Stories to Watch: 12/4/13.
The right is making a big deal of a new poll showing that Pres. Obama has “lost” the youngest voters. The problem of course is that this is a two party system and they also hate Republicans more. So any rightwing triumphalism here is firmly grounded in spin. Don’t fall for it. I’d also point out that a big chunk of this 18-24 demo was never old enough to vote for Obama, so maybe saying he “lost” them is a tad bit wide of the facts.
Fox News reports that a Georgia school is confiscating Christmas cards. This is, of course, some of the purest horseshit known to modern science. Every year they pull this whiny “War on Christmas” crap straight out of their pants. Every year.
fires accepts the resignation of host Martin Bashir, after Bashir said someone ought to take a crap in Sarah Palin’s mouth. Bashir always struck me as particularly strident, demagogic, and angry, so I won’t be losing a lot of sleep over it. Besides, I like it better when Palin only has made-up stuff to complain about.
Israeli Presiden Shimon Perez endorses marriage equality. This should make rightwing heads explode, because both gay marriage and questioning Israel are THE WORST THINGS EVER!!! I know wingnuts are masters of cognitive dissonance, but the contradiction might just prove to be too big a challenge even for them.
A glimpse of the oncoming suck that will be the retooled CNN: S.E. Cupp, a contributor to Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze, will do an hour-long interview with Beck on the network. Expect hard-hitting questions like “Why are you so awesome?” “Is it hard to be so insightful all the time?” and “Barack Obama: most terrible president or worst president in history?”
If anyone’s going to make 2014 about Obamacare, it’s Democrats. Seriously, with Healthcare.gov doing so well, Republicans are scrambling to find new reasons for everyone to hate Obamacare. They aren’t having a lot of luck.
A possible new drug scandal for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford: heroin.
Finally, the president gave a speech on the economy today — and it was really good.
[cartoon via Truthdig]
What’s the difference between a cover up and a crackdown on leaks?
Last week, CNN came out with a “blockbuster exclusive” about Benghazi. In a highly speculative report, the network guesses that the CIA may have been running guns into Syria out of the Libya and that this was the cause of the attack on the diplomatic compound there. Of course, the right is pleased as punch with this story, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with their original conspiracy theory that the administration had blamed the attacks on an anti-Islamic video to hide the fact that it was a terrorist attack.
The thing is, the CNN story is based on one simple and somewhat shaky bit of evidence — i.e., it sure looks like something is being covered up. The the linchpin bit of evidence is that:
Since January, some CIA operatives involved in the agency’s missions in Libya, have been subjected to frequent, even monthly polygraph examinations, according to a source with deep inside knowledge of the agency’s workings.
The goal of the questioning, according to sources, is to find out if anyone is talking to the media or Congress.
It is being described as pure intimidation, with the threat that any unauthorized CIA employee who leaks information could face the end of his or her career.
Described by who as “pure intimidation?” Well, the CNN report doesn’t say. Could be a CIA operative who had to take a polygraph or it could be someone with an ax to grind who has nothing at all to do with the testing, the CIA, or Benghazi (i.e., the always untrustworthy “top congressional aide” sourcing).
Taking the weekend shift at Political Animal, Max Ehrenfreund tackled this report and found it not very convincing.
I am not persuaded that there was anything happening at the Benghazi annex significantly different from, well, whatever it is the CIA is doing in any of the place around the world where its personnel are stationed.
A much simpler explanation for the frequency of the polygraphs is that this administration is panicky. They have gone to absurd lengths to keep personnel from talking. As McClatchy reported, the administration’s “Insider Threat” program, launched in response to Pfc. Bradley Manning’s leaks, requires all federal employees, not just those working with sensitive information, to keep a careful eye on one another. Personnel are encouraged to report not just unauthorized disclosures, but any signs of psychological stress, including divorce, debt, or frustrations with colleagues. The logic is that these conditions can be what pushes a person like Manning to take information outside of an agency.
I’ve argued elsewhere that this program might the most disturbing of all the administration’s secret programs to be revealed in the past few months, because it shows how far intelligence agencies would go in examining the details of our personal lives if they had the authority.
So basically, if there’s a crackdown on leakers, it’s going to look pretty much exactly like this. And guess what? We know there’s a war on leaks. The problem with amping up secrecy to eleven — perception-wise, anyway — is that everything looks like a cover up. And that’s because everything is being covered up, regardless of whether it’s damning or trivial. You could probably look into any diplomatic mission in the world and find the same thing, but that doesn’t mean that there’s some huge conspiracy going on in Belgium or Sydney or Hong Kong. It just means that the administration is driving themselves to distraction with leak-plugging — ironically, the result of an attempt to avoid embarrassing distractions caused by leaks.
"The Obama administration seems to have inherited from the Obama campaign the same obsession with avoiding political controversy and carefully controlling the information that the public receives…" Ehrenfreund writes, "The frequent polygraphs CNN report are nothing out of the ordinary, not for a president whose staff has an unreasonable attachment to secrecy for its own sake."
Michele Bachmann, a profile in courage.
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota on Tuesday refused to answer questions about a recent speech she gave at a conservative conference.
Bachmann claimed at the Conservative Political Action Committee on Saturday that Obama was living in opulence at the White House. She alleged the President was enjoying an excess of tax-payer funded luxuries.
But when confronted by CNN reporter Dana Bash, the Republican congresswoman refused to elaborate on her remarks. Bash was forced to keep pace as Bachmann briskly walked away, insisting her speech was about the attack in Benghazi. Bachmann even turned the questions against the CNN reporter, chiding her for talking about Obama’s White House budget rather than Benghazi.
“But you’re the one who brought it up,” Bash responded as Bachmann raced off.
Not surprisingly, the report tells us “that several of Bachmann’s claims of excess were untrue. He noted that by her own estimates Obama was actually spending $2 million less than Bush and the allegation that the President hired a designated dog walker was simply false.”
But how stupid is the argument anyway? Are we supposed to believe that Ronald Reagan and GWB lived in tar paper shacks on the White House’s back lawn, eating only what they could forage from local birdfeeders? And how could this possibly have any damned thing to do with Benghazi?
No wonder Shelly took off running when asked about it. If we had more reporters actually challenging politicians on their lies, we see a lot more politicians hightailing it away from intrepid reporters. And that in turn would mean we’d see a lot fewer dishonest Republicans.
CNN’s Dana Bash: reporting done right.