It’s hard to know how to present the discussion that took place this weekend on Fox News. During their recurring segment on Political Insiders, Fox contributor Pat Caddell floated his theory that it is Republicans who are responsible for the alleged targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS (video below).
Caddell: The establishment Republicans want the IRS to go after the Tea Party. Got it? They want to go after the Tea Party. Because the Tea Parties are an outside threat to their power hold. And, I’m telling you, the lobbying, consulting class of the Republican party, the Republican leadership, who have been attacking the Tea Parties and alienating them, they want the IRS doing this.
If that’s true, then Caddell has uncovered a clandestine plot by the GOP to sabotage their strongest conservative allies and most reliable Republican activists and voters. Did the Republicans infiltrate the IRS and orchestrate a strategy to deny Tea Partiers tax-exempt status? Did they conduct sham hearings in the House, led by the crusading committee chair (and recidivist criminal) Darrel Issa, all the while maneuvering secretly to oppress Tea Party organizations and cast the blame on Democrats? It’s not unlike a scenario I mockingly offered last year that accused the GOP of a False Flag Operation.
It’s kind of a brilliant plan that would stifle intra-party rivals while putting Democratic foes in a negative light. And there are elements of the story that could be corroboration for such a plot. For instance, it turns out that the IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, and Lois Lerner, the head of the agency’s Tax-Exempt Organizations division, were Republicans hired by George W. Bush. So it never made sense that they would be engaged in a conspiracy to help Democrats silence the Tea Party.
On the other hand, Caddell could in the throes of severe dementia resulting in his imagining a wild conspiracy wherein the GOP is just another enemy of the patriots waving tea bags around. If his musings hold weight, should we expect Issa to convene new hearings indicting Republicans for their complicity in the alleged scandal? For that matter, can we expect apologies from Issa, and dozens of other Republican politicians and pundits, who falsely accused the Democrats of conspiring against the Tea Party?
So which is it? Is Caddell breaking news or smoking crack? It’s often hard to tell with many of the ludicrous theories that waft from the halls of Fox News.
Fox News CEO Roger Ailes is revealing the creeping dread he harbors at the prospect of being exposed in a new biography that will be released in a few weeks. As a result of his manic paranoia he has assembled his Flunky Brigade to mount a large-scale offensive meant to preemptively discredit the forthcoming book and its author, Gabriel Sherman.
Dylan Byers at Politico wrote about this blitzkrieg earlier this month in an article that detailed how Sherman has already been targeted by Ailes’ defenders on the Fox News payroll. They have assailed him as a “phony journalist,” a “stalker,” a “harasser,” and when all else fails, as “a [George] Soros puppet.” This is the same battle plan that Ailes executed when he was faced with the release of a damning portrait of Fox News by Media Matters founder David Brock. Ailes dispatched his defenders to slanderously malign Brock as a mentally unstable, drug abusing, megalomaniac. It’s the Ailes way.
Now another Ailes puppet, Pat Caddell, has been recruited into the fray with an utterly daft hit piece in the form of an editorial on FoxNews.com. Caddell begins his protracted rant as a self-glorifying account of how he was the genius behind a thirty year old, moth-eaten speech by Jimmy Carter. But that was just the set up on a labyrinthine journey to disparage Sherman’s pending biography of Ailes, about which Caddell said with more than hint of hyperbole, “the mere publication of his book will go beyond controversy. Its publication would, in and of itself, be a scandal.” However, nothing in Caddell’s feverish disgorging ever explained what would be so scandalous about it. The entire article reads like a reject from the notoriously disreputable Fox Nation, but even that Fox annex wouldn’t re-post this tripe.
Try to follow along as Caddell weaves a nearly incoherent tale of intrigue. The pretext for his ire was an alleged claim of credit for the Carter speech by Gordon Stewart, who just happened to be one of Carter’s speechwriters. Caddel insists, however, that Stewart had little to do with the speech, but Caddell kept that opinion to himself for several years. His impetus for speaking out years later was a rather childish response to an unrelated article by Stewart wherein he negatively reviewed a friendly biography of Ailes that was written by Ailes’ personally selected lackey Zev Chafets for the purpose of beating Sherman’s book to market. Caddell wrote “When I saw that Stewart had trashed author Chafets for picayune inaccuracies in his Ailes book, I said to myself, ‘Enough is enough. If Stewart is going to dump on Chafets for tiny mistakes, then I should let everyone know that Stewart has been telling a whopper for years.’”
In other words. because Caddell didn’t like Stewart’s review of the sycophantic bio that Ailes himself had solicited, Caddell would dredge up an old, unrelated dispute to lash out at Stewart. At this point you may wonder what any of this has to do with Gabriel Sherman. Well, Caddell drags him into this with this introduction: “There’s a person named Gabriel Sherman, a writer for New York magazine and a fellow at the New America Foundation–a left-of-center think-tank to which George Soros and others in the Soros family have contributed.” The Soros affiliation was thrown in because Caddell knows that the Fox audience has a knee jerk gag response to the name. What Caddell fails to note is that his Fox colleague, conservative pundit Jim Pinkerton, was also a New America Foundation fellow.
Are you still following? Caddell’s problem with Sherman is that while conducting research on Caddell’s article attacking Stewart, Sherman asked Caddell to document his assertion that Stewart had improperly claimed credit for the Carter speech. Caddell had written that “Four years ago, in both print and in interviews, Stewart claimed to be the author of the “crisis of confidence” speech.” Sherman then had the audacity to ask Caddell to direct him to the articles and/or interviews that Caddell had referenced. This resulted in Caddell having a conniption fit and declaring that Sherman “can’t or won’t find something that is plainly a part of the public record, and then he writes me a faux-friendly e-mail asking me to help him.”
That’s a bit of an over-reaction, it would seem. The first thing an experienced journalist would do to verify a quote would be to ask the person quoted for his sources. Why spend untold hours digging up years-old documents if the person who cited them could simply send you a link? But Caddell thinks that was an outrageous request and indicative of poor research skills. On the basis of that, Caddell extrapolates that Sherman is incompetent and his book on Ailes, which Caddell has never seen, will be a hack job.
That’s a fairly thin basis for criticism. But if you think that’s bad, have look at the tantrum Caddell throws in his final paragraph:
“Frankly, Mr. Sherman, you are an embarrassment to the journalistic trade, and if your book is in the same vein, it will be an embarrassment to your publisher and a disservice to the reading public. Please take my advice: Grow up, get a life, and most of all, leave me alone. Got that?”
Seriously? Was Caddell’s emotional maturity stunted at the junior high level? That’s the most pathetically impotent threat I’ve ever seen in print. And the entire tirade was just an excuse to bash a book that he knows nothing about because the author asked him a simple and reasonable question. The lengths to which Caddell has gone, at the behest of his Fox master Roger Ailes, demonstrates just how worried they are about the revelations that Sherman’s book may contain. And it reveals them to be so desperate that they would resort to these ineffectual bullying tactics.
The question is, are they also so delusional that they believe that any of this will have anything other than a positive effect on Sherman and the reception for his book? If anything, it will increase anticipation all the more, which would be ironic because the Chafets book on Ailes was a thundering dud, that sold less than 3,000 copies its first week. That prompted Chafets to tell The New Republic that “Most people don’t care about Roger Ailes.” That’s a curious remark for an author to make about the subject of his latest book.
In the end, Ailes, Caddell, and Chafets may be adding to their own gnawing sense of envy by giving Sherman’s book a big PR boost that could help sales. Perhaps Sherman should send them a thank you note. Well, except for Caddell who wants to be left alone.
On Tuesday’s edition of the Judge Jeanine Pirro show on Fox News, Pirro hosted a discussion with celebrated media analysts Ann Coulter and Pat Caddell. The segment was predictably filled with partisan histrionics and wild-eyed hyperbole aimed at what they perceive to be the “liberal” media.
Setting aside the hysterical irony of Fox News pretending to make a neutral assessment of the bias of any other media, the Coulter/Caddell team managed to outdo themselves and the network for which they so ably shill. Caddell, in particular, articulated an emotionally unhinged rant about how fatally biased the media has been in favor of President Obama. Caddell stammered and came close to slobbering as he vented his extreme disgust for the press. And then, in a fit that seemed more like a seizure, he spilled the unvarnished truth that had been swelling his pea-brain to unnatural dimensions:
“The leading mainstream media…they have become a fundamental threat to American democracy and the enemies of the American people.”
Good Lord! That’s a striking revelation coming from a devoted Fox News flunkie. And the only logical assumption is that he is talking about Fox News itself. Since we know that the “leading mainstream media,” based on viewership and circulation, is Fox News and its corporate parent entities (i.e. the Wall Street Journal), Caddell is indicting his employer as an enemy of the American people. And not a minute too soon.
Anyone tuning in to Fox News can see an unending stream of bile spewed at President Obama and Democrats/liberals in general. They seek to blame Obama for a wide array of invented scandals. They hype survey data by disreputable pollsters who always seem to find Obama trailing. They interview a familiar cast of Obama-haters who never disappoint in lavishing insults on their perceived ideological adversaries on the left. And many of those guests are actively employed by right-wing organizations and candidates, but Fox never discloses those affiliations.
I couldn’t agree more with Caddell that such blatant dishonesty and misrepresentation is the work of America’s enemies. I just didn’t expect it to come from a Fox News wingnut who is paid to serve that enemy. The proof of their dastardly misdeeds is seen in surveys that show that Fox viewers are significantly more ill-informed than viewers of other media, or even people who watch no news at all.
What’s really funny, though, is how upset Fox gets when other media fail to jump on their bandwagon of lies. For some reason Fox can’t comprehend that legitimate reporters don’t want to tarnish their reputations by disseminating the same kind of falsehoods that are the hallmark of Fox News.
Fox News has long served as the public relations arm of the Republican Party. Their purpose, as always, is to promote the GOP and the conservative agenda throughout their broadcast day. In pursuit of that mission they regularly feature Republican guests in the friendliest of environments. And whenever there is a conservative cause to promote (i.e. Tea Party, Palin movie, right-wing blog, anti-left messaging, etc.), Fox steps up to take the leading role.
Consistent with this mission, Friday night’s episode of Sean Hannity’s program on Fox News was a blatant infomercial promoting an anti-Obama movie by the people who brought us Citizens United. The crocumentary “The Hope and the Change” consumed the entire hour of Hannity’s program.
The primetime program featured lengthy clips from the film as well as interviews with the film’s creators, David Bossie and Steve Bannon. Bossie is the head of Citizens United, the organization that prompted the abhorrent Supreme Court decision that made it possible for individuals and corporations to donate unlimited sums of cash to political candidates and causes. Bannon is the director of the monumental flop, “Sarah Palin: Undefeated,” a movie that managed to fail miserably despite millions of dollars in free publicity courtesy of Fox News. Bannon went on to take the reins of Breitbart News after the sudden death of Andrew Breitbart, and he somehow succeeded in making the site even more idiotic.
Hannity opened the infomercial with the stark declaration that…
“I don’t say this lightly, but I mean every word of this. This is the most powerful documentary I’ve ever seen in my life.”
That’s quite a testimonial. Hannity didn’t reveal what other documentaries he’s seen, but it’s fair to guess that his second favorite would be “Triumph of the Will,” Hitler’s propaganda film directed by Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. Now that may seem like an unfair attempt to associate Hannity and the anti-Obama film with the Third Reich, but the film actually incorporates portions of Riefenstahl’s score, and Bossie openly admits to intentionally including the music for effect. When asked about his choice of music Bossie confessed that “There are no accidents in this film.” So the Hitler reference was deliberate on the part of the filmmakers.
Along with Bossie and Bannon, a key figure in the film’s production was Pat Caddell, the former democratic pollster who has become a fixture on Fox News whenever they need someone they can falsely identify as a Democrat who will mercilessly, and dishonestly, savage his former colleagues. Caddell’s role was to assemble a group of disenchanted Obama supporters who could be manipulated to bash the President’s reelection bid.
In fact, the whole focus of the film’s message was that there are some folks who voted for Obama in 2008 who don’t plan to vote for him again. That isn’t exactly an earth shattering revelation. Many people on both sides of the political spectrum change their minds. But the people featured in this film were particularly daft. They expressed their disappointment in the President because he didn’t fulfill their expectations of miraculous healings and the saving of souls. In their own words they seemed to believe that Obama could achieve the impossible, and when he didn’t they abandoned him. That is probably a tiny demographic in America and they are not likely to have a noticeable impact on the election.
By comparison, the Obama campaign just released a video of former Republicans who will be supporting the President in November. Their stories are far more representative of typical moderates who are surprised and appalled by the extremist leanings of the modern Republican Party.
Republicans just adopted a platform for the party’s convention that illustrates how far from the mainstream they have drifted. It includes an anti-abortion plank with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother; an immigration plank that calls for “self-deportation;” a plank advocating a return to the gold standard; a provision denying women a role in combat; opposition to same-sex marriage; and support for turning Medicare into a voucher program that will cost seniors thousands of dollars more.
Those are real issues that will drive the voting decisions of rational moderates. The glassy-eyed sycophants plucked out of obscurity by the anti-Obama film crew will have zero effect on clear-thinking voters as they evaluate the agendas put forward by Obama and Romney. What may have an effect, however, are the millions of dollars the filmmakers have promised to spend on advertising their crocumentary. They can finance their campaign with funds acquired from the sort of Super PACs that their Supreme Court decision enabled.
What’s disturbing about this is that they freely admit that their purpose is not so much to promote the film, but to let their ads serve as disguised political messages aimed at disparaging the President and affecting the outcome of the election. The reason that they chose this month to release the film was so their advertising would appear during the campaign season and they could pretend that it was merely marketing for the movie. And I repeat, this is not a conspiracy theory, it is something they specifically admit to and boast about.
Of course, the filmmakers always have Fox News to fuel their hype. The GOP network is more than happy to donate as much time as necessary to promote the movie, just as they have done for prior projects. The Hannity show was just the beginning. The film will officially debut at the Republican National Convention Etch-a-Sketch next week, and there will surely be more segments devoted to the film on Fox News. And while they will help to boost the success of this commercial, for-profit hit piece, it is highly unlikely that Fox will give much time (if any) to the political communication above from the Obama campaign. That would, after all, be too much like actually reporting the news which, as we know, Fox doesn’t do.
Watching Fox News, you sometimes have to wonder where they get the idea that they can call their guests “Democrats.” It appears that they go to great lengths to find the most objectionable opponents of the Democratic Party and slap them in front of a camera with “D” next to their name. For instance:
Doug Schoen: Republicans need to bring back the optimism and inspiration that Ronald Reagan championed so well. If they can take ownership of bringing the country a new sense of hope and possibility they have a bright future ahead.
Mara Liasson: I think this the tea party movement, the big question when it started is will this be a divisive thing for the Republican Party or will it be a source of energy? I think it’s turning out to be a source of energy.
Pat Caddell: The problem is that we have a Potemkin village presidency here. We have facades. The facade of being open government and new politics and then behind it Chicago gangsterism going on.
Kirsten Powers:[Sarah Palin] is the embodiment of what feminism is all about. She’s a working mother, she’s successful, her husband helps with the children. We should be excited about this, even if you don’t support her.
Boy, with friends like that, who needs enemas? This list just scratches the surface. The Fox Democratic lineup has also featured such Democrat bashers as Lanny Davis, Susan Estrich, Harold Ford, Jr., and even Dick Morris. And that’s just their regulars. Fox scours the news wires to find any incident wherein a Democrat is critical of other Democrats. In fact, that’s the fastest way for a Democrat to get invited to appear on Fox.
If Fox News gets to chose who they think represent Democrats, I think I should be able to decide who is a Republican. So I’ve assemble a short list of folks whom I believe best represent the state of the GOP:
Michael Moore: Is there a difference between Democrats and Republicans? Sure. The Republicans just come right out and give the bastards a corner office in the West Wing.
Al Gore: The most disturbing aspect of the Republican political culture is how it puts its unquenchable thirst for power, domination and a radical ideology above facts, reason and the truth.
Lindsey Lohan: Is our country so divided that the Republicans best hope is [Sarah Palin] a narrow minded, media obsessed homophobe?
Benito Mussolini: Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.
I have long advocated that Democrats and progressives refrain from appearing on Fox News (see Starve the Beast). To some extent that advice has been heeded and many prominent Democrats are staying away or curtailing their visits.
Consequently, Fox has had to fabricate their own version of Democrats and they have created them in their own image. They start by wrangling has-beens who are probably desperate for attention and then promise them airtime and the respect of Fox viewers who love to hear bad things about Democrats, especially from reputed Democrats.
Tonight’s analysis of the primary in Pennsylvania provides a good example of this. On Greta Van Susteren’s show, “Democratic” pollster Doug Schoen appeared to offer this cretinous take on Joe Sestak’s victory over Arlen Specter:
Van Susteren: This Specter loss is a huge shift, is it not? Schoen: Absolutely Greta. This is an anti-Washington, probably anti-Obama vote that makes clear that incumbency and being a Washington insider or a political insider is just not good. Van Susteren: So what does it mean? I mean you have Sen.Bennett losing a few weeks ago. So is it anti-Washington or anti-Democrat? Schoen: It’s both. I mean there’s clearly anti-Washington sentiment. On the Republican side it’s the Tea Party movement. On the Democratic side it’s more liberal anti-systemic sentiment. In November I think what we’re going to see is anti-Democratic sentiment because the Democrats control the executive branch and congress but there’s a lot of anger on both sides of the aisle, that’s for sure.
Where does Schoen get the idea that Sestak’s win is anti-Obama? The President and the Democratic establishment in Pennsylvania only backed Specter out of loyalty for his having switched parties. But Sestak ran as an Obama Democrat pledging to support health care, financial regulation, job creation, energy reform, and other White House initiatives. He was not against the President by any stretch of the imagination, and the White House will surely support him in the general election in November.
The vote for Sestak was an affirmation of Democratic principles, not a repudiation. Pennsylvanians were not interested in giving Specter, a Republican senator for over thirty years, another term based on his decades of support for the GOP. They had a real Democrat to vote for in Sestak, so they did. But somehow Schoen took that to be an anti-Obama, anti-Democrat position. And he added a warning that Democrats had better “move to the center” or they will “pay a huge, huge, price in the midterm election.” That advice is as bad as his election analysis.
Another Fox News Dem, Pat Caddell, delivered an opinion that was so harebrained that Rush Limbaugh quoted it:
“The Democratic Party is purging the Democrats. A lot of it is just anger, and this is anti-establishment. [...] We have never had, in my experience of studying alienation – I started when I was 20 years old in polling, 19 in doing national politics, and I want to tell you: Never have I seen anger as great as it is.”
Wrong again. As I noted above, Spector’s loss was the purging of a Republican who had flipped to the Dems in a cynical attempt to retain his seat. And how can Caddell, who is 60 years old, say that he has never seen anger like this? If he was 20 when he started out, then he went through the Vietnam years and Watergate, as well as the Clinton impeachment. Does he really think that Tea Baggers are more angry than anti-war protesters or civil rights marchers were?
The truth is that Schoen and Caddell have been wrong for a long time. They co-authored an op-ed for the Washington Post in February that concluded with an ominous warning for Democrats:
“Unless the Democrats fundamentally change their approach, they will produce not just a march of folly but also run the risk of unmitigated disaster in November. “
Well, to the extent that the primaries held today represent a preview of November, Schoen and Caddell have completely missed the boat. Sestak’s win is a win for Democratic principles and gives Pennsylvania Dems a better chance at winning in November. And Jack Conway’s victory in Kentucky, and Bill Halter forcing Blanche Lincoln into a runoff in Arkansas, are further repudiations of the Schoen-Caddell cabal.
Schoen’s and Caddell’s careers consist almost entirely of repeated appearances on Fox. They frequently show up on Cavuto and Beck, and recently appeared together on Hannity’s show. They seem to have discovered that they can make a couple of bucks by pretending to be Democrats and advising the party to be more like Republicans. Their advice, however, has proven to be wrong time and time again. So the only thing stupider than the advice these phonies peddle would be for any Democrat to take it.