When it comes to Supreme Court justices and their views of the Constitution, on the one hand there’s Clarence Thomas, and on the other there’s everyone else in the 227-year history of the Court, suggested CNN and New Yorker legal analyst Toobin in a Tuesday piece. Toobin called Thomas, who just marked a quarter-century as a SCOTUS justice, “not a conservative but, rather, a radical” who’s driven to advance “his own idiosyncratic interpretation of the Constitution.” Thomas’s jurisprudence is, in Toobin’s words, “reactionary” and “antediluvian.”
Tom Johnson covers mostly websites (e.g., Salon, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos) for NewsBusters. He blogged frequently for the site from 2005 until 2007 and has been a regular contributor since 2011. From 1989 until 2002, he was an entertainment analyst for the Media Research Center and its spinoff, the Parents Television Council. From July 2004 until June 2005, he monitored National Public Radio for the MRC. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona.
Is the presidential campaign driving you crazy? Ben Collins knows someone who might be able to help. Collins recently interviewed perhaps “the only sane man writing about politics” on Facebook, and tells us that the experience was “like therapy.” Collins’s inadvertent therapist: former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather. As Collins indicated, for more than a year Rather, galvanized by Donald Trump’s candidacy, has been commenting on his Facebook page about the race for the White House. As he explained to Collins, “I just said, What the hell. I want to be myself…I want to do the kind of journalism I was trained to do in the tradition I grew up -- the Murrow tradition, the CBS tradition.”
The liberals who thought Chris Wallace did a bang-up job as moderator of the third presidential debate were judging strictly by appearances, contended Daily Kos’s Laura Clawson and Salon’s Gary Legum in separate articles. Clawson pooh-poohed the praise for Wallace, sneering that he “really wasn’t all that. Unless the ‘that’ is ‘a purveyor of right-wing talking points masked as “fair and balanced” questions.’” Legum called Wallace “a creature of Fox News, a point of view he betrayed through both his selection of several questions and the right-wing frame he gave to them. Which might have tickled the amygdala of conservatives everywhere, but also managed to perpetrate for a mainstream audience a couple of the more pernicious policy myths that haunt our political discourse.”
There is a conspiracy against Donald Trump, believes The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, but it’s inanimate: a “conspiracy of facts,” not a “conspiracy of liberals” in the media. The facts, Tomasky claimed in a Tuesday column, “simply do not damn [Hillary] Clinton in the way that [Trump] and his supporters believe they should. Take the new story, about the FBI and State and the alleged ‘quid pro quo.’ As all the news stories state plainly, eventually, in the sixth or seventh graf, there was no quid pro quo.” Tomasky blasted both Trump's “ridiculous whining” about the media and the idea that “the media are in Hillary’s pocket. Lord. The New York Times has been after her since 1992, with its Whitewater stories. The Times broke the email server story in March 2015. Is that the act of a paper conspiring to get her elected?”
Are black Republicans Sen. Tim Scott and Reps. Mia Love and Will Hurd on the wrong side of the aisle? In a sense, they are, according to Jamelle Bouie, who argued in a Sunday piece that the conservatism central to the GOP is “fundamentally at odds with America’s people of color.” Bouie wrote that “no matter the temperamental affinities that might exist between some nonwhites and the Republican Party, attempts to bring them into the fold inevitably run up against a key reality: that movement conservatism—the starve-the-beast, libertarian mode that dominates contemporary Republican politics—is a white ideology."
For almost two hundred and twenty years, every president of the United States was white and male. If Hillary Clinton serves two full terms as president, that will make it sixteen years without a white guy in the White House. The prospect of that discrepancy explains Republicans’ choice of Donald Trump as their nominee, contends Jeet Heer. “By making Trump the face of the party,” wrote Heer in a Friday piece, “the Republicans are saying, ‘Our answer to the diversity of the Democratic Party is a white man who knows how to keep women and racial minorities in their place.’”
President Obama spent a fairly large chunk of his Thursday speech in Columbus, Ohio needling conservatives and Republicans, alleging, among other things, that GOPers have “been feeding their base all kinds of crazy for years.” Esquire’s Pierce called it the speech he’d “been waiting for someone to give ever since Donald Trump became the Republican nominee” and gushed, “There were no words minced and no quarter given. By the time [Obama] left the stage, there was no ass he aimed for that went unkicked.” Republicans, Pierce charged, “have become a chronic danger to American democratic government and it's time for a serious intervention.”
If Daily Kos founder and publisher Markos Moulitsas gets his way (good luck with that) those who are tired of the presidential campaign will have a bit less of it to endure. In a Thursday post, Kos, arguing that “there is nothing to be gained from [next Wednesday’s] third and final presidential debate,” urged the powers that be to cancel it. “Trump has made very clear his closing pitch—insane conspiracy theory mixed with bizarre attacks on Bill Clinton,” wrote Kos. “He’s demonstrated (along with his running mate) that he has no interest in dealing with ‘truth’ and ‘reality’...You cannot debate a pathological liar. The rules of the contest assume a certain level grasp of reality that are no longer present on the Republican side.”
Jack Hitt thinks the mainstream media have started to push back against politicians’ lies because of “the sheer magnitude of [Donald] Trump’s horseshit.” In his cover story for the November issue of The New Republic, Hitt asserted that “thanks to Trump, some television hosts have discovered the ratings pull of a different style of journalism. Jake Tapper of CNN grilled Trump about his bigotry regarding the all-American judge of Mexican descent [Gonzalo Curiel] so skillfully and persistently that Trump wound up making several more mistakes, and now avoids the subject entirely. The interview was…a departure from standard TV interview fare…which strives to be ‘fair’ in the face of nonstop falsehoods.” As for Hillary Clinton, Hitt contended, that new, tougher standard doesn’t really apply, since her flaws don’t include mendacity: “Hillary lies the way her husband lies, which is to say she does not lie.”
Liberals like to allege that Donald Trump turns the bigoted subtext of longstanding Republican ideas into text that’s about as subtle as a whoopee cushion. As Rebecca Traister put it in a Monday article, the GOP traditionally has been “covert” about “the very biases that [Trump] makes coarse and plain.” Regarding the uproar over the Access Hollywood audio, Traister wrote, "Trump…is not distinct from Republican nature or motivation; he is its slightly more unruly twin. At the debate on Sunday, two days after being revealed talking about grabbing pussies, he claimed that 'nobody has more respect for women than I do.' And there it was: the giant Republican lie about an interest in gender equality exposed as pure snake oil by their front man."
In a Sunday piece, writer Lyz Lenz argued that conservative Christians make a glaring, politically motivated exception to their belief that “a marriage is forever” when they “attack [Hillary] Clinton for staying with” Bill. Lenz noted that “numerous friends and relatives of mine have been counseled [against divorce] by pastors and Christian counselors, who argue that couples ought to persist in marriages where there has been infidelity, cruelty and worse, because God’s call to a lifelong union supersedes all others.” Nonetheless, “within this tale of marriage and redemption, there doesn’t seem to be room” for Hillary.
Commentators on the right gave Mike Pence high marks for his showing in the vice-presidential debate, largely because he, unlike Donald Trump, articulates straight-no-chaser conservatism. To Pierce, however, the ideological divide between Pence and Trump is about as wide as a crack in the sidewalk. In a Wednesday post, Pierce predicted that even though Trump represents the “obvious culmination” of movement conservatism, Republicans will instead treat him as “an aberration,” and that in the VP debate, “Pence gave us a vivid peek at how” GOPers will reorient themselves after the election (“this is where the talk radio, Fox News base is going to go”).
In a Vox essay, Laura Kipnis, a professor in Northwestern University’s radio/television/film department, opined that "playing the sexual blame game" regarding Bill and Hillary Clinton "means being a right-wing patsy," and that Bill was pretty awesome back in the ‘90s, even when he was a bad, bad boy: "Wasn’t it always obvious that Bill Clinton’s so-called ‘character issues’ were part of the attraction, that he was elected twice not in spite of his glaringly apparent flaws as a husband, but because of them?" Kipnis also argued that Hillary belongs in the "Feminist Hall of Fame" for her steadfast support of "international abortion rights."
As a rule, liberals think that most criticism of Hillary Clinton is invalid. Michael Tomasky has dared to put a number on “most.” In a Tuesday column, Tomasky wrote, “I’d say that around 80 percent of what you’ve read about [Hillary] over the years is simply false. It didn’t happen the way it was presented, or a lot of the time it didn’t happen at all. And she has long since even stopped trying to correct the record in many cases, figuring it’s just no use.”
In a post headlined “To See Mike Pence as ‘Normal’ Is to Grade on a Generous Curve,” Steve Benen, who's also the primary blogger for the TRMS website, sought to demolish the idea that Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate will feature what Politico called “two conventional pols.” “As a matter of tone and temperament, Mike Pence is hardly scary: the governor is a mild-mannered, soft-spoken Midwesterner,” wrote Benen. “But to shift one’s focus from tone to policy is to see one of the most extremist politicians to seek national office in over a generation.”
There’s been a lot of talk in the past few days about “presidential temperament,” and where that quality is concerned, Brian Beutler firmly believes that President Obama has the right stuff. In a Friday piece, Beutler lauded Obama’s "unflappable" performance at CNN’s military-themed presidential town hall Wednesday at Fort Lee in Virginia. By contrast, Beutler opined, Donald Trump "lost his composure about 15 minutes into the first presidential debate." And if Hillary Clinton can so easily throw Trump off his game, Beutler suggested, then who knows what Putin might accomplish?
Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at NYU, is one of America’s best-known left-wing media critics. Last weekend on his PressThink site, he delved into “the precepts and maxims I have used to understand press behavior during this long and startling campaign season.” Rosen’s main point is that even though Donald Trump “is not a normal candidate and can’t be covered like one,” generally the media are covering him as if he were normal. As Rosen put it, “asymmetry between the parties fries the circuits of the mainstream press” and has left it unable to see Trump as a product of Republican extremism and dysfunction, whereas “Hillary Clinton, for all her problems…is a conventional politician running a conventional campaign that observes the norms of American politics.”
Unlike a lot of his fellow liberals, Jonathan Chait doesn’t believe presidential-debate moderators should be on-camera fact-checkers, but Chait’s reason for opposing the idea is unambiguously anti-conservative. In an item posted a few hours prior to Monday night’s Clinton-Trump clash, Chait argued that the way Republicans dealt with Candy Crowley’s intervention in a 2012 Romney-Obama debate “suggests the party would never tolerate such a role by the media on an ongoing basis,” given that “the GOP exists within an epistemic bubble that creates its own reality and disregards the findings of mainstream experts in economics, science, and other fields…Conservatives created this alternate ecosystem precisely to insulate their side from scrutiny from journalists who were not working within the conservative movement. And the simple reality is that, if debates become forums for media to subject candidate claims to fact-checking by the standards of independent arbiters, Republicans will refuse to participate in them.”
According to one left-of-center blogger and one right-of-center professor, a major takeaway from the 2016 presidential contest is that ideological conservatism is unpopular, even in the Republican party. Samuel Goldman, a political-science prof at the George Washington University and a frequent contributor to The American Conservative, stated that the “great message” of Donald Trump’s campaign “is that there really are not that many movement conservatives” in the sense of average Americans “who are vested in a conventional combination of limited government, a relatively hawkish foreign policy, and a sort of religiously inflected public morality.” From the left, The Washington Monthly’s Martin Longman alleged that for most Republicans, policy ideas take a back seat to raw resentment: “‘Small government’ and ‘local control’ and ‘free enterprise’ and the rest of the GOP’s ideological playbook simply never had much appeal to their base except as signifiers for Trumpian impulses to smash outsiders and oddballs and anyone who discomforts them.”
In the presidential debate this coming Monday, Peter Beinart wants moderator Lester Holt to set a tone that the moderators of the subsequent debates would maintain. Each should “confront [Donald] Trump in ways they’ve never confronted a candidate before,” wrote Beinart earlier this week. “The more audaciously he lies, the more audaciously they must tell the truth. The risks of doing so are tremendous. The rewards are being able to say that when Donald Trump threatened American liberal democracy like no candidate in modern history, you met his challenge square on.” Beinart noted that “since Trump has largely stopped giving interviews to anyone except campaign sycophants and celebrity lightweights, the debates may serve as his last encounter with actual journalists.”