How The Media Got EVERYTHING Wrong About Cantor’s Primary Defeat

Last week a tsunami of shock washed over the Washington press corps as the second highest Republican in congress was swept overboard in a primary race against an unknown Tea Party opponent. Eric Cantor’s embarrassing loss has sparked debate as to how such a powerful GOP leader could have been caught looking. Unfortunately, the media contribution to the debate is rife with speculation and error.

Koch-Cycle Dave Brat

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First off all, the characterization of Cantor’s opponent, Dave Brat, as an outsider who sprung from the grassroots to slay Goliath is a reflection of the shallowness of the research conducted by the mainstream media. Thom Hartmann went deeper and discovered that Brat was on the radar of the billionaire Koch brothers long before he launched his allegedly underdog campaign. Koch-affiliated financiers endowed Randolph-Macon College with half a million dollars to seat the Ayn Rand disciple as a trickle-down economics professor. Then, when the campaign commenced, radio talk show hosts like Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin took the baton and fervently promoted Brat’s candidacy. Ingraham and Levin are just a couple of the radio talkers who are sponsored by Koch front groups like Americans for Prosperity.

This brings us to the second point. The media repeatedly cast a spotlight on the campaign spending differential between Cantor and Brat. Cantor raised more than $5,000,000 compared to Brat’s $200,000. Many reporters latched onto the amusing anecdote that Cantor spent more on steak dinners than Brat spent in total. However, what they failed to take into consideration was the value of the airtime contributed by the likes of Ingraham, Levin, Beck, Limbaugh, Fox News, et al. It could cost a couple of hundred dollars for a thirty second spot on a high performing radio program. Extrapolate that to twenty or thirty minutes of direct advocacy by the the program’s host every day for a month or two and you could easily have exceeded Cantor’s budget for broadcast advertising.

Adding in the value of the donated airtime rips apart the third fallacy peddled in the press – that Brat’s low cost campaign disproves the contention that money makes the difference in elections. This is a target that has been in the sights of conservatives since the Citizen’s United debacle in the Supreme Court. The rush to exonerate wealthy donors of having any untoward impact on electoral outcomes was head-spinning. Every right-wing pundit with a microphone hailed the demise of the theory that cash-laden campaigns had an unfair advantage. In truth, Brat’s campaign was far richer than acknowledged due to the media support detailed above. But even if there were no other factors, a win by a single candidate in one race surely doesn’t negate the fact that in 99.99% of other races the better financed candidate prevails. If the right is so convinced that Brat’s showing proves that money doesn’t matter, I dare any of them to announce that they are halting their fundraising and capping their spending at $200,000.

Fourth: Tea Party supporters were quick to jump on Brat’s win as evidence of a Tea Party resurgence. In just about every other race this cycle, the Tea Party challenger lost to an establishment incumbent. With Brat’s resounding victory, they claim to have regained their mojo. But the only way they can make that argument is if they forget that they lost just about every other race this cycle.

Finally, the Washington set is dead certain that Brat’s triumph was due to his stance against immigration. After all, he did feature it in his campaign ads and it was a point of departure between him and Cantor. Unfortunately for those who seem to have a desperate yearning for that to be true, polling on the day of the election proved otherwise. Public Policy Polling released the survey showing that “72 percent of registered voters in Cantor’s district polled on Tuesday said they either ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat’ support immigration reform.” And the anti-immigration forces conveniently ignore the fact that on the same day Sen. Lindsey Graham, an establishment, pro-immigration candidate, from an even more conservative state, handily dispatched a slew of Tea Partiers. More likely, the problem for Cantor was that he mustered only a 43% job performance approval, just a couple points off of his losing election results.

So Dave Brat won a peculiar contest in Virginia where he had hidden support from billionaires and an opponent who was widely disliked. Then he disappears and refuses to speak to the voters he hopes will be his constituents. It’s been three days and he hasn’t held a post election press conference. And yet the press continues to misrepresent the realities that produced the results of this election. It’s a state of affairs that proves that Cantor wasn’t the only loser last week. The voters and others who rely on the media to provide useful information and analysis also lost. But they should be used to that by now.

House Republican Leader Proposes Unconstitutional Debt Ceiling Bill

Eric CantorEric Cantor, the Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, has posted a message on his website that spells out the terms of his compromise debt ceiling legislation. It says…

“Next week, we will authorize a three month temporary debt limit increase to give the Senate and House time to pass a budget. Furthermore, if the Senate or House fails to pass a budget in that time, Members of Congress will not be paid by the American people for failing to do their job. No budget, no pay.”

There is one minor problem with that. It is a violation of the Constitution’s 27th Amendment which states that…

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

When alerted to his prospective breach of the law, Cantor’s office insisted that the plan complies with the Constitution because it does not change the rate of pay, it only defers payment. However, the law says nothing about “rate” of pay. It merely says that “varying” compensation is prohibited, and a deferment is unarguably a variance.

The GOP is constantly waving the Constitution in everyone’s face as if they have some sort of privileged relationship with it or its authors. What makes this all the more ludicrous is that when Republicans took control of the House in 2010 they initiated a childish procedure wherein they recite the entire document on the opening day of the session as a symbolic message that they will be conscious of what it says. That took place just last week, but it apparently did not help them to understand what’s in it.

The GOP Agenda Becomes Fox News Programming

Long ago it was established that Fox News is not a legitimate journalistic enterprise. It is the PR division of the Republican Party. Fox bristles at that characterization despite the fact that they have admitted that they approach the news from “the other side” of what they consider the liberal media. They have even been caught reading “news” items straight from Republican press releases.

Now Fox News is promoting a special slate of programming for next week that they are calling “Regulation Nation.” The promotion shows Fox bragging that “We expose how excessive laws are drowning American business.”

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that next weeks special programming, on both Fox News and Fox Business, was scheduled at precisely the same time as the Republican Party’s announcement that they will be pursuing an anti-regulation agenda for the remainder of this year. The GOP’s House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, just published his list of the “Top 10 Job-Destroying Regulations.” Cantor describes the list as a memo on the jobs agenda, but the list is nothing more than a collection of health, safety, and environmental regulations that he and the GOP oppose (and one anti-union bill for good measure).

The effects of these proposals will serve only to produce dirtier air and water, more hazardous working conditions, and astronomical leaps in costs related to health care. And that isn’t even addressing the human toll of disease, disability, and death. Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic summed up the fallacy embraced by the GOP plan with an example taken from Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-WY) analysis of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (which is included in Cantor’s Top 10 list).

“By 2014, the agency predicts, the new rule will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 71 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 52 percent.

“Of course, the companies that still maintain plants with high emissions will have to spend money to comply with the new rule. And, according to the Barrasso memo, the bill for that compliance (including, as far as I can tell, higher prices the companies might pass along to customers) comes to $2.4 billion a year. But the source of that figure is the EPA’s own assessment, which notes that $1.6 billion of that represent a one-time-only capital investment, already underway – and that even the $2.4 billion pales next to the $120 to $280 billion in annual benefits that the regulation will generate. Those benefits include reduced emergency room visits, missed days at work, and mortality.”

The entire Republican deregulation campaign is fraught with similar examples of proposals that oppose measures that may require modest investments, but will produce far more in savings and new revenue, not to mention a higher quality of life. And despite the Republican deceit of calling these anti-regulation proposals a jobs agenda, there is no evidence that any part of it would create a single job. As pretty much every credible economic expert has affirmed, the current employment situation is not the result of taxes and regulations. It is due to lack of demand. And demand increases when middle-income consumers have more money to spend, not when wealthy people and corporations are taxed less.

What the Republicans are seeking, by their own admission, is competitiveness in global markets, and their deregulation plan is certain to achieve that. It will finally make the United States competitive with nations like China for having the lowest wages and the highest levels of pollution, and the worst standard of living.

And isn’t it convenient that Fox News would choose this time to produce programming that adopts the very same positions on the economy and the agenda going forward as the leaders of the Republican Party?

[Update 9/12/11] Media Matters has posted an excellent article with additional research affirming that taxes and regulations have little impact on job creation.

Fox Nation’s (Non) Coverage Of Hurricane Irene

It’s midday Saturday, August 27, 2011, and Hurricane Irene has already come ashore in North Carolina. Fox Nation presently has this featured at the top of their page:

Fox Nation Hurricane Irene

What’s interesting about that is that there isn’t one single update to follow on the web site. Not one story about Hurricane Irene today.

The Fox Nationalists do have a couple of stories from yesterday that are tangentially about the hurricane, but are more political than anything else. Both promote the typically cold-hearted perspective of Republican leaders. Here are the headlines:

Eric Cantor: Hurricane Relief Spending Means Cuts Need to Happen Elsewhere.

Ron Paul: No FEMA Response Necessary.

And that’s it. No updates. No alerts. No precautionary announcements. No guidance to assistance providers. Nothing but affirmation of the Randian philosophy that you’re on your own, pal – good luck.

Small Government – Small Hearts: The GOP Response To Hurricane Irene

There is a storm advancing on the east coast of the United States of historic proportions. Hurricane Irene has resulted in the first ever mandatory evacuation of New York City due to a natural disaster. It is expected to cause billions of dollars of damage from North Carolina to Maine, but the human toll will not be known until the storm has passed. And the response by Republican leaders typically expresses their disdain for the unfortunates who not are a part of their elitist, country club caste.

Small Government

The GOP has long had an obsession with dismantling government. Grover Norquist famously stated that he wanted to “reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” More recently, Eric Cantor, the Republican Leader of the House, said that he would only support federal disaster aid if the expense was offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. In effect, he is holding emergency relief hostage to partisan deficit reduction.

Right-wing icon Ron Paul goes even further. In an interview with NBC News he essentially advocated repealing a century of progress in critical response to national tragedies saying, literally, that “We should be like 1900.”

Paul cited as an example the response to a devastating hurricane in Galveston, TX, in 1900. It is still the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, taking the lives of between 10,000 and 12,000 people. Paul proudly boasted that the community did not require federal aid to rebuild the city. That, however, is patently false. Galveston did request and receive federal aid, without which it could not have rebuilt. Glenn Beck also falsely cited Galveston in an attempt to argue that the federal government’s role in disaster relief was unnecessary.

The modern Republican Party is making a predictable progression from George Bush’s phony “compassionate conservatism” to the heartlessness of the Tea Pity Party. At this foreboding time, when American lives and property are at risk, we should take care to remember the results of the anti-federalist policies that produced the cataclysm of Katrina and resolve to never allow that to happen again.

Liz Trotta: Fox News Apologist For Domestic Terrorism

This morning on Fox News, Shannon Bream interviewed Fox News contributor Liz Trotta. The segment dealt with what Bream characterized as the over-reporting of incidents of violence directed at Democrats in the days following the passage of the health care bill. Those incidents included death threats, smashed windows, mail with suspicious white powder, severed gas lines, etc.

On Fox News, however, such examples of domestic terrorism are irrelevant trivialities. Trotta began her spiel by asserting that the left invented violent dissent back in the 1960’s. You know, the peacenik, free love, flower children, who marched to end discrimination and war. They were a frightening bunch, weren’t they? And because of them, the overt hostility being played out by extremist conservatives today is, in Trotta’s words, “laughable.”

It’s funny, my recollection of the sixties is very different. It wasn’t the followers of the Gandhi-inspired Martin Luther King who were stirring up trouble. It was the right-wingers who were beating up (or worse) anyone with long hair or dark skin. And the rightward proclivity for violence exists today with armed patriot and militia groups, and NRA-sponsored tea partiers who show up with signs that say “We came unarmed – this time.”

But Trotta doesn’t stop there. She goes on to discuss particular acts of violence that she thinks are unworthy of attention. She told Bream that “a brick through a window is pretty low on the violence scale.” I wonder how she would react if it were her window? I imagine she would casually get up from the sofa, pick up the brick with a chuckle, and tell her kids to turn off the TV and go play outside. After all, it’s only a brick. Don’t be a wuss.

Trotta’s exhibition of bravado is nothing new. During the presidential campaign she came out in favor of assassination:

“…and now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama … uh … Obama … well, both if we could.”

Trotta further disparaged the victims and critics of violence by portraying their complaints as “whining.” In Trotta’s view, if someone leaves you a profanity-laced message saying snipers are going to kill your children (as happened to Rep. Louise Slaughter), you are just a sniveling bellyacher if you bring it up on TV or report it to the police.

Trotta didn’t say whether she thought Republican Rep. Eric Cantor was whining when he held a press conference to disclose that he was a victim of violence. His allegations were broadcast on Fox News with a screen graphic that read “Gunman Shoots Up Office Of Number Two House Republican. Cantor whined that…

“I have been directly threatened. A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week.”

Perhaps it doesn’t qualify as whining if it is lying. Because police later revealed that the bullet did not directly threaten Cantor at all. It was not shot at his office (it was random gunfire into the air). It was not even his office that was hit (it was a different unit on a different floor). And no one even knew there was a campaign office in the building (the office was unmarked and wasn’t in his district). In short, everything Cantor alleged about the incident was utterly false. Yet Trotta never mentioned Cantor as one of the whiners for whom she has such scorn.

This is yet another example of Fox News embracing the most repulsively hostile rhetoric. Trotta, who has her own record of violent fantasy, is quite at home on the network that features folks like Ralph Peters who advocates military attacks on the press. And Michael Scheuer who told Glenn Beck that “[T]he only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”

These sort of sentiments are a routine part of Fox’s editorial position. It isn’t whining, and it isn’t concealed. But It is an apologia for domestic terrorism and a justification, and invitation, for continued and escalating violence. The people at Fox News, from the administrative staff, to the presenters like Trotta and Glenn Beck, to the executives like Roger Ailes, and all the way up to Rupert Murdoch, should consider themselves culpable for any and all of the ugly events that their vulgar and irresponsible actions might predictably encourage. They are sitting on a powder keg and playing with matches. If something blows up they cannot pretend that they had nothing to do with it.