Saturday, September 15, 2012

Watters And O'Reilly Ask Questions They Won't Answer Themselves

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Look, it's not as though we didn't already know that Fox News ambush specialist Jesse Watters is a major-league wanker. I mean, c'mon: Stalking bloggers on their vacations? Really?

But this takes the cake.

Priscilla at Newshounds
digs up a clip from last week's O'Reilly Factor on Fox in which Watters shows off his right-wing brand of humor [hint: Mallard Fillmore is funnier] with clips he brought back from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, where he obviously was stalking the hallways in search of liberal celebrities to harass.

But his key clip moment in Charlotte came when he decided to harass the mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, about Menino's opposition to allowing a Chick-fil-A in Boston because of its owners' anti-gay politics -- linking it, a la Tony Perkins, to the attempted shootings at the Family Research Council offices in Washington.

Here's how Watters put it:
“Do you feel bad about the fact that you've created all this controversy that this crazed gunman went up and shot up this conservative outfit?”
Just roll that one around and enjoy the delicious, though bizarre, hypocrisy of it all.
First of all, as Priscilla observes:
Mayor Menino did not engage in incendiary rhetoric which would have, in any way, motivated the shooter. He said that he would block the chicken franchise, Chick fil-A from coming to Boston because he objected to what he felt were intolerant views against gays by the president of Chick fil-A. It does not appear that Menino ever mentioned the Family Research Council.
Nor, might we add, is there even a whiff of evidence that the FRC shooter was inspired to act by anything that Mayor Menino said. Nothing, except the conjecture of right-wing jackasses like Jesse Watters and Bill O'Reilly.

Now let's compare and contrast that to a case in which someone actually was murdered: the assassination of Dr. George Tiller. And in that case, there is a mountain of evidence connecting the incendiary eliminationist rhetoric of Bill O'Reilly, fueled by the grotesquely afactual "reporting" of Jesse Watters, to that killing.

Three years ago, O'Reilly and his ambush-crew specialist, Jesse Watters, went hard after Tiller, accusing him of wantonly murdering babies because he performs late-term abortions:
Bill summarized in a heartfelt Talking Points Memo on Friday, November 10th: "If we as a society allow an undefined mental health exception in late-term abortions, then babies can be killed for almost any reason... This is the kind of stuff that happened in Mao's China and Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union... If we allow this, America will no longer be a noble nation... If we allow Dr. George Tiller and his acolytes to continue, we can no longer pass judgment on any behavior by anybody."
Including, evidently, murderous extremists. And, as you can see in the video above (from 2006), O'Reilly similarly accused anyone who refused to buy into his accusation of coddling killers:
I don’t care what you think. We have incontrovertible evidence that this man is executing babies about to be born because the woman is depressed…if you don’t believe me, I don’t care…You are OK with Dr. Tiller executing babies about to be born because the mother says she’s depressed.
And then there was O'Reilly's notorious radio attack on Tiller:
And if I could get my hands on Tiller -- well, you know. Can't be vigilantes. Can't do that. It's just a figure of speech.

But despicable? Oh, my God. Oh, it doesn't get worse. Does it get worse? No.
Moreover, the killer, Scott Roeder was heavily involved in the radical anti-abortion group Operation Rescue (whose propaganda was promoted regularly and featured prominently as "factual" on O'Reilly's show) and avidly read its newsletters -- which featured weekly pieces from Bill O'Reilly, including several attacking Tiller as a "baby killer" -- and its website, which liked to feature O'Reilly videos attacking Dr. Tiller. Indeed, O'Reilly had indulged a high-profile and unusually obsessive (not to mention vicious) jihad against Tiller, resulting in 42 such attacks on Tiller, 24 of which referred to him generically as a "baby killer."

Even to this day, O'Reilly insists he did nothing wrong: after all, sure, it was wrong to shoot the guy, but "what Tiller was doing was murder."

And who was O'Reilly's chief facilitator in this lethal media attack? Why, Jesse Watters, of course; here's his notorious "confrontation" with Tiller's attorney.

Of course, Tiller was hardly alone. Watters has made a career out of harassing liberals. ThinkProgress has a list.

And he's obviously proud of it, too. His breathless account of his and O'Reilly's attacks on Tiller are still available at the Fox website.

A word to the wise to gross hypocrites like Jesse Watters: Karma is a bitch.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Far-Right Extremists Tried Pinning Blame For Anti-Islam Film On Jews

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

It turns out now that the amateurish hate film that sparked the lethal riots in Egypt, Libya, and Yemen -- or at least, in the case of the Libya murders, provided a pretext -- is a product of the fetid, far-right underbelly of American politics. And it seems that not only did the Islamophobic far-right militiamen behind the movie make it with the explicit intent of sparking riots abroad, but they even attempted to pin the blame for its production on Israeli Jews.

The Associated Press reports
on the identity of the filmmakers:
The person who identified himself as Bacile and described himself as the film's writer and director told the AP on Tuesday that he had gone into hiding. But doubts rose about the man's identity amid a flurry of false claims about his background and role in the purported film.

Bacile told the AP he was an Israeli-born, 56-year-old Jewish writer and director. But a Christian activist involved in the film project, Steve Klein, told the AP on Wednesday that Bacile was a pseudonym and that he was Christian.

Klein had told the AP on Tuesday that the filmmaker was an Israeli Jew who was concerned for family members who live in Egypt.
CBS' Bill Whitaker has more.

But who is Steve Klein? Max Blumenthal tells us:
While Bacile claims to be in hiding, and his identity remains murky, another character who has been publicly listed as a consultant on the film is a known anti-Muslim activist with ties to the extreme Christian right and the militia movement. He is Steve Klein, a Hemet, California based insurance salesman who claims to have led a “hunter-killer team” in Vietnam.”

Klein is a right-wing extremist who emerged from the same axis of Islamophobia that produced Anders Behring Breivik and which takes inspiration from the writings of Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Daniel Pipes.

It appears Klein (or someone who shares his name and views) is an enthusiastic commenter on Geller’s website, Atlas Shrugged, where he recently complained about Mitt Romney’s “support for a Muslim state in Israel’s Heartland.” In July 2011, Spencer’s website, Jihad Watch, promoted a rally Klein organized alongside the anti-Muslim Coptic extremist Joseph Nasrallah to demand the firing of LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, whom they painted as a dupe for Hamas.
Indeed, Klein's activities as a "Christian militiaman" were the focus of an astonishing SPLC report filed this spring by C&L's own Leah Nelson:

In a 22-acre compound at the southern edge of Sequoia National Park in California, a secretive cohort of militant Christian fundamentalists is preparing for war. One of the men helping train the flock in the art of combat, a former Marine named Steve Klein, believes that California is riddled with Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cells “who are awaiting the trigger date and will begin randomly killing as many of us as they can.”
“I know I’m getting prepared to shoot back,” Klein says.

At the head of the Church at Kaweah is Pastor Warren Mark Campbell, who sees yet another enemy on the horizon: the “New World Order,” that chimera of the conspiracists who populate the resurgent, antigovernment “Patriot” movement.

The tiny church has been well outside the mainstream since the early 1990s, when founding pastor Warren Lee Campbell (father of the current pastor) bought into the notion that churches should shun all government regulation and answer solely to God. Since then, the church has become increasingly radical, ramping up its paramilitary activities and forging alliances with an array of figures revered on the radical right — among them, militia and Patriot leaders, white supremacists, neo-Confederates, border vigilantes and Christian Reconstructionists, whose goal is to turn America into a theocracy based on the Old Testament. In the meantime, the church’s militia has gone from patrolling the banks of the Kaweah River to conducting joint exercises with Minuteman groups along the Mexican border.
Campbell's church, as Nelson details painstakingly, has a long history of connections to the far right, particularly the Patriot/militia movement in the 1990s, and its descendants in the years since. One of those descendants is Klein:
Over the past year, Johnson and the church militia have developed a relationship with Steve Klein, a longtime religious-right activist who brags about having led a “hunter killer” team as a Marine in Vietnam. Klein, who calls Islam a “penis-driven religion” and thinks Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca is a Muslim Brotherhood patsy, is allied with Christian activist groups across California. In 2011, as head of the Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, he worked with the Vista, Calif.-based Christian Anti-Defamation Commission on a campaign to “arm” students with the “truth about Islam and Muhammad” — mainly by leafleting high schools with literature depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a sex-crazed pedophile.

Klein, based in Hemet, Calif., has been active in extremist movements for decades. In 1977, he founded Courageous Christians United, which now conducts “respectful confrontations” outside of abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques. Klein also has ties to the Minuteman movement. In 2007, he sued the city of San Clemente for ordering him to stop leafleting cars with pamphlets opposing illegal immigration.

In addition to working with Johnson and the Church at Kaweah’s militia, Klein conducts drills with the Christian Guardians, a San Francisco-based group headed by Andrew Saqib James, an American-born Pakistani Christian who calls Islam “a giant crime syndicate” and hopes his group will become “the most feared militia in the world.” For the past year, the Church at Kaweah’s website has advertised joint trainings with the Christian Guardians and other likeminded groups. Based at the church’s sprawling grounds, the series of trainings is described as a “unique system of learning how to survive the Muslim Brotherhood as we teach the Christian Morality of Biblical Warfare.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Beast reports that "Bacile" is really a fellow named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and he has a long criminal record:
The man behind the incendiary film, Innocence of Muslims, has a criminal record that includes a narcotics conviction. According to a source close to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was arrested by the L.A. Country Sheriff's Department on March 27, 1997 and charged with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Nov. 3, 1997 to one year in county jail and three years probation. The D.A.’s office said he violated probation on April 8, 2002, and was re-sentenced to another year in county jail.

Nakoula had been registered to vote as a Democrat from 2002-2008, according to the L.A. County Registrar Recorder’s office. In April of 2008, he changed his political affiliation to American Independent.

Nakoula’s identity and involvement in the film was confirmed to the Associated Press by federal law-enforcement officials. Nakoula, who lives near Los Angeles, had claimed to numerous media outlets that the man who created and directed the film was an Israeli real estate developer named Sam Bacile. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Nakoula was a Coptic Christian convicted of federal bank fraud charges in 2010.
Meanwhile, Klein is perfectly content with the outcome of his intentional incendiarism:
"I could not have done a better job than what I have done to point out to the people of the world, and the vast majority of Muslims, just how dangerous these people are," he said.

He has no regrets for the violence it triggered. "People have asked me, 'Do I have blood on my hands?' No I don't. The blood's on their hands, not mine. "
Indeed, according to the AP report, this is exactly what they had hoped for:
Klein told the AP he vowed to help make the movie but warned the filmmaker that "you're going to be the next Theo van Gogh." Van Gogh was a Dutch filmmaker killed by a Muslim extremist in 2004 after making a film that was perceived as insulting to Islam.

"We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen," Klein said.
So let's see ... you make an intentionally incendiary piece of propaganda knowing perfectly well that you're probably going to cost Americans their lives in so doing ... but you don't have their blood on your hands?

You may not think so, Mr. Klein, but the rest of the world does.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hannity Guest Obenshain Rants: Obama 'Promotes Islam,' 'Attacks' Christians

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

In case you were wondering if the dog-whistles you've been hearing at Fox suggesting that President Obama is a secret Muslim who wants to destroy America might get a little louder, Obama-hating author Kate Obenshain gave an answer last night on Sean Hannity's show, with Juan Williams providing the straight-man routine.

The occasion was a discussion of the embassy protest in Cairo:
HANNITY: He gave 1.5 billion taxpayer dollars to the Muslim Brotherhood -- Islamists hit our embassy and took our flag down, and put an Al Qaeda flag up there! Where is he? Where is Mr. President leadership?

WILLIAMS: Excuse me, but I believe the Bush administration and the Obama administration have supported a freedom agenda in the Middle East -- pro-democracy, and people vote in a way we don't like.

HANNITY: This was never pro-democracy, Juan! This was always the Muslim Brotherhood was going to be in power!

WILLIAMS: It is pro-democracy! They elected the guy from the Muslim Brotherhood!

OBENSHAIN: This president has been steadfast in supporting -- promoting Islam. He does not defend religious -- he does not -- he is not standing -- he never promotes Christians or -- in fact, in fact, attacks them!

WILLIAMS: Oh, stop. Come on Kate. He is not promoting Islam.

OBENSHAIN: Absolutely he is, Juan. Again and again, he puts down Christians, he puts down the Israelis, he goes after them.

WILLIAMS: He is promoting America's national interests and trying to find peace.

OBENSHAIN: He is not promoting religious freedom for anybody except Islam.
Obviously, dog whistles are no longer in vogue at Fox. Now they're just being bigots in plain sight.

Romney's Debacle: Smirking Attacks Make Unfitness Clear

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Well, as Josh Marshall says, "this is when you learn they're not ready." Or at least when your suspicions become manifest.

The roof has caved in on Mitt Romney, beyond even Chuck Todd and Peggy Noonan's criticism of his mishandling of his response to the murders of American diplomats in Libya and Cairo. Now it seems that everyone involved in the diplomacy business are pronouncing him unfit:
"They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up," said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an "utter disaster" and a "Lehman moment" — a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.

He and other members of both parties cited the Romney campaign's recent dismissals of foreign policy's relevance. One adviser dismissed the subject to BuzzFeed as a "shiny object," while another told Politico that the subject was the "president's turf," drawing a rebuke from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.

"I guess we see now that it is because they’re incompetent at talking effectively about foreign policy," said the Republican. "This is just unbelievable — when they decide to play on it they completely bungle it."
And that's just the Republicans.

So he went before the press this morning and basically doubled down -- smirking, as he had the night before, all the way through. If those performances didn't convince anyone that this is not the man you want handling a difficult national crisis, nothing will.

As Greg Sargent observed about Romney's "opportunistic, incoherent" response:
But this press conference looks to me like a serious mistake on Romney’s part. The whole thing reeked of political opportunism and didn’t convey any sense of leadership or reassurance amid a crisis. It was also somewhat incoherent. At one point, Romney defended his reaction by noting that the White House, too, had also condemned the U.S embassy’s statement, claiming: “I had the exact same reaction.” Okay, so Romney is criticizing the Obama administration while simultaneously agreeing with it?

Romney is arguing that the administration at first took an objectionable stance. But the statement in question was put out by the U.S. embassy in Cairo, at a moment when it was bracing for trouble. No one except for confirmed Obama haters will buy the notion that the Obama administration sympathized with the attacks. And yet here Romney is at a hastily convened press conference, at a time when four Americans were murdered, doubling down on that exact charge.

This kind of thing will thrill the base, but will it really resonate with undecided and persuadable voters? The new Washington Post poll finds Obama holds an overwhelming 51-38 advantage over Romney on who is more trusted to handle international affairs. Does the Romney camp really think that raising the “apology” canard yet again in this context is a good strategy? Tellingly, no other GOP leaders criticized the Obama administration today, leaving Romney isolated.
But Romney appears to be heeding the advice of people like Alex Castellanos, who sees the embassy attacks as a prime political opportunity:
But other Republican strategists felt emboldened by Romney's swift and severe condemnation of how the administration's handling of the crisis.

"This could be a game changer," GOP strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos said. "Romney has to go at this and make it clear that he is doing it not for political gain but because weak, apologetic leadership is dangerous for the country."
If that's the advice he's following, he deserves the polls that will follow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Kind Of Network Calls The President The 'Thug In Chief'?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

In the barrage of coverage of the Democratic National Convention last week, a moment came and went on Fox News during a DNC segment on the morning program Fox & Friends that revealed, once again, that this is not a news network. It is propaganda posing as news packaged as entertainment.

Aria at Newshounds happened to catch this segment, from the Sept. 3 broadcast, featuring wingnut author Mallory Factor, who's written a book "exposing" unions as the power behind the Obama throne (the unions, no doubt, wish this were so):

During the discussion, Gretchen Carlson brought up the North Carolina AFL-CIO’s “Hug-a-thug” booth, an attempt to poke fun at and dispell some of the harsh rhetoric toward unions.

But Factor was too interested in smearing to appreciate any other kind of humor. He explained to Carlson:
FACTOR: Well, uh, the Hug-a-Thug… well, they call themselves “thugs,” and, uh, I just want to know if our Thug in Chief is gonna be there. Obama, because he is the thug in Chief- he really represents these unions. Hug-a-Thug is, you go to a booth and get hugged by a union guy.
Best of all, Carlson and her fratboy cohort, Brian Kilmeade, just chuckled along.

Does anyone really believe the fantasy that this is a news network any longer? Because that would be the joke. Though no one is laughing.

Do Right-Wingers Really Want To Be Talking About PDBs Today?

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Oddly enough, there's been no mention this morning on Fox News (at least not that I have caught) of today's New York Times story about the Bush administration's manifest failure to heed a litany of warnings prior to the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Huh.

Oh, but they have been all over ex-Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen's WaPo op-ed claiming that President Obama has been skipping out on attending his Presidential Daily Briefings, the daily national-security rundown each president receives:
President Obama is touting his foreign policy experience on the campaign trail, but startling new statistics suggest that national security has not necessarily been the personal priority the president makes it out to be. It turns out that more than half the time, the commander in chief does not attend his daily intelligence meeting.

The Government Accountability Institute, a new conservative investigative research organization, examined President Obama’s schedule from the day he took office until mid-June 2012, to see how often he attended his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB) — the meeting at which he is briefed on the most critical intelligence threats to the country. During his first 1,225 days in office, Obama attended his PDB just 536 times — or 43.8 percent of the time. During 2011 and the first half of 2012, his attendance became even less frequent — falling to just over 38 percent. By contrast, Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush almost never missed his daily intelligence meeting.
Naturally, Dick Cheney was quick to chime in:
“If President Obama were participating in his intelligence briefings on a regular basis then perhaps he would understand why people are so offended at his efforts to take sole credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden,” Cheney told The Daily Caller in an email through a spokeswoman.

“Those who deserve the credit are the men and women in our military and intelligence communities who worked for many years to track him down. They are the ones who deserve the thanks of a grateful nation.”
Ironic, isn't it, that people from the Bush administration, of all people, should be pointing an accusatory finger about Presidential Daily Briefings on this day -- Sept. 11, the anniversary of the day when George W. Bush's failure to respond to the Aug. 6, 2001, PDB came home to roost in a horrifying way.

They seem to have conveniently forgotten all about it. Thiessen was on with Megyn Kelly on Fox this morning and for some strange reason, the subject was never mentioned.

It's doubly strange because today's front-page NYT piece focuses on that PDB and the warnings leading up to it:

On April 10, 2004, the Bush White House declassified that daily brief — and only that daily brief — in response to pressure from the 9/11 Commission, which was investigating the events leading to the attack. Administration officials dismissed the document’s significance, saying that, despite the jaw-dropping headline, it was only an assessment of Al Qaeda’s history, not a warning of the impending attack. While some critics considered that claim absurd, a close reading of the brief showed that the argument had some validity.
That is, unless it was read in conjunction with the daily briefs preceding Aug. 6, the ones the Bush administration would not release. While those documents are still not public, I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other recently declassified records, and come to an inescapable conclusion: the administration’s reaction to what Mr. Bush was told in the weeks before that infamous briefing reflected significantly more negligence than has been disclosed. In other words, the Aug. 6 document, for all of the controversy it provoked, is not nearly as shocking as the briefs that came before it.

The direct warnings to Mr. Bush about the possibility of a Qaeda attack began in the spring of 2001. By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat.
Let's recall, for a moment, exactly what the PDB concluded:
We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a ---- service in 1998 saying that Bin Laden wanted to hijack a U.S. aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman and other U.S.-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full-field investigations throughout the U.S. that it considers bin Laden-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group or bin Laden supporters was in the U.S. planning attacks with explosives.
It's worth noting that those last two paragraphs utterly demolish the Bush administration's claim that the information was purely "historical" and did not specify potential threats.

In fact, here's how National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice described the White House's assessment of the memo in her commission testimony:
The briefing item reviewed past intelligence reporting, mostly dating from the 1990s, regarding possible al Qaeda plans to attack inside the United States. It referred to uncorroborated reporting that from 1998 that terrorists might attempt to hijack a U.S. aircraft in an attempt to blackmail the government into releasing U.S.-held terrorists who had participated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. This briefing item was not prompted by any specific threat information. And it did not raise the possibility that terrorists might use airplanes as missiles.
What was the White House's response? Well, here's how Rice described it:
Despite the fact that the vast majority of the threat information we received was focused overseas, I was concerned about possible threats inside the United States. On July 5, chief of staff Andy Card and I met with Dick Clarke, and I asked Dick to make sure that domestic agencies were aware of the heightened threat period and were taking appropriate steps to respond, even though we did not have specific threats to the homeland.

Later that same day, Clarke convened a special meeting of his CSG, as well as representatives from the FAA, the INS, Customs, and the Coast Guard. At that meeting, these agencies were asked to take additional measures to increase security and surveillance.

Throughout this period of heightened threat information, we worked hard on multiple fronts to detect, protect against, and disrupt any terrorist plans or operations that might lead to an attack. For instance, the Department of Defense issued at least five urgent warnings to U.S. military forces that al Qaeda might be planning a near-term attack, and placed our military forces in certain regions on heightened alert.

The State Department issued at least four urgent security advisories and public worldwide cautions on terrorist threats, enhanced security measures at certain embassies, and warned the Taliban that they would be held responsible for any al Qaeda attack on U.S. interests.

The FBI issued at least three nationwide warnings to Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies, and specifically stated that, although the vast majority of the information indicated overseas targets, attacks against the homeland could not be ruled out.

The FBI also tasked all 56 of its U.S. field offices to increase surveillance of known or suspected terrorists and reach out to known informants who might have information on terrorist activities.

The FAA issued at least five Civil Aviation Security Information Circulars to all U.S. airlines and airport security personnel, including specific warnings about the possibility of hijackings.

The CIA worked round the clock to disrupt threats worldwide. Agency officials launched a wide-ranging disruption effort against al Qaeda in more than 20 countries.
However, in reality, as we later determined, Rice's testimony was at best misleading if not downright fallacious:
Rice, testifying before the Sept. 11 commission Thursday, said that those 70 investigations were mentioned in a CIA briefing to the president and satisfied the White House that the FBI was doing its job in response to dire warnings that attacks were imminent and that the administration felt it had no need to act further.

But the FBI Friday said that those investigations were not limited to al-Qaida and did not focus on al-Qaida cells. FBI spokesman Ed Coggswell said the bureau was trying to determine how the number 70 got into the report.

... [Rice] said the briefing memo disclosed that the FBI had 70 "full-field investigations under way of cells" in the United States. And that, Rice said, explained why "there was no recommendation [coming from the White House] that we do something about" the flurry of threat warnings in the months preceding the attacks.

But Coggswell Friday said that those 70 investigations involved a number of international terrorist organizations, not just al-Qaida. He said that many were criminal investigations, which terrorism experts say are not likely to focus on preventing terrorist acts. And he said he would "not characterize" the targets of the investigations as cells, or groups acting in concert, as was the case with the Sept. 11 hijackers.

In addition to these investigations, Rice told the panel that FBI headquarters, reacting to alarming but vague intelligence in the spring and summer of 2001 that attacks were imminent, "tasked all 56 of its U.S. field offices to increase surveillance of known suspected terrorists" and to contact informants who might provide leads.

That, too, is news to the field offices. Commissioner Timothy J. Roemer told Rice that the commission had "to date ... found nobody, nobody at the FBI, who knows anything about a tasking of field offices." Even Thomas Pickard, at the time acting FBI director, told the panel that he "did not tell the field offices to do this," Roemer said.
So let's review the entirety of the Bush administration's real-life response to the memo:
  • The problem is handed off to Richard Clarke (if anyone in the White House could have been accurately described as warning everyone they knew of an imminent attack, it was Clarke).
  • The intelligence agencies involved send out a handful of warnings and the State Department beefs up security abroad.
  • The FAA sends out some warning fliers.
  • Rice prepares her missile-defense speech.
  • Bush takes nap, clears brush, remains resolutely on vacation. Finally ends vacation and returns to his leadership role by reading My Pet Goat to Florida schoolchildren.
All of which establishes one clear reality: It's not whether or not you attend each and every PDB session. It's what you do with the information that matters.

But then, right-wingers really don't want to be talking about that, do they?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Republicans Can't Understand Why They're Losing

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

The fact that President Obama not only is comfortably leading this year's race -- a lead that has significantly widened after both the GOP and Democratic conventions -- seems to be perplexing our friends the conservative Republicans.

Let's see if we can explain it to them.

Brit Hume and Co. tried to figure it out -- albeit briefly -- yesterday on Fox News Sunday:
I do think that the Democrats got more out of their convention than the Republicans got out of theirs. And it suggests a couple of things. One is that going second is better. We really saw that four years ago. That the convention held right on the heels of the end of the previous one can step all over the effect of that and re-focus the audience.

It was a better week, I think. You know, the Republicans were in the last week before Labor Day, Democrats started after Labor Day when I think more people are at home and watching.

And I think, you know, that there is something about Barack Obama. There is still a certain magic about him that people will tune in to see.
It was notable that the audience ratings were higher for the Democratic Convention than for the Republican . And that it strikes me that his speech, combined with the other presentations at the convention, had some power. And how long this bounce will last, I think it is still essentially a tied race, is anybody's guess. But I do think the Democrats got more out of their convention.
Yep, it's just that inexplicable magic that Democrats are able to pull on unwitting voters. That's it.

You see, what really baffles them is that their own scripted convention actually had the effect, as Sam Wang at Princeton Electoral Review observed, of helping Obama move ahead in the Electoral College vote totals, based on the movements within individual swing-state polls:
The negative GOP bounce. As I stated before, the GOP convention was of no help to them in the Electoral College. Indeed, it appears that the race shifted towards President Obama by 6-15 EV, or about 1.0% of Popular Vote Meta-Margin. From an analytical perspective, a negative bounce is quite remarkable because all the talk in recent weeks has been of bounces being smaller or zero, but always in the hosting party’s favor. It is all the more remarkable because of the relatively small number of state polls over the last week, so that the Meta-analysis’s inputs have not fully turned over (for discussion see comments). So the negative bounce may be larger than what is shown in the graph. Such an event would have been missed in past years (and even this year) because national polls don’t have the best resolution.
All this has led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the right-wing side of the aisle. Why, oh why, can't they even win in a year when the sour economy (that their policies created and worsened, and toward the improvement of which Republicans have contributed less than zero) should give them an advantage? That's the question lingering in the air at places like the National Review.
John Hinderaker at Powerline spits disgustedly:
I don’t think the problem in this year’s race is “elite opinion,” which, as Andy says, conservatives have been able to overcome rather consistently in the past, and is probably in more disrepute today than ever. I am afraid the problem in this year’s race is economic self-interest: we are perilously close to the point where 50% of our population cares more about the money it gets (or expects to get) from government than about the well-being of the nation as a whole. Throw in a few confused students, pro-abortion fanatics, etc., and you have a Democratic majority.
Ah, yes, the standard Randian Republican line of logic (as it were): Those leeches on the vaunted Producer/Job Creator class, the brown-skinned welfare-dependent parasites who prefer their free rides to their freeeeeeeedom(!) -- they are going to lead us all into slavery.

Of course, some of us have an alternative theory.

I am afraid the problem for Republicans in this year's race is long-term socioeconomic self-interest: we are perilously (for conservatives) close to the point where 50% of our population recognizes that Randian dog-eat-dog trickle-down Republicanism is a travesty, and that mutual self-preservation, providing a strong social safety net and a compassionate society that doesn't let human lives be crushed like ants in the economic vice created by the Republican recession, is in fact a good and desirable thing for building a long-term, sustainable society, and we are willing to vote on it as a whole. Throw in a few million angry Latinos, a significant majority of women who are tired of being trampled by right-wing policies, etc., and you have a Democratic majority.

Bet that didn't cross their minds, though.

Awwwwww. Obama's Speech Ripping Paul Ryan's 'Path' to His Face Upset Him

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

Time to break out the violins: Paul Ryan got his feelings hurt by President Obama, it seems. Though Obama regrets it now, it was a delicious moment at the time:
President Obama told author Bob Woodward that he didn't know Rep. Paul Ryan was going to attend at a major speech he delivered last year on spending and debt, and says in retrospect that it was "a mistake" to dress down Ryan and his budget plans to his face in that setting.

In the interview conducted July 11 -- about a month before Ryan was tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate – the president also misstated the first name of the man who is now on the opposing presidential ticket.

"I'll go ahead and say it – I think that I was not aware when I gave that speech that Jack Ryan was going to be sitting right there," the president told Woodward according to audio transcripts of their conversations, provided to ABC News.

"And so I did feel, in retrospect, had I known – we literally didn't know he was going to be there until – or I didn't know, until I arrived. I might have modified some of it so that we would leave more negotiations open, because I do think that they felt like we were trying to embarrass him," Obama continued. "We made a mistake."
And so the ego of that humble and honest and humbly honest guy from Wisconsin was bruised:
Ryan thought it was a planned attack, and he was incensed. Ryan rushed out of the room even as Gene Sperling, a top Obama economic aide, tried to stop him to explain that the speech "wasn't a setup," Woodward writes.

"I can't believe you poisoned the well like that," Ryan told him.

Back at the Capitol, Ryan denounced the speech as "excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate to address our fiscal crisis." He said he was "very disappointed in the president," adding that he thought his invitation was an "olive branch."
Here's the the full quote:
RYAN: I'm very disappointed in the president. I was excited when we got invited to attend his speech today. I thought the president's invitation to Mr. Camp, Mr. Hensley and myself was an olive branch. Instead, what we got was a speech that was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate in addressing our country's pressing fiscal challenges. What we heard today was not fiscal leadership from our commander in chief. What we heard today was a political broadside from our campaigner-in-chief.
As we observed at the time:
If Ryan is going to accuse the president of being "dramatically inaccurate," he better be ready to back it up. As you can see, Obama's evisceration of the Ryan budget was based on a set of well-established facts.

In the meantime, I'm sure you'll all join me in playing "Cry Me a River" on the world's smallest violin for Ryan. Especially when he calls Obama's budget outline "doubling down on the failed politics of the past." Projection, anyone? There was no greater failure than the economic politics of George W. "I Never Met A Tax Cut For the Wealthy I Didn't Like" Bush -- and Ryan's plan is Bushism on steroids.
And let's recall: Ryan's "Path to Prosperity" plan itself was an open broadside at Obama. Here's how it opened:
For years, both political parties have made empty promises to the American people. Unfortunately, the President refuses to take responsibility for avoiding the debt-fueled crisis before us. Instead, his policies have put us on the path to debt and decline.

The President and his party’s leaders refuse to take action in the face of the most predictable economic crisis in our nation’s history. The President’s budget calls for more spending and more debt, while Senate Democrats – for over 1,000 days – have refused to pass a budget. This unserious approach to budgeting has serious consequences for American families, seniors, and the next generation.

We reject the broken politics of the past.
You want to play hardball, Mr. Ryan, then you should expect some brushback pitches from time to time.

It's especially touching, don't you think, that Ryan was playing classic Republican attack politics while pretending to be moving "forward" with a gussied-up version of the very same Bush policies that led to the disaster of 2008.

These are policies that Ryan voted for repeatedly and promoted assiduously during the Bush years.
Can we start calling him Paul "Dramatically Inaccurate" Ryan now?