Obama, Rob Miller, Eric Cantor, James Clyburn, Joan Walsh, Greg Sargent, Richard (“Dick”) Durbin, Joe Wilson, Patrick J. Leahy, John McCain, Rahm Emanuel, Marshall Clement (“Mark”) Sanford, Jr, Joseph Biden, Nancy Pelosi, National Republican Congressional Committee, Maxine Waters
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh applauds Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) for shouting “You lie!” at President Obama during the president’s address to Congress (see September 9, 2009), and tells his listeners he wished Wilson had not apologized for his outburst (see September 9-10, 2009). Limbaugh calls Obama’s assertion that health care reform would not include free care for illegal immigrants “a blatant lie,” and says he is disgusted that so many Republicans called on Wilson to apologize for his behavior. The Obama administration, Limbaugh claims, “is trying to totally tear down the institutions and traditions that have made this country great,” and he says Wilson is merely speaking the truth. Obama “is lying… from the moment he opens his mouth until he ends the speech. I was shouting ‘You’re lying!’ throughout the speech, at the television. ‘You’re lying!’ ‘That’s a lie!’ Joe Wilson simply articulated what millions of Americans were saying.” [Media Matters, 9/10/2009] Time’s Michael Scherer notes that the Senate Finance Committee’s working draft contains the line, “No illegal immigrants will benefit from the health care tax credits.” HR 3200, the House reform bill, contains Section 246, which is titled “NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.” [Time, 9/10/2009]
Mark McKinnon. [Source: Houston Chronicle]Mark McKinnon, a Republican political strategist who worked on both the George W. Bush and John McCain presidential campaigns, says Republican Joe Wilson (R-SC), who shouted at President Obama during his recent speech (see September 9, 2009), should pay by being voted out of office. “Make Joe Wilson pay,” McKinnon writes for the online news source The Daily Beast. “And by pay, I mean beat his sorry _ss at the polls and send him to the private sector. That is the only way to change the political discourse in America today. Because as long as louts like Joe Wilson can spout off and call the president a liar and get rewarded with re-election, then louts will continue to spout off. And we [the Republican Party] will continue to claw our way to the very bottom of the political swamp.” McKinnon says the Republican Party will never rebuild itself and become a serious contender for national leadership until it “get[s] rid of the partisans like Joe Wilson.” He finds Wilson’s shout reprehensible, both because of the blatant disrespect it showed to the president and to Congress and because of his error—Wilson wrongly asserts that Obama is lying about the Democrats’ health care reform not funding free health care for illegal immigrants. McKinnon says Wilson’s apology to Obama (see September 9-10, 2009) lacks “class,” and writes: “He made it clear he was saying ‘sorry’ only because he’d been forced to by the Republican House leadership: ‘Well, I, uh, last night I heard from the leadership that they wanted me to contact the White House and, uh, say that, uh, my statements, uh, were inappropriate. I did.’ Apologies should extract some moral or material cost.… Now, proving he has no real remorse or character, Wilson has created a YouTube video and is trying to raise money off his transgression.” McKinnon concludes: “There’s only one way we’re going to change our political climate and ensure we establish some respect in our discourse. And that is to show there is a real price to pay for being a disrespectful partisan idiot.” [Daily Beast, 9/11/2009]
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) acknowledges it has funded a series of television advertisements in support of legislation primarily written by Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to reform US health care. The television ads are part of an agreement between the Obama administration, Baucus, and PhRMA in June, where the organization agreed to various givebacks and discounts designed to reduce America’s pharmaceutical spending by $80 billion over 10 years. PhRMA then set aside $150 million for advertising to support health care legislation. More progressive House Democrats such as Henry Waxman (D-CA) are pushing for stiffer drug industry givebacks than covered in the deal. PhRMA is led by Billy Tauzin, a former Republican congressman. Until recently, the organization spent some $12 million on ads by an offshoot coalition called Americans for Stable Quality Care, and aired television ads such as “Eight Ways Reform Matters to You.” PhRMA’s new ads will specifically support the Baucus bill. Many are critical of the deal, with James Love of the progressive research group Knowledge Ecology charging, “Essentially what the US got was not $80 billion, but $150 million in Obama campaign contributions.” [New York Times, 9/12/2009] Investigative reporter Matt Taibbi agrees with Love, accusing the White House of colluding with Baucus and Tauzin’s PhRMA to orchestrate a “big bribe” in exchange for the Democrats’ dropping of drug-pricing reform in the Baucus bill. Taibbi writes that in June, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel met with representatives from PhRMA and drug companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Merck, and Pfizer to cut their deal. Tauzer later told reporters that the White House had “blessed” a plan involving the $150 million in return for the White House’s agreement to no longer back government negotiations for bulk-rate pharmaceuticals for Medicare, and to no longer support the importation of inexpensive drugs from Canada. Taibbi writes that the White House worked with Baucus and PhRMA to undercut Waxman’s attempts to give the government the ability to negotiate lower rates for Medicare drugs. PhRMA’s ads are being aired primarily in the districts of freshmen Democrats who are expected to face tough re-election campaigns, and in the districts of conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, who have sided with Baucus, Obama, and PhRMA to oppose the Waxman provision in favor of PhRMA’s own provision, which would ban the government from negotiating lower rates for Medicare recipients. [True/Slant, 9/14/2009]
Entity Tags: James Love, Henry A. Waxman, Americans for Stable Quality Care, Abbott Laboratories, Rahm Emanuel, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Senate Finance Committee, Obama administration, Medicare, Max Baucus, Matt Taibbi, Pfizer, Merck, W.J. (“Billy”) Tauzin
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
Fox News producer Heidi Noonan exhorting a 9/12 rally crowd. [Source: Huffington Post]Fox News footage taken at the 9/12 rally in Washington (see September 12, 2009) shows a Fox News producer exhorting a crowd to shout, cheer, and show enthusiasm while Fox cameras film them. Fox producer Heidi Noonan stands behind reporter Griff Jenkins exhorting the crowd during Jenkins’s on-air segment. Fox News bureau chief Bryan Boughton later says, “The employee [Noonan] is a young, relatively inexperienced associate producer who realizes she made a mistake and has been disciplined.” Noonan is also seen standing near a rally participant who is holding a poster reading, “I’m A Foxaholic” (see October 13, 2009). [Huffington Post, 9/19/2009; Mediaite, 9/20/2009] On September 21, 2009, Fox News vice president Bill Sammon sends an internal e-mail reminding Fox staffers that they report the news, not create it. He writes in part: “For those of us who have only been at Fox for a relatively short period of time, it’s useful to remind ourselves that, as journalists, we must always be careful to cover the story without becoming part of the story. At news events, we’re supposed to function as dispassionate observers, not active participants. We are there to chronicle the news, not create it.… We do not cheerlead for one cause or another. We do not rile up a crowd. If a crowd happens to be boisterous when we show it on TV, so be it. If it happens to be quiet, that’s fine, too. It’s not our job to affect the crowd’s behavior one way or the other. Again, we’re journalists, not participants—and certainly not performers. Indeed, any effort to affect the crowd’s behavior only serves to undermine our legitimate journalistic role as detached eyewitnesses. Remember, our viewers are counting on us to be honest brokers when it comes to reporting—not altering—the important events of the day. That is nothing less than a sacred trust. We must always take pains to preserve that trust.” [Mediaite, 9/21/2009]
One of many signs held by protesters at the 9/12 rally in Washington. [Source: Daily Kos]An organization called the “9/12 Project” (see March 13, 2009 and After), sponsored by Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, holds a protest rally on the Capitol Mall in Washington. Other sponsors include lobbying firm FreedomWorks (see February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, February 27, 2009, March 2, 2009, March 13, 2009 and After, April 14, 2009, and April 15, 2009), ResistNet (see August 10, 2009) and Tea Party Patriots (see July 17, 2009 and Late July, 2009). Many protesters credit Beck for inspiring them to come to the protest, though Beck himself does not attend. [Talking Points Memo, 9/12/2009; Washington Post, 9/12/2009] Many of the signs praise Beck and Fox News, while others celebrate former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), and other conservative figures. Still others further the claim that health care reform will “kill Grandma” (see August 12, 2009) and “kill babies.” One sign, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), reads, “I need my health care… Pelosi makes me sick!” Many signs depict President Obama as a Communist or socialist; one claims, “I work hard so Obama voters don’t have to!” and another refers to “Comrade Obama.” One sign, declaring “Yes! We are a Christian nation!” is signed by one of the rally speakers, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC). [John Lewandowski, 9/12/2009]
Inflating the Numbers - Reports by local police and fire officials estimate the crowd at between 60,000 and 70,000, which columnist Josh Marshall calls “smallish by big DC protest/event standards but definitely respectable.” The Washington Post reports, “Tens of thousands protest Obama initiatives and government spending.” However, estimates by conservative radio hosts, bloggers, and media commentators put the numbers far higher, at up to two million. (TPMDC’s Brian Beutler notes that expectations were inflated the day before by a Democratic House staffer, who sent out an e-mail predicting a turnout “ranging from hundreds of thousands to two million people.” Beutler writes: “For reference, two million is just a hair under four times the total population of Washington, DC, and approximately the number of people who showed up to the history-making inauguration of President Barack Obama. Sound like a bit of an exaggeration? It probably is.” He also notes, “A source at a major liberal organization in Washington says, ‘one of the things we decided to do was try to raise expectations for turnout.’” When the initial figures are published in the media, protest organizers and various participants begin claiming that the actual turnout was somewhere between one and two million, but the numbers are being suppressed by pro-Obama media outlets. [TPMDC, 9/11/2009; Talking Points Memo, 9/12/2009] One conservative blogger writes: “‘Media’ estimates range from 60,000 to 500,000 to around two million (yes, 2,000,000). Those estimates, the language employed, and the visuals chosen for use in reporting the rally and representing the people gathered, vary greatly based solely on bias.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/2009] Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin initially reports third-hand claims that ABC News is reporting turnouts between 1.2 and two million, then updates her report to note ABC denies making any such claim. She quotes another conservative blogger who writes, “However big it was, it was bigger than expected.” By day’s end, Malkin notes an ABC report that the wildly inflated crowd estimate came from FreedomWorks: “Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the group that organized the event, said on stage at the rally Saturday that ABC News was reporting that one million to 1.5 million people were in attendance. At no time did ABC News, or its affiliates, report a number anywhere near as large. ABCNews.com reported an approximate figure of 60,000 to 70,000 protesters, attributed to the Washington, DC, fire department. In its reports, ABC News Radio described the crowd as ‘tens of thousands.’ Brendan Steinhauser, spokesman for FreedomWorks, said he did not know why Kibbe cited ABC News as a source.” Malkin then writes, “The Left, of course, has seized on the error to discredit the undeniably massive turnout today.” [Michelle Malkin, 9/12/2009; ABC News, 9/13/2009] The next day, unidentified people circulate a photo from 1997 to ‘prove’ that the rally actually attracted over a million protesters (see September 13-14, 2009). Two days after the event, London’s Daily Mail reports “up to two million” at the rally. [London Daily Mail, 9/14/2009]
Fears of Socialism - The Post reports that many protesters wave signs and tell reporters about their fears of a “socialist America” under Obama, and warn that the Democrats’ attempts to reform US health care are undermining the Constitution. One protester bellows into a bullhorn: “You want socialism? Go to Russia!” “Hell hath no fury like a taxpayer ignored,” Andrew Moylan, head of government affairs for the National Taxpayers Union, tells the crowd, which responds with lusty cheers. One speaker, Representative Tom Price (R-GA), tells the crowd: “You will not spend the money of our children and our grandchildren to feed an overstuffed government. Our history is decorated by those who endured the burden of defending freedom. Now a new generation of patriots has emerged. You are those patriots.” Many of the signs support Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC), who days before accused Obama of lying during the president’s appearance before Congress (see September 9, 2009). [Washington Post, 9/12/2009]
Exhortations to Violence? - Some of the signs and slogans chanted by the protesters strike observers as perhaps calling for violence against elected officials or citizens who disagree with the protesters’ views, or are racist and/or personally slanderous. One sign depicts an assault rifle and the words, “We came unarmed from Montana and Utah… this time!” Another reads, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time… Pennsylvanians are armed and ready!” Another, referencing proposed “triggers” that would launch a government program to provide health insurance, depicts a rifle with the caption, “I got your ‘trigger’ right here… it’s called the Second Amendment!” A number of protesters hold professionally printed signs referencing the recent death of Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), reading, “Bury ObamaCare with Kennedy.” Another, referencing the Cleveland Zoo and the discredited “birther” theory, asks: “What’s the difference between Cleveland and the White House? One has an African lion and another a lyin’ African!” A related sign calls Obama the “president of Kenya.” Another, purporting to speak in “ghetto slang,” asks, “Where my white privilege males at?” A protester waves a sign reading, “Fascist are [sic] now in control they [sic] are like a cancer slowly killing America WAKE UP.” The now-familiar signs of Obama with a Hitler mustache, and of “socialist” Obama made up like the Joker from Batman comics and movies, are also in evidence. One speaker calls Obama the “parasite-in-chief.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2009; London Daily Mail, 9/14/2009]
Reaction from Democrats - The reaction from Congressional Democrats is tepid. Doug Thornell, an adviser to Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), tells reporters, “There is a lot of intensity on the far right to defeat the president’s agenda, but I am not sure that holding up signs that say we have to bury health reform with Senator Kennedy will go over well with moderates and independent voters.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2009]
Entity Tags: Michelle Malkin, Matt Kibbe, Nancy Pelosi, Joshua Micah Marshall, Tom Price, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Washington Post, Tea Party Patriots, Joe Wilson, National Taxpayers Union, Jim DeMint, ResistNet, FreedomWorks, 9/12 Project, ABC News, Barack Obama, Andrew Moylan, Brian Beutler, Brendan Steinhauser, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Doug Thornell
Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda
This 1997 photograph was circulated as ‘proof’ that the September 12, 2009 rally had millions in attendance. [Source: St. Petersburg Times]Conservative bloggers attempting to give credence to discredited claims that the “9/12 rally” held in Washington attracted up to two million participants (see September 12, 2009) circulate a photo which they say proves the size of the crowd. The photo shows a crowd packing the National Mall and spilling into the streets beyond. Unfortunately, the photo is quickly shown to have been taken at least five years before the rally took place. The St. Petersburg Times asks Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the DC Fire and Emergency Department, if the rally had been big enough to fill that area. Piringer says it had not, and notes that the photo being circulated could not have been taken in 2009. He says the crowd “only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street.” Moreover, the photo does not include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth Street and Independence Avenue that opened on September 14, 2004. The museum should be in the upper right corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum. The Times says the photo was likely taken in 1997. A Democratic media strategist says of the false photo: “I’ve seen bigger crowds at Montreal Expos games, but I still wouldn’t fake a photo just to justify your predictions of millions descending on Washington. This is grade-A stupid and just plays into the argument that these were astroturf protests to begin with. They’ve always brought the noise, but the question that was supposed to be answered this weekend was, could they bring the numbers? In that respect this was an unmitigated disaster.” By September 14, many of the conservative blogs that had originally posted the photo have taken them down, though some are claiming that the picture is a result of a liberal conspiracy to discredit the event. Many conservatives still argue that over a million people attended the rally. [Huffington Post, 9/14/2009; St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/2009]
The lawyer for Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, jailed in December 2008 for throwing shoes at President Bush (see December 14, 2008), announces that his client will be freed from prison on September 15. Many Iraqis and other Middle Eastern citizens have called for al-Zaidi’s release since his conviction and incarceration, and consider the journalist a hero for expressing his anger and contempt for the former president, though others consider the act a violation of the tradition of honoring the guest. Al-Zaidi is completing a one-year prison sentence for “assaulting a foreign head of state on an official visit to Iraq”; his term was reduced from the original three-year sentence, and he is being released early for good behavior. “We are happy, like any detainee’s family would be happy for the release of its son after the bitter time he spent in jail,” says the journalist’s brother, Dhirgham al-Zaidi. [CNN, 9/14/2009]
Mark Williams, speaking on Anderson Cooper’s CNN broadcast. [Source: TPM Muckraker]Mark Williams, a conservative talk radio host in Sacramento and a prominent spokesman for the nationally based Tea Party Express (TPE), appears on a CNN panel during that network’s Anderson Cooper 360° and, while defending his organization against charges of racism, himself uses racist allegations against President Obama. Williams denounces those who carry openly racist signs against Obama during tea party events (see June 30, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, September 11, 2010), and September 12, 2010), calling them “no more part of the mainstream of America than the hippies who wear nipple clips and feather boas in San Francisco streets during so-called peace demonstrations.” Cooper informs Williams, “What you’re saying makes sense to me here when I’m hearing what you say but then I read on your blog, you say, you call the president an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.” Williams shrugs and answers, “Yeah, that’s the way he’s behaving.” Cooper asks Williams if he really believes Obama is an Indonesian Muslim and a welfare thug, to which Williams responds: “He’s certainly acting like it. Until he embraces the whole country what else can I conclude.” [Huffington Post, 9/15/2009] TPE is one of the most “establishment” of the various tea party organizations. It was founded and run by Republican operatives and lobbyists, in a similar fashion to the Washington conservative lobbying firm FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009). Williams is a key element in making TPE a large and influential organization, and has publicly associated the organization with conservative Republican 2010 candidates such as Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle and Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller. [TPM Muckraker, 7/19/2010]
The Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF), a campaign finance watchdog organization, finds that insurance and health management organizations (HMOs) have spent over $700,000 a day during the first half of 2009 to defeat health care reform. It also notes that health care and insurance interests, which include organizations outside of the HMOs and insurance companies, have spent roughly $1.4 million a day during the first quarter of 2009 to defeat reform efforts. During the first six months of 2009, the companies spent $126,430,438, mostly on hired lobbyists, to oppose the health care reform legislation working its way through Congress. Since 2007, the companies have spent around $585 million to defeat health care reform. “The insurance and HMO interests are fighting health care reform with hundreds of millions of dollars,” says PCAF’s David Donnelly. “Why are so many in Congress willing to listen to an industry that is spending tens of millions every month on politics rather than on lowering their premiums or helping to address the costs of health care? They need the cash to pay for their campaigns.” The HMO and insurance companies have 1,795 lobbyists registered in Washington to represent their concerns to Congress and members of the Obama administration; the same firms hired almost 2,000 lobbyists in 2008. PCAF says it compiled its data from information provided by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Senate lobbying disclosure Web sites. [Public Campaign Action Fund, 9/15/2009]
Jimmy Carter speaks at Emory University. [Source: CNN]Former President Jimmy Carter says that he believes much of the opposition to President Barack Obama is fueled by racism. “When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds,” he tells a group of students at Emory University in Atlanta. Carter, a native Georgian, has taught at Emory since 1982. “I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African-American. It’s a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States.” Carter adds: “I live in the south, and I’ve seen the south come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that shared the south’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans. And that racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the south but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.” Carter said the day before that he believes the “You lie!” shout at Obama by Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) during Obama’s address to Congress (see September 9, 2009) may have been racially motivated. Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and the first African-American to hold that position, disagrees. “President Carter is flat-out wrong,” he says. “This isn’t about race. It is about policy.” Instead, Steele says Democrats are just trying to divert attention from what he calls Obama’s “wildly unpopular government-run health care plan.… Playing the race card shows that Democrats are willing to deal from the bottom of the deck.” Congressman Henry Johnson (D-GA), an African-American and a fellow Georgian, predicts that racial tensions will rise throughout the nation, saying, “I guess we’ll probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside.” Comedian Bill Cosby also agrees with Carter, calling Wilson’s shout and other displays of aggression towards Obama “public display[s] of disrespect.” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refuses to comment on Carter’s statements [CNN, 9/15/2009; Guardian, 9/16/2009] other than noting, “I don’t believe the president agrees with [Carter].” He adds: “I don’t think the president believes that people are upset because of the color of his skin. I think people are upset because on Monday we celebrate the anniversary of the Lehman Brothers collapse that caused a financial catastrophe unlike anything we’ve ever seen.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/16/2009] Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks American hate groups, says Carter is correct in his assessment: “I think what President Carter said is precisely what is going on. I am not saying that everyone involved in opposing healthcare reform is a Klansman in disguise, but it is the elephant in the room.” Potok says the SPLC is tracking a sharp rise in the number of right-wing hate groups, violent plots, and racist incidents since Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. [Guardian, 9/16/2009]
Max Baucus (D-MT), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, releases his committee’s final version of health care reform, a version known as the “chairman’s mark.” None of the Republicans on the committee support the bill (known as the “America’s Healthy Future Act,” or AHFA), and some Democrats, including John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), have serious questions about it as well. Baucus says: “The $856 billion dollar package will not add to the federal deficit. The Finance Committee will meet to begin voting on the chairman’s mark next week.” An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that the bill will actually “result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $49 billion over the 2010-2019 period.” Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Mike Enzi (D-WY) have said that they want a much smaller bill that imposes no fees on health insurance companies, prevents legal immigrants from gaining coverage for five years, and bans any federal coverage for abortions. The Baucus bill does not allow for federal monies to be used for abortions, as Republicans have insisted upon, with the exception of situations involving rape or incest. Illegal immigrants are not provided coverage through the bill; legal immigrants cannot get government subsidies and must wait five years before qualifying for Medicaid. Immigrants’ citizenship status will be verified, as Republicans have requested. Another Republican provision, “tort reform” (efforts to reduce legal claims against doctors and HMOs), is part of the bill. There is no “public option” for government-financed health care for uninsured citizens, as Republicans and conservative Democrats have demanded. The bill allows for the purchasing of insurance across state lines, for “high-deductible” policies, and for so-called “high-risk pools,” three provisions Republicans have demanded. And, beginning in 2014, federal monies will be made available “to all states to defray the costs of covering newly-eligible beneficiaries.” [111th Congress, 1st Session, 9/16/2009; Think Progress, 9/16/2009; Think Progress, 9/17/2009] Even after seeing a bill with so many inclusions they have asked for, Senate Republicans continue to insist that there is nothing in the bill they can support. [Think Progress, 9/17/2009]
Judge Clay Land. [Source: TruTV (.com)]US District Court Judge Clay Land throws out a complaint questioning President Obama’s birth, and seeking to halt the deployment of Army Captain Connie Rhodes to Iraq on the grounds that Obama is not the legitimate commander in chief. Rhodes is represented by “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz (see November 12, 2008 and After, March 13, 2009, and August 1-4, 2009). In the complaint, Taitz writes on behalf of Rhodes: “This plaintiff cannot in good conscience obey orders originating from a chain of command from this merely de facto president. This plaintiff cannot be lawfully compelled to obey this de facto president’s orders.” Land, clearly angered by the complaint, says Taitz will face sanctions if she ever files a similar “frivolous” complaint or lawsuit in his court again. Rhodes, Land rules, “has presented no credible evidence and has made no reliable factual allegations to support her unsubstantiated, conclusory allegations and conjecture that President Obama is ineligible to serve as president of the United States. Instead, she uses her complaint as a platform for spouting political rhetoric, such as her claims that the president is ‘an illegal usurper, an unlawful pretender, [and] an unqualified imposter.’” The evidence presented by Taitz in the complaint is groundless, Land rules, noting allegations that Obama might have used 149 addresses and 39 Social Security numbers before becoming president and the existence of what Taitz claims is Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate. “Finally, in a remarkable shifting of the traditional legal burden of proof,” he writes, “plaintiff unashamedly alleges that defendant has the burden to prove his ‘natural born’ status. Any middle school civics student would readily recognize the irony of abandoning fundamental principles upon which our country was founded in order to purportedly ‘protect and preserve’ those very principles. Unlike in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ simply saying something is so does not make it so.” Land orders that Rhodes pay any costs incurred by the defendants, who include President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Colonel Thomas Manning, a garrison commander at Fort Benning, Georgia. Taitz says she believes Land is guilty of treason by dismissing her complaint, saying, “Judge Land is a typical puppet of the regime—just like in the Soviet Union.” She adds that she intends to keep fighting for Rhodes if Rhodes desires her to, telling one reporter, “Listen, Nelson Mandela stayed in prison for years in order to get to the truth and justice.” Three days later, Rhodes renounces Taitz as her lawyer, and informs Land that she did not authorize the emergency request for stay of deployment that Taitz filed on her behalf. “I did not authorize it and do not wish to proceed,” Rhodes writes in a letter to Land. “Ms. Taitz never requested my permission nor did I give it.” She adds: “I do not wish for Ms. Taitz to file any future motions or represent me in any way in this court. It is my plan to file a complaint with the California State Bar due to her reprehensible and unprofessional actions.” Rhodes is deployed days later; an Ohio lawyer files a separate complaint with the California State Bar (see September 17, 2009). [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 9/16/2009; Huffington Post, 9/16/2009; TPM Muckraker, 9/16/2009; Washington Independent, 9/19/2009] Taitz responds by telling a reporter she believes Rhodes’s letter is a forgery. “I don’t know if this letter came from her,” Taitz writes in an email, “since she is in Iraq now and the Office Max store from where it came, states that they don’t send faxes for customers. The signature on her notarized letter from Kansas and this letter looks different.” An Office Max clerk confirms that he faxed the letter on behalf of Rhodes, and the letter itself notes that she would fax it to Judge Land. Taitz goes on to claim that she believes Rhodes “was pressured by the military” to renounce her and consider filing a complaint with the California State Bar. “It appear to be a concerted effort to quash all free speech, particularly any legal challenges to Obama’s legitimacy.” [TPM Muckraker, 9/21/2009] In October, Land will sanction Taitz, fining her $20,000 for professional misconduct (see October 13-16, 2009). Land recently dismissed another, similar lawsuit filed by Taitz on behalf of Army Major Stefan Cook (see July 8-16, 2009).
Former Bush administration official Ellen Sauerbrey (see October 11, 2005) tells a group of Maryland Republicans that President Obama is advancing socialist and fascist policies. Sauerbrey addresses a group of local Republicans in Callaway, Maryland. According to Sauerbrey, Obama has surrounded himself with cult-like, fanatical followers much as Adolf Hitler or Argentina’s Juan Peron did when they ruled their countries. While she says she is not comparing Obama to either of those leaders, she says that conditions in America make the time ripe for Obama to usurp dictator-like powers. Obama is advancing “fascist, socialist ideals,” she says, and adds: “I’m really afraid for the future of our country. Our Constitution is indeed being dismantled.” In an interview shortly after her address, Sauerbrey says she had issues with some of the Bush administration’s economic policies as well: “[W]hen you start down this road of these kinds of policies, you are on the road to destroying what has made this a great country.” As for the comparisons to Hitler and Peron, she later tells an interviewer: “I never mentioned Hitler’s name other than when the reporter came up to me afterwards. And I said, look, I am not making a direct comparison Obama and Hitler. I’m making a comparison between policies in countries, and that history has a way of repeating itself.” To the interviewer, Sauerbrey denies accusing Obama of being a fascist, though in her address she did accuse him of advancing “fascist, socialist ideals.” Instead, she says: “I’m saying, if you said ideals—yes I do believe, when you look at the definition of fascism. Fascism is not government ownership of business, it is government control of business.… I think that the definition of what the Obama administration is doing, from an economic definition standpoint, is much more closely described as fascism than socialism, because the government is not owning, it is directing and controlling the elements of the economy. Would you disagree with it?” [TPMDC, 9/17/2009; Think Progress, 9/18/2009]
Seven former directors of the CIA urge President Obama to end the investigation of claims that the CIA tortured detainees to obtain intelligence (see August 24, 2009). The investigation was triggered by the release of an internal CIA report from 2004 (see August 24, 2009). The directors say that all the cases in the 2004 report have already been adequately investigated, and to reopen those investigations would make it difficult for intelligence agents to believe they can safely follow legal guidance. In a letter signed by the seven former directors, they write: “Attorney General Holder’s decision to re-open the criminal investigation creates an atmosphere of continuous jeopardy for those whose cases the Department of Justice had previously declined to prosecute. Those men and women who undertake difficult intelligence assignments in the aftermath of an attack such as September 11 must believe there is permanence in the legal rules that govern their actions.… [T]his approach will seriously damage the willingness of many other intelligence officers to take risks to protect the country.” The letter is signed by former CIA directors Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet, John Deutch, James Woolsey, William Webster, and James Schlesinger. Current CIA Director Leon Panetta opposed the investigation, but says that he will cooperate with it (see Before August 24, 2009). [Fox News, 9/18/2009]
ACLU: Letter 'Self-Serving' and Wrong - The American Civil Liberties Union’s Jameel Jaffer calls the letter “self-serving,” writing: “Attorney General Holder initiated a criminal investigation because the available evidence shows that prisoners were abused and tortured in CIA custody. The suggestion that President Obama should order Attorney General Holder to abort the investigation betrays a misunderstanding of the role of the attorney general as well as the relationship between the attorney general and the president. Where there is evidence of criminal conduct, the attorney general has not just the authority but the duty to investigate. The attorney general is the people’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer, and it would be profoundly inappropriate for President Obama to interfere with his work. The attorney general’s investigation should be allowed to proceed without interference, and it certainly should not be derailed by the self-serving protests of former CIA officials who oversaw the very crimes that are being investigated. If there is a problem with the unfolding criminal investigation, it is that its focus is too narrow. There is abundant evidence that torture was authorized at the highest levels of the Bush administration, and the Justice Department’s investigation should be broad enough to encompass Bush administration lawyers and senior officials—including the CIA officials—who authorized torture.” [TPM Muckraker, 9/18/2009]
Justice Department Responds - The Justice Department counters the letter with its own statement: “The attorney general works closely with the men and the women of intelligence community to keep the American people safe and he does not believe their commitment to conduct that important work will waver in any way. Given the recommendation from the Office of Professional Responsibility as well as other available information, he believed the appropriate course of action was to ask John Durham to conduct a preliminary review. That review will be narrowly focused and will be conducted by a career prosecutor who has shown an ability to handle cases involving classified information. Durham has not been appointed as a special prosecutor; he will be supervised by senior managers at the [Justice] Department. The attorney general’s decision to order a preliminary review into this matter was made in line with his duty to examine the facts and to follow the law. As he has made clear, the Department of Justice will not prosecute anyone who acted in good faith and within the scope of the legal guidance given by the Office of Legal Counsel regarding the interrogation of detainees.” [Washington Independent, 9/18/2009]
Entity Tags: Jameel Jaffer, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Barack Obama, William H. Webster, US Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility, Eric Holder, Porter J. Goss, John Deutch, James R. Schlesinger, Leon Panetta, Michael Hayden, James Woolsey
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
Portion of Fox News ad asking why other networks ‘missed’ the story of the 9/12 rally. [Source: Huffington Post]Fox News takes out a full-page ad in the Washington Post demanding why other news networks did not cover the 9/12 rally (see September 12, 2009). “How did, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and CNN miss this story?” the text reads. Huffington Post columnist Jason Linkins writes that it took him “all of 30 seconds” to find coverage on CNN and MSNBC. He writes that on September 12, “CNN ran no less than 14 reports on the Tea Party rally, beginning at approximately 7:00 a.m. During the same time period, MSNBC offered viewers four reports on the Tea Parties.” NBC, CBS, and ABC also covered the rally. “No one missed the story,” Linkins concludes. He goes on to note that ABC was the news network that debunked attempts to inflate the crowd numbers to make the rally seem larger than it really was (see September 13-14, 2009). [Huffington Post, 9/18/2009] This afternoon, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez declares of the ad, “You lie!” Fox News defends the ad, with its vice president Michael Tammero issuing a statement that says in part, “Generally speaking, it’s fair to say that from the tea party movement… to the march on 9/12, the networks either ignored the story, marginalized it, or misrepresented the significance of it altogether.” A Fox News executive calls Sanchez a “sucker” and “a gift that keeps on giving” for his on-air reaction. CNN retorts in its own statement: “Fox News’ ad today is blatantly false regarding CNN’s coverage of the 9/12 rally. CNN provided live coverage of the rally in Washington throughout the day Saturday, Sept. 12. CNN dispatched more than a dozen personnel and multiple camera crews, including the CNN Express, to cover the event. CNN’s deputy political director Paul Steinhauser was live at Freedom Plaza, CNN correspondent Kate Bolduan live from the West Front of the Capitol and roved the crowd, CNN’s Jim Spellman provided live hits all day after traveling for weeks on the actual Tea Party Express, and CNN’s Lisa Desjardins was live from the National Mall.” [Mediaite, 9/18/2009]
Entity Tags: Jason Linkins, Washington Post, CBS News, ABC News, Fox News, Rick Sanchez, Tea Party Express, NBC, Lisa Desjardins, Kate Bolduan, Jim Spellman, Paul Steinhauser, MSNBC, CNN, Michael Tammero
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Obama makes the rounds of the Sunday morning network news talk shows to discuss health care reform, in what ABC News calls “an unprecedented presidential blitz of media appearances.” Obama appears for interviews on Sunday morning shows from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Univision. In recent days, he has also appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes, and will soon appear on CBS’s Late Night with David Letterman. However, the White House refuses to include Fox News in Obama’s appearances. When asked about the apparent snub, White House spokesman Josh Earnest replies, “We figured Fox would rather show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ than broadcast an honest discussion about health insurance reform,” referring to the Fox network’s decision not to air Obama’s September 9 speech to a joint session of Congress on its regular broadcasting stations (see September 9, 2009). Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace says of the Obama White House, “They are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.” Earnest responds that Wallace’s Fox News is not a legitimate news outlet, saying: “Fox is an ideological outlet where the president has been interviewed before and will likely be interviewed again. Not that the whining particularly strengthens their case for participation any time soon.” [Media Matters, 9/18/2009; ABC News, 9/19/2009]
The tasks before the forthcoming Group of 20 (G-20) summit to be hosted by President Barack Obama in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are rolled out in the media. The number one agenda item for global leaders will be restraining financial institutions’ compensation and forcing them to clean their balance sheets to avert a duplicate of the near-meltdown of global financial systems. They will also attempt to find new methods for controlling over-the-counter derivatives markets, which are said to have augmented the global crash. The leaders are also scheduled to “increase oversight of hedge funds, credit rating agencies, and debt securitization.” Most leaders agree that it is essential to find a resolution for the huge financial imbalances in trade, savings, and consumption, all of which played a role in the global financial crisis, and ultimately may leave global economies vulnerable to future financial shocks. Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister, says that signs of economic recovery should not act as an excuse to avoid economic reforms. Officials of France and Germany are recommending stringent financial sector regulations, which incorporate limits on executive pay. The mandate of the G-20 is to “promote open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability.” The G-20 is comprised of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, which is represented by the rotating council presidency and the European Central Bank. [Reuters, 9/22/2009; New York Times, 9/22/2009; Voice of America, 9/22/2009; G-20.org, 9/22/2009]
Following a reassessment by top US Army Allied Commander General Stanley A. McChrystal, and on the advice of Vice President Joe Biden and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, President Obama reconsiders the military endeavor that might modify US strategy in Afghanistan. The result is a scaling back of political and economic development reforms in the strife-torn zone. During recent television news program appearances, Obama seemed to question the primary assertion that the current US approach is the proper means for achieving the US goal of hunting down al-Qaeda and its close allies.
Scaling Back Military Operations - In what White House officials call a “strategic assessment,” Obama seems to be favoring scaled-down attacks utilizing small Special Operations teams and armed Predator drones, thus averting the need for additional troops, according to US officials and experts. The renewed debate is said to have shocked some, while leaving military officials scrambling to estimate how drastic the changes could be. The shift in the White House position is said to have also come about after Obama ordered 21,000 additional US troops to help with last month’s Afghan national election, a ballot broadly seen as counterfeit. However, Obama has also questioned McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy, asking whether it is worth committing extra troops. Reports indicate that the administration might opt for a narrower objective that primarily focuses on disrupting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist groups, a strategy that would require fewer than the 68,000 troops presently approved for the war. During a recent appearance on CNN, Obama asked, “Are we pursuing the right strategy?” while on NBC’s Meet the Press, he stated he would only expand the counterinsurgency endeavor if it aided the goal of defeating al-Qaeda. “I’m not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan… or sending a message that America is here for the duration,” Obama said. It is unclear how many additional troops McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy would require, and the dissenting view advocating a more limited Afghanistan mission not only has been strengthened by Afghan election irregularities but also growing doubts about the war among Congressional Democrats as well as the US citizenry.
'Buyer's Remorse' - During a recent meeting with the Canadian prime minister, Obama signaled that a deeper administration review was in progress. “It’s important that we also do an assessment on the civilian side, the diplomatic side, the development side, that we analyze the results of the election and then make further decisions moving forward,” he said. A defense analyst and regular military adviser speaking on condition of anonymity says the Obama administration is suffering from “buyer’s remorse for this war.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/2009]
Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, makes several revisions to the “final” draft of the Chairman’s Mark of the America’s Healthy Future Act (AHFA, the name for health care reform legislation—see September 16-17, 2009). The “chairman’s mark” is a recommendation by a committee or subcommittee chair of measures to be considered in a markup, and is usually drafted as a bill. Baucus says in a statement: “The modifications focus largely on making care more affordable for low and middle income Americans by increasing the Health Care Affordability Tax Credit, lowering the penalties for people who fail to meet the individual requirement to have health insurance, and increasing the High Cost Insurance Excise Tax threshold for people whose basic health care is more expensive… and effectively slows the growth of skyrocketing health care costs.… This modification incorporates important ideas from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.” According to Baucus, AHFA as it now stands will make it easier for families and small businesses to buy health care coverage, ensure Americans can choose to keep the health care coverage they have if they like, and slow the growth of health care costs over time. “It will bar insurance companies from discriminating against people based on health status, denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or imposing annual caps or lifetime limits on coverage.” Baucus continues to assert that AHFA will not add to the federal deficit. Some of the new provisions include:
Lowering the amount that insurance companies can vary premiums based on age, ensuring that these companies cannot charge elderly clients far more than younger ones. The provision was first submitted by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Providing $5 billion in additional assistance to small businesses attempting to provide coverage for their workers. The provision was first submitted by Senators Kerry and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
Including more senior citizens in the Medicare Advantage program.
Making prescription drugs more affordable for senior citizens by reducing co-payments. This provision was first submitted by Senators John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Ben Nelson (D-NE).
Improving Medicare beneficiary access to bone density tests, a provision first submitted by Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).
Creation of a three-year Medicare Hospice Concurrent Care (HCC) demonstration program that would provide Medicare patients eligible for hospice care with all other Medicare-covered services during the same period of time. This provision was first submitted by Senator Wyden.
Improving access to Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) for low income individuals in Medicaid who are in need of long-term care, a provision first submitted by Senator Kerry.
Creating nursing home alternatives for patients in need of long-term care, a provision first submitted by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
Provide alternatives to nursing home care for disabled individuals on Medicaid, a provision first submitted by Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY).
Improving access to mental health care for Medicaid patients, a provision first submitted by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
Financial assistance for “high-need” states having difficulty paying for their Medicaid obligations, and use of surplus Medicaid funds to improve the program.
Create an exemption to encourage health care beneficiaries to use generic prescription drugs by waiving co-payments, a provision first submitted by Senator Stabenow.
Remove the mandate that would require states to cover all prescription drugs for Medicaid beneficiaries.
Direct the secretary of health and human services to implement programs to reduce waste in the way drugs are dispensed to seniors in long term care facilities. [Senior Journal, 9/22/2009; New York Times, 9/22/2009; The Capitol (.net), 2011]
Entity Tags: Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Debbie Stabenow, Jeff Bingaman, Charles Schumer, John D. Rockefeller, America’s Healthy Future Act, Maria Cantwell, Max Baucus, Olympia Snowe, Ron Wyden, Senate Finance Committee, John Kerry
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
With unemployment rates for American Indians at 27 percent, African-Americans logging jobless rates of 15 percent, and Hispanics at 13 percent, experts say that for these ethnic groups, the economic recession is more of a “Great Depression.” The foreclosure crisis is equally ominous, having worsened with increasing joblessness, unduly impacting minority groups at a staggering rate. Dr. James Carr, chief operating officer of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, explains: “The crisis is now fueled by unemployment and loss of income. In 2009, nearly 60 percent of foreclosures are triggered by unemployment.… The Obama administration’s endeavors to curtail foreclosures aren’t working.” He emphasizes that the loan modification program has “plenty of carrots” for the banks, “but no meaningful sticks to compel more responsible actions.” On average, lenders lose 10 times as much on foreclosures than loan modifications, or about $144,000 as opposed to a loan modification tax write-off of $14,000. Because they can, banks are choosing to deduct the greater loss on their current tax bill by foreclosing rather than modifying the loan. Consequently, only 12 percent of homeowners eligible for modification have received such through voluntary Making Home Affordable program set up by the Obama administration. According to Raymond Skinner, Maryland’s secretary of housing and community development: “Foreclosures are taking on a different face. As of the second quarter of 2009, the majority of the nation’s foreclosures are now on prime loans.”
Bankruptcy Law Reform, Homeowners Loan Corporation - What is needed, says Carr, is bankruptcy reform to allow judges to modify mortgages using the same methods they use to modify yacht and investment property payments; at least 30 percent of loans on the way to foreclosure could be helped by reformation of bankruptcy laws. Still, experts agree that even loan modifications won’t help many unemployed persons. Carr is calling for “a new version of the Great Depression-era Homeowners Loan Corporation” (HOLC) to allow the use of eminent domain to purchase loans between current market value and face value cost. The discount could then be used to modify the loans so that the unemployed homeowner could enter into rental agreements to stay in their homes, or even obtain emergency grants or loans to continue paying their mortgages. HOLC, however, is not under consideration by either Congress or the Obama administration.
Insufficient American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Resources - Some argue that the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did not provide the resources needed by those hardest hit by the recession, which was supposedly the goal of the bill. As a result, there is now an immediate need for a targeted stimulus for job creation and unemployment benefits extension. “Channeling dollars to the individuals and communities that need them most will immediately stimulate the economy and save and create jobs for both the neediest households and the US population generally,” Carr says. “Families that live on the edge of survival will pour these recovery dollars immediately back into the economy through spending on groceries, medicine, clothing, childcare, energy, transportation, and other basic necessities. That spending would support multiple sectors of the economy and have positive impacts far outside of the communities where dollars are immediately spent.” Additionally, racial barriers and continuing discrimination need to be addressed to guarantee access to affordable housing alternative, transportation, education, and economic opportunity. [Nation, 9/25/2009; NPR, 9/28/2009]
Aaron Goldstein of the conservative American Spectator writes that President Obama’s announced attempt to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to award the 2016 Olympics to Chicago is little more than a political ploy. Goldstein notes that the Olympics will be held in the summer of 2016. If Obama wins a second term as president in 2012, the Olympics would, Goldstein asserts, become “a celebration of Obama.” He adds: “His local political base plus his legion of admirers from throughout the United States and the world would descend upon Chicago for the Obama love fest to end all Obama love fests. It will make the Roman columns used for his Democratic National Convention acceptance speech last August look modest by comparison. Think of the ostentatious style of the Obama Inaugural only in much warmer weather.” However, Goldstein continues, if Obama is defeated for re-election in 2012, the Olympics might serve as a springboard for an Obama comeback: “Well, let us remember there will be a presidential election in 2016. Obama would be 55 years old and undoubtedly eager to pull a Grover Cleveland. He would still have the same legion of admirers who would treat him as their leader in exile (albeit a very comfortable exile). The Chicago Olympics would be the perfect backdrop for a political comeback.” [American Spectator, 9/25/2009] Chicago will lose its Olympic bid, and conservative critics will blame Obama for the loss (see October 2, 2009 and October 2, 2009).
The Group of 20 (G20)‘s pledge to return balance to the world economy may place the US dollar in a precarious position in the long run, experts feel. Over recent weeks, the dollar has fallen 4.3 percent this quarter because of equity market weakness as well as emerging major currencies as other countries begin their recovery from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Some G20 meeting attendees see the dollar as susceptible to damage while questioning its stability as well as its status as the global reserve currency, although the recent weakness of the dollar is not being blamed on the weakness of the US economy. Analysts say that short-term effects to the G20 meeting of other wealthy, developing economies will be subdued; however, they say that over a longer period, bank stocks and energy prices as well as the dollar may be harmed by G20 economic balancing actions. World leaders have expressed concern that the US economy’s recovery cannot be sustained because its rebound is due to government stimulus and increased borrowing. During the meeting in Pittsburgh, the leaders agree that to balance the global economy, the US needs to save more while the massive exporter China needs to consume more to support its growth. David Gilmore, partner at FX Analytics in Essex, Connecticut, explains, “The real problem is the world needs a huge consumer and the US has been basically doing it for decades, and now it’s spent.”
US Dollar as Reserve Currency - Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, says the US should not take the dollar’s status as the key global reserve currency for granted now that other options are emerging. Zoellick says that shifting global economic forces reveal that it is time to prepare for growth to come from multiple global sources. Although the world’s largest economies also agree to phase out subsidies on oil and other fossil fuels over the “medium term” to combat global warming, they acknowledge that the phase-out probably will not affect energy markets in the short term. In the long term, they say, the move could weigh on energy markets, cutting fuel demand in emerging markets. As for emergency economic support, G20 leaders promise to continue support until recovery is “at hand,” thus providing some relief for foreign currencies.
Economic Rebalancing Equals Shift from Dollar as Reserve Currency? - Global economic balancing is a two-edged sword for the dollar because the currency has been damaged by extremely low interest rates and the glut of dollars in the international monetary system. But the recession already has triggered partial rebalancing as US consumers cut spending while China spends $600 billion to stimulate its economy while making itself less dependent on exports. Analysts quickly note that minus tangible steps, the pledge only serves as lip service. The analysts also say it is improbable that countries would bend to G20 rules on how to run their economies. Nonetheless, the plan would be a clear shift, signaling a move away from the dollar. Currency strategist Kevin Chau of New York’s IDEAglobal says: “In the long run, I think they want another reserve currency, whether it’s the Special Drawing Rights or the Chinese yuan. For any country’s currency to gain that kind of credibility and trust, it would take years of development.” Still, last week, the dollar fell to a new low against the euro and even dropped below the key 90 yen-per-dollar level. [Reuters, 9/27/2009]
A September 30 headline on Fox News’s Web site Fox Nation, inaccurately claiming that an Obama official ‘covered up’ the crime of statutory rape. [Source: Media Matters]Conservative media outlets actively target Education Department official Kevin Jennings over charges that he once facilitated the molestation of a child. Jennings, who is openly gay, is said to have covered up the statutory rape of a male teenager by an older gay male. The charge has been disproven, but conservative media figures have painted Jennings as a “radical” gay activist and a proponent of child molestation with an “agenda” of “promoting homosexuality in schools.” [Media Matters, 9/30/2009] In 2004, Jennings’s attorney disclosed evidence that the youth was in fact 16 at the time, which is the legal age of consent in the state; therefore, no crime was committed. [Media Matters, 10/1/2009] The attack on Jennings, who runs the Education Department’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools and is one of the White House’s so-called “czars,” is led by Fox News commentators Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and columnists at the Washington Times, who all claim that in 1988, Jennings, then a public school teacher, “covered up” the statutory rape of a 15-year-old gay teenager by an older gay man in Massachusetts. Both Fox News and the Times have failed to report the proof of Jennings’s innocence. Hannity and Beck have called on Jennings to be fired. [Washington Times, 9/28/2009; Media Matters, 10/1/2009] The claim is not limited to Fox News’s commentary shows. News anchor Bill Hemmer, who anchors part of what the network claims is its “non-partisan” news coverage (see October 11, 2009 and October 13, 2009), states as fact that Jennings knew of a “statutory rape” case involving a student but “never reported it.” Hemmer fails to report the evidence showing no such crime was committed. Another Fox News correspondent, Mike Emanuel, says on Hemmer’s broadcast, “And so a lot of people suggesting [sic] that should have thrown up all sorts of red flags for this teacher.” [Media Matters, 10/1/2009] Influential conservative blogger Jim Hoft accuses Jennings of “hid[ing] pedophilia from authorities.” [Jim Hoft, 9/30/2009] “Fox News’ allegations about Kevin Jennings covering up a statutory rape are wholly unsupported by the facts,” says Eric Burns, president of the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters. “But Fox has already proven that facts don’t matter in its campaign against Jennings. Who needs facts when your reports are built on made-up charges and anti-gay bigotry?” [Media Matters, 10/1/2009]
Entity Tags: Fox News, Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, Glenn Beck, Jim Hoft, Eric Burns, Kevin Jennings, Bill Hemmer, Mike Emanuel, Sean Hannity, Washington Times, US Department of Education
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Fox News host Glenn Beck, in an interview with the conservative Web news provider NewsMax, says he “fears a Reichstag moment” from the Obama administration. Beck is referring to the 1933 burning of the German parliament building in Berlin that the Nazis blamed on Communists, and that Adolf Hitler used as an excuse to eliminate constitutional liberties and consolidate power. Beck says he “fears” that the Obama administration will either orchestrate, or take advantage of, a similar situation in America to abolish constitutional democracy and institute a tyrannical rule. “I fear a Reichstag moment,” he says. “God forbid, another 9/11. Something that will turn this machine on, and power will be seized and voices will be silenced. God help us all.” The NewsMax article will subsequently be removed from the provider’s Web site, but the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters writes an article about the interview, as do several other news organizations. [Media Matters, 9/30/2009; Chicago Tribune, 10/6/2009]
Columnist John L. Perry, a newspaper editor and writer for the conservative news Web site Newsmax, publishes an article on that site that says the US military can, and should, execute a military coup to remove President Obama from office. Perry calls it a “remote [yet] gaining possibility” that “America’s military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the ‘Obama problem.’ Don’t dismiss it as unrealistic.” Perry writes that such a coup would not be the most “preferable” solution to the “Obama problem,” but it is preferable to Obama’s “radical ideal.” He writes that the American military would execute a “civilized” coup, claims that military officers are not sworn to obey the president in his role as commander in chief, and says that “top military officers” are becoming increasingly alarmed at the “trampl[ing]” of “the Constitution they are sworn to defend” by Obama and his administration. Those officers may well decide to execute a coup on behalf of the citizens who are becoming “increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election, in which he will surely seek continuation in office.” Perry goes on to accuse the Obama administration of making the nation “financially reliant on foreign lender governments,” says Obama is “waging undeclared war on the intelligence community… dismantling… defenses against missiles targeted at this nation by avowed enemies, even as America’s troop strength is allowed to sag,” and placing both the nation and the US military “in jeopardy as never before.” Perry writes that America’s “military professionals” have the choice to either let Obama allow the Middle East to explode in a nuclear holocaust, thusly “destabilizing or subjugating the Free World,” resign their commissions en masse, continue in the hopes that Republicans will win the 2010 election and “reverse the situation,” or take drastic action. Perry asks, “Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a ‘family intervention,’ with some form of limited, shared responsibility?” He then speculates: “Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.” If the military does not intervene, Perry writes, Obama’s “exponentially accelerating agenda for ‘fundamental change’ toward a Marxist state” is all but inevitable. “A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible. Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem.” Perry concludes by saying that the American electorate in 2008 indulged in a “wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility” and as a result, “sunk the nation into this morass.” [NewsMax, 9/29/2009] A day later, Newsmax removes the column from its Web site. The site posts no apology for Perry’s column nor explains its sudden disappearance, but does issue a statement that follows: “In a blog posting to Newsmax John Perry wrote about a coup scenario involving the US military. He clearly stated that he was not advocating such a scenario but simply describing one. After several reader complaints, Newsmax wanted to insure that this article was not misinterpreted. It was removed after a short period after being posted. Newsmax strongly believes in the principles of constitutional government and would never advocate or insinuate any suggestion of an activity that would undermine our democracy or democratic institutions. Mr. Perry served as a political appointee in the Carter administration in HUD and FEMA. He has no official relationship with Newsmax other than as an unpaid blogger.” Previously, Newsmax has identified Perry as a member of “two previous administrations,” not just the Carter administration, and has called him a “prize-winning newspaper editor” and a regular columnist for the site since 1999. Law professor Darren L. Hutchinson calls Perry a “rightwingnut” and accuses him of “fantasiz[ing]” about the possibility of a “military coup.” He calls Perry’s rationale for a coup a compilation of “horrible lies” and problems that began under the Bush administration, not under Obama’s leadership. [NewsMax, 9/29/2009; Media Matters, 9/30/2009; Darren L. Hutchinson, 9/30/2009] Libertarian blogger Tom Bowler speculates that, given Perry’s association with two Democratic presidential administrations and his former membership in a now-defunct Democratic think tank, Perry is “a lefty” who wrote the column in an attempt “to build the case for curbing talk radio. In the interest of national security, of course.” [Tom Bowler, 9/30/2009] However, liberal columnist Terry Krepel later notes that Perry has attacked liberals in general, and Obama in particular, since before Obama’s election, and has often accused both liberals and Obama of being “socialists.” Perry has also launched racially-motivated attacks against Obama, and speculated that his only real “power base” is “the blacks.” [Huffington Post, 10/1/2009]
Peter Fleckenstein, a conservative blogger whose claims are used by Representative Bachmann. [Source: Peter Fleckenstein / Denver Post]Representatative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) issues a warning from the floor of the House: If the Democrats’ health care package passes, US public schools will be forced to host “sex clinics” that provide abortions and condoms on demand. Bachmann tells the nation: “There’s something that hasn’t been talked about much, and it’s the whole idea of school-based clinics in schools all across America, and that’s in HR 3200. Now this would raise the hackles on the necks of school parents all across this country. When they understand that Section 2511 of HR 3200, the House government takeover of health care, has a section—it’s called school-based health clinics, and it would allow a nonprofit health agency—just say Planned Parenthood because that’s what this is written for. Again, we need to be serious. Planned Parenthood is an organization that is the largest abortion provider in United States. And written in this bill is a provision whereby Planned Parenthood could become a proprietor for school-based clinics in every school across United States.”
'Sex Clinics' - Bachmann continues: “These have been more accurately called school sex clinics.… Now the federal government is going the final step, and they’re saying, ‘Let’s put sex clinics in our schools.’ Can you believe this, Mr. Speaker? Let’s put sex clinics in our school. And let’s put Planned Parenthood in charge of our sex clinics because the bill that the school—under this provision, Planned Parenthood would be authorized to serve as a sponsoring facility for the nation’s schools. As a matter of fact, the bulk of this health care bill is scheduled to go into effect in 2013. Remember, all the taxes will start this coming January, Mr. Speaker. Right away, at the time we can least afford it, the taxes will go into place, but the provisions of this bill actually go into effect in 2013. Not the school-based sex clinics. The sex clinics actually would go into effect next summer so that these clinics would appear in public schools next fall. And it would require that the school-based sex clinic would provide on-site access during the school day when school is in session and have an established network of support and access to services with backup health providers when the school is closed. … But parents are going to excluded from Planned Parenthood as they write these clinics because the bill orders that these clinics protect patient privacy and student records. What does that mean? It means that parents will never know what kind of counsel and treatment that their children are receiving.”
School-Based Abortions? - Bachmann says: “And as a matter of fact, the bill goes on to say what’s going to go on—comprehensive primary health services, physicals, treatment of minor acute medical conditions, referrals to follow-up for specialty care—is that abortion? Does that mean that someone’s 13-year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back, and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser.” [Media Matters, 9/30/2009; Salon, 10/1/2009]
Claim Debunked - The claim was pronouced false by the St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact investigative team in August, which noted that the claim apparently originated from statements made by conservative blogger Peter Fleckenstein and a later adaptation by the American Family Association and the Liberty Counsel, who in July warned that the bill “will establish school-based ‘health’ clinics. Your children will be indoctrinated and your grandchildren may be aborted!” PolitiFact found that the bill provides for the same kinds of school-based health clinics that have been in place for 30 years or more. None would be authorized to perform abortions or any other intrusive procedures. All versions of the House bills would, PolitiFact wrote: “provide grants so the clinics can continue providing ‘comprehensive health assessments, diagnosis, and treatment of minor, acute, and chronic medical conditions and referrals to, and follow-up for, specialty care.’ The money could also be used to provide ‘mental health assessments, crisis interventions, counseling, treatment, and referral to a continuum of services including emergency psychiatric care, community support programs, inpatient care, and outpatient care.’ The clinics would have the option to provide, ‘oral health, social and age-appropriate health education services including nutritional counseling.’ Clinics getting federal dollars must act in accordance with federal, state, and local law, according to the bills. For example, clinics in Louisiana are not even allowed to counsel students on abortion, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/7/2009; Politico, 10/1/2009] Politico notes that the claim has been made in right-wing evangelical and social Christian circles for well over a month. [Politico, 10/1/2009]
Craig Rosebraugh, the former spokesman for the environmental activist Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997 and 1996 and After), announces the launch of a new quarterly magazine, Resistance, Journal of the Earth Liberation Movement. Rosebraugh, a Portland, Oregon, native, operates the magazine out of Arizona, where he attends law school at Arizona State University; he co-edits the magazine with a number of other environmental and animal rights activists. The magazine calls itself “radical” and names Shell Oil Company as its “Ecoterrorist of the Season.” The magazine is nationally distributed and is available through chain bookstores. Rosebraugh tells an interviewer that he wants his readers to understand that the environment “is being destroyed because government and industry are making a lot of money off that destruction.… ‘Resistance’ was created to inform readers not only of the dangerous state of the planet, but also the urgency of action. The magazine features discussions on the strategy, theory, news, and frontline actions of a new emerging environmental movement.” The magazine advocates boycotts, sit-ins, and “economic sabotage,” which Rosebraugh describes as “nonviolent property destruction” that targets profits made by environmental exploitation. Rosebraugh says he became active in the environmental resistance movement (which some call “ecoterrorism”—see 1970s) because in 50 years of acceptable, aboveground protests and resistance, little progress has been made in reversing global warming and other environmental depredations: “It is the profit motive that is driving environmental destruction. So it only makes logical sense to work to directly remove that profit motive from these entities so they either are persuaded to stop their harmful practices or go out of business.” He says he “definitely” supports environmental activists breaking the law: “Historically, in order for any major social or political movement to make progress people in each case had to step outside social law.” Rosebraugh says he and many other ELF activists departed the ELF after a 2006 federal crackdown that saw many ELF members go to jail; since that crackdown, he says, “the more radical end of the environmental movement has really kind of dropped off.” [Oregonian, 10/19/2009; Eugene Weekly, 10/28/2009]
Conservative lobbyists cheer the IOC’s decision not to give the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. [Source: MSNBC / Towleroad (.com)]While many Americans are shocked and upset by the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to award the 2016 Olympics to Chicago (see October 2, 2009), some conservatives cheer the decision as a personal defeat for President Obama, who spoke to the IOC on Chicago’s behalf. The conservative Web site Drudge Report blasts a large headline: “THE EGO HAS LANDED; WORLD REJECTS OBAMA: CHICAGO OUT IN FIRST ROUND.” [Huffington Post, 10/2/2009] A gathering of conservative lobbyists and officials at Americans for Prosperity erupts in cheering and applause when the news of Chicago’s loss is announced; the video of the reaction quickly makes the rounds of cable news and Internet outlets. [National Journal, 10/2/2009] Conservative blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com, one of the right’s most influential Internet commentators, celebrates the loss: “Hahahahaha,” he posts. “I thought the world would love us more now that Bush was gone. I thought if we whored ourselves out to our enemies, great things would happen. Apparently not. So Obama’s pimped us to every two-bit thug and dictator in the world, made promises to half the Olympic committee, and they did not even kiss him.” [Erick Erickson, 10/2/2009] Fellow conservative blogger Michelle Malkin writes that the IOC decision effectively ends the Obama campaign motto of “Yes We Can” by introducing a new slogan: “No, You Can’t.” Malkin continues: “Like Icarus, President Obama’s giddy ego flight has ended with melted wax and fallen wings. This is a big win and a massive relief for taxpayers. But Chicago cronies are not going to take this well. Gird your loins. Who will be first to cry RAAAAAACIST?” [Michelle Malkin, 10/2/2009] The National Review calls the decision an “embarrassment for Obama,” and adds, “If he can’t work his personal magic with the Olympians, why does he expect it to work with the Iranians?” [National Review, 10/2/2009] Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh gleefully echoes Drudge’s “the ego has landed” headline, and says the decision makes this “the worst day of [Obama’s] presidency.” He claims that Obama “has failed.… We’ve got a two-year-old manchild with a Mars-sized ego, which today crashed and burned.” The loss of the Olympics is a direct reflection of Obama’s foreign policy, Limbaugh claims: “Our president, Barack Hussein Obama, has been running around the world for nine months telling everybody how much our country sucks.… Why would anybody award the Olympics to such a crappy place?… This is a moment of weakness, and weakness invites trouble. You think I’m laughing? What do you think’s happening in Tehran?” And he says, in apparent jest, “Who knew the Olympic Committee was a bunch of racists?” [ABC News, 10/2/2009] The Huffington Post counters that “if Democrats had attacked [former President] George W. Bush for pushing Dallas as an Olympics host, they would immediately have been branded as unpatriotic.” [Huffington Post, 10/2/2009]
The Chicago 2016 Olympic logo. [Source: LogoBlog (.org)]President Obama fails in an effort to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to choose Chicago, his home town, for the 2016 Olympics. Obama flies to Copenhagen to make an unprecedented personal appeal to the IOC on Chicago’s behalf, but the IOC chooses Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro instead. Chicago mayor Richard Daley says he is “shocked” by the IOC’s decision. Obama says of the decision and the IOC’s rebuff to his presentation, “One of the most valuable things about sports is that you can play a great game and still lose.” William Daley, the brother of Mayor Daley, says the decision may have been made in part because of anti-American sentiment in parts of the world: “I think Americans have a difficult time right now with the rest of the world. I think the rest of the world doesn’t look at the US the same way it did for many years.” Some conservatives and Republicans criticize Obama for the effort, with some saying that his motivation was more personal than patriotic (see September 25, 2009). White House press secretary Robert Gibbs disagrees, saying, “If it had been Los Angeles, I think the notion that the president would have done less because it was a different US city just doesn’t hold a lot of water.” [Time, 9/30/2009; CBS News, 10/2/2009] Some Republicans called Obama’s attempt to land the Olympics for Chicago little more than an effort to provide largesse for his hometown cronies. Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said Obama let himself become distracted from other issues such as health care reform by the Olympics. “Where is the focus?” Steele asked. “At a time of war, at a time of recession… I think this trip is nice but not necessary for the president. The goal should be creating job opportunities not seven years from now, but job opportunities today.” Gibbs asked of Steele, “Who’s he rooting for?” Representative Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Obama should focus more on the conflict in Afghanistan and not the Olympics. Republican strategist John Feehery said: “He’s taking a bunch of Chicago cronies on an all-expense-paid trip to Copenhagen for just one reason, to get the Olympics. For me it makes him seem unserious and look slightly desperate.” The right-wing Web site Drudge Report recently highlighted the murder of a Chicago teenager during a gang fight and headlined the story “Olympic Spirit.” Fox News commentator Glenn Beck insinuated that Obama’s Olympic push was at the behest of the Chicago Mafia. Curt Hamakawa, director of the Center for International Sport Business, retorted that had Obama not attempted to influence the IOC, “Republicans would have been crabbing that he didn’t do enough.” [Associated Press, 9/29/2009; Huffington Post, 10/2/2009] Many conservatives celebrate the US loss of the Olympics as a personal defeat for Obama (see October 2, 2009).
Conservative columnist John Derbyshire tells liberal radio host Thom Hartmann that while women should have the right to vote, they should not exercise that right, because women voting is “bad for conservatism” and therefore “bad for society.” Hartmann is following up on a chapter in a recent Derbyshire book that argued against women’s suffrage, and Derbyshire’s recent admission that the US would “probably” be a “better country” if women did not vote. “[W]omen voting is bad for conservatism, and as a conservative, of course, I think that’s bad for society,” Derbyshire tells Hartmann. Hartmann then asks, “So therefore if women were not allowed to vote it would be a better country in your opinion?” Derbyshire responds: “I think as a hypothetical I think that’s arguable, yeah. Yeah, I think so. Yeah.” [Think Progress, 10/7/2009]
Alan Grayson. [Source: Infowars (.com)]Freshman House Democrat Alan Grayson (D-FL) takes to the floor of the House to lambast both Democrats and Republicans for not being active proponents of health care reform. Grayson’s tirade begins by criticizing his fellow Democrats for spending six months trying to persuade a single Republican, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), to vote “yes” on the reform legislation in the Senate Finance Committee. “We as a party have spent the last six months, the greatest minds in our party, dwelling on the question, the unbelievably consuming question of how to get Olympia Snowe to vote on health care reform,” Grayson says. “I want to remind us all that Olympia Snowe was not elected president last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America’s population. What America wants is health care reform. America doesn’t care if it gets 51 votes in the Senate or 60 votes in the Senate or 83 votes in the Senate, in fact America doesn’t even care about that, it doesn’t care about that at all. What America cares about is this; there are over one million Americans who go broke every single year trying to pay their health care bills. America cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that there are 44,780 Americans who die every single year on account of not having health care, that’s 122 every day. America sure cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that if you have a pre-existing condition, even if you have health insurance, it’s not covered. America cares about that a lot. America cares about the fact that you can get all the health care you need as long as you don’t need any. America cares about that a lot. But America does not care about procedures, processes, personalities, America doesn’t care about that at all.” Grayson then turns to his “Republican friends” and says: “[L]ast week I held up this report here and I pointed out that in America there are 44,789 Americans that die every year according to this Harvard report… because they have no health insurance (see September 17, 2009). That’s an extra 44,789 Americans who die whose lives could be saved, and their [Republicans’] response was to ask me for an apology. To ask me for an apology? That’s right. To ask me for an apology! Well, I’m telling you this; I will not apologize. I will not apologize. I will not apologize for a simple reason; America doesn’t care about your feelings. I violated no rules by pulling this report to America’s attention, I think a lot of people didn’t know about it beforehand. But America does care about health care in America. And if you’re against it, then get out of the way. Just get out of the way. You can lead, you can follow, or you can get out of the way. And I’m telling you now to get out of the way. America understands that there is one party in this country that is favor of health care reform and one party that is against it, and they know why. They understand that if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation. They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace they would blame him for destroying the defense industry. In fact, they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon. But that’s not what America wants, America wants solutions to it’s problems and that begins with health care, and that’s what I’m speaking for tonight.” [Crooks and Liars, 10/9/2009]
Robert Lowry. [Source: Think Progress]Members of Florida’s Southeast Broward [County] Republican Club take to the firing range for their weekly meeting, where they fire handguns, AK-47s, and AR-15s at targets. The purpose of having the meeting at a gun club, says chapter president Ed Napolitano, is to have fun, educate non-shooting members, and to send a political message: “Why are we here? Because we’re Republicans and we appreciate the fact that we have the right to bear arms,” he says. “Without the Second Amendment, I don’t think the other amendments would hold up. I think they would just be suggestions that the government would decide to do whatever they want.” However, the choice of targets causes some outrage. Most of the members shoot at traditional targets—human silhouettes—but some of the shooters use color posters depicting Arab men in traditional headdress holding rocket-propelled grenades, and one, Robert Lowry, shoots at a target with the letters “DWS” written next to the target’s head. Lowry is the Republican candidate for the district’s US House seat, running against incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), whose initials are DWS. Lowry says he didn’t write the initials on the target, but was aware of them before he began shooting. At first, he attempts to dismiss it as a “joke,” but after answering some questions on the target, he says it “was a mistake” to use a target labeled with the initials of his opponent. Wasserman Schultz says of Lowry’s action: “I find this type of action serious and disturbing. Tonight I am going to have to talk to my young children about why someone is pretending to shoot their mother. Trivializing violent behavior is the kind of extreme view that has no place in American politics.” Lowry issues a statement that reads: “Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a fine lady and we wish her and her family well. It is her continued support for harmful policies affecting seniors and her failure to act for the general benefit of US Congressional District 20 is what we take issue with.” Jennifer Crider of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says: “It’s absolutely outrageous. He needs to rethink his sense of humor. It wasn’t about issues, it wasn’t about anything of substance, it was a personal attack that wasn’t called for.” Napolitano defends the club’s use of targets designed to appear as Arab terrorists, saying: “That’s our right. If we want to shoot at targets that look like that, we’re going to go ahead and do that.” [Orlando Sun-Sentinel, 10/8/2009; Huffington Post, 10/9/2009; Miami Herald, 10/11/2009]
A former British military police officer alleges that British soldiers in Iraq were involved in hundreds of incidents where civilians died or were seriously injured, but those incidents were covered up or inadequately investigated. The former MP, who remains anonymous, says, “If you were to look back at all the serious allegations arising out of operations in Iraq, there’s a catalogue of blunders, mistakes, ineptitude, and the course of investigations being bent to serve the real or perceived interests of the chain of command of the army.” He says he has “absolutely no trust and confidence in anyone in the army who is saying that the number of incidents are low,” and adds, “The documentary evidence that I have seen suggests that there were hundreds of incidents over the last six or seven years and that it’s of great concern that among those hundreds there will have been undoubtedly some very suspicious deaths and serious injuries that were never properly investigated.” The former MP is interviewed on BBC Radio 5’s Donal MacIntyre program. The Ministry of Defense denies the allegations. [Guardian, 10/11/2009]
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry’s largest lobbying organization, releases a study that claims the Democrats’ health care reform initiative would send health insurance costs sharply upward. The study is released the day before the Senate Finance Committee votes on its version of the reform proposal. [The Week, 10/12/2009] AHIP says it intends to circulate the study among lawmakers on Capitol Hill and use it as the basis for new advertisements attacking the health care reform proposals. [Washington Post, 10/12/2009] NBC Washington calls the study “a surgical strike against Democrats’ best hope for passing health reform,” specifically targeting the Finance Committee’s legislative efforts, which it calls the “Baucus bill” for committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). Until now, AHIP has operated largely behind the scenes to delay or terminate Congressional efforts to reform US health care; the study marks its most public and overt effort to influence the discussion. According to the study, which was carried out by accounting and services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) and paid for by AHIP, the average cost increase would be $1,700 per family per year by 2013. “[T]he cumulative increases in the cost of a typical family policy… will be approximately $20,700 more than it would be under the current system,” the report claims. “[T]he cost of coverage for both single and family policies in the individual, small group, large group, and self-funded insurance markets” will rise dramatically. AHIP official Karen Ignagni says private insurers would almost certainly pass cost increases to consumers for a number of reasons, including her claim that too many people with pre-existing conditions would sign up for insurance. “The report makes clear that several major provisions in the current legislative proposal will cause health care costs to increase far faster and higher than they would under the current system,” she writes. Baucus calls the study “seriously flawed.” A spokesman for the Finance Committee, Scott Mulhauser, says: “Now that health care reform grows ever closer, these health insurers are breaking out the same, tired playbook of deception to prevent millions of Americans from getting the affordable, accessible care they need. It’s a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple.” [America's Health Insurance Plans, 10/11/2009; NBC Washington, 10/12/2009; Washington Post, 10/12/2009] An analysis of the committee’s proposal by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that while some people’s premiums would go up, the subsidies to be provided by the government would make health insurance considerably less expensive for most consumers. According to the CBO, premiums under the government “exchange” option proposed in the Baucus bill would cost consumers $14,400 per year in 2016, while the average private insurer would charge their customers $21,300 by 2016. [Think Progress, 10/12/2009] Nancy-Anne DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, says PWC is not the firm to have carried out such a study. “Those guys specialize in tax shelters,” she says. “Clearly this is not their area of expertise.” [Washington Post, 10/12/2009] Almost immediately after the study’s release, critics begin attacking it, calling it deeply flawed and an “industry hit job” (see October 11-12, 2009). And PWC itself will back away from the study’s central claims (see October 12, 2009).
White House communications director Anita Dunn says that the White House believes Fox News is not a traditional, non-partisan news provider, but a media outlet for the Republican opposition. Fox News is “a wing of the Republican Party,” Dunn says. “They take their talking points, put them on the air; take their opposition research, put them on the air. And that’s fine. But let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.” Dunn continues: “[W]e’re not going to legitimize them as a news organization.… We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent. As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.” [Time, 10/8/2009; New York Times, 10/11/2009; Fox News, 10/12/2009] In late September, Dunn told a reporter: “It’s opinion journalism masquerading as news. They are boosting their audience. But that doesn’t mean we are going to sit back.” [Time, 9/30/2009] Fox News retorts that its news reporting segments, which its vice president Michael Clemente defines as being broadcast between “9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays,” are non-partisan, and criticism of the White House and Congressional Democrats is limited to commentary by on-air personalities such as Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck (see October 13, 2009). “The average consumer certainly knows the difference between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page,” Clemente says, and adds that the White House is intentionally conflating Fox’s news programs with its opinion shows: “It’s astounding the White House cannot distinguish between news and opinion programming. It seems self-serving on their part.… Instead of governing, the White House continues to be in campaign mode, and Fox News is the target of their attack mentality. Perhaps the energy would be better spent on the critical issues that voters are worried about.” Another Fox News vice president, Bill Shine, welcomes the criticism, saying, “Every time they do it, our ratings go up.” Fox News has recently hired more outspoken conservative media figures, including former ABC News reporter John Stossel for its spin-off channel, Fox Business, and is reputedly negotiating to hire commentator Lou Dobbs away from CNN. Dunn and others say that it will not ostracize Fox News, and its White House correspondent, Major Garrett, will continue to be welcome at White House press conferences. Clemente has instructed Garrett, news anchor Shepard Smith, and other Fox reporters not to appear on some of its commentary programs. However, the White House has limited appearances by its members on Fox News shows; in mid-September, when President Obama made the rounds of Sunday morning talk shows, he skipped Fox, and the White House called Fox an “ideological outlet” instead of a legitimate news provider (see September 18-19, 2009). White House advisers note that in the past, Fox News hosts have falsely accused Obama of attending an Islamic “madrassa” to receive indoctrination in radical Islam (see January 22-24, 2008), promoted “tea party” rallies against the government (see March 23-24, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, July 28, 2009, and August 28, 2009), called Obama “unpatriotic” for attempting to land the 2016 Olympics for the US (see October 2, 2009), and led a push to force low-level White House adviser Van Jones out of his job (including accusations from Beck that Jones was a “communist-anarchist radical”). The White House notes that Beck and other Fox commentators regularly lie about the day’s events, and cites a recent example where Beck complained that Garrett was “never called on” at White House press briefings, when Garrett had asked a question of the president that same day. Beck has repeatedly called Obama a “racist,” leading to a boycott of advertisers for Beck’s show (see July 28-29, 2009). [Time, 10/8/2009; New York Times, 10/11/2009; Media Bistro, 10/11/2009] Fox News encourages and promotes the dispute with the White House, and its ratings improve. Later, a Fox News executive tells Clemente that the White House’s attacks were like “a hanging curveball” for the network. [New York Magazine, 5/22/2011]
Entity Tags: Shepard Smith, Michael Clemente, Van Jones, Lou Dobbs, Obama administration, John Stossel, Major Garrett, Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, Anita Dunn, Glenn Beck, Bill Shine
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Within minutes of the release of a new study by health insurance lobbying firm America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) that claims health care reform would drastically raise costs to American families (see October 11, 2009), critics from different sides of the political divide dispute the study’s accuracy and question its impartiality.
White House: Study Ignores Key Elements of Reform - White House assistant press secretary Reid Cherlin says the study “conveniently ignores critical policies that will lower costs for those who have insurance, expand coverage, and provide affordable health insurance options to millions of Americans who are priced out of today’s health insurance market or are locked out by unfair insurance company practices.” [MSNBC, 10/12/2009]
'Blowback' from Study Possible - White House and Senate officials say that the insurance industry may suffer “blowback” over the report. Democrats may well close ranks behind either the Senate Finance Committee (SFC) bill or another version of the legislation, and liberal lawmakers may go after the insurance companies, maybe by proposing a cap on premiums or solidifying support for the government insurance plan. “They have opened themselves up,” says a senior Senate Democratic aide. “It is an incredibly stupid strategic blunder. If you are going to fire a shot like this, you fire a good shot.” Former industry executive Wendell Potter, who has become an industry whistleblower (see July 10, 2009), says AHIP is responding to critical analyses from Wall Street that the legislation will hurt private insurers. “Karen [AHIP official Karen Ignagni] had no alternative because the CEOs were so determined to do something to try to sway the committee to back off the reductions,” he says. “She didn’t have an alternative. They are obviously doing this on the eve of the vote in the Senate Finance Committee, hoping enough members of the committee would be concerned, to restore it. I think the strategy will backfire.” [Politico, 10/12/2009]
Economist: Study Fundamentally Flawed - MIT economist Jonathan Gruber analyzes the PWC study and concludes that it is fundamentally flawed. He writes: “The nonpartisan analysis based on information from the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] shows clearly that for those facing purchase in the non-group market, the SFC bill will deliver savings ranging from several hundred dollars for the youngest consumers to over $8,500 for families. This is in addition to all the other benefits that this legislation will deliver to those consumers—in particular the guarantee, unavailable in most states, that prices would not be raised or the policy revoked if they became ill.” On MSNBC, Gruber notes: “If the report had came out and said, ‘look we need stronger penalties, or premiums will go up,’ that’s a very valid point to make. But what the report says is that it went too far. It said with the current structure, premiums will be much higher than they are today. And that’s just wrong. I mean, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has came out and said that for this bill, premiums in the exchange will be lower than they are in the none group market today. So they just drew the wrong comparison.” [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 10/12/2009; Think Progress, 10/13/2009]
Democrats: Proof that Industry Needs Further Regulation - Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY) says, “[T]he health insurance lobby today fired the most important salvo in weeks for the public option,” and adds that the study proves the industry needs further regulations imposed on it by Congress: “If you have the health care industry complaining that we’re going to raise costs because of these changes, it is them putting us on notice that we haven’t put enough cost containment in the bill. You know, the health care industry themselves is putting out a whole report saying that. That should be a tell to the [Senate Finance Committee] that you know what, maybe it’s time for them to go back and revisit the public option. In a strange way, and look, obviously they didn’t mean this, the health insurance lobby today fired the most important salvo in weeks for the public option, because they have said, as clear as day, left to their own devices, according to their own number crunchers, they’re going to raise rates 111 percent.” [Think Progress, 10/12/2009] Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV) charges the insurance industry with releasing a false study for political purposes. “The misleading and harmful claims made by the profit-driven insurance companies are politicking for corporate gain at its worst,” he says. “Their recent statements only further highlight that our focus here in Congress must be on the inclusion of a public health insurance option in the marketplace to protect families and put more money back in their wallets by creating greater competition and driving down costs.” [Politico, 10/12/2009]
Washington Post: 'Industry Hit Job' - The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein calls the report “deceptive” and “a predictable industry hit job,” and notes that the study was produced by accounting and services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), which in the 1990s was commissioned by the tobacco industry to do a study on the economic catastrophe that would result from taxing tobacco products. That study was found to be unreliable, and, perhaps not surprisingly, made all of its errors in favor of the tobacco industry. Klein writes that the same effect can be observed in this report on health care. He concludes: “But if the [study] doesn’t offer much in the way of trustworthy policy analysis, it is an interesting looking at the changing politics of the issue. In short, the insurance industry is getting scared. After many months of quiet constructiveness, they’re launching a broadside on the week of the Senate Finance Committee’s vote. The White House, which had a pleasant meeting with the industry’s leadership last week, was shocked by the report, and so too was the Senate Finance Committee. The era of cooperation seems to be over, and they weren’t given much advance warning. But the report might have another impact, too: The evident anger and fear of the insurance industry might do a bit to reassure liberals that this plan is worth supporting, after all.” [Washington Post, 10/12/2009]
New Republic: 'Questionable Assumptions' - The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn chastizes PriceWaterhouse for deliberately, and explictly, choosing to believe that all the new factors included in the study will raise costs, when other analyses show that many of those factors will actually drive costs down. Cohn writes that the study is based on a plethora of “strange [and] questionable assumptions.” [New Republic, 10/11/2009]
Progressive Columnist: 'This Is News?' - Progressive columnist Josh Marshall wrote before the study was released: “Let me get this right. The big news tomorrow is that ‘America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP, aka the health insurance lobby) has commissioned a study by PriceWaterHouseCoopers that comes to the conclusion that the Senate Finance Committee bill is a bad, bad thing and would lead to health care costs going up even faster than they are under the current system. This is news?” [Talking Points Memo, 10/12/2009]
Washington Times: Defending the Study, Attacking the CBO - The conservative Washington Times defends the study as essentially accurate, and instead attacks the Congressional Budget Office, whose own figures differ dramatically from the PWC study. The Times editorial board calls the CBO’s estimates “fanciful” and “grandly overoptimistic,” and accuses the Democrats of adding opportunities for consumers to “game the system”—“It’s a mystery how the CBO can make its evaluation without once mentioning that individuals easily will be able to go without insurance while they are healthy and then buy insurance after they get sick.” The entire proposal allows Democrats to “avoid electoral accountability over the urgent health care needs of the people they say they’re trying to help but won’t.” [Washington Times, 10/12/2009]
AHIP Defends Study - Ignagni defends the study and says the lobbying firm did not release it to undermine the Finance Committee’s attempt to craft an acceptable reform bill. She says the industry’s main concern is getting everyone involved in health care to work together to bring costs down. There is a strong need, she says, to “encourage all the other stakeholders to participate in a broader effort so that they can too lend a hand and get costs under control in a much more effective way than we would.… We don’t see comprehensive cost control in any legislation.” [MSNBC, 10/12/2009]
PWC Backs Off from Study - Late in the evening, PWC issues a statement noting that the study only examined “a small slice” of the health care reform initiative, and saying that if other provisions in the reform package succeed in lowering costs, then the estimates of cost increases claimed in the study would be inaccurate (see October 12, 2009).
Entity Tags: America’s Health Insurance Plans, Anthony D. Weiner, Jonathan Gruber, Congressional Budget Office, Ezra Klein, Jonathan Cohn, Wendell Potter, John D. Rockefeller, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Karen Ignagni, Washington Times, Obama administration, Joshua Micah Marshall, Reid Cherlin, Senate Finance Committee
Timeline Tags: US Health Care
PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the services and accounting firm that recently released a controversial study funded by the health care insurance lobbying firm America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP—see October 11, 2009 and October 11-12, 2009), backs away from claims that the report is comprehensive. Politico’s Chris Frates writes that the statement “basically sa[ys], ‘Hey, we weren’t paid to evaluate the effects of the entire bill, but rather a small slice of it.’ The statement only seems to reinforce critics’ view that the report is skewed precisely because it doesn’t take into account the totality of reform.” PWC’s statement concludes, “If other provisions in health care reform are successful in lowering costs over the long term, those improvements would offset some of the impacts we have estimated.” Frates explains, “In other words, PWC is saying if reform’s cost containment measures work, their estimate could be wrong.” [Politico, 10/13/2009]
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) finds himself under fire from conservative “tea party” protesters after voting for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (see June 3, 2009) and promising to work with Democrats on crafting clean energy legislation. Graham holds a “town hall” meeting at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and faces protesters who accuse him of being a “RINO,” or “Republican in Name Only.” Activist Harry Kimball shows a display that depicts Graham and fellow Republican moderates Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) as being flushed down a toilet. Kimball tells a reporter, “This is for every RINO who has failed to represent us.” One protester draws loud applause when he asks Graham, “When are you going to announce that you are switching parties?” Graham defends his positions and denounces the influence of Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) on the Republican Party, saying: “I’m going to grow this party.… I’m not going to let it be hijacked by Ron Paul.… I’m going to find people in Maine, Delaware, Illinois, other places—” to which audience members shout, “Move there!” Graham continues, “… [t]hat can win as Republicans, and I’m going to go up, and we’re going to move this party, and this country forward, and if you don’t like it, you can leave.” Several audience members walk out of the auditorium when Graham makes his last statement. During his presentation, angry protesters interrupt him with shouts of “You’re a country club Republican!” “Sotomayor!” and “You lie!” Outside the event, one protester displays a sign decrying “Unconstitutional Anti-Christ Socialist Federal Deficit Spending Programs,” and accuses Graham of being part of the government problem. “We’re not going to be the party of angry white guys,” Graham tells the crowd. [Think Progress, 10/13/2009; The State, 10/13/2009]
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who challenged President Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, says she will not run for president in 2012, 2016, or afterwards. Asked by NBC interviewer Ann Curry: “Will you ever run for president again? Yes or no.” Clinton replies, “No.” She then elaborates: “I mean, this is a great job. It is a 24/7 job. And I’m looking forward to retirement at some point.” Clinton would be 70 in 2016, when Obama would presumably not run again; she has long said she has no intention of challenging Obama’s re-election in 2012. Curry asks about a concern by some “that you have been marginalized, that you—that the highest-ranking woman in the United States [is] having to fight against being marginalized,” and Clinton calls such concerns “absurd.… I think there is such a—you know, maybe there is some misunderstanding which needs to be clarified. I believe in delegating power. You know, I’m not one of these people who feels like I have to have my face in the, you know, front of the newspaper or on the TV every moment of the day. I would be irresponsible and negligent were I to say, ‘Oh, no, everything must come to me.’ Now, maybe that is a woman’s thing. Maybe I’m totally secure and feel absolutely no need to go running around in order for people to see what I’m doing. It’s just the way I am. My goal is to be a very positive force to implement the kind of changes that the president and I believe are in the best interest of our country. But that doesn’t mean that it all has to be me, me, me all the time. I like lifting people up.” [Washington Post, 10/12/2009; People, 10/12/2009]
The progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters releases the results of an analysis it has performed on Fox News’s claims to be an objective news provider. According to Media Matters, Fox News’s news reporting (as opposed to its commentary) is permeated with conservative slant, spin, and outright falsehoods. The Media Matters analysis, which restricts itself to material broadcast in 2009, is prompted by White House claims that Fox News is not an objective source of news, but a purveyor of Republican- and conservative-sourced propaganda (see October 11, 2009). [Media Matters, 10/13/2009]
Anchors Echoed False Health Care Claims - In February, Fox News anchors Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly echoed a false claim made by health care lobbyist Betsy McCaughey that a legislative provision in a Senate spending bill would empower the government to “dictate treatments” doctors can provide for patients (see February 9-10, 2009).
Anchor Echoed Republican Press Release So Closely that Typo Is Repeated - Also in February, Fox News anchor Jon Scott repeated the claims of a Senate Republican Communications Center press release so closely that the on-air graphics repeated a typographical error from the original document (see February 10, 2009). Scott did not acknowledge the source of the research, even after apologizing for the typo.
News Show Passed Off Seven-Month-Old Video Clip as New to Claim White House Hypocrisy - On March 15, Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum used video clips of Vice President Joseph Biden to falsely assert that the administration’s economic message had drastically changed since the election, from negative characterizations to positive assertions. MacCallum did not tell the audience that the clip of Biden was a seven-month-old clip from the presidential campaign, and that the words Biden was speaking were his characterization of Republican candidate John McCain’s perceptions (see March 16-17, 2009).
Anchor Promoted, Praised 'Tea Parties' - Several times in March and April, Hemmer, the host of Fox News’s flagship morning news broadcast America’s Newsroom, hosted segments promoting and praising the upcoming April 15 “tea party” protests (see March 23-24, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, and April 13-15, 2009).
Labeled GOP Op-Ed Claims as 'Facts' - On April 1, Scott repeated claims made by a Republican congressman in an editorial about the GOP’s “alternative budget” almost verbatim, but labelled them “facts” (see April 1, 2009).
Fox Repeated Discredited GOP Claims about Price of 'Cap-and-Trade' Proposal - On April 1 and 2, anchors Eric Shawn and Alisyn Camerota repeated a disproven claim that the Obama administration’s “cap-and-trade” emissions control proposal would cost American households over $3,000 per year. They did not report that the claim had been disproven (see April 1-6, 2009).
Obama Budget '4X Bigger' Than Bush Budgets - On April 3, Hemmer’s America’s Newsroom displayed an on-air “chyron” that falsely claimed President Obama’s 2010 budget proposal was four times larger than the largest budget submitted by former President Bush (see April 3, 2009).
News Anchors Promoted 'Tea Parties' - On April 15, Fox anchors joined opinion commentators in touting the day’s “tea party” protests (see April 15, 2009). The next day, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly admitted that the network gave the protests “PR” coverage (see April 16, 2009).
Correspondent Used GOP Research to Criticize Democratic Spending - On April 23, Hemmer used research by Republican House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) to “expose” several “wasteful” projects funded by the Democrats’ economic stimulus act, without revealing the source of the research to his audience (see April 23, 2009).
Correspondent Claimed Legislation Would Curb Religious Expression - On April 29, Fox News correspondent Molly Henneberg repeated disproven claims that a pending hate crimes bill would interfere with Americans’ right to religious expression (see April 29, 2009).
News Anchor Accused Democrats of Defending Pedophiles - On May 6, Hemmer falsely accused Congressional Democrats of voting to extend “hate crimes” protection to pedophiles (see May 5-6, 2009).
News Anchor Accused Supreme Court Nominee of 'Reverse Racism' - On May 26, Kelly misrepresented a remark by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor to accuse her of “reverse racism” (see May 26, 2009).
Misleading Editing to Bolster Obama 'Apology Tour' Claim - On June 2, Fox anchors Scott and Jane Skinner aired selectively edited clips of a speech by Obama in France to falsely claim that the president had nothing but criticism for the US while in Europe. They then asked if Obama intended to embark on a second “apology tour” (see June 2, 2009). On July 30, The Live Desk guest host Gregg Jarrett told viewers that a recent decision by the Obama Justice Department may have meant that it was permissible for blacks to intimidate whites at the voting booth, but not the other way around (see July 30, 2009).
News Anchor Reported False Allegation of Criminal Activity by Obama Official - On October 1, Hemmer reported that Education Department official Kevin Jennings covered up the crime of statutory rape. The allegation had been disproven five years before (see September 28 - October 1, 2009). [Media Matters, 10/13/2009]
Entity Tags: Eric Shawn, Elizabeth (“Betsy”) McCaughey, Eric Cantor, Bill Hemmer, Alisyn Camerota, Obama administration, Molly Henneberg, Senate Republican Communications Center, Media Matters, Megyn Kelly, Jane Skinner, Jon Scott, Gregg Jarrett, Kevin Jennings, Martha MacCallum, Fox News
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Victims of Stalin’s gulags. [Source: Answering Christianity (.com)]Representative John Shadegg (R-AZ) tells his House colleagues that health care reform will result in “Soviet-style gulag(s)” for Americans. Shadegg says: “You know, it occurs to me, and I’ll go through these other scandals very quickly, but what we’re really getting here is we’re not just getting single-payer care. We’re getting full on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care.… It appeared in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal. You can Google it. You can pick up the phone and call Kim Strassel [a Wall Street Journal columnist who wrote about the “hidden costs” of the Senate Finance Committee’s reform legislation on October 9]. You can ask her about Soviet-style gulag health care in America, where powerful politicians protect their constituents.” Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress calls Shadegg’s statement a “new low” in anti-reform rhetoric, and tells its readers: “The Soviet gulags were a network of prisons and forced labor camps that held as many as 20 million people during Stalin’s reign of terror. It is estimated 1.5 million died in the camps.” [Think Progress, 10/14/2009]
Conservative author Patrick Buchanan, in a syndicated column reprinted on the news blog Human Events and other venues, says that President Obama received what he calls an “affirmative action Nobel Prize.” Buchanan is referring to the recent granting of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama, in what the Nobel committee called recognition of “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Buchanan notes that former President Ronald Reagan never received the Peace Prize for concluding a historic arms-reduction treaty with the Soviet Union (see December 7-8, 1987). Nor did Pope John Paul II, for his role in ending the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union. He lists other presidents who have won the Peace Prize, and asks, “What has Obama accomplished to compare with what the other sitting presidents to receive the Nobel Prize accomplished?” Buchanan says that since the news of Obama’s Peace Prize has been reported, Obama “has been a national object of mockery and mirth. In fairness, this is not his fault. There is no evidence he lobbied for the prize; no evidence he knew it was coming.” Buchanan calls the award “ridiculous,” says the Nobel committee “made fools of themselves” by giving Obama the award, and says the committee gave Obama the award mainly for not being George W. Bush. [Nobel Prize (.org), 4/29/2009; Human Events, 10/13/2009]
The Middle District Court of Georgia levies a $20,000 fine on “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz. The court accuses Taitz, who has filed a lawsuit alleging that President Obama is not a US citizen and asking the court to bar his deployment of military personnel overseas (see September 16-21, 2009), of wasting the time and resources of the Georgia court system. The judgment, issued by Judge Clay Land, against Taitz calls her “delusional.” The judgment finds: “Counsel Orly Taitz is hereby ordered to pay $20,000.00 to the United States, through the Middle District of Georgia Clerk’s Office, within 30 days of the date of this order as a sanction for her misconduct in violation of Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Land writes: “The Court finds that counsel’s conduct was willful and not merely negligent. It demonstrates bad faith on her part. As an attorney, she is deemed to have known better. She owed a duty to follow the rules and to respect the Court. Counsel’s pattern of conduct conclusively establishes that she did not mistakenly violate a provision of law. She knowingly violated Rule 11. Her response to the Court’s show cause order is breathtaking in its arrogance and borders on delusional. She expresses no contrition or regret regarding her misconduct. To the contrary, she continues her baseless attacks on the Court.… Counsel’s frivolous and sanctionable conduct wasted the defendants’ time and valuable judicial resources that could have been devoted to legitimate cases pending with the Court. When she filed the Rhodes case, counsel indicated that it was urgent that the matter be heard because her client was facing imminent deployment. The Court rearranged its schedule, took time to read the legal papers, and conducted preliminary research in preparation for the hearing. The Army had to activate its legal team on short notice, sending a major from the Army Litigation Division in Washington, DC, and a captain from the CONUS Replacement Center at Ft. Benning. In addition, the Assistant US Attorney had to accompany them. Like the Court, the government attorneys had to prepare in an expedited manner for the hearing. During the week preceding Captain Rhodes’s deployment, the Court was in the midst of a jury trial. Therefore, the Court had to alter the trial schedule to conduct the hearing during an extended lunch break, thus affecting other counsel and jurors. The Clerk’s Office was burdened by Ms. Taitz’s inability to follow the Court’s rules regarding pro hac vice admission and the Court’s rules for electronic filing. On five separate occasions in a short period, the Clerk’s Office personnel error-noticed counsel for her failure to follow simple rules. At the hearing, counsel failed to make coherent legal arguments but instead wasted the Court’s time with press conference sound bites and speeches.” [Washington Independent, 10/13/2009] Land notes that in one of her filings, Taitz accused him of meeting secretly with Attorney General Eric Holder outside the court. Holder had actually been thousands of miles away that day, giving a speech in Los Angeles. [Washington Examiner, 7/7/2010] Land includes a footnote that says one of Taitz’s supporters had contacted him, challenged him to a “round of fisticuffs on the Courthouse Square,” and asserted that “the president is not human.” Taitz says she will appeal the judgment, and accuses Land of being in the pocket of the “oppressive” Obama administration. “He’s scared to go against the regime,” she says. “He’s trying to intimidate me and other lawyers to stay away from this issue.” [Orange County Register, 10/16/2009] An appeals court will reject Taitz’s appeal and order her to pay the $20,000 (see March 15, 2010). [Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, 3/15/2010]
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), one of the key Republicans in the health care debate (see August 12, 2009 and August 19, 2009), now says that any attempt by Congress to incorporate the so-called “individual mandate” might be unconstitutional. An individual mandate provision, under consideration by Grassley’s Finance Committee, would require Americans to purchase some form of health insurance. “[T]his is the first time in the 225-year history of our country that we have forced you as a constituent, any of our constituents, to buy a product,” he says. “You know, you’ve been free to buy or not buy. But now for the first time you’re going to have to buy health insurance. If you don’t buy it, IRS is going to tax a family $1,500.” Asked, “[I]s that constitutional, forcing somebody to buy it and punishing them through the IRS if they don’t?” Grassley replies: “I’m not a lawyer, but let me tell you, I’ve listened to some lawyers speak on this. And you know, it’s a relatively new issue. I don’t think we’ve ever had this issue before of having to buy something. And a lot of constitutional lawyers, saying it is unconstitutional or at least in violation of the 10th Amendment. Now maybe states can do this, but can the federal government? So, I have my doubts.” Progressive news and advocacy Web site Think Progress notes that in June 2009, Grassley said “there isn’t anything wrong with” mandates and that he believed there was “a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.” The site also notes that the US Constitution provides for the federal government’s right to enact wide-ranging regulatory programs, a power generally upheld by the Supreme Court. [NewsMax, 10/14/2009; Think Progress, 10/15/2009]
Photo illustration of Rush Limbaugh and the St. Louis Rams logo. [Source: Huffington Post]Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is removed from a group bidding to buy the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams. The decision is made by the group’s leader and largest potential investor, Dave Checketts, who owns the National Hockey League’s St. Louis Blues. Checketts says that Limbaugh’s participation has become too controversial to allow the radio host to continue participating in the effort to buy the NFL team. Limbaugh earned the ire of many NFL players and owners over several racially charged comments he made about the league; Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, predicted that Limbaugh’s potential ownership would have been met with significant opposition. The head of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, an African-American, has urged players to speak out against Limbaugh’s bid. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says of the league, “divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about.” He continues: “I’ve said many times before, we’re all held to a high standard here. I would not want to see those comments coming from people who are in a responsible position in the NFL—absolutely not.” African-American civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton praises the decision. “It is a moral victory for all Americans—especially the players that have been unfairly castigated by Rush Limbaugh,” he says. “This decision will also uphold the unifying standards of major sports.” [ESPN, 10/15/2009]
Blaming Liberals and Democrats - For his part, Limbaugh blames Democrats and liberals. “This is not about the NFL, it’s not about the St. Louis Rams, it’s not about me,” he tells his listeners. “This is about the ongoing effort by the left in this country, wherever you find them, in the media, the Democrat Party, or wherever, to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative. Therefore, this is about the future of the United States of America and what kind of country we’re going to have.” [ESPN, 10/15/2009] Columnist Robert George calls the NFL “hypocritical” for not welcoming Limbaugh’s bid for ownership, noting that the league continues to allow convicted criminals to play, and notes that “foul-mouthed rappers like Jay-Z” are part owners of teams in the National Basketball League. [NBC DFW, 10/15/2009]
History of Racially Charged Comments - In 2003, Limbaugh was forced to resign from ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown broadcast after alleging that quarterback Donovan McNabb, an African-American, was the beneficiary of preferential treatment because of his race (see September 28 - October 2, 2003). In 2007, Limbaugh compared NFL games to gang fights (see January 19, 2007 and After).
American Third Position logo. [Source: Octoberfreedom (.com)]William Daniel Johnson, a white nationalist corporate lawyer, joins with California State University professor Kevin MacDonald and white nationalist radio host James Edwards to form the American Third Position (A3P), a California-based white supremacist political party. The party is assisted by Jamie Kelso, a former colleague of Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Johnson and his colleagues have plans to run candidates for office throughout the nation. According to the A3P Web site: “The American Third Position exists to represent the political interests of White Americans.… We want an America that is recognizable to us, one that we can feel comfortable in.” In a February 2010 interview on Edwards’s radio show The Political Cesspool, Johnson will explain: “The initial basis of our own upstart organization is the racial nationalist movement. It has been in disarray for the last 20 years so there’s not as large a base for us to draw on.”
Founding of A3P - A3P is formed from the remnants of the Golden State Party (GSP), a political party founded by the racist skinhead group Freedom 14. Members of Freedom 14, who organized the party via the forum of the Stormfront Web site (see March 1995), were known for handing out anti-immigration fliers in Orange County, California. In September 2009, when GSP members learned that their leader Tyler Cole was a convicted felon who had used at least two pseudonyms to hide his criminal past, Freedom 14 decided to abandon him and the GSP and start afresh. On October 15, they hold a meeting to form a new party and elect new leadership, choosing Johnson as their chairman. Johnson has long advocated the deportation of all non-white immigrants and citizens alike from the US, particularly anyone with what he has called an “ascertainable trace of Negro blood.” In 1986, he addressed the Aryan Nations World Congress to promote his anti-immigration book. There is little ideological difference between the A3P and the GSP; some of the latter’s policy statements are cut-and-pasted from the old GSP Web site. The A3P does not advocate violence; to achieve its goal of “purging” the US of all non-whites, it advocates the government offering financial incentives for immigrants to return to their countries of origin. The party is stringently pro-segregationist, attacking government policies encouraging integration and diversity as “tyrannical and racist.” The party says, “Parents have a right to choose where and with whom their children are schooled,” an argument used by segregationists during the civil rights movement. MacDonald is virulently anti-Semitic, a position reflected in the A3P policy statements. Edwards is a board member of the racist Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), and uses his radio show to promote white nationalism and its leading advocates. Like MacDonald, Edwards is openly and crudely anti-Semitic; among his guests have been MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan (see June 20, 2009), “birther” advocate Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After), and right-wing icon Ted Nugent (see August 21-24, 2007). Former Croatian diplomat Tomislav Sunic and Don Wassall, another CCC member, round out A3P’s board of directors. [Octoberfreedom (.com), 3/23/2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2011]
Active in Right-Wing, Tea Party Politics - Johnson is particularly interested in taking A3P national, and running candidates for public office in a number of states. He has extensive contacts with Republicans and libertarians who supported the 2008 presidential candidacy of Representative Ron Paul (R-TX). In a July 2010 radio broadcast, Kelso will say, “There’s a great overlap in Patriot activities and Patriot causes, and we have, we will have a big effect on this much larger movement, the Ron Paul Revolution, that has millions of people engaged… we’ll be pulling them from the right.” Since its inception, A3P has also involved itself in a number of tea party organizations and events. Since some tea party groups do not publicly advocate racist policies, Johnson uses what the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will call “coded language to indicate his ties to the white supremacist movement” that is calculated not to raise concerns among less overtly racist tea partiers. In a 2010 video address, Johnson will say, “We… embrace principles that will secure the existence of our people and a future for our children.” This innocuous statement is almost a direct quotation of white supremacist terrorist David Lane (see June 18, 1984 and After and May 1992) and his “14 Words,” which are, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” The “14 Words” are a direct and deliberate reference to a passage from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and are used as a rallying cry for neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the United States. The SPLC will observe, “By speaking in codes while trying to mainstream his party, Johnson is attempting to make his party radical enough for neo-Nazis and moderate enough for mainstream voters.” [Media Matters, 2011; Media Matters, 2011] In March 2010, an A3P admirer writing under the moniker “Octoberfreedom” will say of Johnson, MacDonald, Edwards, and Sunic, “These people aren’t your typical stereotypical nationalist [sic], they’re decent, new, and very appealing compared to some of the nationalist of the past few decades.” [Octoberfreedom (.com), 3/23/2010]
Entity Tags: Don Wassall, Tomislav Sunic, Tyler Cole, David Edan Lane, Aryan Nations, American Third Position, Ted Nugent, Stormfront (.org), William Daniel Johnson, Ron Paul, James Edwards, Golden State Party, Freedom 14, Council of Conservative Citizens, Southern Poverty Law Center, Kevin MacDonald, Jamie Kelso, Jerome Corsi, Patrick Buchanan
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Former Govenor Mike Huckabee (R-AR), a Fox News host and a presumed 2012 presidential candidate, calls the passage of the 17th Amendment “one of the dumbest things we ever did in this country.” Huckabee, appearing as a guest on Fox News Radio’s Brian & the Judge, also says that Republicans should consider calling for the repeal of the 16th Amendment, saying, “I think we ought to talk about repealing the 16th Amendment, which authorizes the IRS.” He then says that Americans should “talk about—this is one of those things that senators would never agree, but one of the dumbest things we ever did in this country was the 17th Amendment.” He adds: “The original Constitution and the way we operated for the first 120 years of our existence, senators were appointed by state legislators to represent the broader interests of the states to make sure the federal government didn’t take too much power into itself. And most people don’t even remember that. But we have had an increasing problem of too much centralization of federal power at the expense of local and state governments—the antithesis of our Constitution—because we’ve put all this power in the popular election of senators and representatives.” [Media Matters, 10/16/2009] The 16th Amendment allows Congress to collect income taxes. It was passed by Congress and submitted to the states in 1909 and ratified in 1913, both under President William Howard Taft. The 17th Amendment provides for the direct election of US senators, rather than their selection by state legislators, in part to eliminate cronyism and corruption in their ascension to the US Capitol. It was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Recently, far-right Republicans (see 1951-1967, 1970-1972, 1976-1978, Early 1980s, and 1985) and tea party activists have begun calling for their repeal, joined by some members of Congress (see 1951-1967 and April 28, 1999). [Media Matters, 9/7/2010; Legal Information Institute, 2011; Legal Information Institute, 2011]
Jacob Weisberg, the editor of the online news publication Slate, writes that the White House is correct in labeling Fox News as a biased, conservatively slanted propaganda outlet and not a mainstream, non-partisan news provider (see October 11, 2009 and October 13, 2009). Weisberg writes that Fox News provided evidence for the charge in its own news coverage of the White House’s claim. “Fox responded the way it always does,” Weisberg writes. “It denied the accusation with a straight face while proceeding to confirm it with its coverage.” Weisberg analyzes the Fox News story on the episode. The Fox story briefly detailed the White House claim, then lined up five critics of the White House to contradict the claim. Two of the critics were Fox News employees, vice president Michael Clemente and anchor Chris Wallace. A third, Tony Blankley, is a frequent Fox News contributor and the former press secretary for Newt Gingrich (R-GA), the ex-speaker of the House. The fourth was David Gergen, the veteran Washington columnist, who said the White House statement hurts Obama and helps Fox News. The fifth was the White House columnist for the right-leaning online news magazine Politico, who said that the controversy would boost Fox’s ratings. “Five people are quoted in this article,” Weisberg writes. “Two of them work for Fox. All of them assert that administration officials are either wrong in substance or politically foolish to criticize the network. No one is cited supporting Dunn’s criticisms or saying that it could make sense, morally or politically, for Obama to challenge the network’s power. It’s a textbook example of a biased news story.” Weisberg goes on to note that Fox News peppered its coverage of the story with accusations that Obama was compiling a Nixon-like “enemies list” with Fox News at the top, along with exhortations for Obama to stop complaining and get back to work and claims that other media providers were staunchly in Fox News’s corner. “Any news organization that took its responsibilities seriously would take pains to cover presidential criticism fairly,” Weisberg concludes. “It would regard doing so as itself a test of integrity and take pains not to load the dice in its own favor. At any other network, accusation of bias might even lead to some soul-searching and behavioral adjustment. At Fox, by contrast, complaints of unfairness prompt only hoots of derision and demands for ‘evidence’ and ‘proof,’ which when presented is brushed off and ignored.… Rather than in any way maturing, Fox has in recent months become more boisterous and demagogic in rallying the opposition against Obama.” [Fox News, 10/12/2009; Slate, 10/17/2009]
Michael Ledeen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, writes that according to blogger Brian Lancaster, Time reporter Joe Klein has been allowed to read the first 10 pages of Barack Obama’s college thesis, written while the president was an undergraduate at Columbia University. According to Ledeen and Lancaster, the thesis was titled “Aristocracy Reborn,” and contains the following excerpt: “[T]he Constitution allows for many things, but what it does not allow is the most revealing. The so-called Founders did not allow for economic freedom. While political freedom is supposedly a cornerstone of the document, the distribution of wealth is not even mentioned. While many believed that the new Constitution gave them liberty, it instead fitted them with the shackles of hypocrisy.” Ledeen calls the statement “quite an indictment, even for an Ivy League undergraduate,” and says Obama’s supposed take on the Constitution is “revolutionary.” He concludes, “And what about the rest of the thesis?” Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh broadcasts extensively on the thesis, claiming that it is proof of Obama’s intention to “redistribute” America’s wealth to the poor by forcibly stripping the wealthy of their financial resources. Two days later, Ledeen reports that the “thesis” is entirely fictitious. Klein never wrote about it for Time and never read it. “It’s a hoax, or a satire, depending on your point of view,” Ledeen admits, having learned it was produced by Lancaster in August. Lancaster posted it on his Jumping in Pools blog on August 25, and clearly labeled it as “satire.” Ledeen writes: “So he got me, and lots of others. It worked because it’s plausible. I’ve done satirical pieces myself, and I know how they can take off.… So I should have picked up some hint, but I didn’t. Shame on me.” [Brian Lancaster, 8/25/2009; Pajamas Media, 10/21/2009; Pajamas Media, 10/23/2009; Time, 10/23/2009] According to the Obama campaign, Obama did not write a senior thesis while at Columbia. He did write a paper during his senior year for an honors seminar in American Foreign Policy, but neither Obama, the university, nor the professor of the seminar, Michael Baron, have a copy of the paper any longer. [Snopes (.com), 10/25/2009]
A screenshot of the logo for Mike Huckabee’s Fox News show. [Source: Fox News]According to an analysis by the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Fox News has become the place for eight former Bush administration officials and other Republican lawmakers, strategists, and future presidential candidates to espouse their views (see October 13, 2009). Media Matters says “[a] revolving door exists between the Republican Party and Fox News Channel… further demonstrating that Fox is effectively a conservative political organization and not a legitimate news outlet.” Media Matters analyzed Fox News broadcasts aired between September 1 and mid-October.
Karl Rove - The former deputy chief of staff of the Bush White House, Karl Rove, the Bush administration’s chief political adviser, is now labeled as a political adviser and commentator for Fox. He appears, on average, twice a week, usually on prime-time programs hosted by Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.
Dana Perino - Formerly the White House press secretary, Dana Perino is now a frequent contributor and analyst for Fox, and writes a column for Fox Forum. Perino appears most often on Hannity’s show, though she has made several appearances on Fox Business Channel.
John Bolton - The former ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton is now a regular Fox contributor and analyst.
Mike Huckabee - Mike Huckabee, the ex-governor of Arkansas and dark-horse presidential candidate in 2008 has his own show, Huckabee, on Fox. Frequently, Huckabee directs viewers to “go to balancecutsave.com,” which redirects visitors to a Web page soliciting donations for his political action committee, which financially supports Republican candidates and also pays his daughter’s salary.
Newt Gingrich - Newt Gingrich is the former speaker of the House and a possible presidential candidate in 2012. He has been a regular on Fox since singing a contract with the network in 1999 after resigning from the House in disgrace.
John Kasich - Formerly a Republican House member from Ohio and now a candidate for governor of Ohio, John Kasich used to host a show on Fox, Heartland with John Kasich. He is a regular contributor and commentator on several Fox prime-time broadcasts.
Dick Morris - A Republican who once crossed party lines to advise then-President Clinton, Dick Morris is a frequent guest on Fox, appearing at least 20 times since September 1, usually on shows hosted by Hannity, O’Reilly, or Greta Van Susteren. During the 2008 election cycle, Morris repeatedly urged viewers to donate to an anti-Obama political action committee, without divulging that the PAC had paid a firm connected to him. Morris also uses his Fox appearances to raise funds for a conservative group of which he is chief strategist.
Frank Luntz - Frank Luntz, a GOP strategist and pollster, regularly appears on Fox shows hosted by Hannity, O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck, who asked Luntz to instruct his audience on the signs “the tea party people should be carrying.” [Media Matters, 10/26/2009]
Entity Tags: Media Matters, Sean Hannity, Karl C. Rove, Newt Gingrich, John R. Bolton, Republican Party, Greta Van Susteren, Dana Perino, Bush administration (43), Bill O’Reilly, Dick Morris, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, Fox Business Channel, Fox News, Frank Luntz, Glenn Beck
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Bill Sammon. [Source: Mediaite (.com)]Bill Sammon, the Washington managing editor for Fox News, sends an internal email instructing his journalists and producers not to use the commonly accepted phrase “public option” to describe a proposed government-run health insurance agency. The so-called “public option” is shorthand for a proposed health insurance plan offered by the federal government primarily for uninsured citizens who have trouble affording private health care coverage. Instead, Sammon requires reporters and news anchors to use terms such as “government option”—terms identified by Republican pollster Frank Luntz as being more negative and more likely to turn viewers away from supporting such an effort. (Ironically, a month ago, Sammon sent an email reminding his staff that Fox News “reports” the news as it happens, and that their function is that of “dispassionate observers”—see September 12, 2009). The liberal news watchdog Web site Media Matters will compile a number of instances from “straight news” broadcasts on Fox News that seem to follow Sammon’s instructions, particularly on the network’s evening flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier. Inside sources will tell Media Matters reporter Ben Dimiero that Sammon regularly uses his position as managing editor to “slant” Fox News’s “neutral” news coverage to the right. Dimiero will write, “Sammon’s ‘government option’ email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox’s reporting to the right—in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.” In August 2009, Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News opinion show, and told Hannity to use the term “government option” instead of “public option.” Luntz explained that “if you call it a ‘public option,’ the American people are split,” but “if you call it the ‘government option,’ the public is overwhelmingly against it.” He went on to say that the program would be “sponsored by the government,” and falsely told Hannity that such a program would be “paid for by the government.” Hannity told Luntz that “it’s a great point, and from now on, I’m going to call it the government option.” The night before Sammon’s email, Baier used both “public option” and “government option” in describing a proposed inclusion by Senate Democrats, as did correspondent Shannon Bream. The next morning, Sammon sends his email, which is titled “[F]riendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option,’” and reading in part, “Please use the term ‘government-run health insurance’ or, when brevity is a concern, ‘government option,’ whenever possible. When it is necessary to use the term ‘public option’ (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier ‘so-called,’ as in ‘the so-called public option.’ Here’s another way to phrase it: ‘The public option, which is the government-run plan.’ When newsmakers and sources use the term ‘public option’ in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.” Fox News’s senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, concurs in a follow-up email and tells news staff that he prefers Sammon’s phrasing “[t]he public option, which is the government-run plan.” After Sammon’s and Clemente’s emails, Baier and others will no longer use the phrase “public option” without using Sammon’s qualifiers. Dimiero will write that Sammon’s title wording of a “friendly reminder” indicates that similar instructions had been issued previously. Indeed, during a September 3, 2009 broadcast, Baier repeatedly interrupted his guest, NPR’s Mara Liasson, to “correct” her phrasing of “public option” as the “government-run option of health insurance.” Liasson, along with conservative guests Charles Krauthammer and Steve Hayes, agreed to use Baier’s phrasing. And during Baier’s broadcast, on-screen chyrons described the idea as “Government Option.” Dimiero will write: “Fox executives regularly defend the network by claiming that the right-wing propaganda on Hannity and its other opinion shows is entirely separate from its news programming, which they insist is objective. But Sammon’s email gives credence to allegations that news from Fox’s Washington bureau is being deliberately distorted to benefit conservatives and the Republican Party.” Sammon will tell media reporter Howard Kurtz that he prefers the phrasing “government option” because it is “a more neutral term,” and the phrase “public option” is “vague, bland,” and “undescriptive.” He will deny any knowledge of “what the Republicans were pushing.” [Media Matters, 12/9/2010]
Entity Tags: Fox News, Bill Sammon, Ben Dimiero, Steve Hayes, Charles Krauthammer, Shannon Bream, Michael Clemente, Frank Luntz, Bret Baier, Sean Hannity, Mara Liasson, Media Matters, Howard Kurtz
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
President Barack Obama signs the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The new law authorizes the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute violent attacks in which the perpetrator has targeted a victim because of his or her actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The law is part of a larger defense authorization bill. “This law honors our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short because of hate,” says Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. “Today’s signing of the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered] Americans represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality.” A statement released by 29 LGBT groups says, in part: “It took much too long, more than a decade. And it came at too great a price: the brutal killings of Matthew Shepard (see October 9, 1998 and After) and James Byrd Jr. (see June 7, 1998 and After) are just two among the thousands of crimes motivated by hate and bigotry.… [L]awmakers and the president have made an imperative statement to the country and the world: Our nation will no longer tolerate hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.” The legislation has languished in Congress for nearly a decade, largely because of conservative opposition. Representative Mike Pence (R-IL), one of the harshest critics of the new law, accuses Obama of signing the bill as part of his “radical agenda” that puts his “liberal social priorities ahead of an unambiguous affirmation of our men and women in uniform.” Pence adds: “Every day, our armed forces stand in defense of freedom and our cherished way of life. It is deeply offensive to their service and to millions of Americans to pile so-called ‘hate crimes’ legislation onto a bill that authorizes critical resources for our troops. Hate crimes legislation is antithetical to the First Amendment, unnecessary, and will have a chilling effect on religious freedom.” [Fox News, 10/28/2009; New England Bay Windows, 10/28/2009] The law was included in the National Defense and Authorization Act of 2009 in part to weaken Republican opposition. Many Republicans such as Pence railed against the bill in both the House and Senate, but many voted for the legislation despite their opposition to the act. Many Republicans have criticized the placement of the law into the defense authorization legislation. Many conservative organizations, such as the Christian group Focus on the Family (FOTF), says the new law creates “thought crimes” by outlawing not just actions, but beliefs and attitudes. FOTF and Congressional Republicans such as Representative Steve King (R-IA) have also claimed that the new law legitimizes pedophilia and other illegal sexual practices, ignoring findings by legal and political analysts who called such claims “preposterous.” [St. Petersburg Times, 5/14/2009; Colorado Independent, 10/9/2009]
Entity Tags: Matthew Shepard, Steve King, Joe Solmonese, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Focus on the Family, Barack Obama, James Byrd, Jr, Mike Pence
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Domestic Propaganda
Judge David Carter. [Source: HubPages (.com)]US District Court Judge David Carter dismisses a lawsuit brought by a group claiming that President Obama was born in Kenya and, therefore, is not qualified to be president (see August 1-4, 2009). Carter lambasts lead lawyer Orly Taitz, ruling that he is “deeply concerned” that Taitz “may have suborned perjury through witnesses she intended to bring before this court.” Carter notes in his ruling that he has received “several sworn affidavits” showing that Taitz “asked potential witnesses” to lie under oath. Additionally, he rules, Taitz engaged in “improper and unethical” conduct by encouraging her supporters to phone and write him in an “attempt to influence this Court’s decision.” Carter rules that Taitz and her co-plaintiffs have not presented any usable evidence to bolster their claim of Obama’s supposed Kenyan citizenship. Instead, Taitz “favored rhetoric seeking to arouse the emotions and prejudices of her followers rather than the language of a lawyer seeking to present arguments through cogent legal reasoning.” Taitz’s inflammatory rhetoric, Carter finds, “often hampered the efforts of her co-counsel, Gary Kreep… to bring serious issues before the Court.” Carter rules that he exhibited “extreme patience” with Taitz and Kreep’s filings, noting that while Taitz and Kreep filed their lawsuit on January 20, 2009, they failed to serve the defendants in the case until August 25, 2009, and only then after repeated court orders to do so. “Taitz also continually refused to comply with court rules and procedures,” he notes, and even tried to get Magistrate Judge Arthur Nakasato removed from the original case because Nakasato required her to follow the court rules. And, he writes, Taitz attempted to dismiss two of her clients from the suit because she did not wish to work with their co-counsel. “Plaintiffs have encouraged the Court to ignore [the] Constitution; to disregard the limits on its power put in place by the Constitution; and to effectively overthrow a sitting president who was popularly elected by ‘We the People’—over sixty-nine million of the people,” Carter writes. “Plaintiffs have attacked the judiciary, including every prior court that has dismissed their claim, as unpatriotic and even treasonous for refusing to grant their requests and for adhering to the terms of the Constitution which set forth its jurisdiction. Respecting the constitutional role and jurisdiction of this Court is not unpatriotic. Quite the contrary, this Court considers commitment to that constitutional role to be the ultimate reflection of patriotism.” [The Smoking Gun, 10/29/2009; United States District Court for the Central District of California, 10/29/2009] Taitz and Kreep have filed a similar lawsuit with failed presidential candidate Alan Keyes, which has also been dismissed (see November 12, 2008 and After and March 13, 2009). Taitz was recently fined $20,000 for judicial misconduct (see October 13-16, 2009).
Oil billionaire David Koch (see August 30, 2010), the founder of “astroturf” advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004, October 2008, and August 6, 2009), makes a rare public appearance at an AFP gathering designed to celebrate the organization’s victories against Obama administration policies (see January 2009 and After). President Obama’s poll numbers are declining, and to a man, Republican senators are refusing to cooperate with the White House or with Congressional Democrats on any issues. Political pundits are labeling Obama “inept,” and “tea party” groups are accusing him of initiating “a government takeover.” Koch praises the AFP members at the event, saying: “Days like today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors when we started this organization, five years ago.… We envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history.… Thankfully, the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow-citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.” [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, political activist Virginia Thomas. [Source: Associated Press]In November 2009, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a former Republican campaign operative and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, establishes a new “tea party” organization she calls Liberty Central. (Some media sources claim that Liberty Central begins operations in January 2010.) She describes the group as intended to bridge the gap between the conservative Republican establishment and the anti-government tea party movement. “I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Nebraska, who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you,” she says at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) discussion with tea party leaders in Washington. “I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country. I have felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great.” She also says she started the group because of her reaction to what she calls President Obama’s “hard-left agenda.” The group also intends to work to elect Republicans and defeat Democrats, and provide political strategies and “talking points” for conservative candidates. [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Commission, 7/1/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011] In May 2010, the organization officially declares itself open for business, launching a $27,000 Web site, and touting partnerships with a number of prominent conservative groups and the backing of prominent conservatives such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo, whom Justice Thomas has called “my good friend.” [Politico, 7/6/2010]
Questions of Conflict of Interest, Ethics - Almost immediately, legal ethicists assert that Virginia Thomas’s role as the head of a partisan, openly political advocacy organization could taint her husband’s impartiality, especially in light of the Citizens United Court decision, in which her husband sided with the 5-4 majority (see January 21, 2010), that allows her group to accept donations and spend them without publicly disclosing information about them. The group could have benefited from the Court’s decision, and Justice Thomas’s decision could be seen as being influenced by his wife’s decision to start the group. Law school professor Lucas A. “Scot” Powe, a Court historian, says, “I think the American public expects the justices to be out of politics.” The expectations for spouses are not so clear, he adds, saying, “I really don’t know because we’ve never seen it.” Legal ethicist Stephen Gillers, another law professor, says, “We expect the justice to make decisions uninfluenced by the political or legal preferences of his or her spouse.” Moreover, the press learns that while the Court was deliberating the Citizens United case, Liberty Central received an anonymous $550,000 donation. Government watchdog organization Common Cause wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking if Justice Thomas should recuse himself from the case, and wrote that “the complete lack of transparency of Liberty Central’s finances makes it difficult to assess the full scope of the ethics issues raised by Ms. Thomas’s role in founding and leading the group.” (The media later learns that $500,000 of the anonymous $550,000 donation for the organization comes from Dallas real estate investor Harlan Crow, who also hosts a fundraising event for the organization at his home. Crow once gave Justice Thomas a $19,000 “Frederick Douglass Bible” as a gift, and donated $150,000 to build a new wing named for Justice Thomas on a Savannah, Georgia, library that he visited frequently in his youth.) Common Cause also notes that Justice Thomas had failed to report on his financial disclosure filings his wife’s income over the last 13 years, prompting him to file amendments to the filings that indicated the sources, but not the amounts, of his wife’s income. Justice Thomas refuses to recuse himself from the case.
Period of Success - Liberty Central flourishes for a brief time, with Virginia Thomas assembling a veteran staff and forging relationships with conservative donors, with most of whom she and her husband had long, close relationships. Carl Graham of the Montana Policy Institute, one of the over 30 state and national tea party groups that are listed as partners in Liberty Central’s affiliate network, says, “Her association with Justice Thomas clearly provides a level of credibility that others wouldn’t be able to have, just because of the beliefs that he has and the stands that he has on the different positions that align with our own.” Liberty Central’s connection with Justice Thomas, Graham says, “gets you to open the email, if nothing else, as opposed to some other one that you may not even open.” Liberty Central hires the services of CRC Public Relations, a prominent Washington communications firm that has garnered some $15 million in fees from a number of clients, including top Republican Party committees and the presidential campaigns or political committees of George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain, among others. Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, a tea party lobbying organization also partnered with Liberty Central (see April 14, 2009 and April 15, 2009), says, “Ginni was able to raise the seed capital to have a real launch” because of her connections in small-government conservative circles. Kibbe says most people are unaware that she is the wife of a Supreme Court justice. Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin calls Thomas a “mentor” for many tea party organizations, and says she helps these organizations “to navigate some of the waters in DC.… She’s been kind of a mentor, and when we had questions about things that we were doing, we bounced a few of the ideas off of her and also off of a few other people in DC just to make sure that what we were doing made sense.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011]
Media Attention - In a June 2010 interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Thomas says she is sure “liberals” will “persecute” her just as she says they did when her husband was undergoing confirmation for the Supreme Court. “They’re after me now sometimes,” she says. “And so, we’re not going to be dissuaded. We are in the fight for our country’s life.” She and Hannity engage in a lively conversation about the “tyranny” of the Obama administration. She also promises to “watch for conflicts” between herself and her husband. In October 2010, the media reports that Virginia Thomas leaves a voice mail for former college professor Anita Hill, who accused her husband of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings for the Court (see October 8, 1991, October 8-12, 1991, and October 11-12, 1991), demanding that Hill issue an apology to her husband. The voice mail says: “Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just want to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometimes and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay, have a good day.” The attention from the voice mail prompts more negative media attention, and some donors begin distancing themselves from the organization. (Virginia Thomas later admits that her voice mail message for Hill was “probably a mistake,” though she will call the media’s response to it “laughable.” She will call the message “an olive branch” she extends to Hill. For her part, Hill says: “I don’t apologize. I have no intention of apologizing and I stand by my testimony in 1991.”) [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Fox News, 6/8/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 10/19/2010; Washington Post, 11/15/2010]
Thomas Steps Down, Group Merges with Another Organization - In November 2010, Virginia Thomas steps down from her leadership post at Liberty Central. The group then merges with another, similar group called the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, an organization founded by ex-CIA agent Gary Aldrich, who wrote a largely discredited book “exposing” the “secrets” of the Clinton administration. Sources later tell reporters that Virginia Thomas sells off Liberty Central because it cannot raise the funds needed to support its large staff and high overhead. According to CRC spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll, Thomas will “take a back seat so that Liberty Central can continue with its mission without any of the distractions. After discussing it with the board, Mrs. Thomas determined that it was best for the organization.” However, Sarah E. Field, general counsel of Liberty Central, disagrees, saying: “There are many opportunities being presented to Liberty Central, but there is no agreement at this time.… The sources of this story appear to be people without full understanding of the facts.” Keith Appell of CRC tells a reporter that the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner “breached confidentiality” by reporting her conversation with Carroll. Gardner responds, “Everything I attributed to Caitlin Carroll comes from an on-the-record conversation we had by telephone this morning.” Within hours, Thomas files incorporation papers for a new political lobbying and consulting firm, Liberty Consulting (see February 4, 2011). [Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 11/15/2010; Washington Post, 11/15/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011]
Entity Tags: Lucas A. (“Scot”) Powe, Liberty Central, US Department of Justice, Matt Kibbe, Leonard Leo, Obama administration, US Supreme Court, Sean Hannity, Virginia (“Ginni”) Thomas, Keith Appell, Stephen Gillers, Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, Jenny Beth Martin, Sarah E. Field, Gary Aldrich, Barack Obama, Anita Hill, Amy Gardner, CRC Public Relations, Caitlin Carroll, Harlan Crow, Clarence Thomas, FreedomWorks, Carl Graham, Donald Rumsfeld, Common Cause, Conservative Political Action Conference
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
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