Nancy Pelosi Launches Campaign To Stop Stephen Colbert And Super PACs

The Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has just launched a campaign to “Stop Colbert,” as in Stephen Colbert, the acerbic incarnation of right-wing blowhardism. The first shot in this battle, for which a brutal retaliation from Colbert can be expected after he gets back from vacation, is this video that Pelosi posted yesterday:

The issue is one that has become an integral part of this election year that has seen income inequality, corporate abuse of power, and fair elections, take precedence over almost every issue other than jobs. Pelosi sums up her position saying that…

“…House Democrats are reintroducing the DISCLOSE Act today to get unlimited, secret donations out of politics. The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United opened the floodgates to unrestricted special interest campaign donations in American elections—permitting corporations to spend unlimited funds, directly or through third parties and Political Action Committees organized for those purposes, to influence Federal elections and opened the door for the emergence of Super PACs.”

It is Colbert who has succeeded in making Super PACs one of the most reviled political devices ever conceived. And he did it by starting his own (Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow) and demonstrating how easy it is to collect huge sums of money from secret sources and spending it on self-serving activities without any unaccountability whatsoever.

The issue made headlines this week when President Obama announced that he would not oppose the formation of Super PACs to support his reelection. Republicans immediately pounced on the announcement, portraying it as a flip-flop of his previously expressed position against Super PACs. Of course, Obama did not flip-flop at all. He is still against Super PACS, he has just resigned himself to the fact that they are a part of the electoral process as it currently exists and that abstaining from using them would amount to a unilateral disarmament that would permit Republicans to vastly outspend Democrats this year.

Obama and other Democrats still intend to pursue an agenda to bring an end to the practice as quickly as they can get support from enough members of the GOP to pass legislation like the DISCLOSE Act which Pelosi is addressing in the video above. It is only by the obstructionism of the GOP that the bill has not already become law.

Pelosi is firing both barrels at Colbert in the video. She hammers him for “taking secret money from special interests” and for being “out of control.” And she nails him for his hatred of kittens. As an aside, she zings Newt Gingrich with what could be a fatal blow by referring to him as her friend. If Gingrich’s campaign weren’t already dead, this would surely kill it.

Still, this campaign aimed at Colbert is a big step for Pelosi and company. It was not that long ago that one of Pelosi’s top lieutenants in the House was advising Democratic members to refrain from appearing on The Colbert Report. Rahm Emanuel was the Democratic Caucus chairman before leaving to become Obama’s Chief of Staff, and then mayor of Chicago. But back in March of 2007. while still a member of Congress, Emanuel told his colleagues to “steer clear of Stephen Colbert.” That advice was widely ignored, to the dismay of many congressmen with deficient senses of humor.

The DISCLOSE Act is an important first step in restoring the power of people over corporations and wealthy special interests. Pelosi’s efforts on behalf of this bill are welcome. But in this topsy-turvy world it may turn out that Colbert will wield more influence over the matter in the long run. His brilliant comedic sensibility and fearlessness in injecting his satire into the real world is having an impact that could never have been anticipated. And as Pelosi says, He.Must.Be.Stopped!

Speaking Truth To Fox ‘So-Called’ News

This is getting to be fun. Last Sunday, White House communications director Anita Dunn said what most rational observers of the news already knew: that Fox News is “the communications arm of the Republican Party.”

Today, another volley has been fired in defense of sanity. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was on CNN and this to say about Fox News:

“It’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective, and that’s a different take […] And more importantly, it’s important not to have the CNN’s and the others of the world being led and following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization.”

Well said, Rahm. Especially the part about other news organizations and the need for them to avoid mimicking the dishonest methods of Fox. But that’s not all. White House advisor David Axelrod was on ABC’s This Week and said:

“It’s not really a news organization […] We’re going to appear on their shows, we’re going to participate, but understanding they have a point of view.”

That is only partly good news. At least Axelrod recognizes that Fox is platform for a hostile, right-wing point of view, but why would he consent to participate with an enterprise that he concedes is “not really a news organization?” That’s like agreeing to participate with the National Enquirer. What’s the point?

Still, it is encouraging that the White House is aware of what they are up against. And it is even more encouraging that they are willing to openly and accurately characterize Fox as a fraud as regards the business of news.

Now all we need to do is get the rest of the political establishment to get on board. The first thing any Democrat or progressive should say when interviewed by Fox is “Well, if I were on a legitimate news channel I would say…” Properly identifying Fox News should be required in every appearance. Perhaps they could subtly interject reality by saying “Thank you for inviting me to be on Fox ‘so-called’ News,” or “the Fox Opinion Network.”

This new display of courage and honesty should also be taken up by the rest of the media. This is the perfect excuse for introducing a vibrant dialogue about the journalistic malpractice at Fox News and about the responsibilities of ethical journalism in general. Simply hosting segments with balanced discussions of these issues is a positive step. If nothing else, it reinforces the impression that Fox is a fake. The only response that Fox has been able to muster so far is that they believe their audience can tell the difference between news and opinion. That’s, in effect, an admission by Fox that their trade is opinion. It’s a lame defense and it isn’t even true. Studies have shown that Fox News viewers are far more likely to believe things that are demonstrably false than viewers of other news networks.

Fox News has been relentless in their disparagement of their competitors. they have placed advertising on the air and in trade publications that explicitly demeaned other news organizations. They routinely charge them with being biased and unprofessional. They even helped to promote protests against other news networks. For some reason, the targets of Fox’s attacks never seem to fight back. Well now they have an opening to do so in the form of addressing the allegations from the White House. If they miss this opportunity they are either incompetent or have a death wish. Fox has been eating their lunch in the ratings (on the cable side), and they have both a professional and a fiduciary duty to defend themselves.

Undoubtedly, Glenn Beck will do a show Monday accusing Axelrod and Emmanuel of being Marxists (if he hasn’t already). But the more he makes this ludicrous assertion the less power it has. He has already swept up Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Mother Theresa in his paranoid net. So bring it on.